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Mitt Romney's unswerving economic focus

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is keeping his focus on the economy in the runup to his 2012 presidential bid. Photo by Getty Images

1. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in today's Boston Globe blasting President Obama's economic policies and, in so doing, provided yet more evidence of his laser-like focus on financial matters as he prepares to challenge the incumbent in 2012.

"His policies are anti-investment, anti-jobs, and anti-growth," Romney wrote in the piece, which posted late last night on the Globe site. "The policies of the President and Congressional Democrats are job killers."

Romney's solution? Extending the tax cuts approved during the Bush Administration, "aggressively" pursuing trade deals to drive American exports and eliminating the tax on capital gains and investments for families with incomes $250,000 and below.

"It's time for a growth and jobs agenda to replace the special interest political agendas that we have endured over the past decades," concludes Romney. "So much is at stake -- a strong economy provides for the strong defense which preserves our liberty and promotes peace."

Romney's economic op-ed comes even as many of his potential rivals for the 2012 Republican nomination stake out increasingly aggressive stances on the issue du jour: the proposal to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

Romney, for his part, has not spoken out on the mosque matter at all. The lone comment about the issue from anyone in his political world came last week from spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom making clear Romney opposed the building of the mosque.

It's the latest sign that Romney is abandoning his 2008 presidential strategy to be everywhere all at once and instead is keeping his likely 2012 campaign premised on a simple theory: The economy is the issue and I am the best person in our party to take that fight to President Obama.

(Remember that as people like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were falling all over themselves to endorse the Conservative Party candidate in an Upstate New York special House election last fall, Romney stayed out of the fray. That candidate, Doug Hoffman, eventually lost the contest.)

Romney's message disciple -- it's the economy, stupid -- is also aimed at portraying him as the most serious candidate in the field, the candidate not distracted by the bright, shiny objects thrown at him on a near-daily basis by various interest groups and the media.

It's an interesting (and smart) tactic -- particularly with polling suggesting the economy is, far and away, the most important issue on the minds of voters.

2. Primaries in Washington and Wyoming kept us up late but we still managed to craft an abbreviated winners and losers from the primary night that was.

First, the winners:

*Political analysts: The turnout pattern in Washington's unusual nonpartisan "top-two" Senate primary was open to plenty of interpretation. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi (R) -- both easily advanced to the general election this fall -- by double digits but Republican and Democratic candidates combined to split the vote about 50-50. That leaves plenty of room for theories on which side comes out looking stronger. Overall, though, it mostly just shows this is a race well worth watching and worthy of the "toss up" rating the Post has given it.

* Jaime Herrera: Herrera, a state representative and favorite of national Republicans, had little trouble making the general election in retiring Rep. Brian Baird's (D-Wash.) district. And her chances against fellow former state Rep. Denny Heck (D) look promising after she and the rest of the GOP field combined for well over 50 percent of the vote in this swing district. (Worth noting: Heck was not seriously challenged by another Democrat.)

Now, the losers.

* Sarah Palin: The former Alaska Governor's candidate in Washington's Senate race, former Washington Redskins player Clint Didier (R), barely got into double digits, and her pick in Wyoming's GOP governor primary, state Auditor Rita Meyer, lost narrowly former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead.

* Matt Mead: After failing to make the list of three finalists for the state's Senate appointment in 2007 (the appointment went to John Barrasso), the grandson of former Wyoming Gov. and Sen. Cliff Hansen looks as though he will become the state's next governor. And it comes just 10 months after his grandfather died.

3. With less than two weeks remaining until the Aug. 24 primary, the Florida Republican gubernatorial hopefuls and their allies are turning the nastiness in a pair of new TV ads.

Florida First Initiative, a 527 organization with ties to supporters of state Attorney General Bill McCollum, launched an ad slamming former health care executive Rick Scott for scandals surrounding his former and current companies, Columbia/HCA and the Solantic walk-in clinic chain.

"Rick Scott's company pleaded guilty to one of the largest Medicare frauds in American history," the narrator of the ad says, referring to the Columbia/HCA scandal. "But Scott won't come clean..Rick Scott. It's not a private matter. It's a failure of character."

