Nightly News   |  January 15, 2012

Obama aide targets Romney

The president’s staffers see Republican Mitt Romney as the biggest threat to a second Obama term.

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>>> while the republicans battle it out on the trail, the president is gearing up for battle himself, preparing for the fall campaign as well as looming fights and unfinished business with congress, which returns from break this week. nbc's mike viqueira has our report.

>> reporter: as rivals hit mitt romney on his record as a businessman, today a top owe balm obama aide echoed that attack. aides see romney as the biggest thread to a second obama term, but so far the president isn't engaging him directly. instead, painting all republicans with the same broad brush.

>> they said they want to reduce the deficit by gutting our investments in education and gutting our investments in research and technology, letting our infrastructure further deteriorate.

>> reporter: both sides expect a tight race in the fall. a recent poll shows among all voters the president's lead over republican challenger has narrowed in last ten months. the sides now dead even at 41%. among independents, a crucial bloc, support is also evenly split. for now, mr. obama 's focus is on building a war chest , holding six fund-raisers last week alone, and raising a total of $68 million over the last quarter of 2011 , keeping roughly the same pace as george bush in his 2004 re- election campaign .

>> house will be in order.

>> reporter: but before the race takes off, more battles loom with congress, returning tuesday after four weeks away. first up, extending payroll tax cuts set to expire in february after a december standoff. and whether to allow the construction of the keystone pipeline , the controversial project opposed by environmentalists, but favored by organized labor and most republicans. today, the senate's top democrat attacked republicans, leaving little hope for a quick agreement.

>> it is all a balance and that's what i think we have to look forward this coming year. we haven't had that balance because we have had one arm of our bicameral legislature that said we'll do nothing but go after obama .

>> reporter: there is more fund-raising on tap for the president when he hits new york city on thursday. but before that on tuesday, first lady michelle obama celebrates a birthday, a fact the president made known in a mass e-mail to campaign supporters asking them to sign an internet birthday card . lester?

>> mike viqueira tonight, thanks.