A Midsummer Race's Theme: 'Dead Heat' (The Note)

Larry Marano/WireImage/Getty Images; Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

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


  • EPIC PRESIDENTIAL BATTLE AHEAD. ABC News pollster Gary Langer reviews the results of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today and finds that "economic discontent and substantial dissatisfaction with Barack Obama's performance in office are keeping Mitt Romney competitive in the presidential race - but not by enough of a margin to overcome Obama's stronger personal profile. The result: A dead heat in voter preferences at the midsummer stage, with the prospect of an epic battle ahead….With a 47-47 percent Obama-Romney contest among registered voters, the overall results point to a sharply defined race: On one hand Obama, the more personally popular candidate, with a larger and more energized partisan base, yet weak performance scores; on the other Romney, his opportunities to capitalize on Obama's vulnerabilities complicated by his difficulties in capturing the public's imagination." http://abcn.ws/ OTpVo8
  • A FLOOD OF SECRET MILLIONS: ABC's Jon Karl looks at the avalanche of secret money in the 2012 election cycle in the latest episode of "Spinners & Winners." An infusion of millions of dollars - unlike anything we have ever seen before - may now be the single biggest force in American politics. Some of the players are well-known, such as conservative activist and former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business interest group long active in politics. http://yhoo.it/ OV6QSv
  • OBAMA HEADS TO THE HAWKEYE STATE: President Obama is off to Cedar Rapids, Iowa this morning. While there, he will hold a discussion with a local family at their home. This afternoon, the president will deliver remarks on middle class tax relief at a grassroots rally at the Kirkwood Recreation Center in Cedar Rapids before heading back to Washington this evening.
  • WHO ELSE IS IN IOWA? ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that President Obama is going to have some company today in Iowa. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is also heading there to push his message. Both Republicans and Democrats have been going back and forth bracketing opposing events, but it's never escalated to this level - now the chairman of the GOP is following the president to the same towns he is stumping in. But, for those hoping for a parking lot tete-a-tete will be disappointed: Priebus' event is close by, but two hours earlier. http://abcn.ws/MerdG1


Based on the results of today's new ABC News-Washington Post poll, it's easy to see why even though its only July it feels a lot like the middle of fall.

According to ABC News pollster, Gary Langer, 63 percent of Americans say the country's headed in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, Americans by 58-34 percent margin predict that President Obama will ultimately to defeat Mitt Romney in November.

But nothing is set in stone.

-"One in five of Romney's current supporters, and one in six of Obama's, say there's a chance they could change their mind and support the other candidate. Very few, though, say there's a 'good chance' they could shift - a mere 4 percent of Obama's supporters, 8 percent of Romney's."

-"That suggests that more than changing minds, the contest likely is to be about motivating turnout - and here Obama has an edge. Among registered voters, half of his supporters (51 percent) are 'very' enthusiastic, vs. 38 percent of Romney's."


- President Obama's "overall job rating is 47-49 percent, approve-disapprove (the same as in May). It's majority negative on his handling of the economy, 44-54 percent; health care, 41-52 percent (a numerical low in approval, with no bump from last month's Supreme Court ruling); and immigration, 38-52 percent."


- "The economy's the big kahuna - 89 percent say it's important in their vote choice, 53 percent 'extremely' important - and Romney and Obama are close in trust to handle it, 49-44 percent (48-45 percent among registered voters).


-The poll found "an even split on whether his Bain Capital background is a major reason to support or oppose [Romney] (23-24 percent), with 50 percent saying it makes no difference. There's a close division, as well, on whether Romney at Bain Capital did more to create or cut U.S. jobs, 36-40 percent - a complication in his efforts to take the jobs issue to Obama."


- "Obama retains advantages over Romney in personal qualities, including a vast 36-point advantage in being seen as more friendly and likeable, and a more important albeit narrower 10-point lead as better understanding the economic problems Americans are experiencing. Obama also holds a slight 9-point edge as being more apt to stand up for what he believes; the two are closer on who's the stronger leader. All these have held essentially steady since spring."

TAD DEVINE: ROMNEY WILL LOSE IF DEMS TURN HIM INTO 'CARICATURE'. ABC's Amy Walter reports, Tad Devine knows a little something about a candidate losing control of his narrative. The Democratic media consultant served as a senior adviser and strategist to Democrat Sen. John Kerry's 2004 campaign for president, a campaign best remembered for coining the phrase "Swift Boating." So, does Devine agree with those who say that Romney needs to do a better job defining himself and his record? "Having gone through what I've gone through," said Devine, "I think it's a big mistake…They (Romney) will lose if they let the other side turn him into a caricature." http://abcn.ws/ NG3obF


ABC's RICK KLEIN: In this long game of the presidential campaign, one side is running plays, while the other seems more content with running out the clock. The Obama campaign is trying out moves and messaging - a flip on gay marriage, action helping children of illegal immigrants, a repackaged tax proposal - that leave the Romney campaign on the defensive. The new ABC News-Washington Post offers a glimpse why: Americans by a 51-33 margin say they're more focused on what the president would do in a second term, rather than what he's done in his first. Against that backdrop, trying things out for the future beats treading old ground.

OBAMA CAMPAIGN VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS ROMNEY'S TAX 'SECRETS': As President Obama heads to Iowa, his campaign continues to try to build an aura of suspicion around Mitt Romney's foreign investments. A new OFA web video asks "How long can Romney keep info on his investments in overseas tax havens secret? And why did he do it in the first place? Time will tell." The last line is a jab at Romney who, when asked at a Fox News GOP primary debate, said "time will tell" whether he would release more than one year of returns. WATCH: http://bit.ly/NYyyci


-ROMNEY OUT-RAISES OBAMA BY $35 MILLION IN JUNE. President Obama's re-election effort raised $71 million dollars in June, substantially less than the monthly haul by GOP rival Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign has announced. June was Romney's best fundraising of the 2012 campaign, not counting sums raised by affiliated super PACs and outside groups. And while Obama's campaign aides had publicly anticipated being outraised, they jumped on the $35 million gap as reason to sound the alarm. http://abcn.ws/LYQYO6

-DAVID PLOUFFE RESPONDS: "We assumed all along that Governor Romney and the RNC would out-raise us. The real new dynamic in this race is obviously the Super PAC," the president's top political strategist, David Plouffe, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" today. After losing the fundraising battle for two consecutive months, Plouffe said this morning that "money matters in politics" but "you have to have enough money to run and win your campaign and our big concern is these Super PACs who are, you know, you've got a few very wealthy people lining up, trying to purchase the White House for Mr. Romney." http://abcn.ws/LEIpKh


with Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

IN SWING STATES, A STORM OF NEGATIVE ADS. ABC's Jon Karl reports: To most of us, the country looks like 50 states. But to the Obama and Romney campaigns, it looks like just a dozen hotly contested states in which almost all of their campaigning has been. And, if you follow the money, it really comes down to just Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado, where the two sides have already spent over $110 million on the presidential election. Turn on the TV in one of these states and you'd think the election was next week. A vast majority of the political ad tsunami is brutally negative. http://abcn.ws/ NDFptC

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Jon Karl's "World News" report on the ad blitz. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/Lc0duC

HOUSE TO VOTE ON REPEALING OBAMACARE. ABC's John Parkinson reports, lawmakers will begin debating the GOP's proposal to repeal the law Tuesday, with a final vote expected Wednesday afternoon. To date, the House has voted 30 times to defund, dismantle and repeal the Affordable Care Act…Despite an inadequate sum of votes in the Senate to repeal it, House Speaker John Boehner said voting for repeal in the aftermath of the court's decision will only act to strengthen his party's resolve. http://abcn.ws/ Nmxwu2

OP-ED: YOUTH NOT SERVED BY THE PRESIDENT. George P. Bush, son of Jeb, nephew of George W. Bush, and GOP operative Brad Dayspring authored an opinion piece in Politico in which they argue that Obama has not helped young people in this country, and urge young voters to participate in November. Bush is the co-chairman of Maverick PAC and Dayspring serves as the senior advisor to the YG Action Fund. Their groups are set to team up in an effort to mobilize young conservatives. "A record number of young Americans had been inspired by Obama's promises during the 2008 presidential campaign. Nearly 2 million more young Americans under age 30 voted that year than in 2004, 11 percentage points higher than 1996. Sixty-six percent of them voted for Obama, propelling him to a historic victory. At that time, the unemployment rate was about 7.5 percent. What's happened since? Young Americans have been hurt disproportionally in the Obama economy. Unemployment now hovers above 8 percent, but unemployment for college graduates under age 25 has averaged 9.4 percent over the past year…. It's incumbent on young voters to fight for a vision that will allow a birth of the next great generation. Look within yourselves and rediscover your hope. If you disagree with the direction of change- be heard in November." http://politi.co/PGyjZl

NOTABLE: GOP SUPER PAC SEES OBAMA'S JOB APPROVAL AMONG YOUNG VOTERS SLIDING. The start-up Republican super PAC, Crossroads Generation, unveiled a new graphic showing a drop in President Obama's approval ratings among 18-29 year-old Americans. http://on.fb.me/NDD3uD

Analysis from Republican pollster Kristen Soltis, a communications adviser to Crossroads Generation: "We've seen Obama's numbers softening up with this group on a number of fronts. When Scott Walker won 18-24 year olds in the Wisconsin recall - that was an eye-opener. The Harvard Institute of Politics' most recent survey showed a lot of opportunities for Republicans, particularly among those 18-24 year olds. If you run the numbers from the 2010 exit polls, voters 18-24 were the age group least likely to say the stimulus had helped the economy. The 18-24 year old unemployment rate ticked up from 15% to 15.4% in June, even with seasonal adjustment (it's 16.3% unadjusted) so it makes sense why young voters are frustrated, disappointed, and less enthusiastic about Obama. I think many young people have grown out of the excitement they felt four years ago, and that excitement has been replaced with a search for anyone who can propose a better path forward. This leaves Republicans a great opportunity to reach out and win over these voters. In many swing states, picking up a few points among young voters may be just the boost Republicans need to tip a state 'blue' to 'red.' In Virginia, over one out of five voters was under 30 in the 2008 election. In North Carolina, if the GOP had picked up just two more points among these voters, that would have swung the state into the Republican column in '08."

INDEPENDENT VOTERS CUT DEMS' SWING STATE EDGE. "Independent voters are growing in numbers at the expense of Democrats in battleground states most likely to determine this year's presidential election, a Bloomberg News analysis shows," according to Bloomberg's John McCormick. "The collective total of independents grew by about 443,000 in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and North Carolina since the 2008 election, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state election officials. During the same time, Democrats saw a net decline of about 480,000 in those six states, while Republicans - boosted in part by a competitive primary earlier this year - added roughly 38,000 voters in them, the analysis shows. … The rise of independent voters has had a major impact on recent election results. In 2008, President Barack Obama won 52 percent of the independent vote, according to national exit polls, which was one percentage less than his overall total. Senator John McCain of Arizona, his Republican opponent, collected 44 percent of the independent vote - 2 points less than his overall total. Independents represented 29 percent of the total electorate that year." http://bloom.bg/NkHrNl

OBAMA: ROMNEY MUST BE AN 'OPEN BOOK'. President Obama is personally calling on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns, reports ABC's Devin Dwyer. In an interview with Manchester, N.H., ABC affiliate WMUR, Obama stressed the need for transparency when asked whether Romney's offshore finances, including a Swiss bank account, disqualified him for office or made him unpatriotic. "What's important is if you are running for president is that the American people know who you are and what you've done and that you're an open book." http://abcn.ws/LKnAIy

ROMNEY ON HIS TAX RETURNS: 'NOTHING HIDDEN'. ABC's Emily Friedman reports: Mitt Romney said there is "nothing hidden" in his tax returns that have yet to be released, responding to a question during a radio interview regarding an onslaught of criticism from Democrats - including President Obama - on his refusal to be more transparent with his financial records. "I don't manage them. I don't even know where they are," said Romney in an interview with Iowa Radio. "That trustee follows all U.S. laws. All the taxes are paid, as appropriate." http://abcn.ws/ MUdNnD

RICK SANTORUM HEADS BACK TO IOWA. Iowa brought Rick Santorum glory - belated glory, but glory nonetheless - when he was finally proclaimed the winner of January's Iowa caucuses, reports ABC's Shush Walshe. Now he's heading back to thank those who helped him pull off the surprise win, launching a two day trip there Tuesday. He is not there to campaign in the battleground state of Iowa for Mitt Romney, though, saying in an interview Monday, "I haven't been in touch with the Romney campaign." http://abcn.ws/ MeNR1d

OBAMA AND ROMNEY, THE 'JEKYLL AND HYDE' CANDIDATES. ABC's Amy Bingham reports, such is the life of a presidential candidate. One day, it's schmoozing with deep-pocketed donors in swanky resorts, the next it's glad-handing with school teachers and assembly line workers in rustic rural diners. "It's a Jekyll and Hyde thing," said James Thurber, a government professor at American University. "They have to grab the money, grub after money, but they also have to look like they are not associated with that kind of activity." http://abcn.ws/ Ni8SdH

OBAMA'S RECORD ON OUTSOURCING DRAWS CRITICISM FROM THE LEFT. The Washington Post's Tom Hamburger, Carol Leonnig and Zachary Goldfarb report: "Obama as president has continued to call for rewriting the rules that allow U.S. corporations to avoid paying taxes for a time on income generated overseas. But the broad tax changes have not happened. While White House officials say they have been waiting on Congress to act, Obama's critics, primarily on the political left, say he has repeatedly failed in other ways to protect American jobs from being moved overseas. They point to a range of actions they say he should have taken: confronting China, reining in unfettered trade and reworking a U.S. visa program that critics say ends up sending high-tech jobs abroad." http://wapo.st/NfHGwC

HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE NEVADA REP. SHELLEY BERKLEY. Yahoo!'s Rachel Rose Hartman reports, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Monday to form a subcommittee to investigate Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is locked in a tough race for Senate this year…The original complaint, filed by the state Republican party following a story in the New York Times, centered on Berkley's role in helping to save a kidney transplant center connected to her husband's medical firm. http://abcn.ws/Me9X2H

NOTED: From a Democratic political operative and Friend of The Note: "I know the Republicans are frothing at the mouth, but essentially nothing has changed. Rep Berkley was under investigation yesterday, and the same is true today. In an election year, the House Ethics committee has to do their due diligence. And the fundamental fact remains that an investigation does not mean anything has been done wrong. "

OBAMA VOTES VETO FOR FULL EXTENSION OF BUSH TAX CUTS. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, in an interview tonight with New Orleans CBS affiliate WWLTV, President Obama vowed to veto any bill that extends the Bush-era tax cuts "across the board," including for individuals earning more than $200,000 and families above $250,000…"I would veto it," Obama said. "Here's why: What I'm proposing is that we give a tax break - that we make sure that taxes don't go up - on 98 percent of Americans. Ninety-eight percent. But to extend tax breaks for that top 2 percent of wealthiest Americans would cost us $1 trillion over the next decade." http://abcn.ws/McyXri

PARTIES' TACTICS ERODING UNITY LEFT AND RIGHT. The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman and Mark Landler report: "President Obama and Congressional Republicans pressed ahead on Monday with politically charged proposals on tax cuts and health care, in competing efforts to frame the election-year debate. But each risked opening fissures in their own ranks, as lawmakers played up alternatives to the aggressive approaches of their leaders….The divisions underscored the stakes for the president and the Republicans as they battle for control of the political debate - each choosing as their weapon a complex public policy issue with broad ripple effects. With four months left until Mr. Obama and Congress face the voters, these choices have become even more fraught, as lawmakers worry about alienating people who like expanded health coverage or tax cuts." http://nyti.ms/PKArk1

UNION SPENDING EXCEEDS DIRECT DONATIONS. The Wall Street Journal's Tom McGinty and Brody Mullins report: "Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, a finding that shines a light on an aspect of labor's political activity that has often been overlooked. Previous estimates have focused on labor unions' filings with federal election officials, which chronicle contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in support of candidates for Congress and the White House. But unions spend far more money on a wider range of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen as the unions' most potent political weapon: persuading members to vote as unions want them to." http://on.wsj.com/MWBY4d

CABINET MEMBERS: A SUPER PAC NO SHOW. Roll Call's Steven Dennis reports: "Senior White House adviser David Plouffe is the only member of President Barack Obama's administration to attend a fundraiser for a pro-Obama super PAC so far, despite an announcement in February that White House officials and Cabinet members would participate…Obama reluctantly embraced the super PAC in February, even though he and most Democrats want to outlaw the groups. But even then, the embrace came with a host of caveats that suggested the president remains uncomfortable with the idea." http://bit.ly/MeNDXL

VIDEO OF THE DAY: POLITICALLY DRESSED: STYLE ADVICE FOR MICHELLE OBAMA. In the latest edition of ABC's web series "Politically Dressed," Shushannah Walshe talked to fashion stylist Phillip Bloch about different looks and tips for the First Lady. "She pulls off affordable as well as designer labels, so we look at styles for Michelle Obama from Banana Republic to Carolina Herrera, along with some of her perennial favorites, including Jason Wu. The days on the trail can be long, so Bloch suggested some looks that can easily work from day rally to evening fundraiser with the simple addition of accessories or a suit jacket." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/Nie3KA

VEEP BEAT: ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz) rounds up all the action on the veepstakes front:

A LOOK AT VEEPSTAKES PAST: As the VP speculation wheel churns, ABC News' Gregory Simmons takes a look at the number two picks and roll out dates from vice presidential announcements of the past, from Bill Clinton defying conventional wisdom with the selection of a fellow southerner in Al Gore in 1992 to John McCain's hasty pick of Sarah Palin in 2008. "The coming of summer heat in a presidential election year always brings the speculation about potential running mates to a boiling point. Mitt Romney is looking for one now. History suggests a decision could come any time between now and the Republican convention," Simmons writes. "The candidate wants to make the most of the announcement and get the most attention possible. But making too much of a splash has its own perils. A hasty vetting process in 2008 by John McCain and his team led to the selection of Sarah Palin - seen by some as a political superstar, but by others as a vice presidential nominee with little national name recognition and a thin resume. This time around, Republicans say the Romney campaign will be more deliberate. Some are even promising this will be the most intrusive, thorough vetting process ever. http://abcn.ws/Mib5oA

NO VETTING FOR JEB BUSH, SON SAYS: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's son, George P. Bush, said in a CNN interview Monday that his father is not being vetted to be Romney's running mate. "He's not being vetted right now," George P. Bush said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." "He's one of the few politicians that does what he says in the sense that he's not actively pursuing a higher office." http://bit.ly/MV8Eff

RYAN RAISING CASH FOR ROMNEY: WJBC Radio in Illinois reported that Ryan will headline a luncheon fundraiser for Romney in Normal, Ill. this Friday. http://bit.ly/MeR3cV


@DavidMDrucker: So, June ends/we're almost midway thru July;health care decision comes & goes-& it's still a jump ball prez election.Look @ that.

@stephenfhayes: Ed Rollins, this AM on Fox & Friends, on Romney's VP choices: "I'd pick Rubio."

?@PhilipRucker: Chris Christie to headline Romney fundraiser next Tues in Columbia, S.C., per GOP official. Portman, Ryan, Rubio raising for Mitt this week.

@ethanklapper: Today in 2002, the House approved a measure to allow airline pilots to carry guns in the cockpit to defend their planes against terrorists.

@BuzzFeedAndrew: 33 members of Congress caught deleting embarrassing moments from their Wikipedia pages. http://bit.ly/MhAwqi


-President Obama travels to Cedar Rapids, IA for two campaign events. First, the president will visit the home of the McLaughlin family for a roundtable discussion on the extension of middle-class tax cuts. In the afternoon, President Obama will speak at a grassroots campaign event at Kirkwood Community College.

-Mitt Romney brings his message to Colorado with two stops in Grand Junction and Colorado Springs.

-First Lady Michelle Obama is in the battleground state of Florida delivering remarks in Miami and Orlando.

ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)

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