Obama, Romney Shift Focus of Campaign Back to Economy

BY Terence Burlij  September 17, 2012 at 8:57 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Mitt Romney arrives at a campaign rally last week in Painesville, Ohio. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

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President Obama and Mitt Romney are expected to shift the focus of the presidential campaign back to the economy this week after spending much of last week sparring over foreign policy following the attacks and unrest in Libya and Egypt.

The president will travel to Ohio on Monday, where he plans to announce that the administration will challenge China at the World Trade Organization for illegally subsidizing exports in its autos and auto-parts sectors, contending the practice creates an unbalanced playing field for domestic manufacturers and leads to U.S. jobs being outsourced.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Stephen Koff explains the political considerations behind the move:

Autoworkers, their families and neighbors are an important Ohio voter constituency. Obama’s campaign emphasizes how the White House helped rescue General Motors and Chrysler, saving and adding jobs in places like Lordstown. While Democrats and some experts say the bailout may have saved the entire domestic industry, Romney opposed the government’s extensive role, which he and fellow Republicans say resulted in the government picking winners and losers among factories, dealerships and worker pensions.

The White House notes that the auto parts industry directly employs 54,200 people in Ohio and that the overall automotive sector, including associated industries such as steel, plastics and electronics, accounts for some 850,000 jobs — or 12.4 percent — of the Buckeye State’s total employment.

Romney’s pivot back to domestic concerns includes a pair of new television ads and a speech Monday to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.

In one spot, titled “The Romney Plan,” the GOP nominee talks up his policies for strengthening the middle class. “Trade has to work for America,” Romney says. “That means crack down on cheaters like China. It means open up new markets.”

You can watch the full ad here or below.

The other spot accuses the president of “failing American families” by increasing the deficit. You can watch that ad here or below.

Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei report the ads are part of a broader shift in strategy by the Romney campaign.

Mitt Romney, sensing an opening in the Middle East mess and catching flak from conservatives for giving too little detail about his policy plans, is rolling out a new and broader strategy to make the election a referendum on “status quo versus change,” chief strategist Stuart Stevens told POLITICO.

The shift, which is to include much more emphasis on Romney’s policy prescriptions, means he is scrapping the most basic precept of his campaign. From the time he began contemplating running again after his loss in the 2008 primaries, Romney’s theory of the case has been a relentless and nearly exclusive focus on the listless economy.

But with polls showing Obama for the first time moving clearly ahead in important swing states– most notably, Ohio–Romney advisers concluded they had to make a painful course correction.

(Also be sure to check out the story from Allen and VandeHei that gives an inside look at the Romney campaign.)

Still, the Romney’s economic message is expected to be at the center of his pitch to Hispanic business leaders in Los Angeles.

“No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit,” the Republican nominee will say according to prepared remarks. “While national unemployment is 8.1 percent, Hispanic unemployment is over 10 percent. Over two million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office.”

Romney will also pledge to work with members of both political parties “to permanently fix” the country’s immigration system.

The Obama campaign released a web video Monday ahead of Romney’s remarks accusing him of trying to cover up his past positions in order to appeal to Latino voters. The two-minute video is a parody of the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and includes lines like “Can Romney cover up his belief in self-deportation with a bold new wallpaper choice?”

You can watch the full video here or below.

President Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, and recent polls show him with a more than two-to-one advantage over Romney heading into November. Margins like that could be devastating to the Republican in states with large Hispanic populations such as Colorado, Florida and Nevada, and explain the reason for his renewed outreach this week.

AD ALERT

The Obama campaign on Saturday released a television ad about the economy, with a cameo from former President Bill Clinton arguing that Mr. Obama should be re-elected to take the country “forward.”

It popped up Saturday at 7:21 a.m. on the NBC affiliate in Portland, Maine, according to tracking by NewsHour partner CMAG. The station reaches television viewers to the west in swing state New Hampshire.

Watch it here or below.

Within a few hours of each other Friday morning, the campaigns also both released negative Spanish-language spots in Orlando, Fla.

DATA-DRIVEN CAMPAIGNS

On Friday’s NewsHour, Hari Sreenivasan talked with Sasha Issenberg about his new book, “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”

Issenberg walked through how campaigns can learn about you through basic consumer information and the ways voter behavior is influenced. Watch their conversation here or below.

Christina will be hosting a Twitter chat with Issenberg on Wednesday. Submit your questions to #victorylab.

SUMMIT RECAP

From NewsHour politics desk assistant Beth Garbitelli:

Values Voter Summit, an annual conservative gathering, kicked off on Friday in Washington. D.C., with speeches from Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders.

“This election is going to determine whether or not the very moral fabric of our country will be upheld or whether it will be torn apart,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the gathering.

Ryan came out to a room on its feet, but soon after beginning his speech,= protesters from the crowd yelled, “Corporations are not people,” before being ushered out and over-shouted with chants of “U-S-A.” Another pocket of hecklers interrupted later as well, but most of the viewers seemed pleased with his speech — even one man in colonial garb occasionally waving a tricorner hat in agreement.

“In the all-important election of 2012, values voters are also economic voters,” Ryan said.

Social issues did not take a backseat in the rhetoric. Besides lauding the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities, Ryan attacked President Obama for “never once [lifting] a hand” to change abortion laws. In contrast, Ryan called Romney ” a modest man with a charitable heart, a doer and a promise-keeper.”

In response to Ryan’s remarks, Obama for America spokesman Danny Kanner issued a statement hitting on Ryan’s budget. Kanner wrote that it was “a budget that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said failed a ‘basic moral test.’”

Romney gave a video address as well. Watch it for yourself here and you can check out the full bulletin of speeches here.

BROOKS AND MARCUS

Presented with the new polls we put in context Friday on the NewsHour, David Brooks quipped that Romney should be planning a concession speech.

Ruth Marcus, filling in for Mark Shields, said she found Romney’s comments on Libya to be “disgraceful.”

Brooks said he “wouldn’t go that far.” Here is the spirited exchange:

DAVID BROOKS: I think experienced hands would have waited a beat, rather than have that first Romney thing.

Second, when bad things are happening abroad, the American people want to see stability.

RUTH MARCUS: And they rally around the commander in chief.

DAVID BROOKS: And they do.

And, so, you don’t know who is dying or what is happening. Just show some stability. When the helicopters went down under Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan said, OK, I’m not going to use this politically.

That was the right instinct. Third — and this, I think, is deeply revealing of Romney — he is just not an ideological person. So, what principle is he standing for in this fight? The principle that thou shall not apologize.

That is not a principle. That is a tactic. That is a management theory of how to manage power.

And so trying to be an aggressive ideological person, but while not really being an ideological person, he has an ideological fit over management theory. And so that’s not…

JUDY WOODRUFF: But that point about apologizing, that has been a major part of the critique of Romney of the Obama administration.

DAVID BROOKS: I mean, sometimes, you apologize. Sometimes, you don’t.

If you have a theory — say you have a…

RUTH MARCUS: But he never apologized. That is the problem.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, that’s true, too. But we’re setting that aside.

RUTH MARCUS: I’m flying off the handle again.

Watch the segment here or below:

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • A new automated survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling shows the president leading Romney in Virginia, 51 percent to 46 percent.

  • David Brody talked to Ryan about how his Catholic faith shaped his views on policy.

  • On Friday, the Obama campaign released a new TV ad on China. Watch it here. It began airing in Las Vegas on Saturday.

  • The Financial Times tracked the Obama app that allows you to track voters.

  • The Republican National Committee said Friday the party has made over 20 million voter contacts — more than the RNC’s 2008 voter contact total. “As of Saturday, Republicans had knocked on 16 times more doors and made eight times more phone calls than at this point in 2008. To date, we have 282 Victory Centers and 620 staff fanned out across the battleground states mobilizing supporters–many of them first time volunteers–on a daily basis. This is no doubt a top-notch operation,” the party argued in a press memo.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Two new polls show Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren leading GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race. A survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute found Warren leading Brown by six points, 50 percent to 44 percent. Another automated survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling had Warren up two points, 48 percent to 46 percent.

  • How would the automatic budget cuts outlined by the White House on Friday impact Medicare? Kaiser Health News explains that here.

  • The NewsHour explored how banks are doing four years after the bailouts.

  • Cantor announced on the floor that Sept. 21 will be the last day the House is in session, reports NewsHour coordinating producer Linda J. Scott. Lawmakers will return Nov. 13 for the lame-duck session.

  • Take Slate’s news quiz.

  • Margaret Warner talked with former Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Watch that here.

  • So much win. Cupcakes for everyone!

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama campaigns in Ohio with stops in Cincinnati at 12:25 p.m. and Columbus at 4:20 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney addresses the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles at 3:15 p.m.

  • Michelle Obama campaigns in Florida with stops in Gainesville at 3:30 p.m. and Tallahassee at 6:55 p.m.

  • Vice President Biden campaigns in Burlington, Iowa, at 4:15 p.m.

  • Paul Ryan campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, at 4:30 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.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.