NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss how pollsters determine who is a likely voter and whether measuring likely voters or registered voters gives a better picture of the electoral map.
Video edited by NBC's Matt Loffman.
NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss how pollsters determine who is a likely voter and whether measuring likely voters or registered voters gives a better picture of the electoral map.
Video edited by NBC's Matt Loffman.
First it was the “Buffett Rule.” That morphed into the “Reagan Rule” yesterday. And today, Vice President Biden tried to inform a crowd of supporters in New Hampshire about the “Romney Rule.”
According to Biden, the Romney Rule is about doubling down on “tax cuts for the wealthy.” He expanded on his definition:
“Let’s take a look at what the Romney Rule values. What the governor values and his colleagues. He values Bush tax cuts to be made permanent for the wealthy, the ones that are intended to expire this December, he wants to extend them permanently. That will cost one-trillion dollars over the next 10 years -- $800 billion of that trillion going to people who make a minimum of $1,000,000. And to add insult to injury, the Romney Rule proposes to give another $250,000-year tax cut to the average millionaire on top of maintaining the Bush tax cuts.”
The vice president said his argument was about economic fairness, but the speech -- much like President Obama’s speeches earlier this week -- was set up to strike a contrast between the well-off Romney and the middle class.
“To put it bluntly, we think it's out of step with basic American values,” Biden said of Romney’s economic plan. And he took it a step further when he joked, “Gov. Romney calls the president out of touch and anti-woman, by the way... Hey, how many of y'all have a Swiss bank account?”
Continuing on the theme of "everybody vs. Romney," Biden also said, “We believe in a fair shot and a fair shake. Gov. Romney and those who share his philosophy, believe in no rules, no risk when you fail taking a risk and no accountability.”
The vice president summed up the administration’s position, “If we put the Buffett Rule in place. Let the Bush tax cuts expire for the—for the very wealthy and reject Romney’s additional trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy. America will be able to do the things we need to do to grow the economy.”
And when a crying baby threatened to steal the limelight from Biden, he even turned that into an apparent dig at Romney. Speaking again about the so-called Romney Rule’s tax cut plan, Biden acknowledged the baby and said, “I don’t blame her for crying. She is going to inherit it. She’s going to pay for it. That’s one smart baby.”
In an exclusive interview with Ed Schultz, Vice President Joe Biden described Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's assertion that stay-at-home Ann Romney, the wife of GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, has "never worked a day in her life" as an "outrageous assertion."
Vice President Biden called a Democratic consultant's assertion that Ann Romney hadn't worked a day in her life "an outrageous assertion" in an interview to air Thursday evening.
Biden joined a chorus of top Democrats -- from first lady Michelle Obama to re-election campaign manager Jim Messina and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- in distancing himself from comments made yesterday by Hilary Rosen.
"My response to that is that’s an outrageous assertion," Biden told MSNBC's Ed Schultz when asked about Rosen's comments.
Rosen said last night on CNN that Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, had "never worked a day in her life."
Surrogates for the Romney campaign pounced quickly; New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte called Rosen's remarks "insulting" in a conference call this morning. Moreover, the Romney campaign has sought to link Rosen to Obama, though Rosen has done no work for the re-election campaign or the DNC (though her firm has done some contract work).
Rosen apologized in a statement this afternoon, pleading with the campaigns to "declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
"Look, I fought my whole career, and I’m no hero, whether it’s the violence against women act or equal pay my entire career as a senator and as a vice president, to get to one point where my daughter is able to make whatever choice she wants and no one question it," Biden said. "My daughter happens to have a master’s degree, she’s a social worker, she’s getting married and if my daughter wants to be able to say I’m staying home and raising my kids no one should question it."
Biden was in New Hampshire on Thursday to deliver a campaign speech about the "Buffett Rule," the Obama administration's proposal that the wealthy be required to pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent.
The full interview with Biden will air at 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC.
Steven Senne / AP
Ann Romney and Mitt Romney address an audience during a victory rally in Schaumburg, Ill., on March 20.
The gender gap has returned to presidential politics with a vengeance as the general election begins to take shape and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney finds his campaign struggling with the pivotal bloc of women voters.
The Romney campaign is waging an aggressive counter-offensive in response to weeks of Democratic assertions that the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican Party are waging a “war on women.”
“They're working desperately to change the subject, and that's why they've created this whole 'war on women' campaign,” Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top-ranking Republican woman in the House, on a conference call organized by the Romney campaign. “There's no war on women by Republicans. What's really going on is a ‘war on reality’ by Democrats.”
Republicans are now working to re-frame issues of importance to women after eager messaging efforts by Democrats to advance the “war on women” narrative, which has contributed to a Republican disadvantage with female voters in 2012. It's a deficit aided by a hard-charging fight over access to contraception led by some Republicans earlier this year.
When Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus asserted in an interview last week that the media would just as quickly report a “war on caterpillars” if Democrats insisted it were the case, the Democratic National Committee pounced, and hyper-actively accused Priebus of trivializing women’s rights by drawing such a comparison.
That Democratic argument reached a fever pitch on Wednesday when a Romney surrogate, speaking on a conference call, hesitated to say whether Romney supported a law making it easier for women to file lawsuits challenging pay disparities.
A spokesperson for Romney said later in the day that the former governor wouldn't do anything to change current law, but Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman, nonetheless called the Romney campaign's momentary failure to provide an answer "utterly shocking."
Ann Romney, the wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, took to Twitter and the airwaves to defend her decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
Now with the primary campaign mostly behind him, Romney has begun working to address the issue on the trail. His rhetoric at a pair of campaign stops – at each of which there were plenty of women sharing the stage – on Wednesday marked a preliminary effort by the Romney campaign to push back against the Democratic storyline.
“The real war upon women has been waged by his economic policies,” Romney said Wednesday in Connecticut. “Let’s hammer day in and day out what has happened under his policies, and recognize those policies, those things he believes, do not work.”
But the Romney campaign’s struggles in their attempts to reach women voters were on equal display as the candidate and his campaign repeated a dubious statistic about women accounting for nine of 10 jobs lost during Obama’s time in office.
It wasn’t until a consultant outside of the Obama campaign suggested that the GOP candidate’s wife, Ann Romney, had “never worked a day in her life” that the Romney campaign was able to stanch Democratic momentum.
That gaffe, at least temporarily, gave Republicans an opening.
The Romney campaign quickly organized a conference call and Ann Romney hit the airwaves for an interview to combat the charges. (Senior Obama officials also quickly disavowed the comments by consultant Hilary Rosen).
But the back-and-forth bickering obscured a larger battle Romney must fight to make up ground with women. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week found Romney trailing Obama by 19 percent among registered women voters. (By contrast, Romney leads by eight percent among registered male voters.)
“It should definitely be a concern,” said Dan Judy, a Republican pollster for North Star Opinion Research. “I don't think they need to hit the panic button at this point, but that's something that you're going to see them work hard on.”
In the Daily Fix, NBC's Andrea Mitchell talks to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and the Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg about the widening gender gap in the general election and Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney.
Romney’s strategy to address his deficit among women has been virtually indistinguishable from his work to court other demographics – like Latinos – or, for that matter, the general electorate as a whole. That is, Romney argues that improving the overall economy is just as paramount to women as anybody else and that the president’s record has fallen far short on that score.
Republicans argue that the former Massachusetts governor’s struggles are partly attributable to collateral damage from a divisive Republican primary season and a persistent focus in Congress and on the state level about access to contraception.
A prime example came in Virginia, where Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell had to back off supporting a controversial proposal to require women to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure before terminating a pregnancy. And Rick Santorum, who suspended his presidential campaign this week, spent weeks answering questions about his personal opposition to birth control.
Romney is likely to make up some of that ground just by virtue of campaigning in a general election environment. ("People haven't had a chance to listen to us or hear us," his wife said in an interview on FOX News.)
But the million-dollar question involves whether much of that collateral damage will linger with Romney, and how he might go about addressing his gender gap.
“They need to drive the conversation away from women’s bodies to the economy," said Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, adding Romney should "come up with some tangible examples of how they can help women on things like employment, health care, education and other issues.”
Schaeffer argued that Romney might package together squarely conservative proposals on entitlements, education and health care in a way that’s appealing to women. She also warned the campaign against being caught flat-footed on issues like the fair pay law a surrogate had declined to speak about on Wednesday.
RealClearPolitic's Erin McPike and The Atlantic's Molly Ball talk about Ann Romney's response to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments.
“They need to think carefully about how to respond to issues like Lilly Ledbetter,” she said.
Cheri Jacobus, the founder of Capitol Strategies, a Republican consulting firm, also encouraged the Romney campaign to employ more women surrogates.
“I think that it’s always helpful to have effective surrogates from all walks of life,” she said.
For their part, Democrats argue that Romney’s deficit with women is about far more than messaging.
“When it comes to connecting with women, it’s not just an optics problem – it’s a substance problem,” said Jess McIntosh, the deputy communications director for the Democratic women’s group, EMILY’s List. “Even if Romney could put a really great spin on his anti-woman regressive policies, they would still be anti-woman regressive policies. And despite what the GOP may think, women notice that.”
But for Romney, making inroads with women might also depend on the kind of women he targets.
The Republican pollster, Judy, suggested that young, unmarried women might be a taller order for Romney to win than, say, suburban, middle-aged mothers. These voters are the ones the Romney campaign is targeting when it rolls out Ann Romney, one of its most effective surrogates for the campaign due to her biography as a mother of five who’s suffered from breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Republican thinking suggests that if Romney steers clear of hot-button social issues like contraception and keeps his focus on the economy, he could be more competitive with Obama in winning the female vote.
“Women voters, especially the more independent-minded female voters in the swing states are critical to either party if they want to win,” Judy said. “Mitt Romney has an opportunity to get some of those women back."
In a room overlooking the White House, the National Right to Life Committee, the nation's oldest anti-abortion-rights organization, announced their support this morning of Mitt Romney.
"It is now time for pro-life Americans to unite behind Mitt Romney," said Carol Tobias, president of the group. "While some would like to call into question Mitt Romney's pro-life position, let me state clearly and emphatically, Mitt Romney is pro-life."
Tobias said the Romney campaign was informed of the endorsement late yesterday afternoon, and she read a statement from the former governor. In part, Romney said he was "grateful for [the NRLC's] support and honored by the trust they have place in me. I look forward to working together to carry out the great responsibility of protecting and defending innocent human life."
The endorsement comes late in the primary calendar compared to four years ago when the NRLC endorsed Fred Thompson.
"There was a different situation in 2008," Tobias said. "There was a pro-abortion candidate in the Republican primary, and we wanted to make sure that he did not get the nomination, so we wanted to select a prolife candidate to support. This year, all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination were pro-life. They actively campaigned as pro-life; they took strong positions. So we early on said we'll be very happy with whoever gets the nomination. At this time, it has become apparent that Mitt Romney will be the party nominee, and we'll do everything we can to help him beat Barack Obama."
Tobias said when they earlier compared all of the candidate's positions and the judges they would appoint "all of the candidates were the same, which is why we stayed neutral in the race until this time when we have apparent nominee."
Tobias addressed concerns of people who feel Romney has flip-flopped on the issue of abortion.
"The pro-life movement is filled with converts," she said, "and we consider Mitt Romney to be one of those. I mean he did support abortion early on in his political career. But Ronald Reagan was pro-abortion early on in his career. We love people who have changed their position. Mitt Romney admits that he has done that, and we are happy to be working with him."
"I understand there are some that still have reservations," she said, "but I think, as the campaign goes on, it is a clear contrast between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I certainly expect pro-lifers to actively campaign for Mitt Romney and defeat Barack Obama."
The organization's Hispanic outreach coordinator Raimundo Rojas also spoke. Reaching out to Hispanic voters who overwhelming support the reelection of Obama over Romney, Rojas cited the disproportionate rate of abortions in the Hispanic community.
"Today, clearly the single most dangerous place for a Latina in these United States is in her mother's womb," Rojas said.
Rojas also attacked "looming tragic reality" of "ObamaCare," saying coverage would be denied, because of the "junta of bureaucrats."
Earlier this morning, another pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony List, also announced their endorsement of Romney.
Ann Romney defended her husband Mitt on Thursday, praising him as someone who respects and admires women both personally and professionally.
Amid an uproar over comments made last night by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who said Mrs. Romney had "never worked a day in her life," the would-be first lady pleaded for "respect."
NBC's Mark Murray discusses women and their role in politics today following Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments on Ann Romney.
"My career choice was to be a mother. And I think we all know that we need to respect choices that women make," Ann Romney said during an interview on Fox News.
The former first lady of Massachusetts has emerged throughout the Romney campaign as a top public advocate for her husband, both on the campaign trail and in television interviews. Her stop on Thursday morning on Fox comes amid a sustained blitz by the Obama re-election campaign and Democrats, who blame Republicans for waging a "war on women."
That narrative has been sustained by recent polling data that shows Romney lagging behind Obama among women voters. ("It's just too early. People haven't had a chance to listen to us or hear us," Ann Romney said of the reason for the gap.)
She echoed Mitt Romney's rhetoric that the economy is the number one issue for women, and also sought to portray her husband as somebody who's attentive to the women around him (pointing out that Romney's lieutenant governor and chief of staff were women).
"Mitt Romney is a person that admires women and listens to them and I am grateful that he listens to me," she said.
Ann Romney said she was bothered by the notion that her husband doesn't respect women. "You should see how many women he listens to; that's what I love about Mitt," she said.
Mrs. Romney also sought to project empathy for women who are struggling in the harsh economic environment.
"I know what it's like to struggle. Maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have, but I can tell you: I've had struggles in my life," she said, referencing, in part, her battles against breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.
DOVER, DE -- Given the opportunity to work in Mitt Romney’s cabinet, Newt Gingrich says he would pass.
Asked by a radio host inside a small diner whether he would work for a Romney administration if given the opportunity, Gingrich answered “probably not” but “not because I am opposed to Mitt.”
“Look, if the choice does end up being Romney versus Obama, I can be very, very enthusiastic for Romney, that is a huge choice. But I had a very good life doing a lot of fun things,” the former House speaker said. “I am very happy to be an adviser. I did a lot of that in the Bush administration both on health care and national security.”
Romney seems to have all but sealed the nomination – he still has not reached the 1,144 delegate count threshold – but Gingrich says he has more explaining to do.
“I’m making the case for a very ideas-oriented, solutions-oriented kind of conservatism, and I think Romney is going to have to explain a lot more of what he would actually do as president,” he said.
Gingrich also leveled sharp charges toward President Obama as well at the Hollywood Diner, where he was interviewed on Elliott in the Morning radio show.
“The thing that Obama does that’s fascinating is,” Gingrich said. “On one hand he has all the instincts of a Chicago machine politician. On the other hand he has all the fantasies of a good college faculty member.”
And the media was mixed in as well – an institution Gingrich claims is Obama’s “enabler.”
“The elite news media gets up every morning thinking how do we protect this guy because he’s so wonderful that even if he’s totally destructive he’s destructive in such a fun way that we really like keeping here there, and how do we protect him from himself, because after all it’s not his fault that he’s crippling the economy, bankrupting the nation, and doing a series of weird things, because we know he really means well,” he said.
Gingrich will continue to campaigning heavily in both Delaware, where voters take to the polls on April 24, and North Carolina, votes on May 8, because he believes wins there may get him back in the game – keeping alive the dream of debating Obama one-on-one this fall.
At Wednesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said the president still isn’t calling it election season yet, even if Mitt Romney is the apparent Republican nominee. Plus, more on the Buffett rule and North Korea’s potential test missile launch.
At Wednesday's White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said the president still isn't calling it election season yet, even if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee apparent. Plus, more on the Buffett rule and North Korea's potential test missile launch.
Romney struggles to close the gender gap, but catches a break… And the campaign proves it can capitalize on a mistake… Biden to blast the “Romney Rule”… Obama to once again talk about the Buffett Rule… Dems seize on the sixth anniversary of Romney’s health-care law… Newt rails against FOX, George Will…. And VP tryout time? Portman stumps for Romney in Pennsylvania.
*** Romney struggles to close the gender gap: Yesterday was Mitt Romney’s first full day as a general-election candidate, and he and his campaign made two things crystal clear: 1) They know they have a problem with women and struggled early on to fix it, and 2) their campaign machinery proved more than adept in capitalizing on an unforced error. Before last night, Team Romney looked borderline desperate to improve its sagging poll numbers with female voters. First, Romney held an event in Connecticut where he was surrounded by women, which essentially screamed: “I have a problem with female voters.” Second, Romney made the dubious charge that women have accounted for 92% of the job losses since Obama took office. (Does anyone believe, with a straight face, that nine in 10 job losses over the past three years have been women workers?) Third, the Romney campaign held a conference call with reporters, but was unable to answer a question whether Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, legislation Obama signed into law guaranteeing that women have the ability to get equal pay for equal work. So, early on, they looked desperate, they were making a dubious charge, and couldn’t answer a reporter’s question.
Steven Senne / AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks April 11, 2012, in Hartford, Conn.
*** But then he catches a break: Then the Romney campaign got a gift. Last night on CNN, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen -- who has no formal role with the Obama campaign -- said that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life. The Romney campaign and GOP establishment went into overdrive on Twitter. “Hilary Rosen attacks Ann Romney, an MS & breast cancer survivor & mom of 5, for ‘never working a day in her life,’” said Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho. Ann Romney even started a Twitter account and said this: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” And she’s now set to appear on FOX during the 10:00 am ET hour, NBC’s Garrett Haake notes. The Obama camp quickly distanced itself from Rosen’s remarks. Said David Axelrod over Twitter: “Disappointed in Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.” Of course, we’re now waiting for some Republican to make a comment about President Obama’s race, or for a Democrat to say something unflattering about Romney’s Mormon faith. Folks, it’s going to be a LONG year…)
Mitt Romney kicked off his general election campaign by aggressively responding to what advisers believe is one of his biggest vulnerabilities – a double-digit gender gap. NBC's Mark Murray reports.
*** And his campaign proves it can capitalize on a mistake: But all of this activity yesterday revealed that the Romney campaign can take a small opening and capitalize -- almost as quickly as Democrats capitalized on the “Etch A Sketch” comment. But that the Romney campaign threw its full weight behind a comment from a Democrat not affiliated with the Obama campaign, and that it decided to make Ann Romney available to talk about it, also reveals the campaign knows it has a BIG deficit with female voters right now.
*** Biden to blast the “Romney Rule”: Meanwhile, Team Obama is continuing to charge ahead on the Buffett Rule -- and hit Romney in the process. Today, at 12:15 pm ET from New Hampshire, Vice President Biden will say, according to excerpts: “The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do. The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.” The Romney campaign this morning is holding a conference call to pre-but Biden, and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) issued this statement yesterday: “I don’t agree with much of what Joe Biden says, but I completely agreed with him in 2007 when he said Barack Obama wasn’t ready to be president. That was true then, and is still true today.” As we noted yesterday, this speech by Biden and the decision to call the "Buffett rule" the "Romney Rule" proves this was a political proposal, not a serious policy one.
*** Obama to once again talk about the Buffett Rule: President Obama is also going to keep talking about the Buffett Rule. Beginning at 2:40 pm ET, he will conduct a round of interviews with affiliate TV stations from Columbus, OH, Cedar Rapids, IA, St. Louis, MO, and Reno, NV.
*** Dems seize on the 6th anniversary of “Romneycare”: And Democrats aren’t just using the Buffett Rule to go after Romney; they’re also making hay on today’s sixth anniversary of Romney signing Massachusetts’ health-care reform (and individual mandate!) into law. The New York Times: “[O]n Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, pointedly said his predecessor should be proud of the law, which has been a hot potato for Mr. Romney on the Republican presidential campaign trail. ‘I know, or at least I sense, that he’s personally proud of it,’ Mr. Patrick said, pointing out that Mr. Romney’s official portrait in the State House depicts him sitting at a desk with a document stamped with a medical symbol, meant to represent the health care legislation.” While we expect Romney to stay silent on this anniversary, it’s worth reminding everyone that the Obama White House was a bit silent on the second anniversary of its health-care law.
*** Newt rails against FOX, George Will: Here’s the problem for Newt Gingrich remaining in the presidential race: Every story that now comes out isn’t a good one. Yesterday, we learned about his bounced check. Now comes him railing against FOX and George Will. “I think Fox has been for Romney all the way through,” Gingrich said, per RealClearPolitics. Gingrich also said Gingrich said that George Will was among the conservative media figures who harbored “personal jealousy” against him.
*** On the GOP trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney is down in Boston, MA…Gingrich campaigns in Delaware…Paul host a town hall event in the Lone Star State
*** Veepstakes watch: Ohio Sen. Rob Portman campaigns for Romney in Greensburg, PA at 6:45 pm ET (looks like some VP tryout time!)…
Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 12 days
Countdown to Election Day: 208 days
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*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up (with guest host Luke Russert): DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard... Latest news on the Trayvon Martin case and John Edwards' court hearing today... One of us (!!!) on the latest Obama-Romney tussle...Zachary Karabell of The Daily Beast and CNBC's "Fast Money" on the realties of the Buffet rule... More 2012 news with NBCLatino.com/Sirius XM's Alicia Menendez, former RNC Chair Michael Steele and National Journal's Jill Lawrence.
*** Thursday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews “Inside the Circus” co-author Evan Thomas, USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich, iVillage’s Kelly Wallace, NAACP Pres Ben Jealous, and former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey.
*** Thursday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include former Bush Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Deputy New York City Mayor Howard Wolfson, the Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and author of “The Art of the Sale, Philip Delves Broughton.
*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews “Titanic” Director James Cameron, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, TheGrio.com Managing Editor Joy-Ann Reid, Newsweek & the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg.
*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews lawyer Kendall Coffey, The Grio’s Joy Ann Reid and Michael Smerconish to talk about the Trayvon Martin case.
GINGRICH: Real Clear Politics: “I think FOX has been for Romney all the way through. In our experience, Callista and I both believe CNN is less biased than FOX this year. We are more likely to get neutral coverage out of CNN than we are of FOX, and we’re more likely to get distortion out of FOX. That’s just a fact.” And this: “The only press events I go to are interesting dinners when the wife insists on it, so we’re going to go to the White House Correspondents' dinner because she wants to. And we’re actually going to go to CNN’s table, not FOX.”
He also accused George Will of “personal jealousy” and said, “I mean, there’s a morning when George ought to just get over it.” (Hat tip: GOP 12)
ROMNEY: Politico wraps the back and forth between Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney. Rosen on CNN said Romney had "never worked a day in her life.” Romney responded on Twitter saying: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” But Rosen didn’t back down. She, too, responded on Twitter with this: "I am raising children too. But u do know that most young american women have to earn a living AND raise their kids don't u?" And she wrote a column on Huffington Post. Romney is slated to appear on FOX today.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and adviser David Axelrod criticized Rosen’s comments on Twitter. Messina: “I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize.” Axelrod: “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”
The L.A. Times: “On a day when Obama's and Mitt Romney’s campaigns battled furiously over whose policies would be more beneficial to women in the workplace, Ann Romney entered the Twittersphere for the first time to respond to comments by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who suggested during a CNN interview that Romney should not be consulting his wife about the plight of women in the workplace.” And: “Rosen, who has no role in the Obama campaign and supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, added that Romney ‘seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women, and I think that comes across, and I think that’s going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn’t really see us as equal.’”
The New York Daily News: The testy words came as Mitt Romney suggested he’ll soon be joined on the campaign trail by Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the GOP race for the White House Tuesday. ‘I think you’ll see us all come together in a very powerful way,’ Romney said in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday. ‘The time for that will happen down the road as we spend more time together, hit the trail together.’ Romney, who was interviewed in New York and autographed a baseball for a fan on Sixth Ave., said not only will they be campaigning together, they’ll also be ‘working together.’”
Romney was in Rhode Island hitting the Buffett Rule. Here’s what the Rhode Island GOP chairman said of the rule: “Buffett earned that money a hundred years ago and is investing it,” Mark Zaccaria said. “If Buffett’s secretary takes some of that hard-earned cash and invests it, she gets the same deal her boss does.”
