Romney Rising. Why? It’s The Economy, Stupid (The Note)

Jun 7, 2011 8:45am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

Less than a week after officially kicking off his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is starting to earn his front-runner label.

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll out this morning not only puts the former Massachusetts governor on top of the field of Republican presidential contenders, it also shows him pulling ahead of Obama among registered voters in a general election matchup.

Romney is leading Obama, 49 percent to 46 percent in the trial heat among registered voters. (Among a larger pool — all Americans — Romney and the president are running even). Still, no other Republican even gets Obama under 50 percent. Moreover, Romney and Obama run evenly among women — a group Obama won by 13 points in 2008.

While that’s great boost for Romney, today’s poll also reveals more evidence that a Sarah Palin candidacy would be a disaster for the GOP. Although she is in second place (17 percent) behind Romney (21 percent) in the GOP field, 64 percent of Americans say they would “definitely not” vote for her, including 41 percent of Republicans.

Though Romney and Palin are still ahead of the rest of the Republican pack, as ABC News pollster Gary Langer points out, “the flipside is that each is not supported by eight in 10 potential GOP voters, indicating plenty of room to move as the field coalesces and voters tune in. Today just 22 percent of Americans (and 24 percent of leaned Republicans) are following the 2012 presidential election very closely.”

And, of course, the new numbers from the ABC News-Washington Post survey carry lots of bad news for the president, especially on voters’ views of his handling of the economy and their overall pessimism about the state of the American economy. On the same day that a high-profile member of Obama’s economic team, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee, announced he is leaving his post, the poll finds that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy.

Who would do a better job handling it? Respondents picked “Republicans in Congress” over the president by 3 percentage points. Sixty-six percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

Heading into the 2012 cycle, Obama is facing a 68 percent “Frustration Index” (based on ratings of the economy, presidential approval, anti-incumbency and dissatisfaction with the federal government). That’s lower than it was when Obama won in 2008 but at about the same place it was in 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost re-election.

These are scary numbers for the President and they confirm a central tenant of GOP case against Obama: it's the economy stupid.

More from Jake Tapper’s “Good Morning America” report on Obama’s flagging poll numbers (with an assist from the ABC Smart Screen):


TURF WAR: PAWLENTY GOES TO CHICAGO TO TOUT ECONOMIC PLAN. “Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty Tuesday will head to President Obama's old stomping grounds at the University of Chicago to bash him as "a champion practitioner of class warfare" and to unveil his own economic plan,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports. “‘Regrettably, President Obama is a champion practitioner of class warfare. Elected with a call for unity and hope, he has spent three years dividing our nation, fanning the flames of class envy and resentment to deflect attention from his own failures and the economic hardship they have visited on America,’ Pawlenty plans to say, according to excerpts of his remarks released tonight. The former Minnesota governor will say that America's entrepreneurs ‘have been discouraged and weighed down by President Obama’s big government and heavy handed regulations.’ Pawlenty wants to set ‘a big, positive goal’ of growing the nation's economy by five percent. ‘Such a national economic growth target will set our sights on a positive future and inspire the actions needed to reach it,’ he will say. ‘By the way, five percent growth is not some pie-in-the-sky number. We’ve done it before, and with the right policies, we can do it again.’  Pawlenty on Tuesday will also propose to cut the business tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and eliminate special-interest handouts and subsidies. In addition, he wants to give small businesses the option of paying at the corporate rate.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: SEN. BERNIE SANDERS. ABC’s Rick Klein sits down with Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt. Also on the program, Politico’s senior political reporter, Jonathan Martin. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


WEINERGATE UPDATE. “The celebrity gossip website TMZ has revealed another one of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sext partners: former porn star, Ginger Lee,” ABC’s Molly Hunter notes. “TMZ reports that when the questions started coming, the New York Democratic Congressman encouraged Lee to lie. Weiner reportedly wrote to Lee on June 1: ‘The key is to have a short, thought out statement that tackles the top line questions and then refer people back to it.  Have a couple of iterations of: 'This is silly.  Like so many others, I follow Rep. Weiner on Twitter. I don't know him and have never met him. He briefly followed me and sent me a dm saying thank you for the follow. That's it.’”  

As Weiner disclosed yesterday that he engaged in "several inappropriate" electronic relationships with six women over three years, ABC News released an interview with Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas who provided dozens of photos, emails, Facebook messages and cell phone call logs that she says chronicle a sexually-charged electronic relationship with the congressman that rapidly-evolved for more than a month, starting on April 20, 2011. "I just chuckled," Broussard, a nursing student, said of her reaction to Weiner's initial response to the Twitter incident. "It would be one thing if he came out and said, 'Hey, so what?' But now he's saying he got hacked?" Broussard said she received the same photo of a man's crotch on May 18 in an email from a man who she then believed was Weiner. Broussard, who describes herself as disinterested in politics and previously unaware of Weiner, said that she has never met the congressman in person and doesn't "think he's a bad guy." And, she said, she participated in risque online chats — as she has done with other men online — with the man she presumed to be Weiner. During one flirtatious Facebook chat last month, Broussard said, she issued the man on the other end a challenge. "I asked him to take a picture and write 'me' on it so I would know," Broussard said in an interview. The reply, she says, came moments later. Email records provided to ABC News by Broussard show that at 3:08 p.m. on May 5th she received a message from, which is listed as an email address for Weiner on one campaign document found online.

More from ABC’s exclusive interview with Broussard from Chris Cuomo, Chris Vlasto and Devin Dwyer: Slideshow of photos obtained by ABC News:

Can Weiner survive? ABC’s George Stephanopoulos talked to Democratic political strategist James Carville about the congressman's prospects. The verdict? “It’s iffy,” Carville said.

PORTRAIT OF A MARRIAGE. “When Bill Clinton officiated at the Gatsbyesque wedding of Representative Anthony D. Weiner and Huma Abedin at Oheka Castle on Long Island last summer, the former president reportedly joked that marrying a politician can be difficult, because it is ‘easy to distrust them, whatever their religion.’ Less than a year later, Mr. Clinton’s warning has proved to be prescient,” The New York Times’ Ashley Parker reports. “During his press conference Monday, Mr. Weiner seemed most choked up as he apologized to Ms. Abedin, 35, a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose own marriage has been rocked by her husband’s sexual peccadilloes. … Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have seemed an unlikely couple from the start. They come from very different backgrounds — he is a Jewish man from Brooklyn, she a Michigan-born Muslim-American raised in Saudi Arabia by an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. And Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have very different personalities. … But they complement each other well, said friends of the couple, who described Mr. Weiner as a sweet, supportive partner. Ms. Abedin, a practicing Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic, does not drink, and Mr. Weiner has given up alcohol in solidarity with her, they said. He sometimes fasts with her during Ramadan, and often meets her at the airport when she returns from long trips, even in the early morning hours.”

BOTTOM LINE: Despite Weiner's intention to stay in the House, it's not clear he can or will. Media outlets are hungry for details of his Internet encounters and at least a couple of women have been willing to share them. The House Ethics Committee isn't what will ultimately force him out. The question is how much humiliation is he willing to stomach? And, of course, how long will House Democratic leadership be willing to let this drag out and distract before they "encourage" him to leave?



SANTORUM STARTS HIS ENGINES. Rick Santorum officially kicked off his campaign for President of the United States on the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse in Western Pennsylvania yesterday,” ABC’s Susan Archer reports. “Introduced by his wife, Karen and surrounded by his seven children, Santorum decried the direction he believes the President has taken the country in. Slamming the administration's record of spending and positions on social issues, Santorum said, ‘He's not just devalued our currency, he's devalued our culture.’ A crowd of about 200 gathered to hear the former Senator from Pennsylvania talk about his connection to Somerset County, dating back to his grandfather, who settled here after leaving fascist Italy in 1927 to work in the Pennsylvania coal mines, not far from where Santorum announced his candidacy. Santorum cites his grandfather as the motivation behind his presidential bid drawing on nostalgia from yester-year and a need to create that again. ‘That's the America that my grandfather came to. That's the America that my Dad lived in. And that's the America that they need again today.’ And while the announcement may have the lacked the flair of a multi-city bus tour, his message was clear. ‘I'm ready to lead. I'm ready. I'm ready to do what has to be done for the next generation," said Santorum.”

DEMOCRATS LOOKING TO OUST PAUL RYAN. “Democrats haven’t fielded a competitive opponent against Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan in years. But now, as they are trying to paint the rising GOP star as a bogeyman because of his plan to overhaul Medicare, an effort is being made by Democrats to run a serious challenger against him in 2012,” the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas notes. “Cue Rob Zerban, a Democrat Kenosha County Board supervisor running for the seat, who summed up his campaign message in Milwaukee this weekend: ‘My opponent not only endorses the plan to end Medicare. He wrote the plan.’ [Ryan] has won re-election easily in past years, despite coming from a swing district that President Obama carried in 2008 with 51 percent of the vote. In 2004, President George W. Bush won there with 53 percent. Republicans are downplaying the notion that he’s more vulnerable. … Zerban, a small business owner, has so far enjoyed supportive words from national Democrats, who have listed Paul as one of 50 vulnerable Republican members of Congress in its ‘Drive to 25’ campaign. DCCC Chair Steve Israel told the liberal Huffington Post that he thinks Ryan’s seat is ‘one district where the political landscape may change’ and that Zerban is an ‘excellent’ candidate who “got into the race largely because he couldn’t tolerate Paul Ryan’s leadership on a plan to terminate Medicare.”

