Thoroughly Moderating Mitt

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


  • DIANE AND OBAMA: Today ABC's Diane Sawyer will sit down for an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with President Obama at the White House. It marks his first sit down since his debate with Governor Mitt Romney on October 3. A portion of the interview will air tonight on "World News" and portions of the interviews will also be highlighted across other ABC broadcasts and platforms including, Yahoo!, ABC News Radio, and ABC's local affiliates. Sawyer's extended interview with the President will air later this month as a part of "Portrait of a President," a special series of reports that will take a closer look at the two men running for President. Sawyer anchored special "Portrait of a President" reports of Sen. John McCain and then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
  • U.S. SECURITY OFFICIAL IN LIBYA: EMBASSY SECURITY WAS 'INAPPROPRIATELY LOW.' ABC's Jake Tapper reports: ABC News has learned that Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was "inappropriately low" … Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian border and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna-which is to the east of Benghazi-and from there were making their way to Benghazi. But State Department officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post's vulnerability. Nordstrom was worried-he did not know how much the Americans could rely on members of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security - the "17th of February Martyrs Brigade." … Nordstrom had "no idea if they would respond to an attack," he told investigators.
  • ROMNEY ACCUSES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OF 'MISLEADING' ON LIBYA. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin asked the GOP nominee about Benghazi in a phone interview last night. Rubin writes: "Romney called out the White House for 'misrepresenting' events in Libya and brushed off the post-debate attacks on him as ineffective. … Did the White House mislead Americans or was there just confusion about the origin of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012? In his most definitive statement to date, Romney answered, 'I think there was misleading on the part of the administration.' He continued, 'It took way too long for the president to acknowledge that there had been an executed terrorist attack on September 11, 2012.'"
  • TUNE IN TOMORROW: Tune in to on Thursday for livestreaming coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate in Danville, Ky. moderated by ABC's own Martha Raddatz. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.
  • AFTER THE DEBATE: The Obama campaign announced yesterday that Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will campaign in Wisconsin on Friday.
  • COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION DAY: There are 27 days to go until Nov. 6, 2012. Here are the ABC News battleground state rankings:


CINCINNATI - On the eve of the highly-anticipated vice presidential debate in neighboring Kentucky, the state of Ohio is a hotbed of political activity today.

Exactly one week after his breakout debate performance in Denver, Mitt Romney is barnstorming the Buckeye State with a traveling companion - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Joined by Christie, as well as Ohio's own Sen. Rob Portman at a rally last night in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Romney unveiled a new campaign slogan for the final push to Election Day.

"I've been watching some of the, President Obama's rallies, and they chant 'four more years, four more years,'" Romney told the crowd. "I think the right chant ought to be for them, 'Four more weeks, four more weeks!'"

But it wasn't the chant that made the biggest news. Instead, it was Romney's interview earlier in the day with the Des Moines Register in which he appeared to moderate his position on abortion rights legislation.

"There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," Romney said, according to the Register.

As ABC's Z. Byron Wolf points out, the comments mark a different tone for Romney, who has changed from being a supporter of abortion rights to opposing them during his political career. During the GOP primary, Romney said repeatedly that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned and that all funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut. He has also said he would prefer to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political and advocacy arm of the abortion rights group, immediately accused Romney of "misleading the public about his intention to restrict safe and legal abortion."

"He's being dishonest about his intention to end access to safe and legal abortion," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. "Mitt Romney has been crystal clear that if he's elected President, he will work to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney's views on women's health are far outside of the mainstream, and that's why he's trying to hide them in the last weeks until the election."

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul clarified, "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president."

But Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith criticized Romney for being "willing to play politics with such important issues" and in a statement asked: "Did Mitt Romney Lie to the Des Moines Register Editorial Board About Abortion?"

And it's not just abortion. On a series of other issues, Romney has been moving to more moderate ground as Nov. 6 draws near. It's part of a broader strategy by the Romney campaign that includes a concerted effort to humanize him. The emotional stories about dying friends that he now weaves into his stump speech and his unscheduled stops along the campaign trail to chat with voters and even school children are all part of that plan.

As ABC News Political Director Amy Walter notes, Team Obama's strategy was to spend early and heavy on television ads defining Romney over the summer as unlikable and untrustworthy. By all accounts, it worked - at least until now.

The question for the final month of the race is whether Romney's image is cast in stone or if voters are willing to take a second a look at him. Polls are showing an uptick in Romney's approval rating. And, one smart GOP strategist told Walter that voters are more skeptical of television ads than ever before, which gives Romney the chance to redefine himself on a debate stage in a way that he never could on TV.

