As Mitt Romney's "Every Town Counts" bus wound its way through New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio over the last three days, one overarching sentiment came through loud and clear.
"I think people are here more because they are against Obama than for Romney," Don Ross from Englewood, Ohio said in an interview with ABC News at Romney's rally outside a Troy Ohio burger joint on Sunday evening.
"I'll be honest," said Mike Hain, a supervisor at a cereal company in Pennsylvania who turned out to see Romney at a rally in Cornwall, Pa. on Saturday, "it's not so much what I like about him, it's why I dislike about Obama."
And at a New Hampshire farmhouse where Romney kicked off his tour on Friday, GOP voter Pee Ide said of President Obama, "He just kind of scares me - he really does."
Interviews with swing-state voters on the opening days of Romney's five-day, six-state bus tour turned up a remarkably consistent airing of concerns about President Obama, but the conversations also revealed a Republican electorate still warming up to their nominee. They want to see Romney get fired up.
"I think he's so methodical," Ide, a Mirror Lake, N.H. resident, said of Romney, but added a word of advice when it comes to how the Republican candidate deals with Obama: "Sometimes I wish he would give him a little bit more hell."
Passion or not - a vote is a vote, and most of the Republicans ABC News spoke to along Romney's route said they planned to cast a ballot for the former Massachusetts governor in November. That was the case with Pennsylvania Republicans Marty and Ciri Daigle, for whom Romney was not their first choice. "I was a Newt fan," Marty said. "And I was a Santorum fan," his wife, Ciri, chimed in.
Nevertheless, Marty, a lumber company sales manager, and Ciri, who works at a Cornwall, Pa. nursing home, told ABC News they would ultimately vote for Romney in November.
Marty said the reason was simple: "He's not Obama."
TRAVELS WITH MITT: Romney's bus tour takes him to two more states that Barack Obama won in 2008, but that the presumptive GOP nominee hopes to put in the Republican "win" column come November:
-WISCONSIN has enjoyed a spot at the center of the political universe in recent weeks, and Gov. Scott Walker's success in battling back a hard-fought recall challenge from Democrats was viewed as a win for Republicans nationally. And while the GOP says its efforts on behalf of Walker have not only given the party a psychological boost but also a grassroots organizing advantage, President Obama remains on top of Romney in recent public opinion polls. A St. Norbert College-Wisconsin Public Radio poll taken in mid-May gave Obama a 49 percent to 43 percent lead over Romney. Romney will be joined at his morning stop at Monterey Mills in Janesville, Wisc. by Gov. Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan, architect of the GOP budget proposal.
-IOWA provided President Obama with a key win in his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee four years ago, and he went on to win the state by a comfortable margin in the general election. But times have changed. According to a late May NBC News-Marist University poll, Obama and Romney are all tied up at 44 percent a piece. Both campaigns have boasted about their ground game in the Hawkeye State. Today Romney hops on the "Spirit of Dubuque," a Mississippi river boat in Dubuque and later holds a rally at Le Claire Park in Davenport, Iowa.
-OBAMA CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCES KEY HISPANIC ENDORSEMENT. On the heels of President Obama's executive order on immigration policy last week, the Obama campaign announced on Monday morning the endorsement of Emmy award-winning talk show host and community leader Cristina Saralegui. From the campaign: "This is the first time that Saralegui has endorsed a president or actively participated in a presidential campaign. For 21 years, Cristina and 'The Cristina Show' entertained, uplifted, and educated the Hispanic community in the U.S. and throughout the world." WATCH Saralegui's endorsement: http://bit.ly/Kf3e8v
-DEMOCRATS SEND ROMNEY POSTCARDS FROM THE MIDDLE CLASS. A Democratic National Committee official e-mails The Note: "Mitt Romney is going to WI and IA tomorrow - but he needn't stop to pick up postcards to make the occasion - we have them all picked out. I mean - if you're going to throw the middle class under the bus - the least you can do is send a post card." The DNC's postcards from Wisconsin http://bit.ly/NECdSVand Iowa http://bit.ly/MAwESd
Our virtual political roundtable:
ABC's AMY WALTER: Among Washington, D.C., political insiders, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is considered one of the most likely to be picked as Mitt Romney's running mate. But, in northeastern and central Ohio, even among the GOP faithful, his name draws more question marks than exclamation points. Theresa, Tami and Tim Clark, siblings from Lancaster Ohio, stood in a sunny town square in Newark waiting for Romney to arrive and address the assembled crowd. All three were supportive of Romney, though Tim said he drove the 26 miles to see what Romney has to say "straight on" instead of relying on what he gets from TV ads and news reports. When asked what they thought about Portman as a potential VP pick, Theresa admitted she didn't know much about him. "What state is he from?" she asked. Her brother Tim, replied that "he's a senator or a representative" from Ohio. http://abcn.ws/N9aB5U
AMY NOTES: My experience wasn't a scientific sample of all Ohio voters, though I heard the same sentiment about him at every one of the three stops we made on Romney's bus tour on Sunday. Many of the voters who turned out to see Romney are fierce partisans who are looking for a rock-em-sock-em guy running mate - they even want Mitt to get more aggressive.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: President Obama's Friday surprise, enacting a mini-DREAM Act on his own, had the simultaneous result of changing the discussion and leaving his opponents without much to say. Without this announcement, Sen. Marco Rubio's own plans to help children of illegal immigrants stay and achieve in the United States might have stolen the issue from Democrats. With it, Rubio and Mitt Romney are left simultaneously describing the move as welcome to the young men and women impacted, but as illegal and somehow counterproductive in the long view. Romney was asked repeatedly on "Face the Nation" whether he would undo the executive actions that are making the policy shift possible. He wouldn't answer, beyond saying he would "look at that setting as we reach it."
MARCO RUBIO SITS DOWN WITH ABC NEWS' DAVID MUIR: Exclusive excerpts from ABC "World News" weekend anchor David Muir's interview with Sen. Marco Rubio.
RUBIO'S REACTION TO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S POLICY CHANGE:
RUBIO: I know that a lot of these kids will take this as good news because they are desperate for some form of resolution. This is a short-term solution. This is a short-term solution to something that requires a long-term answer. And my bigger concern is that by doing this by executive order by ignoring and going around the Congress this may make it harder in the long term to solve this problem and I'm concerned about that.
MUIR: So the President should not have done this?
RUBIO: I don't think he should have done this by executive order. I think he should have worked with the Congress to try to get something balanced done like something I'm working on. The White House never called us about this no one reached out to us and told us this was on its way. And, I mean, if they were serious about a real solution to this problem and not politicizing it then why don't you reach out to people, we're trying to work out a real solution…
MUIR: In front of a group of supporters you said that President Obama is the most divisive figure in modern American history…
ON PRESIDENT OBAMA AS 'MOST DIVISIVE FIGURE' IN MODERN HISTORY:
RUBIO: Absolutely, by design, deliberately. He is deliberately dividing Americans against each other for purposes of political gain… If you look at this White House they never pass up an opportunity to pit one group of Americans against another for purposes of improving his electoral chances. Time and again whether it is one group of Hispanics against another, men against women, rich against poor, he is constantly looking for opportunities to tell one group of Americans that they would be better off if one group of Americans was worse off. I think that while that is common in politics, it's not just Obama, it's common in politics but what I think is really sad is that he had a chance to be different and in 2008 he was different.
Muir's interview with Sen. Rubio airs tonight on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline."
WATERGATE AT 40. ABC's David Kerley interviews Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their view of the Watergate scandal four decades later. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/Mf5e4j (h/t ABC's Daniel Steinberger)
"THIS WEEK" REWIND.
-GOOLSBEE: A 'MEA CULPA' FOR OBAMA. ABC News consultant Austan Goolsbee, speaking on 'This Week' Sunday: " The president should have a mea culpa, that we have gotten into a place that was very different from what the campaign wanted it to be from 2008, one in which - and, look, I think you could blame more the Republicans, but I'm sure the Republicans would say more you blame the president. http://abcn.ws/MmBLkV
-PAWLENTY: No RIBBON FOR OBAMA. Also from 'This Week,' former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty: " The president's message, it could be worse and it's somebody else's fault four years into his presidency, that's not a basis to re-elect somebody. We don't give out participation ribbons for being president of the United States. You actually have to do something. His signature accomplishment, Obamacare, is unconstitutional." http://abcn.ws/LwuqSw
ROMNEY'S BUS TOUR: WHAT THE LOCALS ARE SAYING.
-The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio) chronicled Romney's rainy stop in Brunswick Sunday morning. Sarah Jane Tribble reports: "The crowd seemed relieved but excited when the campaign bus pulled up. Many had arrived by 7 a.m., parking in a muddy lot and shivering in the cold breeze. Romney's bus arrived after 9 a.m. They had already listened to a slew of state Republicans, including state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown, and Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. They both spoke through the rain. By the time Romney's family took the stage, there was no mistake, though, that Ohio and the small towns in it are officially part of the campaign battleground. Romney's campaign bus seems to underline the significance of the Buckeye State in this year's election, featuring a picture of the Ohio Statehouse on the side." http://bit.ly/Kvro3t
-The Cincinnati Enquirer (Ohio) led with protesters heckling Romney in Ohio. Paul E. Kostyu reports: "For the second time on a three-stop Ohio bus tour, presumptive presidential Republican candidate Mitt Romney heard very vocal protestors tell him to 'go home.' At his stops in Troy, southeast of Dayton, and Newark, east of Columbus, Romney's speech was often drowned out by a couple dozen protesters representing unions and community activists. They were also at the bus tour's first stop in Brunswick, south of Cleveland, but were so far away from the speech site they couldn't be heard. … In both Newark and Troy, Romney gave a speech about half as long as that he gave in Brunswick." http://cin.ci/LV7VHy
-The Mansfield News Journal (Ohio) noted Sen. Rob Portman's VP tryout. Jessical Alaimo writes: "U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's appearances around Ohio with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are, in a way, an audition for the vice presidency. The Romney campaign will be watching Portman's campaign style, and critiquing his ability to stay on message. … Portman, Ohio's junior senator, is widely considered a favorite for the vice presidential nomination. He's touring with Romney in and out of Ohio, and also stumping for him as a surrogate." http://ohne.ws/KNwfcZ
-The Lebanon Daily News (Pennsylvania) reported on excited Romney supporters in Cornwall, Pa. Steven Snyder reports: "Still two hours before Mitt Romney stood in front of a lone microphone atop a grassy mound just outside the entrance to historic Cornwall Iron Furnace on Saturday, the Burtko family of North Cornwall Township was bubbling over with excitement to see the Republican likely to face Barack Obama for the presidency in the fall. 'It's not every day something like this happens,' Kelly Burtko said as her children, Emily, 9, and Zachary, 7, watched her mother answer questions. … Several hundred Republicans - some of whom arrived more than an hour before the gates opened at 3 p.m., like the Burtkos - came to hear the former Massachusetts governor say he would fight to win Pennsylvania, something no Republican presidential candidate has accomplished since Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988." http://bit.ly/KWw1OW
-The Des Moines Register (Iowa) previewed Romney's stops in Dubuque and Davenport, concluding there's opportunity for him among voters in the Mississippi River Valley. Jennifer Jacobs reports: "Virtually deadlocked in national polling with President Barack Obama, Romney is barnstorming states in the upper Midwest, trying to pressure the Democrat in the heart of places where the Republicans think his challenges lie. … Romney is unlikely to spell out any new policy prescriptions, but could make contrasts between Iowa, which has a Republican governor and an improving economy, and Illinois, a state with spending and debt woes where the governor is a Democrat. The slices of eastern Iowa he's visiting today are swing areas carried by Republican Terry Branstad in 2010 but by Democrats in 2006 and 2008. In the Iowa caucuses in January, the Mississippi River Valley was Romney's strongest region - and GOP strategists see opportunity there for him with economic voters, white working-class voters and suburbanites." http://dmreg.co/MZ54LQ
-The Dubuque Telegraph Herald (Iowa) notes that Romney will cruise the Mississippi. The paper reports: "Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will cruise the Mississippi River in Dubuque this afternoon. A campaign release Sunday afternoon confirmed that Romney will board the Spirit of Dubuque for an 'invitation only' Mississippi River boat tour beginning at 1:30 p.m." http://bit.ly/LwqilC
-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin) posts an AP story about Romney seeking to build on Scott Walker's GOP momentum in Wisconsin. Kasie Hunt and Scott Bauer report: " Mitt Romney is looking to capitalize on a big Republican victory in Wisconsin as he visits the state for the first time since GOP Gov. Scott Walker survived a contentious recall election. Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984, and President Barack Obama won big here in 2008. But now that Walker has challenged public sector unions and survived a Democratic push to oust him as governor, Republicans sense an opportunity - and Romney plans to continue his six-state bus tour in Janesville, about 75 miles southwest of Milwaukee. … Romney will appear in Wisconsin with Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the House Republican budget that would restructure America's entitlement programs. http://apne.ws/MAGp2w
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
NEW ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: INSIDE OBAMA'S DRONE PROGRAM. One of President Obama's most enduring legacies will be his use of drone strikes, and ABC's Jake Tapper talks with Newsweek/The Daily Beast's Daniel Klaidman about his new book on Obama's global drone campaign. http://yhoo.it/LggMVp
ROMNEY'S GRANDSON: 'HAVE YOU BEAT OBAMA YET?' ABC's Emily Friedman reports: Mitt Romney's grandchildren have been getting an up-close look at the political process, but at least one - 4-year-old Nate - seems to have had enough of the long, drawn-out campaign. "Nate, the first thing he said when he saw me was, 'Have you beat Barack Obama yet?' That's our 4-year-old," Romney said today, as he, his wife Ann and three of his 18 grandchildren - Nick, Chloe and Parker - visited with reporters on the back of his tour bus. "Not yet, hoping to do that," Romney said with a smile. http://abcn.ws/M6Bjcv
MITT JOKES: ANN'S ADDICTED TO HORSES. After the news that Ann Romney's horse, Rafalca, is headed for the Olympics, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: Romney noted the expensive world of dressage is not a sport "many people are familiar with," but said it's something his wife "has a passion" for and she believes has helped her control her symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Mrs. Romney was diagnosed in 1998, but Romney told CBS News' Bob Schieffer she has been "almost symptom free ever since 2002 so almost ten years." "She cares very deeply about this sport and about the horses," Romney said. "I joke that I'm going to have to send her to Betty Ford for addiction to horses." The Betty Ford clinic is a drug and alcohol addiction center in California founded by former First Lady Better Ford. http://abcn.ws/LVpO9d
ROMNEY'S V.P. TRYOUTS: PORTMAN, PAWLENTY AND RYAN. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports: "'He said everything is fine. Do you think it's fine?' Senator Rob Portman of Ohio asked a crowd gathered here in the town square on Sunday, reminding them of the president's recent remark on the condition of the private sector. Several hundred people roared back 'No!' A day earlier, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota fired up a Pennsylvania audience as he shouted, "Have you had enough of Obamacare?" As the Republicans loudly replied 'Yes,' Mr. Romney clapped his hands and joined in the revelry. … Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a favorite of many fiscal conservatives, takes his turn on Monday when he welcomes Mr. Romney to his hometown, Janesville. … With some advisers pushing for an announcement as early as July, the roster of potential running mates is being whittled down by Mr. Romney, who has said that one quality rises above all: his vice-presidential nominee must be unquestionably prepared to be president, not simply to grow into the job." http://nyti.ms/KvvGrr
BOEHNER ON THE TRAIL. Yahoo! News' Holly Bailey reports from Troy, Ohio: "House Speaker John Boehner made his first public appearance with Mitt Romney this campaign, touting the Republican nominee as someone who has the ability to put 'the economy back together again.' Speaking to several hundred supporters at a rally along a cordoned-off downtown street in this Western Ohio town, Boehner cast Romney as someone who would be an ally to a Republican-led Congress. He called President Obama a 'roadblock' to GOP-led efforts to revive the economy. 'Ladies and gentlemen, the president's policies have failed,' Boehner said, as Romney stood over his left shoulder. 'They are actually making the economy worse, and it's time we put someone in the White House who understands how to put the American people back… to work again.'" http://abcn.ws/M3blcD
DON'T INTERRUPT ANN ROMNEY. From ABC's Emily Friedman: A group of protesters learned a quick lesson today: Don't interrupt Ann Romney. While the wife of candidate Mitt Romney introduced her husband and her sons, all on hand to help their dad celebrate Father's Day on the trail, a group of about 25 protesters could be heard chanting "We are the 99 percent." … "So we're going to start," she said, the protestors still chanting. "You know, we've got some distracters out there, but you know what? We love this country and we love families." Drowned out by applause from the crowd, Romney paused before continuing, "We can be just as loud about how much we love this country." http://abcn.ws/M3lgid
WHITE-WHALE DISTRICTS. For each party, Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz runs down the districts that always get away: "On paper, these districts should be easy targets - the lowest-hanging fruit to pick off the national map. But for myriad reasons over the past decade - or decades, in some cases - the parties have failed to flip these seats, no matter how strong the recruit or how many millions of dollars are spent. Last week, Arizona's 8th district moved one step closer to becoming a white-whale seat for Republicans. The special election to replace ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) marked the GOP's best chance to pick up the Tucson-based district, and their nominee lost by 8 points. This fall, Rep.-elect Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) will seek a full term in a district that is slightly more favorable to Democrats thanks to redistricting. These white-whale districts represent a small collection of targeted seats that survived the wave elections of the past three cycles. They are Republicans who represent districts that overwhelmingly voted for President Barack Obama - as much as 61 percent. And they are Democrats, like Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), in districts where the president received as little as 40 percent of the vote in 2008." http://bit.ly/Kf3fsQ
GOLFER IN CHIEF. ABC's Matthew Larotonda reports: President Barack Obama's love of golf hit a milestone today as he marked his 100th time on the links. His Father's Day achievement was reached at the Beverly Country Club in his hometown, the windy city. Mark Knoller, CBS radio correspondent and chronicler of all things presidential, pointed out the quiet occasion to the traveling press. Like 15 of the 18 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt, Obama has used golf as a way to unwind outdoors, but away from the prying eyes of press and onlookers. And despite the fact that he had never golfed before taking office, his love of the game is well known. http://abcn.ws/NJMYlM
SECRETARY SANTORUM? NOT SO MUCH. From ABC's Shushannah Walshe: "I want to help Mitt Romney get elected president," Santorum told CNN's Candy Crowley. "I'll be happy to help him and advise him if … (he) wants my advice as president. But, no, my … objective right now … is to serve my family and provide for them." Santorum mentioned that the two eldest of his seven children are in college, but when Crowley pointed out it wasn't a "flat no," Santorum said it "pretty much" was. "It's pretty much a flat no," Santorum said. "And it's not because I don't want to help Gov. Romney. … It's just, for me … it's a matter of my priorities and my time of being a husband and father and … I have to take care of them." http://abcn.ws/L8ou5L
ROMNEY UNCLEAR ON ILLEGALS. The New York Times' Trip Gabriel reports: "Responding to the challenge that President Obama posed in his order last week to stop deporting some illegal immigrants, Mitt Romney declined to say on Sunday whether he would reverse the president's decision if he takes up occupancy of the White House. … 'With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is,' Mr. Romney said on 'Face the Nation' on CBS." http://nyti.ms/NFfciO
VEEP BEAT: ABC News' Arlette Saenz rounds up all the news in the world of #veepstakes:
-RUBIO'S AUTO-BIOGRAPHY OUT TUESDAY: Sen. Marco Rubio's autobiography, "An American Son" will be released Tuesday, and the Miami Herald reported that the book reveals two sides of the young Florida senator whose parents emigrated to the United States from Cuba. "Marco Rubio felt out of place for a moment. On the cusp of being sworn in as Florida's newest senator in 2011, the Miami-born son of Cuban exiles had wandered away from his family during a tour of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. 'I watched them from afar for a minute, laughing and talking in Spanish and English,' Rubio writes in his new book, An American Son. 'My first thought was how different my family was, how different I was, from the men and women who had lived in this place, and from the Americans who had founded our nation,' he writes." http://bit.ly/MZ8LRJ
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR GIVES MITT ADVICE ON V.P. PICK: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett doled out a bit of advice for Romney as he considers who to select as his running mate this fall: Pick a governor. "According to the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney's short-list of potential running mates can get a lot shorter," ABC News' Michael Falcone reported. "Tom Corbett, the first-term governor of the Keystone State, cited only fellow state chief executives when asked on Saturday who he viewed as the top contenders to join the presidential ticket. 'I'm leaning towards the executives who had to make tough decisions,' Corbett said in an interview. 'Because I think where the president has stumbled when he came into office - he was never in that executive position where - it's not just a vote, it's the decision.'" http://abcn.ws/M2XC5C
DID CHRISTIE MISS HIS W.H. CHANCE? N.J. Gov. Chris Christie made the decision last October to stay out of the presidential race, and Newsweek's Peter J. Boyer looks at whether Christie's verdict was his missed opportunity to be commander-in-chief. http://bit.ly/Kf5Inn
@jmartpolitico : How the freak show works> MT @Fahrenthold: The vibrant, viral life cycle of a falsehood in politics: EPA 'drones' http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/reining-in-the-rumors-about-epa-drones/2012/06/16/gJQAwWjkhV_story.html
-Mitt Romney continues his bus tour holding an event at Monterey Mills in Janesville, Wisc. with Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan. Romney then flies to Iowa for events in Dubuque and Davenport before ending his day in Michigan.
-President Obama wakes up in Los Cabos, Mexico for the first day of the G20 Summit. In the morning, he meets with Mexican President Calderon followed by a meeting with Russian President Putin. Later, the president attends a plenary session of the summit and a working dinner.
-Vice President Biden holds a campaign event in Chicago before heading to Los Angeles.
ABC's Joanna Suarez and Mary Bruce
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV