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TV SoundOff: Sunday Talking Heads

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Well, good morning everybody. Nice you see you, glad to know you, please feel free to steel yourself for another imperfect, quickly-typed recap of this week's Sunday Morning televised politics blather. My name is Jason, and I hope you are finding some of this fun Olympic Games to enjoy, even though it's all tape-delayed and easy to spoil and presented around a goal of getting people to watch NBC's new sitcoms, which all seem eminently cancellable.

Are you happy, languid, relaxed, and ready for me to take on the burden of watching your Sunday Morning political chat shows? Literally, are you still in bed, or one your way to some kick-ass brunch, or off to church this morning? This is my hope. As always, y'all should feel free to gather together in the comments, drop me a line if you feel the desire, or follow me on Twitter. For those occasional delays in the liveblog, you can click over to my Rebel Mouse page, for fun and diverting things to read.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY

Today, we'll have Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz and David Axelrod and the usual roundtable nattering with a bunch of third string natterers. But first, Axelrod, to talk about horsey race stuff.

First off, there were new jobs numbers -- they weren't terrible, they weren't terrific: we're occasionally keeping up with the population joining the workforce, but most often not. Everyone should read Jonathan Chait's latest on the unemployment crisis, by the way, especially since for the time being, we're going to be talking about Fox News Sunday talking about unemployment as a problem that only happens to affluent politicians.

Axelrod says that everyone needs to put things in perspective, and the obvious perspective is that as Obama assumed the reins, we were shedding jobs at a blistering rate and now we're adding them back -- albeit at a rate that will take years and years to get us to full employment. Axelrod touts the success of the automobile industry -- you may have heard about the auto bailout! -- and notes that the lagging sectors are construction and education. (You may have heard about the president's jobs bill, which addresses those sectors.)

Did Obama "badly misjudge the recovery?" Basically, yes. Though it was sort of born out of a need to be optimistic, rather than malicious. Axelrod rhymes that he's been "consistent that we need to be persistent." Not to be resistant, but the recovery's non-existent. Axelrod, naturally, is averse to Romney's tax plan, and the ill-effects of raising taxes on the middle class. Moody's doesn't like it, apparently? I guess Moody's is everybody's best friend now.

Wallace asks about the rival candidates' tax plans -- and President Obama's 2010 contention that raising taxes on the rich, on the grounds that the economy was fragile. Wallace makes the point that the growth rate at the time was 2%, and it's more anemic now (1.5%). So, what's the haps? Axelrod sort of walks around the question and discusses the legislative mechanics behind the tax cuts at the time, the role the upper income tax breaks have in adding to the debt, and the way they don't provide stimulus to the economy.

Wallace wants Axelrod to answer his question -- about the President's statement a year before all that legislative michegas. Axelrod simply says that retaining the tax breaks for the wealthy is not something the President has ever argued, and that his tax plan going forward is better than Romney's.

Wallace points out that Ernst and Young disagrees with that. Axelrod says he hasn't seen their study. He cites, again, that Moody's Analytics hates Romney's plan, "So I guess we have have competing studies."

Axelrod is asked about Harry Reid's claim to know a guy that says Mitt Romney hasn't paid taxes in ten years. Does Axelrod know anything about that? Axelrod says he doesn't know, but the quickest way to resolve the matter is to release his tax returns. Axelrod has cover, in that Bill Kristol has said similar things about the matter -- he points this out. Obviously, a new wrinkle in this is that Romney could, if he wanted to, really stick it to Harry Reid. Reid's essentially stuck his neck in a credibility noose, and is daring Romney to come kick out the chair.

Why is the Obama campaign suing the state of Ohio to deny military voters extra time to vote? Well, the short answer is: they aren't doing that, actually? Per Dave Weigel:

Here's the backstory. In the run-up to 2008, Democrats, who briefly ran the Secretary of State's office in Ohio, expanded early voting so that anyone could show up at polling sites in the days before the election. In 2011, the new Republican legislature and Secretary of State rolled this back. Early voting would now end on the Friday before election day. So the Obama campaign sued. This is how its argument begins.

"Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day - a right exercised by an estimated 93,000 Ohioans in the last presidential election. Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to all Ohio voters. This disparate treatment violates 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be rectified by the Court enjoining enforcement of statutory changes that eliminate early in-person voting for most Ohioans during the three days before an election."

