During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney tried to give a "shout out" to the Cleveland Clinic and completely missed the mark. Romney was probably hoping to score some points with Ohio voters, since he’s trailing in that key swing state.
President Barack Obama mentioned the Clinic first, saying “…at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average.”
In his response, Romney says, “Your example of the Cleveland Clinic is my case in point, along with several others I could describe. This is the private market. These are small -- these are enterprises competing with each other, learning how to do better and better jobs.”
We’ll get to the big picture in a moment, but let’s stop right here briefly. Romney calls the Cleveland Clinic “small,” and then he seems to catch himself. For the record, the Cleveland Clinic gets more than four million patient visits per year. It’s got 2,800 physicians and scientists on staff. It’s not “small.”
Romney refers to the Cleveland Clinic as an enterprise “competing” with other enterprises in a private health market. To Mitt Romney, health care is a business. He thinks the Cleveland Clinic competes with other health care providers.
Romney goes on: “Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well, Cleveland Clinic, others. But the right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have. That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.”
Here’s why this is an embarrassing blunder: The best, most talented doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, the ones Mitt Romney thinks are so great, totally and completely disagree with this view of health care.
To them, your health is not a business. Health care providers don’t want to compete for your dollar. They want to help you stay well or get well.
Dr. Steven Nissen, the chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told Cleveland.com, "Driven by these perverse economic incentives, we are doing a lot of procedures to people that they don't need. When medicine became a business, we lost our moral compass." (emphasis mine)
One of the keys to the Cleveland Clinic’s success is that it pays providers a fixed salary so they don’t feel like they have to compete or add treatments to bump up their paychecks. Does Romney agree with that?
The Affordable Care Act creates networks to bring together healthcare providers. It’s similar to the Cleveland Clinic’s process of integrating care. Does Romney agree with that?
Maybe Romney didn’t know that the Cleveland Clinic plays a key role in a scathing new documentary debuting tonight called “Escape Fire”. In it, Dr. Andrew Weil and others explain why the health care system we all grew up with can’t continue to work and may actually be bad for our health, and even deadly. Here’s the trailer:
Mitt Romney praised the Cleveland Clinic, but doesn’t support its money-saving philosophies. It’s an empty compliment. It’s just name-dropping. And he should be embarrassed about petting an institution he’d take apart if he understood it better.
The consensus is that Barack Obama turned in lackluster performance during last night debate with Mitt Romney. But the president was back on stride today on the campaign trail with some zingers of his own.
First, Obama jumped on Romney's flip-flopping sales pitches on taxes, regulations, health care, education and Medicare, painting debate Romney an imposter.
"When I got on to the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney," Obama told supporters in Denver this morning. "But it couldn't have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year, promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that."
Then, Obama came up with the perfect word to describe Romney's "same top-down economic policies that got us into this mess."
"It's not change, it is a relapse," the president told supporters this afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin. "And we're not going to do it!"
Obama also made fun of Romney's threat to cut PBS to make a serious point.
"He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street! Thank goodness somebody's finally cracking down on Big Bird! Who knew he was responsible for all these deficits. Elmo's gotta watch out!"
All good lines, but will Obama change his strategy for the debate?
The president "made a choice last night to answer the questions that were asked … and not get into serial fact-checking with Governor Romney," said senior strategist David Axelrod. "We’re going to take a hard look at this and we’re going to have to make some judgments about where to draw the lines."
In a low-key and often wonkish presidential debate on Wednesday, Mitt Romney distanced himself from his own plans, but received only intermittent push-back from a subdued President Obama.
Obama started out strong at the Denver debate, nipping at Mitt Romney for the Republican's tax plan, which would reportedly cut $5 trillion in tax revenue and add $2 trillion in military spending. Obama insisted the move would pulverize middle-class families or balloon the deficit.
"How we pay for that, reduce the deficit and make the investments that we need to make without dumping those costs on to middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of the campaign," the president said.
Romney, however, insisted that he doesn't have a $5 trillion tax cut in his plan, and that he won't reduce the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans. On the stump, Romney has pushed to lower everyone's tax rates by 20%, an amount independent groups say will reduce federal revenue by $5 trillion over the next decade.
