FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
The truth about what happened in Benghazi – and when President Obama knew it – could have a huge impact on the closing days of this campaign.
Turns out the White House, the State Department and the FBI were all told two hours after the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that an Islamic militant group had claimed responsibility. Two hours.
One government e-mail from the State Department shows a Libyan group – called Ansar al-Sharia – claimed responsibility for the attack on Facebook and Twitter. The group denied responsibility the next day.
This is big. It suggests that the president had reports that very day that the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans weren't because of some film clip.
And yet – we heard just the opposite.
It took the administration nine days to refer to the attack as the work of terrorists.
Instead, top officials insisted there was no evidence suggesting the attack was "planned or imminent."
They continued to suggest that it was that anti-Muslim video produced in the United States that fueled a spontaneous protest in Benghazi. This includes folks at the very top like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and the State Department spokeswoman.
Why did the president and his top lieutenants obfuscate and hem and haw for so long before telling us what really happened? Try politics.
As for this latest report, the White House says that these e-mails were part of a public flow of information in the aftermath of the attack and that it's the job of the intelligence community to sort through this stuff. They still refuse to accept responsibility for misleading the American people.
However, the more information that comes out about the Benghazi attack, the more questions there are about how the administration handled this. And that's not good for Obama just 13 days before the election.
Here’s my question to you: Why didn't President Obama tell the truth about what happened in Benghazi?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
President Obama did better at the debate Tuesday night, but he's a long way from sealing the deal for a second term.
For example, Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents this country has ever seen.
According to a Gallup Poll, so far in October, a whopping 90% of Democrats approve of the job the president is doing, compared with only 8% of Republicans.
That's an 82-point gap in party approval ratings a month before the election and figures to be the largest gap for any incumbent in recent history.
George W. Bush had an 80-point gap in party approval the October before the election, while Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan all had gaps below 70 points.
And the trend is not his friend. Obama's ratings have become more polarized each year he's been in office. Perhaps not surprising when he pushed through measures like Obamacare with no Republican support. Also controversial are his record government spending and what critics claim are Obama's efforts to grow big government.
Gallup points out that it's not unusual for a president's ratings to be the most polarized their fourth year in office, right before the election.
For now, George W. Bush's fourth year is still the most polarized of any presidential year since they started keeping track in the 1950s.
But Bush and Obama share near-universal approval from their own party and a near-universal disapproval from the other party.
Another explanation is that feelings about Obama – and Bush before him – are partly a reflection of our hyperpartisan culture in which every issue degrades into a battle between left and right.
Here’s my question to you: Why is the country so sharply divided when it comes to President Obama?
Tomorrow night's presidential debate is a make-or-break moment for President Barack Obama.
After that dismal showing in the first debate against Mitt Romney, the president better bring his A game if he wants a second term.
Writing in The Daily Beast, Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan says that the president's "main challenge for re-election in the final stretch is Obama himself."
Sullivan suggests that Obama threw away the momentum after the first debate, calling the president's performance "so lazy, so feckless and so vain it was almost a dare not to vote for him." Ouch. Remember this is a supporter talking.
But he's onto something: Romney has seen gains in both national polls and battleground states since the first debate.
He now leads the president 48% to 47% in CNN's poll of polls. Perhaps even more telling: After months of voters finding Obama more likable than Romney, a new poll of likely voters shows the two men virtually tied on likability.
According to Sullivan, it will take a lot of "intelligence, fire and argument" for Obama to turn this thing around, and it won't be enough for Obama to just break even with Romney in the two remaining debates.
That brings us back to tomorrow's night debate, which will be moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley.
While the president insists his debate preparations are "going great," the town-hall format may make it even tougher for him to win.
No doubt the president will have to come out strong against Romney, but he also needs to show he can connect with the voters in the hall and those watching at home. It's a tricky balancing act, and above all else, Obama will have to avoid those long and boring professorial answers.
Here’s my question to you: What is President Obama's greatest challenge at tomorrow night's debate?
While President Obama talks about Big Bird on the campaign trail, the real topic begging for answers is what happened in Benghazi on September 11.
But the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans amid what appears to be insufficient security is not something this administration wants to talk about.
Consider this: Up until today, there had been no White House press briefing for more than two weeks.
Meanwhile, it took the FBI three weeks to arrive on the scene in Benghazi after that deadly attack, allegedly for safety reasons. Three weeks.
This has rightfully raised concerns about sensitive documents being left unsecured at the compound. The State Department insists no classified documents were left on the premises. Really? A CNN reporter walked right into the consul and retrieved the ambassador's journal three days after the attack. What else was left behind?
The administration continues to change its story about what happened and why. Initially it said the attacks were a reaction to a film made by an American mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
More than a week later the administration called it a terrorist attack, potentially linked to al Qaeda, after it was learned a Libyan security official warned of a possible attack three days before it happened.
Now we learn that repeated requests for additional security were ignored.
Finally, the Benghazi timeline shows there were no protests before the attack.
There's a reason the president doesn't want to talk about Benghazi: The way it was handled before and after the murders is a disgrace.
Expect Mitt Romney to ask the president about all this when a future debate turns to foreign policy.
Here’s my question to you: Why won't President Obama talk about Benghazi, instead of Big Bird?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
If President Obama had been a Broadway show last night, it would have closed after one performance.
Even the president's staunchest supporters were baffled by his lackluster effort.
MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked, "What was he doing?"
Democratic strategist James Carville said, "Romney came in with a chainsaw."
Commentator Andrew Sullivan said, "This was a disaster... He choked... He may even have lost the election tonight."
CNN did a poll of watchers right after the debate that showed by a margin of almost 3-to-1 – 67% to 25% - that they thought Mitt Romney won the first debate.
What happened to the mesmerizing president who captivated audiences in Berlin and Cairo more than three years ago?
Where was the visionary who saw a path forward for the country that was so compelling he became the first African-American president in our history?
Watching the debate last night, I got the impression Obama didn't want to be there. He seemed annoyed at times and disengaged. And he allowed Romney to get back in the race big time.
And when the debates shift to foreign policy, it's not likely to get any easier for the president.
The Middle East is a tinderbox. The murder of an American ambassador in Libya goes begging for an explanation as to why repeated requests for additional security at our consulate in Benghazi were turned down. And the White House won't answer questions about it except to say the FBI is conducting an investigation.
That's not nearly enough.
Here’s my question to you: Why did President Obama do so poorly at last night's debate?
2012 is no 1980, and Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.
At least that's the message coming from many Republicans to their party's presidential candidate.
Politico reports that comparisons to the 1980 race - when President Jimmy Carter lost to Reagan in a landslide - just don't hold up.
One Reagan biographer calls the comparison a "stretch" and says Romney needs to do a lot more at this point to win than Reagan did.
For starters, President Barack Obama remains personally popular among Americans despite a grim economy. Obama's approval is at around 50%, compared with 37% for Carter at this point in 1980.
Although Reagan trailed Carter in some polls - kind of like Romney - his unfavorable ratings weren't increasing. Romney just isn't connecting with voters like Reagan did.
What's more, Reagan was the overwhelming favorite of the Republican base; compare that to Romney: Many conservatives have never warmed up to him.
Another big difference between 1980 and today is the electoral map. Reagan ultimately carried one in four Democrats in that election. It's hard to imagine Romney ever pulling that off in today's highly polarized electorate.
Also, 32 years ago there were gas shortages and double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates - or stagflation.
Nonetheless, one top Romney adviser says the 1980 race shows there's no need to panic if Romney is down in the polls at this point.
Plus it's not the first time Obama - a weakened, liberal incumbent with a troubled economy and problems in the Middle East - has been compared to Carter.
Here’s my question to you: How is Romney-Obama like Reagan-Carter?
As the clock ticks down to Election Day, the debates are the next big hurdle for the candidates.
Mitt Romney, who has had a rough few weeks to put it mildly, is under the most pressure to use the first presidential debate to turn this thing around. Some actually think October 3 is his last best chance.
Which is probably why he's been practicing a lot.
According to Politico, Romney recently did five mock debates in 48 hours. He's apparently told his advisers that it might be hard to win a debate against the president.
If you're on Mitt Romney's staff, the debates have got to make you at least a little nervous. Their candidate famously puts his foot in his mouth when he goes off prompter.
But the debates could also be a challenge for President Obama, who can give long-winded answers that sound more like a college lecture than a game plan for a second term. This is a man who once gave a 17-minute answer in a town hall meeting. The president can go on and on.
No surprise Team Obama was out lowering expectations this week, saying the president hasn't debated in four years, while Mitt Romney had lots of practice in the primaries.
We now know half the first debate in Denver will focus on the economy. Other topics will include health care, the role of government and governing. Pass the NoDoz.
Debates can be a defining moment for a presidential candidate, and October 3 will be huge.
Here’s my question to you: How much will the presidential debates matter?
His critics have called him a socialist who wants to redistribute the wealth of the nation from the haves to the have-nots. Now a newly surfaced 1998 clip of then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama would seem to support those allegations.
Republicans are pushing this audio clip – which they say was recorded at Loyola university...
In it, the future president talks about what he calls a "propaganda campaign" against government funded programs. He says he wants to resuscitate the idea that "we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind."
Obama goes on to say this:
"I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Obama's critics say the idea of redistributing wealth is socialism; they're linking these 1998 comments to more recent remarks like Obama's "you didn't build that" line.
Back in 2008, John McCain and Sarah Palin went after Mr. Obama after he said "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
More recently the president has said he wants people to feel like they're getting a fair shot. In a December interview with “60 Minutes,” he talked about inequality and people like teachers and small business owners who are working hard but feel like they're just treading water.
In response to the 1998 comments, the Obama campaign says Mr. Obama was making an argument for more efficient and effective government. They say the president believes there are "steps we can take to promote opportunity."
Here’s my question to you: Is the redistribution of wealth President Obama's answer to America's problems?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
There's a growing chorus of voices suggesting that President Barack Obama should dump Joe Biden as his running mate in light of the vice president's latest mistake.
Biden told a mostly black audience in Virginia this week that Mitt Romney's vision of regulating Wall Street would put "y'all back in chains."
And even though the White House is standing by Biden, a lot of people think those comments were unacceptable.
Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain told Fox News "it might be wise" for Obama to swap out Biden for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Just today – the White House said it's not going to happen, adding that the one place they wouldn't go "for advice on vice presidential running mates is to Senator McCain."
Obama told People magazine Biden is an "outstanding vice president." The president said people get "obsessed with how something was phrased," even if that's not what was meant.
But Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder said he thinks Clinton would be a better choice. Wilder actually called for the switch back in 2010, and he said if the president had replaced Biden on the ticket several months ago, he'd have a bigger lead over Romney now.
As for Clinton, she has made it clear many times that she's not interested, but it's probably wise to never count a Clinton out.
Legal experts tell The Weekly Standard that it's still possible for Obama to change his running mate. The Democrats have until September 6 to nominate their presidential ticket.
Here's my question to you: Should President Obama consider replacing Joe Biden on the ticket?
Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 4 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.
With the election just three months away and the economy struggling, a new poll suggests Americans overwhelmingly trust Mitt Romney to get the economy back on track.
The USA Today/Gallup poll shows by more than 2-to-1 - 63% to 29% - Americans say Romney's business background would help him to make good decisions about the economy.
The Obama campaign better take note. This poll suggests the president's strategy of relentless attacks on Romney's record at Bain Capital and his business background could backfire - big time.
With unemployment above 8% for 41 months, Americans might not care about what Romney did 10 years ago. What they care about is someone fixing the economy today. In fact, a lot of voters probably find Romney's business background to be a plus.
Meanwhile, the president has his own strengths over his GOP rival. This same poll shows by a margin of 2-to-1 that voters say Obama is more likable than Romney. By wide margins, voters say the president understands their problems better and that he's more honest and trustworthy than Romney.
Which sets up an interesting dilemma come Election Day:
Will Americans vote for the candidate who they believe can fix the economy - the nation's top issue - or the one they like more?
Here’s my question to you: Is it more important for a president to be able to handle the economy or to be likable?
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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