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First Thoughts: A day of contradictions

A day of contradictions for Team Obama… And a contradiction for Romney in Iowa… That NYT/CBS poll -- things that make you go, hmmmm… Pro-Obama Super PAC doubles down on Bain… JP Morgan Chase loss spurs more talk about regulation… NE SEN primary day: Establishment front-runner beware!... And WI Dems complain about a lack of DNC money for the upcoming recall.

Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign fundraiser May 14, 2012 at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City.

*** A day of contradictions: Yesterday certainly felt a day of contradictions for the White House and the Obama campaign. First, on the same day the campaign unloaded on Mitt Romney and his work at Bain Capital, you saw the president attending a fundraiser hosted by the president of the hedge fund giant Blackstone Group. Then, as the White House has been doing everything it can to portray the president’s gay-marriage announcement as anything BUT political, there was Obama raising money at a LGBT fundraiser hosted by Ricky Martin. Not surprisingly, the latest New York Times/CBS poll (whose methodology were a tad circumspect of… more in a few) finds that a resounding 67% of respondents believe the announcement was made for mostly political reasons, versus 24% who believe it was done out of principle. “The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement last week made it look calculated rather than principled,” the New York Times writes. That’s why, we guess, Vice President Biden apologized to the president -- his comments on “Meet the Press” guaranteed the gay-marriage story would be more about process and politics and not conviction.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about President Barack Obama's address to the graduates of Barnard College, which gave a nod to women, in hopes of growing the gender gap, and an embrace of enthusiastic donors happy with his new gay marriage stance.

*** Romney’s own contradiction: Yet here’s a contradiction for Romney: As he campaigns today in Iowa, his team has unveiled a new web video featuring unemployed Iowans. But the unemployment rate in Iowa is at 5.2%, one of the lowest in the nation and a level usually considered near full employment. Could this election be as simple as this: Romney needs the electorate to feel the economic doom and gloom these voters in this Romney web video express, while Obama wants the mentality on Election Day to be more reflective of what the 58% of folks told USA TODAY/Gallup about where the economy will be in 2013… It’s the usual optimism vs. pessimism meme but with a twist… both campaigns want to sell “better days ahead” with Romney serving up change as the answer and Obama serving up “don’t change horses just yet.”

*** Things that make you go, hmmmm: Speaking of that New York Times/CBS poll, it shows Romney at 46% and Obama at 43%. But get this: It also has the president’s approval rating at 50%. (How is Obama’s job approval at 50%, but his head-to-head number is 43%?) And given that this poll was a “call-back survey” -- with the respondents first interviewed back in April -- it feels like we need more poll data to make sense of all the events of the past two weeks. The gay marriage announcement. Obama’s campaign kickoff. The Osama bin Laden anniversary. The April jobs report. We respect the work the folks at the NYT/CBS do, but there are a lot of contradictions in the results, which simply means we should wait for more data. And guess what: Our NBC/WSJ poll is going into the field in the next 10 days. When you’re polling for a news organization, you usually want to be the first. But given all the news from the past two weeks, it’s not a bad thing to have the public have enough time to digest everything that has happened. By the way, we can tell that both Team Obama and Team Romney are nervous how the last couple of weeks have played, and the campaigns weren’t in the field last week.

*** Pro-Obama Super PAC doubles down on Bain: Yesterday’s Obama campaign’s two-minute Bain ad launched plenty of discussion and analysis – including here on First Read – but it’s worth noting that it’s a limited buy. According to Smart Media, it’s just for one day (May 16), and buy so far is less than $100,000. But guess what: The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is now going up in the same five states (CO, IA, OH, PA, and VA) with its own Bain ad on the same story about Romney and Bain (a Kansas City plant closing). The buy information for this ad is $780,000 from May 15 to May 21. We’re guessing that Team Romney might feel compelled to respond to with more than a web video like they did yesterday.

*** J.P. Morgan loss spurs fight over regulation: J.P. Morgan Chase’s $2 billion loss is giving President Obama and Democrats fodder. "This is why we passed Wall Street reform," Obama said in a preview clip of his appearance today on “The View.” Obama added, "You could have a bank that isn't as strong, isn't as profitable making those same bets and we might have had to step in and that's exactly why Wall Street reform is so important.” Sen. Carl Levin, head of a Senate subcommittee on investigations which looked into the 2008 crisis, said on PBS that he believes what J.P. Morgan did would have been illegal under Dodd-Frank. “[W]hat this bank did in this case, by their own data, is not reduce the risk. They were dramatically increasing the risk by their own data. That is not permitted by our law,” Levin said. Mitt Romney would want to repeal Dodd-Frank. But Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who appeared with Levin, called for a hearing on the J.P. Morgan deal to better understand what they did.

*** On the trail: Romney campaigns in Des Moines, IA at 3:05 pm ET… Meanwhile, at 10:55 am ET in DC, Obama delivers remarks at a National Peace Officers memorial service.

*** Veepstakes watch: Rob Portman, in DC, attends a panel discussion at the Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit

*** Establishment front-runner beware! It’s primary day in Nebraska and Oregon, and the marquee contest is the GOP Senate primary in the Cornhusker State. A week after a relative outsider defeated the establishment in Indiana -- with Richard Mourdock’s victory over Dick Lugar -- could the establishment favorite in Nebraska (Attorney General Jon Bruning) get a scare today? The New York Times’ Zeleny: “For months … Bruning has been seen as the leading contender in the primary, enjoying a fund-raising advantage and the backing of top Republicans here and in Washington. But as the primary approaches on Tuesday, the outcome is far from certain and the contest has become another potential wild card in the battle for control of the Senate, with outside groups feverishly trying to influence the race. Deb Fischer, 61, a rancher and state senator who is seeking statewide office for the first time, appears to be gaining ground on Mr. Bruning.” There’s a third candidate, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who’s also in the mix. In today’s GOP, we’re not sure anyone wants to be the establishment front-runner anymore. David Dewhurst, watch out…

*** The DNC and the Wisconsin recall: The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reported yesterday that Wisconsin Democrats are angry with the Democratic National Committee for not ponying up money for next month’s recall. “Considering that Scott Walker has already spent $30 million and we’re even in the polls, this is a winnable race,” a Wisconsin Dem tells Sargent. “We can get outspent two to one or five to one. We can’t get spent 20 to one.” But Wisconsin Democrats must not have gotten the same memo that the DSCC and DCCC did -- that the DNC’s money this cycle is going to be dedicated to the presidential contest, especially given all the GOP-leaning outside money. What’s more, what happened to all of labor’s money? If we remember correctly, the DNC didn’t spend a dime in last year’s state Senate recalls in Wisconsin. That said, there’s a A LOT riding on next month’s recall….

Countdown to WI recall: 21 days
Countdown to GOP convention: 104 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 111 days
Countdown to Election Day: 175 days

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