The Boston Globe notes: “[A] conference call with reporters arranged by his campaign hit a snag when aides were asked whether Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act to help women achieve equal pay, the first piece of legislation Obama signed. ‘We’ll get back to you on that,’ campaign policy director Lanhee Chen said after a pause. Democrats gleefully publicized the exchange. They glossed over the fact that the issue was divisive, and Romney would be in line with many GOP lawmakers if he opposed the measure. The 2009 law makes it easier for women to file workplace pay-discrimination cases.”
And it notes that Romney again used the 92 percent statistic of women jobs losses: “While that statistic is accurate, it overlooks the fact that more men than women lost jobs early in the Great Recession. The record downturn began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, covering approximately President George W. Bush’s last year in office and Obama’s first half-year. Romney’s claim also counts job losses in the first two months of 2009, when the newly inaugurated Obama had scant time to redirect the economy. Government figures show that some 3.4 million men and 1.8 million women have lost jobs since the recession began.”
AP’s Woodward also fact checks Romney’s 92% statistic, which Romney calls “amazing.” “Amazing it may be,” Woodward writes. “As a meaningful measure of Obama's economic record and its effect on women, though, it is dubious at best. … In blaming Obama for ‘turning the clock back 20 years on American women,’ as the Romney campaign puts it, Republicans are hoping to counter Obama's perceived advantage with female voters. But they ignore how recessions generally -- and the last one in particular -- unfold, and they hold Obama accountable for the state of the economy from the time he took office, before his policies could make any difference.”
The Romney bind: “Mitt Romney moved Wednesday to confront one of his most vexing general election problems — how to narrow the gender gap he faces against President Obama — but his campaign immediately found itself squeezed between its intensifying efforts to appeal to women and its need to avoid alienating conservatives,” the New York Times writes.
Univision writes that Romney is trying to mend fences with Hispanics, but his outreach was talking about unemployment in minority communities, not any other initiatives.
Gay advocacy groups say they are deeply disappointed by President Obama’s decision to delay signing an executive order that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the workplace, NBC's Kristen Welker and Ali Weinberg report. The executive order would ban workplace discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation.
The White House disclosed the news during a Wednesday meeting between senior administration officials and several LGBT advocacy groups and left-leaning think thanks including the Human Rights Campaign, Center for American Progress, and the National Gay and the Lesbian Task Force. Those who attended the meeting told NBC News that some of the President’s top advisers including Valerie Jarrett and Cecilia Munoz were in attendance.
A senior administration official says, per Welker and Weinberg, that while the president will not sign the executive order this year, the White House will conduct a study of workplace discrimination against LGBT employees with the expectation of gaining further understanding of the issue and possibly more support for the executive order.
Winnie Stachelberg, the executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress acknowledged the “good work that has been done” by the administration but expressed frustration. “Today’s news that the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors will launch a study to better understand workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans is confounding and disappointing,” she said in a statement.
Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, had a similar response: “We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president.”
But Heather Cronk from LGBT rights group “GetEqual” was more critical. “For those who are looking for support from an Obama White House, this should send chills up their spine.” Cronk said the move was nothing more than election-year-politics. “The president is campaigning on a slogan of we can’t wait, but he’s asking LGBT families to give him his job, but to wait on their job protection. It’s unclear what Obama feels like we can’t wait for.”
A White House official pushed back saying the move had nothing to do with politics and pointed to the fact that the administration conducted a study before "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" was repealed. The administration has also expressed its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which requires Congressional approval. The legislation would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender. Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said in a statement: “The president is committed to lasting and comprehensive change and therefore our goal is passage of ENDA, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination – just as the president pressed for legislative repeal of [Don't Ask, Don't Tell].”
In other news....
The Obama campaign today is trying to push the anniversary of “Romneycare” with a tough video, quoting people who helped him create the law and with footage of him from the signing day on top of a podium on a stage with Romney saying, “This is a politician’s dream, you’ve got to admit.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Romney Faces Heat on Birthday of Massachusetts Health Law.” The state’s Democratic governor on Wednesday celebrated the sixth birthday of the Massachusetts health-care law — and took some jabs at its creator, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney. The ceremony at historic Faneuil Hall was in the spot where Mr. Romney signed the legislation into law in April 2006 when he was governor of the state. He has promised to repeal the national version of the legislation. ‘I think he has a lot to be proud of, he contributed ideas, the individual mandate was one of them…why not be proud?’ said Gov. Deval Patrick, a co-chair of President Barack Obama’s national re-election committee.”
JINDAL: Jindal waved off him as VP: “I've got the job that I want,” Jindal said, per Politico. “Our next challenge is pension reform.”
To that point, the Shreveport Times writes, “Anyone who can count knows the state retirement system is drowning in debt. And anyone who can count votes knows that the governor's original plan to address the problem was drowning in the steady drip, drip, drip of criticism that his proposals are unfair, unconstitutional and — worst of all — unpolitic. While his attention publicly was focused on passing his landmark education bills, Gov. Bobby Jindal was hearing from legislators, his canaries in the coal mine, that constituent complaints about his retirement overhaul bills far surpassed the flak over teacher tenure and private-school vouchers.”
“A day after Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his endorsement of fellow Republican Mitt Romney for president, Louisiana's Democratic Party has endorsed Jindal as Romney's running mate,” Alexandria Town Talk writes. “Big Government Bobby has wreaked enough havoc on the lives of Louisiana's children, working families and teachers, so the Louisiana Democratic Party believes it's time for him to resign as governor so he can leave Louisiana immediately to focus on securing the GOP vice presidential nomination," said Democratic Party spokesman James Hallinan. “Timmy Teepell, Jindal's political consultant, replied, ‘I'm glad to hear there's still a Democratic Party in Louisiana and Obama still has confidence in them.”
MCDONNELL: Bob McDonnell declared Romney would win Virginia. The Washington Post writes: “McDonnell also took aim at Obama’s record on the economy, during both his three years as president as well as his four years as the junior senator from Illinois.” He said, “I would say that certainly going into the race four years ago, people — it was well known President Obama was the most liberal member of the United States Senate. I think he’s governed like that with more big government, whether it’s been health care, more taxes. He’s done virtually nothing to get us out of this crushing and unsustainable and really immoral debt, $16 trillion. His budget would get us to $25 trillion by 2021.”
McDonnell may be tamping down speculation on his potential as VP but he’ll be making foreign trips to England, Germany, and Sweden in June. Currently, he’s in New York with Donald Trump and then heading to Canada. “The Republican governor is currently leading a four-day trip to New York and Canada, which included a reception to promote Virginia tourism, wine and film with Donald Trump on Tuesday and another reception scheduled for Thursday in Montreal,” AP writes.
PORTMAN: Robert Costa at National Review Online interviews Rob Portman, with the headline, “Working-class wonk.” He notes his working-class touch, his avoidance of rhetorical red meat, his having worked with Republicans on a “jobs agenda,” and his closeness with the Bushes. Asked about being VP, Portman said with a chuckle: “It’s not going to happen.”
One reason RomneyWorld may like Portman. This nugget: “Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser, credits Portman for lifting Romney over Rick Santorum, Romney’s chief rival, who lost the state by 10,000 votes, or about one percentage point. Thanks to Portman’s statewide network and dogged stumping, he says, Romney ‘came in here a week before the election, down eleven points, and quickly caught up.’”
On ideology, Portman notes, growing up, “I wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. No one in my family had ever been in politics. My dad thought it was something that got in the way.” (His wife Jane Dudley is a Democrat and was an aide to Tom Daschle.)
Portman settled on anthropology as a major at Dartmough, but seemed more into the outdoors, including kayaking the entire Rio Grande. He still road bikes and mountain bikes. Other facts: John Boehner gave him the tip that the Ohio congressional seat he’d run for would be opening up. He played Joe Lieberman and Al Gore in presidential debate prep. He turned down trade rep. at first, but accepted at his wife’s urging.
GOP 12 digs up this Time article with this nugget: “[Portman] noticed that in a previous debate Gore had left his stool and approached Bill Bradley during an answer — ‘seeming to try a little physical intimidation to rattle him,’ Portman says. Portman did the same with Bush during a prep session, so it was little surprise when Gore pulled the same move on Governor Bush during their final debate. Bush gave him a dismissive nod and continued without missing a beat, prompting laughter from the audience and pans for Gore from the pundits. Point for Bush.”
RUBIO: Jules Witcover writes in the Baltimore Sun: “Forget Rubio and Ryan.”
“He may be only in his second year in the U.S. Senate, but Florida Republican Marco Rubio is going places. Mexico and Colombia, to be precise,” NPR writes. “Rubio's staff confirms he'll be attending the Summit of the Americas this weekend in Cartagena, Colombia. So too will President Obama.”
RYAN: Change in plan? “U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said tax breaks for the wealthy should be reduced as part of an overhaul of the nation's tax code. ‘We should ask: Who should get them?’ Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg in New York. ‘We should circumscribe these tax benefits to middle-income and low-income people, and not to higher-income people.’ Ryan, 42, declined to identify which benefits ought to be cut to finance his proposed tax overhaul.”
The Wall Street Journal notes how Democrats have taken aim at Ryan.
Will Mitt Romney face a protest vote for the remainder of the Republican primary?
The former Massachusetts governor is all but the presumptive GOP presidential nominee after his main challenger, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, suspended his campaign on Tuesday. Romney faces a clear path to the nomination, and only token opposition from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the remaining primaries.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
There's little question Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be the nominee; the bigger question involves whether conservative voters will rally behind his campaign.
There’s little question Romney will be the nominee; the bigger question involves whether the conservative voters with whom Romney has famously struggled this primary season, will rally behind his campaign.
One of the best ways to measure whether conservatives have acceded to the reality of Romney’s nomination will come in the 19 remaining caucuses and primaries. Romney’s likely to win most – if not all – of those contests. Whether he’ll be able to run up the score is a different matter.
If history’s any guide, Romney should look to win at least roughly 70 percent in the remaining contests.
Arizona Sen. John McCain ended his 2000 presidential campaign on March 9, leaving only token opposition to George W. Bush in the form of Alan Keyes for the rest of that primary cycle.
Aside from the contests on the very next day, March 10, when Bush won the Colorado primary with 65 percent and the Utah primary with 63 percent, Bush won all but one of the caucuses and primaries with at least 70 percent of the vote.
The only primary in which Bush fell below that bellwether was the March 21 primary in Illinois, which he won with 67 percent of the vote.
McCain, in his own march to the GOP nomination in 2008, was seen as the prohibitive favorite for the nomination after Romney ended his bid that year on Feb. 7, after Super Tuesday. McCain solidified his hold on the primary after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee ended his campaign on March 5.
Similarly to Bush, McCain didn’t fall once below the 70 percent threshold after that point.
In Pennsylvania, which held its primary on April 22, 2008, McCain won 73 percent of the vote. The only time McCain matched the 70 percent marker – the Mendoza Line, of sorts, of Republican primary enthusiasm – was in the May 27 Idaho primary.
That’s not even to mention that, in most circumstances, McCain and Bush each performed much better than the low 70th percentile.
The Keystone State was where Romney had been expected to face his stiffest opposition of the five states hosting primaries on April 24 this year, at least until Santorum dropped out of the race.
Like McCain, Romney’s struggles in winning over skeptical conservatives have been well-documented.
Even in Wisconsin, the state which Romney won most recently and secured his status as the campaign’s frontrunner, he basically battled Santorum to a draw among “very conservative” voters, almost a third of that primary’s turnout, according to exit polls. Evangelical Christians also broke for Santorum, as did the 20 percent of voters who said it was most important quality in a candidate was that he was a true conservative.
The race may no longer be competitive, but the names of Santorum, Gingrich and Paul will remain on the ballot for most of the remaining contests. Forty-eight percent of non-Romney supporters said in an April 10 Washington Post/ABC News poll that the former Massachusetts governor would be their second choice in a nominee, but 21 percent said Gingrich and another 11 percent said Paul.
There are still lingering questions about when, and in what manner, Santorum might endorse and appear with Romney. That could go a long way toward bringing on board some of the conservatives who harbor lingering doubts about the all-but-presumptive Republican nominee.
The former Massachusetts governor has eagerly begun to pivot toward the general election fight with President Obama. But if Gingrich and Paul’s share of the vote ticks upward substantially, it could put the Romney campaign on uneasy footing, forcing it to continue courting conservatives while also waging a war against Obama for independents.
Brian Snyder / Reuters
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at Alpha Graphics in Hartford, Connecticut April 11, 2012.
HARTFORD, CT-- Mitt Romney pushed back aggressively on Wednesday afternoon against the notion of a Republican-led "war on women," repeating his argument that any such suffering by women is actually the result of President Obama's economic policies.
"This is an amazing statistic ... 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. 92.3 percent!" Romney said, holding a new piece of campaign literature produced today displaying various dismaying economic statistics. "Now the president says, 'Oh, I didn’t cause this recession' -- that’s true. He just made it worse and made it last longer, and because it lasted longer, more and more women lost jobs."
And while independent fact checkers have questioned the veracity of that number, Romney came prepared with other damning numbers he said were the result of the president's poor stewardship of the economy.
"Under President Obama, 858,000 more women are out of work. 858,000 out of work under this president. And finally the total female unemployment rate has gone from 7 percent when he took office in January 2009 to 8.1 percent in March of 2012," Romney said. "This president has failed America’s women and if I’m the next president of the United States I will go to work to get American women good jobs, rising incomes and growing businesses."
Mitt Romney pushed back against the narrative of Republican-led "war on women." Romney told a group in Hartford that President Obama's economic policies have hurt women. Video edited by NBC's Matt Loffman
While Team Romney has pushed back on the idea that the all-but-official GOP nominee has a problem with female voters, his campaign has begun an aggressive outreach effort -- surrounding the candidate with women on stage, as they did today, and having him meet with female business owners, as he did yesterday.
Democrats have touted stories of the GOP's gender gap, and today seized on a comment by a Romney surrogate on a conference call that called into question whether Romney would have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009, which extended the statute of limitations for women to file wage discrimination lawsuits.
As the back-and-forth between the Romney and Obama campaigns flared over social media, the Romney campaign sent three press releases from prominent female surrogates focusing on the economy -- not the Ledbetter act, (which a Romney aide later said he would not change), a strategy Romney appeared to double down on towards the close of his remarks here today.
"This president will do, in his campaign, anything he can to deflect from his record. What I'm going to have to do every day is bring him back to his record. I have to show, for instance, that the policies of this administration have led to 92 percent of the people who have lost their jobs being women in this country," Romney said. "When he says, ‘Oh, there is a war on women,’ let's bring him back to the fact that it is the real war upon women that has been waged by his economic policies. Let’s hammer day in and day out what has happened under his policies, and recognize those policies, those things he believes, do not work."
NBC's Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Chief Justice Correspondent Pete Williams discuss how the recent health care reform arguments affect the 2012 presidential race, and if the Supreme Court's decision could change the Massachusetts health care law.
Thanks to newdayDAWNING...RETURNED, winemaker-4308406 and Nathan-1680585 for their questions!
Video edited by NBC's Morgan Parmet.
MARK MURRAY: Welcome to Inside the Boiler Room and Domenico, after the Supreme Court's oral arguments on health care, the issue of that and the politics are big for a lot of our viewers. We've got two questions.
One from newdayDAWNING who asks, "If the Justice rule against the healthcare law, which side benefits in the upcoming election?"
We got a related question from winemaker who asks, "If Obamacare is found to be unconstitutional, what does this legislation do for the image of the President?"
DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yeah, I think the politics of this are actually pretty tough to figure out. I think there's no question that if you put your historian hat on and this is struck down, that that's a body blow to the President's legacy.
The fact is that this is the signature accomplishment, the signature achievement. Now, but does that mean that he won't win reelection? That's the complicated part of this. I think the fundamental question, the reset, for us to be able to say I'm not sure how much it will actually impact because we're losing sight of the fact that the most important issue is the economy.
