Now more than ever, Democrats could use a shot in the arm of good news.
After a bruising few weeks on the presidential battlefield and the stinging loss in the Wisconsin recall election one week ago, a win in today's special election to fill the House seat vacated by Congresswoman Gabby Giffords could be just what the doctor ordered.
It would be an emotional victory too. The Democratic candidate, Ron Barber, is a member of Giffords' staff who was also shot in the Jan. 2011 assassination attempt that left the congresswoman wounded and six others dead.
Vying to flip the seat into Republican hands is former U.S. Marine Jesse Kelly, the Tea Party-aligned GOP nominee. Kelly, 30, lost his 2010 race against Giffords by just 4,000 votes.
A win would allow Democrats to put some distance between themselves and last week's loss in Wisconsin. After all, as ABC News Political Director Amy Walter points out, this is not a slam dunk Democratic district. Sen. John McCain won it in 2008 and George W. Bush carried it in 2004. Republicans have a significant registration advantage there too.
It's nearly impossible for any state or local election between now and November not to be seen against the backdrop of the national political landscape. Arizona is no different.
It's a state that Democrats insist they have a shot at winning. "We can win Arizona," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina declared back in February. "People said last time, 'Oh, you can't win Virginia,' until we did. 'You can't win Florida,' until we did. 'You can never win North Carolina,' until we did."
And yesterday the massive labor union, SEIU, and the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA, joined forces to launch a $4 million Spanish-language ad campaign aimed at a segment of the electorate that could be one of President Obama's firewalls against Mitt Romney this fall. (Notably, the groups chose Florida, Nevada and Colorado as the initial target states. Arizona did not make the cut).
For their part, Republicans dismiss Democratic talk of winning the state as pure posturing and say they hope the Obama campaign and its allies will spend money there - money that won't be available for their other priorities.
BOTTOM LINE: Regardless of what happens in the race to replace Giffords, the new congressman will have to run again in the general election in November - this time in a new district that has a much more significant Democratic lean to it. As such, we should expect this district (soon to be known as Arizona's 2nd Congressional District) to be in Democratic hands one way or another come next January. http://abcn.ws/MyEuIz
Our virtual political roundtable:
ABC's JAKE TAPPER: The position of Commerce Secretary has been extremely problematic for the Obama administration. Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker, who was said to be the president's initial choice for the post, took herself out of the running. (It was reported that her business ties would not pass the vet). His first official pick, then New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, pulled his name from consideration due to an ongoing campaign finance investigation back in his state. His second pick, then New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican, withdrew his name citing "irresolvable conflicts" with the president over policy. His third pick, Gary Locke, got it, and then left to become U.S. Ambassador to China. Now all this. No wonder the White House wants to get rid of the position! It's cursed!
ABC's AMY WALTER: Despite the raft of bad economic news, some Democratic strategists insist that the election will turn on more than the question of "are you better off today than you were four years ago." In a memo released yesterday by the group Democracy Corps, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg writes:
"It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance - and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction. They are wrong, and that will fail. The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the President talk about the future." (Read the full memo: http://bit.ly/LMJ74X)
It is true that voters and campaigns are more complex than the one dimensional characterization they often get by the media. That said, elections are also a lot simpler than we make them out to be. Voters are either happy with the status quo or they aren't. Moreover, Obama's case for how things will get better in the future remains murky.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: There may not be moral victories in politics, but there are psychological ones. For Democrats, holding on to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' House seat would be one of those - and not just because the party desperately needs some bad news after an awful two-week stretch. This is "Gabby's Seat," with an aide who was wounded in the same shooting she was looking to continue her legacy. That legacy is nothing if not an appeal to national unity. A loss in today's special-election by Democrats would be a kind of double-blow, at a time that party members are taking more than their share of punches.
NEW OBAMA AD HITS ROMNEY ON MASSACHUSETTS DEBT. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama's re-election campaign has spent weeks trying to drive home the point that Massachusetts was at the back of the pack in job growth under Gov. Mitt Romney. Now, a new campaign TV ad touts a stat on which Romney's state surged to the front - per capita debt. "Number One," a 30-second spot, claims Massachusetts debt grew $2.6 billion during Romney's tenure between 2003 and 2007 to $18 billion, or $4,153 per person, according to Moody's 2007 State Debt Medians cited in the ad. http://abcn.ws/KxN9vV
ROMNEY RESPONSE: "President Obama has overseen trillion-dollar deficits, soaring national debt and the first credit downgrade in history," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "Mitt Romney, on the other hand, closed a $3 billion budget shortfall, balanced four budgets, left a $2 billion rainy day fund and received a credit rating upgrade. President Obama will do anything to distract from his abysmal economic record and - despite that record - the fact that he thinks the private sector is 'doing fine.' Mitt Romney knows our country can do better and, under his leadership, it will do better."
