Obama’s Campaign Attack Strikes a Familiar Tune

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  July 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Mitt Romney. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

CHICAGO | In a campaign getting nastier by the minute, you could see it coming that Mitt Romney’s singing would eventually be used against him.

On the trail this year, the presumptive Republican nominee has made it a habit to go phrase-by-phrase through several verses of “America the Beautiful.”

The tune was the central focus of a tough new television ad that President Obama’s re-election campaign says will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In the ad, as Romney belts out each line, slates of newspaper clips appear on screen targeting the Republican for his ties to the private equity firm Bain Capital, his record as governor of Massachusetts and his personal finances.

One reads, “As Governor, Romney outsourced jobs to India.”

Another: “He had millions in a Swiss bank account.”

The spot closes with these words on the screen: “Mitt Romney’s not the solution, he’s the problem.”

Watch the spot here or below.

President Obama was asked over the weekend by a Virginia television reporter with station WAVY in Hampton Roads if he would apologize for his campaign’s attacks on Romney’s business record.

“No. We will not apologize,” the president responded. “Mr. Romney claims he’s Mr. Fix-it for the economy because of his business experience, so I think voters entirely legitimately want to know what is exactly his business experience.”

The president also raised questions about when Romney officially left Bain. The Romney campaign has said the separation occurred in February 1999, when he left to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, but Mr. Obama pointed to reports that suggest otherwise.

“Mr. Romney is now claiming he wasn’t there at the time except his filings with the SEC listing says he was the CEO, chairman and president of the company,” Mr. Obama said. “Harry Truman said, ‘The buck stops with me,’ and I think understandably people are going to be interested in are you in fact responsible for this company you say is one of your primary calling cards for your wanting to be president.”

Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie told CNN on Sunday that Romney “retroactively” retired from Bain when he didn’t return following the Olympics.

“You know, there may have been thought at the time that he could be part time,” Gillespie said. “It was not part time. The Olympics was in a shambles. There was corruption. There was — the International Olympic Committee was going to pull the Olympics from the United States of America, which would have been a huge embarrassment. Because of Mitt Romney’s leadership skills he was called on to do it.”

Gillespie added, “He took a leave of absence and, in fact … ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result.”

The Chicago team delighted in the term “retroactively,” which became a trending topic on Twitter as anti-Romney forces mocked the statement.

The campaigns traded barbs all weekend, with Team Romney releasing a spot that included CBS’ Bob Schieffer asking White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, “Whatever happened to hope and change?”

Watch it here or below.

The ads are all possible because of an unprecedented amount of early spending. The Associated Press’ David Espo did the math and found that Team Obama has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in selected battleground states. He writes:

In a reflection of campaign strategy, more than one-fifth of the president’s ad spending has been in Ohio, a state that looms as a must-win for Romney more so than for Obama. Florida ranks second and Virginia third, according to organizations that track media spending and other sources.

About three-quarters of the president’s advertising has been critical of Romney as Obama struggles to turn the election into a choice between him and his rival, rather than a referendum on his own handling of the weak economy. Obama’s television ad spending dwarfs the Romney campaign’s so far by a margin of 4-1 or more. It is at rough parity with the Republican challenger and several outside GOP-led organizations combined. They appear positioned to outspend the president and his allies this fall, perhaps heavily.

If you thought it was bad already, just wait until the Olympics. Politico reports that the campaigns already have reserved $13.7 million in air time.

If you missed it on Friday, check out the NewsHour’s Battleground Diaries project. We’ve spliced all the political ads that ran in the span of 30 minutes in Richmond, Va., into one video.

SOMBER DAY IN CHICAGO

On one of the harshest days the presidential contest has yet seen, tragedy struck at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago on Friday. Campaign staffer Alex Okrent, 29, collapsed in the office, was rushed to the hospital and died.

Top officials announced the news to the staff, and both campaign manager Jim Messina and top strategist David Axelrod addressed the team. Some of the campaign workers sobbed and ran from the room. The Chicago Tribune reported that his cause of death was inconclusive pending further tests.

Okrent was a beloved figure who knew many in the office, having worked for the campaign in 2008 and also on Mr. Obama’s 2004 Senate bid. The president spoke with Okrent’s parents Friday night and addressed the staff via a conference call.

Staffers were shell-shocked and spent Friday night mourning in small gatherings across the city. The campaign has organized bus rides for people to attend his services on Monday morning.

OUTSOURCING WARS

On Friday, the NewsHour took a look at the outsourcing-issue battle playing out in the campaign and the impact sending jobs overseas has on the U.S. economy with Eugene Kiely of the non-partisan organization FactCheck.org, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson and Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute.

You can watch Ray Suarez’s report here or below.

Mark Shields and Michael Gerson, filling in for David Brooks, tackled the topic as well.

Gerson said the Obama attacks on when Romney left Bain were over the top:

They compared him to Richard Nixon in the level of secrecy. I don’t think these are a particularly set of credible charges. Mitt Romney has a lot of problems, a lot of challenges on these issues. But he doesn’t come across as a Nixonian criminal figure. He’s more like a wealthy Boy Scout. So I think that this doesn’t meet the minimal levels of credibility. In my view, this particular swift boat sinks.

Shields turned the conversation to the debate over where Romney keeps his investments, saying, “Nobody has ever run for president with a Swiss bank account.”

He also noted “one great strength” Romney has, quipping that the GOP position has been, “We want to increase revenue without raising the rates. So that means closing tax loopholes or tax expenditures. There’s nobody who knows more about tax loopholes and tax expenditures than Mitt Romney.”

Watch the segment here or below.

BATTLE FOR NORTHERN VIRGINIA

NewsHour politics production assistant Alex Bruns went to President Obama’s rally Saturday at Centreville (Va.) High School, home of the Wildcats. He reports that Mr. Obama delivered a familiar message: hope, change and four more years.

As supporters stood in a line stretching around the high school and along County Road 659, their Republican neighbors picketed across the street.

The voters are clear that Northern Virginia is ground zero for the 2012 campaign. “Whoever wins Fairfax County, Prince William County and Loudon County will be the next president,” said Ralph Hubbard of Fairfax County.

Northern Virginians these days cannot make it through a family dinner without a robocall and they cannot enjoy an episode of “Storage Wars” without a series of campaign ads. Recent swing state polling suggests that the ominous voices may be getting through to voters. So on Saturday, Mr. Obama was ready to reiterate his campaign’s most popular attack of late.

“My opponent, in his private business, was investing in companies that The Washington Post calls ‘pioneers’ of outsourcing,” Obama said. “I believe in insourcing.”

ALL EYES ON FEMALE VOTERS

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns have targeted female voters as keys to winning the White House, and a series of new polls out this week suggest that both men have a lot to win and lose in this crucial demographic.

NewsHour reporter-producer Tiffany Mullon filed this report on new data from the pro-Democratic group EMILY’s List. The group’s survey focused on independent, non-college educated women voters in 13 battleground states. The president held an edge in that demographic, 48 percent to Romney’s 40 percent.

But another poll out this week showed one area where the gender gap worked to Romney’s advantage: married women. A Quinnipiac University poll showed that while Mr. Obama outperforms Romney nearly 2-to-1 with single women, Romney holds the advantage with married women, 49 percent to 42 percent.

In addition to the race for the White House, the EMILY’s list poll also showed one area where women thought there was ample room for improvement: Congress. The poll showed Democrats with a seven-point advantage in a generic congressional race. But, as for those who are already in Congress, pollster Lisa Grove said the women expressed a lot of what they referred to as the “3 As: anger. angst and agitation.” And 68 percent of the women surveyed saying they have a “great deal of anger toward Congress” and that they wanted to see more cooperation between both parties.

2016 WATCH

Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who attended the National Governor’s Association annual meeting over the weekend, took time on Saturday to participate in a Google hangout hosted by the liberal blog Daily Kos. Politics production assistant Allie Morris watched and filed this report.

“We have got a lot of people who adore you, first of all,” moderator Joan McCarter told O’Malley at the top of the event. Fielding questions from the two moderators, O’Malley addressed a range of issues, including voter suppression, income inequality and green energy.

On the heels of news that several Republican governors are choosing not to enforce certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, O’Malley reiterated Maryland’s decision to be an early implementer of the law for both economic and health reasons. “We really believe that when we’re able to stabilize what had been out of control, ever rising, escalating health care premium costs for our businesses, large, medium and small, that that will give us an economic advantage among states,” he said.

We’re keeping an eye on O’Malley in our series Divided by D.C., which examines his record compared with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Politico’s Jonathan Martin explores the delicate balance Romney needs to strike when assigning speakers for the Republican National Convention.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul said on Fox News Sunday that he thinks the Romney campaign is “insecure” and scared to let him speak at the convention.

  • Romney’s fundraising “has soared on the strength of exponentially larger checks than he was collecting as a mere contender for the nomination,” with Romney Victory — a joint fundraising committee created by his campaign, the Republican National Committee and several state parties — raising $140 million between its formation in early April and the end of last month, Politico reports. The story notes the sum “dwarfs the combined $83 million raised by Romney’s campaign committee and the RNC in that time.”

  • The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson looks at the president’s record on the Middle East.

  • The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker on Team Romney starting to close the digital divide with the Obama campaign.

  • The New York Times profiles Team Obama’s Penny Pritzker.

  • We posted video of Vice President Joe Biden’s speech to the NAACP. You can watch it here.

  • The Roanoke Times’ Mason Adams writes up the city’s first presidential visit in 35 years.

  • CBS evaluates the president’s record on coal.

  • The Hill’s Alexander Bolton catches up with South Dakota Sen. John Thune to talk about the veepstakes and his future in the GOP.

  • Elizabeth Summers (@elizsummers), Alex Bruns (@abbruns) and Hari Sreenivasan (@hari) are on the road in Nevada for a presidential politics story. Follow them!

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery reports that Democrats are threatening to go over the so-called “fiscal cliff” if Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the nation’s wealthiest Americans.

  • Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser finds five House Republican freshmen who aren’t bomb throwers at all, but are shaping up to be the chamber’s “new institutionalists.”

  • And the paper’s Shira Toeplitz profiles the Young Guns.

  • The Hill reports that House Speaker John Boehner “has brought in roughly $80 million for House Republicans and GOP candidates since taking the speaker’s gavel.”

  • Ezra Klein explains why he finds this the “Worst Congress Ever.”

  • Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun Times that people shouldn’t count out Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., since he has plenty of money in the bank.

  • The Hawaii Senate contest is getting more interesting.

  • Christina is moderating a panel discussion at the Girl Scouts’ Girls World Forum in Chicago. The event includes a screening of the documentary “Half the Sky” and a talk about efforts to educate girls across the globe.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Vice President Biden delivers remarks at a White House Community Leaders Briefing on seniors issues at 11:45 a.m. and attends the U.S. vs. Brazil men’s basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., at 8 p.m.

  • President Obama hold a pair of campaign events in Cincinnati at 12:30 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. He also attends the U.S. vs. Brazil women and men’s basketball games at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., at 7:10 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds a fundraiser in Baton Rouge at 12:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

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.