Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, defended their tax, economic, and health-care ideas while trying to direct a more precise attack on Democratic President Barack Obama during interviews on four of the major Sunday-morning television talk shows this weekend.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Romney churned out a number of headline-making statements when he sat down for two interviews, one a comparatively short session on "Fox News Sunday" and the other an extensive 30-minute segment on NBC's "Meet The Press." (You can see a video of the latter interview below.)
The goal of the Romney campaign since the Republican National Convention has apparently been to allow Obama's re-election bid run out of gas as disappointing jobs numbers continue to point to a tepid recovery.
Yet, in the process, Romney has managed to contradict his previous statements and lambaste a decision made by his running mate.
The GOP standard-bearers hit the airwaves in an attempt to counteract any customary post-convention bump Obama might enjoy. They also fought back against Democratic efforts to delegitimize their economic and tax proposals.
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Romney's ideas to both cut taxes and raise spending on defense were lambasted for flawed "arithmetic," as former President Bill Clinton labeled it during his recent Democratic National Convention speech. The Republican nominee pushed back against the charges during his NBC interview, pointing to five separate studies he claimed proved tax-rate cuts "can create enormous incentive for growth of the economy."
Romney and Ryan were pressed to show how a decrease in government revenue and an increase in defense costs could lead to a shrinking deficit. They have argued closing loopholes for high-level income earners would offset lost revenue, but on Sunday they both avoided naming specific tax breaks they would eliminate.
When NBC host David Gregory pressed Romney for specifics, including the actual math behind his proposal, the former governor replied, "Well, the specifics are these, which is those principles I described are the heart of my policy."
Ryan was equally cagey when pressed for specifics during an interview on ABC's "This Week."
"So Mitt Romney and I, based on our experience, think the best way to do this is to show the framework, show the outlines of these plans, and then to work with Congress to do this. That's how you get things done," Ryan said.
Employment figures released Friday showed a tepid 96,000 jobs were added to the economy in August, while the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, as more Americans gave up looking for work. Romney and Ryan have used the numbers since then to lambaste Obama's inability to lead the nation's economic-recovery effort.
Romney has promised to add 12 million jobs to the economy within his first term, and dismissed a Moody's Analytics report indicating the U.S. could gain that many jobs no matter who is elected.
"If the president's re-elected, you're going to see chronic high unemployment continue for another four years or longer," Romney said. "You're going to see low-wage growth, if any growth at all. And of course there will always be this fiscal calamity at our doorstep. A crisis potential at our doorstep. The kind you're seeing in Europe today."
But the bigger takeaways in the pundit sphere on Sunday were two salient talking points: Romney would not wholly eliminate Obamacare; and he considered the Republican congressional caucus decision to use sequestration as a way to reach a deal on the federal debt ceiling last year to be a mistake, as reported by Reuters. Ryan was among those who backed that approach.
The common ground on Obamacare between the two major-party presidential candidates is new. Romney has frequently lambasted Obama's legislative crown jewel as a job-costing, deficit-increasing mistake. Yet it was own his health-care overhaul at the state level that served as a model for the president's at the federal level.
Under a hypothetical Romney administration, the GOP candidate conceded some of the health-care law would remain in place, such as the provision banning denial of coverage as a result of "pre-existing conditions."
"I'm not getting rid of all health-care reform," Romney said. "There are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I'm going to put in place."
The candidate also called the sequestration deal, which put in place automatic across-the-board spending cuts should Congress be unable to create a deficit-reduction plan, a "big mistake." Ryan, as chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, put his substantial gravitas behind the deal.
"I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it, [and] I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it," Romney said.
Ryan, seemingly defending himself from his own running mate and potential boss during an interview on CBS' "Face The Nation," said the deal was a good placeholder and a way to get Congress to get together and act. He fingered Democrats and the Obama administration as the main bad actors in any deal.
"President Obama has done nothing" to reach a deal, he said.