Consider: The worst economic news in weeks broke today — the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction of an economic meltdown resulting from the president’s dereliction of duty (ignoring the fiscal cliff).
In a written statement, a Romney-Ryan press aide stated: “Today’s CBO report is another indictment of President Obama’s economic policies that have resulted in overspending, increasing debt, and a growing financial burden on the next generation. Just one day after Vice President Biden declared the ‘middle class is coming back,’ today’s report shows 8% unemployment through the end of the year and unsustainable deficits and debt that the next generation will be forced to repay. The Romney-Ryan Plan will get America back on track with lower spending and 12 million new jobs for middle-class families.”
Well, the CBO announcement seems like a big deal, deserving of the candidates’ focus and some direct comments from the top and/or bottom of the ticket. (Romney did focus more on jobs and the economy in Iowa on Monday than he has done recently, but you’d think a CBO report as damning as this would be front and center.)
Meanwhile, with Todd Akin’s candidacy still stirring in the media, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) went into the back of his campaign plane to talk to the press. In such situations, a running mate can either move to the big news of the day (economy) or give a complete answer on what the press is obsessing about. Instead, Ryan started to get into it and then was hustled away. The Post relates:
“Well, you know, look. I’m proud of my record,” Ryan said when asked about differences between himself and Romney regarding abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is endangered, a similar answer to the one he gave in a Pittsburgh TV interview Wednesday morning. “I don’t – I’m proud of my record. Mitt Romney’s going to be the president. The president sets the policy. His policy is exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’m comfortable with it because it’s a good step in the right direction. I’ll leave it at that.”
Romney supports such exceptions, while Ryan opposes them.
Asked about his co-sponsorship of legislation that would seek to tighten restrictions on abortion and which initially used the term “forcible rape,” Ryan told reporters, “That bill passed, I think, by 251 votes. It was bipartisan. … I’m proud of my pro-life record.”
That’s confusing, and I actually know what Ryan’s position on abortion is. He’s in favor of only a life-of-the-mother exception but has repeatedly voted in favor of exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother (in the very rape statute he referenced and in the Hyde Amendment, which contains all three exceptions).
Moreover, the objectionable language (“forcible”) came out of the final bill. A Ryan spokesman told me: “He did not support the inclusion of the word forcible and was glad it was removed.” You’d never have figured that out from what Ryan said.
At this late date, the Romney-Ryan team should be more adept at shaping its message and dealing with the media. There was big news today on the economy, and the Romney-Ryan team needs to make sure that is the story of the day. In fact, the economy as a whole, rather than just Medicare or welfare reform, should be moving to the fore. The CBO report would seem to be an opportunity to pivot.