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Mitt Romney faces summer of hurdles, opportunities

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 15 2012 7:25 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, takes his family for a boat ride on Lake Winnipesaukee on Saturday, July 14, 2012 in Wolfeboro, NH.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — As the White House challenger, Mitt Romney can seize on the attention that accompanies the selection of a running mate. When the London Olympics get under way, he can use that spotlight to play up his leadership of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

His candidacy also is benefiting from the fundraising power of outside GOP-aligned political groups that are spending millions on TV ads to promote him and undercut President Barack Obama. The weak economic recovery offers the chance for Romney to make inroads among unhappy voters.

Not all is rosy, however, for the former Massachusetts governor.

Health care is the last thing Romney wants to talk about. As he appeals to independent voters, he has to fend off charges that by moving to the middle, he's changing core positions for political purposes.

ADVANTAGES:

Picking a vice president: It's one of the biggest decisions Romney will make during the campaign and will shed light on Romney's judgment at a time when voters are just getting to know him. Announcing the decision will ensure that he can dominate headlines, for a few days at least, in the middle of an otherwise slow summer, and could provide a fundraising boost. With a running mate in place, Romney will gain a new top surrogate who is likely to act in the traditional role of a vice presidential nominee: attacking the top of the other ticket — Obama in this case.

The Olympics: The 2012 Games in London are made for Romney as he looks to showcase one of his signature achievements, his work running the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The event was mired in scandal before Utah leaders hired Romney to try and dig them out of the mess. Romney's campaign so far has refrained from introducing to the general electorate his record as steward of the Olympics, but aides have planned extensively for the August games. Look for Romney do interviews with major media outlets and attend the opening ceremonies as well as a few events.

Super political action committees: Romney has exceeded fundraising expectations, and he's also getting lots of help from wealthy Republican donors and some Supreme Court decisions. The new rules allow outside groups to spend millions — individuals don't have the same $2,500 limit that's placed on the official campaign — to run TV ads. Super PACs can't coordinate with the campaign, but they can coordinate with each other, and they've spent millions on the air to counter Obama's onslaught of TV ads.

The Republican National Convention: The spotlight will be on Tampa, Fla., at the end of August, where the Republican challenger will accept the party's nomination and his running mate with make a national debut. Numerous rising stars within the Republican Party will get prime speaking slots. At a time when Democrats control the White House and Senate, Romney and the Republican Party will command attention for a full week.

LIABILITIES:

Health care: It's the last thing Romney wants to talk about. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the key part of Obama's health care law — the requirement that all in the U.S. carry health insurance — is constitutional under the power Congress has to levy taxes. Romney enacted a similar mandate in Massachusetts when he was governor, calling the requirement a penalty instead of a tax. After the Supreme Court decision, a senior Romney adviser appeared on MSNBC and said Romney didn't believe either mandate was a tax; the candidate reversed that position just a few days later, telling CBS that Obama's mandate is a tax. The contradictions weaken Romney's ability to attack Obama on health care, potentially a critical campaign issue.

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