Jobs Report to Provide Fodder for Both Campaigns

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  August 3, 2012 at 9:35 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney speaks to an overflow crowd during a campaign event in Golden, Colo., on Thursday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

For all the numbers swirling in recent days about personal income tax rates, the July jobs report brings the two figures that could most influence the presidential election: the number of total jobs created and the overall unemployment rate.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Friday showed a better than expected 163,000 jobs were created in July, but the unemployment rate still ticked up a tenth of a point to 8.3 percent, the result of more people returning to the workforce.

Those mixed numbers are unlikely to cause a significant shift in the dynamic of the race. Forty-five percent of Americans said they thought the economy would stay about the same over the next year, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month. Just 27 percent said they thought the economy would improve, while 25 percent responded it would get worse.

The July snapshot will likely dominate the discussion Friday and over the weekend.

The president will keep up the economic talk on Friday with an 11:45 a.m. event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to promote his plan to extend tax rates for middle-class Americans and to allow cuts for wealthy individuals to expire. In an email, adviser David Plouffe previewed the event, which will include middle-class families and workers who wrote to Mr. Obama about his plan to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.

The president will almost certainly tout the 163,000 figure as a sign the economy is trending in the right direction, albeit not at a fast enough pace.

Mitt Romney is scheduled to deliver remarks at the same time Friday morning in North Las Vegas, where he will likely point to the fact that the unemployment rate edged up.

If we were to venture a guess, there are no doubt at least four days circled in red on calendars in Chicago and Boston: Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2 and Nov. 6. Those are the dates of the next three jobs reports and Election Day, although the closer we get to that final marker, the more entrenched public opinion becomes.

With both candidates back on the stump Thursday, the economy was front and center.

In Colorado, Romney knocked Mr. Obama for the jobless rate. The president has been unsuccessful by “his own measure” of keeping unemployment below 8 percent, Romney said. “We have 23 million Americans today who are out of work or who have pulled out of the workforce,” the Republican said. “It has not been below 8 percent for 41 straight months.”

Romney punctuated his points by walking the crowd through an infographic “report card” grading the president’s performance using up-or-down arrows.

“I’m going to get all those arrows green again,” Romney said. “I know in campaigns talk is cheap.”

For his part, Mr. Obama said the GOP’s promise to boost the economy through tax cuts amounts to “fairy dust.”

You can watch their speeches in full here or below.

(STILL) TALKING TAXES

Soon after the Morning Line was published Thursday, Romney released a new ad slamming the president for promising Floridians economic relief and closing with: “Barack Obama. What a disappointment.”

On Thursday’s NewsHour, Judy Woodruff got both sides of the policy debate from William Gale of the Tax Policy Center and Scott Hodge of the Tax Foundation.

Gale defended the study put out by his center, which suggested Romney’s tax plan would harm middle-class Americans, saying it was a “straightforward exercise” even though Team Romney dismissed the report as a “joke.”

[W]hat I want to emphasize is it’s a matter of arithmetic. It is not some incredibly fancy calculation.

It’s simply that, if you cut tax rates for high-income households, you lose so much revenue there, that you can’t make it up by shutting down the tax exemptions that high-income tax households have.

Hodge said the Tax Policy Center had overlooked important elements in doing its assessment. “This is not technically an analysis of the Romney plan,” he said, adding:

[W]hat the study unfortunately doesn’t show is that about half of all Americans pay no income taxes whatsoever. And the vast majority of income taxes are paid by the top. In fact, a recent CBO study shows that the top 20 percent of taxpayers pays 94 percent of all income taxes.

And so, they are correct. It’s mathematically impossible to cut all tax rates without somewhat benefiting the rich, because the rich are the only ones paying income taxes. Meanwhile, we have half of all Americans paying no income taxes whatsoever and benefiting from about $100 billion of refundable tax credits, even though they pay no income taxes.

So, we’re going to have to have a big decision here on tax reform. Do we put some of those non-payers back on the tax rolls, and how many should avoid paying taxes?

Watch the segment here or below:

The Brian Lehrer Show pointed out on Thursday that few voters would make a voting decision based on a think-tank study. Still, Mr. Obama’s campaign speeches Thursday sought to turn the findings into an emotional argument for voters.

Meantime from Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., kept up his claims that Romney did not pay taxes for a decade, issuing an unusual long statement defending his assertion after the Republican called him out on Sean Hannity’s radio show to reveal his sources.

“It’s time for Harry to put up or shut up,” Romney said.

“Harry’s going to have to describe who it is he spoke with, because, of course, that’s totally and completely wrong,” Romney added. “It’s untrue, dishonest and inaccurate. It’s wrong. So I’m looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources, and we’ll probably find out it’s the White House.”

You can read Reid’s 289-word statement in full here. To summarize, he said, “I was told by an extremely credible source that Romney has not paid taxes for 10 years,” and Reid added:

When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up. But as a presidential candidate, it’s his obligation to put up, and release several years’ worth of tax returns just like nominees of both parties have done for decades.

It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is. … When you are running for president, you should be an open book.

DISPATCH FROM VIRGINIA

In Leesburg, Va., Thursday night, the president addressed a group of about 3,000 on the front lawn of picturesque Loudoun County High School. Reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz was there and notes that the intimate setting — and almost 100 degree heat — made the event feel like a school picnic.

Mr. Obama stuck to a similar script he’d used at the earlier event in Orlando, Fla., with one exception. He closed by reminding the crowd that if his campaign wins Loudoun County in November, it will win Virginia and, thus, the election.

While Virginia has become key to both Romney’s and Obama’s election plans, both campaigns have identified Loudoun County as among a handful of areas in the state that are up for grabs and could swing numbers in their favor.

In late October 2008, the president spoke in Leesburg and visited nearby Manassas as his final campaign stop before the election. The area is now considered purple territory, despite the eight-point statewide win for Obama in 2008 and a swing back to support Republican candidates since 2009.

Attendees at Thursday’s speech, including Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd, noted how appreciative they were that the president outlined specifics on tax policy.

Leesburg’s population is largely middle class, Umstattd told NewsHour, and may find the president’s message appealing.

But reminders of the political tossup weren’t far from the rallying crowd. The NewsHour spotted Ken Reid — a Republican local supervisor who ousted the Democratic incumbent in November as part of a county-wide GOP sweep — among a group carrying Romney signs near the school.

TALKING ABOUT SEQUESTRATION

Christina chatted with the NewsHour’s Margaret Warner about her forthcoming piece on the politics of proposed defense cuts in a special midweek edition of the Political Checklist.

Watch that here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The New York Times’ Richard Oppel notes that a group of 10 Republican governors rallied behind Romney during a campaign stop near Aspen, Colo., on Thursday.

  • Politico’s Jonathan Martin looks at the politically polarized South.

  • Team Obama keeps it up on taxes with an onilne map.

  • A new Pew survey finds that 52 percent of potential voters have an unfavorable view of Romney, compared with 37 percent who view the Republican favorably.

  • In another attempt to woo female voters, the president addressed the BlogHer conference on Thursday. “The choice women face in this election could not be bigger,” he said.

  • The Sunlight Foundation is collecting and analyzing the release of FCC data on television ad purchases, a new rule that began this summer. You can also look at a scanned and searchable collection of documents from the University of Missouri here.

  • CNN’s Peter Hamby reported that Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie on Thursday hosted “a joint closed-door political briefing with leading Republican donors.” It was “a lunchtime political briefing for top donors at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Aspen, a posh, closed-press affair where GOP governors mingle with some of their biggest financial backers.”

  • Americans for Prosperity will spend at least $24 million on a television ad buy in 11 states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, NBC’s First Read reported.

  • CBS News asks if the president is the “apologizer in chief.”

  • Yahoo analyzes Twitter followers for each candidate.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • In her weekly blog post, Gwen Ifill looks at the growing chasm of economic segregation — and the political price we’re all paying for it.

  • The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer writes about the pile of bills left behind as Congress departs for its month-long summer recess.

  • The House actually agreed on something: Congress should not get a summer recess with so much left on the table. But that doesn’t mean members are sticking around. Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser explains.

  • On a conference call Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Robby Mook said the party is confident that this fall they can “reverse the Tea Party wave,” NewsHour politics desk assistant Beth Garbitelli reports. “Tea Party incumbents won in a wave election” and they didn’t necessarily have organization, whereas Democratic incumbents “weathered the 2010 storm,” he said.

  • The Detroit News’ Tom Greenwood reports that the Tea Party Express has endorsed Clark Durant over Pete Hoekstra in the Michigan GOP Senate primary.

  • The Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC said Thursday it is spending an additional $2.5 million in fall television ad reservations in six media markets.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is still in trouble as the House ethics committee extends the contract for the outside counsel helping with its investigation.

  • “Members of Congress and administration officials got a little less love from K Street in 2011,” Kate Ackley writes for Roll Call.

  • Congress is making it easier for staffers with electric cars to recharge while parked on the Hill.

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama delivers remarks on the economy and tax cuts at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington at 11:45 a.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds an event at Sierra Truck Body & Equipment in North Las Vegas at 11:45 a.m.

  • Vice President Joe Biden attends a campaign event in Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.