It’s hard to escape the presidential campaign these days. We are some 50 days from Election Day. The aftermath of the tragic death of our ambassador to Libya and riots all over the Arab world could become decisive in the campaign. Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are is still low at 30 percent, according to Gallup, but it’s the highest satisfaction rating in three years.
Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the impact of the latest polls and the politics of the the 2012 Presidential election.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Cornell Belcher, political strategist and Obama 2012 pollster; Elroy Sailor, CEO of the J.C. Watts Companies and a Republican strategist; and Sirius XM Radio’s “The Black Eagle,” Joe Madison.
MR. MARTIN: It’s hard to escape the presidential campaign these days. We are some 50 days from Election Day. The aftermath of the tragic death of our ambassador to Libya and riots all over the Arab world could become decisive in the campaign. Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are is still low at 30 percent, according to Gallup, but it’s the highest satisfaction rating in three years. That, too, could be decisive. And a new report on poverty in America finally gets the two candidates to talk about the poor in video messages to the faith-based, anti-poverty group, Circle of Protection.
[BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS.]
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Last year, in the midst of a heated budget debate in Washington, I promised to protect vital assistance for “the least of these.” I’ve kept that promise. We can pay down our debt in a balanced and responsible way, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. And we certainly can’t ask the poor, the sick, or those with disabilities to sacrifice even more; or as the middle class to pay more, just so we can offer massive, new tax cuts to those who’ve been blessed with the most. It’s not just bad economics. It’s morally wrong.
MR. MITT ROMNEY: If we’re gonna to help lift our brothers and sisters outta poverty, we must restore our economy and reduce the debt. Budget cuts are also gonna be necessary, and I intend to make them. Here you have my word. I’ll proceed carefully. I understand this is a delicate task. Our government rightfully provides a safety net for the hungry and the homeless, the sick and the elderly.
I’m committed to protecting those in or near poverty. For example, I support means testing, where more money goes to those in need and less goes to those who’re able to support themselves.
[END OF VIDEO CLIPS.]
MR. MARTIN: We’ll have more on the new poverty report later in the broadcast, but now let’s get to the issues and the politics which may determine who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years.
Joining me is Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; Cornell Belcher, political strategist and Obama 2012 pollster; Elroy Sailor, CEO of the J.C. Watts Companies and a Republican strategist; and on the end there, always holding it down, Sirius XM Radio’s “The Black Eagle,” Joe Madison.
And probably for the first time, all three fellas got the pocket square memo –
MR. MARTIN: — and – and Elroy even brought two just in case I didn’t like that one.
MR. ELROY SAILOR: Ju-u-ust in case.
MR. MARTIN: This week, battleground polls came out showing Pres. Obama with leads in Ohio, in Florida, also in Virginia. And so what do you make of this? I love people all of a sudden saying, “Hey, the race is over!”
And I’m going, “Slow down.” That’s the last thing anybody should be saying right now.
MS. MICHELLE BERNARD: Absolutely. The – th- — right now, the poll numbers look great for the President, but it – we are still several weeks out. It is close, and I don’t think anyone should ever underestimate the number of people who will be – when they c- — if they cast a boat [sic] – a vote for Mitt Romney, it’s because they’re not voting for Mitt Romney. They are voting against Barack Obama. If we see more welfare ads, for example, coming out; if we see more statements that make it seem that the President is giving things away to people of color for free in – in battleground states, it’s going to make it a tight election. And if you have an increase of White male turnout in November, it’s going to be very, very close.
MR. CORNELL BELCHER: Two – two things. One is – and I want to pivot from what you said about that. Ri- — right now, you have – [chuckles] – a plurality of – of Mitt’s voters who’re saying they’re not voting for him, but they’re voting against Barack Obama. Flashback –
MR. MARTIN: President –
MR. BELCHER: — to –
MR. MARTIN: — Barack Obama.
MR. BELCHER: — P- — President Barack Obama – flashback to – to John Kerry. A lot of Democrats were beholdem [sic – phonetic], ’cause they thought simply hatred for – for George Bush was going to – g- — was going to drive that.
MR. MARTIN: Right.
MR. BELCHER: A majority of J- — of John Kerry’s voters, in fact, weren’t voting for John Kerry. They were voting against George Bush. It’s hard to become president that way.
The other part about this is – that you have to be careful with, and it is from a political strategy standpoint – you never want to be outspent. In every battleground state, except for maybe Florida, whe- — and – and Nevada, Democrats are being outspent 5 to 1. You never want to be outspent 2 to 1. Their ad- — their money advantage, in the end, will probably close this race. So, it’s t- — it’s going to be tight.
MR. MARTIN: Joe, you’re also looking at the fact that a jobs report is going to come out the Friday before the election. That’s likely going to drive all the conversation that last weekend, and so I can’t remember the last time you really had a – a pivotal economic report that drops right before the election, when everyone says the economy is issue number one.
MR. JOE MADISON: Well, I think it’s going to be the same rhetoric. It w- — it won’t change from the next two months. So, we’ll hear the same rhetoric. I – I think this – th- — I think the President gained this bump because they had a great convention –
MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.
MR. MADISON: — in Charlotte. They – I mean this is pretty much the – a convention bump I think he’s getting.
And we have to keep in mind the debates are really going to be key in – and all it takes is for one or two slip-ups. What will it be? Three –
OFF CAMERA: Three debates.
MS. BERNARD: Three debates.
MR. MADISON: Three debates.
OFF CAMERA: [Crosstalk] – debates.
MR. MARTIN: One vice presidential.
MR. MADISON: And there’s going to be – and that’s going to be very, very critical. So, I’m not – I’m like you. I think it’s still going to be tight, and I must – must tell you I’m a little concerned when I hear the Limbaughs of the world and people in our business – in talk radio – who are sa- — who are dissing their own candidate.
OFF CAMERA: Right.
MR. MADISON: You know, do not be lulled to sleep.
I was talking to Barney Frank about that, that – you know, that’s a – that’s a – sort of a trick game – you know?
MR. MADISON: We’re – you know, and then you get lulled to sleep, ’cause you think you have it.
MR. MARTIN: E- — Elroy, we saw this week a foreign policy issue comes up, and that is what – what took place with our ambassador in Libya. And Mitt Romney was hit very hard with his initial response, attacking an apology that came from the embassy there in Cairo. What was interesting was you had Republicans on the Hill – many of the Republicans – who would not give him cover, and they basically focused it on being sorrowful for his death, as opposed to attacking the President.
And so di- — did Mitt Romney learn a lesson this week that, look, when you’re running – running for office, you might want to keep your mouth shut criticizing the President when you have America being attacked, with our ambassadors killed in a foreign country?
MR. SAILOR: Clearly, I – I think Mitt Romney – candidate Romney learned a lesson – and his campaign advisor. Look. When you’re running for the president [sic] of the free world, you’ve got to be very methodical. You’ve got to be very thoughtful. There was a death in that situation. The first thing – [crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: Four deaths.
MR. SAILOR: — there were – there were four deaths in that situation. The first thing that anyone should’ve said who was in a position of leadership and power: “Let’s pray.” “Let’s have a moment of silence.” “Let’s ask for some healing.”
MR. BELCHER: That’s what Reagan did.
MR. SAILOR: The poli- — exactly. The policy c- — cou- — could’ve come later.
But let me just go back to your earlier point. I mean this election in the next 50 days is going to boil down to some kitchen-table, barbershop, beauty-salon issues: gas prices; home values’ food prices; you know, transportation in these inner cities and things of that nature. If those issues –
OFF CAMERA: Um –
MR. SAILOR: — are not resolved –
MR. MARTIN: The – the rea- — reason I[’ve] got to push back on that – first of all, the President has no role when you’re talking about gas prices. Second of all, if you go – housing –
MR. SAILOR: — um-hum?
MR. MARTIN: — fir- — the – the Obama Administration has had some problems –
MR. SAILOR: Well, gas prices –
MR. MARTIN: — for four years – [crosstalk]- —
MR. SAILOR: — were a dollar eighty-nine –
MR. MARTIN: — [crosstalk] –
MR. SAILOR: — when the President came into office.
MR. MARTIN: [Crosstalk.] Let me go back. Gas prices being a dollar eighty-nine when he came in has nothing to do with the fact that the President of the United States has nothing to do with gas prices.
MR. MADISON: Absolutely.
MR. SAILOR: [Crosstalk.]
MS. BERNARD: Ca- —
MR. SAILOR: “Nothing”?
