The New York Times:
American Crossroads, the biggest of the Republican “super PACs,” is planning to begin its first major anti-Obama advertising blitz of the year, a moment the Obama re-election campaign has been girding for and another sign that the general election is starting in earnest.
With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month. But they said they would focus the bulk of the first phase from May through July, which they believe is a critical period for making an impression on voters, before summer vacations and the party conventions take place.
(...) The Crossroads advertising push — the timing of which has been the subject of avid speculation at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago — would give the campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, the time and cover to map out its national organization, replenish its bank account and put the finishing touches on its own long-discussed advertising plan, which is expected to highlight the economic pain of ordinary Americans.
Crossroads was founded with help from the Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie — the latter just signed on as an adviser to Mr. Romney — and so far it has largely been sitting on the sidelines, studying the electorate and planning for the fall as the Republican nominating contest continued.
(...) American Crossroads and its affiliated Crossroads GPS raised $51 million last year, according to federal election filings, much of it from the conservative financier Harold C. Simmons and other wealthy donors with interests in coal, real estate and finance.
These groups will be formidable allies for Mr. Romney’s campaign. Though they are legally prohibited from coordinating with his strategists, they are working on the same mission, to shift the debate away from issues of wealth inequality — terrain that appears to favor Mr. Obama — and toward what Stuart Stevens, a senior Romney strategist, said would be a referendum on the president and his promise to of economic recovery.
(...) Crossroads research suggests that Mr. Obama’s campaign has started to gain traction among critical swing voters by arguing that Republicans, including Mr. Romney, favor an “economic plutocracy” in which middle-class voters can no longer count on financial security, even though they work hard and play by the rules.
“His argument is: ‘The reason you feel bad is not because I’ve been an inadequate president but because the rules of the game are stacked against you,’ ” Mr. Law said. Calling it a “dystopian vision,” he added, “that narrative has some gravitational pull.”
But, Mr. Law said, interviews with independent voters, as well as uncommitted Democrats and Republicans who supported Mr. Obama in 2008, have revealed an alternate “emerging view” that Crossroads will seek to solidify, “that Obama just may not be up to the job, he can’t seem to fix things he promised he would fix.”
Though Mr. Law would not discuss the planned Crossroads ads in detail, he indicated that the first ones would try not to offend the sensibilities of swing voters who still like Mr. Obama, apparently in part for fear of rallying them to his side.