UN Photo(WASHINGTON) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison and whose defiance led to the dismantling of the country's apartheid system, died Thursday after a long illness. He was 95 years old.
President Obama on Thursday offered a personal reflection on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, a man he described as, "one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth." Click here for more on President Obama’s statement.
Here is additional reaction from former U.S. presidents, officials, and world leaders:
Vice President Joe Biden, via paper statement: Nelson Mandela once said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” Mandela’s wisdom and compassion were formidable enough to change the world. First his courage and then his forgiveness inspired us all, and challenged us to do better. In the words of the South African poet Peter Horn, he “dreamed the world another way.” I saw his world the way it used to be when I visited South Africa as a 34 year old Senator. When I exited the plane I was directed to one side of the tarmac, while the African American congressmen traveling with me were sent to the other side. I refused to break off, and the officials finally relented. When I tried to enter Soweto township with Congressmen Andrew Young of Atlanta and Charles Diggs of Detroit, I remember their tears of anger and sadness. Because of Nelson Mandela’s courage, and compassion, that world has been transformed. One of my favorite Irish poets, Seamus Heaney once wrote: “History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.” In the hands of Nelson Mandela, hope and history rhymed. This is a better world because Nelson Mandela was in it. He was a good man.
Former President George W. Bush, via paper statement: Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This great man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy to President Mandela’s family and to the citizens of the nation he loved.
Former President Bill Clinton, via paper statement: Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend. History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Graça and his family and to the people of South Africa. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life’s real victories must be shared.
Former President George H.W. Bush, via paper statement: Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment -- setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen.
Former President Jimmy Carter, via paper statement: Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world’s leading democracies. In recent years, I was gratified to be able to work with him through The Elders to encourage resolution of conflicts and advance social justice and human rights in many nations. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family at this difficult time.
Secretary of State John Kerry, via paper statement: Madiba’s 'long walk to freedom' gave new meaning to courage, character, forgiveness, and human dignity. Now that his long walk has ended, the example he set for all humanity lives on. He will be remembered as a pioneer for peace. There are some truly brave people in this world whom you meet and you’re forever changed for the experience. Nelson Mandela remains Teresa’s hero, and a person who inspired her as a young woman to march with her classmates against apartheid. We had the honor of sitting with Mandela over the Thanksgiving holidays of 2007. I was struck by how warm, open, and serene he was. I stood in his tiny cell on Robben Island, a room with barely enough space to lie down or stand up, and I learned that the glare of the white rock quarry permanently damaged his eyesight. It hit home even more just how remarkable it was that after spending 27 years locked away, after having his own vision impaired by the conditions, that this man could still see the best interests of his country and even embrace the very guards who kept him prisoner. That is the story of a man whose ability to see resided not in his eyes but in his conscience. It is hard to imagine any of us could summon such strength of character. Nelson Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past. He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible. Teresa and I join those from around the world in honoring the life of this great man. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Graca, his family, all the people of South Africa and everyone who today enjoys the freedom Madiba fought for his entire life.
Attorney General Eric Holder, via paper statement: I join President Obama in expressing my heartfelt condolences to the people of South Africa, and the entire Mandela family, on the passing of Nelson Mandela. The world has lost an extraordinary pioneer and an unsurpassed champion for freedom and justice. As a lawyer and an activist, he inspired millions – not only in South Africa, but around the globe – to stand united against oppression and apartheid. As a statesman, he fought throughout his career to advance democratic values, working tirelessly to combat poverty, AIDS, and human rights abuses. As South Africa’s first democratically-elected president, he sought to bring healing to a torn and deeply divided country. And he became much more than the ‘father of a nation.’ Like so many – in every corner of the globe – I have regarded President Mandela as a personal hero for decades. I was inspired years ago by his courage and his devotion to improving the lives of those around him. And when I had the privilege of meeting with him, as Deputy Attorney General, I found him to be a remarkable man and a brilliant and principled leader. His legacy will endure, and his important work will go on, in the efforts of all who continue to speak out for peace, for freedom, for justice, and for the dignity to which every human being is entitled. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing today, and will hold his friends, loved ones, and countrymen and women in my thoughts and prayers.
