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tv   Meet the Press  NBC  September 30, 2012 10:00am-11:00am EDT

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24 this morning on "meet the press," mitt romney needs a game changer. is the first presidential debate it? his back now against the wall, romney is behind in all of our background polls. the candidate presses for a rebound. >> we do not want four more years of where we've been. i represent a different path. president obama meantime tries to seize the moment as early voting begins around the country, offering a closing argument. >> when i took office, we were losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month and were mired in a rut. today i believe that as a nation we are moving forward again. >> this morning, the state of the race. a debate preview, and a look at the issues that will sway
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undecided voters. with us, republican governor of new jersey, the keynoter at the gop convention, chris christie. and for the obama campaign, the architect of his 2008 run, now white house senior adviser david plouffe. finally, insights and analysis from our political roundtable. joining us, conservative activist and founder of the faith and freedom coalition ralph reed. former democratic governor of pennsylvania ed rendell. anchor of bbc's "world news america" katty kay. and our chief white house correspondent and political director chuck todd. good sunday morning. with both sides in full preparation mode for wednesday's first presidential debate, the struggling romney campaign is recalibrating his message to better connect with voters on the economy and to attack the
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president on his handling of the latest foreign policy crisis, the evolving explanation of what exactly happened in libya when our u.s. ambassador was killed more than two weeks ago on 9/11. we'll hear from a top obama adviser, david plouffe, in a moment. but first, joining me now, the republican governor of new jersey chris christie. welcome back to "meet the press." >> happy to be back, david. good morning. >> the key battleground states, nine of them, we've been polling in nine of them, and all nine it's obama advantage across the board. look at ohio, plus seven. virginia, plus five. these are key states. is the race over? >> absolutely not. and that happened pretty quickly, right, david? you saw the change in those polls happen very quickly. and i'm here to tell you it can happen very quickly back the other way, and i think the beginning of that is wednesday night when governor romney for the first time gets on the same stage with the president of the united states and people can make a direct comparison about
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them and their visions for the future. and wednesday night is the restart of this campaign and i think you'll see the numbers start to move right back in the other direction. >> how do you restart a campaign, governor, at that last moment where you can reach tens of millions of people? why isn't it too late to believe that after you announce your running mate, after you have your own convention, that you can restart with the presidential debates? >> absolutely. you'll have tens of millions of people for the very first time, david, really tuning in and paying attention to this race. and also for the first time you're going to have them be able to make a direct side-by-side comparison. remember, at the end of the day, campaigns are about the candidates. and they're going to be able to see the two candidates next to each other, debating each other, and governor romney i know will do a great job on wednesday night laying out his vision for america's future and making the contrast between he and the president of the united states. >> as you well know, governor romney has been heavily criticized from his own side, conservative critics, and the chorus has been pretty striking.
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the latest that got a lot of attention, charles crowdheimer in "the washington post." this was the headline. go large, mitt. and the argument was he was not creating a large contrast, talking in detail about what his presidency would mean. >> i think he just has to lay out his plan and his vision. and i like charles and the other folks who are laying out critical columns right now. but the fact of the matter is, in the end this is about governor romney over the next four or five weeks laying that vision out for folks. you know, folks like us obsess about this stuff, david. but the general public that i speak to in new jersey and elsewhere are just beginning to really tune in to this race. so they're going to start tuning in on wednesday night. and when they do, governor romney will lay out his vision for a better and greater america, for greater opportunity, for all of our citizens, and i think that's when you're going to see this race really start to tighten and then move in governor romney's direction.