[...]The Obama campaign isn't actually trying to stop veterans from voting early. The idea that they would is left over from the 2000 Florida mess, when Republicans realized there were probably votes to gain from military ballots received after the deadline had passed, and hectored Democrats for "opposing military voters" if they didn't want those ballots counted. But the Obama campaign isn't talking about military ballots coming in from Iraq and Afghanistan. It's pointing out that, under current law, an active duty soldier is able to vote, in person, up through the day before election day.

If it wins, veterans will be able to vote early and so will everybody else in Ohio.

Axelrod, of course, denies this charge, as he should.

Axelrod doesn't know who Romney will pick as his vice president. Probably someone who doesn't like David Axelrod? He also reiterates that Obama will be outspent, but they'll do their best. Wallace asks if he's been successful in definiing Romney -- citing great swing state polling numbers for Obama -- Axelrod says that the real issue is that Romney hasn't successfully defined himself. That's true -- but shouldn't an Obama spin guy say something like, "We think that the voters are finding out for themselves what Romney's all about and they don't like it?"

Now, here's Ted Cruz -- he's the guy who came from behind in the Texas Senate's Republican primary to beat Rick Perry's pick, David Dewhurst, for the nomination. As there's no chance in the world that a Democrat is going to win that Senate race in November (I mean, I guess Cruz could murder a bunch of people between now and then, or something), he's basically going to be taking over Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat. His politics, of course, make Kay Bailey look like a bleeding-heart. And his career arc, which began as Texas' state solicitor general, could bend in the direction of a Supreme Court nomination. So Cruz is one to watch.

Cruz says that he is "part of a tidal wave that's sweeping the country" in which voters reject "career politicians in both parties," and especially inveigh against spending. That's all very nice, but again -- Cruz is going to be an establishment lifer in this town before too long. For the moment, though, he'll credit the Tea Party for his victory, and look past the fact that they wouldn't have been able to "generate his victory" had the Texas primary not been delayed a bunch of times.

Wallace gives a primer on Cruz. He wants to cut departments from the Federal government -- Education, Energy, Commerce, the IRS, and the TSA. He supports a flat-tax. Cruz says he is "without a doubt" he is very conservative and he says that the American people are as well.

Wallace asks Cruz if his anti-establishment rhetoric is going to cause more "gridlock" in Congress. This is a pretty blathersome question, as the "gridlock" is basically the result of the GOP using the filibuster, not the result of some outsider group of Senators spraypainting the place with anarchy slogans. Also, again, Cruz is headed for a very careerist, establishment role in the Senate, so all that insurgent talk will very quickly burn off.

Cruz says that he's happy to compromise, as long as the people on the other side of the compromise cut spending and reduce the debt. "I'll work with Democrats, Libertarians...I'll work with Martians." I'm pretty sure that if we meet Martians, one of the things they'll ask us is why we're so obsessed with long-term structural deficits at a time we're in the throes of a massive unemployment crisis and an economy that's basically in the crapper because of insufficient aggregate demand. "Earthlings, why, when interest rates are so low and debt is so inexpensive, are you not putting people back to work on critical infrastructure needs? As long as your output is productive you should be fine. And what is up with this Federal Reserve? They're not intervening because they are afraid of inflation? In your current situation, that's like being told that the firefighters cannot put out your burning house because WHAT ABOUT WEREWOLVES, HUH?"

And then we throw Chik-fil-A sandwiches at the Martians, and they say, "Feh, you guys are useless."

Anyway, Ted Cruz says Obama is a job-killing monster, and Romney will totally have the support of the Tea Party. He doesn't really care who Romney picks as his vice-president. He is pretty sure that Hispanics are conservative, and that Romney needs to...well, he doesn't really do anything beyond "defend values," based on some theory that there are no such things as Hispanic panhandlers, or something.

Now, I'm literally listening to Wallace ask Cruz about his favorite part of the Constitution. He apparently has a bunch of weird mnemonic devices to help him remember it. I mean, you can actually just bookmark the Constitution on your smartphone. Maybe Cruz lives in fear that he's going to be given a final exam, or something.

Fox News Sunday has called up panelists from the triple-AAA leagues once again, so today we're roundtabling with Kirsten Powers and Joe Trippi and Kimberly Strassel and Ed Rollins.

Strassel says that the economy is still hurting the president, because "the policies of today are clearly not working." She adds that Romney's problem is that he doesn't talk specifically about the policies he'd replace them with. (Strassel assumes that the Obama argument -- let's not return to Bush-era economic policies -- is just a non-starter in this election.)

Trippi points out what everyone's pointed out -- that Romney's tax plan makes no sense. What's under-reported about this Tax Policy Center study that gave Romney's plan an unfavorable review is that the Center really, really tried hard to find some way to make Romney's plan make sense. Per Ezra Klein:

To help Romney, the center did so under the most favorable conditions, which also happen to be wildly unrealistic. The analysts assumed that any cuts to deductions or loopholes would begin with top earners, and that no one earning less than $200,000 would have their deductions reduced until all those earning more than $200,000 had lost all of their deductions and tax preferences first. They assumed, as Romney has promised, that the reforms would spare the portions of the tax code that privilege saving and investment. They even ran a simulation in which they used a model developed, in part, by Greg Mankiw, one of Romney's economic advisers, that posits "implausibly large growth effects" from tax cuts.

The numbers never worked out. No matter how hard the Tax Policy Center labored to make Romney's promises add up, every simulation ended the same way: with a tax increase on the middle class. The tax cuts Romney is offering to the rich are simply larger than the size of the (non-investment) deductions and loopholes that exist for the rich. That's why it's "mathematically impossible" for Romney's plan to produce anything but a tax increase on the middle class.

The thing worth noting, of course, is that there should be zero doubt that Romney favors a middle-class tax increase. There should be no doubt that his preference is for the middle class to pay the offset to large tax breaks for wealthy people. If you roped him with the Golden Lasso of Truth, he'd just tell you this. He'd also tell you that he doesn't see a problem with it, and that everything eventually works out for everybody...so sayeth the Prosperity Gospel.

Authentically speaking, Romney doesn't find it objectionable to raise taxes on the middle class. And plenty of people will probably align themselves with Ed Rollins' argument -- that rich people pay all the taxes anyway, asking them to pay more is unfair -- because lots of people in America who aren't rich believe they are just trillionaires who have hit temporary setbacks.

Harry Reid and Mitt Romney are having their moment of warblogging and "putting up or shutting up." Strassel says that "not putting out tax returns" means that this will continue to be a problem for Romney. Trippi doesn't understand how it came to be that Romney, in preparing for this moment for years, didn't figure out how to provide this material quickly and move on. Rollins says that he'd have put out at least six years of tax returns. "At this point in time, it's going to dog him all the way, and he's got to put it behind him."

Wallace points out that the Democrats will likely find any disclosure unsatisfying. Maybe so! But if you make the disclosure, then you can say, "You people will never be satisfied!" You can't say that if, in fact, you've made no attempt to satisfy them.

Oh, now everyone's going to talk about Chik-fil-A. Welp, you know, I don't eat at Chik-fil-A, and yeah, it's because I feel like my money is better served going elsewhere. Obviously I'm probably still secretly funding, you know, Halliburton or BP or Evil Mustache-Twirling Amalgamated when I buy my artisanal chicken sandwich from some guy on the street wearing flip-flops, but I do my best. At the same time, can we say, "Duh, Mayors Menino and Emanuel, you really don't have the right to try to thwart a business selling a legal product from competing in the marketplace." Let Chik-fil-A exist in Chicago, and give your citizens that tiny bit of civic pride you get when you pointedly choose to not spend money there!

I still sort of see this week as a great week for marriage equality and LGBT rights in general. The LGBT community has a bright future ahead of it, because the people who most strenuously oppose them are mostly closer to death than those that don't. But more importantly, things are never, ever going to get better for Chik-fil-A. That day where there were lines out the door and around the block? That's the peak, right there. It reminds me of the person Dan Bern talks about in his song "Tiger Woods," who enjoyed a night of sexual congress with Madonna and now has nothing to look forward to. "Ever since he's been depressed, 'cause life is $#!% from here on in. And all our friends just shake their heads and say, "Too soon, too soon, too soon."

Anyway, if you want to express yourself with your money, and you live in DC, I recommend you head on over to Annie's Paramount Steakhouse in Dupont Circle, where they serve very chic filets.

THIS WEEK WITH SOMEBODY

Oh, hooray, George Stephanopoulos actually showed up for work today. I'm not sure how to feel about this, but I guess this is good news for everyone with abandonment issues. And hooray, he'll have Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz yelling at each other today. That means I'll be reblogging mostly a bunch of generic talking points that I've heard about a million times already, but which apparently must be aired on television weekly, as per the demands of War, Famine, and Death. (Pestilence, smartly, abjures Sunday Morning Political Shows, correctly recognizing them as potential competitors in the area of mass viral death.)

So, jobs report? Good news, bad news, right? DWS says that Democrats are still fighting to deliver more jobs, that they've done a good job and are moving the country in the right direction, that it's a shame that the GOP hasn't done more to pass the Jobs Act, but whatever. GSteph points out that Congress has gone home, so they can't pass the Jobs Act anyway. (I mean, Congresscritters have free will, right?)

DWS says that Congress cares more about defeating the President than putting Americans back to work. GSteph asks about the Federal Reserve intervening, and she says that the White House should not dictate to the Fed what they do. Why not, though? Shouldn't the president have something to say about the fact that the Fed is shirking their duties, literally because of superstition-rooted fears of non-existent inflation?

Harry Reid, still going off on Romney, is that appropriate? DWS says that she doesn't know Reid's secret source, but Romney has the power to solve this riddle immediately. The thing that's gotten lost in this matter -- and full disclosure, I find all of the hand-wringing over Harry Reid to be the most amusing thing in the world right now -- is that Mitt Romney now has the ability to straight-up own Harry Reid's manhood, forever, cap his credibility, get himself a week of stellar coverage from the press, and probably permanently destroy the Democrats' "Bain Capital" argument against him, simply by showing those tax returns and proving that Reid's claim is baseless. (If it is baseless, that is!)

I mean, I really can't stress enough that Harry Reid has loaded a gun and is begging Mitt Romney to point it at him and pull the trigger. "Come on, big guy!" Reid is saying, "Shoot me! Shoot me right in the face!"

I'm glad that someone stepped up to make this race hilarious for me.

GSteph can't believe that anyone would find it appropriate to promulgate an evidence-free charge. Uhm, George, the media does this ALL THE TIME. "You didn't build that," is an evidence-free charge. The core of our political discussions are frequently centered in breathless bullshit. Put a Google Alert on the phrase "yet some say" and you'll see what I mean. And the press allows all sorts of people to make evidence-free charges, in their pages. The big difference is that it's usually done anonymously. The weird thing that Reid has done is sign his name on the line that is dotted, and somehow, this makes it less worthy? That's upside-down and backwards, sorry.

Anyway, maybe you should book Harry Reid and ask him this stuff? He clearly wants to repeat his claim as often as possible, so take a run at him.

After all that, here's a literal question from Stephanopoulos: "Do you think the President will be able to shake this line?" By "this line" he is referring to "You didn't build that." See, Stephanopoulos loves some evidence-free assertions just fine!

GSteph reports that the RNC sent Obama a cake that read, "You didn't bake this" for his birthday. That's a real cutting dig to all the people who bake their own birthday cakes.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says that "this election should not be about defeating Obama, it should be about getting the economy back on track" and that Obama offers the economy its best shot. O-kay! Well, I'm glad we cleared that up. The DNC's official stance on the election is that people should either vote for Obama, or not vote for not-Obama, because: the economy.

Now we'll hear some talking points from Reince Priebus. If I were doing a show, I'd literally just have Priebud and Schultz monologue over each other for five minutes and then yell, "THANK YOU STOP!" and press, like, an ejector seat button that launches them both into a fifty-foot high stack of pies or something. My Sunday show would use large stacks of pie in terribly creative ways.

Priebus says that Harry Reid is a "dirty liar" who hasn't released any taxes himself and "lives in the Ritz Carlton" while poor people exist. "But I'm not going to go there," says Priebus, who...just went there?

Stephanopoulos is like, "LOL, Priebus, you just called Reid a dirty liar, do you stand by that?" "I just said it," says Priebus. So...where have we ended up, then? Did Priebus "go there" or "not go there?" Maybe who cares?

"This President has a job to do, and Harry Reid has a job to do," says Priebus, who has been heading up an effort to derail those guys from doing the job they are trying to do.

Priebus is now emoting over Obama "dragging out Harry Reid to divide this country." Uhm, no. Obama had nothing to do with that. But why not release tax returns? Priebus, asked, "Why not just release the tax returns?" responds by saying, "Know what? I think this president has a problem with the American dream."

Seriously? Priebus is unique among party hacks in that his first choice of response is to spontaneously improvise a Dashboard Confessional song.

