CNN's Anderson Cooper smacked the Romney campaign Monday night for alleged dishonesty. He claimed they were talking too much about social issues while saying the economy is their real focus.
"The question tonight, and not just from the opposition, have the Romney forces been moving away from dollars and cents and jobs, and shifting toward more red meat, hot-button culture war mode?" Cooper asked. "I mean what's up with the culture stuff suddenly?" he posed later. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
If CNN thinks this is so deserving of an investigative report, perhaps they could have also scrutinized the spotlight on birth control at the Democratic Convention. And just because the Romney campaign says the economy is the main issue doesn't mean they can't also talk about social issues.
Cooper's report echoed the Obama talking points that Romney is "associating with some of the most strident and divisive voices in the Republican Party, including Rep. Steve King and Pat Robertson." Cooper had called King an "outspoken and controversial at times social conservative."
"Now if in fact the Romney campaign has been zeroing in on social conservatives lately, and not so much in the economy, recent polling could help explain why," reported Cooper, arguing that an emphasis on social issues is hurting Romney. Yet again, how does that explain that a DNC which featured speakers like Sandra Fluke and Cecile Richards did not hurt Obama in the polls?
Cooper also pointed out Romney's promise to protect religious liberty as an example of him focusing on social issues. Ironically, it was Obama who first prompted Catholics to cry that their religious liberty was being violated by forcing religiously-affiliated organizations to provide birth control, so he forced that issue into the spotlight.
I think the governor is obviously very strong on that issue and certainly far more knowledgeable on how to turn the country around than the President is. That's proven. However that doesn't mean that we don't talk about other issues.
"Is he all over the place now, or what is he doing here?" Cooper asked about Romney, to which GOP strategist Bay Buchanan replied "No, I think it's clear that this election is going to come down to the economy." She added, "However that doesn't mean that we don't talk about other issues."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on September 10 on Anderson Cooper 360 at 8:13 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
ANDERSON COOPER: Well, there's new polling on President Obama's post-convention bounce, which now appears to be significant. We'll get into that in a second. But first "Keeping Them Honest" with doubts about the Romney campaign's repeated promise that this election and their campaign is all about the economy.
The question tonight, and not just from the opposition, have the Romney forces been moving away from dollars and cents and jobs, and shifting toward more red meat, hot-button culture war mode? They said that the economy is front and center. First and foremost. Issue one. Yet if you've been watching Mitt Romney out in the stump recently, you've been hearing about a lot of other issues as well.
MITT ROMNEY, Republican presidential candidate: I will not take God out of the name of our platform.
(Cheers and Applause)
I will not take God off our coins and I will not take God out of my heart.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: That was Mitt Romney in Virginia, of course, on Saturday, campaigning with the 700 Club's Pat Robertson, suggesting that President Obama was somehow planning to take God off the currency.
Now in fairness, Mr. Romney did open his speech with three sentences on Friday's disappointing jobless numbers. But then he immediately got into talk about God, that you just heard. Then he repeated the disproven suggestion that President Obama spends his time apologizing for America and then he talked about beefing up military spending. Almost five minutes later, he got back around to the economy.
And when reporters began asking about the apparent contradiction between the economy-first talking point and what the candidate was actually saying, Romney campaign manager Eric Fehrnstrom simply repeated the talking point. He said, quote, "The subject has been the economy, is the economy and will be the economy. Mitt Romney doesn't want to change the subject. He wants to change the economy and that's what he's going to do as president."
Now to be fair, fair enough. That's the message that Eric Fehrnstrom wants us to get. But that's not all that's coming from the candidate on the campaign trail. Here's Governor Romney today in Ohio.
ROMNEY: When and if I become President of the United States, I will not take God out of my heart. I will not take God out of the public square and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: Well, the coin reference has gone away. But again, his plan for the economy came last. Now once he did get there, he did go into detail but his rhetorical road to the economy, which his campaign says comes first, took the scenic route through the Pentagon and especially the Bible belt. Also NASCAR country. Right after stumping with Pat Robertson, Mr. Romney made a campaign pit stop at Richmond International Raceway, signing autographs before the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night.
He also kicked off the weekend in Iowa endorsing Congressman Steve King, who's an outspoken and controversial at times social conservative. Now you can agree or disagree with the views of Congressman King, you can also point out Democrats who are trying to rally their base at their convention with a lot of focus on abortion and same-sex marriage and other issues that appeal to the base. You can believe that religion deserves a bigger role in the public square or not.
You can recognize that political rhetoric, just like a good story or an effective sermon doesn't always get straight to the point. But either way the Romney campaign says their real message is, always has been the economy. Yet even before today a month and a day ago, to be precise, they were running this ad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?
ROMNEY: I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: Now if in fact the Romney campaign has been zeroing in on social conservatives lately, and not so much on the economy, recent polling could help explain why. As we mentioned there's these new CNN/ORC numbers out tonight and President Obama is bouncing. He's now up six points on Mr. Romney among likely voters. Last week, before the Democratic convention, the race was tied.
Mr. Romney got a one-point bounce from the Republican convention and the Romney campaign downplaying this bounce that a chief pollster saying, quote, "While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly." But that's the question. Has it changed? And what has recent polling revealed about the Romney campaign strategy? Let's talk about it with chief national correspondent John King, Bill Burton who's a senior strategist for the leading pro-Obama super PAC, and senior Romney adviser, Bay Buchanan.
So, Bay, the Romney campaign has said from the start this election is all about the economy. But in the last couple of days we've seen Mitt Romney, you know, endorse Steve King, talk about -- appear on a stage with Pat Robertson, talk about not taking "God We Trust" off the currency, even though as far as I know no Democrat has even suggested taking God off the currency or the coins. Is he all over the place now, or what is he doing here?
BAY BUCHANAN, Republican strategist: No, I think it's clear that this election is going to come down to the economy. I think the governor is obviously very strong on that issue and certainly far more knowledgeable on how to turn the country around than the President is. That's proven. However that doesn't mean that we don't talk about other issues. I think it's clear from our two conventions that the two parties really have a -- really are separate this year.