Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

As the 2012 election was getting underway, Bill Clinton advised the Obama campaign to go after Mitt Romney as a right-wing ideologue instead of a flip-flopper.

That's according to an article in the next issue of The New Yorker on the complex, evolving relationship between the two most recent standard-bearers of the Democratic Party. Ryan Lizza reports that the ex-president offered his counsel to top Obama campaign aides David Axelrod and Jim Messina in his Harlem office last November.

Clinton's logic: running against a conservative ideologue would help energize liberal voters and donors -- and the flip-flopper charge could backfire. The Obama campaign seems to have taken the advice to heart -- building its case around the message that voters should take Romney at his word about the conservative policies he has backed.

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On ABC's "This Week" roundtable Sunday, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd added himself to the list of mainstream political commentators who questioned the sincerity of Paul Ryan's attacks on President Obama during his convention speech.

Here's a transcript of that discussion between Dowd, host George Stephanopoulos and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile (emphasis added):

DOWD:  George, I think that -- I mean, to me, the biggest problem with this argument, and if -- like if you can still find a little -- tiny little kernel way down deep, it's like partially true and we're going to make this argument. 

The truth has become a casualty in the course of this campaign on both sides of the aisle.  The truth is a casualty in this.  It's as if we're going to make any argument possible that's going -- advantageous our side in order to overcome the other side.  

The Republicans do it.  The Democrats do it. 



DOWD:  Not necessarily on the same scale.  But we'll see it at this convention.  Because, I think, from my perspective, what happened at this convention is that nobody is calling on it, or maybe a few people are calling on it.  Paul Ryan, what he did in his speech, I think, so stretched the truth, and I like Paul Ryan, I have a lot of great respect for Paul Ryan, but [what] he said about closing the GM plant, which closed before Barack Obama took president, about the Simpson-Bowles bill which -- Simpson-Bowles, which he opposed, and then all of a sudden you see faults Barack Obama for. At some point the truth should matter.  

White House senior adviser David Plouffe on Sunday elevated what is crystallizing into a central Obama campaign claim: Mitt Romney is building his campaign on lies.

"Right now their campaign is built on a tripod of lies," he said on ABC's "This Week." "A welfare attack that is just absolutely untrue. The suggestion we're raiding Medicare -- absolutely untrue. And then this whole 'we can build it' nonsense."

The remarks reflect Team Obama's exasperation with the attacks from Romney and his surrogates that either misrepresent the facts or omit important context on issues at the heart of the election.

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After his acceptance speech in Tampa, Fla., Mitt Romney repeated his pledge to slash the deficit and balance the budget, vowing to lead where Republicans have failed in the past.

"We're going to finally have to do something that Republicans have spoken about for a long time, and for a while we didn't do it," he told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio on Saturday. "When we had the lead we let people down. We need to make sure we don't lead them down this time -- I will cut the deficit and get us on track to a balanced budget."

The remark received a roaring applause. But it's difficult to square with many of Romney's other promises, which involve raising federal spending or reducing revenues, that are core to his case against President Obama.

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President Obama's response to Clint Eastwood's speech to an empty chair was the most re-tweeted tweet of the Republican convention, according to a Twitter spokesperson. 

More than 51,000 people re-tweeted it, as of Sunday. Obama was presumed to be sitting in the empty chair during Eastwood's prime time speech, which the crowd ate up but which received negative reviews in the press.

Twitter's spokesperson noted that it was Obama's second most re-tweeted tweet of all time, after his tweet from months ago declaring that he supports same sex marriage.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace falsely claimed Democrats had a 60-vote Senate majority for the first 2 years of Barack Obama's presidency.

"For the first 2 years he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate," Wallace told LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, making the case that Obama has only himself to blame for his poor economic record.

In fact, Democrats had a 60-vote majority for less than 5 months between Sept. 24, 2009 and Feb. 4, 2010. Before and after, Republicans had enough seats to mount filibusters, which they often did.

Los Angeles Major Antonio Villaraigosa, who is chairing the Democratic convention next week, on Sunday mischaracterized Mitt Romney and his campaign's views on abortion.

"They don't believe in abortion even in the case of rape and incest," he said on Fox News Sunday. "It's a platform from another century."

In fact, Romney has championed exceptions for rape and incest despite his anti-abortion views. Ryan has previously voted against those exceptions but has said he's comfortable with Romney's position since becoming his running mate. The Republican platform includes strong pro-life language but does not take a position on those exceptions.

Host Chris Wallace pointed out that Romney supports those exceptions.

Obama campaign senior adviser said on Fox News Sunday that the president leads Mitt Romney -- albeit slighly -- in the battleground states, but expects a close contest on Election Day.

"I think that we have a lead in this race, it's a slight lead. It's going to be a close race," he said. "We expected a close race. We're going to have a close race. And we're doing everything that we can to make our case to the American people, and Charlotte's going to be a big part of that."

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod attacked Paul Ryan on Fox News Sunday for lamenting the failure of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commisson that Ryan helped scuttle.

He pointed out that Ryan "voted for every single one of the policies in the last decade that are at the root of the explosion of the debt ... and [Republicans'] plans today would explode them in the future."

"They are not credible on the deficit," he said, referring to the GOP's categorical refusal to raise taxes. "They have no standing to talk about deficits."

Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that the Republican convention was "a terrible failure," arguing that Mitt Romney did not detail how he would govern economically.

Asked on Fox News Sunday whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago, he said the economy is "in a better position" in that it's not losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. "Are we where we need to be? No," he said.

Axelrod added that the auto workers whose companies were bailed out, and Americans who now have health care, are better off. Sticking to script, he argued that Romney's plan would help the wealthy and not the middle class.

"We're a unified party," he said, looking ahead to the Democratic convention.