The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek;
Michelle Bernard, Bernard Center;
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune

Taped: Friday, August 31, 2012
Broadcast: Weekend of September 1-2, 2012

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Mitt's Moment.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY (R, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) Mr. Chairman and delegates, I accept your nomination for president of the United States.

Four years ago, I know that many Americans felt a fresh excitement about the possibilities of a new president. But today, four years from the excitement of that last election, for the first time, the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future. It's not what we were promised.

I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed. (Cheers, applause.) But as promises gave way to disappointment and division, this isn't something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we can do something. And with your help, we will do something. (Cheers, applause.)

Now is the moment when we can stand up and say I'm an American. I make my destiny. We deserve better. My children deserve better. My family deserves better. My country deserves better. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did the Republican convention improve Mitt Romney's presidential prospects? Mort Zuckerman.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: Well, I do think so, on several grounds. Number one, I think he was trying to, in a sense, have a platform in which he could, somehow or other, appeal to the American public as to who he was and is as a personality. And I think, by and large, that worked.
Secondly, I think he was also trying to appeal to women. And I think there were a number of things said and done that would have, I think, endeared him to the voters who were women.
And finally, I think he did a very good job, it seems to me, without being nasty about it, of saying, look, the Obama administration has been a failure. And failure is not an orphan. There is a father for failure, and that father is the president. That's the way our system works. And we deserve better. And what we have, of course, is the weakest economy that we've had since the Great Depression.
And after $5 trillion, by the standard set by the Obama administration when they said, with the stimulus program, the unemployment would never get above 8 percent and it would get below 6 percent, it's been a failure in that sense. I'm not saying it hasn't accomplished some things, but it does give the Republicans ammunition. And they handled that, I thought, very well.


ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, in the television age, the more likable candidate always wins. And so I think that Governor Romney knows that this is his weakest area, and he went at it in his speech. And a lot of the other speakers were all geared to soften his image, get us to understand him more.
I thought it was a very affecting image that his father left a rose by his mother's bedside every morning, and she realized he had died when the rose wasn't there. But that's about his father, and we're not electing his father. We still really, I don't think, have that much of a sense of how Mitt Romney is.
But I think he has stumbled on the right approach to unseating President Obama, and that is he's coming at it more in sorrow than in anger. You know, he tried. He's a nice man. It's OK to vote for someone else. And I think he avoided the snarkiness of some of the other speakers. So I think he did a good job.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but you think at heart he is a financial technocrat with ice water in his veins. Correct? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: He loves his family. He loves his church. I think he can be warm in those settings. But his public persona is basically kind of robotic, and he's struggling against that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?

MICHELLE BERNARD: I think he moved the ball forward this week. I think it was a good convention for him. What I think personally that you saw from Mitt Romney was two things: One, who is Mitt Romney? The American voting public wants to know. Who are we voting for? What do you stand for? Are you human? Do you actually have red blood running through your veins? And we learned that about him this week.
But I also think the other thing that he was slightly successful in doing -- not perfect, but slightly successful -- was trying to do something about the damage that has been done to the Republican brand over the last year. So we saw women speaking over and over and over again. We saw Condi Rice speaking, not just as a woman but as an African-American.
We got the story from the Republican Party this week that this is a country that believes in freedom and individual liberty and that anybody can succeed. We saw that in Marco Rubio, Governor Martinez. I think that was very important. I don't know if it will work, but the Republican brand has been very significantly damaged over the last year, and that -- what we saw in the convention this week helped.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Suburban women and political independents.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That was what he was focusing on, especially --

MR. PAGE: No, he wasn't.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- especially in view of --

MR. PAGE: Only partly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Obama's television ads trying to depict him that way.

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He had a -- he's got a challenge with women.

MR. PAGE: He does.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think he met the challenge?

MR. PAGE: That's not the only group he's got a challenge with. He's got a challenge with his own base, so he had to firm that up, so it was very important that he have Paul Ryan there. But he had to reassure the base, just like John McCain was trying desperately hard with four years ago.
He also has this deficit of people who don't know him, a remarkable -- he's been out there a good six years, and still a big chunk of folks in surveys say they don't know Mitt Romney, even those who are ready to vote for him, ready to vote for an alternative to Barack Obama. But -- and he did do a good job of making Obama the center of attention, to make this a referendum on Obama.
But we know now, especially now that Medicare is on the table, that this is no longer just a referendum on Obama. It's a comparison. You know, OK, if Obama hasn't done the job, can Mitt Romney do the job any better? He did not make that case. He did have people saying he's well organized; he's a nice guy.
He still kind of comes off, in my view, like -- he makes Don Draper look like Elton John. You ever watch "Mad Men," you know? I mean, he helped that image. And his wife really helped him as far as --

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but where he --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, Mitt Romney talked about his experience starting Bain Capital and the companies Bain Capital invested in.

MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Some of the companies we helped start are names you know and you've heard from tonight: An office company called Staples, where I'm pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping.

(Laughter, cheers, applause.) The Sports Authority, which, of course, became a favorite of my boys. We helped start an early childhood learning company called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised. (Applause.)
And at a time when nobody thought we'd ever see a new steel mill built in America, we took a chance and built one in a cornfield in Indiana. (Cheers, applause.) Today Steel Dynamics is one of the largest steel producers in the United States. (Applause.)

These are American success stories. And yet the centerpiece of the president's entire reelection campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? (Cheers, applause.) In America we celebrate success. We don't apologize for success. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is Mitt Romney overstating when he says President Obama attacks success? Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't think he's overstating it. I think what I've said about it is that this is an administration that boos the winners, not just boos the losers, which is the tradition in America.
And there has been a division in this country that they have deliberately, in my judgment, tried to create in order to channel the anger in the country against the business community. It's very counterproductive and has been for the last number of years. And so I think that's a big mistake. And I think he's trying to deal with that issue.

MS. CLIFT: Well, we did have a major financial meltdown four years ago because of excesses in the financial community. You didn't hear any mention about that. And I think there's a lot of confusion among the voters about what exactly private equity is, because most people don't have the opportunity, don't have the funds, to play those kinds of financial games.
And so Mitt Romney is portraying it as something he did that's almost altruistic, that he's out there creating all these wonderful jobs. And what the Obama campaign are pointing out -- correctly, in my view -- is that private equity is about maximizing profits for the people who invest. Sure, they created jobs in the firms that he mentioned, but they also lost a lot of people their jobs. He doesn't mention that. So is this the experience that translates naturally into being president? I think --


MS. CLIFT: -- it's a valid question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. Was everything always rosy at Bain?

MR. ROMNEY: (From videotape.) Now, we weren't always successful at Bain, but no one ever is in the real world of business. That's what this president doesn't seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risks, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It's about dreams. Usually it doesn't work out exactly as you might have imagined.
Steve Jobs was fired at Apple, and then he came back and changed the world. It's the genius of the American free-enterprise system to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that's dedicating to creating tomorrow's prosperity, not trying to redistribute today's. (Cheers, applause.)
America's been patient. Americans have supported this president in good faith. But today the time has come to turn the page. Now is the time to restore the promise of America.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the majority of Americans agree that it's time to turn the page?

MS. BERNARD: I think the majority of Americans agree that it's time to turn the page, but not necessarily at the presidential level. I think most Americans sat back this week and listened, heard a lot of really smart rhetoric, and also sit back and can't help but think to themselves the day Barack Obama got elected; we had a Republican Congress that decided that their answer to governing, with the taxpayer dollars that pay their salary, would be to say no.
We have people on Wall Street who, fairly or unfairly, are sitting on millions of dollars that they refuse to put back into the private sector because Barack Obama is the president of the United States. A lot of statements made by Mitt Romney I completely agree with.
You know, Steve Jobs, that is the story that America loves. You can come back from failure. You can achieve anything. You can be anything in this country that you want to be. But I think it is intellectually dishonest to say that Barack Obama is attacking success and does not want the American public to succeed. That's wrong and it's dishonest.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about that, Mort? Were you ever a flop and then came back from --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that condition?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I mean, the kind of businesses that I'm in, frankly, some of them -- a lot of the projects work and some of them don't. In the publishing business, frankly, some of them work and some of them don't. That's the nature of business. So I have no problem with what he is basically saying.
And I do think, frankly, that Bain & Company, which was the pioneer in this whole form of equity investing, was a brilliantly managed company. I had some direct exposure to it. And he was an extraordinary manager and an extraordinary talent in that regard. There's something to be said for somebody who knows how to run an organization. I mean, what --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- I would say, yes, Mitt Romney did a great job of running Bain. So he ought to go back to it, because, you know, I was wondering, there was something missing.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who ought to go back? Mort ought to go back to it?

MR. PAGE: No, I'm saying if I was Barack Obama -- (laughter) -- if I was Barack Obama -- and I am not -- but I would say, though, that Romney ought to go back to it. Just because you're good in business doesn't mean you know how to run government. And, you know, we could talk about his governorship record in Massachusetts that he now wants to run away from, where he did have some successes, but he doesn't want to talk about because they'll offend the right in his own party.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah. He didn't mention he was governor.

MR. PAGE: But, you know, one --

MS. CLIFT: He didn't even mention he was governor during his --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: He was a governor with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate in Massachusetts and did a darn good job. I come from Massachusetts. And I didn't vote for him because I've been a Democrat, but he did.

MR. PAGE: He did. He did. And he thought he'd be running on that. But now his party has shifted so far to the right that he can't run on it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, he --

MR. PAGE: And so he's had to recast himself --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know --

MR. PAGE: -- as a right winger.
But may I answer your original question very simply?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why not? Why not? Go ahead.

MR. PAGE: Well, thank you. I appreciate that -- because I think too many -- I mean, I was at the convention and I was saying it was one of the best speeches I've ever heard Romney give. But there was something missing, and I was thinking what was it? And I'm thinking, you know, this whole convention has come off as a pep rally for rich people, saying, you know, it's OK to be rich. Why is Obama demonizing the rich? Why is he saying people who run companies are bad people? That's not what Obama is saying.
When I was back in Middletown, Ohio, John Boehner's district, where the steel mill I used to work now is a shell of its former self, I would be saying, you know, are the Republicans telling me that if you're unemployed, go out and start yourself a business? Because that's a nice message, but everybody can't do it.

MS. CLIFT: Well, actually, Mitt Romney suggested that at one point during the campaign --

MR. PAGE: I know.

MS. CLIFT: -- suggested people borrow money from their parents --

MR. PAGE: Right.

MS. CLIFT: -- and start it, which he could.

MR. PAGE: Which he could do. (Laughs.)

MS. CLIFT: His big failing, I think, missed opportunity in this convention was that he really did not lay out a road map for what he plans to do. He gave us this five-point plan, which includes energy independence, you know, reining in China. You know, these -- this is not -- this is verbiage.


MS. CLIFT: This is not a real plan.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Since you raise the matter, let's listen to the five points that you referred to.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, dear. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: By 2020, North America will be energy- independent by taking inventory of our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear and renewables. Note that he does not -- he hardly mentions green, where with Obama it's green, green, green.

MR. PAGE: Renewables.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Green, green, green is not going to support us for a week in this country.

MS. CLIFT: And you know what that would entail?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Second, we will give our fellow citizens the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When it comes to school your child -- the school your child will attend --

MS. CLIFT: How? (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- every parent should have choice and every child should have a chance.

MR. PAGE: Obama has said things very similar to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He said we will make trade work for America by forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences.

MR. PAGE: They all say that. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Fourth, we will assure every entrepreneur and every job creator that their investments in America will not vanish, as have those in Greece.

MR. PAGE: Yep.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
Five, we will champion small businesses, America's engine of job growth. That means reducing taxes on business, not raising them. It means simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small businesses the most. And it means we must rein in skyrocketing costs of health care by repealing and replacing "Obamacare."

MS. CLIFT: Oh, boy.

MR. PAGE: That's where you've got a division now, because you're talking now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, he said all that during this particular --

MR. PAGE: Yeah, but most of that stuff Barack Obama would agree with.
(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Those are broad goals.


MS. CLIFT: Well, there's no way to get there. And they're not even any different from what President Obama advocates.

MR. PAGE: Right.

MS. BERNARD: That's exactly what I was going to say.

MS. CLIFT: If you peel back the top layer of blue sky, when he says how we're going to achieve energy independence, he wants to drill on federal lands, overturning the policies that Teddy Roosevelt put in place 100 years ago. I don't think that's going to happen.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK. So we all agree on one thing. Both of the candidates are blue-sky offenders.

Issue Two: Meet the Veep.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI, Republican vice presidential nominee): (From videotape.) Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too. If you're feeling left out or passed by, you have not failed. Your leaders have failed you. (Cheers, applause.)
None of us -- none of us should have to settle for the best this administration offers -- a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us. It's the exact opposite of everything I learned growing up in Wisconsin or at college in Ohio. (Cheers, applause.)
You know, when I was waiting tables, washing dishes or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey, where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That's what we do in this country. That's the American dream. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: The sub-theme of the Republican convention was that Obama's presidency has been a dud. Did Paul Ryan get that message out loud and clear? What do you think, Michelle?

