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2012 Presidential Election - How Are Republican Governors Affecting Their Party's Chances?

Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Washington, DC
June 21, 2011

2:00 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. We’re pleased to have with us today Dr. Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He’s here with us today to talk about Republican governors and their effect on the 2012 presidential election.

And I just want to remind you before we begin, please turn off your cell phones and pagers. And if – when we get to the question-and-answer session, remember to state your name and media organization. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Ornstein.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Thanks very much, Andrew. I’ll just make a couple of remarks, which really flow from this article that I wrote in The Washington Post just over a week ago, but I’m happy to comment on anything else.

The – what motivated me here was that I was struck very much after the enormous Republican success in 2010, which was much greater at the state level even than it was in Congress. Picking up 63 seats in the House of Representatives was a modern-day record for the Republicans, but they picked up more seats in state legislatures than they’ve ever had before, won some chambers in states where they had not done so since reconstruction just after the Civil War, and of course, surged in important states, and especially in those swing states that matter in presidential elections and electing governors.

But if you look at the status of those governors in swing states now, in most cases, they are verging on political disaster with, for example, Governor Rick Scott in Florida having a 60 percent disapproval rating in the most recent poll, which is the lowest of any public official in the country right now. Not much better for Rick Snyder in Michigan or Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and the same is true across a range of other states, a few doing a little bit better. But one of the great Republican hopes, Chris Cristie in New Jersey, we actually have a new poll out in just the last day or two that shows that, unlike the numbers I had in my piece which had him at 44 approval and 44 disapproval, he’s now at a 47 percent disapproval.

These are not particularly good marks, obviously, and they reflect two things. One is the very difficult state of the national economy which is playing out in many, many states in a very bad way, and it’s a bad way not just because what happens at the federal level or overall is going to affect states differently, but affect states. But also, because when you have a bad economy that persists for a significant period of time, the job of a governor becomes much, much tougher. Almost all of our states have themselves constitutional amendments that require them to balance budgets.

And so for the last three years, including two years before these governors took office, they have had to do the opposite of a counter-cyclical policy. During tough economic times where their revenue has declined and spending has gone up because they have to pay more for people who are out of work, for unemployment, for Medicaid and the like, they’ve had to raise taxes and cut spending.

The first year or so, many of the states were able to raise taxes. The spending cuts start with easy things that – spending that’s a little bit of fluff or gimmicks that you can use, selling off assets or moving something from one fiscal year, one day to the next, so that it looks like you’re saving a lot of money, but after a while, you have to start cutting much more deeply. And in virtually all of the states, with the exception of Democratic-dominated Illinois, raising taxes has been a virtual impossibility.

So it’s become much harder and the cuts have become much deeper and more visible and more controversial. A couple of examples from the past year: In Arizona, the governor and her administration ended up eliminating most organ transplants from the Medicaid program. And we had the spectacle, which did not play very well in the state or nationally for her, of a 30-year-old or so man with a wife and two kids who had been waiting patiently for a long time for a liver transplant, and finally had his number come up on the waiting list, was in the hospital being prepped for the operation and the liver on ice in an ambulance heading in his direction, when word came down that Medicaid wouldn’t pay for it, and so they diverted the ambulance, sent it to somebody else, and told him he could still get a liver transplant, which would save his life, but he would have to pay $200,000 upfront.

Now, those are not things that are guaranteed or designed to make governors popular, and they’re getting more and more difficult. But what was striking about the data to me is that it wasn’t just that all governors are going to find themselves making even more deeply unpopular decisions as the sluggish economy means that the revenues are not coming back in a slow recovery the way they were, high unemployment means that they continue to have very, very heavy demands on their social services, but that in many cases, Democratic governors facing similar situations are not unpopular; one good example being Mark Dayton, the Democratic governor in Minnesota.

Now, it is not uniform, but it’s fairly clear that for many of these governors, who with some exceptions and to a degree, Rick Scott – Rick Snyder, excuse me, in Michigan has been a bit of an exception. He’s actually moved to raise some revenues and has not been as confrontational with Democrats. But many of the others have followed, to one degree or another, the playbook of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, perhaps not with the same degree of flamboyance, which is highly confrontational, very partisan, making pretty dramatic changes in policy in an in-your-face kind of way, and that has not played well. In some cases, as with Governor Scott in Florida, it hasn’t even played well with Republicans in the legislature, because as a novice politician and a former CEO, he’s pretty much tried to bypass them as much as he could and do things on his own or dictate to them. But in most cases, like in Wisconsin, it has been particularly confrontational with the Democrats and with unions and others.

And for a while, as in New Jersey, Chris Christie was able to take on public employee unions, where benefits are so high and where there’s such a high tax level to begin with, and succeed. But now that’s starting to weigh down on all of them, particularly as there’s this sense that it’s not just about cutting bloated benefits, but about eliminating collective bargaining rights, and as we’re starting to talk about really cutting deeply into benefits that people do not want to give up. So you have this high level of unpopularity, and frankly, it’s very unlikely given the economic conditions that things are going to get dramatically better for them over the course of the next year.

Now I can’t tell you that we have a lot of evidence from past elections that unpopular governors make a difference in a presidential contest, which after all, is about presidential candidates. But we haven’t had, in the past, unpopular governors with a pretty consistent theme here, and a theme pursuing policies that is very much along the same lines as what the Republicans in Congress are doing and what almost all the Republican presidential candidates have endorsed and are supporting.

So I wrote, speculating that, in fact, even if the economy does not pick up, which would be a very bad sign for President Obama winning reelection, the unpopularity of Republican governors and the fact that presidential candidates have supported what they’ve done may be a secret weapon for him. And I can imagine him, for example, going into Ohio, a key swing state, and saying of the Republican presidential nominee, whoever it may be, to the voters of Ohio, if you like the policies of Governor Kasich, whose disapproval rating is in the high 50s, you are going to love the policies of Candidate fill-in-the-blank, whether it be Romney or Pawlenty or Bachmann or anybody else. And that may give him more traction in the face of a bad economy than he would otherwise get. And in particular, because now Republicans in Congress, presidential candidates, and others also have to deal with the Ryan plan and the unpopularity of the Republican approach to Medicaid – Medicare, excuse me.

So I’ll stop with that and I’m happy to take your questions.

Yes. And can you tell me who you are?

QUESTION: Nikolay Ziman, Russian (inaudible), Itogi. Sir, could you please look at the larger picture on the Republicans’ candidates and perspective Republican candidates? There are a bunch of them right now –


QUESTION: -- at least who announced their desire to run for president.


QUESTION: Among them, three or four candidates which you see as the most prospective, the –


QUESTION: -- who have the most chances to –


QUESTION: -- get the Republican nomination. Thank you.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Yeah. A couple of things to say: The first is I agree with those who say that this is an exceptionally weak field. But you should always keep in mind that when you have a party out of power, and where there isn’t an obvious overwhelming frontrunner, we usually think of it as a weak field. And when they go through these debates, it’s very difficult if you have six or eight or ten people on a stage for one to emerge and to dominate without becoming shrill or extreme. But what usually happens is somebody begins to win contests and they look much stronger, because by definition, they’re winning; they’re beating the others, so that doesn’t mean the Republicans can’t nominate a formidable candidate.

And it’s also important to keep in mind that if things are not going well for President Obama, the bar for a Republican presidential candidate may not quite be as high. You just have to get over the acceptable level where people might want to consider an alternative. But for all the reasons I suggested earlier, that may be more difficult.

Having said that, I think it’s fairly obvious who the front-running candidate is right now. We see it not only in the polls but in a whole series of other ways, and that’s Mitt Romney. But we also know that Romney has very serious weaknesses, going back to his last presidential run. And there will be a very sizeable collection of strong conservatives who will be looking for anybody but Romney. For Romney, he’s going to have to emerge quickly and move far enough ahead that it becomes very difficult for everybody else to consolidate around one other candidate and hope that he can build enough momentum that it will take him through, and the same way that George W. Bush, who did not have that level of opposition, built great momentum in 2000.

Let me note that one problem for him now potentially is New Hampshire. Romney is hoping that New Hampshire, the first primary, the second big contest, will be a big springboard for him, and he’s got reason to be optimistic. The polls show him doing extraordinarily well there, everybody knows him, he was governor in Massachusetts, a neighboring state, he’s spent a lot of time there, he has some strong support there.

But he also lost it to John McCain four years ago, and now, if another potentially strong candidate, John Huntsman, who announced yesterday, builds any traction at all, the likely place where Huntsman will look attractive is New Hampshire, because his model of strong foreign policy credentials, fiscal conservatism, social centrism, fits the profile of an awful lot of the New Hampshire electorate. And of course, he’s a fellow Mormon, competing for the same fundraising sources as Mitt Romney, possibly taking away some of those votes that otherwise would go to Romney. If Romney does not win New Hampshire very strongly, then he’s in deep, deep trouble.

Huntsman, I think you have to look at, because he is an attractive person with a strong record and – well, is independently wealthy, but can probably also raise a sizeable sum of money, and would easily pass the bar of looking like a presidential nominee who could be president. But it’s going to be very, very tough for him, not only because he’s largely unknown to most of the electorate, in the Republican electorate, but because he may not be able to pass those conservative litmus tests, whether it’s support for civil unions for same-sex couples, an unwillingness to say that global warming or climate change is a hoax, and even down to a foreign policy which is more skeptical of American involvement in Afghanistan, much less Libya. But he could be a spoiler in this race.

Michele Bachmann one would have considered a fringe candidate, but this is not a year where you could say that she is a fringe candidate. She showed in the last debatea cleverness, an ability to adapt, to make the agenda hers, partly just by choosing that point to announce her formal candidacy, that she should not be taken entirely lightly. She can probably raise some money. And she could be an enormous headache for another of the obvious front-tier candidates, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who also has that record that would make him potentially viable.

For Tim Pawlenty, who also is not terribly well known, he needs that strong showing in Iowa to immediately demonstrate that he’s got what it takes to a be top-flight competitor. He ought to have great strength there. It’s a neighboring state to his own Minnesota. He’s an evangelical conservative, and there are a lot of those in Iowa in the caucuses. But Michele Bachmann, also from Minnesota, born in Waterloo, Iowa, and with a stronger emotional tie, especially to the women Christian conservatives there, it could greatly complicate matters for Pawlenty.

Now from Iowa and New Hampshire, you move to South Carolina, and this is the most conservative of the early states in a lot of ways. And one can imagine Bachmann actually doing well in Iowa and then doing well in South Carolina and becoming a more serious factor in this race. And if Sarah Palin doesn’t get in, you’re going to have an awful lot of people who like Sarah Palin who are going to be gravitating perhaps to Michele Bachmann. I’m skeptical that she can win a nomination, part of the reason being that her record of accomplishment in Congress is close to zero. And she’s become a national figure in part because she says anything that comes into her head, whether it’s true or false, and has been repeatedly called for it by the – PolitiFact and for making just false statements. So one wouldn’t think that that would hold up, but in this year with the Republican nomination, you never know. And one could even imagine a Herman Cain, an African American strong conservative, having some appeal in South Carolina as well.

This race could go on for some time, and it’s why, of course, if you follow through some of the things that I’ve said or what others are thinking, that it’s not surprising that you have a Governor Rick Perry of Texas or even a Rudy Giuliani considering getting in or getting back in, also complicating matters. But once again, keep in mind also the history of most of this through our lifetimes, or at least our adult lifetimes, is that you really don’t see nominations going right to the convention. You usually see one or two candidates who emerge early and then fight it out, and then the strong desire on the part of the party to rally behind one of them.

So I can weave this scenario that I’ve just done that leaves it entirely confused by the time you get down to Florida, still relatively early on, but it’s more likely that one of these candidates does emerge. And if you’re going to lay the odds right now, you would still say Romney, but I certainly wouldn’t bet heavily on that.

Yes, at the back?

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Min Xiong with the 21st Century Business Herald. Could you explain more about the nomination process? For example, what are the main driving force behind the decision as regard to who is going to be the nominee on behalf of the Republican Party? Of course, I mean, public opinion is important. What are the other driving forces? And that’s one part.

The part two is we see that economy is definitely going to be a major background sound over – all throughout this campaign. If you can make a comparison of the – how much economy plays into this round of election as compared to 2008, where do you see the difference?

MR. ORNSTEIN: Sure. Let me start with the latter. Usually the economy is the number one issue unless it’s going well enough that other issues emerge. In 2008, in significant part because of the economic turndown and then collapse in the fall, it was much more dominant by the time we got to the election itself and probably contributed to Obama winning by a landslide margin. But what also made a difference in 2008 was that we had had eight years of the Bush Administration with growing dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction over two wars, and a strong desire for change, and that’s why Obama won a nomination. It wasn’t the economy so much as it was the Democrats’ desire for a candidate who embodied change and that public desire for change, and it was hard for John McCain, as 70-year-old, to embody change.

You could go back to 1992 and, of course, the famous slogan of James Carville for Bill Clinton was, “It’s the economy, stupid,” so economy matters. And in this case, if unemployment is still very high, if growth is still relatively low, and if the inequality that we have increases, it will be a major factor. Another major factor could well be simply the role of government. As we begin to see some budget cuts implemented, you’re going to find a lot of people who are very happy to see the budget cut as long as they think it’s all waste, fraud, abuse, and foreign aid. When they discover that it’s not, that may play a role too. And who knows what might happen in the world that could have an impact.

Now on the first question, we don’t choose our nominees through some very great deliberative process where a group of elites or even a group of voters sit back and look carefully at all the candidates, weigh their pluses and minuses, and then choose one. And it’s not a random process, but it’s a process that is driven as much by which contests occur early, and there’s still some questions there.

Michigan and Florida, which violated the rules of the parties the last time to try to move up to hold their primaries early because they wanted to be more important players, and then ended up being, at least for a time, punished by saying your delegates won’t be counted before the parties reconsidered that, are thinking about doing exactly the same thing again. Having early contests in places like Florida will matter, but if you go through the process, which for many decades now has solidified with those two early states, small states, Iowa and New Hampshire, and now followed in the recent past by South Carolina, the sequencing of those matters a great deal.

You can try to bypass Iowa and that can succeed. And of course, winning Iowa doesn’t mean that you’re going to win a nomination. McCain pretty much bypassed Iowa the last time. Mitt Romney decided not to, and it didn’t work very well for him, and this time he said he’s going to. But as I suggested, you have a caucus which has a relatively small turnout and tends to focus on the Republican side very much on that fundamentalist Christian base, and then one in New Hampshire that’s a primary that has a different kind of turnout.

And this time in New Hampshire, independents can vote in either party’s nomination contest. When you have – it’s one of the advantages of holding the presidency. If you’re not challenged in your own party, then everybody’s going to gravitate over to the Republican side. And that means in New Hampshire you could find, among other things, a real effort by the Democrats to try and push votes to somebody who would be a spoiler and mess up the Republican contest. Or you might find a group of people who are more moderate, which is a why a John Huntsman could be a factor there and could really confound things even more for Mitt Romney.

So all of this is to say that the choice often emerges as somebody who is the best candidate that they think they can come up with, but it’s not as if the governors or the powerbrokers in the party who used to matter five and six decades ago can dictate terms here. And this time, as we saw with the 2010 election, where the establishment of the party very badly wanted, for example, Mike Castle to win the Republican nomination for the Senate in Delaware and were rebuffed by voters. Some of these Tea Party strong conservatives, Tea Party-oriented strong conservatives who aren’t going to listen to their establishment may have a greater impact.

And we don’t know whether – if there’s a zeitgeist in the Republican Party, it’s going to be “We want to beat Obama, let’s pick the candidate who would have the greatest appeal in the center,” or whether it’s going to be a group of people who say either “We’re going to beat them no matter what, so let’s pick the most conservative candidate we can find who won’t disappoint us in the end,” or “We’re not going to win anyhow, so let’s pick the most conservative candidate because this time we want to go with our hearts and not our heads.”

And I can’t tell you how all of that plays out. But in previous decades, if you think that there might be some rationality to the process focused around who can we get who would win, you wouldn’t be seeing candidates like Michele Bachmann suddenly emerging with surprising strength.


QUESTION: Thank you. Could you explain more – when you talk about establishment, for example, Republican establishment, what is that? Who are they?

