As anyone who has ever seen Mitt and Ann Romney up close can attest, there’s little doubt that the would-be first lady seems to be more of a political natural than her husband. While the Republican presidential candidate can seem awkward at times even in small groups, his spouse has the ease and grace of a seasoned professional. So it’s little wonder that not only is Mrs. Romney a popular GOP attraction on the stump, but that the media has begun to focus not only on what she is saying but also her role in her husband’s campaign. Both the New York Times and Politico ran features about her today in which her fierce defense of Mitt’s attitude toward women, as well as his campaign strategies, are examined. If the stories are to be believed, Mrs. Romney’s position is that her husband should be left alone to be who he is and that Republicans should be spending more time talking about his virtues rather than carping about tactical mistakes.
She’s probably right, but the arguments about how best to portray the candidate go to the heart of the problem. Mrs. Romney is quoted as admitting that her husband isn’t very good at telling people stories about himself, especially the really flattering ones about his compassion for others. But that’s not something that his wife, or anyone else for that matter, can do for him. In the end, voters are looking to evaluate Romney, and not a surrogate’s version of him. That’s why tonight’s debate, when he will finally be alone on the stage with the president, is so important.
President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.
Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.
Bill Burton, former White House deputy press secretary and head of the pro-Obama Priorities USA super PAC, is struggling to defend his latest ad that suggests Mitt Romney is responsible for the death of a steelworker’s wife. You can hardly blame Burton; fact-checkers have found that the ad is dishonest, blatantly misleading, and sleazy, so it’s no wonder he can’t defend it. But why would he run something that is indefensible in the first place? CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pushed Burton on the issue last night (starts around four minutes into the video):
The Obama campaign has spent the last day and a half ducking questions about Joe Soptic, the steelworker featured in the Priorities USA attack ad. Campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama campaign spokeswomen Stephanie Cutter and Jen Psaki have gone so far as to claim they don’t know enough about the specifics of the Soptic story to comment on it. Well, it turns out the Obama campaign should actually be pretty familiar with the specifics — because they’ve used Soptic in their own campaign commercials and even set up conference calls between him and reporters. Politico reports:
Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign. …
Both the campaign and the Priorities USA Action said there was no coordination about Soptic’s appearances. In the campaign’s ad, Soptic speaks only about the plant. In the Priorities spot, he tells the personal story he relayed during the Obama campaign conference call.
Sandra Fluke, the free-contraception activist whose claim to fame was getting insulted by Rush Limbaugh, is hitting the campaign trail with President Obama in Colorado today. But she started the day off with an anti-Romney column in the Huffington Post (via Daily Caller):
The morning of noted contraception activist Sandra Fluke’s campaign appearance with President Barack Obama in Denver, the newly minted lawyer explained she is “standing with Obama” in an effort to protect women’s health care.
“This choice is personal for all of us because it will impact each of our lives. But for me, it’s intensely personal,” Fluke wrote in a Wednesday Huffington Post blog post, circulated by Obama for America. “Earlier this year, I was publicly attacked by Rush Limbaugh and others for testifying before members of Congress. I had shared stories of my friends and other young women, stories no different from those I’ve heard from women who also worry about having the health care they need.” …
“When Rush Limbaugh called me a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ for speaking about medical needs for contraception, Mr. Romney could only say that it ‘wasn’t the language [he] would have used,’” she added. “If Mr. Romney can’t stand up to the extreme voices in his own party, we know he’ll never stand up for women and protect the rights that generations of women fought so hard to ensure.”
The Obama-supporting Priorities USA PAC has released anti-Bain ads before, but it’s reached a new level of dishonesty with this latest one. It features a former GST Steel worker blaming Mitt Romney for the loss of his job and health care, which he suggests led to his wife’s subsequent illness and death. Politico reports:
The commercial casts Mitt Romney’s business background in a severely negative light, but it’s not a typical slash-and-burn attack ad. Instead, it features former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic speaking to the camera about what happened when the plant where he worked shut down.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney understands what he’s done to people’s lives by closing the plant. I don’t think he realizes that people’s lives completely changed,” Soptic said. “When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their health care. And a short time after that my wife became ill.”
He continues: “I don’t know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn’t say anything because she knew that we couldn’t afford the insurance. And then one day she became ill and I took her up to the Jackson County Hospital and admitted her for pneumonia and that’s when they found the cancer and by then it was stage four. It was — there was nothing they could do for her. And she passed away in 22 days.”
As John Steele Gordon noted during the weekend, Democrats have been pummeling Mitt Romney about his tax plan, after a new study by the Tax Policy Center claimed it would raise taxes on the middle class. The latest dig came from President Obama, who called the plan “Robin Hood in reverse”:
“The entire centerpiece” of Romney’s economic plan is a $5 trillion tax cut, he said.
The president spoke of the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of Romney’s plan again. “It’s like Robin Hood in reverse — it’s Romney-hood.”
The crowd laughed and roared and whistled its approval.
“That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term as president.”
For the second month in a row, Mitt Romney outraised President Obama by a wide margin. Obama and the DNC brought in $75 million, the campaign announced on Twitter, while the Romney campaign and the RNC raised $101 million:
The gap is slightly smaller than it was in June, when Romney raised $106 million and Obama brought in $71 million, but it’s the second-straight month that Romney has pulled in nine figures and the third-straight month he has outraised the incumbent president.
The fundraising numbers are split between the candidates’ campaign committees, their respective national party committees and joint fundraising committees that raise money for both entities.
Romney’s campaign said the three combined had $185.9 million in the bank at the end of July; Obama’s team did not announce a cash-on-hand figure.
Today’s Gallup poll found that on a list of 12 voting priorities, raising taxes on the wealthy comes in last place, with 49 percent of respondents saying it’s “very” or “extremely” important.
The first five, in order, are “creating good jobs” (92 percent), “reducing corruption in federal government” (87 percent), “reducing the federal budget deficit” (86 percent), “dealing with terrorism and other international threats” (86 percent) and “ensuring the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicaid” (85 percent). Gallup concludes with this analysis:
Americans’ to-do list for the president on Jan. 20, 2013 — whether it be Obama or Romney — includes creating good jobs, reducing government corruption, and reducing the federal budget deficit. Supporters of both candidates agree about the importance of jobs and corruption, while the deficit is a higher priority for Romney supporters than Obama supporters. In turn, Obama supporters believe the next president should have healthcare, Social Security and Medicare, and public education among his highest priorities.
Job creation has certainly been and will continue to be a major topic during the remainder of the campaign. And both candidates will surely need to outline their plans for reducing the federal budget deficit. However, it is unclear whether government corruption will become a major issue in the campaign, even though Americans see reducing it as an important goal.
This “Anglo-Saxon heritage” story sounded unbelievable from the get-go. An unnamed Romney foreign policy adviser allegedly told the LondonTelegraph that Romney would usher in better relations with the UK because he understands the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama — a oddly-phrased comment that clearly has racial undertones.
It’s usually a good idea to be skeptical of sensational-sounding Telegraph stories about U.S. politics in the first place, but this article literally relies on a single unnamed source — and yet Washington reporters ran with it anyway. Now the Romney campaign says the story is false, according to WaPo:
An unnamed “adviser” to Mitt Romney who told the London Telegraph that the candidate appreciates “Anglo-Saxon heritage” better than President Obama is not speaking for the Republican campaign, a spokeswoman for the former Massachusetts governor said Wednesday.
“It’s not true,” Amanda Hennenberg said in a statement. “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”
The quote has created an early dust-up between the two campaigns as Romney begins his low-key, week-long trip through Britain, Poland and Israel.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” an adviser told reporter Jon Swaine. “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” The reporter later tweeted to clarify that the quote came from a “member of [Romney’s] foreign policy advisory team.”
BuzzFeed reports the Democratic National Committee is planning to go “nuclear” over the attacks on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and launch a major assault on Mitt Romney’s small business record:
DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse outlined an all-out response to Mitt Romney’s attack on President Obama over his “You didn’t build this” line — which the president and independent fact checkers have said has been taken out of context.
“In conjunction with OFA, we’re going to turn the page tomorrow on Mitt Romney’s trumped up, out of context fact-checked-to-death BS about the president and small business and set the record straight on how Mitt Romney has a horrible record on small business,” Woodhouse said in a memo sent to BuzzFeed, saying there will be on-the-ground events across the country — including in Massachusetts — to rebut Romney’s attack.
The Obama campaign is pushing back against attacks on the president’s “you didn’t build that” remark with a new web video claiming the Romney campaign took the line “out of context.” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter says the following:
“Mitt Romney recently launched a new TV ad that blatantly twists President Obama’s words on small business owners and entrepreneurs. Romney’s not telling the truth about what the president said and is taking the president’s words out of context. Romney claims the president told entrepreneurs they didn’t build their own businesses. Actually, he didn’t say that. And even the Washington Post called this attack ‘ridiculous.’ Anyone who’s seen the president’s actual remarks knows the truth. The president said that together, Americans built the free enterprise system that we all benefit from.”
Cutter then goes on to defend Obama’s record on small businesses, but doesn’t even play a clip of his comments in whatever “context” she claims is missing from Romney’s ad. Instead, viewers are asked to click a link over to the Obama website if they want to see it. Why? Probably because the campaign knows the context sounds just as bad as the line in question.
Mitt Romney touched on this point in one of his strongest interviews of the campaign so far:
WaPo’s Glenn Kessler — whose recent takedown of Obama’s Bain attacks prompted a tidal wave of outrage from the left — gave the Romney campaign three Pinocchios for its ad on Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments. He starts out by saying the Romney campaign removed a big chunk of words from Obama’s speech (as 30-second political ads typically to do), to unfairly make it seem like the president was attacking entrepreneurship:
The biggest problem with Romney’s ad is that it leaves out just enough chunks of Obama’s words — such as a reference to “roads and bridges”— so that it sounds like Obama is attacking individual initiative. The ad deceivingly cuts away from Obama speaking in order to make it seem as if the sentences follow one another, when in fact eight sentences are snipped away.
Suddenly, the word “that” appears as if it is referring to a business, rather than (apparently) to roads and bridges. …
In other words, this is an argument that Democrats have been making for decades, one that Republicans have every right to reject. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, understood fully that Obama was talking about roads and still thought his logic was faulty.
At BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins reports that Mitt Romney is finally ready to drop the “nice guy” claimer about Obama, and punch back hard against recent attacks:
“[Romney] has said Obama’s a nice fellow, he’s just in over his head,” the adviser said. “But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he’s really disappointed. He believes it’s time to vet the president. He really hasn’t been vetted; McCain didn’t do it.”
Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.
Conservatives are anxious to see more fight from Romney, but will digging up Obama’s past be effective after he’s already served almost a full term in office? At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait writes:
The apparent plan is to mutter darkly about Chicago and drug use and sundry other biographical details that conservatives believe they wrongly shied away from four years ago.
As Coppins notes, this would amount to a full reversal of the old Romney strategy. The old plan, you may recall, was premised on targeting the sliver of swing voters in the middle who like Obama, want him to succeed, but believe he has failed to turn the economy around. Thus Romney devised a message targeted right at the gap between Obama’s good favorable ratings and less impressive job approval ratings. It was a good plan.
Does it make sense to abandon that plan to circulate dark mutterings about Obama’s past?
No, it does not. The point of disparaging Obama’s character is to paint him as a cultural alien unfit for the presidency. More of this theme may or may not have helped in 2008. But you can’t do that effectively against somebody who is already president of the United States.
The damage Barack Obama did to himself in Roanoke, Va. when he said ”If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen” has become the occasion for his defenders and apologists to say he didn’t say it, or he didn’t really say it, or he’s being taken out of context, or he didn’t mean it, or something.
Fine. Here’s the whole thing:
Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I would argue the context makes the quote worse, not better.
John called it “The Biggest Mistake of Campaign 2012 . . .” and I fully agree. Not only will Obama’s comment be used by every Chamber of Commerce in the country to alert their memberships to just what sort of president they are dealing with, but it has already produced a fair amount of what every politician dreads: ridicule.
…is not Mitt Romney’s handling of Bain Capital, or anything Mitt Romney has done. The biggest mistake was the one made by Barack Obama on Friday, when what you might call his now-familiar “Declaration of Interdependence” went completely off the rails. Obama’s “we’re all in this together” bit has been a feature of his speeches during the past year, as he cites the government-led activities that have made this country better—land-grant colleges and infrastructure and the social safety net. It sounds kind of uplifting, which is why he likes to say it, and it fits his general message of a country in which government plays a central role for the good of all.
