CNN's GUT CHECK | for October 9, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING: MITT ROMNEY PULLS CLOSER IN OHIO… Among likely voters Barack Obama has a 51%-47% margin over Mitt Romney, well within the poll's sampling error. Polls taken before the first presidential debate tended to show Obama with a 7- to 10-point advantage over his GOP challenger. Romney has a solid 14-point lead among men, while Obama's lead among women is even larger, indicating a large gender gap in the Buckeye State. Independents, suburban voters and older voters are evenly divided, indicating a close race right now. But that's not a prediction of what will happen in November. With one in eight likely voters saying they could change their minds between now and November, and several crucial debates still to come, there is every reason to expect the race to change in Ohio. – Keating Holland
JUST IN: OBAMA CAMPAIGN BRINGS BACK 47% IN NEW AD… A new Obama campaign ad focuses on Medicare, showing pictures of senior citizens as a narrator says, "Victims, dependent. That's what Mitt Romney called 47% of Americans, including people on Medicare.” The ad says Romney would "replace guaranteed benefits with a voucher system" and that seniors would pay more. On screen is a series of images of seniors. "You're no victim," the narrator says. "You earned your benefits."
STAY TUNED: Mitt Romney will sit down with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room” at 6 p.m. ET.
Why did Sarah Palin ask Joe Biden if she could call him Joe at the start of the 2008 vice presidential debate?
One in five Americans has no religious affiliation, and for the first time in its history America is not majority Protestant, according to the latest Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life survey. These numbers are a staggering reminder of the declining faith in institutions that has complicated public policy and American culture, which was built on Judeo-Christian values. We reached out to Dan Gilgoff, religion editor at CNN.com and co-editor of the Belief Blog, to put the numbers in perspective.
Gut Check: The thing that fascinates us most about this survey is the discrepancy among the next generation of America. Younger whites are leading the group of those without religious affiliation, while younger minorities are keeping their allegiance to religious institutions. How does this complicate things for the Democratic Party as it tries to keep the ‘coalition of the ascendant’ (growing demographic groups with strong religious ties) while maintaining its advantage among young whites who are increasingly distrustful of religion?
GILGOFF: The demographic changes we see on the religious landscape make it harder for the Democrats to hold their coalition together, a challenge we saw brought to life at the Democratic National Convention, in the fight over whether to keep the word “God” in the platform - and the president himself had to intervene to retain it. The 20% of Americans who now say they are unaffiliated with any religion are overwhelmingly Democrats – they voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by a 52-point margin. Atheist and secular groups will use the new Pew survey and a growing body of similar data to argue that Democrats need to take their concerns more seriously, and that includes limiting the role of religion in politics. Those calls will make it harder for the Democrats to do the kind of faith-based messaging they’ve been peddling for the last eight years, ever since they lost big among so-called values voters in 2004.
Gut Check: These lines of the Pew report jumped out at us, “With their rising numbers, the religiously unaffiliated are an increasingly important segment of the electorate. In the 2008 presidential election, they voted as heavily for Barack Obama as white evangelical Protestants did for John McCain.” Will the “unaffiliated” become a courted political block, getting press coverage like evangelicals?
GILGOFF: It’s a real possibility. John Green, a leading academic on religion and politics at the University of Akron, says that the religious “nones” could become to the Democratic Party what the Christian Right is to the GOP. As their numbers swell, religiously unaffiliated Americans are forging more and more of an affirmative identify, one that is as much about the values they espouse as it is about the religion they reject. You’ve seen that play out with groups like the Secular Student Coalition growing by hundreds of chapters recently and with the publication of shelf-loads of atheist books, even an atheist Bible. One key part of developing that identity is devising a political agenda asserting political influence. You’ve already seen President Obama courting this group, giving props to nonreligious Americans during his inauguration speech, which was a big moment for religious “nones.”
Gut Check: This survey magnifies how quickly our country is changing. Will this make the culture wars worse as some feel like their America is slipping away?
GILGOFF: On the one hand, it will exacerbate the culture wars, with the country becoming more religiously polarized, which translates into greater political polarization, especially on the hot button issues that keep the culture wars going. For instance, the religious nones are twice as likely to be politically liberal than conservative, and upwards of 70% of them support legal abortion and same-sex marriage. Many are also opposed to the central idea of the religious right: that religion has an important place to play in government and politics. I’ll be watching for conservative Republican politicians and Christian Right activists to cite the Pew data and similar stats as proof that religious America is besieged by the rapidly multiplying forces of godlessness.
Gut Check: How does this affect Mitt Romney’s candidacy – normally this would be a huge talker among Republican evangelicals about their need to take back their country, but Romney’s reticence to talk about his faith makes this difficult, right? Will Paul Ryan be dispatched to talk about his Catholic faith more?
GILGOFF: Though neither Romney nor Ryan has talked much about his personal faith, they have been out front defending religious liberty, attacking President Obama over what they say are his attacks on religion. The GOP ticket doesn’t want to alienate less-religious independent voters, so I doubt they’ll make hay of growth among “religious nones.” But Ryan may invoke his faith at Thursday’s debate, as Democrats and liberal Catholic groups are attacking him over his federal budget proposal, saying it defies Catholic social teaching in its cuts for social safety net programs.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Obama and Romney: Middle class promises will be hard to keep
For all that divides President Obama and Mitt Romney, both candidates swear they'll protect the middle class from higher taxes. But that's a promise that will be hard to keep given their other stated aims - to reduce deficits, reform entitlement programs and make what they call critical investments. – Jeanne Sahadi
Leading Drudge: Sullivan: SOS Obama
The Pew poll is devastating, just devastating. Before the debate, Obama had a 51 – 43 lead; now, Romney has a 49 – 45 lead. That's a simply unprecedented reversal for a candidate in October. Before Obama had leads on every policy issue and personal characteristic; now Romney leads in almost all of them. Obama's performance gave Romney a 12 point swing! I repeat: a 12 point swing. – Andrew Sullivan for the Daily Beast
Leading HuffPo: Pants On Fire
The liar tag was based largely on Romney's characterization of his tax plan. Despite the Obama campaign's howls of protest, there's an actual debate about whether Romney's plan would do what he says. It may be that he's promising too much, but it's not as cut and dry as the Obama campaign wants to make it sound. – Jon Ward
Leading Politico: Inside the campaign: The Romney rebellion
Shortly before the first debate, it finally boiled over. What followed was a family intervention. The candidate’s family prevailed on Mitt Romney, and the campaign operation, to shake things up dramatically, according to campaign insiders. The family pushed for a new message, putting an emphasis on a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee — a “let Mitt be Mitt” approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew. – Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei
Leading The New York Times: North Carolina Blacks for Obama, Key in 2008, are Uncertain in ’12
For the Obama campaign, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of winning over people like Mr. Hady again in North Carolina, which has the largest percentage of black voters of any of the swing states — especially in the wake of President Obama’s performance in the first debate on Wednesday, which was widely seen as lackluster. In 2008, a strong black turnout that voted almost exclusively for Mr. Obama was credited with helping to turn North Carolina blue for the first time in decades, contributing to his ultimate victory. – Susan Saulny
Leading New York Magazine: Is There Life After Mitt?
You could certainly make the case that conservative doctrine in 2012 is courting obsolescence. The party’s core solutions to all manner of economic problems — the lowering of marginal tax rates and the loosening of regulations — had a lot more resonance in Ronald Reagan’s day, when the highest tax rate stood at 70 percent (it’s now half that) and before the unfettered banking system nearly took down the American economy. And while Paul Ryan may be right that most Americans are open to the conservative critique of costly entitlement programs, they don’t appear to trust conservatives to fix the problem. This is why Romney’s “47 percent” comment proved so devastating — not because he blithely dismissed the votes of nearly half the electorate but because he reinforced the image of a party whose real agenda was to dismantle the federal safety net and then go home. – Matt Bai
The political bites of the day
– Romney gets emotional talking about a fallen Navy seal that he personally knew –
MITT ROMNEY AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT IN IOWA: “We had a lot of things in common. You can imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALS killed in Benghazi on Sept. 11th.”
– Schumer heralds Gang of Eight as ‘best hope’ for a bipartisan budget deal –
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER OF NEW YORK AT A PRESS CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON: “Let me say this about the Gang of Eight. Some of them are among my best friends in the Senate and if you asked me how a compromise might ultimately emerge during the lame duck, I'd say their talks represent perhaps our best hope right now to achieve a bipartisan deal. Leaders on both sides are actively encouraging their talks. I certainly am. But I hope that they can revisit their approach to tax reform.”
– The Romney boys take credit for their father’s debate performance –
JOSH ROMNEY AT A ROMNEY CAMPAIGN EVENT IN IOWA: “Me and my brothers were responsible for my dad doing so well. We were the ones as kids that kept saying the same thing over and over. We said the same lie over and over and my dad learned then not to believe it.”
– Obama fails to make one, Romney pulls within one –
JIMMY FALLON ON HIS LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW ON NBC: “Here’s what people are talking about. Apparently, after last week's debate, polls show Obama trailing Mitt Romney by 1 point. Yeah, 1 point. Or as it's also known, the thing Obama failed to make during last week's debate.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Where will Biden be after the debate? Heads to Wisconsin for Friday rally—
Shannon Travis (@ShanTravisCNN) October 09, 2012
Romney's Madden on polls: "this is a campaign that's never gotten too high when things are good, too low when things are bad."—
Jim Acosta (@jimacostacnn) October 09, 2012
DNC faces cash shortfall on eve of 2012 election - The Fix wapo.st/WMR1Q3—
Aaron Blake (@FixAaron) October 09, 2012
Sesame Workshop asks Obama campaign to take down 'Big Bird' anti-Romney ad sesameworkshop.org/our-blog/2012/…—
Tunku Varadarajan (@tunkuv) October 09, 2012
If Mitt Romney runs the final month of his campaign in the bold, aggressive manner in which he debated, he'll be the next president.—
Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) October 04, 2012
At the beginning of the 2008 vice presidential debate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin shook hands with Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and asked him directly, “Can I call you Joe?”
The exchange was caught on the open microphones in the debate hall and anyone watching the debate on television heard Palin’s question.
According to McCain’s campaign manger at the time, the reason for the question was to help Palin in the debate. In 2011, Steve Schmidt told Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” that Palin was having trouble with Biden’s name and this was a way to avoid any awkward confusion during the debate.
According to Schmidt, the McCain campaign staffer detailed to preparing Palin for her debate said, “the debate was going to be a debacle of historic and epic proportions.” Schmidt explained that Palin “was not focused, not engaged. She was not really participating in the prep.”
Schmidt then took over the prep and noticed that Palin was referring to Biden as “O’Biden.”
“It was multiple people - and I wasn't one of them - who all said at the same time, ‘Just say, ‘Can I call you Joe?’ which she did,” Schmidt said.
GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)
Congrats to political reporter Abby Livingston (@RollCallAbby) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question.
Our inbox awaits: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone can sign up for Gut Check by emailing email@example.com
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.