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First Thoughts: Romney's immigration challenge

Romney’s immigration challenge, which got even tougher after last week… In his speech to NALEO at 1:00 pm ET, Romney will focus on the economy but also address immigration… Evaluating the money race in May: Obama camp actually outraised Romney camp, but the RNC beat the DNC… Previewing Romney’s upcoming donor bash in Utah… Romney camp to Rick Scott: Don’t talk about the economic improvements in your state… Quinnipiac poll shows Obama is back up in Florida… New Obama TV ad targets female voters… Obama to talk about student loans at 1:40 pm ET… And the contretemps over contempt.

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Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event in front of the Bavarian Inn Lodge on June 19, 2012 in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

*** Romney's immigration challenge…: When he addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Orlando, FL at 1:00 pm ET today, Mitt Romney faces a challenge that could baffle the most talented of politicians: How do you win over Latino voters after using illegal immigration as a weapon over the past five years (first against John McCain in '08 and then Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich in '11 and '12)? And it's not a question for Romney, but also for the entire Republican Party. According to last month's NBC/WSJ/Telemundo oversample of Latinos, this demographic negatively viewed both Romney (26%-35% fav/unfav) and the GOP (22%-40%), while it positively viewed President Obama (58%-23%) and the Democratic Party (51%-19%). What’s more, per this oversample, Obama led Romney by a whopping 34 points in a head-to-head match-up, 61%-27%.

Five months before the general election, the Obama administration and Republican House are locked in a bitter fight over executive privilege. NBC's Domenico Montanaro reports.

*** … which got even tougher after last week: And Romney's immigration challenge immigration got even tougher after Obama's announcement late last week that his administration wouldn't deport young illegal immigrants who have graduated from high school, are serving in the U.S. military, and have no criminal record. For one thing, Romney still hasn't answered if he would overturn the executive action if he's elected president. The Obama campaign is highlighting this fact. “In the six days since President Obama announced steps to allow young people who were brought here through no fault of their own to avoid deportation in the face of congressional inaction, Mitt Romney has refused, in at least six different interviews, to say where he stands on the issue,” it said in a statement last night. In addition, Obama's announcement blunted this Romney/GOP talking point: that Obama hasn't done anything significant for the Latino community.

*** The expected plan -- focus on the economy: So these are the challenges Romney faces. How he’ll likely respond is with the same playbook he’s been using over the past year: talk about the economy and about how Latinos (and all Americans, for that matter) have suffered since the economic downturn four years ago. Indeed, the guidance we’ve received from the Romney campaign is that he’ll FOCUS on the economy in today’s speech but ADDRESS immigration. But as msnbc.com’s Mike O’Brien will write in a piece to be published later today, is it possible that Romney is too focused on the economy and not on other issues? As we’ve said before, a president’s job typically is about much more than the economy, and there is only so much a president can do -- constitutionally -- when it comes to the economy and domestic policy. Before Romney’s speech, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has criticized his party on immigration, addresses the confab at noon. And President Obama speaks tomorrow. By the way, the Tampa Bay Times notes that Latinos are “energized” by Obama’s announcement, but that he still faces challenges, especially since deportations have soared under his presidency.

*** Evaluating the money race in May: After all the reporting from a couple of weeks ago that Romney outraised Obama in May, well technically that isn't correct. In the true apples-to-apples comparison for the campaigns, the Obama camp outraised the Romney camp last month, $39.1 million to $23.4 million. What's more, the Obama camp has $109 million in the bank as of May 31, while the Romney camp has $17 million. But where Team Romney outraised Team Obama was with the major party committees (the RNC’s $34.8 million vs. the DNC’s $20 million) and the victory funds. What's going on here: A larger portion of the pro-Obama money is coming in the form of contributions to the campaign (where the maximum donation is $5,000), while a larger portion of the pro-Romney dough is coming from donations to the RNC (max is $30,800) and Romney’s victory fund. A reminder: If a donor cuts a $75,000 check, the first $5,000 goes to the campaign, the next $30,800 goes to the national political party, and the rest goes to the victory fund. So what’s likely happening right now is Romney is racking up lots of $75,000 checks.

*** Romney’s upcoming donor bash in Utah: And speaking of those large contributions… NBC’s Garrett Haake reported yesterday that some of Romney’s top donors “will flock to Utah for an exclusive gathering this weekend featuring top Republican political figures and strategists... The attendees will be treated to presentations, briefing and panel discussions featuring an all-star cast of Republican politicians, including several thought to be among Romney's top vice presidential choices.” The guest list, per Haake: Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman, Bob McDonnell, Karl Rove (who helped found the powerful outside group American Crossroads), John McCain, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. By the way, folks: We still don’t know who Romney’s bundlers are (outside the lobbyists who are required by law to disclose their bundling).

*** Romney campaign to Gov. Scott: Don’t talk about the economic improvements in your state: The Obama campaign today is seizing on this Bloomberg article: “Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter. Scott, a Republican, was asked to say that the state’s jobless rate could improve faster under a Romney presidency, according to the people, who asked not to be named.” 

*** Poll: Obama’s ahead in Florida: Speaking of Florida… A new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading Romney in Florida by four percentage points among registered voters, 46%-42%. That’s a reversal from Quinnipiac’s survey in May, when Romney was up on Obama by six points, 47%-41%. In this current poll, Obama leads among independents (46%-37%), women (49%-39%), and Latinos (49%-39%), while Romney’s ahead with whites (50%-37%) and men (45%-44%). The good news for Obama in this survey: He’s ahead, unlike last month. The bad news: He’s below that safe zone of 50%.

*** Hey, ladies: After a slew of negative TV ads hitting Romney, the Obama campaign is up with a new positive spot targeting women. It will air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia. “The son of a single mom, proud father of two daughters,” says a female narrator. “President Obama knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn’t just unfair; it hurts families. So the first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. To help ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the exact same work. Because President Obama knows that fairness for women means a stronger middle class for America.”

*** Obama to talk about student loans: At 1:40 pm ET today from the White House, President Obama will deliver remarks calling on Congress not to allow interest rates on student loans to increase. But congressional Republicans are making this point: The White House has ignored the GOP attempts to try to compromise on this issue.

*** Contretemps over contempt: Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted -- by party lines -- to recommend that Attorney General Eric Holder be held in contempt for not turning over more documents in the so-called “Fast and Furious” investigation. That came as President Obama invoked executive privilege to shield the release of those documents. We have two points on this whole story. One, this has the two parties assuming the absolute worst about the other, which is why we are where we are. Chairman Issa and the GOP House really believe there’s some grand cover-up, while the Obama White House believes the GOP is simply on a political witch hunt. Two, the GOP initially jumped all over this “Fast and Furious” story because the NRA crowd loves to embarrass the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). In fact, the NRA scored yesterday’s contempt vote. This should not be lost on the story.

Countdown to GOP convention: 67 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 74 days
Countdown to Election Day: 138 days

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