Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One en route Columbus, OH, 11/5/2012
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Columbus, Ohio
1:41 P.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way from the fantastic state of Wisconsin to the equally fantastic state of Ohio -- right -- that's where we're headed -- on this final day of campaigning.
I just wanted to give you a couple of updates on the recovery efforts in the wake of Sandy. As of this morning, more than 205,000 residents have applied for assistance with FEMA -- $192 million has been approved and directed to assist individuals. The individual assistance grants, as you know, are part of the disaster declarations that the President expedited for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Today, Secretary Napolitano approved additional assistance to expedite support for state and local debris removal efforts. Secretary Napolitano is in New York today and was in New Jersey yesterday. Administrator Fugate was in New York yesterday.
And that is the update I have at the moment on the recovery efforts and the President’s oversight of the federal response, except to tell you that he is currently participating in a conference call with Administrator Fugate, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Secretary Napolitano I think, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, and some others about the recovery efforts and the federal response to Hurricane and Storm Sandy.
And that's it.
Q Is this Bruce Springsteen’s first time on Air Force One?
MS. PSAKI: We're happy to check on that for you. Before we do, in our final day of campaigning, I just wanted to tick through the states, since we do have an election tomorrow -- just as a reminder -- that we're going to be visiting today. So Wisconsin -- as you know, we just visited the lovely state of Wisconsin -- in the latest polls, President Obama leads Mitt Romney by 15 points among those who have already voted or plan to vote early. In Wisconsin, 266,287 voters in counties President Obama won in 2008 have voted, compared with just 95,449 in Republican-leaning counties.
As Jay mentioned, we're next heading to the lovely state of Ohio. Twenty-nine percent of Ohio votes have already been cast, and according to public polling, President Obama leads by 24 points among those who have already voted. This means that Mitt Romney would need to win the remaining votes by 10 points in order to tie the race on Election Day.
As you know, we end the day in Iowa. I know you all know this, but it was worth repeating -- this is where the journey began for President Obama. The state has always had a special place for him and for the First Lady in their hearts. The location where we will be tonight -- his hold room is actually our old Iowa campaign headquarters, so that's kind of a nice little color fact for you.
But Iowa -- let’s see, 40 percent of Iowa votes have been already cast, and President Obama leads among early voters by 23 points in the latest polls. This means that Mitt Romney needs to win the remaining votes by 23 points to tie President Obama on Election Day.
Q I'm sorry -- 40 percent?
MS. PSAKI: Forty percent, yes.
Q And how much does he lead by?
MS. PSAKI: Twenty-three points.
Q I wasn’t a math major, but it seems like if 50 percent of the votes had been cast then you’d need to match it to tie.
MS. PSAKI: We'll check the math of our team. They haven't been sleeping a lot, so we'll double-check that for you.
The last thing, just to add, I know people have been asking about what he’s doing tomorrow. Later today -- you should have all received a list of the radio interviews he’s taping later today. It’s about a dozen interviews, the majority of which, if not all of them, are airing tomorrow morning during drive-time. They’re GOTV calls encouraging people to get out to the polls in target markets and with target constituencies. As you know, he’s also live-to-taping an ESPN interview that will air during halftime this evening during Monday Night Football.
Tomorrow he will have about a dozen local, state satellite interviews he'll be doing throughout the day. It’s possible he will do additional get-out-the-vote radio throughout the day.
As many of you know who have been covering us for a while, there is a tradition to play basketball with friends and close advisors on Election Day. That's something that we're working toward and could be in the cards. And then, finally, as he’s always said, this campaign is about -- the bread and butter of this campaign is the volunteers and the neighborhood team leaders and people who have made this journey possible. And he'll be looking for an opportunity to thank them tomorrow. As always, we'll keep you abreast as movements arise.
Q And what are the embargoes on those interviews that you're talking about?
MS. PSAKI: I believe they were listed in there. If not, we'll get you the list of when they’re embargoed until. The majority of them are for tomorrow morning during drive-time, though.
Q Any chance of getting transcripts for any of them, or do we have to try and listen to them?
MS. PSAKI: Unlikely. I think you're going to have to listen to them, because they air different pieces during different hours. So we don't want to get ahead of the interviews themselves.
Q Jen, there were reports today that Mitt Romney may to go to Ohio tomorrow for some last-minute campaigning? Does the President plan to make any stops in competitive states tomorrow or is he going to stay in Chicago all day?
MS. PSAKI: His schedule is as I just laid out, so there’s no plans to leave the state of Illinois at this point. I don’t think that will change.
I will say it’s no surprise that Mitt Romney is headed to Ohio, or reportedly headed to Ohio tomorrow. Without that state it’s a rocky road for them to victory -- an insurmountable road, I would say. We know that they’ve been playing a lot of head-faking games and going to states where they don’t have a ground game, they’ve never led in a poll and we have massive voter registration advantages. Ohio remains a very difficult nut for them to crack. And we feel we have a superior ground game and a superior campaign in the state and we’re confident of victory there tomorrow.