Former Vice President Al Gore, via paper statement: Today marks the passing of one of the greatest leaders and visionaries in the history of our world, Nelson Mandela. President Mandela has already been immortalized as an enduring symbol of compassion and courage. I had the honor of working with Madiba often during my time as co-chairman of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Each and every time I was with him, I was awed by his commanding yet graceful presence. Along with hundreds of millions, I still vividly remember the day Madiba was released from Pollsmoor Prison just outside of Cape Town. My son and I were home in Nashville; the only ones awake early on a Sunday morning. We sat on the couch and watched as Madiba was set free. I remember thinking that whatever important milestones my children and grandchildren witness in the coming century, few will rival this one. Madiba once wrote, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." We should take a moment today to bow our heads and pay our respects to an extraordinarily courageous man who truly changed the world for the better and, in the process, inspired us all.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, via paper statement: Nelson Mandela was a singular figure on the global stage -- a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. I am profoundly saddened by his passing. On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family and loved ones. Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations. Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice. His principled stance and the moral force that underpinned it were decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid. Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancor, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and understanding. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established under his leadership remains a model for achieving justice in societies confronting a legacy of human rights abuses. In the decades-long fight against apartheid, the United Nations stood side-by-side with Nelson Mandela and all those in South Africa who faced unrelenting racism and discrimination. His 1994 address to the General Assembly as the first democratically elected President of a free South Africa was a defining moment. The Assembly has declared 18 July, his birthday, “Nelson Mandela International Day”, an annual observance on which we recognize and seek to build on his contributions to promoting a culture of peace and freedom around the world. I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela in 2009. When I thanked him for his life’s work, he insisted the credit belonged to others. I was very moved by his selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us -- if we believe, dream and work together. Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, via paper statement: Throughout history, a few special people have been able to transcend differences and change the world for the better. Nelson Mandela was one of those people who had a vision for human rights and equality. Those beliefs made him the father of multi ethnic democracy in South Africa. All freedom loving people will miss him but we will never forget his sacrifice and his achievements. My prayers and my thoughts are with him and with the people of South Africa.
House Speaker John Boehner, via Twitter: Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity.
Sen. Harry Reid, via Twitter: In a way, Mandela was both the “George Washington” and “Abraham Lincoln” of his country. We're so fortunate to have lived in his time.
Sen. Cory Booker, via Twitter: Humanity has lost one of our greatest. RIP Nelson Mandela. Thank you for teaching us a deeper meaning of love, leadership & sacrifice.
Chelsea Clinton, via Twitter: My thoughts and prayers are with Graça Machel & the Mandela family. We are all the richer for Madiba's extraordinary life.
Former Presidential Candidate and Ambassador Jon Huntsman, via Twitter: Sad but not unexpected news out of South Africa. The human condition passes but Pres. Mandela’s soul lives on & the world is grateful.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, via Twitter: A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) – The White House and its Democratic allies are pushing to continue a jobless benefits program set to expire for over a million long-term unemployed without congressional intervention. And while whispers persisted this week that Congress could be close to a budget deal before their holiday break, Thursday Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her party’s negotiators were insistent on an extension as a bargaining chip.
“Yes, indeed, we are making a very clear statement that we cannot, cannot support a budget agreement that does not include unemployment insurance in the budget or as a sidebar in order to move it all along,” she said at a Democrats-only hearing on the uninsured. “It would undermine who we are as a country.”
The congresswoman later indicated at a press conference that she could support a budget deal that doesn’t include continuation for the benefits, if they are extended separately on their own merit.
The measure, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), is designed to step in with federal insurance after a person’s state benefits run out, usually after 26 weeks. It was enacted in 2008 by President Bush during the early stages of the economic recession; at the time unemployment hovered at 5.6 percent and jobless Americans could expect an average of five months searching for new employment. It has survived a number of renewals since, as millions have dropped out of the labor force since President Obama took office.
Without traction on Capitol Hill, it is likely 1.3 million will lose the insurance immediately after the program expires on Dec. 28, with an additional 3.6 million by the end of 2014, according to a report released Thursday by the Labor Department and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
“Despite ten consecutive quarters of GDP growth and 7.8 million private sector jobs added since early 2010, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high at 7.3 percent, and far too many families are still struggling to regain the foothold they had prior to the crisis,” the report reads, adding it now takes an average nine months to find work. The unemployment rates don't factor in the millions of Americans in this country who have given up looking for work.
The Obama administration argues failure to continue the program could lead to an additional 240,000 jobs cut in 2014, as job-seekers reduce their spending further to compensate for their thinner wallets. Citing estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and JP Morgan, the report suggests it would negatively affect GDP by .2 to .4 percent.
Congressional Republicans have resisted an extension against a backdrop of ongoing budget negotiations. If a deal was close, the EUC’s $25 billion price tag could worry some lawmakers over taking on the added cost. Similarly, $5 billion in expanded food stamps assistance was allowed to expire last week – a further indication of the climate surrounding the talks.
Responding to reporters Thursday, House Speaker Boehner told press he didn’t rule out an extension.
“If the president has a plan for extending unemployment benefits, I’d surely entertain taking a looking at it. But I would argue the president’s real focus ought to be creating a better environment for our economy and creating more jobs for the American people,” Boehner said. “That’s where the focus is, not more government programs.”
But on Tuesday one of the Republican negotiators working on a deal said he didn’t see movement coming from his party.
“These have been extraordinary extensions, and the Republican position all along has been, we need to get back to normal here at some point,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said that day, responding to reporters’ questions on the EUC.
“I don’t see much appetite from our side for an extension of benefits. I just don’t,” he said.
Republicans have previously challenged the program by saying the federal benefits extend the recession by forcing employers to raise wages to retain workers. The White House report counters employees who voluntarily quit would be ineligible for the program, so it would not be an incentive.
Pelosi’s hearing Thursday was only for members of her caucus and featured some witnesses who stand to lose their only source of income. They included 67-year-old Stan Osnowitz, a journeyman and electrician with four decades experience suffering through the slow months of winter. His voice choked as he told the committee, “My work is who I am” and “I hate being unemployed. It’s a waste of my time and my abilities.”
Lisa Floyd, a sales and services professional, told the members that after a seven-month hiatus she had found work with a significantly reduced salary.
“I’m smart enough to know that most likely I would be changing careers and taking a pay cut,” she said. “I applied for everything and anything. Eventually I began applying for entry-level call-center jobs. Jobs that would have resulted in a $30,000 a year paycut, or to put this another way: a 42 percent reduction in my pay.”
She said the unemployment insurance program “kept me in my home” during the search.
“We strongly believe that if every member of Congress would take even a few minutes to speak personally with unemployed workers, there would not be any question at all about the need to extend the federal UI program,” Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., said at the hearing. “More than anything else they want a job, but finding work remains very difficult in an economy that still has 1.5 million fewer jobs than before the recession started six years ago.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two days after an immigration judge ruled that President Obama’s Kenyan uncle could stay in the United States, the White House on Thursday acknowledged that the president lived briefly with Onyango “Omar” Obama, despite having previously claimed there was no record of them ever meeting.
“The President first met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school. The President did stay with him for a brief period of time until his apartment was ready. After that, they saw each other once every few months, but after law school they fell out of touch. The President has not seen him in 20 years, has not spoken with him in 10,” White House spokesman Eric Shultz told ABC News.
Last year, the White House claimed their records showed Omar Obama and the president had never met. At his deportation hearing in Boston earlier this week, however, Omar Obama, who has lived in the U.S. for 50 years, reportedly revealed that his nephew stayed with him in Cambridge for roughly three weeks.
It turns out, the White House never directly asked the president about his previous relationship with Omar Obama, who is his father’s half brother.
“Back when this arose, folks looked at the record, including the president's book, and there was no evidence that they had met…and that was what was conveyed,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. “When Omar Obama said the other day…that President Obama, back when he was a law school student, had stayed with him in Cambridge, I thought it was the right thing to do to go ask him. Nobody had asked him in the past, and the president said that he, in fact, had met Omar Obama when he moved to Cambridge for law school, and that he stayed with him for a brief period of time.”