THE NOTE ON THE ROAD - BUCKEYE BATTLEGROUND: The Note is in Ohio today where, as ABC's Emily Friedman notes, Mitt Romney has three events across the state. At the first two, the Republican presidential candidate will be joined by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and by Romney's son, Josh, at the last one. The first event, at the Ariel Corporation in Mount Vernon, will be a town hall-style meeting, which Romney hasn't done since mid-August when he held one with Ryan.

NEW NUMBERS: OBAMA LEADS BY 4 IN OHIO. The race has tightened nationally, and a new CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney 51 percent to 47 percent among "likely voters" in Ohio. Just last week, an NBC/Marist poll showed the president leading by eight percentage points, but as ABC's Amy Walter notes, Obama's support is still above 50 percent, meaning Mitt Romney will have to win votes away from the president, not just attract undecided voters. Among registered voters, CNN-ORC shows a bigger advantage for Obama, with the president leading 53 percent to 43 percent.

OBAMA LAST NIGHT: 'BUCKEYES, WE NEED YOU': President Obama made an urgent push to get out the vote in the key battleground state of Ohio yesterday, urging 15,000 supporters to register before time runs out, ABC's Mary Bruce reported from Columbus. "Today is the last day you can register. Now, I know it's easy to procrastinate in college. I procrastinated a lot," the president jokingly told students at the Ohio State University. "You've got until 9 p.m. tonight. No extensions. No excuses. I know you guys are up at 9 p.m. As you get older, you start thinking about sleeping around 9 p.m., but you guys are just getting started." … "All right, Buckeyes. We need you. We need you fired up," Obama said as he spoke alongside a giant "Vote Early" sign. "I need you voting. I need you fired up. I need you ready to go to vote because we've got some work to do. We've got an election to win. Everything that we fought for in 2008 is on the line in 2012. And I need your help to finish what we started."

SEN. ROB PORTMAN ON THE STATE OF THE RACE: "The poll numbers are showing some movement. But you know I've always thought this was going to be a very close race in Ohio, and at the end of the day, we would be able to win, because people in Ohio are looking for something new. You know, they don't think the last four years have worked very well," the Ohio senator told Agence France-Presse reporter Michael Mathes yesterday. "And if you look at the 'wrong-track' numbers in Ohio, they pretty much reflect the nation, in fact sometimes they're worse. So this notion that somehow people in Ohio feel great about the economy, it's just not accurate."

FLASHBACK: ABC Political Director Amy Walter's take on Romney's way to win Ohio - To win the Buckeye State, Romney needs to do more than close the polling gap or win the early voting race. The Republican nominee has got to re-make his image which has taken a pounding by relentless attacks by Democrats. Can he show Ohioans that he shares their middle class values? Or have Ohioans already formed a solid opinion of him that can't be changed in the last four weeks?

BENGHAZI RE-EXAMINED: More from ABC's Jake Tapper: Former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya Eric Nordstrom twice wrote to the State Department - in March and July 2012 - to beef up the presence of American security officers in Benghazi, but neither time was there a response. At no point from December 2011 through July 2012, when he left Libya, were more than three Diplomatic Security Service agents permanently and simultaneously stationed at the Benghazi post. Deputy Assistant Secretary for international programs Charlene Lamb, in Nordstrom's view, wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi "artificially low," according to a memo for Democrats on the House Oversight Committee. … Nordstrom has said that Lamb told him not to request for the Security Support Team to be extended again.

OVERSIGHT HEARINGS TODAY. At noon ET, Rep. Darrell Issa's, R-Calif., House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing about what went wrong in Benghazi. Nordstrom will testify at that hearing, ABC's Jake Tapper reports.

NEW DETAILS: NO PROTEST AT EMBASSY; COMPLEX ATTACK. Ahead of today's House hearing, ABC's Jonathan Karl reported for "World News" on a new timeline given by a senior State Department official: We are hearing new details, details that we have never heard before about what went down, and this is significantly different than what we were told at the time. At the time, as you'll recall, we were told it was a protest that went bad and became an attack. Now we are told there was no protest going on outside that embassy. The first indication that they heard anything outside the walls of the consulate compound was an explosion and gunfire. They looked through a camera to see what was going on, and we are told they saw a large number of armed men coming in and approaching that compound. We are told it was a very complex attack without precedent in U.S. history. … They still don't know how Amb. Stevens got to the hospital. Doctors at the hospital took the cell phone out of his pocket and started calling it, that's how they found out that he was there.


with Chris Good ( @c_good)

ANN ROMNEY'S POPULARITY SURGES. ABC's Julie Phelan reports on the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll: Ann Romney's popularity has jumped since April as her national exposure has increased, but Michelle Obama maintains a clear advantage in the battle of the spouses-with both women rated more favorably than their campaign-scarred husbands. Fifty-two percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll see Ann Romney favorably, vs. 69 percent for Michelle Obama, a 17-point edge for the first lady. Still, favorable views of Romney have gained 12 points since April, while views of Obama are unchanged.

MITT ROMNEY SOFTENS ON THE TRAIL. With new polls showing a closer race nationally and in battleground states, ABC's David Muir reports for "World News" from Ohio: We're noticing something different from Gov. Romney: more personal stories, more personal connections with people he's met along the way. … Speaking of an old classmate he saw at a campaign event, ailing in a wheelchair. … Romney offering the story of a boy he counseled losing his battle with leukemia, and stopping the motorcade as children waved on. … a report by Politico suggesting that this shift is driven by Ann Romney and their son Tagg, a key adviser, arguing inside the campaign they should show more of the dad they know. The campaign said today, "Nonsense," as they worked to build on Romney's momentum from the debate.

NEW HAMPSHIRE TIGHTENS. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports that a new WMUR Granite State polls shows President Obama leading Mitt Romney by six percentage points, 47 percent to 41 percent, among likely voters in New Hampshire. That's a nine-percentage-point improvement for Romney, who had trailed by 15 percentage points in the last WMUR poll, which was taken Sept. 27-30.

ROMNEY VS. BIG BIRD: RUFFLING FEATHERS SINCE DEC. 2011. ABC News' Michael Falcone reports: Mitt Romney and his Republican allies have struck a tone of exasperation about President Obama's use of Big Bird as a campaign issue ever since Romney invoked the giant, yellow "Sesame Street" character at last week's debate in Denver. … But back as far back as December 28, 2011, in Clinton, Iowa, Romney started talking tough about the giant yellow bird. "You might say, 'I like the National Endowment for the Arts.' I do. I like PBS. We subsidize PBS. Look, I'm going to stop that. I'm going to say, 'PBS is going to have to have advertisements,'" Romney told a crowd at a deli in the Eastern Iowa town. "We're not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird's going to have to have advertisements, all right? And we're going to have endowments for the arts and humanities but they're going to be paid for by private charity not by taxpayers - or by borrowers."

AFTER BLS CONTROVERSY, WELCH STOPS WRITING FOR 'FORTUNE.' So reports CNN Money's Stephen Gandel: "Welch said he will no longer contribute to Fortune following critical coverage of the former CEO of General Electric, saying he would get better 'traction' elsewhere. … Monday morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer said there were a number of things wrong with Welch's tweet, the biggest of which was that the economy doesn't back up the former executive's claim that the numbers were faked. … On Tuesday, ran a story detailing Welch's record as a job destroyer. GE lost nearly 100,000 jobs during the 20 years in which Welch ran the company. 'I never put myself out there as an employment agency,' Welch told Fortune. … Following the story, Welch sent an e-mail to Reuters' Steve Adler and Serwer saying that he and his wife Suzy, who have jointly written for Reuters and Fortune in the past, were "terminating our contract" and will no longer be sending our 'material to Fortune.'"

… AND DEFENDS HIMSELF IN WSJ OP-ED. Jack Welch writes in an Wall Street Journal op-ed: "Imagine a country where challenging the ruling authorities-questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters-would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel "embarrassed" and labeling you a fool, or worse. Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China? Nope, that would be the United States right now, when a person (like me, for instance) suggests that a certain government datum (like the September unemployment rate of 7.8%) doesn't make sense."

OBAMA CAMP ON THE DEBATE: WHICH PAUL RYAN WILL SHOW? ABC's Mary Bruce reports on Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki's press gaggle aboard Air Force One: "The question here is which Paul Ryan is going to come to the debate later this week," she continued. "Is it going to be the Paul Ryan who has been misleading about everything from his marathon time to details and specifics he included in his convention speech? Or is it going to be the Paul Ryan who has eagerly embraced voucherizing Medicare and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?"

'WHO AM I? WHY AM I HERE?' A LOOK BACK AT VP DEBATE MOMENTS. In the latest installment of "Spinners and Winners," ABC's Jonathan Karl looks at past vice presidential debates, from Bob Dole implying all 20th century American wars were partisan exercises launched by Democrats, to Lloyd Bentsen's "You're no Jack Kennedy," to James Stockdale asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" WATCH:

WHERE'S JOE? MONTHS OF NO NATIONAL TV INTERVIEWS. ABC's Arlette Saenz reports: When Vice President Joe Biden steps on the stage at Centre College for the Vice Presidential debate in Kentucky Thursday night, it will be the first time the vice president has been on national television airwaves answering questions from a reporter since the May Meet the Press interview when he expressed his comfort with gay marriage. The vice president has engaged in no national TV interviews and few local and print interviews since that May questioning session which forced President Obama to complete his evolution on the issue sooner than expected.

ROMNEY MISSTATES RYAN'S DEBATE HISTORY. ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports from St. Petersburg, Fla.: On CNN Tuesday evening, Romney said he didn't know how Ryan "will deal with this debate," trying to tamp down expectations for the only vice presidential debate Thursday and noting that Joe Biden is an "experienced debater." " I don't know how Paul will take on the debate," Ryan told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Obviously the Vice President has done 15-20 debates in his lifetime-he is an experienced debater-I think this is Paul's first debate. I may be wrong, he may have done something in high school we don't know. But, it will be a new experience for Paul, but I am sure he will do fine." … Ryan has actually participated in at least eight debates during his fourteen years in congress according to available articles and information provided by the Ryan campaign. An examination of them shows topics that have been raised during this campaign, from his vote for TARP to Medicare.

OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE ASKS HIGH COURT TO REVIEW EARLY VOTING. After Democrats scored an appellate-court victory on early voting in Ohio last week, ABC's Ariane DeVogue reports that Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, is asking the Supreme Court to step in and review the decision: Last week the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Obama campaign and Democratic officials who challenged a change to Ohio's voting law that allowed only military and overseas voters to participate in early in-person voting three days before the election. The Court ruled that if local boards of elections chose to be open for the early in-person vote three days before the election, the voting had to be open to ALL voters. In an emergency applications filed with Justice Elena Kagan, who has jurisdiction over the 6th Circuit, lawyers for the state write, "The decision is not only wrong, but it will cause wholly unwarranted interference with and disruption of the State's administration of elections."

SCHUMER'S NEW DEFICIT PLAN. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports on Sen. Chuck Schumer's, D-N.Y., speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday: Schumer called on a plan centered around three principles- curtailing tax expenditures, returning to a Clinton-era top rate, and reducing but not eliminating the tax preference for investment income. He advocated for raising rates for the wealthy, for the preservation of tax breaks for the middle class and urged Democrats to get behind a deal on entitlement reform. "Democrats will never sign on to a shredding of the safety net because it isn't necessary to change the fundamental way Medicare works," Schumer said, "But we can find ways to reduce Medicare costs by hundreds of billions of dollars. That is tough medicine but still preserves the safety net. So that's how a grand bargain can be had: Republicans get entitlement reform, Democrats get revenue from the higher-income people."


-PLANNED PARENTHOOD TAKES ON SENATE CANDIDATES. Planned Parenthood Votes is circulating a new mailer highlighting what it calls "Mitt Romney and George Allen's harmful agenda for women, women's health and women's economic security." The mailer reads: "Mitt Romney and George Allen would go too far and interfere in personal health decisions that should be left up to a woman and her doctor." Allen is running against Democratic candidate Tim Kaine for a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes are running a similar mail campaign in Ohio highlighting GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel. MAILER:

- HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS FOR ROMNEY. The Romney campaign on Tuesday announced a "Healthcare Professionals for Romney" coalition, including members of Congress, former health officials, doctors from five states, and Romney's son Ben (who is a doctor of internal medicine). From the campaign: "I am pleased to announce the formation of Healthcare Professionals for Romney," said Mitt Romney. "So much is at stake in this election, including the future of American medical care. Barack Obama put in place a massive governmental takeover of this vital sector of our economy. I am committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing this costly bureaucratic misadventure with a sensible reform that returns decision-making to states and localities, and patients and doctors."


@murphymike : If I were head of a malicious foreign intelligence service, I'd focus on bribing media pollsters. Public polls totally rule DC mind space.

@kakukowski : VIDEO: "The Difference" highlights the Obama/Biden $1 trillion tax hike …

@DanielLibit : As liberals freak out prez polls, Dems seek solace in - of all people - George W. Bush. Here's why (via @daily):

@mckaycoppins : BTW, if you haven't, read the @mmhastings piece: …

@amieparnes : Obama's last fundraiser (that he'll attend) tomorrow night in Miami.

?@rickklein : good point by @danbalz - Biden-Ryan matters since Obama was attacking Ryan long before he became VP nominee … #debates


-President Obama sits down for an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer at the White House.

-Mitt Romney holds a town hall meeting in Mount Vernon, Ohio with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Later Romney and Christie drop by a restaurant in Delaware, Ohio and to end the day Romney and his son, Josh, hold a rally in Sidney with country music star Collin Raye.

-Vice President Biden has no public events.

-Congressman Paul Ryan arrives in Lexington, Ky. for tomorrow's vice presidential debate.

-Michelle Obama holds campaign events in Fountain and Durango, Colorado.

-Ann Romney, co-hosted "Good Morning America" and later travels to Florida to tour the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

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