Plouffe: Ryan Intensifies "Core Argument" Against Romney

Plouffe: Ryan Intensifies "Core Argument" Against Romney

By Alexis Simendinger - August 14, 2012

OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe offered RealClearPolitics a few thoughts about the presidential race as he prepared to leave the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum here Tuesday for the next stop on President Obama's three-day tour of the state. Obama had just delivered remarks to approximately 800 people who sat on white folding chairs next to hay bales under leafy shade trees. This is the second day of the tour for the president, who motored through sunny Iowa in an armored black bus, dubbed Ground Force One.

RCP: I recall your saying in July that Gov. Romney’s vice presidential pick would mean little to the dynamic of the race. Do you still feel that way now that Romney’s running mate turns out to be Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan?

Plouffe: Well, this is a Romney-Obama race. There’s going to be very few people who vote based on the running mate. I do think what Ryan does -- all it does is intensify our core argument against Romney, meaning, ‘This is real. This is what [Romney’s] going to do [if elected].” You know, this is what he’s going to do on taxes; this is what he’s going to do on education; what’s he’s going to do on Medicare.

Now, if he had chosen [Rob] Portman or [Tim] Pawlenty or [Marco] Rubio, that would have been the same case. There’s a little extra, you know, speed on the fastball simply because Ryan is a leading House Republican. But I still think, listen, we’re not going to make different arguments. What we said about wind [energy as an important industry and electricity-producer in Iowa], we would have said whether he had picked Portman or Ryan.

But . . . the more important thing, I guess, is that the direction of the Romney campaign might have changed a little bit. So, again, that’s not someone here saying, “I was going to vote for Romney, but I’m not because of Paul Ryan.” It’s less about the individual than [that] now the Romney people are saying, “We want to have this big debate about this.” I mean, I think that’s a debate we’re well positioned to both prosecute and win.

RCP: Monday at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Ryan urged Iowans to ask the president where the new jobs are. It was a short speech intended to focus on Obama’s record on job creation. But you just suggested the focus has shifted to the role of government and the nation’s fiscal health. How is President Obama going to campaign to keep the focus off jobs in response to Romney’s invitation for this “big debate”?

Plouffe: Well, these are the arguments we’ve been having, about tax policy, about investments. It’s all connected to jobs.

RCP: Does the president have to lay down some markers this fall about what he would support with Congress to tackle the budget, taxes, entitlements and the “fiscal cliff”?

Plouffe: We are talking every day, including here, about how we need a balanced deficit reduction package that helps create jobs through the right investments, but helps our deficits in the long term. That’s something for everybody. But the Republican approach is basically, as scored by independent economists: ask only things from the middle class and seniors and the poor; [it] gives the wealthy huge tax cuts; and is not judged to create jobs in the long term.

RCP: In Florida, how many points do you think the Medicare debate with Romney and Ryan may have added to a potential Obama victory there?

Plouffe: Oh, I don’t know. We’ll have to see. There is no way to say that.

All I’d say is look at the Florida [media] coverage in the last 48 hours, and it’s all about “Does Romney have a problem on Medicare?” -- which is not really what you want to do after you announce your running mate. It should be an offensive period, as opposed to a defensive period.

But listen, we feel optimistic about Florida. You know, our voter registration is going well there. Our numbers are coming in pretty well. And this is a state they clearly wanted to put away by this time. And now it’s going to be an absolute dead heat. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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