No matter what Mitt Romney wanted this week to be about, it's clear that it's going to be about one thing: A campaign that is off message and in disarray.
The series of stories Monday morning that laid bare latent tensions within the Romney campaign, and in particular, displeasure with the one of the GOP candidate's trusted advisers, Stuart Stevens, turnout out to be just the beginning.
But it was the late-day hidden camera dump by Mother Jones' David Corn and video researcher James Carter that turned out to be the day's real atomic bomb. The leaked videos showed a series of candid moments from a May Romney fundraiser at which the presidential candidate said, among other things, that no matter what" he does, 47 percent of the population is going to vote for Obama because they are "are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
In the video, Romney is also shown saying, "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Even so, voters are clearly waiting for the debates to make a final judgment on Romney.
At least that was the take away from a focus group of suburban swing voters from Northern Virginia voters conducted last night in Fairfax, Virginia by Peter Hart for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Despite being inundated with campaign ads, neither candidate has satisfied these voters' desire for a cogent plan for implementing all of his proposals and promises. These voters are hoping, even though some admit it may be naïve to do so, that these debates are finally going to cut through the clutter and the attacks and the talking points.
For Romney, who has had a terrible September, the old Green Day song- "Wake Me Up When September Ends" - seems to apply because October 3rd can't come soon enough.
Watch David Muir's "Good Morning America" report on the hidden video: http://abcn.ws/SY2NZP
And ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd Matthew Dowd discusses how damaging the new videos are: http://abcn.ws/S27UB3
ABC's AMY WALTER: The "war on women" has been a mantra from Team Obama for months now. And, a focus group of northern Virginia voters shows that it has penetrated. Three undecided women voters, including Ann, a 2008 McCain voter, said that Romney's views on women's issues worried them. Mary, a 2008 Obama voter, said she likes Romney's business background but, "Obama will be better on women's health and that makes a difference to me."
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Forget the 99 percent - it's the 47 percent that's suddenly haunting Mitt Romney now. Off of Romney's cuff comes a comment that, in its timing and content, manages to reinforce some of the worst perceptions of a candidate who can't afford to lose independent voters. Yes, the moment is reminiscent of candidate Obama's "guns or religion" fundraising remark from 2008. But that was base talk during a primary fight (though Obama did lose Pennsylvania to Hillary Clinton). Romney's comments are coming to light just seven weeks before the general election - where his problem isn't the 47 percent or so already in his column, but the tiny slice in the middle.
MORE FROM THE ROMNEY TAPES: ABC's Amy Bingham and Emily Friedman note: The series of leaked videos, Romney also tells supporters that if he "had he been born of Mexican parents I'd have a better shot of winning this," that he "was born with a silver spoon, which is the greatest gift you can have: which is to get born in America," and that he "inherited nothing" from his wealthy father. "My dad and Ann's dad did quite well in their lives, but when they came to the end of their lives and passed along the inheritances to Ann and to me, we both decided to give it all away," Romney says. "So I have inherited nothing. Everything Ann and I have we have earned the old fashioned way."
Romney explains to the campaign donors that he has not been harsher in his attacks against President Obama because he is trying to win over people who voted for Obama in 2008. "And because they voted for him, they don't want to be told that they were wrong, that he's a bad guy, that he did bad things, that he's corrupt," Romney says. "Those people that we have to get, they want to believe they did the right thing, but he just wasn't up to the task." On the economy, Romney said the markets would react favorably if he won the White House on November 6. "We'll see - without actually doing anything - we'll actually get a boost in the economy," he says, admitting two sentences later that he "can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected." http://abcn.ws/QUYWJq
TALE OF THE TAPE: ROMNEY WANTS TO SEE IT ALL. At his Orange County press conference last night, Romney said: "I understand there's been a video that's been on the internet for a few weeks that has attracted some attention and I thought I would make some comments about it. Apparently it's got a snippet of a question and answer session at a fundraising event. It doesn't capture the question so I don't know precisely what was asked but I think it was about my campaign and how I would be able to get a majority of voters to support me. By the way, whoever has released the snippets would, I would certainly appreciate if they would release the whole tape so we could see all of it."
FACT-CHECKING THE ROMNEY VIDEOS. The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reports: "Romney appears to conflate a few things - Obama's approval rating, the percentage of people who do not pay income taxes and people who rely on government assistance. There may be some overlap between these groups but they really are not the same thing. Some 44 percent of those who do not pay income taxes are because they benefit from tax benefits aimed at the elderly, while another 30 percent benefit from tax credits for children or for the working poor, according to a paper published by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. But not all of these people are automatically Obama supporters." Kessler gives the video three Pinocchio's. http://wapo.st/S4wmpO
with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
TAPPER'S TAKE: CARTOONING OBAMA AND ROMNEY: In the latest episode of his ABC/Yahoo! Power Players series "Political Punch" ABC's Jake Tapper- a self-described "failed cartoonist"- interviewed political cartoonist Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher, who cartoons for the Baltimore Sun and the Economist. Kallaugher says his favorite person to draw is always the current president. "You get to know their face better than you know your own face," says Kallaugher. "You're breaking down their face and watching it grow and change over their time in office. And now, four years in, I get to know the face pretty well, so I can play with it." Newcomers are also fun to interpret, says Kallaugher, including Mitt Romney. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/QkYch0
OBAMA'S SHOT AT ROMNEY: I'VE ACTUALLY DONE MY OWN TAXES. ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer report, President Obama Monday sharpened a personal line of attack on his Republican rival, mocking Romney's tax proposals and renewing a charge that he is an outsourcing "pioneer." "I've actually done my own taxes," Obama said, showing a hint of disdain for Romney at a rally in Eden Park. "I don't know about some of these other folks, but I've done them, you know… So I know we can make it more simple and more fair." http://abcn.ws/U5i8qL
BIDEN ACCUSES ROMNEY OF INACTION ON CHINA. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports, Vice President Joe Biden railed against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for not standing up to China, saying there is "nothing he has done" to fight against unfair trade practices. As he hammered Romney on the topic, Biden cited a news organization run by the communist Chinese government to back up his argument. "Now, what the experts point out, that will create 800,000 jobs. All of them overseas. All of them in China. All of them in Vietnam, and we are being lectured by this guy about getting tough on China. Ladies and gentlemen, it's laughable; it's laughable," Biden said of Romney at an event at the Port of Burlington. http://abcn.ws/QkhhA1
ROMNEY BEGINS OFFERING SOME SPECIFICS. ABC's Emily Friedman reports, in his first speech since advisers vowed to offer a more detail-centric campaign, Mitt Romney began to offer specifics of his proposed policies but stopped short of offering many new initiatives. It was a speech delivered to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and was one tailored to the predominately Hispanic audience, the candidate pointing out the unemployment rate for Hispanics is more than 10 percent, higher than the national employment rate, which is currently 8.1. percent. And while Romney did offer more easy-to-understand specifics on how he'd balance the budget - by "cutting subsidies for things like Amtrak, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting" - Romney didn't go further to suggest which agencies he'd cut, as he has done previously in closed-door fundraisers. http://abcn.ws/Qh06MX
DNC FOOTAGE APPEARS IN ISRAEL GROUP'S NEW AD. ABC's Chris Good reports, during the Miami Dolphins' tilt against the Oakland Raiders, the right-leaning Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) aired a new TV ad featuring footage of the Democratic National Committee's platform vote on an amendment defining Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The ad aired on Miami's CBS affiliate, which carried the game. The vote caused some embarrassment for Democrats, during what was otherwise a three-day infomercial for the party and President Obama. http://abcn.ws/Qhrk61
VIRAL VIDEO SPLICES OBAMA AND M.C. HAMMER. ABC's Zach Wolf reports, A new well-produced, mash-up Internet video marries President Obama's controversial "You didn't build that" statement with M.C. Hammer's "U Can't Touch This." The result, "U Didn't Build That by MC 'Bama," is a funny send-up of a key moment of the 2012 presidential campaign. Republicans have seized on the president's comment, made at a rally in Roanoke, Va., in July, as evidence that he doesn't respect small business. Democrats, meanwhile, have defended his point that businesses benefit from organized society and public works funded by taxes. The president was making his case for higher taxes on wealthier Americans to fund greater government investments in education and infrastructure to boost the middle class. http://abcn.ws/Rk1UnI
SUPER PAC MAKES SOME INTRIGUING BETS ON ROMNEY. The New York Times' Sarah Wheaton reports: "Mitt Romney may have had a bad run in polls in recent weeks, but he still has supporters who are bullish about his chances in some states that President Obama won handily in 2008. Restore Our Future, the "super PAC" supporting Mr. Romney, is investing $1.5 million on ads in Michigan and Wisconsin, according to a media buyer who monitors spending in battleground states. The investment suggests that for all the advantages Mr. Obama has had coming out of the nominating conventions, Mr. Romney can rely on one clear advantage he has over Democrats: outside groups with much more money to spend supporting his candidacy and tactically placing their bets in states where they believe he has a chance to win." http://nyti.ms/U7Th5L
MUSLIM ANTI-AMERICAN VIOLENCE COMPLICATES OBAMA CAMPAIGN. The LA Times' Mike Memoli and Kathleen Hennessey report: "With violent anti-American protests stretching into a second week, President Obama's reelection campaign is treading cautiously, mindful that the turmoil abroad may still have an unpredictable effect at home. Administration officials have said they are braced for sustained unrest across the Islamic world, and campaign aides said they were trying to hit the right tone on the campaign trail… What voters take away from the wave of protests will probably depend on how long the unrest persists, as well as on how the candidates frame the crisis on the campaign trail and in debates in the coming weeks." http://lat.ms/S2152w
POTENTIAL 2016 CANDIDATES BEGIN IOWA VISITS. Roll Call's Joshua Miller reports: "Quite a few people, actually. Several potential future presidential candidates - Democrats and Republicans - visited Iowa in recent months, proving it's never too early to start making friends in the first-in-the-nation caucus state… The Democrats: Martin O'Malley, Deval Patrick, Antonio Villaraigosa…The Republicans: Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal…The trips present a dicey situation for Republicans, who do not want to appear presumptuous about the 2016 cycle if Romney wins in November. Still, given today's highly orchestrated campaign operations, it's hard to see how any candidate visits the state by happenstance." http://bit.ly/QyFMHe
@ChrisHarrisKS: Saying you'll "kick the ball down the field" isn't just leading from behind, it's not leading from anywhere.
@GlennThrush: Video clearest articulation of Romney's governing philosophy yet. Finally defined himself. Why didn't he do more "elegant" version at RNC?
@BobCusack: David Brooks, in column titled Thurston Howell Romney, writes GOP nominee "running a depressingly inept presidential campaign."