Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Obama's closing ad (with 40 days to go)

Obama’s closing TV ad of sorts with 40 days to go… Why? Because voters in 30 states are already voting in some form or fashion… The administration’s evolving statements on Libya… Romney’s evolving statements on health care… This week’s 10 hottest TV markets… Team Romney’s ad-spending edge… But the main Dem Super PAC narrows the gap in September… New NBC/WSJ/Marist polls of Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina come out tonight… And both Obama and Romney stump in Virginia.

For the third straight day, both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will be campaigning in the same state. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports.

*** Obama’s closing ad (with 40 days to go): Although we’re 40 days out until Election Day and even though the first presidential debate isn’t until next week, the Obama campaign is going up with a closing TV ad of sorts. In this two-minute TV ad -- to air in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia -- Obama looks to the camera and describes his economic plan, much of what he laid out in his convention speech. Creating a million new manufacturing jobs by giving tax breaks to companies that invest in the United States. Reducing oil imports in half. Hiring 100,000 new science and math teachers. And cutting the deficit in a “balanced” way by raising taxes on the wealthiest. Obama concludes in the TV ad, “It’s time for a new economic patriotism, rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong, thriving middle class. Read my plan. Compare it to Gov. Romney’s and decide for yourself.” The Romney camp issues this response to the ad, “President Obama’s record is clear: we can’t afford another four years that look like the last four years. Mitt Romney will strengthen the middle class, create 12 million new jobs and deliver what President Obama hasn’t -- a real recovery.”

Slideshow: On the campaign trail

*** Why? Because voters in 30 states are already voting: This new Obama spot has the feeling of a closing TV ad 10 days out from Election Day because, well, the Obama camp believes we’re really 10 days out -- or we’re already there. Indeed, voters in 30 states -- including the battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Virginia -- are now casting ballots, either via absentee or early in-person voting, per NBC’s Kyle Inskeep. Today, early in-person voting begins in Iowa and Wyoming, while absentee ballots are now being sent to voters requesting them in Alabama, Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. By the end of next week, voters in five more states, including Ohio and Florida, will join this list. The early vote has always been a big part of the Obama ground game, and they are acting on that. And as we predicted in this space months ago, with the airwaves soooo saturated, campaigns are going to have to look for different ways to break through, and one of those ways is a two-minute spot. Don’t be surprised if someone tries the five-minute ad, especially on the Senate level.

*** The administration’s evolving statements on the attack in Libya: But while Team Obama is quickly seizing on all of the early voting, it was just as slow in labeling the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya as an act of terrorism. The Washington Post runs a good timeline on the Obama administration’s evolving statements when it comes to describing what happened in Libya (first saying it wasn’t planned or pre-meditated to now acknowledging it was an act of terrorism). The most CHARITABLE explanation for these evolving statements is that the information the administration received simply changed or wasn’t complete. The most UNCHARITABLE explanation is that the White House was slow to admit the attack was terrorism due to the upcoming election. In all of this, perhaps the biggest mistake was sending out U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to all the Sunday morning shows -- days after the attack -- saying, “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.” And given what apparently U.S. intelligence officials feared just 24 hours after the attack, Susan Rice either intentionally misled the public or was misled herself by briefers. You have to wonder, if Obama wins re-election, if Rice’s chances of being Secretary of State in a second term are collateral damage from all of this simply because Senate GOPers may want someone to go after in the aftermath of losing.

*** Romney’s evolving statement on health care: Speaking of evolving, don’t miss what Mitt Romney told NBC’s Ron Allen when he was asked why he’s struggling to connect to middle-class Americans. "I think throughout this campaign as well, we talked about my record in Massachusetts, don't forget -- I got everybody in my state insured," Romney said, per NBC’s Garrett Haake. "One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record." Of course, if you’ve been following this race for the past year-plus, you know that Romney rarely talks about his signature achievement while governor of Massachusetts. The irony here is that Romney appears to be losing this race precisely because he never really talked about his health-care law until now. It was a bipartisan accomplishment he could contrast with the very partisan last three years in Washington (Ted Kennedy was standing next to him!!!). But he walked away from it. And just asking, but if insuring everyone is a demonstrating of empathy, what happens when you promise to repeal a law insuring all Americans? By the way, given how easily Romney went to his health-care law in a question that was NOT about health care but empathy, he gives the impression of someone who wants to scream from the rooftops, “Yes, you are gosh darn right I supported a mandate, and I’d do it again!” But he can’t…

*** This week’s 10 hottest markets -- dominated by Virginia and Ohio: On Tuesday, both Obama and Romney were in New York. On Wednesday, they campaigned in Ohio. And today, both men will be in Virginia. Indeed, seven of this week’s 10 hottest advertising markets (in terms of advertising points from Sept. 24-30) are in either Virginia or Ohio. And just two other states (Wisconsin and Florida) represent the other three. Here’s this weeks’ list:
1. Madison, WI: Obama 1540/Restore 1480/Romney 940/Priorities USA 860
2. Orlando: Obama 1700/Romney 1240/AJS 890/Crossroads 620/Priorities 250
3. Cleveland: Romney 1540/Obama 1500/AJS 710/Priorities 440/Crossroads 400
4. Tampa, St. Pete: Obama 1710/Romney 1300/AJS 670/Crossroads 480/Priorities 280
5. Washington, DC: Obama 1800/Romney 1500/AJS 570/Crossroads 250
6. Roanoke-Lynchburg: Romney 1500/Obama 1340/AJS 670/Crossroads 530
7. Norfolk-Portsmouth: Obama 1450/Romney 1440/AJS 730/Crossroads 215/Priorities 200
8. Dayton: Romney 1540/Obama 1390/Crossroads 570/AJS 360
9. Richmond-Petersburg: Romney 1475/Obama 1360/AJS 490/Crossroads 400/Priorities 230
10. Toledo: Romney 1500/Obama 1110/AJS 680/Crossroads 270/Priorities 330

*** Team Romney’s ad-spending edge: It’s worth noting that Obama’s lead in the current polls comes as the GOP continues to enjoy an ad-spending advantage in the presidential race. This week -- from Sept. 24-30 -- Team Romney (campaign and outside groups) are outspending Team Obama (campaign and outside groups), $24.4 million to $18.6 million. Last week’s GOP edge was a bit smaller, $22 million to $19.3 million. In the general election to date, more than $650 million has been spent on ads, with Team Romney at $356 million and Team Obama at $308 million.

*** The Outsiders: And speaking of all the ad spending, it increasingly looks like the main pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is narrowing the outside-group gap. In August, American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, and Restore Our Future spent $25 million to Priorities’ $4 million. But so far in September, that ratio has narrowed to $24 million to $9.4 million. (But this comparison doesn’t include outside spending by GOP-leaning groups like Americans for Jobs Security and Ending Spending.) By the way, Priorities USA and AFSCME are pairing up with a new radio ad hitting Romney on “47%.” But it is worth asking: Given the Romney campaign problems of message discipline, does a conglomerate of advertising confuse things even more?

*** New polls coming out tonight! Heads up: We will be releasing the results of new NBC/WSJ/Marist battleground polls of Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina beginning at 6:30 pm ET tonight.

Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Bowling Green State University on September 26, 2012 in Bowling Green, Ohio.

*** On the trail: Obama holds a rally in Virginia Beach at 11:50 am ET… Romney stumps in Springfield, VA at noon ET… Paul Ryan raises money in Tennessee… Ann Romney campaigns in Reno, NV… And Tagg Romney is in North Carolina.

Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 6 days
Countdown to VP debate: 14 days
Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 19 days
Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 25 days
Countdown to Election Day: 40 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower