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The Great Defender

The Great Defender

How ingenious defensive tactics, unrivaled precision, and a father’s example made New England’s Bill Belichick the NFL’s best coach

by Chris B. Brown

n the days leading up to Super Bowl XXV, then–New York Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick was searching for any weakness the opposing Buffalo Bills might possess. Powered by four future Hall of Famers, Buffalo’s “K-Gun” offense had led the NFL in scoring during the 1990 season and had already posted 44 and 51 points in the playoffs against the Dolphins and Raiders.

But Belichick eventually settled on an edge he thought he could exploit: His first job in the NFL had been under the K-Gun’s architect, Buffalo offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda. While head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1975, Marchibroda had hired Belichick for a barely paid gig analyzing game film, and the two remained friendly. But this was business, not personal, and Belichick knew that the old-school Marchibroda, though a great tactician, would have trained his quarterbacks the same way he’d once trained his junior film guy: by filling them up with knowledge and then handing them the reins. Analysts wondered how Buffalo’s no-huddle attack could play so fast, but Belichick knew that Marchibroda was forged in an era when quarterbacks like Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas called their own plays, and that Bills passer Jim Kelly had the same freedom.

That knowledge was all Belichick needed. Later, Belichick would tell David Halberstam he didn’t think Kelly read defenses as well as some other NFL quarterbacks did, which made Belichick confident he could stay one step ahead. While Marchibroda would be able to explain the Giants’ looks to Kelly between series, during them Kelly would have to match wits with Belichick unaided. With each drive, Belichick made sure to appear to show Kelly exactly what he’d seen the prior series, while in reality making subtle but crucial tweaks, such as replacing a defensive back with a linebacker or changing a single defender’s coverage responsibility to set a trap. Belichick amplified the effect by working out of an unusual dime defense featuring six defensive backs, two traditional defensive linemen, and three linebackers (including Lawrence Taylor) to better defend Buffalo’s talented receivers.

It worked. The Giants held Kelly and his receivers in check en route to a 20-19 win, albeit with some help from one of the most infamous missed field goals in NFL history, and today Belichick’s Super Bowl XXV game plan sits in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Already well known at the time in coaching circles, Belichick became a household name by relying on two of the pillars that continue to define him: ingenious defensive tactics and precision without sentimentality.

Twenty-four years later, head coach Bill Belichick is still bombarding opponents with shrewd, coldly rational tactics.

 
God and the G.O.P.
 
Walker Previews His Case Against Clinton

Walker Previews His Case Against Clinton

By Peter Nicholas

Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin previewed the line of attack he might use against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, depicting her as a retread who is ill-equipped to offer what he described as “fresh, new ideas” to lift the economy.

Mr. Walker, who is considering a bid for the GOP nomination, suggested Sunday in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that Mrs. Clinton’s ties to Washington, D.C., would be a liability should she enter the race on the Democratic side.

He said that “people want to look to the future. They don’t want to go back in time, they don’t want to repeat what we’ve had in the past. We need a candidate not of the 20th century, but of the 21st century.”

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Chasing Ghosts, Sleight of Hand and Naked Defensive Backs

Chasing Ghosts, Sleight of Hand and Naked Defensive Backs

In Super Bowl XLIX, Keeping Alert for Trick Plays

By

So you put the questions to the offensive and defensive coordinators whose fate it was to have spent the two weeks before the Super Bowl in a more or less constant state of sleepless agitation:

How far do other teams’ tricksters crawl into your cranium? Do you let such worries take nest in your cerebral cortex, the better to devise a counter, or do you try to banish the thoughts altogether?

Josh McDaniels, the crew-cut offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, whose own innovations and tricks inflict so much pain on other teams, smiled. That way lies madness.

“You’ve got to be really careful in these two weeks not to chase too many ghosts,” he said. “All of a sudden, you start saying, ‘Hey, I saw this one time in this one game two years ago.’ You get consumed with tricking or thinking too much and you get deluded and then you’re not preparing.”

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Lindsey Graham: U.S. 'will see a Paris on steroids' if Islamic State is not defeated

Graham warns of  'a Paris on steroids' is ISIS isn't stopped

Lindsey Graham: U.S. 'will see a Paris on steroids' if Islamic State is not defeated

By Kelly Cohen

Sen. Lindsey Graham reiterated his belief American troops belong in Syria.

The South Carolina Republican, who is considering a 2016 White House Bid, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that 10,000 American “boots on the ground” are needed in Syria to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State are helping, he said, but do not do enough.

“The president has the right goal to degrade and destroy [the Islamic State], he but doesn't have the right strategy,” Graham said.

Graham stressed that the U.S. cannot win the fight against the Islamic State alone.

“You are going to need a regional force — Saudi [Arabia], Turkey, the entire region — putting together an army with American people embedded, special forces, intel folks, forward air controllers, to go in on the ground and not only dislodge them from Syria, but hold the territory,” he said, adding, “and you can't do that until you deal with [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad.”

...............................

And if the U.S. and its allies don’t get serious about getting rid of the Islamic State? “You will see a Paris on steroids here pretty soon if you don't disrupt this organization and take the fight to them on the ground," Graham said, referring to the fatal terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

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What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?

What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?

The story of one spy’s last-ditch effort to stop a war.

By Robert L. Grenier

Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani, the Taliban’s military leader for southern Afghanistan, sat stolidly, his great bulk sup­ported in an overstuffed chair to my left. It was October 2, 2001, and events had been hurtling forward since the terrorist attacks of September 11. President George W. Bush had delivered an ultimatum to the Taliban in his State of the Union address on September 20: Hand over al-Qaeda’s leadership or share their fate. But the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had not yet begun, and I still saw a chance, however small, for a peaceful way out. That was why, as the CIA station chief in Islamabad responsible for both Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, I was having this meeting with a top Taliban official.

The day President Bush had delivered his ultimatum, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Clergy, a committee of 700 Islamic scholars that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had convened to advise him on the correct course to pursue toward Osama bin Laden, had partially opened the door to an acceptable settlement. The council had recommended that the Taliban government seek bin Laden’s voluntary departure from the country. A day later, on September 21, Mullah Omar slammed the door shut, stating that he would neither turn over bin Laden nor ask him to leave.

On September 28, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed, Pakistan’s top spy as the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), led a group of eight Pakistani Islamic scholars, well-known religious extremists all, to meet with Omar in one final, desperate attempt to induce the Taliban to, in Mahmud’s own words, “get the gun to swing away from their heads.” If there was nothing for the moment to be done about bin Laden, Mah­mud suggested, perhaps the Taliban leader could agree to release eight humanitarian workers who had recently been arrested for Christian proselytizing in Afghanistan; or perhaps he could hand over some of bin Laden’s lieutenants; or at least he could allow Americans to inspect the al-Qaeda camps to demonstrate that their occupants had fled. All suggestions were in vain.

As the alternatives to all-out war against the Taliban were being sys­tematically foreclosed, I could sense that attitudes in Washington were hardening in tandem. Even a few days before, the tone had been quite different, at least at the White House. I had already had one meeting with Mullah Osmani, on September 15, and he had told me that the Taliban would not sacrifice its country for the sake of Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t made specific concessions, but I saw a clear opportunity; for his part, the president, who had not yet delivered his public ultimatum of the 20th, had reacted to CIA Director George Ten­et’s report of my meeting—and the implicit possibility of a shift in the Taliban policy of sheltering bin Laden—with open interest.

“Fascinating,” he had said.

Similarly, in late September, the president and his cabinet principals still held out the possibility of a continued role for the Taliban in Afghanistan, provided its leaders agreed to break with Omar and meet U.S. demands. All, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, agreed that the United States should not hit the full Taliban leadership at the outset of its military operations, lest it dis­courage an intra-Taliban split.

Over a week later, though, in the face of Mullah Omar’s recalcitrance, I could feel the political landscape shifting. One could sense that all American efforts were now vectoring inexorably toward war. It was no longer clear to me that Washington would accept any deal, even if an alternative Taliban leadership were prepared to offer one. Once the mental break is made, and war has been deemed inevitable, events take on their own momentum.

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Joe Kennedy’s Answer to the ‘Jewish Question’: Ship Them to Africa

Joe Kennedy’s Answer to the ‘Jewish Question’: Ship Them to Africa

This week marked the anniversaries of the beginning of the end of the Holocaust and Churchill’s death. America’s ambassador to Britain, JFK’s father, was on the wrong side of both.

Joseph Kennedy, the American ambassador to the Court of St. James liked to take a short walk from his residence into the most gracious of London’s open spaces, Hyde Park. On Saturdays he took his oldest son, Joe Jr., and his youngest, Teddy, to a large pond in the park where Teddy sailed a toy sailboat, along with other children of the privileged families who lived nearby in the elegant streets of Knightsbridge. In its tranquility the park and its many little rituals of leisure in the fall of 1938 was a refuge from a bigger, ugly reality.

....................................

In 1938 Joseph Kennedy had a solution to “the Jewish problem.” The New York Times reported that he had worked out with prime minister Chamberlain a plan to ship all German Jews to Africa and other places in the Western Hemisphere under the joint administration of Britain and the United States. That was news to the State Department, which Kennedy had not consulted, and to President Roosevelt for whom Kennedy had become an embarrassing loose cannon.

Prince’s Gate was a row of classically proportioned Georgian town houses given as a gift to the American nation by J.P. Morgan, whose father and founder of the banking dynasty was the first resident. Under Kennedy it became a covert base from which he built and worked through a network of similarly minded influential people in an attempt to steer American foreign policy clear of another world war. Roosevelt was informed by J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI that Kennedy was telling people in Europe that his president’s policy “was a Jewish production” and that Roosevelt would be defeated in 1940.

One of Kennedy’s willing accomplices was Charles Lindbergh. The head of the German Luftwaffe, Hermann Goering, had shrewdly feted Lindbergh in Berlin as an aviation hero, and gave “Lindy” a personal tour of German airfields, carefully screening what the American was allowed to see. Lindbergh had also been given graphic briefings of what the Luftwaffe had achieved in the Spanish Civil War, supporting the fascists, by introducing the carpet-bombing of civilian populations.

Kennedy asked Lindbergh to report his findings in a paper that he, Kennedy, then gave to Chamberlain before he met Hitler in Munich. Kennedy boasted to the columnist Walter Winchell that Lindbergh’s report had significantly influenced Chamberlain’s decision not to challenge the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia. Kennedy sang to the same score as frequently as he could, persuading British political leaders that the Luftwaffe could level any European city it chose to within days. The British, he said, stood no chance against such a blitzkrieg.

Word of Kennedy’s views and lobbying had long ago reached the one man in London who seemed inflexible in his views of Hitler’s evil and his aims, Churchill. The columnist Walter Lippmann had told Churchill that Kennedy was predicting that the British would be defeated in a war with the Germans.

.................................

Kennedy’s anti-Semitism was of a kind widely shared but not widely declared in the 1930s. It was all the more lethal because of its casualness – for the Nazis it created a general moral complicity that they knew they could exploit, and did, as they correctly judged that the defense of Jews was for millions of people not sufficient cause to go to war.

In one sense this was perhaps a strange prejudice for Kennedy to share. As the son of Irish immigrants to Boston he knew what it was like to struggle as part of an immigrant minority in a society dominated by New England Brahmins who felt it was their birthright to run everything.

Kennedy’s father-in-law, John F. Fitzgerald, who had one term in Congress before becoming the first Irish-born mayor of Boston, was famous for his put-down of the most lofty Brahmin of them all, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. Fitzgerald led the opposition to a bill that required that all potential immigrants should be able to pass a test that included the ability to read the Constitution (sound familiar?). Lodge castigated him: “Do you think Jews or Italians have any right in this country?” “As much right as your father or mine” snapped Fitzgerald, “After all, it’s only a difference of a few ships.”

But once Joseph Kennedy had made his fortune and was established in the new generation of self-made tycoons Jews seemed somehow to occupy a permanent role as the excluded ones – for example, the Nazis’ ambassador in London reported to Berlin that Kennedy “understood our Jewish policy completely; he was from Boston and there, in one golf club and other clubs, no Jews had been permitted for the last 50 years.”

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Six Plays That Will Swing the Super Bowl

The routes of pass play New England likes to run when they reach the red zone.

Six Plays That Will Swing the Super Bowl

A breakdown of the most effective offensive plays routinely used by Seattle and New England this season.

By Jonathan Clegg

The Patriots are renowned for being the NFL’s most ferociously secretive franchise. But there is nothing mysterious about what this team does near the goal line: They run the same bunch of plays over and over again.

New England’s most reliable pass play when they get close to the end zone is a four-receiver spread alignment designed to get single coverage on an outside receiver.

Once the receiver is isolated against a single defender, he runs directly upfield, keeping the cornerback on his inside. Near the back of the end zone, he then suddenly breaks toward the corner, creating a window for a quick pass.

Thanks to Brady’s quick decision-making and pinpoint accuracy, this play has been so effective that the Patriots no longer try to disguise it. In their past seven games, New England has run this exact play eight times, including twice in the same game in their playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens.

 

The Seahawks ranked sixth in the NFL in explosive play percentage last season, with 74 pass plays of at least 16 yards. No pass play was more effective at racking up big yardage than the ‘Scissors’ route, also known as ‘Switch Verticals.’

Scissors is a basic two-man route combination that is effective against the type of man-to-man coverage that Seattle will likely see from the Patriots on Sunday. From the snap, the two receivers quickly switch positions before racing downfield.

What makes the play so effective is the fact that the switch creates a so-called ‘pick’ or ‘rub,’ which impedes defenders and usually results in a Seattle receiver running wide-open downfield.

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How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the US to Beat ISIS

How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the US to Beat ISIS

Washington needs to quit pretending it can work with Iran to defeat the Islamic State. Tehran’s real objective is to defeat Washington.

It was August 2007, and General David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was angry.  In his weekly report to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Petraeus wrote:  “I am considering telling the President that I believe Iran is, in fact, waging war on the U.S. in Iraq, with all of the U.S. public and governmental responses that could come from that revelation. … I do believe that Iran has gone beyond merely striving for influence in Iraq and could be creating proxies to actively fight us, thinking that they can keep us distracted while they try to build WMD and set up [the Mahdi Army] to act like Lebanese Hezbollah in Iraq.”

There was no question there and then on the ground in Iraq that Iran was a very dangerous enemy. There should not be any question about that now, either. And the failure of the Obama administration to come to grips with that reality is making the task of defeating the so-called Islamic State more difficult—indeed, more likely to be impossible—every day.

There are lessons to be learned from the experience of the last decade, and of the last fortnight, but what is far from clear is whether Washington, or the American public, is likely to accept them because they imply much greater American re-engagement in the theater of battle. As a result, what we’ve seen is behavior like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the desert sand, pretending this disaster just isn’t happening. But at a minimum we should be clear about the basic facts. In Iraq and Syria, as we square off against ISIS, the enemy of our enemy is not our friend, he is our enemy, too.

In 2007, there were 180,000 American troops in Iraq. Under Petraeus’s oversight, U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the elite forces responsible for hunting terrorists around the world, was divided into two task forces. Task Force 16 went after al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that eventually would spawn ISIS, while Task Force 17 was dedicated to “countering Iranian influence,” chiefly by killing or capturing members of Iraq’s Shia militias—though in some cases, it even arrested operatives of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) who were arming and supervising those militias’ guerrilla warfare against coalition troops.

At one point, in the summer of 2007, Petraeus concluded that the Mahdi Army, headed by the Shiite demagogue Muqtada al-Sadr, posed a greater “hindrance to long-term security in Iraq” than al Qaeda did. As recounted in The Endgame, Michael Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor’s magisterial history of the Second Iraq War, two-thirds of all American casualties in Iraq in July 2007 were incurred by Shiite militias.  Weapons known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, were especially effective against the U.S. forces. They were Iranian designed and constructed roadside bombs that, when detonated, became molten copper projectiles able to cut through the armor on tanks and other vehicles, maiming or killing the soldiers inside.

So it came as a surprise to many veterans of the war when Secretary of State John Kerry, asked in December what he made of the news that Iran was conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, suggested “the net effect is positive.” Similarly, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—formerly the commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad—told reporters last month, “As long as the Iraqi government remains committed to inclusivity of all the various groups inside the country, then I think Iranian influence will be positive.”

Whatever the Iraqi government says it is committed to, “inclusiveness” is not what’s happening on the ground.

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Jeb Bush has become the GOP front-runner for 2016 — so now what?

Jeb Bush has become the GOP front-runner for 2016 — so now what?

Mitt Romney’s decision to forgo a third try at the White House has settled the question of whether the 2016 GOP presidential field has a front-runner — bestowing a coveted status on former Florida governor Jeb Bush that also raises new challenges and perils.

Republicans have a tradition of picking an anointed one early. That establishment candidate almost always ends up with the nomination, although not without a fight and some speed bumps along the way.

But this is a particularly unsettled time for the party. It is struggling to define its identity amid open warfare among its various factions. And there are a raft of fresh and potentially appealing faces emerging on the scene, comprising what many Republicans believe could be the strongest undercard of early-bout contenders in decades.

Losing Romney as a rival is “a mixed bag for Bush,” said veteran GOP strategist Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican party. “He also becomes the target of everyone who is anti-establishment. Before, you had Romney and Bush kind of splitting up that ire.”

Bush was already assembling a formidable army of fundraisers and talented operatives, including poaching Romney’s top Iowa strategist, David Kochel, to be his national campaign manager.

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Taliban Justice Gains Favor as Official Afghan Courts Fail

Taliban Justice Gains Favor as Official Afghan Courts Fail

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Matiullah Khan and Muhammad Aywaz were each dug in, their property dispute in southern Afghanistan at an impasse.

Despite paying more than $1,000 apiece in lawyers’ fees, they found no resolution in the government’s judicial system. The tribal courts, informal networks of elders that most rural Afghans rely on, had also come up short.

So the two men did what a growing number of Afghans do these days when there is no other recourse: They turned to the Taliban. Within a few days, their problem was resolved — no bribes or fees necessary.

“He would have kept my house for himself if it wasn’t for the Taliban,” said Mr. Khan, a resident of Kandahar City who accused Mr. Aywaz of commandeering his home. “They were quick and fair.”

Frustrated by Western-inspired legal codes and a government court system widely seen as corrupt, many Afghans think that the militants’ quick and tradition-rooted rulings are their best hope for justice. In the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Chaman, havens for exiled Taliban figures, local residents describe long lines of Afghans waiting to see judges.

“You won’t find the same number of people in the Afghan courts as you do in the Taliban courts,” said Hajji Khudai Noor, a Kandahar resident who recently settled a land dispute through the Taliban in Quetta. “There are hundreds of people waiting for justice there.”

Western officials have long considered a fair and respected justice system to be central to quelling the insurgency, in an acknowledgment that the Taliban’s appeal had long been rooted in its use of traditional rural justice codes. But after the official end of the international military mission and more than a billion dollars in development aid to build up Afghanistan’s court system, it stands largely discredited and ridiculed by everyday Afghans. A common refrain, even in Kabul, is that to settle a dispute over your farm in court, you must first sell your chickens, your cows and your wife.

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Joe Montana says Tom Brady is responsible for the Deflategate scandal

Pointing fingers: Hall of fame Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers has no doubt in his mind that patriots quarterback Tom Brady is responsible for the Deflategate scandal

Tom Brady's idol Joe Montana points finger at Patriots Quarterback

'it was pretty obvious who deflated the balls'

By Alexandra Klausner For Dailymail.com

Hall of fame Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers has no doubt in his mind that patriots quarterback Tom Brady is responsible for the Deflategate scandal.

'If I ever want a ball a certain way, I don’t do it myself. So, somebody did it for him,' said Montana on Thursday.

'But I don’t know why everybody is making a big deal out of trying to figure out who did it. It’s pretty simple.If it was done, it was done for a reason. There is only one guy that does it. Nobody else cares what the ball feels like,' he added.

Ode to Montana: Tom Brady posted this snap of him wearing a 49ers Jersey back in 1983 along with the caption 'I've been preparing for Sunday since 1983! Ha'

Montana's comments may have hit close to Home for Brady who posted a photo of himself to his Facebook page wearing a 49ers Jersey in 1983 in honor of Montana, his childhood hero.

'I've been preparing for Sunday since 1983! Ha,' said the caption along with the photograph.

Though Montana thinks Tom Brady is responsible for deflating the balls, he didn't have all bad things to say about him.

Montana said that Tom Brady falls in the 'greatest-ever-to-play' category.

Montana also said that the ball inflation rule merely shouldn't exist.

Montana joked that he and fellow Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman have laughed about how they should have doctored their footballs.

'Troy and I are in the back talking going, "Dang, we weren’t smart enough to think about air pressure,"' Montana said.

'Cause he couldn’t go in the rain he said, I go, ‘And neither could I.’ I said we should have thought about that earlier.'

Accused of tampering: New England Patriots quarter back, Tom Brady, answers questions about the low pressure footballs during a press conference on January 22 

Both The Patriots and Tom Brady have adamantly denied the allegations saying they 'didn't touch the footballs.'

Joe Montana said that just because Tom Brady may not have physically touched the footballs for him, someone else could have done it.

'The quarterbacks don’t touch the footballs,' Montana said.

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Budget battle lines drawn as Obama will present plan to Republican Congress

President Barack Obama

Budget battle lines drawn as Obama will present plan to Republican Congress

As White House hints at proposal geared toward helping middle-class, GOP faces internal divide on fight against automatic spending cuts known as sequestration

Amanda Holpuch in Washington

If President Barack Obama earned $1bn each time he mentioned the middle class in speeches, he would have more than enough money to cover the part of his latest budget that will call for spending over federal limits.

Unfortunately, Obama does not have that kind of sponsorship. Instead, on Monday he will present his budget to a Congress divided on whether it wants to fight against the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration and suspicious of a president who has barraged it with veto threats.

Welcome, again, to the annual unveiling of the budget – better known as the beginning of fiscal brinkmanship season – when the president puts forward what effectively amounts to his wish-list of budget proposals to be raked over by Congress, which then comes up with its own spending plan.

In a preview of the budget on Thursday, the White House said it wanted limits of $530bn on non-defense discretionary spending and $561bn in discretionary defense spending. This means spending $74bn above the sequestration cap, which was set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Republicans are expected to propose spending below the caps. Their plan, however, will require the president’s signature. This increasingly seems like a hard get: Obama has issued the most veto threats in the first month of a new Congress since Ronald Reagan introduced the process of formal veto threats in 1985.

Obama’s proposals are cast as middle-class-centric – the president used the phrase 13 times while promoting the plan in a speech at a Democratic retreat on Thursday – but it will be hard for Republicans to accept measures to increase taxes on the wealthy, which are distinctly left-tinged.

Responding to accusations that Obama is “veering left”, White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday said the budget proposal was geared toward middle-class families, where the administration believes economic growth begins.

“If supporting middle-class families means that you’re more oriented to the progressive end of the ideological spectrum, so be it,” said Earnest.

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Rubio plots his path to victory

Rubio plots his path to victory

Marco Rubio sees room for himself in the GOP's crowded 2016 field — and is starting to throw elbows to make space. 

The Florida senator is moving full throttle towards a White House bid, hitting the road hard to raise money and elevate his profile.  While allies and advisors say he hasn’t made a final decision, most now privately expect he’ll take the plunge.

Rubio gathered more than 300 donors and supporters in Miami last weekend, telling them to “prepare for a presidential campaign,” according to one staff member in attendance.

“I think he's much closer to running than he was a month ago,” said another source close to Rubio who was at the event. “He sounds like a guy who's getting to run for president...He wants to be in this fight. The fire in the belly is there and he thinks he can win.”

It’s a gamble for the 43 year-old Rubio, who has to choose between running for another Senate term next year and undertaking a White House bid. Staying in the Senate is the surer bet, though reelection isn't guaranteed in swing-state Florida.

“Sen. Rubio is doing what's necessary to prepare a very competitive campaign,” said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant. “He hasn't made a final decision but is obviously taking the steps necessary should he decide to run for president.”

After huddling with his advisors in Miami, Rubio jetted to attending a confab of top conservative donors hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers, where he earned plaudits from influential attendees after squaring off with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a forum. The rest of week was spent in California, where he attended a series of fundraisers.

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Pete Carroll shrugs at 9/11 truther rumors

Coach shrugs at 9/11 truther rumors

By Peter Sullivan

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is not backing down from his support among 9/11 truthers. 

Carroll, who will coach the Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday, has been linked to conspiracy theorists about the terrorist attacks ever since a 2013 article in Deadspin. 

That article recounted a meeting between Carroll and retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, a Seahawks fan. Carroll reportedly quizzed the general on a range of questions asking what really happened in the attacks. 

"Every 9/11 conspiracy theory you can think of, Pete asked about," said Riki Ellison, a former NFL linebacker who became head of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance and set up the meeting, according to Deadspin. 

Carroll has since gained a following among 9/11 truthers, and he did nothing to wave off the attention when asked about the issue by USA Today in an article published Friday. 

"Any notoriety is good I guess," Carroll said. "I will always be interested in the truth, yeah."

At last year's Super Bowl, a Brooklyn man, Matt Mills, snuck into a post-game press conference and called for investigating 9/11. 

"I believe that the implied support of Pete Carroll does help our cause," Mills told USA Today in the story published Friday. "Every single 9/11 skeptic that I have ever spoken to has great respect for him." 

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Feds place 150 union pension funds in 'critical' status

Union pensions meltdown

Feds place 150 union pension funds in 'critical' status

By Sean Higgins

The Labor Department says 150 union multi-employer pension funds are in "critical status," meaning that they lack enough assets to meet at least 65 percent of their future obligations.

Another 85 funds are listed as being "endangered," meaning they lack the assets to meet at least 80 percent of their future obligations.

"These are lists of plans whose own funding [levels] puts the plan at risk," said Norman Stein, senior policy adviser to the Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group. That status gives the trustees the option of cutting some benefits as part of a rehabilitation plan to get the program back to health. They are not obligated to makes cuts, though, Stein notes.

The determinations were based on reports to the department from the pension plans' actuaries, which the department has posted online. Several report that the plans have been troubled for several years.

The Indiana State Council of Carpenters Pension Plan, for example, reports: "This is the fourth year the plan has been in critical status. The law permits pension plans to reduce, or even eliminate, benefits called 'adjustable benefits' as part of a rehabilitation plan."

The Central New York Laborers Pension Fund is now in its fifth year of being in critical status and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Pacific Coast Pension Fund passed its six-year anniversary in April.

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Bill Belichick’s legacy is complicated

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has the most postseason victories in NFL history.

Bill Belichick’s legacy is complicated

By Ben Volin

Detractors point to Spygate and Deflategate, but supporters say that jealousy is behind much of the criticism.

Few doubt the coaching greatness of Belichick as he prepares his team for its sixth Super Bowl appearance in 15 years under his watch against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX. He has the most postseason wins in NFL history, the fourth-most regular-season wins and, with a win Sunday, Belichick will tie Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll as the only coaches with four Super Bowl rings.

But his legacy, and the way he is perceived inside and outside the NFL, has suddenly become more complicated since the DeflateGate scandal broke two weeks ago.

Tie it into his role in the SpyGate scandal of 2007, and Belichick’s many detractors now have plenty of ammunition to downplay his many accomplishments.

Don Shula, the legendary Hall of Fame coach with the Dolphins and Colts, last month called him “Belicheat.” A recent survey by Public Policy Polling found the Patriots to be the NFL’s second-most hated team, behind the Cowboys. Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said after last week’s Pro Bowl, “If they ain’t winning with controversy, they ain’t winning.” Marty Hurney, the former general manager of the Panthers said, “There isn’t a day that goes by” that he wonders if the Patriots cheated when they won by 3 points over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The two scandals — nothing about “DeflateGate” has been proven and the Patriots believe they will be exonerated — will be debated when Belichick eventually comes up for Hall of Fame discussion.

“As many said, it just puts a little question in your mind of, ‘Were there other things?’ I don’t know,” said St. Louis radio personality Howard Balzer, one of 46 Hall of Fame voters. “It will make for interesting debate, because obviously there’s going to be a lot of people that bring that up, and did it help win a game here or there?”

................................

Belichick keeps a tight circle of trust, and those closest to him don’t question his accomplishments. SpyGate, in which the Patriots were caught filming the Jets’ sideline? That was an accepted practice. Same with the most recent controversy, in which the Patriots are being examined for potentially underinflating footballs below acceptable NFL standards.

“The things that are floated about him that are negative, they’re just jealous about what the guy’s done,” said Gil Brandt, the longtime personnel executive for Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys, who has been a Belichick family friend since the Patriots coach was 8 years old.

What Belichick deserves to be remembered for, his confidants say, is his devotion to the game, his attention to detail, his creativity, his appreciation of those who came before him, and of course, his success. Shula is the only other coach in NFL history who can say he took six teams to the Super Bowl. Belichick also went three other times as a defensive coordinator.

“He’s going to be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame, and he’s going to go down as the greatest coach in my era,” said Brian Billick, who won Super Bowl XXXV as coach of the Ravens.

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For alleged Russian hacker, a visit to Amsterdam is a costly trip

For alleged Russian hacker, a visit to Amsterdam is a costly trip

At noon on June 28, 2012, Vladimir Drinkman, targeted as one of America’s most wanted cybercriminals, and his wife hustled into a cab pulling away from their Amsterdam hotel. They had just been tipped off that the police were on to them, but an unmarked police car blocked their getaway. The Russian was handcuffed and arrested on charges of helping to mastermind what has been called the largest criminal hacking scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.

This week, after a protracted extradition proceeding, a Dutch court ruled that Drinkman will be sent to the United States to stand trial.

Drinkman, 34, is accused of taking part in a string of marquee hacks: the penetration of the electronic stock exchange Nasdaq, the theft of more than 130 million credit card numbers from Heartland Payment Systems, and cyber-­heists that victimized 7-Eleven, the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain, Visa, Dow Jones and Jet Blue, among others.

If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison. He is alleged to be part of a ring whose actions, prosecutors say, have caused more than $300 million in losses and led to countless stolen identities.

Led by the U.S. Secret Service, the case is one of the most significant prosecutions in the annals of cybercrime. Not only are high-value hackers difficult to trace because of techniques used to mask their identities, but many of them also are in countries of the former Soviet Union, where extradition is virtually impossible.

Bart Stapert, Drinkman’s attorney in Amsterdam, said the U.S. prosecutors have offered “no specific evidence that ties” Drinkman to all the hacks. “It almost seems to me as if it’s a prosecution strategy to add at some point all the known hacks that were originating from Russia to this indictment,” he said.

U.S. officials are confident they have the right man.

“We have a 99.6 percent conviction rate in cybercrime,” said Ari Baranoff, assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s criminal investigative division. “We don’t build our cases on one piece of evidence. Our cases are built on evidence that is curated over many years. We take our time to build these cases­ to make sure we have them right.”

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Paul's Fed audit would strike what Yellen most wants to protect

Rand's Fed audit scares Yellen

Rand's Fed audit scares Yellen

 By Joseph Lawler

Republican senators, Democrats and the public are increasingly behind Sen. Rand Paul's effort to audit the Federal Reserve.

But Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will fiercely defend the central bank's freedom to set interest rates and conduct monetary policy without congressional oversight, which Paul's legislation seeks to accomplish.

The Kentucky Republican this week reintroduced his bill to require the Government Accountability Office to perform a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve and report on it to Congress.

The bill has 30 co-sponsors, ranging from the Establishment in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to the grassroots in Ted Cruz of Texas. It also has support from liberals critical of the nexus between Washington and Wall Street.

While officials at the Fed and monetary policy experts generally strongly recommend against it, the vast majority of the public favor opening up the central bank’s books.

..........................

Anti-Fed sentiment has been elevated since the central bank helped bail out the financial industry in 2008 and then subsequently bought trillions of dollars of bonds to stimulate the economy.

"Enough is enough. The Federal Reserve needs to fully open its books so Congress and the American people can see what has been going on,” Cruz said in a comment representative of the populist rhetoric being employed against the Fed.

Paul’s legislation, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2015, would open the books. The four-page bill would require the GAO to perform an audit of the Fed within a year, and then report on that audit to Congress. It also would repeal all existing legislation limiting such audits.

The Fed already faces several audits. Each year, an independent accountant hired by the Fed’s inspector general audits the central bank's finances.

Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank reform law, the Fed is required to report on its dealings as the lender-of-last-resort to banks in a number of ways.

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Secret Service to monitor social media in massive Super Bowl security operation

Secret Service to monitor social media in massive Super Bowl security operation

Ian Swanson

Feds will gather intelligence from Facebook, Twitter on a potential attack.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service will be conducting open source monitoring of social media for “situational awareness.”

Officials told NextGov that they will be using social media tracking technology as they seek to discern between real and bogus threats at the Super Bowl.

They’ll also provide air space security, though a department spokesman told NextGov, there would be “no drones.”

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Marshawn Lynch's father to Miss Super Bowl

Behind bars: Maurice Sapp, pictured, is serving time in a tough Mississippi prison for drug possession and burglary - but his son Marshawn Lynch will be playing in the Super Bowl

Marshawn Lynch's father to Miss Super Bowl

Father of Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch behind bars - where he will watch the son heartbroken by his father's absence take on the Patriots tomorrow.

Maurice Sapp, Marshawn's father, is serving a 24 years in Mississippi prison for drug possession and burglary.

By Daniel Bates and Hugo Daniel For Dailymail.com

When Marshawn Lynch runs out at the University of Phoenix stadium for the Super Bowl tomorrow, his dad will be watching with a pride that only a father can feel.

But Maurice Sapp will not be sitting with the rest of Lynch’s family in Oakland, California, to savor one of the happiest days of his life.

Instead he will be viewing from the maximum security prison 2,000 miles away in Mississippi where he is serving a 24-year sentence for drug possession and burglary.

Different worlds: Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, pictured above at a press conference this week, will play the New England Patriots tomorrow

Lynch, the NFL’s most controversial running back, is nursing a secret heartache that his father abandoned him when he was 11 for a life of crime and drugs.

As a result Lynch is wary of others and can turn on his anger whenever he wants, earning him the nickname ‘Beast Mode’ for his ferocious rushing.

In a mugshot obtained by DailyMail.com, his father, known to the California Department of Corrections as inmate AC5773, stares into the camera wearing an orange, prison-issue jumpsuit.

When Lynch looks at the photo he will no doubt see himself - but the path he has chosen for his life could not be more different from that of his dad.

Lynch, 28, has become the most talked-about player in the NFL after helping the Seattle Seahawks get to the Super Bowl by rushing for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns over the course of the 2014 regular season.

But there have been controversies - and he was fined $20,000 after grabbing his crotch during the NFC championship game.

Together: A family photograph shows Sapp and Marshawn posing together before their family, from Oakland, California, split up

Marshawn Lynch grew up with his three brothers and sisters and his mother, Delisa, in Oakland, California.

With a population of 400,000, the city has high poverty levels and is one America’s most dangerous places, despite being just over a bridge from San Francisco and down the road from the booming affluence of Silicon Valley.

As Lynch grew up, crime and drugs were all around him. Until the age of 11 his father was too - he would take him to church and sing next to him in the choir.

But, according to court records obtained by Dailymail.com, there was a dark side to Sapp, who is now 53.

By the mid 1990s he had been in and out of jail for robberies, two petty thefts, one grand theft offence and breaching his probation.

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Ohio delays all 2015 executions, amid scrutiny of lethal injection drugs

Ohio delays all 2015 executions, amid scrutiny of lethal injection drugs

By Patrik Jonsson

The postponement was announced three weeks after Ohio said it would no longer use a controversial drug that was employed in a series of executions that went awry last year.

The decision by Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday to postpone all seven scheduled 2015 executions in the state is part of growing evidence suggesting that courts – and American society – are coming to a fresh showdown over the humanity of how states administer the ultimate sanction.

Governor Kasich’s decision comes as Ohio and other death penalty states struggle to finesse a lethal drug cocktail that would consistently end an inmate’s life humanely. The postponement was announced three weeks after the state said it would no longer use a controversial drug, midazolam, which was employed in a series of executions that went awry last year.

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How Mitt Romney got to ‘no’

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is pictured. | AP Photo

How Mitt Romney got to ‘no’

He approached the deliberations like the former finance executive he is.

By James Hohmann

Mitt Romney decided last weekend that he would not run for president a third time in 2016. But even minutes before his Friday announcement, several of his former top aides were held in suspense, some as convinced he was in as others were adamant he was out.

All week, the 2012 GOP nominee looked and sounded like a candidate. On a Sunday night conference call with advisers, Romney talked through the steps he was taking toward getting in. On a campaign-style trip to Mississippi, he stopped by a barbeque joint, gladhanding customers, before taking jabs at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during a speech at a state university.

All the while, he and his wife Ann were praying as they came to terms with the choice to recede from the national political scene.

There was no one moment or factor that changed the Republican’s mind, according to interviews with more than a dozen people who have been in touch with Romney since he announced to a group of donors early this month that he was seriously interested in a 2016 bid. It was, by all accounts, a gradual process.

A clear-eyed Romney approached the deliberations like the former Bain Capital executive he is, encouraged by the warm response he got on the campaign trail in 2014 but fully aware of the difficult path forward and the indignities that come with running for president. The return of jokes and columns about Romney putting his dog Seamus on the roof of a car during a decades-ago family vacation exasperated him, for example.

In more candid moments of self-doubt, he worried that he might not wind up being the party’s best hope of beating Hillary Clinton – and thought about the stigma that would come with losing two national elections in a row.

“Today indicates a strong level of self-awareness,” said someone who has worked for Romney in a senior role. “He did a gut check, and it just wasn’t there,” said another. “It’s not like in 2012 where you have to run to save the country from these clowns,” a third person said, referring to the less-than-stellar GOP field four years ago. “There are serious people in this race.”

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Publisher's Note: This is such BS. Mitt had a gun to his head.

 
How Penn State Beat The Sandusky Rap

How Penn State Beat The Sandusky Rap

NCAA emails revealed executives used a shortcut and a false threat to strong-arm the university into accepting harsh sanctions. Once it was busted, the NCAA revoked them.

On January 16, 2015, lawyers from the NCAA reached an agreement to remove all sanctions it placed on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal, which implicated prominent university officials in a cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes.

The complete termination of sanctions came as a surprise. The NCAA had in September 2014 agreed to reduce some of the penalties, like lifting the football program’s postseason ban, but kept in place a financial fine and the deletion of more than 100 wins under coach Joe Paterno.

There was never much dispute that Penn State had to take some responsibility for what had happened on its campus, and for the actions of Paterno and President, Graham Spanier. At the time, observers championed the NCAA’s strong action against Penn State.

So how did Penn State get off less than three years after a serial child-rapist coach was convicted?

The answers lie in a series of court cases where a plucky law firm took advantage of the NCAA’s arrogance.

..............................

The Sandusky sex-abuse scandal first exploded in November 2011, and the NCAA was completely unprepared for the gravity of what was required to deal with it. It made frequent public statements decrying the university’s culture of negligence in the period after the allegations first surfaced, but the organization did not launch its own investigation. It chose instead to rely on the findings of The Freeh Report commissioned by the Penn State board of trustees.

It would later emerge that the moment The Freeh Report was published, the NCAA began negotiating with Penn State, looking for an agreement on terms of punishment for the university. Normally, the NCAA’s disciplinary procedure flows through its Committee on Infractions, but it chose to operate differently in the Penn State matter. NCAA executives, especially President Mark Emmert, and the group of college presidents that made up the NCAA executive committee, took a lead role.

It was conveyed to Penn State that this was an extraordinary circumstance, and that the executive committee was considering the “death penalty,” a complete multi-year ban from football, for the program. To avoid this, the university’s best option was to reach an agreement with the NCAA on a punishment.

An agreement, called the Consent Decree, was reached. Penn State was banned from postseason play for four years and docked a large share of its football scholarships. All of the program’s wins between 1998 and 2011 would be vacated, meaning Paterno could no longer claim the wins record for a major college football coach. And the university would pay a $60 million fine, the program’s gross annual income, to go towards programs to prevent child sexual abuse and assist victims.

State Senator Jake Corman represents the county that’s home to Penn State and is himself a graduate. No fan wanted to see the school sanctioned, but something else bothered Corman—then the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee—about the punishment.

“Part of the sanctions was a $60 million fine of Penn State, and that money was going to be given to a national foundation that the NCAA was going to set up to deal with issues of child abuse,” Corman told The Daily Beast, “and although I didn’t necessarily have an issue with the amount of the fine or how they were going to spend the money, I did have an issue that Penn State was a public university, funded by the commonwealth, and therefore if there’s any money that’s going to be spent by the university, it’s going to be spent in Pennsylvania.”

He mulled it over with others in state government, including the state treasurer, then placed a call to Matt Haverstick, a Pennsylvania lawyer with plenty of experience representing state government, at a small firm called Conrad O’Brien.

Haverstick thought they had a case, and agreed to take it. He and his colleagues put together a number of state constitutional theories and filed a lawsuit, but failed to get anywhere.

They changed tack. Senator Corman wrote bill  that would mandate that state–funded institutions of higher education forced by a “governing organization” to pay penalties would pay those penalties in state. Though it could potentially apply more broadly, there was little doubt about the Endowment Act’s intent: to keep the $60-million fine in Pennsylvania.

When it became law, Haverstick immediately sued to have it enforced against the NCAA’s sanctions, keeping the $60 million in-state. The NCAA countersued, alleging that the law was unconstitutional because it was tailored to one circumstance.

The state court disagreed, upholding the law’s constitutionality and ordering the $60 million to be paid into a fund, set up after the law’s passage, to distribute it throughout Pennsylvania.

Read this article on Good Lawyering

 
Support Waning, Romney Decides Against 2016 Bid

Support Waning, Romney Decides Against 2016 Bid

By ASHLEY PARKER and JONATHAN MARTIN

On a ski lift high above the powdery slopes of Deer Valley, Utah, Mitt Romney made it clear: His quest for the White House, which had dominated nearly a decade of his life, was coming to a close. 

In a talk with his eldest son, Tagg, between runs down the mountain on Monday, Mr. Romney, 67, said he had all but decided against a third bid for the White House.

The conversation, according to a person familiar with it, came after days of increasingly gloomy news reached the Romney family.

Donors who supported him last time refused to commit to his campaign. Key operatives were signing up with former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. The Republican establishment that lifted Mr. Romney to the nomination in 2012 in the face of scrappy opposition had moved on.

...................................

“People were much more excited about Jeb than Mitt,” said Ron Gidwitz, a Chicago financier who helped raise millions for Mr. Romney and allied groups in 2012. “Mitt ran twice before unsuccessfully. He’s a great guy. But winning is everything in this business.”

Mr. Romney’s decision not to run frees up scores of Republican establishment donors and campaign operatives, and sets off an intense battle for their support. A key question, given the early strength demonstrated by Mr. Bush and his network, is whether there is room for a candidate of similar policy views, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, to emerge. So far, Mr. Bush has fared well among the party’s moneyed donor class, but its grass-roots activists, crucial to the early nominating states, have yet to coalesce around any candidate in a still evolving field.

Mr. Romney’s departure could also deprive Democrats of what they had hoped: a protracted and damaging confrontation between Mr. Bush and Mr. Romney — and the prospect of facing off again against Mr. Romney, who they believe would be just as vulnerable as he was in 2012.

......................................

The campaign to deny Mr. Romney another chance began almost immediately after he mused to donors at a Friday get-together in New York City on Jan. 9 that he was open to the possibility of another run. By that Sunday afternoon, William Oberndorf, a prominent California investor who supported Mr. Romney in both of his previous presidential campaigns, had emailed a group of 52 powerful Republicans, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, the investor Charles Schwab, Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois and the Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos with a blunt message: we need to support someone else.

Mr. Oberndorf wrote: “We are fortunate in Jeb Bush to have an extremely talented and able candidate who, I believe, has a far better prospect of winning a general election than Mitt. Moreover, Mitt has now run twice and has had his chance to be president. It is now time to cede the field to others.”

Mr. Oberndorf requested that those on the email contact Mr. Romney’s longtime finance chief, Spencer Zwick, to make it clear that they did not want Mr. Romney to run again. And many of them did, Mr. Oberndorf said in an interview on Friday.

“Of everybody I contacted, I only heard from one person who thought Mitt should give it another shot,” said Mr. Oberndorf. In the weeks after he expressed renewed interest in running, Mr. Romney contacted some of his most loyal supporters. But often, he found Mr. Bush had gotten there already.

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