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Apr 122012

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden will attack Mitt Romney on taxes in Exeter, N.H., Thursday, using his fourth in a series of campaign issue speeches to frame the Republican candidate as a protector of the rich.

Biden will coin a new phrase — “the Romney Rule” — to illustrate his case, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the Obama campaign.

“The Buffett Rule says that multi-millionaires should pay at least the same percentage of their income in taxes as middle-class families do,” Biden will say.  “The Romney Rule says the very wealthy should keep the tax cuts and loopholes they have, and get an additional, new tax cut every year that is worth more than what the average middle class family makes in an entire year.”

Biden refers to the so-called Bush tax cuts on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000.  Romney wants to extend and expand the cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year; President Obama wants to let them lapse.

“Look, these are tax cuts to people who didn’t ask for them, who don’t need them, and who know the nation can’t afford them,” Biden will say.  “And it matters.  There’s a stark choice we have to make.”

By raising the Bush-era cuts, Biden adds a new dimension to the ongoing tax debate in Washington and on the campaign trail that has recently been focused solely on the Buffett Rule.  It also expands the scope of impact of Democrats’ calls for higher taxes, from a small fraction of the top 1 percent of taxpayers to roughly 3 percent of all taxpayers.

Obama has been making the case that higher taxes on wealthier Americans is a matter of fairness and one that will help trim the deficit and underwrite “investments” in services to benefit the middle class.  Biden will underscore those themes.

The New Hampshire address caps Biden’s debut tour on the 2012 campaign trail.  He used previous appearances to defend the administration’s record on the auto bailout in Toledo, O.H.; tout a resurgence in manufacturing jobs in Davenport, Iowa; and tweak Republicans’ plans to overhaul Medicaid in Coconut Creek, Fla.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Apr 122012

Leon Neal/WPA POOL/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — With the general election fight now well underway, first lady Michelle Obama jokingly offered her official endorsement Wednesday night in a stop by Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

“You are popular,” host Stephen Colbert noted to cheers from the audience.  “Do you lord over the president the fact that you’re more popular than he is?  Do you ever say, like, ‘Hey, watch it or I might not campaign for you.’”

“I might try that when I get home,” Mrs. Obama quipped.

Asked if she was prepared to endorse his candidacy, the first lady eagerly offered her husband her full support.

“I am endorsing my husband Barack Obama.  I think he will be a phenomenal president — he has been a phenomenal president,” she said.

“He’s my man,” she added with a wry smile.

The first lady’s appearance on Colbert, her first since the 2008 campaign, was intended to promote the one-year anniversary of her “Joining Forces” initiative, which honors and supports U.S. troops and their families.

“People have really been stepping up in some amazing ways,” she said.  “We’ve seen people hiring our veterans and finding wonderful flexible opportunities for spouses, because employment is a key issue for these families.”

While unemployment for returning veterans is above the national average, Mrs. Obama said “we’re seeing it decrease at some pretty significant rates.”

“But until we get to zero, we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.  “These people are bringing in skills that actually improve the bottom line of companies because these are some of the most highly trained, highly skilled, disciplined people that we have in our society, the best this country has to offer.  So we all need to do our part.”

Colbert joked that hiring a veteran is also a good idea because “with the stories he tells of his previous jobs, it will really make the interoffice complaining sound trivial.”

The first lady agreed: “It’s hard to be a whiner around a veteran.”

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Apr 102012

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(BOCA RATON, Fla.) — President Obama’s penchant for piggybacking campaign fundraisers on outside-the-beltway official business will be on full display in Florida Tuesday.

Obama will attend three money events — his 49th, 50th and 51st of the year — that will add at least $1.9 million combined to Democrats’ coffers for the 2012 presidential election, according to figures provided by the campaign.

Sandwiched between them will be an official speech on the “Buffett Rule” at Florida Atlantic University.

The president kicks off his visit by swinging by a $10,000-per-head luncheon with 60 supporters at the Palm Beach Gardens home of Hansel Tookes, a former Navy and United Airlines pilot turned aerospace executive who is now president of Raytheon International.  He is a longtime Democratic backer.

After his mid-afternoon public address, Obama will headline a lower-dollar event at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., where singer/songwriter John Legend will be his opening act.

Eight hundred fifty supporters are expected to crowd a ballroom to hear the president’s stump, officials said.  General admission tickets started at $500 with a limited number of $250 seats available to the youngest donors, dubbed “Gen44″ by the campaign.

Before heading back to Washington, Obama will hobnob with 60 affluent supporters at his most lucrative stop of the day, a reception in Golden Beach hosted by lawyer Jeremy Alters.  Tickets were $15,000 apiece, officials said.

Proceeds from all three events benefit the Obama Victory Fund, a joint account that funnels contributions to Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.  The first $5,000 an individual gives goes to Obama, while the remainder, up to $30,800, goes to the DNC.

Obama’s Tuesday swing is his fourth trip of the year and second to Florida combining fundraising with official business.  In late February, he visited the University of Miami for a speech on gas prices and then later attended three money events.

