Slip ‘N Slide (The Note)

May 22, 2012 8:52am

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

NOTABLES:

  • POLL WOES: On several key measures Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is creeping up on President Obama, including on the question of which candidate better understands the problems of average Americans. To be sure, Obama still has some very important advantages, but when it comes to the number one issue of the 2012 election cycle — the economy — ABC’s Jake Tapper noted on “Good Morning America” today that gap between Romney and Obama is “very, very close” indeed.
  • BAIN PAIN — FOR OBAMA? ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: A top Obama donor and fundraiser had a much more direct tie to the Bain Capital/Ampad controversy, which the Obama campaign used in a web video yesterday. In fact, this individual actually served on the board of directors of Ampad. Jonathan Lavine is a long-time Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics.  He is also one of President Obama’s most prolific fundraisers.
  • VEEP BEAT: Chris Christie fundraises with Mitt Romney in New York, Gov. Mitch Daniels said he won’t answer the V.P. call and the Romney campaign contemplates veep rollout timing. http://abcn.ws/KjkxYJ
  • NOTE IT! Check out today’s virtual political roundtable: Amy Walter, Rick Klein and Jake Tapper dissect the results of today’s ABC News-Washington Post poll. Walter notes: “Voters are unhappy with the economy, but haven’t yet given up on the President. On the other hand, these numbers are like a ticking time bomb.”

THE NOTE:

Mitt Romney is catching up.

On several measures, the presumptive Republican nominee is gaining ground on President Obama even as the president has slipped in some areas, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today. http://abcn.ws/JBbkNl

Which candidate better understands the economic problems of average Americans?

Back in February Obama led Romney on that question by 17 percentage points. But the former Massachusetts governor has managed to cut the president’s advantage roughly in half — down to an 8 point gap.

And who’s more to blame for the tough economy — President George W. Bush or President Obama?

By a 49 to 34 percent margin more Americans still say Bush, but that 15 point divide has narrowed since January when it stood at 25 points.

The poll found the gender gap isn’t so wide anymore. Obama leads among female registered voters 51 to 44 percent — a smaller margin than back in April when he led 57 percent to 38 percent. The reason? Married women, who favored Obama by 4 points last month, now support Romney by 17 points.

In addition, Obama’s overall job approval rating has slipped to under 50 percent (47 percent approve while 49 percent disapprove).

MORE RESULTS:

–Obama’s prosperity woes: Numbers and analysis from ABC polling director Gary Langer: Americans are nearly twice as likely to say they’ve gotten worse off as better off under Barack Obama’s presidency, a prosperity shortfall resembling the one that cost the first President Bush his job in 1992. But Mitt Romney has yet to seize the opportunity fully, with weaknesses on personal as well as professional qualities that are keeping the 2012 race a close one. Only 16 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say their financial situation has improved since Obama took office, while 30 percent say they’re worse off.  It’s one reason the public disapproves of the president’s handling of the economy by 55-42 percent. http://abcn.ws/JBbkNl

–Romney, Obama even on the economy: ABC’s Gary Langer: Obama and Romney remain essentially even in trust to handle the economy (46-47 percent) or job creation (47-44 percent). http://abcn.ws/JBbkNl

–Horse race, a dead heat: More from Langer: All told, 49 percent of registered voters in this survey back Obama for re-election while 46 percent prefer Romney. That difference is not statistically significant, nor is the change from last month’s 51-44 percent. Still it puts Obama numerically back under half, a level he’s cracked just twice, in April and in February, in ABC/Post polls the past year. http://abcn.ws/JBbkNl

 

NOTE IT!

ABC’s AMY WALTER: On the one-hand, the fact that President Obama is statistically tied with Mitt Romney, even as his approval rating on handling the economy is a dismal 42 percent suggests a strong Obama brand. Voters are unhappy with the economy, but haven’t yet given up on the President. On the other hand, these numbers are like a ticking time bomb. If the economy doesn’t improve, and if Romney can present himself as a reasonable alternative, there’s nowhere for Obama’s numbers to go but down.

ABC’s JAKE TAPPER: @jaketapper: Key on women shift: married women, whose disapproval of Obama handling of the economy has grown + are more apt to say they’re worse off

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Americans like President Obama; they really don’t like his economy. That’s the takeaway from the new ABC News/Washington Post poll — and it may be all you have to know about this election. Obama has a 14-point edge on “personal character.” But twice as many people say there aren’t better off than they were four years ago than say they are. So far, the two dynamics are cancelling themselves out, leaving a race where the candidates are essentially even. When the president says of the Bain attacks, “this is what this campaign is going to be about,” he is hoping he’s correct.

 

BREAKING: OBAMA’S OWN BAIN LIABILITY. ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: Here’s what yesterday’s Obama campaign video that highlighted Bain Capital’s management of the office supplier, Ampad, didn’t mention:  A top Obama donor and fundraiser had a much more direct tie to the controversy and actually served on the board of directors at Ampad. Jonathan Lavine is a long-time Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics.  He is also one of President Obama’s most prolific fundraisers.  According to Federal Election Commission records, he has already raised more than $200,000 the Obama campaign this cycle. Lavine started working for Bain in 1993.  For several years he was one of three Bain executives who served on the board of directors of Ampad, a post he held until 1999.  Here’s a press release announcing his departure from the company in April 1999. Lavine’s placement on the board of Ampad suggests he had a more direct role than Romney in the series of events surrounding the layoffs, labor disputes and eventual bankruptcy of the Marion, Indiana factory featured in the Obama campaign video. Asked about Mr. Lavine’s role, Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt put the focus back on Romney. ”No one aside from Mitt Romney is running for President highlighting their tenure as a corporate buyout specialist as one of job creation,” Labolt said.  ”The President has support from business leaders across industries who have seen him pull the economy back from the brink of another depression.”

 

GETTING THE GANG BACK TOGETHER: SUPER PAC REVISITS GOP ATTACKS ON BAIN.Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, is out with a new web video today titled, “Republicans vs. Romney’s Record,” which recalls some of Mitt Romney’s GOP rivals’ greatest hits from the primary season on Bain Capital. It includes classic lines like this one from erstwhile candidate Jon Huntsman: “Governor Romney enjoys firing people, I enjoy creating jobs.” And there’s former House Speaker Newt Gingrich complaining that Romney’s work at Bain was akin to “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company.” Some of the sharpest attacks came from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who famously labeled Romney and his Bain colleagues as “vulture capitalists” rather than venture capitalists. Don’t miss the Sarah Palin cameo. ”Even Republicans know Mitt Romney has not explained how his experience profiting from companies driven to bankruptcy qualifies him to be President,” Priorities USA Action senior strategist Bill Burton said in a statement. “If Romney makes business experience the central reason for his campaign, voters have every right to question the many deals where Romney made millions while workers lost their jobs and promised benefits.” WATCH: http://youtu.be/2fJhF6uctfM

 

VIDEO: OBAMA TAKES TWO QUESTIONS FROM TROOPS. Solicited by ABC’s Jake Tapper and delivered at Monday’s briefing in Chicago … TAPPER: Mr. President, “if this handoff and withdrawal prove premature, what plans are in place for dealing with an Afghanistan that’s fallen apart or is possibly, again, under Taliban rule?” … OBAMA: … I don’t think that there’s ever going to be an optimal point where we say this is all done, this is perfect, this is just the way we wanted it, and now we can, you know, wrap up all our equipment and — and go home. There’s a process, and it’s sometimes a messy process, just as it was in Iraq. http://abcn.ws/KEySgc

 

THE BUZZ

with ABC’s Chris Good (@c_good)

OBAMA: BAIN IS FAIR GAME. ABC’s Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce, from the NATO summit in Chicago: “If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” the president said. … “I think it’s important to recognize that this issue is not a quote distraction,” the president said today. “This is part of the debate that we’re going to be having in this election campaign about how do we create an economy where everybody, from top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and folks on Main Street, have a shot at success. And if they’re working hard and they’re acting responsibly that they’re able to live out the American dream.” http://abcn.ws/J9bkPv

BOOKER DAMAGE CONTROL. After Newark Mayor Cory Booker lumped Bain Capital in with Jeremiah Wright as a negative campaign topic, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod today publicly rebuked Booker, a popular and high-profile surrogate for the campaign, saying he was “just wrong.” … Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. said today he agreed with “the substance” of Booker’s comments and “would not have backed out.” “I agree with him, private equity is not a bad thing. Matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances,” the Democrat said in a separate appearance on MSNBC earlier in the day. http://abcn.ws/Lvhgsy

DNC VIDEO: MORE BAIN. The DNC uses Obama’s comments justifying the Bain attacks in a Web attack video, adding clips of surrogates. http://youtu.be/GGDpnxS4ogk

GINGRICH ON BAIN ATTACKS. The former House speaker, who leveled similar attacks during the GOP primary told CNN, “I’m very surprised that President Obama went down this road.” Via Taegan Goddard. http://bit.ly/Lo4E04

ROMNEY PONDERS HEALTH-CARE PLAN. Bloomberg’s Ramesh Ponnuru reports: “[Mitt Romney] is on the verge of spelling out a plan to replace President Barack Obama’s health plan. Romney’s advisers, both inside and outside the formal campaign, want the main component of his alternative to be a change in the tax code’s treatment of health care. … [Under a 2007 Bush proposal] People who got insurance either way would get a ‘standard deduction’ of $15,000 off their taxable income — and they would get the same deduction whether they bought cheap or expensive insurance, restoring the incentive to economize. Romney is considering reviving Bush’s idea.” http://bloom.bg/J9kkUy

BIDEN TO THE GRANITE STATE. Yahoo’s Phil Pruitt previews: “Vice President Joe Biden campaigns Tuesday in the battleground state of New Hampshire and on Mitt Romney’s home turf in Massachusetts. The topic: the economy? The question: Will Biden ratchet up the Bain attack?” http://abcn.ws/MD5WK9

RNC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: STUDENT DEBT. New Hampshire college students carry the nation’s highest average student debt, and the RNC is hitting Obama with a web video on his “empty promises” to lower college costs. http://youtu.be/eptt5qBqw4U

OBAMA FACES WORST MARKET SINCE REAGAN. Bloomberg’s Whitney Kisling and Inyoung Hwang report: “The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) is up 1.3 percent since Mitt Romney’s campaign began 12 months ago, compared with average gains of 12 percent for incumbents who won re-election starting with Harry S. Truman, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stocks are also advancing less than the 7 percent minimum enjoyed by George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, who lost their bids for a second term. The only one with a worse equity performance heading into the vote was Reagan.”  http://bloom.bg/JJL6ZF

ONE YEAR LATER: OBAMA AT JOPLIN HIGH SCHOOL. From ABC’s Devin Dwyer: President Obama returned to Joplin, Mo., tonight, one year after a monster tornado leveled the town on high school graduation day, to celebrate its remarkable recovery and the first class of graduates since the storm. “As I look out at this class, and across this city, what’s clear is that you’re the source of inspiration today — to me, to this state, to this country, and to people all over the world,” Obama said at Joplin High School’s 2012 commencement ceremony, where he was the keynote speaker. http://abcn.ws/Lg9T5p

STUDY: CONGRESS HIGH. The L.A. Times’ Lisa Mascaro reports on a report by the Sunlight Foundation: “The level of discourse in the House and Senate has dropped a full grade level — to the equivalent of a sophomore in high school, according to a new study. … Listening to the floor debates over the last several years, the study found that newer lawmakers tended to speak at a lower grade level than the veterans of congressional speechifying. And political moderates among both Republicans and Democrats tended to carry on at a higher grade level than those more partisan liberals or conservatives.” http://lat.ms/JNapdl

FUNDRAISING: DEMOCRATS’ CASH ADVANTAGE. Democrats’ main campaign committees lead Republicans’ in cash on hand, Sunday’s Federal Election Commission filings showed. Counting major party committees, presidential campaigns, and presidential super PACs, Democrats’ war chest of $195 million tops Republicans’ $105 million. Add in money from Republicans’ new Romney/RNC joint fundraising venture, and the super PAC American Crossroads, and Dems likely still lead by $40 or $50 million. http://abcn.ws/KDCwqC

BUT REPUBLICANS ARE CATCHING UP. The New York Times’ Nicholas Confessore and Jo Craven McGinty report: “With Republican Congressional committees largely keeping pace with the Democrats, Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies appear increasingly likely to be matched or even outspent by Republican and conservative groups … All told, Mr. Obama, Congressional Democrats and liberal groups have raised at least $547 million in this election cycle while Mr. Romney, Congressional Republicans, and the top conservative outside groups have raised at least $462 million, according to a review of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission through Sunday and interviews with officials.” http://nyti.ms/MCdAof

BILLION-DOLLAR MAN. The Daily Caller’s Neil Munro reports: “President Barack Obama has become the first political $1 billion man. He’s the first politician to take in that stratospheric number in donations during his political career, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. His total take reached $1,017,892,305 in April, some nine years after he began his 2004 race for the Senate. Obama is widely expected to raise at least $300 million more before November.” http://thedc.com/Kjb3wI

GOP SENATORS VS. THE NINTH CIRCUIT. ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports on criticism of an upcoming Ninth Circuit judicial conference in Hawaii: “We are concerned that using the tax dollars of the American people to pay for a conference of this sort is not the most appropriate use of funds,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wrote in a letter sent last week to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The court, which is based in San Francisco, has jurisdiction over nine states, including Hawaii. The judicial conference is scheduled for Aug. 13 to Aug. 16  and features sport fishing, a golf tournament, yoga, surging lessons, stand-up paddle board lessons, Zumba dance classes, tennis, a day trip to the Upcountry Maui, a snorkel trip and an activity called the “Aloha Experience.” http://abcn.ws/LbgxH6

CARTAGENA SCANDAL SPREADS TO DEA. ABC’s Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan report: A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena. Two of the agents allegedly had encounters with masseuses in the apartment of one of the agents, according to Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. http://abcn.ws/K87Oq

IOWA GOP AIMS AT OBAMA CITIZENSHIP. Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson reports on a platform provision under consideration by Iowa Republicans: “It calls for presidential candidates to ‘show proof of being a ‘natural born citizen’ of the United States.’ Don Racheter, chairman of the Iowa GOP’s 2012 platform committee, spoke with Radio Iowa by phone this afternoon. ‘There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a ‘natural born citizen’ because his father was not an American when he was born and, therefore, feel that according to the Constitution he’s not qualified to be president, should not have been allowed to be elected by the Electoral College or even nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008, so this is an election year. It’s a shot at him,’ Racheter said.” http://bit.ly/McWfPS

MEET MIA LOVE. A top priority for her party in the fall, Utah’s Fourth Congressional District candidate is the female, African-American, Mormon mayor of Saratoga Springs. ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviews her on the Capitol lawn. http://yhoo.it/JkVi6d

ANOTHER KEITH JUDD? After the federal inmate’s surprise performance against Obama in the West Virginia primary, ABC’s Elizabeth’s Hartfield reports on today’s vote in Arkanas: In Arkansas, John Wolfe, an attorney from Tennessee, is on the ballot against President Obama. Obama’s approval ratings are low in Arkansas, and Wolfe could easily get a sizable percentage of the vote, potentially even pull off a victory (seems less likely.) Recent polling showed Wolfe close to Obama in the state. http://abcn.ws/JkU1MF

RUBIO AND RIVERA. The New Republic’s Eliza Gray looks at the friendship between the senator (and potential VP) and the Florida House member whose finances came under criminal investigation: “But Rivera also happens to be Marco Rubio’s closest friend in politics. And, during the course of their friendship of 20 years, he has been instrumental in Rubio’s rapid rise from West Miami commissioner to U.S. senator. A Republican colleague in the Florida House describes their relationship as “one step below blood.” As a result, if Rubio makes it on to the Republican ticket, questions about his dog may be the least of his problems.” http://bit.ly/KNlNUK

RAND’S TURN? Roll Call’s David M. Drucker and Joshua Miller report: “Fresh off the national campaign trail, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is testing the influence of his unique political brand with a series of Congressional endorsements. … The Kentucky freshman has given his blessing to Florida Senate GOP frontrunner Rep. Connie Mack IV — who is staunchly entrenched in the establishment — as well as to tea party darling Ted Cruz, who is running in Texas’ May 29 Senate primary. Paul hasn’t always picked winners, having backed losing Nebraska GOP Senate candidate Don Stenberg and New Mexico Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, who ultimately dropped out of the Senate race in the Land of Enchantment. Paul has since endorsed long-shot candidate Greg Sowards in the New Mexico primary. …  In today’s Kentucky GOP primaries, Paul helped recruit open 4th district candidate Thomas Massie, the tea-party-affiliated Lewis County judge-executive.” http://bit.ly/Kav9bQ

CRAIG BECKER LANDS AT AFL-CIO. The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse reports: “Craig Becker, the former embattled member of the National Labor Relations Board, will become co-general counsel of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the labor federation announced on Tuesday morning. Mr. Becker stepped down from the board in December after serving under a recess appointment by President Obama since March 2010. Senate Republicans had previously blocked his confirmation, saying he was too liberal and too pro-union.” http://nyti.ms/LxYxMS

 

VEEP BEAT. Our daily look at all the action on the veepstakes front, brought to you by ABC’s Arlette Saenz (@ArletteSaenz):

AYOTTE READY TO SPAR WITH BIDEN: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is ready to hit the debate stage against Vice President Joe Biden, telling the Boston Herald that going head to head with Biden “would be quite enjoyable” and pointed out the vice president’s penchant for gaffes.  ”The vice president does have a way with words,” Ayotte joked.  Asked if she’d be able to make Biden trip up and commit a gaffe, Ayotte said, “I don’t think there’s probably anything we have to do to make that happen.” Ayotte deflected questions about whether she would make a good running mate for Mitt Romney, only saying “It’s certainly an honor to be mentioned for consideration as vice president, but serving New Hampshire in the Senate is the greatest honor I could ask for.” http://bit.ly/KHlvfd   Ayotte’s front page treatment in the Boston Herald is here: http://bit.ly/cuhZ5g

DANIELS WON’T ANSWER VP CALL: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has been one of the most adamant VP contenders to say they will not appear on the GOP ticket, and on Monday, Daniels, who notably turned down a presidential run out of concern for his family, joked he would disconnect his phone if he ever thought the call might come, Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody reports.  ”Of course not,” Daniels said on FOX News when asked if team Romney had contacted him about vetting.  ”If I thought that call was coming, I would disconnect the phone.” http://abcn.ws/KOKPQO

CHRISTIE FUNDRAISES WITH ROMNEY: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will fundraise with Mitt Romney today in New York City, ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports.

SANDOVAL’S VP PROBLEMS: The Daily Caller talked with a number of Republican strategists who highlighted a number of problems with placing Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on the Republican ticket, from being pro-choice to raising taxes twice as governor of the state. http://thedc.com/KhRjth

FLORIDA DEMS POKE FUN AT RUBIO: Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody reports Florida Democrats have written a song mocking Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for his connections to Sen. Jim DeMint just days after Rubio delivered a speech to the South Carolina Republican Party.  The song, written to the tune of Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him,” includes the lyrics “I will follow Jim” and accuses Rubio of “pandering to DeMint and Tea Party Republicans.” http://abcn.ws/KE7izE

ROMNEY’S TIMING CONUNDRUM: The big question after who will Romney select as his VP is when will he do it?  Real Clear Politics’ Scott Conroy looks at the potential for Romney to roll out his pick early in the summer or hold it until right before the Republican convention in late August. http://bit.ly/JAPEAQ

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@APCampaign: Former Sec’y of State Powell declines to endorse Obama for re-election, says he’s not ready: http://apne.ws/LxRofq

@ByronYork: Division inside GOP between strategists like Rove who think raising Rev. Wright would be disaster and some grassroots who want to see it.

@HotlineReid: Sarah Palin robo-calls for TX SEN candidate Ted Cruz have gone to some Kansas residents. Oops #HotlineSort

@HerbieZiskend: @MarkWarner@JerryMoran@ChrisCoons@MarcoRubio, and @SteveCase to unveil bipartisan Startup Act 2.0 Tuesday AM http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/228715-wyden-white-house-backed-cybersecurity-bill-would-sacrifice-privacy-rights

@jimacostacnn: Just a hunch but guessing there will be a few eyeballs on@RyanGOP outside the Biden event in NH.

 

POLITICAL RADAR

Mitt Romney holds private fundraisers in New York City. Tomorrow he delivers a speech in Washington, DC.

President Obama is in Washington, DC with no public events scheduled.

Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the economy at Keene State College in Keene, N.H.

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

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