CNN's GUT CHECK | for October 4, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: WALL STREET JOURNAL: OBAMA GETS FINANCIAL SALVE… “The Obama campaign set a new monthly fundraising record for the 2012 election cycle, taking in more than $150 million in September … The September total far surpasses the $114 million raised in August, when the Obama team snapped a three-month streak in which it was outraised by Republican challenger Mitt Romney. At the time, the $114 million was the most the Obama campaign had collected in any one month in the 2012 election season. The most the Romney campaign has collected so far was $111 million in August. – By Peter Nicholas
What national landmark broke ground on this day in history?
There were no zingers in last night’s debate unless you consider Mitt Romney’s proclaimed love for Big Bird. The first face-off between the two candidates was heavy on policy with very good contrasts as we head into the fall. Dare we say last night’s discussion was substantive and entertaining?
There is no question Romney won the night, and he did so by setting the tone with a strong offense. President Barack Obama was forced to play defense.
As is in every debate, there are specific moments, comments and interactions that are not only memorable but explain why a candidate won or lost. Here are two moments that caught Mark’s eye and two moments that caught Michelle’s:
“It's fun, isn't it?”
- Mitt Romney
Early on, it became clear that Romney was starting to hit his stride. Less than 20 minutes into the debate, the former Massachusetts governor tried to rebut a statement Obama had made about small business, but he was interrupted by moderator Jim Lehrer who noted that time had expired for the segment.
“Excuse me,” said Lehrer, as he tried to take back control of the format. “Excuse me. Just so everybody understands, we're way over our first 15 minutes.”
Romney’s response, “It's fun, isn't it?”
At that point, the Republican presidential nominee showed that he was loose and had a command of his talking points. And it was clear he was in charge, as Lehrer relented and allowed him to finish his point.
“No, I think - I had five seconds before you interrupted me.”
- Barack Obama
After losing the economy rounds to Romney, the subject turned to health care – an issue the Republican presidential nominee’s primary rivals said would be his Achilles’ heel in a general election match-up with Obama. After all, Obama has repeatedly said that he has modeled “Obamacare” after the health care law that Romney, as governor, enacted into law in Massachusetts. (Interestingly, a CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers conducted immediately after last night’s event said the person who would better handle health care was Romney 52% to 47%. The figure is well within the margin of error, but still worth noting).
But it is not necessarily the poll that caught our eye, rather Obama’s reaction to Lehrer’s efforts to try and cut him off as he was explaining the benefits of the health care law.
“Now, the last point I'd make before,” Obama started saying before Lehrer jumped in to say, “Two minutes - two minutes is up, sir.”
Obama, who probably is not used to being interrupted, seemed irritated and quickly responded, “No, I think - I had five seconds before you interrupted me,” and he went on to finish his thought.
At that point in the debate, it was clear Romney was winning and the calm and cool president was starting to get rattled.
So much of a presidency is determined by unforeseen events, which is why getting a peek at into a candidate’s decision-making process - without aides or teleprompters - is so valuable:
“What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?”
– Mitt Romney
“China” is the vessel of this election cycle - the single word that carries various meaning to each demographic, but basically taps the economic angst across age, gender and educational groups. (In many ways, China is the flip of how “Obama” was the vessel for hope in 2008). It’s hard to think of a way Romney could have connected on principal more effectively than he did with that line. He made a contrast without attacking; he used terms that were relatable and understandable. He pleased fervent tea party patriots … as well as average men and women struggling to balance their checkbooks without a paycheck.
The other moment that sealed Romney’s command performance was in rebuttal to Obama’s attacks on Romney’s tax plan: “Look, I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it.”
With this surprisingly real, humorous and relatable line, coming out of a candidate sold as being detached and unrelatable, you can see why - despite getting less talk time than Obama - Romney’s words are the ones we remember.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Obama accuses Romney of dishonesty in debate
A day after losing the first presidential debate to Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama and his campaign accused the Republican challenger of dishonesty over tax policy and other issues. "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth," Obama told a campaign rally Thursday in Denver in reference to the former Massachusetts governor who is challenging him in next month's election. "So here's the truth: Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math." – Tom Cohen
Leading Drudge: Uh O
Mitt Romney delivered a series of tough shots at President Obama's first term during Wednesday's first presidential debate, leaving the president on his heels for much of the night and potentially gaining badly needed momentum for the final stretch of the 2012 race. There were no knock-out punches at the forum in Denver, but Romney framed Obama as incapable of turning around the economy, accusing the president of ushering in an era of "trickle-down government" that left Americans in need of a fresh path to the future. – Brian Hughes
Leading HuffPo: 'Fast And Loose With The Facts'
Democratic surrogates in the cable TV spin rooms Wednesday night seemed to have trouble explaining President Barack Obama's weak debate performance. By Thursday morning, however, the Obama campaign had settled on a explanation for why their guy lost: Mitt Romney lied. – Matt Sledge
Leading Politico: How Obama's debate strategy bombed
A stunned Obama campaign acknowledged Thursday that President Barack Obama delivered a lackluster and even ineffectual performance in his leadoff debate against Mitt Romney, mistakenly opting for a cautious approach to handling his opponent that all too often left Obama looking timid and disengaged. – Alexander Burns, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman
Leading The New York Times: In Fallout After Debate, Obama Asks, Which Mitt Was That?
