Once again we have to ask: Is the 2012 election just a lot of sound and the fury signifying nothing?
A week after Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, after volleys of attacks and counterattacks on the issue of Medicare and now, in the midst of a new debate over abortion, the presidential race remains deadlocked.
A new Associated Press/GfK poll shows President Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 46 percent. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll has the matchup nearly as close: Obama 48 percent to Romney's 44 percent. And in Gallup tracking polls, Romney stands at 47 percent while Obama comes up with 45 percent.
The NBC-WSJ poll shows an electorate that is as pessimistic about the economy as they were in the fall of 2008 - just 36 percent say they think the economy will get better compared to 38 percent who believed that in October of 2008. They continue to disapprove of the job Obama is doing on the economy by a 54 percent to 44 percent margin.
Yet, they aren't convinced that Romney will be much better. Asked if they think Obama will "bring the right kind of change" if re-elected, just 37 percent agreed. But, only 38 percent thought Romney would bring that change.
The convention in Tampa provides Romney the opportunity to make his case. And, while the Todd Akin story reminds us that no candidate can "control" the media narrative, at least Team Romney gets a couple hours every night for a week to try and shape it.
That is, of course, unless that pesky hurricane decides to drop by.
ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST MATTHEW DOWD: The calls for Todd Akin's resignation by many Republican leaders likely had nothing to do with the substance of his remarks - keep in mind, the Republican platform has a call for a ban on abortion even in cases of rape. They had nothing to do with the fact that Akin has long held out-of-the-mainstream positions on many issues and made numerous extremely conservative statements. Akin's mistake was that by opening his mouth with crazy talk - as my nine-year old daughter says - made it much harder for Republicans to win a sure Senate seat pickup with him on the ballot. More on Dowd's blog, " Let's Not Block Akin's Bid, Let's Fix the System: Both Parties Need To End The Quest For Political Power At All Costs": http://abcn.ws/Sj78Ui
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Where does Mitt Romney go to get his campaign message back? The short answer is Tampa, hurricane-logged or not, but it's not going to be quite that simple. A Republican Senate candidate no one had heard of a week ago - and who no one in the party can get rid of - has veered the campaign back to the social and women's issues that Democrats have been pushing, with mixed success, for months. Even before that, with Paul Ryan's addition to the Romney ticket, Medicare began to eclipse jobs and the economy as central campaign points. It all means Republican divisions, on social and fiscal issues, are being highlighted at the very time the party needs and wants to come together.
VIDEO OF THE DAY. TOPLINE: THE WAR WITHIN- OBAMA CAMPAIGN INFIGHTING. The latest episode of ABC/Yahoo!'s "Top Line" takes a look at the infighting detailed in the newly released e-Book "Obama's Last Stand." ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein and Yahoo!'s David Chalian interview author and Politico scribe Glenn Thrush. "In the spring and early summer, there was a lot of disconnect between Chicago and Washington," says Thrush. So much so, Thrush added, that the president became very anxious, and on several occasions told aides to sort of "tighten it up." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/NH8aWs
ALL ABOUT AKIN:
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
-AKIN LETS THE SOFT DEADLINE PASS. From ABC's Gregory J. Krieg and Chris Good: Akin let a 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT) deadline pass without withdrawing his name from the ballot. "As of 5 p.m. there's been no withdrawal filed," the Missouri secretary of state's office told ABC News. "[Akin] would have to have a court order now to get off the ballot." Akin can still drop out of the race. Under Missouri law, he has until Sept. 25 to obtain a court order for his withdrawal, but it would require Akin to pay for a reprinting of ballots. abcn.ws/QpEY5p
-IS HE OPEN TO GETTING OUT? Akin still has until Sept. 25 to withdraw from the race, under Missouri law. ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked, pointedly: "You still are open to getting out?" Akin: "Well I have made the decision to stay in because I believe that we can win this race. There is such a strong contrast between me and my opponent … I think that contrast gives us a basis to win this, and I'm planning to win it." http://gma.yahoo.com/
-AKIN WON'T ATTEND CONVENTION. ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "The chairman of the Republican National Committee does not want you to go to the convention. Are you going?" Akin: "No, I honor their particular wishes. My objective here is to be able to show the sharp contrast between myself and my Democrat opponent. She supported Obamacare, I voted thirty times against it, she is pro abortion, I am pro life, and we have other big differences … That contrast, I think, will result in our winning this race in November." http://gma.yahoo.com/
-FALSE CLAIMS OF RAPE? ABC's George Stephanopoulos questioned Todd Akin about his original remark on "legitimate rape": "How does this issue of false claims of rape come up? How is this relevant to the case? Are you suggesting, are your allies suggesting, that babies are being killed because women make false claims of rape? You know, a lot of people believe the much bigger problem is women afraid to come forward after an incident because of shame or fear." Akin: "I believe that what you just said is true. I think there are many victims of rape, and it is extremely serious. As I said, it's a violent crime, it leaves permanent scares, and in that regard that's why I apologized because I said hurtful things. But I don't apologize for being pro life and standing up for the ones who are defenseless. …" http://gma.yahoo.com/
-AKIN DEFIES ROMNEY, RYAN, GOP SENATORS. Reporting from ABC's Jonathan Karl, Sunlen Miller, and Gregory J. Krieg: The list of Republicans calling on Akin to withdraw grew on Tuesday, and it includes both Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. "Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside," Romney said in a statement. "I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race." On Monday, Ryan had a five minute phone call with Akin urging him to consider stepping down. "He didn't ask him to get out," a source said. "He said, basically, 'You need to reflect on this and think about what is best for you, your family and things you believe in.'" When that didn't work Ryan today endorsed Romney's suggestion that Akin quit the race. More than a dozen GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt have all called on Akin to resign. abcn.ws/QpEY5p
-WHO WANTS AKIN TO STAY? HIS OPPONENT. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports on "Good Morning America": "About the only person who says Akin should stay in the race is his Democratic opponent, Claire McCaskill, who recently said, "What's startling to me is that these party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of Republican primary voters." McCaskill knows what Republicans know: Against Akin, she almost certainly wins."
-MISSOURI POOH-BAHS CALL ON AKIN TO DROP. Missouri's most revered Republicans released a joint statement on Tuesday calling on Todd Akin to withdraw from the race. From Sen. Roy Blunt, former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft, and former senators Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent: "We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside."
-FUNDRAISING E-MAIL: AKIN ASKS DONORS TO BACK HIM UP. ABC's John Santucci points out that Akin sent a fundraising e-mail to supporters last night asking for donations in support of his decision to stay in the race. Akin's e-mail reads: "When you make a mistake you tell people you're sorry, you don't try and hide it. I made a mistake and I'm sorry. Unlike Claire McCaskill, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. We must move forward and work together to replace Claire McCaskill in the Senate. This is a crucial time and every dollar is needed. Liberals and pundits want to write me off and hand this Senate seat back to Claire. I need your help to respond."
-GOP PASSES ABORTION PLATFORM PLANK. With Akin's comment on "legitimate rape" driving national discussion, the Platform Committee of the Republican National Committee met in Tampa on Tuesday as scheduled, approving (among many platform "planks") an amendment opposing abortion, essentially reproducing RNC platform language from 2008 and 2004-and highlighting a potential divide between Mitt Romney and some in his party on the issue. As in previous years, the platform does not mention cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. Romney supports the legality of abortion in those cases, and reiterated that stance this week in response to Akin's comments, but Republicans disagree on the point. By remaining silent on the issue, the platform leaves room for disagreement within Republican ranks. abcn.ws/PFbxzK
ABC NEWS AT THE CONVENTIONS: FOLLOWING THE 'MONEY TRAIL.' ABC News investigates the behind-the-scenes intersections of money and politics at the Republican and Democratic national conventions with its "Money Trail" series. The award-winning series of reports led by ABC's chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross tracks how the powerful and wealthy do business in what has been called the engine of corruption in American politics. Reports from both the RNC and DNC will appear across all ABC News broadcasts and platforms including "Good Morning America," "World News with Diane Sawyer," and "Nightline" as well as on ABCNews.com and Yahoo! News Ross and the ABC investigative team first launched the Emmy award-winning "Money Trail" series at the 1996 conventions. Check out the first report "Secret 'Menu' Details Perks for Big Democratic Donors": http://abcn.ws/N8t7Io
ABC NEWS AND YOUTUBE CONNECT. Today, ABC News Digital joins forces with YouTube to launch the YouTube Election Hub ( youtube.com/politics), a one-stop destination for the latest political highlights, videos and campaign news. This all-access YouTube channel brings ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, Larry King, The New York Times, Phil DeFranco, Univision and the Wall Street Journal together, in one place, to share political news coverage and highlight key moments that will shape the 2012 election cycle. As the only U.S. English-language broadcast partner, ABC News Digital will also produce live stream coverage of the 2012 Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates, which will be featured on the YouTube Election Hub in October.
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
DEMOCRATS BEGIN AKIN-IZING THE TICKET. ABC's Jake Tapper reports, the Obama campaign wants to use Akin to paint Romney and Ryan as extremists, at the very least using him to raise divisive social issues that Republicans don't particularly want to talk about. On Tuesday the Republican party platform reaffirmed a plank opposing abortion, with no mention of exceptions such as for rape- Democrats called it the Akin amendment. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/OXtDim
HURRICANE ISAAC BECOMES A CONCERN FOR THE RNC. The Tampa Bay Times' Marissa Lang and Richard Danielson report: "The prospect of a hurricane bearing down on next week's Republican National Convention became a genuine concern Tuesday as Tropical Storm Isaac formed in the Atlantic Ocean and loomed as a threat to Florida. Expected to become a hurricane within two days, Isaac could be at or near Cuba by Sunday. From there, several forecasters expect it to head north. It is too early to predict whether Isaac could hit Tampa head on." http://bit.ly/OLEgiv
NOTED: ABC's Amy Bingham explains, as a coastal city, Tampa is vulnerable to storms spinning west from the coast of Africa, coming north through the Caribbean or swirling east from the Gulf of Mexico. "They are quite vulnerable to storms from any direction literally," said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "The worst case scenario is a hurricane approaching from the southwest with the center crossing north of Tampa because it would push the water in Tampa Bay into Tampa and you would have horrific flooding." http://abcn.ws/NG711C
BIDEN TO TAMPA. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports that Vice President Joe Biden will be in Florida Monday and Tuesday, including a visit to the Tampa area, site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, the Obama campaign said today. "Any of you going to be in Florida?" Biden joked to reporters Tuesday on a campaign stop in Minneapolis. "Well, I'm the speaker at the convention. I'm gonna be down there." http://abcn.ws/O1Ev9J
NOTED: COACH BIDEN'S PEP TALK: Biden popped into football practice at Minneapolis South High School, the home of the Tigers, Tuesday afternoon. And as ABC's Arlette Saenz reports, the Veep's pep talk about how quarterbacks should treat their offensive linemen sure sounds a lot like his relationship with President Obama. "You want to continue to score and play well? Just make sure after every good play you walk back and thank the offensive lineman, and tell him you appreciate the man, and occasionally when you score, take the ball and throw it to the linemen after you score in the end zone. Because you guys in the 'O' line, you get the living hell kicked out of you. Your name never gets put up in the lights, no one ever pays attention to that play and the only time you really get mentioned in the game is if you make a mistake and miss a block right?"
PAUL RYAN BLASTS THE PRESIDENT FOR DEFENSE CUTS. Standing next to two Sikorski helicopters, Paul Ryan had the perfect setting to talk about the looming issue of $500 billion in defense cuts, also known as sequestration, blaming the president for the cuts, ABC's Shushannah Walshe notes. "President Obama's reckless defense cuts that are hanging over our cloud, hanging over the horizon, could put almost 44,000 jobs at stake right here in Pennsylvania. We are not going to let that happen," Ryan said to thousands of people at the American Helicopter Museum. http://abcn.ws/RAHBIL
More from the campaign trail: Is the Running Mate Conversation Like a Proposal? Ryan Says 'Yes' http://abcn.ws/OO2lFy
RON PAUL STRIKES DEAL WITH RNC OVER DELEGATES. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul will enter the GOP convention next week with more delegates after a deal was reached avoiding a potentially embarrassing standoff with Mitt Romney reports ABC's Jason Volack. The compromise settled a dispute over delegates from Louisiana. "Paul will be awarded 17 of the state's 46 delegates in the compromise," Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton told ABC News in an email. "The rest of the state's delegates are expected to support Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive nominee." http://abcn.ws/QnSkPq
SECRET SERVICE ARRESTS ARMED MAN FOR ALLEGED P THREAT. ABC's Devin Dwyer and Pierre Thomas report: Federal agents in Washington State have arrested an armed man accused of making threats against President Obama. U.S. Secret Service agents and local law enforcement officers descended on the suspect's apartment complex in Federal Way, Wash., on Tuesday afternoon, sources said. The man, armed with at least two weapons, confronted the officers, who swiftly subdued him and took him into custody. Secret Service Assistant Special Agent in Charge Bob Kierstead told local ABC News affiliate KOMO that suspicious items found in the man's apartment -potential explosive devices - prompted a sweep of the entire complex by a bomb squad. No bombs were found. http://abcn.ws/O2yTw3
COSTS SEEN IN ROMNEY'S MEDICARE PLAN. The New York Times' Jackie Calmes reports: "Mitt Romney's promise to restore $716 billion that he says President Obama 'robbed' from Medicare has some health care experts puzzled, and not just because his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, included the same savings in his House budgets… While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney's vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system in which recipients are given a lump sum to buy coverage from competing insurers." http://nyti.ms/OQKOMT
NANCY PELOSI EYES OLD POST. "Pelosi, 72, the history-making first female speaker of the House who was downgraded to minority leader in the 2010 Republican wave, is waging an uphill fight to make history again this November in a two-fold effort to return her party to the majority and to become the first member of Congress since Sam Rayburn to reclaim the speaker's gavel after a party defeat," writes USA Today's Susan Davis. "Independent election forecasters say the House of Representatives remains out of reach for Democrats in 2012, and Pelosi can't say it's a guarantee. "It's never a sure thing. That's why we have elections. But I think it's a sure thing that we have a chance to win," Pelosi told USA TODAY in an interview last week." http://usat.ly/PDLg4X
SUPER PAC SUPER DONORS FAMILIAR. "Super-political action committees are relying upon a familiar roster of super-donors as they spend money on the presidential race," according to Bloomberg's Julie Bykowicz. "Heading into this month, the super-PACs supporting Republican Mitt Romney, American Crossroads and Restore Our Future had more than a ten-fold cash advantage over Priorities USA Action, which is helping President Barack Obama…Big, repeat donors are driving the super-PAC part of the equation." http://bit.ly/QWG60S
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-MONTANA 'JET' PAC LAUNCHES NEW AD. Montana Jobs, Education and Technology (JET) PAC, a political action committee affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association that is supporting Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Steve Bullock releases its second ad today. The 30-second spot, titled "Complicated" hits Republican candidate and former Montana Congressman Rick Hill on having "out-of-touch" priorities. "Lobbyist, Congressman, insurance executive…Rick Hill is wrong for Montana" the ad says. WATCH: http://bit.ly/SSbpLP