Scott Horsley

Scott Horsley is a White House correspondent for NPR News. He reports on the policy and politics of the Obama Administration, with a special emphasis on economic issues.

The 2012 campaign is the third presidential contest Horsley has covered for NPR. He previously reported on Senator John McCain's White House bid in 2008 and Senator John Kerry's campaign in 2004. Thanks to this experience, Horsley has become an expert in the motel shampoo offerings of various battleground states.

Horsley took up the White House beat after serving as a San Diego-based business correspondent for NPR where he covered fast food, gasoline prices, and the California electricity crunch of 2000. He reported from the Pentagon during the early phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Before joining NPR in 2001, Horsley was a reporter for member station KPBS-FM, where he received numerous honors, including a Public Radio News Directors' award for coverage of the California energy crisis.

Earlier in his career, Horsley worked as a reporter for WUSF-FM in Tampa, Florida, and as a news writer and reporter for commercial radio stations in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire. Horsley began his professional career as a production assistant for NPR's Morning Edition.

Horsley earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University and an MBA from San Diego State University.

The central argument of Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is that he understands how the economy works — thanks to his business background — in a way that President Obama does not.

Democrats have been challenging the former Massachusetts governor's claim that the private equity firm he founded helped to create more than 100,000 jobs. Now, some of Romney's Republican rivals are raising questions of their own.

President Obama acknowledged Friday that the economic recovery has a long way to go. Still, he was able to share some good news. The Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added 200,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent.

"Obviously, we have a lot more work to do," he said, "but it is important for the American people to recognize that we've now added 3.2 million new private-sector jobs over the last 22 months."

Those better-than-expected numbers could help Obama as he tries to hang onto his own job.

President Obama campaigned outside Cleveland, Ohio, Wednesday, where he announced the appointment of a new consumer watchdog. The president used a recess appointment to install Richard Cordray. That might have been routine, but the Senate is not officially in recess.

Even as President Obama relaxes with his family in Hawaii over the holidays, he knows what's on the horizon when he returns to work in Washington.

He will start where he left off, facing new skirmishes with Congress over a push to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes. That temporary extension was approved just days before Christmas after a high-stakes gamble that finished only after most of Congress had left for the year.

First in a series

Visiting a metal fabrication plant in Sioux City this December, Mitt Romney touted his successful business background, saying those qualifications are what America needs right now.

"I want to use the experience I have in the world of the free enterprise system to make sure that America gets working again. ... These are tough times," said the Republican presidential candidate. "You guys have jobs. Hope your spouses do. But I know these are tough times."

But not as tough in Iowa as in many other parts of the country.

The Republican presidential contest remains fluid less than three weeks before the caucuses and primaries begin. Nationwide, nearly one in five GOP voters is still undecided. And in Iowa, candidates are making their final push before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Friday told workers at a metal fabricating plant in Sioux City, Iowa: "I am running in this race because I understand how to get middle-class Americans prosperous again, working again, buying things, and putting more Americans back to work."

Newt Gingrich stood center state Thursday night in the Sioux City Convention Center. The sharpest elbows did not come from his close rivals, Mitt Romney or Ron Paul. Instead, it was Michele Bachmann who repeatedly went after Gingrich.

President Obama doesn't have to worry about winning the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. He's almost sure to be the only Democrat in the first-in-the-nation contest. Yet that hasn't stopped the Obama campaign from organizing its own effort to get out the vote.

While Republican candidates have been hogging the Iowa spotlight, a small army of Obama volunteers has been busy behind the scenes. They've opened eight campaign offices around the state, hosted dozens of house parties, and logged tens of thousands of telephone calls.

President Obama lost a couple of economic battles on Capitol Hill on Thursday, but he is hoping to win the political war. The president vows to keep fighting for policies he says will benefit the broad middle class.

As Obama spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room, an electronic clock behind him ticked down the minutes, hours and days until year's end. That's when a payroll tax cut is due to expire, unless Congress votes to extend it.

Economic Skirmishes

President Obama will try Tuesday to follow in the footsteps of Teddy Roosevelt when he delivers an economic speech in Osawatomie, Kan., the same city where Roosevelt issued a famous call for a "New Nationalism" more than 100 years ago.

For Obama, this is a "connect-the-dots" speech. White House spokesman Jay Carney said it's a chance to show how the president's various economic proposals — from stricter banking oversight to payroll tax cuts — fit together, as Obama prepares for a re-election battle.

At a high school in Scranton, Pa., Wednesday, President Obama exhorted Republicans in Congress to extend the pay roll tax cut. He said putting money in the pockets of working people is more important than partisan politics.

At NPR, we know a thing or two about promotional merchandise. After all, we invented the Nina Totin' Bag and the Carl Kasell Autograph Pillow. So, on this Black Friday, White House correspondent Scott Horsley presents the NPR guide to campaign swag.

Transcript

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While Republicans prepared to debate yesterday, a debate we've heard elsewhere in this program, President Obama was visiting New Hampshire. He appeared in that state, which holds the nation's first primary. New Hampshire is also an important general election state and the president's appearance offered a counterweight to all the Republicans who've been busy there. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

Within the Republican presidential field, no one has talked tougher about China than Mitt Romney. He has vowed to go after that country from his first day in office, threatening to slap tariffs on Chinese imports to make up for its artificially low currency.

"We can't just sit back and let China run all over us," Romney said. "People say, 'Well, you'll start a trade war.' There's one going on right now, folks. They're stealing our jobs. And we're going to stand up to China."

President Obama has kept his distance from the supercommittee. Unlike the budget battles earlier this year, there were no bargaining sessions at the White House. No presidential motorcades to Capitol Hill.

The economy is expected to dominate all other issues in next year's presidential race. But in recent days, both the Republican candidates and President Obama have focused on foreign policy.

Republican White House hopefuls criticized President Obama's handling of Iran, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring during a debate Saturday night in South Carolina. It was the first of this year's debates in which foreign policy was the dominant topic.

Although the candidates aimed most of their firepower at the sitting president, the forum did expose some fault lines within the Republican ranks.

The Senate has approved just in time for Veterans Day a series of tax credits designed to make it easier for veterans to find jobs.

Some 240,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work. The Senate bill would provide tax breaks of up to $9,600 to private employers who hire them.

The tax credits are the first sliver of President Obama's $447 billion jobs package to actually win bipartisan approval in the Senate. Obama says service members who fought for their country shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they come home.

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SCOTT SIMON, host: President Obama spent the last two days in France wrestling with Europe's financial problems. He's back in the United States this morning where America has its own economic challenges. Home and abroad, Mr. Obama and his fellow leaders are confronted with slow growth, big debts and the political battles over how to deal with them. NPR Scott Horsley reports.

President Obama joked that the G-20 summit in Cannes, France, offered a crash course in European politics, with impromptu bargaining sessions that stretched late into the evening.

Yet the summit produced no big breakthroughs, only vague promises to prevent the political and economic turmoil in Greece from spreading.

After huddling with leaders from throughout the eurozone, Obama reiterated his belief that the countries on the continent can solve their own debt problems.

Greece's decision to scrap a referendum on new austerity measures added a note of urgency to the G-20 summit meeting that began in Cannes, France, on Thursday. President Obama and other G-20 leaders are trying to prevent the Greek debt crisis from spreading to the rest of Europe and beyond.

Before the G-20 summit formally got under way, Obama met privately with the leaders of France and Germany — Europe's two biggest economies. They're also the architects of a continental debt rescue plan.

The setting for this year's G-20 summit meeting is the Riviera Convention Center that hosts the Cannes Film Festival. President Obama will be walking the red carpet, but it's the European leaders who are stars of this show.

The Europeans are facing pressure to erect a financial "firewall" that will prevent the debt problems now plaguing Greece from spreading to the rest of the Continent and beyond.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week showing that the gap between wealthy and poor Americans has become much wider than it once was.

What's behind that expanding income gap?

Federal tax policy is part of the story. Those at the top of the income ladder have been the biggest beneficiaries of tax cuts over the last three decades.

But the biggest change has come in the shape of the economy itself.

Rick Perry doesn't have a catchy marketing slogan for his tax plan. But he's hoping the idea of a flat, 20 percent income tax rate will do for his campaign what "9-9-9" did for Herman Cain's.

"We need a tax code that unleashes growth instead of preventing it; that promotes fairness, not class warfare," Perry said during a speech at the ISO Poly Films factory Tuesday in Gray Court, S.C.

Even as President Obama announced the troop withdrawal from Iraq on Friday, he acknowledged the U.S. now faces a bigger challenge: creating opportunity and jobs in this country.

"After a decade of war, the nation that we need to build — and the nation that we will build — is our own," he said, "an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe."

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