September 3rd, 2012
06:45 PM ET
6 years ago

Party leaders split on 'better off' question

(CNN) - The leaders of the Republican and Democratic Party committees on Monday made their battle lines clear in CNN interviews over whether the economy and Americans are now better off than they were when President Barack Obama took office.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, went as far as suggesting on CNN's "The Situation Room" that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not care about those who are struggling economically, but rather about his own electoral prospects.

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"I thought it was pretty disingenuous of Mitt Romney the other night to say that he was rooting for President Obama to succeed," she charged. "That was one of the more disingenuous statements I heard."

In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney said "I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed."

But, Romney continued, Obama has been a disappointment. And over the weekend after his speech, the question of whether Americans are better off or not, and the numbers behind both arguments, came into focus, as top Democrats shied from direct answers to the question on the Sunday talk shows. It continued to be litigated on Monday, as candidates and surrogates on both sides of the aisle hit the campaign trail.

Both Wasserman-Schultz and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, acknowledged that times were tough when Obama came into office, but Priebus maintained that growth in jobs and the stock market since that time have left many behind.

"We can't give Barack Obama a pass and say the economy wasn't in good shape, and therefore it's an excuse to make everything worse," Priebus said. "Either his answer now is I didn't appreciate how bad it was and I didn't understand what I was doing, or I failed."

Presented with improvements in the Dow Jones Industrial stock average, which includes key components of many Americans' investment and retirement plans, Priebus argued that "too many Americans don't have the luxury to worry about the status of the 401(k). The problem in America is people aren't working."

The latest Labor Department jobs report - from July - showed Obama was 316,000 jobs away from breaking even with the start of his presidency, and accounting for the 4.316 million jobs lost since he took office. But the unemployment rate of 8.3% in the report, released in early August, was above the 7.8% when Obama took office.

Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in a separate interview that Obama took office while the economy was trending downward, and under his leadership, the trend is pointing upward.

"President Obama inherited the largest set of problems at once of any president, really, since FDR," she said, citing Franklin Delano Roosevelt who took office several years into the Great Depression.

Romney and his running mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would "ask the middle class to pay for more budget busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires," she charged.

On the campaign trail in Michigan, Vice President Joe Biden had a forceful answer to the question of whether the economy is in better shape than when he was inaugurated.

"You want to know whether we're better off?" he asked supporters in Michigan on Monday. "I've got a little bumper sticker for you. Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!"

And Obama, campaigning in Ohio, said that at the GOP convention Romney offered "just a retread of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years."

Romney spent the day off of the campaign trail, but Ryan picked up the line of attack at an event in North Carolina, nearly 200 miles from where the Democratic National Convention will officially nominate Obama as the party's candidate this week.

"The president can say a lot of things, and he will," Ryan said of Obama. "But he can't tell you that you're better off.

He continued, "Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now."

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report

Filed under: 2012 • Debbie Wasserman Schultz • Reince Priebus
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    We are much better off today than idiot rule of Bush.

    September 3, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. Joan

    The Republicans might want to rethink their constant question "Are you better off than four years ago?" Actually Americans are much better off but the media and Republicans keep scaring them and telling them they aren't. Look at the facts. When the President took over jobs were dropping at over 750,000 per month and now average about 165,000 added per month. The unemployment rate was going up when he took over and topped over 10% but has gone down to almost 8%. The Dow was somewhere around 7,000-8,000 and now is over 13,000. That's good for people's retirement funds. Housing prices are rising. Mortgage rates are low. Big business has made a lot of money which it is sitting on because they don't want to hire and make thinkgs look better for the President. That "dead money" could help the economy if these "job creators" would finally use it. Somehow trickle down economics does NOT WORK and to sit on that money almost seems unpatriotic. Gays can now serve in the military without fear and the conversation about same sex marriage is out in the open and gaining support. Millions of people have health coverage they couldn't get before. The donut hole has closed for seniors medicine. Young people can be on their parent's plan and people with pre-existing conditions cannot be prevented from coverage. If you get a serious illness you can't be kicked off your plan. Innocent young immigrants can now go to school and get work permits without fear. Thousands of auto workers have their jobs and thousands of others in spin off jobs also benefited from the bailout. The illegal Iraq war has finally ended and soon the Afghanistan war will too. Justice was done and Bin Laden was taken out. There are many other things that can be listed but that should give you some ides. Romney needs to answer some questions. If he gets in and repeals the healthcare plan, what will he replace it with, when will it take effect and how will he pay for it? Hope not a dreadful mandate? (sarcasm there) Why won't he release his tax forms? This smells fishy. If he has nothing to hide then why not do what all other presidential candidates have done for decades? Maybe if he shows his last four years, it will show he is MUCH BETTER OFF now under Pres. Obama. Will he repeal the partial Dream Act which helps the young immigrants? Will he repeal gays in the military? Will he try to stop abortions and planned parenthood clinics? He has not been honest about any of these things. I am sick of the constant harping about polls right now. The only people who benefit from all polls are the people who get paid to do them and the media who get paid to report them 24/7 as if they are the Holy Grail. Hilarious. If Romney gets in this November, I predict slowdowns in the US like in Europe which has tried austerity only solutions. Actually it will serve America right if they are that gullible and naive..

