THE MORNING LINE -- April 17, 2012 at 8:59 AM EDT
New Polls Offer Different General Election Previews
Mitt Romney is behind President Obama in two of three new polls. Photo by Terence Burlij/PBS NewsHour.
Rick Santorum's exit from the GOP race last week teed up the general election, and three polls Monday took their first crack at the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
They each paint a different picture of the Nov. 6 contest.
A CNN/Opinion Research Center poll of registered voters found President Obama leading the former Massachusetts governor, 52 percent to 43 percent.
Female voters support Mr. Obama over Romney by a 55 percent to 39 percent margin, and the president also holds a 48 percent to 43 percent lead on Romney with independent voters. Mr. Obama also is up by double digits on personal characteristics such as likability, honesty, confidence, values and leadership.
The income divide that dogged Romney during the GOP nominating fight continues to hamper his prospects in a general election battle with Mr. Obama, who holds a 20-point lead (56 percent to 36 percent) among people earning less than $50,000 per year. The two men split support from those making more than $50,000 a year with Romney at 48 percent and Mr. Obama at 47 percent.
The latest Reuters/Ipsos survey, meanwhile, showed the president's lead over Romney narrowed to four points (47 percent to 43 percent) from 11 points (52 percent to 41 percent) last month.
More than half of the poll's respondents said jobs and the economy were the most important issue of the campaign, and Romney rated slightly better on that metric, 45 percent to 43 percent.
The first Gallup tracking poll of registered voters put Romney at 47 percent and Mr. Obama at 45 percent, but the two-point margin was within the sampling error.
Both candidates win 90 percent of the vote from their respective party bases, but Romney bests the president among independents in the Gallup survey, 45 percent to 39 percent.
At this stage of the general election race, history is not always a guide for who will emerge the winner in the fall. In April 1992, George H.W. Bush held a 41 percent to 26 percent lead over Bill Clinton, with Ross Perot at 25 percent. In April 1980, Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan, 42 percent to 34 percent, with John Anderson at 18 percent.
ROMNEYS SIT DOWN WITH SAWYER
The not-yet-official GOP nominee and his wife Ann Romney talked with ABC News' Diane Sawyer on Monday, telling the network that he has selected his former chief of staff, Beth Myers, to lead his vice presidential vetting process. Calling Myers a "counselor of mine for a number of years," Romney said, "I've asked her to be the person who oversees the process of the vice presidential selection and vetting an analysis and so she's begun that process and is putting together the kinds of things you need to do to vet potential candidates."
He said he doesn't have a set timeline for the process, and Ann Romney said that over the weekend the couple had their first serious conversation about a running mate. "So we're thinking about it now and we haven't allowed ourselves to go there yet and I think this is a time when we realize it's very important and it's time to think about it," Mrs. Romney said, adding, "There are some pretty terrific people out there."
Romney also had a message for the president: "Start packing."
If he thought it was a catchy line, Team Obama apparently liked it even more, with campaign manager Jim Messina using it to fundraise overnight. "It's a line he's probably used to saying from his days as a corporate raider," Messina wrote supporters, asking for $3 to send the Republican "a message of our own."
Sawyer told the couple that ABC had solicited questions online for the interview, and that many asked questions that suggest he may have a "relatability problem."
"We don't divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature," Romney said. "We're one nation under God We come together. This is a time when people of different backgrounds and different experiences need to come together. I happen to believe that I'm by far the best qualified in this race between myself and President Obama to help the American people get good jobs and rising incomes and eliminate the massive debt this country is facing. This president has failed to turn this economy around...he hasn't got the job done."
The CNN poll asked voters which candidate was "in touch with problems facing middle class Americans," and the president beat Romney on that point, 51 percent to 33 percent.
SECRET SERVICE SCANDAL
On Monday's NewsHour, Margaret Warner hosted a segment about the Secret Service probe with the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and former Secret Service director Ralph Basham.
Basham said it is not a problem for agents to have a few beers when they are off work, but he noted "there are restrictions on how much they drink and how they conduct themselves when they drink."
Meckler outlined the cultural issue within the service, saying that some have a "wheels up, rings off" mentality when traveling abroad.
Watch the segment here or below.
ABC News reported Tuesday that the officials sent home revealed their identities by "boasting" about working for the president while partying at a well-known Cartagena brothel. ABC reported:
Partying at the 'Pley Club' Wednesday night, eleven members of the president's advance team allegedly bragged 'we work for Obama' and 'we're here to protect him.'
The officials spent the night throwing back expensive whiskey and enlisting the services of the club's prostitutes, according to a bouncer at the club and a police source.
Sources tell ABC News several of the men agreed to pay for, and received, services from the "highest category" prostitutes available at the club, who charge upwards of $200.
2012 LINE ITEMS
The Washington Post declares the "veepstakes" officially off to the races.
The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action has a new TV ad attacking Romney as an enemy of the middle class. It will run in Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Virginia. You can watch it here.
The Republican National Committee announced Hispanic outreach directors have been hired in a handful of battleground states.
First lady Michelle Obama appeared on NPR's "Tell Me More" about her push for military families. "I don't have the stressful job. He does. You know, I have the privilege of working on the issues that I choose and the issues that I feel most passionate about," she said. "It's been a privilege. And there are definitely, you know, pressures that come with being in the spotlight, but they are far -- are overshadowed by the amount of great things I've been able to do and the impact I've been able to have. And to be able to do it in the warmth and -- of the White House and to do it around people who do care about my kids in a country that has been respectful of my children and their privacy, it has been less stressful than I would have imagined for me. The president's job is a lot harder."
Newt Gingrich put out a web video going after the president's economic record.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed Romney and said the state owes Santorum nothing.
Romney talked about eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development at a private fundraiser, the Washington Post reported.
Gingrich was bitten by a penguin at the St. Louis Zoo.
In case you missed it, here is a slideshow the NewsHour put together a few weeks back with photographs of politicians and animals.
Am in FL, and just saw Charlie Crist on my TV advertising for a personal-injury law firm, Morgan & Morgan, where Crist works— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) April 17, 2012
The NRCC makes a list of Hispanic candidates and two of them aren't Hispanic. One isn't registered Republican. Woops. huff.to/HZl4dG— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) April 16, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
The Senate failed to clear a procedural hurdle to consider the president's "Buffett Rule" push.
Politico's Manu Raju gets a peek at Sen. Tom Coburn's new book and finds that the Oklahoma Republican "is leaving virtually no one unscathed," accusing "both parties of hypocrisy and failed leadership in dealing with the country's mounting debt problems."
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake reports that this congressional cycle is seeing "the most combined retirements since 1996, when Democratic lawmakers retired in droves after the Republican Revolution of 1994 (and many Republicans joined them)." Blake notes that there are another 15 House members running for other offices, which means 50 out of 535 members (nearly 10 percent) already leaving their seats.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is weighing a congressional bid in Washington state, polling local supporters about a potential relocation after losing a primary contest against Rep. Marcy Kaptur last month. Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times quotes the Evergreen State's Democratic Party chairman, Dwight Pelz, as being "horrified" by the idea.
Talking Points Memo's Ryan J. Reilly reports from Gitmo that 600 journalists are expected to apply for 60 spots to cover the trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Christina and Elizabeth Shell took note of all the political calculators just in time for Tax Day, along with some handy tips for filing at the last minute.
Democratic groups aimed at bolstering support for health care reform raised $8.4 million, a source told the Morning Line. Protect Your Care and Know Your Care have raised the sum since June 2010.
Hari Sreenivasan breaks down how to remove yourself from Google Street View.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama delivers remarks about cracking down on oil market manipulation at 11:10 a.m. and honors NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart in a South Lawn ceremony at 4:50 p.m.
Vice President Joe Biden participates in a GEN44 campaign fundraising event in Washington, D.C., at 5:30 p.m.
Mitt Romney attends a roundtable in Bethel Park, Pa., at 12:30 p.m. and addresses the Lancaster County GOP Annual Dinner at 7:20 p.m.
Newt Gingrich speaks at the Lancaster GOP Dinner at 8:30 p.m.
Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.