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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Reich: Some Good Questions for Tonight’s Debate

In his HuffPo post, “Questions That Are Unlikely to Be Asked Wednesday Night” former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has 7 good questions for each presidential candidate, and President Obama should be ready for the toughest ones, which will likely be directed to him in some form, which include:

President Obama: TARP authorized not only a bailout of Wall Street banks but help to distressed homeowners. You chose not to condition the bailout of Wall Street on the banks reducing the amount people owed on their mortgages. hindsight, do you think that was a mistake? A follow up question, if I may: It is estimated that one in five American families is still underwater — owing more on their home mortgages than their homes are worth. So far your efforts to help them have fallen far short of the goals you set. If you are reelected, what specific measures will you initiate do more for these families?
President Obama: You faced a particularly truculent Republican congress. But some say you didn’t fight Republicans hard enough during your first term, that you often began negotiations with compromises, and you didn’t use the full powers of your office to get more of what you wanted. Do you think there’s any validity to this criticism and, if so, what will you do differently in your second term?
President Obama: Last December, in a speech you gave in Osawatomie, Ks., you noted that in the last few decades the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by 6 percent. If you’re reelected president, what do you propose to do about this trend?

In the event that moderator Jim Lehrer fails to ask Reich’s most challenging questions for Mitt Romney, the President should prepare some sound bite/zingers that distill some of Reich’s questions for Romney, including:

Governor Romney: You’ve said that you have used every legal method to reduce your tax liability. You’ve also said that as president you would close tax loopholes in order to help finance a major across-the-board tax cut. What specific tax loopholes have you used that you would close? A followup: Would you close the loophole that allows private-equity managers to treat their income as capital gains, subject to a 15 percent tax, even when they risk no capital of their own?
Governor Romney: Your mathematics has been attacked by those who say it’s impossible to provide the tax cut you propose; expand the military, as you want to do; preserve Medicare and Social Security, as you promise to do; and at the same time balance the federal budget, as you say you’ll do. Can you take us through the math, please, with specific numbers?
Governor Romney: You have campaigned as a “businessman” who has the managerial experience to turn the economy around. Yet some say you’ve run one of the worst campaigns in recent memory — filled with gaffes, misstatements, poor timing, Clint Eastwood, and much else. Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan, for example, calls your campaign a “calamity.” Should Americans be concerned about your management abilities?

There will be sound bites, zingers, pivots and ‘gotcha’ questions aplenty tonight. Romney may exceed expectations, as he did in the GOP debates during the primary season. If the President can hold his own, he will be in good shape. But If he brings his ‘A’ game, and the Friday jobs report isn’t a bummer, then Democratic strategists should seriously consider shifting some resources down ballot.

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