But when he extended it to personal and private endeavor, the president revealed the danger of this message—to him. ”If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” Obama said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t even remotely true—if you’re a taxpayer and government funds were used to “make something happen,” then by definition you paid for it—it was profoundly stupid politically. In 2007, the last year for which we have data, according to the Census Bureau, there were 21.7 million businesses in the United States with no employees—meaning they were sole proprietorships, or free-lance businesses employing only their owner. Of the six million remaining businesses in the U.S., more than 3 million had 1 to 4 employees, and 1 million had 5 to 9. So, all in all, small businesses run by one person employing fewer than ten numbered an astonishing 25 million.
The Obama campaign managed to get the Boston Globe to pick up the story nobody else was buying: that Mitt Romney lied about leaving Bain Capital in 1999, based on documents filed with the SEC. As WaPo’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes, these claims had already been picked over and rejected by numerous outlets:
But now the Boston Globe has raised the issue again. The story seems to hinge on a quote from a former Securities and Exchange Commission member, which would have more credibility if the Globe had disclosed she was a regular contributor to Democrats. (Interestingly, “The Real Romney,” a book on the former Massachusetts governor, by Boston Globe reporters, states clearly that he left Bain when he went to run the Olympics and details the turmoil that ensued when he suddenly quit, nearly breaking up the partnership.)
We’re considering whether to once again take a deeper look at this, though it really feels like Groundhog Day again. There appears to be some confusion about how partnerships are structured and managed, or what SEC documents mean. (Just because you are listed as an owner of shares does not mean you have a managerial role.)
To accept some of the claims, one would have to believe that Romney, with the advice of his lawyers, lied on government documents and committed a criminal offense. Moreover, you would have to assume he willingly gave up his share to a few years of retirement earnings — potentially worth millions of dollars — so he could say his retirement started in 1999.
The past three months have been President Obama’s window of opportunity, a time when he’s had both a spending advantage and bully pulpit advantage over Mitt Romney. But the fundraising gap is quickly closing, Obama’s burning through his cash reserves, and before long Romney will dominate news cycle with his VP decision and the convention speeches. If both candidates continue raising money at their current paces, Obama may be the one lagging financially after August.
With all that said, why — despite Obama’s extensive advantages — have his attacks on Romney failed to move the dial? NJ’s Josh Kraushaar reports on the lack of progress:
For all the attention paid to the effectiveness of President Obama’s Bain-themed attacks, it’s remarkable how Obama has been stuck right around 47 percent for a very long time. As the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza documented, the president’s team has handily outspent Romney and his allied super PACs, pouring in $91 million into eight swing states in an early spending barrage intended to make Romney seem an unacceptable challenger. But for all that effort, the numbers haven’t moved much at all: The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out today shows the race deadlocked at 47 percent. Yesterday’s USA Today/Gallup swing state poll showed Obama statistically tied with Romney, the exact same result the survey showed one month ago.
Meanwhile, in the coming months, Romney should have a spending advantage, having significantly outraised Obama over the last two months. Along with the RNC, the campaign has $160 million cash-on-hand, a total that will likely be greater than the Obama team’s money. (The Obama campaign tellingly didn’t release their cash-on-hand figures.) That will allow Romney to match or surpass Obama on the airwaves, having survived a period when he was outgunned. The Romney campaign has already hinted it plans to counterattack by raising questions about Obama’s credibility. And American Crossroads announced it has reserved $40 million of television ad time in the final two months – when more voters are paying close attention.
Another month, another lousy jobs report. The June report out this morning is no worse than the May report that was considered a disaster for the Obama re-election effort, but it’s no better either. Unemployment stayed the same at 8.2 percent, but the broader measure that includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time work ticked up a notch from 14.8 percent to 14.9. While the economy created an average of 226,000 jobs a month in the first quarter, it created only 75,000 a month in the second.
Just how dismal has been the recovery that began way back in June 2009, in the Obama administration’s earliest days, is graphically (quite literally) demonstrated in an interactive chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. George W. Bush owns the recession (fairly or unfairly), but the Obama administration owns this dismal recovery lock, stock, and barrel.