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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Romney on \'Meet the Press\' Criticizes Obama on Defense Cuts


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Mitt Romney, in an appearance on “Meet the Press” to be aired on Sunday morning, praised former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, suggesting that his performance outshone President Obama's speech accepting his party's renomination. He also criticized Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans for agreeing to automatic cuts in defense spending as a way to force a deal on deficit reduction, in a process called sequestration.

In excerpts released by the program on Saturday, Mr. Romney was asked if he thought Mr. Clinton could get elected president today. “You know, if the Constitution w eren't in his way, perhaps,” he said.

“But he did stand out in contrast with the other speakers,” Mr. Romney continued. “I think he really did elevate the Democrat convention in a lot of ways. And frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who'd go before him and who'd go after.”

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Turning to the topic of defense spending, Mr. Romney said he wanted to maintain spending at the current level of the gross domestic product.

“I don't want to keep bringing it down as the president's doing,” Mr. Romney said. “This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction.”

Mr. Romney's appearance on “Meet the Press” is his first since 2009. Though Mr. Romney has largely eschewed the Sunday news shows, the host of †œMeet The Press,” David Gregory, sat down with both Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, over the course of two days.

Obama Makes Birth Certificate Joke


ORLANDO, Fla. - Birthers, you're not going to like this one.

President Obama was schmoozing his way around the sports bar Gator's Dockside, chatting up families and posing for photos as part of his campaign bus tour of Florida on Saturday night, when he stopped at a table of 10 people, including several children.

“He was born in Hawaii,” one woman said, pointing to a blond boy down the table.

The president lit up and flashed the Hawaiian shaka hand sign, which the boy - Andre Wupperman, who will be 7 next week - returned.

“You were born in Hawaii?” Mr. Obama asked, then broke out into a smile. “You have a birth certificate?”

The table burst into laughter.

Romney Uses Lines From Pledge to Criticize Obama


VIRGINIA BEACH - Mitt Romney is fond of reciting things.

In the early days of New Hampshire, it was a poem, “The Coming American,” by Sam Walter Foss. Later on, it was choice verses from “America the Beautiful.”

But at a Saturday afternoon rally here, Mr. Romney did not just recite the Pledge of Allegiance; he also metaphorically wrapped his stump speech in it, using each line of the pledge to attack President Obama.

“The promises that were made in that pledge are promises I plan on keeping if I am president, and I've kept them so far in my life,” Mr. Romney said, standing among old airplanes in a hangar at the Military Aviation Museum here. “T hat pledge says ‘under God.' I will not take ‘God' out of the name of our platform. I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart. We're a nation bestowed by God.”

Mr. Romney was referring to a kerfuffle during the Democratic National Convention, when Mr. Obama's party scrambled to amend its platform to include a reference to “God,” giving Republicans a chance to portray the party as out of touch with family values. But Mr. Obama has never suggested taking “God” off the nation's coins, as Mr. Romney's remarks also seemed to imply. When asked to comment, the campaign said that Mr. Romney was simply highlighting instances where “In God We Trust” was on public display.

Mr. Romney continued working his way through the pledge, moving to the part that refers to the nation as “indivisible.”

“I will not divide this nation,” he said. “I will not apologize for America abroad, and I will not apologize for Americ ans here at home.”

He said that for the nation to have liberty, “We must have a military second to none, so strong no one would ever think of testing it.” And that when it came to justice for all, “I don't think it's just to the next generation for us to pass on massive debts that we've amassed and pass onto them $16 trillion in debt.”

Mr. Romney's ramped-up stump speech came as Pat Robertson, the televangelist whom Senator John McCain of Arizona once labeled an “agent of intolerance,” was sitting in the front row behind the stage. The men met and chatted briefly before the event.

“We pledge allegiance to that flag, we believe in a nation under God, a nation indivisible, a nation united, a nation with justice and liberty for all,” Mr. Romney said, “and for that to happen we're going to have to have a new president that will commit to getting America working again, that will commit to a strong military, that will commit to a nation under God that recognizes that we the American people were given our rights not by government but by God himself.”

Mr. Obama's campaign called Mr. Romney's remarks “extreme and untrue,” and it accused him of “associating with some of the most strident and divisive voices in the Republican Party,” including Mr. Robertson.

“This isn't a recipe for making America stronger,” said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. “It's a recipe for division and taking us backward.”

Sunday Breakfast Menu, Sept. 9


With the conventions in the rearview mirror, the general election is off and running. The Romney campaign is wasting no time, branching out from the nominee's almost exclusive appearances on “Fox News Sunday” to date by scheduling Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, for an interview with NBC's “Meet the Press.”

Meanwhile, his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, will speak for the Republican ticket on CBS's “Face the Nation” and ABC's “This Week,” addressing the latest jobs report.

CBS will also feature excerpts of an interview with President Obama, taped during a campaign stop in St. Petersburg, Fla. Plus, David Plouffe, a White House senior adviser, will talk ab out the race.

The Sunday show panels include some familiar faces from the conventions, including Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio, who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and will appear on NBC. Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, co-chairman of the Democratic National Convention platform committee, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and author of “Government Bullies,” will join ABC's roundtable.

Following former President Bill Clinton's strong endorsement of Mr. Obama on Wednesday, Newt Gingrich will appear on CNN's “State of the Union,” talking about his experiences going head-to-head with Mr. Clinton when he served as speaker of the House in the 1990s - and how Mr. Romney can handle his attacks today. Also, Gov. Jerry Brown of California will explain his efforts to manage the state's fiscal crisis.

On “Fox News Sunday,” two economic advisers will weigh in on the presidential race: R. Glenn Hubbard, econ omic adviser to the Romney campaign and former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, and Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under Mr. Obama.

Also on Fox: Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah, who is running for Congress and gave a speech at the Republican National Convention.

Univision's “Al Punto” has an interview with Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, House minority leader, on the election issues important to the Hispanic community.

Representative John B. Larson of Connecticut, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, is on C-Span's “Newsmakers” this week. He will talk about the agenda for the coming months and his party's prospects for winning back the House in November.

The Labor secretary, Hilda L. Solis, will discuss the latest jobs report on TV One's “Washington Watch.”

And Bloomberg's “Political Capital” has J. An n Selzer, president of Selzer & Company and pollster for Bloomberg, and Mark Blumenthal, founding editor of Pollster.com and senior polling editor at The Huffington Post.

Ryan to Spend Sunday Preparing for Debate With Biden


Each day the briefing books have grown fatter. At home in Wisconsin last Sunday, he watched a tape of Sarah Palin's 2008 debate. And this Sunday, Representative Paul D. Ryan will hunker down for his first full day of debate prep before he faces off against Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. next month.

Preparing to debate Mr. Biden has been on Mr. Ryan's to-do list ever since his selection as the Republican running mate, but the process accelerated after the Republican National Convention.
The campaign has selected a Biden stand-in - though it has so far declined to name him. The stand-in will not be present on Sunday during Mr. Ryan's prep, which will take place in Oregon during a break from fund-ra ising on the West Coast, according to a senior aide. The format will be less than the full-scale rehearsals Mitt Romney held over several days in Vermont this week while the Democratic National Convention monopolized the spotlight.

“At some point we'll do a full-scale debate camp as the governor did,'' the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes preparations. “Thus far most of the prep has consisted of Paul reading and editing briefing books.''

A challenge for Mr. Ryan is to translate his sometimes wonky policy explanations into ordinary language. He has struggled to explain, for example, why it is not hypocritical to accuse President Obama of “raiding” Medicare when his own House budget includes the same $716 billion in savings â€" losing himself in the weeds of “the current C.B.O. law baseline.''

“I think it would be fair to say that after a number of years in Congress and p utting together the budget, Chairman Ryan has an exceptional grasp of policy,'' his aide said. “A lot of what we're working on is the best way to debate, particularly given the vast experience the Vice President brings to this process.''

The most raucous applause for Mr. Ryan at rallies is often when a local official introducing him refers to the debate on Oct. 11. But the Romney-Ryan campaign is seeking to downplay expectations.

“Remember, the Vice President has run for president twice, he's probably one of the most experienced debaters in American politics right now,'' the aide said.

Mr. Ryan's preparations will not be all sweat and toil. He plans to break to watch his Green Bay Packers play their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

After Jobs Report, Obama Tries to Change the Subject


SEMINOLE, Fla. - President Obama on Saturday began hammering away at the Republican ticket's plans for Medicare, using a campaign swing through Florida, with its large number of elderly and retired voters, to try to turn the page from anemic employment growth, his biggest weakness, to entitlements, a Democratic strength.

Kicking off a two-day bus tour through this perennial swing state, the president told a rally here that Mitt Romney's running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, has proposed to overhaul Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that could mean higher costs for beneficiaries.

“Florida, you should know I will never turn Medicare into a voucher system,” Mr. Obama said, to rousing cheers from the crowd of 11,000 at St. Petersburg College-Seminole. “No American should have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”

Mr. Obama's advisers have been indicating that they are eager to re-engage their opponents on their Medicare plan, while the Romney camp would prefer to talk about the economy. A government report on Friday showed that employers had eased up on hiring in August, adding just 96,000 jobs, compared with 141,000 in July. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, but that was largely because of people leaving the work force entirely.

Mr. Romney has sought to blunt Mr. Obama's Medicare offensive with attacks of his own, something that Obama advisers appeared to await eagerly.

“If they want to have a discussion about who do you trust on Medicare for the next 60 days as their central argument, you know we ought to send them an in-kin d contribution,” David Plouffe, Mr. Obama's senior adviser, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday. “We're happy to have that discussion. We think people trust the president more on Medicare.”

The president grabbed that mantle on Saturday and ran with it. “We will reform and strengthen Medicare,” he said at the rally, “but we'll do it by reducing the costs of health care, not by dumping the costs on seniors.”

For good measure, he threw in several more lines in his stump speech aimed at seniors, who he said “are saving an average of $6,000 on prescription drugs because of ObamaCare. And by the way, I do care.” It was a reference to the derogatory phrase that Republicans have given his health care overhaul. These days, the president has embraced the label with both arms.

cI like the name ObamaCare,” he said. Mr. Romney “says he's gonna repeal it. That's because Romney doesn't care.”

With 58 days to go until Election Day, t he battle for seven or so fiercely contested swing states has intensified. No state is more crucial than Florida, with its 29 electoral votes and its diverse mix of conservative Southerners, Hispanics, African-Americans, elderly and Jewish voters.

Mr. Obama does not appear to have much of a shot with the conservative Southerners, but he is fighting mightily for the rest. That is why his weekend bus tour is straddling the center of the state, in the territory that hosted the Republican National Convention last week. Mr. Obama won Florida in 2008.

After Seminole, Mr. Obama traveled up Interstate 4 toward Orlando, with a stop in Kissimmee. On Sunday, he was to head back down to Melbourne and then West Palm Beach, Ground Zero for the infamous recount of 2000.

His Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was focusing his his efforts Saturday on Virginia, another state that Mr. Obama captured in 2008 and one in which the president has made a big target in this election.

Mr. Romney's Virginia trip, which includes a stop in Virginia Beach and then an appearance at the start of the Sprint Cup Series Nascar race in Richmond, is intended to help him shore up his lead among white, working-class voters.

Although the president trails Mr. Romney in this crucial demographic, some polls still show Mr. Romney underperforming among these voters, and he is trying to expand his lead. Mr. Romney's choice of running mate, Mr. Ryan, is also expected to help him win over working-class whites and the Republican conservative base, many of whom remained wary of Mr. Romney during the early nominating contests.

For Mr. Romney, the son of a Detroit auto executive turned governor of Michigan, such courting of working-class voters may be a challenge. He is Harvard-educated (both business and law school) and has an estimated net worth of more than $200 million.

Earlier this year, during a visit to the Dayto na 500, Mr. Romney ran into some trouble when he said that while he did not follow the sport as closely as some ardent fans did, he had “some great friends that are Nascar team owners.” His opponents used the comment to portray him as wealthy and out of touch with the concerns of average voters.

Mr. Obama has made repeated campaign stops in Virginia, particularly courting black voters around theRichmond area to try to drive up their turnout. He has also focused on liberal-leaning areas of northern Virginia.

Helene Cooper reported from Seminole, Fla., and Ashley Parker from Charlotte, N.C., and Boston.

New Priorities USA Ad Hits Romney on Tax Plan


Priorities USA Action, the leading outside Democratic group supporting President Obama's re-election, released a new television advertisement on Saturday highlighting a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and suggests that Mitt Romney's plans would raise taxes on the middle class while cutting them for the wealthy.

The ad is set to run next week in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The 30-second commercial, which is titled “We the People,” is aimed squarely at middle-class voters and features images of firefighters and short-order cooks. The message amplifies one of the central themes of the Democratic National Convention.

“D oesn't Mitt Romney understand?” the announcer says. “We can't rebuild America by tearing down the middle class?”

The advertisement cites the Tax Policy Center as concluding that a middle class family would pay an average of $2,000 more to help pay for a $250,000 tax cut for some of the wealthiest Americans.

The Romney campaign has aggressively pushed back against the analysis from the Tax Policy Center, saying it is based on unfair assumptions. Other independent analysts say Mr. Romney's tax plan is not sufficiently detailed to offer such a conclusive analysis.

But the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has said that it stands by its conclusion: that Mr. Romney's proposals would mean big tax cuts for the highest-income taxpayers and increases for everyone else.

The Weekend Word: It\'s Complicated


Today's Times

  • President Obama was on the defensive Friday over a weak jobs report, again having to make the complicated argument that the flagging recovery â€" while not good enough â€" is at least persistent, Helene Cooper and Annie Lowrey report.
  • President Obama and Mitt Romney offer vastly different solutions in deciding how the federal government confronts the costs of higher education, Adeshina Emmanuel writes. The role of the private sector in American colleges is becoming increasingly linked to the outcome in November.
  • The emerging consensus among Democrats is that President Obama exceeded his convention goal, drawing a sharp contrast between his vision and Mitt Romney's, Adam Nagourney writes. But there is growing evidence that this year more than ever, the influence of these extravagant events is on the decline.
  • The Democratic Convention displayed a tricky balancing act for President Obama: a four-year struggle to show that pro-worker does not mean antibusiness, Jackie Calmes reports. The challenge for the campaign was most evident on Wednesday, when it tried to counter Republican attacks depicting him as the enemy of job creators when unemployment persists, while Elizabeth Warren, the liberal nemesis of Wall Street, shouted phrases like “The system is rigged!” during her prime-time speech.
  • In Iowa and a handful of other states, the next two months will be a blur of television, radio and Internet ads, campaign rallies and endless unsolicited phone calls, Jeremy W. Peters and Helene Cooper report. The narrowly targeted effort underscores just how much money will flood so few states in such a s mall amount of time.

Weekly Address

  • President Obama marked the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in this week's address, reflecting on the courage of soldiers and first responders who sacrificed to keep the country safe. He expressed pride in the citizens for rebuilding and refusing to live in fear, reminding the nation that â€" thanks to intelligence personnel and armed forces â€" the threat of Osama bin Laden has been eliminated. “Today, a new tower rises above the New York skyline,” he said. “Instead of changing who we are, the attacks have brought out the best in the American people.” He named ending the war in Iraq, ending the Taliban regime, training Afghan security forces and forging a partnership with a new Afghan government as a testament to how far America has come since the attacks. “Eleven years later, that's the legacy of 9/11 â€" the ability to say with confidence that no adversary and no act of terrorism can change w ho we are,” he said. “On this solemn anniversary, let's remember those we lost, let us reaffirm the values they stood for, and let us keep moving forward as one nation and one people.”

Around the Web

  • The White House is going to miss the deadline to report its plans to Congress for the “fiscal cliff” budget cuts scheduled for 2013, The Hill reports.
  • Breweries across the country are preparing to use the recently released White House beer recipe to whip up batches of their own, Politico reports.

Happenings in Washington

  • Thousands of people from different faiths will walk Embassy Row for a 9/11 Unity Walk condemning religious violence.
  • Cancer survivors and supporters will run a continuous two-mile loop around the White House all weekend to raise awareness for gynecological cancers.