Obama Confronts GOP Candidates, Pushes Message in Documentary

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 16, 2012 at 9:10 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama speaks at a rally in Largo, Md., on Thursday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

After months of dipping their toes in the re-election waters, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have jumped full-on into the general election expanse.

The president confronted his GOP critics Thursday in a speech on energy policy at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md., just outside the Washington beltway.

“A lot of the folks who are running for a certain office who shall go unnamed, they’ve been talking down new sources of energy,” Mr. Obama told a crowd of students. “They dismiss wind power. They dismiss solar power. They make jokes about biofuels. They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas-guzzlers,” he said.

“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail — they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society,” the president said. “They would not have believed that the world was round.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich responded while campaigning in Illinois, describing the president’s remarks as “utter intellectual nonsense” and contending Mr. Obama belongs to “the Flat Earth Sierra Club Society.”

“Ask the president why is Saudi oil good and American oil bad? Why is Saudi drilling good and American drilling bad?” Gingrich said.

Biden traveled to the battleground state of Ohio and took aim at Gingrich and the other GOP contenders for their opposition to the federal bailout of the auto industry.

“Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich — these guys have a fundamentally different economic philosophy than we do,” Biden said. “We’re about promoting the private sector, they’re about protecting the privileged sector. We are for a fair shot and a fair shake. They’re about no rules, no risks, and no accountability.”

The Obama campaign also highlighted the decision to rescue the auto industry in a 17-minute video released Thursday titled “The Road We’ve Traveled.”

Watch it here or below.

The video, narrated by actor Tom Hanks, includes testimonials from the president, first lady Michelle Obama, the vice president, former President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others. It frames the dire economic picture the president faced when elected in 2008 and touches on actions he took regarding the stimulus, health care reform and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The only specific mention of any of the president’s GOP rivals comes during the defense of the action on the auto industry. “A lot of conventional wisdom wanted to do what Mitt Romney did — let it go, it can’t be saved, why put good money after bad,” Emanuel says in the video as an image of Romney’s Wall Street Journal editorial, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” is showed on the screen.

MESSAGING ONLINE

Discussion about the Obama campaign’s video began Thursday’s NewsHour segment with the Daily Download, which examined the race online.

Ray Suarez (@raysuareznews) talked with Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn about how the campaign used the film to collect supporter data. They also talked about the #stoprush movement and the difficulties of controlling campaign messages when Facebook groups spring up opposing the candidate.

Watch here or below.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • “With minimal campaign organization and less funds than his rivals, Santorum has boosted his campaign with the votes of a network of evangelical Christians, anti-abortion rights activists and home-schooling parents who are resisting” Romney, Bloomberg reports in a story headlined “Santorum Relies on Prayers, Donated Buses to Get Vote Out.”

  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s new book is not all that helpful to Santorum, Politico’s Manu Raju reports.

  • USA Today’s Judy Keen tees up Illinois as the next big primary test for Romney and Santorum.

  • Emanuel questioned Romney’s convictions Thursday, saying the GOP candidate “doesn’t have the fortitude, the strength or the character in my view to stand up to Rush Limbaugh,” reports Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times. Emanuel’s criticism was in reference to derogatory remarks made by Limbaugh about a Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress in support of the administration’s birth control policy.

  • Romney defended Fox News Thursday from criticism by Santorum that the cable network was favoring the former Massachusetts governor in its coverage of the GOP race.

  • The pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund announced $310,000 worth of television ads in Illinois, saying it “has now become a two-person race and this new ad in Illinois demonstrates the difference between Mitt Romney — a supporter of bailouts and government spending sprees — and Rick Santorum who is a conservative who wants to cut spending and create jobs.” Stuart Roy, an adviser to the group, said in a statement, “Every state where we have been on the air with a threshold amount to drive home our message about Rick Santorum as a consistent conservative we have either split the delegates or won the state outright. Illinois is an important state to continue our momentum.”

Watch the ad here or below.

  • Romney released a radio ad in Puerto Rico called “Oportunidad.” Listen.

  • Reuters writes that “more than two dozen veterans of the Bush administration have flocked to Romney’s campaign.”

  • Santorum did well among young voters in Tuesday’s Southern primaries.

  • The GOP presidential debate scheduled for Monday in Portland, Ore., was officially canceled Thursday after Romney and Santorum both declined to appear.

  • The Democratic National Committee keeps up the Romney-is-against-women drumbeat in another web video out Friday. Watch.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Fifteen-term Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election to his New York congressional seat. It’s another decision influenced by redistricting, as New York loses two House seats thanks to population decline.

  • Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is appealing an election board’s 2-to-1 decision ruling him ineligible to vote in his own primary next month. Lugar has been fighting off residency problems in Indiana as he faces a tough challenge from the right.

  • House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a video Thursday previewing his federal budget blueprint set to be unveiled next week.

  • A group of conservative organizations, including Let Freedom Ring, FreedomWorks, 60 Plus Association and some Tea Party groups, wrote a letter to House Republicans urging them not to “settle” during budget negotiations” “We therefore write to suggest a compelling point of contrast: present a budget that balances in ten years or less and does not raise taxes on the American people. As members of the conservative movement, we believe that no budget that fails to meet these two standards can reasonably call itself conservative.”.

  • Senate Democrats are pushing for a vote to renew the Violence Against Women Act and daring Republicans to vote against it, reports Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press.

  • Here’s the transcript from Gwen Ifill’s chat over at Washington Week on Thursday.

  • Judy Woodruff writes about hopeful steps for people with disabilities.

  • Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich entered prison Thursday to begin serving a 14-year sentence for corruption, including trying to sell President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

  • Rock the Vote writes up the South by Southwest panel Christina moderated over the weekend.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama attends a pair of fundraisers in Chicago at 1:20 p.m. and 2:35 p.m. and then travels to Atlanta for three campaign events at 6:35 p.m., 8:25 p.m. and 9:20 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney meets with voters in Rosemont, Ill., at 8:25 a.m., then travels to Puerto Rico, where he holds a rally in Old San Juan at 7 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds a rally in Osage Beach, Mo., at 11:30 a.m. and a pair of events in Arlington Heights, Ill., at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich campaigns in Louisiana, attending a meet and greet in New Orleans at 3 p.m., visiting the New Orleans Zoo at 4:30 p.m. and holding a rally in Covington at 8 p.m.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul has no public campaign 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 and @suddinengel.