STATE OF THE RACE: PENNSYLVANIA. President Obama leads Mitt Romney 46 percent to 40 percent among Pennsylvania voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. But, by a 49 to 41 percent margin, voters say Romney would do a better job on the economy. The overall results haven't changed significantly since a May 3 poll showed Obama leading Romney 47 percent to 39 percent. "President Barack Obama is holding his ground against Gov. Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania. While almost four-fifths of voters, including 58 percent of Republicans, say the President is a likable person, where the rubber meets the road on the campaign trail - the economy - Romney has the lead," Quinnipiac pollster Tim Malloy. "Pennsylvanians may like the president more than they like Mitt Romney, but the warm and fuzzy feeling gives way to the cold hard truth of a still shaky economy."
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
COMMERCE SEC. TO TAKE MEDICAL LEAVE. ABC's Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce report: Secretary of Commerce John Bryson is taking a medical leave of absence after a bizarre series of car accidents over the weekend in Los Angeles left him unconscious at his car steering wheel and cited by police for leaving the scene of an accident - a felony offense. Bryson has not been charged and he passed a breathalyzer Saturday night. http://abcn.ws/KOvnJi
VIDEO OF THE DAY: READ MY LIPS, DON'T SIGN 'NO NEW TAX' PLEDGE. Jon Karl talks tax reform with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham in the latest episode of his Power Players series "Spinners & Winners." As a conservative Republican, Lindsey Graham has never had a problem promising not to raise taxes. Like almost every other Republican member of Congress, during his last re-election campaign, he signed the anti-tax pledge put forth by Grover Norquist's group Americans for Tax Reform. But now Graham says the debt crisis is so severe that the tax pledge - which says no tax loopholes can be eliminated unless every dollar raised by closing loopholes goes to tax cuts - has got to go. http://yhoo.it/LPTByy
NEVER TOO EARLY: ROMNEY'S SECRETARY OF STATE - WHO MIGHT IT BE? As Washington guessing games go, curiosity over America's next Secretary of State might fall second in line behind the intrigue-laden Veepstakes, reports ABC's Chris Good. Romney has adopted a notably hawkish foreign-policy/national- security platform, one that may limit his choice to lead the State Department if he insists on hiring a secretary who agrees with him on everything. http://abcn.ws/ KkfwkE
MEET MITT ROMNEY'S 'SIXTH SON'. Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer reports: "Few advisers are as close to Romney, 65, as Zwick, the 32- year-old aide who's spent nearly all of his professional life working for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. For about a decade, Zwick has been by Romney's side, traveling from the spires of Salt Lake City to the halls of the Massachusetts statehouse. Now, as Romney takes his fundraising effort into overdrive in preparation for the fall election, he's once again entrusted the task of bankrolling his campaign to Zwick, who is so close to the Romney family that he's often referred to as their "sixth son" by campaign workers. http://bloom.bg/ Mx5LLT
WOULD ROMNEY CUT FIREFIGHTERS? Mitt Romney's campaign is doing little to suggest that the candidate's recent comment about cutting back on firefighters, police officers and teachers has been taken out of context, reports ABC's Matt Negrin. At first it seemed as if Romney's statement about President Obama - "He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message in Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people." - was an unfortunate phrasing or combination of thoughts. But today, the campaign didn't provide any clarification on the record of what else Romney might have meant to say. http://abcn.ws/KxLZkf
TOEING THE LINE IN MASSACHUSETTS SENATE RACE. If you watch or listen to an ad for Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts, chances are you'll hear at least one of the following terms; bipartisanship, compromise, Red Sox, notes ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. One term you might not hear: Republican. http://abcn.ws/ MzBagi
ROMNEY HOPES SUPREME COURT WILL 'DO THE RIGHT THING'. ABC's Emily Friedman reports, Mitt Romney Monday said he hopes the country's highest court "does the right thing" and overturns the health care plan established by President Obama. "Gosh, I hope they do the right thing and turn this thing down," said Romney during a high-dollar fundraiser in Atlanta, where donors had paid as much as $50,000 for time with the presumptive GOP nominee. http://abcn.ws/NucVpe
REMEMBERING WATERGATE (AT THE WATERGATE.) ABC's Chris Good reports, One June 17, 40 years ago, five men broke into Democratic offices at the Watergate hotel and office building, and were caught - an event that would change both politics and journalism in the United States. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the reporters who broke the story, still sound amazed. "This story was like getting into a warm bath, and then it got hotter and hotter and hotter, so we were able to withstand the heat," Bernstein said, as the two were interviewed by CBS's Charlie Rose tonight at The Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., at an anniversary event hosted by The Washington Post, the newspaper for which Woodward and Bernstein broke the scandal. http://abcn.ws/JYbnht
WHY OBAMA DIDN'T CAMPAIGN IN WISCONSIN. In his first public reaction to the Wisconsin recall election that saved Republican Gov. Scott Walker's job, President Obama said today that he "would have loved to have seen a different result," but was adamant that the election does not have broader implications for November, reports ABC's Mary Bruce. The president backed Barrett from afar but did not campaign on the ground. Asked why he didn't visit the state Obama said "the truth of the matter is that as President of the United States, I have a lot of responsibilities." http:// abcn.ws/LEHMPl
FLORIDA, FEDERAL GOV., SUE ONE EACH OTHER OVER VOTER PURGE PROGRAM. ABC's Kyle Blaine and Jason Ryan report: The state of Florida Monday filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, claiming the federal agency restricted access to information on people who might not be eligible to vote. The suit indicates that Gov. Rick Scott will continue to defend Florida's controversial voter verification program, which the U.S. Department of Justice targeted earlier this month as being in violation of federal statutes. The Justice Department has sent a letter to the Florida Secretary of State regarding its voter list maintenance program informing the state that DOJ will seek court action to stop the purging of voter rolls in the State. The letter was sent in response to a letter from the Florida Secretary of State dated June 6, 2012. http://abcn.ws/Mocdrq
ANGUS KING MAKES A LAST STAND FOR MODERATION IN MAINE. The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reports: "Angus King, a popular former Maine governor and the favorite to become the state's next U.S. senator, thinks the way to win an election in 2012 is to stake out the middle ground, crusade against partisanship and present himself as a devout independent. It is a bold strategy in this hyperpartisan age, and the depths of his moderation are captured by two photographs positioned side by side at his campaign headquarters: one of Ronald Reagan, the other of Robert F. Kennedy." http://wapo.st/ LM5CXS
GOP CHAIRMAN NOT CUTTING CHECKS FROM CAMPAIGNS TO NRCC. The Hill's Rachel Leven reports: "More than two dozen House chairmen have not given any money from their campaign war chests to the Republican committee tasked with defending the GOP's majority. The lack of direct transfers from Republicans in senior positions comes during a cycle in which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)." http://bit.ly/Kk3N5r
A UCTIONING GEORGE WASHINGTON'S CONSTITUTION. ABC's Matt Negrin reports: What did George Washington actually think about the Second Amendment? What was his view on the role of the Supreme Court? Did he doodle in the margins? These questions - and more - could be answered when the auction house Christie's puts Washington's personal Constitution up for sale. It's expected to go for between $2 million and $3 million. http://abcn.ws/L2bg9X
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-FROM CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: "Concerned Women for America (CWA) President Penny Nance announced today the launch of "She Votes 2012," a million-dollar nationwide campaign to get out the vote in the November general election. The goal is to raise awareness and activism of women in key states, resulting in stronger conservative leadership on the state and national level. CWA President Penny Nance said. "We need conservatives to turn out in great numbers in order to get legislation passed that will move our great country back to a secure footing." The "She Votes 2012? campaign will work to mobilize members in key states to change the trajectory of our nation through grassroots education and activism. Organizers will focus on three main areas: Voter registration; Voter identification; Voter turnout." www.shevotes2012.org
@samyoungman : Podium sign at Romney event in Orlando: "Repeal and Replace Obamacare"
@peterbakernyt : Seeking to return to Senate, Bob Kerrey asks telling question: "Am I going to be miserable if I win?" @mattbai explores http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/yes-bob-kerrey-wants-to-go-back-to-washington.html
@jackgillum : From @kasie: Romney's approach to campaign openness: Keep secrets and release only what law says he must http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-bc-us-romney-transparency,0,6842692.story
@joshtpm : Stephen Colbert Endorses The Banana Bunker http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/stephen_colbert_banana_bunker.php via @TPM