With President Obama set to accept his party's renomination in three weeks, a number of Democratic elected officials are sending their regrets for the Democratic National Convention.
The late timing of the convention may be a factor in discouraging some lawmakers from attending. "Almost any candidate is better off staying home," said Lawrence Levy, an expert on suburban politics at Hofstra University. "It's Labor Day -- there are parades, there are barbecues, there are block parties. These are the staples of retail campaigning."
But the decisions also reflect the reality that some Democrats do not see the president as a political asset. "Half the electorate is really not happy at this point with the president's leadership, and so that doesn't provide members of the House with much of a basis for thinking there will be coattails for them to ride on," said James E. Campbell, a professor of political science at the University at Buffalo. "I don't think they're running away from him, but I don't think they're running to be seen as a close ally of his, either."
Congressional leaders have given an explicit blessing for rank-and-file lawmakers not to attend. "If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But Republicans are seizing on the planned absences as proof of what they describe as Obama's vulnerability. "They do not want to be associated with their presidency," said Edward Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party.
Republican vice presidential contender Paul Ryan said Thursday that he never would have included a $700 billion Medicare cut in his budget if President Obama hadn't done it first.
"He put those cuts there," Ryan said. "We would never have done it in the first place."
Bolstered by strong fund- raising over the past year and a major influx of cash brought in by Mitt Romney in recent months, the Republican National Committee has spent nearly $21 million on attack ads against President Obama since the second week in July, said Federal Election Commission disclosures.
The spending has come out of the committee's "independent expenditure" operation -- activities that are paid for by the party but not coordinated with any candidates -- making it effectively the third-largest "super PAC" on the airwaves.
Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Obama, has spent about $31 million in the entire election cycle, while the leading super PAC aligned with Romney, Restore Our Future, has spent about $84 million.
The Republican committee's burst of spending was enabled by a strong July, said party officials: The committee took in $37.7 million last month, its best haul ever, and ended with $88.7 million in cash on hand. The committee's total take for 2012 already exceeds its total 2008 and 2004 fundraising by more than $20 million, officials said.
'I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate'
She was an attorney at a big Chicago law firm. He was a Harvard Law student working as a summer associate. He was immediately smitten. She wasn't so sure. But he won her over, and the couple sealed their budding romance with a kiss at the Baskin-Robbins in Hyde Park.
So goes the story of how Michelle and Barack Obama fell in love in 1989. Now there's a marker at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and 53rd Street noting the exact location where they had their first smooch. A quote from President Obama, taken from a 2007 interview in "O, The Oprah Magazine," is inscribed beneath a photo of the couple. "On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate."
The 3,000-pound boulder, commissioned by the owners of Dorchester Commons, was 2 1/2 years in the making, said Jonelle Kearney, a spokeswoman for Mid-America Asset Management, which manages the shopping center. She said the idea came about after visitors' queries. Though the Baskin-Robbins the Obamas visited has been replaced with a Subway shop, there is a different Baskin-Robbins a few doors down. Some suggested that the site could become a popular spot for first dates and even marriage proposals. But things are a lot different today than they were back in 1989. Justen Jackson, 15, said: "It's nice, but I wouldn't bring anyone here on a first date. They're going to want to go somewhere better than Subway or Baskin-Robbins."