Is Mitt Romney Stealing Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory? (The Note)

Evan Vucci/AP photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • OBAMA CAMPAIGN ASKS: WHAT'S MITT HIDING? A new television ad released this morning by Obama for America keeps the pressure on presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney: "Tax havens, offshore accounts, carried interest. Mitt Romney has used every trick in the book. Romney admits that over the last two years he's paid less than 15 percent in taxes on $43 million in income. Makes you wonder if some years he paid any taxes at all. We don't know, because Romney has released just one full year of his tax returns and won't release anything before 2010. … What is Mitt Romney hiding?" WATCH: uMo5pykT4uw
  • AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: With veepstakes speculation reaching a fever-pitch this week, Reuters' Steve Holland reports that Romney has narrowed his list of potentials to three: "Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal all offer various strengths to Romney should he decide to pick one of them to join his battle to unseat President Barack Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, in the November 6 election. Many Republicans believe Romney will break from tradition and announce his choice well before the party's convention in Tampa in late August that will formally nominate Romney as the Republican candidate."
  • OR MAYBE TWO? ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on Good Morning America: "Almost all Republicans I am talking to close to that campaign believe it has come down to two people: Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, and Rob Portman, the senator from Ohio, seem to be at the very top of the list."
  • DID YOU EVER HAVE TO MAKE UP YOUR MIND? Eric Ferhnstrom, a senior advisor to Mitt Romney, shot down the suggestion yesterday that the GOP nominee has settled on a running mate but he did admit that "technically" an announcement could come as early as this week, ABC News' Emily Friedman reported. "Eric Fehrnstrom, speaking to reporters after a fundraiser for the candidate that was also attended by rumored Vice Presidential short-lister Gov. Bobby Jindal, said firmly, 'No decision has been made on VP.' That doesn't necessarily mean the decision won't come quickly, as Fehrnstrom made clear a short while later to the Associated Press. 'Technically it could (come this week), but the governor hasn't made a decision. It will only happen after he makes a decision,' Fehrnstrom said."


We have yet to find a GOP strategist who is happy with the Romney campaign these days. Not one.

One very prominent Republican told ABC's Amy Walter yesterday: "Voters are ready to fire Obama, but they aren't ready to hire Romney. He hasn't given them a reason to vote for him." This has been the central tension of Mitt Romney's campaign all along.

Another GOP message guru told The Note: "What's truly surprising about the Bain/tax return attacks is that Romney faced them before in the primary. Even if he didn't have his house in order before starting the process, you'd have thought the campaign would have a more ready defense. It's surprising given that his organization was the reason he was successful early on."

And in an interview with ABC News' David Muir yesterday, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said that Romney ought to release a more extensive picture of his financial records.

"The advice I would give Romney," Barbour said, "is, 'who cares about your tax returns?' Release them." WATCH:

But Romney and his advisers insisted yesterday that they weren't going to budge.

"John McCain ran for president and released two years of tax returns," Romney told "Fox and Friends. "John Kerry ran for president and you know his wife who has hundreds of millions of dollars she never released her tax returns somehow this wasn't an issue."

And Romney's senior adviser Eric Ferhnstrom told reporters that Romney's decision to release his 2010 returns and his 2011 documents "when it's complete," was "sufficient."

"The Obama campaign is like a bottomless pit," Ferhnstrom said. "Every day they reach a new low. When you hear a false and dishonest attack from the Obama campaign, ask yourself this question: What does this have to do with creating more jobs?"

But Romney's team in Boston might be well-advised to peruse the musings of political wise-man Charlie Cook who spells out the scenario facing Team Romney pretty well in his latest column. He essentially asks if the former Massachusetts governor is stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.

"The fundamentals are pulling strongly in favor of Mitt Romney, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that President Obama's campaign seems consistently a half step, sometimes a full step or two, ahead of the Romney effort," Cook writes in his column for the National Journal. "If this is going to be a close race, as polls suggest it will be, campaigns matter. Even if someone believes (as I do) that fundamental forces matter most-that issues like the state and direction of the economy and the economic well-being of voters and how they perceive the country to be doing are the most important thing - if a race is close enough, a campaign with the sharper plan and crisper execution can sometimes prevail."


ABC's AMY WALTER: While Tim Pawlenty has the inside-the-Beltway buzz, folks in Minnesota aren't quite as enthused. Blois Olson, a plugged in politico in the state summed it up like this: "There is definitely buzz, but there is much skepticism." And, Eric Black, a longtime political reporter in Minnesota poked some holes in Pawlenty's much ballyhooed assets. For one, Black writes, "Pawlenty does have a blue collar-background, but he comes across much more the suburban Republican that he was when came to the Legislature representing Eagan." Moreover, Black notes his past positions on everything from cap and trade to gay rights and write that Pawlenty "like Romney, is a recovering moderate."

ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: BOWLING WITH RICK SANTORUM. ABC's Jonathan Karl hit the lanes with Rick Santorum this week for a round of bowling and an interview. The result: Santorum 125, Karl 109.

FOR VP PICK, ABORTION STANCE IS 'NON-NEGOTIABLE.' Santorum on Romney's options: "On balance, [picking a pro-choice VP canidate] would make his election a lot harder … This is a non-negotiable for a vice-presidential pick. You don't put someone on the national ticket who doesn't buy into those basic core values, and being pro-life is one of them."

OBAMA SOUNDS LIKE A 'TWO-BIT DICTATOR.' Santorum railed against Obama's use of executive power: "Going out and saying, 'I'm gonna change the law on welfare. I'm gonna change the work requirement.' … probably the single greatest accomplishment social-welfare-wise of the last 20 years, and President Obama gets up and says, 'Nope, I'm gonna change the law by speaking.' This sounds like a two-bit dictator, not a president of the United States. … [Romney] also has to talk about this imperial presidency. My grandfather left El Duce in Italy, who could get up and change the law by giving a speech … He is abusing power like I've never seen a president do."


PORTMAN'S VIEWS ON VP: While bracketing President Obama's trip to Ohio Monday, Sen. Rob Portman told ABC News' Ann Compton and Devin Dwyer he doesn't think the VP pick will have that much of an impact in the voting booth this November. "Ask Rob Portman, the soft-spoken Republican senator from Ohio, about the significance of Mitt Romney's looming running-mate decision, and he insists the pick won't change the arc of the 2012 general election. 'I don't think that it's that important,' Portman said in an exclusive interview with ABC News at his new offices here on the 30th floor of a downtown skyscraper. 'People vote for the president, not the vice president,' he said. 'I think sometimes people that are in the veepstakes talk too much about this and certainly the media does… I don't think that it's that important,'" Compton and Dwyer reported. "Mrs. Portman conceded she's a bit of a 'novice' in the media limelight but nonetheless an enthusiastic partner in the escalating presidential campaign - even keeping an open mind about possibly joining the Romney ticket. 'It doesn't scare me, I'm just not used to it,' she said about all the attention. 'We live here in Ohio, we've kept our home here, our kids have been raised here. We like our life the way it is. It's very easy and comfortable. We're here with friends and family. We lead a pretty normal existence.'"


with Chris Good ( @c_good)

TOWN-HALL BATTLEGROUND: OHIO. After President Obama held a town-hall event in Cincinnati on Monday, Mitt Romney's campaign announced Tuesday morning that Romney will travel to Bowling Green for his own town-hall on Wednesday.

ROMNEYS TO TAKE A BITE OUT OF THE BIG APPLE. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: Mitt and Ann Romney are heading back to the money capital of the country for three fundraisers in New York City, hoping to keep hauling in the big money the campaign has been bringing in. Wednesday, Ann Romney will hold an 11AM fundraiser at the. Women's National Republican Club in midtown. Next month, her husband has two more events including one at the home of prominent donor and Jets owner Woody Johnson. On August 9th, Mitt Romney will hold a breakfast fundraiser on Park Avenue in midtown before a lunch event at Johnson's home in New Jersey.

BUSH 41 TO MISS CONVENTION. The Hill's Russell Berman reports: "Former President George H.W. Bush will not attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa due to health problems, marking the first party convention that the 41st president will miss in more than 35 years. Bush, 88, has been seen confined to a wheelchair in recent months because of vascular parkinsonism, a condition that will keep him from traveling to Florida in August from his home in Kennebunkport, Maine."

AT FIRST 2012 TOWN-HALL, OBAMA MOCKS ROMNEY'S JOBS PLAN. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports from Obama's first town-hall meeting of the 2012 campaign, in Cincinnati, Ohio: "There's a new study out by nonpartisan economists that says Gov. Romney's economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs. There's only one problem: The jobs wouldn't be in America," Obama said, drawing a mix of laughter, boos and applause from the crowd.

ROMNEY: GOP ISN'T THE 'PARTY OF THE RICH.' ABC's Emily Friedman reports from a fundraiser in Jackson, Miss.: "We're accused, by the way-in our party-of being the party of the rich," Romney said. "And it's an awful moniker, because that's just not true. We're the party of people who want to get rich. And we're also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor.

BAIN EMPLOYEES ANTE UP FOR ROMNEY. The Washington Post's T.W. Farnham and Dan Eggen report: "Current and former employees of Bain Capital, Romney's former private equity company, and the consulting firm Bain & Co. have donated at least $5 million to back the candidate, including funds given to the Republican Party and the independent super PAC supporting him. The campaign filings come in the midst of an attack from Democrats over Romney's ties to Bain Capital … "

SOME STATES CAN KNOCK ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FROM VOTER ROLLS. The Associated Press reports: "The federal government is expanding access to an immigration database so that several states can use it to purge ineligible voters, officials said Monday. Homeland Security Department representatives notified Florida officials last week that they could check to see whether registered voters were actually noncitizens who should not be eligible to cast a ballot. State officials said Monday that the department was offering similar access to other states who had requested the information." PcB2IO

A SUPER PAC AGAINST SUPER PACS. The New York Times' Michael D. Shear reports: "Jonathan Soros [son of billionaire George Soros] has started a new Super PAC aimed at lessening the impact of Super PACs. He wants to use the $5 million to $8 million he plans on raising for negative ads aiming at politicians who oppose campaign finance reform. 'The irony is not lost on anybody,' Mr. Soros said."

DID OBAMA SAY, 'IF YOU'VE GOT A BUSINESS, YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT'? ABC's Jake Tapper reports: Conservatives have been jumping on comments President Obama made in Roanoke, Va., in which he said "if you've got a business, you didn't build that. … The president's argument, which is similar to one made by Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, revolves around the idea that business people need the infrastructure provided by the government in order to succeed.

DUDE, WHERE'S MY PAT ROBERTSON MARIJUANA BILLBOARD? Proponents of legalizing marijuana in Colorado have used Pat Robertson's face on an electronic billboard along Interstate 70 in Grand Junction, Colo. Robertson is not working with the campaign and did not approve the ad before its placement. At least twice, the evangelical leader has publicly offered his support for decriminalizing marijuana. In March 2012, he told The New York Times that he "absolutely" supports pot-legalization measures that will appear on November ballots in Colorado and Washington, but that he would not campaign for those initiatives. NxdzAu

SUBURBAN VOTERS SPLIT ON OBAMA'S POPULISM. From The Wall Street Journal's Colleen McCain Nelson: "The president last week renewed his effort to extend Bush-era tax cuts for families with an adjusted gross income of less than $250,000 and raise marginal tax rates for wealthier Americans. While opinions are hardly uniform, some local voters who backed Mr. Obama four years ago now agree with Mr. Romney when he says the president is "attacking success," according to interviews in Arapahoe County, Colo." PclrsJ

POLL: AMERICANS STILL WITH OBAMA ON BUSH TAX CUTS. From Bloomberg's Jonathan D. Salant: "Americans in a national poll say by a 2-1 margin that ending the Bush-era tax cuts on annual earnings of $250,000 or more would help the economy, a position President Barack Obama has stressed in his campaign for another term. The survey by the Pew Research Center released yesterday shows that 44 percent said the higher taxes would be beneficial, while 22 percent said such a move would harm it and 24 percent said there would be no effect." NeI4hf

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS WRANGLE OVER 'FISCAL CLIFF.' Roll Call's Jonathan Strong and Humberto Sanchez report: "Democrats on Monday issued an ultimatum on taxes, saying they are prepared to let $1.2 trillion in harsh automatic spending cuts go into effect and let tax cuts expire to force Republicans to agree to raise taxes on the wealthy. But House Republicans hope to take at least one of those issues off the table this week: The House will vote on rolling back the spending cuts, known as the sequester. Republicans will hammer President Barack Obama for using pending defense spending cuts, which make up half of the sequester, as leverage on taxes."

BERNANKE ON THE HILL. The Wall Street Journal's Kristina Peterson and Michael R. Crittenden tell us what to watch: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke heads to Capitol Hill Tuesday for the first of two days of questions, comments and haranguing from lawmakers as he delivers the central bank's semiannual report to Congress. With about two weeks until the Fed's next policy meeting, lawmakers are likely to hound Mr. Bernanke on whether the central bank plans to launch another round of bond-buying." http://on.wsj. com/PcqxW6

OBAMA VS. KOBE ON DREAM TEAM. President Obama attended USA's exhibition game against Brazil last night, and ABC's Mary Bruce reports: President Obama … shot down claims that they are better than the 1992 Dream Team. "This is a generational thing. I was around in '92. I was a Bulls fan. So I have to go with the original Dream Team," the basketball-fan-in-chief told ESPN at halftime. … Kobe Bryant ruffled some feathers last week when he said the 2012 team could beat the 1992 Dream Team.

OBAMAS ON THE 'KISS CAM.' The New York Daily News' David Boroff writes: The President and First Lady were watching the USA vs. Brazil men's basketball exhibition when the arena's "Kiss Cam" spotlighted them during the second quarter … but a lame attempt to kiss - even if it could be interpreted that way - came up as an air ball. … But the leader of the free world had a much better second half. The First Couple got another shot on the "Kiss Cam" during the fourth quarter - and this time the President's smooch was a success.

OBAMA HEARTS THIN MINTS. ABC's Jake Tapper reports on the Cincinnati event: [A] young Girl Scout named Julie asked the president what his favorite Girl Scout cookie is. He said thin mints. A fan of Peanut Butter Patties booed this announcement, which the president laughed about.


DEMOCRATS TRUMPET HOUSE RACE FUNDRAISING… A memo to reporters reads: "In the second quarter of 2012, Democratic candidate fundraising continued to outperform in key races - outraising or nearly outraising countless vulnerable Republican incumbents. In addition, 14 of 19 (74%) Frontline Members outraised their Republican challengers. … In key races across the country, 17 Republican incumbent Members of Congress got outraised - or nearly outraised - by their Democratic challenger while only 3 Frontline Democrats were outraised by Republican Young Gun challengers."

…AND HIGHLIGHT GOP CALLS FOR ROMNEY TO RELEASE TAX RETURNS. A new DNC web ad uses TV clips of Republicans from George Will to Michael Steele to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley saying Mitt Romney should release more years of his personal income-tax returns. Narrator: "More and more Republicans agree that Mitt Romney has not released more tax returns because he has something to hide … and more and more Republicans are calling for Mitt Romney to be straight with the American people and release his tax returns … but what did the one Republican who had 23 years of Mitt Romney's tax returns do in 2008? … He chose Sarah Palin. What does John McCain know that the American people don't?" ceTWKfnjeSs


? @jimrutenberg: 1st families of Mormonism-supportive of Romney thru his career-share his ancestral connection 2 the religion's 1st days …

@FixAaron: Good catch: Obama is using this teleprompter less and less these days.

?@mviser: Today's Globe: Romney, Obama taking overseas fundraising to new levels, hunting for cash in all corners of globe.

@Timodc: DNC is so offended their convention is at "bank of america" stadium they dare not speak its name via @maggiepolitico

@aterkel: Romney badly behind Obama with women voters in Ohio via @jonward11


-President Obama is in Texas for four campaign fundraisers in San Antonio and Austin.

-Mitt Romney holds a rally in Irwin, Pa.

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