When Going Negative Becomes A Positive (The Note)

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


  • A NUMBER TO REMEMBER: "After a week in which Mitt Romney has struggled to counter questions about his tax records and his tenure at Bain Capital, just 38 percent of Americans in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll express a favorable opinion of the way he's running his presidential campaign, while 49 percent respond unfavorably - an 11-point negative margin," notes ABC News pollster Gary Langer. "Obama, for his part, gets an even split in assessments of his campaign efforts, 46-45 percent, favorable-unfavorable, in this poll."
  • BUCKEYE BATTLEGROUND: Ohio is the center of the political universe today. Mitt Romney is in Bowling Green for a town hall meeting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will hold a "Repeal and Replace" grassroots rally for the Romney campaign in Columbus and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will speak at fundraiser for Romney in Mason. The trio of Republican heavy-weights is in the state just two days after President Obama set foot there, holding his own town hall meeting in Cincinnati. Polls in the crucial battleground state still show Obama with an edge over Romney. The most recent Quinnipiac University survey in late June put Obama at 47 percent compared to 38 percent for Romney, however other polls show the race in the Buckeye State even tighter.
  • MORE SURROGATES ON THE MOVE: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also hosting fundraisers for Romney in Chicago and Washington D.C. today, will tag team a fundraiser in Wayzata, Minnesota this evening.
  • ROB PORTMAN: CALL ME, MAYBE?: Top veepstakes contender and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said he has not been in contact with Romney when asked in a Fox News interview if he had heard from the presumptive GOP nominee recently, ABC News' Gregory Simmons reported. "I have not," Portman said in the Fox interview Tuesday. "I've been watching him on Fox though." BONUS: ABC News' Elizabeth Hartfield runs nine things you may not know about Portman, including the book he wrote about a Shaker village near Lebanon, Ohio and the haunted hotel his family owns. http://abcn.ws/NhkLTX


Here's the dirty little secret about negative ads: they work.

President Obama and his allies have been piling on presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney with one negative attack after the other, and our latest ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that more voters disapprove of the way Romney is running his campaign than the way Obama is running his.

In fact, only 38 percent of Americans in the poll express a favorable opinion of the way Romney is running his presidential bid compared to 46 percent for Obama.

"With the race so close - the pair were precisely tied in an ABC/Post poll last week - views of their effectiveness running their campaigns can matter," notes ABC News pollster Gary Langer. "So, of course, will the campaigns themselves, particularly if the race comes to down to motivating and turning out base supporters."

To be sure, Romney hasn't exactly been running a "roses and puppy dogs" campaign. He's been hitting Obama as well. And, his primary campaign consisted of mostly negative attacks too.

This morning, for example, the Romney campaign released a new television ad designed to emphasize the point that "President Obama's time in office has been marked by political payoffs to the donor class and layoffs for the middle class." (More on the new ad: http://abcn.ws/OFWpgZ)

People aren't counting or cataloguing the negative ads they see (and those folks who live in swing states are seeing nothing but negative ads), they just know they see a lot of them. And because Romney is still a relatively unknown and undefined candidate, the bad stuff sticks to him more easily.

Also, helping Obama is the fact that more Democrats support the way Obama is managing his campaign than Republicans approve of Romney's campaign. Another reminder that Romney still has some work to do to convince GOP voters to get on the Romney train.

But, the folks in Chicago shouldn't see this as all good news. Among independents, 46 percent disapprove of both the Obama and Romney campaigns. Obama's advantage - his campaign is better liked by six percentage points - 47-41 percent.

Those aren't exactly "hope and change" kind of numbers. But, in a race that's going to be decided on the narrowest of margins, it's still an important gap.


ABC'S RICK KLEIN: An early VP pick would be out of character for Mitt Romney and a campaign team that has made few panic moves in this long campaign. Yes, it would change the storyline in a big way - but it would also acknowledge that the current story needs desperate changing. The one big chip Romney can play that President Obama can't is his choice for vice president, and even holding onto that chip gives him leverage over the campaign. That's gone the moment he makes a pick - as gone as Romney will be from the United States, when he'd be cutting his running mate loose to a hungry press corps that might lose its appetite in the VP pick long before Tampa.


ABC's Devin Dwyer reports:

-The Democratic National Committee is slamming Romney for "dancing around the issues" with a new video that features his Olympics-bound "dancing horse" Rafalca. Get ready for more, a DNC official notes today's installment will be the "first in a series of digital products highlighting Rafalca." WATCH: http://bit.ly/LrtZXM

-And in the latest Obama campaign web video out this morning, Team Obama mocks Romney's explanation for why he's listed on SEC documents as CEO/owner of Bain Capital between 1999 and 2002 even though he insists he left the company. Over a fanciful soundtrack, the campaign has several MOS in Wisconsin read verbatim to camera Romney's statement from a June 13 interview with CBS. The average folks clearly have trouble understanding his business jargon and express confusion/suspicion."Mitt Romney: chairman, CEO and sole shareholder. And not responsible?" the video reads on screen. WATCH: http://bit.ly/LrhZFM

VIDEO OF THE DAY: BAIN-BOATING. ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein discuss Obama the Attacker in the latest installment of Top Line: The Obama campaign is going retro, circa 2004. Back then, President Bush supporters attacked then-Democratic candidate John Kerry on what was supposed to be Kerry's greatest strength - his military service. A group known as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth undermined that strength, calling into question Kerry's credentials and military awards. And thus was born "swiftboating" - a term used to describe unfair or untrue political attacks. The latest wave of Obama attacks is like Bain boating. http://yhoo.it/NzySRP


with Chris Good ( @c_good)

PAWLENTY FOCUSED ON 'YARD WORK' AS VP RACE HEATS UP, HAS 'DÉJÀ VU'. Tim Pawlenty is a leading candidate to be Mitt Romney's running mate, but the former Minnesota governor isn't giving much thought as to whether he'll be pick as speculation is reaching a fever pitch, ABC News' Michael Falcone and Shushannah Walshe reported. "Despite a flurry of speculation about whether Mitt Romney will name his running mate this week, one of the top contenders for the job insisted that politics was the furthest thing from his mind. 'I'm in contact with Governor Romney from time to time, but this week I'm focused on some yard work and some business things,' Pawlenty said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday," Falcone and Walshe wrote. "Pawlenty, who over the last year has transitioned from one of Romney's fiercest rivals to one of his biggest advocates, offered few clues about the swirling rumors that his is one of just a few names at the top of Romney's list of possible running mates. 'The process will unfold in due course," Pawlenty said. "I'm sure governor Romney and his team will let you all know when the announcement's coming, but that's not something that I can comment on.' He acknowledged, however, that he was experiencing 'a little bit of déjà vu,' recalling how he was the subject of similar speculation four years ago when Sen. John McCain was preparing to select his vice presidential nominee - a spot that ultimately went to Sarah Palin." http://abcn.ws/NUKpMy

NEW ROMNEY AD: OBAMA'S STIMULUS OFFSHORING. After enduring weeks of allegations that Mitt Romney outsourced jobs overseas, Romney's campaign is hitting back with a new TV ad on stimulus money. Script: "Where did all the Obama stimulus money go? Friends, donors, campaign supporters, special interest groups. Where did the Obama stimulus money go? Solyndra: $500 million taxpayer dollars, bankrupt. So where did the Obama stimulus money go? Windmills from China. Electric cars from finland. [Audio from Sen. Chuch Schumer:] '79 percent of the 2.1 billion in stimulus grants awarded through it went to overseas companies.'" http://youtu.be/8KbSXkP0dLw

ROMNEY CAMP: BAIN ATTACKS ARE 'HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY.' From ABC's Devin Dwyer: "President Obama has based his entire reelection campaign on a vicious, dishonest assault on Mitt Romney's business career. The real question for President Obama is this: if Bain Capital is so bad, why have you taken nearly $120,000 in donations from them?" said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "President Obama's actions are the height of hypocrisy." http://abcn.ws/NLORt8

ADELSON THREATENS TO SUE DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE. After the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insinuated "foreign Chinese prostitution money" could be funding candidates backed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, The Las Vegas Sun's Jon Ralston reports: "In a scathing letter to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sheldon Adelson's lawyer accused the organization of 'maliciously branding Mr. Adelson as a pimp' and demanded the DCCC either retract and apologize or be sued." http://bit.ly/M8IHVo

PERRY BACKS TRANSPARENCY ON TAX RETURNS. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports: "I'm a big believer that no matter who you are or what office you are running for, you should be as transparent as you can be with your tax returns and other aspects of your life so that people have the appropriate ability to judge your background and what have you," Perry said today during at the Texas State Capitol. "I certainly think it is inappropriate for the president of the United States to not keep his college transcript and his law school transcripts public, that he should make those available. I'm all about transparency." http://abcn.ws/Msmnqp

ROMNEY CAMP TO PLAY HARDBALL, BRING UP CHICAGO TIES AND COCAINE. BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins reports: "Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney's finances and business record, the Republican's campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston's pushback - which began last week when they began labeling Obama a "liar" - very little will be off-limits, from the president's youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians." http://bit.ly/MHG9g4

ERSKINE BOWLES FORMS NEW TAXMAGEDDON GROUP. From ABC's Amy Bingham: Bowles, along with a group of debt reduction experts, former lawmakers, non-profit leaders and Fortune 500 companies CEOs, today launched the Fix the Debt campaign, which aims to galvanize public support for a comprehensive debt reduction plan. "We are trying to do some homework because the homework is not being done in the Congress today," Bowles told ABC News after the announcement. "We are trying to bring together a bipartisan group of people so they can act when they're ready. So when the time is ready they can go to work." http://abcn.ws/NwE61S

OBAMA WANTS TO BE 'PIONEER OF INSOURCING.' ABC's Arlette Saenz reports from President Obama's fundraiser last night in Austin, Texas: "If your main experience is investing in companies that are called pioneers of outsourcing, then that indicates that we've got a different vision because I don't want to be a pioneer of outsourcing," he said, standing before a giant American flag and an oversized Texas flag to his right at his third fundraiser of the day in Texas. "I want to be a pioneer of insourcing." http://abcn.ws/OW7PhQ

OBAMA: TEXAS WILL SOON BE A SWING STATE. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports from San Antonio: Greeting a crowd of donors with "Hello San Antone," President Obama revved up Democrats in the traditionally red state by telling them he sees shades of purple in Texas that might ultimately turn blue down the line. "The next four months, you guys won't see them, because, you know, you're not considered one of the battleground states, although that's going to be changing soon In the next four months," Obama said of negative ads at a fundraising luncheon at a downtown convention center here. http://abcn.ws/O9PHlv

BERNANKE BACK ON THE HILL. The Associated Press reports: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, one day after sketching a bleak picture of the U.S. economy and warning it will darken further if Congress doesn't reach agreement soon to avert a budget crisis. … He will testify to the House Financial Services Committee. On Tuesday, he spoke to the Senate Banking Committee. … 'Congress is in charge here, not the Federal Reserve,' he said." http://buswk.co/O9Pjn4

OBAMA CAMPAIGN SUES IN OHIO. ABC'S Devin Dwyer reports: President Obama's re-election campaign has filed suit in federal court to block a Republican-sponsored Ohio law that mandates an end to early, in-person voting a full three days before Election Day this fall. The lawsuit is the latest twist in an ongoing battle over early voting in the state between Obama allies and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich. http://abcn.ws/O9Pmze

PLAYING ON BIRTHER FEARS? The Los Angeles Times' Seema Mehta suggests Romney is doing just that: "In remarks that played on debunked assertions about President Obama's birthplace, Mitt Romney on Tuesday said that the current administration resembled foreign governments and one of his chief surrogates said the president needed to 'learn how to be an American.' … Standing before hundreds of supporters in a sweltering oil and natural gas services company outside Pittsburgh, Romney compared Obama's administration to those in foreign lands where the well-connected receive government handouts while the middle-class suffers." http://lat.ms/MHHDaj

INSIDE ROMNEY'S VEEP SEARCH. The New York Times' Ashley Parker and Michael Barbaro report on what the campaign is doing: "Aides to Mitt Romney have pored over video footage of potential running mates, studying hundreds of hours of Sunday news show appearances, campaign debates and stump speeches for insight into how they handle unwelcome inquiries, even hecklers. … With their leave-no-document-unturned thoroughness, advisers to the candidate readily acknowledge that he has conducted a search specifically designed to avoid the kind of rushed and risky selection of Sarah Palin that ultimately bedeviled Mr. McCain four years ago, a choice that startled Mr. Romney as much as anyone." http://nyti.ms/LxXGv2

ROMNEY, OBAMA SEEK CASH FROM EXPATS. From The Boston Globe's Matt Viser: "Romney has reportedly sent two of his sons to Hong Kong to raise money, and is planning another round of fund-raising in London while he is there for the Olympics. Obama's surrogates held a fund-raiser at a Shanghai hotel last Wednesday and next month will dispatch actor George Clooney to Geneva to collect donations. … At this point, Obama has a sizable edge over the former Massachusetts governor in attracting donations from abroad, but Romney is planning several high-dollar fund-raisers while abroad later this month." http://bo.st/OWftsq


-MOVE ON.ORG RELEASES NEW AD: 'TRICKY MITT.' A press release from the progressive advocacy group: "MoveOn.org Political Action will release a new 30-second TV ad entitled 'Tricky Mitt' in markets across Ohio - featuring an image of Mitt Romney morphing into Richard Nixon and further ratcheting up MoveOn's campaign to demand that the presumed Republican nominee stop hiding his tax returns. In the wake of explosive news that Romney may have filed false disclosure reports about his role at Bain Capital, the TV ad highlights for voters what we already know about Romney's 1% financial priorities - personal gain at the expense of laid off American workers while at Bain and tax sheltered money in offshore accounts. The TV ad culminates with a photo of Romney morphing into a photo of former President Nixon - alluding to questions about the legality of the candidate's disclosure reports with the question: 'He's not a crook, right?'"


@Jordanfabian : New Romney Spanish ad says he'll work for bipartisan immigration reform, name-checks father's Mexican birthplace: http://uninews.us/OWt7fg

? @maggiepolitico : Huma speaks publicly for first time on @RepWeiner scandal in soft mag intvu http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/18/weiner-no-plans-to-run-for-mayor/

@katieharbath : The Romney campaign's data strategy: They're outsourcing. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/victory_lab/2012/07/the_romney_campaign_s_data_strategy_they_re_outsourcing_.html

@dickstevenson : The brash vs bully question diminishes Gov. Chris Christie's VP hopes. @kzernike http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/18/nyregion/christie-balancing-national-ambitions-with-governorship.html

@samyoungman : Happy birthday to my friend - @OKnox. twitter should try to convince him to grow out the mutton chops


-President Obama will honor 2012 NCAA Women's Basketball Champion Baylor Bears at the White House and attend a fundraiser in Washington, DC tonight.

-Mitt Romney will attend town hall at the Bowling Green Community Center in Bowling Green, Ohio and attend a fundraiser in Canton, Ohio tonight.

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