THE MORNING LINE -- August 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM EDT
Obama Campaign Promises to Lay Off Romney's Taxes...If He Releases Them
Supporters of Mitt Romney hold signs during a campaign rally Tuesday in Chillicothe, Ohio. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Dear High School Rival,
I really, really want you to do that thing I've been asking you to do all year. The thing I announced on the loudspeaker in front of everyone, the thing I put on fliers and taped to every locker.
And if you do, I swear I'll never say anything mean about you ever again. And my friends won't bother you either. At least not on this topic.
May the best man win our competition to become Prom King.
In all sincerity,
The Popular Kid
Okay, so Jim Messina's entreaty to his counterpart on presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney's team wasn't quite as ridiculous as the note we cooked up above. But President Obama's campaign manager issued a public memo to Matt Rhoades on Friday morning offering a similar message.
"I am writing to ask again that the Governor release multiple years of tax returns, but also to make an offer that should address his concerns about the additional disclosures. Governor Romney apparently fears that the more he offers, the more our campaign will demand that he provide," Messina wrote.
"So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more -- neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign."
Messina argued that the request is "surely not unreasonable" given what other candidates have released. He closed the note with, "I look forward to your reply."
Rhoades responded in kind, starting with: "Hey Jim, Thanks for the note," in a letter released to the press that showed Messina's email address.
"It is clear that President Obama wants nothing more than to talk about Governor Romney's tax returns instead of the issues that matter to voters, like putting Americans back to work, fixing the economy and reining in spending," Rhoades wrote. "If Governor Romney's tax returns are the core message of your campaign, there will be ample time for President Obama to discuss them over the next 81 days."
His email ended with a "See you in Denver."
Romney kept the tax fight alive Thursday, insisting to reporters he paid at least 13 percent in taxes "every year."
"I just have to say, given the challenges that America faces -- 23 million people out of work, Iran about to become nuclear, one out of six Americans in poverty -- the fascination with taxes I've paid I find to be very small-minded compared to the broad issues that we face," Romney said during an impromptu press conference.
Romney said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's charge there were years he paid "zero" in taxes is "totally false." Reid's office issued a statement saying Romney would need to offer more than just words to answer questions about his tax rate.
"We'll believe it when we see it. Until Mitt Romney releases his tax returns, Americans will continue to wonder what he's hiding," Adam Jentleson said in a statement. "Romney seems to think he plays by a different set of rules than every other presidential candidate for the last 30 years, all of whom lived up to the standard of transparency set by Mitt Romney's father and released their tax returns."
If the messaging sounds a little familiar, it is. The Democrats are on the exact same page when it comes to the former Massachusetts governor's finances.
NewsHour reporter-producer Tiffany Mullon listened in on a conference call that Team Obama held Thursday on this very issue.
She writes that the president's camp wasted no time in pouncing on Romney's assertion he'd paid at least 13 percent in taxes. When asked how the campaign would respond, national press secretary Ben LaBolt said, "We would say, 'Prove it, Governor Romney.'"
LaBolt told reporters that without full disclosure of his tax returns there was no way to verify Romney's statement: "He has the ability to answer all these questions by releasing several years of his tax returns, and he simply hasn't done that....the American people deserve the opportunity to look through those documents and make their own conclusions.
The escalating debate over Medicare was also a hot topic during the call. The Romney campaign accuses President Obama of using $716 billion in reductions to Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act. Referencing Romney's use of a dry-erase board during his press conference to make that point, LaBolt said "the biggest white board in the world isn't going to get his distortions past the American people."
While Romney has vowed to restore the reductions, his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, included the same reduction in his budget plan. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Ryan's counterpart as ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told reporters on the call that it is "sad to see Paul Ryan be forced to flip-flop on this issue."
Medicare is the subject of a new television ad from Team Obama, as well.
Watch it here or below.
ALL TIED UP IN WISCONSIN
A CNN poll out Thursday found that the presidential race has shifted in Wisconsin, a state that may be looking more Republican even though it has backed Democratic White House hopefuls for decades.
The network moved the Badger State from "Lean Obama" to "Toss Up" after the poll showed 49 percent of the voters there back Mr. Obama and 45 percent support Romney. The president's margin in the survey, conducted after Romney picked Ryan as his running mate, was within the margin of error.
It also found Ryan's popularity back home is higher than Romney's. CNN writes, "His favorable rating, at 50%, is actually higher than Romney's, and 56% of all Wisconsinites say that Ryan is qualified to serve as president if necessary, and most rate Romney's pick of Ryan as excellent or pretty good."
What happens if Wisconsin flips for the first time since the 1984 Ronald Reagan landslide?
See for yourself in our Vote 2012 Map Center below.
DREAMERS LINE UP
The NewsHour took a look at the undocumented immigrants lining up to receive deportation waivers under the Obama administration's new rules.
Judy Woodruff spoke with Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times and we ran a piece from our partners at WTTW in Chicago.
Watch the segment here or below:
On Thursday's NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown talked with Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz of Daily-Download.com about how the Ryan rollout was received online.
They also chatted about a new report showing how each campaign's social media engagement is reaching voters.
Watch the segment here or below:
2012 LINE ITEMS
The Republican National Committee announced Friday it raised $37.7 million in July -- the best July in the history of the committee. The RNC also said it has $88.7 million cash on hand.
The Boston Globe examines Ryan's claims that he did not request stimulus funds for clean energy projects in Wisconsin, despite a paper trail that suggests otherwise.
Crossroads Generation announced a video contest on Friday, "soliciting videos from young Americans who have faced tough times in the Obama economy." The group will make a web and television ad from what it receives.
Facebook has big plans for the conventions.
And the Republican National Convention has big plans to make digital history, Yahoo's David Chalian reports.
The NewsHour has a primer on Ryan's Medicare proposal. Check it out and engage with our ShoutAbout partners at the bottom of the post.
The four men on the Nov. 6 ballot are fitter than ever before, according to Politico.
The New York Times' Rebecca Berg notes that true swing voters are hard to find.
The Times' Nicholas Confessore reports that strip clubs in Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., are gearing up for the conventions.
Ryan stopped off for two hot dogs and chili cheese fries during a visit to northeast Ohio on Thursday. Alana Semuels of the Los Angeles Times reports the congressman said, "I'm just here to get some dogs," as he entered the Original Hot Dog Shoppe.
There is now a plaque to mark the Chicago location of the First Couple's first kiss.
Artur Davjs 4 years later. The other side of the breakthrough. My Take: pbs.org/weta/washingto...— gwen ifill (@pbsgwen) August 17, 2012
Karl Rove's American Crossroads endorses Joe Biden.bit.ly/N4Jhsl— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) August 17, 2012
This Chick-fil-A scandal has got me worried. I want to go to Arby's but I don't know where they stand on the unrest in Syria.— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) August 4, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
David Brody interviewed Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona.
Roll Call's Emma Dumain explores whether congratulatory tweets from Ryan's colleagues may land them in trouble for violating ethics rules.
Politico on Ann Romney's MS scare.
Politico's Robin Bravender adds it up and finds "the 12 Democratic women running for Senate this fall have raised a combined $110 million, more than twice as much as the $42 million their Republican opponents have raised."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a favorite in New Hampshire should she run in the 2016 Democratic primary, Public Policy Polling finds.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon has pneumonia, and The Washington Times is asking for prayers on his behalf.
Terence Burlij contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Paul Ryan campaigns in Virginia with stops in Glen Allen at 11:35 a.m. and Springfield at 3:40 p.m.
President Obama attends meetings at the White House with no public events.
Vice President Biden has no public events scheduled.
Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.