Jack is out of the office today but will return tomorrow with the Cafferty File.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
With Isaac drawing a bead on the city of New Orleans, the Republican National Convention is no longer at the center of this week's media storm.
Nonetheless, the GOP needs to shine during its abbreviated three-day convention if it wants to recapture the White House.
And while national conventions these days are highly scripted affairs, there's still a little room for a politician to surprise us, in a good or bad way.
Politico takes a look at past conventions and how they've been the breeding grounds for both rising stars and unintended screwups.
Barack Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention propelled him into the national spotlight and started talk of him as presidential material.
At the other end of the spectrum was Bill Clinton's 1988 convention speech. It went on for twice the allotted time, and delegates didn't pay much attention - except for cheering when Clinton finally said the words "in closing."
As for the Republicans' Tampa convention, there are high hopes for keynote speaker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the candidate's wife, Ann Romney.
This convention could be the Republicans' last best chance to introduce Mitt Romney to the country on their terms.
New CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll numbers show that although the race is a dead heat between Romney and President Obama, likely voters believe the president cares more about people and better understands their needs while Romney is perceived as better able to handle the economy, always the most important issue in any presidential election.
And while the temptation might be to try to make Romney seem warmer and fuzzier, he is resisting, saying, "I am who I am." At the end of the day, it's probably easier to be true to yourself than try to be someone you're not.
Here's my question to you: What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.
And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
They looked like two peas in a pod.
When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate Saturday morning, some people thought they were seeing double.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Robin Givhan suggests Ryan could easily be mistaken for one of Romney's five sons.
She says that the Republican running mates - in their matching white shirts and black pants - lacked dazzle or texture.
She describes them as "two white guys defined by political expedience, professional uniforms and perfectly pomaded hair."
And it's not just their appearances that are similar.
Politico suggests Ryan could just be "Mitt squared." The writers say it's easy to see why Romney - the 65-year-old "numbers nerd" - wanted Ryan - the 42-year-old "budget wonk" - on the ticket with him.
Like Romney, Ryan isn't the most exciting speaker. It's possible Romney was looking more for a youthful double of himself than for someone to balance the ticket.
Speaking of doubles, consider these two back in high school.
In his Janesville, Wisconsin, high school, Ryan was voted "biggest brown noser" by his senior year classmates.
He was also the prom king and junior class president, not to mention an athlete and in the Latin club - a pretty well-rounded guy.
As for Romney, he attended a boys' prep school in Michigan, the state where his father was governor.
According to one classmate, Romney was in the glee club and the pep club and was chairman of the homecoming committee.
What he didn't do was play middle linebacker on the football team.
Here's my question to you: Who ranks higher on the charisma scale, Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan?
Mitt Romney went "bold"... doing what many conservatives wanted him to do in naming Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Many view the Ryan pick as a game-changing one, with both Republicans and Democrats cheering Romney's choice.
But it's yet to be seen if Ryan will make voters more - or less - likely to vote for Romney.
Ryan's weaknesses are pretty evident. His budget plan of drastic spending cuts includes significant changes to Social Security and Medicare. Try selling that to elderly voters in Florida.
It also gives Democrats ammunition to play on those same voters' fears, that the social programs they rely on could be threatened.
Plus, Ryan has virtually no experience in the private sector - just like President Obama. He has spent almost 14 years in Congress - a career politician at a time when America is sick of Washington.
But - Romney's selection of Ryan also carries plenty of benefits.
For starters, while voters are sick of Washington insiders, they tend to reward politicians who push for real change... see Barack Obama in 2008 or New Jersey's Chris Christie.
For Americans who grasp the critical nature of our skyrocketing national debt... now nearing $16 trillion... Ryan has a lot of appeal.
And if Mitt Romney is willing to embrace even some of Ryan's ideas... Pres. Obama won't be able to touch the GOP on government spending and deficits.
Ryan is also a clear plus for the party's base, many of whom have never really liked Romney. He appeals to crucial independent voters, Catholics and women too.
Most importantly, the choice of Ryan signals a clear choice for voters in November. More government versus less government. Runaway national debt versus painful fiscal responsibility. Ryan is a big gamble for Mitt Romney - but it's a bet he almost had to make.
Here's my question to you: How much will Paul Ryan help Mitt Romney's chances of winning?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 4 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty
More than 100 million people in the United States of America get welfare from the federal government. 100 million.
According to the Weekly Standard, Senate Republicans say that the federal government administers nearly "80 different overlapping federal means-tested welfare programs."
This figure of 100 million people does not include those who only receive Social Security or Medicare.
The most popular welfare programs are food stamps and Medicaid, with the number of recipients in both these programs skyrocketing in the last decade. Food stamp recipients alone jumped from 17 million in 2000 to 45 million in 2011.
And these 100 million people on welfare include citizens and non-citizens.
In fact, a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies finds that 36% of immigrant-headed households get at least one form of welfare. That's compared to 23% of native-born American households.
Immigrants from some countries rely on welfare more than others: more than half of those coming from Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic get welfare.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is accusing President Obama of loosening welfare requirements.
A new ad charges the president with gutting the 1996 welfare reform law that requires recipients to work in order to collect benefits.
But President Obama's campaign, the White House and former President Clinton - who signed welfare reform into law - are all pushing back against the Romney ad calling it false and misleading.
Here's my question to you: Where is the U.S. headed if more than 100 million people get welfare?
From CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Turns out the golden years aren't so golden anymore for a lot of people.
A new study finds that many Americans die with "virtually no financial assets.” For more than 46% of us, that translates into less than $10,000.
The study - put out by a nonpartisan outfit called the National Bureau of Economic Research - finds that many Americans spend their golden years dependent on the government.
Researchers say many older Americans have no housing wealth and rely almost entirely on Social Security.
Since many seniors have so little in financial assets, they are unprepared to deal with unanticipated financial needs, such as major health-related expenses. Things like entertainment and travel are out of the question.
All this raises more questions about the future of Social Security.
If the government were to reduce benefits for seniors, it could directly affect the day-to-day lives of millions of older Americans who rely on these payments just to get by.
This study also highlights a connection between health and wealth, finding that healthier seniors are likely to have more assets than those who aren't as healthy. And, no surprise here, wealthier seniors are likely to live longer than poorer seniors.
One more thing to remember: Marriage might help you out in old age. According to the report, single seniors had a significantly lower median wealth than continuously married senior citizens. For some of us, that would seem to be counter intuitive.
Here's my question to you: What does it mean if almost half of Americans die with less than $10,000 in assets?
With less than three months to go before Election Day, Americans are becoming less confident in the economy. Not good news for President Obama.
According to Gallup's economic confidence index, July was the second monthly decline in a row. This after economic confidence improved during the first five months of the year.
This index measures the current economic conditions and the country's economic outlook. Americans were more pessimistic about both of these things during July.
A whopping 59% say the economy is getting worse. That's the lowest rating of 2012.
Americans' declining economic confidence is likely due to several factors including weak jobs reports, lower-than-expected GDP growth and Europe's ongoing economic problems.
Meanwhile, a new report suggests the shaky economy is hitting baby boomers especially hard. An AARP survey shows high economic anxiety – extending far beyond the issue of jobs – for pre-retirement voters aged 50 to 64.
No surprise there's a lot of worry about retirement:
– Only one-third of these boomers are hopeful or confident they will reach their financial goals.
– Almost three-quarters think they'll have to put off retirement.
– Half don't think they will ever be able to retire.
Many baby boomers are left with smaller pensions than they expected, more expensive health care... and the stress – and cost – of caring for older relatives.
The AARP also recently reported that more than 3 million Americans over the age of 50 are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure due to the housing crisis.
Here's my question to you: As the election gets closer, are you more or less confident in the U.S. economy?
It's possible that Mitt Romney could do worse than Sarah Palin.
In a piece on the Daily Beast, Michelle Cottle writes that picking a "dull white guy" for vice president could damage Romney big-time.
She definitely has a point. After the debacle that Palin was for John McCain in 2008, camp Romney has vowed to pick the anti-Palin. Cottle describes this as someone who is "safe, steady, hyperqualified and without a roguish bone in his - yes, definitely his - body.”
It's why folks such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley seem to have lost favor in the veepstakes while others, such as U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota seem more likely to get the nod.
But as time ticks down on Romney's choice, some Republicans are getting nervous about what will happen if Romney goes with a safe pick - a buttoned-down, cautious, boring white guy … sort of like himself.
Some conservatives are now calling on Romney to "go bold," urging him to pick U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Rubio or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
By selecting a vanilla-flavored vice president, Romney risks confirming the worries of many in the Republican Party that he lacks enthusiasm and vision.
Cottle writes that after all this time worrying about another Palin, a greater danger to the GOP might be a VP who is "so dull that no one even cares what he says to Katie Couric."
But Romney just might be headed in that direction. Two of these less-than-thrilling VP contenders, Portman and Pawlenty, will hit the campaign trail for him in key battleground states this week. Yawn ...
Here's my question to you: Who's the worst person Mitt Romney could pick to be his running mate?
When opportunity knocks, it's a good idea to answer the door, especially if you want to be elected the next president.
Last week, President Obama announced that illegal aliens under the age of 30 who have been here since before they were 16 would no longer be deported and would be eligible to apply for work permits if they meet certain requirements.
In doing so, the president handed Mitt Romney a golden chance to score some points with the beleaguered middle class.
With millions of American citizens out of work and unemployment at more than 8%, it was a gift to Romney. But instead of pointing out these things and suggesting that the few jobs being produced should go to American citizens, Romney was silent. Instead of saying immigration is a huge problem that needs to be dealt with, but not at the expense of giving American jobs to illegal immigrants, Romney was silent.
Instead of pointing out that Obama was violating immigration laws and instead is making his own laws when it comes to illegal immigrants, Romney was silent.
In fact, he was given a second chance Sunday by Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was asked five times about this issue. But the best he could do was refuse to answer, dodging the question in the best political tradition.
If Romney wants to be the next president, he should start speaking out for the rule of law and on behalf of American citizens, especially when the choice is as clear as Obama made this.
Here's my question to you: Why is Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on Pres. Obama's new immigration policy?
Wisconsin's recall election could be a sign of things to come for unions and Democrats. Republican Gov. Scott Walker's victory is a big deal, and here's why:
Walker recognized the ruinous financial path we're on. He did something about it, and he prevailed. Despite howling from liberal critics, voters in Wisconsin stood by the governor and his effort to limit collective bargaining powers for public-sector workers. If Wisconsin gets it, maybe there's hope for the rest of us.
Consider this: Two of California's biggest cities are also backing moves against unions.
San Diego and San Jose voted overwhelmingly this week to cut the pensions of city government workers to save money. If it can happen in California - the bluest of the blue states - maybe it can happen anywhere, such as Washington, D.C.
Even many Californians understand that the costs of government pensions are killing us.
According to CNNMoney.com, the public pension fund gap for police, firefighters, teachers and other city, county and state employees could be as high as $3 trillion, and that doesn't even include the cost of retiree medical care.
Several city governments have already filed for bankruptcy protection, mostly because of pension costs.
Meanwhile, Walker says the recall results mean that it's now "competitive" there come November. This is a state that Barack Obama won by 14 percentage points last time around.
And it's not just Wisconsin. Other big union states might no longer be automatic check-offs for the president.
For example, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is suggesting that his state is "definitely in play."
Here's my question to you: What impact could the Wisconsin recall election have in November?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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