tv Politics Nation MSNBC October 16, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT
"hardball." at 8:00 rachel and i will lead the predebate coverage and then the debate and we'll be back after the debate for all reaction and analysis. stay up late for a midnight edition of "hardball." "politicsnation" with al sharpton starts right now. >> thanks, chris. and thanks to you for tuning in. tonight's lead -- fight night in new york. just under three hours away from what could be the biggest night of the campaign. obama/romney, round two. this debate is a town hall foremate. the two candidates will answer questions from undecided voters. one question everyone is asking, will president obama bring the heat tonight? will he challenge mitt romney's claims on taxes, on abortion, on jobs? late this afternoon sources told nbc news the president does,
indeed, plan to hold moderate mitt accountable for the positions governor romney took for the last year. before leaving for new york this morning, he seemed relaxed. >> how are you feeling about tonight? >> i feel fabulous. look at this beautiful day. >> what are you going to say? >> gorgeous. hope you enjoy the day. >> are you aware michelle voted for you yesterday? >> thank goodness. >> for governor romney, the question is, can the candidate, known for being out of touch, connect with people in the town hall setting? how will he handle a tougher president obama? they are big challenges for both. the tension is high. the stakes are even higher. joining us from hofstra university, the site of tonight's debate, is howard dean, former governor of vermont and former chairman of the democratic national committee. thanks for your time tonight, governor. >> thanks.
nice to be here. this loud place tonight. they're ready for them. >> let me ask you, governor, you and i have been in debates together in 2004. president obama said he was too polite in the last debate. what are we going to see from him tonight n your opinion, governor? >> well, the american people root for the underdog. i think the president is the underdog in tonight's debate and he needs to come out smoking. he needs to call mitt romney on things he said. he took three positions on taxes and three positions on immigration, annual a week before the debate last time. i think the president will call him on that and then the president has to go ahead and say what he's going to do, because mitt romney has no plan for the economy, he has no plan for defense and he has no plan, period. the only plan he has is he wants to be president of the united states. president's been president for four years. he's got to say what he's going to do in the next four. >> now, does the president have to try to find middle ground between confronting mr. romney without looking like he's being
antagonistic and, quote, nonpresidential? how does he find that delicate balance, governor? >> i think that's what he was trying to find last time and it apparently didn't work. i saw the debate and i thought he did fine. i know the media doesn't think so. he needs to go after romney. romney is questionably qualified for president. his positions on defense are very unusual. his positions on the kind of rights for women are certainly out of the mainstream. and i think the president has to go after him. the president's going to defend american values in this debate here. and i think he needs to make mitt romney show he's either out of step or he doesn't seem to have any core principles. one of the two. >> i threw out romney lied throughout the last debate. i think that the vice president went after ryan. didn't use the term lied but he use everything synonymous with it. how far should the president press romney on his lack of
being transparent and candid about his record? >> well, i think he -- first of all, he ought to talk about being transparent on his taxes. this guy has a swiss bank account and cayman island account and he wants to be president of the united states? people are suffering where they can't pay their mortgage and their kids' college tuition bill. i wouldn't say the use word. i think he changes his position and tells people whatever they want to hear. that's actually worse than not telling the truth. >> how challenging will it be for the president to connect with voters in a town hall -- in a town hall setting and engage romney at the same time? he has to answer the questions, relate to those in the audience, but at the same time confront romney? >> well, i'm having a little trouble hearing because i think the coke brothers' helicopter just went over the scene here. no, i think the president has to confront mitt romney. this can't be just about
confronting mitt romney. it has to be about leadership. the suspect a leader. he's been a leader for four years. he has to show he's a leader and say what he's going to do. i think he ought to swat romney aside because he doesn't have any positions i can figure out, that have been in one place for more than a week or so, and then he has to say what he would do. the president has to say what he has done and what he would do in order to lead. this president doesn't have a bad record. the truth is, we are better off than we were four years ago. and the president shouldn't be ashamed of that. >> so, aside from confronting romney and not letting romney get away with, what you would say, different things, i would call lies and other things, he should establish his record and project what he's going to do in the next four years? >> that's right. the most important is projecting what he would do for the next four years. romney has no plan. he said he's going to generate 12 million jobs. conservative economists say, no, it's only 2 million. he says he's got a five-point plan to do this. you look under the hood, there's nothing there.
