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First Thoughts: Still searching for Mr. Right

Republicans still searching for Mr. Right… Giuliani breaks bread with Christie today to discuss 2012… NBC/WSJ poll day… The remarkable transformation inside the GOP where Republicans, including the party’s presidential candidates, are sounding less like hawks and more like doves… But the GOP hawks are fighting back… Said Lindsey Graham about Romney’s recent comments on Afghanistan: “From the party’s point of view, the biggest disaster would be to let Barack Obama become Ronald Reagan and our people become Jimmy Carter.”… The White House’s trouble on Libya reflects a failure to communicate… Walker wins court decision in WI… And Bloomberg talks immigration.

*** Still searching for Mr. Right: Just hours after seven GOP candidates debated in New Hampshire, the political conversation quickly turned to the Republicans who weren’t on the stage. And for some reason, everything is happening in New York. First, Jon Huntsman revealed in the city yesterday that he will announce his presidential bid next week at Liberty State Park in New Jersey (joining Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson as other Republicans to use the Statue of Liberty as an announcement backdrop). Then, also in New York, Rick Perry delivered a speech last night to Republicans, in which he blasted the Obama administration, touted his record in Texas, and sounded like a national stump speech. (Asked on FOX about his thought process on a presidential bid, Perry said, per NBC’s Lauren Selsky: “I’m not sure you have to make a decision in a month. It’s a pretty fast world we live in today.”) And Chris Christie sat down with CNN’s Piers Morgan last night, and told him: “I’m 100% certain I’m not going to run.”

*** Giuliani and Christie break bread: Yet guess who’s having lunch today with Christie? None other than Rudy Giuliani. Here’s what we can report on Rudy: Today’s lunch meeting came at Rudy’s request to discuss 2012; he’s seriously thinking about a presidential bid; he doesn’t think Mitt Romney should get a free ride to the GOP nomination; and he believes that none of the other Republicans who shared the stage with Romney are ready to give him a run for his money. The bottom line on all of this Huntsman/Perry/Christie/Rudy activity: There’s a clear opening -- if not burning desire -- for more Republicans to get into the presidential race. Giuliani, of course, is trying to both get Christie's blessing and find out how solid of a "NO" the New Jersey governor is. By the way, Giuliani is also having a private meeting today with Perry.

*** NBC/WSJ poll day! How satisfied are Republicans with their current field? Who is leading the GOP pack right now? How are President Obama’s numbers faring after the recent spate of bad economic news? And what does the American public think of the GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare? Tune into NBC’s “Nightly News,” or click on to MSNBC.com, for the answers from our brand-new NBC/WSJ poll. Folks, it's a chunky poll on both issues and the horse race.  

*** This is what it sounds like when [GOP] doves cry: There is a remarkable transformation going on inside the GOP right now: Republicans, including their presidential candidates, are sounding less like hawks and more like doves. First came the recent non-binding resolution on Libya, when dozens of House Republicans voted for Dennis Kucinich’s call to stop the U.S. involvement in Libya. Next came this statement on Afghanistan from Mitt Romney at Monday’s debate: “It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s OK,” Romney said. “One lesson we‘ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.” And Huntsman added this on Afghanistan, per the New York Times: “There’s the desire on the part of most Americans to begin phasing out as quickly as possible.” More: “This would mean that the very expensive boots on the ground may be something that is not critical for our national security needs.”

*** The GOP hawks fight back: Whether this shift in opinion about Afghanistan -- and U.S. military force in general -- is due to war fatigue or simply anti-Obama sentiment, the GOP hawks are fighting back. “I’d thought of Romney as a mainstream Republican – supporting American strength and American leadership, but this doesn’t reflect that,” Danielle Pletka of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute told Politico’s Ben Smith. “Romney has proven himself a little bit of a weathervane and I guess he senses that positioning himself in this place is good for his campaign — attempting to appease Ron Paul’s constituents without actually being Ron Paul.” And check out this quote from GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham responding to Romney’s comments: “From the party’s point of view, the biggest disaster would be to let Barack Obama become Ronald Reagan and our people become Jimmy Carter.”

*** A failure to communicate: In another sign of an increasingly dovish GOP, House Speaker John Boehner yesterday said the White House will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution after this coming Sunday, unless Congress authorizes the current operation in Libya. However, the White House’s problem on Libya can be summed up by this famous line from “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we’ve got here is [a] failure to communicate.” Team Obama hasn’t done the personal politics right and at least acted (or sounded) deferential to Congress. And it’s just not political foes the White House has angered. It’s Democrats like Jim Webb. Where are the Oval Office one-on-one with senators? In fact, anyone remember the last time the president had a one-on-one lunch with a U.S. senator who wasn't a member of leadership? He WAS doing that pretty frequently in 2009 and 2010. "Either the White House is no longer putting senator meetings on their sked, or these meetings are happening behind closed doors. But the general feeling among Cap Hill folks is the outreach is uneven, at best, when it comes to Libya."

*** Walker wins court decision in Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers. The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state's open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.”

*** Bloomberg talks immigration reform: Today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – as part of his role as co-chair of The Partnership for a New American Economy – delivers a speech on immigration reform to the Council on Foreign Relations. Per excerpts, Bloomberg will say: “We will not remain a global superpower if we continue to close our doors to people who want to come here to work hard, start businesses, and pursue the American dream.” More: “The American dream cannot survive if we keep telling the dreamers to go elsewhere.” And: “It’s what I call national suicide – and that’s not hyperbole.  Every day that we fail to fix our broken immigration laws is a day that we inflict a wound on our economy.”

*** On the 2012 trail: Huntsman is attending a fundraiser in DC.

Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 59 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 90 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 146 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 236 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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