tv Washington Week PBS September 21, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT
gwen: we've gotten four dozen polls in one week and they alltel roughly the same story. who's ahead, who's stumbling and why. tonight on "washington week" -- >> i don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims. gwen: the president, happy to pile on, as mitt romney ends another tough week. >> there are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government. gwen: the candidates swing wildly, from foreign policy last
week back to domestic policy this week. >> this question is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. i do, he does. the question is who can help the poor and the middle class. i can. he can't. he's proven it in four years. >> we've always said that change takes more than one term or even one president and it certainly takes more than one party. gwen: while poll after poll documents a distinct change in the presidential contest and as romney releases another year of tax returns, voters begin to focus. covering the week, gloria borger of cnn. john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news. john harwood of cnbc and "the new york times" and sam youngman of reuters. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital,
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>> wherever our trains go, the economy comes to life. norfolk southern. one line, infinite possibilities. >> additional corporate funding is provided by -- boeing and american queen steamboat company. proud to support "washington week" on pbs. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. it's hard to know where to begin in a week shamed by secret videotapes, frantic recalibration and taxes. one thing we know for sure, the charges and counter charges are just beginning and neither candidate shows any sign of backing down.
the president told interviewers at a univision town hall that washington can't be fixed from the inside. mitt romney saw an opening. >> the president today threw in the white flag of surrender again. he said he can't change washington from the inside. he can only exchange it from outside. well, we're going to give him that chance in november. he's going outside! [cheers] i can change washington. i will change washington. we'll get the job done from the inside. >> for some reason my opponent got really excited. he rewrote his speech real quick. he stood up at a rally and proudly declared i'll get the job done from the inside. what kind of inside job is he talking about? gwen: get ready for a rough six weeks and just this week the debate raged from israel to gun
running to campaign infighting to medicare and then today after a week dominated by a debate over who pays what to the government, the romney is released their 2011 taxes. we love fridays because that's when news sneaks out. they earned nearly $14 million in investment income lastear, paid nearly $2 million in taxes and gave just under a third of their income to charity. this is what the president told the crowd in cincinnati earlier this week. >> i want to reform the tax code so it's simple and fair. i've actually done my own taxes. i don't know about some of these other folks. gwen: so why the information now and what do these returns tell us? >> first of all it does tell us the tax code is complicated because the return that mitt romney released today is 379 pages. it showed us that he was very rich, but we knew that already.
it told us he'd made a little less money than he'd disclosed earlier in the year. we know that he kept his tax rate down by only claiming part of his charitable deductions, in order to not violate what he told an interviewer over the summer, which was that he never paid less than 13%. for the average million-dollar income, it's 25%. he's doing well because of the fact that virtually all of his income is in capital gains. and he also put out a statement that was an assertion by his accounting firm saying that over 20 years he'd paid an average tax rate of 20%. never had a year in which he paid no income tax. gwen: brings us to the harry reid -- >> he was trying to respond to harry reid, who had asserted
that he'd never paid taxes. gwen: which is not true. does any of that matter? is this just getting it out of the way? >> i think this was the least worse worst moment for him to do this. the window was closing. he had promised to release his taxes. the debate coming up october 3. he might as well get it out of the way. it's not going to change the debate about how rich mitt romney is or whether he feels your pain or understands the problems of ordinary americans. those things are kind of set. harry reid will still campaign complain that we only have price waterhours cooper's summary. so that debate will continue, but the heart of it is the real problem for romney, which is this assertion that he doesn't understand the problems of ordinary americans. what president obama beats him
on, he understands my problems, three to one. that's an unsustainable number. they have to try and turn that around. >> you can do one of two things to court voters. you can say something where you reach out to them or they can feel something in you that they connect to. the problem for mitt romney is that the essential mitt romney for the final group of voters he needs is hidden. either in his tax returns or his behavior. and then what the democrats have been playing on is boy, what's hid season scary. that's why this video came out this week in which he spoke frankly about the 47% who support barack obama, said they were essentially moochers, i talked to a republican strategist who's worked in previous campaigns in the white house and said that felt like it was the first time i was seeing mitt romney. that's a problem. if your most a-- authentic moment is your most damaging
moment, that's a problem. gwen: that's what i found interesting in watching that tape. he sounded like a political strategist more than a candidate. you've spent as much time on the campaign trail with mitt romney as any of us. is that what we see in that tape? >> you see it in off the record moments and on the plane sometimes. but you certainly don't see a candidate for the highest office in the world talking that candidly to danny -- donors behind closed doors. two reporters overheard a whole different set of remarks that we were hearing on the stump in there. that put the bug in our ears for a lot of us. >> that plays into the other narrative about mitt romney. what does he believe? is he a flip-flopper? is he saying one thing to his high done others and another to the rest of the -- donors and
another to the rest of the public? gwen: he comes out after these controversial comments and always stands by what he said. isn't that part of why? >> yes, but democrats have jumped on the substance of what he said. republicans, in trying to defend him, or criticize him both, say he's just pretending to believe that when heaviest talking to donors. mitt romney's problem is that knot enough people believe they know who he is and believe that he believes what he's saying. authenticity is a real problem for mitt romney and when you go to a fundraiser and whether you mean it or not and express the view which is not true that nearly half the country is dependent, irresponsible. they're victims. they don't care for their own lives. he's talking about a lot of elderly people, about a lot of working class voters who because
they don't pay taxes is because of tax credits that members of both parties passed because they thought it was right. >> ronald reagan. >> exactly. i haven't quite heard a candidate for president speak so derisively about such a large group of americans. >> there are some republicans who heard that and said that's exactly right. so in some sense it doesn't heard him tremendously with his base except for the columnists who came out. mike gerson. he's lost the columnists. but in that video he talked about the independents. the people disappointed with barack obama, the swing voters. those are the voters who like to see candidates to care about the other side. work with the other side, not write off the other side and who are the ones who have had trouble making this connection. and now they're seeing a person with whom it's going to be hard
to connect. gwen: as we look in the polls, we see, especially in battleground states that the gap is increasing in places like virginia and iowa where this was supposed to be a real fight to the finish and now watching where he says he's going to go -- they all go back to ohio. but a lot of these states. wisconsin, all of a sudden a problem. >> it's a combination of things. it's that one question in the poll. so-and-so understands problems we're facing. he's polling terribly. he's spending most of his time at fundraisers, not at campaign rallies. in vermont, of all places. >> here's the other problem i think mitt romney has and it's not his fault and that is americans are feeling more optimistic about their economic future. gwen: they still think it's the wrong track. >> sure, if you ask if you're
better off, it's still in the 40% range. if americans are feeling more optimistic, they maybe feel they don't need to fire the guy who's in office and maybe bill clinton convinced them they ought to be more patient. gwen: paul ryan got booed at the aarp gathering in new orleans today. >> if first step so -- to a stronger medicare is to repeal obama care. because it represents the worst of both worlds. audience: boo! gwen: of course, this is aarp, which supported obama care. but romney also dismissed chances for a two-state solution to the middle east peace process. then the president, in a video unearthed from 1998 appeared to endorse income redirection plus, he took took fire for failing to
support immigration reform during his first term in office. >> you promised something. and a promise is a promise. you didn't keep that promise. >> i did not make a promise that i would get everything done 100% when i was elected as president. gwen: is this a new form of debate prep? >> it's like a fixed vegas fight gone awry when both boxers think they're supposed to lose. you look at the missteps that mitt romney has had and what it's cost him in terms of opportunity. all these errors that the president has made where mitt romney could have been making inroads. we're 46 days out. are we still talking about who's the real mitt romney? >> here's where they see the opening in the romney campaign. they've been doing a lot of furious spending this week. they've been shooting everywhere hoping they can get one thing. they point to the gallup poll,
which has them tied. it was tied 47-47, when shows the sense of humor. if you look at that poll on who connects with voters. inside poll if you ask who can do a better job with jobs? romney wins. there's still that glimmer that he can do it on jobs, but in other polls we've seen the president now come to parity with romney on the economy. >> consider the swing states. nbc-"wall street journal" had three polls this week. last week they showed florida, ohio, virginia, president oo-- obama had a clear lead. same thing was true this week in wisconsin, in colorado and iowa. iowa we showed an eight-point lead in all of those states, obama was at parity or better with mitt romney on the economy.
in the nine battlegrounds that the two campaigns are contesting most aggressively. mitt romney has only had one -- north carolina. he's got to take a whole collection of votes away from brack brang to win the presidents si. -- barack obama to win the presidency. >> and that may be because of the optimism. some of these battleground states have unemployment rates that are lower than the rest of the up. -- country. >> john boehner said the reason mitt romney was doing so well in north carolina is that governor casey had done such a good job reviving the economy. gwen: did it drive these numbers we're seeing now? >> if you talk to the romney people, what they'll tell you is that president obama's bounce has dissipated. that he had dropped six points
and it had gone away. gwen: perhaps in the head to head. >> then you turn to the battleground states, which is where this election is really being fought, it's hard to say ok, why is president obama up now by five points? >> in the ads, the aobama team was on if -- obama team was on the air, the mitt romney team went down. some republicans think it was a mistake they ceded the ground to the convention. he got a little bounce in the convention, got a little bit of bounce from the oids and now on kibba. gwen: it's a leadership question. >> it's like a game of bumper cars. he keems getting knocked around. guy when you're taking on an
incumbent president that's already a tough thing. does he get to set the table for the argument going forward? >> it's remarkable to me that they've conceded the idea that the election was going to be a referendum on the president. david axelrod has been saying since last summer, if they make this a choice election between mitt romney and barack obama they're going to win. gwen: they changed their minds on the day they picked paul ryan. >> it's amazing how willingly they've engaged in a choice election with a candidate they admit the country doesn't know. gwen: sit because they thought that ryan would enhance the popularity of the choice? >> i think they liked the protections of his boldness without the details that come with it. gwen: details are a problem. >> and they thought he could help in the state of wisconsin. it looks like that that's not
working and if you saw that clip of paul ryan getting booed -- gwen: i think they don't mind that so much, actually. >> i think senior citizens' vote, when you're talking a 47% mistake. >> and in those swing state polls this week, president obama was either even or slightly behind obama among seniors. remember, barack obama's base is minority voters, young people, and women. he gets very good numbers among young people. he lost senior citizens to john mccain. if he can neutralize that or reduce his margin, he's in much better shape. gwen: even though the enthusiasm of yuck people is not what it was four years ago. >> you ran that clip of governor romney talking about throwing in the towel. this is a collie slay in politics. the tea party movement worked from the outside to the inside.
the whole notion is silly. why did he jump on it? he's kind of jumping on everything. why did he jump on it? what they see in their focus groups is obama voters from 2008 disappointed in the president who think he's just kind of stuck. he can't make things better. so the feeling is out there and now they're trying to say you see, he thinks he's stuck. gwen: wasn't that the danger in the immigration question? you promised you were going to do this and you didn't. that's a risky place for the president. >> and more than 70% of hispanics in colorado supports the president, but that is one issue where with them he didn't deliver. >> i can tell you nationally, barack obama is up 40 points with hispanic voters. barry: go -- gwen: i thought also romney never imagined he'd beat him
among hispanics but hoping he'd do at least as well as john mccain did. >> he's not. >> within hours when mitt romney seized on the president's comments, democrats found clips of mitt romney in 2008 saying you can't change washington from the inside. you need to change it from the outside. gwen: we have seen the internal divisions among the republicans on big display. the columnists jumping off the boat. are their internal divisions that exist among democrats as well but we don't hear about them? >> my whole career has been marked with internal disskenlts among democrats. i think there are. i think there are different factions within the democratic party. they've just had the last three or four years to get it out of their system. they've been intensely critical of the president.
that dissension has been there. they've just closed ranks, i think, similar to the way republicans did in 2004. sort of we must protect this house. >> divisions within the democratic party are less than they've been in my lifetime and what the republicans are experiencing is because the conservative base in the country is bigger than -- they're more intense in their views and they have created a dynamic within the republican party that makes it very difficult for the party to reach beyond the bounce to get in the votes. >> what makes itself particularly difficult for mitt romney is that this was supposed to be the year of the anti-accomplishment candidate, the tea party year. mitt romney was everybody's second choice for a really long time during the primaries. and i felt this during the convention. you didn't see that huge enthusiasm. gwen: the word tea party never got mentioned. >> they were trying to appeal to
the independent voters. >> they might have been going after women. >> i've heard a lot about women role models, i'm happy to say. so mitt romney wasn't sort of the national person that you thought they were going to select this time. as a result he's had to twist himself in a pretties -- pretzel to kind of appeal to the tea party base while reaching outs to the independent voters. having been more conservative during the primaries, now turning around. it's hard. >> this week a lot of us were reporting about insider in the republican party jumping ship. in 1996 when bob dole was having a tough time, you'd get the same kind of chatter. people would say we love him, war hero. we will run up the hill for him. you don't hear that with romney. people are starting to see their own ambition not connected to his future. gwen: including a lot of don-ballot races.
two big things coming. early voting, which starts tomorrow in a lot of places. half of america and the other is, of course, the debates. how many eggs are in each respective baskets? >> they both have high expectations. president obama, because he's known as a skilled debater. he's won the presidency before. mitt romney lived and died by the debates during the republican primaries and he always looked like the stable guy. he's going to have to hit harder and with better airport in these debates. plus, he's been practicing a lot. i think the expectations might be a little high. gwen: it's funny you're talking about that. >> both are good debaters. i don't expect either to do a poor job. there's an interesting statistic in the "wall street journal" today. in iowa, democrats have requested 100,000 absentee
ballots. republicans, 16,000. the former director of the iowa republican party is saying i'm getting nervous. girlfriend. we'll be watching all of it. thank you, everyone. we'll continue our conversation online on the "washington week" webcast extra, where we'll tell you how david letterman and kelly ripa also made muss this week in politics. next week, to the heartland, st. louis, missouri, for a live audience show. join us then and keep up with live developments with me on the pbs news hour and we'll see you again right here next week on "washington week." good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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