US election ‘is about eight states’

Let’s look at a map.

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This one will do (and gives you some fun button to play with). Blue states are done deals for President Obama: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.

These states will deliver Obama 196 of the required 270 Electoral College votes needed to win reelection.

Mitt Romney can count on West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Alaska.

That’s a lot of states but, by the size of their population, not a lot of votes. It only guarantees Romney 159 Electoral College votes.

According to wide analysis — and CNN’s map is clear — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Mexico lean strongly to Obama. If that plays true then Obama claims 237 of the 270 votes required. Romney collecting Indiana, Missouri, and Arizona bumps his count to 191.

In what is a real life board game, it’s here that it gets very interesting. Up for grabs, according to Mitt Romney’s campaign (and we know this because he is spending money advertising in these states but has significant funds to do so if he wanted) is Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

This also underlines evidence that Romney’s campaign has given up on New Mexico and Wisconsin although his team denies this. That suggests Obama probably has 247 votes.

On another level, these numbers also mean the Romney/Ryan team will not win their respective home states of Wisconsin (Ryan) and Michigan (Romney) as well as Massachusetts where Romney was previously Governor. But we digress.

With that maths, Obama has to add “just” Florida (with 29 electoral votes) to win reelection or perhaps a combination of Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin (all achievable) or any other similar match up of swing states.

Of course, in a volatile electorate it’s absolutely possible that toss-up states could all go to one candidate and either Obama or Romney wins in a landslide. But polls aren’t showing that just yet. But what the current maps do show, and what should be of some concern to Romney, is that President Obama has more paths to reelection that Romney has to win.

The FiveThirtyEight blog was credited after the 2008 election as one of the most accurate indicators of electoral temperature (a deep drill combination of polls and real data) and points to one decisive geographical location: Ohio. And Ohio. And did anyone mention Ohio? (Clue: Democrats mentioned it many times during its convention last week).

There are many mini battles to play out before the election but slips in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and especially Ohio, and November 6 won’t be over fast enough for the challenger. Despite the poor economy, Romney appears to be the guy who has the work to do.

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Moyes hails Van Persie and Rooney

Manchester United manager David Moyes praised both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney after his first Premier League match in charge of the English champions ended in a 4-1 win at Swansea.

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Van Persie and Danny Welbeck scored two goals apiece at the Liberty Stadium while Rooney, repeatedly linked with a move to Chelsea after falling behind Dutch striker van Persie in the Old Trafford pecking order during Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, came off the bench in the second half.

Wilfried Bony snatched an 82nd minute consolation goal for Swansea on a day when van Persie confirmed his status as the Premier League’s leading marksman.

“The biggest thing for me is that Robin has been a pleasure to work with,” said Moyes.

“He is really keen to work to improve and get better – you may wonder how he can get better.

“His two goals were terrific, the athleticism he showed for the first and the power for the second.”

Moyes, who oversaw the start of Rooney’s professional career in his previous role as Everton manager, added: “Wayne did well when he came on and made a great run for the one goal and a great pass for the second. He helped the team and played a part getting the result.”

Rooney received a standing ovation from United’s travelling fans when he came on to replace club great Ryan Giggs.

“The supporters recognise good players and they recognised that when Wayne came on,” said Moyes.

“He’s got quite a bad kick down the back of his Achilles and he is still lacking match practice. He played well for the team and he helped set up two goals.

“Wayne has worked very hard when he has been fit. You cross that white line and enjoy your football and I thought he did that today.”

Although Swansea had dominated much of the game in terms of possession, United struck twice to send Moyes in with a smile at half-time.

Van Persie controlled Giggs’s lobbed pass after 34 minutes before beating compatriot Michel Vorm from a dozen yards and then, two minutes later, Welbeck turned in Antonio Valencia’s cross.

Van Persie added his second goal – a stunning strike from 20 yards – after 72 minutes.

Although Swansea striker Bony came off the bench to snatch a consolation, eight minutes from time, Rooney’s through ball in stoppage time enabled Welbeck to lob Vorm for his second goal.

“I think like any manager, to win the game there is always an element of relief,” added Moyes. “I thought we were incisive, our finishing was fantastic.

“We could play better at times but overall it was a brilliant team performance against a Swansea team who will do well.”

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‘Grown up’ Cooper says he learned from Wallabies exile

The flyhalf missed the Lions series after being excluded from the Australia team by previous coach Robbie Deans in the wake of comments he made last year describing the environment around the Wallabies as “toxic”.

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Deans departed after the Wallabies lost the series 2-1 last month to be replaced by Cooper’s former provincial coach, and chief cheerleader, Ewen Mckenzie and the 25-year-old was clearly delighted to be back.

“When you have time away from the game, whenever you’re selected for that team again the hunger is always there,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s a great feeling, just the little things like getting on the bus and going to training, the sort of things I’ve haven’t done for close to a year,” he added.

“It’s really refreshing, new players, new coaching staff, anybody can see that it’s going to be different.”

Cooper last played for Australia against Argentina last September before a knee injury and then his clash with Deans kept him out of the green and gold Australia shirt.

The New Zealand-born playmaker, one of the most naturally gifted players in the game, said he had learned a lot in his time away from the national team set up.

“In the past I’ve relied heavily on talent,” he said.

“Talent will get you so far but when you get this level you have to make sure your work ethic and your attitude and all those small things you think may not matter too much, that they’re all in the right spot.

“That’s something I’ve been working on a lot over the last six to 12 months.

“I learned a lot from my time out, also from being injured and then again from not being part of the team. Growing up, having time away, I’m 25 now and I’m not getting any younger and I’ve got to make the most of it.”

