Does Mitt Romney have President Obama right where he wants him? Or is it the other way around?
With under a month to go before Election Day, the polls are jumping around all over the place, but even Democrats acknowledge the race is tightening.
Yesterday's Pew Research Center poll was the latest example of that. In the poll, taken in the days immediately following the first presidential debate, Romney pulled ahead of Obama among likely voters, 49 percent to 45 percent, and the two contenders were tied among registered voters at 46 percent. http://abcn.ws/UNZkbF
That marked a boost for Romney who trailed Obama 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters and 51 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in a mid-September Pew survey.
The question now is where the bouncing polls end up close to Nov. 6.
There's plenty of evidence that the Obama surge in September was driven by an increase in Democratic enthusiasm. The Pew poll suggests that Romney's surge is driven by a boost in GOP enthusiasm.
"There are now as many strong Romney supporters as strong Obama supporters - a wide gap in every earlier poll," a Pew associate researcher told ABC's Amy Walter. "And the GOP has re-opened a wide lead in engagement - the share of Republicans 'giving a lot of thought' to the campaign spiked from 73 percent to 82 percent, which helps Romney with the likely voters numbers."
And in our own ABC News-Washington Post poll out today, ABC News Pollster Gary Langer notes that Romney has reached his highest level of favorability of the campaign. But, then again, so has Obama.
Romney is now seen favorably by 47 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 51 percent. Meanwhile, the president is viewed favorably by 55 percent of registered voters compared to 44 percent who see him unfavorably.
"Obama's 55 percent favorability is numerically its highest since spring 2010," Langer notes. "Romney's 47 percent favorability is numerically the most in 18 ABC-Post polls since September 2011. But he remains underwater for the 13th time in those 18 surveys."
The biggest test for Romney, however, remains Ohio, where he and a campaign surrogate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are stumping today. Both sides say they have seen tightening here even before the debate. And the Romney campaign is pointing to stories like the one in yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer that showed Republicans out-pacing Democrats in absentee ballot requests in largely Democratic Cuyahoga County - the state's most populous.
According to the Plain Dealer's Henry J. Gomez, "36 percent of registered Republicans had asked for absentee ballots as of Sunday afternoon, compared with 32 percent of registered Democrats." http://bit.ly/TckONX
But to win the Buckeye state, Romney needs to do more than inch up the numbers or win the early voting race. The Republican nominee has got to re-make his image which has taken a pounding by relentless attacks by Democrats.
Can he show Ohioans that he shares their middle class values? Or have Ohioans already formed a solid opinion of him that can't be changed in the last four weeks?
THE NUMBER 12: "That's how many consecutive presidential elections, starting in 1964, in which Ohio has voted the same way as the nation," notes Bloomberg News' Gregory Giroux. "It's the only state in which the winning candidate's margin of victory was less than five percentage points in both the 2004 and 2008 elections. In the past three presidential elections, Ohio has given an average of 49.2 percent of the vote to Republican candidates and 48.9 percent for Democrats." http://bloom.bg/R3giBz
The Note's virtual political roundtable:
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Four weeks out, in the midst of a race showing signs of heading in much different directions, Team Obama makes a play using … Big Bird? The new Obama campaign ad uses a mock-serious tone to jump on Mitt Romney's most famous debate line. It's all in good fun, but the contrast may not be what President Obama is after, not now, not in this race. Romney is getting more serious by the day, with a foreign-policy speech and now Paul Ryan about to make the case for conservative fiscal policies. Romney marches toward Benghazi, while the president marches down Sesame Street?
ABC's AMY WALTER: The good news for Romney: He's seen a boost in his favorability ratings. The bad news: More still see him unfavorably than favorably. There have only been four presidential candidates in recent history who were underwater in favorability, at least briefly. All lost. John Kerry and Jimmy Carter in September, Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush in October.
with Chris Good ( @c_good)
OBAMA REGROUPS AFTER DEBATE DUD. The Obama campaign is planning a comeback after polls showed a significant post-debate bump for Mitt Romney, ANC's Jake Tapper reports for World News: The Obama campaign's official line is that the president's debate performance did not change the fundamentals of the race, but behind the scenes with that new poll, some top Democrats are getting nervous and say the pressure is on Vice President Biden. President Obama is sending a message to his supporters about last week's debate disaster: He gets it. … Incumbent presidents walled off from confrontation and in a bubble for years often stumble, as did president Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Obama seemed to have initially thought all went well that night … but quickly after leaving the stage, the president talked to aides and realized he had not brought his "A" game. "This is on me," he later told top advisers, and since then he's been studying the video of that night, with the goal of a more energetic and crisp performance. WATCH Jake Tapper's "World News" segment: http://abcn.ws/T112oW
ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: OBAMA AS GEORGE COSTANZA. In the latest installment of "Political Punch," ABC's Jake Tapper looks at the debate zingers Obama is delivering a day late. Some on Twitter think Obama is taking a cue from Seinfeld's George Costanza, who only thought of his "jerk store" comeback while driving home from a business lunch, Tapper reports. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/SJt4bZ
MORE ABC/YAHOO! VIDEO: TEBOW TIME FOR BIDEN AND RYAN. In the latest installment of "Top Line," ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein preview this week's vice-presidential debate, noting that after last week's performance by President Obama, the pressure is on for Vice President Biden. As SNL's Seth Myers put it, It's Tebow time. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/PlfkVF
HOW PARTY ID EXPLAINS THE ROMNEY SURGE. The Washington Post's Jon Cohen writes: "All of the change in both polls [Pew and Gallup] came from the composition of each sample. In pre-debate interviews by Gallup, self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by five percentage points, according to Gallup's Jeff Jones. By contrast, in the three days following the debate, the balance shifted in a GOP direction, with 34 percent of registered voters identifying as Republicans (two points up from pre-debate), 33 percent as Democrats (four points down). For Pew, a nine-point Democratic advantage in mid-September is now plus one percentage point for the GOP. (The turnabout in 'likely' voters was even more dramatic, shifting from Democrats up 10 to Republicans up five.)" http://wapo.st/WLIj4z
ROMNEY PAINTS A DISMAL PICTURE IN FOREIGN-POLICY SPEECH. After Mitt Romney delivered what was billed as a "major" speech in Lexington, Va., at the Virginia Military Institute, ABC's Emily Friedman reports: Mitt Romney today painted a dismal picture of President Obama's foreign policy during his years in the White House as the Republican candidate toughened his criticism of the administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Libya. Romney said that as president he would ensure the Syrian rebels got the weapons they need and that he would take a firmer hand with Egypt and in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "It is time to change course in the Middle East," said Romney. … "As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown worse, and what this calls on America to do," Romney said today to a crowd filled with cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. "Unfortunately, this president's policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East." http://abcn.ws/WIq7sI
READ THE SPEECH as prepared for delivery: http://abcn.ws/SIvxWb
OBAMA VS. ROMNEY: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? Where does Mitt Romney differ from President Obama on key foreign policy matters? ABC's David Muir reports for "World News": Perhaps the biggest distinction: on Syria, Romney arguing the U.S. should partner with other countries to help arm the rebels to defeat President Bashar al-Assad. … Romney's aides saying Romney is not suggesting the U.S. arm the rebels directly. President Obama has opposed providing weapons to the rebels, partly out of concerns that those weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. WATCH Muir's "World News" segment here: http://abcn.ws/QQCm5i
ON FOREIGN POLICY, ROMNEY SOMETIMES SOUNDS LIKE OBAMA. ABC's Gregory J. Krieg, Dana Hughes, and Luis Martinez dissect the speech and find that Romney holds similar positions to the president on Afghanistan withdrawal, Israelis and Palestinians, Iran's nuclear program, aid to Egypt, arming Syrian rebels, responding to the attack in Libya, fighting al Qaeda, and rebuilding the Middle East after the Arab Spring. http://abcn.ws/UP4fsX
PAUL RYAN BRISTLES AT QUESTION FROM MICHIGAN REPORTER. The VP candidate's interview with ABC's Flint, Mich., affiliate WJRT got testy when reporter Terry Camp asked Paul Ryan whether America has a "gun problem." Ryan said the best way to fight crime is with economic opportunity in innter cities, citing churches and civic groups that "teach people good discipline, good character." ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that's when the interview seemed to get testy: Camp said, "And you can do all that by cutting taxes? With a big tax cut?" Ryan responded: "Those are your words, not mine." At that point Ryan's press secretary Michael Steel was heard on the video saying to Camp, "Thank you very much, sir." Ryan began to remove his microphone. "That was kind of strange, you're trying to stuff words in people's mouths," Ryan said. "Well, I don't know if it's strange," the reporter answered. "Sounds like you're trying to put answers to questions," Ryan said. The video was up on WJRT's website, but was later taken down. http://abcn.ws/Qc5UaZ
RYAN AIDE: INTERVIEW WAS OVER THE TIME LIMIT. ABC's Shushannah Walshe on the campaign's post-interview statement: Ryan spokesperson, Brendan Buck responded in a statement that the interview had gone on too long and suggested that the reporter "embarrassed" himself by asking if a tax cut could pay for proposals to bring opportunity to inner cities. "The reporter knew he was already well over the allotted time for the interview when he decided to ask a weird question relating gun violence to tax cuts Ryan responded as anyone would in such a strange situation. When you do nearly 200 interviews in a couple months, eventually you're going to see a local reporter embarrass himself." http://abcn.ws/Qc5UaZ
OBAMA CAMP ON RYAN'S 'TEMPER.' ""Congressman Ryan brought both his temper and penchant for dishonesty to Michigan today," Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said after the interview, in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
ROMNEY RALLIES IN POURING RAIN. ABC's Emily Friedman reports from Newport News, Va.: Standing in a merciless downpour, Mitt Romney said today it was the dedication of supporters like the ones who waited for him in the rain here today that make him certain he'll win this November. "People wonder why it is I'm so confident we're going to win," said Romney, the heavy rain soaking him just moments after he took the stage."I'm confident because I see you here on a day like this. This is unbelievable! Thank you so much!" http://abcn.ws/SLrqIL
… AND TOUTS HIS DEBATE PERFORMANCE. More from ABC's Emily Friedman: "Now, you may have noticed that earlier in the week we had a debate - that was last week," Romney said to the crowd of about 400, many of whom used ponchos and garbage bags to try and keep dry. "That was a good debate. I enjoyed that debate. There were some places where we agreed and some places we disagreed. Some of the places we agreed were associated with the fact that we would take America in different directions." http://abcn.ws/SLrqIL
KID ROCK TALKS POLITICS AT PAUL RYAN EVENT. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports from Rochester, Mich.: Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, struck a tone of togetherness during his brief speech, saying, "I really believe strongly that it's OK to disagree on politics and the direction of our country without hating one another." Rock, 41, said it can be hard being a Republican in the entertainment industry and he knows his position "may alienate a few fans." "I mean it's no secret that I am embedded in an industry that leans very left and I've listened to all the arguments and visions for our country. Don't worry, I'm not going to give you a recap or stand up here and preach politics like some of my friends in Hollywood," Kid Rock, dressed in his signature fedora hat, told the audience at Oakland University here. http://abcn.ws/Rc9ylc
WHO PLAYED ABC'S MARTHA RADDATZ IN DEBATE PREP? Ahead of Thursday's vice-presidential debate, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that Massachusetts Lieutenant Gov. and Romney foreign policy advisor Kerry Healey came to Virginia to play Thursday's debate moderator, ABC's Martha Raddatz, according to a Ryan aide.
