Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demanded a "full-scale investigation" into the Obama administration's record-keeping, but punted on the question of whether Mitt Romney, as president, should maintain some of the same disclosure policies put into place by President Obama.
Priebus assailed the Obama White House for details included in a report authored by Republicans on Capitol Hill, which accused the administration of failing to live up to the standards of transparency set for itself, and accused Jim Messina -- the president's campaign manager -- of trying to avoid disclosure laws.
"It's time for a full-scale investigation ... The Obama White House is actively deceiving the American people, and they're doing it over a Caribou latte," Priebus said on a conference call with reporters, referencing an alleged informal policy of White House officials to meet at a nearby Caribou Coffee in order to avoid having those liaisons appear on White House visitor records.
Those visitor records are released voluntarily as part of the standards put in place by President Obama to increase transparency.
But Priebus declined to say whether Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, would abide by the same standards if he were elected.
"As far as whether or not the policies of transparency should continue ... I'm going to let Gov. Romney set the standards for his White House when he's there," the RNC chairman said.
The GOP has seized upon the new report, assembled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as evidence that Obama hasn't lived up to its own standards of transparency. Republicans pointed to the report, along with administration stonewalling of inquiries into the administration's dealings with Solyndra or LightSquared, as evidence of administration hypocrisy.
Priebus even went so far as to suggest there might have been criminal activity, an allegation he acknowledged could not be substantiated absent the release of more details.
"Certainly there is smoke and a smoldering fire here, and my suspicion is that there would be a lot more uncovered once there is a full-scale investigation," he said.
As to how that investigation might proceed, Priebus was more vague. He seemed to indicate that a House committee could take charge on such an investigation, though their inquiry would inevitably be marked by partisanship since Republicans control the House.
MANSFIELD, OH –- President Obama today seized on an independent report as he argued that Mitt Romney's tax plan would lower taxes for the wealthy -- but raise them on the middle class.
Speaking here to a crowd of supporters, he cited a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that estimated how many tax breaks would have to be ended or reduced to keep Romney's large tax cut revenue neutral.
Larry Downing / Reuters
President Barack Obama shakes hands before he speaks at a campaign event at Mansfield Central Park in Mansfield, Ohio August 1.
“Just today, an independent nonpartisan organization ran all the numbers on Gov. Romney’s plan,” the president said to about 2,100 people in Mansfield’s Central Park. “They found that if Gov. 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.”
The scenarios the Tax Policy Center gamed out included an extension of the Bush tax cuts, a reduction of individual income tax rates by 20%, elimination of taxes on investment income for most taxpayers, and the elimination of the estate and alternative minimum taxes.
Speaking at campaign rally in Ohio, President Obama says that Mitt Romney is "asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut!"
To compensate for the revenues lost by these reductions, the policy center concluded the necessity of “a shift in the tax burden of at least $86 billion [a year] … onto lower-and-middle income taxpayers” through the elimination of tax credits like those for college education and children, as well as deductions for mortgage interest.
Obama said the elimination of those credits would affect middle-class families the most.
“The average middle-class family with children, according to this study, would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2.000,” he said as the crowd booed.
Obama also seemed to make a distinction between good tax increases and bad ones, saying that these tax increases would not serve a meaningful purpose like deficit reduction or infrastructure spending.
“Here’s the thing: He’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit. He’s not asking you to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work. He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut!” Obama continued to protracted boos.
The Romney camp responded with this statement: “President Obama continues to tout liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending. We've been down that road before -- and it's led us to 41 straight months of unemployment above 8%. It's clear that the only plan President Obama has is more of the same. Mitt Romney believes that lower tax rates and less government will jump-start the economy and create jobs.”
Obama's tone was lighter at the beginning of his speech, as he congratulated swimmer and all-time medal record-holder Michael Phelps, as well as the gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team.
“I just think it makes sense for us to give it up for all our outstanding American athletes who are competing in London right now,” he said.
He noted that he called the five champion gymnasts aboard Air Force One while flying from Washington to Ohio.
“These gymnastics folks, I don’t understand how they do what they do. So I told these young ladies as I was congratulating them: How do you not bust your head every time you’re on that balance beam? I could not walk across that balance beam!” he joked.
While the president was well received by the assembled crowd, there were at least 20 Romney supporters and anti-Obama protestors outside the event.
Richland County, where Mansfield is located, voted heavily for Republican John McCain in 2008, giving him a 56%-42% edge over Obama.
But Richland is part of the Columbus media market -- one of the hottest in the country for ad spending -- so the president’s speech will get heavy local news coverage in parts of Ohio critical to his re-election.
Obama continued his local media blitz later Wednesday, doing three interviews with Ohio radio and TV stations from Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo.
The House Ethics Committee has unanimously concluded that House member, California Democrat Laura Richardson, was found to have "violated" the law and was fined $10,000 for misconduct.
Richardson, who is seeking another term in November, was accused of pressuring staffers to work for her campaign. The committee said it had "substantial reason to believe that Representative Laura Richardson violated the Purpose Law...." This will trigger a floor vote to sanction her.
As part of an agreement with the committee, Richardson admitted to all seven counts of allegations against her.
The Ethics Committee established an investigative subcommittee in November of last year to investigate her use of official staff for campaign purposes, which is against House rules. Staffers in many offices leave the congressional office to work for campaigns, but working for both is not permitted.
The committee said in a statement that she was "improperly using House resources for campaign, personal, and nonofficial purposes; by requiring or compelling her official staff to perform campaign work."
The committee also found she obstructed the investigation by the Ethics Committee through "the alteration or destruction of evidence, the deliberate failure to produce documents responsive to requests for information and a subpoena, and attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses."
The fine must be paid no later than Dec. 1, 2012. The committee also strongly discouraged Richardson from permitting any of her official staff to perform work on her campaign -- either on a paid or volunteer basis.
A House Republican lawmaker likened the implementation of a new mandate that insurers offer coverage for contraceptive services to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly (R), an ardent opponent of abortion rights, said that today's date would live in infamy alongside those two other historic occasions. Wednesday marked the day on which a controversial new requirement by the Department of Health and Human Services, which requires health insurance companies to cover contraceptive services for women, goes into effect.
"I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that's Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that's the day of the terrorist attack," Kelly said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."
Republicans cried foul when the Obama administration first announced the new rule, reasoning that it would force employers with a religious affiliation to act in a way that contradicts their beliefs. The outcry included criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and President Obama subsequently announced a compromise in which employers wouldn't be forced to offer insurance plans that cover contraception, but insurance companies would be required to offer coverage to women who wish to purchase it.
Republicans rejected the compromise, and subsequently attempted several times to advance legislation to reverse the mandate. The imbroglio contributed to Democratic charges of a GOP-led "war on women."
"This is a right that every American should be outraged, outraged about what this administration and Secretary Sibelius has set forth here on August the 1st," New York Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) said at the same press conference as Kelly. "And as Mike said, August the 1st is a day that we as American will look at as the largest assault on our First Amendment rights."
*UPDATE* Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, a veteran of World War II, condemned Kelly's comments in a statement.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The head of Senate Democrats' campaign efforts said Wednesday that she considered victory in November to be nothing less than keeping control of the upper chamber.
"I was asked by the majority leader and the members of my caucus to take on the job of running the Democratic Senate campaign committee and keeping the majority for Democrats in the Senate, said Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). "That's what I call a win."
Murray outlined for reporters on Capitol Hill the status of Democrats' efforts to keep control of the Senate; Republicans need to achieve a net gain of four seats to take control of the chamber when its next session convenes in January.
Murray said she wouldn't name Democrats' chances -- " I am not from Nevada, so I don't do odds," she said -- but argued that her party was well-positioned to defend their majority.
She lauded candidates' hard work and fundraising to stay competitive with their Republican challengers. While Democrats must defend a total of 23 seats, their candidates have remained competitive in states like Montana and North Dakota, among other states.
Republicans point out that there are a number of scenarios in which they could achieve the victories they need to make Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) the majority leader come next November.
The GOP's waged its campaign in part by tying Democratic candidates to President Obama, especially in more Republican-leaning states where the president is less popular, and Mitt Romney is likely to win this fall.
Murray sidestepped questions about whether Obama should avoid appearing with some of those vulnerable senators.
"We're in the last 100 days and in any election you have to really focus on where you need to be, and President Obama is rightly doing that in his top states," she said.
But the Washington Democrat effusively praised some of the most vulnerable-seeming candidates. Murray boldly predicted that her Missouri colleague, Sen. Claire McCaskill, was "absolutely going to win that race," despite trailing her three Republican challengers in the most recent polling.
The biggest variable? Murray said it would be the impact of Republican super PACs that have already blanketed airwaves with criticism of Democratic incumbents and candidates.
"The only thing that stands between me and a long, good night of sleep is the outside money that is coming into these races," she said.
Castro, 37 -- a Harvard Law and Stanford grad, who will be the first Hispanic to deliver the address -- is largely unknown to a national audience. But looking at past speeches and videos, his personality, humor, and ability to deliver a stirring speech that draws on his compelling personal story are clear.
The Obama campaign has watched Castro closely, made him a campaign co-chairman, and says he has been effective on the campaign trail for the president.
And then there was his public spat with Charles Barkley, the former NBA basketball player who criticized San Antonio, particularly its women. Castro fired back in a YouTube video that went viral and even won over Barkley.
'Somebody who won't screw up'
Castro’s keynote speech in Texas last month reflected the seriousness and potential of someone who has won plaudits like this:
“People look at him and say, ‘Finally, we have somebody who won’t screw up,’” John A. Garcia, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, told the New York Times magazine in 2010. Of course, he’s still young, and he might be too good to be true, but if I were betting on the next national Hispanic political leader, I’d bet on Julián.”
Of course, in the current political climate in Texas, it is difficult for a Democrat to break through, at least for now. Even though the majority of voters are minorities in the Lone Star State, none of its statewide officeholders are Democrats.
Belief in government
There was plenty in Castro’s Texas convention keynote about the American Dream, but rather than making his story solely about his own drive, determination, and individual responsibility, he laid out what government needs to do to help pave the way of fairness, including on education, infrastructure, and new technology.
Castro supports affirmative action, he has said, because it gave him and his identical twin brother, Joaquín, the opportunity to go to elite colleges. Joaquín -- who, like his brother, also went to Stanford and Harvard -- is a state representative favored to win the open 20thcongressional district seat to replace retiring longtime Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D).
“Joaquín and I got into Stanford because of affirmative action,” Castro told the New York Times. “I scored 1,210 on my SATs, which was lower than the median matriculating student. But I did fine in college and in law school. So did Joaquín. I’m a strong supporter of affirmative action, because I’ve seen it work in my own life.”
What he might say
Castro strives for the similar unity rhetoric that made Obama famous. Here he was in that speech before Texas Democrats:
“In San Antonio, collaboration is our currency. … These days we hear a lot of talk about how Americans are tired of politics. They’re disillusioned with government, but I think the real issue is that Americans are tired of politicians battling over manufactured issues instead of solving real ones.”
But he also lays blame at the feet of Republicans:
“Today’s Republican Party is leaving just about everyone behind. To them, compromise is a non-starter. Moderate is a four-letter word. You see folks are reevaluating their past political allegiances because people are fed up with the politics of division. They’re fed up with the politics of exclusion. They’re fed up with petty politics. And they’re fed up with Perry politics.”
And he tries to undercut what they stand for:
“Republicans haven’t just departed from the mainstream, they’ve departed from mainstream values. Since when does cutting health care for children make you the party of family values? Since when does denying women their basic rights make you the party of freedom and liberty? Since when does smoke-and-mirrors budgeting make you the party of fiscal accountability?”
He also gives Democrats want they want to hear -- about education, abortion, and immigration.
“We believe the real emergency is getting more students across the graduation stage not frivolous voter ID laws. We believe that veterans who risk their lives for us shouldn’t have to come home and fight for their own livelihoods here. We believe that woman’s right to privacy is a right to privacy is an individual liberty not a political wedge issue. We believe that it’s more important to build bridges to send Texas products across the world than to build a wall that cuts us off from it.”
He pivots from state politics to lay out the choice in the presidential election:
“This year’s presidential election will provide a very clear choice. President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He acted to keep thousands of Texas teachers in the classroom and cops on the beat and made investments in the industries for the future. The president made a bold call to save our auto industry. And today, they’re back at work, making the best cars in the world.”
He seems to have the talking points down. During the speech, he touted private-sector job growth under Obama, including manufacturing jobs because of the auto bailout. He hit presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney for “Let Detroit go bankrupt” and Massachusetts being “47th in job creation.”
He defended Obama’s health law, ending the war in Iraq, and killing Osama bin Laden. Sounding a lot like First Lady Michelle Obamabefore the president’s kickoff speech at Ohio State, he also called on the Democratic activists to do the grassroots work:
“We must reelect President Obama. In your neighborhoods, in your cities, in your counties, in your communities, get out there. Knock on doors. Call your friends. Text them. Tweet them. Email them. Heck, maybe even speak to them face to face. Do everything that you gotta do to get President Obama reelected in November.”
Toward the conclusion of his speech, he reached for the kind of rhetoric that can translate on a national stage.
A compelling personal story:
“I told you about my mother. Now I want to tell you about my grandmother, Victoria. By the time she was 6-years old, my grandmother was an orphan. She had to leave her home in Mexico to come to San Antonio with relatives who had agreed to take her in. My grandmother never made it past the third grade. She had to drop out of school to start working and help support her family. By the time, I was born, this incredible woman had taught herself to read and write in Spanish and English. She spent her whole life working because of her lack of education as a maid, a cook, and a babysitter – barely scraping by but still working hard to give my mother a good chance in life, so that my mother could give me an my brother an even better shot.
“My grandmother was a fantastic cook. By the way, a skill that never really transferred to Joaquín or me. And the day before Joaquín and I were born, she won $300 in a Menudo cook off. And that money came in pretty handy. In fact, she used it to help pay a hospital bill. My grandmother didn’t live to see us enter public service. But she probably would have found it extraordinary that just two generations after she got to San Antonio one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way to the United States Congress.”
Reverence for America:
“My family story is not special. What’s special is the America that’s made our possible. This is a nation like no other with unlimited potential. And a Texas where great journeys can be made in just the space of a generation.
Outlining the choice ahead:
“Today, Erica and I are the parents of a precious little girl. Carina Victoria. Now, I love my job. But I love even getting home at the end of the day and seeing her big smile and getting an even bigger hug. All of the time, I ask the questions that all of us parents wonder about – what will her life hold? What will her Texas look like? What America will she inherit? Will it shine with opportunity and possibility? Or be damaged and decayed? Will our Texas be left behind or will we shepherd America to its greatest days yet? We cannot leave the answers to chance! It shouldn’t be a coin toss!"
And a call to action (one could insert “America” for “Texas” in many spots, “Ohio” for “Panhandle,” “Florida” for “Rio Grande Valley”):
“So tonight, the future of Texas is calling on us -- from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley. The need for common-sense values has never been more urgent. The future is calling us. Across the country, as he campaigns for reelection, President Obama is asking folks a very simple question: ‘Are you in?’ In fighting for our party’s future, for our state’s future, Texas Democrats, I ask you the same thing. Houston, are you in? Dallas, are you in? The valley, are you in? El Paso, are you in? San Antonio, are you in? Tonight, let us stand up as one party, one state, one Texas, and proudly say, We. Are. In! The future of Texas is calling on us. And we’re answering that call. Vamanos!”
GOP to also feature Latinos
Republicans at their convention a week earlier will also prominently highlight Latinos. They have plenty of elected Republican Hispanics to choose from, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Ted Cruz (R-TX), who’s the heavy favorite to become Texas’ next senator after his win last night in the Texas GOP primary; popular New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval; and current Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).
Rubio’s and Cruz’s roots are from Cuba; Martinez and Sandoval trace theirs to Mexico; and Labrador’s family is from Puerto Rico.
According to the U.S. Census, Mexicans are the largest Hispanic group and the largest-growing group:
“About three-quarters of Hispanics in the United States reported as Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban origin in the 2010 Census. Mexican origin was the largest group, representing 63 percent of the total U.S. Hispanic population — up from 58 percent in 2000. This group increased by 54 percent and saw the largest numeric change (11.2 million), growing from 20.6 million in 2000 to 31.8 million in 2010. Mexicans accounted for about three-fourths of the 15.2 million increase in the total Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010. The Mexican origin population represented the largest Hispanic group in 40 states, with more than half of these states in the South and West regions of the country, along with two states in the Northeast and all 12 states in the Midwest.”
“Hispanics are going to play a very prominent role in both conventions,” a GOP strategist told First Read. “The Republican Party has now run a lot prominent elected Hispanics. … . In Texas, it elected a U.S. senator, and he’s conservative, and he’s Hispanic.”
The strategist, referring to Cruz, said Cruz may be Cuban, but he “is going to represent a whole heck of a lot of Mexican Americans.”
The strategist added, “I don’t foresee any problem with our ability to be able to communicate to this audience broadly and in a more narrow fashion. And we can do it with more authority than we’ve ever done it as a party.”
The strategist noted that it’s no longer top-down white party officials telling Hispanics they should join the GOP: it’s “Latinos who have done it and are doing it. We’re in a very strong position. There’s a reason Democrats put this guy up -- it’s because they know that.”
The Obama campaign, however, believes that Castro represents the differing economic visions between the parties.
“Mayor Castro is a rising leader in the party who has worked tirelessly to build San Antonio’s economy from the middle class out, by making investments in things like clean energy and innovative education programs that will lead to the creation of good-paying, sustainable jobs you can raise a family on,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said. “Having both the First Lady and Mayor Castro speak on the opening night of our convention will bring together two incredible leaders whose life stories both embody the promise of America -- that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can thrive.”
Defending the women of San Antonio from Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley outraged San Antonians two years ago when, on television, he criticized the city, especially its women.
“As much as I love San Antonio -- a great city, I’m not gonna miss it,” Barkley said. “One thing about San Antonio, them women down there, they got— My ass, my ass would look normal down there. I wanna tell you somethin’ -- they ain’t got no skinny women down there.”
The comment during TNT’s broadcast left analysts in the studio slack jawed. But Barkley reiterated it again this past May during the NBA playoffs: "Everyone knows San Antonio is a great city... They do have some big ol' women down here."
Castro had had enough. But rather than a huffy call for Barkley to apologize, Castro took to the camera and YouTube for a “Hey Chuck!”smack down that went viral. Castro ragged on Barkley’s fitness, lack of championship rings, and a horrifically awkward golf swing.
“You’ve not always been very kind in describing the women of San Antonio,” Castro says in the video. “Come to think of it, maybe that’s because we have a very different idea of what a beautiful woman looks like,” Castro deadpans when up pops a photo of Barkley dressed in drag.
Castro saved his best line for after playing video of Barkley’s golf swing: “Actually, that has nothing do with San Antonio. We just thought it was funny.”
“I never met a mayor with a sense of humor before,” Barkley told Castro. “I want to thank you for taking the time for making that video. It was funny.”
He even changed his tune on other matters: “I like the women,” Barkley said, and he picked the Spurs to win in the playoffs.
In showcasing someone like Castro, Democrats hope to energize the base and also signal to the majority of Hispanics which party is looking out for them. One thing is clear -- both parties are well aware of Latino growth and know they need to make sure Hispanics are featured prominently.
It isn’t a great time to be a moderate in Congress -- or even to be perceived as one… Revisiting the state of the GOP brand… New Q-polls show Obama ahead of Romney (and at 50% or above) in FL, OH, and PA… Is it time to acknowledge that PA isn’t a toss-up state?... Romney returns back the U.S. and pens National Review op-ed -- on “culture” -- contradicting what he told FOX… Harry Reid on Romney’s taxes… And Cruz Control: Ted Cruz defeats David Dewhurst in GOP run-off.
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The center cannot hold: These days, this isn’t a great time to be a moderate in Congress. And as we found out in Texas last night, it isn’t a great time to be perceived as a moderate, either. In announcing yesterday that he won’t seek re-election in November, Ohio GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette -- one of the most pro-labor Republicans in Congress -- bemoaned the partisanship on Capitol Hill. “I have reached the conclusion that the atmosphere today, and the reality that exists in the House of Representatives, no longer encourages the finding of common ground,” he said, per NBC’s Frank Thorp. A day earlier, fellow GOP Rep. Richard Hanna of New York told the Syracuse Post-Standard’s editorial board that his party is too willing to cater to the ideological extreme. “I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” referring to Michele Bachmann’s political witch hunt against a top State Department aide.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
In this file photo Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, gestures during an interview with the Associated Press in his on Capitol Hill.
*** That’s especially true when “moderate” becomes a four-letter word: And earlier this year, GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine channeled those same sentiments when she announced her upcoming retirement. “I do find it frustrating,” Snowe said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.” In the years since we began covering politics in Washington, the job requirement for a member of Congress or senator has fundamentally changed. It’s no longer about bringing home deliverables to your state or congressional district (like roads, bridges, or new schools). Instead, it’s about scoring ideological points and waging partisan crusades. And that kind of environment isn’t friendly territory for moderates. The TV ad that Club for Growth aired against David Dewhurst in Texas -- labeling him as a moderate, even though he’s as conservative as Gov. Rick Perry -- tells you all you need to know right now. In fact, we’re pretty sure political scientists will use it 30 years from now to illustrate how conservative the GOP has currently become. By the way, a reminder on LaTourette: His primary had ALREADY PASSED! He was a shoo-in for re-election.
*** Revisiting the GOP brand: A final point here: One of the most underreported stories of this presidential election is how the Republican brand is in FAR WORSE shape than the Democratic brand. In our most recent NBC/WSJ poll, the GOP’s fav/unfav was 34%-43% vs. the Democrats’ 40%-40%. Indeed, the GOP has had a worse fav/unfav than the Democrats in every single NBC/WSJ poll (that’s 14 of them!!!) since Jan. 2011, after Republicans won control of the House. So as the Tea Party/grassroots/anti-establishment conservative wing of the GOP has become MORE powerful, the GOP’s overall brand image has gone down, especially with indies. It is hard not to believe these two facts aren’t connected. And this raises the question: Will this be a drag on Romney? Or here’s another way to put it: How can this not be a drag on him? Help us out with this riddle: When was the last time a presidential candidate won when their party was viewed MORE unfavorably than the other side?
*** Obama ahead (and at 50% or above) in FL, OH, and PA: We wrote yesterday how important August will be for Romney, especially after his rough July. And new polls in three important battleground states (well, make that 2 ½ battleground states) drive that point home. Brand new Quinnipiac/New York Times/CBS surveys show Obama leading Romney among likely voters in Florida (51%-45%), Ohio (50%-44%), and Pennsylvania (53%-42%). And with that new polling, it turns out that President Obama begins a two-day swing through two of those states -- Ohio and Florida. Obama holds campaign events in Mansfield, OH at 11:40 am ET and Akron, OH at 3:55 pm ET. And tomorrow, he hits Winter Park, FL (the Orlando area) and Leesburg, VA. With the president’s stop in Mansfield, the Romney campaign and Republicans are seizing on reports that the airfield where Air Force One will land is potentially subject to being closed down by Pentagon budget cuts.
*** Is it time to acknowledge that Pennsylvania isn’t a toss-up state right now? And given those poll numbers for Pennsylvania, we want to make an additional point: Why does the political press continue to treat the Keystone State as a toss-up state even as the campaigns don’t? In fact, neither the Obama campaign nor the Romney camp is currently advertising in Pennsylvania. And the Obama campaign has placed all of their TV ads for the next month, dropping PA from their buy list. So while the campaigns are treating the state like it’s Lean Obama, the political world seems to suggest it’s a toss-up. Maybe the campaigns know something we don’t know…
*** Back in the USA: As for Romney, he returned to the United States early last night. And Politico’s Jonathan Martin had a good take on the candidate’s overseas trip. “It was, like much of Romney’s campaign to date, an up-and-down affair, with moments in which he projected real gravitas and looked every bit a president-in-waiting and other times when he appeared to be utterly tone deaf and unprepared for the rigors and scrutiny that comes with seeking the White House.” Meanwhile, Romney wrote a National Review op-ed -- entitled “Culture Does Matter” -- in which he doubled down on those controversial comments at that fundraiser in Israel. “During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it,” he said in the op-ed. But those words contradict what he told FOX right before he left Poland yesterday. "I'm not speaking about it, did not speak about the Palestinian culture or the decisions made in their economy that's an interesting topic that deserves scholarly analysis, but I actually didn't address that. Certainly don't intend to address that in my campaign. Instead, I will point out are that the choices that a society makes has a profound impact on the economy and the vitality of that society." One more foreign policy note: Romney made it clear that he will be the first American president in a generation that does not view the U.S. as being THE most important meditator in the Mideast Peace Process. Question: So if the U.S. doesn’t facilitate the Middle East peace, who will?
*** Today’s back-and-forth: The Romney campaign and RNC are up with a new TV ad hitting Obama on the closure of GM auto dealerships associated with the auto bailout… They also are hitting the White House and Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina for this Politico story highlighting the administration’s lack of transparency…. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign had a new TV ad essentially tying Romney to Bush… And the DNC has a new video containing negative news coverage -- from TV affiliates in battleground states -- of Romney’s overseas trip.
*** Harry Reid on Romney’s taxes: In an interview with the Huffington Post, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that an anonymous Bain investor told him that Romney didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years. "He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," Reid said. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?” But we want to take two points here. One, Reid’s charge is a low blow -- akin to asking “When did you stop beating your wife?” It’s dirty pool, folks. Two, what Reid said is precisely why the story about Romney’s tax returns won’t go away anytime soon…
*** Cruz Control: And as we alluded to above, Ted Cruz defeated David Dewhurst in the GOP Senate run-off in Texas last night, 57%-43%. One thing that shouldn’t be ignored is how last night was a perfect storm for Cruz’s victory, especially a low turnout run-off in late July.
Countdown to GOP convention: 26 days Countdown to Dem convention: 33 days Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 63 days Countdown to VP debate: 71 days Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 76 days Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 82 days Countdown to Election Day: 97 days