2012: Two Campaigns For The Price Of One (The Note)

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

With more than a month before the first primary votes of the 2012 election cycle are cast, it’s clear there aren’t one but two separate presidential races underway.

There’s the one that’s been sucking up most of the attention — that’s the Republican nominating contest which, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out today, continues to be volatile. The most recent national numbers show Newt Gingrich with the lead (26 percent), followed by Mitt Romney (22 percent) and Herman Cain (14 percent). Five other GOP contenders remain in the single digits.

Then there’s the increasingly pitched battle between Romney, who’s campaigning like he’s already won the nomination, and President Obama. Fans of Shakespeare will recognize the dynamic as a play within a play. In this year’s presidential election cycle, it’s become the campaign within a campaign.

And it’s never been more obvious than today. On the same day that the president travels to New Hampshire to talk about his economic agenda, Romney is going up on the air with his first television ad of the campaign cycle.

Rather than take aim at any of his GOP rivals, Romney went straight for Obama’s jugular. The 60-second spot uses footage from Obama’s trip to New Hampshire in 2008. Text rolls over the screen reading, “On October 16, 2008, Barack Obama visited New Hampshire. He promised he would fix the economy. He failed.” As video footage shows vacated business and foreclosed homes, Obama can be heard saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” (The phrase was used by Obama in an attack against his then-opponent Sen. John McCain.) http://abcn.ws/rNiDCY

In statement last night, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Romney was more interested in launching a “deceitful and dishonest attack rather than outline his own record or plans for the future.” The Democratic National Committee also pumped out a fact check — complete with footnotes — of Romney’s ad.

(To put all of the agitating in perspective, the Romney campaign has only made a $134,000 buy for their commercial, which will air from today through Sunday on one New Hampshire television station.)

Tuesday morning, the Romney campaign also issued a 625- word open letter to President Obama. In it Romney writes: “We now have had three years to watch your policies unfold and to assess their results. The evidence is in and it is unequivocal. I will be blunt. Your policies have failed.”

This pattern of attack between the Romney and Obama teams has been going on for weeks. The Romney campaign is claiming that Obama is “obsessed” with him and the Democrats are hardly paying attention to anyone else but the former Massachusetts governor.

So when the Republican presidential candidates take the stage in Washington, DC tonight for their 11th debate of the presidential campaign, is it just a sideshow to the main event? Gingrich, who has the political wind at his back, and Rick Perry, who is using his war chest to help propel him back into contention, hope not.

But to the Obama and Romney campaigns, the eight-way battle for the Republican nomination seems to be just a lot of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


OBAMA ON THE TRAIL: NEW HAMPSHIRE EDITION. ABC’s Mary Bruce previews the president’s day: “President Obama is scheduled to travel to New Hampshire today to urge lawmakers to extend and expand the payroll tax cut, a key provision of his $447 billion jobs bill. … In a speech he is scheduled to deliver in Manchester, N.H., the president will also unveil a new web tool that will allow Americans to see how much money they could save if Congress passes the jobs act and how much their taxes will go up if Congress fails to act. The president will also meet with a local family before delivering remarks at Manchester High School Central at 12:15 p.m. ET.” http://abcn.ws/tYEuOK


ABC’s Devin Dwyer frames the politics of President Obama’s trip to New Hampshire: “Heading to a state where the official motto is “live free or die” to talk taxes just hours after the super-failure of the supercommittee to reach consensus on the same topic, Obama will try to reclaim control of the narrative, appealing to the state’s independent-minded voters who are known to favor pragmatism and compromise.”  http://abcn.ws/tgVYVZ


GOP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. To “welcome” President Obama to New Hampshire today, New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald has penned an Op-Ed in the Concord Monitor, writing that “New Hampshire literally cannot afford another four years of President Obama”: “Here in the Granite State, voters are upset with the direction of our country — and disappointed in the president’s utter inability to turn things around. What is especially troubling, though, is that the president hasn’t just failed to spur economic growth, he’s stood firmly in its way. His policies have done more to impede job creation than to promote it.” MacDonald will also host a conference call with reporters at 9:30 a.m. today to spin the president’s visit. http://bit.ly/uZ5QRi



DEBATE NIGHT IN WASHINGTON, DC. From CNN: The Republican presidential candidates face off Tuesday night just a few blocks from the place they all hope to call home: the White House. The candidates share the stage at DAR Constitution Hall, just down the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. CNN is teaming up with leading Republican-leaning think tanks Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute to host a debate that focuses heavily on national security and foreign policy issues, but which will also include top economic concerns, including the failure of the congressional super committee to find agreement to cut $1.2 trillion from the country’s long-term debt.” The CNN Republican National Security Debate will be moderated by Wolf Blitzer and begins at 8 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast on CNN and online at CNN.com/Live. http://bit.ly/urpnuf


