As we gather in backyards and front porches across the country to celebrate Independence Day, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the most important constituency both politicians and the press share: the American voter.
One year ago this summer, ABC News announced the slogan for our 2012 political coverage - "Your Voice, Your Vote" - which also provided a mission statement for this election year: "Provide viewers with the big picture understanding they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box."
Members our ABC political team have been traveling the country ever since the beginning of the primary season, and in our visits to states from New Hampshire to Nevada and from California to South Carolina, we've been listening to the voices of the voters.
Voices like that of Obama supporter Jim Kenyon of Roland, Iowa:
"Sure, we'd like someone maybe a little more liberal, but he's better than what we could have gotten from anyone else," Kenyon said of President Obama. "I think it's going to be a close race, no doubt about it. But when you look at the alternatives, people will get on board."
And voices like Romney supporter Russ Nagy, the owner of a home improvement business in Pennsylvania:
"The economy sucks right now. This fairness stuff - life's not fair," Nagy said, referring to one of President Obama's central campaign themes. "Yeah, you help your neighbor, but you don't baby him. Learn to stand on your own two feet."
Today, ABC's Devin Dwyer features some of those voters in a Fourth of July web video. In interviews at Obama campaign events in Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Ohio - four of the most intensely-contested battleground states - Dwyer heard both the angst and optimism.
Among them, there were some tough critics.
"We realize that the president did not do much of what he promised four years ago," said Delia Alkhatib of Columbus, Ohio. "But you also realize the influence of the Republicans on his efforts. They have been a roadblock at every corner. So we're keeping that in mind, and hoping that he'll be more aggressive and more of who we voted for in '08 in a second term because he'll have nothing to lose."
Between now and November, ABC News plans to bring you more of these voices from around the country - Obama backers, Romney supporters and the undecided. We'll be listening.
A WHITE HOUSE FOURTH: PRESIDENT OBAMA and his family will return to the White House from Camp David this morning. Later the president will deliver remarks at a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room. Tonight the president and the first lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, concert and a view of the fireworks on the South Lawn. Staff and their families from throughout the Obama Administration have been invited to attend the event at which the president will deliver remarks. Tonight's festivities at the White House will be streamed live on www.WhiteHouse.gov/live
A WOLFEBORO FOURTH: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee MITT ROMNEY, who is on vacation with his family at his lake house in Wolfeboro, N.H., plans to march in the town's Fourth of July parade this morning. Joining him will be New Hampshire senator and vice presidential short-lister Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte plans to bring along her husband, Joe Daley - an Iraq war veteran and small business owner - to Wednesday's Wolfeboro Fourth of July parade. Daley owns a landscaping company in New Hampshire. Ayotte and her husband will be joined by their children, Katherine and Jacob, who will also march in the parade. http://abcn.ws/LMxv31
FLASHBACK: AYOTTE IN APRIL. Back then the New Hampshire senator stumped with Romney at a fishing pier in Portsmouth, N.H. and told the crowd: "If Washington isn't broken, I don't know what is. And now more than ever we need Mitt Romney's leadership in the White House."
ROMNEY CELEBRATES AMERICA'S 'QUIET HEROES.' Just in time for the Fourth, the Romney campaign is out with a new web video this morning that reprises Mitt Romney's remarks at June campaign event in Stratham, N.H. in which he honored the "quiet heroes" of America. "They raise strong families, run our factories, and grow our food. They coach Little League and soccer. They serve on the PTA," Romney said at the event that kicked off his five-day, six-state bus tour last month. The nearly three-minute video opens with a narrator reading the Pledge Of Allegiance and features clips of Romney shaking hands with voters as well as patriotic scenes - raising the flag on Iwo Jima, first responders after Sept. 11 and the Statue of Liberty. WATCH: http://mi.tt/MSIaX7
BRACKETING ON THE BUS: ROMNEY CAMPAIGN PREVIEWS OBAMA BUS TOUR. While Mitt Romney continues his vacation at his New Hampshire retreat through the weekend, the Romney campaign is dispatching at least two prominent campaign surrogates to bracket President Obama's bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, which will kick off on Thursday. ABC News has learned that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisianan Gov. Bobby Jindal - both potential vice presidential contenders - as well as Romney aides will be along Obama's route to provide counter-programming to the president's trip, Republican sources say. The anti-Obama bracketing, which will be timed to coincide with the president's trip on Thursday, will begin with a stop in the Toledo area, followed by Cleveland and then on to Pittsburgh. Pawlenty and Jindal will be riding together along the way in a Romney campaign bus.
'ON THE DEFENSIVE': "A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney was in six states President Obama won in 2008, talking about President Obama's broken promises and what they have cost the American people," a Republican source e-mails The Note. "Now President Obama is on his own bus tour, but he doesn't have a positive message that he can take to skeptical voters around the country. Instead, he's on the defensive, trying to win back the support of voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania where Obama has failed on his promise to improve the economy or life for middle class families. The bottom line is, Americans can't afford to double down on four more years of failed Obama policies."
ROMNEY AND HEALTH CARE: DO SEMANTICS MATTER? Most Americans are already focused on the beach and barbecue, but the awkward struggle of how Republicans and the presumptive GOP nominee are framing the health care debate was still at a fever pitch on Tuesday, ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reports. Yesterday Rush Limbaugh said there is no upside to the Supreme Court ruling for the GOP and "unless we get past this semantic debate we're going to lose in November." Just about every Republican in the country - John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich - wants to say the health reform law raised taxes on the middle class by forcing Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine. Just about every Republican, that is, but Mitt Romney. He imposed the same kind of fine in Massachusetts and his aides are at odds with the party, saying it's a penalty, not a tax. It's awkward and something Rick Santorum foreshadowed in the primary. "Pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama," Santorum told a crowd in Franksville, Wis., in March. The then-presidential candidate explained it's because of the similarity between Romney's health care plan and the president's, deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court last week. http://abcn.ws/LmgjTY
ABC's AMY WALTER: Mitt Romney's tortured explanation for his change of heart on the individual mandate will make for some uncomfortable moments at the fall debates. But, for the campaign as a whole, there's no reason why Romney can't benefit from GOP attacks on the "Obamacare tax." The airwaves are going to be awash in attack ads from outside groups on the issue and House and Senate Republicans are sure to bludgeon congressional Democrats on it as well. All of that noise will make its way to the ears of the public. They aren't going to be trying to discern where or whom it came from."
MORE FROM JAKE TAPPER'S INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS CHRISTIE:
-CHRISTIE VS. BLOOMBERG ON SODA SIZES. Also from ABC's "Nightline" interview, the New Jersey governor takes exception to New York's ban on supersized sodas: "I just think it's government run amok. Government run amok. People have to make choices. Sometimes they're going to make good choices, sometimes they're going to make bad choices. But I don't think we should have a daddy state." http://abcn.ws/OnPLAi
CHRISTIE ON THE 'GRAND BARGAIN': OBAMA 'DIDN'T LEAD.' ABC's Jake Tapper asked about spending compromises and the debt-limit negotiations, and Gov. Chris Christie responded: "[H]e never put out publicly what he was willing to do. I mean, the fact of the matter is the way you led is you lay down the marker in the sand. You say, here's what I'm willing to do. Come meet me in the center of the room. The President never did that. The President didn't lead. The President asked for Simpson-Bowles and he put it on the shelf for political reasons. This President has no credibility on this issue, none! So I don't listen to anything that he has to say about this, until he's willing to really do something significant. and for three and a half years he hasn't been willing to do it." http://abcn.ws/N9xt4P
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ON HIS OWN SPEECH: 'WHO WROTE THIS S**T?' While speaking at the annual Nathan's hot dog eating contest, the New York mayor apparently realized his prepared remarks weren't to his liking. He paused to ask: "Who wrote this s**t?" WATCH: http://abcn.ws/KTiU1m
ROMNEY VACATION: NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES… ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Mitt Romney's family vacation in Wolfeboro, N.H.: "It wasn't all beach volleyball and water sports for Mitt Romney today. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee had a lakeside meeting with some of his most senior staff at around 1 p.m. Romney and his wife Ann were spotted meeting on their porch with campaign manager Matt Rhoades, senior adviser Stuart Stevens and Beth Myers, who is charged with helping choose a vice presidential candidate." http://abcn.ws/MwoTz2
…BUT SOME FUN AND GAMES: More lakeside reporting from ABC's Emily Friedman: A glimpse into Romney's backyard yesterday found grandkids bouncing on a massive netted trampoline that looked like a lot of fun, while others ran on the beach that is spread out with lawn chairs for the adults. Romney was spotted playing volleyball with his five sons later in the afternoon, running around in a navy tee-shirt and light-colored shorts. Son Matt Romney could be seen diving for a ball at one point, while Mitt's serve appeared to be quite strong. Two of the Romney granddaughters took the red jet ski for a whirl on Lake Winnipesaukee as well. The family was not spotted yesterday in downtown Wolfeboro. Many of the homes here have Romney for President placards in the front lawns or off their docks on the lake side's of their homes.
MORE ON ROMNEY'S MYSTERY BERMUDA COMPANY. After Vanity Fair raised questions about a Bermuda-based company owned by Romney and not disclosed until 2010, the Associated Press's Stephen Braun pulls back the veil: "Named for a historic Massachusetts coastal lighthouse, Sankaty was part of a cluster of similarly named hedge funds run by Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded and led until 1999. The offshore company was used in Bain's $1 billion takeover of Domino's Pizza and other multimillion-dollar investment deals more than a decade ago. … A financial snapshot of Sankaty in Romney's 2010 tax returns showed the holding with almost no value at the time- with $10,000 in both assets and liabilities. … While Sankaty no longer plays an active role in Bain's current deals, private equity experts said such holdings could provide significant income to Romney under his 10-year separation agreement from Bain, which expired in 2009." http://apne.ws/PbX3dd
VIDEO: BOEHNER'S JULY 4 TRIBUTE. House Speaker John Boehner recorded an Independence Day video in the Capitol Rotunda, in front of Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence." Boehner says: "So here's to the Spirit of '76. Here's to its blessings, and to the men and women who have worked, sacrificed, and pushed to preserve them. And here's to the United States of America, the land where anything's possible and our best days are always ahead of us. Just think, it all started with a small group of believers and a few self-evident truths. What a country." http://bit.ly/N764wM
CLINTON APOLOGIZES, SUPPLY LINES OPEN. ABC's Dana Hughes reports: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement today that the U.S. is sorry for the losses the Pakistan military suffered during the Nov. 26 incident last year in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed by U.S. military aircraft during a border incident. … Both Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Gen. Allen issued statements today welcoming Pakistan's decision to reopen the ground lines of communication, also known as the GLOC. … A U.S. official says the Pentagon will submit to Congress $1.1 billion in approved reimbursements for Pakistan, which it will have sign off on before payments could begin." http://abcn.ws/LmFo0V
EXISTENTIAL QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHO ARE WE? An Independence Day message from the New York Times editorial board: "Given the nature of our founding and the documents that created this country, we seem destined to quarrel endlessly about who we are and who we're supposed to be. This sounds like a flaw, but, in fact, it's a peculiarly American virtue. … We remain divided on nearly all the major elements of our constitution: the role of religion, the balance between federal and state authority, the risks and consequences of unlimited opportunity, the boundary between self-reliance and shared responsibility. … It is fine to sit back and watch the fireworks in the night. But the Fourth of July isn't a day off from something. It's a holiday for rethinking who we are." http://nyti.ms/PcbFcu
WHAT AMERICA WAS LIKE IN 1776. Thomas Fleming writers in The Wall Street Journal: "At the top of the South's earners were large planters such as George Washington. In the North their incomes were more than matched by merchants such as John Hancock and Robert Morris. Next came lawyers such as John Adams, followed by tavern keepers, who often cleared 1,000 pounds a year, or about $100,000 in modern money. Doctors were paid comparatively little. Ditto for dentists, who were almost nonexistent. … Several hundred miles inland was the "back country," and at the time of the Revolution, not many people went there by choice. Most were poor and landless-younger sons, for example, whose older brothers had inherited the family's property. Life on the outskirts of civilization was hard and often violent. Morals on the Western frontier were often much more relaxed than they were in the civilized East." http://on.wsj.com/M5YeWx
A LOOK AT ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER. The New Yorker's Amy Davidson takes July 4 as an occasion to look at progress at Ground Zero: "Blue neon, red glare; meanwhile, also last week, a third major tenant got set to sign on for the tower: the General Services Agency, for five floors that may be used by various government offices. In this case, that should be less indicative of the character of the building than of its diversity: the other tenants are a Chinese real-estate company and Condé Nast, whose magazines include-proudly-The New Yorker. With a mix like that, the building could live up to both its names, with strands of worldliness and freedom. And it looks great. We have, it turns out, built something beautiful, this after years of lawsuits and squabbles among developers, leaseholders, stakeholders, insurers, and politicians during which it seemed like we might build nothing at all." http://nyr.kr/N9z4I5
JUST FOR FUN: " 13 Things to Know About the Original Colonies," by ABC's Calvin Lawrence Jr. "Pennsylvania: Founded by William Penn, Pennsylvania, thanks to Penn's less-inclusive heirs, eventually triggered so much resentment among Native Americans that they allied themselves with the French. … Georgia: Founded by James Edward Oglethorpe, Georgia was not founded as a penal colony, despite the persistent misconception." http://abcn.ws/NkXGeW
@matthewjdowd : Happy 4th to all. A day to celebrate being free. I hope you know that you are free to follow your heart's desires no matter where it leads.
@hilaryr : Happy birthday America!
@ScottKWalker : Happy 236th Birthday, America! Thank a member of our AFs (veteran, Natl Guard, reserve or active duty) for the freedoms we enjoy every day!
@DaveWalkerCAI : Happy Ind. Day. If we return to the principles and values that made us great and address our key challenges, we will have many more. DW
-President Obama will spend the Fourth of July at the White House hosting members of the military and their families.
-Mitt Romney is vacationing in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire where he'll participate in the Wolfeboro Fourth of July Parade on Main Street. Romney will be joined by a possible Vice Presidential pick, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV