Over the weekend, President Obama declared in a pair of boisterous rallies in Ohio and Virginia, that the 2012 campaign is "still about hope" and "still about change."
At both of his venues - sports arenas The Ohio State University in Columbus and at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond - the president brought audiences to their feet and had them chanting "four more years."
But President Obama's message got muddled somewhat in a debate about the size of his crowds - an issue that the Romney campaign successfully injected into this weekend's coverage when a Romney campaign press secretary tweeted a photo of empty seats in Ohio.
"Not the 'overflow' crowd he promised," noted Romney spokesman Ryan Williams alongside a photo that would later rocket to the top of the Drudge Report and other conservative sites. http://abcn.ws/IYrcK7
It was the latest salvo in the enthusiasm wars between the two campaigns. The central question: Can President Obama re-capture the magic and movement-like feel of his 2008 bid and can Romney get the Republican electorate "fired up"?
In an interview with ABC's Jake Tapper on "This Week," Obama campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod, weighed in on the crowd size contretemps.
"In Virginia, there was an overflow crowd. And that's the way it is. But the fact is that 14,000 is 11,000 more than the largest crowd that Mitt Romney has ever drawn," he told Tapper. "So I think there's enthusiasm for the president's candidacy." http://abcn.ws/KAUbxT
Axelrod added, "The thing that we've seen over time is that Republican enthusiasm has dropped precipitously, partly because what we've seen from Governor Romney is all negative. Ninety percent of the ads that he's run in this campaign - $55 million of advertising - 90 percent of it he and his team have run have been negative. His attacks and his speeches now are entirely negative attacks on the president, doesn't talk about his own record, doesn't really talk about his vision. That is not going to create enthusiasm."
And the Obama campaign is out this morning with a totally positive television ad recounting the president's accomplishments during his first term, and noting, in a very pointed way, that the economic downturn started well before he took office.
But this weekend's suggestion by the Romney campaign that Obama's erstwhile loyalists were facing a kind of election year ennui is a sign that the president actually has two opponents.
As ABC's Rick Klein points out: "One is Mitt Romney, whose biography is both his main strength and a potential weakness when it comes to the critical issue of the economy. The president's other opponent is himself. More precisely, Obama 2012 is running against Obama 2008, and the sky-high expectations he set in a campaign that feels like it was a long time ago." http://abcn.ws/IGfSjD
OBAMA GOES POSITIVE IN SWING-STATE TV AD. ABC's Devin Dwyer (with video): The entirely positive spot - titled "Go" - is the first attempt by President Obama to encapsulate his three and a half years in office and use it as a second-term sales pitch in targeted markets. http://abcn.ws/IBqBYY
-Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg emails: "Americans will hear a lot from President Obama in the coming months, but what they won't hear from him is the fact that his policies have wreaked havoc on the middle class. After a doubling of gas prices, declining incomes, millions of foreclosures, and record levels of unemployment, Americans know they're not better off than they were four years ago. Mitt Romney's pro-growth agenda will get America back on track and stop the middle-class squeeze of the Obama economy."
-Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus: "For someone whose campaign slogan is 'forward,' President Obama spends a lot of time looking backward and blaming others for the state of the American economy. While Obama may want you to forget he's been president for the past three and a half years, the fact that his policies have wreaked havoc on the middle class from high unemployment, high energy and higher education costs won't be forgotten. America deserves better than Obama's brand of hype and blame."
ABC's AMY WALTER: The Obama campaign's new television ad is all positive. That won't last too long. The battle now for Obama is defining Mitt Romney.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Advantage: Romney when it comes to the quadrennial summer sport of the veepstakes. The Romney camp wants Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to be the latest vice-presidential short-lister to campaign alongside Romney himself today. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden did his part over the weekend by … seeming to endorse gay marriage. For Romney, the vice-presidential search is a tour of GOP superstars, taking individual star turns to reflect favorably on the man at the top of the ticket. For Obama, the vice president can be an effective surrogate, but remains more likely to gain headlines for the wrong reasons.
ABC's JONATHAN KARL: We may all think the primaries are over, but nobody told the Ron Paul brigades. Paul's supporters cleaned house over the weekend in the Nevada and Maine state conventions and are leading a quiet revolution in Iowa, where Paul - and not Santorum or Romney - now looks likely to be the delegate winner. Paul isn't going to win the nomination, but for his supporters this is about more than Ron Paul. It is about taking control of the Republican Party and they are doing it one state convention at a time. They will be heard in Tampa.
"THIS WEEK" REPLAY: JOHN MCCAIN'S ADVICE TO MITT ROMNEY. Sunday morning on ABC's This Week, guest hosted this weekend by ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., weighed in on Mitt Romney's hotly anticipated vice presidential pick. The former presidential candidate's advice was clear. "The absolute, most important aspect is, if something happened to him, would that person be well qualified to take that place?" said McCain. "I happen to believe that was the primary factor in my decision in 2008. And I know it will be Mitt's." McCain picked Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate in 2008 and the decision has been much-discussed ever since. Just this year, actors Ed Harris and Julianne Moore played McCain and Palin in the HBO adaptation of the book "Game Change." McCain has dismissed these portrayals of his campaign as inaccurate in the past. "I remember it well," McCain said this morning, laughing. http://abcn.ws/JMLQuJ
SUNDAY SOUND: All the highlights from this Sunday's edition of "This Week." http://abcn.ws/J9QYpv
In case you missed Jake Tapper's interview with Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, Sen. John McCain or the "This Week" roundtable, watch it all here: http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/
DEMOCRATS ASK: 'WHAT'S MITT TRYING TO HIDE?' The Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, is renewing the call for Mitt Romney to release additional years of tax returns. In a new web video out this morning American Bridge shows a clip of Diane Sawyer's recent interview with Romney in which she asks him, "If you have nothing to hide why not release 12 years as your father did?" In the interview Romney replied, "He wants to be able to get all the details on each year and how much money I made this year and that year. I'm not going to get into that." But, as the video points out, Romney released 23 years of tax returns to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign when he was vetted as a potential running mate four years ago. The Democratic group's video notes that Romney and top adviser Beth Myers, are in the process of searching for their own vice presidential pick: "While Mitt Romney is busy hiding his own taxes, he is demanding tax returns from potential VPs. What's Mitt trying to hide?" WATCH: http://bit.ly/ISnXkp
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
ENTHUSIASM GAP DWINDLES. From the latest Gallup/USA Today poll: "For the first time, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting - a shift from a 14-percentage-point GOP advantage at the end of last year to an 11-point deficit now," USA Today's Susan Page writes. http://usat.ly/JNEO8N
TIGHT RACE IN BATTLEGROUNDS. More from Page on the USA Today/Gallup poll: "The president and the former Massachusetts governor start their head-to-head contest essentially even among registered voters - Obama 47%, Romney 45% - in the dozen battleground states likely to determine the election's outcome." http://usat.ly/JNEO8N
FOUR REASONS THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN THINKS THEY CAN BEAT ROMNEY. Time Magazine's Mark Halperin writes that "in a series of interviews with campaign officials in Chicago, it is clear that the entire re-elect operation likes its odds of winning a second term": "Presidential senior advisor David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager now overseeing the enterprise from his perch steps away from the Oval Office, Jim Messina, Plouffe's 2012 titular successor in Chicago, and their deputies in both cities, believe that, despite the dangers of high unemployment and gas prices, Mitt Romney faces four major barriers to winning the big prize. … First, in the view of the Obamans, Romney is still a weak candidate. … Second, they maintain, their research suggests Romney has exactly one rhetorical path to victory, as a can-do businessman able to fix what's broken. … Third, the Obama team argues, Romney has taken many positions to the right of public opinion. … Fourth and finally, presidential politics, in the end, is all about the Electoral College. The Obama campaign's analysis, matching recent media number crunching, indicates Romney has a paper-thin margin of error to get to the magical 270. The map is littered with states the Republicans must take from the 2008 Democratic column in order to win, and in many of them, such as Ohio and Virginia, they are currently behind." http://ti.me/J93Qhk
BIDEN OPEN TO GAY MARRIAGE. ABC's Matthew Larotonda and Amy Walter on his "Meet the Press" interview: "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights," he said. … "Who do you love? Who do you love and will you be loyal to the person you love?" http://abcn.ws/JMMh8k
NOTED: WHITE HOUSE BACKS AWAY. The New York Times's Michael Barbaro reports the comment "sent the White House scrambling to clarify that Mr. Biden was not articulating an official change in policy, a reaction that highlighted the administration's unease over the subject. … Gay rights leaders expressed frustration and dismay on Sunday over attempts by the White House to play down the vice president's words and said that the president's own endorsement of same-sex marriage was long overdue." http://nyti.ms/ISk1QX
ROMNEY TURNS TO BUSH ADVISERS FOR ECONOMIC POLICY. Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer reports: "Among the financial and business experts advising Romney's campaign are Columbia University's R. Glenn Hubbard and Harvard University's N. Gregory Mankiw, both economists who headed the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Rounding out the team are former Missouri Senator Jim Talent and onetime Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber, now Republican lobbyists at Washington-based firms." http://bloom.bg/IAVQDv
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE: 'BETTER EXPERIENCE' THAN OBAMA IN '08? ABC's Sunlen Miller: "I have, some would say, better experience than Barack Obama had when he was a senator and ran, having been the chief law enforcement officer of my state," New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Sunday morning on "Meet the Press. http://abcn.ws/IRUXJI
JEB BUSH STILL SAYING NO TO VP. ABC's Shushannah Walshe: At a press conference before he gave the commencement address at Ave Maria University in the Naples, Fla. area Saturday, he was immediately asked about the vice presidency. … "I'm not going to be vice president. I'm an active supporter of Gov. Romney. I humbly suggest he seriously consider Marco Rubio." http://abcn.ws/JVlcxd
RUBIO BASHES OBAMA, AVOIDS VP TALK. ABC's Arlette Saenz on Marco Rubio's "Fox News Sunday" appearance: "All the things that made him different and special four years ago are gone," Rubio said … Asked if he would say yes to anything Romney asked him to do to help win against Obama in the fall, Rubio skirted around the question, saying he wouldn't discuss the position of the vice presidency, noting only, "There are multiple ways that someone can help our nominee, and I look forward to doing that." http://abcn.ws/KANbB4
INDIANA VOTES ON TUESDAY. Dick Lugar, the longest-tenured Republican in the U.S. Senate, is facing his toughest campaign since the 1970s. In Richard Mourdock, he faces a mild-mannered statewide officeholder who wants to end federal deparments and cut more spending than Paul Ryan would. A total of 12 interest groups and super PACs have spent $4.6 million, and Lugar has spent $6.7 million defending himself.
RON PAUL, STILL SNAGGING DELEGATES. The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner on the Nevada state convention: "Thanks to organized Paul supporters, who have been working to increase their candidate's support at state conventions around the country, 22 of the 25 Nevada delegates up for grabs will be Paul supporters." And the Associated Press on Maine's convention: "Ron Paul supporters wrested control of the Maine Republican Convention and elected a majority slate supporting the Texas congressman to the GOP national convention, party officials said." http://fxn.ws/JbgOJS, http:// wapo.st/K4ezfK
@samsteinhp : Arne Duncan just endorsed same sex marriage on morning joe
@Timodc : For those of you with a life: here's a recap of the struggles Obama faced this weekend. "Failure to Launch"
@shearm : This is a great column by my former colleague at the Post. Can't imagine the candidates will take him up on it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-challenge-to-obama-and-romney-deliver-one-truthful-campaign-speech/2012/05/04/gIQArMV21T_story.html
@mollyesque : Firing up the Obama machine in Virginia - my story from the weekend: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/in-virginia-a-test-of-the-obama-machine/256787/
@maggiepolitico : Why is Obama spending a day, six days out from a tight election, in non-competitive New York?
-Mitt Romney is in Cleveland, OH holding an afternoon town hall at Stamco. Then, Romney heads to Indianapolis, IN for a fundraiser co-hosted by the state's Governor Mitch Daniels.
-President Obama has no public events scheduled.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV