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The Republican National Convention gets underway in Tampa, Fla. Mitt Romney will use the national spotlight as an opportunity to define his candidacy for the American public. Diane and her guests discuss what to expect at the RNC.
- Stuart Rothenberg editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a twice a week columnist for Roll Call
- Ron Elving Washington editor for NPR.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Tropical Storm Isaac will pass by Tampa today as it moves up the Gulf of Mexico. The Republican National Convention has been delayed by a day, and party leaders are scrambling to change the week's schedule. But they say the show will go on.
MS. DIANE REHMTo talk about the last minute changes and what we can expect to hear from the Mitt Romney campaign this week, Stu Rothenberg joins me. He is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. Joining us from a studio at the Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Fl., Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. I'm sure many of you will have comments, questions. I invite you to be part of the program. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MR. STUART ROTHENBERGGood morning, Diane.
MR. RON ELVINGGood morning.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Want to talk first briefly to Jennifer Collins. She is associate professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She is president of the West Central Florida Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. Good morning to you, Jennifer.
PROF. JENNIFER COLLINSGood morning.
REHMTell us what the latest is on the Tropical Storm Isaac. Where is it? How strong is it?
COLLINSWell, what we have based on the National Hurricane Center 8 a.m. advisory -- and the latest discussion will come in in the next hour at 11:00 -- they're looking at it being at 25.7 north, 84.7 west. That puts it then at 185 miles west southwest of the Fort Myers region in Florida. So it's tracking, as you know, west northwest. We're concerned about the northern Gulf Coast, particularly looking at Louisiana, as you know.
COLLINSSo in terms of strength, the National Hurricane Center has it at a strong Category 1 right now. Again, the 11:00 a.m. update, that may change. There are different models going on that are putting in -- it in at different intensities, but most of them are agreeing at a strong Cat 1 right now. There is one model, the HWRF, that wanted to put it at a Cat 4 yesterday. But they've lowered that one to a Cat 3. But as I said, most of the models have it at a strong Cat 1, but there is a strong potential for intensification with many conducive conditions.
REHMAll right. And I gather that the good news is Isaac won't hit Tampa directly. The bad news, as you suggest, is that it's moving up the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to become a hurricane. Is there any indication of when it might hit land?
COLLINSWhen it might hit land?
COLLINSYeah, we're looking at Wednesday morning for a landfall. So we should -- at the moment it's still a tropical storm. I expect as it's getting more clearly organized that it's going to be a hurricane today and a Wednesday morning landfall. And many of the models are making agreement consolidating the track towards hitting southeast Louisiana, but still there's a cone which can go east and west of that.
REHMAll right. Thank you so much for joining us, Jennifer Collins. She is president of the West Central Florida Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. And now turning to you, Susan Page, what's the weather in Tampa like right now?
PAGEThe weather in Tampa is remarkably good. It's not raining, even though the forecast this morning said 100 percent chance of rain all day. It's really humid, and one can only imagine if it's as humid at 10 o'clock what it's going to be like at about two o'clock. But it's really OK. It rained in the night but -- and there's some gusty winds. But, really, compared to what we were worried about yesterday and the day before, this is nothing.
REHMAnd, Ron Elving, the tropical storm ended up further west of Tampa, but how problematic has this storm been for the organizers of the convention?
ELVINGHugely problematic, Diane. First of all, they felt so driven by the winds of this storm in prospect that they cancelled the first night of the convention, not to say that they cut back on the program the way they did four years ago or that they sort of de-emphasized the night. They just cancelled it. We're just not going to the convention hall tonight to see a show.
ELVINGSo we've got all these people in town -- delegates, media people all kinds of other folks who have interest before the convention -- without much to do. Now, if idle hands are the devil's workshop, a convention city without a convention is a veritable factory of mischief. This a terrible set of circumstances.
ELVINGBut, you know, it's also a temporary set of circumstances.
ELVINGI suspect that within a certain number of hours, as Susan said, as the weather lightens up here and darkens for other parts of the country, I suspect that we'll get back into the normal convention mood and that Tuesday night will be everything we expected Monday night to be.
REHMAnd that is also a concern, it seems to me. If, in fact, the hurricane should land once again on New Orleans, God forbid, isn't that going to be a terrible distraction itself from the convention, Susan?
PAGEOh, yes, absolutely. And, you know, the little bit of concern here by the Republicans about the optics of having a convention with all the celebration, the balloons, people cheering while there is on a split-screen on Americans' TV scenes of other parts of the country being in a very bad way with this tropical storm or the -- or even a hurricane hitting. So there's a little bit of concern about that.
PAGEYou know, I think one thing, one effect of this, you know, remember four years ago, the Republican convention also got shortened by a day. I think one effect to this is that we've learned that you can do everything you need to do in a convention in three nights, and I bet we do not see four-day conventions going forward.
REHMSusan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR. Turning to you, Stu Rothenberg, this week should be a chance for the Romney campaign to get its message to control its message. The campaign has really struggled to do that. Why?
ROTHENBERGWell, it's interesting. I think you're right, the campaign has struggled. I don't think many people are giving the Romney campaign rave reviews over the last six weeks, and yet the polls continue to show the race extremely tight. The most recent Washington Post-ABC has Romney up by a point. Most of the other surveys have the president up by one or two or three points. I think the Obama campaign has been just terrifically effective in putting Romney on the defensive on raising questions about his personal style, Bain Capital, tax returns or his lack of releasing enough tax returns.
ROTHENBERGThey've just done a very good job forcing the Romney folks on the defensive. And, frankly, the Ryan pick -- the pick of Paul Ryan as a VP running mate, well, may turn out to be a smart, terrific choice, and he certainly is an able guy and a good communicator. It did then give the Democrats the opportunity to talk about Medicare and the Ryan budget. And, again, it made the Romney folks reactive. Now, again, it may not matter on Nov. 6 if over the next couple of weeks those swing voters decide it's about jobs and they're unhappy with the president's performance.
REHMTell me how much of what the Republican National Convention can do to create a more personal sense of who Mitt Romney is. Yesterday, I was watching Fox News with Chris Wallace who had gone down -- or sorry, to Michigan to interview Mitt Romney in his home, watching him make pancakes.
ROTHENBERGWell, let's remember that Mitt Romney just didn't come into town yesterday. He's been around a long time, and people have had an opportunity to see him and evaluate him. And so this is not -- this is a little different than somebody who they don't know. I think he has -- they have a limited ability to move the needle on this. But, again, in a very close race, they don't have to move the needle too far.
ROTHENBERGI think really it's up to Romney with his speech. You know, and Romney can say wonderful things about him. Chris Christie can say wonderful things about him, though I assume he'll say mostly things about the president. Condi Rice can say nice things about Mitt Romney, but at the end of the day, people are going to look at the former governor of Massachusetts and decide. Do they feel more of a connection with him? And even if they don't, do they believe that he can bring the economy around?
ROTHENBERGSo, yeah, I know we have -- supposed to be four. Now, we have three days. We have lots of speakers, but, really, it probably comes down to a handful of folks, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney himself, and then as we head for the final two months of the campaign.
PAGEDiane, I would just say that, you know, I interviewed Mitt Romney on Saturday outside Columbus, Ohio, after his last event before the convention. And he really pushed back on the idea that he needs to come across as more likable.
PAGEYou know, it's -- he said that -- although this is something that his people acknowledged that he needs to do, he said, in the end, it's not a -- he's really -- I have a lot of friends. You know, I'm not worried about President Obama rating higher on likability than I do. Because he argues that what matters is being able to convince people not that they like him better but that they trust him more to handle the economy.
PAGESo I think we will hear a very personal address by Ann Romney, but I wonder how personal the address will be by Mitt Romney given his pushback in this interview at a time when, you know, his convention speech is largely written and he was out there rehearsing it yesterday.
ELVINGWell, this is the Popeye (word?), I am what I am.
REHMHold on. Hold on, Ron. We're going to take a short break here, and when we come back, we'll hear from both of you further and your calls.
REHMAs we talk about the ongoing stress of the convention in Tampa, Fla. for the Republicans, we've got three guests with us: Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. He's also a columnist for Roll Call. Joining us from a studio at the Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Fla., Susan Page of USA Today, Ron Elving of NPR. And just before the break, Ron, I know you wanted to jump in on that question.
ELVINGJust wanted to say that Mitt Romney's defense, the Popeye defense, I am what I am, is probably a good one from the standpoint of the remaining believable. He is not going to turn into Bill Clinton. He's not going to turn into Mr. Empathy. He wants to project a kind of global leader impressiveness so that he can stride on to this stage, this national arena and seen like some one who's ready to take over not only as the leader of a party, but as the leader of a nation in a critical moment in the world history.
ELVINGSo he doesn't really want to go too far down into the human scale, buddy, guy-next-door, you know, department of likability. He wants to remain the kind of person that he's always wanted to be: a manager, a mega manager, an extremely competent and intelligent person who has answers. That's who Mitt Romney sees himself as.
REHMAll right. And, Stu Rothenberg, Mitt Romney had wanted to talk about Obama's record, his record on jobs. Is that going to continue in Tampa?
ROTHENBERGOh, I don't think there's any doubt about it. I mean, a variety of speakers are going to bring this up. Sure, the Republicans want to re-focus the discussion back to the referendum, as many people have called it, on the president's performance and particularly on jobs. Look, though, Diane, in a three-day convention, there are a lot of things they want to do. They want to show the face of the Republican Party, the diversity of the party.
ROTHENBERGSo if you look at the speakers on Tuesday, you will see there are a lot of women and a lot of people of color, in addition to members of Congress. So they want to do that. They want to -- they want people to see who Mitt Romney is as a person not because they necessarily want to go to the ballgame with him, but because they want to feel comfortable with him. They want to talk about the president and the president's performance. So I think all these things.
REHMSusan, have they yet decided who is not going to be able to speak? Who are they going to cut?
PAGEWell, they cut only -- they did cut some people. I don't know exactly who they cut. I don't know if Ron knows. The people they saved were the big names. They saved the Hispanic speakers, and they saved the women speakers. I mean, the number of Hispanic and women -- and Condoleezza Rice, an African-American, who are speaking in primetime is -- are those -- are the people they really wanted to preserve to have a face when America tunes in to look at this.
PAGEAnd, of course, Ann Romney, Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, giving the keynote, Marco Rubio introducing Gov. Romney. Those are the faces that they wanted to make sure they protected even as they lost some people off the convention stage.
REHMAnd, Ron Elving, I have an email here from Marilyn, who says, "Will Romney talk in detail about Medicare? As someone who is just under 55, I want to know why he plans that I should continue paying Medicare taxes to fund current Medicare recipients, but then he wants to shift me to a voucher for purchasing private health insurance when I reach 65. All the attention has been on those already covered by Medicare. No one has said a word about the apparent rip-off aimed at those of us under 55. More information, please." Ron.
ELVINGIt's an excellent question. It's an excellent issue. It's one the Democrats are going to raise continually because of the voucher change that was proposed by Paul Ryan. And while that very specific thing is not something you'll hear Mitt Romney talk about, I'm quite certain, you do have the problem for Mitt Romney that he has generally embraced the Paul Ryan proposals, generally embraced the Paul Ryan budget. And many of the Paul Ryan budgets and its different iterations make this change for people who are born after 1956.
ELVINGWhat they will get is a guaranteed contribution to their eventual health care cost as opposed to the guaranteed benefit that people born before 1956 get currently under Medicare. And I think that the person who has sent you this email has described it pretty well, certainly from the point of view of people who are getting this end of the stick.
REHMStu Rothenberg, what about Ron Paul? Protesters are already down there. Is he going to speak?
ROTHENBERGNo. His son, Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, is going to speak. Ron Paul, I believe, was offered a position, but there were some significant requirements.
ROTHENBERGHe had to have the speech OK'd by the campaign, by the Romney folks. He had to have a full-throated endorsement, and he didn't want to do that. So, no, there was a, you know, there was an element of the Republican Party, and some folks who are more libertarians, not even Republicans, who are unhappy particularly with a -- what is now a Republican change in rules that was just decided that makes it more difficult for folks like Ron Paul for kind of insurgent campaigns to collect delegates.
ROTHENBERGIf you look a lot of the caucuses that occurred earlier this year in the caucus primary process, when the -- when delegates were actually assigned at the end of the day, not when the caucuses occurred, but weeks and months later when the caucus process worked itself out, Ron Paul actually accumulated more delegates. He was able to, at these -- from delegate meeting to delegate meeting, get more delegates.
ROTHENBERGAnd so the Republican National Committee has taken steps to ensure that a candidate is not rewarded with delegates beyond his performance at a caucus. So the -- I've gotten some emails from the Republican Liberty Caucus, which is one of the libertarian, the Ron Paul groups and from other Ron Paul people, talking about how the establishment is denying individuals the right to support who they want to support and things like that. So there is some bitterness, some anger.
ROTHENBERGBut for the moment, I think for most Republicans, this is about Barack Obama as much as it's about Mitt Romney. And so that has brought most Republicans together. There are a few who are still not on the team.
REHMSusan, are you seeing any of these Ron Paul protesters?
PAGENo, I haven't seen them. They had an event yesterday that went on for, like, seven hours. Before Ron Paul spoke, we had -- my colleague, Susan Davis, was there.
PAGEAnd so they, you know, they had a chance to kind of have a moment in the sun here in Tampa. But I agree with Stu. You know, we thought this might be a problem for the Republican Party, coming together after this kind of nasty primary, and the Tea Party Republicans, the establishment Republicans, the Ron Paul Republicans. I don't think this a problem for Mitt Romney. He's got the support of about nine out of 10 Republicans in the surveys, and that is a pretty united party.
REHMRon Elving, I know that these conventions are so highly choreographed, but there has been some indication that the Ron Paul delegates would try to give mini speeches during the roll call.
ELVINGThat is right, and that is their privilege to some degree, you know, within certain limits. That is part of the reason why the roll call is going to be held very early in the proceedings and well into the -- that is to say, early in the day tomorrow so as to keep it away from the primetime coverage and to keep it away from the main part of the cable television coverage, so that, yes, they will have their moment, and they will have their opportunity. But it will not be seen by most of the people in the country who will be going about their business tomorrow afternoon.
ROTHENBERGI just wanted to echo what Ron just said. Here in front of me a press release from the Republican National Convention yesterday, the revised schedule, and the roll call for the nomination of president of the United States and for VP is right before, right before the 6:40 p.m. recess. In other words, it's a late afternoon event that will not be widely covered. I find this interesting in part because when I was young and I was growing up, the roll call was one of the most exciting things, I thought.
ROTHENBERGIt summed up what the -- what politics was about, the country. You had real people casting votes, talking about their states. And now, as you say, these are so choreographed. It's all about the message, and the message in this case is about the jobs and the economy and President Obama and Mitt Romney and Ann Romney and all these things. It's not about kind of the process of politics. And for me, that's -- I just always enjoy, you know, the person from South Dakota saying, South Dakota is the land of...
REHMYeah, of course. Of course.
ROTHENBERG...this -- the land of winter. That's -- that appears to be gone.
REHMAll right. And we've got lots of callers. I'm going to go to the phones now, first to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Karen. You're on the air.
KARENHi. How are you? And I am delighted -- I love your show.
KARENQuestion and a comment. My comment is that I agree with Romney, though I am a Democrat, in his interview when he said he does not have to convince the voters that he is likeable. However, I cannot trust you if what you -- the previous presidents have done by revealing their taxes. So I can understand -- since you're running on your business experience, why will you not reveal your taxes on that? That's why I can't trust him.
REHMWhat do you think of that issue, Stu Rothenberg? Is that going to continue to haunt Mitt Romney?
ROTHENBERGOh, I'm sure Democrats are going to continue to talk about it because it's -- it gets the headlines. It keeps the Romney folks on the defensive, and it does raise questions about integrity, how forthcoming is he. I think it's a good argument. The one caveat I would add to that is that, you know, any issue starts to lose pizzazz after a while. You can only make one charge over and over again for three weeks, two months, however long it is, and then it's -- you've gotten everybody you can get.
ROTHENBERGThe Democrats have used this argument, I think, successfully for the past few weeks and months. But the race is still close. You still have this handful of undecided voters who, if this argument was decisive, it would have moved them toward the president. It hasn't. So while I think it's a good issue -- and I don't think Karen is alone about this, and I think she makes a good point that personal qualities -- likability is a personal quality, but trust is a personal element of that as well -- I don't know whether this is the issue that helps the president be re-elected.
PAGEYou know, I think it's hurt Romney some, the whole dispute over releasing his taxes. It's part of making him look like a guy who's not like you, who's got lots of money and in exotic investments, in Swiss bank accounts, and I think that's done some harm. But in the end, what will people be thinking about when they vote? Are they thinking about Mitt Romney's tax returns or their own tax returns and their own take-home income and their own situation when it comes to jobs or to their kids' futures?
PAGEAnd the calculation by the Romney camp has been the details of his tax returns were going to be perhaps problematic, at least something to explore and a potential distraction. They've decided -- and I'm not convinced that they will not be dissuaded from the idea that he's only releasing two years of his tax returns -- they've decided that, in the end, people are thinking about their own finances, not about his.
REHMAll right. To Birmingham, Ala. Good morning, Dave.
DAVEGood morning. Hello?
REHMHi. Go right ahead.
DAVEHi. Yes, ma'am. Considering the GOP's stance on climate change, this being the hottest year in recorded history, plus their convention being cut short by a day because of this weather event, do you believe the GOP in any foreseeable future will ever hold a convention in a hurricane-prone area of the nation?
ELVINGThey're certainly going to think twice about it after the last couple of conventions. But, look, I mean, four years ago, we really severely cut back the first night's program to the point of really not having one, and we were in St. Paul. There was a hurricane bearing down on New Orleans. That was 1,200 miles away, but that was distracting the nation. And it also looked sort of insensitive to go ahead with the party when the city that had so recently been devastated by a hurricane was under threat.
ELVINGSo I guess it's possible that if we're going to have more hurricanes and more severe ones -- although it's not necessarily clear and not necessarily linked immediately to the same circumstances that the caller is referring to about the recent temperature records -- if we're going to have more hurricanes, they're going to be disruptive even if the convention itself is somewhere else.
REHMRon Elving, Washington editor for NPR. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Stu Rothenberg, vice presidential choice of the Republicans so far, Paul Ryan, he's scheduled to speak on Wednesday. What are we likely to hear from him?
ROTHENBERGWell, I suspect he'll talk part about Mitt Romney and who Mitt Romney is. Vice presidents are important to -- they're important because they're the president's first choice, but we all know that very few people vote for a ticket because of the president -- because of the vice president. So, often, the job of the vice president is to promote the presidential nominee. I think he'll talk about Mitt Romney.
ROTHENBERGBut I also think he's going to talk about the Republican Party. He's a policy guy. He's a policy wonk, and he will want to talk about the country and where Republicans want to take the country. I suspect we'll hear some of that, and we'll probably hear some criticism of the president's four years as well.
PAGEYou know, I've been struck -- I think the biggest impact that Paul Ryan has had, number one, it's raised Medicare, made it an issue that they had to deal with. They said they were going to deal with it anyway, but it certainly made it front and center. But the other thing is the impact it seems to have on Mitt Romney. I was at this rally that they did in Powell, Ohio, on Saturday. And Gov. Romney is so much more an effective campaigner next to Paul Ryan and next to Ann Romney than he is when he's on his own.
PAGEYou know, he seems more energetic. He seems more relaxed. It's interesting to see. And so, in some ways, I think that may be the big impact that Ryan has because, as Stu was saying, we know from history that voters do not vote for the ticket thinking very much about the vice president. They are really focused on the person at the top of the ticket.
REHMRon Elving, how much are they going to focus on Paul Ryan and his approach to Medicare?
ELVINGAgain, I don't think that's something they want to talk about. I don't think they want to talk about that any more than they want to talk about Paul Ryan's relationship to Todd Akin, who is one of his fellow House Republicans and who, of course, created a great deal of controversy last week with his remarks about rape and about abortion. That's something that no one here wants to talk about.
ELVINGAnd so Paul Ryan and his co-sponsorship of the person who had amendment with Todd Akin is another problematic area. It's another landmine. It's something that brings up the problem of women voters and many women voters even in the Republican Party who are disturbed by the platform that is being adopted here and its language with respect to abortion. So Paul Ryan is going to try to stay as far away from that issue, I think, as he possibly can.
ELVINGAnd I think he'll do the same with Medicare. They really want to keep the focus on the economy, and they want to keep the focus on this idea of managing the economy better, creating more energy jobs, creating more jobs in general.
REHMAll right. Stu.
ROTHENBERGHe'll have to say something about Medicare because he's so associated with it, but I think Ron is right. I think they'll segue to debt, deficit and spending. I think that's an important argument for the Republicans, not only for the base, but for the public at large.
REHMYou know, I've heard some people argue that the Democrats have made too much of the Akin speech. What's your thought, Stu Rothenberg?
ROTHENBERGI think they want to talk about something other than the unemployment rate and jobs numbers. And if the Republicans are going to hand them a cultural issue that Democrats hope will appeal particularly to women voters, the swing voters, change of discussion, I think Democrats are happy to do that, and I think for the short term they're wise to do it.
REHMStu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. More of your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd we're back with discussion of the Republican National Convention going on right now in Tampa. Event's postponed until this evening. Here's an email from David in Denton, Texas, who says, "What sort of view or ratings do national political conventions typically pull? Is there discernable effect on the voting public? The idea of a convention bump is familiar, but do these events actually push people to vote or take some other political action?" Susan Page.
PAGEYou know, this is such an interesting question 'cause once the conventions stop really choosing the nominee, once that was chosen beforehand, some people thought they lost some of their power. But, in fact, a political scientist at Temple University has done a study on the things during the election that really move voters. One of the statistical analyses is using algorithms and things that I don't understand and found that the conventions were the most reliably powerful event in the election year because it's a point when a lot of Americans start to tune in to the campaign.
PAGEThey've been living their lives, not paying attention like the people in the studio have been for a year and more and getting an -- but ready to think about who they're going to vote for and giving us a -- either a first look or a second look at the nominee. So it is actually one of the -- with the debates that will happen in October, I think, one of the most significant things that will happen during the campaign.
REHMInteresting. Ron Elving, here's an email from Irene in Michigan, who asks that we please mention the hundreds of protesters residing in Romneyville outside the RNC. Tell us about that.
ELVINGThey are wet. They are uncomfortable. They have not had a very good time of it this weekend although their protests have been quite robust. And they have been making their voices heard.
REHMWhat are they protesting?
ELVINGWell, it -- it's -- it -- partly, one of the chance that they have been chanting most often is we are the 99 percent. They are contrasting their own circumstances and those of most Americans to those of most of the delegates here, most of the media people here and certainly to the circumstances of Mitt Romney and his family, people who have a good deal of money and good deal of comfort in life.
ELVINGThese people, of course, don't normally live in tents, most of them, but they are down here under very straightened circumstances so that they can go to the protest, which is a set aside area that's not really interfering with any of the business of the convention, and raise their issues.
REHMAll right. To Jean in Dayton, Ohio. Good morning. You're on the air.
JEANGood morning. Thank you.
JEANI was struck in reading the Parade article yesterday with Gov. Romney's statement to a questioner, and she asked how will the presidency improve my life. And he said, you'll be able to see better jobs with rising income again. And I'm thinking, has Gov. Romney -- what has he done in a, let's say, four-year, 4 1/2 year period while the country has been in deep recession as far as job creation is concerned?
ROTHENBERGWell, for the last four years, he hasn't been in office so he would say he wasn't in a position to do anything. But he's been pointing to his accomplishments as governor of Massachusetts in his whole argument. Look, really, the whole argument of the non-incumbent candidate is always, I can do better. If things are not good, the argument is, I can improve things. I'll bring different policies.
REHMBut did he? Did he?
REHMThat's the issue.
ROTHENBERGYou know, Diane, this is one of those cases where if you look at the Romney record in Massachusetts, the Democrats have six things where he failed, where he didn't succeed, where he didn't keep his promises. And the Republicans have six things to show that he did succeed, and debt went down and things like that. So this is one of those arguments where each side has ammunition.
ROTHENBERGAnd at the end of the day, I think people would say that in Massachusetts, Romney was reasonably successful. That doesn't mean he would be successful as president, but that's what his argument is.
ELVINGMitt Romney would say that he created a great number of jobs when he was an entrepreneurial investor, when he was helping companies. Now, of course, we have, as Stuart was suggesting, many, many pieces of evidence that there were people who lost their jobs after Bain Capital, which was Romney's firm, took over their particular interest. And then, of course, Bain can point to business successes they had where companies got bigger and there were jobs created.
ELVINGSome of those jobs, of course, were created in another country. Some of them were created in the United States. So this isn't an -- and in a sense a microcosm of the larger argument about how jobs get created and what role government has to play in that. Mitt Romney's kind of been in government and in the private sector in an attempt to create jobs, and he can make his case.
ELVINGThe Obama administration can criticize that case and can make its own case about how it has tried to pull the country out of the worst recession since the Depression, as we all keep saying, and put us on a slow, a gradual path towards recovery, and the voters will have to make their weighing decision between those cases.
ROTHENBERGDiane, let me, unfortunately, make some enemies here and -- but I hope I make some friends as well. I think Jean's point is interesting. Here's the political reality: If you don't support Romney and the Republicans, you accept all the negative things that are said about his performance in Massachusetts and his performance at Bain. And if you are a Republican or a conservative, you accept everything that the Romney campaign says and that the Republicans and conservative supporters say.
ROTHENBERGIt's the folks in the middle who look at the two sets of data, the two sets of argument, and I'm not sure which to believe. Do I believe the Democrats or the Republicans? They are each arguing back and forth about numbers, success, failures, who said what, right? We have these arguments on who actually wants to preserve Medicare, who wants -- whose cut Medicare. So it's the folks in the middle who aren't sure about who's right on this. They're going to decide this election.
ROTHENBERGSome of it will have to do with the credibility of the candidates. Some of it will say, I'm not sure who -- whether Mitt Romney created jobs in Massachusetts, so I'm going to make my decision on the basis of other factors.
PAGEYou know, it really underscores why it matters who do you trust because there's -- one of the things we've lost in this country, I think, is an accepted umpire that people believe that, OK, if they say this is so, I'm going to believe that. You know, the traditional Walter Cronkite rule maybe. And so people will end up making a judgment on, do I believe Mitt Romney when he says, I can offer you a brighter path, or do I not believe him? And even if I'm disappointed in President Obama, do I stick with him?
REHMInteresting. So, Jean, there you have it. Thanks for calling. To Denise in San Francisco, Calif. Good morning to you.
DENISEGood morning, Diane. I've just been listening to this, to the whole program, and, ironically, I happened to catch a little bit of the '64 convention on some NPR station that was doing a documentary. And what struck me is that in '64 when Goldwater was running against the whole rights, the civil rights law that had just been passed, the same buzz words were being used that the Republicans are using now about health care reforms.
DENISEAnd I honestly believe that it doesn't matter how likeable Romney is when you've got the Republican Party that's been taken over by the extreme right and all of their policies because I honestly believe that moderate Republicans, moderate independents and Democrats are going to vote for every Democrat in every local, state and national elections to get their party back from the extremists because...
DENISE...I honestly believe in 20 years, we're going to see documentaries of Mitt Romney standing up and rallying against access to health care for Americans. And it's going to look just as regressive as Goldwater does to us today about civil rights.
ROTHENBERGWell, I think Denise is right that this is a very conservative Republican Party. I think the Republican Party has changed over the years with the Tea Party elements and the anti-establishment conservatives coming in. And, yeah, I think they're quite conservative, significantly more conservative than they were 40, 50 years ago.
ROTHENBERGI don't think -- I haven't seen data that supports her conclusion, however, that moderate, which I take to also be swing voters, independent voters are going to vote straight Democratic up and down the ticket. That's not showing at the presidential race, and it's certainly not showing down ballot in House and Senate races. I think there's a chance over the final two months here that the swing voters, moderate voters will swing dramatically one way or the other.
ROTHENBERGAnd it could be because they think the Republican Party is too extreme. On the other hand, there's a chance that they swing dramatically because they think that the president has not been sufficiently effective in turning the economy around, so -- but that the number -- the poll numbers right now do not suggest a dramatic Democratic sweep.
REHMAll right. And Chris in Louisville, Ky. has a question. Good morning.
CHRISGood morning, and thank you so much. I admire your show.
CHRISI find it unbelievable that we have a candidate running for president -- oh, and by the way, I'm a registered Republican -- candidate running for presidency who has had money out of the country just so he couldn't, would not have to pay taxes on it like many of his very, very wealthy friends. One of the reasons we are in the debts that we are in now is because they haven't paid their fair share. This is exactly what happened in Greece. The very wealthy had their money out of the country, and the country went down.
PAGEYou know, Chris makes such an interesting point. Now, Mitt Romney says that he did not benefit from the tax consequences of moving his money overseas. That's hard for us to independently assess, but that's what he says. But I agree with Chris. I am surprised that Mitt Romney, who has been running for president for at least six years, and probably thinking about it for some years before that, would let him be -- himself in a situation where he had money in a Swiss bank account or invested in the Cayman Islands.
PAGEI find that perplexing 'cause how easy would it have been to just say, we're not going to do that because the optics of that when I run for president would be bad.
ELVINGYou know, and we saw yesterday Chris Wallace on Fox News ask this question twice, twice...
ELVING...why did you not just say, hey, guys, this doesn't look very good. Let's just move that money back into the United States. Mitt Romney insisted that not one single dollar was paid less in taxes because that money was overseas, which prompted, of course, a lot of people to look at each other and say, well, then, why did you have it over there in the first place?
REHMRon Elving, I've heard some speculation. I have no idea whether this is true, but I've heard speculation that it could have to do with the Mormon Church.
ELVINGAll right. Well, that's always possible. The Mormon Church is a major recipient of generosity from the Romney family and is very important to the Romney family, and they have made many commitments to it. Why exactly he couldn't do that from an American bank account, I don't know, but that would be speculation.
PAGEYes. I don't know about that, Diane.
REHMAll right. And, Stu Rothenberg.
ROTHENBERGWell, it does get us back to this question of personal characteristics and qualities. Again, not, do I want to go to the ball game and sit next to Mitt Romney, but do I have confidence and do I trust him? Does he understand my problems? Can he kind of feel my pain? And money in the Cayman Islands and Swiss bank accounts create an image that, I would think, Romney wouldn't have wanted. And I feel the same way like Susan. I don't know why that Romney -- why Romney himself and his advisers didn't anticipate this and deal with it to get out of the way.
REHMAll right. To Branford, Fla., and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Tom, you're on the air.
TOMGood morning, Diane. Thank you...
REHMGood morning, sir.
TOM...for your show. I love it.
TOMMy question for your panel is I keep hearing people planning to criticize the president for not creating enough jobs. But the Republicans have been saying for years that business creates jobs, not government. How can they have it both ways? And I'll take my answer off the air.
ROTHENBERGWell, I think the Republicans are -- and I'll take this a little exceptional with the way Tom presented this question. I don't think they are criticizing the president for not creating jobs. I think they are criticizing the president for pursuing policies, which make it impossible, difficult for the private sector to create jobs. He's at -- Tom is absolutely right that the Republicans can't say why haven't -- why do we have more government jobs? That not their argument. They say that in terms of tax policies, in terms of spending...
ROTHENBERG...regulation, the administration...
REHMWhich we're going to do in our -- on in our next hour.
ROTHENBERGRight. Yeah. You know, I talked to a lot of groups around the country and they're -- they're often business groups, so they tend to be Republican leaning. But what's interesting when I talk to them is they all complained that the president doesn't understand business. He doesn't understand the private sector. He just understands government, and he needs to free up the private sector. That's the Republican argument.
ROTHENBERGThere are, of course, counterarguments to that, about what happens when the -- when there is not regulation on business. But, Tom, they are not complaining that the president isn't creating jobs. They are complaining that his policies make it difficult for the private sector to create jobs.
ELVINGIt should be noted that actually the public sector, that is the federal state and local government, has been contracting as an employer during these last several years. In fact, in many months, that's been a tremendous drag on the job creation number overall as private industries have started to create jobs again, particularly in manufacturing in the last couple of years. But we have been trimming the roles of public employees now. For a lot of people, that's a good thing. We don't want more public employees.
ELVINGWe want more private industry employees. And even if that means the schools are really stressed for teachers and other workers, and even if it means that some government services don't get delivered, many people feel that's just the direction we should be moving in. So in the sense that government can create jobs, government has stepped back from doing that in many cases. And it is the private sector that's been providing some of this growth even giving the circumstances of current tax levels and current regulations.
REHMSusan, following the nomination, the Romney campaign gets access to millions of dollars. Tell me how significant that becomes.
PAGEWell, I was at a breakfast this morning with some of Gov. Romney's senior advisers, and one of them, Eric Fehrnstrom, cited that as one of the big changes that's ahead for the last 10 weeks of the campaign. One big change, he said, will be the debate is also very important, but the second thing he cited was the fact that they'll have access to a lot of money that because he has not yet been nominated, he didn't have access to general election funds that he is raising.
REHMWe're talking about $165 million.
PAGEAnd, boy, if you live a swing state and you're sick of the attack ads you've been seeing on TV, brace yourself because there are more coming.
ELVINGYou ain't seen nothing yet.
REHMAnd, Stu Rothenberg, can those ads really make the difference?
ROTHENBERGOh, Diane, Diane. I'm skeptical. I think that people are just so turned off by these political ads. I think an ad needs to be interesting, unique, maybe humorous. It has to make a new point, or it has to introduce new information. In that case, voters will listen, and they will consider it. And it will inform them. But just so much of the same grainy, dark photographs of one candidate and attacks, I'm skeptical.
ROTHENBERGThey both have enough money to make enough attacks, I think, but I'm waiting to see the interesting commercial, the noble one, the one's that's memorable that introduces a new point of view. You know, that could have an effect.
REHMSo am I, Stu, so am I.
REHMStuart Rothenberg, he is a columnist for Roll Call and editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, Ron Elving, Washington editor for NPR. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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