7:34 am Sep. 10, 20121
The big pitfall in picking Paul Ryan was supposed to be his controversial plan to overhaul Medicare. But on Sunday morning, Mitt Romney had a different problem with his running mate, who voted for the automatic defense cuts included in last year's debt ceiling deal that Romney now calls an "extraordinary miscalculation" on the part of House Republicans.
"That's a big mistake," said Romney, who was making his first appearance this cycle on "Meet the Press" with a two-part interview on his campaign bus, followed by an open-air, rooftop sit-down near his campaign headquarters. "I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it."
Romney would very much like to be seen as the defender of a robust military budget, particularly in defense-heavy states like Virginia, but first he must reconcile that position with Ryan's voting record, as one of the House Republicans who supported the deal.
"I worked with President Obama to find common ground to get a down payment on deficit reduction. It wasn't a big down payment, but it was a step in the right direction," he told Norah O'Donnell on "Face the Nation." O'Donnell quoted from a Ryan press release at the time, praising the deal.
Ryan argued that he had voted for the sequestration bill to motivate more action in the House, and that he followed that vote with a compromise proposal for spending cuts that would avoid the sequestration, though it's not clear whether that distinction got through to Guthrie, or to viewers.
"No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah," he said. "I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester would occur if we don't cut $1.2 trillion in spending in government. We offered $1.2 trillion in various—the supercommittee offered it. We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere. The Senate's done nothing. President Obama's done nothing."
Even before Ryan's selection, some conservatives had misgivings about his long record in the House, which included votes for most of the unbalanced budgets of George W. Bush, before Ryan started building a profile as a deficit hawk. Ryan's voting record could complicate Romney's efforts to distance the ticket from Bush, who Democrats have tried to argue is the model for Romney's policies.
On "Meet the Press," host David Gregory pressed Romney on the particulars of his budget, in particular the exemptions that would be eliminated to raise the revenue necessary to fulfill all of Romney's promises.
"Governor, where are the specifics of how you get to this math? Isn't that an issue?" Gregory asked
"Well, the specifics are these, which is those principles I described, are the heart of my policy," Romney replied. "And I've indicated as well that contrary to what the Democrats are saying I'm not going to increase the tax burden on middle income families. It would absolutely be wrong to do that," said Romney, who added that he had proven his ability to balance budgets in Massachusetts.
"Give me an example of a loophole that you will close," Gregory said.
"Well, I can tell you that people at the high end, high income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions," Romney replied. "Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they'd get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high income taxpayers."
Ryan said it was a deliberate decision to articulate a "framework" and then hash out the details with Congress after they were elected.
Despite their difficulties explaining Ryan's sequestration vote and Romney's budget, Romney's 30-minute "Meet the Press" debut and Ryan's appearances on "Face the Nation" and "This Week" seemed to have successfully deflected attention from the Democratic National Convention, and also from a morning interview with President Obama on "Face the Nation."
Obama didn't make much news, saying he still supported "compromise," and he drafted off Bill Clinton's "arithmetic" line from the former president's convention address.
"Governor Romney said he wouldn't take a deal with $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue increases," Obama said. "And the problem is the math, or the arithmetic, as President Clinton said, doesn't add up." (Clinton will be campaigning in Florida on Monday and Tuesday.)
Asked about Clinton's speech, Romney said, "He did stand out in contrast with the other speakers. I think he really did elevate the Democrat convention in a lot of ways. And frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who'd go before him and who'd go after."