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First Thoughts: Wooing women

Jason Reed / Reuters

Supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama take photographs with their cameras during his campaign rally at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, October 17, 2012.

Presidential campaign turns into a contest of wooing women… Obama hits Romney on coal… Romney doesn’t mention Libya on the stump yesterday… Obama and  the fiscal cliff… New NBC/WSJ/Marist polls of Iowa and Wisconsin to come out at 6:30 pm ET… Ad spending crosses the $800 million mark… Our 10 hottest ad markets of the week… And Obama camp plays in Minnesota.

***  Wooing women : It’s very possible that the presidential contest could all come down  to a lot of little things and a lot of important demographic groups. But today, it seems, the campaigns are focused on one part of the electorate more than any other -- the female vote. So after the most recent presidential  debate raised women’s issues (equal pay, contraception) to the forefront, a group of women who worked with Mitt Romney when he served as Massachusetts governor today embark on a “We Know Mitt” bus tour through Iowa. In addition, Ann Romney appears on “The View,” while the Romney camp is up with   a TV ad   maintaining that the former Massachusetts doesn’t oppose contraception and thinks abortion should “an option” in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. For their part, the Obama campaign and Democrats have seized on Romney’s “binders full of women” line from the debate, with Obama declaring  on the trail yesterday: “We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, terrific young women ready to work and teach in these fields right now!” They also have noted that Romney supported the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers not to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees. And speaking of contraception, both President Obama and Romney tonight will attend the New York Archdiocese’s Al Smith dinner. Indeed, a few months back, some Catholic pro-life activists tried to get the New York Archdiocese to UN-invite the president because of the contraception health- insurance decision.

After Tuesday’s fiery presidential debate, the heated arguments between GOP candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama showed no signs of cooling on the stump as they tried to cast each other as economic threats to voters in Ohio, Iowa and Virginia. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

*** Obama hits Romney on coal: One of the under-reported issues that came up at the second debate: coal and the surprisingly aggressive pushback on the issue from the president. And the president didn’t stop at the debate; he hit Romney AGAIN on the issue while campaigning in Ohio yesterday. NBC’s Ali Weinberg reports that Obama noted Romney’s praise of coal in Tuesday’s debate. But the president pointed out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney appeared in front of a coal factory to criticize its high level of toxic pollution, saying, “That plant kills people.” And Obama added, “Does anybody ever actually look at that guy and think, ‘Man, he’s really into coal’”? Obama asked the audience as he chuckled.

*** Romney doesn’t mention Libya: This also caught our eye yesterday: As NBC’s Garrett Haake observes, Romney didn’t mention Libya -- or the exchange on the topic from Tuesday’s debate -- during two campaign stops in Virginia yesterday. Instead, Romney focused on the economy and what he said was Obama’s failure to lay out a vision for a second term. "I think it’s interesting that the president still doesn’t have an agenda for a second term. Don’t you think that it’s time for him to finally put together a vision of what he’d do in the next four years if he were elected?" Romney said in Chesapeake, VA yesterday. By the way, it’s worth echoing what Mike Allen wrote this morning in Politico: This is the SECOND time Romney has given Obama a political “get out of jail” free card on Libya. It only raises the stakes for Romney for the third debate, focused solely on foreign policies. He has to be very careful not to walk into any more rhetorical traps which are much easier to fall into on an issue that isn’t second nature to the challenger.

*** Obama and the fiscal cliff: The Washington Post reports that Obama “is prepared to veto legislation to block year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, collectively known as the ‘fiscal cliff,’ unless Republicans bow to his demand to raise tax rates for the wealthy, administration officials said.” The article goes on to say, “If he wins reelection, Obama may finally be able to dictate the terms of a bipartisan debt-reduction deal. And if he loses to Republican Mitt Romney, Obama could make sure that tax rates rise before he hands over the keys to the White House on Inauguration Day in late January.” But this isn’t a surprise – this has been the Obama plan all along. It would have been bigger news if the White House was signaling that Obama WASN’T WILLING to use a veto here.