Even with McKenzie in charge, Cooper said he was not taking his position as a starter for granted and was looking forward to working with the challengers for the number 10 shirt, Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley.

“The best way to improve yourself is to have guys competing,” Cooper said.

“I’m sure they’ll be better than me in certain aspects of the game and I can learn from them, but also if there’s anything I can offer them, I’m sure they’ll ask.”

BOXING ON HOLD

Cooper, who won a cruiserweight bout in February, said he would be putting his boxing career on hold at least until the end of the season so it did not conflict with “doing a good job for the Wallabies”.

While missing out on the Lions tour had been “pretty painful”, he added, what had hurt more was that the Wallabies had lost the series.

“You just want to be a part of it,” he said. “I was just disappointed we didn’t get the win. Hopefully we can rectify that by moving forward this year. There’s a lot to win this year.”

First up is back-to-back tests against the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship, matches that have particular resonance for Cooper after he was branded “public enemy number one” in the land of his birth at the 2011 World Cup.

Cooper understands that such controversies are all part of marketing the game and does not expect the boos that accompany his every move in New Zealand to end any time soon.

“We can’t do anything about it, we can’t tell them to be quiet, they’d probably just shout louder, so you just get on with what you can control,” he said.

“You need to practise with it at the back of your mind, knowing that the crowd’s going to get into you and embrace it. Not so much go out and enjoy it but train it so it doesn’t catch you off guard.”

A week before that particular challenge in Wellington on August 24, though, Cooper and his team mates have a chance to give McKenzie the best possible start to his reign against the All Blacks in Sydney.

“We want to be the best team in the world and the only way you do that is by beating the best,” he said.

“Our full focus is going to be on that, putting in a great performance, try and build throughout the championship and put trophies in the cabinet.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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Two men charged will illegally lobbying for Mugabe

Two US men face criminal charges for illegally lobbying on behalf of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe with the aim of helping lift US government sanctions against the African country, prosecutors said.

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Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 72, and Greg Turner, 71, are accused of telling Mugabe they would enlist the assistance of public officials who “purportedly had close connections with then President-elect Barack Obama,” prosecutors said in a press release.

The men allegedly arranged for at least five “fact-finding vacations” to Zimbabwe, in which US officiates, both federal and state-level, met with Mugabe and others, the prosecutors said.

The case came to the attention of authorities when members of Obama’s transition team alerted the FBI. They had become suspicious after a state legislator called twice hoping to speak with the team about his recent visit to Zimbabwe.

Economic sanctions imposed by president George W. Bush in 2003, and extended every year by Obama, do not prohibit US officials from traveling to Zimbabwe or from meeting with “designated” officials, such as Mugabe and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, to discuss the sanctions.

However, the sanctions do bar US citizens and residents from providing lobbying, public relations and media consultation services to the “designated” nationals.

Ben Israel and Turner are accused of contacting the Mugabe government shortly after Obama’s November 2008 election to offer their services for $3.4 million.

Over the next year, they allegedly got several unnamed state and federal lawmakers — including a Chicago-based member of the US House of Representatives — to write letters expressing their interest or commitment to helping Mugabe and Gono.

They are also accused of arranging for Mugabe to meet with federal and state government officials in New York and attempting to get Gono and other Zimbabwe officials on a list of speakers at a forum hosted by a House member from California.

The two men face up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine for violating the sanctions.

Ben Israel appeared in a federal court in Chicago Tuesday and was released on bond. Turner is believed to be living in Israel and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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Coup will hinder coach search: Lions boss

Besieged Brisbane Lions chairman Angus Johnson believes a boardroom coup led by AFL great Leigh Matthews will only make the task of appointing Michael Voss’ replacement harder.

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Johnson admitted he was surprised when Brisbane directors Paul Williams and Mick Power revealed on Wednesday they had recruited Matthews for a rival ticket and demanded he stand down.

Johnson said the pair were unhappy because he had “botched” the recruitment of former Sydney premiership-winning coach Paul Roos.

Four-time premiership-winning coach Matthews, Williams and Power had hoped to launch a fresh push for Roos – but they will have to wait until December’s annual general meeting to complete their coup.

The Lions board met on Wednesday to discuss the formation of a coaching selection panel to be headed by Hawthorn’s three-time premiership player and ex-coach Peter Schwab.

But Johnson said the panel now faced an even more difficult task due to the boardroom unrest.

“It is not going to make it any easier,” he said.

“I would be a fool to suggest this event this morning isn’t going to have a destabilising impact on our club.

“But I have the full support of the directors other than two of them, the management is still in place – we have very capable people here.”

Asked if he expected to defeat a Matthews-led ticket in December, Johnson said: “This isn’t a popularity contest.

“It is about our members making a judgement call on how this board has run the club over the last two and a half years.”

Johnson urged the Lions faithful to take a deep breath as they approached life without Voss.

But he admitted he may come to regret his call last week that members can “kick me out” if they did not agree with how they handled Voss’ dumping.

“I would just like Paul and Mick to let the dust settle, reflect on what’s happened and let’s see what happens over the coming weeks,” he said.

“I am hopeful that everyone will act in the best interests of our fantastic football club.

“(But) if the members want to kick me out then they have that opportunity at the AGM.”

However, Johnson said he was “extremely happy” with how he had handled his talks with Roos and claimed the board had unanimously agreed to ditch Voss despite not having locked up a replacement.

“Paul Williams moved the resolution that we would not offer Michael another contract and it was unanimously supported,” he said.

When he refused to stand down after being challenged, Johnson said he asked Williams and Power whether they wanted to resign but they declined.

“I was a little surprised by that,” Johnson said.

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