Mitt Romney embarks on a four-state, four-day bus tour tomorrow morning that marks his most intense streak of retail campaigning since his previous bus trip in June.
This journey will take him to Virginia on Saturday, North Carolina on Sunday, Florida on Monday and Ohio on Tuesday, making multiple stops in each state along the way.
The presumptive Republican nominee is once again hitting those crucial battlegrounds just as a flurry of new polls suggest President Obama is opening up a lead, nationally.
A CNN-ORC poll shows Obama up by 7 percentage points, 52 percent to 45 percent and a Fox News poll gives the president a slightly larger edge. Among independent voters, President Obama leads Romney 53 percent to 42 percent, according to the CNN numbers.
But, cautions one Romney insider, there's not a lot that's really happened across the country that could actually account for the widening gap between the president and his GOP challenger. What's more, the latest Gallup Poll still shows race a dead heat at 47 percent for Obama to 45 percent for Romney.
Even so, these numbers are sure to spook many Republicans who want to see a more aggressive campaign and a "bold" choice of running mate from the former Massachusetts governor.
And they just might get it. As ABC's Jonathan Karl reported on "Good Morning America" today, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan remains on the "shortest of the short list" in Romney world during the same week that he has been at the center of a movement by forces on the right to get the 42-year-old budget guru on the presidential ticket.
ABC's AMY WALTER: As Ohio goes, so goes the election. And right now even many GOPers concede that the state is tilting heavily toward Obama. This is a huge change from earlier this year when many Democrats were privately writing off the Buckeye State. If Romney can't bring Ohio back, it's hard to see how he captures the White House.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Add tax cheat to the list of horrible things President Obama and his supporters are calling Mitt Romney. Another new ad drops as two new national polls show Obama opening up some breathing room against Romney - a seven-point gap in a new CNN poll, nine points in Fox polling. The scattershot strategy stands in contrast with the Romney campaign; to cite this week's example, the Romney folks didn't make a big - that is, candidate-level - deal out of David Plouffe's speechmaking. (Think Team Obama would have let that one slip by?) It puts more pressure on the Romney campaign to deliver on their one big piece of messaging, around the economy, meaning the veepstakes-fueled bus tour needs extra mileage.
ROMNEY BUS TOUR COUNTER-PROGRAMMING.
-FROM THE DNC: "The Democratic National Committee's 'Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus' Tour II will kick off TODAY, Friday, August 10 at 9:30 a.m. EDT in Alexandria, Virginia and then make stops in Richmond and Norfolk later today. The tour will highlight Mitt Romney's record of failure as Governor of Massachusetts, the lack of support small businesses received from Governor Romney's Administration and Romney's proposed tax hike on middle-class families to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The DNC's latest tour represents a reprise of the successful tour by the same name that the DNC conducted in June to respond to Mitt Romney's tour at the time, which included stops in NH, PA, OH, IA, WI and MI. … The four-day DNC bus tour will stop in the states that Mitt Romney is visiting, beginning today in Virginia with stops in Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk and then will continue with multiple stops in North Carolina, Florida and Ohio on Saturday, Sunday and Monday."
-FROM MOVEON.ORG: "Starting tomorrow, MoveOn.org member demonstrations and a new TV ad will expose Romney's bus tour as 'The Romney Plan to Pickpocket the Middle Class Tour.' MoveOn will also air a 30-second ad titled "Pickpocket" in each city along the Romney's tour which features a creepy Mitt Romney hand pickpocketing middle class voters' pockets as way of illustrating how his tax plan works. An Aug. 1 analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center shows that Romney's plan would cost the American families up to $2,000 while giving an $87,000 tax cut to those making a million dollars a year. … In addition to the Ad, MoveOn.org Political Action members will show up at Mitt Romney's bus tour stops to demonstrate and share with voters how 'The Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class' is actually 'The Romney Plan to Pickpocket the Middle Class,' since Romney's tax plan would cost middle class families up to $2,000 to fund tax cuts for the wealthy." WATCH the new ad: http://bit.ly/QSbWC8
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
WORLD NEWS REWIND: JON KARL LOOKS AT RECENT SLEW OF MISLEADING ADS. On World News Tonight ABC's Jonathan Karl examined the two recent campaign ads that have criticism for their questionable veracity. The super PAC supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, has drawn fire for an ad featuring a steelworker, Joe Soptic, who lost his job shortly after Bain Capital closed down the plant where he worked. After the plant closed Soptic lost his health insurance, his wife became ill and she later died of cancer. The ad appears to insinuate a tie between Romney closing down the plant and Soptic's wife's death. Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is receiving criticism for a newly released ad alleging that Obama announced a plan to "gut welform reform" signed by Bill Clinton in 1996. Karl looks at the ads- their claims and what's really true. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/RuYgKO
NOTED: OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADMITS TO KNOWING STORY BEHIND THE MAN FEATURED IN PRIORITIES AD. ABC's Mary Bruce reports, one day after claiming the Obama campaign had no knowledge of the story of the man included in a pro-Obama super PAC ad, spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted the campaign had worked with him before. "No one is denying that he was in one of our campaign ads," Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One, referring to Joe Soptic, who was shown in a Priorities USA Action ad linking Mitt Romney to Soptic's wife's death. "What's clear here, again, is that we're focusing so much on an ad that has not run yet, that was done by an outside group," she stressed. http://abcn.ws/ QRKDba
ROMNEY, OBAMA LAUNCH DUELING 'WAR ON WOMEN' ADS. ABC's Amy Bingham reports, days after the Obama campaign released an ad criticizing Romney for wanting to cut Planned Parenthood funding and being "really out of touch with the average woman's health issues," Romney's campaign released an ad that accuses the president of using his health care law to wage a "war on religion." "President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith," says the narrator in the 30-second spot released online Thursday. "Mitt Romney believes that's wrong." Obama is on a two-day swing through Colorado, touting the women's health provisions in his health care law. http://abcn.ws/NdFRTO
OBAMA CAMPAIGN HITS ROMNEY ON TAX RETURNS. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, the Obama campaign released a new ad on Thursday alleging a Romney role in the "son of boss" tax scandal, "one of the largest tax avoidance scheme in history." The ad is airing in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio in conjunction with Romney's upcoming bus tour. The Romney campaign responded to the ad, calling it "dishonorable and dishonest." "In 2008, candidate Obama said 'you make a big election about small things' when you don't have a record to run on. Since President can't run on record unemployment, falling incomes, and massive debt, he has decided to run a dirty campaign that is an affront to everything to everything he claims to stand for" said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg. WATCH: http://bit.ly/Nqnkys
IN REAL ESTATE DEAL, ROMNEY MADE HIS LOSS A COUPLE'S GAIN. The New York Times' Mike McIntire reports: "Look closely and it is there, sandwiched between Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Partners II and D3 Family Bulldog Fund: the mortgage on Timothy and Betty Stamps's modest home on Gentle Bend Drive here. Nearly lost among the blizzard of hedge funds, thoroughbred horses and other gold-plated investments in Mitt Romney's personal financial disclosures, the interest from the $50,500 mortgage is loose change to Mr. Romney, whose net worth has been estimated at close to a quarter-billion dollars. Yet for the Stampses, who have been writing $600 monthly checks to "Willard M. Romney" for 15 years, the money they borrowed from him to buy their home in 1997 was life-changing." http://nyti. ms/MF8Ik6
WHAT IS A SUPER PAC? ABC's Greg Krieg reports, only 40 percent of Americans, according to last week's Washington Post/Pew Research poll, correctly identified Super PAC as groups "able to accept unlimited political donations." Before Super PACs became "super," they were just PACs, or Political Action Committees. The groups could support a candidate or a cause, but were heavily regulated under the terms of campaign finance law. Individuals were allowed to give $2,500 - no more - and corporations and unions were strictly forbidden from making donations. In 2010, that all changed. http://abcn.ws/QSv0QF
OBAMA MEETS ASPIRING OLYMPIANS, COMPLIMENTS THEIR ODOR. With Team USA in the heat of Olympic competition in London, President Obama made a surprise visit on Thursday to the national training facility that helped many of those athletes get there. He also hailed America's two newest gold-medal teams, reports ABC's Devin Dwyer. In the wrestling area, covered by a large blue, yellow and red mat, Obama walked along - sans shoes - to shake hands with younger athletes preparing for the Junior World Wrestling championships in Bangkok in September. "This looks like a pretty young crew," he said. " You know, for wrestlers you smell pretty good." http://abcn.ws/NmoOvb
TRUMP TO HAVE MAJOR ROLE AT GOP CONVENTION, AIDE CLAIMS. ABC's Jen Wlach reports, Donald Trump will have a "major role" at the Republican National Convention, an aide to the real estate mogul tells ABC News. Trump heads to Tampa the day after receiving the Statesman of the Year award from the Sarasota GOP and will be in Tampa to kick off the start of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 27. "While I am not at liberty to disclose the specifics of Mr. Trump's time at the RNC, I can say he will be playing a major role and was happy to honor Gov. Romney's request to participate in convention events in Tampa," Trump Executive Vice President and Special Counsel Michael Cohen told ABC News. http://abcn.ws/P89ohk
OBAMA'S DNC ADDRESS AT BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM.. OR BANK OF ROMNEY STADIUM. Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant reports: "It initially seemed fitting for President Barack Obama to accept his party's nomination for re-election at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the last night of the Democratic National Convention. Employees of the Charlotte-based bank whose name is on the stadium and their families made 59 percent of their $3 million in campaign donations to Obama and the Democrats during the 2008 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. This time around, however, Bank of America Corp. employees and their families have switched sides, giving 72 percent of their $2.2 million in campaign contributions to Republicans. Obama's expected Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, got $465,850 of that total, his fourth-largest source of campaign donations, according to the center." http://bit.ly/NhtWm8
ECONOMY MIGHT BE GAINING TRACTION, NEW DATA SUGGESTS. The Washington Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb and Michael A. Fletcher report: "After a spring and summer of weak economic indicators, a flurry of fresh data suggest key sectors of the economy might be gaining traction, just as the battle for the White House enters the final round. The long-moribund housing market has bustled to life, with prices and new-home construction rising in recent weeks. Hiring, so weak earlier this year, picked up last month. And on Thursday, the government reported an acceleration of a downward trend in the number of people seeking unemployment insurance, as well as a sharp improvement in U.S. exports." http://wapo.st/QL7GSR
REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. EXPECTED BACK FROM MEDICAL LEAVE IN WEEKS. The AP's Sophia Tareen reports: "U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who disappeared on a secretive medical leave two months ago, is expected back home within a matter of weeks, an aide said Thursday. Jackson, 47, is being treated for depression and gastrointestinal issues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and has been away from the public eye since June 10 when family members said he collapsed at their Washington home." http://usat.ly/QLmYqA
ROMNEY REACHES HALFWAY POINT TOWARDS $800 MILLION FUNDRAISING GOAL. The Hill's Justin Sink reports: "Mitt Romney has reached the halfway point in filling his $800 million campaign war chest, a leading fundraiser for the campaign said on Thursday. Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, said the campaign's joint committee had raised nearly $400 million, which was about half of its goal….It would be a stunning blow to President Obama, who has the reputation of being a consummate fundraiser, if his GOP rival out-raises him." http://bit.ly/P7OhMb
@AdamATCNN : New CNN poll shows number of people who think economy is doing well is down 7 pts (to 36%) from April - rose steadily for previous 6 mos
@dickstevenson : One of Romney's smallest and most unlikely deals. Great tale from Mike McIntire. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/us/politics/in-real-estate-deal-romney-made-his-loss-a-couples-gain.html
@BobCusack : Possible defining moment of the campaign: How President Obama handles question on Priorities USA ad on cancer, Romney.
-President Obama has no campaign events scheduled and will hold meetings at the White House.
-Mitt Romney spends the day in Boston, Massachusetts at his campaign headquarters. In the evening, Romney flies to Virginia to be in place for the kick-off of his bus tour on Saturday.
-On the Veepstakes front, Paul Ryan is in Oak Creek, WI where he'll attend the memorial service for the victims of the Sikh Temple Shooting.
- Chris Christie is fundraising for Gubernatorial Candidates in Washington State and Montana.
- Bob McDonnell is in Rio Granda, Puerto Rico where he'll attend a reception for Governor Luis Fortuno.
-Tim Pawlenty travels to Durham, NH for an evening Romney fundraiser at a private home.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
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