MR. ORNSTEIN: Well, you could easily figure out who the formal establishment would happen to be. They are congressional leaders, they are governors, they are leaders in the state legislature, they’re the members of the Republican National Committee. But they make up only a fraction of the delegates at conventions. And while they establish the rules for how you select a nominee, they have some limits in what they can do within states. States determine how they’re going to set up their caucuses or their primaries, sometimes affected by state law. And again, as we saw in the – say the primary in Delaware the last time, even if the establishment all speaks up with one voice – and that meant the heads of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, all the Republican leaders in Delaware and around the country – it doesn’t mean voters will matter.


QUESTION: Shin Shoji, NHK, Japan Broadcasting. You mentioned how a number of key GOP governors are unpopular right now. And how is that going to affect the redistricting process as it works in some of the states like Florida and Ohio and Indiana?

MR. ORNSTEIN: Well, first, keep in mind that states can have very different ways of doing their process, and in Florida, for example, they passed a referendum that creates a much more independent process so it’s not dominated by the governor or the state legislature to the same degree. Then you’ll get states like Indiana where one party dominates and has enough strength that unless they violate the Voting Rights Act in putting together their plans, they can do pretty much what they want. And then you’ll get other states like Virginia where you have a split; the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans – the state Senate – the Republicans control the House, and you negotiate in some fashion.

And some states deadlock and then it goes to the courts. In this case, Republicans have full control over a very substantial number of the states – the swing states that matter, and they’re going to be able to set the terms more than the Democrats will. But if you look at all the different analyses of redistricting, partly because Republicans gained so many seats in the House the last time, they can’t really work to gain more. And the conventional wisdom now says that it may actually – redistricting may net work to the advantage in a small way of the Democrats.

What Republicans are going to be able to do is to protect some of the vulnerable seats, the ones that were strongly Democratic that they picked up in the wave in 2010, make them little less Democratic so that they might be able to hold on in 2012. The problem is if you start to move some Republicans into those districts, you’re going to take them out of other districts that then might become a little more vulnerable. So it’s a more complicated process.

Yes. Right behind you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I am Haykarem Nahapetyan with the Armenian TV. My question is: You mentioned that there was a big dissatisfaction in 2008 during George W. Bush period, so this helped Barack Obama to won – to win the elections. And we have this statement in this Washington Post article that’s – since Frank Roosevelt has won the elections, I mean, no incumbent president since FDR actually has won reelection with greater than 8 percent unemployment. So this can be also another problem for the –


QUESTION: -- for Barack Obama. But in my understanding, on January 20 of 2009, when Barack Obama took the office, the situation in comparison to now was probably – with unemployment and with the economy was probably worse, or at least it was – the country was in decline, and now that the country is – there is some up-rise, though --


QUESTION: -- like the auto industry has some development. So I just wonder how people act in this type of situation, how the society usually acts. They go kind of into details that though we have unemployment, though we have problems now, but it – the situation during the Republican president was worse. So there is no kind of need to reelect the Republican candidate. We should reelect, again, the President, the Democratic candidate. And how the Republican candidate himself or Republican congressman or governors, again, how they can criticize the Democratic President, incumbent President for the economic difficulties, taking into consideration that he inherited all these difficulties from Republicans? So how the society really acts in this type of situation? Thank you.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Yeah. It’s a very interesting question, and we actually have a couple of surveys out just in the last day or so that show conflicting opinions. More Americans now say that they were – that they are worse off under Barack Obama than they were under George Bush by a small margin, and Obama’s handling of the economy has gone down as a consequence. Over a period of time, people – it’s not like people remember what it was like in – at the end of 2008. And a lot of people blame Obama for the TARP program, for example, which of course happened under the Bush Administration. And after a year or two or three, it’s your economy; it’s harder to blame your predecessor.

At the same time, people – voters are not looking back on the Bush years with nostalgia. It’s not like they’re saying, gee, I wish we had that back again. And they are not favorable at all towards the Republicans and their economic policies. If you match up Obama, whose economic policies are not popular, directly with the Republicans, he still has an edge. The problem for Obama is if Ben Bernanke is wrong in saying that the sluggishness now is a short-term thing because of short-term factors and will be back to more robust growth by the end of the year – if he’s right and we’re growing at, say, 3 or 3.5 percent, if unemployment is coming down, then Obama moves into extremely strong shape.

But if things just keep going the way they’ve been going – and I mentioned the unemployment numbers, but generally speaking, when we’ve done research on elections in the past, the economic numbers that have mattered more are growth in real disposable income. If you’re making more money, more Americans are making more money, they’re feeling more optimistic. Right now, those numbers don’t look very good. If you can get some growth, that will help him, even if the unemployment numbers do not decline dramatically. But if things are not better, then he’s going to have a harder time blaming his predecessor, because he will have been president for four full years.

Now I think objectively, he could have a strong case to make, a case that a lot of the problems here are direct legacies of the Bush economic program, and that includes the fact that we have very objective studies that show that we went from very substantial surpluses when George W. Bush became president to projected to be $5.6 trillion in surplus over 10 years in 2001. Back then, the head of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, was worrying about what would happen if we paid off all of our debt and all the economic problems.

QUESTION: He got it from Clinton, from (inaudible).

MR. ORNSTEIN: Yes. That’s – yeah, yes. Well, eight years afterwards, we look at projections of $14 trillion in additional debt. And 80 percent of that swing comes from three Bush policies: the tax cuts, the dominant part; two unpaid wars, no money to pay for them; and a Medicare prescription drug program that had no revenue to pay for it. So you continue those through, as we have, through – into the Obama years, and if you didn’t have those policies in place, we wouldn’t have a debt problem. And you can argue, as we are now vigorously, over whether the mortgage crisis and the financial crisis were caused by overregulation in places like Fannie Mae or by not regulating financial institutions enough.

But Obama could have a case. When you’ve been president for four years, you can’t say, “It’s not my fault.” It becomes your economy. He could also argue that he was prevented from doing some of the things he wanted to do to improve the economy. When you’re president you can’t say, entirely at least, “Blame the Congress.”


QUESTION: Narayan Lakshman of The Hindu from India. You mentioned tax cuts, tax breaks as one of the major factors affecting where we are today. And also you mentioned that in the context of the states. Now – and you’ve said that in your article too. So I was just wondering to what extent would Republicans say – Republicans governors at the state level be willing to consider raising taxes as a policy? Is it an absolute no-no and something that goes against the basic Republican sort of guidebook, or is it possible to do it stealth? For example, I believe under President Bush there were, in certain areas, tax increases where his administration actually said there wouldn’t be.

MR. ORNSTEIN: And Governor Pawlenty is talking about his record and how he balanced the budget without raising taxes. He actually left Minnesota with a $5 billion deficient, the seventh largest in the country, and raised tobacco taxes, not calling them taxes. So governors have done this in the past. I mentioned at the beginning that Governor Rick Snyder in Michigan is actually raising revenues now because he doesn’t see any other way out.

For most of the rest of these governors though, just as for virtually all of the presidential candidates, the question of taxes has become almost a religious one. It’s a qualification. If you talk about raising any taxes, you’re just not going to be acceptable. And for many of these governors facing state legislatures of their own party, but who may be even more ardent in their ideology, that also becomes a very, very difficult thing to do. At some point, they may simply have to do it because they will not be able to cut their budgets anymore, and voters will probably be okay with it, depending on how you do it and whose taxes get raised.

But if you look in California, for example, where you have the Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who wants to do a referendum and let the voters of the state determine whether to continue some taxes that otherwise would expire to help him balance the budget, the Republicans are blocking letting the voters vote on it. So it’s not even saying this is – should be up to the voters. It’s saying we’re afraid that voters might agree, and we will not have tax increases, period.

That, of course, is also greatly complicating the negotiations that Joe Biden is carrying on over the debt limit, and that’s why, interestingly now, you have Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, saying, “Absolutely no taxes, period,” and Eric Cantor, who’s leading the House Republican delegation, saying, “No taxes, but revenues are okay.” So closing loopholes may work there, but they’re unpopular with the Republican base, and that makes matters very difficult, including for these governors.

MODERATOR: Any final questions? (No response.)

Thank you, Mr. Ornstein for your time.

MR. ORNSTEIN: Thank you.

MODERATOR: And thank you all for coming to the Foreign Press Center.

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