New Jersey Governor and Republican keynote speaker Chris Christie had to combat and correct several of his hosts’ liberal assumptions on CBS This Morning on Tuesday. CBS’s Norah O’Donnell had trouble grasping that Mitt Romney’s plan for tax simplification included lower overall tax rates, but not necessarily a lower tax burden on wealthy individuals.
Three times, O’Donnell claimed to Christie that Romney would cut taxes for the rich: “ He says he's going to cut everybody's tax rates by 20%... He said he will cut everybody’s taxes by 20%...So, he will cut the wealthiest Americans' taxes?”
Christie attempted (probably without success) to teach her the difference between an individual’s top marginal tax rate — the rate they pay on their last dollar of income — and their overall tax bill after taking deductions into account: “He’ll lower rates, but that with the elimination of deductions, that those who are making more than $250,000 a year will essentially pay the same amount of money under Mitt Romney that they're paying right now under Barack Obama.”
[O’Donnell level of economic literacy is questionable. Last month, readers may recall, she bizarrely claimed that leaving tax rates at current levels would “cost taxpayers” an “additional $850 billion over the next ten years.” Also in July, she needed to be corrected by Paul Ryan when she falsely claimed his budget included “$810 billion in cuts to Medicaid” while “giving tax cuts to the wealthiest.”
Ryan informed her: “$810 billion in savings, but we still grow Medicaid each and every year under our formula.”]
A few minutes earlier on Tuesday's show, host Charlie Rose had hit Christie with the purported need to treat voters the way Democrats do, as a series of special interest groups with unique messages for each: “Many people are saying that this party has to reach out to minorities more than it is. Many people are looking at the party and saying that the Republican brand is damaged.”
Christie called that a “fallacy,” and said his goal was to lay out a broad message that would appeal to voters “whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're a minority or in the majority.”
Here’s the key excerpt of the interview, which took place in Tampa during the 7:30am ET hour of CBS This Morning:
CHARLIE ROSE: You are going to have an opportunity to talk about the Republican brand. Many people are saying that this party has to reach out to minorities more than it is. Many people are looking at the party and saying that the Republican brand is damaged.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, I don't think so, but I think -- you see, I think there's a fallacy, Charlie, about having to cater to a particular sector of the electorate.
ROSE: It's not cater. It's reaching out saying 'You have a home in this party.'
CHRISTIE: But the way you do that is through the message that you put out there. And, for instance, I hear people talking all the time about the female voters. They say, well, 'What are we going to do specifically to reach out to female voters?' Well, the same thing we're going to do to reach out to male voters. I think it's condescending to women to say that we have to have a different message for women than we have for men. This is the message of our party. I'm going to lay out a message for our party tonight that I think will resonate just as much with women voters as it will with men voters.
ROSE: So what do you say to make sure that that happens? Because the gap between the appeal of President Obama to women voters and Governor Romney at this point is huge. [on screen chart shows "Presidential Race Among Women Voters," Obama 51%, Romney 41%]
CHRISTIE: Yeah, well, I'm going to get up and lay that out tonight. And I think -- listen, we've seen in New Jersey that I've done well with women voters not by changing my message or trying to cater to a particular area, but by letting them know, here's where I am, here's where I stand, and if it appeals to you, you can count on me to do what I say I'm going to do. I think that's what all voters want right now more than anything else, whether you're a man or a woman, whether you're a minority or in the majority.
NORAH O'DONNELL: Can I ask you about Mitt Romney and his record and specifics? He says he's going to cut everybody's tax rates by 20%, he's going to increase defense spending, he's going to restore the Medicare cuts and he's going to balance the budget in eight years. How's he going to do that? Even Paul Ryan says it would take 'til 2040.
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't think he has said he's going to cut everybody's taxes.
O'DONNELL: Yes, he said he will cut everybody's taxes by 20%.
CHRISTIE: Except, Norah, I think what he said is the effective rate for folks at the highest levels will not change, so in terms of what you're paying because of the elimination of many deductions and other loopholes, that once the folks over --
O'DONNELL: So, he will cut the wealthiest Americans' taxes?
CHRISTIE: Well, that's not the way I read it. The way I read it is he says he'll lower rates, but that with the elimination of deductions, that those who are making more than $250,000 a year will essentially pay the same amount of money under Mitt Romney that they're paying right now under Barack Obama, but that others will pay less.
O'DONNELL: How do you do that and balance the budget? I mean, you did it in New Jersey, which is what you're going to talk about, by cuts to education, tuition aid for college students, mass transit, tax breaks for the elderly -- everybody took a haircut in New Jersey. Is that what needs to happen in America?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think everything's going to be on the table, and ultimately, I think, that's where any leader who's telling you the truth is going to get to. They're going to get to the point where they're going to have to tell you, everything's going to have to hurt, but I also think we need to have growth, and the only way to have economic growth in this country is to get more money into the economy and I think and, we as Republicans believe, the best way to do that is by lowering taxes, not more government deficit spending.
-- Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.