Subject: Pool report #2 – Williamsburg gaggle
Jay Carney and Jen Psaki gaggled for 30 minutes in the pool hold room at the Kingsmill resort here in Williamsburg. Highlights are below but please check against the transcript.
Carney began with a statement about new European Union sanctions of Iran’s government.
“The United States welcomes the adoption by the European Union of significant new sanctions of the Iranian government in response to the Iranian government’s continued violation of its international obligations regarding its nuclear program,” Carney said.
Carney said the move would continue to isolate Iran’s government.
“As you know, rallying the world to isolate Iran and incrase the pressure on its leadership so that they stop pursuing a nuclear weapon has been a top priority for the president since the day he took office,” Carney said. “Thanks to that leadership, Iran is under more pressure than ever before.”
Psaki then played for the pool the campaign’s new TV ad on her iPad. You all surely have seen it already. She said it is running in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Virginia. She also cited the campaign’s memo from Jim Messina that reiterated the campaign’s rebuttals to things Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan said during their debates.
“No doubt, over the last couple of days while he has been practicing and preparing for the debate, he’s spent time memorizing deceptions and ways to hide from his severely conservative record, positions, I should say,” Psaki said.
1) Re: Obama’s new TV ad, Psaki was asked if the campaign is now embracing the president’s economic record.
Psaki cited progress the nation has made and said the president recognizes more needs to be done.
“Certainly the president would be happy to spend the entire debate talking about their different visions for the middle class tomorrow evening,” Psaki said.
2) Re: With positive economic data and polls tightening, is the economy now secondary to other issues given Romney’s debate performance?
Psaki reiterated the campaign’s position that the race would always be close.
“We know that the president is his own harshest critic and he knows that Mitt Romney had a better debate 10 days ago, 11 days ago, however many days it was,” Psaki said. “And that’s why he’s looking forward to answering questions from the American people tomorrow night. Some that will be about the economy, some that will be about many other issues. Of course, wehave no control over that.”
3) Re: whether Candy Crowley will ask follow-up questions
Psaki said there “are discussions around every debate” but, as you will see with many other questions in this gaggle, declined to get into specifics.
Asked a follow-up question about her non-answer, Psaki repeated her vow of [??????]
“I think what I’m saying is that I’m not going to get into the specifics of the negotiations,” she said. “But, obviously this is a town hall, which means the questions will be coming from the American people in the audience. But if the questions come from other sources, he’s happy to address those questions as well.”
Asked if the campaign prefers no follow-up questions from Crowley, Psaki said: “I’m not going to get into any more specifics than that.”
4) Re: What Potus has done while in Williamsburg
Psaki said Potus has been studying and practicing for the debate, mentioned his trip to a local campaign office Sunday and said he “spent a little time enjoying the grounds, walking around and taking in the beautiful atmosphere we have here but his focus has been on preparing for tomorrow.”
“He’s calm and energized and just looking forward to getting to New York tomorrow,” she added.
Carney said Potus continues to receive his PDB and is getting updates from policy advisers.
5) re: the meningitis issue
Carney said Potus has been briefed on the issue and is “as concerned about it as you would expect given the severity of the impact on some people who have either died or gotten very sick.”
He referred additional questions to the CDC and the FDA.
6) Re: whether the campaign has lost ground since the Denver debate
Psaki said the campaign believes the state polls continue to be stable.
“We always expected that the polls would tighten and some of them have and that’s why the morning after the debate… the president’s heading out to … Iowa, to Ohio on Wednesday, to New Hampshire on Thursday, because we’re going to compete for every last vote until the polls close.”
Asked if the debate helped the cause, Psaki said: “The president himself has been pretty clear that that Mitt Romney had a better night. But people across this country aren’t voting on who is the better salesman in chief, they’re looking for who is going to better represent them in the White House.”
7) Re whether Potus will have a more active campaign schedule coming out of the third debate on Oct 22
Psaki declined to get into specifics.
She said: We’re not taking a single vote for granted and I would expect that the schedule for the last two weeks will reflect that.”
8) Re: the new Obama ad that hits Romney for saying his 14 percent tax rate is fair, what would Obama propose in terms of capital gains tax increase?
Psaki reiterated Obama’s tax proposals, saying he has named loopholes that he would eliminate and plans to eliminate Bush tax cuts for people with incomes above $250,000 while Romney has sough to push through tax breaks for the wealthy.
She also cited the Buffett rule.
9) Re: the Ohio AG’s request to allow early voting three days early for civilian voters
Psaki said it is “always in the best interest of people to have, for all eligible voters to have the opportunity to vote early if they can and to make it flexible for people given challenging work schedules.”
10) Re: how debate prep is different for a town hall than for a podium debate.
Psaki once again did not provide specifics.
“You are right, I’m not going to answer that,” she said. “I will say that of course the debate prep team and the president are preparing for the format that will be in the debate tomorrow.”
“You should expect that he’s going to be firm but respectful in correcting the record and the times we expect Mitt Romney will hide from and distort his own policies. He’s energized and I expect he will also be making a passionate case. The audience is the people in the room but also the people at home and certainly he takes that into account in how he’s preparing and looking ahead to tomorrow.”
11) Re: in debate prep, is Obama watching video tapes of his prep sessions?
Psaki: “I’m not going to get into the specifics of that.”
She said he is “looking ahead” to his next debate chance and the campaign days afterward in Iowa and Ohio.
12) Re: After Obama called Nevada debate prep “a drag,” is he taking debate prep here more seriously after doing poorly in the first debate?
Psaki: “I’m not going to get into the specifics of the debate prep,” she said. “The president takes every task seriously, whether its preparing for a debate or discussing the options for helping small businesses or meeting with his national security team. He was being honest that he’d probably rather be outside enjoying the beautiful weather or walking aroundthan maybe studying for a debate. I think that’s a pretty human response. But he took every moment of the debate prep seriously the first time around. He’s taking it seriously this time around. I think he feels energized and calm and he’s really looking forward to it tomorrow evening.”
13) Re: early voting importance vis-à-vis debates
Psaki called the debates a great opportunity for Obama to speak to the American people and said he is also speaking to people at events and through his television ads.
She said the race will not be decided through the debates.
“Coming out of it, we think that the race is still going to be won or lost based on who has a better policies and better plan for the middle class, who has the better ground game and better plans to encourage people and educate people to early vote and get them to the polls and we feel confident about where we are on both fronts,” she said.
14) Re: the OFA fundraising solicitation – that arrived during the gaggle – in which Obama says “the race is tied.”
“I think it’s very, very close,” Psaki said. “There are some states where we’re up by a few points and some states where we’re down by a few points.”
She said the campaign needs every one to vote and “we need every last dollar” to compete against Romney.
15) Re: whether the president watched the Nationals collapse on Friday night
Carney said he has spoken with the president “about the enormous pain I felt, as if my heart had been torn out and stomped on on the sidewalk at that terrible loss, and he sympathized with me.”
Carney said Obama “did comment on the restoration of faith in Washington sports teams created by RGIII’s remarkable performance in the Redskins game,” the highlights of which Obama saw Sunday afternoon.
Reid J. Epstein