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First thoughts: Not going through the motions

Obama tries out some new speech lines on the campaign trail… His final swing takes him to OH and FL, and the governor races there could be the difference between a terrible night for Democrats or a better-than-expected night… RGA and Barbour tell Scott to back off… Murray and Rossi advance in WA, while Mead and Petersen advance in WY… Two more Palin-backed candidates lose… And previewing MI-1.

*** Not going through the motions: President Obama today is on the final leg of his cross-country campaign swing, with events in the battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida. And it’s clear he’s not going through the motions. In fact, none other than chief speechwriter Jon Favreau is accompanying the president on his trip, and Obama is testing some new speech lines. Examples while stumping with Patty Murray in Washington state yesterday: “You remember our slogan during the campaign ‘Yes we can’? Their slogan is ‘No we can’t.’” Also, a new response to those criticizing the White House for running against Bush: “I bring all this stuff up not because I want to re-litigate the past. I just don’t want to re-live the past.” And then there was this line, perhaps a subtle reference to a lot of the unpopular parts of his agenda these days (as well as the mosque controversy): “I have pollsters. I know when things don’t poll well. But I wasn’t sent to Washington, you did not send me to the Oval [Office] to just do what was popular. You sent me there to do what was right.” Didn't George W. Bush use a similar line in 2004 (and even a tad in 2006)?

*** The importance of Ohio and Florida: It's perhaps fitting that Obama today campaigns for both Gov. Ted Strickland (D) in Ohio and Alex Sink (D) and other Democrats in Florida. Why? Because both gubernatorial races could be the difference between a terrible night for Democrats or a better-than-expected night. Victories by Strickland and Sink -- in addition to John Hickenlooper (D) in Colorado -- would give the Obama White House reason to feel good about these battlegrounds come 2012, and would give Dems a big advantage in the upcoming redistricting. But losses in these two races would be a punch in the gut, especially in Florida where the contentious Bill McCollum-vs.-Rick Scott primary has given Sink a clear opening.

*** Barbour to Scott: Back off of McCollum: In fact, the McCollum-Scott primary taking place next week has become so potentially damaging to the GOP’s prospects in this gubernatorial race that the Republican Governors Association issued a highly unusual press release. “The RGA is not involved in the Florida GOP primary now nor do we plan to be,” RGA Chairman Haley Barbour said in the release. “However, specifically related to the latest ad Rick Scott is running against Bill McCollum, we want to set the record straight. The truth is that Bill McCollum’s leadership is part of what led to the removal of [ex-state party chair] Jim Greer. This ad distorts the facts and was clearly created without any knowledge of what actually took place. It has no place in this primary. We ask Mr. Scott to pull this ad and move forward in the primary in a constructive manner.” Wow.

*** Obama today: Before delivering remarks at the Strickland fundraiser in Columbus, OH at 1:20 pm ET, Obama meets with a local family and then holds a discussion on the economy at 10:50 am ET. (The meeting with the family could be unpredictable.) Then the president delivers remarks at a fundraiser for the Florida Dem Party at 6:10 pm ET.

*** Murray, Rossi advance in WA: As expected, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi cruised to victory in yesterday’s Washington state Senate jungle primary, in which the top-two finishers advance to the general election. Murray received 46%, while Rossi got 34%, setting up what will be one of the most competitive Senate contests in the fall. By the way, for you stat geeks out there, the total GOP vote in this jungle primary was 49.8%; the total Dem vote was 48.4%. Can't get much closer than that, but Democrats should be relieved they kept it that close. In an interview with NBC News, which will air on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” today, Rossi clearly is making the turn to make the case he's not a Republican in the mold of the national party that has so damaged Republicans in Washington state over the last decade. Check out his answers on tax cuts, Obama, the mosque debate, and the 14th amendment. Also, the NRCC has to feel good about the open WA-3 race (where the GOP candidates got 52.9%, while Dem candidates garnered 42.9%) and WA-2 (where the total GOP vote was a LOT more competitive than perhaps the Democrats thought would be the case).

*** Mead, Petersen win in WY: In the other state holding its primaries yesterday -- Wyoming -- former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead narrowly defeated Palin-backed State Auditor Rita Meyer in the GOP race to succeed outgoing Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D). State party chair Leslie Petersen won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Mead will be the overwhelming favorite in this race come November.

*** Palin Power? For those keeping score: With Didier’s and Meyer’s losses, Palin-endorsed candidates for statewide office didn’t have a good night last night. In fact, in the last few weeks, Palin’s candidates have lost more primaries (Todd Tiahrt in KS Sen, Karen Handel in GA Gov, Bob McConnell in CO House, and CeCe Heil in TN House) than they’ve won (Tom Emmer in MN Gov and John Koster in WA House, who had a very strong showing in the jungle primary). Her overall record, though, is better.

*** Another programming note: While MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” interviews Dino Rossi, “Andrea Mitchell Reports” has Ambassador Chris Hill and lawyer Ted Olson.

*** 75 House races to watch: MI-1: The Democratic nominee in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Bart Stupak (D) is state Rep. Gary McDowell. The Republican nominee is surgeon Dan Benishek, who won his primary by just 15 votes. Obama won 50% in this district in ’08, while Bush won 53% here in ’04. As of July 14, both McDowell and Benishek had $131,000 in the bank. Stupak voted for the stimulus, for cap-and-trade, and (finally) health care. Cook and Rothenberg rate the contest as a Toss Up.

Countdown to AK, AZ, FL, and VT primaries: 6 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 76 days

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