Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spent much of yesterday locked in a fierce tug-of-war over women voters - a form of electoral hand-to-hand combat that is likely to persist all the way to Nov. 6.
As Time Magazine's Michael Scherer put it, "there was no doubt about the winner of the second Presidential debate: Women. Both candidates lurched onto the campaign trail Wednesday with new appeals to shore up support among a key demographic that may decide the outcome in key swing states." http://ti.me/XrXFLY
And ABC News political analyst Nicolle Wallace said on "Good Morning America" today that "all women are making trade-offs with both of these guys. I don't think men - but particularly women - were attracted to the nastiness in that debate. Women, more than men, are turned off when it gets below the belt." http://abcn.ws/RaZFpe
Pivoting off of his debate performance, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes that President Obama opened up a new line of attack against Romney over his comment during Tuesday night's debate that he relied on "whole binders full of women" - binders prepared by women's groups - to help select female cabinet members when he was governor of Massachusetts.
"I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women," Obama said, speaking about the need to employ more teachers.
The Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus issued a statement yesterday noting the group's role in helping Romney identify more women to join his administration, but here's the rub, according to a statement from the organization: "Prior to the 2002 election, women comprised approximately 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in Massachusetts government. By 2004, 42 percent of the new appointments made by the Romney administration were women. Subsequently, however, from 2004-2006 the percentage of newly-appointed women in these senior appointed positions dropped to 25 percent."
ABC News Political Director Amy Walter notes, these binders could have, ahem, legs if Democrats push ahead on reports that the number of women in Romney's administration dropped precipitously in the second half of his tenure. http://abcn.ws/T0DwHZ
And that wasn't the only controversy of the day. Less than 24-hours after Tuesday night's debate, a top adviser to Romney's campaign switched his statement about whether the Republican presidential candidate would have supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act before it was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009.
Speaking to reporters after the debate, Romney aide Ed Gillespie said that Romney "was opposed to" the proposed legislation "at the time," but that he would not repeal it if elected. Those comments were first reported by the Huffington Post, but it appears Gillespie got ahead of the candidate. In a follow-up statement sent to the Huffington Post Wednesday afternoon, he acknowledged that he misstated Romney's position. http://abcn.ws/PaN605
"I was wrong when I said last night Governor Romney opposed the Lily Ledbetter act," according to the statement from Gillespie. "He never weighed in on it. As President, he would not seek to repeal it."
Campaigning in Athens, Ohio on Wednesday evening, the president brought up the Romney campaign's changing statements on the Ledbetter Act, saying, "Just today his campaign admitted, well, he's never weighed in on that. What's so hard about weighing in on that? Either you believe in equal pay, or you don't."
But there's a rub for Obama too: Notably, equal pay for women has not improved significantly during President Obama's first term, but the Lilly Ledbetter Act has helped some victims of discrimination pursue their compensation claims in the courts, women's rights advocates say. http://abcn.ws/x7NBPp
ABC's Devin Dwyer contributed reporting from Iowa and Ohio.
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Bruce Springsteen, flip-flopper. After indicating that he'd sit out 2012, The Boss hits the trail for President Obama today - notably, with Bill Clinton, not the current president, at his side. Entertainers are rarely held accountable for political indecision. But Springsteen's essay on why he's decided to work on Obama's behalf is worth an examination. It reads like that of a suffering liberal - hardly the raw material of vote-driving inspiration. "For me, President Obama is our best choice to get us and keep us moving in the right direction," Springsteen wrote. Try setting that to music. http://bit.ly/OJD6JQ
ABC's SARA JUST: If Bruce Springsteen's music and legendary three-plus hour concerts prove anything, it's that he is keenly aware of timing and momentum. If President Obama were in the lead in polls as he was a few weeks ago, I believe Springsteen would have sat this election out. But with the president's momentum flagging, Bruce going to reach down and play "Born To Run" one more time - even if it kills him.
with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)
CONDI RICE JOINS PAUL RYAN ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Paul Ryan on the campaign trail Wednesday, marking the first time she's hit the trail for the Romney ticket since she fired up the crowd with a speech at the Republican National Convention in August reports ABC's Shushannah Walshe. Her appearance also comes on the heels of the second Obama-Romney debate, when the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the economics of birth control, and Romney's less-than-eloquent "binders of women" became hot topics on the campaign trail the next day. "It doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you are going" was her message in this battleground state, inferring that the president, whom she never mentioned by name, is not someone who's offering the right direction for the country. http://abcn.ws/RDYHjS
HIS 15 MINUTES: HOW JEREMY, THE COLLEGE KID, GOT ON STAGE WITH OBAMA AND ROMNEY. Although most of us try to avoid telemarketers, Jeremy Epstein's sister didn't. ABC's Avery Miller reports, she picked up the phone and was asked by a research company if she was a registered voter. She said no, but her older brother was. She handed him the phone. That's how Epstein found his five minutes of fame. After confirming he was an undecided voter, the polling company told him he could attend the presidential debate on Tuesday and ask both candidates one question…He remembered being very nervous when the cameras focused on him in the first minutes of the debate. http://abcn.ws/T1guVJ
OBAMA CAMP TOUTS LIBYA EXCHANGE AS KEY MOMENT IN DEBATE. The Obama campaign touted the president's back-and-forth with Mitt Romney on Libya Tuesday night as "one of the best moments in recent debate history," as the White House continued to defend the Obama administration's handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi reports ABC's Mary Bruce and Jon Garcia. "The president made clear that being commander in chief is about being a leader and not about political gamesmanship," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with president aboard Air Force One on Wednesday. Romney was "exposed as the guy who wanted to use Libya, use the tragedy overseas as a political football," she added. http://abcn.ws/T1oPsk
IN MAINE SENATE RACE, A KING STANDS ALONE. It's good to be King. Angus King that is. Or at least, that's been the general consensus in Maine's Senate race, reports ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield. King, 68, is a two-term Independent governor of the Pine Tree State, and he's currently the frontrunner in the state's senate race to fill the seat left open by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe's impending retirement. In today's increasingly polarized Congress, King is a unique candidate. So far he has pulled off an impressive feat in his campaign; he's managed to maintain his status as a frontrunner without pledging himself to either party. The former governor has not said who he will caucus with if elected to the Senate. Instead, he has made his campaign message a call for moderation and bipartisanship. http://abcn.ws/R62OYT
THE ALFRED E. SMITH DINNER: ONE-LINERS ARE ON THE MENU. The AP's Jim Kuhnhenn previews tonight's event in New York: "The presidential campaign, heavy on finger-pointing and recrimination, is taking a brief but abrupt detour so President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can play politics for laughs. The rivals are quieting the bickering to address the venerable Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a white-tie gala Thursday evening at New York City's Waldorf Astoria Hotel that has been a required stop for politicians since the end of World War II. In keeping with tradition, both candidates have prepared lighthearted fare for the fundraising event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children." http://apne.ws/R1vH68
AKIN BONDS EVEN TIGHTER WITH EVANGELICALS. "In a 13-minute speech at a campaign stop this week, Missouri's Republican senatorial candidate, Rep. Todd Akin, never mentioned jobs or the economy. He did, however, mention God-31 times. 'God is the start of it all,' Mr. Akin told about 150 attendees at the 'Missouri Women Standing with Todd Akin' rally Monday afternoon," The Wall Street Journal's Douglas Belkin reports. "Now, two months after he triggered a national uproar by saying that female bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of 'legitimate rape,' Mr. Akin has retreated deeper into the protection of that evangelical base. With the party establishment distancing itself from the congressman, Mr. Akin has favored churches for events, relied on home-schoolers for volunteers and filled parking lots with cars bearing bumper stickers trumpeting creationism." http://on.wsj.com/RDKhAE
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON 'FISCAL CLIFF': OBAMA IS PREPARED TO PLAY HARDBALL. The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery reports: "President Obama is prepared to veto legislation to block year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, collectively known as the "fiscal cliff" unless Republicans bow to his demand to raise tax rates for the wealthy, administration officials said. Freed from the political and economic constraints that have tied his hands in the past, Obama is ready to play hardball with Republicans, who have so far successfully resisted a deal to tame the debt that includes higher taxes, Obama's allies say." http://wapo.st/V8znn9
OHIO SENATOR SHERROD BROWNS ASKS WHY US MILITARY MEMBERS ISSUED CHINESE BOOTS. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote a letter to the Department of Defense requesting that it comply with a rule that requires military service members to wear clothes made in the U.S, reports ABC's Susanna Kim."If it's taxpayer dollars, it should help American workers and American businesses, pure and simple," Brown told ABC News. In the letter dated Oct. 17 and addressed to Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Brown asked why some Air Force service members deployed to Afghanistan were twice issued Chinese-made boots and were only able to receive a pair of American-made boots after the Air Force Times reported the story. http://abcn.ws/Ve2R8P
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-DEM SUPER PAC LAUNCHES DIRECT MAIL ATTACK ON AKIN. The pro-Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century launcheda new direct mail iniative against Todd Akin in Missouri that hits mailboxes today. When opened, the mailer plays out an audio clip from the now infamous comments Akin made on KTVI-TV's Jaco Report in August, wherein he said ""If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." The mailer also includes audio of comments Akin has made about social security and student loans. http://bit.ly/T2D6VL
-RICHARD CLARKE OP-ED: ROMNEY RHETORIC ON LIBYA 'JUST SHAMEFUL.' In an op-ed in the New York Daily News Richard Clarke, counter-terrorism adviser in the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations, criticized Mitt Romney's messaging on Libya. "Every President since Ronald Reagan has suffered American casualties to terrorism on his watch" Clarke, who is an ABC News consultant, writes. "Obama has suffered far fewer than his predecessors, largely because he has kept the terrorist groups off balance by relentlessly attacking them. He has largely eliminated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan as an effective fighting force. His use of drones and special forces has been aggressive and successful, including in Yemen and Somalia. Mitt Romney seems fixated on why Washington did not know with better clarity and sooner what went on during a terrorist attack. It is the kind of question that comes from someone who has no experience dealing with terrorism crisis management or, indeed, combat." http://nydn.us/Qu81Iz
-BROWN CAMPAIGN RELEASES NEW RADIO AD: "MEDICARE." Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown releases a new radio report this morning discussing his views on Medicare. There's been a lot of talk in the news lately about Medicare" Brown says in the ad. "I want to let you know where I stand. Medicare is a vital safety net for our seniors that without reform will soon go bankrupt." Brown goes on to list his four principles in approaching the challenge of reforming Medicare. The spot is a positive one- Brown makes no mention of his opponent, Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren. http://bit.ly/S4Alm3
@Neil_Irwin : Weekly jobless claims up to 388k, (365k was forecast), reversing a steep drop in previous week that had some funky seasonal adjustment.
@jheil : Key to election is whether WMR wins + or - 60% of white vote MT @TheFix Romney could win white vote by historic margin http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2012/10/18/mitt-romney-is-winning-the-white-vote-by-a-lot/ …
@CPHeinze : My look at the swing states where white, evangelicals play the biggest role. http://gop12.thehill.com/2012/10/swing-states-where-evangelicals-matter.html …
with ABC's Joanna Suarez
-President Obama will address supporters in Manchester, NH. Later, he will travel to New York, where he will tape an appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and deliver remarks at the Annual Alfred E. Smith Foundation Dinner
-Mitt Romney will also address the Alfred E. Smith Foundation Dinner in the evening
-Vice President Joe Biden will hold a campaign event in Las Vegas, NV
-Paul Ryan will spend the day in Florida, with stops in Ocala and Fort Myers
-Ann Romney will sit down with the ladies on ABC's "The View"
-Former President Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen will also rally voters at an event the Obama campaign in Parma, OH
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV