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First Thoughts: The House GOP's first impression

The House GOP’s first impression isn’t on jobs… Boehner’s office disagrees with that assessment… Obama taps GE CEO Immelt to head new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and he'll announce this in a speech in Schenectady, NY at 1:05 pm ET… The White House’s makeover… New NBC/WSJ poll gives us a glimpse of Facebook Nation… The draft-Pence movement… Bachmann’s in Iowa…T-Paw signs books in Texas… And Eric Cantor on “Meet” this Sunday.

*** The House GOP’s first impression: As President Obama discusses the economy today and taps GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to lead a new White House board (more on that below), the GOP-led House has spent its first two weeks in power focusing on other issues. On Wednesday, it voted to repeal the president’s signature health-care law. On Thursday, it introduced legislation permanently barring taxpayer subsidies for abortion. And today comes the headline that House conservatives want an immediate cut of $100 billion in discretionary spending, a higher amount that GOP leaders have called for, as well as federal outlays to be reduced by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. So after spending months talking about how the Obama administration wasn’t talking about jobs, House Republicans are, well, not talking directly about jobs. First impressions are everything in politics. And the House GOP’s first impression has not been jobs.

*** What does the country want? House Republicans disagree with that assessment. “We're focused on spending and jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel emails First Read. “ObamaCare destroys jobs -- that's why we need to repeal it and replace it with common-sense reforms that lower cost. We've also begun the fight to cut spending. In the very first days, we took the first step by cutting Congress' budget -- and there is plenty more to come.” While Republicans argue that repealing health care is about jobs, it’s a tough sell; just ask the White House when it tried to sell health care as a jobs/economy issue. By the way, per our new NBC/WSJ poll, here is what the public wants to hear Obama address in his State of the Union address on Tuesday: 34% said job creation and economic growth, 18% said deficit and government spending, 15% said bringing the country together, 10% said health care, 6% said public education, 6% said illegal immigration, and 4% said Afghanistan.

*** Obama taps Immelt: As mentioned above, President Obama -- on his visit to Schenectady, NY this afternoon to tour a GE facility and deliver an economic speech at 1:05 pm ET -- will announce that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt will head the White House’s new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. This new council replaces Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board led by Paul Volcker, who stepped down from his position (the Recovery Advisory board expires next month). As the Wall Street Journal writes, "Putting a prominent chief executive atop a panel is the latest gesture by the White House toward strengthening ties to business." And Immelt has penned a Washington Post op-ed, saying: “My hope is that the council will be a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness. It will include small and large businesses, labor, economists and government.” (General Electric is NBC’s parent company, and will retain a minority ownership when Comcast’s acquisition becomes official.) 

*** The White House’s makeover: Here’s a way to look at the transition going on at the White House: Obama has replaced key advisers -- both internal and external -- who were primarily associated with Washington or academia (Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker) with folks associated with business and the pragmatic center (Bill Daley, Gene Sperling, and Jeff Immelt). And here’s an additional thought on Immelt and GE: The president has been criticized by the business community as not being friendly to them. But the last two days provide more evidence of the White House’s efforts to improve that relationship. Yesterday, Michelle Obama held an event with Wal-Mart -- the nation’s largest private-sector employer -- on healthy foods. And then today, the president is naming the CEO of the world’s second-largest company to this new council.

*** Manufacturing and 2012: By the way, the manufacturing sector plays a MAJOR role in electoral politics. Just look at the industrial Midwest swing states and their struggles to see the manufacturing sector come back. Schenectady may be GEOGRAPHICALLY in New York, but it's CULTURALLY in the industrial Midwest. And speaking of Immelt, it's also worth noting that in announcing this new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the president turned to a CEO. He's not making a labor leader as co-chair. Yes, labor leaders will be ON the council, but the Immelt appointment sends the message: business first. 

*** The rest of Obama’s day: After the president returns from upstate New York later in the afternoon, he heads to Cambridge, MD to attend the congressional Democrats’ retreat, where he’ll speak in the evening.

*** Facebook Nation: Our most recent NBC/WSJ poll did something different: It measured those who use social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn (51% of respondents said they did), and those who don’t (49%). Not surprisingly, those who have a profile on those sites are younger, more affluent, and are better educated. Surprisingly, however, there isn’t much of a partisan divide: 50% of Dems, 49% of Republicans, and 48% of independents say they use social media. Yet this Facebook Nation -- as an aggregate -- has slightly different political views that the rest of the country, especially since it’s so much younger. Obama’s approval among this group is 55% (versus 53% for the whole country); its fav/unfav of the Dem Party is 42%-32% (vs. 39%-35% overall); its fav/unfav of the GOP is 34%-38% (vs. 34%-40%); and 42% think the economy will improve in the next year (vs. 40%).

*** Views on birthright citizenship, health care, Afghanistan, and 2012: On the issues, 54% of Facebook Nation favors birthright citizenship (vs. 50% overall); 41% thinks the health-care law is a good idea (vs. 39%); 20% wants to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan now (vs. 23%); and 54% wants stricter laws covering the sale of firearms (vs. 52%). And looking at the 2012 presidential race, Obama leads Huckabee by 14 points among this group (vs. 10 overall), and he leads Gingrich by 22 points (vs. 19). 

*** The draft-Pence movement: Politico today writes how some conservatives, unhappy with how the GOP presidential field appears to be shaping up, are trying to persuade Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) to make a White House bid. “[A] group of longtime Republicans – including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and former Rep. Jim Ryun – are working with a well-connected conservative PR firm to urge the congressman to head to Des Moines and Manchester instead of” run for Indiana governor. Per NBC’s Catherine Chomiak, Pence said on Sean Hannity’s radio program that he would make up his mind between running for Indiana governor and the White House by the end of January.

*** 2012 watch: Tea Party favorite Rep. Michelle Bachmann – does she have eyes on a Senate race or the White House? -- is in Iowa today speaking at an Iowans for Tax Reform event at 6:30 pm ET. Meanwhile, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) signs books in Dallas and Houston, TX.

*** On “Meet the Press” this Sunday: NBC’s David Gregory has an exclusive interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The roundtable consists of Dem Rep. James Clyburn, former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes, the Center for American Progress’ John Podesta, Atlantic Media’s Ron Brownstein, and CNBC’s Erin Burnett.

Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 291 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 381 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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