U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democrats’ national party chairwoman, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that she expects President Barack Obama to actively challenge Mitt Romney when the two presidential candidates meet for their second debate, and accused the Republican challenger of lying during the candidates first face-off this week.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Madame Chairwoman, thank you for being with us. And I know that party chairs always defend and champion their nominee, but many Democrats - and even some in his own campaign, aides - acknowledge that President Obama did not bring his A game to that debate last Wednesday and Romney did. What does he need to do to recover?
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I think you can give Mitt Romney points for style, but, really, I think you have to take a lot of points off for how untruthful he was during the entire debate. I mean, from beginning to end, he lied about his own proposals. And he clearly began, Al, the massive Etch A Sketch that we knew was foreshadowed months ago by his - by his campaign manager.
And, you know, we’re not going to let Mitt Romney get away with lying about his tax plan, which does - and fact-checkers independently after the debate and before, you know, specifically said he has a $5 trillion tax plan skewed towards the wealthy, that you have to increase taxes on the middle class to pay for, the budget-busting tax breaks that are in that plan for millionaires and billionaires.
HUNT: Well, why do we leave that up - why do we leave that up to fact-checkers? That was the job of - of his opponent, the president of the United States. Why did he drop the ball on that?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I don’t - you know, I don’t - I beg to differ. I don’t think President Obama dropped the ball. He repeatedly came back and, you know, talked about Mitt Romney’s $5 trillion tax plan, kept mentioning it. Mitt Romney kept trying to wriggle out of it, wouldn’t give the details. President Obama tried to hold him accountable on the details, as did Jim Lehrer, and Mitt Romney consistently refused to provide details about his tax plan, about some of the deductions and the math and how it adds up.
HUNT: Would you like to see the president be more aggressive at the next debate?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think, you know, with each debate, decisions are made on - on the - based on the subject matter and the way the questions are asked. And I think you’ll see President Obama do very well in the next debate. He’ll come out strong, and we’ll see a spirited discussion. That would be my expectation.
HUNT: Be more - and be more aggressive?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I’m confident that we will see President Obama handle the next debate in a way that will make sure that it’s very clear that the two paths and the two visions that are being presented are understood by Americans - I mean, what President Obama did the other night was he was specific. He continued the conversation that he started at our convention and talked about the 1 million manufacturing jobs that his plan has to create over the next four years and made sure that we talked about other plans, like cutting oil imports in half and hiring 100,000 math and science teachers.
HUNT: What are your expectations -
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That’s the kind of stuff you’ll hear in -
HUNT: What are your expectations this week for the Biden- Ryan debate?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I sit on the - on the Budget Committee with - with Paul Ryan, so - and I’ve certainly had an opportunity to debate him there, as well as in interviews like this one, and, you know, Paul Ryan is -is an experienced debater. He’s a smart guy. So, you know, he’s going to - he’s going to certainly be prepared. What is - and president - you know, Vice President Biden, with 30 years’ experience, certainly is going to have that experience to draw from and is an effective and experienced debater, as well. So I expect there to be a very substantive discussion.
HUNT: Do you think either one has the edge going in?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I - I think, again, you’re going to have more practice probably from Paul Ryan, because, you know, Vice President Biden is - is also doing his day job, like President Obama. But I expect them both to come in prepared. They’ll both be effective. I think Paul Ryan has a pretty huge responsibility. I mean, he wrote the Romney-Ryan budget, and he’s going to have to defend why he thinks we should turn Medicare into a voucher system. He’s got to defend why Mitt Romney - he and Mitt Romney think we should cut benefits for seniors in Medicare. I mean, Mitt Romney said that in the debate the other night out loud, that that’s how we need to save Medicare, is by cutting benefits for senators.
He’s going to have to defend why we need to increase taxes on the middle class by an average of $2,000 to pay for more tax breaks, $250,000 tax breaks, for millionaires and billionaires. It’s just - he’s got a lot on his plate. It’s a tall order.
HUNT: Madame Chair, let me ask you this. I know Democrats are pleased with the September jobs report showing unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent, but no president since World War II has ever been re-elected with a jobless rate that high. This really isn’t much to crow about, is it?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, Al, Americans should be pleased about the - about the jobs report. Unfortunately, we’ve seen Republicans - you know, Mitt Romney and - and John Boehner and other Republicans seem to be rooting against the economy getting turned around. I mean, we have a 44-month low in the unemployment rate, and in the last year, the unemployment rate has dropped 2 percent. That’s the biggest drop since 1995.
You know, we created 114,000 jobs this month. So we’re moving in the right direction. We’re making progress. We need to make more progress. But it’s important to continue to have policies in place like the ones President Obama has - has put in -
HUNT: So you think this - is this -
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: - that helps rebuild our economy from the middle class out.
HUNT: Is this report then good news for the president politically?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, this isn’t about politics. What this - what this jobs report is about is progress, about making sure that we can continue to dig out of the worst economic crisis that we’ve had since the Great Depression, that President Obama inherited the economy that, remember, was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month when he took office. Now, thanks to his policies, we’ve had 31 straight months of job growth in the private sector and more than 5.2 million jobs created.
And so we’ve got to make more progress, but it’s not about politics. It’s about making sure that we can put people back to work and deal with the number-one issue on people’s minds, which is creating jobs and getting the economy turned around. And I wish that our Republican colleagues on the other side of the aisle and Mitt Romney were not rooting against our success. And that’s what they seem to be. Their reaction to these jobs numbers was really atrocious and irresponsible and incredibly disappointing. But I guess it’s not surprising.
HUNT: There is a poll out of Florida today that shows Mitt Romney inching ahead. Are you going to have trouble holding your home state this time?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I think that Floridians understand - whether it’s seniors or women or Hispanic voters - Floridians understand that President Obama has been for four years in there swinging for the middle class, fighting to rebuild their economy from the middle class out, understands that housing is an important component of our economy, support his plan to continue to create manufacturing jobs -
HUNT: So will he carry Florida?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: - and make sure that we can send more kids to college. So, yes, I think because of President Obama’s policies and the progress that we’ve been able to make in Florida - and because of Mitt Romney’s really extreme position on immigration, his harmful positions to women’s health and the issues important to women, and as well as his support for turning Medicare into a voucher system, President Obama will win Florida once again.
HUNT: Political - the two political parties have had two totally different strategies. At the DNC, you funneled out money to state parties early, a lot more than Republicans. They’ve hoarded more for the final push and have a lot more cash now. Which strategy is going to prove smarter?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, what we’ve been doing throughout our combined efforts with the DNC and the Obama campaign is standing up the largest, most dynamic, most significant grassroots presidential campaign in history. So we’ve aggressively funded field operations and door knocks and canvassing and, you know, phone banking, our field organizers and neighborhood team leaders.
And we’ve done that because that’s the kind of campaign that we know will carry President Obama back to the White House. It’s people power that fuels our campaign, while the Republicans have had a handful of billionaires trying to buy them the White House.
HUNT: I know -
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So they’re sitting on a whole lot of money. I’m not sure what they’re going to end up doing with it, but it was important to get that money into the field and get people neighbor to neighbor and door to door to talk to their - to talk to their friends and neighbors about why they support the president.
HUNT: I know you’re predicting a Democratic sweep across the board, White House and Congress. Give me an upset prediction. What’s a race now that most of the conventional wisdom says Republicans are you going to win and you Democrats are going to gloat on Nov. 6?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I’m here in Ohio, and I think -the Republicans are counting on Renacci winning that congressional seat, and I think Betty Sutton is going to come up the winner. So you watch for that.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That’ll - that’ll be an interesting race.
HUNT: Madame Chairwoman, thank you so much for being with us, and we’ll look forward to talking to you again -
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: My pleasure, as always.
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