First Edition: October 18, 2012

Today's headlines include resports about how the presidential candidates are crafting messages on women's health issues in order to appeal to female voters. 

Kaiser Health News: Video: Health Policy & Campaign 2012
Kaiser Health News hosts a discussion on the Obama and Romney plans with former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle and conservative health care analyst Avik Roy, followed by a reporters’ roundtable with KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and Sarah Varney, Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post and Politico’s Jonathan Allen (10/17). What the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Trinity Health, Catholic Health East Announces Plans To Merge
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jenny Gold reports: "The boards of two leading Catholic health systems, Trinity Health and Catholic Health East, have announced plans to join forces in 2013. The consolidated Catholic health system would include 82 hospitals and 89 continuing care facilities, home health and hospice programs. The two health systems together have nearly 2.8 million visits each year across 21 states. They employ more than 87,000 employees, including 4,100 doctors" (Gold, 10/17). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: Boehner And Obama Haven't Talked Fiscal Cliff
It’s a striking admission from the nation’s top elected Republican and clear evidence that the most urgent legislative concerns are frozen until after the election. A Boehner aide notes that the speaker did talk to Obama in September, but the topic was foreign policy, not the fiscal cliff. In fact, Boehner was asked on the call for an update on the sequester — Washington-speak for the automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and other domestic spending (Sherman, 10/17).

Los Angeles Times: Obama And Romney Fight For Female Vote
Picking up where their contentious debate left off, President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney battled Wednesday for the support of female voters, underscoring their potentially decisive role in settling the fiercely competitive race. Buoyed by a much-improved performance Tuesday night, Obama traveled to the swing state of Iowa, where he renewed his attacks on Romney for proposing an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and again touted legislation he signed making it easier for women to sue for job discrimination (Parsons and Mehta, 10/17).

NPR: Romney Tries To Soften Birth Control Message
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been firmly anti-abortion during this campaign. But during Tuesday's debate on Long Island, N.Y., Romney charged that President Obama misrepresented his position on birth control. … Romney didn't directly address the Planned Parenthood issue — though he has said repeatedly he wants it defunded. But he did complain about what Obama seemed to be implying (Rovner, 10/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Candidates Zero In On Women Voters
The focus of the presidential race shifted Wednesday to women voters, as President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney carried their argument over women's health care and job opportunities from Tuesday's combative debate onto the campaign trail and TV airwaves (Meckler and Lee, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: On Women, Taxes, Hispanics, Romney Primary Message Shifts As Election Day Nears
On immigration, taxes and women's issues, Mitt Romney is abandoning his "severely conservative" talk of the Republican primary season and moving sharply to the political center as he looks to sway on-the-fence voters in the campaign's final three weeks. … Romney's opposition to Planned Parenthood was a common theme during the primary, and Obama hammered the Republican on Tuesday over his plan to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, the network of clinics that provide women’s health care and also provide abortion services (10/17).

The Washington Post: Obama Hammers Away At Romney's Changing Positions On Women's Health Issues
At a moment when women are seen as increasingly crucial to the outcome of the election, Romney is trying to build on gains he has made in recent polls. He also is trying to reverse the advantage that President Obama has built this year in part by hammering at Romney’s many statements on women's health issues during the Republican primary season, when the GOP candidate described himself as "severely conservative." Obama’s campaign quickly seized on the latest ad as another example of Romney's effort to erase the conservative stands he took during the GOP primaries (Gardner, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Romney Focuses On Economy, Medicare, Social Security With New Debate Ad
The ad uses video from Mitt Romney' town hall-style presidential debate with President Barack Obama in Hempstead, N.Y., to attack the president's performance over the past four years. Besides some on-screen writing to emphasize certain points as Romney speaks, the only addition to the video is some somber background music (10/17).

The Hill: DCCC Mounts Healthcare Attacks In New TV Ads
The DCCC spots focus on Medicare and women's health — two recurring themes in every Democratic campaign this year, including the presidential race. The ads are also a clear sign that Democrats believe they're back on offense over healthcare, following a bruising 2010 cycle dominated by conservative opposition to President Obama's healthcare law (Baker, 10/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Akin Bonds Ever Tighter With Evangelicals
Mr. Akin, a six-term representative from the St. Louis area, has long been a favorite of evangelical Christians who support his positions against abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, two months after he triggered a national uproar by saying that female bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," Mr. Akin has retreated deeper into the protection of that evangelical base. His comments, in an August interview with a St. Louis television station, turned what had been seen as a likely Republican pickup of a Democratic seat into a challenge for the GOP (Belkin, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Unexpectedly Close North Dakota Race, Who Wins Comes Down To Ticket-Splitters
Republicans had hoped that the Senate race would be over by now, that Romney voters intrigued by Heitkamp would settle in with Berg. The first-term congressman's case to voters has been similar to Romney's: a healthy emphasis on the national debt, a dismissal of Obama's policies and the promise that he can bring his skills as a businessman to the Senate. For much of the campaign, Berg has made a simple partisan appeal against Heitkamp, a former state attorney general. His ads and his stump speeches focused largely on her past support of Obama's policies, particularly the president's health care law. He said she would be a rubber stamp for Obama and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid. Berg's more recent ads have questioned Heitkamp's self-styled independence (10/17).

Politico: LCV Surveys: Warren Up Over Brown, Tester And Rehberg Neck And Neck
The League of Conservation Voters is out with two new polls in competitive Senate races, showing Elizabeth Warren well ahead of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Rep. Denny Rehberg and Sen. Jon Tester basically tied in Montana (Haberman, 10/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Despite Wisconsin's Swing To The Right, Resurgent Liberal Makes Senate Race Tight
For the last few years, the most endangered species in Wisconsin appeared to be the liberal Democrat. In one election after another, unhappy voters tossed them from public office, defeating long-serving incumbents, rebuffing promising newcomers and capping it off by creating a new national conservative hero, Republican Gov. Scott Walker (10/17).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Sen. Gillibrand And GOP Challenger Long Debate
In one of the most animated exchanges, Long spoke against the mandate that President Barack Obama announced in January requiring most employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control, a move opposed by many Roman Catholic groups. "If I'm just a private person with a business, and I have faith that tells me that abortion, sterilization and contraception are evil, will I be forced to buy such a plan, to offer it to my employees?" Long asked. Gillibrand countered that there is a movement to undermine women's basic rights. "To say that's evil shows disregard for the ability of a woman to make that personal life-and-death decision about her own body," Gillibrand said (10/17).

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