he's going to give $5 trillion -- excuse me, he's going to cut $5 trillion or cut taxes, whatever it is. middle class people are going to pay for that. this is a hocus pocus campaign, al, that's all it is, hocus pocus. the president needs to call him on that and then say what he would do otherwise. what people are looking for in this country is leadership. mitt romney got away with pretending he was the leader the last time. he won't get away with it tonight. >> governor howard dean, thank you for your time tonight. >> thanks a lot, al. >> joining me here in studio is krystal ball and steve kornacki. thank you for joining me tonight. >> thank you, reverend. >> steve, who has the bigger challenge tonight between the president and former governor romney? >> i think it's obama. it clearly is. we have seen a sustained bounce for mitt romney after the first debate. a bigger bounce than most people thought he was going to get or would be able to get and a more enduring bounce than people thought possible. you're running a risk where one of the biggest things that
happened that's positive for romney coming out of the first debate, is that his positive personal ratings went up pretty dramatically. he had a problem extending out of the primary. s, through conventions into september, where he was more disliked by people than liked. we've never seen that in a presidential nominee. he took a major step in the first debate toward overcoming that problem. in part because he was able to be assertive, confident, without being challenged by the moderator, without being challenged by obama. not that obama has to show more of a fight himself and show he's fighting for this thing, he needs to go after -- like governor dean said, he needs to go after romney that puts romney on the defense a little bit. when romney is not on his script, when he's not reading off his prepared mark remarks, that's when he gets in trouble. makes people scratch his head and people say, what is this guy talking about here? that's what romney -- if he can maneuver into a corner like that. >> so, the president's challenge, steve feels s to get romney off his game and at the
same time deal with projecting who he is as president. doesn't romney also have a challenge that now he's gotten this bounce bigger than most thought, that he's got to maintain that kind of appeal so people don't think it was a fluke and that he was just being scripted and that's not the real romney? doesn't he have to rise in his performance tonight? >> absolutely. expectations for him going into the last debate were so low that i think when he didn't show up in a top hat, people thought he performed positively. i would disagree with steve a little bit. i think the stakes are higher for the president, but i actually think governor romney has a bigger challenge because he's outlined a set of policies that are toxically unpopular if he actually describes his real policies and meanwhile has made statements that are in contradiction to those policies. so, he's got to navigate those waters. and that's a lot more complicated of a thing. especially now that the president knows that that is
mitt romney's game plan. he's going to come in and try to make a rhetorical attack to the center. he has a game plan coming in so he knows how to deal with that. i would say, again, while the stakes are very high for the president, that cannot be overstated. i think romney has a very tough challenge -- >> since, steve -- since i tend to see her point because krystal is right, since he distorted, lied, whatever way you want to go with it, he has to remember the lies and remember the distortion. >> be consistent. >> i will tell you, though, and i remember this guy from when he ran for governor of massachusetts in 2002, he won that race in a democratic state against shannon o'brien. he is very good in these settings when he's on his script. that's what we saw in the first debate. it's true. he has all of these vulnerabilities on policy questions. there are two problems here. one is that obama did not force him onto the defensive at all in the first debate. the second is that the breadth of topics discussed in the first
debate was very narrow and favorable to romney. nothing about women's health issues came up, nothing about immigration, nothing about climate change. this was supposed to be the big domestic policy debate. it was really limited to jobs, economic growth, health care. obama has a record there to defend. but it meant obama was on the defensive for that debate. all the stuff that got romney in trouble for six months out of this year was off limits. that's got to come up tonight. >> let me show you romney in the last debate and him bending the truth a little. take a listen. >> i will not reduce the share paid by high income individuals up. know and your running mate keep saying that. it's a popular thing to say with people but it's just not the case. regulation is essential. you can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. number one, preexisting conditions are covered up my plan. >> how do you knock him off his game? >> i think the president had a pretty good line in that debate. it was one of his stronger moments where he said, now he's been talking about this plan, now he shows up here and says,
never mind. so, i think he has to continue to say, you know, this is what governor romney has been running on, and the math simply doesn't add up. if he really wants to cut taxes by 20% at all levels, the middle class has to pay for that. and to force the specifics. you know, the thing i actually am excited about is that this is a town hall debate, so you'll be getting actual questions from citizens. it makes it less predictable. it means you're not going to be focusing on the kind of topics that washington insiders care about like simpson/bowles, dodd/frank -- >> a things people don't understand. >> the kitchen stuff that people decide this election on. >> i give you 100 bucks if a citizen mentions simpson/bowles in this debate. i don't think it's on anybody's mind other than -- >> you know, this is the romney -- but the format tonight is as a town hall meeting. a participant will ask a question. candidate a will answer followed by candidate b. the moderator will ask a
follow-up question for discussion. and i think that, you know, we're going to see where that goes because it does bring the difference in the questions to what ordinary people have. and i think that when i keep saying i feel that romney lied and others say it's policy, there's one thing when you take a different policy position. it's nothing when you say, my health plan includes a plan for preexisting condition. that's a lie. that's not a policy change. >> if you are obama and he goes down that road on that subject or anything else, have you to the goth to be ready to pounce. you have got to make it absolutely clear to people, who don't follow this stuff day in and day out basis that this is not true. and i -- the failure of obama to do that in the first debate, i mean, that's what set so many people off. the openings were there time and again. he didn't even detect them. >> the issue is mr. romney and the president, are they going after their base, to energize their base, or are they going
after swing voters? >> i honestly think the most important thing is to fire up your base, because the most devastating thing for the president, last time, wasn't even his performance. it was the judgment of his base that he performed poorly, and the depression among the base thinking, oh my goodness, we could lose, all that hang-wri hand-wringing. if the base sis fired up, sees the president getting positive reviews. >> swing voters, what should they go after? >> i think it's a specific suck set of voters. that's women. that's where obama has had an outsized advantage among women. that started to erode in the last two weeks after that first debate. that's why i think it's important for obama, if he can, to move the discussion away from the narrow framework set for the first debate and talk about some issues that created that gender gap in the first place. >> that's a good segue because we're going to be talking about women next.
thank you, steve kornacki and thank you, krystal ball. i might say the vice president did do a good job of firing up, so much his opponent had to use a lot of water that night, mr. ryan. you can catch both of them on "the cycle" weekdays at 3 p.m. right here on msnbc. coming up, why shouldn't we be surprised or you be surprised to see president obama landing some big political punches tonight? >> when governor romney said we should let detroit go bankrupt, we said, no, we're not going to take your business advice. we reinvented a dying auto business that's come roaring back to the top of the world. we have come too far to turn back now. and look at this, paul ryan in a soup kitchen. why is the guy who takes from the poor washing pots? we've got the real story behind it. and it's a mess. all that plus a woman's right to
choose is in serious jeopardy. how do you call out a candidate who wants to repeal roe versus wade but won't admit it? big news from the president today on that strategy. you're watching a special edition of "politicsnation" as we get ready for what could be the biggest night in this campaign, on the place for politics, msnbc. [ male announcer ] this is rudy. his morning starts with arthritis pain. and two pills. afternoon's overhaul starts with more pain. more pills. triple checking hydraulics. the evening brings more pain. so, back to more pills. almost done, when... hang on. stan's doctor recommended aleve. it can keep pain away all day with fewer pills than tylenol. this is rudy. who switched to aleve. and two pills for a day free of pain. ♪
determination. >> that was the silence heard around the country last week. paul ryan left very little doubt what a romney/ryan presidency would do to a woman's right to choose. roe versus wade is in serious and immediate danger. governor romney has said so himself. >> do i believe supreme court should overturn roe v. wade? yes, do i. >> no question. a woman's right to choose is under one of the biggest challenges in decades. but the issue did not come up in the first debate. sources say the president will call out governor romney's stance on abortion rights tonight. and this is a real vulnerability for him. he's tried to back away from it. and he had to be corrected by his own campaign twice. >> do you intend to pursue any legislation specifically regarding abortion? >> i don't -- there's no
legislation with regarding -- in regards to abortion that i'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda. >> oh, no, i'm not familiar with that. never even heard of it. my agenda? come on, no way. look, we've seen him say whatever's convenient. he's tried to muddy the waters on this issue. just today we found this romney mailer in virginia. it reads, quote, it's your health. shouldn't it be your choice? it's a mailer about health care. but by using the word "choice" the romney campaign seems to be implying something else. a romney presidency means roe versus wade would be in the greatest peril it's been in two decades. and tonight he must be confronted on it. but how do you call out a candidate who wants to repeal roe versus wade even if he won't admit it? it's political jujitsu and it's
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in tonight's debate mitt romney will be trying to convince us that he really cares about the regular folks. that he understands the problems of the poor and the working class. his running mate paul ryan was trying to do the same thing over the weekend, when he stopped by a soup kitchen in ohio for a photo op that became a big mess. ryan was hoping to show he felt their pain. instead, he exposed the shallowness of his campaign. turns out, romney showed up long after the soup kitchen's
breakfast, long after most of the people used its services were already gone. >> thanks for letting us come by. >> yeah, that's okay. >> looks like we're after meal time. >> it was over. the soup kitchen was empty but that didn't stop ryan's photo op. inside the kitchen, most of the dishes were already done. look, you can see them stacked up, sparkling clean. there were just a few dishes intentionally left dirty for ryan to rinse off for the cameras. in fact, a volunteer says, quote, it was all about him coming in and doing dishes for publicity. we had to save dishes. we would have gone home by the time he arrived. these people volunteering their team had to stay late just so ryan could get his photo op. when he finally showed up, ryan was there for just 15 minutes.
and for much of that time, all you could hear was the click of the cameras. >> i need some more soap. need good hot water. >> the soup kitchen volunteers says, quote, it was the phoneyest piece of baloney i've ever seen. that i've ever been associated with. and in hindsight, i would have never let him in the door. t that just about sums up the entire romney/ryan ticket. joining me now is ezra klein, washington post columnist and msnbc policy analyst and alicia
menendez. thank you for joining us. >> hey, rev. >> ezra, 62% of the cuts in paul ryan's program come from what help the poor, $3.3 trillion. does paul ryan really think skrubing a few pans in a soup kitchen will scrub that from his record? >> that's not the photo op, it's the kitchen. that soup kitchen gets federal funding, about $17,000 in federal funding every year, a couple hundred thousand from private donations. the kind of federal funds that go to groups like that soup kitchen are from the parts of ryan's budget that get squeezed the absolute hardest. what he's done -- doesn't cut social security, doesn't cut defense, doesn't increase taxes. as such, where he really had to get those savings are in the parts of the budget that end
going to low-income programs for the part and in particular state aid which is where a lot of those grants come from. >> so, he cuts things like the soup kitchen and then he poses in the soup kitchen and no one confronts him. should the president confront romney about the ryan budget that he endorsed and he has the running mate and raised the question, how do you cut from the poor and working class while you use them as props for photo ops? >> i think it would be even better if that question comes from someone in the audience tonight. but, yeah, i think it's incumbent on president obama to draw that type of contrast. we know why paul ryan was there. this election is going to come down to suburban women. they're not a fan of ryan's budget, so they want to show this image of them catering to the very poor. the problem with that, critics will point out, is that these charities are supposed to be there when people fall through the safety net. they're not supposed to actually be the safety net.
so, to ezra's points, you can't make cuts to medicare, to social programs, to things that are actually supposed to be our collective safety net. and then try to portray an image as though you understand the plight of the working class. >> ezra, as phoney as that picture ends up being, that video and photo ops, is the smoke and mirrors around the ryan's budget? i mean, you've done a lot of work on it. what does the ryan budget really do to working people in this country? and what does it do to the wealthy? >> the ryan budget cuts essentially all spending that goes to working people. significantly. in fact, the largest cuts pretty much in the budget come either from medicaid or the everything else that doesn't go to defense or seniors. >> that's the largest cut? >> that is the largest cuts. about two-thirds of the cuts there. by the way, romney's budget more extreme than ryan's. ryan is looking for $5.3 trillion in cuts. romney is up to around $7
trillion and he doesn't cut medicare, so that's now around $8 trillion. that's all coming -- what does the government do that's not senior, defense or taxes -- it's low-income programs. >> what is the truth about the tax cuts? >> the tax cuts in ryan's budget are more -- again, are on the other side, more extreme than in romney's budget. they do -- as i remember, they go down to a 25% top tax rate. it is just a giant tax -- like romney's budget, they say they will pay for it. they haven't offered any pay fors. if you believe them, somehow make this math add up, which everybody seems to think they can't do when they run the numbers, even if you believe them, the fact they won't raise a dollar in taxes means in order to cut the deficit, they need to take that money, because they don't want to touch social security, they don't want to touch defense, they need to take that money mostly from programs that go to low income americans. >> alicia, should the president challenge on his and ryan's specific budgets and his tax cut plans? >> i think he has to.
i think it's the biggest contrast in this election. it's the -- it's the basic choice that is framing this entire election. and i think, unfortunately, many americans are unfamiliar with the details that ezra just laid out. so, if the president can quickly, swiftly articulate his own budget, the ryan budget, the romney budget, the tice between them, i think that will be a major selling point, particularly with middle class voters who would be hardest hit by romney/ryan tax plans. >> alicia, we've seen a more clear contrast in two candidates' positions in women's rights and roe versus wade. and we are looking at the fact that governor romney, when questioned about his favorite justices, he said john roberts, alito, clarence thomas, scalia, all four an absolute threat to
roe versus wade and women's right to choose. for some reason, that makes no sense to me, it did not come up in the first debate. it has to come up tonight. how will it affect romney if, in fact, it surfaces tonight and he has to deal with the fact that he is on record saying he is for the repeal of roe versus wade and he would appoint judges in the light of roberts, alito, thomas and scalia? >> it does a lot to mobilize the democratic base. you know, we know four years ago president obama won by 13 points with women, a lot of that unmarried women, women who have never been married, women who have been married and divorced, women who have been married and widowed. for that poers of the democratic base it's a huge issue. you have the "usa today" poll out. when they asked men about the biggest issue in this election, open-ended question, most of them talked about the economy. when they pose the same question to women, 4 in 10 women saying it was abortion, access to choice, that was the biggest
issue for them. i've never seen numbers like that before. and i think that's very clarifying. it's mobilizing for the democratic base. and it absolutely will be toxic for romney if it comes up tonight. >> ezra klein, alicia menendez, thank you for your time tonight. coming up, on the day of the big debate, a major blow for right wingers trying to suppress the vote. big news from a key battleground state. and it's the question everyone is asking -- how aggressive will the president be? we have news on his plan of attack tonight. you will want to hear this. you're watching "politicsnation" on a big debate night here on the place for politics, msnbc. ♪ this is the car that loves to have fun ♪
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but, you know, the good news is that's just the first one. i think we'll see a little more activity at the next one. >> president obama may have been too polite at the first debate, but he's shown before he can thrown a punch when he has to. remember in 2008, his bat was against the wall, in south carolina against hillary clinton, he needed a win. and in a big debate, he came out swinging. >> but when you comb my 4,000 votes in illinois, choose one, try to present it in the worst possible light, that does have to be answered. that does have to be answered. >> i did not say anything about ronald reagan. you said two things. you talked about ronald reagan and the ideas of the republican. >> well, i was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shiftover seas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of walmart. i was fighting these fights. i was fighting these fights. >> there's no doubt this
president can throw a punch when he wants to. the question tonight is, just how hard should it be. joining me live from hofstra university, site of tonight's debate, is congresswoman debbie wasserman schultz, chairwoman of the democratic national committee. thank you for coming on the show, madame chairwoman. >> thank you, al. >> the president -- >> good to be with you. >> the president says, we'll see some more, quote, activity tonight. what do you expect? >> i think we'll see president obama talk about his clear vision for moving america forward. his plan to create a million manufacturing jobs, his plan to cut tuition increases in half, his plan to make sure we can hire 100,000 new math and science teachers, but we'll also see tonight is president obama making sure that mitt romney is held accountable and not allowed to hide and distort and simply set aside his severely
conservative policies that he's been running on for the last 18 months. >> you know -- >> policies like his $5 trillion tax cut plan, which he says doesn't exist, which we clearly know increases taxes on the middle class to pay for budget-busting tax rates for millionaires and billionaires. >> we know, madame chairwoman, that mr. romney did not get challenged in the first debate by the president. when he does get challenged, he gets a little flustered when he gets backed into a corner. let me show you this. >> 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet? >> when you release yours, will you follow your father's example? >> maybe. i don't know how many years i'll release. i'll take a look at what the -- what our documents are. i'm running for office for pete's sake, i can't have illegals. >> he doesn't seem to take a punch too well, congresswoman. when he's hit, he kind of
wobbles and loses his place. if there's more activity tonight, the president may be able to rattle him and him not come off as this confident presidential appearance that he came off in the first debate. >> reverend al, i think the important thing tonight is that the american people will continue to have the opportunity to see the very clear choice and the stark contrast. in is a town hall meeting-style debate. it will be an opportunity for both candidates to connect with the folks in the room, connect with the voters watching at home. mitt romney has not done that very well because he has such extreme positions on issues like education, on health care, on immigration reform, that it's hard to be in touch with middle class working families when you are so dramatically out of step with those same families. and when you've dismissed 47% of the american people as victims, dependent on government who don't want to take personal responsibility for themselves. so, it's going to be interesting.
but the bottom line is that mitt romney is not going to be able to run or hide from his extreme positions that now he's simply trying to pretend don't exist. >> yeah. you know, women's right to choose didn't even come up in the first debate. one, were you disappointed? two, do you think it will definitely come up tonight? >> well, i think it will come up tonight because i'm sure that the people in the audience who are asking questions will have an opportunity to submit a question on women's -- a woman's right to make her own reproductive choice, which mitt romney has consistently and overwhelmingly opposed. he said he would be delighted to sign a total ban on abortion if it was sent to him on his desk by the congress. he embraced the platform of the republican party which has no concessions for rape, the life of the mother. this is a candidate who would really leave women in a
situation where they could not make reproductive choices. when it comes to his goal of repealing obama care, they would no longer be able to get a wellness visit without a co-pay or deductible or birth control so that we can prevent unwanted pregnancies and let women make their own choices about when and how to start a family. >> chairwoman debbie wasserman schultz, thank you for your time tonight. >> thank you so much, reverend al. coming up, before the big night, the supreme court deals a major blow to a key republican fighting to block the vote. big news out of ohio. and debates are known for moments. we will get one tonight. we're going back to the classics. this is a special edition of "politicsnation" on the place for politics, msnbc. [ mother ] you can't leave the table
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bush was caught checking his watch, leaving viewers wondering if he was bored with the debate and his job. by contrast that same night bill clinton crossed the stage to engage a woman in the audience and show he understood the economic pain she was enduring. in 2000 most of the post-debate buzz was about -- was all about how al gore invaded george w. bush's personal space. so, will there be a big moment tonight? joining me now is erin mcpike from real clear politics and dana milbank from "the washington post." thank you for joining me. >> hi, reverend. >> thank you. >> erin, let me go to you first. does the president need a big moment tonight? >> not so much as a big moment. he really just needs to have a big night. you know, everyone's been talking about how his debate performance two weeks ago was just not very strong, so what the president has been doing is practicing, getting more
aggressive but not too aggressive because he'll be answering voter's question as opposed to a moderator's questions, so he'll be talking to real people tonight. >> dana, when you look at the history of these kind of debates, you have certain moments that stick out. let me show you a few. mr. reagan, quayle, benson. >> i will not make age an issue of this campaign. i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. >> i have as much experience in the congress as jack kennedy did when he sought the presidency. >> i served with jack kennedy. i knew jack kennedy. jack kennedy was a friend of mine. senator, you're no jack kennedy. >> dana, can these moments really make or break a candidate? >> they absolutely can, rever d reverend. you really don't know in advance whether you're going to see one.
many times people attempt these moments and they fall flat. so, i think both candidates are going to be wary of trying to force one of these punch lines in there. but that doesn't mean they're not going to be quite aggressive. you're going to see, i think, a much more feisty debate this evening. and the obama folks are telling me they're going to hit particularly hard on the issue of jobs. my "post" colleague glenn kessler came out with a study based on romney's own numbers today saying his 12 million jobs plan is made of whole cloth. it's baloney, based on studies of a different time frame and aren't addressing romney's jobs plan at all. this has fallen into the president's lap. i expect him to hammer at that very hard this evening. >> so, you expect the president and are you being told the president will hit hard and hard on the jobs and the issue of
mr. romney's economic plans? >> absolutely. any -- basically, the president could spend the entire night saying you're wrong about this, yong about this, making up your facts about this. that's not fruitful. what he wants to do is zero in on things relevant to the middle class. that's the economy. that's particularly jobs. this particular thing of the center of romney's campaign, the 12 million jobs, has fallen apart on this very day. it's a very natural thing for obama to be hammering away at. he's going to try to keep coming back to that. >> erin, what do you expect tonight? what are you hearing? >> we talked to rob portman today, the senator from ohio who has been coaching mitt romney. and what portman says is they don't know which barack obama will show up tonight. the very same thing they were saying about vice president biden last week. they know he will be more aggressive but they just don't know how aggressive he's going to be. they've had to be a little careful about their debate prep because they don't want mitt
romney to have a bad moment where he's too aggressive. now, i think we'll hear a lot about the $16 trillion debt from mitt romney. what i don't know yet about how much we're going to hear from the president is that the unemployment rate a couple weeks ago dropped below 8% for the first time in years. which obviously is a good number for the president. the obama campaign hasn't pushed that heavily and it will be interesting to see what the president does with that tonight. >> if mr. romney decides to attack, dana, and say the -- on economic issues and even question the unemployment numbers, as some in the extreme right has, is the president going to attack back or is the president going to use it as a teachable moment? >> president obama is prepared to -- i don't think he's going to rattle off statistics like he's some sort of professor but he's going to talk about 5.2 million private sector jobs created, a long stretch of
positive employment reports. the monthly unemployment figs go up and down. he doesn't want to dwell on that too much. he does want to draw romney into a discussion of the auto industry. there will be a lot of statistics but all focused on job creation, raising doubts about romney's plans and actually demonstrating what has been done today. >> this is a town hall setting. do you think, erin, that a lot of this will be about who creates the best chemistry with the audience in terms of answering the questions and relating to the spirit of the questioner? >> it may very well be. we expect president obama is generally pretty good at that. what rob portman told us today is, look, mitt romney has been holding town hall after town hall for the last two years as he's been campaigning for president. and he has a lot of practice. whereas, sure, president obama was doing that when he was first running in 2007 and 2008, but he
hasn't had a lot of town halls as he's been running for re-election. so, he might be out of practice or a little bit rusty, whereas mitt romney is in better practice. so, they are feeling a little bit, in fact, potentially overconfident going into tonight's debate. >> erin mcpike and dana milbank, thank you both for your time tonight. >> thank you. just hours before the big debate, a major blow to the republican efforts to suppress the vote. that's next. [ male announcer ] there are only so many foods
behind all the posing and positioning, this will be a debate about what kind of government we want for this country. what kind of democracy we want for the people. what these two men talk about is important. also important is what we the people go out and do about it. we must exercise our precious right to vote. today we got information from the highest court in the land that every vote does matter. this afternoon the supreme court rejected without comment an effort by ohio's right wing secretary of state jon husted to restrict voting in his states. now voters will be allowed to vote early, three days before the election. it's a devastating blow to husted who's been trying to block early voting in his state, all in a national effort to
suppress democratic votes in this election and blocking early voting is especially agee yoegr. 2008, 93,000 ohioans voted in early voting. today's ruling in ohio adds to the gop losing streak. republicans trying to block the vote have lost in the courts in states ranging from texas and florida to wisconsin and pennsylvania. this is a huge victory for all americans. in essence, the supreme court ruled today against gop officials who wanted less voting, not more in this election. there are now 26 states and the district of columbia that allow early in-person voting. remember, voting is a right not a privilege. so exercise that right. watch tonight's debate and think about which candidate's vision is right