Multiple Mitts: A Candidate Who Wears Many Hats (The Note)

Sep 24, 2012 9:01am

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

NOTABLES:

  • BUMPY MONDAY AFTER OBAMA SAYS ‘BUMPS IN THE ROAD’: Republicans are pouncing on President Obama for referring to “bumps in the road” in the Middle East, during his “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, ABC’s Jake Tapper notes. Here’s the exchange: Steve Kroft: “Have the events that took place in the Middle East, the recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?” President Obama: “Well, I’d said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path. The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change. I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights — a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance. But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam.” http://abcn.ws/RbGUmn
  • ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON DEFENSE: A senior administration official e-mails ABC’s Jake Tapper: “1) It’s just not true that he was characterizing the attack in Benghazi — the question doesn’t even make mention of it. He’s speaking about broad trends. 2) Take a look at his answer — what is there to disagree with? We are holding true to our values. We face entrenched strains of extremism. We will benefit from a region that is more peaceful. 3) This is clearly a rocky path — the point he also makes clearly is that we have an interest in democratic transitions succeeding.” http://abcn.ws/RbGUmn
  • ROMNEY CAMPAIGN POUNCES: Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul issued this statement: “After nearly four years in office, President Obama is eager to make excuses for his failed policies at home and abroad by declaring ‘bumps in the road.’ But it’s clear Americans can’t afford four more years like the last four years under the President’s policies.”
  • COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION DAY: There are 43 days to go until Nov. 6, 2012. ABC News’ battleground state rankings: http://abcn.ws/OovnMp

THE NOTE:

In a letter released by his campaign last Friday, Mitt Romney’s doctor gave him more than just a clean bill of health. His personal physician called the Republican presidential candidate a “vigorous man” with “reserves of strength, energy and stamina that provide him with the ability to meet unexpected demands.”

And it’s a good thing because the past two weeks have brought more than a few of those “unexpected demands” — from a foreign policy crisis that spilled over onto the campaign trail to a hidden camera video that landed Romney in hot water to the release of his tax returns on Friday afternoon

And to meet those demands, Romney has become a candidate who wears many hats.

There’s CEO Mitt who some political observers say runs his campaign too much like he ran the private equity firm, Bain Capital. The Associated Press’s Kasie Hunt elaborated in a recent article: “He likes to watch the TV ads before they go on the air. He reviewed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s financial information before selecting him for the No. 2 spot. He’s rarely separated from chief strategist Stuart Stevens. They often spend hours conversing and poking at an iPad on the campaign’s charter plane. If Romney’s not with Stevens, he’s often calling him.” http://bit.ly/Q4QPuu

These are the kind of habits that led Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan to write a column titled, “The Romney Campaign Needs A New CEO” with some advice for the GOP presidential contender: “He can’t be the CEO of the campaign and be the candidate. The candidate is out there every day standing for things, fighting for a hearing, trying to get the American people to listen, agree and follow. …The candidate cannot oversee strategy, statements, speechwriting, ads. He shouldn’t be debating what statistic to put on slide four of the Powerpoint presentation.” http://on.wsj.com/3ksWVd

Then there’s the cool-calm-and-collected Romney — so cool, in fact, that he can seem dismissive of the problems that have beset his campaign. This is the Romney who said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which aired last night, that his campaign does not need a reset.

“It doesn’t need a turnaround,” Romney said. “We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president to the United States.”

Well, not exactly. While many national polls show a neck-and-neck race, surveys in the eight crucial swing states that will ultimately decide who wins the White House give President Obama a lead, not just in a few of the states, but in every single one. There’s enough time for Romney to catch up, but with 43 days to go until Nov. 6, that window is getting smaller.

There’s also  feisty Mitt. The one who bounded to the back of his campaign plane last night on his way from California to Colorado and accused the president of “trying to fool people into thinking that I think things that I don’t.” http://abcn.ws/UvGpXl

He went on to take Obama to task for running ads that are “factually inaccurate.”

“He keeps running these things even though he knows they’re wrong and saying them in rallies even though he knows they’re wrong,” Romney said.

