Judy’s Notebook: Less Than 4 Weeks Till Election Day, Time for Questions

BY Judy Woodruff  October 11, 2012 at 7:55 AM EDT

Since the campaign has been going on for what feels like a few years, you’d think that every question under the sun had been asked and answered. Maybe every question has been asked, but straight answers aren’t always easy to come by.

Just as an exercise, I’ve listed a few I’m curious about.

1. President Obama: You and your campaign have repeatedly portrayed Gov. Romney as “out of touch” with ordinary Americans, but it was you who seemed distant and, frankly, as if you didn’t think much were at stake in this election in the first debate. Whether you agree with the characterization or not, how do you explain the impression you left?

2. Gov. Romney: You made the 47 percent comment in a private session with well-to-do donors in Florida last spring; you have since renounced it and said it was “completely wrong.” And yet, at the time, you said clearly that you don’t worry about those people who don’t pay taxes, who don’t “take personal responsibility for their lives,” in your words. What exactly were you trying to say? Because it sounded as if this was a statement of your personal philosophy, not some one-off effort to answer a question.

3. Both: Why is your job creation plan better?

4. President Obama: You’ve criticized Gov. Romney for wanting to cut taxes for the wealthy. But you were reportedly willing to go along with dropping the current (Bush era) 35 percent top individual rate as part of negotiations last year with House Speaker Boehner. What are some elements of a broader tax reform plan that would make that acceptable to you again in the future?

5. Gov. Romney: To pay for reducing the top income tax rate for high-earning individuals, you’ve said you would close or limit certain tax breaks they are entitled to. Which ones? And, by protecting deductions for the middle class on home mortgages and charitable donations, how will the Treasury pull in enough money to keep the government from going deeper into debt? Also: you have said you would keep preferential lower- tax rates on capital gains and dividends; given that, why wouldn’t high-income households continue to enjoy very generous tax treatments?

6. President Obama: Many economists say they believe that to avoid cuts in health benefits that ensue from the Affordable Care Act, the government will need to raise taxes on middle-income earners. Explain why you believe that’s wrong.

7. Gov. Romney: You have proposed capping federal spending at 20 percent of the nation’s economic product, while increasing the military budget; you want to do this in a way that spares those 55 and over from any changes to Medicare or Social Security. But to do that, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that spending on everything else — including Medicaid for poor children — would be cut significantly. Why is that a trade-off worth making – sparing older Americans who depend on the government, but squeezing the younger ones who do?

8. Both: What would you do to slow or stop the rapid rise in the cost of college education, which is pricing many young people out of a chance to earn a four-year degree?

9. Gov. Romney: You have said for several years that you would work to overturn Roe v. Wade, but this week you said there’s no legislation related to abortion “that would become part of” your agenda. How do you reconcile that?

10. Both: Finally, some argue now that the intergenerational deal that has held in the U.S. since the dawn of Social Security in the 1930′s, which places a priority on the older generation, while assuming the younger generation — children — will manage, now needs to be re-examined. They point to projected budget cuts that show federal expenditures on children are on track to shrink dramatically, at the same time the U.S. increasingly compares unfavorably with the rest of the industrialized world in infant mortality, teen pregnancy, literacy and other important measurements. Do you think this is a problem — why or why not?

What are your questions for the candidates?