The White House insists Omar Obama’s case was handled routinely and without any interference from the president.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has come up with a new prescription to heal a bankrupt Detroit that would allow the city to “bail yourselves out.”
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, Paul said he will unveil legislation Monday to cut taxes for Detroit and other economically depressed areas with unemployment rates one and a half times greater than the national average.
“What we hope to do is create taxes so low that you essentially bail yourselves out by having more money accumulate in the area over time,” Paul told reporters Thursday.
Paul’s plan, known as “Economic Freedom Zones,” would lower the corporate and personal income tax rates to 5 percent, eliminate the capital gains tax, and lower the payroll tax. The bill would also lower the investment threshold for immigrants who want to open businesses in economically distressed areas from $500,000 to $50,000.
“Where we truly think this is different from a government stimulus is that a government stimulus takes money from one area of the country, brings it to Washington, then somebody, a central planner has to decide who to give it to,” he said. “In ours, basically the money will go back to people who customers already voted for, businesses that are making a profit, a welding business in Detroit that has 10 employees. They’re the one that’s going to get the taxes back.
“I think it’s one way that’s also politically palatable because I don’t think there’s going to be any impetus or movement to have a bailout in one part of the country to another,” he said. “I think the idea of leaving money in Detroit that originates in Detroit I think could get legs with both parties.”
Paul will take his sales pitch directly to Detroit on Friday when he addresses the Detroit Economic Club. He will also help open a Michigan Republican Party office in the city.
“You look at the red-blue map of the United States, almost all the rural small cities are red and almost all the big cities are blue,” Paul said. “I think Republicans as a party, myself included, need to do more in the cities, and I think instead of saying hey the free market floats all boats, we need to specifically come in with plans for areas.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Some Republican lawmakers have a sensitivity problem that hurts them with women voters, House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged in a press conference Thursday.
“You know, when you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican caucus,” Boehner said. “And you know, some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be.”
The comments come after a report in Politico indicating that the National Republican Congressional Committee is holding sensitivity training sessions to try to teach lawmakers how to avoid more of the headline-making and insensitive comments about women that hurt them in 2012.
In particular, Todd Akin, a former Congressman from Minnesota, lost his bid to oust incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in the 2012 Senate race, in part due to the controversy stemming from his comments that pregnancy rarely occurs after “legitimate rape.”
According to Politico, the sessions schooled Congressmen and their aides on how to talk to women and how to run against female candidates.
Boehner added that he thinks his party is making progress.
Democrats have made the “War on Women” a nearly permanent staple of their attacks on Republican candidates nationwide.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- As tensions with Afghan president Hamid Karzai continue, the U.S. has sent its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, to Afghanistan following a trip to Islamabad.
Dobbins' trip follows National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s meeting with Karzai last week after which U.S. and NATO officials said that the “zero option” -- pulling all troops out of Afghanistan -- is on the table if Karzai, or someone he designates, doesn’t sign the Bilateral Security Agreement.
Dobbins arrived there Wednesday and, according to the U.S. embassy, “will hold meetings with a variety of Afghan officials and political leaders.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The development and roll-out of the federal online health insurance marketplace has been panned inside and outside the White House as a management fiasco. But still unclear, two months after its launch, is whether any administration officials directly responsible for the project will be shown the door.
With HealthCare.gov now vastly improved, there is renewed focus on accountability for the troubled launch that came after three years of planning and more than $600 million spent. President Obama hasn't indicated who, if anybody, he might fire.
Obama hasn't been bashful about casting blame generally, on Wednesday citing "poor execution" by his team in getting the website up and running and conceding that "nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months."
A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week fingered "inadequate management oversight and coordination among technical teams" as primary factors in the roll-out mess.
"The conclusion was that HealthCare.gov was fixable if we made significant changes to the management approach," said Jeff Zients, the administration official brought in to lead the repair effort, on Sunday.
"We needed to get the team working with the speed and urgency of a high-performing private sector tech company," he said. The implication is that the team had not been sufficiently motivated or directed ahead of the Oct. 1 launch.
None of the senior staff overseeing the website and its team of developers have been publicly disciplined or dismissed. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner, CMS project manager Henry Chao and other top IT officials remain at their posts.
The only shake-up since the rocky roll-out came early last month when CMS chief information officer Tony Trenkle quietly announced his retirement. Officials said at the time that Trenkle decided to leave on his own accord to take a new job in the private sector. He is the first and only official with ties to the botched roll-out of HealthCare.gov to leave the administration.
White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Tuesday that responsibility for failures of that team rises to the West Wing.
"That's on us, that's on me," he said at a health care policy forum in Washington. "As soon as we realized there were problems, we put in an A Team of experts to work."
Many Republicans and Democrats have questioned why the administration did not have the "A Team" in place to begin with. In late October, after a barrage of website outages and glitches, the White House announced a "tech surge" -- a combination of government contractors and private sector experts -- to turn things around.
CGI Federal and QSSI, the two primary contractors that built the federal insurance portal from the ground up, have largely deflected blame, pointing the finger at the Obama administration for delayed decision-making and flawed planning.
"It will be inexplicable if somebody involved in the creation of the website doesn't get fired or a group of people don't get fired," former Obama adviser and spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday on Now with Alex Wagner.
"I mean let's be clear, if there's one thing the White House didn't do on this, they didn't micro-manage bureaucracy enough," he said.
Referring to Zients' announcement Sunday of a vastly improved management ethos, Gibbs said, "The 'private-sector velocity' should also include the velocity of moving somebody's framed pictures out of their office and into a new job."
If the past five years are any guide, Obama will not move quickly to ask for resignations. Just a handful of those who serve at the pleasure of the president have been forced to resign. And aides say Obama has never been easily swayed by public and media eagerness for more heads to roll.
"Issues on personnel are not something that we're focused on right now, when it comes to making the Affordable Care Act work for the American people," White House press secretary Jay Carney told ABC's Jonathan Karl on Monday.
"We're focused not on Monday morning quarterbacking," Carney said. "We'll go back and look at this period, and there's no question that, you know, [the president] tops the list among those individuals who are frustrated by the failures that we saw with healthcare.gov and its launch. But right now, he wants his team focused on making improvements for the American people."
Asked in an interview last month whether he still has confidence in Sebelius, Obama signaled -- though did not say outright -- that he does, taking responsibility for the program's failures upon himself.
"I think Kathleen Sebelius, under tremendously difficult circumstances over the last four and a half years, has done a great job in setting up the insurance markets so that there is a good product out there for people to get," Obama told NBC News.
"Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code. Yeah, she wasn't our IT person. I think she'd be the first to admit that if we had to do it all over again, that there would have been a whole lot more questions that were asked, in terms of how this thing is working," he said. "Ultimately, the buck stops with me."
As for Zients, who is credited with largely resolving the management issues, he is still expected to step down from his role later this month to replace Gene Sperling as the chair of the National Economic Council in January. No successor to Zients has been named.
"I am head-down focused on this project 24/7," Zients said. "The general contractor and rapid response team have served us well, enabling us to execute with private sector speed and focus. ...They've been in seat, and they'll stay in seat."
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Scott Brown made another appearance in New Hampshire on Wednesday, visiting with potential voters in Londonderry. It’s the latest event on his Will He-Won’t He Run for U.S. Senate tour in the Granite State. So will he?
According to the Eagle-Tribune, Brown visited the Harold Square restaurant, which sounds like a stop on the campaign trail. But, in an e-mail to ABC News, Brown would only say, “Nothing has changed. I’m all set. Thanks for checking,” signing it with an “SB,” and then following up with a YouTube video of his daughter, recording artist and former American Idol contestant Ayla Brown singing “O Holy Night.”
Brown may be coy, but he has steadily been making moves in the direction of challenging current Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen -- despite the fact that he’s a former senator from neighboring Massachusetts. He owns a home in Rye, N.H., and put his home in the Bay State up for sale in September.
Brown has been popping up all over the state in the past few months and on Dec. 19, will headline the New Hampshire Republican State Committee’s holiday luncheon. And just this week, he penned an op-ed on FoxNews.com focusing on Obamacare’s effects in New Hampshire, appearing to take a shot at Shaheen.
Former aides, people familiar with his thinking, and those in the know in New Hampshire all say no one really knows the answer, aside from Brown, and that he’s still making up his mind.
One former aide of Brown’s put his chances at 75-25. A Republican strategist familiar with his thinking put the odds at 50-50.
“In September, I would have said there was a 20 percent chance, now it is 50 percent or higher, but it’s still very tentative,” the strategist told ABC News, adding it is “by no means a done deal. He has a good career in the private sector, I think he enjoys his life now, but he is inherently a competitive person and sees the opportunity and thinks he can win.”
The strategist, who like others in this piece did not want to be named discussing Brown’s thinking, said Brown is “going to watch and see what Jeanne Shaheen’s numbers look like after the holidays and then make a decision.” But, he added, “I wouldn’t expect a January announcement.”
The filing deadline in New Hampshire is late -- June -- but it’s likely Brown won’t wait that long because Republicans say his indecision is keeping well known and more credible candidates on the sidelines. Just this week, former Sen. Bob Smith got into the race, but his two previous Senate runs in Florida as well as switching party affiliations is likely to be problematic for him. Conservative activist Karen Testerman and former state Sen. Jim Reubens have already declared their candidacies.
Brown may not rile up the most conservative voters in the state. He has expressed support for a federal assault weapons ban, and second amendment issues are important in New Hampshire. But Republicans in the state say because of how well known Brown is, they would easily coalesce around him.
Although he would get cries of “carpetbagger” from Democrats, New Hampshire and Massachusetts share a media market so he is well known in the state. Those around him also say he’s more likely to jump in now that Obamacare has become a clear issue for any Democrat running in 2014. It’s an issue he’s familiar running on. When he did win in 2010 to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat after his death, he won campaigning heavily against Obamacare; but two years later, he lost to Elizabeth Warren by almost eight points.
“Obamacare is proving to be an issue that is turning safe Democrats into vulnerable Democrats,” said Will Ritter, a Massachusetts GOP consultant and former Brown staffer. “Scott Brown has run against Obamacare before successfully, he has got deep ties to New Hampshire...he knows how to raise money, knows how to campaign hard, and he’s likeable.”
If Brown does get in, the race will likely skyrocket to the one of the most competitive and highly watched in the country.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began Wednesday’s Pentagon briefing with a lengthy announcement about how the 2,400 personnel who serve in the office of the Secretary of Defense will be reduced by 20 percent over the next five years. The reductions will be achieved through consolidation of offices, attrition and elimination of contractor jobs, and are expected to save $1 billion. Hagel said the savings might not be considered much but every little bit helps with the future budget cuts.
As for the next round of sequestration cuts next year, Hagel doesn’t foresee a congressional “rescue," while making note of the uncertainty that Congress has created because there still isn’t a budget for this year and the continuing resolution that will run out on Jan. 15.
When the cuts come, he said, the Pentagon would be ready for the hard choices because of the reviews he ordered this year that have helped planners determine what strategic choices they will need to make.
Interestingly, Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, also spoke about how defense of the homeland has become such a big factor of their discussions when talking about future budget cuts. Dempsey said there’s been the emerging realization that “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary. If we are engaged in a conflict virtually anywhere in the globe, there is likely to be some effect in the homeland. Whether it's ballistic -- potentially ballistic missiles or cyber, something could potentially affect the homeland in a way that it hasn't heretofore. So the homeland is actually achieving much greater prominence in our discussions of our future strategy than at any time in my 40 years, as it should.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is enlisting young people to help sell the Affordable Care Act to the demographic critical to the success of his signature law.
“This law is already making a difference for millions of young people, and it’s about to help millions more,” he said at a White House youth summit. “I'm going to need you all to spread the word about how the Affordable Care Act really works, what its benefits are, what its protections are and, most importantly, how people can sign up.”
Youth leaders from around the country were invited to the White House to help get the word out to young Americans about how to enroll. No group is more important to the economics of Obamacare. Getting young, healthy people to enroll is key to offsetting the health care costs of older Americans.
