From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The double-edged sword: With the news that the network anchors, including NBC's Brian Williams, are planning to catch up with Obama on his overseas trip -- when they didn't do the same for McCain when he traveled abroad -- the New York Times today raises this conversation starter: that the "news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates." There is no doubt that Obama, because of his historical candidacy as well as being the "new" candidate, is receiving more attention. But that presents both rewards and risks. Consider: Just how big of a gaffe would have McCain's Sunni-Shiite mistake been had the network anchors all been there to cover it? The extra attention Obama receives also brings more scrutiny. And that's why his trip overseas presents both rewards and risks. And this is the lemons-vs.-lemonade debate the McCain campaign must be having. First, they need to figure out how to bracket this trip and keep pressure on Obama and the reporters covering him there. The time difference will present a challenge, as most of the news Obama makes will be during our broadcasts downtimes. Second, they may need to rethink how they are presenting McCain and the opportunities they are offering the media to cover him in unique and different settings. The irony to the extra coverage this trip is getting for Obama is that the RNC themselves helped hype this trip with their countdown clock on the number of days it's been since Obama last went to Iraq.
*** On target: As the political world anticipates Obama's upcoming overseas trip, his campaign this morning released a shiny object for us to discuss: his June fundraising numbers. In an email to supporters, campaign manager David Plouffe announced that Obama raised $52 million last month -- which is his second-best haul (he raised more than $55 million in February) and it's more than twice the amount of McCain's $22 million haul for June (which was his best month). While Obama raised much more than the $30 million-plus that the Wall Street Journal reported last week, Obama's $52 million is about what he should have raised for a candidate who is opting out of public funds for the general. Assuming that Obama rakes in at least $50 million each month from June until the end of October, that will be a minimum of $250 million. And when making the time calculation it takes to raise money, the ability to raise $250 million in five months was seen by many as the minimum a candidate would have to be able to raise to justify opting out and dismantling a finance team. By comparison, if you project that McCain will raise $20 million per month from June to August and combine that with the $84 million in public funds he'll receive after the GOP convention, McCain will have $140 million-plus. Of course, the RNC has a significant advantage over the DNC -- but that race is narrowing. A DNC officials tells First Read it raised $22.4 million in June (up from its $4 million in May), and it's cash on hand is $20 million (again, up from $4 million in May). By comparison, the RNC raised $25.7 in June and has $68.7 million cash on hand.
*** More numbers: A couple of more notes on Obama's June haul: All but $2 million was in primary money. Also, contrary to the email that Plouffe issued, the Obama campaign tells us that they have $72 million cash on hand. When you combine that with the DNC' $20 million, that's $92 million cash on hand -- which is almost equal to combined McCain-RNC cash on hand of nearly $95 million. Still, McCain really doesn't have a money problem. In fact, as Rick Davis bragged last week, money isn't going to be the issue many thought it would be just two months ago. Why is this? It appears many Republican donors are buying into the argument that the ONLY shot Republicans have of winning anything is the presidency. And this is hurting Republicans running for the House and Senate where Democrats are dominating on the financial front. Yesterday, the DSCC released a list of 11 races being held in GOP-held seats, and the Democrats were nearly on par or ahead in every race, according to the most recent fundraising report. Question: Are we seeing the reverse '96 effect taking place inside the GOP? In 1996, the word went out that Dole was a lost cause, and all of the GOP's resources went to saving House and Senate candidates in order to preserve their control of Congress. This cycle, the chance of the GOP winning control of either the House or the Senate appears beyond remote. Does that mean many of the professional GOP-givers are gravitating toward sending money to causes that help McCain? It sure looks like it.
*** Going overboard? Do we go overboard on the veepstakes vetting issue? Riddle us this: Would either Obama or McCain vet on the standard the media and the chattering class is holding? Would Obama have the experience or pull in any swing states? Would McCain be considered enough of a change agent? What state would he swing? Our point is that if both candidates think about this VP thing long enough, they'll realize that they got their nominations without all the things they are being told they need... Doesn't that mean it's likely they'll pick running mates with whom they bond more than they will via some electoral idea? Discuss!
*** Meet Mitt Romney: Speaking of veepstakes, over the next few weeks, First Read will run a series -- in no particular order -- of some things you might not know about the potential VP candidates. Today, we start on the Republican side with Mitt Romney. Most know his father was governor Michigan and ran for president in 1968, but Romney's mother, Lenore, also ran for office. She lost her bid for U.S. Senate in 1970… Romney received a draft deferment while serving as a Mormon missionary in France during the Vietnam War… When in France, he was declared dead after a near-fatal car accident… And don't forget this: Right before the New Hampshire primary, Romney cast doubt on McCain's ability to match up with the Hope-and-Change machine, as ABC reported yesterday. "I frankly don't think that Senator McCain, despite his service and his length of experience, that that's going to be able to stand up to the message that Barack Obama has brought forward," he said. "I think Barack Obama would be able to do to John McCain exactly what he was able to do to the other senators who are running on the Democratic side."
*** Mr. Ozone comes to Washington: Al Gore delivers a speech on global warming that the AP's Fournier previews after speaking with the former vice president. "Just as John F. Kennedy set his sights on the moon, Al Gore is challenging the nation to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years, an audacious goal he hopes the next president will embrace. The Nobel Prize-winning former vice president said fellow Democrat Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain are 'way ahead' of most politicians in the fight against global climate change. Rising fuel costs, climate change and the national security threats posed by U.S. dependence on foreign oil are conspiring to create 'a new political environment' that Gore said will sustain bold and expensive steps to wean the nation off fossil fuels." The real trick for Gore this time around in selling his campaign on climate change is how you pitch this public policy at a time when voters simply want their cost of living to go down and the biggest hit on cost of living these days is the price of gas.
*** On the trail: McCain holds a town hall in Kansas City, MO before heading to a fundraiser in Ferrysburg, MI. Obama is scheduled to be in Chicago.
*** Spouse watch: Michelle Obama hits a fundraiser in Seattle for Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), who's up for re-election in November. And Cindy McCain is on the bipartisan ONE Campaign trip to Africa.
*** Bill Clinton watch: The former president, in New York, appears at a Clinton Foundation announcement with leading drug manufacturers.
Countdown to Dem convention: 39 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 46 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 110 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 187 days
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