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May 07, 2012

Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally May 5 at Virginia Commonwealth University.

By NBC’s Carrie Dann and Ali Weinberg

Gentlemen, start your airwaves.

Senior Obama campaign officials said Monday that a new major television ad buy reflects their broader media strategy: underscoring the need to build on the president’s first term while also responding to all attacks from what they characterize as a Republican monolith of the Romney campaign and its affiliated Super PACs.

The campaign will spend $25 million on swing-state ads this month, top strategist David Axelrod told reporters on a conference call. The ad is a positive one, the first positive ad the campaign has run. Axelrod argued that the sum spent on this ad would be more than Mitt Romney spent on positive ads through the entire GOP primary.

“I believe that by the end of this week — certainly by the end of next — we will have spent more money offering people a positive vision for the future, talking about the president’s record and the nation’s record under his leadership and where we’re going than Gov. Romney has in his entire campaign,” Axelrod said, “and there’s a reason for that.”

Watch the Video from MSNBC

President Obama and the first lady hit the campaign trail on Saturday in key battleground states. NBC’s Brian Moor reports.

The campaign’s new 60-second ad, which will air in nine swing states, does not mention Romney but highlights Obama’s record on the auto bailout and on national security and job creation.

But in addition to the positive messaging, Axelrod warned, the Obama team will respond to ads aired by outside groups like those funded by the Koch brothers and other “contract killers over there in Super PAC land.”

“We will respond vigorously,” he said. “We will treat every ad that comes from those entities as an ad from Gov. Romney.”

The Obama campaign has already aired three television ads — each responding to Super PAC commercials by tying the outside groups directly to Romney.

Axelrod and campaign manager Jim Messina also faced questions on the call regarding Vice President Joe Biden‘s comment yesterday that he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage, a statement widely interpreted to be a more conspicuous embrace of same-sex marriage than Obama has publicly expressed.

As he did yesterday, Axelrod disputed the idea that there is substantial daylight between Biden and the commander-in-chief, saying the veep’s comments were “entirely consistent with the president’s position which is that couples who are married — whether they’re gay or heterosexual couples — are entitled to the very same rights and very same liberties.”

(He also noted the “clear distinction” between Obama’s views and those of Romney, who has advocated for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriages.)

The two officials were also asked about new poll numbers out Monday that show Romney and Obama in a virtual tie in key battleground states, with Romney leading on key issues like the economy.

Ignoring that dead heat, Messina focused on one angled from one of those polls — USA Today/Gallup — that showed a reversal in the enthusiasm gap in 12 swing states. Republicans had held a 14-point advantage in enthusiasm at the end of last year, but Democrats now lead by 11 points. Messina, predictably, tied the drop in enthusiasm to voters learning more about the eventual Republican nominee.

“The more people get an up close view of Gov. Romney the less enthusiastic they get,” Messina said. “We’ll continue to see that.”

Axelrod added that the Romney campaign’s constant primary-season attack ads led to an erosion in excitement about the candidate.

“It turns out that if you spend a year running negative ads grinding down your opponent instead of making a case for yourself, if your vision is basically backward-looking, you diminish enthusiasm,” he said.

The Romney campaign responded to the conference call in a written statement from spokesman Amanda Henneberg which read in part, “President Obama just hasn’t lived up to his promises. It’s harder to get a job, buy or sell a home, and those fortunate enough to have jobs often have less in their paychecks. Mitt Romney will get our country back on track and stop the middle-class squeeze of the Obama economy.”

While the Obama campaign prides itself on technological prowess, Monday’s conference call was not without some good old fashioned phone issues – several reporters’ lines were muted as they were called upon by the operator to ask a question.

Axelrod joked that it was all a ploy of the opposing party.

“These Republicans will stop at nothing,” he contended. “They’ve snipped our lines.”