“I do remember what it's like being 27 or 28, and aside from the occasional basketball injury, most of the time I kind of felt like I had nothing to worry about,” Obama said. “Of course, that's what most people think until they have something to worry about.”
Relating to the rowdy young people in the audience, who snapped pictures on their phones throughout the event, the president said they should be able to get health insurance for less than their monthly cell phone bill.
“I am not allowed, for security reasons, to have an iPhone,” said Obama, who uses a BlackBerry and is often spotted on his iPad. “I don’t know what your bills are. I have noticed that Sasha and Malia seem to spend a lot of time on it. My suspicion is that for a lot of you, between your cable bill, your phone bill, you're spending more than 100 bucks a month.”
“The idea that you wouldn’t want to make sure that you've got the health security and financial security that comes with health insurance for less than that price, you guys are smarter than that. And most young people are, as well,” he said.
With the clock ticking toward the March 31st deadline to enroll, the president is hoping to encourage young people to sign up for insurance now.
“I'm here, because I need your help; that’s why you're here, because you know I need your help,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If the thought of President Trump doesn't make you swoon, how does Gov. Trump grab you?
New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis told Politico that billionaire reality TV host Donald Trump might be thinking about running for governor of the Empire State in 2014.
Malliotakis said she got the impression after Trump met with her and other lawmakers on Wednesday, adding that Trump is "certainly considering it."
Presumably, if he were to run, Trump would seek the GOP nomination to face Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo next November.
However, Trump already said in an October appearance on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman that "I’m really definitely not [running for governor]."
The real estate mogul was said to be considering a run for the White House in 2012 but decided the time wasn't right.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Wednesday that she won’t run for president in 2016 and intends to serve out her full six-year term as senator.
“I’m not running for president and I plan to serve out my term,” Warren said, according to a Boston Herald report Tuesday.
“I pledge to serve out my term,” she later added, when pressed about the issue.
Warren, a first-term senator from Massachusetts, has stoked speculation about a potential president bid in recent months as progressives have lauded her populist tone. Warren’s statement Wednesday may take her out of the running for now, but if we’ve learned anything from political ambition, it’s that some promises are made to be broken.
Case in point: In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said he planned to serve out his full term in the Senate, but he ultimately decided to run for president.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- A poll out Wednesday from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics shows that the majority of young people, a core support group throughout President Obama’s time in office, disapproves of the Affordable Care Act, with less than a third saying they would sign up, an essential element to the success of Obamacare.
The survey polled 18- to 29-year-olds, and twice as many respondents said they believe health care under the Affordable Care Act will get worse than get better -- 44 percent to 17 percent. And half of the respondents said they believe costs will increase while about 10 percent said costs will decrease.
“We found that millennials are unlikely to buy something, invest in something, to vote for something from people and from things they don’t necessarily trust and that’s a serious concern today,” Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe said in a conference call outlining the results.
When the law was referred to as the Affordable Care Act, 39 percent of respondents approved, while 56 percent disapproved. When the law was referred to as Obamacare, the numbers were similar, with 38 percent saying they approve and 57 percent saying they disapprove.
Harvard’s findings are similar to the ABC News/Washington Post poll from last month that found 40 percent of adults supporting the law, while 57 percent oppose.
Harvard’s survey comes out the same day the president is scheduled to speak at the White House Youth Summit on the Affordable Care Act.
The survey also found fewer than one-in-four young Americans will definitely or probably enroll in insurance through an exchange, a critical element of the success of the Affordable Care Act.
Among the uninsured -- accounting for 22 percent of those surveyed -- 25 to 29 percent said they are likely to enroll, 41 percent remained on the fence, and 28 percent said they are unlikely to enroll.
When broken down among party affiliation, less than 10 percent of Republicans planned to enroll through an exchange, less that 20 percent of independents, and 35 to 40 percent of Democrats.
The president’s approval ratings have also plummeted and are at the lowest point this survey has found since the beginning of his administration. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, the survey found 41 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove, an 11-point decline in seven months.