SUPERFAIL. A special congressional committee created to try to curb the national debt abandoned its work and conceded failure Monday, the latest setback in a long effort by Washington to overcome ideological differences and stem the rising tide of red ink,” write Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane. “In a joint statement issued hours before a midnight deadline, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the panel said that they were “deeply disappointed” by their inability to reach an agreement and that they hope for progress in the months ahead. … The collapse of the ‘supercommittee’ offered fresh evidence of partisan gridlock and legislative dysfunction as policymakers gird for the 2012 elections with the White House and Congress up for grabs.” http://wapo.st/sZR7AC

ABC’s Jake Tapper reports on the fallout from the failure to make a deficit deal on “Good Morning America” today. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/uodes9


DOOMED FROM THE START? “The wide ideological chasm between the parties, the lack of independent dealmakers on the panel, an upcoming presidential election and a hands-off White House all contributed to the supercommittee’s monumental whiff, congressional aides and political analysts said Monday,” The Hill’s Russell Berman writes in an analysis of the failure of the supercommittee. “But perhaps nothing hampered the supercommittee’s prospects more than a faulty trigger and the absence of apocalyptic fears. The government would not shut down if the panel didn’t act, the nation would not default, and despite its failure and a dip in the stock market, most Americans will still enjoy a turkey dinner on Thursday.” http://bit.ly/uBQN9u



ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC News’ Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Democratic Illinois Congressional candidate and Iraqi war veteran, Chris Miller. Also on the program, Peter Schaumber, the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc  


THE NOTE ON THE ROAD: OBAMA 2012 H.Q. ABC’s Devin Dwyer and Michael Falcone recently visited President Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters and spoke to the man overseeing the president’s bid for a second term. Ask Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina about the most direct path to 270 electoral votes and he’ll tell you about the kids he doesn’t have: Messina described multiple state-by-state scenarios for recapturing the White House in 2012, likening them to would-be children among whom he “absolutely” would never pick a favorite. “We’ve always said this year what we’ve got to do is stay on the ground, put as many states as we can into play, have as many paths to 270 electoral votes and then raise money. And that’s what we’re doing,” Messina told ABC News. “We’re preparing for a close election no matter what,” he added. “We should assume anyone and everyone will be tough as a nominee, and given historical elections in this country and how divided the country is on politics, that’s probably where we’ll be.” http://abcn.ws/tpTlfL

Inside Obama’s Headquarters: Confident Urgency and an Empty Keg:  ”On a recent Friday afternoon, the 2012-themed ping pong, foosball, and air hockey tables sit idle inside President Obama’s 50,000-square-foot re-election headquarters,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer writes. “The staff of 200-plus mostly twentsomethings are spread across the sixth floor of One Prudential Plaza, huddled around white boards and hunched over rows of sleek new laptops. They’re busy making a play for a much more consequential game. … In a dimly-lit corner of the office, a cadre of web designers and computer engineers are quietly putting the finishing touches on the ’Obama 2012 Dashboard’ - a proprietary social media platform that, they say, will for the first time allow supporters to ‘join, connect with, and build your neighborhood team online’  when it’s rolled out. Across the hall, a department of specialized organizers has set into motion an aggressive micro-targeting effort the campaign has branded as ’Operation Vote,’ which is aimed at courting relationships with members of key voter constituencies such  as women, Latinos, African-Americans and gays.”  http://abcn.ws/teGORY



14 HOURS WITH THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN POLITICS. An Iowa dispatch from ABC’s Shushannah Walshe: “Are you with the campaign?” an Iowa voter asked Rick Santorum last Friday. “I am the campaign!” he replied. It’s 7:30 a.m. in West Burlington, Iowa and Rick Santorum has just walked into his second stop of the day, a breakfast town hall at the Broadway Cafe. It’s a traditional greeting for Santorum—despite barnstorming across the first caucus state — he still has low name recognition in Iowa. His day started at 6 a.m. when he carried his own bag out into the dark where one of his field staffers was waiting to take him to a 6:30 a.m. radio interview. To say it’s a stripped down campaign would be an understatement. There is none of the fanfare of other campaigns, where teams of advance staffers have every detail orchestrated, and not to mention a line of SUVs ready to go. In the cold West Burlington night, it was Santorum navigating to the radio interview while his staffer drove. Last Friday, the Santorum campaign allowed ABC News along for its marathon 14-hour day to see what it’s like on the hardest working campaign this cycle. It used to be traditional for candidates to campaign hard in the early states. Last cycle, Mitt Romney would hold five or more events daily — but no more. This year it is only Santorum that holds seven, eight, sometimes even nine events a day trying to build the momentum to “win this thing.” http://abcn.ws/vdReCw

ROMNEY NAMES NAME FOR VP SLOT. “Asked in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last night about who he might consider to fill the vice presidential spot should he become the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney got more specific than he has in the past, naming New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte as one option for the post,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports. (Ayotte happened to be sitting next to Romney during a portion of the interview). “‘I have no names for you, it’s presumptuous, I’m not the nominee,’ Romney began, before continuing, ‘There probably are 15 names of people, including Kelly Ayotte.’ Ayotte, a high profile conservative Republican endorsed Romney over the weekend.” http://abcn.ws/rKHZow

THE BODY MAN GOETH. Reggie Love walked into his windowless office late last week and surveyed the confines. It wasn’t exactly an ideal place to work, especially for someone standing 6 feet, 5 inches. A burgundy couch, desk and cabinet took up much of the floor, leaving little room to maneuver. Nearly every day, Love takes a right turn out of his office, walks a few steps and opens a door to the most famous office in the world: the Oval Office. Whatever President Obama happens to need once inside, from a copy of a speech to a newspaper, Love gets for him. As the president’s personal assistant – a job known as a body man – Love also keeps him on schedule, often deciding who gets the president’s ear. The 29-year-old Love hardly ever speaks on the record. But after the White House announced 12 days ago that he would be leaving his position by the end of the year to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, he granted an exclusive interview to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, providing a rare glimpse inside the president’s inner circle.    http://abcn.ws/umlJdT Tune in tonight to “World News with Diane Sawyer” at 6:30 p.m. ET and “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET for Rachel Nichols’ interview with Reggie Love. SLIDESHOW: http://abcn.ws/vACzF3 VIDEO: http://abcn.ws/upTKyH

RICK PERRY: ERIC HOLDER SHOULD QUIT. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: Hours before the second foreign policy debate this campaign season, Rick Perry called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder based on his handling of Operation Fast and Furious, and should Holder refuse to resign, the Texas governor says President Obama should fire him. “Mr. Holder’s proclaimed ignorance leaves Americans to draw one of two conclusions: Either he is guilty of extraordinary bureaucratic incompetence or he is guilty of a cover-up meant to shield him from the consequences of an operation that has left at least one federal agent dead and continues to imperil many more,” Perry wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Times. “Either way, it is high time for Mr. Holder to step down. If he refuses to resign, Mr. Obama must fire him immediately.” Perry is the second presidential candidate to call for Holder’s resignation after Rep. Michele Bachmann voiced her position last week. http://abcn.ws/ss0jCm




 ” Leading Conservatives Mark the Death of the Supercommittee.” ForAmerica, chaired by conservative leader L. Brent Bozell, is joining with Americans for Prosperity, Citizens United, Family Research Council, and Tea Party Patriots to host a news conference in response to the supercommittee stalemate. …  Conservatives are hailing the death of any negotiations that could lead to higher taxes on the financially strapped American people as a clear victory.” Also on the podium: Tim Phillips, President, Americans for Prosperity; Jenny Beth Martin, National Coordinator, Tea Party Patriots; Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council; David Bossie, President, Citizens United. The event will be held today at 10:00 am ET at the ?Capitol Hill Hyatt.

“Congress Can’t Restrain Itself,” an Op-Ed by Colin A. Hanna, president of the conservative advocacy group, Let Freedom Ring: “[How] do we work our way back to solvency? First, do no harm: Balancing the budget would not erase the debt, but it would keep the snowball from getting bigger. Next, follow the example of the 49 states that have some type of balanced-budget requirement. Do Democrats from those states oppose their balanced-budget requirements? Republicans can frame the 2012 campaign in terms of tough but realistic solutions to the debt and jobs crises.”   http://bit.ly/rqfHcE



@ ZekeJMiller : New Hampshire Union Leader: Obama Is A ‘Glib, Clueless Disaster Of A President’  read.bi/tlkgHr

@ JenniferJJacobs : Mitt Romney’s making the right play in Iowa, per  @fivethirtyeight. nyti.ms/vfjkzF  #iacaucus

@ guycecil : MT  @HotlineJosh: Poll o’ the day: Dems up in  #NDSEN. Heidi Heitkamp leading Rick Berg, 47-42% in DSCC poll  t.co/tUlFuMlm

@ BuddyRoemer : I will be tweeting the debate live tonight!  #CNNDebate  #GOPDebate

@ MattMackowiak : Hey – do me a favor and follow  @potomacflacks, will ya? A labor of love for myself,  @blainr and  @scottcircle.



* Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and Michelle Bachmann are in Washington, DC tonight for the CNN and AEI/Heritage Foundation Foreign Policy Debate. The debate will take place at DAR Constitution Hall.

* Jon Huntsman starts his day in Manchester, N.H. where he will host an employee town hall at CCA Global Partners.

*Ron Paul will spend the morning in New Hampshire attending three events before heading to Washington, DC for the debate.

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


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