Unemployment, it is still is, all this other stuff that's happening below the surface. If unemployment is headed in a direction that appears to show that it's going down, that the economic indicators continue in a right direction for the country, then that's good for the President.
If it's the other way, then he's in a real fight and with a body blow on healthcare, maybe that deflates the base.
MARK MURRAY: Domenico, I think you nailed it. Absolutely. I think it hurts his image. Of course, it actually hurts the whole Democratic Party’s image as well. This is something they’ve spent an entire year on. That members of their caucus ended up losing in the midterm elections because of it.
If the Supreme Court were to strike it down, it would be a huge blow to the progressive community. It's pretty much the liberal left which over the last 40-50 years has been trying for universal healthcare. But the politics, I don't think we have any idea.
There also is the argument too on can Mitt Romney actually seize on this politically against President Obama since he actually also supported a mandate in his own state. That mandate that Romney had in Massachusetts actually is a question that we ended up getting from Nathan who wants to know, "If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, does that pose any danger to the Massachusetts health care law?"
We're actually going to turn to our Justice Correspondent, Pete Williams, who has an answer on that to you Nation. Pete, take it away.
PETE WILLIAMS: If the US Supreme Court were to strike down the Federal health care law, it would probably have very little effect on Massachusetts laws and for two reasons.
First, the federal law is being challenged under the US Constitution. The question is whether congress had the authority to pass it. The challengers say the constitution's commerce clause gives the government broad power to regulate commerce, but not to regulate people not engaged in commerce.
They say that somebody who doesn't have insurance isn't in commerce and can't be regulated. The Obama administration says what it's regulating isn't the insurance market, it's the healthcare system and everybody's involved in that.
Now by contrast, the Massachusetts system was passed by state law. So there's no issue of the Congressional commerce clause because it wasn't passed by congress.
And by the way, the state law has already survived a challenge in state court based on state law.
There's a second reason. The state's generally have broader regulatory authority. They're actually called police powers. Then the federal government does. That's because under our constitutional system, all power not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states.
For those reasons, whatever the Supreme Court does, it probably won't mean much to the Massachusetts system.
Updated 3:31 p.m. - Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-FL) claimed at a town hall meeting that about 80 members of Congress are communists, a remark which has drawn quick fire from opponents.
"I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the democratic party that are members of the communist party," West told supporters at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach, FL. He was responding to a question by a participant who asked, "what percentage of the American legislature do you think are card carrying Marxists?"
Doug Murray / Reuters
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., claimed at a town hall meeting that about 80 members of Congress are communists, a remark which has drawn quick fire from opponents.
Asked to respond to the comments, West spokeswoman Angela Marvin told NBC News that the Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
"The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus," Marvin said in a written statement. "The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies."
"The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself," Marvin continued, "These individuals certainly aren't proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom."
West's office also referred to a post on the website for the Communist Party USA where it says they made a mistake by turning "away from our allies in Congress, the Progressive Caucus, and John Conyers" during their fight for a single-payer system being included in Obama's health care law.
Libro DellaPiana, who is one of the vice chairs of the Communist Party USA, called West's statements "ridiculous" and "a cheap shot."
"There are no members of Congress in the Communist party," DellaPiana said, "We support public parks and I assume Congressmen West does too, that doesn't mean he's a Communist."
Allen West has been thrust into the spotlight after a number of notable Republicans listed him as a possible running-mate for Mitt Romney in the general election. Of those who have called for West to be considered is Sarah Palin, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Herman Cain.
This isn't the first time West has criticized a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In January of last year, West criticized Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN) as "someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established" because he is a practicing Muslim.
A sign of things to come from the Obama White House?
Austan Goolsbee, who served as one of President Obama's top economic advisers, writes in the Wall Street Journal that it's time to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- which would boost oil supply and thus potentially drive down oil prices.
Part of Goolsbee's case is that there's too much oil in the reserve.
Domestic production hit record levels in 2011, at about 9.5 million barrels per day. According to the Energy Information Administration, oil imports have dropped by more than 20% since 2006 -- and imports from sources outside of North America (that is, from Canada and Mexico) are down 30%, to fewer than seven million barrels per day.
Yet despite the decreasing strategic need, we have filled the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to historic levels. During the first 30 years or so of the reserve's existence, its volume averaged fewer than 550 million barrels -- 75% of capacity. It is now at almost 700 million barrels or 96% of capacity (and was at 100% before the release last summer). In 2005, Congress authorized more capacity, to enable the reserve to reach one billion barrels.
And Goolsbee also says that tapping into the reserve -- at current oil prices -- would bring billions in the U.S. Treasury.
Keeping the extra oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a form of insurance policy and so it isn't free. If we reduced the reserve to 510 million barrels from 696 million barrels, the sales would bring in more than $20 billion to the Treasury. Are taxpayers really getting $20 billion worth of value from having an extra 25 days worth of those oil imports sitting in a salt mine in Louisiana?
In an effort to bolster his sagging poll numbers with female voters, Mitt Romney and his campaign have made this new charge: that women have accounted for 92 percent of the job losses since President Obama took office.
Here’s what Romney said yesterday while campaigning in Delaware:
"There's been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know what percentage of job losses during the Obama years of have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men? Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who've lost those jobs."
The Romney campaign also held a conference call making this same point. "The number of unemployed women has increased by nearly a million under Barack Obama," surrogate Bay Buchanan said. "Ninety-two percent of the jobs lost since he took office are women."
But First Read contacted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get to the bottom of this 92 percent charge. The conclusion: The Romney campaign’s figures don’t tell the whole story.
The campaign, in a research document circulated yesterday and on its website, said the numbers come from the “Current Employment Statistics” database at BLS. The document notes that there was a net change of -740,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2009 to March 2012 -- and that women accounted for 683,000 of those jobs.
That is accurate, according to BLS. But Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: “The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong.”
Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.
In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.
“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the ‘net-change’? Yes we do,” Davidson said.
He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”
Independent fact-checkers like Politifact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker also took on the claim.
Giving the claim a “Mostly False,” Politifact called it “misleading”: “We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t.”
“One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring,” Politifact wrote. “We reached out to Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the BLS, for his take on the claim. He pointed out that women’s job losses are high for that period of time because millions of men had already lost their jobs. Women were next. … [I]f you count all those jobs lost beginning in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total. … There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”
The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, begins this way: “[W]e frown on the somewhat arbitrary dividing line of measuring jobs statistics by presidential terms. It is a common journalistic — and political — metric. But restarting the employment clock from the moment the president takes the oath of office doesn’t tell you much about a his performance, especially since it takes time for the new president’s policies to take effect.”
In fact, he writes, “[T]here is less to this stat than meets the eye. … If you start the data in February, then the overall job loss is just 16,000 jobs—while women lost 484,000 jobs. … How could women lose more jobs than the overall total? It’s a function of the dates one picks.”
And notably: “[T]he picture becomes clearer if you start running the data from the date the recession began — December 2007. With that starting point, the total decline in jobs was just over 5 million, with women accounting for nearly 1.8 million of those jobs. Now look what happens when we just look at the past year, March 2011 to March 2012. Men gained nearly 1.9 million jobs while women gained 635,000 jobs.”
*** CORRECTION *** An earlier version of this post noted that the Romney campaign used numbers from January 2009. The campaign has reached out to First Read and notes that it used January 2009 as a "baseline."
"We use January 2009 as the baseline, which means the first month of losses charged to Obama is the decline in February vs. January," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
*** UPDATE *** Saul also passes along a letter written by its policy director, Lanhee Chen, to dispute the Politifact story (and "Mostly False" rating) that attempted a fact check on a Tweet by Saul referencing the numbers. Chen accuses Politifact of a "failure to focus on the appropriate context."
"First, why should it matter that men had already lost millions of jobs?" Chen wrote. "Was it now women’s 'turn'? Is this part of the President’s conception of “fairness” that he talks about so frequently? If the data showed the opposite (i.e. that women had been disproportionately hurt prior to the President taking office), we imagine you would have used that as an indictment of Ms. Saul by arguing that the trend was inherent to the recession and predated the President."
Chen concluded, "In summary, your piece confirms Ms. Saul’s claim as accurate, and then relies on a direct contradiction with a prior Politifact piece and incorrect claims from two publicly acknowledged Obama supporters (including one Administration official!) as the basis for rating it “Mostly False.” I hope you will agree that this rating was inappropriate and that the piece does not reflect the journalistic standards to which your organization intends to hold itself. Please retract the piece and issue a correction as soon as possible."
NEWARK, Del. -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich blamed a bounced campaign check on confusion over campaign accounts, and not any lack of finances associated with his indebted campaign.
The former House speaker, who’s fighting to remain a viable challenger to Mitt Romney in the Republican primary, laughed off a $500 bounced check cut by his campaign that was intended to help him pay to qualify for the Utah primary.
“This is one of those goofy things,” Gingrich told reporters following a speech at a senior citizen center here. “That check was drawn in December. The account actually was closed by the time they processed it. It wasn’t a question of money. That particular bank account was closed.”
The Salt Lake City Tribune reported Tuesday the Utah Elections Director Mark Thomas said Gingrich’s check to get on the ballot bounced and if it was not paid by April 20, the former speaker would be disqualified and not be on the ballot.
Asked if his campaign will fix the issue, Gingrich simply said, "they apparently have it all worked out.” Gingrich campaign spokesman, R.C. Hammond, told NBC News via email: "A new check has been sent. We are confident the state of Utah will list Newt on the ballot for their upcoming GOP primary."
Gingrich is struggling to stay afloat financially. He noted Tuesday afternoon in North Carolina that his campaign will post just under $4.5 million in debt this month, citing excessive spending as his “management team got very excited in Florida.”
But, despite financial problems, Gingrich says he will still take his campaign forward. He believes the race is “not over 'til it’s over" because no one has the required 1,144 delegates to capture the nomination.
“We had 3,500 people send money to Newt.org online after 2 o’clock yesterday saying please stay in,” he said, detailing a spike in donations after Rick Santorum withdrew from the GOP race.
Santorum and Gingrich -- who have publicly acknowledged being friends and talking regularly -- still have not spoken since the former Pennsylvania senator’s departure from the race.
“We’ve been swapping voicemails," Gingrich said. "I hope to get to him after I’m done with you."
Gingrich will hold two more public events in Delaware Wednesday.
With Rick Santorum out of the Republican presidential race, NBC's Mark Murray discusses what was learned from the GOP race and Crossroads GPS a conservative advocacy group joins the TV-ad campaign against President Obama on gas prices.
President Obama sought Wednesday to expand his push for the so-called Buffett Rule by highlighting its support among corporate chieftains and even Republicans.
Flanked by a group of millionaires and their secretaries, Obama hit for another consecutive day on themes of fairness and the need for this rule, which would see million dollar household subjected to a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent.
“Most Americans agree with me, so do most millionaires. One survey found that two-thirds of millionaires support this idea. So do nearly half of all Republicans across America,” Obama said, speaking to an audience of millionaires and their secretaries, intended to personify Warren Buffett’s contention that millionaires should pay at least the same tax rates as their secretaries.
Obama also noted that the concept of closing tax loopholes used by the rich is historically not a strictly liberal idea and that Ronald Reagan -- whom Obama jokingly called a “wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior” for his support of the idea – called the loopholes “crazy.”
He mused about changing the rule’s nickname to the “Reagan Rule” if that might encourage more Republicans to support it.
While the president's remarks didn't include the heavy campaign optics of his speech yesterday in Florida on the same topic, the continued push for the rule still comes against a political backdrop. The Obama re-election campaign has used it to highlight Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's immense personal wealth, and they have demanded for a fuller release of Romney's past tax records.
Republicans have called the Buffett Rule a red herring, pointing to the fact that the law, if enacted, would only make a small dent in the deficit. Obama acknowledged that the rule would only raise about $47 billion over 10 years, but, he said, just because it doesn’t singlehandedly close the deficit doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enacted.
"There are others who are saying, well, this is just a gimmick,” he said. “Well, I agree. That’s not all we have to do to close the deficit. But the notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all.”
NBC's Mark Murray joins Daily Rundown guest host Luke Russert to discuss Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his presidential campaign.
What we learned from the GOP race… And three questions we have after it’s now over: Did Romney win because he was a better candidate than in ’08? Or because the field was weaker?... Did Santorum help or hurt the GOP?... And can Romney win over his conservative critics?... What’s next for Newt? He’s staying in the race… Team Obama releases web video with Romney’s “greatest hits” from the primary season… Obama delivers statement on the Romney -- err, Buffett -- Rule at 10:15 am ET, while Romney camp holds conference call at the same time… And Crossroads GPS joins the TV-ad tag team against Obama on gas prices.
Jeff Swensen / Getty Images
Surrounded by members of his family, Republican presidential candidate, former Sen. Rick Santorum announces he will be suspending his campaign during a press conference at the Gettysburg Hotel on April 10, 2012 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
*** What we learned from GOP race: After 32 state contests, 20 debates, some $190 million spent by the candidates, and $50 million in ads by the various Super PACs, the Republican presidential primary race officially ended yesterday when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign. (Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul would disagree, but it's the reality.) So what we did learn? That money and organization still matter. That a lack of money and organization can get you second place (at least in this field). That, despite all of his advantages, there was a conservative resistance to Mitt Romney. That, despite this resistance, Romney was always the GOP's best chance at defeating President Obama. That the nearly yearlong primary race -- remember, the first debate was in May 2011 -- has taken a toll on the party and its presidential candidates. And that, because of it, the conclusion to the primary season couldn't have come at a moment too soon for the GOP.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that is suspending his presidential campaign, effectively giving the GOP nomination to Mitt Romney. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.
*** Did Romney win because he was a better candidate than in ’08? Or was it simply a weaker field? But the biggest question we have after the past year: Did Romney triumph the GOP nomination because he was better than he was in '08 (when he finished third, behind John McCain and Mike Huckabee)? Supporting this would be his improved debate performances, knocking Rick Perry down in Sept. 2011, and a more comfortable issue terrain (the economy vs. social issues and national security in '08). Or did he win due to extraordinarily weak field? Backing that up would be the quality of his GOP rivals (hello Herman Cain!), his current poll numbers, and his numerous gaffes and unforced errors. We’ll have an answer to this question come November 6. Many in RomneyWorld believe that what they've pulled off -- convincing a Southern conservative evangelical Christian party to nominate a Northeastern moderate Mormon -- doesn't get enough credit. Of course, they wouldn't use the word "moderate" (at least right now).
*** Did Santorum help or hurt the GOP? Here’s another question: Did Santorum help or hurt the Republican Party in this primary race? As we pointed out a week ago, Santorum accomplished a lot: He won more states than Huckabee did in ’08 and as many as Romney did four years ago; he has the potential to be a significant player in 2016 or 2020; and he repaired some of the damage from his ’06 Senate loss. But you could make the argument that the GOP’s current struggles with female voters and independents can be attributed to some of Santorum’s rhetoric on the trail (calling Obama a “snob” for wanting everyone to go to college, saying that JFK’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.”). In the general election, we’re going to see Democrats try to make Romney own some of the things that Santorum said. And unfortunately for Romney, he never aggressively differentiated himself from -- or tried to denounce -- that rhetoric. Team Romney believes it's only casual voters who conflate Santorum's comments on women with Romney. And that in time, Romney can fix this.
*** Can Romney win over his conservative critics? And here’s a third question: Can Romney win over the conservatives who’ve been resistant to him? Just check out some of the quotes in today’s New York Times. Tony Perkins: “I just think it’s going to be a much harder lift to take someone who seems like a moderate and try to get conservatives excited about it.” Richard Viguerie: “After having destroyed every conservative that came on the scene, you can’t say ‘You have to line up behind me.’ No, no, no. Conservatives are not going to jump until they hear where Governor Romney wants to take everybody.” And, of course, we weren’t the only ones to notice the folks who endorsed Romney ONLY AFTER Santorum bowed out of the race -- Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Pat Toomey. In the next couple of months, Romney will have to fight a two-front war -- against Obama and the Democrats and the conservatives who are still kicking and screaming. Romney probably has no choice but to roll the dice that conservatives will rally. The longer he waits to pivot, the harder it will be.