Oh, wow. Now he is talking about driving around Kenosha, Wisconsin with his parents, looking at Corvettes, because that's the American Dream. It's terribly weird! It is so terribly strange, listening to this! The question was, "why not just have Romney release his tax returns?"

"Solyndra," is "Barack Obama's whole philosophy." Hey, probably because Jeremiah Wright was always yelling about Solyndra, in Kenya.

I mean, I sort of love Reince Priebus? Because he's just so unique! Oh, the many offenses that have been laid at Priebus' feet. He picks up every one of them, cradles it, and asks, "Why? This makes me so sad! What about my dreams, man? What about that time we drove around Kenosha, dreaming about that four-bedroom colonial? We were gonna live there, dude! That was gonna be us, man! But now, everything is just so Solyndra. EFFING SOLYNDRA, MAN."

He is the Malvolio of American politics. I love him. I want to care for him. I want him never to be denied the opportunity to make me laugh, and I hope he gets to be RNC chairman forever.

Okay, now it's panel time. It will be especially tedious today, because it's going to be about Chik-fil-A, and it will feature George Will, Stever Rattner, Jonathan Kark, Van Jones, and Ann Coulter, whose latest book is merely titled "DEMONIC." She's sort of losing her edge, isn't she? I mean, "DEMONIC" is definitely a step back for her, in terms of book titles. She really needed to write a book titled, "SPITTLE-LIPPED DOLPHIN MURDERERS" or "DEMOCRATS FORNICATE IN LARGE BUCKETS OF BABY BLOOD AND PIG FARTS" or "HATCHET-FACED METHHEADS FROM SATAN'S TAINT." She needs to write a book that's just pictures of her ripping out her own hair and screaming at the bottom of an empty pool.

Oh, but the panel first starts with the economy and the jobs report. Will points out that if you doubled the current rate of job creation, it would still take three years for the unemployment rate to drop out of a crisis stance. Rattner agrees up to a point, but insists that "slow, steady progress" is being made. Coulter says the bottom line is that unemployment "colors the campaign," and in her opinion, "Obama cannot run on his record."

Van Jones says that the good news is that "there will be no double dip," and I'm like, "Whoa, dude, don't jinx us!" I think that "down" is always an option.

Jonathan Karl is amazed by Harry Reid, making his charge about Romney's taxes from the "floor of the Senate," because this is apparently the first time he's seen something crazy happen in the Senate? Karl also seems to think that the one tax return Romney has released proves that Reid's charge is false? Doesn't work like that bro! "HEY MAN, there was that one time Mitt Romney paid some taxes, so I'm pretty sure he always pays his taxes." Hey, man, there was that one night that Jack The Ripper wasn't murdering prostitutes in Whitechapel, so I'm pretty sure we can exonerate him.

Will says this is "McCarthyism from the desert," and I always have to check myself here, because this whole "right wing person using McCarthyism to indicate something that's not totally awesome or complimentary" is such a new thing for me. I typically understand the epithet "McCarthy!" to be something that conservatives exclaim whilst in the throes of particularly exciting sexual climax.

Rattner says that Romney should just release his tax returns, Coulter thinks he shouldn't. She alleges that the tax returns matter is being hit because Romney is a happily-married, vice-free Mormon. I mean, if it was Obama who was refusing to release these tax returns, I doubt Coulter would be so sanguine about it.

Van Jones actually, somehow, manages to pull the conversation back into a substantive place, discussing FHFA head Ed DeMarco's puzzling decision to play a personal role in further jacking up the economy. One of the finer moments in that Jonathan Chait piece I cited earlier was when he threw daggers at the hopelessly out-of-touch ponces who edit the Washington Post, who -- bizarrely! -- approve of DeMarco's terrible decision:

The Post is the voice of the Washington centrist establishment, and the logic of the editorial is a telling signpost. The Obama administration had argued to DeMarco that the mortgage relief was a pure win-win. Not only would the lower mortgage rates provide relief to Americans desperate to keep their homes, and secondarily to give them more purchasing power for other things that would provide a small economic stimulus, it would save the government money: with lower mortgage rates, fewer would default on their government-owned mortgages. DeMarco replied that he believed the taxpayers would end up spending money on the deal: not much, but some.

The Post's thumbs-up editorial of DeMarco endorsed the reasoning that only a relief program that could be assured to cost the taxpayers nothing was worthwhile. It concluded, "with signs multiplying that the housing market may be finally bottoming out without this additional stimulus, perpetuating this particular battle does not strike us as the best use of the secretary's time."

There are signs we've hit bottom. Nothing to worry about here. Why risk the possibility of a small outlay merely to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of desperate people? This is such a perfect statement of the way the American elite has approached the economic crisis. They concede that it is a problem. But there are other problems, you know.

"The President should fire Ed DeMarco," Jones says. I say that's wrong! He should, ideally, be fired, and then stripped to waist and made to run down Pennsylvania Avenue in the mid-day sun at the urging of a horsewhip and the jeers of ordinary Americans.

George Will is convinced that foreclosure forgiveness first and foremost represents a moral hazard, so let everyone die! The only approveable moral hazards are the ones we've erected for mythical job creators. Bailouts for me, tiny American flags for everyone else.

For whatever reason, my TiVo'ed recording of the panel goes gray, for three minutes, and I can hardly blame it.

Are we still talking about tax returns? Yeah, I guess we are. And tax plans. Coulter is very aggrieved that the government is so big, and Romney will fix it, because Amtrak. (Actually, it is pretty mystifying that Amtrak cannot made money selling terrible food to a captive group of consumers.)

Jonathan Karl says that Romney has got his veep picks down to Rob Portman, Tim Pawlenty, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio, and he thinks that the Romney camp is leaning in the direction of a "big and bold" pick. He says that Romney is being urged to make a bold pick, because he's behind in the polls, and that's the same situation McCain faced in 2008. Which would have been a good time to just pick Tim Pawlenty!

Rattner says that he'd love to see Paul Ryan get picked, because he'd love to actually have the discussion that would ensue about the long-term policy trajectory of the nation. Thanks for reading our weekly Speculatron wrap-up, Mr. Rattner! (We think, by the way, that the "big, bold" choice is Kelly Ayotte.)

The roundtable turns to Chik-fil-A. Coulter doesn't believe the polls that indicate marriage equality growing in popularity, and thinks that opposing marriage equality is an authentically pro-marriage thing to do. She's wrong on both counts, but whatever, time is on the side of justice here, and I'm content to let people have a day where they eat a specific brand of chicken sandwich. If that's a significant victory for that side of the debate, then that's good news for marriage equality.

Jones notes that none of this would have been galvanized had Mayors Menino and Emanuel not stepped in and pretended that they could stop a Chik-fil-A from opening in their cities, which was titanically stupid. Full-timers in the battle for LGBT equality were pretty pointed in their refusal to embrace that plan of attack.

Now the panel is talking about their favorite Olympic moments. Van Jones liked Gabby Douglas' win in the all-around. Rattner thinks Gabby is awesome, too. Karl is looking forward to seeing what the USA Men's basketball team does after the close game against Lithuania. Coulter is close to Katie Ledecky's family, and enjoyed watching Ledecky win gold and set a new world record.

Will talks about his column, in which he discusses what's happened with football: the uptick in chronic traumatic encephalopathy is going to be the "new normal" in the sport because these athletes' bodies have become so big and so fast -- too big and too fast, to Will's mind -- that the game can no longer be played safely.

FACE THE NATION

Bob Schieffer welcomes Bob McDonnell, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ed Rendell, and Ted Strickland, to yell about horsey-race stuff for our bemusement. They are all from "battleground" states, and so they are, I guess, experts in politics and definitely will have nothing hacky to say about anything!

Schieffer asks McDonnell where the race is right now, considering Virginia is going to be a super-important state in the election. McDonnell says it's a "dead heat" right now, but all the momentum will assuredly go in Mitt Romney's direction, don't worry. Because, jobs, and also TEH DEFICITZ.

What about Governor Ted Strickland, Democrat for Ohio? Does he, also, think Romney is a runaway train of success? Also: is Harry Reid a "dirty liar" or just "cray-cray in the face?" Strickland says, hey, maybe Romney could release the tax returns? "Why is Mitt Romney refusing to release his tax returns?" Strickland asks. Maybe Romney's tax returns include spoilers that explain how Sherlock Holmes survived his fall off the hospital in plain sight of John Watson. I'll say right now -- if Romney's tax returns give away that plot point, then he totally has my permission to keep that under wraps for the time being.

Schieffer thinks it's McCarthyism to ask people to come forward and explain why they aren't Communists. Which is...sort of not the same thing? (Unless Romney wrote, "SHHH, I AM SECRETLY A COMMUNIST" in every blank on his 1040.

McDonnell says that this is "slander" and Reid can't pass a budget, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo. The Democrats are "hiding the ball," which is a weird criticism since it's Romney that's keeping his tax returns out of sight.

Ed Rendell, of course, thinks that Romney should release his tax returns. He also says that he's not convinced that the current polls, which favor Obama, are predictive of how the race is going, since most Americans aren't going to be paying attention to politics until the conventions, because most Americans are blessedly normal and capable of resisting the allure of obsessive horse-race politics.

Diaz-Balart also doesn't care for the president and thinks Romney is peachy-keen. Obama does not want to talk about "the real situation," says Diaz-Balart. "And that's sad." So sad! Oh, man, we got another Reince Priebus here!

Rendell says that Obama could do much more awesome stuff if the Republicans would allow him to do so. Diaz-Balart says the Obama keeps saying "things are great." Rendell yells at him, and Schieffer says that it's pretty clear that the White House doesn't find the current economic climate to be "great."

Strickland does not like Mitt Romney, and says Ohioans are coming to see Romney as "someone who is not on their side" while maintaining that Obama's policies have worked for them. (Significantly, the auto bailout, commonly associated with Michigan, resonated rather strongly in Ohio as well, so Team Obama Re-Elect will be using that as a wedge issue in that state.)

McDonnell mentions that this is the one-year anniversary of the S&P credit downgrade, which happened because S&P sort of thought the way the GOP was holding a gun to the head of the economy in the weird, weird, debt ceiling fight was a pretty obvious example of lunacy.

I'm not 100% on this yet, but I think the emerging trend is that Democratic Party hacks seem to favor Obama's re-election, while Republican party hacks are sort of against it? It may be too soon to make these sort of bold conclusions! It's really a terrific service though, being able to just turn on one's teevee and hear politicians talk about this stuff. I mean, why did we even build an electric grid, if not avail ourselves of these awesome discussions.

Oh, we're going to have more discussion? Let's do! McDonnell doesn't know if he's going to be Romney's vice-president. Diaz-Balart also doesn't know is McDonnell is going to be Romney's vice-president, but he really takes things up a notch by pointing out that he also doesn't know if Marco Rubio is going to be Romney's vice-president.

Woo! When it comes to not knowing things about Romney's vice-president, Diaz-Balart is really putting himself out there, letting the world know that he does not know even more things about this topic than anyone else. He will probably get booked on this show again, because of his willingness to just come right out and say stuff about the things he has no idea about.

Ed Rendell thinks Joe Biden is a bitchin' vice president, dude! Strickland says that while Rob Portman is not a crazy man who will set his hair on fire and dance the watusi as blood pours from his grinning mouth, he was a terrible Man From The Bush Administration.

Schieffer asks: "You know, I want to ask you all about the tenor of this campaign. It seems to me that it is more negative than any campaign I can remember, and I can remember a few....I see that President Obama, the enthusiasm for him is not nearly as high as it was the last time around. But I also see that Governor Romney's negatives continue to go up. Do you think that is because of the kind of campaigns we're running now? I mean, because what kind of concerns me just stepping back and looking at it, we may be destroying the credibility of everybody in politics."

Don't worry, Bob Schieffer! You can't actually destroy a non-existent commodity! But what does Ed Rendell and Mario Diaz-Balart think about that? Oh, you know: "Obama/Romney sucks/is awesome, forever/never." McDonnell figures that we just need to do something "Reagany." Strickland frets that the country is polarized, but is pretty sure that Obama is on the side of the working class Ohioans, because he just feels that way, okay? SHUT UP.

Schieffer monologues about how Virginia becoming a battleground state has made Washingtonians acutely aware about what life is like when you are constantly bombarded with campaign ads, and he is totally, totally right. We have a name for the commodity that TiVo blesses us with in our household: "Fast-forward juice." We savor it, stockpile it. It's like the "Grasshopper and the Ant" for us. "WHAT THE WHAT? You mean you didn't SAVE UP YOUR FAST-FORWARD JUICE? And now you are watching a political ad? YOU FOOLISH FOOL."

Also helpful: the mute button.

Now that FACE THE NATION IN THE FACE has gone to one hour, there's more roundtabling with people who I don't know all that well, so I'm sorry if I have any of these names wrong. Today, we're joined by Michael Crowley (Time Magazine Guy), Julianna Goldman (Bloomberg White House Correspondent), and CBS reporters Jan Crawford and Nancy Cordes.

Schieffer notes that July was a month of survival -- Romney lived through a lot of bad coverage, Obama skated by despite the economy remaining in sketchy territory. Goldman says that the challenge for the President is that things can't get worse than they are right now -- he wants to reserve the concept of "things getting worse" as something to ascribe to a potential Romney presidency. If things start trending downward between now and Election Day, that bet is off.

Crawford says that the Romney campaign is pretty confident that Obama won't be able to spin anything positive out of the economy, and plan to hit him hard on changing the welfare rules -- which is pretty odd, considering that the waivers that Obama's administration has authorized are the very same waivers that Romney begged for when he was Governor of Massachusetts. If that's the next part of Romney's plan, he should maybe rethink that.

What does the panel make of the Pew Research study that shows Romney's brand "taking a beating" in the public square? (Obama's negatives are also going up, but not as dramatically.) Crawford says that the Romney camp isn't worried: to them, it's a factor of Obama spending a lot of money, early, and the Romney camp will be able to make up that ground. (They plan to "roll out lots of positive ads" after the convention, she reports.

Cordes says that Team Obama Re-Elect think that Romney's approach is "mystifying," and that they were pretty surprised that Romney just quit the field, essentially, and let them have their way with his image.

Crowley says that spending in this campaign is going to set records. The outside groups will be especially spendy, and in case you were wondering -- yes, the Republicans are going to have a crazy advantage in the outside money, super PAC battle. It will not even remotely be close. Goldman says that the gaping question is whether all that money will be sufficient to hit the reset button and reverse the negative impression of Romney.

Veepstakes, anyone? Crawford doesn't know anything new. She reckons that the announcement will come in the next two week, probably after the weekend. Significantly, the forces outside his campaign want him to "go bold," so this will sort of be a test of his independence. (Mind you, the best thing Romney can do to improve his relationship with the GOP establishment is just knuckle-under and do what they tell him.)

On the matter of the inside-the-campaign versus the "know-betters" on the outside, Goldman points out that Romney's foreign escapades fuel the notion that his staff is lacking. Obama's summer vacation tour, she points out, was staffed to handle problems, whereas Romney's was a skeleton crew. That's maybe the most significant thing you can takeaway from Romney's travels, which probably won't end up being that significant an event, in terms of what voters do in November.

Bob Schieffer shifts to his interview with Sandra Day O'Connor, who is still working hard in her post-Supreme Court career. Her big passion-project is called iCivics -- it's her effort to encourage more study in the study of civics, which has declined in recent years. You can check out iCivics yourself by clicking here.

O'Connor says she's not sure why the esteem for the Supreme Court is on a downward trend, but she's bothered by it. She reckons that the Bush v. Gore decision may be the inflection point. (You think?)

On the matter of the supposed divide between Justices Scalia and Roberts on the Affordable Care Act, O'Connor says that she's not privy to the Court's machinations and hasn't pried into it. She's not particularly convinced that there was some sort of dramatic divide. She also doesn't see the result as a sign of John Roberts "moving to the center." Smart lady -- while the fate of the Affordable Care Act wasn't decided in the favor of conservative partisans, Roberts' decision on the broader terms of the debate were all very much rooted in the conservative tradition.

Will O'Connor tell Schieffer how she would have ruled in that case? Of course she will not! She hasn't read any of the briefs! Don't be crazy, Bob Schieffer!

On the matter of Bush v. Gore, O'Connor rejects the notion that she was "the deciding vote," and insists that being a part of that decision was "a tough deal," and "no fun." Unlike the Affordable Care Act ruling, she is happy to offer her opinion on the Citizens United decision -- she does not like it. "It hasn't helped," she says.

Does she think out political system is broken? No. Does she think Citizens United is magnifying the political divide? She doesn't know, but she hopes we "move on to a state of fewer disagreements."

Well, if we can't move on to state of fewer disagreements, we can now happily move on to state of less Sunday morning television. Thanks to all of you who took the time to read this today and hang out with one another. Hopefully you've got lots of Sunday left to do enjoyable things. Have a great afternoon and a happy week, everyone!

[More liveblog is coming. While you wait, click here for some Sunday reads.]

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
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