tv Washington Week PBS August 10, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
gwen: the incredible shrinking presidential campaign. is it always this messy or is it just august? tonight, on "washington week." nice words on the stump -- >> is a choice between two fundamentally different visions about how we move this country forward. >> i believe we're on the verge of an extraordinary rebound in america's economy with good jobs and rising incomes again. gwen: down and dirty on the air. >> she passed away in 22 days. i do not think mitt romney
realizes what he's done to anyone and furthermore i do not think mitt romney is --ed. >> under obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. gwen: drilling down with mitt romney accusing the president of encouraging dependency. >> president obama in just the last few days has tried to reverse that accomplishment by taking the work requirement out of welfare. that is wrong. if i'm president, i'm put work back in welfare. gwen: and the president accusing romney of robbing the poor. >> it's romney hood. they have tried to sell us this trickle down tax cut fairy dust before and guess what, it does not work. gwen: the biggest open question is who will run with romney? the short list shrinks. covering the week, john harwood of cnbc and the "new york times."
beth reinhard of "national journal," and jeff zeleny of "the new york times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with l en ifill and natio journal". corporate funding for washington west virginia is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875 we've been there for our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed we were there to meet them. through the years from insurance to investment 34g9, from real estate to requirement solutions, we've developed new ideas for the financial challenges ahead. this rock has never stood still and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> a line is a powerful thing. it connects the global economy
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out of town for most of the week. from a zabs, everything i saw and read about the presidential campaign seemed incredibly small. the senate majority leader continued to accuse the republican nominee of not paying taxes. he felt no need to offer proof, then the ads began. this one for obama allies seemed to link mitt romney to a woman's death from cancer. >> i don't think he realizes that people's lives completely changed. when mitt romney and bane closed the plarningts i lost my health care and my family lost their health care and a short time after that my wife became ill. i don't think how long she was sick and i think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew we wouldn't afford the insurance. gwen: the omni -- romney response out today. >> when his campaign tries to use the tragedy of a woman's
death for political gain then stood by as his top aides were caught lying about it. doesn't america deserve better? gwen: there was also this. the roll any campaign accused the president of gutting welfare reform. >> under obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. they'd just send you your well fair check. mitt romney will restore the work requirement because it works. gwen: the obama campaign response? >> the woves says the obama -- "washington post" says the obama is not removing the bill's work requirements at all. in fact, o buster: is getting stats to -- states to move 20% more people from welfare to work. and the president's response to the romney ad? it's not true. gwen: neither campaign is being completely truthful but they're
rolling in the mud for a reason. first, on the welfare debate, what is real, what is false and why are we arguing about it? >> some people are surprised we're even discussing welfare at all. it's not a big issue in the campaign. gwen: it's a hot button. >> yes, what is the central you? economy. the people have jobs on their minds and has someone in their family who does not have a job. it's not accurate. all the independent fact checkers have said it's not accurate. what the roll any campaign is trying to do with this is reach out to those blue collar working class voters who may not be quite sure about governor romney. they've heard all summer long that he has been a profiteer. he's wealthy, he's hiding secrets, he's not releasing his tax returns so this is something of an an ect dote to
that for the campaign, change the focus and it did so dramatically by putting the obama campaign on the defensive. never mind if it's true or not. and this one isn't. but it seems like truth is not a criteria now. the difference on this medicare ad, this is airing heavily in battleground states. the other ad about the super pac has never been on television one time. gwen: except on the internet. there were half a million hits. the one about the worker whose wife died of cancer. so what is the point? is it just to stir the conversation we're having? once again the flip side of what the roll any folks are doing. >> if you can get your ad districtford free, have people going on the internet to watch it, have the networks and cable
stations airing it repeatedly, that's the best gift of all, free publicity. >> it's definitely a symmetrical force in these campaigns. tough republican side that's raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the ads with heavy money behind the welfare ad. you have this incumbent president who's super pac is not raising a ton of money but they're able to leverage a piece of film that has not aired on television one time and everybody is talking about it. on that welfare ad, it's no consistent that that was a woman factory worker shown in the welfare ad because one of the key constituent sis that has slid away from romney are non-college white women and mitt romney is trying to stop that slide. gwen: let's talk about that, bept. you wrote about the degree to which the obama campaign so far
has an edge among these wyms and these ads are targeted toward them as well, from both sides. >> very much so the o buster: campaign has tailored address -- ads toward different constituent sis. to women, to hispanics. the roll any campaign is a much broader message and it's the economy. but the obama campaign is going about it differently and hoping that it can pick off some swing voters, those women who maybe are not in love with obama. they're thinking about mitt romney and they're not sure they're comfortable with the republican party on social issues. gwen: both sides seem to be playing to grievance and to the agrived. whether it's the o-- woman in the ad who says mitt romney scares me or the white working class men who the obama campaign is having trouble
getting. it seems like it's all playing to kind of everyone's anxiety and idea that someone else is either taking something from them or giving something to someone else. >> i think that's right. because this campaign is in its essence about the economy and people's economic anxieties, their fear for the future and other things and john is absolutely right about the women. i was up in boston this week talking to a lot of romney campaign advisors and they were very proud of this welfare ad because they said it tests extremely well with independents and specifically with women. it's one thing that's worrisome to them in some battleground polls, like ohio, for example, a very important state. he is falling behind with where i am. so it will be interesting to see how much this ad affects things there, if at all. gwen: it's interesting that it tests well with women. you talk to voters and i'm not certain how many they're paying attention to these.
i mean actual voters as opposed to test marketsed voters. you were in ohio. >> i talked to an undecided voter earlier in week in ohio in a shopping center and i was trying to capture how these people are actually receiving campaign action because there's a flurry of mail and ads and phone calls. and this woman fit the profile of this relatively small group of undecided voters which, is they tend to be low information voters, they're not following the campaign closely. they don't have a stable partisan identification and this woman was saying i view the ads when they come on, i hang up on the phone calls when they come. both guys are playing nasty games and it's not serious, it's not about my life and i don't see stakes in hi life if one or the other gets elected. i'll watch the conventionings. i will watch the debates to see how they react under pressure.
gwen: how has she voted in the paths? >> she voted for obama in 2008. she started out as a democrat. drifted to the reference, likely during the reagan years then came back, was disaffected, certainly by the bush years and voted for obama. these ads being all about grievance, think about it. who in this country is in a good mood and feeling optimistic about the future? consistently 60% or more of the people are saying the country is on the wrong track. the approval rating for congress is terrible. the president has a decent approval rating and people like him but this is fundamentally a race by an incumbent president way -- weighed down by the economy trying to make the race equally or more about the agenda of this republican and make him unparticular.
>> the president's likeability is accident. it's taken a hit but it's still better than romney's. one of the ads we just saw, the response ad to the priorities ad that never run, saying this is beneath the president and uses the words "obama will say are do anything to get elected." they're trying to chip away at that likeability. and what's interesting to that is that's like the worst description you could hear from mitt romney. gwen: or any politician, actually. >> right but romney has had to fend off that charge. that he's just doing it for the political win, not out of his heart. >> look, president obama is a politician now. he might not have been four years ago but he is now. the republican national committee is running an ad basically giving it -- it's
almost flattering from a way, not really, to president obama. saying it's ok, he tried. it's giving people permission to vote against president obama. i'm surprised it's coming in august perhaps rather than october. programs it will come out again. if it was a vote of history or -- it is giving people -- it's ok to not vote for him. fascinating. gwen: two rounds of battle scrams, state polls. we've seen some national polls. interestingly fox and cnn have the president ahead by seven or eight points but gallup has him in a dead heat. in the battleground states the president is not doing badly either. what's causing that, driving that? >> i think fundamentally what's
happened is that the public has acquired, with a lot of help from the democrats and obama campaign a more unfavorable view of romney. it's hard to shift people's opinions or feelings about a president they've been living with nor -- for four years. much easier to mold the image of someone who's burst onto the scene. that's what's driving the attacks, he's a rich guy attacks and romney has his work cut out for him at the convention. >> that was the gamble that the obama campaign took. they said we're going to spend early and aggressively and we're going to attack him. gwen: and they have. >> and they did. and the gamble was are we going to taint the good name of president obama, who does have this good will and likeability, put him in the muck with everyone else or are we going to take a guy like romney,
who's not as well known as the president and we're going to define him for you and in a very unfavorable way. gwen: you'll see six states in the battleground polls. virginia, pennsylvania, wisconsin, florida, ohio, and colorado. so when you look at those, what does that tell you about the kind of inroads these candidates are making based on what's resonating in the states that will decide the election? >> a couple of takeaways. one is that governor romney basically is doing fine on the economy. if this election was on nothing else on the economy he would be doing quite well. the wiggest worry sign for the o-- obama campaign in these polls is the empathy gap. he does not understand the concerns or the problems of people's lives. ohio was the most striking, almost 20 points' difference. with the margin of error it
might be smaller but it's one of the worry signs on that front. for the president, though, it is basically saying that people don't believe that his economic policies are going to help. they've sort of lost hope in his plan and they're really open to the idea of supporting governor romney but they're not there yet. i think some voters have made the decision that ok, we might have to hire president obama but they're not quite there on hiring governor romney but among women and hispanics, governor romney is trailing and his campaign is aware they have to close those margins. gwen: let's talk about the buzz of the moment. does it matter who mitt romney's running mate is and if it does, given what we know, are the inroads he needs to make in order to unseat an incumbent. who will hurt, who will help? does it matter? >> i would say it matters.
not a lot. but it matters a little. can be -- it can reinforce the midge image of a nominee. it might be able to add a point or two in the swing state that you need to win because of the familiarity and positive reputation is that someone has in their home state. and it can either rows your base nationally and appeal to swing voters or do the opposite. you think of at this point pawlenty, who had a good record as governor of the state of minnesota. minnesota is a long shot for mitt romney to carry. you have rob portman of ohio. very solid guy. he worked for president bush and he would raise some of the memories of the bush administration but ohio is a very important -- important state. paul ryan, a third candidate, is the advocate of a controversial budget plan that
would pull medicare and social security more firmly into the plan. i think portman makes the most sense because of the centralty of ohio. gwen: that's because you're a washington insider. >> exactly. >> i think one mistake people make in analyzing the vice presidential candidates, there's there idea that somehow their personality rubs off on the nominee and i don't see how that's going to happen. people are not going to think romney is more down to earth because he chooses tim pawlenty, who grew up in a blue collar backgroun gwen: except there's a very popular wave right now, at least in conservative circles still for marco rubio for the excitement that his speech giving abilities and personality would rub off or at least represent something. >> absolutely. it's one of the drawbacks for
the romney campaign of not already having announced a running mate. but i think we have to look at what governor romney said his prelts were at the beginning. someone who is prepared to step into the job from day one, prepare told campaign on a national level and i'm not sure that senator rubio fits that bill. so i think that we believe that the short list -- or the three people that we have mentioned here. i think that the possibility for surprise is much less this time around because of sarah palin, of course. and they have done their absolute due diligence, centre searchers out. fully vetted, i believe, all of these potential candidates because governor romney does not want a repeat of four years ago and having any surprise sort of set this race off. it's within striking distance for him and this above all should maybe help but definitely not hurry. >> and everything we've seen
about the mitt romney campaign so far points to being risk averse. gwen: can we tie a bow on this? we're in the dog days of august. a little cliche is always good at this time. is this slow road that we seem to be on? no matter whether the nominee can break through with his vice presidential pick or not, is this just what happens is -- or is there something this time that makes it seem like a dirtier campaign at this stage? >> i think the debates will help to elevate the conversation. like you say, it's the dog days of august. we're waiting to hear who romney is going to pick as his running mate, waiting for the conventionings. it's a little bit of the silly season. >> i do think that the polarization of the country and the ever presence of media of all kinds means people get
locked in earlier. later events matter less. >> especially with early voting in the super pac ads, a new dynamic. much machine aggressive ads. people will see the same ads more times. gwen: they're calling each other liars on a daily basis. the general election in the fall is going to seem like -- why not? thank you, everybody. thank you very much. i'm sorry that we have to leave you a few moments early tonight so you can give a little love to your local pbs station, which in turn support us. but our coverage continues online in our "washington week" webcast extra. want to know how much our panelists are looking forward to the political conventions? a lot, really. find us at pbs.org/"washington week" then keep up with daily developments on the pbs news hour. especially monday, when i'll
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