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>> up until now, governor, he has failed to enumerate any of the deductions that he would eliminate to make the math work on his deficit plan and his tax plan. are we going to get those details in the course of the debate? >> well, you know, david, i wish you guys were just as tough on the president. the president says he's going to create a million new manufacturing jobs. he doesn't say how. he says he's going to reduce the long-term debt and deficit by $4 trillion. doesn't say how he's going to do it. let's be fair here. governor romney has laid out a direction and a vision for the direction of this country. he's not an accountant. he is not going to go line-by-line through the budget. but let's hold the president to the same standard and criticize him as well, because how does he create a million new manufacturing jobs, david? he hasn't told anybody the specifics of that. how will he reduce $4 trillion in debt? we're still waiting to hear what he thinks about simpson-bowles, which he commissioned. he's been the president and hasn't given us specifics. so let's be fair here. >> so that's really the approach
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then? you're a former prosecutor. you understand how the courtroom works. mitt romney is the defense lawyer here. he is going to say the prosecution, president obama, hasn't made his case and that his record isn't enough for re-election, and i'm not going to give you all the detail of what i'll do, what a romney presidency would mean. make your choice based on the president. that's the plan? >> no, no. listen, what the plan is that the public will have plenty of detail and information to be able to make a judgment on governor romney and what his plan is for the future. but let's look at what the president is saying as well. and you're right, david, in this respect. the president has had four years to lay this out, and now a campaign. and the president's just trying to run out the clock. he desperately wants to run out the clock with platitudes which sound nice, and i give him that. the president is very good at that. but in the end, i think that both sides have to look at this campaign and say, what are we going to lay out over the next 36 days? and i think that's really important. and i think governor romney will lay out some very important points over the next 36 days that will make people believe once and for all that america
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can be great again. not just staggering along here economically as we've been doing. >> earlier this year, before he was the official nominee, you criticized mitt romney. you talked about his shortcomings, a failure to connect with people as a candidate. that criticism has not gone away. and then you had his secretly recorded speech at a fundraiser where he talked about the 47% believing that they were victims much. the obama campaign made an ad that puts some pictures to those words. i want to play a portion of it and get you to respond. >> there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. and they will vote for this president no matter what. and so my job is not to worry about those people. i'll never convince those people
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that they should take responsibility for their own lives. >> how will anybody buy that he cares about 100% of the country after those remarks? >> first of all, david, where i am, i couldn't see the images in the ad. i could just hear the voiceover so i can't comment on the ad. but here's what i know governor romney believes, because i have spoken to him. he believes that every american has to have skin in the game. he believes that every american wants to be part of a shared sacrifice to bring its people another opportunity for greatness. and that's what he was really talking about. was that comment inartfully put? absolutely. i have said it publicly as has governor romney. but we don't want to judge people on one comment. this is the same president who said he campaigned in all 57 states. i don't think we don't want to say that the president thinks there are 57 states. on the campaign trail, you'll say something that comes out of your mouth the wrong way. but here's what he believes. he believes that every american should have the opportunity for
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greatness. he believes that every american should be part of a shared sacrifice to fix the problems that are pe besieging our country, that everyone should have skin in that game. i believe the american people will rise to that challenge and elect mitt romney because he is the one articulating that challenge, not the happy talk that the president is giving us that things are bumps in the road, things are just small problems. the country knows we have big problems, david, that we're not confronting. and the president's happy talk for the next 36 days is not going to anesthetize the american people. >> you acknowledge this has done real damage. this 47% comment, not just a misstatement, this was a thoughtful accounting of a government-dependent society in romney's view. you admit it's done political damage? >> no, i don't acknowledge that, david. what i say is that if you look at the context of his statements all across this campaign that what governor romney stands for is shared sacrifice of the american people, everyone having skin in the game and working
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together to create opportunities for greatness for our children and grandchildren. and, you know, if we continue to emphasize this, then of course over the course of time if that's all people hear, but that's not all they're going to hear because on wednesday night, mitt romney will be standing on the same stage with the president of the united states. and i am telling you, david, thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change. >> let me ask you about some nuts and bolts that you say we're going to hear from governor romney. here was a portion of your speech as the keynoter that you gave in tampa. and i'll show it to you. >> we believe it's possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for our conservative principles. >> you understand there's a great appetite for compromise in the country. when it comes to dealing with our debt, this is a nominee in mitt romney who talks about an extra tax cuts, going beyond the extension of the bush tax cuts. he talks about raising defense spending. he rejects a 10 to one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases.
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simpson-bowles. you mentioned them. they say the math doesn't add up in the romney plan and he won't tell us how he thinks it does. >> well, listen. the country is hungry for bipartisan compromise, david. i agree with you,t( especially after the last four year was intense partisanship from this white house. and mitt romney is the only candidate in this race who has a record of showing he knows as an executive how to forge bipartisan compromise. as the governor of massachusetts, over 85% of his legislature democrats, he made things happen. and he will make things happen as president of the united states. and will forge the right type of compromise to get this done. and that's the way it's going to work. >> do you think that this governor romney should be in a situation where he's actually prepared to deal with revenue, to raise revenue, go against his party if it's part of a package that achieves compromise and the kind of reforms that are necessary along the lines of simpson-bowles, which you mentioned? >> let me tell you what he did in new jersey, david. what we did in new jersey is
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first you have to convince people that you've actually done everything you need to do on the spending side before you start asking people for more money. and the fact is, no one believes when you're adding $1.5 trillion in debt every year of the four years of this presidency that we've done everything we can do on the spending side. i think the first thing governor romney would have to do as president romney is prove he is serious on the spending side. deal with that issue first. when he does, he will then have credibility with the american people to be able to solve any problems that are on his desk. >> and that means even raising revenue if that's the right thing to do, raising taxes if it's necessary? >> no, listen. what it means is he is going to have credibility to address the issues and forge bipartisan compromise. the fact of the matter is, as he looks at these problems, he's going to look at them much differently than the president of the united states is looking at them, david. we're looking at this, and you're asking him about simpson-bowles. how about asking the man who commissioned simpson-bowles how he feels about simpson-bowles?
