Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 9/8/12
Aboard Press Pool Bus
En Route Kissimmee, Florida
1:09 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Welcome back aboard Press Force One, as we begin our bus tour, two-day bus tour. It's always a pleasure to see you. I have no announcements to make, and that makes me happy.
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any real announcements. So since we're in Florida, in the spirit of that, I just thought I'd tick through a couple facts about Florida for you guys. One, on Thursday evening, during the President's speech, they held nearly 900 house parties across the state to watch his speech.
Medicare, as you know the President talked about today, and he talks about regularly out there -- as we all know, there's a large senior population in Florida. We've put out reports on this in the past, but more than 238,000 Floridians with Medicare have already seen cuts in their cost of their prescription drugs. So I wanted to make sure you had that number.
Voters can register until October 9th in Florida. And in the state, we've been outspent by Republicans and the Republican super PACs by about $10 million. So keep that in mind.
So those are just a few stats, and we'll take your questions.
Q I have a question. You're going to Melbourne tomorrow. Do we assume that there's going to be a big NASA focus there?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any updates on the President's remarks or what he'll talk about. He will -- as you know, the President has a plan for the space program. That's more than Mitt Romney and his team can say. So there certainly is a contrast. We'll let you know if there's any update on his remarks, if he'll be addressing that tomorrow.
And just to add -- I know Adam is here -- I don't know if you guys all know Adam, but he's the Florida expert in the crew. But obviously a number of our stops are along the I-4 corridor, where the Latino population has been growing. The demographics in the state in this area have been moving more towards supporters of the President and his agenda. But we'll also be visiting areas over the course of the next two days where we haven't won traditionally in the past. So it's a mix through the course of the bus tour.
Q Melbourne is one of the (inaudible.) What's the thinking in terms of going into territory that's not typically yours?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we spend a lot of time, as you know, in parts of states like Florida, but also states like Colorado and Ohio, where we may not have won the vote four years ago, and there may be more voters who are leaning towards our opponent, but these are still places where we feel we can not only energize our supporters but also make an appeal to soft supporters of our opponent on issues like the economy and middle-class tax cuts, on issues like Medicare and the dramatic cuts that the Romney/Ryan budget would propose. And we feel every moment of time we spend is worth it, even in places where we didn’t win four years ago because we need to still energize and excite the voters we turned out four years ago and build on that.
Q Jen, now that people have had a chance to digest yesterday's unemployment report a little bit more than when it first came out, what are your concerns about the impact of it, and sort of the drip, drip effect there's going to be another one and then another one just four days before Election Day?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President made a very strong case on Thursday night for the choice he's offering the American people when it comes to the economy and the plans he's presenting to move the economy forward. As you know, he's proposed a number of pieces in the American Jobs Act that Republicans and Mitt Romney could get behind right now. And independent economists have said that would create 1 million more jobs. He will continue to talk about those on the campaign trail.
We know most people are not sitting at home clicking "refresh" on the BLS website; they're concerned about how things are impacting them. Do they have health care? Can they send their kids to college? Are they able to get a job? Can their small business get access to the loans and assistance they need? That's what the President will be talking about. That's what he's been talking about and what he will be between now and November.
MR. CARNEY: And if I could just say as a matter of policy, because you didn’t -- the jobs report represented the 30th straight month that we've had private sector job growth, for a total of 4.6 million private sector jobs. That stands in stark contrast to the situation that existed in the country when President Obama was sworn into office.
And when we talk about simply policy comparisons, proposals that are designed to keep the country moving forward, continue to have economic growth and job creation, and to increase that growth and job creation, what the President believes in and what he's putting forward -- and there is a useful comparison here because the recession was not that long ago. We're not asking people to reach back and look at policy proposals from the '70s or '80s. We're talking about what was in place four years ago and led to the worst economic crisis in the lifetime of everybody on this bus.
Q What are your concerns, though, Jay, from a policy standpoint that the job creation, the 96,000 jobs reflected in this report was not as strong as many economists originally thought it would be, and the fact that unemployment notched down a bit because fewer people are looking for work?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'd say a couple of things. First, we never react too happily to job reports that exceed expectations or too negatively to job reports that come in below expectations because we are focused on trends. You may recall that in the earlier part of this year we had a series of months where these same reports came in significantly above expectations.
The point is that we need to continue moving in one direction, which is forward, and that's positive job growth, positive economic growth. The President is the first one to say -- you heard him say it today and he said it yesterday and the day before -- that we're not anywhere close to where we need to be in this economy because the hole that was dug by the recession was so deep. And he wants to not just settle for the status quo for the middle class that existed prior to the recession; he was running in 2008 on the idea that the middle class was already under intense pressure and needed help.
Go ahead, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: I was going to add one thing. Mitt Romney has been out there talking about his plan to create 12 million jobs that's lacking in any concrete detail on exactly how he's going to get there. We know that from the American Jobs Act, which I referenced, that would create a million jobs. We know the Romney/Ryan budget independent economists have said could cost a million jobs. So next year alone, we're talking about a difference between President Obama's plan that could put 2 million people back to work more than Mitt Romney’s plan.
And ultimately, I think people across Florida, people across this country are looking at the difference -- the choice in this election, the difference between what they're presenting and what their priorities are. And that's what we’re going to continue to bring into focus.
Q Would either of you give us an idea, since yesterday was the first day in a long time that the full ticket was campaigning together, any color about how they were? Were they buoyant? Were they revved up from the campaign? Anything that we didn't see behind the scenes -- and then also just bring it into today, the President is on another bus tour, it’s Florida -- does he seem fired up and ready to go?
MS. PSAKI: The President loves nothing more than bus tours. He loves --
MR. CARNEY: It’s true. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: And the campaigning. The President absolutely loves bus tours because you’re not getting on and off of a plane. You're actually spending time in the state of Florida. We’re going to make some local stops. He’s going to go to places where people are having lunch, where they're working, where they're spending their Saturday afternoon, and have individual conversations that he’s going to take back with him for weeks to come.
This is our third bus tour since I’ve been back, so we’ve done them in Iowa and Ohio. And it’s something that I think you’ll see more of between now and November.
In terms of color, you may --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would just say a couple of things. It obviously creates a lot of energy when you have the President and the Vice President together, and in this case, even more energy because you had the First Lady and Dr. Biden. There were a couple of really nice moments that I noticed.
Before they -- before the President went out, there was a little tent backstage, but outside, a small, little tent. And I know --
Q Where was this? Which stop?
MR. CARNEY: Yesterday, in New Hampshire.
MS. PSAKI: First event.
MR. CARNEY: The first event. And the Vice President and President were just sitting next to each other, sort of heads together, talking, and just very intimately -- no other staff were around. And you could tell they were catching up because they have both been on a busy schedule traveling separately. And you just really -- you could tell that they were both feeling very good about the night before, and the overall convention.
And then there was a nice moment inside in a really, lovely historic building that served as a hold where I noticed that the First Lady and Dr. Biden and some others were catching up, as well, prior to the event.
What you can definitely say about having worked for both men, that these are -- family is a dominant theme for both the Obamas and the Bidens. And it’s something that I know the two men speak about a lot, and I’m sure the First Lady and Dr. Biden do, as well.
Q Charlie Crist campaigned for you guys today. Certainly, his Florida career in the Republican Party was doomed somewhat by that famous photo from 2009. I noticed they hugged again today. Were there one -- were there any similar discussions with the two of them backstage? And two, what do you think Charlie Crist brings to the campaign? And how is he helpful, given all the history?
MS. PSAKI: The only thing the President loves more than a bus tour is a hug, so -- (laughter.) Charlie Crist has -- the speech he gave the other night at the convention made a strong case for why moving past partisan politics, supporting the person who you believe is the right one to lead the country forward, is one of the reasons why people should get behind President Obama.
He has widespread appeal in the state with independent voters, with women, with seniors. He can make a strong case for people who know him well, partisan politics aside, about why the President is a better person to protect against voucherizing Medicare, why he’s the right person to protect against Republican attempts to challenge a woman from being able to make choices about her own health care. He’s expressed a willingness to be out there for the President. I expect he will be over the next two months. And we think he’ll be a help to our efforts in Florida.
Q Jen, yesterday the campaign and today the DNC have been making an issue out of the comments that Governor Romney made about Steve King in Iowa. That's a kind of usual acknowledgement that a politician makes when they're making a local campaign, and so I’m wondering if the President -- is the President going to be held to the same standard when acknowledging people in the audience who may have some views that he doesn't necessarily agree with to result in this connection that you guys are making that they are partners in extremism?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think you are, and you can be defined, by the people you surround yourself by. Mitt Romney gave a rousing endorsement of Steve King and said he’s somebody he absolutely needs in Washington. So that is a bit more than just acknowledging he’s in the audience. I think the point here is that there is a clear difference between what Todd Akin, what Steve King, and what some others in the most extreme right wing of the party are standing for and representing when it comes to women’s health care. And to kind of wrap his arms around him, it just raises the question of who he’s surrounding himself with.
Q Romney is campaigning in Virginia today with Governor Allen. Does Governor Allen bring anything to his support in Virginia?
MS. PSAKI: I think in Virginia, people are going to be making the decision between -- on the presidential ticket level -- what President Obama represents and what Mitt Romney represents. We know there’s a very competitive Senate race, and the President has a strong and longstanding relationship with Tim Kaine, of course. But we’ll be back in the state, and I think people are going to be deciding between each of the tickets for the most part.
Q Can I follow up on some of the things the President said at the rally in Seminole? So he said that on Medicare he would never just dump costs on to seniors, and on Social Security that he would never reform it by turning it over to Wall Street. He certainly implied that that's what he thinks Mitt Romney would do, but he didn't say it directly. Does the President believe that that's what Mitt Romney would do? Or was he just talking more broadly about Republicans?
MR. CARNEY: As far as the policy?
MR. CARNEY: While Mitt Romney has said that he would -- and this is policy we’re talking about -- he has said he won’t tell the American people any specifics about how he’s going to pay for a $5 trillion tax cut, he and his running mate have been abundantly clear about what their plans for Medicare are. Abundantly clear.
Outside analysts have said that the implementation of that plan would result -- in turning Medicare into a voucher, would save money by shifting costs to seniors, not by reducing health care costs, but by raising costs, out-of-pocket expenses for seniors. That's simply a fact. The President opposes that, adamantly.
The only reason why you would need to do that is in order to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. You can strengthen Medicare, and the President already has, and make sure that the benefits that seniors have long enjoyed through Medicare are preserved. And that's what the President is committed to doing.
On Social Security, Governor [Congressman} Ryan has supported a plan, both of his own and then the President’s [Bush], that did turn in full or in part Social Security over to Wall Street.
Q Congressman Ryan.
Q Congressman Ryan.
MR. CARNEY: What I have -- that's a fact. And it’s also the wrong policy and entirely unnecessary unless you need that money, you need the savings extracted out of our seniors in order to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll just add -- Jay obviously did a thorough review of the policy -- but the most important decision Mitt Romney has made is picking his running mate, and that tells you something about not only his priorities, but the kind of leadership that he’s looking for to join him in the White House. And Jay was very clear about Congressman Ryan’s record on these issues, and they have not backed away from their support for voucherizing Medicare, and have said that they think it’s the right step.
MR. CARNEY: Facts are facts.
MS. PSAKI: Facts are facts.
Q Aside from the guidance we have for next week, any idea if you’ll be doing more bus trips here or elsewhere? And in particular, next weekend, do you expect him to be down, or do you expect him to be on the road?
MR. CARNEY: We just don’t have any scheduling updates to provide. When we have them, we will. Like Jen said, I know this mode of campaigning and moving around the country is very appealing to the President. And I think it goes to some of the earlier questions about why you go certain places. One of the things that is useful about a bus trip is it allows you to go to towns and places that are hard to reach when you’re flying in a 747. And the President particularly enjoys that aspect of it.
But we just don’t have any announcements to make in terms of modes or sites of future travel.
I think it’s very important to note on this Saturday in September, weekend in September, that we are at that annual moment of sublime convergence where you have college football, the NFL, and the end of the baseball season leading into the post-season. There is no finer time in American sports. And I know the President will be enjoying all that is on offer, as will I.
Q Does the President have a prediction on the NFL season, a Super Bowl prediction?
MR. CARNEY: He is a Bears fan all the way.
Q But who does he think will win?
MR. CARNEY: I haven’t asked him, but I know he bets on the Bears.
Q All that is on offer -- on the satellite on the bus, you mean?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the bus is like the plane. And I’ve told you all that when there’s a TV on in his presence, it tends to be ESPN. And this morning, we were talking -- we were all having a chat on the bus, so I don’t --
MS. PSAKI: I was briefing him on football and where things are. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: We weren’t watching TV. But, yes, that tends to be in the background most times.
Q What kind of betting does he do on the Bears? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Do you want to get in on a bet?
Q Is it a suicide pool?
MR. CARNEY: No, no, no money bets. But his heart is firmly with the Bears. And, look, they’re strong I think actually this year. They have a remarkable running back. I think Cutler is very strong. So as an observer -- not a Bears fan, but as an observer, I think the Bears could be a real contender.
And the White Sox are hanging in there, as the President reminds me every day.
Q I’m changing the subject from sports, but is this the first time that Obama has been in Florida since Ryan was added to the Romney ticket?
MR. CARNEY: Have we been here? It’s all a blur.
MS. PSAKI: I thought we had been here.
MR. CARNEY: We can check.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll double-check for you.
Q Can you do a quick Latino question -- so how much of the Orlando stop is about the Puerto Rican vote? And is that -- I know he wants to appeal to all voters and all Latino voters and stuff, but can you talk about the importance of the Puerto Rican vote in Florida, sort of as a counter to the Cuban American vote?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I didn’t know if Jay was going to jump in.
MR. CARNEY: No, no, no -- that’s purely electoral.
MS. PSAKI: There are -- as I mentioned earlier, there are changing demographics in Florida, as there are in many states across the country, and there certain has been a growth in Orlando in the I-4 corridor in the Latino population. Because of the difference between the President’s policies -- he has been a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, he has taken steps to ensure that children are able to stay here and go to college and been really a very strong advocate.
On the flip side, Mitt Romney has the most extreme position of almost any candidate in modern American history on immigration. And he has not taken steps to lay out not only what we need to do to address the problem, but he has also said he would veto the DREAM Act, and taken steps that I think have given pause to many who care deeply about issues like immigration, which is the Latino population, but also far beyond that in this country.
We know also that issues like education, health care, economy are also very large issues in the Latino community. And that’s one of the reasons he’ll be talking about those, as he consistently does, tomorrow. But certainly, we are visiting parts of the state where we know we can continue to build our support, we know we can energize supporters. And that demographic is one of them.
MR. CARNEY: If I could just add as a matter of policy -- it’s particularly interesting I think to readers of Bloomberg -- is that immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, must and will, if this President is reelected, include measures that will enhance the capacity of our businesses, American enterprises, to retain the very best talent. And that will help us grow the economy. And that has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform. It’s one of the reasons why the President feels so strongly about it.
Q Immigration, though, is not a direct issue for the Puerto Rican population.
MS. PSAKI: I was talking about the Latino population in Florida broadly. I mean, did you have a specific question about how we’re appealing --
Q Are you targeting Puerto Rican voters in Orlando?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, look, I think we’re -- I think there are many demographics in the state that will make up the group of people that we think will help us win the state. So that certainly is one of them. But beyond that, obviously the difference on immigration for many other Latino voters in the state, the difference on women’s health care, the difference on Medicare and Social Security -- these are all issues that will help us make Florida blue again.
Q We all know that Florida has this large elderly population, but I’m wondering whether the Medicare issue resonates -- well, first of all, whether the elderly population is pretty much locked in, if that’s a voting bloc that’s already partisan, and whether the Medicare argument reaches to a different voting bloc, whether it’s 50-year-old men or -- are you guys looking at that in that particular way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I’m not going to get into specifics about which demographics we’re targeting. I mean, you’re right that it is beyond the population of seniors over 65. I think it’s just one of the issues that we highlight, because it speaks to also the priorities of the candidates.
And I think it’s alarming to people when they hear that costs could go up on prescription drugs, that costs could go up on their health care plans. And that certainly impacts people who are not only in retirement, but are nearing retirement and looking ahead to their future, and even the children of people who are in retirement and nearing retirement and looking to the future of their parents and grandparents. So it is a message that I think resonates beyond just the people who are currently in retirement, currently recipients of Medicare.
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s very important when you talk about repealing health care reform to note that the consequence of that would be to bring about, according to the independent experts, the insolvency of Medicare eight years sooner. If you repeal Obamacare, the experts say, Medicare would begin to be insolvent in 2016. And that should be -- and I know is -- a concern to not just today’s seniors, but men and women in their --
MS. PSAKI: Rising seniors.
MR. CARNEY: -- rising seniors in their 50s and 60s. And that’s why the President is so committed to strengthening the program.
Thank you all very much.
1:33 P.M. EDT