WASHINGTON (AP) — The pressure is on President Barack Obama to deliver a Goldilocks performance in the second debate: Not too cool, as he was in his first, listless encounter with Mitt Romney. And not too hot, as some critics styled Vice President Joe Biden in his faceoff with Paul Ryan.
With the race extremely tight and little time left for a breakout moment, Obama is intent on getting the porridge just right in a 90-minute, one-on-one faceoff Tuesday at Hofstra University on New York's Long Island.
The candidates will take questions on domestic and foreign policy from an audience of about 80 of the coveted uncommitted voters whom both campaigns are so furiously courting with just three weeks left until Election Day. The town hall-style format makes it especially tricky for Obama to strike the right balance in coming on strong against Romney without turning off the audience — and tens of millions of television viewers — by going too negative.
The importance attached to this year's debates is reflected in the significant chunks of time that both candidates have spent preparing. Obama, faulted for being ill-prepared for the first faceoff with Romney, largely dropped out of sight for the last three days to attend "debate camp" at a resort in Williamsburg, Va. And Romney, the clear victor in Round One, has devoted big blocks of time to rehearsals over the last several days as well.
The Campaign 2012 juggernaut has raced ahead nonetheless: Both sides have unfurled new ads, hustled at the grassroots level to lock down every possible voter, dispatched surrogates to rev up enthusiasm and kept the running mates busy raising cash and campaigning in the most hotly contested states.
Analysis: Where Romney needs to reaffirm the first debate, Obama wants voters to forget it
WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney would love another debate like the last one. President Barack Obama most certainly would not.
Twenty-one days before Election Day, Debate Two comes as both candidates seek to break out of a neck-and-neck national race with the type of debate performance and vision that could help sway a narrow band of undecided voters in a handful of crucial states.
Romney needs to reinforce his case that he's an agent of change and raise further doubts about Obama's economic tenure in the face of some positive signs of recovery. Obama must reverse the corrosive story line ignited by his lame performance in the first debate and make a convincing case for four more years of his presidency.
The president has promised not to be the disengaged Obama of Debate One. Yet he won't be the caffeinated, grinning, eyes-to-the-sky Joe Biden of last Thursday's vice presidential faceoff, either. Obama's approach is more likely to resemble the methodical, persistent and affable debating style of Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate.
Still, Obama says he was too polite in the first debate. His aides promise a more aggressive president this time.
Clinton says Benghazi consulate security was her responsibility
LIMA, Peru (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is answering Republican criticism of the Obama administration's handling of last month's attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, saying she — not the White House — is responsible for security at all of America's diplomatic missions.
"I take responsibility," Clinton told CNN. "I'm in charge of the State Department's 60,000-plus people all over the world (at) 275 posts."
With only weeks before the presidential election, outrage has crystallized around Vice President Joe Biden's claim in last week's debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan that "we weren't told" about requests for extra security at the consulate where assailants killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Congressional hearings revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi. Spokesmen for both the State Department and the White House took pains Friday to make clear that Biden's "we" referred to the White House, where such requests would not go.
Clinton backed up Biden's assertion. "The president and the vice president wouldn't be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals," she said Monday.
White House wrestles with how, where to strike back if Libya consulate attackers can be found
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House, under political pressure to respond forcefully to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, is readying strike forces and drones but first has to find a target.
And if the administration does find a target, officials say it still has to weigh whether the short-term payoff of exacting retribution on al-Qaida is worth the risk that such strikes could elevate the group's profile in the region, alienate governments the U.S. needs to fight the group in the future and do little to slow the growing terror threat in North Africa.
Details on the administration's position and on its search for a possible target were provided by three current and one former administration official, as well as an analyst who was approached by the White House for help. All four spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the high-level debates publicly.
In another effort to bolster Libyan security, the Pentagon and State Department have been developing a plan to train and equip a special operations force in Libya, according to a senior defense official.
The efforts show the tension of the White House's need to demonstrate it is responding forcefully to al-Qaida, balanced against its long-term plans to develop relationships and trust with local governments and build a permanent U.S. counterterrorist network in the region.
Guantanamo prisoners charged in 9/11 case could be no-shows from hearing with judge's OK
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A military tribunal reconvenes Tuesday for five men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but the defendants may sit this session out.
The judge presiding over the case has ruled, over the objections of prosecutors, that the defendants have the right to be absent from a weeklong pretrial hearing in a case considered to be one of the most significant terrorism cases in U.S. history.
A lawyer for one of the five says he expects his client will not be there, while attorneys for the other men said they weren't sure what would happen, and that the men would likely wait until the last-minute to decide as the judge has given them the leeway to do.
"They have the right to come to court or they have the right not to come to court, that's what the judge decided," James Connell, a lawyer for defendant Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said after Monday's ruling.
The chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, had argued that the rules for the special war-time tribunals known as military commissions required the defendants to attend all sessions of the court at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
"Fela lives" years after death in Nigeria, as nation starts a slow embrace of famed singer
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — "FELA LIVES," reads the Gothic-lettered tattoo on the back of one of the sons of the legendary Afrobeat singer from Nigeria. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died 15 years ago but his name seems to be mentioned more now than ever.
Radio stations across Africa's most populous nation continue to play his trumpet-and-saxophone-infused songs, the girlish cries of his female backup singers ringing out of tinny speakers in crowded buses. Leaders he linked in songs to corruption remain close to the levers of power in this oil-rich but poverty-stricken country. He's a legend among unemployed gang members and academics alike and was the subject of a smash Broadway musical produced by some of the biggest celebrities in the U.S.
Now, the family house where his remains lie has become a government-endorsed museum that offers a look inside his life, as well as the challenges still facing Nigeria years after his death.
"In one of his songs, (Fela) said it takes 10 years for us to catch up to his message," said Theo Lawson, the architect who helped design the new museum. "The expectation, I think, would be that the people would rise up and demand their rights and this didn't happen because everybody was scared.
"Fela's been dead for 15 years and unfortunately, we're still where we are. It's probably longer than he anticipated."
Daughter of Mexico drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman held in San Diego on immigration charge
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The daughter of one of the world's most sought-after drug lords has been charged with trying to enter the United States on someone else's passport, U.S. officials said, becoming the latest family member to become ensnared in U.S. courts.
Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, 31, was arrested Friday at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry.
Two U.S. officials said Monday that she told authorities her father was Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the elusive leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the arrest publicly.
The significance of the arrest will depend on what Guzman Salazar can tell authorities about her father, like whether she can provide phone numbers, said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.
"We don't know exactly what she knows," said Shirk. "It may just be an interesting factoid in the war on drugs or it could be a vital clue for law enforcement."
European Muslims hoping to fight in Syria's rebellion raise new fears
PARIS (AP) — European governments have been among the most vocal supporters of Syria's rebels — to a point: Last week, Muslims in Britain and France accused of trying to join the fight against the regime were detained.
For security officials, the fear is that extremists with European passports who are alienated and newly trained to wage war will ultimately take skills learned in Syria and use them back home. In France, where an Islamic extremist trained in Pakistan attacked a Jewish school and a group of soldiers earlier this year, the fear is particularly acute.
French officials have jailed eight people, including one over the weekend, describing the group as a network of French-born radical Islamists bent on targeting Jewish groups at home and fighting holy war abroad. They said the cell attacked a kosher grocery with a grenade and had a structure in place to send Muslims to fight in Syria alongside the rebels.
"The enemies within will require vigilance and great determination," France's top security official, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, said Friday. "We know that there could be some who were not apprehended, who perhaps went abroad to fight."
Security officials worldwide have watched the aftermath of the Arab Spring with caution, particularly concerned that citizens who join the fight could return home more radicalized and with a new ability to carry out guerilla warfare. European officials have a particular concern: It's a short flight from the Mideast and the borders within the European Union are open for anyone with an EU passport or national ID, making undetected travel a simple matter.
Biden expected at funeral Tuesday for longtime Sen. Arlen Specter, 82, of Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. senator, will be remembered at a public funeral service attended by Vice President Joe Biden, his longtime senate colleague.
Specter, 82, died at home Sunday of complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. His funeral service is scheduled for noon Tuesday at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, near Philadelphia.
Specter's long political career thrust him to the center of many pivotal events in modern American history. He promoted the single-bullet theory in the death of President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, questioned Anita Hill about sexual harassment claims she raised against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the 1990s, and more recently worked to promote Mideast peace plans and stem-cell research.
President Barack Obama has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings Tuesday.
"Arlen never walked away from his principles and was at his best when they were challenged," said Biden, who often rode home on the train with Specter from Washington, D.C.
Manning's 3 TD passes in 2nd half spur Broncos to comeback that stuns Chargers 35-24
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Down 24-0 at halftime, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos reveled after one of the biggest comebacks in NFL regular-season history.
On the flip side, the San Diego Chargers were saddled with an enormous collapse.
Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half and Tony Carter and Chris Harris scored off turnovers by Philip Rivers as the Broncos overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to shock the Chargers 35-24 on Monday night.
Asked if he'd ever been a part of such a big comeback, Carter replied: "Only in Pop Warner football."
It took a quarterback of Manning's caliber to pull this one out.