Hugh Hewitt
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MSM's Operation Defend POTUS gets under way today with the Washington Post's "but he's such a nice guy" story on the president's alleged "likability" advantage over Mitt Romney.

He's so popular he has his own basketball.  A shoe contract is sure to follow.

It is pretty easy to manufacture news when papers tout as news the results of a "likability" poll that reflects the fact that Romney has just emerged as the presumptive GOP nominee after four months of tough primary battles.  Theses sorts of stories don't move the key needle much at all, and that key needle shows a dead heat with the president's deep trouble coming from dreary jobs reports, high gas prices, and a credibility problem that stretches from Fast and Furious to his offer of post-election flexibility to the Russians.  Let me be the 10,000th person to say "It's the economy stupid, and the debt and the stimulus and the Russians and...."

The president has an 8 point lead over Governor Romney in a Washington Post poll of adults and a 7 point lead in an IBD/CSM/TIPP poll of Registered Voters. Neither poll is a comfort to David Axelrod or his disconnected candidate as the president's inability to get above 50% even with the registered voters is an alarm, not a comforter.  Rasmussen's tracking poll which shows the president with a 2 point national lead over the governor and ahead slightly in four key states is the true picture of where the race is right now, which is essentially tied at the start with the president given a slight edge because of the power of incumbency. 

As I said on yesterday's show with the NRCC's Pete Sessions, Easter is the new Labor Day when it comes to presidential campaigns.  Campaigns for the White House used to begin after the conventions and the summer was over.  This one has already begun in earnest and will not stop.  Mitt Romney cannot let up a moment or take a day off, and the Chicago Gang certainly won't because any pause will allow Americans to reflect on the horrible state of the nation's finances and the rotten pace of the so-called recovery as well as on the dangers gather abroad.

Team Romney needs to build its small donor and volunteer networks --you can sign up here and should contribute at least a token amount to saving the Republic from a second Obama term-- and the Congressional GOP has to use these months to help set up the campaign as a clear choice between two radically different futures even as it works through the Sessions-led NRCC.org to maintain the Congressional majority Romney will need to work with in early 2013.  That majority has some internal issues right now which have to be set aside and quickly so that the House GOP's response is ready on what follows Obamacare when SCOTUS strikes it down, and so that Romney's message on a renewed private sector as the key to growth and economic security is reinforced not contradicted over the next seven months by the messages coming from the Hill.

The campaign though will only be affected at the margins by anyone other than the two candidates themselves, and the SuperPacs blasting away at them both.  The president has already begun his whining about the unfairness of donors telling the truth about his abysmal record, but hopefully every conservative SuperPac won't waste a day in any of the 12 to 14 states that will decide the issue in the fall.  The president has earned every negative attack ad, and they can't start too soon.

That's just the way the ball bounces in 2012
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Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.