Obama charged that for the past year-and-half, his opponent has been running on such a tax plan and now his "big, bold idea is 'never mind.'"
On Medicare, Obama noted that although Romney's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system might not affect current seniors, it would affect those who'll soon be eligible for the program. "If you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen because this might affect you," he said.
Obama argued that Romney has yet to lay out concrete plans on taxes, healthcare and Wall Street reform. "And at some point I think the American people have to ask themselves is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they're too good?"
While there was no knockout moment, the tables seemed to turn in the GOPer's favor when Romney insisted the president's policies have stunted job growth and a second term in the White House for Obama would kill more jobs. He ripped Obama's plan to repeal tax cuts for small businesses and referenced Vice President Joe Biden's gaffe this week, saying "Under the president's policies, middle-income Americans have been buried."
Romney, appearing poised and confident, argued that health insurance costs have gone up, gas prices have doubled, costs of food have skyrocketed and the middle class has been crushed under Obama.
"You raised taxes and you killed jobs," Romney declared.
Throughout most of the evening, Romney was the clear aggressor, seizing control of the debate at several moments and interrupting moderator Jim Lehrer, while the president often seemed somewhat listless as he looked down at his podium.
Richard Wolffe, executive editor of MSNBC.com, said the cards fell in Romney's favor, but that in the end, Romney may not have achieved everything he needed to.
"I think the GOP is going to be delighted with Romney because it's all small bore. They want him to rough up the President and he did. Sadly for the GOP, he missed the real target: telling voters what he really stands for. Especially about jobs," Wolffe wrote on MSNBC.com.
Romney's big push comes as polls show him behind in several battleground states.
MSNBC's Thomas Roberts talks to Ed Schultz, host of MSNBC's The Ed Show, about President Barack Obama's debate performance and the concerns of many on the left about what comes next.
Here is a transcript of Ed's first reaction to tonight's debate, speaking to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow:
"I was disappointed in the president. The president - he had an opportunity tonight - he created a problem for himself on Social Security tonight, he agrees with Mitt Romney. Everybody liberal in this country knows that Mitt Romney wants to privatize Social Security down the road and to do a deal with the devil on that would be a wrong thing to do. I think the president created a big problem for him tonight - for himself. I don't think he explained himself very well on the economy. I thought he was off his game. I was absolutely stunned tonight. Rachel, you just mentioned about time -- the president needs to get in and fight for that time. There's people out there that expect him to fight for that time."
Later, Ed said this:
"I was in front of a crowd last night in Denver, Colorado, and I know that they're stunned, I can feel it. I mean, the president tonight was disappointing when he allowed Mitt Romney to talk about $716 billion in Medicare and the president did not come out and explain it and go after it."
"[Obama] was not properly prepared for this tonight. He was afraid to call out Romney because he didn't want to look angry. The fact is that he has faced obstruction - he was afraid to use that term tonight, he wouldn't go down that road. He was afraid to use the Ryan plan as a manifest of what these people want to do to this country. It was playing soft, I mean [Obama] was in prevent-defense big time."
Who won tonight's debate? Leave a comment and/or take our poll!
DENVER – Policy largely trumped “zingers” in the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as the two sparred on issues as varied as taxes and spending, entitlements, education and more.
Romney sought to cast himself as a capable and affable alternative to the sitting president and looked to establish himself as presidential in a major opportunity to reach voters in a side-by-side setting at the University of Denver. Hitting that mark was especially important for Republican presidential nominee, given the high expectations he had faced entering tonight’s forum, having trailed Obama in most polls before this event.
Michael Reynolds / AP
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver.
Obama, for his part, cast his Republican opponent as elusive in specifying just how he would cut taxes without adding to the national debt, or what form his own health care reforms would take.
But neither candidate seemed to achieve any breakout moment, and two additional debates throughout October could prove more pivotal to the election’s outcome.
Taxes and spending dominated the outset of the debate, as Obama and Romney battled largely over the details of Romney’s tax proposals, which call for an across-the-board, 20 percent reduction in each marginal tax rate. The Republican argues the cost of these would be offset by reducing deductions.
