The attacks on the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi and Cairo, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three members of his staff, remind us how much of the campaign is out of the candidates' control.
Four years ago it was the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the financial crisis that threw the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain into unchartered territory. Obama took advantage and control of the chaos, while McCain wilted.
Romney's full throated criticism of the Cairo embassy's statement suggests that his campaign is going onto offense on this issue, and wants to turn this latest foreign policy crisis into a campaign issue:
"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi," Romney said in a statement released last night. "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
And he's taking the Republican Party with him. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus tweeted around the same time: "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic." Joining in were other prominent GOP voices, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who weighed in with her own scathing statement on the president's foreign policy leadership: "We already know that President Obama likes to 'speak softly' to our enemies. If he doesn't have a 'big stick' to carry, maybe it's time for him to grow one."
However, as ABC's Jake Tapper points out, the attacks by Republicans, including Romney's, do "not stand up to simple chronology. The US Embassy in Cairo issued a statement 'condemn(ing) the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims' - referring to the anti-Muslim movie allegedly inflaming the demonstrators, rioters, and attackers - but that statement was issued before the attacks on the diplomatic missions." (Read the rest of Tapper's take: http://abcn.ws/PbbHOl )
In addition, Romney is likely to face questions today about his decision to release a statement on the incidents overseas before all the dust had settled.
Early this morning, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement the campaign was "shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack." (That was before it had been reported that more Americans, including the ambassador, had also been killed).
Moreover, taking on the president on the fight on national security is risky
The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll showed Obama with a 51-40 advantage on who voters trust more to handle terrorism.
Another unintended consequence: It could expose Romney's own weaknesses and gaps in experience on these issues. The president has an advantage in that he has access to report and information that no one else will get. That puts any challenger at a disadvantage.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The campaign just took a serious turn toward foreign policy - and not in a way President Obama could have anticipated. Rather than emphasize his strengths - ending the Iraq war, the killing of bin Laden - the violent protests that killed a U.S. ambassador highlight anti-American sentiments as well as a flip side of the Arab spring. That, plus the new tensions with Israel, could give Mitt Romney a chance to make a case on ground he previously didn't consider fertile.
FAVORABILITY GAP REOPENS: AMERICANS LIKE OBAMA AGAIN. The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows President Obama's favorable ratings resurfacing, ABC's Gary Langer writes: Barack Obama crossed into majority favorability among registered voters for the first time since spring … The shifts in this survey poll re-open the popularity gap between Obama and Romney - now 8 points in Obama's favor, 52 percent vs. Romney's 44 percent, after closing to 4 points last week (within the margin of error), after the GOP convention and before the Democrats had their say. Obama's favorable vs. unfavorable ratings, 52-45 percent, are back in the positive zone, +7 percentage points, after dipping below the waterline last week, 47-49 percent. Romney, at 44-49 percent, remains underwater, for the 12th time out of 14 ABC/Post favorability polls this year. http://abcn.ws/SbfRnZ
… BUT INDEPENDENTS ARE SPLIT. More from ABC's Gary Langer: Obama's rating among independent registered voters, by contrast, is essentially flat - 46-49 percent favorable-unfavorable this week, 45-51 percent last week. Nor did he see any change among political moderates in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. http://abcn.ws/SbfRnZ
HISTORICALLY LOW RATINGS. Langer writes: In previous post-convention polling, two candidates have received at least numerically lower favorability ratings than Obama's and Romney's now - John Kerry in 2004 and Mike Dukakis in 1988. Several others were either numerically lower than Obama now, or in a similar position. http://abcn.ws/SbfRnZ
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
