All-Star Panel: Will 'closing statements' on the campaign trail matter?

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In this campaign, I've laid out a plan for jobs and middle class security. And unlike Mitt Romney, I'm actually proud to talk about what's in it. Because my plan actually will move America forward.

MITT ROMNEY, R – PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: His is a status quo candidacy. His is a message of going forward with the same policies of the last four years. And that's why his campaign is slipping and that's why ours is gaining so much steam.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the Obama campaign putting out a glossy brochure today.  It is a new portfolio, if you will. But I'm not sure if many analysts looking at it would say it's a new plan.

We're back with the panel.

A.B., a lot of the things in there we've heard before. They're perhaps packaged differently but we've heard them before.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: This is a reaction to panics – panic within in the Democratic ranks in the last few weeks that he had blown the debates, was slipping in the polls and that the criticism from Romney and Ryan that he didn't have a plan was really -- you know, was resonating and was a legitimate one. And it was going to cost the president. And he was really under pressure to come up with this plan that he holds up now as if it's been -- you know, a plan for six months that they've been handing out at events.

The next two weeks are not about the plan. They're about the ground operation. And the intensity on the Republican side is so much greater than the enthusiasm on the Democratic side that President Obama really gets to prove now that his ground game that he's been talking about for a year- and-a-half, that's so spectacular is truly second to none because if it's not he's going to lose.

It is really a question of finding those voters who are soft supporters. They're disappointed. But they don't want to support Romney but they're happy to stay home and getting them to the polls and without them I don't think he makes it.

BAIER: Steve, for all of the criticism about Mitt Romney not having specifics, and Paul Ryan not having specifics, if you look through this pamphlet, there is a question about specifics. About the president's plan.  And on entitlement reform, on a lot of different topics.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, the difference isn't which candidate has specifics. The difference is who the media basically pester until they provide specifics. The president has never offered specifics on entitlement reform, Medicare reform, the driver of our debt. Any of those things. And he sort of gets away with it, he gets a pass.

I think the more important -- I mean we've seen the president, we've seen the Obama campaign, we've seen the Obama administration do this before. They think that it's a communication problem, not a substance problem. So they repackage it and they present it in different ways and they give you a glossy.

That's not the problem here. I think the problem here is the substance. The problem here is the record. And one of the most important lines I think we've heard in the past couple of weeks was the one you played for Romney, where he is now making the argument, I expect him to continue to do this for the next two weeks, that Barack Obama is the status quo candidate. That Mitt Romney is the candidate of change. He's the candidate of reform.

What the president is doing is what's not been working. And I think that's going to be a pretty effective argument, especially if he labels it exactly that way.

BAIER: Charles, it seems the president has come up with this new slogan that Mitt Romney has this affliction, "Romnesia," and a severe outbreak last night. Stage three "Romnesia." He gets a lot of laughs on the stump.

What about the closing argument for the president in the last two weeks and what you expect to see from him?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: When your closing argument is holding up a glossy with - - where there's nothing in it and saying, "I have a plan, read it," you've got nothing. The fact is, they tried their ideology in the first term, they went with the stimulus, they went with ObamaCare, they went with regulation. They went with everything. And they got an economy that's the worst recovery since the second World War and it is slowing.

So what can they offer? He's not going to -- he could have done a Clinton and gone back to the center as he did in '96 and sort of triangulate it and propose a lot of centrist stuff, that's not Obama.  It's not who he is. And he doesn't have an agenda. Everybody knows it. And he's run on kill Romney. And that worked because he had all the money and there were no answers to all those ads until the first debate. And he's run out of ideas. That's his problem right now.

BAIER: All right. So what is the hope for Democrats if they're going to close to win? What is their closing hope?

STODDARD: I don't know what his closing argument is going to be. I think that they're going to -- they only turn out as a result of fear. If they really fear that Mitt Romney is surging, there is probably a better chance to get them into the car. That they're going to actually lose and if not, then I don't think enough of them turn out for him and I think he has a real problem closing the gap.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. By the way, we're going to be in Ohio all next week. Bill Hemmer will be there. And we have a number of stories. That's ground zero. But stay tuned to see two specific groups the campaigns are really trying to sway.

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