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.

Republican presidential hopefuls have had a field day attacking President Obama for the federal government's trillion-dollar deficits and promising things will be different when the GOP is in charge.

But while the candidates talk a good game about stemming the tide of red ink, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says their proposals don't necessarily add up.

Hourly workers at General Motors will soon be getting profit-sharing checks of up to $7,000 each after the automaker reported record earnings this week. President Obama may also get a political dividend, two and a half years after a government-engineered turnaround.

Obama reminded a group of United Auto Worker members this week that, back in 2009, his rescue of GM and Chrysler had plenty of critics.

Deficit reduction takes a back seat to job growth in the federal budget President Obama will unveil Monday. The spending plan forecasts more red ink in the current fiscal year than in 2011. Under the president's plan, budget deficits wouldn't reach a sustainable level until 2018.

The White House is trying to mend fences with Catholics and others who were outraged at a new rule governing insurance coverage for birth control.

That policy would have required Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions to cover birth control in their employees' health insurance. Critics called that an assault on religious freedom.

President Obama announced a change of course Friday, and the White House is hoping to regain religious allies and maintain support from the women who voted for Obama.

A Change Of Policy

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has joined the chorus criticizing President Obama over a controversial policy that would require most employers, including Catholic hospitals and universities, to include birth control in their employees' health insurance.

Catholic opinion leaders have denounced the policy as an assault on their religious freedom.

It turns out January was a surprisingly good month in the job market. U.S. employers added 243,000 jobs in January, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent.

That better-than-expected news from the Labor Department triggered a rally in the stock market Friday, with the Dow climbing more than 150 points. The news could also help the stock of President Obama.

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I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with fresh evidence that the U.S. economy is on the mend. The unemployment rate fell unexpectedly last month to 8.3 percent. And according to the Labor Department, U.S. employers added nearly a quarter million workers to their payrolls. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it's not only good news for the economy and the nation, it's also good news for President Obama and his re-election campaign.

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Take a map of the United States and stick pins in every state President Obama visits this week, and you would have a partial picture of how he hopes to win re-election. The president is visiting states he hopes to win this fall.

A day after delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama took his message on the road. Obama hoped that stops at manufacturing sites in Iowa and Arizona would drive home his point that the government should do more to encourage factory jobs.

The three-day trip also includes stops in Colorado, Nevada and Michigan. Those are all states likely to be important in the November election.

Obama kicked off his road trip at Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing, a factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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President Obama wants to see more tax breaks for manufacturers and fewer tax breaks for millionaires. Those were among the ideas floated in the president's third State of the Union speech last night. Throughout the morning, we're getting reaction to that address.

The hotly-contested Republican primary has gotten a lot of attention lately. Tuesday night, President Obama has a chance to reclaim the spotlight. He's delivering his annual State of the Union address. It's a high-profile platform for the president as he tries to frame the choice facing voters in November.

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Even if Wikipedia was working, you couldn't use it to locate information about Mitt Romney's most recent tax filings. He has yet to make that tax information public.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Under pressure from his opponents, Romney says he will release information in April.

MONTAGNE: But yesterday, Romney did let slip a provocative tax detail. He acknowledged he's probably paying an effective tax rate of around 15 percent. And that's well below the rate that many middle-class families pay.

Under heavy pressure from his rivals, front-runner Mitt Romney defended his record as a venture capitalist. He also insisted he bears no responsibility for attack ads aired by his allies, and grudgingly said he might release his income tax returns this spring.

The widening gulf between the rich and everyone else is a growing source of tension in America.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds the income gap is now seen as a bigger source of conflict in the U.S. than race, age or national origin. That's why some believe the issue could matter in the presidential campaign, and others worry it could warp the national debate.

Two out of three Americans now perceive strong social conflicts over the income gap — up sharply from two years ago. Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center has an idea what's behind the increase.

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.

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