In a tough economic times, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are working hard to present themselves as defenders of the middle class. But, at this point, middle class Americans aren't sold on either candidate. http://abcn.ws/JxKaTG
In the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, those who identify themselves as part of the middle class - about 50 percent of those surveyed - are evenly divided on who they think will do a better job on the economy and creating jobs.
But, when it comes to who these Americans see as more in-touch with them and their interests, however, President Obama has a significant advantage.
When asked who they think will do a better job on the economy, 49 percent of middle class Americans said Romney, 45 percent picked Obama. When it comes to the candidate they see as best able to create jobs, the two candidates are statistically tied: 47 percent for Obama and 44 percent for Romney.
Obama's job approval rating among this group of voters is an anemic 44 percent. And, in a head to head match-up, the two candidates are statistically tied with Obama at 48 percent and Romney at 46 percent.
Those numbers suggest that Democratic attacks on Romney's profile as a corporate apologist who would prioritize company profits over job creation have fallen flat.
However, middle class voters do believe that Obama will do more to help them and their families.
When asked who they thought would "do more to advance the interests of the middle class," Obama had an 11-point lead over Romney (52-41 percent). On the question of "who will do more to advance the interests of you and your family," middle class voters give Obama a 20-point lead (54-34 percent).
Understanding the cross-pressure these middle class voters are feeling is critical to understanding the zeitgeist of this election. Middle class voters think President Obama gets them, but they don't know if he is up to the job of getting the economy back on track.
SILVER LINING FOR OBAMA? From ABC News pollster Gary Langer: "Democrats and Republicans divide sharply on whether Obama or Romney will do more to advance the economic interests of the middle class, 'you and your family' and small businesses alike. Swing-voting independents are the key; they split evenly in terms of who'd do better advancing the interests of 'you and your family' and small businesses. Obama's lead in looking out for the middle class comes from independents, who pick him over Romney by 15 points, 53-38 percent." http://abcn.ws/KPtWsQ
THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": EXCLUSIVE: LEON PANETTA. This Memorial Day weekend, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks exclusively to ABC News Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper, Sunday on "This Week." Can the United States prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan after American forces leave the country? Will the U.S. have to escalate the battle against Al Qaeda in Yemen to prevent a terrorist attack? And can Congress reduce the deficit without hollowing out the military and risking national security? Plus, the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with BC News' George Will, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman, the Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Ron Brownstein of National Journal. http://abcn.ws/KG5wMT (h/t ABC's Imtiyaz Delawala)
VIDEO OF THE DAY: POLITICALLY FOUL: RYAN ON VEEPSTAKES, HALEY PINATA, CLINTON WITH PORN STARS. ABC's John Berman flags the week's offenders in the latest ABC/Yahoo Power Players video. For instance: "Former president Bill Clinton has a new cheer squad. During a photo op at a gala in Monaco, Clinton was snapped with Brooklyn Lee and Tasha Reign. You might recognize them from a porn film near you. That's right. They are porn stars." http://yhoo.it/LmBnDn
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
DINERO FOR THE DONALD. They're not your every day lunch companions, but you too could have the chance to break bread with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney - for a small price. The Romney campaign launched a "Dine with the Donald" fundraising promotion on Thursday. In exchange for a contribution to Romney for President, the campaign is offering one lucky person the chance to win a fantasy day with Trump: airport transportation in a Trump vehicle; a stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower New York; a tour of The Celebrity Apprentice Boardroom; and the opportunity to dine with Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. The winner will be flown to New York City ("coach class") for the big day. According to the promotional website, the entire trip has an approximate retail value of $1,035, including a $35 lunch with Trump and Romney. The "Dine with the Donald" day will take place on June 28. That night Trump and Romney will also team up for a high-dollar fundraiser at The Pierre, a swanky New York City hotel.
TRUMP AIDE TO ABC NEWS. "Donald Trump has been the single most significant surrogate for Governor Romney and has pledged his continued assistance to ensure that Obama is limited to being a one-term president," said Trump's top political aide, Michael Cohen.
ROMNEY HAUNTED BY 'FIRE PEOPLE' COMMENT. ABC's Emily Friedman reports: The candidate revealed in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan that the remark, which came during an address to the Nashua Chamber in Commerce in Nashua, N.H., in January, is one that has stuck with him - and haunted him - ever since. … "I've had a couple of those during the campaign, which have haunted me a little bit, but I'm sure before this is over will haunt me a lot," said Romney, pointing to the firing comment. http://abcn.ws/KkgydH
PILING ON ROMNEY: JOHN KERRY DIFFERS ON RUSSIA. After Colin Powell lambasted Romney for calling Russia the number-one geostrategic foe for the U.S., Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla reports: "'I cannot think of any statement that frankly is more inappropriately threatening and simply wrong by any calculus than" Romney's assessment of the threat from Russia, Kerry said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt,' airing this weekend."
OBAMA ON 'CORPORATIONS ARE PEOPLE,' SLINGING COW PIES. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports on the president's visit to the Iowa state fairgrounds on Thursday: The venue holds symbolic value for Democrats because it was here, in August that Romney made his now-famous declaration that "corporations are people, my friend." Obama thrust the Republican candidate's unflattering moment front and center early on. "The worldview that Gov. Romney gained from his experience as a financial CEO explains something. It explains why the last time he visited these same fairgrounds, he famously declared 'corporations are people,'" Obama said, drawing loud boos from the crowd of 2,500. … "I know Gov. Romney came to Des Moines last week worried about a 'prairie fire of debt.' That's what he said: 'Prairie fire,'" Obama said. "But, you know, he left out some facts. His speech was more like a cow-pie distortion." http://abcn.ws/JO7joQ
ROMNEY COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. A morning e-mail from Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul: "Yesterday, in a desperate and transparent attempt to try to distract from his record of failure, President Obama launched even more negative attacks. This time he attacked Gov. Romney for - of all things - having 'the nerve to go around saying that they're somehow going to bring down the deficit.' Clearly, President Obama is suffering from a reality deficit on this issue - it's as if he's forgotten that he's been president for nearly four years and has a record to defend."
CORY BOOKER ON TWITTER: 'SORRY I MAKE U SICK.' The Newark mayor is still dealing with Twitter backlash from his "Meet the Press" appearance and subsequent, messy, potentially campaign-assisted backtracking. BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller posts a series of tweets from Thursday. http://bit.ly/JWqkGv
SENATE STALLS ON STUDENT LOANS. From ABC's Sunlen Miller: The Senate made one last gesture this month to work on the Student Loan bill, but Democratic and Republican versions both failed in a last-minute, and half-hearted, attempt today before lawmakers leave for a week-long Memorial Day holiday. … Both Republicans and Democrats believe the subsidized Stafford loan rates should not be doubled from the current 3.4 percent to 7.6 percent. Leaders of both parties say the current rates should be extended for at least another year. But they cannot agree to how to pay for the $6 billion bill. http://abcn.ws/KDFwSm
BEST AD OF 2012? We now have a leading candidate. ABC's Matt Negrin reports: There's lots to say about this ad by Jeff Barth, a Democrat running in the congressional primary in South Dakota … Did you catch all that? Spinning the globe, the inexplicably operating TV, the chess move (D4 to D8), the shooting of some sort of animal, and the horse's ass! Oh, and the fiddle tune. http://abcn.ws/Kv3K5c
OBAMA TO CONGRESS: EXTEND CLEAN-ENERGY TAX CREDITS. ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer report from Iowa: Speaking at TPI Composites, a wind turbine manufacturer, the president called for lawmakers to extend tax credits for clean energy companies that are set to expire at the end of the year. "If Congress doesn't act, companies like this one will take a hit," he said. "Jobs will be lost. That's not a guess. That's a fact. And we can't let that happen. We can't walk away from these jobs. Congress should extend these tax credits, and they should do it now." The Production Tax Credit, which was first passed in 1992 and was extended with bipartisan support several times since, gives a financial boost to wind farm owners competing with cheaper sources of non-renewable energy. http://abcn.ws/KDSejT
POLL: PROFESSIONALS FOR OBAMA, EXECS FOR ROMNEY. Breaking out numbers from the agency's daily tracking poll, Gallup's Frank Newport finds: "Barack Obama has a significant lead over Mitt Romney among the 24% of American working voters who are classified as professionals, and among the 13% who are service workers. The two are tied among clerical and office workers. Romney leads among all other job categories, including in particular the small segments of voters who work in farming and fishing, construction, and who own a business. He also has an edge among executives and managers." http://bit.ly/MLhtqU
OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER MEETS WITH SENATE DEMOCRATS. The Hill's Bernie Becker reports: "Speaking to reporters afterward, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, a former top aide to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said he walked the lawmakers through what the campaign was doing on the ground, and senators said the meeting did not spend much time on other hot-button issues - like the private equity experience of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. A number of Democrats have criticized the Obama campaign's recent attacks on Romney's business background, while Republicans have cast them as attacks on capitalism." http://bit.ly/K0wsLL
OBAMA 'WORSE THAN JOE ARPAIO'? CBS's Brian Montopoli reports: "Is President Obama 'the most anti-immigrant president we've ever had?' That's the bold claim being made by conservative Latino strategist Alfonso Aguilar, who is spearheading a new effort designed to diminish Latino support for Mr. Obama in the key swing state of Nevada ahead of the November elections. … Aguilar's group, Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, is spearheading the new 'Nevada Hispanics' project, which will involve outreach at Latino supermarkets, churches and other public spaces. … Aguilar argues that Latinos should reconsider their support for the president over his having overseen a record number of deportations of illegal immigrants, which he describes as 'a policy of massive and systematic deportations that is much more punitive than the Arizona law.' He argues that Mr. Obama has been 'worse than Joe Arpaio' on immigration …" http://cbsn.ws/JxuKyO
CAIN, INC. Politico's Ken Vogel and Juana Summers report: "the Atlanta businessman is applying the same relentless promotional skills he displayed on the campaign trail to building a sprawling political-business machine to rebuild his tarnished brand and keep his voice - and his trademark 9-9-9 tax plan - in the national conversation … Since Cain bowed out of the presidential race, his web of groups - including two super PACs, a pair of nonprofits, his still-idling presidential campaign committee and a for-profit business - have received five-figure checks from two rich backers, including an Adelson lieutenant, and have spent heavily to help Cain promote a self-styled "new movement" dubbed "Cain's Solutions Revolution" to "keep 9-9-9 alive" and endorse like-minded candidates." http://politi.co/LuFIEd
GINGRICH DELEGATES IN LIMBO. From ABC's Elicia Dover: Former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich won 52 Georgia delegates in March. Even though he dropped from the race, those bound delegates must vote for Gingrich this summer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., until he releases them to the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. Gingrich has yet to do that. Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told ABC News that the Gingrich campaign is working closely with the Romney campaign on the delegates and, under their advice, will release the delegates at a certain time. For now, they're waiting. http://abcn.ws/KeOUA9
ROMNEY SUPER PAC SHELLS OUT FOR BLING. Bloomberg's Julie Bykowicz reports: "Restore Our Future, a super-PAC backing Romney's presidential bid, has paid a prominent Washington jeweler almost $26,000 for "donor gifts" and "donor collateral" since November, Federal Election Commission reports show. The payments, including one April 3, to Ann Hand LLC don't describe what the gifts are, but Hand has made some of Washington's best-known political and patriotic pins since starting her business in 1988 … Brittany Gross, a spokeswoman for Restore Our Future, said in an e-mail that the super-PAC doesn't discuss gifts. … The "undisputed Queen of Bejeweled Patriotica," as the Huffington Post called her in 2009, also made a commemorative pin for Obama's inauguration. Republican strategist Karl Rove has worn her necktie" http://bit.ly/JH9gxF
WHERE WILL ALL THE INDEPENDENTS GO? Not to Romney, The Boston Globe's Christopher Rowland suggests: "Republican Mitt Romney's resounding primary victory in New Hampshire was tarnished by an underlying statistic: More than half of the independents voting in the GOP contest, according to exit polls, supported the second- and third-place finishers, Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. … in telephone interviews with the Globe this week, a number of Huntsman and Paul backers said they are undecided or plan to support President Obama, write in Paul's name on the ballot, or back a third-party alternative." http://b.globe.com/LuErwF
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX: ADVICE FOR ROMNEY. C. Stewart Verdery Jr., the lead immigration adviser for Rudy Giuliania's 2008 presidential campaign and former assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, pens an Op-Ed on The New York Times' "Campaign Stops" blog offering some advice to Mitt Romney on immigration policy: "Romney dedicated much of the speech he gave to the Latino Coalition earlier this week to education, but here are five policy announcements - of varying degrees of political controversy - that Romney should wrap into a high-minded address on immigration and competitiveness that would capture the middle ground. While the details are important, the tone would be, too - most Americans are weary of bombastic talk radio rhetoric on this issue and are looking for thoughtful, bold leadership." One idea: "High-skilled immigration … Romney should demand passage of the high-skilled agenda before the graduation of the class of 2013 next spring produces another crop of international leaders, educated here in America, needlessly forced to return home to compete against us. If you graduate with an engineering degree from Stanford, we should staple a green card to your diploma." http://nyti.ms/KSQW6a
VEEP BEAT: Our daily look at all the action on the veepstakes front, brought to you by ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz ):
RUBIO'S SWING STATE BOOK TOUR: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will hit a number of swing states and South Carolina over the summer as he tours this country to promote his new book, "An American Son." Rubio will kick off his book tour the weekend before the Fourth of July holiday in his home-state of Florida and will travel up the East coast to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and end in Virginia. http://abcn.ws/KlZZxS
CHRISTIE PUSHES FOR SPORTS BETTING: "New Jersey will defy a federal ban and let people bet on the outcomes of football, basketball and other games this fall, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday," the AP reports. "Speaking at a news conference highlighting efforts to reinvigorate Atlantic City, Christie said the regulations his administration will issue next week make no attempt to overturn a 1992 federal law that limits sports betting to four states. 'We intend to go forward,' the Republican governor said. 'If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. We want to work with the casinos and horse racing industry to get it implemented.'" http://abcn.ws/KnZXWA
GINGRICH'S VEEP SUGGESTIONS: In an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews Thursday, Newt Gingrich weighed in on who he thinks could help Romney as a running mate."Virginia is a key state both for the governor and for the senate, and Bob McDonnell is a terrific governor. Do you use him and is that seal off the south?" Gingrich said. "If you want a guy who helps you in the industrial Midwest, Portman helps across the whole region…I would look at Rubio very seriously and I think they will." Gingrich threw out additional names like New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. And what about John Thune? "I think John Thune is extraordinarily attractive and very articulate." WATCH: http://bit.ly/KQg7KM
@EdBrookover : Dem analysts trying to change history now saying Newt won SC with Bain attacks. Newt won SC with attacks on press.
@TimAlbrechtIA : Please please please keep coming to Iowa and saying "cowpie of distortion."
- President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
- Mitt Romney has no public events and will spend the holiday weekend in California.
- Vice President Biden will host a breakfast with the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. Later in the morning, he and his wife Dr. Jill Biden will address the surviving families of fallen military heroes at a TAPS event.
ABC's Joanna Suarez
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV