With the general election now officially upon us, President Obama and his campaign team are ready to rip that microphone right out of Mitt Romney's hands.
"The monologue is over," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters yesterday, previewing the president's first two public campaign events of 2012 next weekend.
"Now he has to put his record and agenda up against the president's," Messina said of Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, "and we look forward to the debate."
The Obama campaign picked Ohio and Virginia to formally kick-off their general election effort next Saturday with rallies in both places featuring the President and First Lady.
It's particularly telling that the president will be heading to Columbus and Richmond for these rallies. Both are key areas for Obama to carry. Both are swing counties that went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, but swung back to GOP post-2008.
In 2008, Obama won Henrico County, which includes Richmond, with 55 percent of the vote. A year later, GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell carried the county by 56 percent.
Obama carried Franklin County, Ohio, which includes Columbus, in 2008. Two years later, Rob Portman won the county in his Senate race.
The evident frailty of the president's base means a tough road to November.
NOTED: As for whether the May 5 events mean Obama is flipping the switch on campaign mode, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes that campaign manager Jim Messina said it would continue to be a gradual transition that balances the demands of the presidency. "This will be a ramp up, not a zero-to-60 moment," he said. "So, we won't start doing a bunch of these rallies. These will be the first two, and we'll have more to come." http://abcn.ws/JApNsg
VIDEO OF THE DAY: President Obama and Mitt Romney may agree on student loan interest rates, but listen to their starkly different advice to college students. ABC's David Muir reported for "World News" on the dueling messages coming from the two campaigns. Muir says to expect both sides to keep hammering away at this issue at the race continues. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/Infh2S
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Team Obama is declaring that the "monologue is over." In that case, the dialogue that's about to begin will seem familiar - the re-election bid is starting with President Obama's strengths, with huge, boisterous rallies scheduled for next weekend. But familiarity may breed comfort for the Romney campaign. Remember, Mitt Romney doesn't care if you like Barack Obama, so long as you don't for him.
ABC's AMY WALTER: Forget the huge debt, his inability to capitalize off his big win in South Carolina or his penguin bite. The biggest disappointment for Gingrich had to be the fact that the man who got into the race to infuse it with "big ideas" will only be remembered for his talk of moon colonies. Before this race began in earnest, many smart GOP strategists were convinced that Newt would at least inject some smart ideas and important policy discussion into the contest. In the end, the only thing he managed to trademark was #250gas.
ABC's JONATHAN KAR L on the so-called 'Girls Gone Wild' internship on Capitol Hill: Why "an eye-popping story about a soft-core pornographer and a U.S. Senate office may be too good to be true." http://abcn.ws/IEAZB8
ROMNEY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. As word of the president's trip to the two battleground states of Ohio and Virginia leaked out, the Romney campaign deployed two of their surrogates (and potential vice presidential contenders) to do some early pre-butting:
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: "In less than two weeks, President Obama will bring his failed policies and broken promises to Virginia. His policies have taken our country in the wrong direction, and Virginia and the rest of the nation can't afford four more years of the same. Mitt Romney is a results-oriented conservative with a bold plan to create jobs, shrink government, and reduce our debt burden."
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman: "After three and a half years, it is clear that President Obama does not have a plan to get spending under control or our economy back on track. In less than two weeks, President Obama will be in Columbus, where he will argue for four more years of the same failed policies that have produced record unemployment and skyrocketing gas prices."
BIDEN WARNS OF ROMNEY'S 'BACK TO THE FUTURE' FOREIGN POLICY APPROACH. Vice President Joe Biden will today give his fifth in a series of campaign issue speeches, drawing contrasts with Mitt Romney on foreign policy, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes. In excerpts of the speech, to be given this morning at New York University, Biden boils down the administration's record to a "bumper sticker" slogan: "Osama bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive," he says. He will hit Romney for "counting on our collective amnesia" to return to policies of Obama's predecessor. "Americans know that we cannot afford to go back to the future. Back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone… shout to the world you're either with us or against us… lash out first and ask the hard questions later, if at all… isolate America instead of our enemies…waste hundreds of billions of dollars and risk thousands of American lives on an unnecessary war… and see the world through a Cold War prism that is totally out of touch with our times."
In addition, the Obama campaign released a new web video this morning calling Romney's foreign policy record into question. The message, according to the campaign: "Mitt Romney's foreign policy agenda is stuck in the last century and stands in stark contrast to President Obama's forward-looking vision." WATCH: http://bit.ly/JB8GGP
REPUBLICANS ACCUSE OBAMA OF MISUSING TAXPAYER DOLLARS. ABC's Jake Tapper reports: In response to the Republican National Committee earlier today filing a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office and the comptroller general alleging that the Obama campaign "has been cheating the American taxpayer by using taxpayer dollars to fund their general election efforts," White House spokesman Eric Schultz asserted that the president's travel "has been part of the president's official responsibility." RNC Chairman Reince Priebus alleged in his letter, "Throughout his administration, but particularly in recent weeks, President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as 'official events,' thereby allowing taxpayers, rather than his campaign, to pay for his reelection efforts. Given the recent excesses, waste, and abuse uncovered in the General Services Administration, the GAO should be particularly sensitive to misuse of taxpayer dollars." http://abcn.ws/IdO5af
But an RNC official e-mails The Note: "The difference between Obama and other presidents who have done it: he promised to do things differently and he's done nearly twice as many fundraisers/political events in 3.5 years than Bush did in 8 years."
with ABC's Christopher Good ( @c_good)
ANN ROMNEY'S MS SCARE ON THE TRAIL. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Ann Romney tells Entertainment Tonight how her condition flared before Super Tuesday, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: "There have been some days, like the day before Super Tuesday, I was quite fatigued and I knew I couldn't quit. I didn't tell anybody I was tired … I just kept going, I kept going. I had a little bit of a scare … What happens with me is that I start to almost lose my words. I almost can't think. I can't get my words out. I start to stumble a little bit and so those things were happening and I thought, 'Uh oh, big trouble.'" http://abcn.ws/JArwO6
NEWT'S ENDGAME. The candidate will make his exit from the 2012 race on Tuesday, ABC's Elicia Dover and Amy Bingham confirm: "The former House speaker will make the announcement from Washington D.C., where he will be in town for the White House Correspondents Association dinner this weekend. It is 'highly likely' Gingrich will endorse Mitt Romney during Tuesday's announcement, a source close to the campaign said. … 'I do think it's pretty clear that Gov. Romney is ultimately going to be the nominee,' Gingrich said during a campaign stop at Georgio's restaurant in Cramerton, North Carolina. 'And we're going to do everything we can make sure that he is in fact effective, and that we as a team are effective both in winning this Fall and then, frankly, in governing.'" http://abcn.ws/IeEekv
PERRY FLIPS TO ROMNEY. The two were once bitter rivals, but ABC's Arlette Saenz has the statement on Romney from the Texas governor and former GOP presidential candidate: "Mitt Romney has earned the Republican Presidential nomination through hard-work, a strong organization, and disciplined message of restoring America after nearly four years of failed job-killing policies from President Obama and his administration … So today I join the many conservative Republicans across the nation in endorsing Mitt Romney for President and pledge to him, my constituents and the Republican Party." http://abcn.ws/KbThrm
RUBIO: TALK TO IRAN, TAKE DOWN ASSAD. From Sen. Marco Rubio's foreign-policy speech, delivered Wednesday at the Brookings Institution amid VP speculation: "'Preferably, we can succeed through coercive means short of military force. We should be open to negotiations with Iran. But always remember that they should not be deemed a success when they only lead to further negotiations. Stronger pressure shouldn't be postponed in the expectation our forbearance will encourage Iran to act in good faith. Nothing in our experience with Iran suggests it considers such gestures as anything other than a lack of resolve on our part," Rubio said. "Unfortunately, if all else fails, preventing a nuclear Iran may tragically require a military solution.' Rubio called for a more active role in taking down the government of Bashar Assad in Syria, which he believes would be 'a significant blow to Iran's ambitions.'" http://abcn.ws/IdsxdU
NOTED: MISSING PAGE. Rubio's lone flub: he forgot the last page to his speech. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who introduced Rubio, handed it to him. http://abcn.ws/Ioqv6d
INTEREST GROUPS FACE OFF IN INDIANA. Outside groups are piling onto the GOP primary between Sen. Richard Lugar and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the latest being the Young Guns Network, a group founded by former Eric Cantor aides. "Nearly $2.2 million has been spent by a total of eight groups formed outside Indiana. … Groups supporting Mourdock have spent a total of nearly $1.5 million, while a handful of groups have come to Lugar's aid, spending nearly $800,000 in response. … YG Network, a Virginia-based 501(c)4 group formed by former aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, weighed in on Wednesday with a $104,000 mailer supporting Lugar. The spending was part of a larger energy-issue campaign involving other candidates." http://abcn.ws/JanHJJ
HOUSE TO VOTE ON STUDENT LOAN RATES FRIDAY. Republicans have gotten on board with extending the current 3.4-percent interest rate on student loans, and the question now becomes how to pay for it. "House Speaker John Boehner announced today that the House of Representatives will vote Friday to extend the current student loan interest rate of 3.4 percent for one year, just months before current law is set to double the rate. … 'We will pay for this by taking money from one of the slush funds in the president's health care law," Boehner, R-Ohio, said as he explained how the cost of the bill would be paid for. 'This is this prevention of public health slush fund that was put into the bill by one of the senators from Iowa, I believe.'" http://abcn.ws/Ih6jsh
WILL CONSERVATIVE JUSTICES BACK THE ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW? ABC's Ariane de Vogue reports that Justices John Roberts and Antonin Scalia seem fine with the most controversial portion of SB 1070. "Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito zeroed in on one blocked provision of S.B. 1070 that requires Arizona law enforcement to ask someone they stop for their papers proving they are in the country legally if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that those individuals are in the country illegally. Law enforcement would later confer with the federal government on the legal status. Roberts indicated that provision of the Arizona law does not interfere with federal law, but only notifies the federal government that someone is in the country illegally." http://abcn.ws/JGK1ia
NEVER TOO EARLY: 2012 PREVIEW: CLINTON VS. CUOMO? Politico's Maggie Haberman opens the speculation, looking at the Democratic Party's top two prospects: "Publicly and privately, Clinton has discussed how exhausted she is and how much she looks forward to taking a rest from public life when she leaves the Obama administration. She's also told friends that she's not starstruck by her own poll numbers, which currently show her as the most popular national figure around. Yet future aspirations are a question, a number of sources close to Hillaryland say, that she is not closed off from, given how high she's soaring now and how close she came four years ago to being the Democratic nominee. If Clinton ran, not everyone thinks Cuomo would be cowed - or that Clinton would be able to clear the field, something she wasn't able to pull off four years ago when she was the clear early favorite." http://politi.co/IMZVWK
@AlexConant : Must read Washingon Post story about the WH's political response to Sen. Rubio's Dream Act alternative: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/marco-rubios-dream-act-alternative-a-challenge-for-obama-on-illegal-immigration/2012/04/25/gIQA5yqxhT_story.html?hpid=z2
@HotlineJosh : This Michael Gerson column is ahead-of-the-curve http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/apr/25/a-new-blueprint-for-conservatism/
- Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the president's commitment to keeping America safe and our nation secure at NYU School of Law this morning.
- Mitt Romney holds fundraising events in New York City.
- Newt Gingrich makes campaign stops throughout North Carolina.
- Ron Paul is in Austin, Tex. And attends a luncheon and town hall meeting at the University of Texas at Austin.
- Rep. Paul Ryan delivers "America's Enduring Promise" lecture at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute in Washington, DC. At 10 a.m.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie holds a town hall meeting in Springfield, NJ at 10:30 a.m.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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