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and, you know, he won't answer the question. but he puts out a nice two-minute ad that says he's going to reduce the debt by $4 trillion but never tells us how. he's going to create a million manufacturing jobs but never tells us how. the fact of the matter is, david, when i hear you talk about mitt romney, i think you're talking about president obama. >> i want to end with this. as you know, political reviews are tough things sometimes, and there was a tough review for you as the keynoter at the republican convention. this was from politico, john harris and tim mack in reviewing your speech. the headline, christie delivers a primetime dud. they write, there's no mistaking what a successful keynote speech for chris christie would have looked and sounded like. there would have been an electric reaction from the crowd in the convention hall. it would have been followed by waves of effusive media commentary about how people had just heard the future of the republican party. there is no mistaking what the new jersey delivered instead. a primetime belly flop when he notably failed to clear either of those two high bars.
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are you still the future of this party, do you believe? >> well, mitt romney is the future of this party, first of all. he's going to be elected president on november 6. and then from there lead our country back to greatness. and believe me, if i took seriously judgment of my speeches by those two, i would not be in business for very long. >> governor chris christie, we'll leave it there. thank you as always. >> great to be with you, david. let me now turn to the president's senior adviser david plouffe. welcome back. >> good morning, david. >> governor christie says thursday morning the entire narrative of the race will change after the debates. looks like romney is expecting a good showing. >> i think governor christie is articulating what governor romney's campaign believes, that they'll change this race fundamentally. they talk about how this will be like 1980 and reagan surged to a huge lead. that's really the marker here. they set it out. they expect to come out of this with the race fundamentally changed. what does that mean? if it's going to fundamentally change that means in seven or 10
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days from now you'll see states like ohio tied and iowa tied. so they have set the bar quite high. challengers tend to benefit from debates. we have expected all along that governor romney will have a good night. he is prepared more than any candidate in history. and he has shown himself to be a very good debater through the years. so we understand that this is an important moment. we're just going to continue to make the case we have throughout the campaign, through the convention, to the american people. governor romney, they say he has practiced zingers and lines for months and months. we're sure he'll put on a show on wednesday night. >> you played a huge role in 2008 in debate prep. what have you told the president? there's an incumbent trap. don't fall into it. what does he have to do right? >> challengers benefit from this, being on the same stage has traditionally benefited the challenger. so the president is not worried
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about zingers and lines. he's got time with the american people to explain his case for re-election, about what he wants to do on the economy, how to focus on the middle class. that's what we've done through the whole campaign. it's been consistent day after day trying to explain to people where we've been, where we need to go, how that contrast with our opponent. and he thinks the clear choice is him for the middle class. >> is this race over? >> absolutely not. >> but you don't look like you think they are going to come back and tie it in ohio. >> well, 3:00 in the morning i wasn't sleeping because you worry about everything. first of all, there's benefit from going through this before. there will be ups and downs. we know the news media is anxious to write the romney recovery and comeback story. we understand that first of all, we are not going to win background states by 10, 12 points. this race is going to tighten. we have built the presidential campaign with the belief it will come down to a few votes in a few states. the race will tighten. we do have an edge right now, and it's important to understand that the election is happening right now. people started voting in iowa this week. vote in ohio next week.
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we like what we're seeing in those numbers. we think we've got the numbers to win an election. but it is going to be exceedingly, you know, tough at the end here. we expect it to tighten. and so our entire campaign is built under the premise, listen, we got 53% of the vote in 2008 under ideal circumstances. we have expected this to be closer than 2008, and we expect to see this race tighten a little bit. >> i want to talk about the foreign policy crisis in libya and the fact that this administration has changed its tune when it comes to describe the raid on our compound that killed our ambassador chris stephens and others. the u.s. ambassador, this is how she described whether or not this was a deliberate act, terrorist attack. this is what susan rice said at the time. >> let me tell you the best information we have at present. first of all, there's an fbi investigation that's ongoing. and we look to that investigation to give us the
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definitive word as to what transpyred. but putting together the best information we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in benghazi in fact was initially a spontaneous reaction to what transpired hours before in cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in cairo which were prompted of course by the video. >> there was a caveat there. she said the fbi was still investigating. but the thought was it was a spontaneous reaction. a couple of days before that, the libyan president said, no, in fact, al qaeda was behind this attack. and then days later, after ambassador rice is on this program and other programs, the president's spokesman jay carney says this. it is, i think, self-evident that what happened in benghazi was a terrorist attack. well, if it was self-evident, why didn't the president call this exactly what it was, an act of terror on the anniversary of 9/11? >> well, this is an event of great interest, obviously, to the public, to the news media.
