Obama Remark Sets Off Weekend Economy Battle

BY Terence Burlij and Katelyn Polantz  June 11, 2012 at 8:58 AM EST

President Obama delivers remarks on the economy in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House Friday. Photo by: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Morning Line
The campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney seem intent on fighting another round of the battle that began Friday when the president said during a White House press conference that “the private sector is doing fine.”

Mr. Obama later sought to walk back his statement, remarking a short time later during an Oval Office appearance that “the economy is not doing fine.” By that point the damage had been done.

Campaigning in Iowa on Friday, Romney called the president’s comment “an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding.”

Sensing an opportunity to attack the president as disconnected on the key issue of the campaign, Team Romney followed up with a Web video on Sunday and another Monday. The latest effort splices together news clips with reaction to May’s disappointing jobs report, then shows the clip of the president saying: “The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.”

You can watch that video here or below:

For its part the Obama campaign unveiled a new Web video Monday blasting Romney over comments he made contending the president favors job growth through the government rather than the private sector. “He wants another stimulus. He wants to hire more government workers,” Romney said in Iowa on Friday. “He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

The Obama campaign video highlights those comments from the presumptive Republican nominee and features testimonials from elected officials in Massachusetts who make the case that Romney slashed teacher, police and firefighter jobs “at rapid rates” during his time as governor.

You can watch that video here or below:

The brouhaha of Friday also spilled over onto the Sunday show airwaves, with the individual at the center of Romney’s Wisconsin argument — Republican Gov. Scott Walker — saying he disagreed with presumptive GOP nominee on CBS’ Face the Nation.

“I think it’s slightly different – I think in our case what they wanted was people willing to take on the tough issues not only here but across the country,” Walker said. “I know in my state our reforms allowed us to protect firefighters, police officers and teachers. That’s not what I think of when I think of big government.”

Karen Tumulty wrote Saturday in the Washington Post that “those six words now stand as Exhibit A in the GOP’s case that, as Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney put it minutes later, the president is ‘detached and out of touch’ on the issue that ranks at the top of voter concerns.”

If the Romney campaign is successful is attaching that label to the president, given the economic struggles many in the country are still feeling, it could be a powerful argument come November. It is clear from the Obama team’s response, however, that this will not be a one-sided fight.

The media’s response to the president’s remark was among the topics Christina tackled in an appearance Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources. You can watch that here and here.


On the NewsHour Friday night, Mark Shields and David Brooks debated what the president can do about the economy and how influential what’s happening in Europe might be for the November elections.

David said the crisis across the Atlantic is “the biggest problem in front of us.”

It is quite likely that Greece will leave the euro, which will have a very negative effect on Europe and a negative effect on us, not so much because of our exports, but just because of confidence. … There is a significant possibility, 20, 30, 40 percent, of a complete meltdown across the eurozone. If that happens, if you talk to many economists, you’re looking at a financial crisis worse than 2008. So it’s, A., completely appropriate the president is talking about this, warning people, B., that he is active trying to do something. … So, they are really playing a very dangerous game over there and it’s extremely dangerous for us. So, I think the administration policy is quite good right now. The question is whether it should be more aggressive, really having a public summit with Germany, us, some other countries, and really getting beyond the European political situation and getting us all involved.

As far as the president’s message to Congress about jobs, Mark said any real action isn’t possible this year while Washington is at “loggerheads.”

I think we have now reached a point where we are into symbolic legislating, where we can pass something in the Democratic Senate, but — whether it is an equal pay and equal protection law, and make the other side look bad. And it’s a legitimate piece of legislation, but it is not going to going pass the Republican House. And the Republican house can do its things in cutting taxes or whatever on particular groups or interests. And that isn’t going to go anywhere in the Senate or have the president sign it.

They also squared off on the meaning of the Wisconsin recall election.

Watch the segment here or below:

In the Doubleheader, Christina and the guys chatted about former Sen. Rick Santorum’s decision to open a super PAC and made their Preakness predictions. Christina was right on the money with her top pick this time, hopefully her failed show bet recommendation didn’t cost anyone any money.

Watch the Doubleheader here or below:


The NewsHour’s Allie Morris and Cassie M. Chew attended an event for Senate candidate Tim Kaine in Alexandria, Va., on Friday. Kaine, the former governor, is locked in a tight race with former Gov. George Allen to win the open seat.

They caught Kaine for a quick interview, and chatted with voters after the roundtable. Kaine stressed his budget strategy:

“If you are only cutting, you are making a big mistake. The all-cut approach is a weakening approach, not a strengthening approach. So, what you have to do is find the balance of cuts, but also investment.”

Allen appeared on the Mark Levin radio show ahead of Tuesday’s primary, which he is expected to win by a large margin. He said he wants to be “the deciding vote to repeal Obamacare,” and said electing him would “send a message to President Obama, Tim Kaine and the Washington liberals that we in Virginia want to be in control of our own destinies.”

Allen has been keeping his focus on Kaine despite his rivals on the right, and as his comments suggest, the contest will take on national implications.

This battle is one of the NewsHour Senate Six races to watch and we’ll have more in the months to come.


The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action and the SEIU are spending $4 million on a slate of attack ads in Spanish that attempt to distance Romney from Hispanic voters.

The group, in its press release, calls the ads one of the largest ever independent Spanish-language campaigns. It’ll hit TV and radio in swing states Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

Both Romney and President Obama’s campaign teams and supporters have engaged in a number of campaigns lately to court Hispanic voters. They’ve issued Spanish language ads and expanded their staffs to target the key demographic. Still, many have noted that Hispanic voters don’t votes as a bloc, and don’t seem to be registering or voting in large numbers.

Almost all the attacks use a select pair of Romney sound bites — such as “I’ll also tell my story: I’m also unemployed” or “You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus” — to prompt comment from Hispanic Americans. The ads are called “Mitt Romney: En Sus Propias Palabras,” or “Mitt Romney: In His Own Words.”

Here’s the spot in Nevada, and a page that collects the other ads:

Eliseo Medina, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer, gives the overview: “Latinos say they are insulted and angry when they watch Romney, a multi-millionaire with a couple Cadillacs, joke about his ‘unemployment’ status. When Latinos hear Romney, in his own words, they really know what’s going on and what he is saying … If elected President, Mitt Romney’s policies would be devastating to Latino families.”


  • Gwen Ifill looks at the succession of distractions that have marked the presidential campaigns in her latest blog post.

  • Attorney General Eric Holder has assigned two U.S. attorneys to lead separate criminal investigations into the release of national security secrets to the news media. A series of New York Times scoops have highlighted the president’s war strategies, particularly with cyberattacks.

  • Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News Sunday that he rejected the president’s claims that the leaks did not come from the White House. Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod told ABC News that the leaks did not originate from the White House.

  • Statewide unemployment rates might not be in line with the national numbers and could help Mr. Obama, writes the Associated Press.

  • What Obama would do in his second term is the subject of a long form story by the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.

  • The Guardian explores Anna Wintour’s relationship with the president’s campaign and asks, Will an ambassador’s job be her reward?

  • The Daily Beast reports from Providence about the “complicated” relationship between the Obama administration and netroots activists.

  • CPAC Chicago attendees chose Sen. Marco Rubio as their favorite veep choice for Romney in The Washington Times’ straw poll Friday.

  • Politico rounds up 10 tweets from New York Giants players who were honored at the White House Friday.

  • Gwen interviewed the president for the July issue of Essence Magazine that will be hitting newsstands soon.

  • Amber Lee Ettinger has outgrown her very public “Crush on Obama,” the Daily Caller reports.



Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.


All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama participates in interviews with local TV anchors from across the country at 10:50 a.m. and attends meetings at the White House.

  • Vice President Biden attends meetings with the president at the White House.

  • Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

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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 and @dePeystah.

Gingrich’s Surge Spreads to Swing States

BY News Desk  December 8, 2011 at 7:23 AM EST

Newt Gingrich; photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum Wednesday in Washington. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The Newt Gingrich surge has spread beyond Iowa and South Carolina, and now extends to Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released Thursday.

In Florida, the fourth state on next year’s GOP nominating calendar, Gingrich leads the Republican presidential field with 35 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No other candidate receives more than 8 percent in the Sunshine State.

Gingrich doubles-up Romney in Ohio, 36 percent to 18 percent, with no other GOP contender supassing 7 percent in the Buckeye State.

And in Pennsylvania, Gingrich captures 31 percent, with Romney at 17 percent, and Rick Santorum, the state’s former two-term senator, at 9 percent.

When Gingrich and Romney are placed in a head-to-head contest, Republican voters in all three states prefer the former House speaker to the former Massachusetts governor by at least 18 percentage points.

For Romney, those numbers could mean trouble down the line. With some states allocating delegates proportionally, the Republican fight could look more like the protracted Democratic battle of 2008. If Gingrich’s support in the later voting contests holds, then it would become increasingly difficult for Romney to make up ground if he gets behind early after Iowa and South Carolina.

The Quinnipiac poll is not all bad news for Romney, as he can still make the case that he is a better general election candidate than Gingrich, although even that argument isn’t as strong as it once was.

Romney leads President Obama in a head-to-head matchup in Florida, 45 percent to 42 percent, while Gingrich trails the president by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent.

Romney and Gingrich are evenly matched against Mr. Obama in Ohio, both holding narrow one-point advantages, 43 percent to 42 percent.

In Pennsylvania, Romney makes it more of a race, trailing the president by three percentage points, while Gingrich faces an eight-point deficit to Mr. Obama.

The momentum in the race is solidly behind Gingrich at this point, but he still has ground to make up when it comes to money and organization, where Romney holds significant advantages.

A key component of Romney’s campaign infrastructure will be on display Thursday, as two of his advisers and supporters — former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent — will hold a morning conference call to discuss Gingrich’s record, in what will likely be one of many steps taken in the coming weeks to try and halt the former speaker’s rise.

In the event you haven’t had your fill of poll numbers by this point, be sure to take a look at the newly released CNN poll, which shows Gingrich the front-runner in three of the first four states to vote in 2012.


There’s, so far, only a Republican nominating contest in the presidential race this cycle. But that doesn’t mean Democrats are staying on the sidelines. In fact, as Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg report for the New York Times, President Obama’s advisers are focusing attacks on both Romney and Gingirch in an attempt to make the GOP primary last longer.

Democrats have made it clear they have no plans of letting up on Mitt Romney. But they are hoping to help stretch the Republican nominating contest into a longer and bloodier battle — meaning they are eager to define Mr. Gingrich for voters in unflattering terms without necessarily wounding him fatally and assisting Mr. Romney, whom they still view as a formidable general election opponent.

The White House is not conceding that by focusing on Mr. Romney, it aimed its initial attacks at the wrong opponent. But in taking on Mr. Gingrich as well, it is underscoring its determination to play an active role in the opposing party’s primary.

Zeleny and Rutenberg also report that the president’s advisers see the former House speaker as a welcome opponent because Gingrich’s record helps make him a symbol of the past.

The Democratic National Committee has focused much of its effort lately on attacking Romney, developing websites and Twitter hashtags that mock him. After a testy interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier last week, Romney complained about the questions he was asked. The DNC launched the hashtag #QuestionsMittLikes to highlight what it sees as his unwillingness to answer hard questions.

On Wednesday, the DNC released a video highlighting Romney’s changes in political identity through the decades, called “Mitt Through the Ages.”

That suggests Democrats see Gingrich, who has a more combative style and a long record in Washington, as the candidate they would rather run against.

Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler how excited she was that Gingrich might be the nominee:

“I like Barney Frank’s quote the best, where he said ‘I never thought I’d live such a good life that I would see Newt Gingrich be the nominee of the Republican party,’” Pelosi said in an exclusive interview Friday. “That quote I think spoke for a lot of us.”

But as Zeleny and Rutenberg report, Democrats are shifting their focus to take the former Georgia congressman seriously:

First, he could be more difficult to brand as hostile to the middle class, because Mr. Gingrich does not have a history of buying and selling companies as Mr. Romney does from his time at Bain Capital. Second, Mr. Gingrich has a better record of reaching out to Hispanic voters, the fastest-growing segment of the electorate.


Fans of Elizabeth Warren can rejoice in a new poll out of Massachusetts: The Harvard Law School professor and brains behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is leading Sen. Scott Brown by seven points.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell/Boston Herald poll shows Warren up, 49-42, over Brown, with a 5.3 percent margin of error.

Joe Batenfield of the Herald provides some details:

The new poll results are bound to send more shockwaves across the country, where Democrats and Republicans are closely watching to see whether the Harvard Law professor can knock off one of the GOP’s rising stars. The Massachusetts race could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and Democrats are making the race one of their top priorities.

“Clearly Warren has made some gains over the past month and a half,” said Mike Mokrzycki, a consultant who produced the poll for UMass-Lowell.

The UMass-Lowell/Herald poll reveals Brown’s popularity has dropped significantly since Warren essentially wrapped up the Democratic nomination and a pro-Warren interest group, the League of Conservation voters, began a blitz of negative ads against Brown. Brown’s job approval rating has dropped eight points to 45 percent in the last two months.

The Warren-Brown matchup will be one of the most high-profile U.S. Senate races of the cycle because of Warren’s celebrity status among liberals and because this is one of the few states where Democrats could take a seat from Republicans.


All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama is in Washington, meeting with House Democratic leaders at 10:15 a.m., sitting for a series of interviews with regional television outlets at 1:50 p.m. and delivering remarks at a Hanukkah reception at 6 p.m.

  • Rick Perry campaigns in South Carolina, holding a press conference in Mount Pleasant at 10 a.m., attending an event in Beaufort at 12:30 p.m., hosting a town hall in Okatie at 2:30 p.m. and visiting a diner in Greenville at 5:35 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich participates in a forum with business leaders in Greenville, S.C., at 10:30 a.m.

  • Jon Huntsman delivers remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., at 12 p.m., then holds a town hall in Milford, N.H., at 7 p.m.

  • Michele Bachmann meets with the Quad City Times Editorial Board in Davenport, Iowa, at 2:45 p.m. and the Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial Board at 5:30 p.m., then holds a meet-and-greet in Cedar Rapids at 7 p.m.

  • Ron Paul campaigns in Iowa, holding a pair of town halls — in Des Moines at 3 p.m. and in Boone at 6 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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