EMILY’S LIST PUTS THREE MORE CANDIDATES ‘ON THE LIST.’ Emily’s List, which is devoted to electing women to public office, is announcing its second round of support in key Congressional races today. They’ve created a program called “On the List,” as a way to promote candidates early on in the 2012 race. The newst candidates to be adde are Tarryl Clark (MN-08), Kate Marshall (NV-02), and Elizabeth Esty (CT-05). “The best way to beat the Republican war on women is to send more Democratic women to Congress,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. “After the stunning upset win by Kathy Hochul in New York, our members are more energized than ever and eager to take back the House.” Today’s three candidates join the “inaugural” group of women who were placed “On the List”: Lois Frankel (FL-22), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) and Christie Vilsack (IA-04).  

WHAT WAS IN JOHN EDWARDS’ INBOX? “If the case against former presidential candidate John Edwards goes to trial, prosecutors plan to use his own emails with a former aide to help prove a key element of their case against him,” according to a dispatch from the Associated Press’ Nedra Pickler. “People familiar with the case told The Associated Press that Edwards and his former speechwriter Wendy Button exchanged emails working on a draft statement for him to acknowledge what he had denied publicly – paternity of his out-of-wedlock child, along with knowledge of payments to keep his pregnant mistress in hiding. The messages, draft statements and notes of their related phone conversations were obtained by prosecutors in their case against Edwards, indicted on charges he failed to report nearly $1 million allegedly spent to keep his mistress out of the public eye as he pursued the White House. The former senator was still denying he was the baby's father and publicly maintained he knew nothing about any money that may have been spent when the emails were sent in summer 2009. Prosecutors must prove the 2004 vice presidential nominee had knowledge of the payments to convict him in the campaign finance case. Edwards proclaimed his innocence of any crime after being indicted Friday.”

GOODBYE GOOLSBEE. “Austan Goolsbee, a longtime adviser to President Obama and the only economist left on his core economic team, plans to leave as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers by September, after a year in the job, to return to the University of Chicago,” The New York Times’ Jackie Calmes reports. “With the recovery flagging, the White House is eager to name a successor to Mr. Goolsbee this summer and is considering several academic economists, an administration official said on Monday. The job requires Senate confirmation. ‘Since I first ran for the U.S. Senate, Austan has been a close friend and one of my most trusted advisers,’ Mr. Obama said in a statement late Monday. ‘Over the past several years, he has helped steer our country out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and although there is still much work ahead, his insights and counsel have helped lead us toward an economy that is growing and creating millions of jobs. He is one of America’s great economic thinkers.’ Mr. Goolsbee, 41, a left-of-center economist who has advised Mr. Obama since the president was a state senator, has been part of the inner circle since the earliest days of the Obama presidential campaign in late 2006.”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: From ABC’s White House reporter Mary K. Bruce: Today the president will welcome German Chancellor Merkel to the White House for the first official by a female head of government during the Obama Administration. The two leaders are expected to talk about the transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, the Middle East peace process, and global economic issues, among other things. Last night the two leaders dined — just the two of them — at the Georgetown restaurant 1789. Tonight the President and the First lady will host a State Dinner in the Rose Garden for the Chancellor.

NOTABLE: The U.S. Constitution grants its citizens the right to freedom of the press, but is that right limited by the responsibility to preserve national security? Intelligence Squared U.S. will shine a light on that question in a debate tomorrow night at the NYU Skirball Center in New York City. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute Gabriel Schoenfeld will debate with Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz and Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times David Sanger. Nightline’s own John Donvan will moderate.  The event begins at 6:45 p.m. WNET’S “THIRTEEN” will air the debate on Wednesday, June 15 at 12:30 am; WLIW 21 will air the debate on Thursday, June 3 at 7 pm with WLIW World repeating the following week. (h/t ABC’s Sarah Parnass) 



@RobinRoberts: Robin Roberts Excited about the newest member to the abc news team. @katiecouric !! Welcome back Katie.

@waltershapiroPD: Intriguing precedents: Both 1952 White House nominees were drafted. Lodge won 1964 NH primary on a write-in. My latest:

@MPOTheHill: Another point from the poll: For all the talk of Republicans looking for new candidates, Jim DeMint checks in as the choice of 0% of GOPers.

@GlennKesslerWP: New Fact Checker: Obama's bogus accounting on the auto bailout loans.

@seanspicer: myb DNC isnt calling for Weiner resignation bc they count as job "saved"



* Tim Pawlenty will give a speech Tuesday morning in Chicago detailing his plan for "boosting the economy and creating jobs.”

* Rick Santorum is in Iowa for an event with the Iowa Right to Life at the Informed Choices Medical Clinic.

* House Speaker John Boehner will discuss the GOP “Plan For America’s Job Creators”at the Middletown Rotary Club in Middletown, Ohio.

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