President Obama should resist the temptation to relitigate the Denver debate when he takes the stage tonight at Hofstra University. While polls suggest that Governor Romney’s performance in Denver may have temporarily given voters a reason to take a second look, Obama should focus on vulnerabilities exposed through Romney’s efforts to hide the “severely conservative” Mitt since that last debate.
Within days, Romney tried to seize a political opportunity to close the gender gap with women voters by modifying his language on the issue of choice and whether a woman can be trusted to make her own decisions about her healthcare and the medicines she takes.
He carefully parsed his words in an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register, saying he didn’t plan to pursue legislation that would restrict a woman’s constitutionally protected right to abortion. While the GOP base may have given Romney a pass to court voters with more moderate language on some issues, the candidate instead issued a statement from the campaign, followed by a reaffirmation from him, that he would be a “pro-life president.”
As the latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows, any post-debate gains Romney may have made with women voters will likely evaporate if he’s forced to “clarify” his previous stance that he’d be delighted to sign anti-choice legislation if it reached his desk. According to the poll, nearly 40% of women cited abortion as the most important election issue to women, with those voters preferring President Obama by a three to one margin.
The president’s decision to ensure that employers can’t deny coverage for birth control was also supported by women. About a third of women in the USA Today/Gallup poll said that birth control policy is extremely important in influencing their vote. As Vice President Joe Biden pointed out in his debate with Rep. Paul Ryan, Roe vs. Wade faces a significant threat given the number of Supreme Court justices the next president could have the opportunity to appoint.
Romney’s position also leaves him vulnerable on a key point where the GOP has continuously failed and President Obama has eloquently articulated: for many women these are not just “social issues,” or economic issues. The ability to control these decisions and, possessing access to healthcare that no longer treats being a woman as a pre-existing condition, ensures women will continue to be equal participants in American life.
Recently Governor Romney also seemed to embrace one of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act – ensuring healthcare coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, even if they previously did not have health insurance. While Romney claimed on the stage at the debate that he would cover people with pre-existing conditions, his campaign team hit the spin room post-debate to “clarify” that coverage would only apply to people who’ve had continuous health insurance. Romney also recently said that relying on a trip to the emergency room – the most expensive and least effective approach—is an acceptable plan for providing care to those who don’t have insurance. He also doesn’t seem to know that an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t have health insurance.
A new non-partisan study recently added to the mounting evidence that Romney’s “because I said so” approach to budget math doesn’t, can’t, and won’t ever, add up. The Joint Committee on Taxation found that repealing all of the biggest tax deductions and closing the biggest loopholes would only generate enough revenue to lower taxes by 4%. These findings support a number of other non-partisan studies that have raised doubts about Romney’s claim there are enough tax deductions, credits, and exemptions to cover the estimated $5 trillion loss in revenue created by his plan to implement a 20% income tax cut without raising taxes on middle class Americans or adding to the debt while also increasing defense spending.
There’s also new evidence that Americans shouldn’t accept the “just trust me” line when it comes to the Romney-Ryan plan to privatize Medicare. Here again, as previous studies have suggested, a report released this week by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that the “premium support” model similar to Romney’s, which would replace the current system guaranteeing seniors a defined set of healthcare benefits, would result in higher costs for seniors.
Governor Romney’s lack of specifics has also created vulnerabilities on foreign policy. As Biden highlighted during his debate with Congressman Ryan, despite their criticisms, Romney’s “tough talk”, on Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan raise questions about what he would specifically do differently.
On Iran, Romney has essentially said he’d follow the actions the Obama administration has pursued—from clear statements that Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capability to “all options” being on the table to engaging the international community to impose increasingly tough and reportedly impactful economic sanctions.
Romney has said that he agrees with the president’s 2014 timeline for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, while also attacking the announcement of a 2014 timeline. Yet, he has not acknowledged that failing to set a date is essentially committing American troops indefinitely. Romney has also never clarified if his objections represent a willingness to keep American forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014, or how he would pay for it given that other than the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been the greatest contributors to our national debt, as would any new wars in the Middle East.
It was the Romney team who recently attacked members of the Obama campaign who dared point out the Romney campaign was politicizing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. But it was Romney who blatantly said he’d “take advantage” of a foreign policy crisis if one arose during his comments at the now infamous fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., (host city for next week’s final presidential debate) where he also dismissed 47% of Americans as victims who are unwilling to take responsibility for their lives.