Republicans needn't worry about Hurricane Issac bearing down on Tampa next week; "Hurricane Todd" Akin has already overshadowed the GOP's national convention, according to Obama campaign officials.
Senior brass from the president's re-election team told reporters that the Florida-based convention had already been marred by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's controversial suggestion earlier this week that "legitimate rape" rarely leads to pregnancy.
"Hurricane Todd has already borne down on Tampa and the damage has been done. And I don’t think that whether he stays on the ballot is that material," a senior campaign official told reporters gathered for a background briefing in Washington when asked whether they wanted to see Akin stay on the ballot in Missouri.
Akin has weathered demands from senior Republicans, including Mitt Romney, to step aside from his race to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri. Though Akin has since apologized for his initial comments about rape, his political brand has become toxic, and has jeopardized not only Republicans' chances of winning back the Senate, but also the GOP's hopes of making inroads with women voters nationally.
To that end, the Obama campaign has sought to tie Akin to vice presidential contender Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Romney campaign as a whole.
“It is true that Paul Ryan is, on these issues, Todd Akin’s ideological twin,” an Obama campaign official said.
The official went on to say: “This is the most radical ticket on these issues, and not just on women’s health and choice issues, but also on pay equity issues, things that are fundamental to women in this country. So, you know, we’ve earned the gender gap through the advocacy of the president ... but there’s no doubt that they have contributed to that through their positions and now through the appointment of Congressman Ryan."
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that voters are far more confident in President Barack Obama’s ability to deal with issues of concern to women than Mitt Romney.
The Obama campaign also continued its attempt to frame the Republican Party -- and specifically, the convention -- as only catering to a very conservative base.
“They have no ability to expand the electorate. They have looked at the Latino vote, the fastest growing voting block in this country and have decided to send out [Kansas Secretary of State Kris] Kobach to be their person at the convention. They’re going to have [Sheriff] Joe Arpaio speak. I mean, I may pay to livestream that. That is going to be a great moment for the Obama campaign,” one campaign official joked.
(Kobach is known for co-authoring Arizona’s controversial immigration bill that was partially upheld by the Supreme Court this year. Sheriff Arpaio is known for his outspoken opposition to illegal immigration, and is currently being sued by the Department of Justice for “discriminatory and otherwise unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Latinos.” He'll be speaking not on the convention stage, but to a small group of Western state Republicans.)
As for the tradition of the opposing party keeping a low profile during the convention, the Obama campaign dismissed that notion.
“It’s not unprecedented for principals to be out,” said one campaign official, noting that there are 75 more days until the election. "We’re going to use each and every one of those days and make the most of it."
The Obama campaign's counterprogramming will include a presidential college tour in Iowa, Colorado and Virginia to highlight “the stark choice of going forward or moving back." Vice President Joe Biden will also be in Florida for two days next week, including a stop in Tampa on Monday.
“Again, 75 days left, Florida is a critical state. We’re not going to cede that state for four days just because they’re having their convention.” The official continued, “I don’t think that they’re going to hold back during out convention.”
Other topics addressed in the briefing:
THE RYAN EFFECT: The Obama campaign said the pick of Paul Ryan gave little or no bump to the Romney campaign. After pointing out that Sen. John McCain received a nine point bump after the picking Sarah Palin, a campaign official noted,” Ryan failed the Palin test here and he is a point underwater.”
MEDICARE: “We’re happy to have this debate,” a campaign official said about Medicare while accusing Ryan of having concocted a "voucher plan" multiple times. The official said the debate over Medicare is not one Republicans are poised to win.
BILL CLINTON AS A PRINCIPAL: Expect to see the former president out on the campaign trail stumping for the current president a great deal after the Democratic National Convention is over. On top of a prime speaking spot at the convention and a new commercial in support of Obama’s economic plan, Clinton is willing to give “a significant amount of time” stumping for the campaign. Obama officials believe he is an “important messenger.”
PERSUASION, REGISTRATION, TURN OUT: Those three words are the story the Obama campaign wants to have told right now. They believe their registration ground game in swing states far surpasses Romney’s and that will make up for the amount of money being spent by outside political groups that support Romney’s campaign. “Our numbers are going to continue to outpace 2008 in both registration and voter contact,” one official said. While there is more they admit they need to get done on the ground, they showed confidence in their ability to register even more voters in the fall when colleges and universities start classes again. “You haven’t seen nothing yet, because kids are coming back to campuses. What we learned in 2008 is you will see a major increase in the fall” in terms of voter registration said the same official.