• With: Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger, James Freeman, Bret Stephens, Mary Kissel, Collin Levy, David Feith

    AYERS: And yet, everybody's declared the campaign over.

    GIGOT: OK, but explain something to, I think, viewers who are looking at the -- these media polls, many media polls that come out, the Pew poll, the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, and they show Romney behind, four, five, sometimes seven percentage points, whereas, the Gallup poll is now essentially tied. How do you explain that contradiction? The Gallup poll is one that's been doing this for decades and tracks daily, on a daily basis.

    AYERS: A lot of the difference in these polls, Paul, is in the Democrat-versus-Republican balance in the sample. In 2008, according to exit polls, there were seven points more Democrats in the electorate than Republicans. But in 2010, there was no difference. In 2004, there was no difference. So a lot of the difference in these polls depends upon what you assume the electorate will look like. Many of the polls, with the biggest leads for Obama, are counting on the 2008, plus seven Democratic ballots.

    GIGOT: Which is a big gap.

    AYERS: I don't think that's going to happen. That's a big gap. I don't think it's going to happen. It's never happened before in the last 14 years.

    GIGOT: So do you follow Gallup or do you think that the average of the poll, like the RealClearPolitics averages are right? Which is the best number to look at for people who really care about this on a daily basis?

    AYERS: I think the best number to look at is the average of credible,

    professionally done polls and you've mentioned several right now. But if

    you take a look at the average of the polls and even out some of the sampling differences, and I think it's fair to say right now, President Obama is ahead by somewhere around three percentage points.

    GIGOT: Three percentage points. The other thing happening, if you look at the data, is the president's approval rating has been creeping up. It's now, in some polls, 49, 50 percent, not too far, pretty close to where it was with George W. Bush in 2004 when he later won reelection in November when he was creeping town 49, 50, in September. Is that a very important number to watch?

    AYERS: Yes, it is. President Obama is right on the cusp. He's well below the job approval ratings of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan when they were reelected, but well above the approval ratings of Bush 41 and Jimmy Carter when they lost. So he's right on the cusp.

    Another good number to look at is how satisfied people are in this country. According to Gallup, 68 percent are dissatisfied.

    GIGOT: Right.

    AYERS: That's down from 77 percent.


    But we've gone from absolutely terrible, to just really, really bad. That is not something the president can count on.

    GIGOT: I assume that gives an opening for Mitt Romney to be able to make up that 3-point average gap. What are the other bright spots in the data for Romney, saying, OK, how can I make up this lead?

    AYERS: Bright spot are that people are still focused almost exclusively on the economy and who can get this economy going. We've seen how, in the Middle East, our attention can be diverted temporarily, but people out there in real America are totally focused on who can get this economy going. They're scared. They're open to Mitt Romney. He hasn't yet made the sale.

    GIGOT: And in making the sale, does that mean being specific about his economic plan? Because I've had this view that people are looking for somebody who, not just going to make general promises or criticize the current president, but say, look, here is how I'm going to improve our lives, and improve the economy. Does he have to do that with some specificity?

    AYERS: He has to paint a compelling vision and be very persuasive that he knows how to fix it. I don't know that he needs 57 specific points.


    GIGOT: How about three?

    AYERS: But I do --


    I do think he needs three or four or five, but he needs to put some meat on the bones and paint a compelling, comprehensive vision for how he knows how to fix this problem because Barack Obama clearly has not fixed it.

    GIGOT: Whit Ayers, thanks so much for being here and telling us where the race really stands.

    AYERS: So good to be with you, Paul.

    GIGOT: Still ahead, Mitt Romney took some heat a few weeks back for claiming that the Obama administration was gutting Bill Clinton's landmark welfare reform law. But what if it's worse than he said? Inside the Obama work waiver, next.



    FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: When some Republican governors asked if they could have wavers to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration listened, and the administration agreed to give wavers to those governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent. And they could keep the wavers only if they did increase employment. Now, did I make myself clear? The requirement was for more work, not less.


    GIGOT: That was former President Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, defending President Obama's efforts to rewrite his 1996 welfare reform legislation. The House voted this week to block the administration's changes to that landmark law, changes Mitt Romney says will gut welfare-to-work requirements.

    We're back with Dan Henninger, James Freeman and Kim Strassel.

    So, Dan, President Clinton says that was all about expanding work. Is that true?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: No, it's not true. The actual -- you know, progressives, the left have been upset about welfare reform since Bill Clinton passed it. Well, I was going to say it's a little shameless for the president, but Clinton --

    GIGOT: That's what he does.

    HENNINGER: That's what he does. It's all about the -- I mean, it's very kind of bureaucratic, but it's about the definition of what the work requirement is. And they are proposing to expand it in such a way that it virtually has no meaning.

    As for that 20 percent increase in employment, this is the sort of thing that the bureaucracies themselves self-define. And the problem -- the biggest problem here, Paul, is that the good thing about Clinton's welfare reform is it prevented the states or anyone, or HHS from gaming the system like this --

    GIGOT: Right.