The sensitivity with which Team Obama--both the administration and the campaign--regard the rising gorge over the handling of the fatal attacks on Americans in Libya last month, both before and after the incident, was evident on Friday.
Democrats wanted to be crowing about Vice President Joe Biden really sticking it to GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the $5 trillion tax cut, vouchers, and birth control. And some did. But the White House was playing defense on Benghazi.
After Biden’s assertion during Thursday night’s debate that “we weren’t told” of appeals for more security at the Benghazi consulate, White House press secretary Jay Carney today looked to politically quarantine the administration’s highest levels--the two guys on the ballot next month--from the State Department. That agency is headed up by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is married to Bill Clinton, who might just be Obama’s most effective reelection surrogate. In general, not someone who goes in well for criticism of his wife. But concern over the Benghazi fallout is such that the White House apparently felt compelled to go there. And Republicans aren't inclined to back off the issue.
Libya is a weak point in a strong corner of Obama’s résumé, national security. But it’s a weak point nonetheless, and one Republicans will be pleased to discuss on the Sunday shows.
-- Jim O’Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
Romney, White House Spar Over Libya Attacks
[AP, 10/12/12] At a campaign stop in Richmond Friday, Romney said Vice President Joe Biden was “doubling down on denial” by saying “we weren’t told” about requests for more security from the Benghazi Consulate before it was attacked last month. White House spokesman Jay Carney, meanwhile, said Biden’s “we” referred only to himself and Obama.
Romney Drawing Larger Crowds
[Politico, 10/12/12/] Romney’s post-debate momentum is helping him draw larger crowds at campaign rallies, a sign of renewed GOP enthusiasm. Last week alone, three Romney events drew more than 10,000 supporters each.
New Obama Ad: ‘Lower Tax Rates for [Romney] Than Us'
[National Review, 10/12/12] Obama’s latest ad features an extended clip from CBS’ 60 Minutes in which Scott Pelley asks whether its fair that someone making $50,000 pays a higher tax rate than Romney. “Yeah,” responds Romney, “I think it’s the right way to encourage economic growth.”
Spirited Biden Debate Performance Allows Democrats to Exhale
[National Journal, 10/12/12] Biden took some of the heat off his boss in the critical homestretch of the 2012 election, delivering a spirited debate performance against Ryan that aimed to compensate for President Obama’s lifeless appearance a week ago. The likely result, writes NJ’s Beth Reinhard: a race that is as tight and unpredictable as ever.
White House: Biden, Obama Didn't Know of Libya Security Requests
[The Hill, 10/12/12] The White House on Friday said that Biden was speaking for himself and the president when he said the administration was unaware of additional requests for security in Libya.
Democrats Get the Debate They Wanted
[Talking Points Memo, 10/12/12] Democrats wanted an aggressive Joe Biden at the vice presidential debate, and they got one. And Biden’s central message to the audience watching: You can’t trust what the Romney-Ryan ticket says.
Crazy Joe Biden Is What the Obama Campaign Needed
[Atlantic, 10/12/12] Biden’s task was to turn the page on the president’s disastrous debate last week and to throw a wrench in the suddenly-on-a-roll Romney campaign’s progress. Biden’s crazy antics may have accomplished this mission.
Surrogates Spin Ryan, Biden Performances During Veep Debate
[National Journal, 10/12/12] Partisans took to the morning shows just hours after the first and only vice presidential debate, with both sides arguing over style, substance, and outcome. Republicans hit Biden for being rude and overly aggressive, while Democrats defended the VP’s “passion.”
Showing His Teeth, Biden Spurs Debate on His Performance
[New York Times, 10/12/12] Democrats were cheered by Biden’s performance, but nearly all Republicans -- and some in the media -- questioned the vice president’s constant interruptions, smirks and eye-rolls. Meanwhile, some are trying to compare Biden's performance to Gore's sighs from 2000.
Hosting of Debate ‘Nearly Flawless,’ Centre President Says
[Courier-Journal, 10/12/12] John Allen Roush, the president of Centre College, which hosted Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, said that the face-off went as well as possible, with no major hiccups. For Kentucky, Allen said, the debate meant at least one night where the state was the focus of a national election.
Analysis: Ryan Wins Debate as Biden Fails to Embarrass Rival
[National Journal, 10/11/12] NJ’s Michael Hirsh writes that Biden failed in his goal of regaining the offensive against the GOP ticket after the first presidential debate. Like Obama before him, Biden failed to pin his GOP opponent down on his flip-flopping.
The VP Debate, by the Numbers
[Washington Post, 10/12/12] Thirty: the number of times Medicare was mentioned. Fourteen: The number of times Biden referred to Ryan as “my friend.” And finally, 3: the number of times Biden used the term “malarkey.”
CNN Poll: Debate Watchers Split on Who Won VP Debate
[CNN, 10/11/12] Forty-eight percent of voters who watched the vice presidential debate think that Ryan won the showdown, according to a CNN/ORC International nationwide poll conducted just after Thursday night’s face-off, while 44 percent say that Biden was victorious. A CBS News poll found Biden bested Ryan among the uncommitted, 50 percent to 31 percent.
The Bully vs. the Wonk
[Wall Street Journal, 10/12/12] Calling it “the least illuminating presidential or vice presidential debate of our lifetimes,” the editorial page editors note that, by some counts, Biden interrupted Ryan between 80 and 100 times. “Mr. Ryan let the bully get away with too much for our tastes.”
Obama’s North Carolina Ads Highlight Romney’s Dilemma
[National Journal, 10/12/12] They may not be playing to win in North Carolina, the swing state Obama is least likely to win, but Obama’s team is staying competitive enough to force Romney and his allies to pour millions into the state. It’s money Team Romney would desperately like to spend elsewhere.