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Hagel's Weak Record Cited by Both Parties
Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2012) --The Republican Jewish Coalition today announced its opposition to the potential appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as Secretary of Defense, citing a long list of actions Hagel has taken that raise alarms about his failure to support Israel.
- August 2006: Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
- October 2000: Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
- November 2001: Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to continue his policy of not meeting with the Yasir Arafat until the Palestinian leader took steps to end the violence against Israel.
- December 2005: Hagel was one of only 27 Senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.
- June 2004: Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran's nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
- August 2006: Anti-Israel group CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel, "Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel..."
- March 2009: Hagel was one of 10 former and current foreign policy officials who signed a letter urging Pres. Obama to open direct talks with Hamas leaders.
- On Iran: Hagel, writing in a May 2006 article for The Financial Times, explicitly ruled out the military option against Iran that Pres. Obama claims to have 'kept on the table.'
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Chuck Hagel's statements and actions regarding Israel have raised serious concerns for many Americans who care about Israel. The Jewish community and every American who supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship have cause for alarm if the President taps Hagel for such an important post. The appointment of Chuck Hagel would be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel."
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
By: Noah Silverman, RJC Congressional Affairs Director
A report from Reuters has now confirmed what Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin had discovered last month - that President Obama is considering former Senator Chuck Hagel for a top national security post, likely Secretary of Defense.
Rogin reported that Hagel was "being vetted." Presumably, that vetting process includes consultations with a range of interested parties. And presumably, that includes pro-Israel advocates. Let's hope that anyone on the receiving end of such a query responds forthrightly that for the President to elevate Hagel to a position of trust would be construed as a gesture of indifference - if not outright contempt - toward Jewish Americans and every American who supports a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.
In the past, Jewish leaders have made their concerns about Hagel clear. The last time President Obama had to pick a new Defense Secretary, in 2010, a report by the Washington Jewish Week included red-flag quotes from numerous community sources - including pro-Obama Democrats:
- D.C. Jewish community professional who is in contact with the White House: "I have to think that the mainstream Jewish communal organizations would have meaningful problems with it"
- Washington PAC Director and former AIPAC Executive Director Morris Amitay: "Hagel would be in a position to reinforce the worst aspects of the administration's current Middle East policies, which would be very dangerous for Israel"
- A longtime Jewish political operative: "Given his long, questionable record and the clear problems his nomination would cause -- not to mention the volumes of criticism by other Democrats for his rank hostility to Israel -- it is hard to believe that the White House would want to make such a risky choice at precisely the time we are asking the Israeli to 'trust us' on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict."
- Democratic operative who campaigned for Obama in the Jewish community: "If he was in fact appointed, I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration."
In fact, some of the most forceful criticism of Hagel's record on issues of concern to American Jews and other pro-Israel Americans has come from the National Jewish Democratic Council, "the national voice of Jewish Democrats."
When Hagel considered running for President in 2007, NJDC signaled that they planned to call him to account for a record that included numerous departures from the pro-Israel mainstream. To wit:
- In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
- In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
- In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refused to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yasir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.
- In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authority to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.
- In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
- And here’s what the anti-Israel group, CAIR wrote in praise of Hagel: “Potential presidential candidates for 2008, like Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, were falling all over themselves to express their support for Israel. The only exception to that rule was Senator Chuck Hagel…” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/28/06]
And Hagel's history of pronouncements and other actions is, if anything, even more alarming. Hagel wrote in a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post that the President Bush erred in refusing to meet with Yassir Arafat and that Arafat and his support for terrorism against Israel were not the real issue. He wrote: "...we cannot hold the Middle East peace process hostage by making Yasser Arafat the issue.... Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue."
With respect to Iran, Hagel has argued that, "Whether we like it or not, there will be no peace or stability in the Middle East without Iran's participation." And he has explicitly ruled out the military option Obama has supposedly 'kept on the table.'
In a devastating 2010 post on Commentary's blog, Jennifer Rubin called attention to more problematic items in Hagel's record.
- "In 2006, when Hezbollah’s attacks provoked Israeli retaliation and the war in Lebanon, Hagel screeched for the president to demand an immediate cease-fire, arguing it was essential in order to 'enhance America’s image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East.' Our credibility, in his eyes, depends on the United States’s preventing Israel from defending itself."
- In 2009, "Hagel signed a letter urging Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas..."
- "In 2007 Hagel wanted to open direct, unconditional talks with Iran. (“It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West.”) In 2007 he voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization."
Rubin went on to quote an account of an incident that suggested Hagel's stances reflected not just substantive disagreements - but also more visceral sentiment:
In an interview quoted in Aaron David Miller’s book on the peace process called The Much Too Promised Land, Hagel said: “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."
Hagel then described a meeting he had in New York with a group of supporters of Israel, one of whom suggested Hagel wasn’t supportive enough of Israel. Hagel said he responded: “Let me clear something up here if there’s any doubt in your mind. I’m a United States Senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel."
This led Rubin to predict that "Hagel is a nominee who would thrill the Walt-Mearsheimer Lobby." In apparent confirmation of this prediction, anti-Israel commentator M.J. Rosenberg opined on Twitter that it "would be great" if Obama picked Hagel for a high-powered administration post.
Similarly, a Hagel admirer interviewed by Rogin emphasized his expectation that a Cabinet appointment would afford Hagel a more prominent perch from which to continue "feeding tough-love messages to Obama... on the Middle East" something the source said Hagel had been doing from the outside "for some time." And naturally, the notoriously Israel-averse former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski endorses Hagel as someone who could help Obama "follow through" notwithstanding "the influence of lobbies" and other annoying impediments.
The Reuters report suggests that picking Hagel would somehow demonstrate bipartisan goodwill on Obama's part, but undercuts this by admitting that since his retirement from the Senate, "Hagel has been a big critic of his own party." Indeed, Hagel's only endorsements have been endorsements of Democrats, notably 2010 Senate candidate Joe Sestak and 2012 Senate candidate Bob Kerrey, who was running in the state Hagel once represented in the Senate. (In both instances, voters declined to take Hagel's suggestion.)
Interestingly, the Nebraska Republican party offered evidence that Hagel's Republicanism is of the in-name-only variety - a photograph of Hagel's lawn, with signs touting Obama and local (Virginia) Democrats on prominent display. Asked about the signs at the Kerrey endorsement press conference in Nebraska, Hagel gamely responded that his wife put up the signs, but he didn't protest too much. Indeed, he took the occasion to slam the GOP yet again.
How much will pro-Israel groups protest if Obama taps Hagel despite all the problems in his record? It will be a real gut check moment.
In 2010, NJDC's then-Executive Director Ira Forman defended the Obama administration's decision to appoint Hagel to an advisory panel, but seemed to draw a red line in an interview with the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb:
He suggested that NJDC would publicly oppose Hagel's nomination for a position with more authority. "If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we'd have real concerns," Forman said. And Forman indicated that his group would oppose Hagel's appointment to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations.
Based on Hagel's record, it's clear those 'real concerns' are greatly warranted. (How seriously the administration will take them is a separate question; Rogin reports that Hagel has already been offered important posts, "including secretary of homeland security, director of national intelligence, and ambassador to China.")
If Obama does end up nominating Hagel for one of these key positions, we'll see if NJDC and other administration-friendly folks in the pro-Israel camp have the integrity to reiterate their concerns.
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Republicans Say Gaza Action Justified by 74%-12%
RJC Urges All Americans to Support Israel
Washington, D.C. (November 19, 2012) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) noted a CNN/ORC poll released today
showing that 74% of Republicans think that Israel is justified in taking military action against Hamas in Gaza. Across the country, 57% of all Americans believe Israel's actions are justified, with 25% saying the Israeli operation is unjustified.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "At this time, Hamas is launching hundreds of rockets a day against civilian targets in Israel and the IDF is using pinpoint strikes to take out Hamas' weapons capabilities with the least possible harm to the Palestinian civilians among whom Hamas is embedded. The RJC joins with the Jewish community and all friends of Israel in expressing our support for Israel's actions and our fervent hope that Israel's operations against Hamas will bring lasting security to the people of Israel.
"We hope all Americans will rally behind Israel. Regardless of one's politics, now is the time for people in both parties to unite in support of America's only democratic ally in the region - Israel."
The CNN poll
also showed that Democrats narrowly believe Israel is justified in its action by 41%-36%.
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The RJC conducted phone surveys among Jewish voters on election night, after the polls had closed, to get a feel for how the Jewish community voted this year and whether Israel was an important issue for Jewish voters.
We did three surveys: a 1000-person sample national poll of Jewish voters; a 600-person sample poll of Jewish voters in Florida; and a 600-person sample poll of Jewish voters in Ohio. The full summary and cross tab data from all three polls can be found at the links at the end of this article.
The Obama-Romney race in the Jewish community
In the national RJC poll, which had a margin of error of +/- 3%, we found that 31.6% of Jewish voters chose Mitt Romney and 60.8% chose Barack Obama. (Of the remainder, 1.4% chose a third party candidate and 6.2 % refused to say how they voted.) This number for Jewish support of Romney is in keeping with national media exit polls, which showed Romney getting about 31% of the Jewish vote and Obama getting 69%, a 9-point drop from the 78% of the Jewish vote that Obama received in 2008.
That 32% support for Romney represents a 10-point gain, or a nearly 50% increase in Jewish support, from the 22% that John McCain received in 2008.
An historical view
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Republicans significantly moved the needle in the Jewish community, in a result that was consistent with what we've been saying for some time about the GOP making inroads in the Jewish community. That trend continues to grow. In fact, the 10-point gain this year is the largest such gain for Republicans since 1972."
Brooks also noted that the historical average of Jewish support for Republican presidential candidates since 1920 has been 23.5% and Romney did considerably better than that benchmark.
Jews and other groups
In a conference call with journalists to discuss the RJC poll results, former White House Press Secretary and current CNN contributor Ari Fleischer made the following points:
• The Republicans saw a decline among other communities, such as Latin voters and younger voters, which means the rise in Jewish support for the GOP presidential candidate in key swing states helped keep the GOP competitive in a tough race.
• The RJC poll results show a legitimate expression of buyer's remorse on the part of Jewish voters. Romney won a higher percentage of the Jewish vote, against a sitting President, than George W. Bush, an acknowledged friend of Israel, won in 2004. (Romney won 32% this year, Bush won 24% in 2004.)
• President Obama carried the election, but he lost about 3 points overall compared to his popular vote tally in 2008, and he lost a few points each among Blacks and young voters, while losing 9 points among Jewish voters.
Role of Israel in voter decisions
Another very noteworthy point from the RJC polls: Israel was an important element in Jewish voter choices this year. Our survey shows that 76.5% of respondents said that Israel was "somewhat important" or "very important" in determining their vote.
This confirmed the RJC's decision to make Israel, along with the economy, a focal point of our outreach efforts. It played a prominent, but not exclusive, role in our TV ads and mailers.
While we are disappointed by the election results, we are encouraged by the rise in Jewish support for the GOP.
The 2012 election marks another data point in the continuing trend of greater Jewish support for the GOP over time. The RJC will continue to educate our community and to advocate in the Jewish community for Republican ideas and policies. We see the rising numbers of Jewish support for Republicans as an example to other Republican constituencies of what is possible with hard work and a meaningful message. If the GOP makes similar gains among Black, Latino, and young voters in future years, Republicans will have strong electoral victories to celebrate.
RJC Exit Poll Results (PDF files)
National survey: Summary Cross tabs
Florida survey: Summary Cross tabs
Ohio survey: Summary Cross tabs
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GOP Gains 10pts among Jewish Voters since 2008
Washington, D.C. (November 7, 2012) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today released one of the largest and most comprehensive series of exit polls ever taken in the Jewish community.
The survey, a national sample of 1000 Jewish voters, as well as a 600-person sample of Jewish voters in Ohio and a 600-person sample of Florida Jewish voters, shows Jewish support for the President dropped from 78% in 2008 to 69% last night. See the poll results at the links below.
Matt Brooks, the executive director of the RJC said, "The results demonstrate that President Barack Obama and the Democrats saw a significant erosion of support from 2008, while Republicans continued their trend of the last several decades of making inroads in the Jewish community."
The Republican share of the Jewish vote jumped nationally from 22 percent to 32 percent -- an increase of almost 50 percent -- and is part of a trend in which Republicans have gained market share among Jewish voters in five of the last six national elections. The ten-point gain is the largest gain since 1972.
The Democrats' loss of support among Jewish voters indicates continued unease in the Jewish community with the President's handling of U.S.-Israel relations. The President dropped three points with all voters versus ten points with Jewish voters.
"The RJC is encouraged by the gains we made in 2012 and by the continuing movement in the Jewish community toward the GOP. Despite the discouraging election results, we're pleased by the gains we have made in the Jewish community," said Matt Brooks.
Exit Polls Show Erosion of Jewish Support for Obama
GOP makes gains in 5 out of last 6 national elections
Washington, D.C. (November 7, 2012) -- Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks issued the following statement today:
The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates President Barack Obama. There are challenging times ahead for America's leaders, who must address the stagnant economy, the need to create more jobs, and the threat of a nuclear Iran. All of us must come together to craft real solutions to the very serious problems our country faces today.
One clear take-away from the outcome of this election is that the Jewish community spoke loudly and clearly regarding their concerns about the policies of the Obama administration.
Early exit polls results indicate a significant erosion of support for the President from 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008 to 69 percent in 2012. The trend in the Jewish community is unmistakeable. In five of the last six national elections, Republicans have increased their support among Jewish voters and they continue to make inroads in the Jewish community. Later today, the Republican Jewish Coalition will release a series of polls that highlight the trends in Jewish voting.
The RJC, the national voice of the growing Jewish Republican movement since 1985, is encouraged by the gains we made in 2012 and by the continuing movement in the Jewish community toward the GOP. We will continue to educate and advocate in our community for the principles and policies we believe will bring the greatest security and prosperity to all Americans.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012
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By: Matthew Brooks, RJC Executive Director
As Will Rogers said, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!" In the last four years, the Obama administration has dug our country deeper and deeper into several painful and dangerous holes. It's time to stop digging and find better solutions.
Pres. Obama's economic policies have eroded the earning power of the middle class and mired us in the slowest-growing post-recession economy in decades. A wave of new taxes will hit working families in January. Billions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on a useless "stimulus" and "green" companies that went bankrupt. To date, Pres. Obama has added nearly $6 trillion to the national debt since taking office.
Meanwhile, unemployment stood above 8 percent for 43 straight months during Pres. Obama's tenure. Companies aren't hiring – in large part because of the uncertainty and poor prospects created by heavy-handed government regulations and a chaotic tax environment.
Mitt Romney has a better solution. By lowering tax rates across the board, while eliminating deductions and loopholes for high-end earners, we can broaden the tax base and bring in more revenue without raising taxes on the middle class. Responsible bipartisan efforts to cut non-security spending and reform the tax code, along with opening up more energy resources on this continent, will spur economic growth and cut the deficit. Lower corporate tax rates and more sensible regulations will make it possible for new businesses to start and for established businesses to grow.
Another hole is being dug by the rising costs of health care and the looming bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security. Obamacare is already adding to the cost of health care for families and many employers have said they may have to drop their employee insurance plans under its restrictions. We will have to slash entitlement benefits and raise taxes to punishing levels if we don't get a handle on how Medicare and Social Security are structured.
The answer to these problems lies in allowing increased competition to bring down costs, while providing a secure safety net for those in need. Mitt Romney wants to repeal and replace Obamacare with a free-market system that protects people with preexisting conditions and the poor. His plan for Medicare reform shields everyone age 55 and older from any changes to the system and will keep traditional Medicare available for those younger workers who choose it. That will strengthen Medicare and offer the same benefits at lower cost to today's younger workers when they reach retirement age.
In foreign policy, Pres. Obama has pursued a naïve and dangerous policy that has given our enemies new openings to harm us, as in Benghazi, Libya. Pres. Obama's mixed messages and inaction during the Arab Spring have allowed Islamist forces to gain ground in several countries. He was silent during the 2010 freedom demonstrations in Iran and his response to the civil war in Syria has not advanced freedom, peace, or U.S. interests in the region.
Mitt Romney proposes a principled policy that puts America's national interests first and that projects American diplomatic, economic, and if absolutely necessary, military strength to protect those interests. Romney understands that we must stand with our allies and continue the fight against the radical Islamists who threaten our security and our democratic values.
The U.S.-Israel alliance has been badly hurt by the antipathy Pres. Obama has shown to Israel and her leaders. The military cooperation mandated by our pro-Israel Congress is strong, but the level of trust and cooperation between the two governments is low. Pres. Obama's made the "1967 borders" and Israeli construction freezes starting points for negotiations, which reinforced Palestinian intransigence and made peace between Israel and the Palestinians even more elusive.
Mitt Romney will stand with Israel, knowing that Israel is our best ally and an important partner with the U.S., and understanding that strong strategic, economic, and moral ties bind the two countries.
One of the most dangerous threats to American national security today is the possibility of a nuclear Iran. Congress supported sanctions on Iran (sometimes over the President's objection) but the diplomatic effort to support those sanctions has been weak and ineffectual. That is why Russia and China have routinely stymied efforts to create a truly effective international sanctions regime that might deter the Iranians. A nuclear Iran would be an existential threat to Israel, a destabilizing force in the Middle East, and a clear threat to America's interests and those of our European and Asian allies. The President's policies have given Iran almost four years to continue enriching uranium; they now approach the quantity and quality needed to create nuclear weapons.
Mitt Romney is committed to stopping Iran from acquiring the capability to build nuclear weapons. Our national security, and the security of our most important allies around the globe, depends on a strong U.S. policy toward Iran.
The American people face a significant choice in just a few days' time: a choice between a government-run, top-down economy and a free-market, opportunity economy; a choice between the weakness that invites attacks and the strength to keep our country secure; and a choice between leaving our children a country that we have built and enriched with freedom and ingenuity, or leaving them a country shackled in debt and diminished in scope. It's not too late to stop digging holes and start building our country again.
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Washington, D.C. (October 31, 2012) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today launched the final ad in its "My Buyer's Remorse" campaign, featuring Bryna Franklin of Jerusalem, a lifelong Democrat and former chair of Democrats Abroad Israel. She voted for a Republican for President for the first time in her 80 years when she voted this year for Mitt Romney.
Bryna, a delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention and who served for years as vice chair of the Franklin County Democratic Central Committee in Missouri, explained her decision as stemming from a deep disappointment in President Obama on a range of issues.
Because of the sustained high unemployment rates, the loss of property value and the high foreclosure rates, and the fact that a large part of every dollar our government spends is borrowed from China, Bryna thinks the President's record on the economy is dismal.
She believes that President Obama's foreign policy actions have weakened America and undermined our relationships with our allies. In particular, she thinks that the President's hostility to Israel does immense harm to both Israel and the U.S.
RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said, "Bryna has been an active and committed Democrat her whole life. But this year, like many other Jewish Democrats, she is calling on her fellow Jews across America to support Mitt Romney."
The ad is part of the RJC's $6.5 million effort to reach out to Jewish voters in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. It is running on broadcast and cable television as a 30-second spot. A longer web version is also available.See the TV ad here.See the web ad here.
Washington, D.C. (October 23, 2012) -- Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks commented on the third and final presidential debate of 2012:
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"Gov. Mitt Romney made a very strong showing in the final debate, demonstrating his knowledge of foreign policy issues and his understanding of the nature of our allies and foes on the global stage. Romney understands how to protect American interests abroad. He will stand with Israel - not behind her, but beside her - with no "daylight" in between. He will shape American foreign policy to help nations like Syria and Pakistan resist Islamist extremism and move out of turmoil toward greater freedom and opportunity.
"Romney made it clear that in order for the U.S. to fulfill its role in the world, we must first be strong - economically, militarily, and diplomatically. The President's policies over the last four years have weakened us. Romney's plans to grow the economy and get people back to work will strengthen America at home and in the eyes of the world.
“Over the three presidential debates, Romney offered a competent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful take on the challenges that face us at home and abroad, and a clear policy agenda for turning us away from the failures of the last four years and making America strong, safe, and prosperous again.”
Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2012) -- Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks commented on the second presidential debate last night:
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"Last night's debate highlighted the choice facing voters this year. With specific facts and examples, Gov. Romney demonstrated that Pres. Obama's broken promises, inaction, and failed policies have 'buried' the middle class. Gov. Romney put forward his plans for sound, principled policies that will protect the middle class, encourage job creation, increase American access to our continent's rich energy resources, and grow the economy.
"Gov. Romney also reminded voters of Pres. Obama's failed foreign policies, which include the administration's response to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the distance the President has put between the U.S. and Israel. Romney outlined his plans for strong U.S. policies toward countries that threaten American security and economic strength, including Syria, Iran, and China.
"Pres. Obama could not defend his record, because in four years he has not accomplished what he promised and what America needs: more jobs, economic growth, and security. Gov. Romney has the experience and know-how to bring those things back and make America great again."