* Romney’s love-hate relationship with Washington: The scoop of the morning comes from ABC News, which has uncovered 2002 video of Romney boasting about his connections in Washington and about his sucessful bid for federal money to help fund the Salt Lake City Olympics.
Key quote: “I am a big believer in getting money where the money is. The money is in Washington.”
Romney also brags about having hauled in more federal money than any previous Olympics: “We actually received over $410 million from the federal government for the Olympic games. That is a huge increase over anything ever done before and we did that by going after every agency of government.”
The larger context: Romney frequently derides federal policies designed to help private sector projects succeed as picking “winners and losers.” But he happily reached out for government help with the Olympics, which he now touts as evidence of his turnaround wizardry. It remains to be seen whether this will prove a problem for Romney. But if it does, it will be another case in which a perfectly sensible attitude towards government become a vulnerability amid the anti-government fundamentalism that defines GOP primary politics.
* GOP race tightening in Ohio: A new Quinnipiac poll finds Rick Santorum’s lead over Romney has narrowed to four points, 35-31. The familiar class divide is on display, with Romney leading among those with a college degree and trailing by nine among those without one — if Romney loses, downscale whites will be the reason why.
If Romney wins here, expect renewed pressure on Santorum to admit defeat so the party can focus on Obama. If he loses, you’ll get a fresh round of handwringing from GOP leaders about Romney’s electability and inability to win blue collar whites, a key swing constituency.
* Romney can only win by tearing down his foes: The Times has a must-read this morning that spells out how the Romney campaign has “used every tactic in the negative playbook.” Brutal assessment from GOP consultant Nelson Warfield:
“It’s clear the negative ads are what’s keeping this guy alive. It seems like Republican primary voters will not vote for Mitt Romney unless they are forced into it. And the way they’re forced into it is when he beats the other guy senseless.”
Friendly reminder: In the general election, Romney will be facing an opponent who’s somewhat better equipped to push back than the likes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have been.
* Gas prices not a silver bullet against Obama for GOP: Important reading from Aaron Blake, who digs into new polling and finds that rising gas prices are unlikely to be the liability for Obama that Republicans had hoped. The key revelation: Americans are far less likely to blame anybody for rising gas prices than in the past.
This suggests growing sophistication on the issue — and on energy in general — that could make it tougher to politicize gas prices against the president.
* More signs (gulp!) that the recovery is accelerating: The Wall Street Journal says that perils still remain, but that the good news is mounting:
The number of Americans filing initial claims for government unemployment benefits has fallen to levels last seen before Lehman Brothers collapsed, the Labor Department said. The stock market, a leading indicator of growth, is off to its best start this year since 1998 and notched more gains Thursday. Meantime, consumer confidence has reclaimed ground lost last year, and another report showed that income growth is firming.
However the economy is far from robust. Government and company reports showed consumer spending has been mixed
It will be interesting to track whether the recovery, if it continues accelerating, improves voter perceptions of Obama’s other policies.
* Romney tax plan shows failure to learn from history: As Paul Krugman notes, Romney’s claim that cutting taxes on the rich is the best way to produce the explosion of revenue needed to close the deficit has been disproved by history not once, but twice, and his plan would be devastating to the economy and put us on a Greece-like course.
Krugman concludes: “The question now is whether someone offering this toxic combination of irresponsibility, class warfare, and hypocrisy can actually be elected president.” Romney’s economic plan and the worldview underlying it are radical — he would radically redistribute wealth and power upwards.
* Senate Dems keep hitting Scott Brown over birth control: Chuck Schumer says Brown’s support for the Blunt amendment yesterday will cost him crucial female votes in the super-high-stakes Massachusetts Senate race, and Elizabeth Warren also hits him again:
“Senator Brown took sides with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and the right wing of his party, against the people of Massachusetts, who in tough economic times rely on insurance to get the health care they need.”
The crucial thing here is that Dems continue to frame this as an economic issue — it’s about health insurance for families — while Repubicans need this to be fought on old culture war turf that’s already well trodden.
* Rush Limbaugh helping Dems tar GOP as anti-woman: Steve Benen notes that Limbaugh’s derision of Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and his call for Georgetown women to “put as much aspirin between their knees as possible” will only help Dems use the contraception issue to drive women away from the GOP.
As Steve notes: “Behold, the most influential voice in Republican politics.”
* The Speaker and the House GOP’s chief fundraiser: A tough New York Times editorial rips John Boehner for raising bucks with GOP Rep and chief House GOP fundraiser Vern Buchanan. Federal investigators are examining whether he failed to fully disclose business dealings and whether his companies reimbursed donations from employees to his campaign.
The question is whether Boehner and the NRCC will respond to increased pressure on them to distance themselves from Buchanan until his problems are resolved.
* And the question of the day: Now that Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has gone full birther by championing an “investigation” supposedly revealing Obama’s birth certificate to be a forgery, will the eventual GOP presidential nominee still campaign with him?