Q An insurmountable road -- is that what you said?
MS. PSAKI: Without Ohio.
Q The GOTV stuff he’s doing tomorrow, will that be from headquarters?
MS. PSAKI: I think there are satellite locations in a nearby hotel.
Q Can you say anything about what we’ve seen in Florida? It was a pretty chaotic scene there with early voting over the weekend.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re taking every voting report case by case. Our focus has always been making sure everybody who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote. We think that’s the right thing for the American people, the right thing for the people of Florida.
So in Florida, we had several steps that were taken yesterday to open -- for early voting, in-person absentee voting in several counties. That’s a positive step forward. We are at the point we are at because the Governor of the state cut early voting by six days and the lines were so long and the enthusiasm was so great for early voting that people were waiting in line for four and five hours.
We’re continuing to work on that today. And our plan is always, until the very last moment when the polls close, making sure people who are eligible have the opportunity. And we’re confident we’ll be able to do that in Florida and in states across the country.
Q The campaign sounds very confident that you have a path to victory and maybe that it’s even a fairly clear path. But if that doesn’t happen, if this is a contested race, do you have a plan in place for Wednesday, and what it could look like?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to get into hypotheticals. It’s worth reminding you we’re tied or leading in every single swing state. We’re ahead in early vote in every -- almost every single swing state. We feel great about where our ground game is now. We feel great about where we’re closing this race. We know there’s a lot of fantasy talk happening from the Romney team about the number of electoral votes that they think they’re going to achieve. We’re not going to get into that kind of predictions.
But the only thing that matters is that more people vote for President Obama than vote for Mitt Romney. We’re confident of that and we’re not going to get into hypotheticals beyond that.
Q Are you predicting a popular vote victory as well then?
MS. PSAKI: We’re confident that more people in this country are going to support the President tomorrow when they go to the polls. We’re confident that in swing states across the country where this race will be decided, that people are going to vote to elect President Obama to send him back for another four years.
Q Can you talk about the dynamic between Springsteen and the President a little bit? He’s on Air Force One. Are they sitting next to each other? Are they in different parts of the plane? Can you tell us a little bit about what they’ve been talking about today?
MR. CARNEY: They’re sitting across from each other in the conference room and were discussing a number of things, including the impact of the storm on New Jersey. As you can imagine, that’s something that is of interest to and concerns Mr. Springsteen. I don’t have any other color for you at the time. I don’t know if Jen does.
Q Is Patti in there, too?
MR. CARNEY: Yes
Q To follow up on Margaret’s question, you do have legal teams in a lot of these battlegrounds. Are they pointing to any potential problems that you need to be aware of and be ready to react in those battleground states?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, Jim, because you've been covering this a long time, every election year there are always case-by- case issues, which you deal with at the polls. And, of course, we want to be prepared to make sure that people have confidence that their vote is going to count. So that's why we have lawyers in states -- Florida, of course, is one of them; Ohio and any of these swing states. And we're dealing with issues that come up on a case-by-case basis.
Florida is a good example. Obviously, when issues arose there with lines that were too long and the concern that people wouldn't be able to vote, we dealt with that as soon as it arose. And we're going to do that in states across the country over the next 36 hours we have to go here.
Q How large is your legal team in Florida right now?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have an exact number. We have the number of people we need to ensure that people of the state feel confident that they can go to the polls and vote, that their vote is going to count and that their participation in the process matters.
Q Strategically, is there a reason why he's not doing any events tomorrow, not going to any states? Obviously, you said he's planning on staying in Illinois. Is there a strategic thinking behind that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I mean, obviously we've had -- as you know, because we're all kind of high on coffee and doing jumping-jacks to stay awake here -- we've had a pretty robust schedule the last couple of days, making sure we're hitting markets. We will have hit probably hundreds of thousands of people in the final days of the campaign.
Because he's doing about a dozen radio interviews into target markets and he's doing about a dozen satellite TV interviews, he will actually be able to hit and reach people across the country, markets across the country, to communicate the choice in this election and the importance of voting. That's very valuable.
And it is -- you do make a choice between doing something like that and traveling to a state. And we made the call that that's the way to reach people on Election Day.
Q Jen, beyond the case-by-case things that you talked about, does the campaign think there has been sort of a deliberate, systemic effort by Republicans either in Florida or Ohio or Colorado, either in the legislature, the secretaries of state, to curtail some of those voting opportunities that you all have worked to expand?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the facts on this front are clear. In Florida, the Governor cut early voting by six days. In Ohio, the Secretary of State attempted to eliminate the three early voting days before Election Day, which have been historically -- at least in 2008 -- very big voting days.
We have a fundamental difference in how we view democracy and how we view the right of the American people to participate. We feel it's a given right to vote, to participate in the process and everybody who's eligible should have the opportunity.
It's not that there are more issues than there have been in past years, but you always want to be prepared to make sure that people who are voting for the first time, people who haven't voted in 20 years -- we've seen many reports of people who are 90 and are voting for the first time -- are confident that their vote will count. So that's why we're fortunate we have lawyers in states across the country. And we're going to be dealing with issues on case by case. We're confident we'll be able to resolve them.
MR. CARNEY: Setting aside motivations, you know the President's view on this, and you’ve heard him talk about it with regards to early voting -- that as a matter of principle and policy in this country, we ought to be doing everything we can to make it easier for Americans to vote and not harder.
You’ve heard him talk about the value of early voting, because so many Americans might be working double shifts on Election Day, or having to transport their children to and from school or to and from daycare. It’s very difficult for many people to vote on Election Day, and there’s every reason in the world to make it easier for Americans to vote so that more people participate in our democratic process.
Q Do you guys have confidence that people in the storm-ravaged areas of New York and New Jersey, where there’s electronic voting machines in places with no electricity -- New Jersey had discussed vote by email and fax -- that those votes will all be counted in a fair way?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. As you kind of referenced in your question, these cases have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis at the state and local level. Obviously, it’s in everyone’s interest that people who were impacted by the storm have the opportunity. We’ve seen progress made in the past couple of days, thanks to the efforts of state and local leaders and the President and FEMA, to restore power, to make sure people have kind of the information and the resources they need. And we’re going to deal with this as with any case, on case by case. But we’re confident that people’s votes will count, and that they’ll have the opportunity to vote in these states.
Q Mayor Bloomberg, who endorsed you last week, said that he doesn’t have a whole lot of confidence in the New York City Board of Elections. Do you share that concern that he has?
MS. PSAKI: These cases are being dealt with on a case-by-case basis at the state and local level. We’ve been making sure -- working hard to make sure people have the information and resources they need not just about how to vote, but also on resources they need around the storm. And we’ll approach it that same way over the next 36 hours of the campaign.
Q A somewhat unrelated question -- when was the last time the President spoke to a member of Congress about the fiscal cliff?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any conversations to read out to you. I can tell you that it’s very clear, it has been for some time, what the right approach to dealing with our fiscal challenges is, and that is to adopt the principles embodied in Simpson-Bowles and every other bipartisan commission that’s looked at this; adopt the position that Democrats, independents, and Republicans across the country believe is the right position and which happens to be the President’s position, which is we should address these issues in a balanced way. We should continue to cut spending responsibly. We should make changes to our entitlement programs that make them stronger. And we should ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more so that revenue is part of this package, so that we don’t have to voucherize Medicare in order to get our deficit under control; we don’t have to slash education investments or investments in infrastructure, or research and development.
That is a position and an approach that is broadly endorsed by a significant majority of the American people, and a significant majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans who aren’t in the House of Representatives or the United States Senate at this very moment.
So one way that we could address a portion of the challenge posed by the fiscal cliff is if the House of Representatives were to pass the bill that the Senate already passed that would extend tax cuts to 98 percent of the American people -- 98 percent.
So there’s agreement in Washington that 98 percent of the American people ought to have their tax cuts extended. Democrats, Republicans, independents -- everybody says, let’s do it, we’re for it. So Republicans in the House should not block that initiative, they should pass it. And then we can discuss and debate whether or not the wealthiest 2 percent ought to have their taxes cut as well.
Q Is there a plan in the drawer, waiting for the day after Election Day to get started on the fiscal cliff negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: You’ve heard the President discuss the need to resolve these challenges, and he looks very much forward to working with Congress to make that happen. You covered it, most of you here did. The way we get from here to there is not complicated. And there are plans -- beginning with the President’s -- that reflect the kind of approach we need to take to solve our fiscal challenges or to meet those fiscal challenges in a responsible way.
And the President has believed and has said for a long time that he hopes that this election -- which in many ways has been included in the debate about these issues -- will help propel the process forward once the American people have spoken tomorrow.
Q Jen, back to Bruce Springsteen. Obviously, he’s not the only celebrity surrogate that the President is relying on. Is there a potential danger that glitz trumps substance here in these final days when you have all these other people who are out there pushing the vote for the President, but their power is a mere fact that they’re celebrities?
MS. PSAKI: I think Bruce Springsteen might be offended by you calling him glitzy, but -- (laughter.) Look, I think --
Q Send him back and see what he thinks.
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think every time the President speaks, including today, he is laying out the case in this election, laying out what we’ve done and what we need to do moving forward. The American people know what his plan is. They know how hard he is going to fight for the middle class.
At this stage in the game, with less than 24 hours to go until the polls open, a big focus is making sure people know -- who may be sporadic voters, who may be less likely to go to the polls, who may be a college student and think it’s not important -- what the stakes are. And Bruce Springsteen and some other celebrities who have been helping us reach a broad audience that sometimes tune out what’s being said by politicians. He’s been a great supporter of the President’s. He’s been a tireless advocate for him on the campaign trail. And we’re thrilled he’s here today, as I know many of you are.
Q Jay, you shouldn’t go after Kid Rock that way. One governing question. How does the President feel about the response to the storm so far? Does he see -- does he have any concerns about some areas that still remain unserved?
MR. CARNEY: From before the time the storm made landfall, the President has been extremely focused on making sure that the federal response is as comprehensive and efficient and effective as possible. That included pre-positioning many, many resources by FEMA. It included pre-positioning individuals up and down the East Coast so that we had -- so that FEMA had personnel on the ground to assist with state and local authorities in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the storm. And that effort continues.
You know that the President has been extremely forceful at tasking his administration and the members of his administration responsible for responding to an emergency like this with leaning forward, with making sure that bureaucracy and red tape does not get in the way of providing assistance to the states and localities and individuals who have been so affected by this storm. And that effort continues.
You’ve seen it with his order that led to the airlift of assets owned by energy companies out West, from California to states that needed those assets in the Northeast. You saw it in some of the measures that have been taken to provide fuel to affected areas in the Northeast. And you see it in some of the details that I read out to you at the top of this briefing.
And the President -- again, as we began this briefing here on Air Force One, the President was in his office participating in a conference call with senior members of his administration who are focusing all of their time on the federal response.
There is no question that there's a long way to go here. There's no question that the storm was devastating. And there's no question that there are individuals who still are absolutely in need of assistance -- individuals and businesses who do not have power. And the President is making sure that every time he speaks with governors and other state and local officials, that we're responding to their request for assistance, that there are no needs that are unmet that can be met by federal assistance. And that has been his focus from before the storm landed.
Q Mitt Romney and Ryan have both had a field day with the President's revenge comment in Ohio the other day where he said voting is the best revenge. Does the President regret saying that? It felt -- it seems like sort of an offhand comment and you guys described it that way. Does he express any regret for phrasing it in those words?
MS. PSAKI: The President never regrets making the case to the American people that if they don't like the plans Mitt Romney is offering, if they don't like the rotten deal he's offering to the middle class, that they have power to vote and cast their vote -- their ballot at the voting booth. That was exactly what he was conveying with that comment, and absolutely no regrets.
Q Is there a particular reason he hasn't repeated it since then?
MS. PSAKI: You know, he talks about this and the power of the American people to have a voice in the process often, not only on the campaign trail but as it relates to moving policy initiatives forward. I think he was kind of describing that on the -- when he was at that event, and we don't look back and have any regrets.
And the truth is if Mitt Romney wants to close his campaign, which he is doing, attacking the President for saying that the American people have a voice in this process, that's nothing more than the small-ball and scare tactics that we expect from them.
Oh, one thing to add -- I'm sorry, I forgot to mention this. I know you all are very focused on the vote totals as they're adding up on Tuesday. I would caution you that California, rural communities, many parts of this country where it takes a little longer are going to come in a little later. I don't know how that's all going to pan out. But just a piece to as you look ahead tomorrow evening and you're watching the vote totals.
Q The Obama campaign has doubts about California? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Never. I will wear a fake moustache, as I've said before.
MR. CARNEY: As a grizzled veteran of the process, Jen is simply advising patience.
MS. PSAKI: I am grizzled at this point in the game. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Well, maybe not as grizzled as I am.
Q Just logistically, the other day in Lima, David and David suggested they might do something this evening, a little preview -- another gaggle of some sort.
MS. PSAKI: I don't think -- because we did it this morning, I don't think we'll do another one, because the event in Des Moines is like 10:30 p.m. at night. But they're around. So if people want to talk to them, we can absolutely help with that. Just let us know. And we'll try to work for getting our other famous friend on the plane.
Q Will Reggie play basketball with the President tomorrow, or no?
MS. PSAKI: That is likely.
Q Will you, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: I'm going to stay out of that.
MS. PSAKI: What about me? I was captain of my middle school basketball team.
Q Well, are you, Jen?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, I'm like Muggsy Bogues size.
Q Wear your mouth guard. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: It's not in my agenda tomorrow. (Laughter.)
Q Isn't that the tradition in primary races, too?
MS. PSAKI: That's right. Yep, that's right.
Q Did you advise publicly details on the President's plans for tonight and overnight?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, he'll be sleeping his home.
MR. CARNEY: Thanks, guys.
1:56 P.M. EST