Scott, meanwhile, is up with a new ad of his own linking McCollum to indicted former state Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer.

"Party boss Jim Greer. Arrested for money laundering," the ad's narrator says. "And who backed Jim Greer's effort to hide financial irregularities? Bill McCollum. As investigators closed in, McCollum said Greer's financial record should be kept secret, not open to the public. ... Bill McCollum. He wants to keep it all a secret."

The scandal surrounding Greer and the state party's spending has been a persistent issue in this year's campaigns -- particularly in Gov. Charlie Crist's (I) Senate bid -- but this is the first time Greer's appeared in an ad in the gubernatorial primary.

Scott is gambling that using Greer as a cudgel against McCollum will help highlight his own status as a political outsider.

But, the ad may well cause more controversy for Scott than its worth. The Republican Governors Association, which has sat out the primary to date, released a statement Tuesday night calling on Scott to pull the ad.

"The truth is that Bill McCollum's leadership is part of what led to the removal of Jim Greer," RGA chairman Haley Barbour (Miss.) said. "This ad distorts the facts and was clearly created without any knowledge of what actually took place. It has no place in this primary."

And, a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning showed McCollum leading Scott 44 percent to 35 percent.

State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is unchallenged for the Democratic nod and has begun running ads using the nastiness of the Republican primary to cast herself as the adult in the room.

4. Democrats trail in six of 12 key East Coast Congressional races and could cede considerable ground in Pennsylvania particularly, according to a new set of district-level polls done for the conservative American Action Forum.

The Ayres, McHenry and Associates polls show four Democratic Pennsylvania Members -- Kathy Dahlkemper, Chris Carney, Paul Kanjorski and Mark Critz -- are also behind their Republican opponents in polling.

Three of those Keystone State incumbents trail by double digits. Car dealer Mike Kelly (R) leads Dahlkemper 52 percent to 38 percent; former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino (R) leads Carney 52 percent to 37 percent; and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) leads Kanjorski 52 percent to 41 percent. Critz trails businessman Tim Burns (R), whom he beat by eight points in a special election in May, by four points.

Virginia freshman Rep. Tom Perriello trails state Sen. Robert Hurt (R) by six points and Florida freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas trails businessman Craig Miller (R) by three points in the AAN polling.

Five of the other six Democratic incumbents tested -- Reps. Jim Himes (Conn.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Scott Murphy (N.Y.), Bill Owens (N.Y.) and Dan Maffei (N.Y.) -- are leading their Republican opponents but take less than 50 percent, a potential danger sign for any incumbent. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) is the only Democratic Member polled who is over 50 percent, leading former state Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard (R) 53 percent to 37 percent.

The poll for the American Action Forum, which is headed by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and former McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, surveyed 400 voters in each district, for a total of 4,800 interviews.

Across the 12 districts, President Obama's favorable rating is just 43 percent positive and 50 percent negative. Republicans lead on the generic ballot 38 percent to 31 percent, and the recently passed Democratic health care bill is opposed 51 percent to 39 percent.

The results are rightly regarded with a measure of skepticism due to the partisan nature of both the pollster conducting the survey and the group who commissioned it. Still, the results are not entirely inconsistent with other data released publicly in recent weeks that suggests a broad swath of House Democrats are in a vulnerable position less than three month before the midterm elections.

5. A new poll in Kentucky shows ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) narrowly leading state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) in the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

Paul leads Conway 45 percent to 40 percent among likely voters surveyed in the Reuters/Ipsos poll although the two are knotted at 40 percent among the slightly wider registered voter sample.

Also worrisome for Conway is President Obama's approval rating in the state; Forty-four percent of those surveyed approved of the president's job performance, while 55 percent disapproved.

Paul has been making harsh criticism of the president on the campaign trail in recent days and has vowed to challenge Obama "every step of the way" if he's elected.

Meanwhile, Conway who was endorsed by the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police earlier this week, continues to hammer away at Paul over a controversy surrounding a college prank gone wrong. The controversy has garnered national attention, but apparently it has yet to resonate with Kentucky voters -- according to the poll, 53 percent of respondents said they hadn't heard about the incident.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | August 18, 2010; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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