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Obama campaign tries to set expectations for GOP convention

August 24, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • J. David Ake, Associated Press
J. David Ake, Associated Press (m98a8xpd20120823173029/600 )

WASHINGTON -- The Obama campaign launched a preemptive strike against Republicans on the eve of their nominating convention, attempting to cast doubt on whether the four-day gathering in Tampa, Fla.,  would do anything to improve Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the White House.

In a briefing with political reporters in Washington on Thursday, advisors noted that despite millions already spent on the campaign and the nonstop efforts on both sides, the race has remained remarkably static. With the Democratic convention set to begin immediately after the Republicans finish, any bump Romney might receive could be short-lived.

A Gallup study released Thursday found that presidential candidates have, on average, seen a 5-percentage-point jump in support after their parties' conventions, which was in line with the Obama team’s thinking.

The campaign expects the Romney team to use the convention as an opportunity to redefine the former Massachusetts governor as the race turns toward the finish. But, as one aide put it, “It may be that their best outcome will be to survive the week because of all these sideshows” – such as gatherings of Ron Paul backers in their own shadow convention, and other events featuring former GOP hopefuls like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann.

Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff known for his hard line against illegal immigration, will also speak at an invitation-only gathering in Tampa next week, which one Obama aide quipped they may “pay to live-stream” on their own website, because it could bolster the Democrats’ position among Latino voters. (The campaign officials spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity to offer a more expansive take on the coming weeks.)

And then there are the potential hurricanes – not just Isaac, a tropical storm or hurricane projected to skirt the Florida coastline early next week – but also “Hurricane Todd,” as in Rep. Todd Akin, the embattled Republican nominee in the Missouri Senate race, whom one aide branded as the “ideological twin” of Paul D. Ryan, Romney's running mate.

Regardless of whether Akins attends the convention, or is even still in the Senate race, Democrats say the damage has already been done.

“It’s  highlighted what is a completely out of step, out of touch Republican Party,” an aide said. “I don’t think they can put that genie back in the bottle even if they get Akin off the ticket.”

The theme of the Democrats’ convention in Charlotte, N.C., a week later will not surprise those who’ve followed the campaign closely – a positive, pro-Obama message focused on his record and plans for a second term contrasted with how Democrats view a future under Republican governance.

One distinctive feature will be what organizers say will be a significant presence from middle-class Americans, who will aim to tell the story of Obama’s first term through the lens of their own lives both on stage and through multimedia presentations.

Democrats also won’t be ceding the political spotlight to Republicans entirely next week. Vice President Joe Biden will campaign in Tampa on the opening day of the Republican convention before moving on to other Florida locales Tuesday. One event in Orlando will feature a twin billing: Biden and actress Eva Longoria.

Obama is scheduled to begin a campaign swing to college campuses in three states on Tuesday. And on Wednesday night, First Lady Michelle Obama will be taping media appearances in New York, including CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman.”

A campaign official said that with just 75 days until election day, the campaign can’t afford to cede a single one to Republicans.

“We’ll have a lot to say next week,” the official said. “I don’t think that they’re going to hold back during our convention.”

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