Why Campaigning On The Economy Is Harder Than It Looks (The Note)

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


  • ECONOMIC ANXIETY: The biggest issue of 2012 - the economy - is also one of the toughest to message, as both President Obama and Mitt Romney are learning. Both campaigns are out with dueling videos this morning.
  • WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS WEEKEND WRAP: The funniest jokes, the red carpet and a behind-the-scenes look at Jimmy Kimmel's speech.
  • NOTE IT! ABC's Rick Klein on Mitt Romney's evolving economic message, Jonathan Karl on Newt Gingrich's very long goodbye and a special congratulations to ABC's Jake Tapper.


This election is pretty simple - it is all about the economy. But how to campaign on the issue and convince a weary and skeptical electorate that you have the right answers to fix it, is the hard part.

Just read through the Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak's piece on the economic angst of voters in rural Ohio. His conclusion: "Conversations with dozens of voters suggest why both Romney and Obama have failed to connect, and why, for many, the choice of candidates is like picking between bad and worse." http://lat.ms/JtGqV9

As Barabak points out, among these working-class voters, the lack of enthusiasm for either President Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney is palpable.

"We elect this guy and all they do is bicker," a laid-off Democrat named James Rogers told the Times. "Nobody will do this, nobody will do that, it's all partisan [bull] and what did we do? We lost four years."

Ohio nurse Margaret Morrison said she's not for Obama and hasn't decided on Romney either:  "I may be wrong, but I don't think he's had to deal with the fact that he's lost his job, or had to scramble to get healthcare for his family because he's been laid off and comes to the end of his benefits," she said of the former Massachusetts governor.

Then there was this exchange from ABC's "This Week" debate on the economy, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, featuring leading minds from the business and political worlds, including former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

These smart folks know what it's like to govern, run businesses and make sense of this economy, and they still couldn't agree whether the Obama administration's automobile bailout was a success.

"This was a phenomenal success," Granholm said, noting, "A million jobs were saved."

Fiorina disagreed, "I don't think so." And Walker added, "It could have been better.

And, at a fundraiser last night for President Obama, Bill Clinton told a group of Democratic donors in Virginia that while the economy isn't back to full strength, it's ahead of schedule.

"If you go back 500 years, whenever a country's financial system collapses, it takes between 5 and 10 years to get back to full employment," Clinton said. "I think he is beating the historical standard for coming out of a financial collapse and a mortgage collapse."

That may be true, but it's not exactly an inspiring message to those currently struggling to get by. Voters are rarely wooed by a candidate who tells them it actually could be worse.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Fifty-nine points, evidently, weren't enough. For all the work Mitt Romney has to do still to tend to the conservative base, it's worth watching the white papers. As USA Today's Jackie Kucinich reports today, Romney's original economic plan has already has addendums. He's moved right (lower tax rates) and left (keeping lower tax rates on federal student loans) and still hasn't detailed how he's going to pay for it all. Etch a Sketches, of course, are bad budgeting tools. http://usat.ly/IBjjaC

ABC's JONATHAN KARL: Mark your calendars: Wednesday is indeed the day that Newt Gingrich plans to call it quits and endorse his friend Mitt Romney.

As ABC's JAKE TAPPER noted on "Good Morning America" today, what a difference for years can make. "No one will ever accuse these two of having a bromance," Tapper said of President Obama and former President Bill Clinton. "It is an alliance but it is a fascinating one given the past tensions between the two men." WATCH Jake's piece: http://abcn.ws/InwluS

NOTABLE: CONGRATULATIONS TO TAPPER, who received the White House Correspondents' Association's Merriman Smith Award for Broadcast Excellence in Presidential Coverage for a the third year in a row at this weekend's dinner in Washington, DC. Tapper was recognized for his breaking coverage of the Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, which he broke first on ABCNews.com's "Political Punch" blog and shortly after on "World News with Diane Sawyer."


-FROM TEAM OBAMA: The Obama campaign has unveiled a new 7-minute video, called "Forward," that will be blasted out to supporters by email and featured in the preprogram for the rallies next Saturday. ABC's Devin Dwyer hears from a campaign official: "The video outlines the challenges America faced as President Obama took office at the height of the worst recession in almost a century, and discusses the progress that has been made strengthening the middle class and building an economy where hard work pays and responsibility is rewarded." WATCH: http://bit.ly/IC8lBE

-FROM TEAM ROMNEY:  A new Romney web video out this morning compares what President Obama promised in 2008 to what happened during his term, ABC's Emily Friedman reports. Complete with ominous black clouds, the video is titled "Broken Promises: Spending."   WATCH: http://mi.tt/ICV4p5

 "THIS WEEK" REPLAY: IS AMERICA'S ECONOMIC RECOVERY BUILT TO LAST? "This Week's" panel of economic experts debated the status of the economy and the opportunities and barriers that lie ahead on the path to recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Sunday's broadcast, in partnership with the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, tackled the critical topic, "America's Economic Recovery: Is It Built to Last?"  The debate, moderated by "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos featured former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, former U.S. Comptroller David Walker, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and ABC News political analyst George Will. http://abcn.ws/Jj28tu

- WILL questioned whether the economy was recovering at all, given the distance from pre-recession employment levels: "The threshold question is not is the recovery built to last, but does it exist?" Will asked. "Fifty months have passed and we're not nearly back to the pre-recession employment level. This is the longest string of consecutive months of 8 percent or more unemployment since the Depression, 5.5 million fewer people are working today than were working before the recession."

- KRUGMAN said the current recovery is showing some stronger signs, with "vastly better" private sector job creation under President Obama than during the Bush administration. "Private employment is almost back to where it was when Obama took office, whereas under - under Bush, it was down more than two million at this point in his presidency," Krugman said. Krugman said instead that cuts in public sector jobs have dealt the largest blow to the economy's recovery.

- FIORINA cited structural challenges to the economic recovery, including a poor education system, high corporate tax rates, and not enough support for small businesses."If we don't solve education, get small businesses up going and growing again and have a competitive tax rate for businesses in the world, then we will not have a robust recovery," Fiorina said.

- SCHMIDT agreed that lagging education and training has left a skills mismatch for technology companies searching for new employees. "Our industry is growing rapidly. We are unable to hire the technically trained people we need," Schmidt said. "There are shortages not just in my industry, but in many technical industries … because the sum of our educational system is not producing enough."

Also, don't miss George's interview with White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. "On a day that marks the one year anniversary of bin Laden being brought to justice, we are especially vigilant," Brennan said . "At this time we don't see any active plot that is underway." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/IxXOui



with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FIREWALL AGAINST ROMNEY. "When President Obama holds his first public  campaign rallies this week, he'll take direct control of a populist re-election narrative that Vice President Joe Biden and senior Obama strategists have spent weeks honing on the campaign trail. The message: incumbent Obama is a firewall against a return to the "failed" foreign, social and economic policies of the George W. Bush administration, which are now embodied by presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney," notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. "Biden has used a month-long series of five speeches on key campaign issues to methodically lay out the same argument, signaling that Democrats will focus less on positive promises for a second Obama term than on a negative message about Romney. The targeted, populist pitch - to which Obama will more forcefully lend his voice this week - tracks closely with positions backed by large or increasing numbers of Americans. Majorities of voters in recent public opinion polls side with Obama on higher taxes for millionaires and billionaires, for example, and resisting bold changes to Medicare as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and backed by Romney. Growing numbers of Americans also say they support the taxpayer-funded auto bailout, and withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans say Obama's argument is shaping up as a diversion from the unpopular aspects of his first term, including the health care overhaul and lingering high unemployment."  http://abcn.ws/IhW9Eg

VEEPSTAKES: BRIDGING MITT'S COOL GAP? New Hampshire's junior Senator and often cited potential VP choice Kelly Ayotte will appear alongside Romney on the trail in the Granite state today, marking the latest in a slew of joint appearances with Romney and his possible vice presidential picks. ABC's Rick Klein notes that these appearances are upping Romney's cool factor in important swing states. "The veepstakes list happens to be filled with names that hail from pivotal battleground states - Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin. Campaigning with GOP boldfaced names will draw largely flattering coverage in those states, even when the campaigning isn't actually happening inside that state. The Romney campaign, moreover, is giving its short-listers long leashes. There's little crackdown from Boston while the possible vice-presidential contenders enjoy their moments of flattery back home. The reflected glow of Republican stars means buzz for Romney during a lull in the campaign action. The famously square presumptive GOP nominee may just find the right campaign formula in the process."  http://abcn.ws/ IMj90O

WHY OBAMA 'OWNS' BIN LADEN. Time Magazine's Jon Meacham on the Obama campaign's use of Osama bin Laden in a campaign video: "Since at least 1968, Democrats have traditionally been more circumspect than their Republican foes in presidential politics. The lesson of the Clinton years and of Obama's win both of the nomination and the general election in 2008 is that Democrats need to be as tough as JFK was ("tough" was a favorite Kennedy term). Is the bin Laden ad fair to Romney? No, not really. But politics is not for the faint of heart…The way to put oneself in a position to take the harder, more honorable political path is to argue for one's virtues in a vigorous way. That's what Obama has done, and is doing. There'll be more punches coming."   http://wp.me/p1RTSY-3I2

NO SLOW-JAM FOR ROMNEY, ADVISER SAYS. At a Washington Post event on Saturday, Romney's senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom criticized President Obama's now infamous appearance on Jimmy Fallon last week, suggesting that the President made light of the economic issues facing young people in this country, reports ABC's Chris Good. "'I do think there was something a little bit off-key about the president slow-jamming and appearing to make light of the fact that students are struggling, whether it's with the loans that they carry when they graduate, or the fact that they're graduating into an uncertain job market," Fehrnstrom said. 'I don't think it's something to slow-jam about or to make light of. I think if that skit was brought to the governor he would have declined it," he said. "We'll probably do [late-night TV] again, but you won't see the governor slow-jamming.'"  http://abcn. ws/IkkeyB

IN WISCONSIN RECALL, DEMS DIVIDED ON A CANDIDATE. Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker is facing the political battle of his life, gearing up for a recall election on June 5th. However, before Democrats can really kick things into high gear, they'll need to elect a candidate to run against Walker - a task which has the state's Democratic population divided, the Washington Post reports:  "The problem for Democrats is that before they get their shot against Walker, they have to get through a divisive primary between an establishment pick and a union favorite that is threatening to undercut their unified front against the governor….Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker by six percentage points in 2010, is the establishment pick for the May 8 Democratic primary. He leads three other primary candidates by double-digits, according to the latest polls. He has the support of most prominent elected officials in the state and, in a sign of his standing, Republicans have focused their attacks on him. But most of the unions that first revolted against Walker's legislation have endorsed another candidate: former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk." Democrats hold their primary on May 8th, just four weeks before the recall election.  http://wapo.st/J4auEs  



ABC News and Yahoo Take A Look Behind The Scenes of Jimmy Kimmel's Hosting Duties at the 2012 White House Correspondent's Dinner. Before he took to the stage at the White House Correspondent's Dinner on Saturday night, comedian Jimmy Kimmel sat down with ABC's Jake Tapper to talk about his prep for the big gig. "Being a talk show host is kind of like being a politician in that you don't want to alienate half of your audience" Kimmel said. "I just look for if someone does something dumb whether it be Mitt Romney or Joe Biden … You know saying the president has a big stick, that's something you can't ignore."  http://yhoo.it/IP2d86

Top 10 Best Jokes from President Obama and Jimmy Kimmel: http://abcn.ws/JurmGM

Stars on the Red Carpet: From Sofia Vergara to Diane Sawyer to Rick Santorum: http://abcn.ws/J2gyNO



-PCCC-endorsed Congressional Candidate Goes Up On Air in New Mexico : New Mexico State Senator Eric Griego, the first candidate endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee so far this cycle, launches his first ad today. The ad is the first part of a larger buy that PCCC projects will cost upwards of "hundreds of thousands" of dollars between now and New Mexico's primary on June 5. The ad takes aim at the Ryan plan. WATCH:   http://bit.ly/JWnK2X

-Republican Candidate Chad Prosser Places First TV Ad Buy In South Carolina: Chad Prosser, a Republican candidate for Congress in South Carolina's newly formed 7th district will go up with his first ad today entitled "Conservative Reformer." "With election day six weeks away I am proud to announce that my campaign has placed our first television buy of the campaign. This television spot gets to the heart of what we need in Washington, Representatives who have the experience and the know how to shake things up," Prosser said in a statement. The date for South Carolina's congressional primary is June 12. The buy cost around $14,000 and the ad will run on Fox News. WATCH:  http://bit.ly/J47Uh


@dickstevenson : Paul Ryan: possible VP choice, GOP fiscal policy leader and catfish noodler.  @jonathanweisman profiles him.  http://nyti.ms/INZVaV

@maggiepolitico : ICYMI, Cantor-allied YG Network sent mail to Dems and indies to vote Lugar in IN GOP primary. Like "Operation Hilarity" http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/04/cantorallied-young-guns-network-urges-nonrepublicans-121902.html

@tackettdc : Tea Party Congressmen accept cash from bailed-out bankers @philmattingly  @heidiprzybyla  http://bloom.bg/IjQlOl #2012

@HotlineReid : Buddy Roemer's veep short list for his Americans Elect campaign has 23 names on it  #HotlineSort

@GQPolitics : 12 Random Observations From the White House Correspondents Dinner.  @jonlovett's  #nerdprom rant:  http://gqm.ag/InsBcU



- Mitt Romney will return to New Hampshire to attend a campaign event with Senator Kelly Ayotte in Portsmouth.  Later in the evening, he will attend a fundraiser in Boston.

- Newt Gingrich has no public events but is expected to meet with the Romney campaign just days ahead of his announcement to end his presidential bid.

- Ron Paul has no public campaign events.

-First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Colorado and Arizona to meet with local supporters.

ABC's Joanna Suarez

 Check out The Note's Futures Calendar:  http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV


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