THE MORNING LINE -- October 24, 2012 at 9:29 AM ET
As Campaign Advisers Spin, Candidates Hit the Trail
President Obama speaks at a campaign event Tuesday in Delray Beach, Fla. Photo by Larry Marano/WireImage.
In 13 days, Americans will decide whether President Obama will stay in the White House or if Mitt Romney becomes the 45th president. Until then, get ready for a lot more nastiness.
With the race still looking like a jump ball and both campaigns barnstorming a handful of battleground states at a fevered pitch, every incident that can be cast in a negative light will be amplified.
Team Romney is sounding confident, with the candidate telling an audience in Nevada that President Obama's campaign is "taking on water." Aides told reporters they think Mr. Obama has been more aggressive on the stump because he is "increasingly desperate." The Republican National Committee flagged stories all day that operatives said suggest a "Chicago freak out."
The camps also sparred over whether North Carolina has slipped from reach, with the GOP noting that Team Obama has lessened its advertising buy.
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina dismissed questions about the Tarheel State being off the table, noting that Romney has been "forced" to spend money there that he wasn't sending to other states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Messina also said the campaign is seeing stats that 50 percent more African-American voters have turned out in North Carolina this year than in 2008.
The Romney campaign "said that they'd have North Carolina in the bag by now," Messina said. "It's a state we won by 11,000 voters, but the new voters since 2008 favor the president and the math gets better for the president."
Strategist David Axelrod chimed in, "Anybody who thinks North Carolina, Virginia, Florida is in the bag is in the bag themselves."
The campaign is pushing the president's new positive spot, an effort to lay out a detailed second-term agenda in the final stretch, and the team is rallying the base every chance it can. Vice President Biden even delivered pizzas to volunteer phone bankers in Ohio on Tuesday night.
"Every single day is Election Day," Messina said on the conference call. He said the campaign's view is that the early voting helps turn out "sporadic voters," who are more likely to back his boss than his GOP rival.
Democrats were hoping that a firestorm started by the GOP Senate nominee in Indiana could spread to the national campaign.
During a debate Tuesday night, Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who defeated longtime Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary earlier this year, became the latest Republican candidate to provoke a controversy with remarks about abortion.
"Life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen," Mourdock said.
Mourdock's rival in the Senate race, Rep. Joe Donnelly, did not strike back during the debate, but the Indianapolis Star reports the Democrat did respond following the event.
"I don't know any God who would ever intend something like that," Donnelly said of rape. "It is an unspeakable crime."
National Democrats also seized on Mourdock's comments, hoping to connect them to Romney, who recorded an ad for the conservative candidate. The Democratic National Committee used that spot and other comments from Romney supportive of Mourdock in a new web video that calls the GOP presidential nominee "extremely conservative."
(American Bridge 21st Century spliced together some of Mourdock's most conservative remarks, including labeling "man-induced" global warming a "hoax," with Romney's endorsement video.)
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the Romney campaign should request that Romney's spot for the nominee be pulled: "As Mourdock's most prominent booster and the star of Mourdock's current campaign ads, Mitt Romney should immediately denounce these comments and request that the ad featuring him speaking directly to camera on Mourdock's behalf be taken off the air."
The Romney campaign quickly moved to put some distance between itself and Mourdock's remarks but did not give any signs the candidate would demand the ad be pulled. "Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee accused Democrats of "faux outrage" over the matter, saying their response overlooked Donnelly's opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.
In a statement, NRSC Chairman John Cornyn said: "Richard and I, along with millions of Americans -- including even Joe Donnelly -- believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous."
Republicans were pushing their own message overnight, flagging a Des Moines Register column outlining disappointment with President Obama for only talking to the paper on an off-the-record basis. The Iowa paper is preparing to make a Sunday endorsement.
In the column, editor Rick Green recounted the exchange with the White House and his disappointment of the interview not being on the record, prompting Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller to tell reporters the issue "both raises questions about what he was hiding and betrays the president's lack of confidence about his failed record and lack of a vision for a second term."
"In short, President Obama is telling Iowans that if they want to hear him answer some tough questions before Election Day, they'll have to hope for a rerun of 'The View,'" Miller said.
The RNC also posted a new web video suggesting Mr. Obama is making jokes about Romney and Big Bird and the like because he's losing.
As we've done all season, the NewsHour took a deep dive post-debate to examine the truth behind what was said during the final Obama-Romney faceoff.
From "apology tour" to troop withdrawal, we looked at the record.
Watch the fact-check segment here or below:
We also posted a roundup of the most notable questions, thanks to desk assistant Beth Garbitelli and politics online production assistant Meena Ganesan, for you to vote on how each candidate answered.
The foreign affairs team offered much more online as well, with this post-game analysis from Larisa Epatko and two takes, one from Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former National Security Council official under the Clinton administration, and from CFR President Richard Haas.
SEQUESTRATION IN VA-02
The NewsHour and public media partners are exploring states and races at the top of the ticket and down the ballot in a new Battleground Dispatches series. Airing Tuesday night was the third piece, which focused on how the issue of defense cuts plays in Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, the swing seat held by freshman Republican Rep. Scott Riggell.
Next up, Gwen Ifill talked with Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy and Steven Dennis of Roll Call about how the president's comments were received on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon. They talked about the reality of the fiscal situation, what budget cuts the Defense Department is truly facing and the politics of how this can all shake out post-election.
Watch the report from special correspondent Cathy Lewis of WHRO in Hampton Roads, Va., and the conversation that followed, here or below:
Coordinating producer Mike Melia previewed the story here.
FACE THE FACTS
Wednesday's tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA focuses on guns.
The nonpartisan organization found: "The number of guns manufactured each year in the U.S. grew from 2.9 million in 2001 to nearly 5.5 million in 2010, which was one of the highest-volume years in history. Another 2.84 million foreign-made guns were imported in 2010." Click through the slide show for more.
2012 LINE ITEMS
CNN reports that Tagg Romney apologized to President Obama for saying he wanted to "take a swing at him" at the debate.
The Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion endorses President Obama for a second term, arguing there is no better choice for Hispanics.
Romney picks up backing from the Log Cabin Republicans.
Republicans are feeling more positive about the presidential campaign, Pew Research Center finds.
This could be a first as the Morning Line links to Playboy, which takes a look at what a Romney presidency would mean for "sexual health."
Roll Call wrote up the Newseum event with Gwen, Judy Woodruff and Candy Crowley. The women talked about debates and the presidential campaign.
Have you taken the Pew Research Center/NewsHour political party ID quiz? It's been completed 1 million times since we launched it at the conventions.
Crossroads surprises and crafts a positive television spot.
The San Jose Mercury News dubs Mr. Obama "the first meme president."
If you've ever wondered about the precipitation totals and record high temperatures of each of the political battleground states, AccuWeather.com has the infographic for you.
It turns out the Marines still have 175,000 bayonets, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times reports. Florida GOP Rep. Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel, remarked Tuesday at a campaign event that he used both horses and bayonets while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Huffington Post rounds up the reaction to the bayonets issue.
Third party candidates give their closing pitches for this election, including Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson's plea to "waste" your vote on him. You can watch the third party debate in full here.
A candidate for hashtag of the week: #Mittmentum.
A Hungarian-born billionaire is airing ads warning voters about socialism. This 60-second Spanish-language spot, which explains that he's voting Republican and is spending money to get the message out, started running Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., according to data from NewsHour partner Kantar Media/CMAG.
Gang, Ohio is a dead heat. Which is fantastic news for Romney because a few weeks ago it was anything but— James Pethokoukis (@JimPethokoukis) October 24, 2012
inbox: "Gov. Johnson Will Not Bomb Iran."— Justin Elliott (@elliottjustin) October 23, 2012
Extreme TV! On the trail in Phoenix, Arizona doing some MOS twitter.com/kpolantz/statu...— Katelyn Polantz (@kpolantz) October 24, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
A new WBUR poll of Massachusetts voters found Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren with a 50 percent to 44 percent lead over GOP incumbent Scott Brown in the Bay State's U.S. Senate race. That was a change from the 47 percent to 43 percent advantage that Brown had in the survey earlier this month.
The Boston Globe evaluates how Brown's years as a male model have helped his political career.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday of likely voters in Connecticut showed Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy running six points ahead of GOP nominee Linda McMahon, 49 percent to 43 percent, in the state's U.S. Senate contest.
Politico asks if the Florida delegation is Congress' "wackiest."
Amanda Hess assesses the importance and prevalence of memes in political journalism.
Geoffrey Lou Guray Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama holds an event in Davenport, Iowa, at 11:10 a.m. He then travels to Denver for a rally at 4:55 p.m. From there it's on to Los Angeles, where he tapes an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," before closing out the day with a rally in Las Vegas at 12:35 a.m.
Mitt Romney holds a rally in Reno, Nev., at 2:45 p.m. He then flies to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an event at 8 p.m.
Vice President Biden delivers remarks at an event in Marion, Ohio, at 12:45 p.m. He then returns to Washington, D.C., and hosts a reception commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Month at 6:30 p.m.
Paul Ryan delivers remarks on the economy in Cleveland at 2:20 p.m.
Ann Romney campaigns in Florida, making stops in Tampa at 12:40 p.m., Lakeland at 2:40 p.m. and Winter Park at 4:20 p.m.
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.