THE MORNING LINE -- November 29, 2011 at 7:55 AM EDT
New DNC Ad Gives Taste of Potential Obama-Romney Election Battle
The Iowa caucuses may be five weeks away, but the way that Democrats and Mitt Romney's campaign clashed on Monday, it seemed as if the general election were around the corner.
The brouhaha began with the release of a television ad and web video by the Democratic National Committee charging that Romney has changed positions on several issues, including abortion rights and health care, which led to a whirl of press releases, conference calls and even a Twitter jab from President Obama.
"The two sides of Mitt Romney can't agree on much -- except wanting to be President," the Obama campaign weighed in on the president's Twitter feed, while directing people to the website where they could watch the four-minute "Mitt v. Mitt" video.
The president's allies piled on, including former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who held an event at the state's Democratic Party headquarters in Columbus on Monday. "The bottom line is that character and values matter. When he ran for president the last time, Mitt Romney admitted he changed his position on a lot of issues. This time, he claims he's Mr. Consistency. Mitt Romney can't even take a position on taking a position," Strickland charged, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Henry Gomez.
For its part, the Romney campaign dispatched surrogates in a dozen states to push back on the Democratic attacks.
"As millions of Americans look for work, the Obama campaign and Democrats are attempting to distract attention away from this administration's dismal record," the majority leader of the New Hampshire state senate, Jeb Bradley, said in a statement. "The attack they have launched against Mitt Romney shows just how worried they are about facing him in the general election."
What's clear from Monday's dust-up is that neither side seems all that concerned about the other Republican presidential candidates, especially former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who leads the GOP field in the most recent national surveys and received the endorsement of New Hampshire's most influential newspaper, the Union Leader.
Former GOP contender and Minnesota governor-turned-Romney supporter Tim Pawlenty sought to put the Union Leader blessing into context during a conference call with reporters Monday. "Every candidate is going to get their share of endorsements," he said, adding that Romney will "get his fair share."
Pawlenty also accused the Democrats of seeking to derail Romney because of their concern about his electability. "It's a reflection of Mitt's strength and a reflection of how worried they are about the prospect of facing him in a general election," Pawlenty said.
While the Romney and Obama campaigns may have shifted into general election mode Monday, there's still a Republican nomination battle left to be fought, and there are seven other GOP contenders -- not to mention millions of caucus goers and primary voters -- who expect to have some say in deciding who gets to take on the president next fall.
WHEN IT RAINS
Herman Cain has yet another scandal to address after a Georgia woman told an Atlanta television station Monday that she engaged in a 13-year affair with the married Cain.
Ginger White told reporter Dale Russell of the Atlanta Fox affiliate that she met Cain in Louisville, Ky., in the late-1990s when Cain was there to give a presentation as head of the National Restaurant Association. White said Cain would fly her to cities where he was speaking.
"It was pretty simple," White told Russell. "It wasn't complicated. I was aware that he was married. And I was also aware I was involved in a very inappropriate situation, relationship."
"He made it very intriguing," White said. "It was fun. It was something that took me away from my humdrum life at the time. And it was exciting."
The new allegation comes on top of several others from women who claim Cain sexually harassed them.
Like those allegations, Cain denied the affair.
"Detractors are trying once again to derail the Cain Train with more accusations of past events that never happened. The Cain Campaign is not surprised that another female accuser has come forward due to the fact that earlier allegations were unable to force Herman Cain to drop his presidential bid to renew America," his campaign said in a statement Monday.
Even before White's interview aired, Cain denied the affair took place. He said that he only knew White.
"It is someone that I know who is an acquaintance that I thought was a friend," Cain told CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
The latest news just adds to the pile. And polling shows that Cain is way off his peak performance. In the Real Clear Politics polling average for last week, Cain stands at 15.5 percent nationally, down from about 25 percent at the beginning of November.
Gingrich, meanwhile, is eating Cain's lunch, climbing to 23.8 percent in the average. Gingrich and Cain share almost identical numbers for the Iowa caucuses.
FREEDOM TO TWEET
The social media showdown between Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and an 18-year-old Prarie Village high school student who dissed him on Twitter has been resolved.
Brownback took to Facebook on Monday to post a statement saying his staff had overreacted to a comment from Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School who tweeted that the Republican governor "sucked."
"My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize," Brownback wrote. "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."
The Los Angeles Time's Michael Muskal has the back story:
The incident began Nov. 21, when Sullivan attended a Youth in Government program at the state Capitol. At the event, she tweeted: "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."
In reality, she made no such comment to the governor. But staff members contacted the youth program, word eventually went downhill, and Sullivan was called to the principal's office. There, the principal told her to send Brownback a letter of apology and even suggested talking points for the note she was to hand in by a Monday deadline, Sullivan said.
Sullivan made it clear that she had no intention of apologizing to the governor.
In addition to the note from the Kansas governor, Sullivan has also seen her Twitter following grow exponentially, from about 60 before the episode to more than 11,000 --around three times the number of followers enjoyed by Brownback.
ON THE TRAIL
All the events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is in Washington, where he hosts Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands for a meeting in the Oval Office at 2:30 p.m.
Mitt Romney campaigns in Florida, discussing jobs and the economy in Miami at 8:30 a.m. and delivering remarks on trade policy in Tampa at 4 p.m.
Rick Perry campaigns in New Hampshire, attending a breakfast event in Amherst at 8:30 a.m., hosting three town halls -- at Logo Loc in Manchester at 10:45 a.m., at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester at 12:45 p.m. and in Derry at 6 p.m.
Jon Huntsman holds a town hall in Nashua, N.H., at 9 a.m. and attends a house party in Concord at 6 p.m.
Rick Santorum attends a presidential forum in Duluth, Ga., at 12 p.m.
Newt Gingrich opens his Beaufort County field office in Bluffton, S.C., at 12:30 p.m. and at 1 p.m. hosts a town hall. He later attends a South Carolina Republican Party dinner and town hall in Newberry at 6 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.