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information was being provided realtime. obviously, you're going to know more two weeks after an event than a week after an event. and as ambassador rice was -- that was the information from the intelligence community. the same information provided for congress. the reason obviously we now have stipulated this is a terrorist attack is that came from the intelligence agencies. so as information has become available, as this investigation has continued, we're obviously making that information known. and i think the important thing, what the american people want to understand, are we taking the right steps to -- >> but there's also the question on whether or not you call this what it is on the day it happens. jay carney said it was self evident this was a terrorist attack. these people came to a demonstration with weapons and security was an issue at the compound. why not call it what it was? >> well, i think now based on the recommendations and the investigation of the intelligence community they made the decision to conclude that this was a terrorist attack. in the days after, that was not
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clear. and so, you know, this is obviously was a very, very fast-moving period of time. as i said, there's a great deal of interest in this. so we provided information that we received from the intelligence community as we got it. the intelligence community put out a lengthy document on friday that explained the timeline here. and i think that in the days afterwards, it wasn't clear this was a terrorist attack. as their investigation was conducted and as they got more information, that's the determination they made. >> the president has said as recently as may of this year that al qaeda has not had a chance to rebuild, that al qaeda has been defeated. there is an election on, as we've been talking about, and the president's challenger said plain and simple, the president failed to level with the american people and call this a terrorist attack, because you had to be concerned about another terrorist attack from al qaeda in the middle east after the president said that al qaeda had been defeated. >> they is preposterous and really offensive to suggest that. as information was received from the intelligence community, it
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was distributed. this president's record on terrorism takes a back seat to no one. we obviously took out their number one leader in osama bin laden. the leadership of al qaeda has been decimated. just as the president promised in 2008. and by the way, in 2008, the president said he would go into pakistan to go after osama bin laden. governor romney said he wouldn't. governor romney said it was tragic that we entered the iraq war. one of the reasons that al qaeda strengthened during the last decade was our focus in iraq. so we are happy to have this debate and we'll have it obviously -- >> was this an intelligence failure? >> no. this was an event obviously, a complex event. we're only talking about a matter of weeks here. so as information was arrived at, as determinations were made, that was shared with the american people. and i think again the focus needs to be how do we make sure that our facilities and ambassadors and our personnel are secure going forward. and that's what the focus is on. >> as you know, the chairman of
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the homeland security committee has called for susan rice to resign. >> she's done an excellent job for this country and this administration. >> ben ghazi is so bad that the fbi can't even go in and investigate. what about the fact that there are military operations to find ambassador stephens' killers? what is america doing to change the trajectory in libya? >> well, i'm not going to speak for the fbi, but i think the key thing here, we live in a dangerous world obviously with threats out there. and we're going to make sure that the appropriate steps are taken to enhance security, make sure our personnel and ambassadors are secure. >> is there a military option for the united states to lead the way in libya to track down his killers? >> i'm not going to speak to that. but the president was very clear the day after this event. this tragedy. that we are going to make sure that these killers are brought to justice. >> was it inappropriate for him to go to a fundraiser the day after this attack now in
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retrospect knowing that it was a terrorist attack, inappropriate for him to engage in politics as usual? >> no. the president obviously is 24/7 engaged in the job of the presiden presidency. he has spent an enormous amount of times in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. so absolutely not. the president is on call 24/7, and that just comes with the job. >> 24/7, but apparently not during u.n. meetings. as "the new york post" highlighted here, the question about whether there was a snub not meeting with the israeli leader, the president is on "the view" just as u.n. world leaders are meeting. that was the headline of "the new york post" with their own point of view there. but is this -- is he not performing all of the critical roles of the presidency, particularly with the foreign policy crisis? with so many questions about management of the middle east, when you have a key united nations gathering, not to meet with world leaders, including netanyahu at a time of so much concern over iran? >> this president has been obviously in constant contact throughout the four years with world leaders.
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he's obviously been in deep consultation with prime minister netanyahu. obviously our administration has been in deep consultation with the defense and intelligence agencies in israel. so this president has been very, very focused on strengthens our alliances. he's built an unprecedented global effort in terms of sanctions against iran. so this president has led, and i think the question -- you know, we do have an election coming up. this president committed a few things to the american people in 2008. he would restore and rebuild alliances. he would end the war in iraq. he would find and make sure that bin laden was brought to justice. and he has done all those things. by the way, let's talk about governor romney's response during this. you know, in the hours as these attacks became known in libya and the assault on our embassy in egypt, mitt romney throws out some half-baked statement. and i think that's one of the reasons that -- >> well, wait. the united states government had to also disavow its own
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statement that came out of the embassy in cairo that some might also call half-baked and had to be revised, did it not? >> well, approximapresidential are a window and i think it raises questions in the shadow of the election, can i trust this person to be our commander in chief and our president? >> are you saying that mitt romney cannot be trusted by the american people? >> i think the american people will make that determination. but i think his behavior during that incident was not just questioned by people like me, it was broadly questioned. >> i want to ask one other economic point here. the president in virginia beach, virginia, on thursday talking about his approach to the economy ifixing the debt. this is what he said. >> during campaign season, you always hear a lot about patriotism. well, you know what? it's time for a new economic patriotism. an economic patriotism rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class. >> invoking patriotism there, just trying to be clear, so
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raising taxes on wealthier americans the president considers that patriotic? i assume he also thinks sacrifice is patriotic. and yet he is not spending much time talking specifically about what he'd do, like how he would cut the medicare program to make it solvent. beyond the cuts that he's talked about. and when simpson-bowles says he needs much more dramatic cuts. so framing this as patriotism, it's about taxing the wealthy but not talking about where the more than people should sacrifice? >> well, first of all, economic patriotism, he was talking about specifically bringing jobs back to america. rebuilding our manufacturing sector so we're sending producting around the world stamped with made in the usa. and i think really rebuilding that middle class so that we are manufacturing things here, exporting things from here, and we're not rewarding those who ship jobs overseas. he's been incredibly specific. first of all, we have a deficit plan. it's a $4 trillion plan. it's got health care savings comparable to simpson-bowles.
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mitt romney doesn't have a deficit plan. he has a plan to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. one thing that will be interesting wednesday if he'll finally explain how his math adds up. he has a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of a $5 trillion to extend the bush cuts, and another $2 trillion in defense spending that our leaders say they don't need. $8 trillion. he says he's not going to add to the deficit. if he's not going to add to the deficit, the middle class better watch out because they'll pay the burden if he is elected because the hole is just too big. and it will be interesting on wednesday. if he says he's not going to burden the middle class, then he's going to blow a hole in the deficit. >> will we see president obama here on "meet the press" before election day? >> well, there's 37 days left, so we'll stay in contact about it. >> all right. we hope to see him here. mr. plouffe, thank you. >> thank you, david. coming up, what are the stakes for both campaigns? the roundtable will get into it. founder of the faith and freedom coalition ralph reed. former democratic pennsylvania governor ed rendell. the bbc's katty kay. and nbc's chuck todd, coming up.
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those years were crazy. so, as we go into this next phase, you know, a big part of it for us is that there isn't anything on the schedule. the economy needs manufacturing. machines, tools, people making stuff. companies have to invest in making things. infrastructure, construction, production. we need it now more than ever. chevron's putting more than $8 billion dollars back in the u.s. economy this year. in pipes, cement, steel, jobs, energy. we need to get the wheels turning. i'm proud of that. making real things... for real. ...that make a real difference. ♪ we are back with our political roundtable. joining me, anchor of bbc's
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"world news america" katty kay. chuck todd. the founder and chairman of the faith and freedom coalition ralph reed. and the former democratic governor of pennsylvania ed rendell. welcome to all of you. so much to get to in this campaign. the big debate starting here, chuck, on wednesday. but you're looking at the map, and that's what the romney campaign is looking at as they look to restart this campaign. >> nine background statement states. here they are. one of them we have moved into the obama category. but we have polled in all of them over the last couple of weeks. the president has leads ranging anywhere from two to eight points. but what was interesting, we asked a few other questions. including job approval rating, romney favorability, and who wins on the economy. in three states, the president had a job approval rating of 49 or above. romney's unfavorable rating was higher than his favorable rating, and the president led romney on the economy. in three of those stays, iowa, ohio, new hampshire. just one state did you have the
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president's job approval rating 48% or over and romney winning on the issue of the economy. that's north carolina. if you look at it that way and go to the map to 270, what does that mean, and you put those four states into the respective categories, and look at. this the president for suur sho. romney a long way to go has to sweep the rest. there are five left in the background. florida, virginia, wisconsin, colorado, nevada. this is where if romney does do what chris christie said he will do, the first place you'll see it are in the five states that are left. >> ralph reed, that's a lot of movement that has to take place to overcome where the campaign is. yet you heard chris christie say it this morning on the program, we'll have a new dynamic come thursday morning the result of the first debate. >> well, first of all, there's been a lot of up and down. there's been a lot of back and forth. but one thing that hasn't changed, david, is that today in the gallup poll, obama's job approval is under 50.
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and job approval is the single best predictor of an incumbent president's ballot performance. i think that's number one. number two, i wouldn't hang too much on a single poll. remember on this day in 2000, al gore was ahead of george w. bush by two points. bush was leading him by about three points going into the last weekend. and went all the way to the supreme court. at this point in 1980, carter was leading reagan by four. there was a gallup with five days left that had him up by six. so i'm not particularizing this to chuck, but the pollsters and the press don't decide who shows up. the people who decide who shows up are the people knocking on doors, ringing door bells, making phone calls. and i think there's going to be a lot of surprises. >> but ed rendell, a lot of republicans like ralph like to go back to the reagan days. the difference is, as i have discussed this week with some pollsters, he was 20 points up after the convention.
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we had seen his ability to create wide swings. we haven't seen that in this race. it's much more polarized. right? >> no question. and ralph is right to some extent about the polls. but, look, we all know that the challenger gets a big bump in the first debate. no question about it. just appearing on the stage with the president, looking presidential, and boy, mitt romney looks presidential, he's going to get a big bump. kerry was down by eight points before the first debate and became even all the way through. and governor romney is a good debater. he won almost every debate in the republican primaries with the exception i think of south carolina. so i expect that there will be movement. i if there's no movement two or three days after the debate, if those figures in the background states stay the same, it really is over. >> katty, there's constant complains among conservatives about romney. why is he losing? that's been the question all along.
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here is more of that column i mentioned. it makes you think how far ahead romney would be if he were actually running a campaign. his unwillingness to go big is astonishing. a hit-and-run critique here, slogan of the week there. his only momentum when he chose paul ryan and seemed ready to engage on the big stuff, medicare, kbiemthmentes, but he has retreated to the small and safe. when you're behind, safe is fatal. even his counterpunching has gone miniature. >> this reminds me a little bit of the mccain campaign back in 2008 in those days at the end when you felt like the campaign was grasping at every new ornament that it found on the tree. it's being distracted. one week it seems to be libya. the next day it's medicare. the next day it's whether the president has said something about a bump in the road. and i think the voters, it's very confusing to have these very short-term responses in the romney campaign. of course every campaign has to have a rapid response. but usually that should augment
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what is the overall strategy. it shouldn't become the strategy. and at the moment it seems like they are trying to win each news cycle rather than win the election. >> they have been chasing news cycles. and in virginia, he talked about defense cuts. that's what direct mail is for. that's not for your candidate to do that. that's what surprised me a little bit, is that romney went -- and i think what the critique is getting at, it's not that it's just small ball by the campaign. tactically you should do some of these things in certain states. but the candidate himself amplifying it and making it your entire message of the day seems like a missed opportunity. >> i don't agree with the critique in this respect. first of all, he is my favorite columnist in the world. but in this sense i think it underestimates just what a good candidate barack obama is, and how ruthlessly disciplined and capable his campaign is. remember this is a guy who was a state senator in illinois four years before he beat like a drum
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the best political machine the democratic party has seen since lbj, namely the clinton machine. as a challenger, he won by, you know, 7%, 8%. and he's got a lot of money. he's got the power of incumbency. he's got air force one. he's got the ability to set the message of the day from the white house. >> so obama is beating romney. romney is not beating himself. is that your point? >> no. what i'm saying is, any time a challenger has to clear the bar of credibility to sit behind that desk and make those decisions, historically, david, challengers close rate. and by the way, it isn't just 1980. >> and what about connecting to people like me? that's the poll question. isn't that where romney is struggling? he's out there talking this week about, well, tax cuts aren't going to be cut too far. he's going out there, the governor is saying, look, remember, i insured everybody. all the children are insured in massachusetts. that's got to drive some conservatives crazy, because that's what they don't like about the obama presidency. >> well, the actual thing is he should have been doing that in june. as soon as the etch a sketch
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strategy, he should have followed it. as soon as he locked up the nomination, he should have realized the conservatives, the right wing, is coming out to vote against president obama. he should have at that point started to drive his campaign towards the independents, towards suburban voters in philadelphia and cleveland and places like that. and he didn't do it. he has not been. for those of us who served reagan as governors, we're shocked he's been such a poor candidate because he was a good governor. he was a good governor. he did some very impressive things. and he's made every mistake in the book. you can't just subscribe to the fact that president obama has been a good candidate. he's a good candidate with a very tough economy. >> but to some extent those were problems that were hard for him to overcome. one of the ways to humanize himself was to talk about his religion. that was very difficult during the course of the campaign with the conservative evangelical base suspicious of mormonism. the other thing is talk about his record of governor. one of his main things was health care reform in massachusetts. that also was very hard for him to do. >> he's talking about it now.
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he should have talked about it earlier. it's a big achievement to cover 98% of the people. >> let's put this in the context of the debates, chuck. are you surprised that christie decided and the romney campaign is saying, first debate, hits it out of the park, thursday morning things will be different? >> thank you, chris christie, for at least making the quote, the gaffe, the honest gaffe. the fact of the matter is, that has to be what happens after this first debate. the narrative has to change. the polls have to move. romney has to clobber the president in the first debate. >> if they don't move, it's over. >> in other words, are they happy with it? i kind of thing they needed the pep talk, ok? i think the base needs a pep talk. they need to think that they have confidence in their guy, that he can stand toe-to-toe with the president. i think this idea that both sides are playing this ridiculous expectations game, another thing, i don't think either of them are great one-on-one debaters. romney has proven he is good on the second pivot, the second time you challenge, on the
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follow. that's where he made his mistakes during the primary debates. and obama has a tendency to ramble. and i think that's going to be interesting to watch. >> listen, i think the reality is that when the challenger gets the opportunity to stand on the same stage, feet from the president of the united states, and go toe-to-toe, and offer without any media fundamentalad press densz densy, i think it will make a difference. >> romney had a conversation with "good morning america" about that. let me play a portion and have you respond to it in particular. >> i think he's going to say a lot of things that aren't accurate. but i think that the challenge that i'll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall i say it, say things that aren't true. and in attacking his opponents. >> give me an example of what he would want to attack, what the president has done, and how you think romney will handle it. >> well, i think president obama has, and i want to be charitable here, has a casual relationship
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with the truth. he's very eloquent. he's extremely articulate. he is very bright. anybody who thinks otherwise, who thinks that when you untether him from the teleprompter that he doesn't bring his a game is underestimating him. but here is the problem. his words are very eloquent, very flowery, tickle your ears. but none of it is true. he said that unemployment would never go above 8% if we passed his stimulus plan. it's never gone below 8%. he said that he would cut the deficit in half in his first term. he's doubled it, and he's increased the national debt by 50%. he said he would change washington and put an end to the partisan rancour. washington is more polarized and paralyzed than it's been in the modern era. the senate which his party controls has not passed a budget in three years. and we're 92 days from a fiscal cliff which the cbo says is going to plummet us into a -- >> those might be broken
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promises. i think people would challenge you on the idea that those are lies. i want to get a break in here. we'll get some of your questions, suggested questions, for the debate. we'll also talk about the foreign policy debate going on in this campaign. richard engel will join us from afghanistan this morning. more from o ♪ ♪ [ multiple sounds making melodic tune ] ♪ [ male announcer ] at northrop grumman, every innovation, every solution, comes together for a single purpose -- to make the world a safer place. that's the value of performance. northrop grumman. i honestly loved smoking, and i honestly didn't think i would ever quit. [ male announcer ] along with support, chantix is proven to help people quit smoking. it reduces the urge to smoke.
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we're back with more from our roundtable. debating styles. we wanted to go back and look at some of the debates, katty, and see what we learned. mitt romney in florida on nbc earlier this year giving you some sense of how he'll go after the president's record. watch. >> there are a lot of people in florida that are hurting. this president has failed miserably the people of florida. his plans for nasa. he has no plans for nasa. the space coast is struggling. this president has failed the people of florida. we have to have a president who understands how to get an economy going again. he does not. he plays 90 rounds of golf when you have 25 million people out of work.
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>> zinger, goes after the president's record. how much does he do that versus rehabilitate his own image and also try to be specific about what a romney presidency would mean? >> all of the above. >> he's got to try and do all of the above. he's got to lay out, i think, why the office of the presidency and the country will be better off under him in four years time than it has been. the american people know that they are hurting. they know the economy is in a bad state. what they need to know is how it's going to improve. now, unfortunately for governor romney, he goes into the debate with republican pollsters saying that the right track, wrong track numbers have changed dramatically in some of those swing states. a majority still think that the country is on the wrong track but it's a much smaller majority. >> interestingly, governor, you've been thinking about questions, domestic policy, infrastructure, something you have worked a lot on. what would you ask? >> i would ask how are we going to fix our infrastructure, which is in literally falling apart. and invest in it. at the same time we have to worry about the debt.
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and i think it's a key question. and simpson-bowles said it right. we have to continue to invest in america as we're getting rid of the deficit. >> so little appetite to do that. >> but we have to create that appetite. that has to come from leadership. >> chuck, talk about the president's style. we went back and got a clip from 2008 in one of the debates with senator mccain. what was notable was president obama perhaps like he'll be this time basically playing it safe, trying to sit on a lead. watch this. >> you can have a debate back and forth about the merits of each others' campaigns. i expect we won't agree here tonight. if we're going to focus on lifting wages that have declined over the last eight years and create jobs here in america, then democrats, independents, and republicans, we're going to have to be able to work together. and what is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable. >> interesting. a lot of these undecided voters watching this want to see washington work a little bit better. we could see more of that. >> i think they have more of a strategy, though, of being aggressive and that the
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president will try to get under governor romney's skin. >> not try and be above the fray? >> no. i think they believe that mitt romney is his own worst enemy, and i think they believe if they get him irritated that he -- that if you look at his past, ted kennedy debates, he is terrible at gcut aways when he s getting attacked. they believe it's easy to get under romney's skin. i expect an aggressive president obama. not the man you saw there. >> what do you expect? >> i think romney will get a b-12 shot going into that debate. >> aggressive? >> yeah, on his toes, not on his heels. and i think that romney understands it's no longer about him, it's about the country. and there are millions of people, david, who want to see a change, who are hurting, who are without work, who can't find work, who have lost income. and he's there on that stage, wednesday night, not on behalf of himself or on behalf of a political party, but on their behalf to represent them and challenge this president. and i personally think -- >> he's got to do more than that.
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he has to have a plan that the america people think will work. >> we know this first debate is about domestic policy, but foreign policy is looming large as well. i want to turn to richard engel live in kabul this morning where there is news beyond the libya crisis. there are now 50 plus insider attacks that have killed american and other coalition forces. what's the latest you can tell us on the latest attack? >> reporter: there's been another attack. it took place yesterday. but word of the insider attack is just coming to us today. in this attack, there was an american army checkpoint, a vehicle control point, and two afghan soldiers came up. they were speaking to the americans at this checkpoint. and then suddenly one of these afghan soldiers pulled out a weapon, opened fire, killed one american soldier, killed another american contractor, and then another americans in the area
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opened fire, killing at least three of the afghans. and this is a major problem according to statistics. at least 20% of all u.s. combat deaths this year are a result of these insider attacks. and there have been orders issued to try and separate u.s. and afghan forces, but on the ground that's really impossible because the whole mission is for u.s. -- american troops to are working with afghan troops. so the idea of creating some sort of safe distance is impossible. >> and quickly, richard, there are flashpoints across the middle east, libya being the most prominent at the moment. and while there's a debate about how the administration handled that particular attack, what is the future there? what does america do at this point to work its will in the future of libya, including tracking down the killers who were behind the attack on the embassy? >> well, so far, it appears that the attack on the consulate in
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benghazi has been something of a wake-up call for the libyan government. and to a degree the libyan people. the problem that libya has always had is after gadhafi fell, all of these militias that have been running around the country never disarmed. and some of the militias are affiliated with al qaeda, and one of the militias decided to carry out an attack against the conslate. now there does seem to be some tentative moves by the government and also just by the people of benghazi to disarm some of these militias, to try and disband them. if that's successful and libya can finally move on from its revolutionary phase and become a normal government, then i think libya can have a very positive future. small country, big country but small population. lots of oil. it has a lot of things going for it. it just needs to disarm and start behaving a little better. >> richard engel in afghanistan for us this morning. you can watch more of richard's reporting along with the rest of
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our nbc team reporting from the region all week long. "at the brink" starting tonight. katty kay, a lot of questions now in this campaign about the administration's handling of what is still in parts, in places, a chaotic middle east transitioning. >> yes. i think on the issue of libya, actually, i'm not sure that who said what, when, and when the intelligence came out, as david plouffe was talking about, the intelligence community and what they knew about libya, i'm not sure that's going to be a huge issue for voters in the course of this election. it feels to me like a short-term issue in terms of american voters. it does mean that it's harder for the white house to keep focusing on what was a pretty disastrous response from the romney campaign initially. so it kind of draws a line under that. but in terms of american leadership more broadly in the middle east, i mean, the situation that richard pointed out was very clear. there's a lot of confusion, and it's not easy for american leadership. >> we are out of time this morning. one twitter was very interesting
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about whether simpson-bowles would be implemented, any part of it, if congress would go along. a lot to watch in this debate. before we go, two programming notes. you can watch my conversation with "new york times" numbers expert nate silver on our blog. there's a link on our website, also tomorrow night, i'll be moderating a debate between the two candidates running for senate in massachusetts, which a marquee race in the election. elizabeth warren will be facing off against the incumbent senator scott brown. the debate sponsored by the "boston herald" and the university of massachusetts. if you're in the area there, you can watch it on your local nbc station. if not, you can watch it on cspan or via live stream online. there will be a link on our website. that is all for today. we'll be bac
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