OBAMA DEDICATES CHAVEZ NATIONAL MONUMENT. ABC's Mary Bruce reports from Keene, Calif.: Four years after borrowing Cesar Chavez's "si, se puede" motto for his "yes, we can" campaign slogan, President Obama today dedicated a new national monument to the farm worker turned civil rights advocate, a move that could help bolster support from Latino voters. Speaking to a crowd of more than 6,000 at Nuestra Senora Reina de La Paz, the farm where the late Chavez lived and led his worker movement, Obama paid tribute to the labor leader, saying he "gave workers a reason to hope." "The movement he helped to lead was sustained by a generation of organizers who stood up and spoke out and urged others to do the same," he said. "It drew strength from Americans of every race and every background, who marched and boycotted together on behalf of La Causa. And it was always inspired by the farm workers themselves." http://abcn.ws/QQzo0L
NRA JUMPS INTO RACE, AIRS TV AD HITTING OBAMA. After the National Rifle Association endorsed Mitt Romney for president last Thursday, the group has aired its first TV ad of the 2012 election season attacking President Obama. The new ad accuses Obama of "chipping away at your rights, chipping away at your freedom." The NRA's political arm, NRA Political Victory Fund, said it would spend about $1.5 million this week to air the ad in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin, all critical battlegrounds. The group said it planned to air TV ads in swing states through Election Day. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/RMRMr9
IN COLUMBUS DAY NOTE, SARAH PALIN SLAMS BRISTOL'S 'HATERS.' ABC's Abby Phillip reports: The proud mom and former vice presidential candidate took to her Facebook account today and slammed whoever anonymously sent "mysterious white powder" to the "DWTS" all-star season set in California. The package reportedly contained a note threatening the "Dancing With the Stars" producers if Palin is not removed from the show. "These threats sure waste a lot of time, production and public resources; but do the haters really think this will stop Bristol and Mark and the show's producers from keepin' on keepin' on?" Palin wrote. http://abcn.ws/UO3dNC
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-DEATH TAX, RESURRECTED. Targeting farm-issue voters, the Romney campaign is hitting President Obama on his preferred hike in the estate tax. Obama wants a return to the higher exclusion and top rate of taxation in effect in 2009, Bloomberg reported in July, and the Romney camp says this will hurt farmers. This morning, the campaign sent out a memo and statement from spokeswoman Andrea Saul: "The choice in November could not be more clear for our nation's farmers. Over the last four years, President Obama's economic policies have taken a toll on family farms-and he's promised more of the same in a second term. From a massive increase in the death tax to even more crushing regulations, farmers simply can't afford four more years like the last four years."
-NEW AD: WHITE HOUSE LEAKS THREATEN LIVES. The group Veterans for a Strong America released an ad on Thursday featuring the family of Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011, alleging that Obama administration national-security leaks endangered their lives and their son's. A spokesman for the group said it plans to air the ad on TV but has not yet reserved any air time. WATCH: http://bit.ly/WLEe0f
-PLANNED PARENTHOOD GOES ON THE AIR IN COLORADO. Planned Parenthood Votes says it will spend $800,000 airing a TV ad in Colorado featuring footage of Mitt Romney pledging to cut Planned Parenthood funding. A narrator says: "Mitt Romney would turn back the clock for women … Today, millions of women rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for basic health care, including life-saving cancer screenings. And millions more know, we should be making our personal medical decisions, not Mitt Romney." WATCH: http://bit.ly/Rt26Tf
@shearm : The Big Mo matters in politics, and right now Romney has it. But it can turn around quickly, as both sides know. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/a-move-toward-romney-in-polls-but-will-it-last/ …
@markknoller : At Ohio State University in Columbus, Pres Obama will address a rally at 5pm. It'll be his 17th rally in Ohio, more than in any other state.
with ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
-President Obama takes his message to Columbus, Ohio holding a grassroots event at Ohio State University.
-Mitt Romney is in Iowa speaking to supporters at an Urbandale event at the Koch Family Farm. In the evening, Romney will be in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio for a rally with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie will also campaign for Romney earlier in the day in Lordstown, Ohio.
-Vice President Biden has no campaign events and is preparing for Thursday's Vice Presidential Debate. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will talk with supporters at three events in Pennsylvania.
-Michelle Obama is out on the trail for her husband holding two events in Virginia. Bill Clinton, one of the President's best surrogates, will hold a campaign rally in Las Vegas, NV.
Tune in to ABCNews.com on Thursday for livestreaming coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate in Danville, Ky. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar : http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV