THE NOTE: The "war on women," Rosen-gate, and doggie wars have been great fodder for cable news, but they have masked what we all know is the issue that is going to determine the election: the economy.
Voters have a funny way of being able to cut through the clutter and get to what really matters.
The last three polls released this week - from Pew, The New York Times-CBS News and Quinnipiac University - show a very close race for the White House, with President Obama holding a narrow lead.
The reason? They still don't feel great about the state of the economy or the president's handling of it.
In The New York Times-CBS News survey, 44 percent of respondents approved of Obama's handling of the economy while 48 percent did not.
In this week's Pew Research Center poll just 24 percent said they are satisfied with the way things are going in this country today.
And in a fresh Quinnipiac University national poll released this morning, just 38 percent of American voters said they approve of the way the president is handling the economy. By a 47 to 43 percent margin, voters also see Mitt Romney as better on the economy than Obama. By an even larger - 44 to 31 percent margin - voters pick Romney as better on gas prices.
But here's some good news for the Obama administration on that score, according to ABC News Business Correspondent Richard Davies:
"Gas prices appear to have peaked and are likely to head lower in the coming weeks. Gasoline futures dropped 4 days in a row, falling more than 6 percent from their peak reached late last month. The U.S. Energy Department reported a slight decline in pump prices over the past couple of weeks, but deeper price cuts are probably coming."
As Romney, himself, said in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity yesterday, "I recognize poll go up and down, a lot's going to happen between now and Nov. 6."
OBAMA: NO 'SILVER SPOON' President Obama on Wednesday touted the success of his job training initiatives for the unemployed, while warning voters that they are in the crosshairs of Republicans' proposed budget cuts, notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. Obama spoke to a crowd of 400 mostly blue-collar workers and students at Loraine County Community College, in an economically hard-hit town west of Cleveland. "Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth," Obama said. "That's what leads to strong, durable economic growth." "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn't. But somebody gave us a chance, just like these folks up here are looking for a chance," he said, drawing polite applause from the swing state crowd. http://abcn.ws/I6RE0N
EXCLUSIVE: THE ROMNEYS' DANCING HORSE COMPETES WITHOUT THEM. An ABC News investigation by Matthew Mosk (@mattmosk): The World Cup finals for the elite sport of dancing horses, known as dressage, opened yesterday in the Netherlands without the presence of two of its most prominent wealthy devotees, Mitt and Ann Romney. The Romneys' horse, Rafalca, will compete, however, performing to music personally selected by the Republican presidential candidate. Until recently, her presence at such an elite event would have been automatic - followers of the sport describe her as a fixture in the stands on the global dressage circuit, and in past years she brought her husband Mitt Romney along with her. While the rigors of the campaign trail are likely a major impediment this year, political analysts told ABC News another, more important factor may be behind the decision to downplay discussion of her pricey hobby: How it looks. The rarefied sport of dressage is a sort of classical equestrian dance competition that comes with enormous expenses and rarely involves prize money. It is a sport of the rich and famous, populated with relatives of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Bruce Springsteen, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Wang. Sponsors of world class teams shoulder an array of burdens that go well beyond buying the horses (The Romneys have owned, by some estimates, eight dressage horses, which can carry a six-figure price tag). http://abcn.ws/J8OSXi
SECRET SERVICE PRE-PLANNED COLOMBIAN PARTY. Secret Service officials planning a wild night of fun in Colombia did some of their own advanced work last week, booking a party space at the Hotel Caribe before heading out to the night clubs, hotel sources tell ABC News' Reena Ninan, Christine Romo and Mary Bruce. As first reported by ABC, the men went to the "Pley Club" brothel, where they drank expensive whiskey and bragged that they worked for President Obama. The men were also serviced by prostitutes at the club. ABC has learned that, when booking the party space, the men told hotel staff that they anticipated roughly 30 people. The Secret Service announced Wednesday that one supervisor was allowed to retire while another was "proposed for removal for cause." A third, non-supervisory employee resigned. The remaining eight Secret Service personnel allegedly involved remain on administrative leave. The Secret Service has also widened their investigation of the officials to include possible drug use during their partying in Cartagena, ABC News confirmed. http://abcn.ws/I4xqFD
ROMNEY PREDICTS A WIN. With the site of the Democratic National Convention behind him, Mitt Romney yesterday looked forward to this fall, predicting a win in the crucial state of North Carolina and previewing what he believes President Obama will and will not say to Americans when he accepts the Democratic nomination, ABC's Emily Friedman notes. "I know the Democratic National Convention is going to be right behind us," said Romney, pointing to the Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte, as the crowd booed. "I know the president's going to do everything he can to get North Carolina in his column and that will not be enough because we're going to win North Carolina in November." Romney's speech yesterday, dubbed by his campaign as a "prebuttal" to Obama's convention speech still more than four months away, is the first major push from the Romney campaign in the battleground state North Carolina since becoming the presumptive nominee last week. http://abcn.ws/HZh1QS
ROMNEY WATCH: Reporters yelled questions at Romney yesterday on the rope line after a speech prebutting this summer's Democratic National Convention - to no avail. Romney has not taken questions from the press since March 16 in Puerto Rico, and even then only one member of the national press corps got a question in. The rest were all from the Puerto Rican press.
VEEPSTAKES: ABC'S PICKS REACT. Reaction to our list of potential Romney running mates drew reaction today from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and from Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin was asked about being listed as a potential vice presidential candidate, ABC's Jonathan Karl reports. "I haven't heard from candidate Mitt Romney on that but it's certainly a great honor to even be mentioned as a possibility," Fallin told KOCO-TV reporter Katy Blakey. Would she accept if asked? "Well that is, that is something that we would just have to wait and see," Fallin said. A decidedly different answer came from CIA headquarters in Langley. CIA Director David Petraeus made our list as a long-shot "wildcard" possibility for vice president. That prompted a quick response from CIA spokesman Jennifer Youngblood. "Director Petraeus feels very privileged to be able to continue to serve our country in his current position and, as he has stated clearly numerous times before, he will not seek elected office," Youngblood said in a written statement. That sounds pretty definitive. And as we pointed out, we don't even know if Petraeus is a Republican or a Democrat. http://abcn.ws/Jf0VRY
WHEN WILL MITT AND RICK MEET? When will Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney finally meet in person? Not for at least two to three weeks Santorum's longtime advisor and strategist John Brabender tells ABC News' Shushannah Walshe. Brabender says he's been talking to Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhoades and they have been looking at dates in the next two to three weeks the two may be available to meet. "They are going to just sit down and talk about a few things on the agenda. One of the things that will be discussed is a potential endorsement," Brabender said. However, it won't just be an endorsement Romney and Santorum will discuss. "The Senator takes his endorsement very seriously and he will want to get some assurance that some of the issues that are very important to him will be important in a Romney administration. That's why I think they need to have a conversation," Brabender said before adding that the former Pennsylvania wants to stay active in the election.
JOE BIDEN GOES WEST. Vice President Joe Biden will be in Arizona and California for campaign events on Thursday and Friday, notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. According to a campaign official: On Thursday, the Vice President will attend a campaign fundraising luncheon with 100 attendees at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Tickets start at $500. Later, he will attend two campaign fundraising events at private residences in Los Angeles, California. The first is a prospecting event for a future fundraiser. Ticket prices for the second event start at $10,000. On Friday, the Vice President will attend a campaign fundraising event at a private residence in Santa Barbara, California. Ticket prices start at $2500. All proceeds from these events will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties.
NOTABLE: Knights of Columbus Chairman and CEO Carl Anderson spoke at the Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, this morning in Washington, DC and he had some tough criticism of the Obama Administration and what he sees as government threats to religious liberty. Excerpts of his remarks, as prepared for delivery: "Healthcare workers now face the choice of holding onto either their religious beliefs or their jobs. … In other words, if the health care institution provides services contrary to Catholic moral teaching, Catholic doctors and nurses need not apply. … And so, we see a new government intolerance of religion. … I venture to say that, never in the lifetime of anyone present here, has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today. Yet today we find a new hostility to the role of religious institutions in American life at a time when government is expanding its reach in extraordinary ways." (The Knights are the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with 1.8 million members.)
@ZekeJMiller : My story this AM: How Mitt Romney Learned To Love Twitter http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/how-mitt-romney-learned-to-love-twitter
- Mitt Romney is on the trail in Lorain, OH speaking to voters at the National Gypsum Company. Romney then heads to Louisville, KY for a fundraiser at the home of John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's Pizza.
- Newt Gingrich is in New York City where he will address the New York State Republican Committee at their annual dinner.
- Ron Paul is in upstate New York where he will hold a town hall meeting at Cornell University.
- Vice President Joe Biden heads west to Phoenix and Los Angeles for two campaign fundraisers.
-ABC's Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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