*** New NBC/WSJ/Marist polls! Tonight, beginning at 6:30 pm ET, we’ll unveil results from new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls of the Midwestern swing states of Iowa and Wisconsin. The polls were conducted one day BEFORE Tuesday’s debate and one day AFTER it.

*** Ad spending crosses $800 million: As we reported yesterday, spending on radio and TV ads has now passed the $800 million mark and is on pace to reach or come close to $1 billion. The presidential campaigns and outside groups have now spent a combined $810 million. That means in just a month, $200 million in ads have been booked (from the time we reported it crossed $600 million). President Obama’s campaign is one ad buy away from spending $300 million by itself, far outpacing any other single spender at $299 million. The Romney campaign is second at $164 million. But with all outside groups combined, Team Romney is outspending Team Obama, $457 million to $353 million. This week alone, more than $58 million is being spent. Obama leads the pack with $20 million spent, but Romney is close at $16.5 million (of course, he is getting less bang for the buck because of when his campaign books ads). With outside groups factored in, Team Romney’s outspending Team Obama this week, $34 million to $24 million.

*** Hottest markets: Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. Four of the top 10 hottest markets this week (in terms of advertising points from Oct. 15-21) are in the Buckeye State. Wisconsin has two, including Green Bay in the top spot. One striking thing about this week’s top markets -- no Virginia. Markets like Norfolk, Roanoke, and Richmond have routinely been in the top 10, but they have dropped out to 16, 21, and 22, respectively. The Obama campaign has maintained its levels in Norfolk and Richmond, but cut it in half in Roanoke, from 1,500 points to 795 this week. The Romney campaign, on the other hand, INCREASED its spending in that market. The Obama campaign increased in places like Mason City, IA. Romney has more ad points than Obama narrowly in Denver, Mason City, and Orlando. One of the “tells” we told you about MONTHS ago about this battleground map was to keep an eye on October and see where the battle was being waged more intensely. If it was in the New South battleground states of FL/NC and VA more than the Midwest, advantage Obama. Well, this list of markets tells you, the battle is in the Midwest, that’s good news for Romney.

1. Green Bay
2. Denver
3. Cincinnati
4. Columbus
5. Madison
6. Toledo
7. Rochester-Mason City-Austin (Iowa)
8. Cleveland
9. Orlando-Daytona Beach
10. Las Vegas

*** Obama camp playing in Minnesota: And speaking of ads, don’t miss that the Obama campaign is airing $57,000 in radio/TV ads in Minnesota, while Jill Biden will campaign in the state tomorrow (as well as in Wisconsin). Why is the Obama camp airing ads in Minnesota? Well one reason is that the state borders both Wisconsin and Iowa. But perhaps a bigger reason is that the pro-Romney Super PAC American Future Fund has spent $1.5 million in Minnesota since Labor Day, including $350,000 this week. *** UPDATE *** The Obama campaign reached out to First Read to note that the Minnesota radio spending is for Wisconsin. Update 2: The Obama campaign says it spent $57,000 on the Duluth, MN, market, which covers the Northwestern part of Wisconsin (Douglas County and surrounding areas).

*** On the trail: Obama campaigns in Manchester, NH at 11:35 am ET, tapes an appearance on the “Daily Show,” and makes remarks at Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner at 7:55 pm ET… Romney also speaks at the Al Smith dinner at 9:05 pm ET… Joe Biden stumps in Las Vegas… Paul Ryan hits Fort Myers, FL… And Bill Clinton and Bruce Springsteen attend a rally for Obama in Parma, OH at 11:00 am ET before Clinton heads to Wintersville, OH and Springsteen visits Ames, IA.

Countdown to 3rd and final presidential debate: 4 days
Countdown to Election Day: 19 days

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