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First Thoughts: All eyes on the Supreme Court

All eyes on SCOTUS: We could get a health-care decision (and immigration one, too) as early as today and as late as Thursday… How crazy a month -- and yet how stable -- it’s been…. Bain gets more scrutiny, and how does Romney fix it?... Wrapping up Romney’s weekend getaway in Utah… And Obama stumps in New Hampshire at 2:00 pm ET, while Romney raises money in Scottsdale, AZ.

*** All eyes on SCOTUS: As early as today and as late as Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the federal health-care law. And there are essentially three outcomes: 1) everything gets upheld, 2) everything gets struck down, or 3) something in between. But the politics -- especially as it relates to November -- aren’t as clear cut. But our guess is that a full uphold or a full repeal energizes the winning side and knocks the losers for an unexpected loop. (Then again, you could argue that the losing side gets to fire up its base, but that is still some bitter lemonade out of those lemons.) What is clear is that news organizations have emptied their health-care files. Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote whether the health-care law’s supporters ignored concerns about its constitutionality, and it also noted how the Obama White House is bracing for the decision, even an unfavorable one. And the Washington Post wondered if the White House made some political and legal miscalculations with the Supreme Court case. All three articles suggested the Conventional Wisdom that the Supreme Court could very well overturn the law. But no one knows how the court will rule.

*** Immigration decision is coming, too: Don’t forget: We’ll also get the court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law this week. By the way, if you are a Republican strategist involved in a competitive election, you are hoping the Arizona decision gets released WITH health care. If it’s immigration today and health care on Thursday, then the GOP has to deal with another three days of the immigration issue in the news, and we’ve yet to see how any day that has immigration in the news is a good one for Republicans in November.

*** One crazy month: So when you step back and think about it, June has been a crazy month. It started with the monthly jobs report showing that just 69,000 jobs were created in May; then came the drumbeat of bad and uncertain news on the economy, both domestically and in Europe; then there was Wisconsin; then President Obama’s immigration announcement; and now we’re about to get the big SCOTUS health-care ruling (as well as the immigration one). Yet despite it all, the Obama-Romney race has remained incredibly stable. Look no farther than the recent Pew poll and AP national poll showing Obama narrowly leading Romney (50%-46% and 47%-44%, respectively) -- which is essentially where this race was after the former Massachusetts governor became the presumptive GOP nominee back in April. What explains this stability, even if much of the media perception has been that Romney has the momentum while Obama is struggling? For starters, you could argue that given this nation’s political polarization, this tight race has always been locked in and perhaps is even more locked in than anyone appreciates. Then there’s the “demographics is destiny” argument that feeds the polarization; and finally, don’t overlook the Obama campaign’s heavy anti-Romney TV blitz have contributed to the stability. Bottom line: It’s probably a little of all three.

*** We’re still in the 2nd quarter: Regardless, it’s important to note that we haven’t reached halftime in this general election contest. We always knew there would be FOUR big moments in this race after Romney became the presumptive nominee, outside any unforeseen event: 1) the SCOTUS health-care decision, 2) the VP selection, 3) the convention speeches, and 4) the debates. And we’re only about to cross off No. 1 on this list. We still have a long way to go…

*** Bain gets more scrutiny: After the Washington Post reported on Friday that Bain Capital, under Mitt Romney’s leadership, invested in firms that outsourced jobs to China and India, other news organizations piled on Bain. Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote that even when Bain-controlled companies filed for bankruptcy and shed jobs, Bain and its executives still made money. “Bain structured deals so that it was difficult for the firm and its executives to ever really lose, even if practically everyone else involved with the company that Bain owned did, including its employees, creditors and even, at times, investors in Bain’s funds.” Also, the Boston Globe noted how Romney and Bain once partnered with famed junk-bond king Michael Milken in a leveraged buyout. “It showed how he pivoted from being a relatively cautious investor to risking his reputation for a big payoff. It is one that Romney has rarely, if ever, mentioned in his two bids for the presidency, perhaps because the Houston-based department store chain that Bain assembled later went into bankruptcy.” Finally, the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is up with another TV ad hitting Romney on Bain. 

*** Romney has more of a Bain problem than the Acela Corridor realizes: Ever since the Obama campaign began its Bain hit, there has been near universal agreement among elites that the hits were either “not working,” or “unfair,” or both. But as we’ve said before and we’ll say again: The Bain attacks aren’t meant to sway folks in NY and DC, but folks in three crucial battleground states: Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The whole point of this campaign by the Obama folks is to paint Romney as an out-of-touch Wall Street CEO or worse, one of the Bobs from “Office Space. And while the Romney campaign has comforted itself with the criticism of the Obama attacks by other Democrats (Booker, Rendell etc.), the campaign has done little to fix the larger image issue. So far, the Romney campaign has made this argument: Any attack on Bain is an attack on America’s free enterprise system. But how does it explain that Bain and its partners often made money, even if the firms they took over went belly up? And how do they now explain this Milken association? Does it keep using the “free enterprise” line? Or does it need to do something else?

*** Romney’s weekend getaway: Here’s a thought exercise: Imagine if Obama had held a big retreat -- say in Santa Fe, NM -- with all of his big bundlers. The Hollywood types. The LGBT donors. The NBA stars. Would it have received more coverage than Romney’s retreat with his big bundlers in Utah over the weekend? Perhaps the most newsworthy part of the weekend: the attendance of the Super PAC-men. Not only was Karl Rove there (remember that he helped found American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS), but also spotted in the hotel lobby there was Restore Our Future’s Charlie Spies. Spies confirmed to NBC’s Garrett Haake that he was in the hotel lobby, but says he was not officially "attending" the confab, he was just there. Spies’ wife also works for the campaign. The Romney campaign issued this statement: "ROF staff were not invited, nor did they attend or participate in the retreat. As with members of the media, they may have been in public spaces, and the campaign did not control that. We are fully aware of the law and comply with it completely." This just shows you the absurdity of the campaign-finance laws right now. The campaigns and Super PACs can’t coordinate, but they can be in “public spaces” together; yes that’s the law. Remember, it’s the “letter” of the law that matters not the spirit.  

*** On the trail: Obama gives a speech in Durham, NH at 2:00 pm ET and later hits a fundraiser in Boston… Per guidance from the campaign, Obama “will offer Granite State voters the choice to break the stalemate between two economic visions on how to grow to the economy -- one that builds the economy from the middle class out, and the other from the top down.”… And Romney today raises money in Scottsdale, AZ.

Countdown to GOP convention: 63 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 70 days
Countdown to Election Day: 134 days

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