The Harvard study also found the president losing 16 points in his approval rating among women since last April, 9 points from men, as well as 9 points among young African Americans.
In the ABC News/Washington Post poll from last month, the survey also found support fading with young adults, a group Obama won by a historic margin in 2008 and strongly again in 2012. The president’s overall approval rating dropped 23 points among adults age 18 to 29 since January, his steepest loss in any group.
“Although millennials have held firm in their approval of the president’s job performance in past polls, we are now seeing a sea change among this critical demographic,” said Trey Grayson, director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics. “The president is experiencing double-digit drops in his job performance rating among millennials over the past 7 months and that rating is now the lowest we’ve seen in his presidency.”
The survey also found approval ratings for both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have also fallen significantly over the same time period, with 35 percent approval for Democrats in Congress and 19 percent approval for Republicans.
Della Volpe said he believes the results are “absolutely” because the president has not been effective in communicating to young people what the health care law is about.
“They have been the folks that are the most optimistic and most trusting of the president and Congress to solve the problems they care about,” Della Volpe said.
Grayson said other issues, such as a still struggling economy, college debt, as well unemployment and underemployment are all reasons the president’s numbers have taken a hit.
“Clearly when you have a signature domestic policy achievement that far under water with approval and that lack of an interest in signing up even if you are uninsured that’s got to translate into low numbers as well,” Grayson said.
Della Volpe noted that despite the disappointment with Obama, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, this group remains “passionate about government, they are passionate about America, and they want to go to work and solve the issues that are facing this generation and future generations.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Wednesday argued that the growing gap between the nation’s rich and poor poses “a fundamental threat to the American Dream,” as he outlined a sweeping economic agenda expected to dominate the remainder of his presidency.
Repeating familiar themes, Obama said “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is jeopardizing the basic American middle-class tenet that “if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”
“This is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That’s why I ran for president. It was the center of last year’s campaign. It drives everything I do in this office,” he said, in remarks that an official said preview his State of the Union address.
The president’s 50-minute landmark speech was intended to reframe the public debate as he seeks to move past the troubled Obamacare rollout that has consumed Washington for the past two month.
Acknowledging the “poor execution” by his administration, he admitted “we didn’t roll out parts of this law as well as we should have.” But he also blamed Republicans and their “reckless shutdown” of the government for why Americans are fed up with Washington.
“Nobody has acquitted themselves very well these past few months. So it’s not surprising that the American people’s frustrations with Washington are at an all-time high,” he said.
To boost job creation and lessen economic disparity, the president reiterated his call for a higher minimum wage, more early childhood education and investments in infrastructure. He did not, however, outline any new legislative initiatives.
The president also continued to tout the economic benefits of the Affordable Care Act, claiming his signature law will help level the inequalities that existed in the broken health care system.
“This law’s going to work,” he said. “And for the sake of our economic security, it needs to work.”
Obama once again challenged his Republican opponents to put forth their own plans to expand economic opportunity, increase wages, and reform health care.
“You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you’re against,” he said to applause. “That way, we can have a vigorous and meaningful debate. That’s what the American people deserve. That’s what the times demand.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- More Americans signed up for health insurance through the federal online exchange on the first two days of December than in all of October, a source familiar with the enrollment numbers tells ABC News.
Roughly 29,000 people completed applications and selected a plan through the revamped HealthCare.gov site between midnight Sunday and midnight Tuesday, the source said. It is not clear how many of those paid their first month’s premium, which is how insurers formally define enrollment.
In October, 26,000 people selected plans through the federal system, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The latest figures are a burst of good news for the Obama administration following the relaunch of its signature insurance website. Traffic to the site continues to be high, topping 1 million visitors on Monday and 950,000 visitors on Tuesday, officials said. The White House says the volume reflects serious, persistent interest in signing up.
Approximately 100,000 Americans selected plans through the federal exchange in November, a significant increase in sign-ups but still lagging behind pace for a White House target of 7 million by March 31. More comprehensive figures for last month, including state by state data and other metrics, will be released in the next two weeks, an administration official said.
The early December enrollment figures were first reported by Politico.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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