Strickland Says Obama ‘Energized’ for Debate (Transcript)

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s re- election campaign, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that the president will be “energized” by Vice President Joe Biden’s performance in his debate against Republican running mate Paul Ryan.

(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)

AL HUNT: We begin the show with former Ohio governor and co-chair of the Obama-Biden campaign, Ted Strickland, who is in Danville, Kentucky, the site of the vice presidential debate.

Governor, let me start off. Democrats are celebrating Joe Biden’s performance, but mainly in contrast to Barack Obama. Republicans say, however, that the vice president interrupted, he was dismissive, he was - he was - there were smirks, and it’s reminiscent of Al Gore in 2000.

TED STRICKLAND: Well, listen, when Mitt Romney interrupted last week, those same people were applauding Mitt Romney’s behavior. I think there’s a little bit of a political bias going on with this criticism.

HUNT: Well, did Joe Biden bring the Democrats back Thursday night, then?

STRICKLAND: Well, I’m not sure we had ever left, but he sure energized us, and he gave us a reason to feel energized, as we move into next week for the second presidential debate. And I’m confident that the president’s going to do a great job next week. And full steam ahead until the polls close on November the 6th.

HUNT: Let me come back to that debate next week in just a moment. But one of the most difficult moments for the vice president last night was over Libya and the terrorist incident there. Mitt Romney continues to hit that this weekend as a lack of leadership. That’s a problem for Democrats, isn’t it?

STRICKLAND: Well, I think it’s a problem for Mitt Romney. And for a man to do what he did, while our - while our embassy was under attack, before he had all of the information, to actually stand at a press conference and accuse the president of the United States of sympathizing with - with those who were our enemies, that was reprehensible.

And I feel like last night, when it came to foreign policy, Paul Ryan seemed inadequate, uninformed. Joe Biden seemed to be mature, insightful, definitive, and I was so proud when he said to the nation, we will leave Afghanistan in 2014. He was very definite about that, and I felt like that was a high point of the debate.

HUNT: Governor, you mentioned the presidential debate next Tuesday. Let me ask you about that. What is President Obama’s greatest challenge to undo that desultory performance in Denver lat week?

STRICKLAND: Well, the president just simply needs to hold Mitt Romney accountable for his lack of truth-telling. I think if he simply does that, he will emerge in a very strong position. Mitt Romney was not honest last week. And I don’t know how - how to say it more kindly. He told the American people, for example, that his health care plan protected people from being discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions. It was his plan, Al. He knew that was not true. And yet he said that to the American people in front of maybe 70 million people. That’s just one example, but he’s been dishonest at other times.

When he spent millions of dollars telling the American people that the president was removing the work requirement from welfare reform, it was a blatant falsehood. And so the president needs to make sure that Mitt Romney does not get by with shading or distorting or twisting the truth next week.

HUNT: So you’re looking for a far more aggressive Barack Obama than we saw in Denver?

STRICKLAND: Oh, I am. I certainly am. And I think it’s going to be a great debate. Listen, I have great confidence in this president.

HUNT: Is the Obama strategy - you’re the co-chair - is it going to be to paint Mitt Romney as a right-wing ideologue or as a serial opportunistic flip-flopper? He can’t be both.

STRICKLAND: Well, I think he’s both.

HUNT: That’s contradictory.

STRICKLAND: I absolutely think he’s both. I don’t know if this man has a core set of beliefs that he’s willing to stand up for, so in that regard, he is a flip-flopper. But he also has allowed himself during this primary season to take on the most extreme positions of the right-wing. And so I think he’s an extremist who is a flip-flopper. And those are characteristics we don’t need in the presidency.

HUNT: Well, Governor Romney says, in contrast to the president, that he was able to govern in a bipartisan fashion when he was a governor of Massachusetts. He cites by 87 percent Democratic legislature and they got things done, he says, in contrast to the partisan divide that has marked the Obama years.

STRICKLAND: Well, Al, the one thing that he got done that he should be proud of was the health care plan for Massachusetts. And, you know, it’s no secret that Democrats were going to support him as he was trying to pass a bill that would provide health care to his citizens. That’s the Democratic kind of issue and agenda.

But if you’ve talked to the people in Massachusetts, I mean, Al, there’s a reason why he’s not even contesting Massachusetts in this presidential campaign, although he lived there and was their governor. They don’t like him.

HUNT: Let me ask you this. Picking up on an issue in the Thursday night debate, some Democrats say in these final weeks they want to seize on the abortion issue, to galvanize women voters. Now, is that something that you think is smart? Or would you rather emphasize other issues than abortion?

STRICKLAND: Well, women’s health issues, including the abortion issue, the choice issue, is hugely important. And I was with Cecile Richards last night as we watched the debate, and we were talking about what Romney would do with Planned Parenthood. You know, Al, there are a lot of progressive Republican women who really strongly support Planned Parenthood. And Mitt Romney says he’ll defund Planned Parenthood. That’s just one issue.

But all of these issues - pay equity for women, the choice issue for women, women’s health, all of these issues are deserving of intense debate. And I hope those issues come up in the next presidential debate, because they are worthy of discussion.

HUNT: But do you think Obama-Biden can carry some of those southeastern Ohio counties or do sufficiently well there by stressing abortion?

STRICKLAND: Well, the president stresses a lot of things. You know, Al, I represented that conservative Appalachian district along the Ohio River for 12 years. And we did polling on the abortion issue, and consistently the people in that region said they want the abortion issue left alone. They do not want Roe v. Wade overturned. They do not want to criminalize a woman who may choose for her own reasons to have an abortion.

The people in southeastern Ohio are commonsense folk. We can’t pigeonhole them in any way. They don’t like abortions, but they don’t want the government telling a woman that she’s a criminal or she’ll become a criminal if - if that’s her choice.

HUNT: Ted Strickland, a final quick question. On November 6th, what’ll be the final tally in Ohio, in the presidential race?

STRICKLAND: Well, four years ago, I think it was about 51-47. I’ll take that. If the president wins 51 to 47, I’ll be a happy guy and the president will be re-elected to a second term.

HUNT: And that’s what you expect to happen?

STRICKLAND: Well, I’d like to get 52 or 53, but I’ll take 51.

HUNT: All right. Ted Strickland, thank you so much for being with us. And when we return, we’ll talk to another former governor on the other side, John Sununu of New Hampshire, a top Romney surrogate.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***

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