Democrats were out in force on the Sunday shows ahead of this week’s Democratic National Convention, many using sharp language that accused the Romney campaign and Republicans of lying.
Yet several prominent Obama advisers wound up playing defense when asked the age-old question: Are Americans better off today than they were four years ago? One even admitted that Americans are not.
David Plouffe and David Axelrod, top advisers to President Obama, repeatedly ducked the query, but Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley bluntly answered, “No, but that's not the question of this election.”
Republicans, who have made the question central to their quest for the White House, pounced on O’Malley’s remarks and the dodges, creating YouTube clips and a Tumblr page that they shot out to reporters. Mitt Romney’s campaign sent a press release titled “Are You Better Off After Four Years of Obama?” wrapping up Sunday’s sound bites.
After several dodges, Axelrod argued that millions of American auto workers, homeowners, and young people are better off today than they were four years ago, thanks to the president’s auto bailout, mortgage-renegotiation policies, and health care reforms, despite higher unemployment, lower median income, and a rising deficit.
“We’re in a better position than we were four years ago with our economy,” he told Fox News Sunday. “The average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and deepened January of 2009 and it’s gonna take some time to work through it.”
On ABC’s This Week, Plouffe declined three times to answer with a definitive yes or no. “It took us a long time to get into that hole, it’s going to take us a long time to get out of it,” Plouffe said after host George Stephanopoulos first asked the question.
After the second time, he said, “We were this close to a Great Depression, and because of the leadership of this president we staved that off. We're beginning to recover.” Stephanopoulos pressed again: “You still can't say yes?” And again Plouffe punted: “We've clearly improved from the depths of the recession.”
But Democrats did play offense on Sunday, attempting to push a two-track theme in their appearances--that the depth of the recession has made the recovery difficult and that Romney’s campaign is built on falsehoods.
Plouffe went so far as to say on ABC’s This Week that the Romney campaign is “built on a tripod of lies,” and then enumerated them: “A welfare attack that is just absolutely untrue. The suggestion we’re raiding Medicare--absolutely untrue. And then this whole ‘we can’t build it’ nonsense.”
He added: “I don’t think we've ever seen a presidential campaign ever that’s built on a foundation of absolute lies. And I think ultimately they’re going to pay a price for that.”
Another Obama aide, Stephanie Cutter, hit on the same theme on CBS’s Face the Nation, saying about the recently concluded GOP convention: "It was a week of personal attacks, empty platitudes, and the one thing you were left with is they really think lying is a virtue."
Axelrod too tried to paint the Republican convention as a bust for Romney and Republicans, saying on Fox News Sunday, "The problem with what Governor Romney said is for three days they never offered anybody a plausible alternative. He spoke for 45 minutes and never really offered any real ideas for how to move the economy forward, how to lift the middle class. And in that sense, I think his convention was a terrible failure."
And that public disappointment in Obama’s presidency that the GOP made so much hay out of in Tampa? That doesn’t exist, senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs told CNN’s State of the Union.
“I don't think that there is voter disappointment,” he said. “Voters understand it took us years and years of tremendously bad decisions by running up huge debts, and providing huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that didn't create jobs, and they understand it is going to take us a while to get out of that mess. And I think that’s what the choice is.”
Jon Miller Contributed contributed to this article.