*** And what about Newt Gingrich? He told NBC’s David Gregory that he will stay in the race and focus for the next 10 days on Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and North Carolina. Beyond that, Gingrich said Santorum’s exit clarifies the race. He wants to spend this period defining what the platform should be and what the issues should be. The implication, according to Gregory: He thinks he has more influence staying in right now. But here’s the problem for Gingrich as he stays in the race. He has to battle embarrassing stories like this one: His $500 check bounced in trying to qualify for Utah’s June 26 primary. Gingrich likes to note that he's come back before, even when folks like us referred to him as Bruce Willis' character in the "Sixth Sense." The better comparison might now be to the Japanese soldiers found after WWII in the Pacific who had no idea the war was over.
*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney campaigns in Connecticut and Rhode Island… Gingrich is in Delaware… And Paul holds a town hall in Fort Worth, TX.
*** Romney’s greatest hits (by Team Obama): Now that the GOP primary race is officially behind us, the Obama campaign is out with a searing web video reminding voters of what Romney said during it. “Corporations are people, my friend.” “I like being able to fire people.” “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.” Etc. Bottom line, here’s what the next six months are going to look like: Obama and his allies will try to disqualify him, while Team Romney is going to try to make the state of the U.S. economy stick to Obama.
*** Let’s call it by its real name -- the Romney Rule: Another day, another event around the so-called Buffett Rule. At 10:15 am ET from the White House, President Obama will deliver a statement on the Buffett Rule. But let’s cut to the chase: This isn’t the Buffett Rule; it’s the Romney Rule. While this might not poll well with independent voters, as we wrote yesterday, this Democratic drumbeat is a way to make Romney seem out of touch. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has released this press statement on Obama’s upcoming remarks today: “Sadly, an administration that promised it would focus on jobs is wasting yet another day on a political event that won’t take a single person off the unemployment line.” And at the same time Obama will be speaking, the Romney campaign is holding a conference call on the “Obama economy.”
*** Crossroads joins TV-ad tag team against Obama: This is what the next two or three months will look like as Romney begins to fill his general-election campaign war chest: Crossroads GPS, the outside GOP group backed by former George W. Bush political adviser Karl Rove and others, has a new TV ad knocking President Obama on the issue of gas prices. In what Crossroads GPS says is a $1.7 million buy, the ad is airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. And it's in direct response to an Obama campaign TV ad in these same states -- which was rebutting an earlier ad from a
GOP conservative outside group, American Energy Alliance, with ties to the conservative Koch Brothers.
*** Veepstakes watch: The Wall Street Journal writes that there’s growing buzz over Rob Portman… And check out what Paul Ryan said about Romney: “He's kind of a throwback to the '50s.” He later said: “I grew up watching ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ idolizing Mr. Cleaver, Ward Cleaver, and [Romney] has these great attributes, which is he’s a very nice, civil man and he’s very earnest.”
Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 13 days
Countdown to Election Day: 209 days
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*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander, Family Research Council President (and Santorum 2012 supporter) Tony Perkins, and one of us (!!!) on what Santorum’s exit means for Romney and the GOP going forward… Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) on how Democrats are spotlighting the 6th anniversary of Romney signing Massachusetts’ health care law… Latest on North Korea with NBC’s Richard Engel and TIME’s Jim Frederick… More 2012 news with msnbc’s Alex Wagner, NY1’s Errol Louis and N.Y. Daily News’ S.E. Cupp.
*** Wednesday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Southern Baptist Convention President Richard Land, Roll Call’s David Drucker, journalist Karen Hunter, former US Attorney Zachary Carter, and defense attorney Karen DeSoto.
*** Wednesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews RNC Chair Reince Priebus, Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart, Politico’s Joe Williams, Democratic strategist Karen Finney, and conservative commentator J.P. Freire.
*** Wednesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Santorum National Communications Director Hogan Gidley, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, the Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, New York Times Magazine Editor Hugo Lindgren, former State Dept. Spokesman P.J. Crowley, and The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Santorum Senior Adviser John Brabender, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, Politico’s Maggie Haberman, and Scholastic Books editor David Levithan.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews former US Attorney Kendall Coffey and Michael Smerconish (on Trayvon Martin), Hogan Gidley from the Santorum Campaign, AB Stoddard and Steve Deace (on the road forward in Politics 2012), and Zachary Karabell (on Obama and the Buffett Rule).
The AP’s Babington writes, “The 2012 presidential general election has begun. It won't be pretty. … Romney and Obama wasted no time in portraying the voters' choice in dire, sometimes starkly personal terms.”
“The inevitability is now the reality: Mitt vs. Bam for the White House,” the New York Daily News writes, “Rick Santorum’s announcement Tuesday that he will stand down has cleared the way for Mitt Romney to declare victory — and launched the fall campaign with a vengeance.”
And check out this quote from a “top Romney confidant”: “The fact is that this is the first day of the general election. Not Labor Day, but today. It’s here.”
Overlooked with all the news yesterday was President George W. Bush’s speech in New York City, in which he said this about the “Bush tax cuts”: “I wish they weren’t called the Bush tax cuts. If they’re called some other body’s tax cuts, they’re probably less likely to be raised.”
That’s quite the revelation from the former president about his presidency and legacy -- that he feels his name has been that polarizing.
GINGRICH: “Five Republicans have filed the necessary papers and $500 fee to qualify for the June 26 Utah presidential primary election, but with Rick Santorum dropping out of the race Tuesday, only four will be on the ballot,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports. “Or possibly three. Newt Gingrich’s check bounced.” More: “[I]f the fee isn’t paid by April 20, Gingrich will be disqualified and will not be on the ballot.”
ROMNEY: The Romney campaign is claiming that 92 percent of jobs lost since President Obama took office were women. Buzzfeed: “According to the Romney campaign, the 92 percent figure was reached by examining the net jobs lost under Obama (-740,000) and the decline in the number of women who are employed (-683,000).”
The New York Times “Mr. Romney’s figure of 92.3 percent is one his campaign began citing earlier in April. It is based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show a net loss of 740,000 nonfarm jobs since Mr. Obama’s inauguration. Women have lost 683,000 jobs in that time, or about 92 percent. But the number drew a skeptical response from the fact-checking Web site PolitiFact, which pointed out that historically in recessions, men are the first to lose jobs in industries like construction, and women’s layoffs — in fields like education and government — follow. The statistic, which appears to be a talking point Mr. Romney intends to use regularly, was rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact.”
U.S. News points out: “It's also accurate to note that many more women who lost their jobs have found new ones.”
“The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong,” Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read. Davidson notes that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in January 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change. In January 2008, they made up 48.8 percent of the workforce, in Jan. 2009, they were 49.5 percent, now they are 49.3 percent.
“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the net change. Yes we do,” Davidson said. He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”
A former Romney adviser said economic uncertainty gives Romney a chance, but he’s not guaranteeing victory. “Voters are angry,” Mark Murphy said. “They’ve got their Frankenstein torches; they’re just not sure which castle to burn down.”
Romney heads to Connecticut and Rhode Island today.
SANTORUM: “Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday, ending a dogged and increasingly Quixotic crusade to emerge as his party’s conservative champion and effectively handing the Republican presidential nomination to Mitt Romney,” the Boston Globe writes. “Santorum’s decision allows Romney to begin the urgent task of trying to heal the wounds from a divisive and sometimes brutal primary while broadening his appeal to independents who will be crucial to his effort to defeat President Obama in the fall. Santorum had proved to be the fiercest challenger to Romney’s claim on the nomination, in a campaign season that has seen that mantle pass repeatedly from candidate to candidate. But he was ultimately overmatched in money and organization, and it would have been nearly impossible for him to collect the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination.”
AP: “From obscure former senator driving a pickup truck across Iowa, Rick Santorum made a surprising -- he calls it miraculous -- leap to become the most formidable threat to Mitt Romney's march to the Republican nomination. His shoestring campaign, which ended Tuesday, was a constant reminder of Romney's trouble connecting with the party's conservative core.”
AP also compiles some of the greatest Rick Santorum hits against Romney.
The New York Post: “Rick Santorum yesterday pulled the plug on his presidential campaign, ending a long-shot bid that did better than anyone expected but ran out of steam.”