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First thoughts: Another crisis coming?

Is bad economic news coming on Friday?... Obama talks about the economy in Racine, WI at 2:15 pm ET… It's been a VERY busy week for the president and his team… But little news comes out of the Kagan/Petraeus hearings… Why we (and you) should have little confidence in many state polls… Is there too much fuss over Bill Clinton's backing of Andrew Romanoff (Clinton ISN'T going to campaign or raise money for him)… Angle and Kirk meet the press… TV ads go up on energy/climate change… California's Senate and gubernatorial contests are competitive, it appears… And Biden stumps for Lee Fisher in OH.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Another crisis coming? Forced having to deal with numerous crises over the last couple of months -- the BP spill, the shaky economic situation in Europe, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal's explosive comments to Rolling Stone -- the Obama White House may very well have another (and even bigger) crisis on its hands: the U.S. economy. Both Wall Street and Washington appear to be bracing for a poor jobs report on Friday, after five-consecutive months of job growth. And that, of course, raises the stakes of President Obama's 2:15 pm ET town-hall meeting on the economy in Racine, WI today. How does Obama talk his way out of this if the economy has the look and feel of something akin to a double dip or even stagnation?

*** Obama's kitchen-sink week: One other thing worth noting is how this has been a kitchen-sink week for the president. In addition to the economy, here are/have been the other issues on the president's plate this week: finishing up financial reform (trickier than it looked last week), Kagan (smooth sailing so far), Petraeus and Afghanistan (even smoother sailing), immigration (he gives a speech on the issue tomorrow to placate reform advocates, but don't expect new policy ideas), energy/climate change (meeting yesterday with senators MIGHT have created a road map on the carbon issue), the oil spill (no news), the Russian spies (weirder by the day), and Middle East peace (his meeting yesterday with Saudi Arabia's Abdullah). But guess what… it's still all about the economy.

*** When no news is bad news: As for yesterday's Senate hearings on Elena Kagan (for the Supreme Court) and David Petraeus (for the top commander in Afghanistan), the biggest news may very well have been that there was so little news. When the ranking member of Senate Judiciary Committee -- Jeff Sessions -- is devoting his questions to Harvard's military policy, and not Kagan's views on the law and the Constitution, then Republicans really do raise the appearance that this whole exercise is to score political points and raise money for interest groups, not truly vet a lifetime appointment to the court. In addition, it took just one day for the Senate Armed Services Committee to approve of Petraeus' nomination (by voice vote), but it did so without truly having a debate over the administration's Afghanistan policy. Was that good for democracy, good for the republic? May have been good politics for now for the White House, but given the problems with the war right now, perhaps a debate about the strategy wouldn't have been a bad thing?

*** Fuzzy math: In political circles, the biggest story yesterday may very well have been the news that Daily Kos is suing its former pollster, Research 2000, for allegedly fabricating its numbers. Despite the merits of the suit, the story is a reminder how little confidence we have in many state polls -- and how problematic that makes it in trying to get a handle on individual midterm races. We have tremendous confidence in our national NBC/WSJ poll, conducted by Dem pollster Peter Hart and GOP pollster Bill McInturff, which we think is the best in the business. But some of the state polling we see are robo-polls (conducted by an automated voice rather than a live person), which NBC doesn't report as a policy. Here's a little secret: Good polls are expensive to do, and if you're seeing a particular organization doing a slew of polls, you've got to ask: (1) how reliable are those numbers, or (2) where is the money coming from to conduct those polls? Nowadays, on the state level, we trust the polling we're getting from campaigns and state parties (although not necessarily those polls that are made public) more than the numbers we see from some non political polling organizations.

*** Our policy to you on state polling: One policy we're going to institute ourselves to make sure you have an idea of everything that we know is this: When we report a public poll on the state level, it will be because we think those numbers are reflecting what we know is going on in the race. We'll let you know if a pollster has a good reputation in that state, has a good track record (because a good pollster in one state doesn't mean they know the nuances of another).

*** Overserved? Just askin,' but if the extent of Bill Clinton's support for Andrew Romanoff is an email -- the former president WON'T be campaigning or fundraising for him -- then isn't the Bill Clinton-vs.-the White House storyline a bit overblown regarding Clinton's endorsement (via email) of Romanoff yesterday? Yet the real Clinton action/comment that probably should raise eyebrows is his discussion of Obama and race at the Fortune/Time/CNN global forum in South Africa.

*** Angle meets the press: In her first sit-down with a non-conservative news outlet since winning the GOP nomination earlier this month, Nevada GOP Senate nominee Sharron Angle spoke at length with state political reporter Jon Ralston. In the interview, the Las Vegas Sun recounts, Angle backed away a bit from her call to phase out Social Security (saying instead she supports private/personal accounts, a la what George W. Bush proposed in 2005), as well as her statement about resorting to 2nd Amendment remedies ("I admit it was a little strong to say"). But she stuck to her views that unemployment benefits shouldn't be extended; that nuclear waste should be stored in Nevada's Yucca Mountain; and that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision equated the government getting involved in abortion.

*** 'I wasn't thinking': Also meeting the press yesterday was embattled Illinois GOP Senate nominee Mark Kirk. Here's NBC Chicago's write-up of yesterday's presser: "On the point of most interest -- why he embellished his record and why he was avoiding the media -- Kirk said he would make himself more available to the media, and apologized several times. 'I was overbooked last week,' Kirk said, by way of explaining why he wasn't available. As for his embellishments -- 10 at last count -- Kirk said the 'scrutiny was appropriate' and that he 'wasn't thinking' when he misstated his record." The day after that press conference, Kirk's campaign is going up with two new TV ads -- one accusing opponent Alexi Giannoulias for having a top aide who was a longtime BP lobbyist, and another blasting Giannoulias over his family's bank ("Alexi Giannoulias, trust him with your money?" it concludes).

*** Here come the TV ads on energy: Today, a liberal-leaning coalition consisting of SEIU, VoteVets, League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club says it's launching the first TV ads of an $11 million campaign on energy/climate change legislation. The initial $2 million buy, an SEIU source tells us, will praise Dem Sens. Harry Reid and Claire McCaskill, and target Dem Sen. Ben Nelson and GOP Sens. Richard Burr and Mike Johanns for not supporting energy/climate change legislation. Here is the ad praising McCaskill, and one whacking Burr.

*** More midterm news: In California, a Reuters/Ipsos poll of registered state voters shows Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) at 45% and challenger Carly Fiorina at 41%, while it also finds Jerry Brown (D) leading Meg Whitman (R) by six points (45%-39%) in the state's gubernatorial race. These numbers reflect private polling we're familiar with in this state. In Ohio, Vice President Biden stumps for Senate nominee Lee Fisher at 1:00 pm ET; the Ohio GOP counters the visit with this Web video… Also in Ohio, a new Quinnipiac poll has Fisher (D) at 42% and Rob Portman (R) at 40%; Obama's approval rating in the state is 45%-49%. Again, this poll reflects similar private polls we're familiar with. Bottom line: This has been a margin-of-error race for quite some time, and nothing has happened in the last month to really change that.

Countdown to AL run-off: 13 days
Countdown to GA primary: 20 days
Countdown to OK primary: 27 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 34 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 41 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 125 days

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