The Coffee Chronicles: Campaigns Lob Attacks On Transparency And Taxes (The Note)

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images | Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Newscom

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ), CHRIS GOOD ( @c_good ) and ELIZABETH HARTFIELD ( @LizHartfield )


  • ROMNEY GETS A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS: Fresh off his rocky foreign trip, its Mitt Romney's first day campaigning on U.S. soil since last Tuesday. And he'll be joined in Basalt, Colo. by a handful of Republican governors, including some top vice presidential contenders. Among the potential running mates alongside Romney today: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will make his first public appearance with the presumptive Republican nominee aside from fundraisers, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
  • OBAMA TACKLES TAXES. President Obama will campaign in Orlando, Fla., and Leesburg, Va., today to promote his plan to extend part of the Bush-era tax cuts and let them expire for higher incomes. ABC News Political Director Amy Walter points out that the latest ABC News-Washington Post polling shows voters split on whether they trust Obama or Mitt Romney to handle taxes, with the president striving for some daylight in those numbers.
  • BATTLING BAIN: BuzzFeed's Ben Smith reported last night that the Romney campaign has hired a corporate public relations veteran to help "defend" his time at the private equity firm, Bain Capital, which has been the subject of a relentless onslaught from Democrats, mostly notably the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action. The hired gun - Michele Davis - worked under former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson during the TARP days, at a firm that handled BP's public relations disaster after the oil spill, and at Fannie Mae when the housing bubble was inflating.
  • RAFALCA RIDES: Rafalca, the horse co-owned by Ann Romney, and his rider Jan Ebeling performed Thursday morning on the first day of Olympics dressage, according to ABC's Shushannah Walshe. After eight previous pairs they earned a score of 70.2 and are currently in 4th place, behind Great Britain, Denmark, and Germany. There are still more riders to go today and tomorrow including the rest of Team USA, but they are in a good place to continue on to the next phase on August 7. Mrs. Romney cheered on Ebeling and Rafalca in the arena at Greenwich Park in London. The music during their dance included classical, guitar, and even a saxophone solo. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after the performance, Romney called Rafalca and Ebeling "elegant and consistent."


Who knew a cup of coffee could be so fraught?

As ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, "Republicans are highlighting the administration's alleged hypocrisy on transparency in holding meetings with lobbyists off White House grounds in order to keep them secret. While the meetings have been extensively reported before by ABC News and the New York Times, a new report published Tuesday by House Republicans exposed a raft of e-mail messages between industry lobbyists and Obama administration officials deliberately making plans to rendezvous off-site to avoid detection."

Some of the meetings took place at a Caribou Coffee shop near the White House and a number of e-mails show then White House chief of staff Jim Messina - now the manager of President Obama's re-election effort - using a personal account to discuss health care reform with a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist.

The allegation by Republicans is that Messsina's use of his personal address may be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Republicans were sinking their teeth into the line of attack on the same day that Democrats were touting a new report from the Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think tank that found Romney's tax plan "would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers."

It's all part of both campaigns' continuing battle for the heart and soul of the middle class.

The latest ABC News-Washington Post poll showed Obama and Romney tied at 46 percent on the question of "which candidate do you trust to do a better job handling taxes." This provides Obama the opportunity to go on the offense here on taxes - not something a Democrat normally has the opportunity to do.

But don't expect the Romney campaign to let up either. One Republican strategist familiar with this week's messaging said we haven't heard the last of it. As the strategist put it, tongue in check, "The slow-roasting of Jim Messina will continue."

And on Thursday and Friday, the Romney campaign plans to hold 24 "Strengthening The Middle Class" events in 13 states - Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Florida, and Colorado.

And the Republican National Committee is out with a new research piece this morning accusing the White House of "coordinat[ing] with lobbyists in secret to pass Obamacare."

As his campaign hammers away at the issue, the fact remains that, Romney, the candidate, is never going to convince most Americans that he's "one of them." What he does need to do, however, is convince them that he can make their lives better.

More attacks on Obama alone aren't going to do the trick. At some point, Romney's got to show them what he'd do differently.

NEW FROM OBAMA H.Q. The newest television ad from the Obama campaign tries to turn the tables on Mitt Romney over taxes, suggesting his tax cut plan really only benefits a small group of wealthy elites like himself while raising rates on everyone else, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. It invokes the Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney's plan published yesterday as backup. The spot is part of a broad Obama campaign effort to portray Obama as "warrior for the middle class" on taxes. He hit on theme in Ohio yesterday and will discuss it today in Florida and Virginia. In the ad titled, "Stretch," the narrator says: "You work hard, stretch every penny, but chances are you pay a higher tax rate than him. Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 but paid only 14 percent in taxes, probably less than you. Now he has a plan that would give millionaires another tax break and raises taxes on middle-class families by up to $2,000 a year. Mitt Romney's middle-class tax increase: He pays less, you pay more." WATCH:

NEW FROM ROMNEY H.Q. Ahead of President Obama's campaign stop in Virginia today, Mitt Romney's campaign released a new web video tailored to the state - part of its "These Hands" series, a string of videos countering President Obama's "You didn't build that" comment, which was made nearly three weeks at a stop in Roanoke. Today's installment features Melissa Ball of Richmond, Va., who says, "My initial response was one of being insulted for not myself, but really for our entire team. For a guy who gets up at 4 o'clock in the morning and drives a truck all day long in 104-degree weather and works until 6 o'clock at night, he built this business as much as I did. The comments that the president's plan has worked? I haven't seen it work." RAFALCA REDUX: YOUR GUIDE TO OLYMPICS DRESSAGE. Most Americans associate the Olympics with swimming and gymnastics and young, agile bodies, but at the Romney house, all the attention goes to a horse ridden by a 53-year-old man in a top hat and tails, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. The horse is named Rafalca. She's part-owned by Ann Romney. And the sport is dressage. "There will be sobbing and crying." That's how foremost dressage expert Kenneth Braddick describes what the Olympic competition Thursday will be like for the 20,000-plus attendees. Those watching will be "awash in tears," he added, when they hear the patriotic music each rider dances to, and even "hard bitten guys in the horse business are literally sobbing away." Braddick, a former war correspondent for UPI who now runs Dressage News, is impressed with how well Ebeling is handling the pressure. Braddick says Ebeling texts Ann Romney and the other owner, telling them, "I don't want to hear any stress, any emotion. I don't want anything to break my focus." "Having that visibility is really adding something to the sport, and does it affect me? No," Ebeling said in an NBC News video. "Once I get into my zone, I don't see anything, I don't hear anything. Everything is shut out."


with Chris Good ( @c_good)

OBAMA STUMPS ON TAXES. ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer report from Akron, Ohio: President Obama today pounced on a new report that found Mitt Romney's economic plan would raise taxes on the majority of Americans and give tax breaks to the super wealthy, telling supporters in the battleground state of Ohio that his opponent wants them to pay more so that "people like him" can get a tax cut. "If Governor Romney wants to keep his word and pay for this plan, then he'd have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home-the home mortgage deduction-to pay for your health care-the health care deduction-to send your kids to college," the president told roughly 2,000 supporters in Mansfield, Ohio.

ABOUT THAT STUDY. The new wave of tax attacks stems from a report by the Tax Policy Center at Brookings. The study examines Romney's plan to cut taxes and extend the Bush tax cuts while avoiding deficit increases and finds: "Our major conclusion is that a revenue-neutral individual income tax change that incorporates the features Governor Romney has proposed-including reducing marginal tax rates substantially, eliminating the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) and maintaining all tax breaks for saving and investment-would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers."

WAL-MART GOES POLITICAL. Bloomberg's John McCormick reports: "America's biggest private employer is becoming more sophisticated in its dealings with government, co-sponsoring events with a range of advocacy groups from business organizations to Hispanic elected officials, building a bipartisan Washington presence, and interviewing its customers on political issues. The company will also have a presence in Tampa later this month when Mitt Romney accepts the Republican Party presidential nomination, and in Charlotte next month at the Democratic Party's convention. … Earlier this week, 10 Wal-Mart moms from the Denver area were assembled for the company's latest focus group … used words like dissatisfied, frustrated, deceitful, unhappy and personable to describe how they feel about Obama, 50. Uncertain, greedy, slick and businessman were some of those used to describe Romney, 65."

THE INTERNET IS OUT OF SPACE FOR POLITICAL ADS. Politico's Steve Friess and Emily Schultheis report: "[F]or one key commodity-political advertising-the Web is about to run out of room, at least on the popular video sites that campaigns in some swing states care about most. … Search ads and display ads are more plentiful and are still available to campaigns. The ads in question are those 15- and 30-second spots that automatically play before videos on YouTube, Yahoo, AOL and other sites - and they're either sold out in some markets or will be auctioned off at record prices, insiders tell POLITICO."

NEW ADS HIT GOP SENATE CANDIDATES IN NORTH DAKOTA, MISSOURI. Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC that focuses on Senate races, will air new TV ads in North Dakota and Missouri. The first attacks Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., for his vote in favor of the Paul Ryan budget plan. "The Wall Street Journal said Berg's budget vote would 'essentially end Medicare' if it passed," a narrator says. Another hits Missouri Senate candidate John Brunner, questioning his job-creation record as a business owner. Both candidates have slight edges over their Democratic opponents, and Brunner will compete in Missouri's three-way GOP primary in Tuesday. Majority PAC declined to say how much it's spending to run the ads. WATCH the ads here: ,

'YOUNG DUDS.' Spoofing the GOP's "Young Guns," the National Republican Congressional Committee's cadre of top-flight House candidates, the Democratic opposition-research super PAC American Bridge is launching a new website today called "Young Duds," featuring research on the GOP's crop of 2012 candidates. The site's homepage reads, "Devoid of accomplishments, experience, or policy solutions to fix our country's problems, the 2012 Republican Young Guns are firing blanks. If this is the best the Republicans have to offer, it doesn't bode well for the Party's future. Tax liens. Putting workers' safety at risk. Reliance on hundreds of thousands in government handouts." See the new site at http:// http://gopyoungduds. com/

IS THIS THE NICEST ATTACK AD OF 2012? Attack ads are supposed to be menacing, but Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is airing the most positive one of the election cycle. Republicans will hold a three-way primary on Tuesday to challenge her, and McCaskill has begin airing TV ads against all three of her potential challengers. But the ad that ostensibly hits Rep. Todd Akin, who polls worst against McCaskill out of the three, pats him on the back as a "true conservative" and a "crusader against bigger government" with a "pro-family agenda"-suggesting McCaskill is trying to subtly nudge GOP primary voters toward the opponent she'd most like to run against.

CHICK-FIL-A SUPPORTERS LINE UP. ABC's Amy Bingham reports: People across the country flocked to Chick-fil-A today, not because of the fast-food chain's chicken sandwiches, but because of its CEO's vocal support of traditional marriage. In Augusta, Ga., the local outlet ran out of food and had to close early as many of the chain's stores reported record crowds. CEO Dan Cathy appeared at a Fayetteville, N.C., Chick-fil-A to thank cutomers for dining there. More than 630,000 supporters signed up to celebrate Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day today, which former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee created to counter a boycott launched by gay marriage activists last week after Cathy said he was "guilty as charged" for not supporting gay marriage.

CHICK-FIL-A OWNER CALLS RICK WARREN, CLAIMS WORLD SALES RECORD. Hot Air's Allahpundit points to a tweet from influential evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who writes that "@dancathy [Chick-fil-A president and COO Dan T. Cathy] just called me. #ChickFilA has already set a world record today, with 7 more hrs to go in the West. #OutOfChicken."

TEA PARTY WARNS ROMNEY. ABC's Russell Goldman reports: Riding a wave of recent successes in the House and now also the Senate, Tea Party groups are eyeing the possible control of both chambers, a prospect, they say, would force Romney, were he to win the presidential election in November, "to move to the right." "If we can elect a really conservative House and Senate that will force Romney to go along with our bold conservative agenda," [FreedomWorks spokeswoman Andrea] Shell said.

OBAMA BLANKETS OHIO. The Los Angeles Times' Paul West reports from Cincinnati: "Three months before voters decide his fate, President Obama has seized on the tossup state of Ohio as his top reelection target. Obama has bombarded the state with a larger volume of TV advertising than any other. And since launching his campaign - in Ohio, not coincidentally - he's given Ohioans more opportunities to hear from him in person than voters in any other battleground. … All but two of his campaign stops in recent months have been to the media markets of northern Ohio, which combined reach about half of the state's voters."


with ABC's Arlette Saenz ( @ArletteSaenz)

-ROMNEY'S VP TEAM BULKS UP: With an announcement from Romney on who will fill the number two spot coming any day now, Romney's campaign is bulking up its VP team, the Wall Street Journal Patrick O'Connor reported. "Mitt Romney's campaign is adding more staff to work with the candidate's eventual vice-presidential pick, an indication that a choice is drawing nearer now that Mr. Romney has returned from a trip abroad," O'Connor wrote. "The presumptive Republican presidential nominee returns to the campaign trail Thursday in Colorado after an overseas trip that generated mixed headlines back home. His return is sure to spawn new speculation about whom he will tap as his running mate and when. The new additions to the campaign, which won't be announced until later, will help the small group who are already working on plans for the rollout and making sure the eventual pick is integrated into the broader campaign, according to one adviser."

-RUBIO STUMPS FOR ROMNEY: Sen. Marco Rubio will hold a "Strengthening the Middle Class" event, his second solo effort, for Romney in Orlando Thursday morning prior to President Obama's trip to the state.

-PORTMAN DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BUSH: Sen. Rob Portman attempted to distance himself from the Bush administration, in which he served as OMB director from May 2006 to August 2007, saying he was sometimes "frustrated" in his role, the Hill's Alexander Bolton reported. "Portman was careful to not criticize Bush while detailing the challenges he faced from other administration officials, whom he declined to name. The comments indicate that Portman is seeking to keep Bush at arm's length while also not appearing to be disloyal. Portman did note, for example, that he was ultimately satisfied with the administration's second-term efforts to rein in spending," Bolton wrote. "While Portman has many attributes, he knows that his work for the Bush administration could be a handicap. Portman was close with Bush when he served in the House. The 56-year-old legislator later served as Bush's U.S. Trade Representative before heading the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)…Creating daylight between him and the Bush administration could be important for Portman if he is picked as the vice presidential nominee because Democrats would surely try to tie Romney to Bush."


@gregmcrc: It would be rather unwise politically 4 #GOP 2 ignore #chifFila vote. #silentmajority #tcot #marriage

@nytjim : @shearm profiles Dan Senor, adviser who's shaping Romney's "increasingly hawkish views" on Mideast.

@DavidMDrucker : I want to know whose going 2B @MittRomney's sacrificial VP head-fake used to throw everyone off real choice. Is there an App for that?

@HowardKurtz : Romney aide calls AP "irresponsible" for Palestinian story; wire service says Mitt made news and it's proud of piece

@GovernorOMalley : What a great job by #TeamUSA last night!

@morningmoneyben : Am I alone in not caring in even the smallest way about this Romney horse alfalfa or whatever it's called?


-President Obama travels to Florida and Virginia speaking to supporters in Winter Park and Leesburg.

-First Lady Michelle Obama is in New Hampshire talking with grassroots supporter in Laconia and Manchester.

-Mitt Romney travels to Colorado for two campaign events in Golden and Basalt. At the Basalt event, Romney will be joined by Republican Governors including Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, Bobby Jindal, Jan Brewer, Susana Martinez, Mary Fallin, Rick Perry, Gary Herbert, and Matt Mead.

-Ann Romney is in London, England where she'll watch her Dressage horse Rafalca competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)

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