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Talking Official Democratic Party Agenda with Stephanie Cutter

September 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Judy Woodruff talks to the Obama-Biden Campaign's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter about what Democrats hope to accomplish at this week's convention, including presenting a concrete policy roadmap for the future, and why there won't be any "surprise" guest speakers.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to the road to reelection for President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Stephanie Cutter is the deputy campaign manager. I spoke with her a little earlier.

Stephanie Cutter, welcome to the NewsHour.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, Obama 2012 Campaign: Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if Gov. Romney’s job at his convention last week was to introduce himself again to the American people, what is President Obama’s main task this week?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, we’re going to get a couple of things done.

First, we’re going to crystallize the choice in this election for the American people. We’re not going to just be speaking to people in this haul.

We’re speaking to Americans all across this country about the choice we have of whether we want to continue moving forward and building an economy meant to last with a strong middle class at its core? Or do we want to go backward to the same policies that crashed our economy and punished the middle class? Because that’s what Romney is promising.

So, we will crystallize the choice. We will also talk about some of the tough decisions the president has made over the past four years to move this country forward.

It wasn’t always politically popular, but it was the right thing to do, from saving the auto industry, or beating back fierce lobbying by the big banks and Wall Street to pass Wall Street reforms.

We never have to bail out a bank with taxpayer dollars again. So, you know, so those tough decisions that demonstrate both strong leadership we have had over the past four years, and then finally a path forward. Where do we go from here?

We have come through a very tough time. We have made progress. But, as the president has said, we don’t want to go back to where we were before this crisis. We want to do better than that. So the president will lay out a path forward.

Unlike last week, where there was no tangible idea put on the table by Mitt Romney about where he’s going to take this country, we will have some concrete, achievable ideas that will demonstrate a real road map.

I think anybody leaving here or watching on Thursday night will understand what the future means under Barack Obama.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You start out making a contrast between President Obama and what Mitt Romney is offering. But what the Romney camp keeps saying is, no, the real important question is President Obama today versus the promises he made as candidate Obama.

Why isn’t their question more important than the one you’re asking?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, you know, with all due respect to what the Romney campaign is asking, you know, we’re going to run on our ideas.

And our idea to move the country forward.

And that includes what the president has gotten done over the last four years. I think, at this point four years ago, when we were at our convention in Denver, nobody knew we were going to have to bail out the banks. Nobody knew we were going to have to bail out the auto industry. Nobody knew we were headed into a record recession.

And let’s remember, when the president took the oath of office, in the six months before that, we lost 3.5 million jobs. So, what did the president do? He moved boldly and swiftly to stem the crisis. And then he starting putting the building blocks back together again on an economy built to last.

So, in terms of promises, there are many things that he promised in 2008 that we will talk about here. He ended the war in Iraq. He broke the back of al-Qaida. We’re drawing down our troops in Afghanistan. And let’s not forget that he killed bin Laden. Those are real promises in 2008.

Another promise in 2008 is how we were going to strengthen the middle class, because the middle class suffered from this recession, but they have been suffering for a long time, decades of policies that left them behind.

And that’s the one thing that has been driving the president over the course of the last four years.

You know, that’s why we passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act, so that women could be equal breadwinners for their families, middle-class families across the country. That’s why we passed health care reform, to make sure that people’s economic security didn’t depend on their health security.

So, we are going to be running on our ideas. We’re going to be running on our path forward. And we’re very much looking forward to Thursday night.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when one of your main Democratic surrogates, the governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, said yesterday when he was asked is the country better off today than it was four years ago, he said no, was he off-message?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, yes, I was sitting next to him when he said that. And he was saying the same thing that we’re all saying, that going back to where we were four years ago at this time is not good enough. We need to do better than that.

Yes, the recession hit. And it was a very painful time for many across this country. And it still is. And the president is putting those building blocks back together, 4.5 million jobs created over the past 29 months.

But we need to do better than that, better than where we were before the crisis hit. And that’s what Gov. O’Malley was saying.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of jobs, today is Labor Day.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Of course, jobs is the overriding question today.

To viewers, to voters who are out there watching you right now, Stephanie Cutter, and they’re saying, all right, what is this president going to do differently to create a more robust job creation climate than what he’s been able to do over the last four years, what’s the answer to that? What can change?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, a lot could change.

I think that the two parties could come together to get some real things done in Washington. Let’s not forget that the president had the Affordable — I mean — I’m sorry — the American Jobs Act in front of Congress for a year. That would create a million jobs right now, through putting our construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and highways, making sure our teachers can stay in classrooms, giving tax cuts to small businesses that hire.

These are good, tangible, concrete ideas that we can do to move this country forward. I think the president has often talked about this election as, you know, the voters get to decide the direction of this country.

Are they happy with the gridlock? Are they happy with the intransigence of the Republican Party, whose number-one goal over the past four years is to make sure that the president didn’t get reelected?

Or are they going to send a strong message, hey, we want some progress, put progress ahead of your own politics and vote for some change in this election? And many of the pieces of the president’s agenda that have been stuck in the Republican House of Representatives will move.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So all the blame goes on the Republicans?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Judy, I think that the American people understand across this country that President Obama has woken up every single day to try to figure out how he was going to move this country forward, strengthen the economy, strengthen the middle class.

He’s had ideas on the table. We have made progress, real progress, 4.5 million jobs. That’s three times the number of private sector jobs that were created in the Bush recovery, which, you know, dealt with a recession, but nothing compared to what the — President Obama was dealt with.

And we have made some real progress, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, health care reform, Wall Street reform, tax cuts. American people — middle-class families are paying $3,600 less in taxes today because of President Obama.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, finally, Clint Eastwood was the surprise speaker at the Republican Convention.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Who is the surprise speaker here?

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Well, we don’t have any, you know, hidden — there’s no Clinton sequel…

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANIE CUTTER: … Clint Eastwood sequel here.

We have got lots of people speaking. I guess our surprises are the real people from across this country, average Americans who have participated in the country’s recovery, whether it’s the teacher who is making sure that opportunity is spread across her classroom, across her community, or the autoworker who got her job back because of the actions the president took.

Those are our surprises. And these are stories that are powerful and I think will resonate across the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Stephanie Cutter with the Obama campaign, thank you very much for being with us.

STEPHANIE CUTTER: Thank you, Judy.