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How close is Mitt Romney to becoming toast?
February 21st, 2012
04:00 PM ET

How close is Mitt Romney to becoming toast?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There's growing concern among Republicans that Mitt Romney can't deliver. If he loses his home state of Michigan next week, expect those whispers to become shouts.

Rick Santorum has opened a 10-percentage point lead over Romney in one national poll - his largest lead ever. Gallup's latest daily tracking poll shows Santorum leading Romney 36% to 26%. Santorum is also leading in Michigan, where Romney's father was governor, and in the key swing state of Ohio.

And all the money in the world doesn't seem to matter. The Romney campaign spent nearly $19 million last month. The super PAC supporting him spent another $14 million, and he's still fighting off the likes of Rick Santorum. What's more, Romney spent nearly three times what he brought in last month.

One of the few things still working in Romney's favor is electability. A USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Americans think Romney is nearly twice as likely as Santorum to beat President Obama.

Meanwhile, some senior Republicans are so nervous about the state of the race that they are circulating a so-called Plan B: a scenario where another candidate - who's not even in the race yet - wins the nomination and faces off against Obama.

Some of the names out there include the usual suspects: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

While none of them seems all that interested, there's always Sarah Palin. The half-term dropout governor of Alaska says that if there were a brokered convention, she'd "do whatever I could to help." That prospect should help Republicans sleep well at night.

Here’s my question to you: How close is Mitt Romney to becoming toast?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Mitt Romney
Why are President Obama's poll numbers rising despite high pessimism over the country's state of affairs?
February 16th, 2012
03:03 PM ET

Why are President Obama's poll numbers rising despite high pessimism over the country's state of affairs?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama appears to be enjoying a bit of a perfect storm consisting of small pieces of good news.

It's reflected in his poll numbers, with a 50% approval rating for the first time in more than eight months.

The new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation Poll also shows Independents - who could decide the election - now have a net-positive view of Mr. Obama.

The president's job approval is up despite 6 in 10 saying things are going poorly in the U.S.

The same poll shows President Obama leading all of the Republican presidential candidates in hypothetical match-ups.

And it finds the GOP's advantage on voter enthusiasm has been erased.

Part of the political equation that appears to be working in Mr. Obama's favor is the toll that the stubbornness of Republicans in the House of Representatives has taken on the public's patience. By saying no to virtually everything, nothing got done.

It's taken a while for them to figure it out, but this week Republicans suddenly agreed to extending the payroll tax cut without asking for corresponding spending cuts.

Of course it's fiscally irresponsible. Just more deficit spending. But when it's election time politicians have even fewer principles than they do the rest of the year.

And maybe somebody told the Republicans that if they don't at least look like they want to be part of the solution - a lot of them are likely to be looking for work come November.

Also working in the president's favor: Glimmers of economic hope.

Jobless claims fell to 348,000 last week - the lowest since 2008..

And the 8.3% national unemployment rate is the lowest in three years.

Here’s my question to you: Why are President Obama's poll numbers rising despite high pessimism over the country's state of affairs?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

Do you think Social Security will be there for you when you retire?
February 16th, 2012
01:43 PM ET

Do you think Social Security will be there for you when you retire?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If you're planning to rely on Social Security in retirement, you may want to think again.

The Social Security Administration has already warned that the trust fund will likely run out of money in 2036. That's only 24 years away.

But now there's reason to believe it could run out of money even sooner.

The Congressional Budget Office says by 2020, the combined Social Security old age and disability trust funds will be $800 billion smaller than what the Social Security Administration projected last year.

AOL's Daily Finance suggests when the next SSA Trustees Report comes out, its own projections will probably be revised downward too.

In fact, that's been the trend over the past five years, with Social Security moving up its estimated "run-dry" date from 2041 to 2036.

When the trust fund runs out of money, it's expected benefits will fall by about 25%.

So if you still have time to put away additional money for your own retirement - not an easy thing to do in this economy - you should save up.

More than 54 million Americans collect Social Security for retirement, disability or survivor benefits. The average check for a retiree is about $1,200 per month.

Meanwhile Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the White House and congressional Republicans discussed ways to shore up Social Security last year as part of the debt ceiling talks.

But, big surprise - they couldn't reach a deal.

Lawmakers would either need to cut benefits, raise taxes, or a combination of the two. Won't happen - at least not now.

Here’s my question to you: Do you think Social Security will be there for you when you retire?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: Social Security
Where is the U.S. headed if Pres. Obama is adding an estimated $5 trillion to the national debt in his first term?
February 15th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Where is the U.S. headed if Pres. Obama is adding an estimated $5 trillion to the national debt in his first term?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama has broken a promise to the American people to cut the deficit in half.

His latest budget forecasts a $901 billion budget deficit for 2013.

If you add in the $1 trillion-plus deficits he has run for his first three years in office, along with an estimated $200 billion in economic stimulus, that's about $5 trillion in the red in his first term.

