Candidates will try to avoid mistakes, win swing voters

Published: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 @ 6:45 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 @ 7:24 AM

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We will have coverage of the debate in Thursday’s newspaper. On Friday, we’ll examine the accuracy of what the candidates said. On Sunday, we’ll have a roundtable discussion with local voters about the debate.

We all remember those moments: President George H.W. Bush glancing at his watch in 1992; Vice President Richard Nixon’s sweaty face and loose shirt collar in 1960, Vice President Al Gore’s long sighs in 2000 and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in November 2011 trying in vain to remember what cabinet department he wanted to eliminate.

Those are just a few of the debate blunders etched in the public’s memory that both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will try to avoid tonight in the first of three presidential debates that could decide one of the most contentious elections in American history.

“It only takes one mistake or one extraordinary comment before some important people re-evaluate the race,’’ said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington. “A majority of Americans don’t have to change their minds based on the debates. We’re talking a few swing voters in a few swing states.’’

Both candidates enter tonight’s debate with competing objectives. Obama will try to poke holes in Romney’s plans to overhaul Medicare and the tax code, while Romney has an opportunity to persuade undecided voters that he has a plan to ignite the nation’s sluggish economy.

“No matter how the campaign downplays it, it is a very important night for Mitt Romney and his campaign,’’ said Curt Steiner, a Republican consultant in Columbus. “There is a potential for a brand new ballgame at this stage and while the Romney campaign is down by a touchdown, there is still plenty of time left.’’

Dan Birdsong, a lecturer of political science at the University of Dayton, said that Obama’s “challenge is not to remind people, but solidify with people that what he’s been trying to do is the right course and that things are turning around, albeit slowly.’’

Unlike the Democratic and Republican conventions this year — which failed to generate massive TV audiences — the presidential debates tend to attract millions of viewers.

More than 63 million people watched the second debate in 2008 between Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain while 62.5 million watched the first debate in 2004 between President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Yet even with huge audiences and the networks endlessly replaying in the following days any mistakes committed by the candidates, some are convinced that presidential debates are simply not that decisive in deciding the outcome of an election.

They point to Nixon’s dreadful appearance in the first of four debates with Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. Three physicians at the time told reporters Nixon looked as if he had suffered a coronary. Yet polls showed the race tight before the debates and Kennedy eventually prevailed by less than 120,000 votes in one of the closest elections in history.

In the 1980 debate in Cleveland, Republican Ronald Reagan’s dismissal of President Jimmy Carter – “There you go again’’ – was regarded as a moment of high drama. But even before that debate, polls showed that Reagan had crawled into a lead which he never relinquished.

In an interview last week in Ohio, Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said that “in the final analysis when we get past the impact of some extraordinarily inaccurate attack ads on (Obama’s) part and when we get a chance to actually talk about the real issues in the debates, then people will make an informed decision.”

Romney said he hopes to get the audience to focus on Obama’s record, saying that “these have been very difficult years for the people of this country and I think I can make peoples’ lives a good deal better. People understand that the president’s policies have not worked.’’

By contrast, Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said that “we’ve heard Governor Romney has prepared some zingers. We will leave that to David Letterman. We don’t think that’s what the American people want.’’

Instead, LaBolt said that Obama’s “goal is to lay out the economic choice between building the economy from the inside out and not from the top down.’’ He said that viewers will be “looking for specifics from Governor Romney and he should explain how he will be paying for a $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest without raising taxes on the middle class.’’

But even as Romney and Obama say they will focus on issues, Birdsong of Dayton said that viewers “learn from the debates and it’s not just necessarily issue-based learning … What people learn in the course of debate is candidate characteristics or in some sense, character.’’

Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.

A job for voters – get yourself ready for the details of tax reform

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 5:50 PM

As the Congress gets moving in coming weeks on the first serious effort at tax reform since the mid-1980’s, it is important for the folks back home to remember one thing – while the focus for many Americans will be on the individual tax rates and changes that impact every day taxpayers, this package is likely to be about so much more than just that, as a look back at the big tax bills of the Reagan Administration so easily demonstrates.

“I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said in recent days, making the case that tax reform will spur economic growth in the United States.

“We’re fighting for lower taxes, big tax cuts, the biggest tax cuts in the history of our nation. We’re fighting for tax reform, as part of that,” Mr. Trump said.

And so, the voters have a bit of a homework assignment, because tax reform is about a lot more than just cutting the tax rate that Joe Six Pack and his wife pay to Uncle Sam.

The 1980’s were an active time for the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee – those are the panels in charge of writing tax measures in the Congress.

During the Reagan Administration, we had three major tax bills become law:

+ The Reagan tax cuts of 1981, the “Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.”

+ The next year, there was a major bill to increase taxes, the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982.”

+ Then, both parties came together for major changes to the Internal Revenue Code with the 1986 Tax Reform Act.

If you look at the 1986 Act, it starts with something that may end up being a prime focus in 2017:

Sec. 101. Rate Reductions
Sec. 102. Increase in standard deduction

But there is so much more that is involved in that 879 page bill, just as there was so much more than individual matters in the 1981 and 1982 tax bills.

The 1986 bill had provisions on capital gains, real estate, business tax credits, investment tax credit, depreciation, energy, agriculture, limits on certain tax shelters, provisions affecting life insurance, pensions, foreign tax provisions, and on, and on, and on.

Lots of people have told me in recent years of how lawmakers should “read the bill.”

Well, the last three big tax measures from the 1980’s are all linked on this page.

Read the bills.

And start realizing just how complicated this can be on tax reform.

North Carolina politician sparks controversy with tweet comparing Trump to Hitler

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

Charlotte councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted a controversial tweet.
WSOCTV.com
Charlotte councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted a controversial tweet.(WSOCTV.com)

A Charlotte city councilwoman is under scrutiny for a controversial tweet she posted comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.

Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield posted the tweet Friday morning, which reads in part: “For All who read about Hitler you are Now Living how he reigned in #45."

WSOC spoke with members of the community for reactions to Mayfield’s statement.

"I don't think it's appropriate,” Charlotte resident Ulga Mazets said. 

Mazets is from eastern Europe and said her family was impacted by Hitler’s reign.

“My grandfather was in (a) concentration camp, so I feel it's a very harsh comparison,” she said.

>> Read more trending news

Others felt the comparison was inappropriate but said Mayfield had the right to make it.

“Everybody got their own opinion,” a Charlotte resident said.

Earlier this year, one of Mayfield’s fellow council members, Dimple Ajmera, landed in hot water when she said Trump supporters have no place leading Charlotte government.

[READ MORE: Councilwoman receives death threats following Trump comments]

Ironically, Mayfield just called for an investigation into a Charlotte Housing Authority worker who allegedly posted a tweet on Facebook applauding the death of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot by police during an incident that sparked a nationwide debate.

University of North Carolina - Charlotte professor Anita Blanchard said these types of comments on social media are becoming more common.

She said leaders and those who use social media platforms should learn to be more media savvy.

“Finding a way to say something that’s not rude that still gets your point across,” she said.

Mayfield didn’t immediately respond to Channel 9’s calls about the tweet, but she tweeted again Friday afternoon saying, “I wish the media would question #45 about why we were in Niger.”

Mayfield is up for re-election. Her Republican opponent Daniel Herrera sent WSOC the following statement:

"I have heard of my opponent's divisive, and inflammatory tweet of political rhetoric comparing the President of the United States to Hitler, pure evil and everything President Trump and I stand to oppose. 

While LaWana Mayfield only wishes to divide our community by using the power of fear to distract from her failures. I stand to change and unite District Three. I will move us forward with policies that support safer streets that allow mail to be delivered and not canceled because of street violence. I have a real plan to promote affordable housing rather than subsidized soccer stadiums that only support the developers who own her vote. I will always represent my faith and never write a policy like her devastating bathroom bill, the one she spearheaded and forced upon our Queen City and which brought so much distrain to our community.

Shame on Mayfield for her continuation of divisive political tactics. Shame on her for disrespecting the over 400,000 Defenders of Freedom who fell beneath our flag to defeat Hitler." 

Mayfield's statement in response to the backlash:

"The Constitutional right of "Free Speech" is a precious and uniquely beloved gift among Americans. With this gift of free speech comes great responsibility. To some, I did not express that responsibly within the limited characters of my earlier tweet. I apologize for the brevity of my statement due to being limited to 140 characters. Many times, we cannot fully express intent or emotion through this limited platform."

"I do not want to diminish the heinous treatment and genocide that our Jewish brothers and sisters experienced at the hands of this dictator nor do I want to further create a dialogue that does not focus on the facts at hand."

"Today, we read about history as a story in a book and sometimes disassociate from the realities of lives impacted. Our communities must unite and realize that at this intersectionality of both conservative and liberal, white and people of color, gay or straight, young and seniors, these variances and diverse populations have strength when they unite in one voice."

"My anger and passion when tweeting was directed to those that continue to make excuses for a man who is leading our Nation in a divisive direction. His policies, the creation of the 'Birther movement,' executive orders and continual mistreatment of marginalized communities has quickly eroded the landscape of civility and civil discourse in our society. 

"I value the diversity of my community, work to be inclusive and give voice to those that are not at the table and bring equity to this city that I love.""While my words chosen have offended some, my intent was to bring attention to the continued crisis that we face each day while this president is leading us. My post angered some and I stay in a state of anger every day I watch the news and this like many posts was shared to shine a light on hypocrisy and the discourse rising in our nation."

House aims for quick final budget vote next week to accelerate tax reform

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 7:33 PM

A day after Senate approval of a budget outline for 2018 that authorizes expedited work on a tax reform plan- without the threat of a Senate filibuster – House GOP leaders set the table for a vote next week on the budget measure, instead of engaging in House-Senate negotiations that could take several weeks, as Republicans look to generate more momentum for the first major tax reforms since 1986.

Friday afternoon, House GOP leaders signaled their plan to simply accept the budget plan passed 51-49 by the Senate, setting a Tuesday meeting of the House Rules Committee, which sets the ground rules for bills on the floor of the House.

“We want Americans to wake up in the new year with a new tax code, one that is simple and fair,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “Now it is time to meet this moment and deliver real relief to hardworking people.”

Approval of the Senate-passed plan would allow tax-writing committees in both the House and Senate to get to work on the actual details of tax reform; what’s been released so far is an outline, but not the fine print.

“This is another important milestone for tax reform, and sets the stage for us to pass major tax cuts that will deliver more jobs and higher wages for hardworking Americans all over the country,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

As for Democrats, some feel like they are being set up by the GOP, predicting that Republicans will unveil their tax reform bill, and then demand a vote on it days later.

“I am perfectly willing to negotiate,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO). “I can’t do it in a vacuum.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” McCaskill told reporters. “Why can’t we have a bill?”

When you look back at the 1986 Tax Reform Act – that took months to make its way through the House and Senate, and then a conference committee for final negotiations.

Need some weekend reading? Here is the link to the explanation of the 1986 Tax Reform Act – it’s only a little under 1,400 pages.

It’s a gentle reminder that if you do ‘real’ tax reform – it is a very complicated endeavor.

Senate approves budget outline, as GOP takes next step for tax reform

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:52 PM

The GOP push for a major tax reform bill in Congress took an important step forward on Thursday night, as the Senate approved a Republican budget outline for 2018, authorizing work on a tax reform bill that cannot be derailed by a filibuster, as President Donald Trump urged Congress to move quickly on a tax package.

“Tonight we completed the first step to replacing our broken tax code,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Senate vote was 51-49, with only Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) breaking ranks, as he voted against the plan, saying he was standing up for “fiscal responsibility.”

The vote was welcome news at the White House.

“I will tell you, our country needs tax cuts,” the President said at the White House on Thursday afternoon, arguing tax relief would spur new economic growth in the United States on a large scale.

“If we get this done, it will be historic,” the President said. “It will be bigger than any plan ever approved or – ever. It will be the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country.”

That point was repeated on almost an endless loop by GOP Senators during Senate debate on the budget outline for 2018.

“This is the first step to getting us to pro-growth tax reform,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

“It’s been more than 30 years since we reformed the tax code,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). “We have more preferences and loopholes and deductions than we know what to do with.”

“If we don’t get that done, then I don’t think we have another opportunity to pass a tax bill in the next four years,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“This budget allows us to cut taxes,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as few Senators dwelled on the fact that the GOP plan would allow their party’s tax plan to create $1.5 trillion in extra deficits over 10 years.

For some, that wasn’t enough.

“We should cut everyone’s taxes, to make sure we cut taxes for the middle class,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who offered an amendment to allow for deficits to go up by $2.5 trillion over ten years.

Paul’s change was soundly defeated on a vote of 93-7.

While Republicans rallied around the budget plan, critics of President Trump denounced it during Senate debate, in no uncertain terms.

“This is not a bad budget bill, this is a horrific budget bill,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

GOP Congressional leaders must still sort out the differences between the budget outlines approved in the House and Senate, before starting on their effort for the first major tax reform plan since 1986.

Some late changes made in the plan by Senate Republicans could pave the way for the House to simply accept the Senate version of the budget as early as next week, which would speed up the effort to begin debate on tax reform.

As of now, the fine print of the GOP tax reform package remain a secret. Republicans want that to change in the next few weeks.