Obama's Southern Discomfort (The Note)

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


  • WHITE VOTER PROBLEMS. The results of yesterday's primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky, as well as fresh polling numbers from Florida today, highlight a key challenge President Obama faces this election cycle: He not only has to rally his 2008 coalition of young, minority and college-educated voters in November, he also has to stem potential losses, in particular, among white voters. It's an uphill battle for the incumbent Democrat.
  • REAL WORLD ROMNEY: One day after a top Mitt Romney strategist called an Obama campaign ad featuring the testimonials of workers who were laid off after Bain Capital took over their company, "performance art gibberish," the Romney campaign is out with a new web video highlighting testimonials of workers who are struggling in the "Obama Economy." WATCH: http://mi.tt/JPn7IH
  • BLAME GAME: American Enterprise Institute scholar Norm Ornstein talks with ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein about partisan gridlock and his new book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," co-authored with Thomas Mann. "I wouldn't say it's all Republicans," said Ornstein, "it's 80-20 at this point." WATCH this week's edition of "Top Line": http://yhoo.it/Lq51XL
  • VEEP BEAT: Paul Ryan predicts Mitt Romney will "save this country," Marco Rubio doesn't help Romney much in Florida, and Chris Christie helps Romney raise millions at a New York City fundraiser.


No one thinks President Obama will be competitive in Arkansas or Kentucky this November - nor does he need to be to win a second term.

But his poor showing in those two states, both of which held primaries yesterday, underscores a deeper and more fundamental problem for the president going forward: His dwindling support among white, working class voters.

Take a look a newly-released poll of Florida voters from Quinnipiac University. Obama went from a seven point lead a couple of months ago, to a six point deficit today.

What's to blame for the drop?

He's underperforming with women, Hispanics and independents, but he's also running significantly behind his 2008 showing with white voters

"The overall picture in Florida is positive for Romney, who is ahead 50-37 percent among men, while women are divided 44-45 percent," said Quinnipiac pollster Peter A. Brown. "And the president is getting just 33 percent of white votes, compared to 85 percent of black votes and 42 percent of Hispanic votes."

In 2008, Obama took 42 percent of the white vote - carried women voters by 5 points - and won Hispanic voters with 57 percent.

For all the talk about Obama keeping up the enthusiasm level among his 2008 coalition (younger, minority, college educated voters), just as important is holding his losses among those who didn't vote for him before (namely, white voters and married women) to a minimum.

NOTED: Analyzing the results of last night's voting in Arkansas and Kentucky, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write:  "seasoned political observers who have studied the politics of these areas say race may be less of a problem for Obama than the broader cultural disconnect that many of these voters feel with the Democratic Party. 'Race is definitely a factor for some Texans but not the majority,' said former congressman Charles W. Stenholm (D-Tex.). 'The most significant factor is the perception/reality that the Obama administration has leaned toward the ultra-left viewpoint on almost all issues.' In Appalachia, many people are angry at the Environmental Protection Agency's approach to mining, arguing that the Obama administration has made it more difficult for people in coal country to make ends meet." http://wapo.st/JB3Qo2


REAL WORLD ROMNEY. One day after a top Mitt Romney strategist called an Obama campaign ad featuring the testimonials of workers who were laid off after Bain Capital took over their company, "performance art gibberish," the Romney campaign is out with a new web video highlighting testimonials of workers who are having a hard time in the "Obama Economy." One woman in the video says, "I have to work part-time in order to make ends meet." Another man chimes in, "I had to file my own personal bankruptcy and had to close my business." Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement accompanying the new spot: "Despite President Obama's attempts to distract from his failed record, the American people remember." WATCH: http://mi.tt/JPn7IH

Yesterday Romney senior strategist Stuart Stevens described the Obama-produced television ads that use stories from Romney's Bain days as "performance art gibberish." Stevens told the Associated Press: "Shouting louder and getting more angry is not very persuasive … The idea that people are walking around with less of a paycheck or higher gas prices because of something Bain Capital did 20 years ago is absurd." Bill Burton, the senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action - a group that launched its own Bain ad featuring a laid-off worker yesterday - responded to Stevens' quote: "Mitt Romney's clear disdain for the middle class men and women who lost everything while he made millions is reflective of his callous attitude towards Americans struggling to get by. Mocking the suffering Mitt Romney caused for Americans may elicit a chuckle at his campaign offices but the job of President requires concern for all Americans, not just the wealthy."

DAMAGE CONTROL . It took him more than a week, but former Obama administration adviser Steven Rattner, who said that the first Obama campaign ad attacking Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital was "unfair," today penned an Op-Ed for The New York Times changing his tune:

"Aware of private equity's reputation, Mr. Romney still trots around the country erroneously calling himself a 'venture capitalist.' And in a further effort to deflect attention from the Bain Capital debate, Mr. Romney last week argued that President Obama was responsible for the loss of 100,000 jobs in the auto industry over the past three years. That's both ridiculously false (auto industry and dealership jobs have increased by about 50,000 since January 2009) and a remarkable comment from a man who said that the companies should have been allowed to go bankrupt and that the industry would have been better off without President Obama's involvement. Adding jobs was never Mitt Romney's private sector agenda, and it's appropriate to question his ability to do so."


VIDEO OF THE DAY: TOP LINE: NORMAN ORNSTEIN BLAMES REPUBLICANS. The American Enterprise Institute scholar talks with ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein about partisan gridlock and his new book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," coauthored with Thomas Mann. "I wouldn't say it's all Republicans," said Ornstein, "it's 80-20 at this point." http://yhoo.it/Lq51XL


TONIGHT IN WASHINGTON:  HONORING WOUNDED WARRIORS. Hope For The Warriors, an organization focused on helping post-Sept. 11 era veterans, will honor combat wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen at the Got Heart, Give Hope Gala at The Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Washington, D.C.  The black-tie event will feature television and movie actor Gary Sinise as the awards ceremony host.  Admiral James A. "Sandy" Winnefeld, Jr., Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be the guest speaker for the Gala and Awards Event.  Hope For The Warriors expects more than 350 in attendance, including distinguished military, political and corporate leaders. For a list of VIP attendees:  www.gotheartgivehope.org



with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

OBAMA STRUGGLES VS. LAWYER, 'UNCOMMITTED.' After federal inmate Keith Judd took 41 percent against the president in West Virginia on May 8, ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports on Tuesday's primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky: Obama had 58 percent [in Kentucky] - compared to "uncommitted," which received 42 percent, according to The Associated Press. … In Arkansas, Obama has 61 percent of the vote with roughly 96 percent of precincts reporting. His Democratic challenger,  John Wolfe, a lawyer from Tennessee, has 39 percent. Romney, comparatively, has received 68 percent of the vote, the AP reported.  http://abcn.ws/KRUndJ

NOTABLE: RNC HIGHLIGHTS THE 'UNCOMMITTED' A Republican National Committee official tells The Note, the RNC is launching a social media push today highlighting President Obama losing 40 percent of the vote to uncommitted in Kentucky and North Carolina with virtual campaign buttons. "We'll be spreading them around on our new Social Victory Center, Facebook, Twitter, and email for our grassroots to download and share with their friends." See the buttons here: http://bit.ly/LfvlEx "Not sure who to vote for? These new campaign buttons proudly state your reluctance as a Democrat to vote for Obama after he didn't keep his campaign promises the first time around. Join your fellow Democrats and say you're fired up! Ready to go! Ready to vote for anyone but Obama…"

ROMNEY TO ADDRESS LATINOS IN D.C. From ABC's Matthew Jaffe: On Wednesday afternoon in the nation's capital, Mitt Romney will speak to the Latino Coalition's annual economic summit, the latest attempt by the presumptive Republican nominee to make inroads into the country's fastest-growing voting bloc. http://abcn.ws/MmK571

NEW OBAMA ADS: VETERANS AND MEDICARE. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports that the Obama campaign is out with two new TV ads today, part of the already announced $25 million airtime purchase for positive messaging. "Personal": "To you and your loved ones, Medicare is personal. And to a president raise by his grandparents, it's personal too … President Obama is leading the most sucessful crackdown on health-care fraud ever, already recovered $4 billion from health-care scams last year alone, to preserve Medicare now and for the future …" http://youtu.be/Ccnf-TDT_-s

"Sacred Trust": "The sacrifices that our troops have made have been incredible. It's because of what we've done that we've been able to go after al Qaeda and kill bin Laden. And when they come home, we have a sacred trust to make sure that we are doing everything we can to heal all of their wounds, giving them the opportunities that they deserve to find a job and get the education they need …"  http://youtu.be/nO7jeIOh4F0

OBAMA GIVES GAY MARRIAGE A BUMP? ABC's Damla Ergun reports on the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll: Strong public support for same-sex marriage exceeds strong opposition by a significant margin for the first time in ABC News/Washington Post polls … Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, steady the past year but up from 36 percent in just 2006. Thirty-nine percent "strongly" support it, while 32 percent are strongly opposed - the first time strong sentiment has tilted positive. Six years ago, by contrast, strong views on the issue were negative by a broad 27-point margin. … support for gay marriage has reached a new high among African-Americans in ABC/Post polls, up from four in 10 in recent surveys to 59 percent now. http://abcn.ws/Jocqs1

NBC/WSJ POLL SHOWS TIGHT RACE. From NBC's Mark Murray: Obama leads Romney "by four points among registered voters, 47 percent to 43 percent. In April, Obama's edge in the survey was two points higher, 49 percent to 43 percent. … approval of Obama's handling of the economy stands at 43 percent, down two points from last month … 'Obama's chances for re-election … are no better than 50-50,' says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff." http://on.msnbc.com/KybAZY

ROMNEY TAKES IN $3 MILLION AT CT FUNDRAISER. From ABC's Shushannah Walshe: After a successful Florida swing that brought in about $10 million, his campaign says it expects fundraisers in Connecticut and New York Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to bring in another $10 million. http://abcn.ws/L3eMiI

RICHARD GRENELL ON GAYS AND REPUBLICANS. The briefly tenured Romney spokesman, who was forced out of the campaign either by his Twitter account or by criticisms over his sexuality, pens an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal: "The claim that gays should be barred from conservative activism is not only bigoted but is a bipartisan view. The intolerant assault comes from the far right, who object to Republicans who are gay, and the far left, who object to gays being Republicans. When the extremists on both sides are the only ones speaking up, the majority suffers. In reality, not all GOP activists or even religious people want to be the arbiter of who gets to be a Republican … While there are many reasons not to vote to re-elect President Obama, gay marriage is not one of those issues. National and economic security absolutely are." http://on.wsj.com/MGd7kV

DEMOCRATS STRUGGLING IN WISCONSIN RECALL. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: With just under two weeks to go until the recall election in Wisconsin, Democrats appear to be facing rising odds in their quest to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker. … By the time [Democratic candidate Tom] Barrett won the nomination, Walker enjoyed a 25 to 1 fundraising advantage over the Milwaukee mayor, with just four weeks until the election … The latest polling from Marquette Law School showed Walker with a six point lead among likely voters over Barrett- 50 percent to 44 percent- outside of the polls margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent. http://abcn.ws/KSIV1r

PALIN FOR HATCH. Bucking her tendency to back tea partiers, Sarah Palin has sided with the six-term incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah's GOP primray. The Huffington Post catches Palin's Fox interview: "'He's part of that one percent you hear about,' Palin said during a Tuesday appearance on Fox News' 'On The Record With Greta Van Susteren.' 'Not the one percent that's mocked and criticized in the press lately, but the one percent of national politicians whom I believe should be re-elected.'" http://huff.to/KzcTYB

BOEHNER TOPS PELOSI FUNDRAISING. The Hill's Russel Berman reports: "House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has raised more than $70 million for Republicans since winning the Speaker's gavel … Boehner's total so far eclipses that of the House Democrats' fundraising juggernaut, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). As of May 1, Pelosi had brought in $43.4 million for Democrats since the beginning of 2011, a spokeswoman said." http://bit.ly/JcuX9a

PARODY AD HITS BIG TOBACCO IN CA PROP. 29 FIGHT. ABC's Matt Negrin reports: "I support big tobacco because they killed my wife. And that's one less mouth to feed." That's a line from a new parody commercial set to be shown during the "Dancing With the Stars" finale tonight, put together by advocates in California who are trying to get voters to approve of a proposition that would raise a tobacco tax by a dollar to fund cancer research. http://abcn.ws/KcQ8dY

BIDEN LIKENS ROMNEY TO RACEHORSE. VP Joe Biden on the stump in Keene, N.H., via ABC's Devin Dwyer: "Ladies and gentlemen, these are the guys that ran us into the ditch. And they begin to sound a little like the horse who just won the Preakness, I'll Have Another.  Except the horse is a real winner." (With VIDEO) http://abcn.ws/JRNwDO

 'TAXMAGEDDON' COMETH. Former Eric Cantor aide and current YG Network advisor Brad Dayspring warns of the expiring Bush tax cuts in an op-ed in The Hill: "During the fifty-five days between Election Day and New Year's Day, a $625 billion tax increase already being referred to as 'Taxmageddon' awaits.  President Obama wants you to think that only billionaires have something to worry about.  Guess again. In just one day, a $500 billion tax wave will slam households with an average $3,800 increase. The child tax credit will be cut in half, from $1,000 per child to $500, the marriage penalty will return, and the "death tax" will increase. Millions of middle income taxpayers will be hit for the first time by the Alternative Minimum Tax, capital gains will increase to 20 percent, and dividends will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates.  Further, the $124 billion cut to the payroll tax on the middle class will end, putting a cherry on top of this tax cake." http://bit.ly/MGzMNQ

BRIEFING HOLLYWOOD ON BIN LADEN. Politico's Josh Gerstein reports on filmmakers' access to officials after the bin Laden raid: "At a briefing in July 2011, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers told filmmakers Michael Boal and Katherine Bigelow that the leaders of the the Special Operations Command couldn't speak to them for appearances' sake. However, Vickers said that the Pentagon would make available a Navy SEAL who was involved in planning the raid from its earliest stages. … The documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the White House and the CIA also rolled out the welcome mat for the filmmakers. Boal visited with acting CIA director Michael Morrell and had access to a mock-up at CIA headquarters that depicted the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound where the raid was carried out, the records indicate." http://politi.co/K9qsAb

RNC POUNCES ON BAIN/BOOKER/LABOLT. From ABC's Shushannah Walshe: The Republican National Committee is out with a web video today  that lampoons the Obama campaign for saying they did not approach [Newark Mayor Cory] Booker after his "Meet the Press" appearance to make a fresh statement supporting the campaign's criticism of Bain. … The web video then cuts to Booker on MSNBC saying, "I certainly did talk with campaign officials." http://abcn.ws/JRExm1 http://youtu.be/rGd8Xx7p_YM

POST SIDES WITH OBAMA ON BAIN-SORT OF. From an editorial in Wednesday's Washington Post: Still, politics ain't beanbag, and, if he's going to tout it as a qualification for the White House, Mr. Romney's business record is indeed fair game. … What we're left with is a president who seems content to present an even-handed view of private equity at his news conferences while propounding a much more tendentious one in his campaign advertising. Pointing out that a business career hasn't fully prepared Mr. Romney to be president, in other words, is a long way from suggesting that he's a vampire. http://wapo.st/KSPWzw


VEEP BEAT: Our daily look at all the action on the veepstakes front, brought to you by ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz ):

RYAN ON ROMNEY: HE WILL 'SAVE THIS COUNTRY' Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., made his first speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Tuesday night and spoke of Mitt Romney's ability to change the course of the country, ABC News' John R. Parkinson reports: "During a Q&A session following his address, the moderator wasted no time before he asked Ryan the million-dollar question on everybody's mind: Would Ryan accept an offer from Mitt Romney to join him on the GOP's ticket this fall,? 'Next question,' Ryan answered to laughter. 'You know, that is someone else's decision months away, and you know, that's a question I would have to have with my wife before I have it with all of you. I like what I'm doing, I'm doing what I'm doing. Don't underestimate how important Congress is.' Asked what his sense of Romney is and whether he could be a great president, Ryan praised the presumptive nominee, predicting he will defeat President Obama this fall and Republicans will 'save this country.'"  http://abcn.ws/JSKfnR

RUBIO GIVES ROMNEY LITTLE BOOST IN FL:   A New Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday morning shows that Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., only gives Mitt Romney a slight boost with voters in Florida.  Adding Rubio to the ticket brings Romney to 49 percent over Obama at 41 percent among Florida voters.  Without taking a running mate into consideration, Romney already has a six point lead at 47 percent over Obama's 41 percent. Rubio's approval rating in Florida sits at 54 percent  and his favorability rating is 44 percent.

RUBIO TO SPEAK TO LATINO GROUP: Rubio will deliver the keynote address at the Latino Coalition's 2012 Small Business Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon.  Romney will speak at the same event at noon.

CHRISTIE HELPS HAUL IN $5 MILLION FOR ROMNEY: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie helped haul in $5 million for Romney by attending a fundraiser at the Park Hyatt Ballroom in New York City Tuesday evening, according to the pool report.  "We're here tonight to let everybody know we need to do everything we can together to make sure that this November we show Barack Obama the door, and we open the door for Mitt and Ann Romney to the White House, and your support here is extraordinarily important," Christie said.

PORTMAN READY FOR VP SPOT? Real Clear Politics' Erin McPike examines why Rob Portman's resume and experience makes him the lone potential VP contender who is ready to step into the job on day one.  "Rob Portman has been preparing for this for years," McPike writes."Although the Ohio senator offers the standard line that he doesn't expect to be picked as Mitt Romney's running mate, the trajectory of his career and his political conduct in Washington have made nearly everyone in politics almost certain that he'll be plucked for this year's Republican presidential ticket." http://bit.ly/JTIhU2



@billburton716 : OMG! The electoral map just didn't change. RT  @politico Obama struggled tonight in Kentucky and Arkansas,  http://politi.co/K9mrvN

@Timodc : "Obama is survived by a president who will spend the next 6 months… railing against his opponent… to retain power."  http://goo.gl/9zM25

@DavidMDrucker : California Gold Rush: 3rd Party $$$ pours into CA all-party primary House races:  http://bit.ly/Ky44Mg h/t  @kyletrygstad

@HotlineJosh : Another example of super PACs/outside money favoring outsiders, not the establishment - look at  #KY04 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/politics/after-paul-falters-backers-push-agenda-in-party-and-other-races.html

@marthamaccallum : Exclusive today!  @RichardGrenell in his first TV interview since leaving the Romney campaign on 2012/frgn policy and being a gay republican.



- Mitt Romney will address the Latino Coalition's 2012 Small Business Summit Luncheon at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC.

- President Obama will deliver commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado. He holds fundraisers in Colorado and California.

- Vice President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the economy at Keene State College in Keene, N.H.

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