They'll get reinforcement from Alabama Republicans, who are sending busloads of "Alabama Battleground Patriots" to states including Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. When they start sending reinforcements from hundreds of miles away, it means that you need help, and maybe that they think the help is worth it.
ON THE CAMPAIGN CHARTER HEADING TO OHIO -- The same day as the first presidential debate of the 2012 election, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will begin a three-day debate camp.
Campaign spokesman Brendan Buck told reporters aboard the Ryan press charter Saturday afternoon Rep. Ryan will head to the battleground state of Virginia on Wednesday for an extended debate prep session, commonly referred to as ‘debate camp.’
No reason for selecting Virginia was given, however, advisers in the past have said the camp would likely be in a battleground state, likely in the Eastern time zone, and “somewhere where there aren’t distractions.”
Mitt Romney, who will be debating President Barack Obama in Denver on Wednesday, held his own debate camp in Vermont in early September.
Ryan’s first formal debate prep day was Sept. 9in Oregon with his most recent formal debate practice session held this past Sunday in a hotel in Janesville, Wis. Ted Olson, the former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, has been playing the part of Vice President Joe Biden during practice sessions and is expected to be in the Old Dominion state next week as well.
Ryan and Biden will debate just once during this election in Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11– exactly two months after Ryan was tapped as Romney’s running mate, also in Virginia where debate camp will occur.
The campaign told the traveling press a few weeks ago that the seven-term Wisconsin congressman has been going through large white binders -- “organized by issue areas” -- of policy information, research, and news of the day since the Republican National Convention ended at the end of August.
While there has not been much discussion regarding the VP debate in terms of debate expectations -- as most eyes are on the first presidential debate in four days -- two Ryan advisers appeared to downplay expectations for the House Budget Chairman when they spoke to the traveling press in Reno, Nev., in early September.
“Vice President Joe Biden served over 30 years in the United States Senate, he has run for president twice and has severed as vice president for the past four years. He is one of the most experienced debaters in American political life and we definitely don’t take the challenge lightly,” an adviser said.
Ryan focuses heavily on raising money Sunday and Monday -- holding fundraisers throughout Connecticut and New York City – before heading to the key state of Iowa for four campaign events. He will then turn his focus to debate prep leading up to the final weekend before the debate in Kentucky.
Let me finish with the real-life consequence of this bad voter photo law in Pennsylvania.
My high school English teacher, Gerald Tremblay, has been caring for his wife these recent years. She suffered a serious stroke and has been unable to get out and about. She can no longer drive a car and therefore has no driver's license. Unable to travel, she has no up-to-date passport.
But she is fully alert and very much alive intellectually. Thanks to her husband, she keeps up with the news. He holds the newspapers up for her to read, and she's very eager to vote this year.
Therein lies the problem, this "new" problem. The new Pennsylvania law, pushed through by Republicans in the legislature, requires that to get an absentee ballot which is needed in this case, you need to produce a government-issued photo ID.
Think about the obstacles this presents here. Mr. Tremblay would have to take his wife to the PennDot headquarters—his wife being a serious stroke victim—simply to get the ID card that the new law now requires.
Now we have no idea if this is the kind of person the GOP lawmakers in Harrisburg were out to keep from voting. What we do know is the predicament they've created for her, a consequence of their slick move to, in the words of the top Republican in the Pennsylvania legislature, deliver the commonwealth's electoral votes to Romney.
I would think this case is a good example of why justice requires action by the courts to stop this unfair new law from taking effect barely a month from now.
What I didn't say is that Gerald Tremblay is the greatest teacher I ever had, anyone ever had. If he's as good a caregiver as he was a teacher, God's in his heaven, all's right with the world.
But this law needs to be changed now so that his wife can cast her ballot like every other registered Pennsylvania voter.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan reunited on the stump this week, and, as Al Sharpton put it on PoliticsNation Wednesday, the reunion "didn't quite go as planned."
When Romney introduced his running-mate, the crowd began chanting, "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan." That prompted Romney to object, and try to get them to instead chant "Romney-Ryan, Romney-Ryan." It's not clear how well he succeeded.
As Al said: "You know things are bad when the nominee has to remind people he's the one on the top of the ticket."
Mitt Romney speaking at a campaign fundraising event at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino Friday in Las Vegas.
There you have it…Mitt Romney released his tax returns. Well, at least the ones for 2011, as he previously vowed to do. Mitt Romney’s trustee released this statement. One paragraph in particular has caught the eye of many Romney tax return junkies:
The Romneys donated $4,020,772 to charity in 2011, amounting to nearly 30% of their income.
The Romneys claimed a deduction for $2.25 million of those charitable contributions.
The Romneys’ generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year. The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years.
Well that seems nice that they paid more taxes than they owed, right? Well there is one slight problem. In July, Romney told ABC News, "I don't pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don't think I'd be qualified to become president. I'd think people would want me to follow the law and pay only what the tax code requires."
Once again, look at this quote in today's statement by Romney's trustee, "The Romneys' generous charitable donations in 2011 would have significantly reduced their tax obligation for the year. The Romneys thus limited their deduction of charitable contributions to conform to the Governor's statement in August, based upon the January estimate of income, that he paid at least 13% in income taxes in each of the last 10 years."
The video editing machines in Chicago must be on fire right about now.
Romney’s 14.1 percent effective federal tax rate in 2011 would’ve been lower if he’d deducted all of his charitable contributions from his nearly $13.7 million in income. But after estimating that he paid at least 13 percent of his income in taxes in each of the last 10 years, Romney opted not to deduct nearly $1.8 million worth of charitable contributions last year to artificially lift his tax liability.
So what would Romney’s effective tax rate have been if he’d deducted all of his charitable donations? About 12.2 percent.
Here’s the math we used, validated by tax experts at the liberal Center for American Progress.
According to the campaign, Romney earned $13,696,951 in 2011, of which he paid $1,935,708 in taxes.
But those figures include $1,770,772 in charitable contributions that he could have deducted, but chose not to. Since the campaign acknowledges that nearly all of Romney’s income came from investments, we assume he paid a 15 percent rate on that $1,770,772 — or $265,615.80 in taxes that he didn’t have to pay.
If you subtract that figure from his total taxes, you’re left with $1,670,092.20 — the amount of tax he would have paid if he’d deducted all of his charitable contributions.
A month ago, there was a fair amount of bravado in Republican circles, with many in the GOP cautiously optimistic the presidential race. The swagger is now gone -- Politicoquoted "top advisers to Mitt Romney" who conceded that President Obama is the favorite. The same piece said internal Republican polls show Ohio "clearly" leaning in the president's favor.
Now that the dust has settled on both major-party conventions, we can also take a look at two full weeks' worth of Gallup tracking data.
That straight, boring line on the left half of the chart? That's the period around the Republican convention -- which showed no bounce for Romney at all. As things currently stand, Gallup shows Obama up by five, which is hardly an insurmountable lead, but is the larger advantage either candidate has enjoyed in the last 11 weeks. Other polls are pointing in a similar direction.
With a growing sense of dread in Republican circles, the Romney campaign's pollster published a memo this morning, urging everyone to just calm down. Neil Newhouse -- yes, that Neil Newhouse -- acknowledged Obama's lead, but dismissed the president's advantage as "a sugar high" that won't last.
He may well be right. We don't yet know whether Obama's current lead is the result of a post-convention bounce that will soon fade, or whether it's a new normal that will last until the debates in a few weeks. Time will tell.
That said, it's worth noting that the Team Romney memo was extremely thin -- it wasn't based on data or any kind of evidence; it was instead based on hopes of what Republicans think could happen in the near future. For GOP voters worried about Romney's chances, the polling memo effectively boiled down to, "This'll work out; trust us."
For Republicans inching closer to panic, this may fall short of reassuring. Romney was supposed to get a bump when Paul Ryan was introduced, but that didn't amount to much. He was supposed to get a bump from his convention, but that proved underwhelming, too.
Mark Halperin, who's generally a fairly reliable barometer of what the inside-the-beltway establishment is thinking, said this morning that Romney "faces the immediate threat of both quiet and loud we-told-you-so's from Republicans who last year had the very worries they fear are being manifested now. Romney is an awkward, unlikable candidate.... Until Romney breaks this cycle, he is in danger of living out the Haley Barbour dictum: in politics, bad gets worse."
Halperin added that GOP donors may even start investing less in the presidential race and more in congressional contests if they perceive Romney as a likely loser.
For what it's worth, I tend to think all this handwringing in Republican circles is premature. But eight weeks out, it's also fair to say Obama, not his challenger, is exactly where he wants to be.
Long before he became one of the right’s most vocal critics of the idea that government spending could help boost the flagging economy, Rep. Paul Ryan offered a forceful, full-throated defense of stimulus spending — when then-President George W. Bush wanted it in 2002.
Ryan has denounced the 2009 Recovery Act signed by President Obama as “a wasteful spending spree” and “failed neo-Keynesian experiment,” and – as The Huffington Post pointed out this morning — dismissed as “sugar-high economics” the idea that government spending, through measures like payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, can help shore up a faltering economy.
Ryan’s comments reveal a strikingly different economic analysis than the one he has become known for in recent years as the “intellectual leader” of the Republican Party and, now, Mitt Romney’s running mate. In 2002, Ryan argued that unemployment would remain at elevated levels even after the economy began to recover, and that aggressive stimulus would be a necessary and effective antidote.
“What we're trying to accomplish here is the recognition of the fact that in recessions, unemployment lags on well after a recovery has taken place,” Ryan said at the time. “We have a lot of laid-off workers, and more layoffs are occurring. And we know, as a historical fact, that even if our economy begins to slowly recover, unemployment is going to linger on and on well after that recovery takes place.”
Ryan’s advocacy of stimulus spending wasn’t limited to Washington, either. When he returned home to face constituents, he used similar language to make the case for the Bush stimulus bill. “You have to spend a little to grow a little,” Ryan told constituents at a town hall in Wisconsin in January 2002, according to the Journal-Times, a local newspaper. “What we're trying to do is stimulate that part of the economy that's on its back."
And as New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait pointed out this morning, Ryan made the case for Keynesian stimulus in the form of income tax cuts in 2001, arguing for tax cuts that were “fast, deeper, retroactive to January 1st, to make sure we get a good punch into the economy, juice the economy to make sure that we can avoid a hard landing.”
Republicans have also repeatedly mocked calls by congressional Democrats to include renewed economic stimulus spending, such as a payroll tax holiday, as part of plans to reduce the deficit. Democrats have argued that short-term stimulus spending would help produce long-term revenue by boosting economic growth. Ryan has criticized that thinking, but in his 2002 remarks, he made exactly the same case: that short-term stimulus spending would produce budget surpluses.
“We've got to get the engine of economic growth growing again, because we now know because of recession, we don't have the revenues that we wanted to, we don't have the revenues we need, to fix Medicare, to fix Social Security. To fix these issues we've got to get Americans back to work,” Ryan said. “Then the surpluses come back, then the jobs come back. That is the constructive answer we're trying to accomplish here on, yes, a bipartisan basis.”
Ryan also argued in 2002 for helping workers pay for their health insurance and extending unemployment benefits. Since Obama has been in office, Ryan has voted against extending unemployment insurance.
“It's more than just giving someone an unemployment check,” Ryan said of the Bush stimulus bill. “It's also helping those people with their health insurance while they've lost their jobs and more important than just that unemployment check, it's to do what we can to give people a paycheck.”
Ryan called such measures “time-tested, proven, bipartisan solutions to get businesses to stop laying off people, to hire people back, and to help those people who have lost their jobs,” and urged congressional Democrats to break ranks and join Republicans in supporting the president’s plan.
“I've just recently read in our local Capitol Hill newspaper that members from the majority party in the other body want stimulus. They're breaking with their party leadership and asking for stimulus legislation to pass because in their home states they have a lot of people who are losing their jobs,” Ryan said. “I urge members to drop the demagoguery and to pass this bill to help us work together to get the American people back to work and help those people who've lost their jobs.”
:: Sal Gentile is segment & digital producer for Up w/ Chris Hayes. Follow him on Twitter at @salgentile. ::
Rush Limbaugh has a problem with the four journalists selected to moderate this year's presidential debates. As Lawrence O'Donnell highlighted on The Last Word, Rush thinks they are all "far left-wing liberal Democrats."
Jim Lehrer of PBS, who'll be hosting the first encounter, has previously hosted eleven debates. Limbaugh called him a "far left-wing liberal Democrat."
CNN's Candy Crowley, who will host the second "town-hall" style debate, is a "far, far left-wing liberal Democrat momma," Limbaugh said.
Rush dubbed CBS's Bob Schieffer a "far, far left-wing liberal Democrat...and dinosaur."
And he called ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz, who is hosting the vice presidential debate, the same—except instead of a "dinosaur," Rush dismissed Raddatz as an "infobabe for ABC."
“It’s the same old media hacks handling the debates,” said Limbaugh.
As O'Donnell pointed out, there's a method to Rush's apparent madness. By working the refs, he's hoping to intimidate them into going easy on Mitt Romney, and holding President Obama's feet to the fire. It's a trick conservatives have been using for years.
If you read only one op-ed today, I'd recommend this item from Obama campaign advisor Jeffrey Liebman in the Wall Street Journal. It's tough to summarize the nature of the debate over jobs and its connection to the presidential race in 800 words, but Liebman, a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, pulls it together nicely.
The defense of President Obama's jobs agenda is pretty straightforward: the economy lacks demand, is held back by public-sector layoffs, and desperately needs infrastructure investments, and the White House plan addresses exactly what's ailing us. But what stands out is Liebman's assessment of the president's challenger.
What would Gov. Romney do to create jobs now? In a word, nothing. In fact, the proposals he has put forward would slow the recovery, reversing the gains we have made since the recession ended.
Gov. Romney himself has acknowledged that excessive spending cuts can have a damaging impact on the economy.... If Gov. Romney is correct about the impact of spending cuts, then the House budget, which cuts spending by $187 billion in 2013 relative to the president's budget, would reduce economic output by about 1%. That would shrink employment next year by more than one million jobs.
The rest of Gov. Romney's economic agenda -- $5 trillion in deficit-increasing tax cuts with no plausible path to pay for them, divesting from clean energy, and repealing rules of the road for Wall Street -- would almost certainly undermine confidence in the U.S. economy and reduce employment further. But even if you dismiss this risk, what is clear is that there is no plausible argument for how Mr. Romney's policies would address the jobs crisis we face today.
That strikes me as unambiguously true. In fact, in my dream, head-in-the-clouds, hopelessly-naive vision of how the 2012 presidential race should play out, voters would be presented with two competing options on the nation's top issue: Obama would explain the economic benefits of his plan, while Romney would highlight the benefits of his plan.
Voters would consider the two options and choose the superior plan.
Of course, at least at this point, that's impossible -- not because voters wouldn't bother to evaluate two competing economic agendas, but because Romney doesn't dare offer a detailed plan. As Ari Berman recently put it, "Obama Has a Jobs Plan. Romney Doesn't."
This isn't to say Romney's platform is a complete mystery. We know from his speeches, ads, and website what he intends to do in a general sense: roll back access to health care, slash taxes, increase military spending, relax Wall Street safeguards, expand oil drilling, etc. The Republican candidate avoids specifics and policy details, but we can analyze Romney's intended plan based on the broad outline.
We can also take what we know and determine whether Romney's approach would lower unemployment. There's no great mystery here: while independent analysis found Obama's Americans Jobs Act would create as many as 1.9 million jobs in 2012, independent analysis also finds that Romney really doesn't have a jobs plan at all.
As Greg Sargent recently talked to two nonpartisan economists about Romney's stated goals.
"Are all these things going to reduce the unemployment rate from eight to five in two years? No," Joel Prakken, the chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, tells me. He described Romney's ideas as a "a bundle of reasonable policy proposals that could well stimulate the economy from the supply side over a number of years, but would do little to stimulate aggregate demand in the short run. The reason that unemployment is as high as it is is inadequate aggregate demand, not inadequate supply."
"On net, all of these [Romney] policies would do more harm in the short term," added Mark Hopkins, a senior adviser at Moody's Analytics. "If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower."
If Romney and his team disagree, no problem. I propose a simple challenge: both major party campaigns should produce detailed jobs plans, then allow independent economists to scrutinize them and publish the results. May be the better agenda win.
I think Team Obama is up for it. How about Team Romney?
But O'Donnell, Democratic strategist Karen Finney, and Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston all reserved extra spite for the campaign reporters who failed to press the candidate on the issue.
"The problem is the beat reporting, the ordinary day-to-day reporting," said Johnston. He went on:
The failure to ask the tough question, to keep pressing it, and to then raise the question: why won't you answer the question? What are the reasons you’re not willing to deal with this? This is a job where the only test is your judgment . . . In Governor Romney, we are not seeing good judgment in dealing with this issue.
Finney suggested that the Romney campaign's stance on his tax record is intentional. "Clearly the Romney campaign has made the political calculation that what's in there is more dangerous than the political risk of not releasing them," she said. "And that is really the crux of where journalists should be asking those questions."
Mitt Romney's failure to create jobs in Massachusetts during his one term is becoming an increasingly important point in the 2012 campaign, with the Republican campaign struggling to think of an excuse, and President Obama's re-election team eager to shine a spotlight on Romney's record.
Indeed, Obama's campaign released this new ad this morning, slamming the former governor's failures on what's supposed to be his top issue.
This is not, by the way, just some web video -- the ad will run in Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as part of a "significant" ad buy.
And what does Team Romney have to say in response? Well, it's a funny story, actually.
Romney has been running for president pretty much non-stop for six years. He and his aides have, in other words, had a very long time to come up with compelling explanations for all of the shortcomings in Romney's record.
With that in mind, Romney's staffers had to know that when they appeared on the Sunday shows yesterday, they'd hear questions about Massachusetts being 47th out of 50 states in job creation during Romney's tenure. And what was their explanation? Romney inherited a bad situation, and when he left, things were marginally better.
Seriously, that's their defense.
Eric Fehrnstrom told ABC, "Can I just say, on the jobs question, because this comes up repeatedly that Massachusetts was 47 out of 50 in terms of jobs growth. Actually, when Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house." Kevin Madden, naturally, took the same line on "Meet the Press." On Fox News, Ed Gillespie went so far as to suggest the job losses in Romney's first year shouldn't be held against him.
This comes on the heels of Fehrnstrom arguing 10 days ago that Romney inherited a "recession" and an economy that was "losing thousands of jobs every month" in 2002, and a Romney campaign press release last week that argued, in all seriousness, "Governor Romney inherited an economy that was losing jobs each month and left office with an economy that was adding jobs each month."
David Axelrod's response seemed wholly appropriate given the circumstances: "They're kidding, right?"
Look, this isn't complicated. Romney is trying to create a standard for success that only he's allowed to use. After all, what's President Obama's defense on the economy? He inherited a disaster but helped turn things around. After one term, conditions weren't excellent, but they showed clear improvement after four years. An economy that was losing jobs was, finally, adding jobs.
And what's Romney's defense of his jobs record in Massachusetts? He inherited a mess but helped turn things around. After one term, conditions weren't excellent, but they showed clear improvement after four years. An economy that was losing jobs was, finally, adding jobs.
Can Romney have it both ways? If Romney's to be congratulated for inheriting an economy that was struggling but then turning things around a little, by that identical standard, he ought to be patting Obama on the back for a job well done. Indeed, the Romney campaign talking points practically sound like an Obama endorsement.
What's more, this isn't some tangential point in 2012 -- it's the central argument of the entire presidential campaign.