George W. Bush set the previous record of $3.4 trillion of deficits in eight years. President Obama is on track to add $5 trillion in deficits in just four years. This is part of the reason why our national debt is now a whopping $15 trillion.

The Weekly Standard crunches the numbers to find that deficit spending just under President Obama equals more than $17,000 per person or about $70,000 for a family of four.

In February 2009, shortly after President Obama took office, he pledged to cut the $1.3 trillion deficit he inherited from President Bush in half by the end of his first term.

"I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay – and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."

Meanwhile, a quick look at what's happening around the world could provide a glimpse of our own future.

Greece saw more violent riots this week after the government's approval of austerity measures.

The credit rating agency Moody's also downgraded six European countries, including Italy and Spain, amid concerns over the continent's debt crisis and sluggish economy.

Here’s my question to you: Where is the U.S. headed if Pres. Obama is adding an estimated $5 trillion to the national debt in his first term?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

Does Rick Santorum have electability issues if he lost his Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat by 18 points?
February 15th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

Does Rick Santorum have electability issues if he lost his Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat by 18 points?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Rick Santorum says he can win swing states, but he lost a third Senate term in his own Pennsylvania by a whopping 18-point margin.

A stunning defeat for a two-term incumbent.

Santorum lost almost every region in Pennsylvania and almost every demographic group - including blue collar workers.

Supporters say Santorum lost the 2006 race due to a tough political climate for Republicans: President George W. Bush was unpopular, as was the Iraq war.

But there was more than that to Santorum's landslide loss - a lot more.

And if Mitt Romney wants to defeat Rick Santorum - who is the current flavor of the month in the polls - all he has to do is read some of this stuff aloud at campaign stops:

In 2006, Santorum faced charges of hypocrisy for living in Virginia with his family while a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and allowing a Pennsylvania school to pay for his children's online education.

He blamed "radical feminists" for forcing women to work and questioned the need for two-working-parent households. Try explaining that to Americans struggling to make ends meet.

Santorum has compared homosexuality to incest and polygamy and suggested that Boston liberals were to blame for the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. Can you spell wacko?

Santorum also inserted himself into the Terri Schiavo case - where some members of the government thought it was their job, not the family's, to decide if a brain-damaged woman should have her feeding tube removed. It was a disgrace.

Here’s my question to you: Does Rick Santorum have electability issues if he lost his Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat by 18 points?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Rick Santorum • Senate
How big a deal would it be if Mitt Romney loses his home state of Michigan?
February 14th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

How big a deal would it be if Mitt Romney loses his home state of Michigan?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Mitt Romney grew up in Michigan. his father, George Romney, was the president of American Motors and later the governor.

Two weeks from today, there's a very real chance Romney could lose the Republican primary in his home state.

Now, it's one thing to lose any of the other 49 states, but it's another thing entirely to lose your home state where your dad was governor.

Michigan is a state especially hard-hit by the recession and chronic unemployment. We came within an eyelash of losing the domestic auto industry, which was born and almost died in Detroit.

So if there's ever a place where a wealthy Republican who seems out-of-touch with the common man might have a problem, it's Michigan - and he's got a problem there.

Polls show Romney trailing Rick Santorum - 33% to 27%.

In an attempt to connect with Michigan voters, Romney is out with an op-ed piece in today's Detroit news. In it, he calls himself a "son of Detroit" and says that American cars "got in my bones early."

He also defends an op-ed piece he wrote back in 2008 called Let Detroit go Bankrupt, in which he suggested managed bankruptcy would have been preferable to a bailout of America's car companies. Maybe so, but without the bailout many of the people Romney is looking for support from today probably wouldn't even be around.

Romney insists things in Detroit got worse after President Obama's intervention. He writes the government should sell off its auto stock - and turn that money over to the taxpayers.

Here’s my question to you: How big a deal would it be if Mitt Romney loses his home state of Michigan?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Auto Industry • Mitt Romney
If gasoline hits record prices this summer, how much will it hurt President Obama's re-election chances?‬ ‪ ‬
February 14th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

If gasoline hits record prices this summer, how much will it hurt President Obama's re-election chances?‬ ‪ ‬

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Americans' pain at the gas pump could mean pain on election night for President Obama come November.

The national average for regular unleaded gasoline is now $3.52 a gallon, according to the Energy Department. That's up more than 4 cents a gallon from a week ago, and experts are predicting that this summer, gas prices could go higher. Much higher. Think record highs.

Gasoline could top $4 a gallon by June, and in some places it could be near $5. Big cities like Chicago and San Francisco could be especially hard hit.

According to AAA, the all-time high U.S. average was $4.11 a gallon in the summer of 2008. We could easily hit a new record as summer driving season kicks into high gear and Obama gears up for the fall campaign.

Consider that when Obama took office in January of 2009, the average cost for a gallon of gas was $1.79. Gas prices have almost doubled since he took office, and they're headed higher.

