THE NOTE: The new Obama ads focused on Latino voters, which take a positive view of President Obama's record on the economy and education, come on the heels of the Republican National Committee's announcement this week that they are stepping up their own Latino outreach efforts and Romney's admission at a private fundraiser in Florida last weekend that "we have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party."
For all the talk about the gender gap, the Latino gap is one that has huge implications for this campaign as well.
For Team Obama, demographics is destiny. If they hold onto Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in November, the Obama campaign can lose overwhelmingly white states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and Ohio and still get to 270. They do it by winning in states with significant minority populations like Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.
The latest Gallup poll showed Obama's approval rating among Latino's at 61 percent - he carried this group of voters in 2008 with 67 percent of the vote. Romney doesn't need to carry the Latino vote, but he needs to improve from McCain's 31 percent showing.
"While Governor Romney has begun his attempt to Etch a Sketch away his record on issues important to Hispanics," Obama campaign spokesman Ben La Bolt said, "we have an easier task at hand - amplifying the President's record of fighting every day to advance policies that Hispanics support, from health care reform, to promoting educational opportunity and comprehensive immigration reform."
So, the next question is how Team Romney makes inroads here. A major speech? Intense surrogate work? The party has a deep bench of Latino elected officials who could step in like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
PREBUTTAL: ROMNEY CAMPAIGN DESCENDS ON NORTH CAROLINA. Today Mitt Romney plans to deliver what the campaign is billing as a prebuttal speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. The symbolism is obvious: Romney will speak on a rooftop overlooking the Bank of America stadium where President Obama will address his party in September. The Romney campaign is previewing the former Massachusetts governor's message in a chilling new web video out this morning called "President Obama's Measure of Progress." It uses clips from Obama's 2008 convention speech when the president-to-be said: "We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage."
The Romney campaign's counter-attack: "Four years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, then-candidate Barack Obama said that Democrats measure progress by whether people can find a job and provide for themselves and their families. In September, President Obama and the Democrats will meet for the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, a state that has lost nearly 50,000 jobs since President Obama took office and has an unemployment rate of nearly 10%." WATCH: http://mi.tt/INWQbH
MOVE OVER SEAMUS, HELLO #OBAMADOGRECIPES. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that much has been made about Mitt Romney, in 1983, putting his family dog Seamus in a kennel on top of his roof and driving from Boston to Canada, with said canine Seamus making his displeasure known in a rather scatological way. Democrats have signaled they have every intention of making sure the American people - especially dog-lovers - know the tale. In January, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod tweeted a photo of the president and Bo in a car, with the snide observation: "@davidaxelrod: How loving owners transport their dogs." The Romney campaign signaled last ngiht that they are not about to cede any ground when it comes to a candidate's odd past with man's best friend. The Daily Caller noted that in President Obama's best-selling memoir, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," the president recalls being fed dog meat as a young boy in Indonesia with his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. http://abcn.ws/I4KbiN
The discovery that the president had eaten dog meat prompted wise-cracks on twitter (hashtag - #ObamaDogRecipes) and this tweet from Romney strategist Eric Fehrstrom, who re-tweeted Axelrod's original message with a different take on the picture of the president and Bo. "@EricFehrn: In hindsight, a chilling photo," he wrote. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt tweeted in response: "@BenLaBolt What's the next attack @EricFerhn and the RNC will surface on a 6-10 year old?"
-ABC Veepstakes Watcher JONATHAN KARL speculates about whether Mitt Romney might pick a woman for his #2. Karl advises us to keep an eye on N.H. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, "arguably one of the most popular governors" in the country right now. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/J1KbRq (Read Mr. Karl's full Veepstakes list below).
-ABC News Political Director AMY WALTER explains how to interpret the various polls floating around about the presidential race: "Think of it like an ice skating judge. Throw out the highest and lowest scores and you come out with the right number. In this case, Obama is probably ahead by 3-5 points."
VIDEO OF THE DAY: HOLLYWOOD NOMINATES A WOMAN FOR VEEP. Women support her, she's got name-brand recognition, and she's got a sense of humor - no wonder Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been tapped for vice-president … on the small screen anyway. The Seinfeld alum stars in HBO's new series 'Veep,' where she plays a former senator who accepted the call to be vice president, only to find out the job is not all it's cracked up to be. 'Veep' debuts this Sunday, and Top Line's Amy Walter and David Chalian recently caught up with Louis-Dreyfus at the Washington, D.C. premiere - a town where everyone is obsessed with who presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will pick as his 'veep.' WATCH: http://yhoo.it/Ilc9Gn
ROMNEY TALKS TAXES. Sitting down with four families yesterday at a picnic table filled with pitchers of lemonade and bowls of potato chips, Mitt Romney vowed to overhaul the tax system but not raise taxes on the wealthy, reports ABC's Emily Friedman. And he urged Americans to file their taxes, or like he did, get an extension. "So my view is that the right course for America is to keep our tax burdens down to encourage small businesses to grow and hire and to make it easier for middle-income families, but the president's orientation is to raise taxes and I happen to think that will slow economic growth which is already slow and make it more difficult for us to create the jobs that people need," said Romney. "I would actually like to reshape the entire tax system, alright, that is what I'd like to do, and to simplify the system as opposed to all these little baby steps," explained Romney. http://abcn.ws/HODVJo
NOTED: TOP CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS ENDORSE ROMNEY. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., yesterday endorsed Mitt Romney for president, according to ABC's Sunlen Miller and John R. Parkinson. After the party's weekly Senate policy lunch a reporter asked the Minority Leader if now he was ready to endorse Romney. "Yeah," McConnell replied. "I support Governor Romney for president of the United States. And he is going to be the nominee." McConnell's announcement comes on the same day that Speaker of the House John Boehner endorsed Romney. "It's clear now Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday morning. "I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and, frankly, contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win." http://abcn.ws/HQRKuk
VEEPSTAKES: CHRIS CHRISTIE'S LISTENING. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said yesterday he's "not looking to become vice president," but left the door open to a conversation about being Mitt Romney's running mate if the presumptive GOP nominee comes calling, ABC's Shushannah Walshe writes. "I love this job (governor) and I'm not looking to do it (vice president)," the governor said. "But I also think it is extraordinarily arrogant for you to say you won't even listen to the nominee of your party - especially for me. It's someone who I've been supporting since last October vigorously around the country - that I wouldn't take a call from Mitt Romney," Christie told reporters at a press conference here. He continued, saying if "Mitt Romney calls and wants to discuss it with me, I will sit down and talk with Gov. Romney about it." http://abcn.ws/JzlDvj
KARL ROVE-BACKED GROUP RAKES IN CASH. From ABC News Number Cruncher Chris Good: American Crossroads GPS, the group co-founded by Karl Rove in 2010, has been fueled by massive donations since its inception, according to recently released tax documents. The group's tax filings reveal mostly large donations, coming from either wealthy individuals or corporations. Since the group's inception, 24 donations of over $1 million have accounted for 87 percent of its total fundraising. nOnly donations of more than $5,000 are disclosed to the IRS, but among those the average value has nearly equaled $800,000. In its most recent tax documents, dating back to last June, GPS's largest donation amounted to $10 million; the second largest, $4.3 million. The group has taken 12 donations of more than $2 million and two donations of $10 million or more since its founding. The group has raised at least $76.8 million in total. http://abcn.ws/IMv53g
TRUMP THROWS BIRTHDAY BASH FOR ANN ROMNEY. Donald Trump is known for throwing lavish parties, but at the birthday bash he threw for Ann Romney yesterday, it was the birthday cake that stole the show, notes ABC's Amy Bingham. The cake, created by celebrity chef Buddy Valastro, of the TV show "Cake Boss," is topped with a sugar-coated Romney riding atop a horse standing in a field of green frosting. Romney is an avid horseback rider and often goes riding to soothe the symptoms of her multiple sclerosis. The lifelike equestrian cake was showcased at Romney's 63rd birthday party Tuesday afternoon at Donald and Melania Trump's New York City home, on the 66th floor of the Trump tower. About 400 people were slated to attend the birthday party-turned-fundraiser, which a Trump spokesman told CBS News is expected to bring in $600,000 for the Romney campaign. http://abcn.ws/J9Gx4w
TED NUGENT REBUFFS DEMOCRATIC ATTACKS. Rock guitarist, conservative activist and Mitt Romney supporter Ted Nugent says he stands by his provocative rant against the Obama administration at last weekend's National Rifle Association convention, despite mounting pressure from Democrats and an investigation by the Secret Service, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. "I spoke at the NRA and I will stand by my speech. It was 100 percent positive," Nugent told the Dana Loesch radio show today. "It's about we the people taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration and the communist czars he's appointed." Nugent told a crowd of convention-goers that "if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year." http://abcn.ws/HWz3mR
THE LIST. Mitt Romney's search for a vice presidential running mate has only just begun, but speculation among top Republicans and Romney's close allies is well under way. Here is how the list of potential running mates looks today, according to ABC's Jonathan Karl:
Rob Portman - The popular Senator from the all-important state of Ohio. He's twice been a cabinet level official, as well as a member of the House and Senate. He's arguably the most qualified person on the list - and he helped Romney beat Rick Santorum in the Ohio primary.
