Ohio Senator Rob Portman said at a Bloomberg-Washington Post breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, that the U.S. presidential debates will help Republican Mitt Romney close a likability gap with President Barack Obama.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, first of all, we’re delighted to have Senator Portman, but it got even better, because he also brought his North Carolina connection, namely his wife, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jane Portman. Thank you so much for coming.
JANE PORTMAN: Thanks for including me.
HUNT: That’s right. Well, I went to Wake Forest University, where - and Karen Tumulty’s son -
QUESTION: I’m currently paying tuition there.
HUNT: So we have a - and, Dan Balz, why don’t you start off? And let me just say one thing. Everybody can jump in and ask questions. We did - we had a session yesterday, and there was a little bit of a transcription problem. So if you ask a question, please speak, you know, as loudly and clearly as you can. Dan and the senator and I are miked, so it ought to be a little bit easier.
QUESTION: But we want everybody around the table -
QUESTION: - to do questioning. So I’ll kick it off. Senator, thanks for being here. There’s a lot to do for Governor Romney at this convention, and one of the things is - he has an image problem. He’s got a less favorable image than almost any nominee coming into a convention. Two questions on that. What can he do here to fix it? And, secondly, can he win this election if he doesn’t fix it?
ROB PORTMAN: I was going to ask you the second one.
Well, first of all, it’s good to be at the Dan and Al Show. This is always interesting to see Bloomberg and Washington Post come together. My alma mater, Dartmouth College, is where they found each other and formed a partnership at the debate. And it seems to be working well for both sides, so thank you for having me.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: nine months later.
PORTMAN: Here it is. The gestation period was about nine months.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Exactly.
PORTMAN: So two things. One, I have been reading Dan’s articles, I will tell you, about likeability, and it’s true that the president is more likeable at this stage. It’s also true that Mitt Romney has sustained an unbelievable barrage of negative ads, including in my home state of Ohio, where we’ve been outspent campaign to campaign about 3 to 1. Now, when you include the super PACs, it’s closer to 2 to 1. But the point is that the Obama campaign I think is taking a cue maybe from the 1996 Dole effort.
But, look, these guys went through a tough Republican primary. Let’s try to take him down before we even get into the convention season and the general election. And they made an earnest effort. I mean, they spent more money in Ohio than any state in the country, so maybe I’m more sensitive to it than some, more in Ohio than in Florida, by the way, or Virginia, or anywhere else, and relentlessly negative, and I think a lot of it misleading, some of it downright wrong and inaccurate.
And what they did is they - they did drive Mitt Romney’s favorable ratings down, but they didn’t really change the dynamics of the race in terms of the head to head. You saw the polls yesterday probably from Ohio, the Dispatch poll, which is considered reputable, although an interesting methodology, you know, so it’s a mail-in poll, but it’s 45-45. And among I think 1,700 participants, there was a two-vote difference. I mean, that can’t happen. That’s like Florida in 2000.
So they haven’t had the effect that they’d hoped to have, which would have been to really make Governor Romney ineligible even before the general election began and like they did to Bob Dole back in 1996, never let him get up off the mat. So it hasn’t worked in terms of the head-to-head and in terms of the issues.
And that’s because the other part of the polling that you talked about, Dan, clearly shows that the economy and jobs are the top issue and that voters - significantly independent voters, but voters in general and registered voters, as well as, you know, all Americans as surveyed, think that Mitt Romney is better equipped to handle that issue.
They also think, by the way, that he’s better equipped to handle the issue of the deficit, which is probably the second most important issue that people are concerned about. So it’s an interesting situation where in terms of the issue matrix, I think, you know, Governor Romney has the advantage. Clearly, I’d rather be a challenger than an incumbent in this year.
QUESTION: Well, do you come to the conclusion, then, that this likeability issue is simply not a factor that people give attention to?
PORTMAN: No, I think it’s a factor. I think it’s a factor, but I think it’s a much easier factor to address than the fundamentals of the race, which is jobs and the economy, and the record deficits and debts that are related to the economy.
And the answer to your question about, you know, can it be addressed? Absolutely, it can. I mean, and it will start here. Most Americans have not plugged into the campaign season yet, because they have more important things to do, like worrying about their families, getting their kids to school, and so on. Now it’s September, and people are going to be more focused. And I think Mitt Romney will give a terrific speech. It doesn’t have to be, by the way, soaring rhetoric. It has to be about him, and it will be.
And for the first time, many Americans will see Mitt Romney talking about himself and seeing a lot of other people talking about him, including me. I’m speaking on Wednesday night, and I’m going to talk a little about him. And they will learn for the first time about his incredible background of success in business, at the Olympics, as a governor, as a family person, and I think this will be the start of not reintroducing, but introducing the real Mitt Romney to folks who have only seen at this point an amazing array of negative campaign ads.
QUESTION: Let me ask you one question -
PORTMAN: So I think it - I think it - I think it starts here, Dan. And then I think over time, you know, particularly because of the way that fundraising works in this crazy system, the president, President Obama, has had a lot more money to spend (inaudible) spend it primarily in the swing states. The day after this convention, the Republican Party and Mitt Romney will have the ability to spend at least as much and maybe even a little more than the Democrats have spent. So instead of being outspent 3 to 1, campaign to campaign - and, by the way, the campaign message is the most effective message.
I’m a believer in that, partly because of my own race. We had a little bit of help from some of the outside groups, but the message, frankly, wasn’t that helpful, because, you know, you can’t coordinate or you’re not supposed to. On the Democrat side, it seems like they do sometimes, because the message seemed awfully coordinated, but let’s assume nobody coordinates. It’s much better to have it be your own campaign.
And he’ll be able to do that finally when he can use the dollars that he has raised over the last few months, which have been primarily general election dollars that cannot be spent until the day after the convention. So we’ll be able to go on the air in Ohio in ways we haven’t been able to at this point from the campaign to get the message out in the most effective way. And I hope some of those ads will be positive ads about who Mitt Romney is.
QUESTION: OK. Why don’t we open it up to -
HUNT: (OFF-MIKE) turn to Ohio (OFF-MIKE) economy’s doing pretty well, a lower unemployment rate than the national average. The automobile industry is certainly doing better than it was doing a couple years ago, so the economy will be the message. Will that be the only message out there or are there other issues you think also that will be determinative in Ohio?
PORTMAN: Al, there are other messages, but I would disagree with you that the economy’s doing pretty well in Ohio.
HUNT: I just said comparatively.
PORTMAN: Well, yeah. I - you know, again, not to go back to the polling that Dan wrote about recently, but the polling’s unbelievable. I mean, it’s - 8 out of 10 Americans do not think the economy’s doing well. They think it’s going in the wrong direction. I mean, I - I don’t think any incumbent president’s ever been re-elected with these kinds of concerns out there.
And Ohio is not different than the country. In fact, we’ve looked at some of the wrong track numbers in Ohio. You know, the question is, is the country going in the right direction or the wrong track? And in Ohio, it’s just as bad as the national. In fact, in most cases, it’s a little worse. And the reason is, although we have 7.2 percent unemployment, one, that’s relatively high, two, that’s really more like 10 percent. That’s what it feels like, because when you look at the number of people who are working, the labor participation rate on the day that President Obama was sworn in compared to today, unemployment would actually be about 10 percent in Ohio.
In other words, a lot of folks have just stopped looking for work, and that’s not reflected in the official numbers, but it’s certainly reflected in the way people feel about the economy and the way their neighbors feel about it and what they’re hearing and seeing when their kids get out of school and can’t find a job. So people don’t feel like things are going well. And -
HUNT: How did the automobile issue cut? Does it cut in Ohio?
PORTMAN: Yeah, I think it does. I think it’s great news. The auto industry is starting to come back. What the Kasich administration will tell you is that it’s not a lot of jobs, you know, relative to the number of jobs that we need in Ohio to start really making progress, but it’s great news. And, you know, it’s centered more in some areas of Ohio, so northwest Ohio (inaudible) Ohio, in terms of G.M. Ford’s got (inaudible) in Ohio.
But it’s not - it’s not the only reason we’re getting some jobs back in Ohio. It’s because John Kasich did balance the budget. In other words, he had an $8 billion deficit that he closed. And he did it after running a hard-fought campaign and winning by, you know, a point and a half or two points, the way he said he would, which was without raising taxes, as opposed to the other side that said they were going to raise taxes. In fact, he cut some taxes on the (inaudible) estate side, so the death tax was cut, making Ohio more friendly for investors to stay there and not move to Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Yeah. And (inaudible) and that has helped the Ohio economy, because it’s given more certainty that, hey, we’re going to solve these problems by downsizing government and making it more responsive and a reform effort on regulations, much of which has to go on in Washington for us to turn things around.
So I love talking about the Ohio experience. And some of the national reporters that come to Ohio say, gosh, how can you win Ohio, because the unemployment number is below the national average? Well, one, it’s still way too high. And that’s what people feel. That’s what I feel. Second is, Ohio is what we ought to be using as a model, as is the case where there are a lot of Republican governors around the country doing the same thing. I think Wisconsin is another example, where they’re actually balancing budgets, which Washington can’t seem to do, and doing it by downsizing government and right-sizing government, making government more efficient, and then providing targeted tax relief that helps to grow the economy and retain and attract jobs.
So it’s - it’s a model to me. What John Kasich will tell you as our governor is, he’s hit a glass ceiling. He can’t do much more because of the headwinds from Washington. He can’t address federal tax policy, federal regulatory policy, federal energy policy, federal trade policy, all those things that are affecting Ohio. So he wants a partner in Washington who can do that.
QUESTION: Let’s throw it open.
QUESTION: Senator, can I just go back on the likeability question? A number of people I’ve talked to have made the same point that you did, though definitely not as eloquently -
PORTMAN: Thank you, Ruth.
QUESTION: - about people who - you’re welcome. He knows I’m setting you up for a nasty question.
Well, you’ve been there before. The argument is, well, people aren’t really paying attention, but the polls suggest that people have made up their minds and you’re arguing for over a very narrow slice of the electorate. So, first of all, how does - how do you put those two arguments together?
And, second of all, I’m wondering if you think - since you said that likeability does matter - whether that (OFF-MIKE) undecided slice of the electorate, if that’s what we’re arguing over (OFF-MIKE) particularly susceptible to issues of likeability as opposed to issues of more substance in making their decisions?
PORTMAN: Two things. One, I disagree with your premise, which is the premise, by the way, that everybody at this table probably agrees with and I disagree with. I don’t think it’s a small slice of the electorate. And I say this in part because of, you know, some polling I’ve seen that shows, yes, I’m for Obama or I’m for Romney, but I’m still looking, and particularly people who are saying that, yeah, they’re going to vote for Barack Obama again, but they’re really unhappy.
And those are the kind of voters we saw in 1980, who at the end of the day said, you know, when Ronald Reagan was down, what, probably 7 points at this point, and all along it looked like he was, you know, not going to be able to overcome the likeability issue and whether he was acceptable. At the end of the day, a lot of those voters who were unhappy said, you know what, we need a change, we need a fresh start. I’m going to take a chance on this guy.
So I think that’s one reason. The second is, anecdotally, traveling the state and talking to people, there are a lot of folks who are telling me, I just haven’t decided yet, you know? Yeah, I may be leaning one way or the other, and they are receptive, and particularly with these unbelievable numbers on the wrong track I talked about earlier. They’re open to arguments about how to make their lives better, their families’ lives better, kitchen-table issues. So I don’t think it’s that small slice.
And, second, I do think likeability is important. I do. But I think people will have learned between 2008 and now that liking somebody or celebrity status or, wow, he’s cool doesn’t fix the economy. And I think our argument this year is the far easier argument to make, which is that he didn’t fix it, we will.
And I think that’s the central issue, you know? It’s about, you know, whether we can get America back on track in a very fundamental way, and that is, you know, to provide the kind of prosperity that people want to be able to pass along to their kids and their grandkids. You know, take-home pay is down about $4,300 bucks on average in the last three-and-a-half years. You know, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” will be a refrain I’d imagine you’ll hear some at this convention.
And, you know, whether it’s health care costs up $2,500 bucks on average per family, rather than $2,500 down, which is what he promised, when the president pushed through his health- care law, whether it’s the deficit that he promised to cut in half, and we just learned a week-and-a-half ago it’ll be another trillion dollars this year, the fourth year of a trillion dollars, never even had one before, or whether it’s the economy. We would be at 5.6 percent unemployment today if what the president had promised with the stimulus package had happened. It’s over 50 percent higher.
So I think those people in that sliver care more about those issues than they do about likeability. I think likeability is important. I said that to Dan. But it’s almost an acceptability standard, rather than having to, you know, again, do what I think a lot of people did in 2008, which is, you know, sort of swoon over this person that made a lot of promises and was, you know, able to articulate a vision that seemed very compelling.
And, by the way, these same voters care a lot about the notion that we’re going to work together to solve problems. And when Barack Obama addressed his convention four years ago, you know, he did this. We’re going to bring people together. You know, we’re not a red state - we’re not red states, we’re not blue states, we’re red, white and blue. And, you know, I’m the one who can go and change Washington and, you know, get these parties to work together.
And it hasn’t happened. And the reason it hasn’t happened, in my view, is because the president never reached out. There was never an olive branch. In fact, there was just the opposite. And I’ve seen (inaudible) interviews have done. Recently, there was one - it was an AP interview with the president recently, where he said things will be different next term. We’re going to start to work with Republicans. And then when pressed, he kind of said, well, maybe we won’t. Maybe we’ll just - we’ll go around the Congress. It’s like, whoa, OK. That sounds familiar.
So I think for those voters, likeability is a factor. I think the No. 1 factor is going to be jobs and the economy, as it is for every voter group, by the way, including women, including Hispanics, including African-Americans. And, second, it’s going to be, you know, issues like debt and deficit and health care and so on, and high on the list is going to be, hey, because these voters care about this, who can break through the partisan gridlock and get something done?
We know that President Obama hasn’t had the interest or ability or for some reason he hasn’t done it. And we know that, in terms of Mitt Romney as a businessperson, he’s always had to find the solution, find common ground. As a governor, he worked with an 85 percent Democrat legislature to not only balance the budget, but cut taxes, fees 19 times. We know that, you know, he’s a person who focuses on results. Look at the Olympics, where he came in - and it’s never about him. It’s about the team.
So I think he has the experience and the record and the public policy positions to be able to break through that gridlock. And I think for those voters, that’s an important message.
QUESTION: Senator, as much as President Obama (OFF-MIKE) do you think (OFF-MIKE) responsibility (OFF-MIKE) Washington (OFF- MIKE) in addition, by putting Paul Ryan on the ticket, he doesn’t get along with the Democrats (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Yeah, first of all, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
QUESTION: So (OFF-MIKE) does bear some responsibility for the gridlock in Washington?
PORTMAN: Well, I - you know, my view is pretty simple. America is in trouble. I think we’re in serious trouble. And, you know, you look at the debt clock that’s up at the convention. Last night, I was watching it as it approached $16 trillion, $17 trillion. I mean, this is - this is getting serious.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) your party bearer?
PORTMAN: Well, look, I - there’s plenty of blame to go around. And - and yet only the executive can show the kind of leadership that’s needed to do things like tax reform, like the regulatory relief that has to happen, like the deficit reduction efforts. His own commission, as you know, was Simpson-Bowles, and he rejected it. Now, admittedly, a lot of Republicans didn’t like it, either, but having, you know, followed these issues over the years, I will tell you, unless there’s leadership from the executive, it isn’t going to happen.
We never would have had tax reform in 1986 without leadership from Ronald Reagan and Jim Baker and the Treasury Department, and that’s how it happens. You know, you never would have had the kind of changes that Bill Clinton was able to do, to give you an example of a president who was a Democrat who did reach out, in 1996, without presidential leadership. It never would have happened. You can’t do welfare reform just through Congress. It has to have executive and presidential leadership.
So, yes, there are folks on both sides of the aisle who would prefer the partisan food fight rather than results, but without presidential leadership, it’s - it’s the essential aspect of this. It’s not sufficient just to have a Congress that says, you know, I think we ought to - we ought to deal with these issues. You have to have presidential leadership. And this is what I think Mitt Romney has shown in his career that he is willing to do, and he will roll up his sleeves, I believe, on day one and say, OK, how do we work together to solve these problems?
And I think you’ll find some receptivity, by the way. You know, Ronald Reagan was the boll weevils. I don’t know what the equivalent term would be now. Dan, you probably have one for them. It’s not Blue Dog anymore, because most of them are gone.
QUESTION: They’re all gone.
PORTMAN: But there are some moderate Democrats, and there are some Democrats who aren’t so moderate who are interested in solving these problems. I mean, the fact that Dick Durbin signed up to Simpson-Bowles (OFF-MIKE) Gang of Six is an example of that.
HUNT: When - when Paul Ryan and others didn’t.
PORTMAN: Well, yeah. I mean, Paul - Paul Ryan’s concern about Simpson-Bowles - I’ll let him speak for himself, but he’s not here -
HUNT: No, but, I mean, I’m just saying, when you’re talking about - by breaking that deadlock, you praised Dick Durbin, you know, correctly, but a number of Republicans -
PORTMAN: But - but Paul - Paul has praised the report. If you hear - you know, if you - if you talk to Al Simpson or Erskine Bowles, they will tell you, Paul’s a very constructive player in that. But at the end of the day, they chose to take a pass on health care.
PORTMAN: And they did.
QUESTION: Senator, one of the issues (OFF-MIKE) Governor Romney (OFF-MIKE) in a bipartisan way is tax reform. He said he’s going to extend the Bush tax cuts and lower rates by 10 percent. As a former budget chief, would you say that’s possible without going after some of the more popular deductions, including charity, mortgage, health care (OFF-MIKE) health care (OFF-MIKE) state and local income tax? And if not, shouldn’t the governor tell voters ahead of the election that those are (OFF- MIKE) that’s what it means, both to get a mandate to do something and because voters ought to know what he’s talking about?
PORTMAN: Well, first of all, tax reform is clearly an area where you could give the economy a needed shot in the arm. It’s way too complex. It’s outdated. There’s no question that it hurts our competitiveness. As you know, I spend a lot of time on the corporate tax reform side, as well, where President Obama has said some of the right things and done absolutely nothing to promote a policy change, I mean, nothing, including in the super-committee where I was, where we were begging for help, because the administration seemed to understand that having the highest rate in the world, among all the developed countries, wasn’t particularly good for us, and we were losing jobs and investment and capital.
So Mitt Romney is committed to doing something on the corporate side that actually will bring back jobs and keep us from losing so many headquarters. My (inaudible) example, for example, is - being a beer-drinker is the fact that the largest U.S. beer company now is Sam Adams, you know? And they do have a brewery in Cincinnati, so I don’t want to be critical of Sam Adams, but it’s 1 percent market share. And if you talk to these companies that have left, it’s because of our tax code, you know?
So it’s - talking about the country being in trouble, we are in trouble. We are losing corporate headquarters, which is significant. And in a city like Cincinnati or St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch, Budweiser, it makes a huge difference. So we do need to reform the tax code.
In terms of the individual side, there’s no question that 1986 had helped to generate economic growth. When Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Dan Rostenkowski and others sat down and said, you know, there’s a way to do this, it’s lowering the rate and broadening the base, and that’s what he’s talking about.
In terms of how you do it, yeah, at the end of the day, you’ve got to deal with some of these tough issues, because the tax preferences have grown since 1986 significantly. There have been something like 4,000 changes to the tax code, and all of them made the code more complex. It’s now nine times as long as the Bible and not nearly as interesting.
I mean, it’s - and it’s holding us back, because you don’t have an efficient allocation of resources, because you’re allocating resources based on what? What Washington says in terms of a tax preference.
So there are ways you can do it, and I think you guys have talked about this on your editorial page. And Ruth has certainly written about it. But it - it has to do - Marty Feldstein has got a proposal on this that’s telling folks, OK, you’re going to have a deduction, there will be some preferences, and you can choose. And if you choose to give more to charities and want your charitable deduction, that’s fine. But then maybe your second home, you can’t get a mortgage deduction.
And, you know, the health exclusion’s another issue that isn’t necessarily talked about in the context of tax reform, but I think ought to be, because it’s - in terms of the preferences, although it’s not a deduction, it’s the biggest preference.
But I think just as happened in 1986, it needs to be a bipartisan effort. It can be. Most economists who look at our tax code agree, whether they’re right, left or center. Max Baucus and Dave Camp, who are chairs of their respective committees, both are saying the same thing, which is we need to broaden the base and lower the marginal rate. And -
QUESTION: How much does - how much does Governor Romney owe the - the voters in terms of specificity on that side, given the specificity he’s laid out on tax reductions?
PORTMAN: Well, I - I think what he has done in terms of tax reductions - I would disagree a little bit with some of the reporting on this. And I’m - maybe the premise of your question, because I wasn’t quite sure what you were getting at when you said extend the Bush tax cuts. He’s saying extend the Bush tax cuts for a period of time to be able to reform the tax code. In other words, not to take us into recession at year end, which is what the Congressional Budget Office reported last week will happen, if we do what President Obama wants to do, which is to have a $5 trillion tax increase on the American economy at a time when we’re having the weakest recovery since the Great Depression. I mean, it makes no sense.
What he’s saying is, extend it for a period of time. I think it’s six months. Other people say a year. But I think it has to be short term. I think the markets are going to be impatient. I think they’ll - they’ll look at six months and say this is - this is real and put some pressure on Congress to do the right thing.
But during that time period, what you would have is a very intensive effort to do what normally takes longer than that to come up with a new tax code on the corporate and individual side. And so I don’t he’s talking about - at least from my reading of his policy papers - maybe I’m missing something here - what a lot of the press are reporting, which is across-the- board tax cuts, and then we’ll talk about tax reform. No. He’s talking about keeping the current code in place that’s been in place for 10, 11 years now and during that time period reforming the tax code.
QUESTION: But he’s talking about -
HUNT: Yeah, but he’s been very specific about the cuts. No, I mean, he has been, 28 percent, corporate rate goes to 25 percent, estate tax he’s specific on, dividends and capital gains he’s specific on. He’s told you all the goodies. He has not, I don’t think, told us about one single base-broadening proposal, not one, I don’t think. And the question is, if he’s going to - should he level with the American people beforehand? Or is that something you’d just (OFF-MIKE) next year? You’d tell people the goodies, but you don’t tell them the other stuff?
R. PORTMAN: I mean, I think what he’s said is we need to lower the marginal rates.
R. PORTMAN: And he has said those rates should be 20 percent, but that it would be paid for by getting rid of a lot of the underbrush in the code, which is the base-broadening part of it, and that has to be a bipartisan effort. It can’t be something that’s dictated to Congress. It’s going to have to be something where a president leads, as I’ve said. It’s never happened without it. I think that’s accurate. I don’t know that there have been any major tax reform without presidential leadership, and specifically the Department of the Treasury being engaged and able to provide the important sort of intellectual framework for it and the data for it, because it’s really complicated, and there are lots of interactions. And I think that’s the appropriate way to approach it.
I mean, I think what he’ll have when he’s elected - and I believe he’ll be elected - is he’ll have a mandate to do tax reform. And then you go to Congress and it’ll be within this context that, again, Democrats and Republicans alike are talking about, which is broadening the base and lowering the marginal rate.
HUNT: But no specifics?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) why is it leadership to offer the goodies now and wait to talk about the hard stuff until after you’re elected? What does that tell us about his leadership?
PORTMAN: Well, it sounds like you guys are going to talk about the hard stuff, and you already are, so, I mean -
HUNT: Well, you talked about health exclusion. You said that should be on the table, right? Should mortgage deductions - not for second homes, but for first homes - should that be on the table?
PORTMAN: Well, now I’m speaking for myself, OK, so don’t - don’t interpret this as being the - the campaign. But, you know, I’m intrigued by the Feldstein idea, and I think it’s an important political issue here. You know, how do you actually accomplish what was done in ’86 with a bipartisan group? You remember you had from Dick Gephardt to Bradley in the Democrat side, and then you had Ronald Reagan and Jim Baker in - and pretty much the whole Republican group saying that, look, this’ll generate economic growth by lowering marginal rates.
Some taxes have a bigger impact on growth than others. You know, not all taxes are created equal. And marginal rates and capital gains and dividends are three that do affect growth in a significant way.
HUNT: They treated capital gains as ordinary income in the ’86 act.
HUNT: So should we look at that -
PORTMAN: But they lowered it.
HUNT: If - if you lower the top rate, should you consider creating -
PORTMAN: Well, now you’d be - now you’d be increasing capital gains.
HUNT: You did then, too.
PORTMAN: Well, it was - the top rate was 28.
HUNT: That’s what they (inaudible) capital gains rate up. I’m just saying, should you change the capital gains rate and make it equal to the ordinary income rate?
PORTMAN: (inaudible) that’s - that’s something you’d want to look at in the context of growth. You know, what will be the impact on growth? And that to me is, you know, the core issue here. The reason we’re reforming the tax code isn’t - isn’t just to simplify the code, as important as that is. It’s to actually give this economy the needed shot in the arm.
And, by the way, our competitors around the world are all doing this. You know, every single one of our competitors in, you know, the OECD countries, all the developed countries, every single one of those has reformed their tax code in the last two- and-a-half decades, while the United States has not. And this is with regard to the corporate rate specifically, but we’ve gone from, you know, 34 percent where Reagan took it to 35 percent. That’s all we have done to ours. All of them have lowered their rates and reformed their code to make it more competitive, every single one. And that’s one reason we’re losing out in the global marketplace.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) on the budget (OFF-MIKE) state of Florida (OFF-MIKE) Republicans are making this refrain about whether Obama’s cuts in Medicare (OFF-MIKE) huge campaign theme. At the same time, Paul Ryan (OFF-MIKE) same savings (OFF-MIKE) debt reduction (OFF-MIKE) why (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Yeah, well, he - he doesn’t take the same savings, as you know, because what the Obama administration did, what President Obama did in relationship to his health care law, was he took these savings out of Medicare and he applied them to a new entitlement, under his health care law, which is an unsustainable entitlement, and did nothing to shore up the Medicare system.
And you can’t have it both ways. The Congressional Budget Office has finally come around to say, yeah, you can’t double- count. I mean, it’s either - it’s either you save Medicare by doing this or you funded the health care law. And it - they funded the health-care law.
QUESTION: But (OFF-MIKE) I mean, they took the Medicare savings and they - they filled the doughnut hole for seniors. I mean, those savings (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Well, no. No, no, no, no. That was a small part of it. I mean, and - and Paul Ryan’s not for cutting Medicare Advantage. That’s part of that $700 billion. Medicare Advantage (inaudible) to be cut.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) benefit cuts (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Sure, it is. Sure, it is.
PORTMAN: No, it is. No, they - they cut what you get in terms of your reimbursement of your Medicare Advantage, which led a lot of companies to say, OK, we’re going to have to pull back on Medicare Advantage, which is incredibly popular, and in Ohio in particular. In other states, it’s growing dramatically, because why? People get more choice, and it’s more like the private pay system, which is the Rivlin-Ryan or Wyden-Ryan approach, where you tell people you have a choice. You can stay in traditional Medicare, or you can go into a private-pay system. So it’s not the same $700 billion.
It is true that many of us, including myself, believe that those savings, to the extent they’re appropriate - and I think Medicare Advantage is not an appropriate part of that - but some of the savings ought to be put back into Medicare to reform the Medicare system. And this notion that somehow the president’s health-care law - I refrain from calling it Obamacare, as you can tell, but it makes it awkward, because people don’t know what you’re talking about.
But that somehow the - the president’s health-care system is the answer to Medicare. I mean, wait a minute. OK, now it’s not just that it’s going to deal with changing one-sixth of our economy for everybody under 65. Now you’re saying it’s going to be a new Medicare system, too? Wait a minute. You know, I thought that was supposed to be something you were protecting. So you can’t have it both ways.
And my point is really simple, which is, yeah, there are reforms we have to make to Medicare. Of course. And are there some savings that you can find on the provider side? There are some. But, frankly, if you continue to squeeze the provider under Medicare, you’re going to see fewer and fewer - fewer and fewer providers being willing to take Medicare patients. Already in Ohio and other places, there are docs who are saying they’re not going to accept Medicare patients, probably 25 percent in Ohio. So you’ve got to deal with the underlying problems in the program. It’s not sustainable in its current form because of the way it was structured.
And, by the way, Paul Ryan has been very courageous in telling that fact, but also saying we’re going to protect seniors, and we’re going to protect those who are near retirement. This is not about them. It’s about future generations and about being sure we have a program that is secure for the future. And so you would take those savings and you would use them to help save the Medicare system, not to create another entitlement.
HUNT: (OFF-MIKE) let me start - Mary was - Mary Norman and then (OFF-MIKE)
QUESTION: Can we just talk about the electoral math in Ohio? A lot of people are looking at Ohio as a bellwether for how the country is going.
QUESTION: I’m from Ohio, and I’m just wondering, do you see some crossover vote from traditionally Democratic places like Cleveland? Because that was Ground Zero of the housing crisis and an enormous amount of disaffection there. How is it going to play out? And do you think he’s going to win Ohio? How is he going to win it? And is that really going to be a bellwether for the country?
PORTMAN: Yeah, I think as a Clevelander you know that Cleveland’s key, not just because it’s the biggest media market in the state, but because there are a lot of swing voters in the Cleveland area, a lot of nationalities voters, a lot of folks who are culturally conservative, nominally Democrat, a lot of Reagan Democrats. And I think Mitt Romney has - has a great opportunity there.
It’ll be close in Ohio. I mean, there - I’m here with the Ohio delegation this week, and there are a lot of folks saying, you know, it’s going to be a landslide in Ohio for Mitt Romney, and I think, gosh, you know, it’s always close in Ohio. Barack Obama won it by 4.7 percent, not that I’m counting. But, you know, it was relatively close then. He won other Midwestern states by double-digits, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, so Ohio is going to be close.
QUESTION: So what’s the path for Romney to win Ohio?
PORTMAN: There’s an absolute path for him to win. It’s to do - you know, George Bush did it in 2000 and 2004, over-perform in the small towns, the rural areas, which I believe he will do, and, frankly, the polling is showing that. If you look at what’s happening in southeast Ohio and eastern Ohio, Mitt Romney is incredibly popular, partly because of the energy issue. This is oil and gas country now, next to the shale finds and the new technology to access the resources. It’s also coal country. So his numbers there will be incredibly strong, I believe. And, again, the polling is showing that.
QUESTION: And you think he’ll win Ohio?
PORTMAN: You know, ultimately, yes, I do. I do believe he’ll win Ohio. And then second is, the folks you’re talking about who are more in the suburban areas, your area of Cleveland -
PORTMAN: - where you’re from, but also Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton, if you look at what happened in the primary, it’s interesting. You know, we were probably 11 points down based on the polling 10 days before the primary. And Mitt Romney won that primary, narrowly, and where’d win it? In the suburbs of Cleveland and Cincinnati, primarily. And this was against Rick Santorum, not against Barack Obama, but the point is, he runs well in the suburbs.
And who else runs well in the suburbs or has? Barack Obama. If you look at his numbers, in 2008, where he exceeded expectations, actually, was not so much in the urban areas, where people expect him to do well, but was in the suburbs. And a lot of folks in the suburbs, I think, were attracted to his message we talked about earlier of, you know, bringing people together, and he was going to be a president who was going to be able to break through the partisan gridlock, and there were independent voters and moderate Republicans, you know, who signed up. Those folks were very comfortable with Mitt Romney, and, frankly, they wouldn’t have been as comfortable with any of the other candidates who we had in the Republican primary.
So I think he matches up well with Barack Obama in Ohio, overachieving in terms of the - you know, the registration in the small towns and rural areas, overperforming, and then doing well with some of the voters you talked about earlier, some of the ethnic voters, some of the nationalities groups, some of the folks who are more culturally conservative, kind of the Reagan Democrats, and places where there’s, you know, a huge emphasis on the economy, Mahoning Valley, Cleveland area, Toledo area, and then, finally, in the suburbs. I think he’ll be able to get the kind of votes that Republicans had traditionally received in the suburbs, and Barack Obama made some inroads there in 2008.
So I think he matches up well with Barack Obama in Ohio. And I think, at the end of the day, it’ll be close, but because of the issues we talked about earlier, which is jobs and the economy, by far the top issue in Ohio, and because of the candidate that we’ve chosen, I think we win.
QUESTION: Senator, could you talk a bit about the Republican Party of today compared with 2008? Because when Barack Obama ran in 2008, he was running against an administration who had taken us certainly to a financial cliff, if not a fiscal one, whose policies on housing and deregulation and so forth scared an awful lot of people who decided to vote for Obama. The - is the party today fundamentally different from the party that was in power in 2008? And if so, is it more confident to run the economy? Is a weakened Fed consistent with business solutions? Is it a party that is as capable of compromise as Reagan was or as Bush was? And so - and in that respect, how is it better able to fix the economy?
PORTMAN: Well, I think it is a different party than 2008. And not to avoid your question on the economic policy, but the main difference in the party is that it is a unified party. I mean, our party unity, frankly, surprised me coming out of the primaries. I think Dan and others who follow the polls will confirm that about two weeks after the last real primary - in other words, after it was clear that Mitt Romney had the number of delegates he needed - our party unity was higher than it had been any time in 2008. I mean, people came together.
And I’m not suggesting it was all because of the Republican side. It was a lot because of the president and the deep concern that Republicans have that another four years is going to be terrible for this country. So the party’s more unified than ever, and you - and you see it back home. I mean, I - I can’t tell you how many people who told me during the primary, I’m for Rick Santorum, you know, I’m not going to be able to support this guy in the general if Mitt Romney wins, and they’re all in. They are all in. And it’s showing up in the polls. It’s showing up in terms of the energy and the enthusiasm, as well.
But the party unity makes it a different party than it was in 2008. We were a somewhat divided party in 2008. And there were people who had concerns. Sarah Palin changed the dynamic and then kind of changed it again in the process. But the party was not as unified as it is today.
In terms of economic policy, I mean, you have a guy who has 25 years of business experience, who is incredibly successful, who showed in the state of Massachusetts he could work with Democrats to get stuff done, actually brought a lot of jobs back to Massachusetts, made Massachusetts, you know, a more pro- business environment, which created more jobs. So you have that background of - you know, we haven’t had a presidential candidate with that degree of business experience, I think, in our - in our history, who actually won the nomination and can talk about those credentials.
HUNT: Herbert Hoover.
PORTMAN: OK, well, sorry.
I choose - I choose to forget that.
HUNT: But not since then.
PORTMAN: I choose to forget that. Twenty-five years of business experience, so, you know, is something - when you think about it, I mean, almost everybody who’s run for president, all the candidates who are in the primary, I mean, they’re people who spend most of their career in politics, public service. And it’s just the opposite with this guy.
So I think that - that gives people a certain sense of confidence that he actually gets it, understands not just how you create jobs in the private sector, but understands what the government role is. And it is a significant role, but it’s to create the climate for growth, not to create the jobs themselves. And that’s sort of the fundamental difference.
So with stimulus, we were trying to - Washington was - you know, the Obama administration approach in Washington was trying to say, if you pass stimulus, this many jobs will be created, a lot of it through government spending. And the alternative is to say, OK, let’s create the climate, the environment for job growth through the tax reform and the regulatory relief, through the energy policy that lets us create and take advantage of our resources here. And I think that’s the fundamental difference, and I think Mitt Romney’s the perfect messenger for it. So I think that’s a difference this year that we’re going to have to be able to talk about that we didn’t have in 2008.
QUESTION: Senator, you’re playing Barack Obama in the debate practice with Mitt Romney. I assume you’ve studied the president probably throughout your time in office, but maybe more (OFF-MIKE) what have you learned about either his debate style or his broader approach?
PORTMAN: Oh, first of all, you know, I don’t talk about this stuff, never have. And I - I was surprised when that came out yesterday, because -
PORTMAN: Yeah. You guys - you guys somehow ferreted it out through the Romney campaign. But so I feel a little awkward talking about it, because it’s generally something that I just do quietly, but I did play Barack Obama in 2008 for John McCain. And all I can tell you is I was a much tougher Barack Obama than the one that actually showed up on stage.
PORTMAN: Much to John McCain’s delight. I was - I was much meaner in the practice session. But I’ll tell you what, I think there’s a different Barack Obama this year, Chris. I really do. I mean, I’m not suggesting how I’m going to play him or, you know, what - what Mitt Romney might think. But it’s a very different approach.
I mean, what I talked about earlier is this compelling message not just of hope and change, but of bringing people together to solve big problems, you know, not making a big election about small ideas, which is what he said John McCain was doing.
It’s just the opposite this year. I mean, in his famous speech where he said if you don’t have any fresh ideas, you use stale scare tactics. That’s what he’s doing. He said, if you don’t want to talk about your record, then you make the other person unacceptable. That’s exactly what he’s doing.
So I don’t know what he’s going to be like in the debate, but I assume he’ll be more aggressive and more on the attack and, you know, it’ll be more personal. And that’s certainly the campaign that he’s running. And it’s not just the ads, by the way. If you hear President Obama talk, you know, he - he goes into all this stuff about, you know, his view of Mitt Romney personally and - and it’s - it’s - it’s a different sort of approach. And in many respects, I guess, it’s trying to bolster their base, and, you know, maybe that - maybe that works at the end of the day, but I - I think the person who shows up this year at the three debates is going to be a different person than the one who showed up four years ago who was talking about how to bring the country together.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but is the impact of the debates - and, by the way, when the headline went up yesterday about Portman to play Obama, my favorite tweet was, yes, she really nailed it in “The Black Swan.”
PORTMAN: One quick Natalie Portman story, if I might. So we have three kids, and as you can imagine, they’ve gotten more attention in the last several months, and more than they wanted. Is that accurate?
JANE PORTMAN: (OFF-MIKE)
ROB PORTMAN: As has Jane. So somebody goes up to my son, Will, and says, so what’s it like when, you know, you meet somebody and they say, wow, are you Senator Portman’s son who’s on the short list? And he said, you know, really what they say is, I’m really disappointed you’re not Natalie Portman’s son, you know?
Or brother, you know. We’ve got a few other Natalie Portman stories, which we love.
QUESTION: But the - but the impact of the debate -
PORTMAN: She’s far more popular than I am, I will say, in the state of Ohio.
QUESTION: But given the fact that these debates are going to come after, you know, millions and millions and millions of negative ads, and that they’re going to come in this environment where, you know, stray tweets can kind of have people talking for a day, is the impact going to be different? And are they going to have to sort of approach them in a different way?
PORTMAN: Well, I think it’s a great opportunity for Mitt Romney, for the very reason that you just stated, which is there will be a continual barrage of negative ads - already have been - and for him at least in Ohio, it’s - it’s been kind of overwhelming. In other words, there have been a lot more on their side than on our side, just because they’ve had more resources. They didn’t have a primary. Mitt Romney spent $167 million in a primary, and Barack Obama spent it all in Ohio.
So it was just - it was a - it’s an opportunity for him to let people see him in person, see who he is, and show his character. I think he’ll do very well, almost regardless of kind of what happens in terms of the issues and the debates. It’s just seeing him and watching him and understanding where his heart is. And the guy’s in this for the right reasons, and I think - I think he’ll do very well. It’s an opportunity for him. I view it as an opportunity, much like this convention is, just to let the American people see him unfiltered.
And I think - you know, I think that is an advantage, frankly, to the challenger, because everybody has a strong opinion of Barack Obama one way or the other. I mean, he’s been our president for three-and-a-half years. And, folks, he’s not been a shrinking violet in terms of his exposure. You know, I mean, he’s been out there, and some say the most, you know, exposed president ever in the sense that he’s - he’s not hesitant about, you know, putting himself out there, as compared to some other presidencies who’ve tried to kind of pull back and - not that he’s done a lot of press conferences with you all, but - but he’s - but he’s out there, and so people know who he is and have a - have a sense of it.
Whereas with Mitt Romney, I think, you know, it’s - for many people, it’s a blank slate, you know? They’re looking to see who he is, and that’s why I think he has a great opportunity here at the convention and then a great opportunity in these debates. So if I were him, I’d be looking forward to the debates.
QUESTION: I want to (OFF-MIKE) narrative (OFF-MIKE) Republican Party (OFF-MIKE) in a war on women. And I wonder whether you think that the Republican Party is doing enough about that or what Romney can do to try to - try to reverse that (OFF-MIKE).
PORTMAN: Yeah, I - I got asked about Todd Akin’s comment by three reporters almost - you know, one before I even landed in the airplane here in Tampa and, you know, whether this is a huge distraction. And my answer was, no, I mean, I - you know, his comments were so out of the mainstream and so offensive, so outrageous, it’s just - you know, it’s not something that voters in Ohio, I think, are thinking that somehow the Republican Party represents. We don’t.
And so I think the administration maybe and the Obama campaign have overplayed it. I think most people look at this and say, you know, this is, you know, one guy’s view that is out of the mainstream, and to try to tag Mitt Romney with it is just crazy.
And I’ve seen some of your fellow reporters, by the way, make that point, when the chair of the DNC, you know, has gone overboard on it, and they’ve said, wait a minute, that’s, one, not something that Mitt Romney believes. In fact, he actually has the exceptions in terms of the issue of abortion. So it’s not even in terms of the policy framework something that - that he comes close to agreeing with.
So, you know, in terms of the war on women, the war on women is what this economy is doing to families all over this country. And that’s what women care about the most. I mentioned earlier that, you know, it seems like increasingly in politics we want to divide America into different groups and then target them. And I object to that, in part because I think it divides our country, in part because I think some of these political consultants miss the big picture, which is - among women, the top issue is their families and getting jobs for their kids and jobs for themselves and take-home pay and the cost of gas at the pump and what’s going on with their health care and their higher deductibles and co-pays. I mean, it’s all the issues that Mitt Romney is talking about.
So that’s the essential issue. That’s the war that they’re fighting is, you know, how to stay above water, how to - how to make ends meet. And that’s - that’s the core issue that the Republican Party is going to be talking about.
QUESTION: Last - last question here.
QUESTION: Senator - Senator, on two specific issues within Ohio, first of all (OFF-MIKE) sequestration (OFF-MIKE) how much of an impact? And then, secondly, an issue on which both Governor Romney and Paul Ryan have been very specific on Medicare, is specificity going to come back and bite them (OFF- MIKE) ads going to work (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: What’s the - what’s the first issue?
QUESTION: Sequestration (OFF-MIKE)
PORTMAN: Yeah, I mean, I think - and you’ve written on this a little bit - the way in which the Obama administration is approaching sequestration is another example of lack of leadership. We talked earlier about how just all of these huge problems that face our country, you’ve got to have leadership from the executive branch. I mean, for them to say, well, you know, Congress set up this sequestration thing with us and so it’s - you know, it’s going to be $500 billion of cuts across the board, even though the secretary of defense says this is going to be devastating to our troops. He said it will hollow out the force. You know, he said we cannot sustain this. I mean, he’s used the most extreme language to say this is unacceptable.
And yet when we ask the administration, well, work with us to come up with solutions, they’re, you know, basically hands- off. So I - you know, should the Pentagon be looked at for reforms to help solve the budget crisis? Yes. You know, it’s a huge part of our budget. Of course, there’s areas there where you can gain efficiencies and there is ways to - and there are concerns about some of the weapons programs in particular that - that I and other people have on both sides of the aisle.
But to arbitrarily say we’re going to cut another almost $500 billion out of the defense budget in an across-the-board manner with no plan - no plan - and the first round, which was about the same amount, by the way, was based on a plan. You could argue about it, whether it was the right plan, but it was based on a strategy that keeps our country safe in the eyes of the current secretary of defense and the former secretary of defense, Bob Gates, who happened to have been also in the Bush administration.
This one is based on nothing, other than we’re just going to arbitrarily across the board make these cuts. So think about the issue of pilot training, for instance. Are we going to cut pilot training? Yeah, that’s what’s going to happen. Does that make sense? No. You know, does it make sense to look at some of the weapons systems that create some of the airplanes that they might fly? Yeah, to come up with sensible reforms to stop these huge overruns of costs and so on.
So it’s almost like the administration, whether it’s on tax reform or whether it’s on entitlement reform or whether it’s on dealing with the deficit, where they send a budget forward that not a single Democrat can support or a single Republican, it’s almost like they’re not engaged in the same process of government creating, again, this environment for job growth, government creating business opportunities by having sensible policies, that they’re just - they’re just backing off and blaming others.
QUESTION: - for you to set this whole thing in motion with (OFF-MIKE) done that differently in retrospective?
PORTMAN: Jen, I have strong views on this. As you know, I was a member of the so-called super-committee which wasn’t so super. I think it - I think it was a bad structure in a couple of respects. One, I think having sequestration made it too easy for the super-committee to say we’re going to get the cuts anyway, for Republicans, without any revenue impact, for Democrats, by cutting defense, which is something many Democrats have been wanting to do for many years and haven’t been able to.
So it was - it was not the right structure, in my view. I’ve said that before publicly. It doesn’t make me very popular among our leadership on both sides, because that was their arrangement. But it gave us, you know, the ability within that structure, sitting around a table like this one, where Republicans are saying, we can’t go along with the huge tax increases you guys were talking about. Democrats are saying, we can’t touch entitlements, to say (inaudible) is a way to get out of this, which is the same amount of savings through the so- called sequester, where sort of nobody is playing.
So I don’t think it was the right structure. I think it would have been better to have had a cliff, to have said, if you don’t complete your work, nothing happens in terms of cuts and we find ourselves in a situation where the markets may well correct for us. And that would have created, I think, more sense of urgency and a more constructive process.
HUNT: Senator, we -
PORTMAN: - wasn’t enough time. There wasn’t enough time to set up to do what had to be done, which (inaudible) entitlement reforms and the tax reforms.
HUNT: Your wife’s giving you the hook.
But just before we go -
PORTMAN: She does that.
HUNT: - you several times have mentioned the need to bridge the partisan divide and leadership on the fiscal issues. Can you bridge the partisan divide, can you address the fiscal issue without addressing both entitlements and revenue increases?
PORTMAN: Well, you can’t solve the budget problems we face without growing the economy, one.
The fiscal hole has gotten so deep that you have to both restrain spending and grow the economy.
HUNT: How about revenue increases?
PORTMAN: Well, that leads you to tax reform.
HUNT: But not - but not (OFF-MIKE) even though every single commission has said we ought to have both -
PORTMAN: Well, Al -
QUESTION: Do you believe that through tax reform you’ll get increased revenue?
PORTMAN: Absolutely. No question about it. And this -
QUESTION: Without anything that actually raises taxes?
PORTMAN: Well, I know this is - this is often ignored, but as Jen will remember, because we took a lot of heat from some of our conservative friends, in the process of the so-called not- so-super-committee, Republicans, including myself, did put on the table static revenue increases, but only in the context of tax reform that did - that did not have this $5 trillion tax increase at year end and also included some substantial entitlement reforms needed to save these programs. And, you know, I think we put forward a very sensible proposal on that. And -
HUNT: So you’ve got to do both? You’ve got to have entitlements and tax increases -
PORTMAN: But it’s - but it’s got to be in the context of growth, Al. And this is I think what we’re missing in this whole equation right now, is that, you know, growth solves a lot of problems. Obviously, it creates opportunities for poor and middle-class families who are now hurting more than anybody. And the, you know, $4,300 bucks per family on average reduction in take-home pay over the last three-and-a-half years has to be resolved by growing this economy, and that’s how you get the job numbers back into the 4 percent, 5 percent from, you know, what I think is now 10 percent, 11 percent, when you include people who’ve left, you know, left the workforce.
But it’s also how you generate the revenue to be able to get out from under this incredible overhang of deficits and debts that we’re dealing with, which is also a wet blanket on the economy. They’re - they’re related. One affects the other. So you’ve got to have growth.
You also have to deal with the spending side. And this is where, you know, Democrats have been unwilling to come to the table, in part because their president has given them absolutely no cover, none. In fact, with regard to the super-committee, as you’ll recall, after our first serious substantive meeting, we received a veto threat from the president. Instead of saying, you know, I want to work with you guys, and to the Democrats on the committee, if you’re willing to do something on the entitlement side to save these programs, I’ll work with you. He said, I’ll veto a bill if you touch entitlements.
HUNT: You’ve got to have both -
PORTMAN: I mean -
HUNT: - both spending and taxes?
PORTMAN: Yeah. I mean, it’s - it’s - it can’t be done without growth at this point, and it can’t be done without restraining spending.
QUESTION: We’ll leave it at that.
PORTMAN: And taxes - and taxes - and tax reform -
QUESTION: She’s giving me the hook now.
QUESTION: Senator, thank you very much.
PORTMAN: All right. Thank you all for your time. Stay in touch.
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