GOP Candidates Take Stands On Shaky Markets

Financial turmoil in Europe and weak economic data in the U.S. were the backdrop for a week of high-profile politicking by several major candidates for president in 2012. NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving joins guest host Jacki Lyden to recap the week in politics.

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JACKI LYDEN, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden, in for Scott Simon. Financial turmoil in Europe and weak economic data in the U.S. were the backdrop for a week of high-profile politicking by several major candidates for president in 2012. One of them was President Barack Obama, who took a bus tour of three Midwestern states talking about jobs and recovery.

But most of the media attention went to Republican rivals trying to one-up each other in pursuit of their party's nomination. Joining us now to talk about the week is NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Jacki.

LYDEN: Nice to have you here. So the president got back in campaign mode in his brand new secret service bus, all black, and went to Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. How'd he do?

ELVING: The events were pretty decent. He interacted well on the ground with most of the people who came to see him, but there was not a lot of news on this trip. The big story was promise that he made to make a speech next month about jobs. Now, that may be news when it happens, and surely the jobs would be news, and meanwhile polls came out showing him below 40 percent approval in the Gallup Poll for the first time in his presidency. And with just 26 percent approving his handling of the economy.

LYDEN: Well, when you think about the president standing on a stage almost anywhere, Illinois, Minnesota, with news like that for the incumbent at that stage of the re-election cycle, how bad is that?

ELVING: It's a real danger zone that he's entered. But it's not insuperable yet. Presidents have come back from further down and he still does pretty well head-to-head against the known field of Republican challengers.

LYDEN: As you know, incumbents hate it when they have to run on the economy if it's in bad shape and try to turn it around. And what are his plans?

ELVING: The big job is to create jobs, or at least to create a mood of greater confidence.

LYDEN: Well, speaking of focus, turning to the Republicans, the new shape of the field that is taking on with Texas Governor Rick Perry. It seems like he's been in it longer than week already, but it is just about a week.

ELVING: Yeah. He shot to the front of the pack in the first Rasmussen Poll after he got in the race last weekend, but then he immediately began making one controversial remark after another, talking about treason as a word to describe the Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, and what if he were to liberalize monetary policy or free up a little bit more money. Obviously, Governor Perry took a very dim view of that.

He also had remarks about creationism as opposed to evolution, and he said that as far as he was concerned, global warming was just some scientists manipulating numbers.

LYDEN: But he could come back from that. George W. Bush is certainly remembered for gaffes when he started out.

ELVING: I'm not sure he has much to come back from with respect to that portion of the Republican party that he's trying hardest to appeal to right now. He's trying to compete for those votes of people who might be associated with or described as the Tea Party. He's trying to compete with Michele Bachmann for that hard-core base of the Republican Party. So for the moment, and of course these kinds of remarks will fade with time, for the moment they're probably not a big detriment to his campaign.

LYDEN: So Ron, as you know, the big issue facing Congress when it comes back this fall will be the 12-member supercommittee that's supposed to come up with at least a trillion dollars in deficit cuts. Now, there's six people from each party, and a new Gallup poll says that six in ten Americans really want the supercommittee to compromise, even if it means that they come up with a deal that they're not personally so wild about. Is that perhaps a bit of good news for the supercommittee?

ELVING: It could be. The Gallup Poll seems to say 60 percent of Americans know what a compromise means and are willing to pay the price. But talking to a pollster and voting are two different things, and it's possible that people want to say they'll compromise because it's the socially acceptable better thing to say. Then later on when the deal gets done and their ox gets gored, they're going to ask, what happened to the guy we hired to watch out for our ox, and in this case that guy is their congressman.

LYDEN: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for coming in.

ELVING: Thank you, Jacki.

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