"My number one principle is there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit," Romney said.
Romney asserted his tax plan would spur job creation and help balance the budget, but the president insisted that these proposals simply do not add up.
"The fact is that if you are lowering the rates the way you described, governor, then it is not possible to come up with enough deductions and loopholes that only affect high-income individuals to avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class," Obama said. "It's math. It's arithmetic."
With a few exceptions, both candidates largely avoided the snappy, practiced lines that sometimes come to define debates. Their discussion at many times overrode the objections of moderator Jim Lehrer, and some of the topics for debate had to be shortened or cut altogether to accommodate for the candidates’ long-windedness.
In a time-honored debate tradition, both campaigns’ surrogates declared victory for their candidate of choice. But style for both Obama and Romney seemed as important of a factor as any specific answer.
Romney entered the debate needing to make up ground versus Obama, and the matchup this evening offered voters their first chance to make a direct comparison between the two of them. The Republican nominee also sought to soften his tone in many respects, a bow toward the net-negative personal approval rating he suffers in many polls.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters following the debate that the president’s long-windedness was “never going to be our strong suit,” and acknowledged that Romney had scored “style points.”
“This is a race to 270 electoral votes,” Messina said. “In states like Ohio and Virginia and Florida, Romney’s positions on tax cuts and Medicare are going to be real problems for him. And he doubled down on those all night.”
But Obama didn’t score a knockout punch against Romney, declining to employ the controversial video about the “47 percent” of Americans whose votes the GOP nominee had essentially dismissed. Obama declined to talk about Romney’s record at Bain Capital or the personal income tax rate paid by Romney – two major, effective lines of attack used by the Democratic campaign over the summer.
NBC's David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd provide analysis immediately following the first 2012 presidential debate between GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
Romney also parried many of the president’s attacks by largely embracing the essence of many of Obama’s own policies – from health care to education and regulation – while emphasizing the areas in which the two of them differed.
Romney said he supports repealing the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law, but replacing it with an alternative of his own. He has said that about immigration, and defused a briar patch involving his and Obama’s similar health care plans by seizing upon process.
“I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together,” said Romney. “What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.”
Toward the end of the debate, Obama struck back by questioning whether Romney’s own promises were too good to be true.
“At some point, I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Gov. Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they're too good?” Obama asked.
The immediate fallout of the debate will be most quickly reflected in media cycles on Thursday and into the weekend, though it might take days’ worth of polling to identify whether tonight’s debate moved the needle.
Obama and Romney will next meet Oct. 16 for the second of three debates. Before then, Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will debate next Thursday in Kentucky.
This tax credit is hugely important for people in Colorado. The wind industry in Colorado employs approximately 5,000 people and more than 30,000 people nationwide. If Mitt Romney had his way, all of those jobs would be eliminated to cater to his oil focused energy plan.
The wind energy tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year unless it is renewed by Congress and signed into law by the president. President Obama supports the credit.
Until recently, this tax credit wasn’t a political issue, in the past it has been supported by Democrats and Republicans and was actually signed by former President George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, science denier Mitt Romney’s energy plan is focused on one thing: oil. Romney’s energy plan opens up public lands to oil companies for drilling cuts funding for renewable energy. It’s quite a change of position since Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts.
Iowa kicked off the presidential election yesterday, becoming the first state where voters could cast their votes in person for the general election.
27 states and Washington, D.C., will have early in-person voting prior to Election Day. The campaigns estimate that two out of every five ballots will be filled out before November 6, Election Day.
And one presidential candidate is in much better position to take advantage of the new voting in this dynamic thing we call American democracy.
Here's a look at Mitt Romney's field offices in Iowa. The Romney camp has 12 outposts across the Hawkeye State:
Now take a look at President Obama's operation, his field operation in Iowa. The Obama campaign has 66 of these outpost offices, a 5.5-1 advantage over Romney:
These field offices are the lifeblood of presidential campaigns. This is where campaigns stage their “get out the vote” efforts and organize volunteers.