His latest round of fundraisers bring to 118 the total number he’s personally attended since April 2011 when he launched a bid for re-election. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Apr 102012

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A widening gender gap, modest economic gains, an edge on key issues and broad advantages in personal popularity are boosting President Obama’s re-election prospects, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.  Yet Mitt Romney, moving to close the deal in his own party, holds opportunities of his own for the road ahead.

Obama has returned to a single-digit lead vs. Romney in the new poll — 51-44 percent among registered voters — after a virtual dead heat last month.  That includes Obama’s largest margin to date among women, 57-38 percent.  He trails by 8 points among men.

Underscoring that gender gap, Obama leads Romney by 19 points among all adults in trust to handle “women’s issues,” his single largest advantage among a dozen issues tested in the poll, which was produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.  That includes a 10-point lead for Obama on women’s issues among men, growing to 27 points among women.

After an extended period of debate and political positioning on a range of issues of concern to women, there’s also a sharp gender gap in the president’s overall job approval rating — 13 points higher among women than men, another record in ABC/Post polls.  Obama’s 50 percent approval rating overall rests on positive views among 56 percent of women vs. 43 percent of men.

Other factors are at play.  Obama leads Romney by significant margins in trust to handle six key issues in all, ranging from international affairs to protecting the middle class to handling social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.  Romney clearly leads on just one — handling the deficit.  Obama also leads on a range of personal attributes, including by a vast 38 points in being seen as the more friendly and likable of the two and by 26 points as “more inspiring.”

Among issues, the economy, and the broader sentiment it inspires, are key to the election.  Today, the fewest number of Americans in more than a year say the country is on the wrong track, nearly half say their local economy is improving and a sense that jobs are “very difficult” to find has eased by 14 percentage points from last summer.

In addition, approval of Obama’s handling of the economy is up by 6 points from last month, “strong” disapproval has eased by 8 points from its record high and he leads Romney by 12 points as better understanding average Americans’ economic problems.

Yet there are opportunities for Romney.  He now leads Rick Santorum by 20 percentage points among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents as the preferred candidate for the GOP nomination, up from a scant 2 points last month.

In perhaps Romney’s strongest line of attack, 54 percent still disapprove of Obama’s performance on the economy — 5 points lower than last month but a continuous majority since July 2010.

Head-to-head, Romney has 47 percent support compared to Obama’s 43 percent in trust to handle the economy — not a statistically significant difference but an indication of Obama’s vulnerability on this central concern.  And they’re essentially even (Obama +3) on trust to handle creating jobs.

Romney has made inroads against Obama on some issues compared with ABC/Post results in February.  Obama then led by 20 points in trust to handle terrorism, 18 points on better protecting the middle class and 10 points on handling taxes.  Those have eased to 7, 10 and 3 points now.

Romney may also find political fuel if gasoline prices continue to rise; while Obama escapes most direct blame, 62 percent disapprove of how he’s handling the price of gas, no worse than last month’s 65 percent, but not substantively better, and broadly negative.

Romney, however, looks little better overall against Obama than does Santorum, who trails Obama by 52-42 percent among registered voters.  That makes Romney’s support in the general election look more anti-Obama, and generally pro-Republican, than specifically pro-Romney.

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Apr 052012

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s re-election campaign reached its one-year anniversary on Wednesday, and marked the milestone by underscoring the high points in what has become a far-reaching grassroots organizing operation.

On April 4, 2011, Obama emailed supporters to say that he had officially filed papers to run for a second term.

“In the coming days, supporters like you will begin forging a new organization that we’ll build together in cities and towns across the country,” he wrote at the time.  “And I’ll need you to help shape our plan as we create a campaign that’s farther reaching, more focused  and more innovative than anything we’ve built before.”

One year later, the organization is firmly established and growing, as documented in a new Obama campaign web feature and email from campaign manager Jim Messina.

Some data points highlighted by Team Obama:

– Offices in all 50 states

– 28,571 organizing events held since last April

– 1.8 million total donors

– More donors in the first quarter of 2012 than in any single quarter previously

– 118,000 donations on March 31, just before the Federal Election Commission monthly deadline, was the most donors ever in a single day

“Today’s an important day in this race for another reason,” Messina wrote in the email appeal.  “Mitt Romney won three more primaries last night, and an increasing number of folks in the Republican Party establishment are calling for the GOP nominating process to come to an end.”

“A number of states still haven’t voted, and the race on their side won’t be over officially for several weeks or even months,” he said.  “But the reality is that we’re very close to the start of what’s effectively a general election.”

The shift in the race has been on full display the past few days as Obama and Romney attack each other and their political platforms more directly.

At this juncture, Obama holds a financial edge, with more than $84.7 million cash on hand through February compared with Romney’s $7.3 million.  The Obama campaign also holds an edge with its paid staff — employing more than 530 people compared with Romney’s team of 100.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio