Mitt Romney's Whiteboard Blues

Evan Vucci/AP Photo

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


  • UNLUCKY 13: More than two weeks after ABC's David Muir asked Mitt Romney about his tax rates, the presumptive Republican nominee finally shed some light on that question yesterday. Back in July, Muir posed this question to Romney in Israel: "There was one year when you paid about a 13.9 percent tax rate. Can we clear this up by asking you a simple yes or no question: Was there ever any year when you paid lower than the 13.9 percent?" Romney did not give an answer then. But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Romney volunteered some details: "I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that." WATCH Muir's report on "World News":
  • LET'S MAKE A DEAL: Speaking of taxes, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina has an offer for Romney campaign Manager Matt Rhoades: release a total of five years tax returns in exchange for taking the tax issue off the table entirely: "I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures," Messina wrote in a letter to Rhoades this morning. "Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide. So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more-neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign."
  • TOGETHER AGAIN: Though Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have been campaigning separately for much of this week, they'll re-unite on Monday, according to WMUR's James Pindell: "Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan are scheduled to come to New Hampshire on Monday morning to honor what will be Romney's 100th town hall meeting since running for president. Romney and Ryan are expected to make a Manchester area stop, according to the campaign."
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': Sunday on "This Week," top Obama and Romney campaign advisers discuss all the week's politics. Plus, a special "This Week" panel, in partnership with the University of Virginia's Miller Center, tackles the critical question "Is the U.S. Headed Toward Bankruptcy?" ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper moderates the discussion, with Senate Budget Committee member Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; House Budget Committee ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; former TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky; former Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee; Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist; and Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel. Tune in Sunday:


Everything you need to know about how this week went for Mitt Romney can be summed up in one word: whiteboard.

There he was in Greer, S.C., with a black dry-erase marker in hand scrawling out on a wood-framed whiteboard how - in his view - a Romney presidency would be better for current seniors and future recipients of Medicare than four more years of President Obama.

"The differences in our Medicare perspective could not be more stark and dramatic," Romney said at the hastily-arranged news conference. "As the seniors in America understand what the president's plan is doing to Medicare, they're going to find it unacceptable."

Whatever hand-written message Romney was trying to get across on Medicare got largely obscured by his decision to wade deeper into the debate over his tax returns during the question-and-answer session that followed his lecture.

But none of what the presumptive Republican nominee said yesterday in South Carolina really matters all that much. The moment Romney allowed the campaign to shift, almost fully, to the issue of Medicare - as opposed to the economy, unemployment and rising gas prices - was the moment he started losing the week.

Republicans contend that they're getting out in front of the Medicare issue and having the debate on their terms. But why, with unemployment hovering above 8 percent, with prices at the pump rocketing to more than $4 a gallon throughout much of the country, does the GOP want to have this debate in the first place?

According to a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll taken in June, when asked which party Americans thought would do a better job dealing with Medicare, Democrats were sitting on a 16 point advantage, 40 percent to 24 percent over Republicans.

That's why the Obama campaign and the Democrats are more than happy to have this debate and that's why they say they were thrilled to welcome Paul Ryan into the race.

"At least some of the reason that voters aren't enthusiastic about Congressman Ryan is that they're learning about his dangerous plan to strip seniors of their Medicare guarantee," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. "Romney and Ryan are, on this issue at least, getting the substantive debate they said they wanted, but it's impacting them negatively."

It's not all Ryan's fault. Over the course of the week, the Wisconsin congressman has shown himself to be an able campaigner and partner to the former Massachusetts governor - so much so that even the Romney campaign is looking to re-unite the two at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Monday.

Some conservative thinkers even see wisdom in the GOP's strategy. As The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes tweeted this morning, the "economy has to be at the center of Romney's case, of course, but focusing on it exclusively, as the campaign had since April, wasn't working. And for Mitt Romney to have chosen Paul Ryan and sought to avoid a discussion of debt/entitlement reform would have been malpractice."

But, so far, there are few reasons to believe that talking Medicare is the magic bullet that the Romney campaign needs at this stage in the race.


ABC'S DAVID MUIR: Mitt Romney argues this tax talk is "small-minded" given that 23 million Americans are out of work. So, the Obama campaign answers with a small request: Give us five years of returns and we'll stop asking. Guessing this issue isn't going away.

ROMNEY, RYAN RAKE IT IN. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that Mitt Romney's campaign has raised over $10 million online since Paul Ryan was added to the GOP ticket. Fundraising numbers since the Ryan announcement from Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades: "Donations: 124,800+; Amount: $10,157,947; $Average Donation: $81; % New Donors: 68%."

ABC NEWS ANNOUNCES EXTENSIVE CONVENTION COVERAGE . ABC's coverage of the Republican and Democratic Conventions will be led by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos along with ABC's powerhouse team of political correspondents and contributors, will span ABC News' broadcasts and platforms - including more than 14 hours of coverage on the ABC Television Network, 30-plus hours of live-streamed coverage on ABC News Digital platforms and Yahoo!, and extensive reporting and analysis on ABC News Radio. In addition, ABC News will be co-hosting a total of four newsmaker events with its partners at the conventions… ABC News will tap into the expertise and insights of Univision News as it explores the impact the Latino vote will have on November's elections and beyond. Jorge Ramos will contribute to ABC News coverage in Tampa, and Maria Elena Salinas will contribute in Charlotte… Terry Moran will anchor special editions of "Nightline" from throughout the conventions in Tampa and Charlotte making ABC the only broadcast network providing viewers with convention coverage in late-night. Full release: (h/t @ItsDavidFord)

TAPPER'S Q'S FOR JAY CARNEY: SEAMUS, MEDICARE, AND CHAINS. ABC's Jake Tapper asked about President Obama's plan for Medicare solvency in Thursday's briefing with White House press secretary Jay Carney. TAPPER: "Does the president believe that Medicare is on a sustainable path right now?" CARNEY: "The president believes that-and knows, and others have judged it so-that the Affordable Care Act that he fought hard for and that Congress passed what it does not do is attempt to get our fiscal house in order by placing the entire burden on seniors and families with disabled children or other low-income Americans who depend on these health care programs literally for in some - in some cases for their survival. That's just not - we - and you know what? The thing is, we don't have to do that. The president's plan, other balanced plans that have been put forward demonstrate that you do not have to do that.and he signed into law extends the life of … Medicare by eight years. He knows that, as outside experts have made clear, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, as Republican leaders, the Republican nominee have ardently expressed their desire to do, Medicare's insolvency will come eight years sooner." VIDEO:


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

ROMNEY ON TAX RATES: I PAID AT LEAST 13 PERCENT. After ABC's David Muir sat down with Mitt Romney in Israel during the presumptive nominee's July trip abroad, a question was left hanging about the lowest tax rate Romney has paid. MUIR to Romney, then: "Was there ever any year when you paid lower than the 13.9 percent?" Romney's answer: "I haven't calculated that. I'm happy to go back and look but my view is I have paid all the taxes required by law." The next day, Romney's campaign declined to look into it, telling ABC that Romney had paid all his taxes in full. On Thursday, Romney was asked again about tax rates and finally answered Muir's question: "I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that." Romney has released one year of tax returns and top-line figures for another year. WATCH Muir's report on "World News":

ROMNEY ON REID: 'TOTALLY FALSE.' More from David Muir's report on Mitt Romney's taxes: Romney flatly denied insinuations about his tax rate lodged by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has claimed that an unnamed source told him Romney paid no taxes for 10 years. Romney on Thursday: "Harry Reid's charge is totally false. I'm sure waiting for Harry to put up who it was who told him what he says they told him." Muir asked Reid's office if the senator will divulge his source and was told that Reid does not plan to. WATCH Muir's report on "Good Morning America":

OBAMA PUSHBACK: 'LET THE PUBLIC SEE.' Following Romney's statement, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN's Piers Morgan: "Let the public see it. Let them understand what's in those tax returns. They say, well, we don't want to do it because the opposition may make issues about it. Well, that doesn't give me much confidence about what's in those tax returns. Let the public make their own judgment."

ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: SEAMUS IN CHAINS. In the latest installment of "Politically Foul," ABC's Amy Walter looks at a downswing in campaign rhetoric. When Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan last weekend, the message was that the campaign was now going to rise above the petty and personal that had dominated the summer, and instead be about ideological choices, the size of government, the direction of the country, big priorities … Right? Not so much. On the trail this week, President Obama and Vice President Biden rose to the occasion by mocking Romney for putting the family dog on the roof of his car, and for wanting to put Viriginians "back in chains." WATCH here:

VAN HOLLEN TO PLAY RYAN IN DEBATE PREP. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has been tapped to play his congressional arch rival, Rep. Paul Ryan, in upcoming rehearsals to prepare Vice President Joe Biden for his single televised election-year debate, Obama campaign officials confirmed to ABC News. Van Hollen, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, which Ryan chairs, is the party's leading voice on budget policy in the Congress. He has studied Ryan's signature plan and arguably knows it better than most on Capitol Hill. An articulate and aggressive debater, he is also a regular on the TV cable news circuit and on the Sunday morning talk shows.

OBAMA DISSES WHITE HOUSE PRESS CORPS, TALKS TO E.T. AND 'PEOPLE.' ABC's Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce report: President Obama hasn't formally taken questions from the White House press corps in more than two months, while on the campaign trail in Iowa yesterday he made time for reporters from People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight. … The White House press corps has not formally been given the opportunity to ask questions of the president on U.S. soil since his appearance in the Briefing Room on June 8 (when he said "the private sector is doing fine.") His last formal White House news conference was on March 6.

RYAN ADMITS STIMULUS REQUEST. ABC's Gregory J. Krieg, Jake Tapper, and Shushannah Walshe report: After repeated denials, Paul Ryan has admitted he requested stimulus cash even after sharply criticizing the program. Ryan had denied doing so as recently as Wednesday … In 2009, Ryan wrote to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis asking for stimulus money to cover costs on two energy conservation projects in his home state of Wisconsin … Thursday, Ryan responded to the questions himself. "After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled," Ryan said in a statement. "This is why I didn't recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that. Regardless, it's clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy, and now the President is asking to do it all over again."

RYAN TO APPEAR WITH HIS MOM, DEFEND MEDICARE. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: Paul Ryan is headed to a Florida retirement community with his mother on Saturday to make his argument about the need to change Medicare for future generations. Ryan's mother is in her late 70s. He'll appear at The Villages, the world's largest retirement community and a conservative stronghold that is a must stop for Republican candidates. In 2008, a massive crowd of between 30,000 and 60,000 seniors came out to a rally Sarah Palin held there. Despite the Republican-leanings it's a clear sign the Romney campaign will continue to stay on the offense on Medicare, but with this trip they may be entering the lion's den. Ryan's mother, who will accompany him, can help her son connect with the senior citizen audience. She lives part of the year in Lauderdale-By-The Sea and part of the year outside of Janesville, Wisconsin.

INTO THE LION'S DEN … KIND OF. If addressing a group of Florida seniors on Medicare reform is a challenge for Paul Ryan, even as his drastic changes to the program would alter no benefits for those currently over 55, then Ryan is making his pitch to one of the friendliest lion's dens possible: The Villages is a hotbed of pro-Romney money. The retirement location itself made a hefty corporate donation to the main super PAC supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid. The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc., the Florida retirement community that includes property development, golf and other recreational activities, donated $250,000 to Restore Our Future last June. Five individual residents donated a total of over $678,000 to the group, which also received money from utility, communications, commercial property, and investment companies located in The Villages, Fla.

OBAMA: NO ONE WOULD SAY 'WE HAVE TRIED TO DIVIDE.' ABC's Mary Bruce reports: President Obama is pushing back against Mitt Romney's latest attack, claiming his campaign has not in any way "tried to divide the country." Mitt Romney accused the president earlier this week of running a "campaign of division and anger and hate." In response, the president told "Entertainment Tonight," "I don't think you or anybody who's been watching the campaign would say, yes, that in any way we have tried to divide the country."

TV AD: ON MEDICARE, OBAMA INVOKES AARP. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: The Obama campaign is invoking the powerful AARP to rebut the Romney-Ryan Medicare attacks in a new swing state TV spot. Aides believe the brand-name influence of the nation's largest advocacy group for seniors is the ultimate neutralizer for the GOP claims. NARRATOR: "Now Mitt Romney's attacking the president on Medicare? The nonpartisan AARP says Obamacare cracks down on Medicare fraud, waste and abuse and strengthens guaranteed benefits. And the Ryan plan? AARP says it would undermine Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors. And experts say Ryan's voucher plan could raise future retirees costs more than $6000. Get the facts." WATCH the ad here:

TAMPA WATCH: CHRISTINE O'DONNELL TO STAGE TEA PARTY VS. OCCUPY DEBATE. Coinciding with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell will host a five-day event dubbed Troublemaker Fest at an IMAX theater two blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the convention will be held. While details have yet to be released and are still being hashed out, O'Donnell plans to host a debate between panelists from the Tea Party and Occupy movements, representing the opposite ends of America's current political spectrum.

WILL LATINO VOTERS GIVE OBAMA A CHANCE IN N.C.? The Washington Post's Amy Gardner reports from the Greenview Meadows neighborhood of Gastonia, N.C.: "Spanish speakers dominate the apartments here, part of a Latino population that has risen to 8 percent of North Carolinians. Registered Latino voters have doubled since 2008, to roughly 100,000. While the Latino population here is booming, only about one-fourth of Latinos are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. And only about one-fourth of those actually do. But finding Hispanics who are eligible to vote won't be easy. Getting them to register and then, months later, cast a ballot for Obama will be harder. Only a fraction of North Carolina's booming Hispanic population is eligible to vote. An even smaller number actually does."

NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY: A QUESTION FOR STATES. From The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: "President Obama's new non-deportation policy has thrown many of the thorniest immigration questions back into states' laps, as governors and legislators now must decide whether to issue driver's licenses or allow in-state tuition at public colleges to the illegal immigrants who will be given an iffy legal status. Under the program, young adult illegal immigrants can apply for what the administration calls "deferred action" - an official notice that they are not going to be deported, and can live and work in the U.S., though they are not actually deemed to be here legally. The problem is that in many states, having a work permit and a certificate of deferred action from the government is often good enough to earn a driver's license. This week, as the federal government began to accept applications, those states began to grapple with what they will do."


-MEMO FROM ROMNEY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: WEB METRICS! In a memo to reporters, Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades boasts about online metrics since Paul Ryan was named to the ticket. Rhoades cites online fundraising, volunteers signed up online, site traffic, Twitter and Facebook followers. Rhoades: "Tomorrow marks a week since Mitt Romney announced his choice of Congressman Paul Ryan to join him on America's Comeback Team, and it's clear that his choice has reshaped the race in a positive way. … Polling data shows Romney gaining since the announcement. Both Gallup and Rasmussen show us leading Obama in national polling, and recent statewide polling shows us picking up ground in Ohio and Virginia."


@SalenaZitoTrib : My interview with @PaulRyanVP (first print) -> Ryan: 'Bring on' Medicare fight

@ jonkarl : Karl Rove's American Crossroads endorses Joe Biden.

@mckaycoppins : The Romney family takes charge: I report this a.m. that Mitt's wife & sons were early advocates for picking Paul Ryan

@EmilyABC : Romney today: is at Boston HQ for finance roundtables and meetings with staff, then heads to Long Island to fundraise.

?@Sarah_Boxer : We have not seen the last of white boards… RT @hollybdc: Spotted in Romney press hold (Boston MA)


-President Obama and Vice President Biden have no campaign events scheduled and will hold meetings at the White House.

-Mitt Romney is fundraising in Southampton, New York meeting supporters at Sebonack Golf Club.

-Paul Ryan has two rallies in Glen Allen and Springfield, Virginia. Both rallies are at area High Schools.

ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)

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