With many Democrats reeling over President Barack Obama‘s largely lackluster performance and Mitt Romney‘s tall tales, Senior Strategist David Axelrod, Policy Director James Kvaal, and Press Secretary Ben LaBolt sought to refocus the election with a press conference Thursday morning to discuss how Mitt Romney’s disingenuous remarks will shape the election discourse going forward as well as discuss the President’s “adjustments” for the upcoming debates.
Calling Romney’s Wednesday night performance “vigorous but devoid of honesty,” Axelrod looked to vanquish the glitzy sheen Mitt Romney seemed to leave the public with by focusing on Romney’s many contradictions and discrepancies.
“We were interested in what he had to say, and not surprisingly, what we learned is that he’ll say anything, but that makes him effective in the short term but vulnerable in the long term. And he has showed a propensity for [choosing] the long term for the short term.
“So that is what we are going to focus on moving forward. We’re going to hold Governor Romney accountable for the things that he said last night and we are going to make him justify those claims. As I hope you will make him justify those claims because we need an honest and a genuine and realistic plan to move forward as a country, and not a bunch of lines designed to get you through a debate.”
To Axelrod, Romney displayed tantalizing political theatrics but failed to provide substance. One of the key examples Axelrod used to illustrate this point was Romney’s response to what he would do about the ever-increasing deficit. “When he was asked what he would do about the deficit, his one big idea was to fire Big Bird. I think Gov. Romney had a good performance and [emphasis added] created all types of problems for himself down the line.”
While most viewers look to see who is the immediate winner in the presidential debates, Axelrod insisted that this is not what is the most-important takeaway for these events, “In terms of the impact of the debate, what interests me is not whether he won the debate but how the debate would influence the voters going forward.”
“If you look, for example, at the CBS poll, he made very marginal gain among the undecided voters that they polled. He wound up with a third of those voters supporting him. If voters break that way, he can’t make up the gap that we see in all these battleground states across the country. The same story was true in some of the focus groups that were held.”
For the American people, Axelrod believes that what actually resonates the most with voters is integrity, which is something Romney and the campaign he is running lacks. “The American people have a great many questions about Romney, and I don’t think he helped himself last night with his serial evasions and deceptions.”
Kvaal joined the conversation to pinpoint how Romney continued to twist the truth on key issues of taxes, Medicare, and pre-existing conditions in order to effectively sell himself to the public.
Regarding taxes, Romney made several promises to low-income and middle-class families that he reportedly cannot keep. A key argument Romney made was that President Obama was somehow concocting figures and distorting facts on his tax plan in order to misrepresent him to the public.
According to Kvaal, Romney’s plans have been analyzed by the Tax Policy Center, “who is a very credible, independent set of experts in Washington, D.C., that employ economists who served in administrations from both parties.”
Still, Romney disregarded the fact that his plan gives major tax breaks to the rich — which has become common knowledge — while further burdening the poor and middle class, “Governor Romney says he doesn’t have a $5 trillion tax cut, that [his tax plan] was not a tax cut for high-income families, it was for low-income families and the middle class…. Gov. Romney says that he doesn’t cut taxes for the rich, because he closes tax brackets and other loopholes.
“But the Tax Policy Center concluded that once you remove incentives, savings, and investments, there are simply not enough tax loopholes available to pay for Gov. Romney’s tax cuts because he reduces rates across the board by 20 percent. That is a very large tax cut for multi-millionaires, and even if you eliminate every tax benefit that they received from mortgage interest to charitable contributions, multi-millionaires would still get $250,000 a year under the Romney plan.”
What does this mean for working- and- middle-class Americans?
“Gov. Romney cited a number of studies that he claims supported his view of his tax plan. I think it is important to note that some of these ‘studies’ were editorial columns and none of them disputed the Tax Policy Center’s basic conclusions that the Romney tax plan is worth over $5 trillion to taxpayers,” Kvaal said.
These type of egregious inconsistencies also extended to Romney’s vacillating stances on Medicare. While Romney claimed during the debate that his health insurance plan would not affect seniors, Kvaal added, “Under Medicare, Gov. Romney claims that he would not hurt current seniors, but in actuality, he would raise costs on prescription drugs on Medicare premiums.”
During the press conference, though, the Obama campaign seemed to be preaching to the choir. Journalists in attendance, ranging from the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Reuters, all wanted to know one question: Why didn’t Obama make these vital points to the American public on debate night?
Axelrod responded by saying that they were looking at last night’s footage and would make necessary changes to President Obama’s debate strategy, “We are moving forward and taking a hard look to make some judgments on how to use our time. We will make adjustments.”
Pressed further by the Washington Post who called the President’s performance “listless,” Axelrod conceded that there was work to be done, “Debating is not his strong suit but we’ll consider his approach.” Axelrod did give some insight in to what the President’s mind-set was going in to the debate, “The President wanted to avoid having two politicians insulting each other, but we understand the balance of not having someone manhandling the conversation.”
The next debate is scheduled for next Wednesday, October 11th, in Danville, Ky., between Vice President Joe Biden and GOP vice president nominee Paul Ryan, where they will discuss foreign and domestic policy. President Obama and Romney will not meet again until October 16th in Hempstead, N.Y.
Considering the President’s and Romney’s performances last night, it will be interesting to see how well Obama can communicate Romney’s flip-flopping to the public. It will also be important to see exactly what “adjustments” the President makes in future debates.