MR. MARTIN: Nothing!
MR. SAILOR: I disagree – [crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: No!
MR. MADISON: [Crosstalk] – let me tell you. Let me tell you something.
MR. MARTIN: How do you –
MR. MADISON: Le- — le- —
MR. MARTIN: — disagree? When the Pre- — when Pres. Bush was there, he had nothing to do with gas –
MR. SAILOR: [Crosstalk] –
MR. MARTIN: — prices.
MR. SAILOR: Well, let me –
MR. MARTIN: Joe.
MR. SAILOR: — well – [crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: [Crosstalk] –
MR. SAILOR: — [crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: — now – now, see, that –
MR. SAILOR: — [crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: — that – that –
MR. SAILOR: Let’s talk about – [crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: — that talk – no, we can talk about it. Let me tell you what we did on our show. During – when the gas prices went up under Bush, we played pundits saying didn’t – the president didn’t have anything to do with it. From – from Hannity all the way down to Laura Ingraham: ‘Didn’t have anything to do with it.’ ‘Didn’t have anything to do with it.’
Now, when gas prices go down, in the last – over the last summer months –
MR. MARTIN: Right?
MR. MADISON: — the President doesn’t get respons- — doesn’t get credit for it going down – but he gets credit for it going up. That – that talking point won’t fly anymore. So, you –
MS. BERNARD: — can I – can I just –
MR. MADISON: — can’t say Republicans – when the Republicans [are] in office, ga- — the president doesn’t have anything to do with gas prices. But when Obama gets in office, it does? And – the –
MR. SAILOR: — well, look. [Crosstalk] –
MR. MADISON: — the words are there.
MR. SAILOR: — [crosstalk] – statements and words matter. When you – when you start looking at the strategic reserves, when you start looking at whether or not you can increase drilling permits, when you start looking at our policies over –
MR. MARTIN: That’s –
MR. SAILOR: — in the –
MR. MARTIN: — okay. Wait a –
MR. SAILOR: — Middle East –
MR. MARTIN: — minute. According –
MR. SAILOR: — but[?] when you s- —
MR. MARTIN: — to facts, there’s been more drilling under this president –
MR. MADISON: [Crosstalk] – than there was –
MR. MARTIN: — than any –
MR. MADISON: — [crosstalk].
MR. MARTIN: — other time in history.
MS. BERNARD: But also, here’s –
MR. SAILOR: Permits issued, or drilling?
MS. BERNARD: — he- — but, look. Here’s what – here’s what I think that we are missing fundamentally. The economy is a critical issue – absolutely no doubt about it. But coming out of the two conventions, the American public was – was presented with two very different views of what the future of this country should look like, what the vision for the future is and where people think you should be as an American wa- — based on whether you are a woman, whether you are African-American, whether you’re Hispanic, whether you are poor. We’re just having conversations about poverty. I mean e- — the economy is important, but if you’re s- — if you’re sitting back, for example, and you are a woman of color, and you are poor, you’re going to sit down, and you’re going to think, “The economy is awful, but will I truly be better if a” – “if a” – “if Mitt Romney is elected, and we are governed by a Republican Party that has no respect for the poor or for the rights of women?”
And I don’t think we can in any way ignore that demographics are going to be key to this election.
MR. BELCHER: Let me make one, quick, broad point on the economy – and this is really the problem o- — of – of the Romney – of the Romney ki- — campaign sort of encapsulated. CNN’s polling that was out thi- — this week, on issues of who’s going to handle the economy better, a one-point difference between the two candidates. If Mitt Romney’s not going to dominate the issue of – of dealing with the economy, the – the very predicate o- — of – of his – of his campaign is – is u- — is undermined. If he doesn’t have that, sort of driving that as sort of the – people believe that he’s, in fact, going to do a much better job on the economy, the – the very predicate of his campaign is undermined. And they – and they’ve – they’ve failed to sort of make that case in – in a good way.
As a campaign professional, I – I do have to – I – I have a problem with his cam- — with the people around his campaign, ’cause I think they’ve run a horrible campaign, and they’ve put him in situations where – where, as political professionals, you should never put him in, ’cause you have to know his strength and his – and the weak- —
OFF CAMERA: A- — and – and –
MR. BELCHER: — -nesses.