“That ends at the debates,” Romney told reporters. “I hope I’ll be able to describe my positions in a way that is accurate and the people will make a choice as to which path they want to choose.”

That’s a lot of Romneys for one campaign. And his real challenge ahead of the first debate on Oct. 3 is closing the gap with the president in at least a few of the tossup states. This week, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are plunging headfirst into of the most important battlegrounds — Ohio — just as polls show President Obama with a consistent lead there. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll out earlier this month put Obama’s edge in Ohio at seven percentage points over his Republican challenger and a RealClearPolitics.com average of recent polls pegs the president’s lead over Romney at roughly four points.

But the GOP ticket’s focus on the state next week reflects its importance on the political map. Without winning there Romney faces a much trickier path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.

ABC’s Jake Tapper reported for “Good Morning America” today on last night’s dueling “60 Minutes” interviews. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/QcVMBi

 

NOTE IT!

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It’s been a while since President Obama has faced aggressive, to-his-face questioning — and it can show. As Mitt Romney prepares for the first debate, just nine days away, the president’s “60 Minutes” interview can provide some clues around areas of vulnerability. Obama looked tired, and sometimes he looked like he wanted to be someplace else. He also fell into a habit of answering questions he’s heard before with clichés — thus a “rocky path” and “bumps in the road” are what to expect in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an aftermath that’s already turned violent and tragically deadly. Tweeted Laura Ingraham: “Obama’s prickly &snippy responses to modestly challenging Qs shd tell Romney to land a flurry of close-in punches early during debates. KEY.”

ABC’s AMY WALTER:  As Romney barnstorms across the battleground states he’s confronted by the fact that he’s trailing in every single one. An off-the-record survey of a handful of Democratic and Republican political operatives who see a lot of statewide polling data suggests the following:

–Wisconsin, Nevada, and Ohio are the toughest states for Romney to win. If he loses all three he can’t win. Even if he swept all the other toss up states he’d end up with just 267 to Obama’s 271.

–Florida, Colorado, and New Hampshire are the best opportunities for Romney.

–Democrats feel very bullish about Iowa — a state Obama has invested in heavily with both time and money. Republicans still consider it a good opportunity.

–Despite recent polling showing Obama up by as many as eight points in Virginia, operatives on both sides think the state is much more competitive than that.

 

DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: OHIO EDITION. From the Democratic National Committee: “Today, the DNC will kick off the ‘Mitt Romney: Writing Off the Middle Class’ bus tour with stops in Lima, Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.  They will continue their bus tour through Ohio with stops in Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland tomorrow.  Ohioans from every walk of life — students, seniors, union members, veterans — and local officials, including former Governor Ted Strickland, former State Senator Fred Strahorn and State Senator Eric Kearney, will discuss the choice for Ohio’s middle class between moving our country forward with an economy built from the middle out, or returning to the same, failed top-down economics that punished Ohio families and wrote off millions of Americans.”

GOP TOUTS ‘RECORD-BREAKING’ GROUND GAME. Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley is out with a Monday morning memo describing the GOP’s robust ground game heading into the final crucial months before Election Day. Wiley writes that “by any and every measure, this year’s ground game is significantly moving the needle on the ground.” Here’s an excerpt: “Overall, we have made more than 26 million voter contacts, thanks to the efforts of our 73,000 volunteers. This week, we expect to make our 30 millionth voter contact. By mid-September, we had already surpassed the 2008 operation in total volunteer voter contacts.  We’ve knocked on nearly 2 million more doors than in all of 2008, and we’ve made six times more phone calls than at this point four years ago.   In addition to our volunteer voter contact program, direct voter contact through an aggressive absentee ballot, persuasion, early vote and GOTV mail and phone program in our battleground states will ensure targeted voters are contacted dozens of times through our paid effort. This coupled with our unprecedented volunteer voter contact effort adds up to the largest, most sophisticated turnout program ever put on the field in Republican politics.”

 

“THIS WEEK” REWIND:

REINCE PRIEBUS: LAST WEEK WAS ‘GOOD’ FOR GOP. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “I think we can look back at last week as a campaign in a couple months and say, this was the defining week in both campaigns, where I think both campaigns are crystallizing around a central theme, which is going to be, what kind of future do we want for our kids and grandkids? … I think that we had a good week last week, I think in retrospect, in that we were able to frame up the debate last week in the sense of, what future do we want” http://abcn.ws/ShLsZm

ANN COULTER: DEMOCRATS ‘DROPPING BLACKS’ FOR HISPANICS. During ABC’s “This Week” roundtable, conservative commentator Ann Coulter made that provocative claim after Univision anchor Jorge Ramos noted GOP difficulties winning Hispanic votes. Ramos said: “If Republicans don’t do something with immigration, and if Republicans are so far away from — from Latinos, they’re going to lose not only this election, they might lose the White House for a generation.” Coulter interjected: “That’s why the Democrats are dropping the blacks and moving on to the Hispanics.” http://abcn.ws/PAD8BI

 

THE BUZZ:

with ABC’s Chris Good (@c_good)

OBAMA, ROMNEY BATTLE FOR COAL COUNTRY. With Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan launching an Ohio bus tour today, and with President Obama traveling to Bowling Green and Kent on Wednesday, the campaign this week will be all about the Buckeye State–and voters in southeastern Ohio are seeing a relatively new round of ads focusing on coal. Mitt Romney launched two new TV ads last week featuring miners who criticize President Obama’s coal policies. Over the weekend, President Obama launched his own ad hitting back. Script: “Seen these new ads, where Mitt Romney says he’s a friend of coal country? This is the guy who wants to keep tax breaks that ship American jobs overseas. The same guy who had a Swiss bank account and millions in tax havens like Bermuda and the Caymans. And on coal? Well, here’s what he said as governor, outside a coal-fire power plant. [ROMNEY:] I will not  create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant? That plant kills people. [WORDS ON SCREEN: 'MITT ROMNEY. Not One of Us.']” The ads are airing in West Virginia media markets that cover several Ohio counties. WATCH Romney’s ads here: http://bit.ly/RWdWE6 , http://bit.ly/PQOKjV ; WATCH Obama’s new ad: http://bit.ly/PfotL6

JFK TAPES: NEW INSIGHT INTO CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS TENSIONS. ABC’s Rick Klein writes, on the newly published John F. Kennedy presidential tapes included in the book and accompanying CDs, “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy”: In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy thought the nation was so close to war with the Soviet Union that he game-planned how American naval vessels would fire on Soviet ships, making plans for firing warning shots, and even the confiscation of cameras aboard American boats to prevent pictures from making their way into the press. In a phone call to Assistant Defense Secretary Roswell Gilpatric – secretly recorded by the president on Oct. 23, 1962 – Kennedy ordered that U.S. service members on board ships that would engage the Soviets be forced to turn in their cameras. … “I was wondering whether the instructions on how that’s to be done, or where they’re to be shot at, and so on, to cause the minimum of damage,” Kennedy said. “And in addition, if they’re boarded, it’s very possible the Russians will fire at them as they board, and we’d have to fire back and have quite a slaughter.” http://abcn.ws/QyWHsS

CAROLINE KENNEDY ON THE TAPES. Caroline Kennedy tells ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview: “I think you really get a sense of just how scary it was to the people in the room. It wasn’t just outlining a set of options, it was really that they felt this sense of, you know, this could be life or death for not just the people in the room, but for our whole country.” http://abcn.ws/OOUfCL

ABC VIDEO: VOTA POR MI! WHY THE LATINO VOTE IS CRUCIAL. In the latest installment of ABC/Yahoo! web show Political Punch, ABC’s Jake Tapper looks at the all-important Latino vote, as both candidates have courted Latinos in interviews, speeches, Spanish-language ads, and at their conventions. Tapper reports: The point is not that Obama will win the Latino vote–he will–it’s a question of by how much. That difference could determine the election. One study suggests the percentage of Latinos among eligible voters will include 37.9 percent in New Mexico, 16.5 percent in Florida, 14.2 percent in Nevada, 13.1 perceng in Colorado. http://yhoo.it/PQMSaR

ANALYSIS: GROUND SHIFTS BENEATH ROMNEY’S CAMPAIGN. From ABC’s Rick Klein: Even the economy, long the rationale for Romney’s candidacy, is slipping away as a natural area of advantage for the challenger. A series of recent polls in battleground states show Obama with a narrow edge on trust on the economy, numbers that have inched along with perceptions of the country moving toward a positive direction. … The situation puts more pressure on Romney to deliver in the presidential debates, particularly the first encounter Oct. 3 in Denver. His campaign needs to create major moments to change the trajectory of the race, and no opportunity is as ready-made for that as much as the first debate. Romney can make his case on the economy face-to-face with the president. http://abcn.ws/Sg9KhO

NEW OBAMA AD USES ’47 PERCENT’ VIDEO. A new ad from President Obama features the now-infamous fundraiser video of Mitt Romney while hitting the GOP nominee, once again, over his tax returns–this time criticizing Romney for not releasing his past returns before 2010. On Friday, Romney’s campaign released his 2011 tax returns and summaries for years past. In the ad, a narrator says: “Mitt Romney paid just 14.1% in taxes last year. He keeps millions in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. He won’t release his tax returns before 2010. Maybe instead of attacking others on taxes, Romney should come clean on his.” http://bit.ly/PfgGwT

OBAMA: SOME ADS HAVE GONE ‘OVERBOARD.’ The Romney campaign points to another clip from Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview. OBAMA: “Do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign? Are there mistakes that are made, are there areas where there’s no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things? You know, that happens in politics … the truth of the matter is, the most of the time we’re having a vigorous debate about a vision for the country, and there’s a lot at stake in this election. So, is it going to be sharp sometimes? Absolutely. But will the American people ultimately have a good sense of where I want to take the country and where Governor Romney wants to take the country? I think they will.” http://cbsn.ws/SNNlJx

FROM THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams chimed in: “The Obama campaign and its allies have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for the truth – all while claiming to be concerned with ‘the facts.’ Tonight, even President Obama himself admitted his campaign has gone ‘overboard’ and made mistakes. The real test now is whether or not the President will change course and honor his long-discarded promise to change the tone in Washington.”

ROMNEY ON ANTI-AMERICAN SENTIMENT: FOCUS ON ISRAEL. More from Romney’s “60 Minutes” interview: SCOTT PELLEY: How would you ease the anti-American sentiment that we see in the Middle East?  ROMNEY: Communicate to nations like Egypt, and Egypt is– if you will, the — major player, 80 million people, the center of the Arab world. Egypt needs to understand what the rules are. That to remain an ally of the United States, to receive foreign aid from the United States, to receive foreign investment from ourselves and from our friends, I believe, around the world, that they must honor their peace agreement with Israel. That they must also– show respect and — provide civil rights for minorities in their country. And they also have to protect — our embassies  I think we also have to communicate that Israel is our ally. Our close ally. The President’s decision not to meet with Bibi Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, when the Prime Minister is here for the United Nations session I think is a mistake and sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what’s necessary.

HOW MITT AND ANN STAY IN TOUCH. The Des Moines Register interviews Ann Romney on getting used to the high-pressure campaign lifestyle. Jennifer Jacobs writes: “Ann Romney put off having Secret Service protection until the convention, when her husband was officially named the GOP presidential nominee, mostly because she craved independence and the ability to go about daily life without much fuss. ‘Just to keep my privacy, and still have a life,’ she said with a laugh. … To stay close when they’re far apart, Ann and Mitt Romney usually talk by phone each morning and night, and email each other in between, she said. … On Wednesday, he was in Miami, and she was in the Central time zone. When it grew late, she texted him: ‘So sorry, I know you’re still at an event, but I’m going to bed.’ ‘The funny thing is, he’s always griping to campaign staff that they’re working me too hard. And I’m always griping to the campaign staff that they’re working him too hard,’ she said with a grin.” http://dmreg.co/Sgdf8b

AKIN STILL CONFIDENT HE CAN WIN. USA Today’s Susan Davis reports: “Todd Akin’s message to anyone hoping he would bail out of the Missouri Senate race: ‘Those people are fooling themselves.’ In an interview with USA TODAY, the Republican lawmaker — abandoned by his party and GOP outside groups when he made controversial comments last month about the abortion rights of raped women — is unbowed and confident that he is on track to defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. … ‘We are moving full speed ahead. We have tremendous focus to do what I was commissioned to do by the voters of the state of Missouri and that is replace Claire McCaskill,’ he said.” http://usat.ly/VwPz3Q

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX:

–DEMOCRATIC SUPER PAC LAUNCHES ‘MEET THE CROOKS’ WEBSITE. The Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, unveiled a new website today called MeetTheCrooks.com. The point of the site, according to the group, is to highlight “four of the worst ethical transgressors currently running for U.S. Congress. Between them, these candidates have managed to accumulate at least 13 separate investigations by agencies including the IRS, the FBI, and state and county prosecutors. They have been accused of cheating on taxes, evading campaign finance laws, and even secretly running a fake Democrat to interfere with a Democratic primary.” The candidates: Vern Buchanan (Florida), Michael Grimm (New York), Abel Maldonado (California), David Rivera (Florida). http://meetthecrooks.com/

–OBAMA CAMPAIGN MEMO: ROMNEY INVESTS IN CHINA. With both candidates heading to Ohio this week, Obama for America Press Secretary Ben LaBolt writes in a memo e-mailed to reporters: “[W]e now know that Romney has continued to invest in China. As he rolls his bus through the many Ohio towns that are benefiting from the President’s actions to save the auto industry and protect American workers from unfair Chinese trade practices, Mitt Romney will, as they say, have some explaining to do. … Romney invested in Cnooc, the Chinese state-owned oil company … Romney invested in the Chinese online-video company Youku, a known perpetrator of intellectual property theft and piracy … Romney still holds substantial investments in China through Bain Capital” http://bit.ly/Spw52f

–ROMNEY WEB VIDEO: ‘NO, I CAN’T.’ A new Mitt Romney web video highlights young people reacting to President Obama’s comment that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.” “No, I can’t?” they ask. “What I got was a bleak future that’s forced me to move back in with my parents” after voting for Obama in 2008, one says. http://bit.ly/PQK0KW

–SCOTT BROWN LAUNCHES NEW TV AD: ‘WHO KNOWS.’ The Brown campaign is going negative in an ad released this morning. The ad, titled “Who Knows” criticizes Elizabeth Warren for self-identifying to employers as “Native American”– a much talked about controversy that surfaced during the spring of this year. The 30-second spot features clips from a series of broadcast news reports discussing the story and it marks the latest develop in a series of attacks from both candidates against one another in the hotly contested race. WATCH: http://bit.ly/UvSqfp

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@HotlineReid: Must-read from @shiratoeplitz: How the DCCC and NRCC cut off candidates who can’t win – http://www.rollcall.com/issues/58_24/Triage-Looms-Over-Campaigns-217770-1.html …

@rachelweinerwp: Obama admits some of his ads go ‘overboard’ http://wapo.st/VwUuBK 

@GeraldFSeib: Evidence so far suggests Super PACS may be less super than initially supposed. WSJ’s look: http://on.wsj.com/QxHFDK via @WSJ#election2012

@samsteinhp: tough for Obama campaign to hit Romney for not specifying deductions and cuts when Axelrod keeps it that vague on Social Security reform

@jmartpolitico: Attn Messrs Gigot and Kristol: P Ryan mocks the very “conservative pundits” that did much to make his career >http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/ryan-were-going-to-beat-him-il6vfi7-170909701.html …

 

POLITICAL RADAR

with ABC’s Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)

–President Obama travels to New York City in the afternoon to tape an appearance on “The View.” The President is in town for the UN General Assembly and will attend a reception for visiting Heads of State in the evening, accompanied by the First Lady.

–Mitt Romney is in Colorado where he’ll hold a rally at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.

–Paul Ryan makes his way to Ohio for the kick-off of the Romney/Ryan Bus Tour. The VP nominee with hold an afternoon town hall in Lima, OH.

–Vice President Biden is in Washington, DC with no public events.

Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

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