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First Thoughts: He's in

In email and video to supporters, Obama announces his re-election bid… NBC’s 2012 battleground map… Why Obama is in right now: It’s all about raising the money. So why isn’t Romney in yet?... Is Paul Ryan’s budget plan -- which revamps Medicaid and Medicare -- courage or political suicide?... Ryan’s plan vs. Obama’s health-care plan… Two other points about the plan: It has no bipartisan cover, and it plays fire with seniors… And don’t forget about Afghanistan.

From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** He’s in: In an email and video to supporters, President Obama announced that he’s filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission today to launch his re-election campaign. Obama’s message harks back to 2008. “We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build,” Obama says in his email. “So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.” The video, which tells you everything you need to know the Obama campaign is focused on (there’s a white man from North Carolina, a Latina from Nevada, a white woman from Colorado, and a young student from New York) contains this at the end: “It begins with us.” By the way, the only footage of Obama in the video is from the 2008 campaign; nothing from him as president.

*** Our 2012 battleground map: With Obama announcing his re-election today, here is our revised NBC Political Unit Battleground map for the 2012 election. It shows Democrats with 232 electoral votes either in the solid, likely, or lean column, and it has Republicans with 191 electoral votes. There are 115 electoral votes in the Toss-up column. A few states to keep an eye on THIS year when it comes to the Obama campaign: AZ, GA, and TX. All three are long shots, but all three showed significant population gains for minorities in the last 10 years. And the campaign is going to attempt to at least experiment with organizing in these three states to see if any of them are worth truly battling for when the calendar turns from 2011 to 2012.

Solid Dem: DC, DE, HI, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT (67 electoral votes)
Likely Dem: CA, CT, IL, ME, WA, OR (105)
Lean Dem: MI, MN, NJ, PA (60)
Toss-up: CO, FL, IA, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, VA, WI (115)
Lean GOP: AZ, GA, MO, MT, NE (one EV) (41)
Likely GOP: AL, AR, IN, LA, MS, NE (four EVs), ND, SC, SD, TX (97)
Solid GOP: AK, ID, KS, KY, OK, TN, UT, WV, WY (53)

*** It’s all about the money: It isn’t surprising that Obama announced his re-election bid now. (George W. Bush filed for reelection May 16, 2003, and Bill Clinton filed April 14, 1995). But what is surprising is that Mitt Romney hasn’t announced yet. Getting in right now is all about raising money. The most important asset for any campaign is a candidate's time, and there's nothing harder to find than a president's time for a campaign -- so the earlier they get in, the more they can squeeze in time for the president to play low-key candidate for fundraising events. And if you’re going to be the eventual GOP nominee -- and want to raise the $750 million-plus needed to compete with Obama -- you need to get in now. Consider today a simple missed opportunity; imagine the little counter-guerilla email fundraising event an active candidate can have today on the GOP side.

*** Past poll tracking: This tells you a lot can happen between now and election day: Here are the Gallup approvals of current and past presidents in the April before their re-election: Barack Obama 45% (now), George W. Bush 70% (April 2003), Bill Clinton 48% (April 1995), George H.W. Bush 79% (April 1991), Ronald Reagan 42% (April 1983), Jimmy Carter 40% (April 1979), Richard Nixon 50% (April 1971), JFK 66% (April 1963), Ike 70% (April 1955).

*** Don’t forget about Afghanistan: Our latest NBC/WSJ poll is currently in the field, and we’ll unveil our results on Wednesday. One thing -- in addition to numbers on 2012, Obama, and the budget fight -- it will have our most extensive look at feelings toward the war in Afghanistan in quite some time.

Countdown to continuing resolution’s expiration: 4 days
Countdown to NY-26 special election: 50 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 130 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 218 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 308 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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