There are several reasons for the jump in gasoline prices - including the possibility of war in the Middle East. There's also the closing of refineries, along with the increased demand for gasoline as summer travel season approaches. Plus the government requires a switch from cheaper winter gas formulations to more expensive summer ones.

But all those reasons aside, whether it's fair or not - the American motoring public has always tended to blame the guy in the White House for high gas prices.

Here’s my question to you: If gasoline hits record prices this summer, how much will it hurt President Obama's re-election chances?‬ ‪ ‬

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

Why can't Mitt Romney catch fire with conservatives?
February 13th, 2012
03:16 PM ET

Why can't Mitt Romney catch fire with conservatives?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Mitt Romney's not selling what conservatives want to buy.

His focus on jobs and the economy just isn't connecting with the right wing of the GOP.

Peter Beinart writes in The Daily Beast that the Republican base is more fired up about how to keep government from destroying liberty than how to use government to grow the economy.

Yes, conservatives see shrinking government and boosting the economy as related, but their focus is on greater freedom.

It helps explain the success of many of the GOP candidates who have caught fire this time around - from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and currently Rick Santorum.

All of them have described the 2012 election on some level as a struggle between government tyranny and individual freedom.

Chances are in November, more Americans will want to hear about how the next president can fix the economy and create jobs - which would play into Romney's strengths.

But for now he needs to figure out how to make conservatives like him.

And, here's a hint: His speech at the Conservative Politcal Action Conference is not the answer. In it, Romney described himself as a "severely conservative Republican governor." That's just awful.

Severely conservative?

It once again highlighted his problems on the right.

But Romney did get some good news over the weekend. After the Santorum sweep last Tuesday, Romney narrowly defeated Ron Paul to win the Maine caucuses, and he won the straw poll vote at CPAC.

And there's this: Should Romney become the nominee, conservatives could fall into line faster if they think it means defeating President Obama.

Here’s my question to you: Why can't Mitt Romney catch fire with conservatives?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • GOP • GOP Ticket • Republican Party • Republicans
Should the payroll tax cut be extended yet again?
FILE PHOTO: President Barack Obama signed the payroll tax bill on December 23, 2011.
February 13th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

Should the payroll tax cut be extended yet again?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

160 million Americans could see their paychecks shrink at the end of the month - if Congress doesn't strike a deal on the payroll tax cut. This is the same cut they extended for only two months at the end of December, and those two months are just about up.

The payroll tax cut reduces how much many Americans pay into Social Security on their first $110,000 in wages.

Instead of paying in 6.2%, they've been paying 4.2% for the past year and two months.

For someone making $50,000, this tax cut is worth almost $1,000 per year. Significant money. Of course it's money we don't have, but that's never stopped the government before.

Just this afternoon, Congress inched one step closer to making a deal.

House Republicans now say they're willing to extend the payroll tax cut for the rest of this year without offsetting it with spending cuts elsewhere - something they weren't willing to do last week.

Can you tell it's an election year?

Republican leaders also say the measure could be voted on as soon as this week.

Lawmakers only have a little over two weeks to go before February 29, and they're scheduled to go on recess starting next week. They certainly deserve some more time off since they get so much done while they're in Washington.

Meanwhile the deadline could come even sooner, as many employers need to cut their first March-dated paychecks well before the last day of February. If Congress doesn't make a deal by the middle of this week, payroll processors will have to change their systems to reflect the higher tax rate.

Here’s my question to you: Should the payroll tax cut be extended yet again?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

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Filed under: Taxes
If there is military action against Syria, should the U.S. be involved?
February 9th, 2012
03:47 PM ET

If there is military action against Syria, should the U.S. be involved?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As Syria's brutal crackdown intensifies it seems increasingly likely that there could be some sort of military action.

The United Nations is calling for the international community to protect the Syrian population.

One opposition group reports that government forces killed more than 130 civilians in Syria today - most of them in the city of Homs.

There are reports of bomb explosions every few minutes; of wounded people bleeding to death in the streets because they can't get help; and of snipers picking off civilians who are running for cover.

Doctors inside Syria say government forces are targeting hospitals, medical staff and patients.

Meanwhile the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command have started reviewing military options.

One senior official calls it a "scoping exercise" to see what's possible - given all our other military commitments in the region.

It's not unusual for the Pentagon to do such a planning exercise - so they have options ready if the president wants them.

They're likely considering everything from humanitarian relief to support for opposition groups. Senior officials tell CNN that outright military strikes are unlikely.

Some have suggested setting up a "humanitarian corridor" or safe haven for civilians. That could require the use of troops.

Others, including senator John McCain, have said the U.S. should consider all options "including arming the opposition."

The State Department says while they never take anything off the table, they don't think sending more arms into Syria is the answer.

It's believed that any military action in Syria would be riskier and more complicated than the Libyan mission. And a lot of people don't think the U.S. should have gotten involved in that.

Here’s my question to you: If there is military action against Syria, should the U.S. be involved?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: Syria • United States Military
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