Campaigns Start Their Engines With Dueling Messages (The Note)

(Image Credit: Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images; Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

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

Let the framing begin.

It's a quiet day on the campaign trail, but both the Republican National Committee and the Obama campaign are turning up the volume on their competing messages.

The GOP is looking to turn President Obama's 2008 "Hope and Change" mantra on its head with a new memo and video pegged to the theme, from "Hope to Hypocrisy."

As the general election revs up the RNC is accusing the president of running a "negative, deceptive and distorting" campaign in which he is "running from his record, rather than running on it."

The committee highlights high gas prices as one of the administration's major failures, and RNC communications director Sean Spicer notes in a memo this morning that his group "will work relentlessly to expose Barack Obama's broken promises and hypocrisy. In the coming months you will see us drive this message on all fronts-advertising, web videos, social media, mobile technology, rapid response, blog posts, opinion pieces, grassroots outreach, and more." (Watch the accompanying video:

Meanwhile, a very different message is coming from Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago today - this one is keyed to the coming U.S. Senate action on the so-called "Buffett Rule," a proposal that requires the wealthiest Americans to pay an income tax rate of at least 30 percent.

"Governor Romney will have to explain this week why he believes the he and the wealthiest Americans should pay a lower income tax rate than middle class Americans," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

As part of their effort, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina will hold a conference call today "highlighting the president's call for tax fairness and Governor Romney's opposition to it," according to the Democrats.

President Obama plans to deliver a speech promoting the "Buffett Rule" tomorrow in Florida and Vice President Joe Biden will also hold events in key states this week.

With moves like this, the RNC is signaling that it is time for the general election to be joined even if the party lacks an official nominee. And as BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings, Zeke Miller and Ben Smith report today "now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, the Obama team has flipped the ON switch for its reelection machine."

" THE OBAMA MACHINE HAS COME ALIVE." More from BuzzFeed's report from the Obama campaign's Chicago headquarters: "In March the campaign put out just 27 press releases, compared to just 10 in February - and already in April the campaign has pushed out seven items to reporters. The volume on the releases has grown steadily louder: They began with memos to reporters on electoral strategy and conference call advisories, but now feature direct attacks on Romney will like 'Mitt Romney Has Put His Personal Finances In a Black Box and Hid The Key.' These days, the campaign's Rapid Response team has reached out to reporters covering Romney, providing a rebuttal to every speech. They're also in full-on courtship mode with a press that complains of a lack of access to Romney and his top aides. Obama's headquarters averaged about ten visits a week from reporters over the past month, aides said. David Axelrod, whose official title of 'senior campaign advisor' understates his role as guru and decision-maker, was at the office everyday last month."


"THIS WEEK" REPLAY: PASTOR RICK WARREN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, CONTRACEPTION, MORMONISM AND CHRISTIANITY AND MORE. Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren stood by his opposition to same sex marriage in his Easter Sunday conversation with ABC's Jake Tapper this week, saying that he does not believe the church should conform to accept growing support for same sex marriage. "History shows that when the church accommodates culture, it weakens it," Warren said. "If I'm unpopular for certain beliefs, well, then I'm unpopular for certain beliefs," he added. "And to me, the Bible is very clear that sex is for a man and a woman in marriage only." More:

ON CONTRACEPTION: "I don't have a problem with contraceptives. I'm a Protestant. I'm an evangelical. But I do support my Catholic brothers and sisters to believe what they want to believe. And I would support my Jewish brothers and sisters to believe what they want to believe, and say if you say we don't eat pork, we don't want to serve it in our deli, then you shouldn't have to serve it in your deli, because there's plenty of other places to get pork." More:


TAPPER: Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the Republican nominee, and if that happens, as it looks like it will, he'll the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be the nominee. A lot of evangelicals have been talking about whether or not Mormons are Christians. Are Mormons Christians?

WARREN: Well, the key sticking point for evangelicals and actually for many is the issue of the Trinity.  Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, Protestant Christians, evangelical Christians and Pentecostal Christians all believe in the Trinity; that's the historic doctrine of the church, that God is three-in-one. Not three gods; one God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. … Mormonism denies that. That's a sticking point for a lot of Catholic Christians, evangelical Christians, Pentecostal Christians, because they don't - they don't believe that. Now they'll use the same terminology, but they don't believe in the historic doctrine of the Trinity. And people have tried to make it other issues. But that's really one of the fundamental differences.

In case you missed any of Jake Tapper's Easter Sunday interview with Pastor Rick Warren:


VIDEO OF THE DAY: Why White House Eggs Have No Yolk: ABC's Jake Tapper takes a crack at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll where more than 22,000 eggs will be given away. WATCH:



A GRACEFUL EXIT FOR SANTORUM? When he's able to return to campaigning, Rick Santorum will have to decide whether he wants to, ABC's Rick Klein writes. The primary in his home state of Pennsylvania looms just two weeks away, and Santorum will be risking much of what he's achieved in this campaign if he suffers an embarrassment there. As for what he's risking, recall that few Republicans and fewer pundits thought much of it when Santorum announced his presidential candidacy. He then consistently registered approximately nowhere in the polls. Santorum has shocked the political world by emerging as Romney's chief alternative. His slightly belated victory in Iowa was followed by a series of impressive showings, including wins in the Deep South and the Mountain West, and a blowout victory in Louisiana as late as March 24. But even if he continues to surprise, he has fallen too far back in the delegate race to have a serious shot at capturing the nomination. He's secured only 281 delegates to Romney's 658, according to ABC News' delegate count; 1,144 are needed for the nomination, but only Romney has a legitimate mathematical shot of getting there, given proportional allocation rules in most states.

GOP SUPER PAC PLANS AD BLITZ. "American Crossroads, the biggest of the Republican "super PACs," is planning to begin its first major anti-Obama advertising blitz of the year, a moment the Obama re-election campaign has been girding for and another sign that the general election is starting in earnest," reports The New York Times Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny. "With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place. Steven J. Law, the group's leader, said the ads would address the challenge of unseating a president who polls show is viewed favorably even though many people disapprove of his handling of the economy. Basically, Mr. Law said, 'how to dislodge voters from him.' The ultimate goal of the Crossroads campaign, Mr. Law said, would be to better connect Americans' disappointment with the economy to their views of the president, especially among crucial swing voters."

ROMNEY TO BLANKET THE PENNSYLVANIA AIRWAVES. In an attempt to eject Rick Santorum from the presidential race by force, Mitt Romney's campaign will unveil a nearly $2 million television ad buy on the Pennsylvania airwaves beginning on Monday. According to sources tracking TV ad spending the buy, totaling $1.9 million, is widespread, hitting media markets from Philadelphia to Erie between April 9 and April 22 - two days before the state's April 24 primary. (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Salena Zito reported that the buy could grow even larger - eventually ballooning to nearly $3 million.) Rick Santorum has already made clear that "we have to win" Pennsylvania and Romney predicted this week that Santorum, who served the state in the House and Senate, is "obviously going to do well in Pennsylvania." A loss in the Keystone State would be exactly the knock-out blow the Romney campaign is seeking to finally shut the door on the GOP primary. But officials with the Santorum campaign say they do not plan to let the Romney ad buy go unanswered. "We'll make an ad buy, no question about that," Santorum's national communications director Hogan Gidley told ABC News on Saturday, noting that although the campaign has yet to purchase any airtime, he fully expects they will do so "soon."

NEWT GINGRICH GETS 'REALISTIC'. Yesterday Newt Gingrich was on Fox News Sunday, where he was asked if Mitt Romney was the inevitable GOP nominee. Gingrich said Romney is "far and away" the most likely nominee, ABC's Elicia Dover notes. "Well, I think you have to be realistic, given the size of his organization, given the number of primaries he's won. He is far and away, the most likely Republican nominee." Gingrich also said his campaign is operating on a "shoestring" budget. His last FEC report showed less than $2 million debt, now he says debt is "slightly less" than $4.5 million. The former House Speaker provided no explanation of the nearly $2 million additional debt that will be posted in March.


  @MichaelBiundo : @ricksantorum, Karen and the entire family is incredibly thankful for the outpouring of prayers and support for  #bellasantorum

@JesseFFerguson : REUTERS: NH Town Hall Meeting with Republicans on defense over Medicare.  #NH02

@mikiebarb : Our look at the long and little-known friendship between Romney and Netanyahu:

@kakukowski : Great piece from  @SecretsBedard: RNC's Priebus soothes conservatives #2012

@markknoller : WH pulling out so many stops for its Easter Egg Roll today you'd think that kids could vote in November. Of course, their parents can.


by ABC's Chris Good

-Romney Locking Down Philadelphia Suburbs? Mitt Romney performs well in suburban counties, and he could be poised for more wins in the Philadelphia suburbs, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, as Rick Santorum has little organization there and may be overlooking the area. "So far, local Republican leaders say, Santorum has shown signs of doing just that," the paper reports. "With little more than two weeks to go until the April 24 Pennsylvania primary, Santorum has yet to make an appearance in what has historically been a GOP stronghold, hasn't put up a single television ad, and appears to have limited, if any, organizational support in the field-or from party leaders-to challenge the front-runner in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties."



  -Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have no public events today

-Newt Gingrich campaigns in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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