CONSERVATIVES VS. MITT. Taking criticism from Laura Ingraham, George Will, and Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney could be facing a crisis of confidence among members of his own party, ABC's David Muir reports for "World News." Muir, reporting from Las Vegas, notes that criticism has centered on Romney's economic plan, after ABC/Washington Post polling showed him lagging behind President Obama on the question of who will handle the economy better. Muir: "Many conservative critics now argue Romney must start delivering details. For example, on Romney's promise of tax cuts for all without raising the deficit, many economists asking which tax deductions he'll get rid of to make up the difference-so many deductions commonplace in America, like the mortgage interest deduction." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/PhYLoh
FRETTING OVER ROMNEY IN A 'GIMME ELECTION.' ABC's Z. Byron Wolf and Rick Klein have more on those conservative worries: Conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham on Monday called 2012 a "gimme election" for Republicans. But she lamented a lack of strong branding in the Romney campaign's message. … Other conservatives have joined in, albeit expressing less overt frustration than Will and Ingraham. "Speak Up, Mitt!" is the title of a piece by William Kristol in a forthcoming issue of the Weekly Standard. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page wrote Monday that "The GOP candidate might try explaining his policies. Just a thought." http://abcn.ws/RHwlJw
SWING STATE POLLS CAUSE GOP WORRY. ABC's Jonathan Karl reports: According to a GOP source with access to private polling being done by independent Republican groups (who are spending a lot of money tracking public opinion in the battleground states), Romney is in trouble in two must-win states: Ohio: Romney down 5 percent. Virginia: Romney down 4 percent. … The good news: In Wisconsin … Romney is only down 2 percent … In Nevada … the race is tied. http://abcn.ws/TJMmzy
NEW FROM CHICAGO - OBAMA AD: ROMNEY TAX PLAN DODGES DETAILS. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: A new 30-second TV spot titled "Won't Say" begins airing today in Iowa, Nevada, Virginia and Ohio, the campaign said, hammering the Republican presidential nominee for personal secrecy with his own taxes and the specifics of his proposed tax reform plan. "You could lose the deduction for your home mortgage, college tuition, health care," the narrator says. "How much would you pay? Romney just won't say." http://abcn.ws/RHly27
OBAMA TAPS STAR POWER FOR CAMPAIGN CASH. After Obama and Democrats reported outraising Romney and Republicans in August, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama is back on the money trail next week for another round of star-studded New York City fundraisers, featuring Beyonce and Jay-Z. The president will head to the Big Apple on Tuesday, Sept. 18, when he is expected to headline an intimate 100-person event at the rapper's 40/40 Club near Madison Square Park in Chelsea, his campaign announced today. … Obama's last campaign fundraiser was Aug. 22, a basketball-themed evening in New York City dubbed the "Obama Classic" that was co-hosted by NBA legend Michael Jordan. http://abcn.ws/U7oNMX
BILL CLINTON GOES SOLO, BREAKS 9/11 TRUCE. Bill Clinton held his first solo rally of the campaign yesterday, and his event for President Obama broke the informal campaign truce on 9/11. Clinton called the right's strategy "militant" and "bitter," ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: "I believe we should be working, in an interdependent world, for an America of shared responsibility, shared opportunity, shared prosperity and shared membership in one American community. That's what I believe in," Clinton said. He said the opposing approach was a "a militant, bitter, anti-government strategy," though he did not mention the Republican candidate by name. http://abcn.ws/RRuq3W
PUTIN TO ROMNEY: THANKS. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Mitt Romney's infamous comment about Russia-that it's America's "number one geopolitical foe"-helps Russia clarify its views on missile defense, ABC's Kirit Radia reports from Moscow: "I'm grateful to him (Romney) for formulating his stance so clearly because he has once again proven the correctness of our approach to missile defense problems," Putin told reporters, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "The most important thing for us is that even if he doesn't win now, he or a person with similar views may come to power in four years. We must take that into consideration while dealing with security issues for a long perspective," he said. http://abcn.ws/U7pcyS
PAUL RYAN BUYS ADS IN HIS DISTRICT. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: Ryan, who represents the state's first congressional district, placed an ad buy with WISN Milwaukee that will begin running tomorrow, and Ryan campaign officials note, this will not be the only buy from the VP nominee. "As he has done in years past, Congressman Ryan will be airing advertisements in Milwaukee and Madison TV media markets in the run up to the November elections," Ryan campaign manager Kevin Seifert told ABC News. "This is the first in the series of ads that will be rolled out between now and November 6th by Ryan for Congress, and you can expect to see additional TV, radio and print advertisements." http://abcn.ws/QIHMRz
OBAMA SITS FOR 'PIMP WITH THE LIMP' INTERVIEW. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama was heard on the South Florida airwaves this 9/11 Anniversary morning in a 10-minute radio interview with Miami's "Pimp with the Limp" DJ Laz from 106.7 WRMA-FM. "You're big time. You've got Pitbull and Flo Rida and all these guys just beating a path to your door," Obama said, buttering up Laz. "And so I'm hoping that I can get a little of that magic from you in this interview." http://abcn.ws/NnVWp7
ROMNEY RENEWS CALL FOR AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Reno, Nev.: Mitt Romney, who failed to mention Afghanistan in his RNC acceptance speech, today renewed his call for American troops in Afghanistan to come home by the end of 2014. In a speech today that marked and paid tribute to the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the Republican presidential candidate said: "Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders." http://abcn.ws/RLnlh1
THE SENATE GUESSING-GAME. After a series of candidate missteps, The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauser report: "With less than two months until Election Day, the Senate landscape is both broader and more fluid than it has been in years, with control of the upper chamber now anyone's guess. Both parties have seen new opportunities and new challenges, but the net result is that Democrats appear to be in less danger of losing the Senate, while Republicans have a more difficult path to gaining the majority. Connecticut may be the biggest surprise. Two years after a decisive loss in her first Senate campaign, the Republican candidate, Linda E. McMahon, a former professional wrestling executive, is surging in polls. Wisconsin is also now tilting Republican." http://nyti.ms/QF3inU
$575 MILLION IN SWING-STATE ADS. USA Today's Martha T. Moore reports: "Presidential candidates and supporting groups have already spent $575 million on political ads in 12 swing states, according to an NBC News analysis released Tuesday. More than half the money, 55%, has been spent in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Romney and allies have outspent Obama and his forces, if narrowly, in seven states. Obama and his supporters have spent more in Florida, Ohio and Colorado, and the two sides are virtually tied in Virginia and New Hampshire, according to NBC, which based the report on data from SMG/Delta, an ad-tracking firm." http://usat.ly/Pi9EXk
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-HOUSE MAJORITY PAC ANNOUNCES MAJOR NEW SPENDING INITIATIVE. House Majority PAC, the super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, is announcing a major new ad buy today in six districts nationwide. The buy- which totals $2.2 million- will span six House races Democrats are hoping to win: California 7th, Iowa 4th, North Carolina 7th, New York 18th, Ohio 6th, and Wisconsin 7th. "As voters begin tuning into the fall elections, House Majority PAC will be on TV to hold Republicans accountable and educate voters about their extreme, out of touch policies," Alixandria Lapp, Executive Director of House Majority PAC, said in the press release. The ads will launch today. Watch them here … CA-07: http://bit.ly/UIv4ka , IA-04: http://bit.ly/RQGS41 , NC-07: http://bit.ly/PoYNyf , NY-18: http://bit.ly/OEVwrG , OH-06: http://bit.ly/Q0JBEy , WI-07: http://bit.ly/U6TaTt
- STUFF MIA LOVES: GOP House candidate Mia Love (Utah) is getting the attack-site treatment from the Democratic opposition-research super PAC American Bridge, which today launched www.stuffmialoves.com, highlighting things like "the tea party" and "raising taxes." "As a member of the Saratoga Springs City Council, Mia Love voted to raise property taxes; as a House candidate, she's proposed devastating cuts to education, Medicare, Social Security, and assistance for struggling families," Matt Thornton, senior communications adviser to American Bridge, said in a statement accompanying the release. "As Utah families will learn, there's a lot not to love about Mia Love's record." http://bit.ly/QF91u0
@JohnJHarwood : tempted to rush out statement seeking advantage from Libya violence? pause, reflect on Ambassador Stevens & others who lost lives
@jimgeraghty : Is it now official U.S. policy that the First Amendment has an exception for "denigrating" religion, specifically Islam?
with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
- President Barack Obama is in Las Vegas, NV holding an evening campaign event.
- Mitt Romney brings his message to Florida with an event in Jacksonville and a fundraiser later in the day. Ann Romney is in Largo, FL where she'll address a "Women for Mitt" rally at the Largo Community Center.
- Vice President Biden is on the trail in Dayton, Ohio holding an event in the student union at Wright State University.
- Paul Ryan will hold two campaign events in Wisconsin and Ohio. The Ohio rally will feature a performance by Country Music Star John Michael Montgomery.
- Former President Bill Clinton is out campaigning for President Obama in Orlando.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV