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First Thoughts: The impact of 47 percent

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about President Barack Obama's 29 trip to Ohio while in office and Mitt Romney's recent campaign stump in the state.

New polls and TV ads show the impact that “47%” has had on the race… Romney and Obama camps battle over China… Examining Romney’s troubles in Ohio… Romney yesterday: Obama DID NOT raise taxes?... Obama tells the Des Moines Register: Presidential election will send a message to Congress… The GOP’s surprisingly uphill climb to win the Senate… First Read’s Top 10 Senate takeovers… McCaskill hits Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments in new TV ad… And good donors vs. bad donors.

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio September 25, 2012.

*** The impact of 47%: Want to know the impact that the video of Mitt Romney’s comments on the “47%” have had in this presidential contest? We have two fresh pieces of evidence. The first are brand-new New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac surveys -- conducted right after the release of the video -- showing Obama leading Romney by nine points among likely voters in Florida (53%-44%), 10 points in Ohio (53%-43%), and 12 in Pennsylvania (54%-42%). These are margins we haven’t seen before. The second (and perhaps more telling) piece of evidence is Romney’s new 60-second TV ad, his first of the general election where he looks to the camera. “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families,” Romney says as the camera zooms in on him. “The difference is my policies will make things better for them. We shouldn’t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job.” Folks, this is an admission that the “47%” remarks – and the Obama camp’s new TV ads on them -- have done real damage. Realize: Candidate-to-camera ads are typically when all else is failing and the bonds of trust with the voters are fraying. Even Obama had to do it in late July, after the welfare hits and the “You didn’t build that” attack.

*** When a race becomes a referendum on the challenger: Want another example? Look no farther than this quote in Bloomberg’s write-up of its new national poll showing Obama ahead of Romney by six points (49%-43%) among likely voters. “‘If I have to choose between the two, I prefer Barack over Mitt,’ said Stephanie Martin, a 41-year-old insurance agent in Glasgow, Virginia, who describes herself as a libertarian. ‘I think Mitt Romney is just so out of touch. It’s mostly a protest against him and the Republican establishment; it’s not that I think Obama has done such a great job.’” So let’s get this straight: Obama is the incumbent president, presiding over a sluggish economy in a hotly partisan environment, and this woman is casting the protest vote against Mitt Romney and the GOP? We know this is just one anecdote, but wow…

*** Battling over China: Romney’s other response to “47%” is his campaign’s increasingly tough rhetoric on China. "I'm not afraid of trading with other nations,” Romney said while campaigning in Ohio yesterday, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. “But I also understand that when people cheat, that kills jobs. China has cheated.” And this comes on the heels of a recent Romney TV ad asserting “Obama had years to stand up to China. We can’t afford four more.” But the Obama camp is countering with its own TV ad, “Tough on China? Not Mitt Romney.” Also, Team Obama last night circulated a Boston Globe story reporting, “Less than two weeks before an investment firm controlled by Mitt Romney decided to invest in a China-based home appliance company, the company put out a detailed document to investors promoting itself as a low-wage, low-tax firm that would not be subject to taxes in the United States.” And today when he’s campaigning in Ohio, per NBC’s Ali Weinberg, President Obama will discuss how his administration has taken action to hold China accountable when it comes to trade.

*** Romney’s troubles in Ohio: As alluded to above, today’s major campaign-trail activity takes place in Buckeye State. Romney concludes his bus tour in the state (hitting Westerville, Bedford Heights, and Toledo), while Obama holds rallies at Bowling Green State and Kent State University. And here is something to chew on given that New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac poll: Ohio has been a problem for Romney the day he got into the race, even during the primary season. Remember that Romney edged Rick Santorum by just one point in the Buckeye State during the GOP primary season, 38%-37%. The fact is, this bus tour has to do more than stop the bleeding for Romney in Ohio; it has to be the beginning of a turnaround for him in this state. Losing Ohio isn’t checkmate but, it’s close

*** Obama didn’t raise taxes? Yesterday in Ohio, Romney said this: “I admit this: [Obama’s] got one new idea that he did not do in his first four years that he says he’s going to do in the next four years -- which is he's going to raise taxes. And is there anybody who thinks that raising taxes is going to help grow the economy?” Read that again: Romney says that Obama DID NOT raise taxes in his first term, even though he’s said time and time again that Obama DID raise taxes (in the health-care law, etc.). And the Weekly Standard took Romney to task, arguing that Obama has raised taxes. A Romney campaign spokeswoman follows up with the Weekly Standard, “President Obama has raised taxes on millions of middle-class Americans during his first term in office.  Governor Romney was clearly communicating about an additional tax increase President Obama is proposing.”

*** Obama: Presidential election will send a message to Congress: By the way, with Iowa beginning its early voting on Thursday, Obama gives an exclusive interview to the Des Moines Register. “Obama said if he’s fortunate enough to win a second term, his re-election will send a message to Republicans that Americans want them to follow his strategies, and that includes aiding the economy by spending on education and roads and bridges. ‘What I think most Iowans certainly believe,’ the president said in a telephone interview with The Des Moines Register, ‘is that if the majority of the American people have said, “This is the direction we need to go,” and the Republicans in Congress say, “No, we’re going to go in the exact opposite direction,” that’s probably not going to leave them to keep that majority too long.’”

*** The GOP’s surprisingly uphill climb to win the Senate: With Todd Akin (R) now staying in Missouri’ Senate contest -- increasing the chances of Claire McCaskill (D) winning re-election -- Republicans now face an even steeper climb to win control of the U.S. Senate in November.  If President Obama wins the presidential contest, Republicans would need to pick up a net of four Senate seats to get the majority. And here are their best chances (in order): Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, and Missouri. If you assume that Angus King (I) wins in Maine and caucuses with the Democrats, then Republicans must win five of these 10 races. If Elizabeth Warren wins in Massachusetts, then the GOP has to win six. So that’s the challenge for the GOP. The good news is that things have gotten better for them in Maine, where they have beaten up King in TV ads; the question now is if they can get the Democratic number in this three-way race into double digits.

*** First Read’s Top 10 Senate takeovers:

1. Nebraska (D): Unlike the other Dems running, Bob Kerrey is getting no traction
2. Maine (R): This is no longer a slam dunk for Angus King
3. Montana (D): Why Montana over North Dakota? Tester is an incumbent with a record
4. North Dakota (D): See above
5. Massachusetts (R): This is the nastiest race in the country right now
6. Wisconsin (D): Who would you rather be -- Tommy Thompson or George Allen? We think you’d rather be Thompson
7. Virginia (D): See above
8. Nevada (R): Demographics and Obama vs. Romney are keeping Berkley in the race
9. Connecticut (D): McMahon is running perhaps the best challenger race in the country
10. Indiana (R): Will Mourdock have to beg Dick Lugar to do a final TV ad?

*** The rest (in order): Ohio (D), Florida (D), New Mexico (D), Missouri (D), Arizona (R), Hawaii (D), New Jersey (D), Michigan (D), Pennsylvania (D), Texas (R). Note: As of now, we don’t expect these races to flip, but they do suggest where the winning side might not crack 60%.

*** McCaskill hits Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments in new ad: And speaking of that Akin-McCaskill race, we told you McCaskill would begin to hammer Akin in TV ads right after yesterday’s final deadline to withdraw from the race had passed. And here’s her latest TV ad: “On Aug. 19, Todd Akin said only some rapes are legitimate. What will he say next?” It’s an interesting tactic by the McCaskill campaign to NOT use Akin’s voice in its first big hit. Perhaps they don’t want to OVER-play it early (and save that if for some reason they are struggling to put him away in October). We only ask because the first hit, using an announcer to read Akin’s quotes rather than HEARING Akin, struck us as less effective.

*** Good donors, bad donors: Romney yesterday at Education Nation seemed to soften his tone toward teachers’ unions acknowledging they could strike (where it’s allowed). But Romney also said this: “[P]eople are able to give … in case of the Democratic Party, the largest contributors to the Democratic Party are the teachers unions, the federal teachers unions. And so, if they can elect someone, then that person is supposed to be representing the public vis-a-vis the teachers union, but actually most of the money came from the teachers union. It's an extraordinary conflict of interest. That's something I think is a problem and should be addressed.” He added later, “We simply can't have a setting where the teachers' unions are able to contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table.” Some critics of Romney might find it rich with irony that he’s complaining about secret union money since he is getting support from Super PACs that are essentially doing the same thing he’s alleging the teachers are doing.

Reuters, Getty Images

In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.

*** On the trail: Obama, in Ohio, stumps in Bowling Green at 1:05 pm ET and Kent at 5:30 pm ET… Romney, also in Ohio, campaigns (with Jack Nicklaus) in Westerville at 8:30 am ET, holds a manufacturing town hall in Bedford Heights at 1:05 pm ET, and concludes his bus tour in Toledo at 5:00 pm ET… Paul Ryan hits Colorado… And Marco Rubio and Tagg Romney campaign in North Carolina.

Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 7 days
Countdown to VP debate: 15 days
Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 20 days
Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 26 days
Countdown to Election Day: 41 days

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