It appears that the Obama campaign is getting a lesson in how not to stay on message - while really trying.
The past two weeks of the presidential campaign have been bookended by the colossal failures of several of the Democrats' high profile surrogates to toe the line on one of the campaign's central talking points.
First there was Cory Booker, who said that attacks on private equity were "nauseating to the American public."
And last night, none other than former President Bill Clinton went off the reservation. In an interview on CNN, Clinton declared that Mitt Romney "had a sterling business career."
"I don't think that we ought to get in the position where we say this is bad work," Clinton said of Romney's record at Bain Capital. "This is good work."
It's a stunning sight to see the former president lend a hand in helping to dismantle a key talking point of the Obama campaign and their allies - that Romney's time at the private equity firm not only doesn't qualify him to be president, but is actually one of his biggest liabilities.
It's also one thing when lower level surrogates like Booker and the Obama administration's former auto bailout czar, Steven Rattner, criticize Obama's Bain attacks. (Both of them later backtracked.) But when a Big Dog like Clinton gives Romney a pass, you know this attack is going to fall flat.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: How long before we see the Obama campaign change course on its Bain line of attack? Newark Mayor Cory Booker and then Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick stomped all over round one. Then former President Bill Clinton did his part to delegitimize the Democrats' main argument last night by lauding Romney's "sterling business career." Keep in mind that this is not your average misfire: This is the main argument Democrats have planned (and have used for two decades) to undermine Mitt Romney. Shifting strategies won't be easy, internally or externally.
THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": STEPHANIE CUTTER AND ERIC FEHRNSTROM JOIN THE ROUNDTABLE. Coming up this Sunday, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter faces off with Romney campaign senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable, with ABC News' George Will, political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, author of the new book "End This Depression Now!" Tune in on Sunday: http://abcn.ws/LVTvaq (h/t Imtiyaz Delawala)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
POLITICALLY FOUL. ABC political director Amy Walter takes a look at some political head-scratchers of the week. A legislator loses his cool, Romney's campaign misspells America, and a congressional candidate releases a very personal ad. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/NlReVP
GEORGE'S BOTTOM LINE. George Stephanopoulos looks at Obama and Romney's respective campaign slogans. His take? They're both kind of meh. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/NlfO9p
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
OBAMA'S $7.2 MILLION FUNDRAISING BLITZ. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, President Obama will jump-start what looks to be a major June fundraising push with six money events today in Minneapolis and Chicago - the most fundraisers he's held in a single day since launching his bid for a second term. Obama is expected to raise more than $7.2 million total for the Obama Victory Fund (OVF), according to figures provided by the campaign.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: A senior campaign official tells The Note: "Today, elected officials from MA will participate in a series of media conference calls in battleground states to talk about Mitt Romney's economic record and failure to fulfill the economic promises he made when he was running for Governor. That record that includes dismal job creation, increased debt and deficits, and higher taxes. Next week MA officials will travel to swing states to deliver the same message in person to voters. … We are also releasing a video that shows how other leading Republicans, from Governors Perry and Huntsman to Senator McCain and Mayor Giuliani, view Governor Romney's economic record. Spoiler alert: they have noted both his penchant for higher taxes and his lagging job creation record." WATCH: http://bit.ly/KkvHyF
BILL CLINTON HEADS TO WISCONSIN, BUT HE WASN'T ALWAYS PRO-RECALL. President Bill Clinton may be headed to Wisconsin to campaign against Scott Walker ahead of Tuesday's vote, but he hasn't always supported recalls, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. During the 2003 recall of Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis, Clinton spoke at an African-American church in Los Angeles to try and rally Democratic supporters and spoke critically of the recall process in general not just in the Davis case. http://abcn.ws/L1jeLZ
NOTED: WISCONSIN SPENDING HAS TOPPED $60 MILLION. According to figures from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy campaign, reports ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. Almost half of the $62 million spent so far has come from Walker. Campaign finance reports show that the embattled governor has spent $29 million on the race. Democratic candidates have spent around $4 million, with Barrett accounting for about $2.9 million of that total. The remaining money has come from outside spending groups, about $21.5 million from the groups that have reported their spending. http://abcn.ws/ LakRb0
