By CNN's Jack Cafferty
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?
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.
By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
As the race for the White House heats up, the candidates are hoping star power can help them raise the big bucks and boost voter enthusiasm.
But Republicans are slamming President Barack Obama - much like they did in 2008 - for his hobnobbing with Hollywood and celebrities.
Obama held New York fund-raisers this week with the theme “Barack on Broadway.” The star-studded events helped the president raise millions for his re-election coffers. On the way to New York, the president hosted rock star Jon Bon Jovi on Air Force One.
The president is due back in New York next week for another fund-raiser at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker.
This visit follows the much publicized dinner at the Los Angeles home of George Clooney, where the Obama campaign raked in $15 million. A recent campaign ad featured Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and folks such as Ricky Martin, Barbra Streisand and Spike Lee have appeared at other events for Obama.
The GOP whines about all this at length, saying it just proves the president is out of touch with ordinary Americans - many of them trying to find a job.
In some cases, the Obama campaign hopes it can use celebrities to target key voting blocs, such as women, gays or Hispanics.
And the president isn’t alone here, although Mitt Romney doesn't have the same following among celebrities. Romney's been hanging out at campaign events with folks such as Donald Trump, Kid Rock, Jon Voight and Ted Nugent. No doubt about it, the president has much better celebrities.
But the point is: How much do Americans suffering under a shaky economy and high unemployment care what celebrities have to say about politics? I know I don't.
Here’s my question to you: Do politicians who hang out with celebrities help or hurt themselves?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
President Barack Obama is under fire for adding his own policy plugs to the official biographies of past presidents on the White House website.
Here's how it works: The White House added blurbs to the end of these biographies. These "Hey, did you know?" factoids appear on nearly every president's bio page going back to Calvin Coolidge.
"In a June 28, 1985, speech, Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multimillionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule."
These added links plug everything from Obama’s health care overhaul to Social Security, Medicare and the repeal of don't ask, don't tell.
Republicans are having a field day with this.
The RNC created a hysterical "Obama in History" website. It shows the president as part of other historical events like the moon landing and the Declaration of Independence and with historical figures such as Albert Einstein, Richard Nixon and Elvis.
The White House insists that the biographies themselves weren't changed. They tell Fox News they "simply added links at the bottom of each page." They say this is a commonly used Internet practice to encourage people to explore further.
However, one expert tells ABC News that while these additions didn't "cross the line" by changing the presidential biographies, the White House could have made it clearer that they weren't part of the official White House presidential biographies.
Here’s my question to you: Is it appropriate for President Obama to change the official biography pages of past presidents on the White House website?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm 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.
President Obama invited more than three dozen of his top campaign fundraisers to last night's State Dinner in honor of the British Prime Minister.
Some of the guests included:
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Vogue editor-in chief Anna Wintour along with executives from the private equity company Blackstone, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Microsoft.
Just to name a few.
In total – 47 of the more than 360 expected attendees are campaign bundlers or volunteer fundraisers for Mr. Obama's reelection efforts.
According to ABC News, the group on hand last night raised nearly $11 million of the $250 million President Obama and the Democrats have raised so far for 2012.
Everybody understands election campaigns require money - but is this the proper use of the White House?
These folks are known as "bundlers" and are a big deal in campaign finance. Federal campaign rules limit individual contributions to $2,500. That's where bundlers kick in and raise the big bucks from their associates.
President Obama also invited several campaign donors to a State Dinner for the president of South Korea back in October. Sort of like using the Lincoln bedroom to repay favors, isn't it?
It's not unusual for presidents to reward big supporters by inviting them to dinners with dignitaries. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did it.
But Mr. Obama ran on "the most sweeping ethics reform in history" back in 2008; and he likes to criticize the role money plays in politics.
Except when it's time to raise money for his reelection.
The more things change in Washington, the more they stay the same.
Here’s my question to you: Should campaign fund-raisers be invited to White House state dinners for foreign dignitaries?
As Newt Gingrich continues his meteoric rise in the polls, there's one key issue that could hold him back: Character. Or will it?
A new Quinnipiac Poll shows the former House Speaker scores higher than Mitt Romney on most key leadership traits - except for personal character.
For example: Republican voters say Newt Gingrich is a stronger leader than Romney - by 34% to 24%.
They say he's stronger on foreign policy... 46% to 16%.
And they say Gingrich has the right "knowledge and experience" to be president - by 48% to 22%. These are huge margins.
But Gingrich trails Romney 32% to 9% when it comes to who has a "strong moral character."
A lot of that likely goes back to Gingrich's personal baggage, including his three marriages and his infidelity.
Overall, Gingrich places at the top of the Republican pack in this survey, with 26% compared to Romney's 22%. In a head-to-head match-up, Gingrich does even better, topping Romney by 10 points.
But it might not matter. Even though Republicans find Gingrich competent and ready to deal with the nation's problems, they worry about his character.
And this is at least part of the reason why: By a double-digit margin, Republicans say Romney has the best chance of beating President Obama; and by an overwhelming margin, they say Romney is most likely to be the Republican nominee.
It's interesting that at a time when our nation is facing a boatload of very serious problems - from the national debt to the economy, unemployment, ongoing wars, etc. - a lot of people are more hung up on personal character than about the ability to lead.
Here’s my question to you: When it comes to being president, which is more important: the ability to solve the country's problems or personal character?
It was only a matter of time. It always is.
With Newt Gingrich suddenly rising big time in the polls, his opponents are starting to make an issue of his personal baggage. The tabloid stuff - like the fact that the former house speaker is on his third marriage and is an adulterer.
Politico reports that there's a flyer circulating in Iowa from a group called Christian Leaders in Government.
Among other things, it asks: If Newt Gingrich can't be faithful to his wife, how can we trust him to be faithful to conservative voters?"
Airing a candidate's dirty laundry is nothing new... especially in the primaries in early voting states.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that while there have been several presidents unfaithful to their wives, Ronald Reagan has been the only divorced president. Gingrich has both strikes against him.
Experts say Gingrich will have to address his personal past, but some believe voters won't dwell on it. Like him or not, Gingrich is a smart guy who might be the most capable of the current GOP batch of dealing with the critical issues we face. The bar isn't exactly high.
Plus half of Americans get divorced these days. And if every politician who has been unfaithful left office, Washington would be a ghost town.
But not everyone thinks it's not that big a deal. A columnist at Salon.com writes that Gingrich "committed so many political and ethical transgressions that his baggage has baggage."
Gingrich is twice divorced. He left his first wife after her cancer treatment and he left his second wife for a staffer.
UPDATE: We heard from Newt Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman. She says that Newt Gingrich and her mother (his first wife) were in the process of dissolving their marriage weeks before her mom went into the hospital to have a tumor removed. She says the tumor was benign; there was no cancer. Gingrich Cushman suggests that time and the media have created an inaccurate impression of what really happened.
Gingrich says he expects questions about his three marriages and infidelity. But he insists he's happily married and has reconciled all this with God.
Here’s my question to you: How much will Newt Gingrich's personal baggage affect his run for the White House?
Think NASCAR. With the start of the primaries a few months away, the Republican race for president is on.
Here's the deal: Once Republicans started their engines, Rick Perry jumped out front and then promptly crashed going into the first turn. Michele Bachmann's car wouldn't start. Herman Cain blew a tire just as he grabbed the lead ... and now he says he's remembering why. Sure.
As for some of the others - such as Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul - they're in the back of the pack fighting for position. They’re long shots at best at this point.
All of which leaves Mitt Romney in the lead. After news of the harassment allegations against Cain, Romney becomes the prohibitive favorite to take the checkered flag, win the nomination and take on President Barack Obama next November. That’s at least for now.
Romney is the same guy the Republicans wanted no part of in 2008 when John McCain was the GOP nominee.
Polls show most Republicans think Romney has the best chance of beating Obama. But even if he does, so what? What difference does it really make? Given the bitter partisanship of Congress, how much does it even matter if Romney wins?
Unless Republicans win the Senate and retain control of the House of Representatives, Romney won't be able to get any more done than Obama has been able to do.
Our country hasn’t been this divided since the Civil War. There was a time long ago when politicians from both sides of the aisle were able to acknowledge their differences yet still work together. No more.
Here's my question to you: With the nation so badly divided, how much does it really matter who the president is?
The White House has pictures of Osama bin Laden's body. But we're not sure when or if we'll see them.
A senior U.S. official tells CNN that the White House received three sets of pictures on Monday: One set of bin Laden's body at a hangar in Afghanistan where it was flown after he was killed, one set from bin Laden's burial at sea aboard the USS Carl Vinson and one set from the raid in which he was killed, showing the compound and several corpses - including one of his sons - but no pictures of bin Laden at the scene where he was gunned down.
The tricky part for the White House is that the picture that includes the most recognizable image of bin Laden's face has been described as extremely gruesome and graphic. It reportedly shows a massive open bullet wound across both of his eyes. It's very bloody and not exactly acceptable for the front page of a newspaper or a morning television show. But whether to show it is a decision that should be made by the newspaper editor or the morning show producer.
Most Americans want to see the pictures anyway. More than half of Americans, 56%, say the United States should release a picture of Osama bin Laden's body, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll. Just 39% say it should not be released.
The other consideration is whether releasing the picture would further inflame Muslim extremists and members of al Qaeda. It probably would, but how much madder could they get? Bin Laden is dead, gunned down in his house by United States Navy SEALS. They're probably already pretty steamed.
A final decision on the photos has not been made, but there is "growing consensus" to release them. A decision could come as early as Tuesday.
A radio host in Southern California named John Phillips wrote a piece in the Los Angeles Times titled "Why Hillary Clinton Must Run in 2012."
In it, he lays out why he thinks Clinton could win the Oval Office this time around. He points to approval ratings– President Obama at just 42% in a new Quinnipiac University poll, Secretary of State Clinton at 66% in a similar poll conducted by Gallup.
Phillips also talks about dissatisfied Clinton backers from the 2008 primaries who never really fell in love with Obama. To quote, "They just fell in line." And Phillips suggests these folks are so fed up with Obama they could be persuaded to vote for a Republican rather than vote to re-elect the president.
But why is Hillary Clinton suddenly so much more attractive as a candidate? Phillips says the military action in Libya was Hillary's "I told you so" moment with "Hillary serving as the realistic, aggressive war hawk and Obama being a not-ready-for-prime-time waffler."
While Phillips might be on to something, the secretary of state has said repeatedly that she is not interested in running for president again.
When Wolf Blitzer asked her in Cairo if she'd want to be president in 2012, she quickly said no.
What about 2016? She said:
"I am doing what I want to do right now and I have no intention or any idea even of running again. I'm going to do the best I can at this job for the next two years."
Of course 2012 is still a ways off, and in politics, as we have seen, stranger things have happened.
Here’s my question to you: Do you think Hillary Clinton could beat President Obama next year?
There is no clear favorite for the Republican presidential in 2012 according to a recent Gallup poll.
No one has said they're running yet either.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is flirting with the idea of running.
Other names have been circulating for months: Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, even a dark horse like U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.
One name that is getting an increasing amount of buzz over the past few months, particularly in this climate of tough budget talk and skyrocketing debts, is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
The first term governor is being credited as the leader of the current wave of spending cuts to state budgets by other governors.
And because of that, a lot of Republicans want to see Christie run for President.
Christie has said repeatedly that he won't do it.
But he says that's not because he doesn't think he can win. On the contrary.
In an interview with The National Review the New Jersey Governor said: "I have people calling me and saying to me, 'Let me explain to you how you could win.' And I'm like, 'You're barking up the wrong tree. I already know I could win.' That's not the issue." Gotta love that.
Christie also said that because he's not personally ready to be president, it would only hurt the Republican Party if were elected, and the country on the whole.
Not even two years into his term, Christie says he's still learning every day.
Here’s my question to you: N.J. Governor Chris Christie: "I could win the White House." Do you believe him?
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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