Barack Obama photo

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney

November 04, 2012

Aboard Air Force One
En Route New Hampshire

9:12 A.M. EST

MR. CARNEY: Well, thank you for joining us on what promises to be a fantastic day traveling around the country. As you know, we are joined aboard Air Force One this morning by President Clinton. As we speak, Presidents Obama and Clinton, as well as Chief of Staff Jack Lew, David Axelrod, David Plouffe and a few others are engaged in conversation towards the front of the plane.

Q: On what, Jay?

MR. CARNEY: On a variety of matters.

As you know, the President has been regularly engaged with his team on recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As you know about all of his meetings and conversations yesterday, the President will continue to receive updates today. Later today, he'll receive a full briefing from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security John Brennan, and Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco.

Today, administration officials will continue to travel to storm-damaged communities in New York and New Jersey to hear from state and local officials and see firsthand the damage and recovery efforts underway.

Secretary Napolitano will travel to Monmouth County, New Jersey to visit food and water distribution centers, and visit a local shelter with the Lieutenant Governor. In the afternoon, the Secretary and Governor Christie will survey the progress of the response and recovery effort in Hoboken, New Jersey. Secretary Donovan will also travel to the New York area, and we'll announce more information as it becomes available.

With that, I turn it over to Jen.

Q: When is that briefing?

MR. CARNEY: I'll get back to you on the timing of the briefing.

MS. PSAKI: Good morning. As I have been doing, I'm just going to tick through a few highlights of the states we'll be visiting today. So we are starting the day, as you all know, in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, last month, the number of registered Democrats in the state increased while the number of registered Republicans actually fell.

Then we'll be moving on to sunny Florida. Forty-four percent of Florida votes have already been cast, and the President leads by seven points among early votes, according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. This means Romney would need to win the remaining voters by six points in order to tie up the race. Democrats have at least -- have a 105,000 lead over Republicans in early votes cast.

Then we end the day, well before our final flight, in Ohio, as we like to visit the state on a daily basis these days -- 28 percent of Ohio votes have already been cast. And according to public polling, the President leads 63-35 among those who've already voted. This means Mitt Romney would need to win the remaining voters by 11 points in order to tie the race on Election Day.

With that --

Q: Don't we end the day in Colorado?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Oh, my goodness. (Laughter.) I forgot about an event. We end up in Wisconsin. My apologies, we do have another -- don't tell Dave Matthews I forgot about him. Okay, nearly two-thirds of Colorado votes, 64 percent have already been cast, and the President leads by three points among those who have already voted. In order to tie up the race, Mitt Romney needs to win by five points among the remaining voters.

And just so you know, I circled Colorado, knowing we're going there. I need a third cup of coffee this morning. (Laughter.)

And just to add to what Jay said, last night, as you know, President Clinton was with the President at the event. They had the opportunity to casually chat backstage before and after the event, and I think they both really enjoyed spending that time together and also working the rope line together. I think today will be a great day.

Q: Can you talk at all about his mood, particularly as we kind of tick through like his final rallies in some of these states? Last night was the last in Virginia; I think Colorado and New Hampshire and probably somewhere else today are like his last stops there.

MS. PASKI: I think the President, even in the working on -- even in the process of working on his closing argument speech, it allowed him to kind of go back to the themes and what his focus has been on throughout his public career, and that's fighting for the middle class, making sure people have a voice. And I think that's one of the reasons people have seen him deliver that so passionately over the past couple of days, because it kind of reminds him of all the years he spent in public life.

There is a recognition among the President, among the staff who have been closely working for him, that we're a family -- this is a family, and there are a lot of laughs, and a lot of nostalgia to all the ups and downs, the incredible roller coaster that this journey has been from the day he announced he was running February 10th, 2007, to two days before an election that will hopefully send him back for another four years.

And so there's a lot of storytelling about remember that time, and remember when we were in this state. And I think the President recognizes that these may be the last kind of -- these will be the last reelection rallies, reelection events, times working the rope line for his own campaign that he'll ever do. And I think he's really taking in the moments and taking in the times he has backstage with the introducers, and the conversations he has along the rope line, and really helping that bolster him through the final days.

MR. CARNEY: If I could just add on that. I think you just sense what Jen is saying by the energy that he has at the end of very long days. I'll never forget at the end of the 48-hour day, or the two-day, no-hotel swing, when he got back on the plane and the rest of us were in pretty desperate shape, and he got back, like clapped his hands and talked about wanting to do another event and to go out again right away. So he's bringing to this a considerable amount of energy and passion, which is helping lift the rest of us up as we press towards the finish line.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about the dynamic between President Obama and President Clinton? And do you have an updated count now on how many appearances he will have made by the end for President Obama? Also, just -- things were not that great between them four years ago; obviously, they have a really different dynamic now. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, before the event last night, President Clinton had done 26 events. I have a list, which I'm happy to send you. I just don't want to butcher the number. President Clinton has been a tireless -- and by tireless, I mean he's also losing his voice; you could tell last night, I'm sure you'll be able to tell this morning -- advocate on behalf of the President.

And it was a hard-fought campaign four years ago. I think they have a unique bond that you only have when you have served in the Oval Office and you've had the pressures you have as President, and you're dealing with the tough decisions you have to make as President. And I think President Obama has really enjoyed kind of the growth in their friendship and the growth in their relationship. And they have a really easy rapport with each other. I think they talk about a range of topics from serious to their families to campaigns, and that's been a really enjoyable part of the last couple of weeks.

Did I answer all your questions, or what didn't I touch on there?

Q: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

MR. CARNEY: And they've been -- it's not just when they have been appearing together, or when you saw them at the convention. They've been speaking on the phone with some regularity. And I would echo what Jen says, that the relationship has grown, from our view and from the view of President Obama, quite strong. And President Obama appreciates greatly President Clinton's help in this campaign, and President Clinton's capacity to articulate an argument about the kind of future we need to build, especially when it comes to economic policy.

It is a very stark reminder when you assess the economy under the Clinton years versus the economy that President Obama inherited eight years later. And just as a matter of policy, President Obama notes and President Clinton notes and others note that policies being espoused as an alternative direction for this country are carbon copies of the policies that helped precipitate the worst economic and financial crisis in our lifetimes.

Q: Jen, can you talk a little bit about the polls? Ohio remains really tight -- perhaps it's tightening even more. What are your internals showing? And how are you feeling in general about the numbers?

MS. PSAKI: Well, on my second to last day with you, I'm not going to share internal polls, I'm sure to your shock. (Laughter.)

Look, I think we've always known this race would be close. It will be close. But we are leading or tied in every single swing state. That's been consistent. In a state like Ohio, this is a place where the Romney team has spent the last few weeks essentially putting up tents and moving into the state, having both their presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee in the state, and they have been unable to move the margin. They wouldn't have run the ad -- the false ad we've talked a bit about over the last few days -- if they felt they were winning in that state, or that the margin was close.

We feel very confident about Ohio. We feel good about where we've set ourselves up with early vote. We feel great about our ground game. And we feel great about how we're closing this race, and confident that that's going to be in a Democratic column on Tuesday.

But we're out here fighting for every vote, because we know we have the votes to win, but we know we need to get the people out to win. And so that's what the next couple of days is about. That's why the President is making so many stops. That's why he'll see so many people between now and when the polls close on Tuesday.

Q: Are you aware of these reports that have been out there? I guess James Robbins had this report about General Ham. He was a former assistant to Rumsfeld. And this General Ham sort of being forced to resign, and whether he was told to stand down on the response to Benghazi.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the Defense Department has responded in great detail to some of these stories. I think you've named a couple of them, so I'll just refer you to the Pentagon for that.

Q: Twenty years ago, Barack Obama was running a voter registration drive for candidate Bill Clinton. Is there sort of a through-line there in terms of tactically how he's run this campaign?

MS. PSAKI: I think -- in the final days, I think the President has reflected quite a bit on his roots as a community organizer, as somebody who was engaged -- running a voter registration drive and having those kind of individual one-on-one interactions with people. And certainly, that's been a part of his reflection. And you can hear in his remarks that he's been giving the last few days and will be until Tuesday that he is harkening back to the same themes that he's been talking about since he first started running for public office.

I think it is incredible for President Obama to be here, as many ups and downs there have been in this journey -- both this election, both last election, two days away from winning reelection; President Clinton on the plane, a tireless advocate. And I think we'd far rather be us than them, with all those pieces factoring in.

END 9:26 A.M. EST

Barack Obama, Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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