Pundits and politicos on Sunday’s morning talk shows focused, predictably, on last week's vice-presidential debate and its impact on the outcome of the election. Not surprisingly, as the race has heated up so has the rhetoric coming from the Democrats and Republicans, while NBC’s “Meet the Press” lightened the mood with a guest spot from Stephen Colbert. Other issues, particularly the discourse about each side’s approach to Libya, reminded the audience just how crucial November’s election really is.
What might have been the most pressing issue, however, was how the electoral votes will shake out come election night. In Florida, for example, Mitt Romney’s momentum from the presidential debate catapulted him from one point behind President Barack Obama to a solid seven-point lead, according to a Washington Post poll. It’s a number conservatives hope he can hold.
Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union and former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, made it clear that the Obama-Biden ticket is on the wrong side of the popularity contest in Florida during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“They’re in real trouble in terms of intensity. The 18-29-year-old vote, which was decisive for [Obama] in 2008, the intensity factor is down 25 percent,” Cardenas said. “And in Florida, it’s even higher because of the unemployment rate among young people. … If he’s behind in Florida, according to history, he’s not going to win the election.”
In 2008, Obama beat John McCain in Florida by a margin of 49 percent to 47.2-percent, according to RealClearPolitics.com.
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Cardenas’ opponent across the table, former Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., wasn’t quite so convinced, citing Obama’s overwhelming popularity with the Hispanic population.
“The most extreme position that Gov. Romney took in the primary may have been in fact on immigration,” Wexler said. “He slammed Newt Gingrich, he slammed [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry for being too accommodating to new immigrants. ... Gov. Romney cannot run from his very harsh position on immigration.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” speculated that Romney could take the White House without his home state's 18 electoral votes, making Florida that much more essential.
“He can probably win the presidency without Ohio, but I wouldn’t want to take the risk," Portman said. “No Republican has.”
Despite Obama’s consistent lead in the state -- reaffirmed in new poll Saturday -- Portman said Romney could be closing the gap after investing heavily in advertising, with some help from the Restore Our Future Super PAC.
“I’ve never seen this kind of enthusiasm or energy on the ground,” Portman said. “It’s turning our way.”
Reuters reported that both candidates have focused on Ohio with Romney holding 34 events since securing the Republican nomination. Eleven of those events have come since the Oct. 3 presidential debate.
Obama spent part his weekly radio show Saturday focusing on the jobs his legislation has saved in the Midwest.
“We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way,” Obama said.
The Sunday morning shows were also a platform for strategists to attack each other on the Benghazi attack, particularly the Romney-Ryan ticket’s assertion that the Obama administration could have done more following the death of American officials on Sept. 11.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accused the president and his staff of “misleading” the nation about the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, which it now seems was a planned terrorist attack rather than a spontaneous protest agaisnt an anti-Muslim video.
“My belief is that was known by the administration within 24 hours,” Graham said while failing to cite any evidence for his accusation.
“They're trying to sell a narrative, quite frankly, that the Mideast, the wars are receding and al Qaeda has been dismantled. And to admit that our embassy has been attacked by al Qaeda operatives and Libya -- leading from behind -- didn't work, I think undercuts that narrative. They never believed the media would investigate, Congress was out of session. This caught up with them. I think they've been misleading us and it finally caught up with them.”
It’s a claim that Stevens’ family said should not be at the heart of a political campaign. During an interview with Bloomberg News, Stevens’ father Jan said he was disgusted at his son’s memory being argued over for political gain.
“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” Stevens told Bloomberg. “The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined.”
Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, capitalized on Jan Stevens’ statements during his time on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
"We don't need wingtip cowboys. We don't need shot-from-the-hip diplomacy," Gibbs said. "When Mitt Romney first responded to what happened in Libya, his own party called him out for insensitivity. ... He has done nothing but politicize what happened in Libya."
While Graham didn’t seem hesitant about his Libya condemnation, political satirist and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert did veer from his normal script when he spoke to NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. Colbert, who was out of character during his appearance, said that before his guests on “The Colbert Report” take the stage he warns them that when the lights go on they’ll be sitting across from an “active idiot” who is “willfully ignorant of what you know and care about.”
“I'm interested in the news, so people often think that I'm an ideologue or that I have a political intent. ... But I comment on things that are in the news,” Colbert said. “I do not imagine that I am a newsman; I really admire newsmen. I really enjoy good news. And I'm not a politician. But I like playing political games to see what really happens.”