The MORNING LINE -- October 17, 2011 at 9:02 AM ET
Obama's Bus Tour Rolls On Despite Death of Jobs Bill
President Obama is kicking off a bus tour Monday to try to sell his jobs plan. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.
President Obama heads out on the road Monday to kick off his three-day "American Jobs Act" bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia. These two critical states, which had long been in the Republican column in presidential elections before Obama's 2008 victory, are perhaps most emblematic of that sweeping win and all the promise for hope and change that accompanied it.
The president was in North Carolina just last month selling his jobs plan in the immediate aftermath of his speech to a joint session of Congress. The biggest difference on that front between now and then is that his bill has since died in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But that clearly isn't stopping him from continuing to take his case to the people or from selling a bill that can't pass Congress. (Perhaps "The Pieces of the American Jobs Act That Can Win Bipartisan Support Bus Tour" is too clunky of a name.)
The president's quick return to the Tar Heel State, home to 15 key electoral votes, should not go unnoticed. He will likely be back a couple of more times before hosting his nominating convention in Charlotte next September.
Out of nearly 4.3 million total votes cast in 2008, Mr. Obama edged out John McCain by less than 15,000 votes. The president's low approval ratings in the state combined with the loss of independent voters may make a 2012 repeat extraordinarily difficult.
In 2008, for example, the Obama campaign successfully targeted 18-29 year olds in the sate and significantly increased their level of participation to have a major impact in the outcome. In 2004, 18-29 year olds made up 14 percent of the electorate in North Carolina and split 56 percent for John Kerry to 43 percent for George W. Bush. In 2008, young voters made up 18 percent of the electorate here and split overwhelmingly for Obama 74 percent to 26 percent.
Although African-American voters made up a slightly smaller slice of the North Carolina electorate in 2008 compared to 2004, their near unanimous support for Obama (95 percent) packed quite a punch. In 2004, when the state was largely uncontested, Kerry got 86 percent of the African-American vote compared to Bush's 14 percent.
In order to pull off the repeat next year, the Obama campaign will need to further reshape the voting electorate here to its advantage. (And it's already apparently spending significant sums of money with that goal in mind.)
The president's current political standing, however, hasn't apparently dampened enthusiasm among the locals to catch a glimpse. The Winston-Salem Journal has the details:
"There were more people than tickets to go around, said Treva Johnson, chairwoman of the Wilkes County Democratic Party. At 10 a.m., there were already about 200 people lined up for tickets, she said. By 4 p.m., when volunteers started handing them out, there were about 1,000 people lined up.
"'Everybody was surprised that there were that many people lined for the tickets,' Johnson said. 'I knew it was going to be large. I did not know it was going to be that big.'
"Johnson did not know how many tickets were handed out because the White House delivered the tickets and local volunteers simply handed them out, but she did say that the gym could hold up to 2,000 people.
"This is the first visit by a sitting president to Wilkes County since President Gerald R. Ford arrived at West Wilkes High aboard Marine One, the president's helicopter, in 1976."
The Republican bracketing of the president's trip is coming from all sides. The Romney campaign is rolling out its "Magical Misery Tour" theme again and points to the state's 10.4 percent unemployment rate. The Republican National Committee entitled its research document, "The Debt End Bus Tour Rides Again." And American Crossroads, the GOP aligned Super PAC, is back up on the air (now in North Caroline and Virginia) with the same ad that it ran in Texas and St. Louis during the president's recent fundraising trips.
The president will have some polling on his side for this trip. A majority of Americans support the proposals in his jobs act. His goal now is to get those Americans to make congressional Republicans to feel the same way.
THE MONEY RACE
The third quarter fundraising numbers due Saturday might be the last ones we see before voters start making known their presidential preferences, and while the Republican nominating contest is still very much in flux, the money race appears to be a two-person battle.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry hauled in $17.2 million last quarter and ended with $15.2 million cash on hand. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised $14.1 million (to go with his $18 million in the second quarter) and closed with $14.7 million cash on hand.
For the rest of the GOP field, the projections were far less rosy. Texas Rep. Ron Paul reported $3.7 million left in the bank, while Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and businessman Herman Cain each had about $1.3 million.
(Paul raised $8.3 million in the third quarter, including a $500,000 transfer from his congressional campaign account. Bachmann brought in $4.1 million. Cain took in $2.1 million, including a personal loan of $175,000.)
Former Pennsylania Sen. Rick Santorum raised just over $700,000 and ended the quarter with $190,000 cash on hand.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman were both deeply in debt with little cash left in the bank. Gingrich was $1.1 million in the red with $353,000 cash on hand. Huntsman showed $890,000 in debt with $327,000 in the bank.
Far at the other end of the spectrum is President Obama, whose re-election effort drew $42.8 million last quarter and ended September with $61.4 million in cash.
It's worth noting, however, that the amount of money in a candidate's bank account may be less meaningful than in elections past, given the anticipated role of Super PACs in the upcoming campaign.
THE DEMINT PRIMARY
Roll Call's David Drucker reports that Romney is the leading contender to receive Sen. Jim DeMint's, R-S.C., coveted endorsement in the 2012 GOP nomination race.
Check out a couple of the blind quotes in Drucker's piece:
"'Jim is far more likely to endorse Mitt than anyone else currently in the race,' a Republican with South Carolina ties said. 'Jim is a business guy and that's his background. He's not really the good ol' boy conservative type. So Mitt in a lot of ways is a more comfortable fit for him.'
"'Jim actually likes Romney,' added a GOP operative based in the Palmetto State. 'I think, politically, he had some doubts about his ability to engage conservatives, but it would not surprise me for Jim to endorse Romney at some point.'"
DeMint was a Romney man in 2008, but has since increased his stature as a Tea Party and conservative movement darling. His blessing of Romney again this time around would be a huge conservative credential for Romney to tout with establishment and grassroots activists alike.
THE RON PAUL BUDGET
It's no secret that Rep. Paul thinks the government spends too much, and Monday, the Texas congressman will propose $1 trillion in budget cuts to pare it back.
ABC News' Jason Volack reports the bulk of the reductions would come "from the elimination of several cabinet level departments, including Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, and Education."
Paul is also expected to call for the elimination of funding for all foreign aid and wars, and freeze federal spending at 2006 levels.
"Paul also proposes taking a symbolic salary of $39,336 which the campaign says is about equal to the salary of the average American worker," Volack writes.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama begins his three-day American Jobs Act bus tour. He delivers remarks at the Asheville Regional Airport in Fletcher, N.C., at 10:50 a.m., then speaks at West Wilkes High School in Millers Creek, N.C., at 5 p.m.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann hosts a border security roundtable in Phoenix at 12:30 p.m., then holds a tele-town hall with Donald Trump at 8 p.m.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman files for president with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner in Concord, N.H., at 2 p.m.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul makes a major announcement in Las Vegas at 6 p.m.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney opens his Nevada campaign headquarters in Las Vegas at 6:35 p.m.
All future campaign events can be found on our Political Calendar.