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First Thoughts: Obama's back against the wall (again)

With his back against the wall (again), Obama set to deliver big speech on the economy in Cleveland, OH at 1:45 pm ET… Romney also will campaign in Ohio around the very same time… Dem pollster Peter Hart on Obama’s challenge… New Romney TV ad resurrects Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” remark… Romney would govern like John Kasich?... And Sheldon Adelson’s $35 million (and counting).

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign fund raising event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 12, 2012.

*** Obama’s back against the wall (again): In the five years since Barack Obama has become a fixture on the national stage, he has followed this script when the going gets tough: He gives a speech. He did it during the 2008 presidential campaign (Jeremiah Wright), as well as in his first two years as president (during the health-care debate and the BP spill). And now after his toughest stretch in the White House since the debt-ceiling debacle -- the May jobs report, the Democrats’ loss in Wisconsin, and “the private sector is doing fine” -- President Obama is set to deliver a major campaign speech on the economy in Cleveland, OH at 1:45 pm ET. The speech is intended to do what all those other examples were supposed to do: change the negative narrative, even if temporarily. In THIS speech, per the campaign, the president will mention (as he’s said before at some recent fundraisers) the stark contrast on the economy between the two presidential candidates, and he’ll say that this election has the chance to “break the stalemate” between the two parties on how to fix the economy and pay down the debt. Here’s the thing about Obama’s speeches, though: This appears to be his team’s only play sometimes. They’ve worked in the past, of course. But the question becomes: If you continually give a speech when your back is against the wall, does it inevitably have less of an impact?

Although they won't cross paths – with President Barack Obama in Cleveland and Mitt Romney in Cincinnati, they both will be sharing their economic message. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports.

*** Obama’s challenge: After he conducted a focus group of swing voters in Colorado, pollster Peter Hart -- the Democratic half of the NBC/WSJ poll -- had this advice for Team Obama in an interview with NBC News: “Our focus groups show that voters see a lot of glamour and glitz from the Obama administration; they're wondering where the vision, where the valor is going to be.” More from Hart: “[Obama] is missing the mark on the middle class. He needs to get down there. It is not just rallies; he needs to be out there feeling what they are feeling, a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of uncertainty.” And: “[The public] need a sense of a vision, they need a sense of hope, they need to be able to see that it’s not just the old Obama giving them the charisma and the cool. They need to see substance over style.” We know there are many folks in Obamaland who semi-dismiss the criticism coming from Greenberg/Carville. But the ex-Clinton folks apparently are not alone.

*** While Obama’s in Cleveland, Romney will be in Cincy: Obama isn’t going to be the only major figure in Ohio today. At the very time the president will be delivering his economic speech, Mitt Romney will be holding a campaign event in Cincinnati, OH. Indeed, this will be the first time in this general election when Obama and Romney will campaign in same battleground state on the same day. Yesterday while in DC, Romney made this comment in advance of Obama’s upcoming speech: "My own view is that he will speak eloquently, but that words are cheap, and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold on to their job."

*** Romney TV ad resurrects “private sector is doing fine”: You just knew this was coming… The Romney campaign’s latest TV ad resurrects Obama’s “the private sector is doing fine” remark. After flashing these things on the screen – the millions who are out of work, the unemployment rate above 8%, and the homeowners who are underwater, the ad plays Obama saying, “The private sector is doing fine.” Twice. Of course, the context to Obama’s words is that he was comparing the private sector’s performance to the public sector’s in job gains/losses, and the statistics back that up. Meanwhile, the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action will air this TV ad tomorrow in New Hampshire hitting Romney on Bain -- at the same time as Romney begins his bus tour in the Granite State.

*** Romney would govern like John Kasich? On a conference call yesterday, Romney strategist Russ Schriefer said that Romney -- if he becomes president -- would govern like GOP Govs. John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and Chris Christie of New Jersey. “I think what you’re going to see is that Gov. Romney is going to be much more like Gov. Kasich, Gov. Christie, and Gov. Daniels in those states and operate with a much more pro-business, less hostile to job creators attitude,” Schriefer said, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. It’s worth noting that Kasich’s approval rating in Ohio, according to a May Quinnipiac poll was just 41% (compared with Obama’s 49%), although another Quinnipiac poll from May had Christie’s approval rating at 57% in New Jersey. We get the Daniels and Christie comparisons, but the Kasich comment surprised us since we know of a lot of Republicans who quietly blame Kasich and his governing style for putting Romney in the small hole he’s in Ohio in the first place.

*** Sheldon Adelson’s $35 million (and counting): When it’s all said and done, perhaps the biggest story this presidential season will be all the outside groups -- and the big checks funding them -- trying to influence this election. And the biggest check-writer of them all so far? Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He and his wife have reportedly donated $10 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future. That’s on top of the $20 million the Adelsons gave to the pro-Gingrich Super PAC during the GOP primary season. All told, the New York Times says, the Adlesons have donated $35 million to pro-GOP Super PACs. While we’ve all become numb to money in politics, that doesn’t make it less relevant. And $35 million (and possibly counting) is an astonishing sum from one individual and his wife. What’s more, we’ve seen politicians spend more than this on races -- hello, Michael Bloomberg -- but they were spending it on themselves. But folks like Adelson aren’t running for office; rather, they’re dabbling in politics like someone would dabble in fantasy baseball. It’s truly breathtaking.

*** Geithner on politics: In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gave this response to a question about all the money Wall Street is giving Romney: “I can't really speculate on their motives, but I suspect it's because they believe that they are more likely to get a more favorable hearing in terms of relaxing these reforms if the Republicans have a stronger hand in Washington. I think it's straightforward.”

*** On the trail: After the president’s speech in Cleveland, he heads to New York City, where he and the first lady will visit the World Trade Center site and then where he’ll hit two fundraisers. And after his event in Cincy, Romney travels to a fundraiser in Chicago.

Countdown to GOP convention: 74 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 81 days
Countdown to Election Day: 145 days

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