Romney And Veepstakes: Choose Your Own Adventure

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


  • GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Though their names are tossed around in political circles all the time, the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll shows most Americans don't know much about Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has more name recognition, but when it comes to favorability, it doesn't help him all that much. Our poll today of some of Mitt Romney's top potential vice presidential picks:
  • THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": ABC's George Stephanopoulos welcomes an all-sta" roundtable: former Pennsylvania Gov. ED RENDELL, former Arkansas Gov. MIKE HUCKABEE, conservative commentator ANN COULTER and former Obama administration official VAN JONES. Tune in this Sunday - there may be some surprises in store.
  • NOTE IT!: ABC News Political Director Amy Walter has more insights from a focus group with Wall Mart moms this week. She writes that they "expressed disappointment with the job Obama has done so far on the economy. When asked about what accomplishments he'd achieved in his three years in office, many of the women responded with blank stares and silence." But there are some silver linings for the president too. ABC's Rick Klein weighs in on why the "veepstakes process may wind up being more valuable than the vice-presidential pick itself" for Mitt Romney.


This week former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sent a message to presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"Under no circumstances," Bush said in an interview with Charlie Rose, would he be Romney's running mate this fall.

But Bush didn't stop there; he offered some advice too: "Marco Rubio is my favorite," Bush said of the Florida senator and frequently-mentioned potential running mate.

"I think he would lift the spirits of the campaign and provide some energy," Bush said in an interview on PBS. "Governor Romney is running a very good campaign right now and closed the gap and leading in some polls, but I think this would be an added bonus."

Romney just might want to take Bush's suggestion to heart.

According to the results of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today, Rubio fares better than both Bush and another possible vice presidential pick, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, on the favorability measure.

By a 32 percent to 29 percent margin, Americans have an unfavorable rather than favorable opinion of Rubio, but it gets worse for Bush (45-36 percent) and for Portman (30-19 percent). Bush's high negative ratings should remind us all that the Bush name is still toxic.

Even more striking, but not surprising, ABC News pollster Gary Langer found that large numbers of Americans have no opinion of either Portman or Rubio - 51 percent and 39 percent, respectively. That declines to 19 percent for Bush.

When it comes to the breakdown among independents and Republicans:

-"Independents respond more unfavorably than favorably to the prospect of a Bush nomination for the vice presidency by a 10-point margin, 46-36 percent. Independents divide essentially evenly, by contrast, on Rubio and Portman alike."

-"Republicans only split evenly on the prospect of [Portman's] selection, 21-22 percent, favorable-unfavorable. That compares with a 44-point margin among Republicans in positive vs. negative responses to a Bush candidacy, and 32 percentage points for Rubio."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: For Romney, the veepstakes process may wind up being more valuable than the vice-presidential pick itself. The new ABC News-Washington Post favorability poll shows no huge upsides among three of the most buzzed-about picks. Jeb Bush, Rob Portman, and Marco Rubio are all viewed more negatively than positively - Rubio only narrowly so. But even if none of them are picked, those three - and perhaps half a dozen other possible VP picks - remain valuable surrogates for Romney with portions of the Republican base, and in individual states that happen to be critical.

ABC's AMY WALTER: CAN ROMNEY CONVINCE WAL-MART MOMS? A group of 20 women voters from Richmond, Va., and Las Vegas offered some interesting insights into the dilemma facing many swing voters this election. Many of these women are struggling economically. They spoke of losing houses and jobs. One woman even said that she and her husband want more kids "but we can't afford to have more." These 20 women - all were moms who shop at Walmart at least once a month - were part of two focus groups conducted by Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican pollster Alex Bratty, and sponsored by Walmart. They expressed disappointment with the job Obama has done so far on the economy. When asked about what accomplishments he'd achieved in his three years in office, many of the women responded with blank stares and silence. In Richmond, the question hung in the air for a while until finally one woman piped up, "His wife is encouraging us to eat healthy." Yet, they also believe that three years is a short amount of time to fix the big, fat mess that Obama inherited. Read more: NTYb0G

JUST IN FROM THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: VIDEO: NEW ROMNEY AD TOUTS JOBS RECORD. Mitt Romney's campaign is out with another positive TV ad today, touting Romney's economic record and bipartisan leadership. The script: "Mitt Romney on day one: The difference is strong leadership. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney had the best jobs record in a decade. Romney reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent, he balanced every budget without raising taxes. He did it by bringing parties together to cut through gridlock. From day one as president, Mitt Romney's strong leadership will make all the difference on jobs." WATCH:


-Romney Campaign manager, Matt Rhoades: "Thanks to supporters like you, the Romney Victory effort has out-raised Obama's Campaign Machine in May. This country wants a change, and nearly 300,000 donations show Americans are ready to put their money where their hearts lie. This is just the beginning. However, Obama's campaign manager is right about one thing: 'What happens next is up to you.'"

-Obama Campaign manager, Jim Messina: "For the first time in this campaign, we got beat in fundraising. The Romney campaign and the Republican Party raised more than $76 million last month, compared to our $60 million. We knew this moment would come when Romney secured the nomination. What happens next is up to you. … So let's fight like hell and win this thing."


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

VIDEO: White House Leaks Under Investigation: Republicans suspect Obama administration behind leaking of security secrets. In case you missed it, here's ABC's Jonathan Karl's report for "World News." WATCH:

SANTORUM TAKES FIRST POST-PRIMARY STEP. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports: Rick Santorum announced Friday morning that he will be launching a new group that he will lead to promote conservative issues that were hallmarks of his campaign. The former presidential candidate is starting "Patriot Voices," to make sure the topics he spoke about daily on the campaign trail stay as part of the national debate. "One of the things that we found as I traveled around the country is that people came up to me a lot and said…I was out there speaking about things that gave voice to their concerns on a lot of issues," Santorum said on Fox News this morning. "People are concerned about the economy, people are concerned about national security, but I think a lot of people have basic anxiety about where America is going and I tried to talk about those during the campaign: the adherence to the constitution and the importance of understanding where our rights come from and who we are as a people and a culture and how that is being changed by this administration on the issue of religious liberty or life or marriage."

HOW MORMONISM FORGED ROMNEY'S STYLE, ETHIC. Bloomberg's Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports on Romney's time serving as a bishop in the Mormon church: "In the then-34-year-old Romney - who would put in long hours at his consulting job at Bain & Company only to spend early mornings, late nights and weekends visiting ward members in need and administering church business - Philip Barlow said he saw the marks of an unusually effective leader, and someone who 'epitomized Mormon culture.' … 'He was in leadership capacities in the church roughly for a period of 14 years, and during that time he would spend from 10 to 15 hours a week doing nothing other than confidentially meeting with, and trying to help do what he personally could, or calling on the resources of other people in the area to help with the everyday problems of life - whether it was unemployment, whether it was a wayward child, whether it was an illegal immigrant, whether it was a marriage falling apart,' said Grant Bennett, another one of Romney's counselors and Bain co-workers, who succeeded him as bishop in Belmont, Massachusetts."

A COMPETITIVE RACE FOR GIFFORDS' SEAT. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: The race, which has been under way since April, is between Republican nominee Jesse Kelly, a former Marine who ran against Giffords in 2010, and Ron Barber, Giffords' former district director. Barber himself was injured in the shooting outside the Safeway grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011. He was shot in the leg and the cheek. Giffords has not been very present in Barber's campaign. She was featured on a mailer paid for by the Democratic Party of Arizona, and she will be campaigning for the candidate this weekend. However, regardless of Giffords' level of involvement, the race was never going to be in the bag for Democrats.

STEPHANOPOULOS: CAMPAIGN TORPEDOES OUT OF OBAMA'S CONTROL. In the latest installment of Bottom Line, ABC's George Stephanopoulos examines the top factors in the 2012 race-which Obama can't change. The economy, voters in Greece, Billy Clinton's iffy surrogacy, the Fed, and tensions between Israel and Iran are all beyond the president's reach, and George reports that a top Obama aide admitted, "The things that worry me are the things we can't control." WATCH:

MORE VIDEO: POLITICALLY FOUL. ABC's Amy Walter recaps the week in political bloopers, from Obama's reference to "George Romney" to Sen. Chuck Grassley's cell phone ringing during a Senate floor speech to Obama light jabs at Ellen DeGeneres.

A 9-STATE RACE. The New York Times' Jeremy Peters reports: "Already, ads about President Obama or Mitt Romney have been run nearly 6,000 times in and around Las Vegas since April 11, more than in any other media market in the country during that period, according to the Kantar Media Campaign Media Analysis Group. And the $5 million spent by both sides during that eight-week stretch translates into the highest rate of spending per electoral vote anywhere by far. … Given the volatility of the electorate, the map could easily expand or contract from the current nine - Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia - in the weeks and months ahead. … But no recent general election advertising strategy has covered so little ground so early."

OBAMA VS. CONGRESS ON STUDENT LOANS … STILL. ABC's Mary Bruce reports on the president's trip to Las Vegas: Touting his efforts to make college more affordable, President Obama today blasted lawmakers for failing to extend low-rate student loans. "This is a no-brainer," the president told students at a campaign-style rally at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "I've just said to Congress: Get this done. Get it done … this is not complicated." Today's event was the latest in the president's push to boost support among young voters and contrast his education policies with those of Congressional Republicans and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Both the administration and Republican lawmakers want to prevent interest rates on a popular student loan from doubling at the end of the month, but remain deadlocked over how to pay for it.

BILL CLINTON REGRETS TAX-CUT COMMENT. Taegan Goddard notes: "Bill Clinton told CNN that he regrets 'the swirl over comments he made earlier in the week in which he appeared to suggest he would be open to extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.' Said Clinton: 'I'm very sorry about what happened. I thought something had to be done on the 'fiscal cliff' before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year.'"

ANN ROMNEY'S ROLE: GIVING COMFORT TO MITT. Shushannah Walshe reports on Ann Romney's foray onto the campaign trail: Mitt Romney does not come to his wife for policy advice, she said. The experts are for that. But over 43 years of marriage "anytime it's anything to do with family or those things that are really personal to us," he turns to her. And her "role" in the campaign is giving "comfort." "And knowing that I'm standing by his side, that I trust him, that I am rooting for him, that I am with him," Romney said, "that it's an experience that we're going through together, that just being with each other makes it easier, and being able to talk each other."

VIDEO: MICHELLE OBAMA STOPS FOR PIE. From ABC's Devin Dwyer: The first lady made an unannounced stop at Mom's Apple Pie Co., a family-owned bakery in Occoquan, a small town about 23 miles southwest of the White House. Obama perused the shop's offerings of fresh fruit pies and jams, as well as old-fashioned candies and a collection of wines and beers. "Oh there's wine!" she said walking through the store. "No one told me there was wine!"

BIDEN DANCES THE HORA. From ABC's Arlette Saenz: People magazine obtained an exclusive White House photo of Biden and his daughter surrounded by smiling and clapping wedding guests as the father-daughter duo danced the Hora. Biden's daughter Ashley Blazer Biden, 30, married surgeon Howard Krein on Saturday in a private ceremony in Wilmington, Del.

LAWMAKERS WORRY ABOUT LOOSE LIPS. ABC's John Parkinson and Sunlen Miller report: This afternoon, the senior Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees joined together with Republicans to denounce a recent flood of national security leaks about U.S. covert actions in counterterrorism and espionage, and to announce their collective effort to investigate the recurring issue of classified information being disclosed in the media. … "We are not finger-pointing," [Sen. Dianne Feinsteine, D-Calif.] said. "This has to stop. When people say they don't want to work with the United States because they can't trust us to keep a secret, it's serious." … Feinstein said that over the next month she will work with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, to change language to the Senate authorization bill to shore up weaknesses exposed by the recent string of classified leaks.

VIDEO: MCCAIN POINTS A FINGER. Sen. John McCain tells CNN's Anderson Cooper: "I think it's very clear these leaks came from the White House, people within the White House itself, and these people are very politically oriented … I don't think there's any doubt that this is one of the most egregious breaches of national security in recent memory. … I think it cries out for a special counsel. … The president has been silent about this."

NY GIANTS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. From a White House press release: "[T]he President will welcome the four-time Super Bowl Champion New York Giants to the White House to honor the team for their Super Bowl XLVI victory. Continuing his tradition of recognizing sports teams for their work off the field, President Obama will highlight the Giants' ongoing support to the men and women who serve in the military and their families."

OBAMA CAMP QUESTIONS ROMNEY'S BLIND TRUST. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports: The Romney campaign told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the former governor would move his financial holdings to a federal blind trust if elected president, but until then they will remain managed by a personal attorney on a "blind basis." The federal trust has stricter standards and oversight. … "Gov. Romney is not operating with a federally qualified blind trust; that's certainly been obvious," said Obama for America general counsel Bob Bauer. "Yesterday he took the position that was in fact the case, he acknowledged that, but he also said he wasn't prepared to make any changes until and if he became president of the U.S. And that raises a set of questions right there. "The whole reason for rigorous blind trust requirements is so that you have fully independent administration of the trust in such a fashion that the office holder can be…completely reliably screened from anything that could influence his conduct, policy positions he takes," he said. "That's the risk."

ROMNEY'S FAULT FOR GETTING HACKED? From Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick: "Jesse Lipson, vice president of data sharing at cloud computing firm Citrix, says Romney could've averted his fate completely. According to Lipson, Romney was hacked because he failed to heed some of the most important cybersecurity best practices. Lipson said that the single best thing a person can do to protect themselves from 'dictionary attacks' - where hackers try to use common words or phrases as passwords - is to make up complex, but memorable, passwords and security questions. Users should also create different passwords for different sites, he added. 'This is a great sobering reminder for people to have a strong password,' he said. 'It's also important to come up with different passwords for different sites. You get that ripple effect if you're using the same password across platforms. Come up with something that you can still remember but has something that has special characters.'" http://on.mash. to/Liwg9Y

HOUSE VS. OBAMACARE: MEDICAL DEVICE TAX. From Reuters' Kim Dixon: "The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Thursday to strike down a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices and other parts of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, although the effort is likely to hit a wall in the Democratic-led Senate. More than three dozen Democrats sided with Republicans to repeal the provisions, including the tax that the medical device industry has fiercely opposed. The vote was 270-146."

DEBATE OPENS ON FARM BILL. From the AP's Jim Abrams: "A five-year farm and food bill that would revamp the federal safety net for farmers and eliminate direct government payments for idle crop fields took its first step toward passage Thursday in the Senate. A 90-8 vote to officially begin debate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs."

RAND PAUL ENDORSES ROMNEY. From Yahoo! News's Joel Roberts: "Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky endorsed Mitt Romney for president Thursday night, but he made clear he'd prefer someone else. 'My first choice had always been my father. I campaigned for him when I was 11-years-old. He's still my first pick," the tea party favorite told Fox News' Sean Hannity. "But now that the nominating process is over, tonight I'm happy to announce that I'm going to be supporting Gov. Mitt Romney.'"

HOLDER, ISSA SPAR IN FAST & FURIOUS HEARING. Politico's Josh Gerstein reports: "The hearing's most fiery exchange came when House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California asked if the Justice Department had gathered information responsive to Fast and Furious-related subpoenas that officials have decided not to turn over to Congress. As Holder began to describe what DOJ had provided, Issa cut him off. 'Mr. Attorney General, you're not a good witness. A good witness answers the question asked,' Issa thundered. 'We've looked at 240 custodians. We have processed millions of electronic records. We've reviewed 140,000 documents,' Holder said. He also said the department has turned over 7,600 pages of records to Congress in the Fast and Furious probe. 'Look, I don't want to hear about the 7,600 pages,' Issa interjected."

RNC VIDEO: OBAMA'S HEADWINDS. The Republican National Committee reprises Obama's repeated references to "serious headwinds" the U.S. economy is facing. Statement from Chairman Reince Priebus: "President Obama likes to blame everyone and everything for the weak economy except the person who is most responsible: Barack Obama … After three and a half years of job-destroying tax hikes, over-zealous regulation and out of control spending, the real 'headwind' facing job creators in this economy is President Obama's economic policies. PPfkDCyn8k

POLITICALLY DRESSED: ANN ROMNEY EDITION. Tune into the first webisode of "Politically Dressed" where ABC News' Shushannah Walshe takes a closer look at campaign trail fashion. In the first edition we explore the style of Ann Romney. No one would ever accuse Mrs. Romney of being a fashion victim. She's always put together, but tends to play it safe. Now that Romney has fully stepped into the spotlight alongside her husband, Mitt, her sartorial sense is on display as much as her speeches. WATCH:


AMERICAN BRIDGE, MAJORITY PAC GO AFTER RICHARD MOURDOCK. The two Democratic super PACs have launched a new website attacking the Indiana Senate candidate who ousted Sen. Dick Lugar in the state's GOP primary. From American Bridge's release: "Exposing Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's extreme views, hyperpartisanship, and reckless disregard for Hoosier jobs, American Bridge 21st Century and Majority PAC today jointly launched an online campaign called "Who is Richard Mourdock?" This campaign will use as its central clearinghouse for information and videos about Mourdock and his agenda. In addition to the website, this campaign will consist of a combination of Google and Facebook ads targeted at Hoosiers."

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

AYOTTE'S RISE: Real Clear Politics' Erin McPike looks at the rise of freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who jumped from the attorney general seat in New Hampshire to become a U.S. Senator and has been floated as a potential VP pick by the candidate himself. "In less than two years' time, Kelly Ayotte has gone from obscure New Hampshirite to one of the more visible figures in national politics," McPike wrote. "The freshman senator is often photographed alongside Mitt Romney as one of his leading surrogates on the campaign trail (and the most high-profile female surrogate other than his wife), and the Senate Republican leadership trots her out frequently to go before cameras and drive their message on whatever legislation they're pushing. No wonder Romney has named her publicly as one of about 15 people who might be on his list of potential running mates."

PAUL RYAN RUNS: In a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity Wednesday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., creatively dodged the standard VP question when asked what he'd do if Romney asked him to run. "You mean go jogging with him? I'd go for a run," Ryan said.

RYAN & PORTMAN TO RAISE ROMNEY CASH: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Rob Portman will team up with Romney later this month for a fundraiser geared towards young professionals, the Washington Post reported.

VEEP POTENTIALS LINE UP AT CPAC: Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Bob McDonnell will each speak at Chicago CPAC today.


@jonkarl : @rickklein? @CYNNESIMPSON: We're raising $ for @pressclubdc w 5K tomorrow morning! Come see @rickklein @jonkarl @tomforemancnn @cnnjill

@dickstevenson : As a moment of history, 2012 may never match 2008., but the stakes are arguably higher this time around. My take:

@BuzzFeedBen : A really interesting story about the deepening wedge btw private and public sector unions in NY

@biannagolodryga : So proud of my colleague & friend @RobinRoberts, who's being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this wkd!

@joshtpm : One article that really explains how bad economy has upended all assumptions on Capitol Hill. Really must read

@seanspicer : Happy birthday to @MittRomney message and ad guru @rschriefer


-Mitt Romney will hold campaign event at Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Later in the day, Romney appears for a photo-op with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in Salt Lake City.

-President Obama will meet with President Aquino of the Philippines at the White House and will also honor the Super Bowl champion, New York Giants. Tonight he will attend campaign fundraiser in Washington, DC.

ABC's Joanna Suarez

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