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First Thoughts: The importance of Virginia

Bill Tiernan / AP

A person holds a sign along S. Independence Boulevard on Wednesday, July 11, 2012, in Virginia Beach, Va., as people wait in line for tickets to see the president Friday at Green Run High School.

The importance of Virginia in Obama getting to 270… Playing defense on defense spending?... The back-and-forth over Bain… And the larger point about Romney and Bain: It’s hard to extricate the two… Condi for VP? Don’t bet on it… Team Romney unveils newest TV ad… RNC goes up with its own ad buy… And “Meet” has Durbin and Kyl.

*** The importance of Virginia: Earlier this week, we looked into the electoral-vote importance of Colorado and Iowa. And now, we turn our attention to Virginia, where President Obama stumps today and tomorrow. Here’s why Virginia -- with its 13 electoral votes -- is so important for Obama: A win there, plus in Colorado, enables him to surpass 270 electoral votes without winning Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Nevada. But a loss there forces the president to MUST win either: 1) Florida; 2) Ohio; or 3) both of Iowa and Nevada to get to 270. And that’s assuming, of course, that Obama holds on to all the states John Kerry won in ’04. Obama begins his day in Virginia with a campaign event in Virginia Beach at 12:45 pm ET. He then heads to Hampton at 4:25 pm, and concludes his day with a stop in Roanoke at 7:05 pm. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) hold a press conference in Williamsburg, VA (where the National Governors Association is meeting) to pre-but the president’s travel throughout the state. And don’t forget: In 2008, the vote margin in Virginia (53%-46%) identically matched the national margin (53%-46%).

*** Playing defense on defense spending? In advance of Obama’s swing through Virginia today -- especially its military-heavy presence near Virginia Beach -- the Romney campaign and Republicans are trying to make Obama play defense over the looming defense cuts as part of last year’s budget deal. (Remember, of course, that Republicans insisted that defense cuts -- and not increased taxes -- be part of the “trigger” if the so-called Super Committee didn’t reach a deal on comprehensive deficit reduction.) So yesterday, the Romney camp released this statement from Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli: “For President Obama to play budgetary Russian roulette with national defense is shameful. The damage to our local economy here in Virginia will be enormous.” Added Gov. McDonnell: “The President has put our defense budget on course for radical cuts that even his own Secretary of Defense says will be ‘devastating’ to U.S. national security.”

*** The back-and-forth over Bain: Yesterday, the Obama and Romney campaigns waged a furious back-and-forth over this question: When did Romney really leave Bain Capital? In 1999? Or later? But largely lost in all of the scrutiny -- over SEC filings showing Romney still listed as Bain’s CEO after 1999, or a Fortune report on documents showing that Romney didn’t manage Bain’s investments after that date -- is this larger point about Romney and Bain: It’s very hard to extricate the two. In other words, there isn't a simple line of demarcation to say, "Romney left Bain Capital in 1999, end of story." Indeed, as the Boston Globe reports, Romney didn't "finalize a severance agreement with Bain until 2002." And it also notes that Romney classified his separation from Bain in 1999 as a "leave of absence" and not a final departure. As Romney adviser Matt McDonald told Politico, "[Romney] was on the SEC filings because he was still technically the owner, but hadn't transferred ownership to other partners.” Technically the owner? What’s more, according to the Globe, "state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain 'executive' in 2001 and 2002." (A campaign official says that payment was part of his retirement compensation agreement.)

Daily Rundown guest host Luke Russert talks about the Obama and Romney campaign's latest accusations towards each other. Russert also talks about a new CBS News interview in which Obama conceded that he hadn't done a good enough job inspiring Americans.

*** And the larger point here: The bottom line: Yes, Romney may very well have given up day-to-day operations of Bain Capital in 1999; as the Romney campaign puts it, he was devoted full-time to the Olympics. And that's the contention of fact-checking sites like the Washington Post and FactCheck.org. But the evidence also suggests that Romney's complete -- and official -- departure from Bain isn't as clear cut.

*** Condi for VP? Don’t bet on it: Well, we learned last night that the Drudge Report -- with its close ties to the Romney campaign -- still has the power to change the subject, at least for several hours. Its provocative headline: “Romney narrows VP choices; Condi emerges as front-runner.” But if you believe that Rice (who has never held elective office, who is closely tied to George W. Bush’s unpopular foreign-policy decisions, and who supports abortion rights) is going to be Romney’s VP pick, we have some oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you. In fact, this tweet from prominent conservative Erick Erickson should settle things for everyone: “Multiple assurances from Team Romney tonight that Condi is not happening for Veep.” Meanwhile, a fundraising pitch from Romney Campaign Manager Matt Rhoades seemed to suggest that Romney’s VP choice isn’t happening soon. “Sometime between now and the Republican convention, Mitt will be announcing his choice for VP,” Rhoades writes. “Know what's even more exciting? Every week until the VP announcement is made, one lucky supporter will win the chance to meet Mitt and his choice for VP.” If Romney is announcing his pick next week, then this contest doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

*** Team Romney’s newest TV ad: The Romney campaign is up with another TV ad this morning fighting back on the negative attacks it’s receiving from the Obama campaign. The ad quotes Obama during his 2008 nomination acceptance speech in Denver. “Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from… You make a big election about small things.” The ad concludes with this screen shot: “We expect more from a president.” But remember this little rule in politics: If someone is complaining about negative TV ads, that usually means they’re working…

*** And the RNC purchases its own ad buy: And speaking of TV ads, we learned yesterday that the Republican National Committee is going up with a $5.1 million ad buy in the battleground states of Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. This is the RNC’s first TV buy of the general election. Why is the RNC getting into the act? Remember we told you earlier this week that the Romney campaign is being outspent right now because it can’t use general-election funds until after the GOP convention? Well, don’t be surprised if the RNC is now hitting the airwaves to help make up the difference -- and more.

*** On the trail: In addition to Obama campaigning in Virginia today, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan attend fundraising events for Romney… Rick Perry stumps for Romney in Nevada… And Rudy Giuliani attends the opening of a Romney campaign office in Virginia.

*** On Meet the Press: On Sunday, NBC’s David Gregory interviews Dem Sen. Dick Durbin and GOP Sen. Jon Kyl. 

Countdown to GOP convention: 45 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 52 days
Countdown to Election Day: 116 days

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