Thursday Reads: Romney Campaign Tactics and Debate Reactions

Good Morning!

Before I get started, don’t forget that Ann Romney is scheduled to be on The View today at 11AM Eastern.

Now to the news.  I think I have some interesting links for you today. I’m going to focus mostly on some aggressive Romney campaign tactics and on reactions to the second presidential debate.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard about the stories that have been coming out about corporate CEOs trying to intimidate their employees into voting for Mitt Romney, see here, here, here, and here.

Late yesterday afternoon, Mike Elk of In These Times revealed that Romney himself has suggested that business owners instruct their employees–and their families–how they should vote. I hope you’ll read the whole article, but I’m going to post the audio of a conference call that Romney held, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business. The whole call is quite interesting, but the relevant part is at the end, around the 26:00 point.

Here the transcription, from Mike Elk’s article (emphasis added):

I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.

Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.

I particularly think that our young kids–and when I say young, I mean college-age and high-school age–they need to understand that America runs on a strong and vibrant business [sic] … and that we need more business growing and thriving in this country. They need to understand that what the president is doing by borrowing a trillion dollars more each year than what we spend is running up a credit card that they’re going to have to pay off and that their future is very much in jeopardy by virtue of the policies that the president is putting in place. So I need you to get out there and campaign.

Elk writes that this actually is legal now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He also asks whether Romney is behind the recent rash of reports of CEOs putting pressure on their employees to vote for the Republican ticket.

The call raises the question of whether the Romney campaign is complicit in the corporate attempts to influence employees’ votes that have been recently making headlines….

Beyond Romney’s statements on the call, it’s unclear whether his election operation is actively coordinating workplace campaigning by businesses. Romney press secretary Andrea Saul did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment.

However, the conference call raises troubling questions about what appears to be a growing wave of workplace political pressure unleashed by Citizens United.

At Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein has another story about aggressive Romney campaign tactics. Weinstein obtained some e-mails between the Romney campaign and the Virginia Military Institute, where Romney recently gave a foreign policy speech. The military is required to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics, but Romney pressured the school to allow him to use his speech as what would have in essence been a campaign event.

When Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of cadets at Virginia Military Institute on October 8, he was supposed to give a major foreign policy speech that steered clear of partisan politics. That’s because VMI personnel observe the US military’s tradition of political neutrality when in uniform. But internal emails obtained by Mother Jones show that Romney’s campaign pushed to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials by maximizing military optics around the event. Members of Romney’s staff sought to use the VMI logo in their campaign materials, requested that uniformed cadets be let out of class early to attend Romney’s speech, and asked VMI “to select a few cadet veterans and give them a place of honor” standing behind Romney during his address.

As the campaign pushed for these requests, VMI officials pushed back, concerned that they were for partisan purposes. Each request was denied by the state-run institution, whose students serve in the US military’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, so that VMI would not be seen as endorsing Romney’s candidacy. The Romney campaign also pressured VMI to play host to “15 to 20” retired admirals and generals at the school who traveled there to endorse Romney; VMI eventually relented to that request.

Please do read the whole article at the link.

Remember Mark Leder? He’s the private equity billionaire who hosted the private fund-raiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks. Leder is giving another fund-raiser for Romney in Florida on Saturday night, according to Ryan Grim and Laura Goldman at HuffPo.

Leder has been telling potential donors that given the uproar following his last fundraiser, he feels an obligation to make the situation right by raising more money for Romney, according to people who have discussed the matter with Leder. One donor, asked if Leder had been noting that he’d been “taking heat” for the last fundraiser, said, “That was the basic pitch, except the word ‘heat’ was replaced by another four-letter word that begins with s.”

Saturday night’s event, unlike his now-famous May fundraiser, will not be held at Leder’s home. It will be in Palm Beach, Fla., and will include other hosts in addition to Leder.

Leder is a leveraged-buyout specialist, much like Romney. He owns Sun Capital Partners, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla. — the site of the upcoming presidential debate, which will be held on Monday. Leder is the co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and has been characterized in the press as a “party animal.”

I imagine all of the guests and staff will have to surrender their cell phones before the event. Will there be body searches too?

Contraception came up in the debate on Tuesday night, and Mitt Romney seems to be feeling a bit defensive about it. Abortion rights weren’t addressed, but Romney must be feeling defensive because he released a new ad yesterday.

Apparently Mitt thinks this ad proves he’s “moderate” on abortion. He wants to ban all abortions except in cases where women have been raped, are victims of incest, or whose lives are in danger if they carry the child to term. That seems pretty extreme to me, since abortion is legal, at least for now.

But Romney has also said he supports states passing personhood amendments, he has clearly stated that he will appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he has repeatedly promised to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the ad (h/t Jezebel)

“This is an ad designed to deceive women. The Romney team knows that Mitt Romney’s real agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular – ending safe and legal abortion, ending Planned Parenthood’s preventive care that millions of people rely on, and repealing the Affordable Care Act and the coverage of birth control with no co-pay. Romney can run from his own agenda, but he can’t hide – women will hold him accountable at the polls on election day.”

I don’t understand how these exceptions that Romney and Ryan keep talking about could work anyway. Would a pregnant girl or women have to prove that she was raped or sexually victimized by a relative? How would that work? Would there have to be a confession by the perpetrator? There certainly wouldn’t be time for the crime to be prosecuted in a court of law in time for an abortion to take place. What about the claim of danger to the mother’s life? Will doctors have to prove the claim to government inspectors? I just don’t think any of this would be realistic. I think we have to assume that these “exceptions” are just more bait and switch from the flim flam ticket.

Romney and his campaign advisers might want to take a look at the results of a new Gallup poll of women in swing states. The poll asks “What do you consider the most important issue for women in this election?” Here are the results:

For men, the top four issues on the list were jobs, the economy, the Federal deficit/balanced budget, and health care. For women, abortion was number one, and the deficit didn’t even make the list! Generally speaking, women had quite different interests than men.

On contraception, Romney surrogate and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy told Andrea Mitchell yesterday that contraception is just a “peripheral issue” for women.

Mitchell pressed Healy on the financial considerations for women whose employers refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds. “That is a pocketbook issue,” Mitchell said. “It’s dollars and cents.”
“The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues,” Healy said. ”We need to really be talking about employment, jobs. That’s what women care about.”

Laura Bassett has more on the interview at HuffPo. Bassett notes that during the debate Tuesday Romney tried to gloss over his past statements on the issue of employers making contraception coverage available to employees by during the debate on Tuesday by claiming that

“I just know that I don’t think bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said during Tuesday night’s debate. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives and the president’s statement on my policy is completely and totally wrong.”

Romney’s answer subtly changes the subject from insurance coverage of contraception to the more general issue of access to contraception, and it strategically leaves enough wiggle room for his campaign to say that his position has not changed.

Healy followed suit with Andrea Mitchell.

Romney did “not in any way” change his position, Healey said. “Governor Romney is both a strong supporter of religious freedom and also believes in access to contraception for American women.”

Pressed on the details of the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to cover birth control on moral grounds and which Romney previously said he would support, Healey changed the subject. “The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation is not really the point to most women out there,” she said. “There are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country.”

What’s lost in both Romney’s and Healey’s answers on the contraception issue is the point that President Barack Obama made Tuesday night, which is that for many women, having birth control fully paid for by their insurance plans is an economic issue.

Yesterday afternoon the MSNBC show “The Cycle” had a body language expert, Chris Ulrich on to talk about the interactions between Obama and Romney during the debate. It was fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but I hope you’ll watch it at the link. You won’t regret it.

In a similar vein, if you didn’t see Chris Matthews’ interview with James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio last night, be sure to watch that too. Lipton analyzed the behavior of the two debate participants, and said that he thought he had finally figured out who Mitt Romney is. He’s the boss who tells dumb jokes and expects you to laugh at them–or else. Lipton said that the choice for voters is between a president (Obama) and a boss. Do we want a boss running the country? Lipton said that some people might like that, but he seemed to find it frightening.

I’ll end with the most recent confrontation between ugly, nasty troll John Sununu and Soledad O’Brien, which took place yesterday morning on CNN.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?