MS. BERNARD: No. No. And I've met Paul Ryan. I don't know him personally. I've met him. He is likable. I think he was probably a very smart choice for Mitt Romney.
But in terms of the speech he gave this week, that point is absolutely not clear. If you are a member of the American public and you're sitting back and you're watching this, whether you're in the hall or you're watching it on television or listening to it on the radio, you're hearing his words and they absolutely make economic sense.
However, if you are a woman, if you are African-American, if you are Hispanic, if you are anything that is other -- meaning non-white male -- you sit back and you say how do you compare and contrast what they are saying on the economy, which makes absolutely sense, but then there are much louder voices in the Republican Party that make you feel that you are unwelcome and this is no longer your country. That's a problem for the Republican --


MS. BERNARD: -- for the Republican Party.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: This economy is in terrible shape -- let's face it -- the worst shape since the Great Depression.

MS. BERNARD: And I agree with you completely -- completely.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The American dream used to be, you know, a home in the suburbs. Today the American dream is a secure job, and any job will do. That has not happened in 60 years. So this is something that really cuts across the whole country. It's not just the people who are out of work. Even the people who are at work, you know, they're worried about their jobs. So this is an absolute critical issue for this country. They are saying, look, we have had a failure of policy. There has to be a better way to do it.

MS. CLIFT: Of course --

MS. BERNARD: I don't disagree. I agree with you.

MS. CLIFT: Of course it's --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Eleanor in.

MS. CLIFT: Of course it's a critical issue. But Paul Ryan is basically the candidate of the conservative base. They love him in a way they will never love Mitt Romney. He is the party's future, as they define it. But in that speech, he so overcaricatured President Obama, like -- you know, it's like out of an Ayn Rand novel or science fiction, you know, this evil central planner taking away all our freedoms. I mean, he undermines his own credibility.
And, sure, they have an economic theory. But when you parse it, it's lower taxes for the rich, more taxes for the middle class, and a Medicare program that will be more expensive. So I think he -- he doesn't sell well over time.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Thanks for clueing me in on that. (Laughter.)

MR. PAGE: Look, it was important for Paul Ryan to get out there, because this firms up the base.


MR. PAGE: When he's on stage with Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney gets bigger applause and it's louder, a lot like, you know, again, Sarah Palin and John McCain. But the problem is, Paul Ryan is now identified as the guy who wants to mess with your Medicare. And he only touched on Medicare in this speech.
That's going to be a rising issue in the rest of this campaign, because you've got a lot of questions on both sides, both what he and Obama want to do with Medicare. Obama's been savvy enough to avoid the whole topic, like most people running for office do. This is not an election-year topic.

MS. BERNARD: But that's a problem for Obama.

MR. PAGE: But now it is.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In the so-called "Obamacare," they did take $716 billion out of Medicare to finance that medical program. So that --

MR. PAGE: And Ryan wanted to also, right?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That makes it vulnerable.

MS. CLIFT: Fact checker.

MS. BERNARD: Yes, please.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not saying the Republican --

MS. CLIFT: Fact --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- the Republicans aren't vulnerable.

MS. CLIFT: Fact checker.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes. Let me just finish before you get me wrong.

MS. CLIFT: Right. (Laughs.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I mean, if I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong, OK? Let me just say this, OK? There is a real issue here --

MR. PAGE: Yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- that everybody has to focus on. Nobody's got a perfect solution to the problems.

MS. CLIFT: The money --

MR. PAGE: There's a difference --

MS. CLIFT: The money came out of reimbursements for providers, and much of it was plowed back into reducing the doughnut hole and preventive exams for seniors. There's -- no senior has lost any benefits because of that money, plus Ryan appropriates that loss in his own plan.


MS. CLIFT: It is one of the many --
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Hold on. Let --

MS. BERNARD: Can I just --

MS. CLIFT: It's one of the many falsehoods --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let Michelle in.

MS. CLIFT: -- the Republicans have built their campaign on.

MS. BERNARD: I think it's important to add, though, here's the good thing about -- one of the many good things about Paul Ryan, to the extent that there are good things to cheer on about. He is the only person that has had the courage to say we have to have a serious discussion in this country about the deficit and about entitlement reform.
Here's the bad problem. Here's what's bad, though, for Romney and Obama. They're the ones running for president. They are the people that should be having this discussion --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mmm hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MS. BERNARD: -- with the American public. And the American public wants to hear it. Whether it's good news or bad news, we need to have --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Now that he is running for office, he's going to moderate what he says.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue Three: Mitt's Better Half.

ANN ROMNEY (wife of Mitt Romney): (From videotape.) I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a storybook marriage. Well, let me tell you something. In the storybooks I read, there never were long, long rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Assign a letter grade, A to F, to Ann Romney's speech, A to F? Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: I give her an A. I think she comes across as warm and authentic. I don't know that it's necessarily going to deliver women's votes to Mitt Romney. I think she probably communicates more directly with women who are already in her corner. I don't know if she's talking to a 28-year-old single mom trying to raise two kids. I mean, she's trying to talk to all of these women. And so I think, in a very difficult situation, she did a fabulous job. I have no criticism of the candidate's spouse.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, there's no financial problems there.

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is --

MS. CLIFT: -- financial meaning does she come across as rich as her husband does?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The financial challenges --

MS. CLIFT: It was a little strained --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that you -- for example, I imagine you have some financial challenges, do you not?

MS. CLIFT: Most people do, John. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, she tried to relate to people who are struggling by saying that their first dining room table was a pull- down ironing board. But --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But she faced very --

MS. CLIFT: -- those --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- severe health problems.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: MS and breast cancer.

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah. I think the MS is an even more serious challenge that's ongoing. And she's handling that. And, you know, I give her a lot of credit. The stress, you know, of doing a convention speech like that is not easy for anyone. And for someone who has an illness that she has, it's doubly hard. She handles herself very well. She's clearly an asset. So I have --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And raised --

MS. CLIFT: -- nothing bad to say.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did she reach suburban mothers and single women?

MS. BERNARD: I don't know that she reached single women, but I think she definitely reached suburban women. Her speech was excellent.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, you are both. You're suburban and you're single.

MS. BERNARD: And I heard her message. I thought that she did a fantastic job of explaining that they have a real marriage, of humanizing her husband, of talking about the joys and sometimes the irritations of motherhood that all women could relate to. I thought she did a very, very good job on that front.
But, then again, I don't know that that is enough to bring single women, for example, independent women, low-income women, to all of a sudden say I'm going to go to the Republican ticket and I'm going to vote for your husband. I don't know that people will vote for Mitt Romney because they like his wife.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Romney also explored, in conversation, his own romantic history with her and the love that they have for each other. And it was tremendous to hear both of them.

MS. BERNARD: It was.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wonderful to hear. And I'm no expert on single women, but on families I would like to say I thought she reached out wonderfully. In fact, they have five children, and they all seem to be quite wonderful. And they have a wonderful family life.



MS. BERNARD: And it's a close family.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yeah, and it's a close family. That's not easy to do, considering the life that her husband had, you know, which was very busy and traveled a lot, and then was in public life. So kudos to her, as far as I'm concerned.

MS. CLIFT: But if you want to have a contrast with President Obama, he's also a good family man with a lovely family.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not --

MS. CLIFT: So it's not --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not denying it.

MS. CLIFT: No, I'm just saying it doesn't -- it's all very nice, but it doesn't necessarily add votes.
(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They had --

MR. PAGE: (Inaudible) -- is that right now you've got very few undecided voters left -- very, very few; some polls say only 3 percent. And that's where you've got people who haven't been following the campaign that closely, like busy single moms, for example. This could have a real important impact on softening his image.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, what about folding down the ironing table to serve as the dining room table when they were first married?

MS. CLIFT: Well, they were students.

MS. BERNARD: Everyone can relate to that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can relate to that.

MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And you have no reason to doubt that, do you?


MS. CLIFT: No, I don't. But, you know, in 1994, when he was running for the Senate, she said something to the effect that when they were students, they were so poor they had to sell some of their stocks. And that was considered a real faux pas. So, I mean, whatever level of struggle they went through as students, you know that he had a very prosperous family behind him.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you want to assign a letter grade to her? Quickly, quickly, quickly.



MS. CLIFT: I already gave her an A.






Predictions. Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The new book by one of the Navy SEALs who led the operation against Osama bin Laden is going to create a lot of issues about national security and the release of sources and methods, as they say, about the operations that we've done.


MS. CLIFT: With the Democratic convention coming next week, the next set of poll numbers to watch will be mid-September, when both conventions are factored in. And we'll see if we still have an even race.


MS. BERNARD: A federal court recently struck down the voter ID law in Texas. I predict it's going to go to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court is going to find it unconstitutional.

MR. PAGE: Never again will a guest -- will a speaker at a political convention speak without teleprompter or notes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that in the upcoming three debates, Obama-Romney debates, President Obama will win one and challenger Romney will win two.