President Obama and his team woke up here on Thursday morning confronted by the realization that he lost his first debate by passively letting Mitt Romney control the conversation. Then the president and his advisers resolved to do what he himself did not the night before. – Mark Landler and Pater Baker
The political bites of the day
- Romney’s contrast: Freedom vs. trickle-down government -
MITT ROMNEY AT AN UNPLANNED CAMPAIGN STOP IN COLORADO: “Last night I thought was a great opportunity for the American people to see two very different visions for the country. I think it was helpful to be able to describe those visions. I saw the president's vision as trickle-down government, and I don't think that is what America believes in. I see instead a prosperity that comes through freedom.”
- Obama: That guy who beat me last night was not real -
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT IN COLORADO: “When I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that. The real Mitt Romney said we don't need any more teachers in our classrooms. … But the fellow on stage last night - he loves teachers, can't get enough of them.”
- Palin warns Obama could ‘pull something’ after poor debate performance -
SARAH PALIN IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SEAN HANNITY: “If Mitt Romney continues to gain and gain and gain just by being truthful and experienced and intelligent, that doing a good job as a presidential candidate - these guys in the Obama camp, they're not going to go down without swinging. They're going to pull something, Sean, and the American public with the media's help, these lap dogs in the media, kind of going along with whatever it is that Obama and his people want to do to shake some things up. Don't rely on the filter of the media. And just be aware that something could be pulled here to turn things around if Mitt Romney continues to gain so much ground.”
- McCain says Lehrer should have stopped the fight -
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN IN AN INTERVIEW ON CNN’S “STARTING POINT”: “I was surprised at how well Mitt did. And I think it was very important, because he came across as the person he really is as opposed to how he has been portrayed by hundreds of millions of dollars of attack ads. I was surprised, frankly, at the president's poor performance. … Last night was so bad if it had been a fight, they would have stopped it.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Joanne Ostrow (@ostrowDP)
Ann Romney to guest host "GMA" on Wednesday. Offer out to Michelle Obama, too. http://bit.ly/R0ZIT4
Carrie Dann (@CarrieNBCNews)
"All debates are tough," the VP acknowledged (in ref to his own on Oct 11) but said Obama was "presidential" and that he "did well."
Paul Begala (@PaulBegala)
Agree with the consensus pundit opinion on Romney and Obama's performances last night. The CW on Lehrer dead wrong. He did his job well.
Patrick Millsaps (@PatrickMillsaps)
@stefcutter on the Titanic: That iceberg was all show and it barely made a dent. Ignore the water. Jim Lehrer isnt mopping fast enough.
John Hughes (@JHughesNews)
Romney plan to cap individual tax deductions at $17k falls most on wealthy, `would hit them pretty hard,' Rubin reports http://bloom.bg/VvLca0
Liz Goldenberg (@newstruthliz)
Romney $17k deduction limit hurts charities, the arts, which rely on the wealthy for funding, but what about churches? http://bloom.bg/PWXDbM
Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton)
Al Gore said Obama lost debate due to Denver's high altitudes. Since everything on the Internet is true & Gore invented it. It must be true.
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a-altitude… http://ow.ly/eeg2h #EASTWOODWASRIGHT
UN-TOPPABLE FACEBOOK POST… Mark Zuckerberg announces that Facebook has surpassed 1 billion users: “This morning, there are more than one billion people using Facebook actively each month. If you're reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you. Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life. I am committed to working every day to make Facebook better for you, and hopefully together one day we will be able to connect the rest of the world too.” LINK
When Gutzon Borglum first saw the pristine Black Hills rock outcrop called Mount Rushmore, he said, “America will march along that skyline” - and so began the 14-year process to carve Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Work on the national monument began on October 4,1927, and lasted until 1941. It cost just under $1 million - all of which was provided by the U.S. government - and took about 400 workers to complete the four busts.
Borglum’s plans called for even more work, too. The sculptor had originally planed to carve inscriptions into the hill and had hoped to portray the presidents from the waist up – not just their heads. Funding dried up in 1941 and construction was halted.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)
It has been a while, Lin. Congratulations to Bernard Lin (@blin11592) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check Trivia question.
Our inbox awaits: email@example.com
Anyone can sign up for Gut Check by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips or comments? Send them to Michelle; send complaints to Preston, because he is already in a bad mood. We also want to give a shout out to Dan Merica, who runs our Twitter account @gutCheckCNN and enriches this product every single day.