THE MORNING LINE -- August 10, 2012 at 9:16 AM EDT
As Negative Attacks Pile Up, Romney's Favorability Ratings Go Down
Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Mitt Romney's favorability ratings were on the upswing ever since he locked down the Republican nomination in April, but there are growing signs that a torrent of negative attacks from President Obama and his Democratic allies have affected voter impressions of the GOP hopeful.
The latest indication of that slide came Thursday with the release of a CNN/Opinion Research poll that showed Romney's favorable/unfavorable split going from 48/42 percent last month to 47/48 now.
The president, meanwhile, is viewed favorably by 56 percent of respondents, while 42 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.
A good deal of the criticism directed at Romney by Democrats has centered on his business experience and personal wealth, including his refusal to release additional years of tax returns. That strategy, aimed at undercutting his standing with middle-class Americans, appears to have had some success.
Sixty-four percent of voters said they thought Romney generally favored the rich over the middle class or poor. Forty-two percent of respondents said Mr. Obama favored the middle class, and 34 percent said he tilted toward the poor.
The president holds a 52 percent to 45 percent lead over Romney among registered voters nationally, according to the survey. But when respondents were asked who they thought would win in November, regardless of their personal preference, 63 percent picked the president, while 33 percent named Romney.
The president's seven-point advantage in the head-to-head matchup is due in part to his leads of nine points among women (53 percent to 44 percent) and 11 points among independents (53-42).
As Romney nears a decision on a running mate, the CNN/ORC survey revealed a clear front-runner among Republican and GOP-leaning independents: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The freshman senator was the first choice of 28 percent of respondents, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan tied at 16 percent.
NO, YOU'RE LYING!
Capping a week that featured more accusations of deceit than any so far this year, Team Obama went up Friday with a new television spot titled "Blatant," accusing Romney's campaign of lying in its welfare ad this week and urging voters to "get the facts."
Watch the spot here or below:
The NewsHour tried to get beyond the barbs and tackled welfare reform Thursday night. Judy Woodruff spoke with Heritage fellow Robert Rector, who helped craft former president Bill Clinton's 1996 welfare reform legislation, and Georgetown's Peter Edelman, who resigned from the Clinton administration in protest of the reform plan that year.
Watch that conversation, which got feisty at times, here or below.
But back to the lying.
There's the ongoing kerfuffle over Joe Soptic, a GST Steel employee featured in a pro-Obama Priorities USA super PAC ad earlier this week. Soptic suggested in that spot that Romney should bear some responsibility for his wife's death, prompting a GOP outcry. The Obama campaign at first said they knew nothing about that story, even though Soptic starred in one of the president's re-election spots and was featured by the press team in a May conference call.
Politico has lasered in on the story and wrote that campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Air Force One: "No one is denying he was in one of our campaign ads. He was on a conference call telling his story."
Team Romney seized on that statement as proof the campaign is "deliberately misleading voters."
Politico is reporting Friday that the Republican group American Crossroads is releasing a video on the topic, calling on the president to repudiate the Priorities USA spot and comparing Mr. Obama to former President Richard Nixon.
The president's campaign is also out with a tough new ad keeping up the drumbeat on Romney's taxes. It questions the amount of personal taxes Romney has paid over the years, with a narrator asking: "Did Romney pay 10 percent in taxes? 5 percent? 0 percent? We don't know."
Then it turned to attacking Romney's role overseeing a Marriott audit committee, charging that he "personally approved" $70 million in fictional losses to the IRS as part of the "Son of Boss" scandal, "one of the largest tax avoidance schemes in history."
The ad uses as its backup an op-ed on CNN.com from Peter C. Canellos, a lawyer and former chairman of the New York State Bar Association Tax Section, and Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor and former chief of staff of Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation.
They write of Romney's role on the audit committee from 1993 to 1998 and outline:
During that period, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including "Son of Boss," a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter that investment banks and accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott. In this respect, Marriott was in the vanguard of a then-emerging corporate tax shelter bubble that substantially undermined the entire corporate tax system.
The ad cites the CNN posting and closes with, "Isn't it time for Romney to come clean?"
It will run in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio as Romney hits those states on a bus tour. The campaign said it is raising questions "that are especially relevant given voters' heightened attention in this election to the fate of their own tax rates, and the central role tax reform will play in the next administration."
Watch the spot here or below:
Romney addressed the tax question in an interview with Bloomberg Business Week on Thursday. Here's that exchange:
Let's frame the issue around your tax returns in a slightly different way. If you're an investor and you're looking at a company, and that company says that its great strength is wise management and fiscal know-how, wouldn't you want to see the previous, say, five years' worth of its financials?
I'm not a business. We have a process in this country, which was established by law, which provides for the transparency which candidates are required to meet. I have met with that requirement with full financial disclosure of all my investments, but in addition have provided and will provide a full two years of tax returns. This happens to be exactly the same as with John McCain when he ran for office four years ago. And the Obama team had no difficulty with that circumstance. The difference between then and now is that President Obama has a failed economic record and is trying to find any issue he can to deflect from the failure of his record.
It's not as if this is the first time a campaign has gone negative. NewsHour desk assistant Jessica Fink runs through a collection of archival advertisements and political folklore on display at the Library of Congress in this nifty slide show.
Bickering between justices on the nation's highest court? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that sort of behavior doesn't happen and said personal feelings have nothing to do with the cold, unsigned dissent to Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion in the health care ruling this spring.
The split between Roberts and the court's conservative members "doesn't mean we are suddenly enemies of the chief justice or anything," Scalia said. "That is silly. That doesn't happen at the court. That's childish."
The court's longest serving member joined correspondent Margaret Warner on Thursday to explain the theory of judging he practices. In addition to the health care decision, he addressed the court's approaches to 2nd amendment rights and the death penalty.
He also walked Warner through textualism, a way of reading the Constitution that relies on the document's original words. The book is titled "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts" and is co-authored by grammarian and legal scholar Bryan Garner.
Watch the conversation here or below:
(Behind the scenes, Justice Scalia wasn't wrapped up in heavy legal thinking. He quoted opera, of which he's a fan, as he chatted with our producers and during chit-chat with Margaret reached into his jacket to check his pocket Constitution. His white-and-red mini-booklet -- unlike many pocket Constitution prints -- doesn't subtitle it as a "living document." Scalia noted that he hates that phrase.)
2012 LINE ITEMS
Politico's Mike Allen scored an early look at the script for the Democratic National Convention, which include plans to highlight some Republican voices.
Labor unions aren't slated to sponsor any official convention events and "are also refusing to put up the money to back get-out-the-vote efforts they've funded in the past," Robin Bravender and Anna Palmer report for Politico.
Match yourself with all the candidates in the veepstakes using the Elect Next tool on our Politics page.
The New York Times' Mike McIntire looks at a real estate deal that flopped for Romney but ended up well for one Texas couple.
The anonymous Bain Capital investor who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says knows Romney did not pay taxes for 10 years is a Republican, according to the Huffington Post.
Wisconsin Democrats are ready for a Rep. Paul Ryan veep nod.
Roll Call's Janie Lorber writes that Grover Norquist is taking his weekly conservative breakfast meeting to Tampa, Fla.
The call of money, er, business will pull Donald Trump away from American democracy this month. He has passed up the opportunity to say "You're Fired" in primtetime at the Republican National Convention, Newsmax reports.
The New York Times' Jackie Calmes does some crowd counting and finds it's just not the same as 2008.
The lamest week of the 2012 campaign - Morning Fix wapo.st/QUPJmX— Aaron Blake (@FixAaron) August 10, 2012
Congrats to the U.S. women's soccer team for a third straight Olympic gold. So proud. -bo— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 9, 2012
Poor Tim Pawlenty. Romney says he wants a VP with "vision for our country" and IMMEDIATELY people rule out TPaw.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) August 9, 2012
Why would Bain investor be privy to details of Romney personal tax returns? Your boss ever shown you his? Friends? Even your tax accountant?— capitolization (@capitolization) August 9, 2012
I think I might be the only one that thinks Huckabee would be a great veep choice for Romney.— jasoncherkis (@jasoncherkis) August 9, 2012
The King: "Sources tell CNN the former vice president, Dick Cheney, has told Romney he views Portman as the best choice"— jmartpolitico (@jmartpolitico) August 9, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
In new race ratings, the Rothenberg Political Report is moving the North Dakota Senate race into friendlier territory for the Democrats and the Florida Senate race into a less comfortable spot for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
The Rothenberg Political Report's new House ratings find GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray is in trouble in California, while a Washington state seat gets easier for the Democrats.
The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer looks at the hotly contested GOP primary in Florida between Reps. John Mica and Sandy Adams.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack discussed the drought's impact on farmers and consumers with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal.
Hari Sreenivasan posts this panoramic photo from a green rooftop under gray skies. Where is he?
North Carolina voters told Public Policy Polling that they still prefer Chick-fil-A's meat to other fast-food chicken restaurants.
Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.