    September 3, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. Les

    Pixie Dust is still with Obama and so is my vote. No pixie dust sparkling for the GOP.

    September 3, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. Pete

    Romney surrogates like he are arrogent and think victory is certain,only death republicans as well as your party are certain to parish..Get yourself ready for a convention to top all conventions and you'll see how presidencial Obama carries himself on stage something your Romney will never see,so take notes republicans,its always brightest for you just before the end,after his speech you'll know why!!Pack your bags republicans,it'll be easier that way,your obstructionism is done,so are you!!!

    September 3, 2012 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  5. onestarman

    AMERICA is INFINITELY Better off under Obama than under Bush and the GOP. America is no longer seen as a Psychotic Pariah – Kidnapping and Torturing at will and BOMBING Hundreds of Thousands in wars of Distraction. Osama Bin Laden and Most of Al Qaeda has been killed so we can turn down the big War machine and give our children the HOPE of PEACE during their Lives. The Economic CRASH the Banks and Bush Treasury commited on the American People ALMOST did us In – but because of OBAMA you can STILL buy an AMERICAN Auto because MOST of us still have a JOB and our 401K is back up from losing HALF.

    September 3, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  6. RudyG

    Fourteen million unemployed. The slowest recovery in history. No plan other than more stimulus and more debt. I don't care if we're better off than under Bush!!! Can't get any worse. Bush departed from the Reagan doctrine of not spending beyond your means. I need to see the country moving to HIRE people. Like any president who's been struggling in his first 4 years it's time for Obama to go. Go back home and work in a private sector job. Maybe he'll learn something!

    September 3, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  7. Patrick o Sullivan

    It is so obvious that we are better off now.Then we had the really tough times ahead of us.thanks to Barack Obama for steering us through them against tremendous odds.things are getting you think the republicans would have done any better?let Obama finish what he started.REELECT.

    September 3, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Nobama 2.0

    "Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, went as far as suggesting on CNN's "The Situation Room" that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not care about those who are struggling economically, but rather about his own electoral prospects."

    Obama is the one who only cares about his re-election prospects.

    However we are not dumb as he thought: when someone doesn't do the job, we just have to let him go.

    September 3, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  9. Maureen

    How can you possibly say that we are better off? Median Household Income when Obama took office was 54,000 now it has dropped to 51,000. Gas prices when he took over were $1.76 Gal. – now $3.77 Gal. – Prices on grocery items are all higher. Foreclosures are the highest level since the Great Depression. 23 plus million people unemployed. All of the above affects everyone but especially the middle class!!!

    September 3, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  10. Nuance

    Well...just imagine what a 3rd Bush term would have been like before answering this question...

    September 3, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  11. enuff

    Ryan has been part of the last 4 years. Is he trying to say that he contibuted to any "bad" that happened during that time?

    September 3, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  12. Lizzie

    snuff, just like Senator Obama contributed to the spending spree of the democrats and the downturn of the economy the last 2 years of President Bush.

    September 3, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. Ron L- Mich

    This whole "Better Off" question is actually being driven by the media because a few Obama Campaign representatives misspoke and or hesitated when giving an answer the day before.I have a question for all the news medai" Do you every think about the fact, we your listeners, get tired of everyone of you talking about the same exact somewhat insignificant thing for 24 to 48 hours? So, what a few of the Obama people mispoke. You would have to be either hard core Republican or not paying attention to not realize the NATION is better off today than it was January 2009. Just look at the hard core statistics. The country was losing jobs by the 100's of thousands per month, the banks where in all kind of trouble and froze up the credit in the entire country, this led to the auto industry coming close to collapsing, the housing market did collapse, and the DOW dropped 1000's of points!! So, really this is a pretty easy question to answer........YES WE ARE BETTER than the days President Obama took over. And we could be in even better shape if the Republicans in the House had not decided to make it near impossible for the President to enact any of his ideas after they won in 2010. They want the White House at any cost...but they are going to FAIL....Mitt is not the correct candidate to defeat President Obama.....people don't trust hjm and we have reason not to....his refusal to show his tax returns proves he has something to hide...the man is AMORAL and not to be trusted.

    September 3, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  14. gt

    split...are you kidding me...what are they smoking...of course we are worse off....

    September 3, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |