Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the 2012 Presidential race, new poll numbers, the battle over women’s vote and income inequality.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney; Michael Fletcher, national economics correspondent for “The Washington Post”; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and, new to our roundtable, Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
It’s time for our roundtable discussion. Here with us today: MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney; Michael Fletcher, national economics correspondent for “The Washington Post”; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; and, new to our roundtable, Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Hughes.
Folks, welcome to the show.
MR. MARTIN: All right. Vince, nice pocket square, too.
SEN. VINCENT HUGHES: Trying to keep up!
SEN. HUGHES: Trying to keep up! All right?
MR. MARTIN: I’m sure your wife Sheryl Lee Ralph was –
SEN. HUGHES: Yes – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: — saying “represent” –
SEN. HUGHES: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — in those Delta colors. All right –
SEN. HUGHES: You know it!
MR. MARTIN: — then. Absolutely.
SEN. HUGHES: You know it!
MR. MARTIN: All right. Lots of news this week dealing with the polls – who’s up, who’s down, tightening race. First of all, I don’t really care about the overall numbers; because I think, frankly, they are irrelevant. I believe what mattes [are] those key, 12 states. When you look at Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, also Florida; and then we go out West to Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico; and then also I think you throw in Wisconsin as well. I think – I think that’s 12, and – that – that – to me, those are the key states. The overall is really irrelevant.
MS. KAREN FINNEY: You know what I think is relevant, though? A couple of things. “Honest and trustworthiness,” “shares my values,” and likability – because those numbers kind of tell you how voters feel. And consistently, they like Pres. Obama. They trust Pres. Obama. They think he understands their issues. Not surprisingly, they’re not so sure they like Romney. They’re not so sure they trust him. In the New York Times poll, it was 6 and 10 people think he’ll tell you what you want to hear. Right? So, [the] point being that some of these themes have been consistent throughout, which means that’s where both sides are going to try to exploit what they might perceive as the openings. That’s why Romney’s saying, “Obama – nice guy, but in over his head” – because they kn- — he knows people like him.
MR. MARTIN: Two things: women and millennials. One of the polls said there’s only a 7-point gap between Obama and Romney when it comes to young voters. That, to me, is critical because of the role they played in 2008; but also, the huge gap between Obama and Romney when it comes to women. That is going to be a huge issue in those critical states.
MS. FINNEY: It i- —
MR. MICHAEL FLETCHER: Absolutely the case, and I think – and I think that’s where Romney’s going to have to play to his strengths, try to talk about sort of other issues to kind of win women back in a strange way – like, things like the economy – and I think that’s why you hear him talking so much about the number of women who’ve not gotten jobs, you know, in the recovery. And they’re trying to make this case that somehow Obama’s bad for women, you know, a- — you know, and making the economy bad for women –
MR. MARTIN: Deborah?
MR. FLETCHER: — and that’s the kind of thing they have to do.
MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS: You know what? Neither party does right by women as far as I’m concerned. The Democratic Party keeps women tethered to welfare and a whole bunch of social service policies that we really need to get out of, on the one hand, and the right-wing Republican[s] – the women that are over on – on their camp, are, like, trying to play the strong, independent “my husband is a good thing.” I think the two women to watch – there’re only two women to watch between now and September. One is Michelle Obama, and the other one is Ann Romney. Those are the only women we need to pay attention to right now, because they represent what will be in the White House – what will be in the White house – and that’s what matters.
SEN. HUGHES: The – the problem with that is that the Republican Party – and – and I’m operating with a governor in Pennsylvania, Corbett, one of those swing states, who famously said women should just close their eyes –
MS. FINNEY: Yeah.
SEN. HUGHES: — when it comes to having an ultrasound.
MR. MARTIN: I don’t believe that women are going to walk into the polls and say, “I’m going to vote for this person based upon contraception, based upon ultrasounds; but I do believe that there is a narrative where they –
MR. FLETCHER: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — say, “Now, let me look at a number of issues and ask myself the question, ‘Based upon what I’m hearing and what I’m seeing, who is going to be the person that will speak to where I am?’”
MS. FINNEY: You know, I take a different view and – from what I’ve heard from women, and it started – I think we have to remember this concept of the “war on women” – over a year ago, when we started seeing these measures at the state level. It’s not just what the measures say. It’s when a state legislator says, “If we have an exception for rape, women will use that as a loophole.” What does that tell you about the integrity of that individual? “That’s what you think of women?” When you hear members of Congress talking about redefining rape; or, you talk about, you know, some of these other measures where it’s not just the measure[s] themselves, it’s not just the lack of access to contraception itself. It’s, “Are” – “Do you really think that low of me as a human being?”
I mean women run corporations in this country. We have women secretaries of state; and, yet, we’re still having conversations about the competence of women to make these kinds of decisions. I think that’s where women are feeling threatened, and I think they would much rather be talking about the economy, but if you tell me that my – what I thought was a settled issue is still up for grabs, I[’ve] got to worry about that. I would much rather worry about access to capital for my business and how I’m going to send my kids to college and those issues, but I think a lot of women are feeling this on a much more fundamental level in terms of, “Wait. I thought that was” –
MS. SIMMONS: But do –
MS. FINNEY: — “settled.”
MS. SIMMONS: — you think – yeah. Now, feeling it – we’ve always felt that. Women were the ones who fought to get a sexual assault changed to rape for our benefit, so it wasn’t – so, it wa- — even the fact that it was considered a violent crime, because rape was not considered –
MS. FINNEY: Right.
MS. SIMMONS: — a violent crime.
MS. FINNEY: But – [crosstalk] –
MS. SIMMONS: But what I’m saying is –
MS. FINNEY: — that was settled.
MS. SIMMONS: — the question – we ask the exact, same questions that men ask when they – before they hit the polls –
MS. FINNEY: Of course.
MS. SIMMONS: — and that is, “What do you want individual and personally?” regardless of what your husband might be saying —
MS. FINNEY: Of course.
MS. SIMMONS: — or your f- — or – or your brothers, or even the President, or the potential candidates. And it’s also, “Who do you identify with?”
MS. FINNEY: I think that’s –
MS. SIMMONS: You can easily –
MS. FINNEY: — right, but I –
MS. SIMMONS: — d- — you can easily –
MS. FINNEY: — think women also –
MS. SIMMONS: — you can easily –
MS. FINNEY: — care about their –
MS. SIMMONS: — closely –
MS. FINNEY: — own personal liberty –
MS. SIMMONS: — identify with a –
MS. FINNEY: — and freedom.
MS. SIMMONS: — woman like Ann Romney, rich or not, who said, “I’m staying home and taking care of my five children,” as easily as you can Michelle Obama, who says, “I’m going to work and taking care” –
MR. MARTIN: I – I –
MS. SIMMONS: — “of my two children.”
MR. MARTIN: — I want to – I want to raise this point because this is one of the issues that we’ve seen when you begin to talk about the issue of poverty in this country. And who does it most affect? Women and children.
MS. FINNEY: Absolutely, um-hum.
MS. SIMMONS: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: Sen. Hughes, in your state, Pat Toomey, the GOP senator from Pennsylvania, said that, look, he doesn’t think most Americans need a helping hand. He said this week, quote: “There’s a small segment of our society that absolutely needs a great deal of help because they can’t really take care of themselves.”
Now, the latest Census says there’re nearly 50 million Americans in poverty. When we had Cong. Jim Clyburn –
SEN. HUGHES: [Crosstalk.]
MR. MARTIN: — on here talking about the Clyburn Amendment that identified these counties that – that he felt 10 percent of the government funds should go to, where they have a 20 percent poverty rate for 30 years, two thirds of those nearly 500 counties were Republican counties.
SEN. HUGHES: Um-hum, um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: And so when you hear Republicans try to make the argument, some of the brokest counties in –
SEN. HUGHES: Absolutely, absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — America and some of the brokest states –
SEN. HUGHES: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — with the weakest education system[s] –
SEN. HUGHES: Absolutely.
MR. MARTIN: — with the highest rates of poverty are red states.
SEN. HUGHES: Absolutely. What – what you have, Roland – and – and there’s a – a thing that’s happening all across the country, [e]specially prevalent in Pennsylvania, [are] these smaller cities – the Scrantons, the Chesters, the – the Wilkes-Barres, the Eries, the Allentowns – they’re all crumbling. Their educational systems are crumbling. Their cities are crumbling because there’s no economic activity going on in those communities. And so now we’re in a situation where – how do we rebuild those communities? How do we bring those communities back?
The Republicans are turning away from that. It’s happening in a swing state, in Pennsylvania, where Corbett, [is] not paying any attention to that, and these communities are falling apart. We’ve got to pay attention –
MR. FLETCHER: But – [crosstalk] –
SEN. HUGHES: — to that.
MR. MARTIN: Michael – Michael –
MR. FLETCHER: — but – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: — I –
MR. FLETCHER: — you see, Roland, I think, is that, you know – and you make a good point about where these poor districts are. I think the poorest district – one of the poorest districts in this country is in Kentucky. Hal Rogers is one of the –
MR. MARTIN: In – in fact –
MR. FLETCHER: — one of the most –
MR. MARTIN: — all those counties I –
MR. FLETCHER: — conservative congressmen –
MR. MARTIN: — mentioned, 24 of those counties are in Kentucky alone.
MR. FLETCHER: — right. But look how they – look how people vote, and that’s the argument that Pres. Obama and the Democrats are going to have to make. They’re going to have to make sort of an argument that, “What is in your interest? Look at what’s in your interest in a more clear-eyed way.”
MR. MARTIN: I want you to – [crosstalk]- —
MR. FLETCHER: Often, people really go for these arguments of cutting government spending, and somehow that’s going to enhance –
MS. FINNEY: Trickle down.
MR. FLETCHER: — their well-being –
MS. FINNEY: [Chuckles.]
MR. FLETCHER: — and trickle down to them, and –
MR. MARTIN: — I wa- —
MR. FLETCHER: — you have to change that –
MR. MARTIN: — I want you to hold –
MR. FLETCHER: — narrative.
MR. MARTIN: — that thought. I want to pick it up when we come back on the other side of this break.