Marco Rubio - His political skills are obvious as his rock-star status among conservatives. And, at a time when Republican support among Hispanics has cratered, he's a Cuban-American who could actually deliver his acceptance speech in fluent Spanish. Rubio helps in Florida but also potentially in battleground states with big Hispanic populations like New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.
Jeb Bush - And here is the surprise: in my top tier, the former - and still popular - governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. Romney has so much respect for Jeb Bush, he said late last year that he might not have run for president if Jeb Bush was in the race. Friends of Romney say the admiration is real. There is also obvious political appeal - Jeb Bush remains a popular figure in Florida and among Hispanics.
Romney's allies expect he will put a high value on executive experience in picking a running mate. That puts several Republican governors in play, including:
Chris Christie - He didn't want to run for President, but he says he'd consider an offer to be vice president.
Mitch Daniels of Indiana also said no to a presidential run, but has left the door open to being a candidate for vice president.
Bob McDonnell of Virginia has strong conservative credentials, a military record and a solid approval rating in battleground Virginia. The big question for McDonnell, however, is support among women.
Also sure to get serious consideration: Congressman Paul Ryan - A favorite for many conservatives and a favorite target for Democrats. They campaigned together in Wisconsin and Ryan's friends say he has quickly developed a good relationship with Romney.
Top Women Candidates
The last time Romney picked a running mate - when he ran for governor of Massachusetts - he picked a woman. There aren't many high-profile Republican women in elected office right now, but you can expect Romney to take a close look at those who are, starting with these two:
Kelly Ayotte - She's a Senator from New Hampshire and former state attorney general who knows Romney well. The problem here is geographical diversity - it's a stretch to imagine Republicans picking an all-New England ticket.
And, here's a real long shot - Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. She's also a former member of Congress and Lt. Governor and is considered now to be one of the most popular governors in the country.
There's also Governor Nikki Haley, but her approval ratings have tanked in South Carolina and she has firmly denied interest in the job. So has, by the way, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.
Romney may also look for non-politician with national security credentials. The person who fits that bill as well as anybody: General David Petraeus. The two problems with this pick, though: first, he's currently got a job as President Obama's CIA director and; second, nobody knows if he is actually a Republican.
Others who will get a look include:
John Thune - South Dakota's three electoral votes aren't in doubt, but Thune was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Romney and a serious Republican player on domestic policy issues.
Jim DeMint - Mr. Tea Party, DeMint has experience and would go a long way toward shoring up Romney's support on the right.
Tim Pawlenty - His presidential campaign didn't go far, but Pawlenty, who was on John McCain's shortlist in 2008, is a successful former governor from the Midwest who has become a real Romney loyalist.
@HotlineJosh : Two Hill centrists at serious risk of losing primaries in next month. There could be precious few mods left, post-2012 http://nationaljournal.com/columns/against-the-grain/death-of-the-center-20120417
@jonallendc : Best/worst thing about MLB package on DirecTV: watching political ads for Wisconsin Lt. Gov. and other races around the country.
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