JOHN EDWARDS NOT GUILTY, ADMITS HE SINNED. A North Carolina jury found former Sen. John Edwards not guilty on one of six counts in a campaign-finance trial, and declared itself hopelessly deadlocked on the remaining charges, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on those counts. ABC's James Hill, Russell Goldman and Beth Loyd report, Edwards said he did not believe he did anything "illegal" but acknowledged the affair he conducted while his wife, Elizabeth, was dying of cancer was "awful" and "wrong." "No one else is responsible for my sins," he said. "I am responsible." http://abcn.ws/ JDxMFn
OBAMA CAMPAIGN CALLS ROMNEY HECKLERS 'JUVENILE.' The Obama campaign today offered a sharp rebuke to hecklers who tried to shout down senior strategist David Axelrod at a news conference in Boston, calling their tactics "juvenile" and "circus-like." The Republican crowd waved signs that read, "Obama Isn't Working," "Broken Promises," and "Axelrod is in Fantasyland." They boisterously chanted, "We want Mitt," "Where are the jobs?" and "Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra." http://abcn.ws/ KgonF0
OBAMA TO DONORS: HEALTH CARE FIGHT MAY LOOM AFTER RULING. Bloomberg's Hans Nichols reports: "President Barack Obama is confiding to Democratic donors that he may have to revisit the health-care issue in a second term, a position at odds with his publicly expressed confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act, according to three Democratic activists." http://bloom.bg/ NlIZZK
RON PAUL EFFECT IN NEVADA UNKNOWN VARIABLE FOR GOP. The question is, will Mitt Romney's chances in this battleground state - which top Democrats here admit will be a tight race to the finish - be hurt by the ongoing rift within the state between supporters of Paul, the Texas congressman and presidential candidate, and establishment Republicans? If the margin between Romney and President Barack Obama is a few thousand votes, as the latest NBC/Marist poll of Nevada voters on Thursday showed, it may make a big difference, This is why the national GOP is trying to walk a fine line between moving past the intra-state discord and getting on with the business of maximizing turnout among Romney supporters, while provoking the fewest Paul supporters. They might, after all, need the Paul camp's support to win. http://huff.to/L84zTi
ROMNEY VISITS SOLYNDRA. ABC's Emily Friedman reports, Mitt Romney arrived at the shuttered headquarters of Solyndra Inc. Thursday morning, a surprise visit that was shrouded in secrecy and part of the presumptive GOP presidential candidate's attack on President Obama's record on jobs creation. "Two years ago President Obama was here to tout this building and this business as a symbol of the success of his stimulus," said Romney, stepping off a bus and onto the public sidewalk in front of the Solyndra buildings just outside Silicon Valley. "Well you can see that it's a symbol of something very different today." http://abcn.ws/M0Mt47
NOTED: NANCY REAGAN ENDORSES ROMNEY. Yahoo!'s Holly Bailey reports, Nancy Reagan announced Thursday she's backing Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. "I offered my firm endorsement of his campaign for president," Reagan said in a statement issued by her office. "Ronnie would have liked Gov. Romney's business background and his strong principles, and I have to say I do too." http://abcn.ws/NnxCRa
OBAMA PUSHES NEW VETERANS EMPLOYMENT INITIATIVE. President Obama will unveil a new initiative today that will, for the first time, allow some U.S. service members to receive civilian credentials and licenses for skills they learn in the military. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports that the effort, announced by the White House late Thursday, is aimed at boosting employment among post-9/11 veterans, some of whom have had difficulty obtaining jobs in high-skill industries because their training is not immediately transferable to the private sector. http://abcn.ws/LPzgrl
BIG PAYCHECKS, TINY TAXES. ABC's Amy Bingham reports, a recent IRS report showed that 20,752 households that reported earning more than $200,000 in 2009 paid no federal income taxes. About 1,500 of those tax-free Americans were millionaires. http://abcn.ws/ JDqZeO
TAX BRAWL BREWING. ABC's John Parkinson reports, the reality of "Taxmageddon" - a heavy load of tax code provisions expiring at the end of the year - is that lawmakers probably won't come together on a comprehensive agreement until after the election this fall. http://abcn.ws/Mczpf7
REPUBLICAN SPOKESMAN'S 'ACID' WORDS. Jay Townsend, a campaign spokesman for Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth (NY-19) has ignited a controversy after he said, "Let's hurl some acid" at female Democratic senators. Townsend's comments (which have since been removed) were posted Thursday on a local Facebook discussion forum for New York's 19th congressional district. http://abcn.ws/ JDysKS
HOUSE REJECTS BAN ON SEX-SELECTION ABORTIONS. ABC's man on Capitol Hill, John Parkinson, reports that the House voted to reject a measure that would have banned sex-selection abortions in the United States, pitting Republicans and Democrats in a showdown over a woman's right to choose, which opponents contended was "intended to chip away at woman's right to obtain safe, legal medical care." The measure, known as the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), was defeated 246-178. http://abcn.ws/LaCyaq
SWING STATE ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE FAVORS OBAMA. Politico's Ben White reports: "Some key battlegrounds are doing better than the nation as a whole. And even if the president's policies didn't cause the improvement, it could help his case that the economic outlook has brightened under his stewardship. Auto and steel workers in battleground Ohio are getting jobs again. The unemployment rate in the state on Election Day is expected to be close to 7 percent. The national rate, now 8.1 percent, isn't likely to be much below 8 percent on Nov. 6 - and could be higher." http://politi.co/ JCKTqf
\MITT ROMNEY GET HIPSTER CRED. With the presidential election still months away, it seems hipster retailer Urban Outfitters has already cast its ballot, throwing its hipster cred behind Romney's campaign, reports ABC's Jilian Fama. Jumping on the presidential swag bandwagon, the store has rolled out a number of Mitt-centric T-shirt designs. Stores have rolled out multiple Romney shirts, including a "2 Legit 2 Mitt" design featuring a dancing Romney, a "Mitt is the Sh**" shirt, a KISS tribute and a play on Romney's first name involving an oven mitt. http://abcn.ws/LOoxl1
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION REVS UP WISCONSIN TROOPS: From a statement Friday morning: "The Faith & Freedom Coalition this week has launched a voter education campaign in Wisconsin utilizing a sophisticated mix of 100,000 voter guides distributed in churches as well as 'virtual voter guides' sent by email and text message, mail pieces, GOTV phone banks, over 25,000 door knocks, and social media. The campaign will total over 600,000 voter contacts statewide and in key State Senate districts. Evangelicals, faithful Roman Catholics, and Tea Party voters have been targeted to receive 'virtual voter guides' via email and on their mobile phones with banner ads and text messages."
PORTMAN: COUNTRY DOESN'T NEED 'PIZZAZZ' Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who is often characterized with the boring white guy label, was asked whether he lacks the "pizzazz" to be selected as a running mate, responding that voters aren't basing their decisions on the excitability a candidate possesses. "I think what people are looking for right now is not the kind of pizzazz and pop that perhaps we thought we got in 2008, certainly President Obama offered that," Portman said in the CNN interview. "What they want now is someone who can work closely with Congress and get things done. We have a paralysis in Washington that's not serving our country. We have to address these issues." http://bit.ly/L2QT82
PORTMAN'S ISRAEL VISIT: Portman spent most of Thursday touring the city of Jerusalem with an US Embassy official before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, ABC News' Gregory Simmons reports. "This past year has been very turbulent for the Middle East, and my conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu strengthened my belief that we need to remain vigilant in our support of our critical ally," Portman said. The Ohio senator leaves Israel Friday.
RUBIO WARNS OF FAILURES IN IRAN NUKE TALKS - In his latest foreign policy venture, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, predicted Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran ultimately will fail and said he would sanction a military strike before tolerating a nuclear Iran, warning that the United States should begin to prepare the country for that situation. "This is nothing but a stall tactic and I wish I was wrong, to the depths of my heart I wish that I was wrong, "Rubio said during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. http://abcn.ws/MegosG When asked about the veepstakes, Rubio skirted around the question. "How does Vice President Rubio sound to you?" Time managing editor Richard Stengel, who moderated the event, asked. "It doesn't," Rubio responded. "It has kind of a ring to it," Stengel said. "No, and I appreciate you trying to work that in there," Rubio said.
IS CHRISTIE A MATCH FOR ROMNEY? Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy takes a look at whether the "blunt but colorful" N.J. Gov. Chris Christie would play well as Romney's running mate. "Christie possesses several of the attributes considered essential for a vice-presidential candidate: He's accomplished, media-savvy, perceived as a strong leader, eager to play the attack dog role, and is adept at singing the praises of the man at the top of the ticket convincingly and without equivocation," Conroy wrote. "His most glaring drawback as a potential running mate is perhaps his penchant for outshining everyone in the room." http://bit.ly/JRceX7
@SovernNation : I will reveal that Romney didn't interact with us much on the bus. I made a joke & he laughed, but his laugh was off the record & embargoed.
-President Barack Obama tours and delivers remarks at the Honeywell Golden Valley in Golden Valley, MN and holds fundraisers in Minneapolis and Chicago.
-Mitt Romney attends fundraisers in Southern California.
ABC's Joanna Suarez
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV