Mitt Romney And The Art Of The Double-Down (The Note)

Martin H. Simon/ABC

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


  • MORE PROTESTS ON THE WAY? The U.S. government is bracing itself for the fourth straight day of protests in Cairo, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East as anger over a U.S.-produced film mocking the Prophet Mohammed continues to grow, ABC's Anthony Castellano reports. Many protesters have begun to take to the streets in Cairo and more protesters are expected to gather in Tahrir Square following Friday's prayers. Police are lined up on the far side of the square, guarding the road that leads to the U.S. Embassy. Overnight, police in riot gear launched tear gas canisters into the sea of violent protesters, who were lighting fireworks, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in return.
  • NEW FROM ROMNEY H.Q.: The Romney campaign unveiled a new candidate comparison tool this morning on that allows voters in every state to, in the campaign's words, "see the damage done by President Obama's failed policies, alongside the economic impact of Mitt Romney's Plan for a Stronger Middle Class." Announcing the new tool, Romney said: "After four years of disappointment, President Obama hasn't delivered on the economic prosperity that he promised. Now Americans can see exactly how the failures of this President's economic record have impacted their state." Compare for yourself:
  • NEW FROM OBAMA H.Q.: Responding to an article by The Daily Beast's Daniel Klaidman quoting a "knowledgeable source" who said Romney requested some of the candidates on his vice presidential short-list to turn in a decade's worth of tax returns, the Obama campaign this morning is out with a new web video once again criticizing the GOP presidential candidate for failing to disclose more of his own taxes. "If Mitt Romney asked for ten years of tax returns from those on his vice presidential shortlist, including Paul Ryan, why should the American people expect anything less from Romney himself?" according to the Obama campaign. "Voters now have even more cause than ever to ask that simple question: Why won't Mitt Romney release his tax returns?" WATCH the Obama campaign's new video:
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK' On Sunday, "This Week" reports the latest on the deadly attacks and protests across the Middle East. Plus, the powerhouse roundtable joins ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper to debate the fallout from the violence in the Middle East and all the week's politics, with ABC News' George Will; Fox News contributor Liz Cheney, co-founder of Keep America Safe; Ret. General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe; PBS' "Washington Week" moderator and managing editor Gwen Ifill; ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz; and ABC News senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl. Check the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday:


When asked in an interview yesterday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos what he thought of President Obama's accusation that he has a "tendency to shoot first, aim later," Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wouldn't take the bait.

"Well, this is politics," Romney told Stephanopoulos. "I'm not going to worry about the campaign."

But several of Romney's top foreign policy aides apparently didn't get the memo. Instead of backing away from the "politics" of this week's foreign policy crisis, they're doubling - even tripling - down.

A top foreign policy aide to the former Massachusetts governor went so far as to suggest in an interview with the Washington Post that the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens would never have happened if Romney were president.

"There's a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you'd be in a different situation," Romney adviser Richard Williamson told Post's Phil Rucker. "For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we've had an American ambassador assassinated."

Williamson went on to call the Obama administration's conduct of foreign policy, "amateur hour."

Speaking to Stephanopoulos, Romney did stand by his initial reaction to the statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo - before the attacks there and in Libya took place.

"I think the statement was an inappropriate statement," Romney said. "I think it was not directly applicable and appropriate for the setting. I think it should have been taken down. And apparently the White House felt the same way."

The question for Romney and his aides now is whether they move away from foreign policy and back to the economy - and how quickly they do so. But with seething tensions in the Middle East, unforeseen events may dictate what happens on the campaign trail.

Only problem is, with a series of recent polls in key battleground states showing Obama with a widening lead over his Republican challenger, it not at all clear this is the issue set that's going to help Romney close the gap between now and November.


ABC's AMY WALTER: Welcome to the incredibly shrinking battlefield. There was a time this summer when Team Romney was convinced that they would put traditionally blue states like Pennsylvania and Michigan in play. Today, not one candidate or outside group is running any advertising in either state. And, in Ohio, even GOPers admit that Romney is running behind. Romney forces believe they have time to get back into the game in the Buckeye State, but it's hard to understand how that happens. With an improving economy, driven in part by a healthier auto industry, Romney's message of Obama's economic gloom and doom won't sell as easily in Ohio as it can in other states.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Something shook loose in a static campaign this week - and no - it's not just the polls. The polls surely fueled it, with President Obama opening up a national lead in the mid-single digits, and new battleground-state numbers showing a sizeable Obama edge in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia. But what we may ultimately remember of this period is that it was the time the Romney campaign's tight focus on the economy and jobs was loosened. The campaign that long saw only one issue has been opening up new fronts by the news cycle: "God" in the Democratic platform and on coins, then more famously with a late-night statement jumping on developing events in Egypt and Libya. Chasing headlines makes it hard to catch up, particularly if the campaign's original assumptions were correct.


- ROMNEY ON DEBATES: OBAMA WILL SAY 'THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE.' ABC'S George Stephanopoulos sat down with Mitt Romney for a wide-ranging interview on "World News" and "Good Morning America." Romney on the debates: "I think the challenge that I'll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren't true," Romney told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "I've looked at prior debates. And in that kind of case, it's difficult to say, 'Well, am I going to spend my time correcting things that aren't quite accurate? Or am I going to spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about?"

-ABC INTERVIEW: ROMNEY VS. BERNANKE. ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Romney about Ben Bernanke as the Fed announces its latest phase of quantitative easing-QE3. Romney said he doesn't think the Fed's latest plan will work. ROMNEY: Well, what Bernanke's doing is saying is what the president's saying is wrong. The president's saying, 'The economy's making progress, coming back.' Bernanke's saying, 'No, it's not. I've gotta print more money.' I don't think what Bernanke's doing is gonna get the economy going.

-MORE INTERVIEW VIDEO: ROMNEY WOULD BOOT BERNANKE. More from George Stephanopoulos' interview with Romney … STEPHANOPOULOS: You wouldn't reappoint him, if you won? ROMNEY: I would like to appoint someone that I'd selected, and I would look for someone other than the current incumbent."

CHARLIE COOK SPEAKS: OBAMA IS 'A GOOD BET.' The long-time election analyst offers his view on the state of the race in National Journal: "My view is that if Obama is reelected, it will be despite the economy and because of his campaign; if Mitt Romney wins, it will be because of the economy and despite his campaign. This economy is an enormous millstone around Obama's neck, yet he and his campaign have managed to secure the upper hand - albeit with a very tenuous grip. At the same time, despite an enormous advantage that the sluggish economy and the sentiment for change affords him, Romney and his campaign, to an astonishing degree, seem to have squandered too many opportunities and undermined his chances of winning. It should be emphasized again and again that this campaign isn't over and that the race is still awfully close. But without a change in the trajectory, it's a good bet that Obama will come out on top. The questions are whether the opportunity will arise for that trajectory to change and whether the Romney campaign be able to effectively capitalize on it."

IN THE MONEY: OBAMA'S BIG NIGHT. President Obama returns to the campaign money trail tonight after a nearly month long hiatus, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. A campaign official tells ABC News: "On Friday, September 14, President Obama will attend a fundraiser with approximately 35 people in Washington, D.C. at a private residence. Tickets for that event cost $40,000 per person. Proceeds from Friday's event will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties."


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

POLLS: OBAMA LEADS IN KEY SWING STATES. A new round of NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls shows the president pulling ahead in three critical swing states … Ohio: Obama 50, Romney 43 … Florida: Obama 49, Romney 44 … Virginia: Obama 49, Romney 44. Together, those states account for 60 Electoral College votes. If Obama swept them, it would be very difficult for Romney to make up the difference; for instance, he could do it by sweeping Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

FLASHBACK: WHEN RICK PERRY ACCUSED BEN BERNANKE OF TREASON. Once upon a time, Texas Gov. and high-profile GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry warned that Ben Bernanke could pick a president. "If this guy prints more money between now and the election," Perry said in August, "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we - we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous - or treasonous in my opinion."

WHITE HOUSE CLARIFIES 'ALLY' COMMENT. After President Obama told Telemundo that the U.S. doesn't necessarily consider Egypt an "ally," ABC's Jake Tapper reports: Asked about the president's comment, White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "'Ally' is a legal term of art. We don't have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the President has said, Egypt is long-standing and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt's transition to democracy and working with the new government." Vietor noted that last night President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, "to review the strategic partnership between the Unites States and Egypt, while making clear our mutual obligations - including the protection of diplomats and diplomatic facilities."

OUTSIDE GROUPS UP SPANISH-LANGUAGE SPENDING. Spending by outside groups on Spanish-language ads geared to sway Latino voters looks to be increasing, Univision's Jordan Fabian reports: "Priorities Action USA, a pro-Obama super PAC that can accept unlimited donations, launched a new series of Spanish-language ads this week in conjunction with the labor union SEIU aimed at further damaging Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's weak standing among Latino voters. The ad, titled 'Votemos,' hits Romney on his positions on immigration, Medicare spending, and outsourcing jobs. It's part of a $4 million advertising campaign announced by the two organizations. … Meanwhile, a conservative outside group called the LIBRE Initiative is launching its own ad this week that promotes a message of small government to Latino voters."

CLINTON DELIVERS POWERFUL SPEECH AT MUSLIM RECEPTION. ABC's Dana Hughes reports: Secretary Clinton delivered a powerful and personal speech about religion at an Eid ul-Fitr reception, marking the end of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. The speech, at times, was a direct response to the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East, and the deaths of four diplomats at the hands of militants in Libya. In her remarks, Clinton repeated much of what she has said in the last two days. Namely that the Benghazi attack was carried out by a "small and savage group," and that the United States completely rejects what she called the "inflammable and despicable" anti-Muslim film circulating the Internet.

BEHIND THE FILM. ABC's Brian Ross reports for "World News" reports that police have identified the filmmaker as 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who used the assumed name Sam Bacile, and is a member of the Egyptian Coptic Christian Church. Records obtained by ABC News show Nakoula was convicted of man ufacturing methamphetamines in the 1990s and later was sent to prison on bank fraud charges where he told authorities, he wrote the film's script. He was released from custody in June 2011, and production began just two months later … actors say they were duped, told they were in a film to be called 'Desert Warrior.' The role of Muhammad was listed as 'George,' and its anti-Islamic message was not in the script.

OBAMA ON THE ATTACKS. The president spoke in Golden, Colo. on Thursday, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: "I want people around the world to hear me, to all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world," Obama said. "No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."

BIDEN: LIBYA ATTACKERS 'HAVE NO REAL VALUES.' ABC's Arlette Saenz reports from Eau Claire, Wis.: Vice President Joe Biden stressed the dedication of diplomats serving the U.S. abroad Thursday and voiced his belief that those who "callously" killed four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, "have no real values." "The brave Americans we tragically lost in Libya remind us again of the incredible price that not only our military pays when they're deployed, but the incredible price through Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arab spring that our diplomats have paid," Biden said at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "The cause to which they are dedicated and gave their lives - democracy, partnership, tolerance - stands in absolute sharp contrast to the values held by those who callously took their lives, who I think have no real values."

PAUL RYAN GETS A HERO'S WELCOME AT THE CAPITOL. Paul Ryan returned to the Capitol today, as Congress voted on a continuing resolution to fund the government. ABC's John Parkinson and Shushannah Walshe report: Republican vice presidential nominee received a warm welcome from his GOP colleagues when he made his first return to the Capitol since Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate last month. After arriving at the Capitol, Ryan spent about an hour meeting with House Republicans in Speaker John Boehner's office suite. Lawmakers attending the meeting said Ryan stood in the room, greeting colleagues excited to meet with their now-famous friend. Ryan, R-Wis., emerged from the Speaker's office with House Speaker John Boehner, and walked through Statuary Hall. "It feels great to be back," Ryan said walking next to Boehner. "It's great to be here."

… BUT SCHUMER CALLS HIM A 'FRAUD.' The senator gave GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan quite a welcome back to Congress, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: "It's nice to see Paul Ryan back here in Congress," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY., said, oozing with sarcasm. "It will be even nicer to see him back here as a full-time member in January." … chumer took to the Senate floor first to disparage Ryan's budget plan, declaring Ryan a "fraud" for the "unrealistic" and "rosy" assumptions on which his deficit plan is based, in his opinion.

HOUSE PASSES FUNDING BILL. The House on Thursday passed a temporary measure to keep the government running, ABC's John Parkinson reports: In a rare bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives passed a measure to fund the federal government for the next six months, one step in avoiding a bitter political fight before the election. The measure, known around Washington, D.C., as a continuing resolution, passed 329-91 and funds the government for the next six months. Each party delivered a near-equal amount of votes to pass the bill. Democrats had 164 ayes while Republicans had 165 members voting for it. Seventy Republicans and 21 Democrats opposed the legislation.

ABC VIDEO: OBAMA HUGS, BIDEN OVER-KISSES. In the latest installment of "Politically Foul," ABC's Amy Walter talks Florida pizza hugs, Charlie Crist's moment of political opportunism, and the partisan double standard on jokes about President Obama's birthplace. WATCH here:

ROMNEY GETS IN THE INTELLIGENCE LOOP. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Muttontown, N.Y.: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, will start receiving intelligence briefings next week, the campaign said tonight. "For the last several weeks, the Romney campaign has been in touch with the intelligence community to arrange intelligence briefings for Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan, consistent with tradition," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "They will begin next week and, beyond that, we will have no further comment."

PELOSI, BOEHNER BRIEFED BY INTEL OFFICIALS. ABC's John Parkinson reports: House Speaker John Boehner was set to hold his own news conference today with reporters, but 15 minutes after he was scheduled to face the Capitol Hill press corps, a spokesman announced that the news conference was cancelled. A senior aide close to the speaker later confirmed that he cancelled because an "Intel meeting ran too long." A senior Democratic aide confirmed that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the same briefing, although neither source would reveal who briefed the congressional leaders.

BIDEN CALLS HISPANICS 'MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN AMERICAN POLITICS.' ABC's Arlette Saenz reports: Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Gala in Washington, D.C. Thursday evening and described the Hispanic population in this country as the "most powerful force in American politics." "I'm here to say thank you, and tell you how much this great country owes you and how much more can be done with the infusion of new blood, of new ideas," Biden said. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to become, and already have, the most powerful force in American politics. Exercise that power well, and the country will embrace you." The Census Bureau says the 52 million Hispanics in this country accounted for 16.7 percent of the nation's population in 2011, and the Pew Research Center has predicted nearly a third of the U.S. population will be Hispanic by 2050, a projection that Biden says Americans have embraced.

OBAMA'S CONVENTION BOUNCE: CREDIT THE ADS? ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama's post-convention "bounce" in national polls may result mainly from an onslaught of pro-Obama TV ads rather than the spectacle and message of the party convention itself, according to a new analysis of media tracking data by the independent Wesleyan Media Project at Wesleyan University. The president's campaign and affiliated groups dominated the airwaves in the past two weeks … Between Aug. 26 and Sept. 8, Obama aired nearly 40,000 spots on broadcast and national cable TV compared with 18,000 for during the same period.

ROMNEY IS FOR LOVERS? Gallup reports that married voters are Romney voters. Gallup's Andrew Dugan writes: "Married registered voters prefer Republican challenger Mitt Romney over Democratic President Barack Obama by 54% to 39%, according to Gallup data collected from June to August. On the other hand, nonmarried voters break strongly for the president over Romney, 56% to 35%. Marriage is a significant predictor of presidential vote choice even after income, age, race, gender, education, religiosity, region, and having minor children are statistically controlled for."

MIA LOVE'S BUDGET WOULD CUT MILITARY AID TO ISRAEL. Add Mia Love, the rising-star House candidate from Utah, to the small list of fiscal conservatives who would cut all military aid-even to Israel. ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: In a printed proposal obtained by ABCNews that features Love's picture and touts "Mia's initial plan to cut spending and get America back on track," she lists a proposal to "End foreign military financing," an act that would save $5.4 billion, according to the CATO institute, a libertarian think tank. … The catch that puts Love at odds with other Republicans? About $3 billion of that money goes to Israel, according to the State Department's website.

I DON'T ALWAYS HOLD FUNDRAISERS … But when I do, I hold them for Barack Obama. Political Party Time's Lindsay Young reports: "Jonathan Goldsmith the actor who appears in the popular Dos Equis commercials is hosting a fundraiser next Tuesday in Vermont. Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith is also scheduled to be at the event. Admission to the event ranges from a modest $20 to $500."

OBAMA RALLIES THE CAMPAIGN TROOPS VIA WEBCAST. ABC's Jon Garcia reports from Las Vegas: With 55 days until the election, President Obama invoked his deep roots in political organizing, for the first time joining his campaign's monthly video conference call to rally thousands of his grassroots volunteers and offer tips for success. "I hope everybody is as determined as I am, as energized as I am," Obama said Wednesday night from a computer web camera backstage at his Las Vegas rally. The appearance was broadcast online nationwide.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE MAYHEM!? Three Ron Paul supporters, appointed by the GOP to the Electoral College, might not cast their electoral votes for Mitt Romney even if he wins their states, the Associated Press's Mike Baker reporter Thursday: "If Romney prevailed in an extremely close presidential election, for example, defections could deprive him of the Electoral College majority needed to secure the presidency. That would throw the presidential election to the U.S. House for the first time in nearly two centuries. The Senate would elect the vice president if neither running mate got a majority of the electoral votes. If Republicans retained control of the House, and with the each state delegation getting a single vote, Romney probably would prevail. But if the Senate remained in Democratic hands, Vice President Joe Biden would be the favorite."

… ONE ELECTORAL DEFECTOR RESIGNS. On Thursday evening, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker (a Ron Paul supporter himself) announced that one of the potential defectors had resigned her Electoral College post. From a state party press release: "'I have accepted Melinda Wadlsey's resignation this afternoon effective immediately,' said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker. 'The Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee will now begin the process of selecting a new Presidential Elector from the Fourth District.'"

VIRGIL GOODE: I WON'T STEAL VOTES FROM ROMNEY. After qualifying for the ballot in Virginia last week, former GOP congressman, immigration hardliner/birth-certificate skeptic/Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode could become the Ralph Nader of 2012, stealing votes from Mitt Romney and delivering Virginia-and the election-to President Obama. But if Romney loses Virginia, Goode says it won't be his fault. "The assumption that they're all from Romney is incorrect," Goode said, maintaining that not all of the people who might vote for him will be erstwhile Romney supporters, effectively stealing from the vote total of the Republican Party's presidential candidate. "The guy that runs the service station right near my house said, 'Virgil, if you get on the ballot, I'm going to vote for you, and that'll take a vote away from Obama' - and he voted for Obama last time. "A lot of disgruntled Democrats that don't like Obama - old-line Democrats, some of them even conservative - will never vote for a Republican ticket, but they will vote for me as an independent," he said.


-CARTER CORRECTS OBAMA. The Republican National Committee passes along a headline from Fox Nation: "President Carter spoke to Drake University in Des Moines and was asked if he agrees with what Obama said about Egypt: Carter: 'Egypt is an ally of the US, we know Egypt well.'"


@TomBeaumont : News from @AP: Foreign policy at forefront is a Romney hurdle. W/ @sppeoples

@AriFleischer : Other than killing terrorists with drones, can anyone tell me what the President's middle-east policy is?

@JFKucinich : Redesigned @usatoday looks awesome outside of the Newseum!

@Timodc : #TweetsFromTomorrow RT @seanspicer happy birthday to the RNC press secretary @kakukowski

@BenLaBolt : #FF: @cbrentcolburn - turns out Brent is his middle name


with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)

-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome the Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House.

-Mitt Romney is in the battleground state of Ohio holding a rally at Lake Erie College in Painesville.

-Vice President Biden has no public events.

-Paul Ryan speaks this morning at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC before hitting the campaign trail in Harrisonburg, Virginia speaking to supporters at a rally at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

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