It's rather stunning for Mitt Romney to be so under-prepared to fight in the ground game in Iowa. He`s had the same problems as the primary candidate. Romney only started making frequent appearances in the state a week before the Iowa caucuses. By then, it was too late. And he lost a tight race.
Romney's campaign should have refocused their efforts, but instead, they find themselves in a huge disadvantage, as the first ballots were cast yesterday.
Here's the complete early in-person voting schedule:
Sept. 27 - Iowa & Wyoming
Oct. 1 - Nebraska
Oct. 2 - Ohio
Oct. 8 - California
Oct. 9 - Indiana
Oct. 11 - Arizona
Oct. 15 - Georgia
Oct. 17 - Kansas & Tennessee
Oct. 18 - North Carolina
Oct. 20 - Nevada & New Mexico
Oct. 22 - Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, North Dakota, Colorado, Washington dc, Texas, Wisconsin
When Mitt Romney talked to "60 Minutes" last week, he said President Obama has "repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for the truth." If there's ever been a more blatant example of political "projection," I can't think of it.
And yet, Romney is increasingly invested in this. This week, several reports noted that Romney intends to use next week's debate to "fact check" the president. The Obama campaign, unimpressed, released a video this morning on the subject.
Of course, if the 2012 presidential race comes down to which candidate is more dishonest, Romney's in trouble. Consider, for example, the 36th installment of my weekly series, chronicling Mitt's mendacity.
1. Romney argued just yesterday that the crisis of military suicides would be made worse by looming cuts to the defense budget.
5. Romney also said in reference to Obama, "He's put us on a road to Europe."
The irony is, Europe is trying to grow through austerity, just as Romney intends to do here. He's lying in a self-refuting sort of way.
6. In a speech at Westerville, Ohio, Romney boasted, "We got unemployment down [in Massachusetts] to 4.7 percent."
Well, in reality, the unemployment rate in Massachusetts dropped because so many people dropped out of the state's workforce. The fact of the matter is Massachusetts' job creation record during Romney's term was "one of the worst in the country," ranking 47th out of 50 states.
7. In the same speech, Romney argued, "Now we have a president who the other day says something quite revealing. He said he can't change Washington from the inside. Only from the outside."
8. Romney added, "Obamacare is point number one. It's the example number one, where he wants to put bureaucrats between you and your doctor."
There's nothing in the Affordable Care Act that does this. Maybe Romney is thinking of his pal, Virginia Gov. Bob "Ultrasound" McDonnell?
9. Romney also said, "He believes that government should have a board of people that tell you what kind of care you could receive."
Romney's trying to describe the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), but he's doing so in a way that's completely dishonest.
10. In a minute-long ad, Romney said, "My plan will create 12 million new jobs over the next four years."
Putting aside the pesky detail that Romney doesn't actually have a specific jobs plan, the fact remains that if we do nothing, we're on track to create 12 million new American jobs over the next four years anyway.
11. Romney told ABC News this week, "[M]ine is a campaign about 100% of the people, not 99 and 1, not any other percent."
I seem to recall watching a video in which Romney said it's not his "job" to "worry about" 47 percent of the population.
12. In an interview with CNN, Romney said, "[C]rippling sanctions [on Iran] ... These are the types of things that the president could have done, should have done from the very beginning, which he did not."
17. At a campaign event in Ohio, Romney said on Obama, "He's going to bring the deficit down. Of course, he didn't. He doubled it."
Maybe Romney doesn't know what "double" means. The deficit on Obama's first day was $1.3 trillion. Last year, it was also $1.3 trillion. This year, it's projected to be $1.1 trillion. When he says the president "more than doubled" the deficit, as he has many times, Romney's lying.
18. In the same speech, Romney added, "[D]o you know how much money he's spent in one year putting money into companies that he thought had a bright future, green companies? He spent $90 billion! $90 billion!"
The details matter: much of the $90 billion was appropriated by George W. Bush, not Obama. 19. Romney also argued, "This president persists on the road of making it harder and harder for small businesses to grow and thrive."
20. Romney went on to say, "This president has a plan for small business. He's got a plan for small business. He's going to raise their taxes!"
In reality, Obama has repeatedly cut taxes on small businesses -- by some counts, 18 times -- and if given a second term, his tax plan would have no effect on 97% of small businesses.
21. On a conference call with a group of Iowans, Romney argued, "Small business is getting crushed under the president's program ... by forcing people to join unions that don't want to. That's something known as card check."
Card check didn't pass. It wouldn't crush small businesses anyway, but a law can't have any effect if it doesn't exist.
22. In an interview with CBS, Romney defended himself against the flip-flop label. "The president has certainly changed his view on a whole host of things. He was going to close Guantanamo."
Obama's views on Guantanamo didn't change; Congress intervened to keep the detention facility open.
23. Romney added, in reference to voters looking for details, "Well, I can tell them specifically what my policy looks like. I will not raise taxes on middle income folks."
24. Asked about what spending he'd cut to balance the budget, Romney said, "The first big one is I'm not going to go forward with Obamacare. I will repeal Obamacare. It costs about $100 billion a year."
That's the exact opposite of the truth. The Affordable Care Act saves the country hundreds of billions of dollars. If Romney repeals it, the deficit goes up, not down.
25. Romney added, "I don't want any change to Medicare for current seniors or for those that are nearing retirement. So the plan stays exactly the same"
That's demonstrably wrong. Under Romney's policy, the cost of prescription drug prices and preventive care for seniors would go up immediately -- for current and future retirees.
26. Romney also said, "The president's cutting $716 billion from current Medicare. I disagree with that."
27. Romney argued, "I'm going to look at every federal program and I'll ask this question, 'Is this program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?'"
The implication here is that U.S. debt is financed by the Chinese, but this isn't true -- China only holds about 8% of the nation's debt.
28. Romney went on to say in reference to the president, "His challenge with blaming it on the Republican Congress is of course that for his first two years, right now the majority of his term, he had a Democrat Congress, a super majority in the Democrat Congress."
29. In his weekly podcast, Romney said, "As many of the original proponents of welfare reform have made clear, the Obama Administration's actions were not in keeping with the spirit or the letter of the law."
30. He added, "My five-point plan will deliver the economic recovery we've all been waiting for."
The five-point plan is a sham, and to pretend otherwise is dishonest.
31. At an event in Las Vegas, Romney said of Obama, "This redistribution idea, this redistribution idea has been tried in other places. This is not a new idea. It's just never worked in other places. And it's certainly not going to work here."
32. In the same speech, Romney argued, "I don't want to have a government getting bigger and bigger, more intrusive, telling us what kind of health insurance we have to have."
As Romney surely knows -- his state-based policy works the same way -- the whole point of the Affordable Care Act is to provide consumers with choices of private plans, made available through regulated exchanges. Giving people choices and telling people "what kind of health insurance we have to have" are opposites.
33. At an event in Florida, Romney said, "We can't keep spending a trillion dollars more than we take in every year or we will be Greece at some point."
34. In the same speech, Romney promised, "I'll get America on track to have a balanced budget."
No, he won't. Romney says his plan "can't be scored," but independent budget analysts have found his agenda would make the deficit bigger, not smaller, and add trillions to the national debt.
35. Romney added, "I think a lot of us were really surprised when the President in Roanoke, Virginia a few weeks ago, he stood up and said, 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Someone else did that.'"
37. Romney also argued, "One more thing this president has proposed, and that is the combination of the sequential idea come from the White House which is cutting our military by hundreds of billions of dollars in its own budget, which cutting our military by hundreds of billions of dollars, he would have cut a trillion dollars by this decade."
That's two falsehoods in one. First, the sequester would cut about $500 billion from the military budget, not $1 trillion. Second, Romney's not only lying, he's also condemning defense cuts crafted by his own party and endorsed by his own running mate.
The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks to NBC's Michael Isikoff about Florida voting fraud and what's being done about it now
Updated: 8:46p.m. ET: Election officials in six Florida counties are investigating what appears to be "hundreds” of cases of suspected voter fraud by a GOP consulting firm that has been paid nearly $3 million by the Republican National Committee to register Republican voters in five key battleground states, state officials tell NBC.
But the veteran GOP consultant, Nathan Sproul, who runs the firm, strongly defended his company's conduct, saying it has rigorous "quality controls" and blamed the alleged fraud on the actions of a few "bad apples," workers who were hired to register Republican voters for $12 an hour and then tried to "cheat the system."
The allegations of suspected voter fraud committed by Strategic Allied Consulting of Tempe, Arizona spread Thursday to counties throughout Florida. At the same time, the Republican National Committee said it had severed its ties to the firm altogether.
"We have heard from supervisors in six counties that they have irregularities in voter registration," said Chris Cate, spokesman for the Florida Department of State, which oversees the state's division of elections. Although local prosecutors are already investigating the firm's conduct, Cate said state officials were also considering turning the matter over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to determine if there was a pattern of misconduct.
The suspected fraud included apparent cases of dead people being registered as Republican voters, said Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in Okaloosa County and a Republican. He compared the suspected fraud to the alleged acts of ACORN, the liberal activist group that became the center of a national controversy several years ago.
"It's kind of ironic that the dead people they accused Acorn of registering are now being done by the RPOF" [Republican Party of Florida], Lux said in an interview with NBC News.
While Republican groups as a whole are still outspending Democratic groups, the gap is narrowing, in part to the individual donors finally stepping up on the Democrats' behalf. NBC News' Michael Isikoff discusses.
In addition to Palm Beach County, where election officials initially reported 106 instances of suspected fraudulent registration forms, officials in Okaloosa, Pasco, Santa Rosa, Lee and Clay counties have also reported instances of possible fraudulent forms submitted by the firm, officials said.
In a statement on Strategic Allied's website, the firm's lawyer said:
"Strategic has a zero tolerance policy for breaking the law. Accordingly, once we learned of the irregularities in Palm Beach County, we were able to trace all questionable cards to one individual and immediately terminated our working relationship with the individual in question. Strategic is committed to following the letter of the law and will continue to cooperate with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections to ensure that this issue is resolved."
Sproul said in a telephone interview that his company has employed between 4,000 and 5,000 people to register Republican voters under its contract with the RNC, including over 2,000 in Florida. The employees are given training on how to register voters, including being required to watch a video instructing them not to register felons. The video also instructs recruiters not to "modify or falsify voter registration forms."
"No matter what quality controls you have there are always going to be bad actors in any large scale operation," Sproul said.
Sproul, who has long worked for the GOP, also criticized Florida and national Republican officials for dumping him.
"They're trying to get the distraction behind them," he said about the RNC's action.
Sean Spicer, communications director for the RNC, said Strategic Allied Consulting had been retained by the RNC and state Republican parties to register new Republican voters in five key battleground states.
But Spicer said that the party's relationship with the firm-- which has been paid $2.9 million by the RNC so far this year, according to federal elections records -- has now been terminated in light of alleged voter fraud linked to one of the firm's employees that was reported this week to Florida prosecutors by election officials in Palm Beach County.
"We've made it clear we're not doing business with these guys anymore," said Spicer. "We've come out pretty strong against this kind of stuff -- and we have zero tolerance for this."
Strategic Allied’s parent firm, Lincoln Strategy Group, also headed by Sproul, has been paid about $80,000 by the Romney campaign to conduct "field consulting," according to election records. Asked for comment, Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, said by email: "We used this vendor for signature gathering services during the primary but have not used them since 2011."
Besides Florida, Strategic Allied Consulting was hired to register GOP voters in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia. Spicer said it was the only firm hired by the RNC to conduct voter registration. In the case of Nevada, he said, the RNC was paying the firm directly. In the other four states, the firm was being paid by state parties with the funds reimbursed by the RNC.
The allegations involving voter fraud by the GOP consulting firm are a new twist in the national controversy over the threat posed by voter fraud and the impact of new state laws passed by Republican controlled legislatures to combat it. While Republican officials have repeatedly accused Democratic groups such as ACORN of fraudulently registering voters in the past, the new dispute over what happened in Palm Beach-- involving the registration of Republican voters -- appears to be one of the first to have led to a criminal inquiry in this year's election.
Christine Weiss, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office, told NBC News Thursday that the alleged voter fraud by a Strategic Allied Consulting employee is "currently being investigated" by prosecutors in her office after it was brought to the attention of prosecutors on Monday by Palm Beach election supervisor Susan Bucher.
Out of 304 Republican voter registration forms recently dropped off by a Strategic Allied employee at a small "satellite office" of the Palm Beach elections office, 106 were flagged as potentially fraudulent-- including "a lot" with "similar looking" signatures and others with apparently phony addresses, Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach elections supervisor, said in an interview.
Among the suspect home addresses were those that matched a gas station in Miami, a medical building in Boca Raton and a Land Rover automotive dealership in Palm Beach County, she told NBC News.
Bucher said she called in the political director for the Palm Beach Republican Party and the GOP official agreed that the registration forms were a problem. She then took the forms to the Palm Beach County State's Attorney's office on Monday and requested the investigation.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Mike Grissom, executive director of the Florida Republican Party, said: "When we learned today about the instances of potential voter registration fraud that occurred in Palm Beach County, we immediately informed the Republican National Committee that we were terminating the contract with the voter registration vendor we hired at their request because there is no place for voter registration fraud in Florida."
Sproul has been previously accused of suppressing Democratic voter turnout, throwing away registration forms, and manipulating ballot initiatives. His firms -- formerly Sproul & Associates, Lincoln Strategy, and Strategic Allied Consultants -- had previously worked for RNC voter registration efforts during the campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain. In 2004, Democratic Senators Leahy and Kennedy sent a letter to then Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting that he "launch an immediate investigation into the activities of Mr. Sproul and his firm." But the request did not lead to any criminal charges against Sproul.
President Obama is leading Mitt Romney in every credible national public opinion poll. But the right must concoct a conspiracy (that the polls oversample Democrats) because it couldn't possibly be the following:
Mitt Romney ran as Mr. Fix It, not understanding that his form of vulture capitalism in which he outsourced and invested in companies in China, closed bankrupt factories while he made millions and sheltered the money in overseas banks.
It couldn't be that he ran one of the worst conventions that seemed to focus on everyone but him, offered no vision for the future, and tried to paper over their real positions on issues large and small.
It couldn't be that he attempted to use a foreign policy crisis to try and score political points, while at the same time indicting President Obama as a terrorist sympathizer, and then when it was pointed out that he conflated two different countries in a calculated way, rather than back off, he doubled down.
It couldn't be that in the first real setting where we finally see Mitt Romney comfortable, he trashed 47 percent of the country. Sure, he claims it was political analysis, but nobody is buying it. Kinda hard to run from, because not many political analysts characterize the middle class and poor this way:
"All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
"And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
He's admitted Obama hasn't raised taxes, you won't get much from him if you are in the middle class, you aren't allowed to see his taxes, you aren't allowed to see his tax plan, you aren't allowed to see what government programs he'll cut.
All this in just the last few weeks, from a guy who's been running for the presidency for six years and still can't seem to figure out why.
If I were in charge of defending that, I'd make up some conspiracy about polling too!!!!
Rich Stockwell is the Executive Producer of The Ed Show. You can follow him on Twitter at @richstockwell, although he's never tweeted anything, so don't hold your breath!
George W. Bush is actually going to speak at an "investment" summit in the Cayman Islands only 5 days until the Presidential Election. This could mean bad news for Mitt Romney Come November 6th. MSNBC's Jonathan Alter weighs in on if Bush actually knows what he's doing to Romney.
What's the worst thing George "Dubya" Bush could do for fellow Republican Mitt Romney between now and Election Day? The former president may have found the answer.
As you'll recall, Bush presided over the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, was the firstformer president since Richard Nixon to skip his party's first political convention after leaving office. And unlike Democrat Bill Clinton, he won't be actively campaigning for his party's presidential nominee during this year's campaign.
Why did Bush accept an invitation that obviously stabs Romney in the back? Maybe he's read the latest polls.