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On the road with the 2012 US election.

Chicago summit: city on fire (PHOTOS)

NATO and nature turn up the heat on America’s second city.

CHICAGO, IL. — Gunshots rang out in northern Chicago Sunday evening, provoking furious blog entries but no response from the police.

“The cops are so focused on possible terrorism downtown they don’t care what happens to real people,” said Meaghan, 28, who has lived in Chicago for the past five years.

As Chicago braced for a second day of summits and protests Monday, residents could be forgiven a bit of grumbling.


US election: Candidates walk loudly, forget the stick

Opinion: Foreign policy in the campaign has become a matter of posturing, and diversion from the real issues.
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Presumptive Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets the crowd during a campaign stop on May 16, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Edward Linsmier/AFP/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney will not negotiate with the Taliban — he will defeat them. Barack Obama is done talking to Iran — window for diplomacy is shrinking. No one apologizes for America. We stand tall astride the world by virtue of our exceptional status.

This is just a small sampling of the rhetoric surrounding US foreign policy by the two rivals for the 2012 presidency.

The sniping is more than annoying, it is downright dangerous. It is designed to make us feel stronger without offering any real solutions to the myriad problems facing the United States at home and abroad.

The incumbent is facing a number of challenges, of course: a war in Afghanistan that seems physically impossible to win and politically impossible to lose; a defiant Iran that refuses to buckle to American pressure on its nuclear program, against a US Congress that appears intent on pushing the president into war; a conflict in Syria that has shocked he world, while the international community stands impotently on the sidelines; and a rogue state, Yemen, that is sponsoring Al Qaeda bombers whose ingenious underwear devices are now the bane of travelers everywhere.

Weigh this against a roaring deficit, a shrinking military budget, and a public that is increasingly gun-shy about foreign adventures, and you get some idea of Obama’s dilemma.

Romney, of course, faces no such constraints; he can blast away at his opponent, playing on the wounded national pride of Americans as he calls for firm action, regardless of the possibilities.


Lies, damned lies, and polls

The latest Obama and Romney surveys are playing with our heads — but what do they actually mean?
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He's up, he's down — what's the deal? Pay no mind. (Screengrab)
From now until November, we will be treated to a daily diet of public opinion polls. Who’s up, who’s down, and what it all means will be our bread and butter for the next six months. I may choke.

Class warfare: Obama’s new campaign tactic

The president goes on the offensive with an attack ad against Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital.
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The opening of a new Barack Obama campaign ad shows a steelworker who says he was ruined by Bain Capital under Mitt Romney's management. (Screengrab)

BOSTON, Mass. — A little birdie must have been sitting nearby during my lunch with a prominent Boston lawyer on Friday. We were discussing — what else? — the presidential elections, and the candidates’ relative chances of success.


Obama on gay marriage: political suicide or politics as usual?

Barack Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage could sink his campaign — or it could save it.
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Same-sex couple Frank Capley-Alfano and Joe Capley-Alfano celebrate outside of San Francisco City Hall on Feb. 7 in San Francisco, California. A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the voter-approved Proposition 8 measure violates the civil rights of gay men and lesbians. (JUSTIN SULLIVAN/Getty Images)

Unemployment, bank bailouts, failed wars, tax cuts for billionaires — all of the concerns that have swirled around the ether for months evaporated this week, replaced by just one topic: gay marriage.

Suddenly, something that, it would seem, affects a small minority of the population has become the central, overriding issue of the 2012 US Presidential Election.

The economy be damned, I guess. This election really is going to be about the soul of America.

But what, exactly, is all the fuss about?


A bad day for Democrats

Tuesday’s primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia signal difficult days ahead.
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President Barack Obama speaks at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany on May 8, 2012 in Albany, New York. Obama delivered an address that focused on the economy and job creation, two issues which look set to become the central themes of the race against presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Mitt Romney’s hat trick in Tuesday’s three primary races came almost as a footnote to the real news — voters are in a feisty mood, and are not afraid to show it. The former Massachusetts governor triumphed handily in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia, gaining between 65 and 70 percent of the vote in each state. Of course, he was really the only one running. The interesting contests were more local, and far more contentious.

Flat earthers, birthers, and the end of the world

How much crazier can this campaign get? Don’t ask.
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Ron Paul has no chance of winning the nomination but there are those who insist that Paul could still pull it off. There are also people who are convinced the earth is flat. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
There is a bizarre sort of déjà vu surrounding this presidential election campaign – and the feeling that history may be skipping the whole tragedy bit and jumping right to farce. That, at least, was my feeling when I read the headlines over the weekend: “Ron Paul wins big in Maine and Nevada.”

Supermoon over Obama

The president's campaign officially kicks off, to mixed reviews from those looking at the full moon.
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US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Value City Arena - Schottenstein Center on May 5, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. Obama traveled to Ohio and Virginia where he held rallies to officially begin his reelection bid for the 2012 presidential election. (Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty Images)

ONSET, Massachusetts — Two major events took place Saturday — the official start of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, and the Supermoon. Both of them were a bit of a disappointment, at least in this small resort community on the Cape Cod canal.

For sheer excitement, the lunar orb had it over the president hands down. While Obama courted polite crowds in the battleground states of Ohio and Virginia, people the world over were feverishly readying their cameras and scouting out observation posts to capture what promised to be a spectacular show. Lady Moon was making her closest approach to Earth for 2012.

I led a group of friends away from a Cinco de Mayo party to the local beach to check things out. But the cloud cover was so thick that we could not see a thing — unless it was the margaritas that were obscuring our view.

My attempts to turn the conversation to politics, however, met with pretty stern resistance.

“No one really cares about the elections,” said Jim, a financial advisor from New York. “People are just sick of the whole topic.”


Whose health is it anyway?

Obamacare, Romneycare — is there any real care available out there?
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A paramedic takes blood from a patient in a Miami hospital's emergency department. Critics say frequent use of hospital emergency rooms for minor health problems impede care of the critically injured and are driving up the costs of US health care. (JOE RAEDLE/Getty Images)

FALMOUTH, Mass. — My doctor looked at me sympathetically, but shook her head. I was complaining that my insurance provider was denying coverage of a prescription medication because it was “too expensive.”

“Isn’t that why I am paying over $900 a month for insurance?” I sputtered. My doctor thought I needed the medication, I thought I needed the medication, but my provider, who had never seen me, had decided otherwise.


The war may be over, but the campaign is just beginning

President Obama visits Kabul in a shrewd mixture of policy and politics.
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US President Barack Obama delivers a speech on US policy and the war in Afghanistan during his May 2 visit to Bagram Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan. (KEVIN LAMARQUE-POOL/Getty Images)

As President Barack Obama pressed flesh, inked documents and delivered a major foreign policy speech in Afghanistan yesterday, his two-track message rang out loud and clear: I am the man who ends the wars my predecessor started, vote for me to ensure a peaceful future.