MR. DAVID GREGORY: This morning on MEET THE Press, just nine days to go. A special focus on the battleground states where this election will be won.
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The final push has President Obama and Governor Romney barnstorming seven critical swing states across the country in the hunt for 270 electoral votes. The arguments:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The unemployment rate is falling. Manufacturing is coming back to our shores. Our assembly lines are humming again.
GREGORY: The passion:
MITT ROMNEY: This is an election about big things, about big choices.
GREGORY: And the ground game: The critical effort to deliver key voting groups to the polls. This morning we hear about it all from key figures on the ground in these states. All important Ohio. Can Romney win the White House without it? We’ll ask the state Republican Governor John Kasich. Also, joining us, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker, and Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. Analysis on what will tip the scales in this historically tight presidential race. From our roundtable, from MSNBC, Rachel Maddow; New York Times’ columnist David Brooks; Washington Post’s columnist E.J. Dionne; former CEO of Hewlett Packard, now vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Carly Fiorina; and our political director and chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
GREGORY: Good morning on this Sunday. As if it weren’t enough to have an incredibly tight race, we now have inclement weather that is bearing down on the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy, a super storm as described, and this could affect more than 50 million people along the East Coast. We have got all of this covered including the political ramifications of this storm in the coming days as we’re just nine days to go until the election. I want to go live first to Asbury Park on the New Jersey Shore where NBC’s Al Roker will take us through the latest, including, Al, what you were talking about yesterday which is we could see the aftereffects of this storm right through Election Day?
MR. AL ROKER: Exactly, David. This is a monster storm. Right now it’s about 260 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, but it’s also about 395 miles East of New York City. It is a sprawling system. The tropical force winds extend out about 500 miles from the center of the storm. So, this storm is a thousand miles in diameter. It’s making its way along the coast. Right now, it’s a category one storm. It’s going to continue to parallel the coast for the next 24 hours. Then sometime late Monday night, early Tuesday morning, the path of the storm will bring it on shore somewhere in central coastal New Jersey. The worst part of the storm is the Northeast quadrant. And that Northeast quadrant, if it follows this path and we expect it to, will put it right in line for New-- coastal New Jersey, New York City, Connecticut, New England. The storm surge is going to be anywhere from five to ten feet above normal tide. It’s going to be coming in at an astronomical high tide as well. Plus, add to that, a rainfall of anywhere from six to 12 inches of rain. You’re going to have coastal flooding, flooding inland and the wind. There are high-- there are high wind warnings. We’re talking warnings from Virginia all the way up to Boston and as far west as West Virginia. We’re talking 60 million people. And because of those high winds we expect massive power outages throughout the area. And as this system moves on shore, it’s going to be long term effect. It’s going to last for about 72 hours. And so we’re talking about people who could be without power or at least ten days.
MR. ROKER: And that, as you know, will take it right into Election Day. So, what will people do if they can’t get to even the voting booth or the voting booths don’t have power. It is going to be a real mess over the next 72 hours. David.
GREGORY: Al-- Al Roker, thank you very much. We’ll be watching that. Don’t forget early voting going on as well. How will that be impacted in the days to come? All right. We want to bring in our political director Chuck Todd. We’ve got our October surprise now, Chuck…
MR. CHUCK TODD: I think so.
GREGORY: …it looks like It’s Hurricane Sandy. As we get closer to Election Day, identify for me the two or three states that you think we ought to be focusing on.
MR. TODD: Well, I would just say, I mean, it-- it’s obvious. You look at our battleground map here. All the states in yellow are the final seven states. And if you look at the candidates’ schedules, that’s what tells us everything. Where the candidates are going tells you where they think this schedule is. Now, the storm has wreaked havoc on this schedule. For instance, the president is now going to Florida today. He has canceled Virginia events tomorrow, canceled Colorado, Tuesday, and frankly Wisconsin on Tuesday, I think, depending on the impact of the storm, also canceled. But you see the emphasis of where he wants to be over the next 72 hours, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. He wanted to be in Virginia. He wanted to be in Colorado. Now let’s take a look at Governor Romney’s schedule here, David. When you look, it’s Ohio today, it was supposed to be Virginia today, but he moved all of those events to Ohio because of the storm. And then look where he’s spending his Monday. It’s the Midwest. And David, that’s where they feel they got to pick off a couple of states. It’s not just Ohio. He’s got to get Ohio plus something else.
GREGORY: It’s so interesting. As I talked to the Romney campaign at the end of the week, they were emphasizing this momentum argument that they feel like the debates gave him a second look in such a way that he can carry that through Election Day. The Obama folks say, no, just look at the math, look at the electoral map math. We could be in for quite a finish here if they’re both right.
MR. TODD: Well, they could be both right because we’ve talked about the popular vote thing. And let me just throw you some. We’ve seen some polling out today, and if you look at the president’s lead for instance on the West Coast in California, the lead has been cut in half. And I’ve done some back to the envelope math. You can see where Mitt Romney makes up six, seven, eight million, votes. Mitt-- John McCain lost my ten million votes. He could pick up a whole bunch of votes in the non-battleground states. But let’s go to our battleground math and I’ll show you, David, how easy it is. If you just take today’s polls, we have the president winning in Virginia. Wisconsin is a state that just feels on the ground is something that leans toward the president. Now you just give him New Hampshire and he sits at 270. That’s with giving Romney Ohio, that’s with giving Romney Florida, that’s with giving him Iowa, that’s with giving him Colorado. That’s this issue of the battleground versus the popular.
GREGORY: All right. More to come from Chuck Todd. Thank you both. Thank you very much. We’ll be back in just a couple of minutes with him. I want to get to our battleground governors in a minute but I want to start a roundtable here with our roundtable. I mentioned, Rachel Maddow is here from MSNBC; Carly Fiorina; David Brooks of the New York Times; E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post. I really feel like this final stretch, Rachel, is going to be dominated by the fight over the economy. It is what ultimately can tip the scales. We have seen now an argument from the president that is about trust. And this is how he lays it out against Governor Romney.
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA: There’s no more serious issue in a presidential campaign than trust. Trust matters. You know, you-- you want to know that the person who is applying to be your president and commander in chief is trustworthy. That he means what he says. That he’s not just making stuff up depending on whether it’s convenient or not.
GREGORY: How is he using that argument to advance the cause? And what-- hey, you can’t trust what you’re going to get that’s going to ultimately lead to economic recovery under the Republicans.
MS. RACHEL MADDOW (Host, MSNBC's THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW): I think that the president is-- as this-- as the race gets narrower and narrower, we start focusing on smaller and smaller places, smaller and smaller numbers of voters. You see that-- that become a very resonant argument, right? We’re talking not just about the economy, but the economy in the Midwest. We’re talking about the economy in Ohio. On the integrity issue, on the trust issue, Mitt Romney this week went to Defiance, Ohio and told a group of 11,000 people, jeep is about to move all of their production overseas. I read that somewhere. Jeep is going to move all of their product-- not at all true. It’s okay to for a candidate to make a flub, but to not correct it. To not say I was wrong about that, the candidate went back, the-- the campaign was asked, are you sure the candidate actually meant that, because that doesn’t seem to be true. No response clearing that up from the campaign. There’s been a truthfulness problem with the Romney campaign that connects even to the very basic issues like the economy in the states where it most matter.
GREGORY: And Carly Fiorina, from the other side, you have Governor Romney not focusing on trust, saying, look, just look at the record. Do you want another four years like we’ve had? This is how he’s teeing it up down the stretch.
MITT ROMNEY: This is not the time to double down and trickle down government policies that have failed us. It’s time for a new, bold changes that measure up to the moment and that can bring America’s families the certainty that the future will be better than the past.
GREGORY: Rachel brings up a good point, which is, it is now an economic argument focused on states like Ohio. We’re going to talk to Governor Kasich in a moment. Seven percent unemployment in that state. So how much credit does the president deserve for improving conditions in-- in important battleground states?
MS. CARLY FIORINA (Vice Chair, National Republican Senatorial Committee; Former Chair & CEO, Hewlett-Packard): Well, that important battleground state has a Republican governor that’s done exactly the opposite of what Obama claims he’s going to do. That is he’s lowered taxes and closed budget deficits. But I actually find the trust argument very odd because President Obama promised that we would have 4.2 percent economic growth. Right now we have two percent. He promised an unemployment that would be far below where it is today. He hasn’t delivered on his promises. On the issue of trust, what is going on with regard to Libya? I mean here we have an extraordinary thing where the president comes out on Friday and says I directed that everything possible should be done to aid our embassy under attack. That attack went on for seven hours. We now know that Secretary of Defense saying he denied requests for help over that seven hours.
GREGORY: Well, let’s get to Libya a little bit later.
MS. FIORINA: Where is the-- but it’s a trust issue.
GREGORY: Okay. But it’s a trust--
MS. FIORINA: It’s a trust issue.
GREGORY: On the economy, how does it tip the scales, David Brooks and E.J. here in the final nine days?
MR. DAVID BROOKS (Columnist, New York Times): Well, you know, I think-- well, I first think it has been the worst campaign I’ve ever covered. And I think they’re both ending on the same note they started. Obama’s doing a negative campaign. He’s got an ad out which is called "Rember," which is about Obama-- which is about Romney, the plutocrat. It’s about the flip-flop what we’ve just heard on the stump. So it’s almost pure negativity. Romney is finishing, trying to appeal to moderates, trying to appeal to-- to women, which is a bipartisan ad which is saying, you know, I don’t care if it’s a republican idea or democratic idea, I’m going to be for that. And, you know, so he has shape shift. That’s not who he is. That’s not who his policies are. So I regard this is an ad-- as a campaign that has answered none of our fundamental issues about both these guys, how they would govern for next four years. And they are finishing as badly as they started.
MR. E.J. DIONNE (Columnist, Washington Post; Author, Our Divided Political Heart): See, I disagree with David. I think this election is a fundamental choice and I think the trust issue links closely with the economic issue. Romney is almost one as a product. It’s like if you’re selling a car--you want air-conditioning, I’ll give you air-conditioning. You want rich, Corinthian leather, remember those old ads, I’ll give you a leather. Romney is saying you want right wing in the primary, I’ll give you that. You want centrist in the election, I’ll give you that. And the auto rescue is a good example where he was clearly against it. And in the debate, trying to suggest that he was for it. And I think it’s entirely appropriate that the auto rescue has been so important to Obama running so well in Ohio, because it’s really a choice. Either government should just sit by and let the market do its thing or government can come in and correct certain market outcomes and prevent catastrophe. That is the kind of choice we face in this election.
MR. BROOKS: I mean, if-- if you want to talk about trust, what Obama is talking about on the trail, first of all, there’s no second term agenda. Second, when he goes off the record with the Des Moines register last week, he gives out a second term agenda which is nothing like what he’s been talking about on the trail.
MR. DIONNE: That’s not true. It’s not true at all.
MR. BROOKS: Okay. Wait. So let’s talk about cutting corporate tax rates, talking about weeding out immigration.
MR. DIONNE: He said that all along.
MR. BROOKS: He’s talked about immigration reform which he’s not talked about much in public.
MR. DIONNE: Yes, he has.
MR. BROOKS: And he’s talked about a grand bargain with cutting spending two dollars and fifty cents for every dollar of tax revenue. That’s a much…
MR. DIONNE: Which is his proposal he’s put on the table.
MR. BROOKS: …that-- that is not what he’s been running on.
MS. FIORINA: But-- but I think if-- if you-- if you want to talk about being factually accurate, it is factually inaccurate to say that Governor Romney was against the rescue of the auto industry. If you read his entire op-ed, you guys are journalists I assume you believe that words are important.
MR. DIONNE: I did read his entire op-ed just this week.
MS. FIORINA: And what he says in that op-ed is that he believed that the government should have provided financial guarantees. The difference between Governor Romney’s approach and President Obama’s approach is who gets to stand first in line to get paid off.
MR. DIONNE: There was no money in the market that was going to go into the auto industry and that was a recipe...
MS. FIORINA: That’s what he said in the op-ed the government should provide guarantee.
MS. MADDOW: What-- what government-- what government-- what government…
GREGORY: Okay. Hold-- hold on. Rachel, quick comment here, then I want to get back to Chuck on Ohio. Go ahead.
MS. MADDOW: What Governor Romney said was you can kiss the automotive industry good-bye if President Obama goes ahead with the auto rescue plan that he went ahead with. That saved the auto rescue, auto industry.
MR. DIONNE: Exactly.
MS. MADDOW: And that-- and-- and it-- it was a success. And Mister Romney is trying to deny the fact that he was against it and he’s trying to take some of the credit for it.
GREGORY: All right. We’re going to get…
MS. FIORINA: The company that is doing best, Ford Motor Company was not rescued…
MR. DIONNE: They were for the auto rescue because they were afraid the whole supply chain would go out if the others went down.
GREGORY: All right. Let me get back in here. We’re going to have more on the economy as we move along, because the roundtable stays with us for the hour. I’m about to talk to John Kasich in Ohio where these themes are-- are perfectly in his wheelhouse because it’s really what’s going to decide Ohio. Before we do that, I think it will be so interesting to really understand, we talk so much about Ohio, how do you win the state, how do both campaigns win it? I want to bring Chuck back in. We’ve got a new poll, Chuck, coming out of Ohio, 49-49, razor tight.
GREGORY: This was before the final debate. Take-- take a moment here to take us through how each side thinks-- thinks they win this state.
MR. TODD: You know, the joke is, they’re five-- it’s five states within one state--the five Ohios. But let me just take you through, basically, the Romney pattern, here which is run up the score in cold country. That’s what Bush did in ’04, and win the swing areas of Columb-- the Columbus media market which is an ‘04 Bush territory, was ’08 Obama and win Hamilton County. For the president, run up the score in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and over perform with working class white guys in the auto belt, if you will, the Toledo area. But if you’re looking at just one county that may tell us more than anything, David, you sit over here and we’re going to take you to Hamilton County. Look at this. It’s as-- it’s as easy of a swing county as it is. Bush carried it in ’04 by 22000 votes. Obama carried it by 30,000 votes there. That’s why Mitt Romney spent a lot of time in Cincinnati this week.
GREGORY: As Hamilton County goes, perhaps Ohio goes. And so now let’s turn to the republican governor of battleground state Ohio, John Kasich. Governor Kasich, always great to have you on the program.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH): It’s good to listen to that big debate going on, David.
GREGORY: And we’re going to get you in into it.
GOV. KASICH: Doesn’t seem like MEET THE PRESS this morning, wow.
GREGORY: At first-- first, we-- it’s nice to start with a-- with a little bit of a chuckle here before we get into the serious issues.
GOV. KASICH: Yeah.
GREGORY: This was the Cleveland plain dealer on Thursday, Jeff Darcy. And here’s his cartoon that I thought was-- was so telling, if the Martian landing saying take me to your leaders and the guy says there’s somewhere in Ohio. Take I-71 north, etc. etc. So, as you well know, everybody is in Ohio, I want to ask you the direct question, governor. You’ve got seven percent unemployment. It’s better than the national average. Who deserves credit for that? Is it the president, is it you as the Republican governor or neither one of you?
GOV. KASICH: Well, you know, David, it’s probably the job creators. Look, we are up a hundred and twelve thousand jobs. The last four years we were down four hundred thousand jobs and how did we get there? We made Ohio safe for business expansion and for business attraction. I mean, we balanced our budget. We’re running a half a billion dollars in the rainy day fund. We’ve reduced taxes. And our regulators are people who use common sense. So, when you do all of that in a state that’s within 600 miles, 60 percent of the country and great diversity among its people, you know, we’ve just really kind of cleared the way for people to feel confident that they can invest here. You know, I’m interested in the auto debate because, you know, of the hundred and twelve thousand jobs that were created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you know in America today they are kind of viewed as the Vatican. You know, you can’t question them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that we’re up a total of four hundred jobs-- auto jobs when you-- when you count the companies and the suppliers. So, of the four hundred jobs up that are up, four hundred is great and we are thrilled we have a strong auto industry. And we want it to even be stronger, but it doesn’t account for the growth of one hundred and twelve thousand jobs in our state.
GREGORY: Well, but you’ve got one out of eight jobs in your state affiliated with the auto industry. Do you think if the president had not pursued his bailout plan that the state would be in the same economic condition today?
GOV. KASICH: Well, I’m glad the auto industry is strong, David. And I don’t know anybody who didn’t think the auto industry needed to be saved. I mean, I will tell you personally there’s no way I would support anybody that didn’t support the auto industry. But let me tell you in the last quarter, the most significant area of growth in Ohio has been-- in the last quarter investment technology, IT. We have grown financial services. We have grown healthcare. Now look, I mean, there’s been significant investment by auto companies in Ohio, but the domestic companies are reducing their footprint. And I wish we could get more here. In fact, I just met with the Delphi team trying to see how we can get more business there. But, I mean, let’s be fair about this. The fact is, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has said when you take into the-- into account the companies in the suppliers, you're up about four hundred jobs. We did not grow Ohio’s economy just by relying on one industry or just one sector. We have done it by diversifying Ohio and making it safe for people to come in here. And I got to tell you, I called CEOs in other states and they are interested in what we are doing here because there’re no surprises coming. And when there are no surprises then investors and business people, job creators say, well maybe it’s safe to go there. And, you know, the proof is in the pudding.
GREGORY: Let me ask you about unemployment because as you know whoever is responsible for the success in Ohio, Governor Romney doesn’t seem very impressed. This is what he said speaking earlier this month to the Columbus Dispatch Review Board-- Editorial Board. “I don’t think 7.2 percent unemployment is something to write home about celebrate.” That was before it was 7.0. “And if you consider the two hundred plus people who’ve dropped out of the workforce in Ohio, the real number is closer to 10%. I don’t find people here thinking that happy days are here again.” What about unemployment nationally? What should we expect under a President Romney, if it comes to that?
GOV. KASICH: Well look. First of all, in terms of the unemployment numbers and who is in and who is out, I mean, I’m always concerned about what those numbers really mean. But what I do know is over the last four years, we’d lost four hundred thousand jobs. And since-- since January of ‘11, we are up a hundred and twelve thousand jobs. And, by the way, we’re outperforming every other state in the Midwest. And if the auto bailout is significant, why is it that we’re so significantly outperforming Michigan and why it is that Ohio is number one in the Midwest and number four in the country? In terms of Romney, look, what I want out of a president is I want stability. Look, small businesses get paralyzed if they don’t know what the regulations are, if they don’t know what the taxes are going to be, if they don’t know what they are going to do with debt and if they don’t know what these people in Washington are going to do. They sit on the sidelines. I want certainty. I don’t-- look, I think there’re ways to get an agreement in Washington. But it doesn’t have to mean higher rates. It can mean lower rates and eliminating loopholes.
GREGORY: But Governor (cross talk) what unemployment rates nationally do you expect of President Romney?
GOV. KASICH: What we’ll get out of him, we’ll get a movement towards a balanced budget. We will get a stabilization of taxes and for some people a tax cut. And we will have regulators that will use common sense and not overdo it. We have strong regulations here on oil and gas, the tough-- on fracking, the toughest in the country. But we don’t overdo it. And when people understand certainty, they invest, David. Look, this is not theory. I was in business for ten years. We got a lot of people around debating. They’d never been in business in their entire lifetime. And they don’t understand it. I do understand it and the fact is when they are confident of the future, they can then invest. And there’s a lot of money sitting on the sidelines. If Romney wins, I believe we’re going to see a significantly improved economy. That’s why I’m for him. I want Ohio to do a lot better than we currently are.
GREGORY: And so let me ask you this. You know one of the big attack lines from the president is that Romney is not one of us. That’s what’s running in his ad. That’s about supporting autoworkers in your state. Separately, here was the Cleveland playing dealers editorial last Sunday and this is what it said. The question is, which Romney are voters going to get? Which Romney would they elect? It asks, the rather liberal one who ran for the Senate in ‘94? The pragmatic governor? The sharply conservative candidate of this year’s GOP primaries? The reborn moderate of recent weeks? All politicians change positions over time. But Romney’s frequent changes raise question about his core principles and make his lack of policy details all the more troubling. They make you wonder if he would stand up to the more extreme elements in his own party, especially to House Republicans who undercut Iowan-- Ohioan John Boehner’s attempts to negotiate a deficit and debt deal. How do you respond to that governor?
GOV. KASICH: Look at his record. I mean, the guy created jobs. He’s a job creator. We need that. Jobs are the greatest moral issue in America today when people are working, families are stronger and children are better off, number one. Number two, he was governor of Massachusetts. They went from deficits to surpluses from job loss to job creation. And then you look at the Olympics where he was a pure leader. You look at his history. And it tells you who the guy is. He’s pragmatic, no question about it. But he’s also tough, and he is firm and he understands job creation. In terms of people not getting him, the first debate David, I have never seen a debate have this much impact. But the first debate gave people a chance to see, well, you know, they thought, well Romney is smart, he knows all this and that, but he doesn’t get me. In that first debate, I believe that he was able to connect with people. And they said you know, maybe he does get me. And-- and that was an important part of why there’s such momentum in the state of Ohio right now. Look, it’s very close, but I believe right now we are currently ahead. Internal show is currently ahead. I honestly think that-- that Romney is going to carry Ohio. And, you know, I haven’t been saying this. I now believe it’s going to happen.
GREGORY: Governor, I want to-- just about 15 seconds left, a very technical question. Do you think we are going to know the outcome of Ohio on election night? As you know provisional ballots could become an issue that take some additional time to be counted. What do you say?
GOV. KASICH: It’s going to be really close, David. The only thing I could say is I hope you all keep talking about Ohio and all those folks out there that want to create jobs, come see me. I'm anxious to talk to you.
GREGORY: Do you think we’ll know the winner of Ohio on election night?
GOV. KASICH: Yeah, I mean, I-- I don’t know. It’s going to be very close. But yes, I do think that we will know before the end of the night. Because I-- I tell you something, the independent voters are trending heavily towards Mitt Romney. And with those numbers like that, it-- it pretty well assures me we are going to know. I’m not sure the election is going to be as close as what everybody is talking about today. And I’m not saying that to do spin. I'm telling that because that’s what I really do believe.
GREGORY: All right Governor Kasich, always good to have you on. Thank you very much.
GOV. KASICH: Always good to be with you, David, thank you.
GREGORY: All right, we are going to take a quick break here and get some reaction to the governor from our roundtable. Also look inside some of these voting groups that will decide the race, nine days to go. That is it. We are inside the battleground. Joining the conversation in a little while as well, Democratic Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, Republican Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker. We’ll go inside those battlegrounds as well after we take this break.
GREGORY: Coming up more from the battlegrounds. Colorado and Wisconsin, two big battlegrounds that the campaigns will have their eyes on. I’ll be joined by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker coming up next after this break.
GREGORY: Back with our roundtable now. I want to talk about some of the demographics that play in this campaign. But I still think the economy and Ohio as you just heard from Governor Kasich is really where this debate is at. Rachel Maddow, what did you take away from that?
MS. MADDOW: I think the most interesting thing about Ohio that’s really underappreciated is what’s happened in recent Ohio politics. And looking at John Kasich there, the last time I spent that much time looking at him talk un-- uninterrupted was during the fight over union rights in the state. He and the Republican legislature there stripped union rights. There was a huge backlash in the state. There was a referendum on it. They lost by twenty-two points. And then they try-- they were going to try to get rid of half of early voting. They took that off the table themselves when they saw the backlash it engendered. There’s a very, very organized progressive and centrist movement I think in Ohio because of the kind of governance that Kasich was bragging about there. There’s another side that to it that I think is really going to affect Ohio’s organizing capacity. It’s why I think Ohio is leaning more blue than it might otherwise be.
MR. BROOKS: Yeah. Well, the Ohio’s government is prospering in part because of what Kasich did. It seems to be Obama has a leg up in part because of fracking. If some of the environmental groups had been able to shut down fracking, the economy would not be doing as well in Ohio as it is right now, white voters would not be supporting Obama as much as they are right now. Obama could win because of fracking and all the jobs that it's creating. The second thing which I think Kasich illustrates is to me the core issue of this campaign, we’ve got-- we’ve got a need for tremendous government reform. We’ve got governments that are making-- helping create a sclerotic economy, and what Kasich has done, what Mitch Daniels has done in Indiana, some of those reform governors have done the sort of reforms that help strip away some of that sclerosis and they’re seeing some growth. And I’m a little surprised that Mitt Romney isn’t running on sort of that broad saying I’m not radical, look at what Mitch Daniels is, I want to do it for the national government.
GREGORY: Lessons for Washington from a state like Ohio.
MR. TODD: It is amazing that he’s not running to change Washington. You know, he’s winning that question but not by a lot and it has always amazed me because the country wants to-- they’re not happy with Washington. But I want to go back to your demographic question here, right, which is what makes Ohio different from all the other battleground states and all of the other mathematics if you will from the Obama campaign is that it’s the state that demographically doesn’t fit their-- doesn’t fit what they’re trying to do, right? Everything about what they’re trying to do in every other swing state is about Hispanics, it’s about gender. Not Ohio. Ohio is different. Why does Romney think he could still win Ohio and catch up, because the demographic group he performs best with nationally is white men. The demographic group he is underperforming more with in that state than any other battlegrounds, white men. Autoworkers in that Toledo to Akron, northwest-- north to west part of the state.
MR. DIONNE: And I think the reason for that is A, what Rachel mentioned, which is the fight over union rights. So a lot of counties that had voted for Kasich in the election swung overwhelmingly in favor of the unions in that referendum. Secondly, again, the auto rescue, which makes a big different in that quadrant you talked about, which is white working class voters. And Governor Kasich dis-- Michigan which is, I suppose, what you do when you’re a governor of Ohio--
GREGORY: This is what you do. Yeah.
MR. DIONNE: Michigan has had one of the biggest drops in unemployment. When Obama took office, Michigan was a mess, because of the auto industry. They’ve had a huge drop of unemployment, even though they-- a little bit higher now than Michigan. And I was struck that Governor Kasich suggested that everybody was for the auto rescue. No, they weren’t. Most Republicans with the exception by the way of President George W. Bush who let it happen with actions he took were against the auto rescue. So I don’t-- well, I do understand. But people just don’t want to take responsibility for where they stood on that issue.
GREGORY: But this was a question, Carly, about the auto bailout about what role government-- direct government money would play in restricting these companies.
MS. FIORINA: That’s right. And who stands first in line to be repaid. Is it the unions or is it debtors and creditors. I mean, that was the fundamental question. And the truth is it is disingenuous and factually inaccurate to say that Republicans weren’t for the rescue of the auto industry. The question was how and what and who would be repaid. But let me go back to your original question. Of course, it’s about the economy. And in Ohio, both Governor Kasich and Mitt Romney are right. Governor Kasich is right that his policies fundamentally different than Obama’s, lower taxes, close the budget deficit, make-- create a regulatory environment that encourages investment and certainty that those are improving the situation. Governor Romney is also, however, correct that there’s a long way to go. And then there are lots of people in Ohio and elsewhere around this country who are unemployed or underemployed and we have huge progress. And two percent GDP growth is nothing to crow about. In fact, it’s less growth than in 2011 and less than 2010.
MS. MADDOW: All the good economic news is because of Republican policies and all of the bad economic news is because of Democratic policy?
MS. FIORINA: Oh, you said it, not me.
MS. MADDOW: No, I mean-- I mean it’s-- it’s just funny. It just doesn’t get noticed.
GREGORY: But-- but how-- how much of this is a problem in-- in terms of how people feel, Rachel? We see more economic optimism in the country…
MS. MADDOW: Yeah.
GREGORY: …and yet people are still feeling like the Obama record is-- is lackluster and you look at the recovery somewhat feeling like it’s robust enough.
MS. MADDOW: Yeah. And you feel-- I mean you see (Unintelligible) consumer confidence numbers, right? You see consumer confidence trending up. You see the unemployment rate trending down. You actually see the deficit dropping year to year. You see things that are going in the right direction. People have to decide if they want to switch horses and go with a guy who’s promising a fundamentally different way to go, if he’s…
MS. MADDOW: …sort of economic austerity, more European style way of going or whether you think President Obama is turning this thing around. And that’s the fundamental decision people have to make.
MR. BROOKS: The weird thing about this election is the country thinks we’re in the wrong direction. And yet, I think the most likely outcome is they reelect everybody. And that we get a Democratic Senate, a Republican House and maybe a Democratic White House. And so we get the same government we’ve had the last four years. And so the (Unintelligible) case that has to be make is we’ve had a rotten tax code, we have a dysfunctional politics, how are you going to change that?
MR. BROOKS: And I haven’t seen Obama do the sort of big change agenda that he did four years ago. I have seen Romney make gestures at it, but now really lay it out in the way it was supposed to be. I think they would make a change how do each country want to do actual (cross talk).
GREGORY: Let me continue that then though because I want to pick right there, pick up there as we turn to the Democratic governor of battleground Colorado John Hickenlooper and the Republican Governor of Paul Ryan’s homestate of Wisconsin Scott Walker. Governors, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS both of you.
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO): Glad to be back.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): Good to be with you David.
GREGORY: Both states are pretty tight here, pretty remarkable. Wisconsin is tied as well, that’s good news for Romney. A Republican hasn’t won your state governor since 1984. And in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper, look at our latest polling from NBC News and Marist 48-48, I know from talking to the Obama campaign they think it’s not that close, they think they have an edge, but they are going to be out there. They know it’s tight. Both of you quickly, Governor Hickenlooper you start--what’s decisive, what tips the scales in your state and in this election?
GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think when you look at the mess that President Obama inherited and I mean losing 800,000 thousand jobs a month, month after month after month. The first few months of his presidency, he’s turned that around. He’s got 32 straight months of-- of job creation, 5.2 million jobs, the national export initiative in the first two years, exports were up 38 percent. I think people are going to hear that and I think they are also going to recognize that-- that Governor Romney’s plan of adding two trillion dollars to military spending and at the same time promising five trillion dollars of tax cuts to-- largely skewed to the wealthier parts of the population without any specifics, right? It means like, trying to sell pig in a pork. I mean, what are those deductions and-- and tax credits he’s going to get rid of. Are we going to lose the home mortgage deduction? Are we going to lose the deduction from giving to philanthropic organizations like churches that are in many cases for local government our best partners at fighting poverty, improving education that kind of stuff?
GREGORY: Governor-- Governor Walker, for you as well, the defining issue here that-- that determines the outcome in your state.
GOV. WALKER: Well, it's certainly about jobs. And in our case it’s-- elections are fundamentally about the future, not about the past. So I think people on the-- few weeks back on that night in Denver in John’s state outside of his hometown there when voters got to see that Mitt Romney had a plan and the president didn’t, and now in the last few days he’s trying to gloss it over with the 20-page glossy document. He doesn’t have a plan. Mitt Romney does. And in fact just yesterday as I was traveling the state, there were literally farmers out in fields that had almost like a (unintelligible) commercial where they had one sign after another after another that listed out the five points of his plan. People want to know how they are going to get working again whether it’s Jamesville or Green Bay or Wausau or Milwaukee or Superior, they want to know how we are going to get working again. I think it was very clear after that debate. We saw record numbers of volunteers coming into the campaign offices and more importantly we saw the biggest jump in the polls in Wisconsin after people saw the difference in that first debate.
GREGORY: I want to ask you both about the experiences you’ve had in your states dealing with the other side, the party on the other side, and how you think that may be instructive to-- to Washington in a new Congress, in a new administration whether it’s Republican or Democrat. Governor Walker, let me start with you. When it comes to balancing the-- the budget, is it really acceptable for Governor Romney to go to Washington? If it-- if it comes to that and, say, well, through tax reform largely I’m going to balance the budget or through tax cuts we’re going to grow our way into this. Is that an appropriately balanced approach to solving this problem?
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R-WI): Well, I think more than anything what people want is action. They want results. They look at the problem-- I mean, I think about my wife Tonette and I looking at our two kids--one who’s a freshman in college, the other is a senior in high school--we worry tremendously that four years from now they’re not going to have an opportunity when they get out of college to have a job. We worry tremendously not just about four years from now, but years after that if our kids get married and have kids of their own that our grandkids won’t able to inherit the kind of America that we grow up in because of the massive debt out there. And so people want results. I think voters…
GREGORY: Wait. But I’m asking you how you get to results, governor.
GOV. WALKER: …like Tonette and I and in this state and other states want results.
GREGORY: I’m-- I’m asking you how you get there?
GOV. WALKER: What’s that?
GREGORY: I mean, you have a candidate who’s rejected a 10-1 spending cut to tack to revenue increasing formula. Does that-- does that jive with you as you having to navigate some touch circumstances in your own state?
GOV. WALKER: Sure.
GREGORY: Is that a way to run Washington?
GOV. WALKER: In Wisconsin’s case, like Kasich and others did around the country, we lowered the overall tax, but, in fact, we lowered property tax for the first time in twelve years. Overall burden went down and revenues went up. Why? Because we promoted more growth. We went from a few years ago having 9.2 percent unemployment down the 7.3 percent today. We went from losing hundreds of thousands of jobs to gaining jobs out there. Why? Because you’ve going to have a pro-growth agenda out there. When you do, that will help Washington grow in the right direction that’ll put more people to work. And when more people are working, that’ll help us balance the economy as well.
GREGORY: Well, let me ask a question to Governor Hickenlooper on the democratic side. Do you think the Democrats are, in effect, playing by old rules--too protective of entitlements, not serious enough about looking at serious reform that could also have a bigger impact on how to deal with the debt?
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D-CO): No, I think you’ve got to look at it. You’ve got to have both, right? And-- and in Colorado, certainly we have worked very hard unlike the president. When I got elected in 2010, Republicans sat down, we worked together. You know, we did our budget last year in a divided general assembly. We’ve passed it with 86 out of a hundred votes. And-- and you’ve got to have-- it’s great to continue trying to-- to get rid of red tape and-- and lower taxes wherever possible, but you also got to have some revenue sources, too. And if you’re not going to deal with this fiscal cliff, right, in the lame duck session, which I think is a huge challenge. We’ve got to get everybody working together, right. I mean, if you look at some of the people that really do understand job creation and-- and how businesses go; Warren Buffett, right, who is supporting President Obama. I mean, he’s looking at this cliff issue is-- is-- is really one of the key issues. People do want certainty. But that’s the biggest uncertainty of them alls--can Republicans and Democrats work together and get a resolution here.
GREGORY: Let me ask you both, it-- it’s striking to me what we’ve not been debated.
GOV. WALKER: David, just- just to that one point real quick.
GREGORY: Yeah, go ahead, Governor.
GOV. WALKER: I just say-- just onthat point real briefly, remember, both of us are-- are governors here, Mitt Romney was a governor in state where 85 percent of the legislature was Democratic controlled and yet he balanced a budget, did it without raising taxes in a way that helped create more jobs, so I think to prove your point, he’s proven he can do it in a state like Massachusetts, I think he can do it for America.
GREGORY: I has struck me that there is not a more robust debate in this campaign about gun violence in America and what to do about that. Is there somehow the federal government-- the state’s government-- the state governments for that matter should just sort of keep their hands off and then let it-- let it-- not let it happen, but sort of-- sort of abdicate this idea that well, there is not much in terms of regulation that you can do to accomplish this. Both states that you represent have had shooting rampages. Governor Hickenlooper, have you been disappointed that there is not a more robust debate about this?
GOV. HICKENLOOPER: No, I think that if you look at some of the weapons that people are using in these-- in these senseless attacks, I mean, 12 gauge shotguns, what, there are a hundred and twenty million out there. You know, I do worry that-- that some of the cuts that-- that Governor Romney is proposing are going to cut funding in all manner of levels for mental health, I mean, that’s one of the big issues. We’ve got some crazy folks out there that are just completely delusional. We’ve got to be able to identify that sooner and-- and get them into treatment, get them off the street before they do some sort of insane act.
GREGORY: Governor Walker, how do you respond to that? Why not more of a debate about, this has been virtually absent?
GOV. WALKER: Well, I-- I-- in-- in our case, at least, in the recent tragedy we had in Wisconsin, and I we had a greater focus, I think, that some of the Republicans and Democrats can agree, on a greater focus on tightening up domestic violence laws because that’s where our biggest problem was in our-- our recent tragedy here in the state of Wisconsin. We didn’t do enough in the state apparently, at-- at least to the local level to adequately enforce those laws. We didn’t do enough to stand up for domestic violence victims in our state at the local level. We need to do more of that. And that’s something that I-- I think isn't a partisan issue and it’s certainly something that at the federal, at the state and at the local level needs to be highlighted.
GREGORY: All right. We’re going to leave it there. We’ll be watching both of your states very closely in the days up to Election Day. Thanks governors to both of you.
GOV. WALKER: Thank you.
GREGORY: We’re going to take another quick break here. More with our roundtable, coming back including this demographic issue, I want to get to, the fight for women voters, the fight for Latino voters, how much that’s going to impact?
Plus, what are we going to see from either a Romney administration or an Obama second term? We’ll get into that right after this break.
GREGORY: Coming up, what to expect after the election more with our roundtable, right after this.
GREGORY: Back now with our roundtable, one of the big pushes here in the final nine days is for women. And you’ve seen this across the landscape here, not in the-- only in the presidential race, but in these tight Senate races as well. We have the latest our of Indiana with the-- of the-- candidate there Richard Mourdock talking about rape, once again, that it could be God’s will and that the pregnancy because of rape should be taken to term. This ironically and the timing was bad for Mitt Romney was the only Senate campaign that Romney had actually weighed in on with an endorsement. And so, the Democratic National Committee aired this ad to get into this debate.
(Videotape, Political Ad)
MR. ROMNEY: This fall I’m supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate.
MR. RICHARD MOURDOCK: Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.
MR. ROMNEY: This is a man who I want to see in Washington to make sure that we cannot just talk about changing things, but actually have the votes to get things changed.
GREGORY: And this follows, of course, the Todd Akin who’s a candidate in Missouri talking about legitimate rape. Carly Fiorina, this seems to me to be a cultural problem within the Republican Party, you can’t lay this at the feet of-- of Mitt Romney to be sure, but there are a lot of women who’re-- who’re seeing this as fundamental disrespect for women that is part of the Republican Party. How do you see it?
MS. FIORINA: Well, first of all, talk about bad timing for Mitt Romney’s endorsement. Richard Mourdock said a really stupid thing and he apologized and Governor Romney’s position on life is identical to Richard Mourdock’s Democratic opponent. In other words, in that state, there are two pro-life candidates running, Richard Mourdock is clearly more extreme and I agree, I think, most people disagree with him. But here’s the reason why Governor Romney is gaining among women right now. He’s gaining among women. And that’s because women care about the economy. Women care about the role of government. Women care about their children’s education. Women care about their health care. And more women are living in poverty under this president that in anytime in decades, that’s why Governor Romney is winning with women.
GREGORY: Fair-- fair point, Rachel, one of the things you’re seeing it was Tina Fey speaking this week in New York who-- who seem to me sort of strike that cord about be-- going beyond abortion, about do you trust women enough to let them make decisions about their own lives, this is how-- how she talked about it?
(Videotape, Center for Reproductive Rights Inaugural Gala, Wednesday)
TINA FEY: If I have to listen to one more grave-faced man with a two dollar haircut explain to me what rape is, I'm going to lose my mind.
GREGORY: And frankly to be-- to be fair, I mean, the Romney campaign is probably singing the same thing. I’m going to lose my mind if we had to keep talking about rape in this election, because it-- its association with the Republican Party that he does want to be associated with.
MS. MADDOW: Right. But then, he picked Paul Ryan. They have the fight over forced ultrasounds, the government telling you that you need to have a medically unnecessary procedure at the order of the state regardless of what you want and regardless of what your doctor says. And then he picked a guy, who picked a forced ultrasound bill for the country, Paul Ryan was onboard with that. Paul Ryan was a cosponsor with Todd Akin with bill to redefine rape. Paul Ryan was a cosponsor with bill to have personhood federally, which would not only ban all abortion it would ban in vitro fertilization. It would ban most hormonal forms of birth control. If you wanted to avoid this fight, don’t put Paul Ryan on the ticket. There’s a reason that Paul Ryan has been in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina…
GREGORY: And the Republican platform talked about you should be able to do in vitro fertilization. That was in the Republican platform…
MS. MADDOW: And that’s…
GREGORY: …that a lot of women have difficult with. Chuck, police this a little bit terms of what’s really driving this vote in this gender gap?
MR. TODD: Well, first of all, Virginia and Colorado are the two states outside because they’re-- both of those states, Michael Bennet is in the United State senate today in Colorado. He survived because of the abortion issue, because of the gender gap. He created one of the widest gender gaps in any senate race in the country in 2010. But I want to get to a larger point that this-- this issue, the irony here to both Akin and Murdoch, and hearing somebody who is with the NRSC what you just said about Murdoch is a reminder. That isn’t who the NRSC wanted, right? They-- they wanted more moderate Republicans, more establishment Republicans, that they’ve not been able to police their own party. They-- they-- they can’t, because the base of the party will lash out of them. And this is an anchor around Mitt Romney. You know, one of the things our polling has shown is that Mitt Romney has better favorable ratings than the Republican Party overall. The Democratic Party has better favorable ratings than the Republican Party overall. I think there’s a case to be made if Mitt Romney does not win this election, it is not his-- you know, there are going to be people pointing fingers at him. I think the fault lies for the Republican Party took its image, took a turn to the right as far as some voters are concerned in the middle that Romney himself should be able to win.
MS. FIORINA: But here’s the thing…
MR. DIONNE: Can-- can I just…
MS. FIORINA: …voters voter for people, not parties. So Romney’s on the-- Romney’s on the ticket, not the Republican Party.
MS. DIONNE: I don’t know.
MS. MADDOW: I don’t know.
MR. BROOKS: First though, I wanted to defend the grave-faced guys in two dollar haircuts.
MR. TODD: I might get two dollar haircut.
MS. MADDOW: Nowhere near Mitt Romney.
MR. BROOKS: The crucial gap is a marriage gap. Republicans and Mitt Romney are doing better by almost 20-points among married people, including married women. Democrats and Barack Obama are doing better than 20-points among single women. And so that’s the crucial gap here. And so that is a question of-- that’s how you tailor who you’re trying to get. And the Republicans are doing extremely well among people who want bipartisanship, among people who want some stability, and so they’re doing well among that group. But the-- the way Republicans are falling short is among that single group where Obama is doing well, remember that Julia ad, where he said governments can help you here, we’re going to help you here, we’re going to help you here. Republicans have not offered a counter help here
GREGORY: I want to add one more layer to this--
MR DIONNE: I want to go Chuck’s point about the Republican right, I think one thing we’ve seen in this election, the right wing lost this election. Mitt Romney signaled that in the first debate when he said, you know all this Tea Party stuff we’ve been around for two years, well I know I can’t win the election on that so I am going somewhere else. The second point is you saw something interesting in that Murdoch example in terms of how Mitt Romney responds to the pressures in his own party. He could have pulled down the ad that he made for Richard Murdoch and he refused to pull that add down. And the third thing is this whole discussion of I will be bipartisan, I can’t help but want to point out that the Republicans for the entirely of Obama’s term have said, no, no. no. And so what they’re really saying is we’ve been nasty when there’s a Democrat as president but elect a Republican and we’ll be happy to work for him. This is kind of political extortion.
GREGORY: Well I want to-- I want to button this conversation up with what I think is an over-arching point that really does frame in the last nine days. We were told this was going to be the ultimate clarifying campaign, two distinct choices, now I feel nine days out, a fair amount of uncertainty. There’s a question of which Mitt Romney are you going to get if he becomes president and there’s the question of what’s the second term for President Obama really going to look like?
MR. TODD: Right. They both fudged that up a little bit. But I want to talk about that last nine days. We were talking about this the other day, David about how, you know, Mitt Romney has a message advantage in this respect. He gets to say the same things for the next nine days.
MR. TODD: Because all he’s trying to do is win over these swing voting women, if you will, I mean that swing voting women, yes he’s got to figure out how to fix the auto bailout, but he has only has to talk one game. Barack Obama because he’s putting together this tapestry-- this coalition has to hit the, Chris Matthews always like to call the xylophone right, hit the note for Hispanics, hit the note for labor, hit the note for women, that he’s got-- its just more complicated. And I think that that’s why, you know, we’ve had this debate macro versus micro. And I think that the-- the Obama campaign in hindsight, that look this is how they get to 50 plus one. But it is-- it is the reason why you don’t hear the larger message because he can't goof off right now.
GREGORY: Quick. Kelly quickly yes.
MS FIORINA: David, I just disagree with your premise. I think, yes there are-- have been changes in position and I will argue there have been more changes in Obama’s positions frankly. But I think there’s a very clear choice here, an extremely clear choice between a man who is saying I am going to run and govern with pro-growth policies. I am going to govern through bipartisan coalitions and a president who is manifestly not governed with pro-growth policies--
MS MADDOW: I wonder why?
MS FIORINA: --and by the way, you know, it’s amazing to me that we’re still saying that President Obama was such a weak president--
GREGORY: All right. I got to wrap it here.
MS FIORINA:--and was unable to work his will in Washington.
GREGORY: Thank goodness we’ve nine more days because we need nine more days to continue this debate. Great conversation, this morning. Thank you all very much. A reminder--stay with NBC News all week for a special coverage of Hurricane Sandy and of course the election. That’s all for the day. We’ll be back next week for our special election-week broadcast live from NBC’s Democracy Plaza in New York because if it’s Sunday its MEET THE PRESS.