Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 21, 2012

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, September 21, 2012

CREATED Sep 21, 2012


By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

September 21, 2012


For the third straight week, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a difficult time staying on or advancing his message for why he should elected. Therefore his opponent, President Barack Obama has benefited.

There are an abundance of new polls out there. Most of them still show a close race (within the margin of error) but an increasing number show the President maintaining and building a small lead both nationally and in several of the critical 8-10 battleground states that will decide the contest. In fact, the President is now touching the critical 50% support number in some surveys both nationally and in a number of the battleground states.

Mr. Romney's slump began when he appeared to receive almost no positive "bounce" out of his national convention (empty chairs not withstanding). Mr. Obama did get a good bounce and some of the current polls still reflect that. Most "bounces" don't last. Will this one? Meanwhile, there are other challenges facing the Republicans and their candidate.

First, it appears Romney took a small voter hit from how he first responded to the Libyan crisis in attacking the President. This is an evolving issue, however, and could still come back to hurt the President as developments and revelations unfold. Indeed, his foreign affairs job performance rating has already declined in at least one new poll (NBC/WALL STREET JOURNAL).

But the real unknown in the presidential race (at least for the next week or so until after new polling is completed): the ultimate impact of the now infamous Romney "47% "secret tape, where the candidate made several potentially damaging statements (privately, he no doubt thought) to a room full of high-level donors in Florida back in May.

The tape was held, then leaked to the media (MOTHER JONES magazine), timed (by the leakers) with the clear intent of causing damage to GOP's presidential efforts at this already somewhat difficult time. Clearly, it has been successful for at least for the first several days since the story broke. You can call it in part "the revenge of Jimmy Carter" as the former president's grandson admits a role in encouraging the material to be leaked.

 The Romney campaign has been left reeling, trying to find its balance and an appropriate response to what even the candidate admits was "not elegantly stated" said and was just meant "off the cuff"  (although was also clearly done "foot in mouth" as well).  

This latest gaffe by Mr. Romney comes at the same time that his campaign has reportedly been divided by internal strife over its current and future campaign strategy. Some of that strife was already bleeding out in a few news stories and op—ed columns (the WALL STREET JOURNAL, in particular). These complaints could be read, in part, as setting up the blame game that could emerge if Romney loses what appeared to be a winnable election. In particular, it seems the blame is going to the top of the ticket (Romney and his campaign staff), but (unlike the 2008 GOP defeat) not his VP choice, Congressman Paul Ryan, who remains highly regarded among conservatives and could remain (conservatives hope) a national presidential figure in the future.  The 47% tape fiasco has helped further take off the gloves regarding the second guessing of Romney with the NEW YORK TIMES' columnist, David Brooks, calling Romney's campaign  "depressingly inept" and adding Romney's comments on the leaked tape  just "reinforces every negative view people have about Romney." Yikes! 

  But while a few Republican candidates have been trying to distance themselves from their national candidate, others are quickly trying to turn around Romney's misstatements to perform whatever positive damage control they can, turning the discussion instead to the policy and/or wisdom of how many folks truly don't pay federal income taxes and/or receive government subsidies. Good luck on that. it could be like bailing water out of the Titanic, especially given the negative tone and wording of Romney's remarks.

But mistakes like these by the Romney campaign are rarely fatal in and of themselves. Stories fade as the news cycle rolls on, although numerous mistakes can add up to be lethal in creating a negative image with voters. But barring that happening quickly, unless there is a landslide move in the polls, the race is still likely to remain close and there are still the debates and potential "October surprises" to come. Another reason it may stay close is the low percentages, both nationally and in the battleground states, of voters who say they are undecided or could still change their minds.

 But Mr. Romney needs to clearly, and relatively quickly, start changing and convincing some minds (and change likely both his messages and tactics, including spending more time in battleground states) or things could slip away from him and the GOP as we move into the final full month of this campaign in October.  Two last questions: How does Romney change his message (likely moving to the political center or more moderate positions) without ticking off conservatives? And how does he attract swing and independent voters if he doubles down on some of related themes in his 47% tape which have put him on the ropes, but which many GOP voters and conservatives really believe in and what him to champion. How Mr. Romney answers those questions will tell his fate.

A late breaking development as this column was being finalized shows a bit of a surprising development: the Romney campaign is backing off some its previous refusal to release anything other than the candidate's 2010 tax return. Now the GOP nominee is putting out his 2011 returns (as promised earlier) as well as a "summary" of his federal taxes from 1990-2009 Clearly in a move to perhaps try to "change the subject" and regain some campaign momentum (if the tax forms and summary don't generate any new or revive old  controversies), the disclosures reportedly show the candidate paid his federal taxes in the millions each year and an average rate of about 20% per year, although closer to 14% in 2011.  Romney had. He also give significantly to charity, But the disclosures, especially their timing, do raise questions, such as why did the take candidate so long and repeatedly refuse to disclose information that almost every other presidential candidate has for years ? Why do it now? And how much will this latest move help or hurt the Romney campaign?



Kudos to Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper for being one of 38 House members honored by the Concord Coalition for their work and vote for fiscal responsibility in Washington, in particular for the Simpson-Bowles budget to try to address our increasing national deficit and debt

They deserve the award for their political courage. The budget was creamed in the House last March. Cooper hopes he and his colleagues get another chance and can get more support.

They likely will get that opportunity right after the election, when the nation faces going over the fiscal cliff unless a rump session of Congress can find an alternative to a package of steep budget cuts and tax increases (by ending lots of current tax cuts) that lawmakers approved (supposedly as a way to finally force them to act on our fiscal issues).

Well, that hasn't worked yet…and I can't say prospects look good for it happening during a lame duck session of Congress. But Jim Cooper seems to do what he thinks is right. I guess that is why this week he also became the first member to sign a pledge that he will not become a lobbyist when he leaves public service. 




I am coming back to INSIDE POLITICS this weekend.

But I won't be the host.

I am coming on as the guest of Ben Hall, who has done a great job in anchoring the program in my absence.

I thought it best, as a part of my recovery, to ease back in by answering questions not asking them. I can always talk, so we will see how I do. I will likely be talking about the presidential race, along with the continuing, and now growing political controversy over charter school governance in Tennessee in the wake of the Great Hearts controversy. So watch us and[i]see how we do.

INSIDE POLITICS remains at its same times each weekend:


NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS (COMCAST 250, CHARTER 150 and NewsChannel5's stronger over-the-air digital channel 5.2)

7:00m p.m. Fridays

5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m. Saturdays

5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sundays

NEWSCHANNEL5 (Main channel)

5:00 a.m., Sundays



In the first hours after I suffered a stroke on June 28, I don't think I had any idea what I was getting into.

 I joked with doctors and nurses, friends and family and continued to answer questions to check to see if I knew who I was, when I was born, what city and hospital I was in? Oh, and who the President is? I got all that right so I was feeling OK, especially when doctors told me that, thanks to a quick medical intervention, I was likely to make a full recovery.

But then, after several other tests, a doctor came in and asked me to move my right arm and leg. No problem. Then he asked me to move my left extremities. My leg seemed to move OK (not as good as my right as I remember). As for my left arm, I remember suddenly looked down and then exclaimed, "Where is it?"

It was under my bed covers, but to my growing alarm I began to realize that despite efforts coming from my brain to move, my left arm was not going anywhere. It was NOT moving.

After taking off the bed sheets, I looked very closely at my left arm and continued to tell it to move. Slowly, very slowly, it did, but not much, and not very fast at all.

That is when it hit me for the first time: this was not going to be an easy or quick road back to health. I later learned that for some stroke patients they cannot move their arms and legs at all, and some do not even recognize that these parts of their bodies still belong to them. I had suffered a right side stroke (a blood vessel ruptured on the right side of my brain) that impacted the left side of my body, in this case leaving me with a left-side weakness, a phrase you will hear me mention a lot in the next few weeks.

Another low point for me during my week at St. Thomas came when I had one of my first occupational therapy sessions. The therapist brought in a large board with oversized playing cards on it and with a sticky spot on the front of each card. She also had several smaller cards that she wanted me to match up and place on top of the sticky spots. I could see what cards to match, but I could not use my left hand (I could only use my left) to pick up the cards, my fingers would not pick up and grasp the cards to do so.

Oh, boy was that depressing! Fortunately, in a few days, my brain rewired itself (and I got enough strength and rest for my body and brain) to successfully complete this first of many occupational exercises. But, in the meantime I had to often rely on my family and friends to keep me from getting depressed. And everyone came through like champs!

 I received dozens of visits, get well cards, gift baskets, floral arrangements, personal notes telling me to keep up my spirits and get well soon. My family was particularly wonderful, my sisters, my brother, my cousins, my wife (who has long ago earned her sainthood putting up with me for 38 years) and, my daughters!

My  daughter, Katie, is a nurse practitioner. She worked with my wife, Betty Lee and my daughter, Kelly, to give me all the love and care they could provide. The two girls even cleaned out my room at home while I was out, a monumental task involving dealing with decades of "stuff" only a pack rat could accumulate. It left me overwhelmed when I returned home. On a more personal level, several times Katie also brought over her children, my grandchildren, Shaun and Libby, to the hospital room, a visit which always did the trick to cheer me up. 

 Kelly was truly remarkable. She started a near daily e-mail circulated to my friends and family to keep them updated on my situation and recovery progress. She began a special Facebook page where those same people (and others) could post their own best wishes and encouragement and where we could post photos of how things are going (and, as things improved, how I looked). That page, which now has almost 400 members who've put up dozens of postings, kept me going some days.  I couldn't wait for Betty Lee and Kelly (and her husband Shane Cortesi) to visit and bring a lap top computer where they would read me the new messages of support. It was better than any pill or therapy or procedure I took in the hospital.

Kelly also personally responded with a hand-written thank you note to everyone who sent me a card, a note, flowers, a gift basket, anything I received. Pretty remarkable, isn't it? But that's not all, she doing a half-marathon run this weekend and, in my honor and on behalf of the National Stroke Association, she has raised nearly $750 in donations. She got a nice t-shirt for her efforts. But I got much more. In fact, I am moved beyond words for all her love and kindness (along with my wife, Katie and everyone else, especially at DVL (clients too) and NEWSCHANNEL5) .

I am truly blessed.