Democrats got the win - real and psychological - they were looking for last night in Arizona.
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' close aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the Jan. 2011 shooting in Tucson, will serve out her term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Barber won about 7 percentage points, 52 percent to 45 percent for Republican challenger, Jesse Kelly. (Notably, this was a bigger margin of victory than Giffords enjoyed in 2010 when she beat Kelly by less than 2 percentage points.)
While Barber's win is a rare bit of sunshine for Democrats and for a White House desperate for some good news, there is also a certain irony here
Barber's success in the special election to replace his boss was due in part to the fact that he actively distanced himself from President Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
"It is clear that Ron Barber knew that voters in this district would never accept his true positions on President Obama's agenda which have made a bad economy worse in this state," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said in a statement early this morning. "That explains why he did his best to conceal his support for so much of that agenda. Barber will not have that advantage in November when he will be on the ballot with President Obama, nor will any of his House Democrat colleagues."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, saw the race differently: "This election was a referendum on Republicans' policy of cutting Medicare and privatizing Social Security to give tax breaks millionaires, Big Oil, and corporations that ship jobs overseas - and they lost," according to a memo from the DCCC.
"We can (and did) win a Republican-leaning district like AZ-08, but the battleground in November is in much more Democratic-friendly territory," the memo notes. "Democrats now stand well positioned to pick-up two additional seats in Arizona.
But the fact remains that Obama had zero involvement in this race for Barber - no robo-calls, no glossy endorsement brochures, not even a tweet.
A BITTER-SWEET VICTORY. Congresswoman Giffords endorsed Barber early on, and he was ultimately uncontested for his party's nomination. He had strong fundraising- pulling in $1.2 million according to campaign finance disclosures and was aided by the help of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which spent over $400,000 on ads supporting his candidacy. However, his victory was far from certain, notes ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. Giffords actual presence in the campaign was limited. She campaigned with Barber over the weekend leading up to the election - a somewhat late appearance given that up to two-thirds of ballots were expected to be submitted via early voting - and she was featured on a mailer circulated by the Democratic Party of Arizona. http://abcn.ws/Lw0h7u
OBAMA'S CHILLY RECEPTION ON THE ECONOMY. Swing-voting independents see Barack Obama's plans for the economy negatively rather than positively by 54-38 percent in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, marking the president's challenges as he seeks re-election in still-troubled economic times, reports ABC News Pollster Gary Langer. It's no party for Mitt Romney either. Independents also rate his economic plans more unfavorably than favorably, by 47-35 percent. But more are undecided, giving Romney some room to maneuver; unlike Obama, Romney avoids majority criticism in this group. http://abcn.ws/KmzkUn
More from the poll:
-Romney lags among moderates, and does less well among conservatives than Obama does among liberals. But the president's economic plans are underwater among middle- to upper-middle-income Americans, while Romney manages an even split in this group. And Obama's economic program is especially unpopular - by 2 to 1 among whites, though he does far better than Romney among nonwhites.
-Obama also crosses the 50 percent negative line among registered voters, who see his economic program unfavorably rather than favorably by 51-43 percent. Romney's rating among registered voters is 46 to 40 percent unfavorable-favorable, again with more undecided.
Is President Obama Tone-Deaf on Economy? On "Good Morning America" today, Democrat consultant James Carville worries president's strategy isn't working. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/LCCpOv
Our virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The circular firing squad is finding a target-rich environment. Democrats are starting an early pile-on - mostly anonymously - under cover provided by James Carville and Stan Greenberg. But if the solutions were easy, the ammunition wouldn't have to be wasted. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today shows both candidates deeply underwater when it comes to their plans for the economy. This isn't the kind of voter unease that can be solved with a new messaging campaign - or by any level of intra-party angst.
ABC's AMY WALTER: Even an improving economy in places like Colorado isn't enough to convince some former Obama voters to stick with the incumbent this time around. The reason, they say, things could only go up and they haven't gone up far or fast enough. At a focus group of Denver, CO swing voters conducted on behalf of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, most thought the economy was improving. When asked by moderator Peter Hart to describe the economic climate in weather terms, most said it was warming up from a frigid 2009-10 and that they were trading parkas for light jackets. But, said Patrick, a 2008 Obama voter who is undecided now: "From what Obama told me four years ago, I thought I'd be in a bathing suit."
DIANE SAWYER SITS DOWN WITH GEORGE H.W. BUSH: TUNE IN FRIDAY.
GOP'S WEDNESDAY OFFENSIVE:
-The Republican National Committee is out with a new web video this morning accusing the president of never focusing on jobs and economic recovery. The video, titled "Lost Focus," attempts to make the case that: "Even though he claimed to be focused on jobs, Obama instead spent his time making it harder for job creators by passing Obamacare, more regulation and pushing for higher taxes." WATCH: http://bit.ly/Ne4DCT
-From the Romney campaign: The First 100 Days: How Would A Romney Presidency Be Different? GRAPHIC: http://mi.tt/LVpsA0
DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: DEAR MITT. Using the prompt "Dear Mitt Romney," the Obama campaign is soliciting comments and stories from supporters about why firefighters, cops and teachers are important, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes. They have launched a new Tumblr site today to display those responses. The campaign has already been engaging supporters on this via Twitter and Facebook and tweeting out quotes. Here's one from Samantha: "Teachers impact the people students turn out to be, so it is impossible to deny the importance of having amazing teachers available. Cutting jobs for teachers is never the solution to anything!" http://dearromney.tumblr.com/
ABC's TOP 6 POLITICAL CLICKS: A "Qwiki" video by Deputy Political Director Z. Byron Wolf: http://bit.ly/LusOu1
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
NIGHTMARE SCENARIO: COULD ELECTION NIGHT 2000 HAPPEN AGAIN? In the latest episode of ABC/Yahoo!'s Power Players series "Top Line" ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein, along with Yahoo! bureau chief David Chalian sat down with former ABC News President David Westin to discuss his memoir "Exit Interview." In his new book, Westin talks election night in 2000 and explains, "We believed that our 'decision desk' was better than anybody, and that we got it right every single time and we got it right earlier than just about anybody did." Until then. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/M2nPhX
OBAMA SAYS 'PAY ATTENTION' TO THE GOP. President Obama concluded a day of fundraising across two states by telling supporters to "pay attention" to what Republican rivals were offering as contrasts to his policies, reports ABC's Matt Larotonda. "I am telling you, I want you all to pay attention over the next five months and see if they're offering a single thing that they did not try when they were in charge, because you won't see it," he said. http://abcn.ws/LSKT2k
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX: From a Democratic strategist and Friend of The Note: "Last night was another 'banner' night for the Republican senate primaries. First they nominated George Allen whose fiscal record would better be suited for a game of monopoly than a U.S. senator. Then, in North Dakota, they nominated Rick Berg who is still struggling to figure out what the minimum wage. Well done, Grand Old Party, well done."
The Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, released memos on Berg and Allen: "In 2006, Virginia voters unceremoniously ousted George Allen from office. Six years later, Allen has portrayed himself as a Tea Party proselyte in his bid to return to the Senate. But even a cursory look at his record as senator and governor should be enough to convince voters that Allen is a big spender who can't be trusted to address our nation's budget problems responsibly." http://bit.ly/LTL0gr
NORTH DAKOTA OPTS TO ABANDON 'FIGHTING SIOUX' NICKNAME… North Dakota voters approved a ballot measure allowing the University of North Dakota to discontinue use of its controversial nickname -the Fighting Sioux- on Tuesday night, reports ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. The schools nickname has been under fire from the NCAA for many years, and the debate has been on-going in the state. http://abcn.ws/LBVbW9
…AND VOTED DOWN A PROPERTY TAX BAN. ABC's Susanna Kim reports, North Dakotans took their angst against property taxes to the polls today, an issue gaining traction in other parts of the U.S. Voters ultimately rejected the constitutional amendment on Tuesday, with a reported 76.5 percent rejecting the proposal and 23.5 percent favoring. http://abcn.ws/ LxBNLc
SANTORUM GOES TEPID ON ROMNEY. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports, Rick Santorum isn't exactly brimming with enthusiasm about the man he is supposed to be supporting for the presidency. When asked on CNN if he now "trusts" Mitt Romney after railing against him during the primary, especially when he consistently compared his health care plan in Massachusetts to the president's health care plan, he gave quite a tepid endorsement. "Well, I trust him more than I do Barack Obama," Santorum told John King. "This election is about a choice." http://abcn.ws/NbeM3e
TOP DEMS' MESSAGE TO OBAMA. ABC's Amy Walter reports, Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg have a message for the Obama campaign: Stop trying to convince voters that the last four years have been good for them, and start talking about what you are going to do in the next four years to make the economy and their lives better. In a memo for the think-tank Democracy Corps, Carville and Greenberg write: "We will face an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class." http://abcn.ws/KyIhGZ
U.S. SUES FLORIDA OVER VOTER PURGE. ABC's Kyle Blaine reports The Department of Justice filed a formal lawsuit against the state of Florida to head off the state's plan to purge ineligible voters from its rolls. It's the latest salvo in an ongoing legal battle, as the DOJ claims that Florida's attempts to remove ineligible voters violates a federal law that's meant to prohibit such purges within the 90-day period before an election for federal office. http://abcn.ws/MKX4Bl
MAINE SENATE PRIMARY. The Hill's Josh Lederman reports: "Cynthia Dill, a state senator in Maine, won the Democratic primary in the race for retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's seat on Tuesday, beating out three other Democrats. On the Republican side, Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers defeated five other candidates to win the nomination. The candidate gobbling up all attention in the race to replace Snowe wasn't on the ballot Tuesday. Angus King, the former governor, is an independent, and has been steadfast in his refusal to say with which party he would caucus if elected to the Senate, although both parties say they suspect he would cast his lot with Democrats." http://bit.ly/ M0uasa
CORNYN CALLS ON HOLDER TO RESIGN AFTER FAST AND FURIOUS. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over the Fast and Furious gun scandal reports ABC's Jason Ryan. Holder was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee where Cornyn expressed his views that the attorney general has not been honest and has been overly political. http://abcn.ws/ L3Skqi
McCAIN WANTS LEAK INVESTIGATION. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports, keeping the drumbeat up, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced a resolution in the Senate Tuesday calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the string of recent national security and intelligence leaks. "I can't think of any time that I have seen such breaches of ongoing national security programs as has been the case here," McCain said from the Senate floor. http://abcn.ws/K00zzn
NORQUIST NOT WORRIED ABOUT GOP RAISING TAXES. "I stand by the idea that we shouldn't raise rates," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told ABC's Jon Karl in an interview for his ABC-Yahoo! video series "Spinners and Winners. "When you eliminate a deduction, it's OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That's where I disagree with the tax pledge." Norquist told ABC's Chris Good, he's not worried about Republicans raising taxes any time soon. "I worry more about satellites falling on my head," Norquist said in a phone interview Tuesday. http://abcn.ws/OtwAn7
OBAMA, ROMNEY CAMPAIGNS FUNDRAISE AT FRANTIC PAGE. The New York Times' Ashley Parker and Helene Cooper report: "With the primary season over, the presidential campaign has entered a new phase, one dictated by the competitive realities of the deregulated campaign finance system. Having decided not to take public financing for the general election, both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney need to devote much of their time to banking the money necessary to fuel their campaigns through Election Day." http://nyti.ms/NxOYgT
ON THE HILL: JAMIE DIMON. ABC's Zunaira Zaki reports, Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday on the now infamous trading loss that has reached about $3 billion. A preview of the testimony reveals that he will again apologize for letting "a lot of people down" but will say that traders in Chief Investment Unit "did not have the requisite understanding of the risks they took." http://abcn.ws/LHItHA
SILVER LINING FOR DEMOCRATS IN WISCONSIN? The Huffington Post's Luke Johnson reports "The Racine, Wis. County Clerk's office declared former state Sen. John Lehman the winner of a recall election, swinging control of the Senate to the Democrats unless his Republican opponent, Sen. Van Wanggaard, asks for and wins a recount. The final vote totals in the June 5 election were 36,351 for Lehman and 35,517 for Wanggaard. If Lehman indeed prevails, then Democrats will have a 17-16 edge in the Wisconsin senate." http://huff.to/M052UG
ROMNEY OUTLINES HEALTHCARE PLAN AS SUPREME COURT WEIGHS LAW. Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer and Roger Runningen report: "Mitt Romney pledged to replace the U.S. health-care overhaul with a plan relying on private markets to provide "access to good health care" for every American, as he revived attacks on President Barack Obama's signature achievement that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on…The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the Affordable Care Act by the end of the month, ruling on a law that would expand insurance to at least 30 million people and transform an industry that accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. economy." http://bloom.bg/ LirU2c
-President Obama welcomes President Shimon Peres of Israel to the White House for a bilateral meeting. Tonight he awards Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House dinner.
-Mitt Romney will address Business Roundtable's Quarterly Meeting at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Tonight he holds a campaign fundraiser in Ohio.
ABC's Joanna Suarez and Mary Bruce
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV