Another summer of Obama’s discontent?… How the White House is trying to minimize an annual ritual for Team Obama: summer political pain… Will Geithner leave? Can he?… Where things stand in the GOP race… Romney backtracks on Obama attack… Pawlenty and the shutdown in MN… Huntsman’s 2ndQ haul: $4.1 million (though almost half of it comes from his own money)… Romney camp confirms it will raise less than $20 million… And how big will Obama’s quarter be?
*** Another summer of Obama’s discontent? In the five years we’ve been covering Barack Obama on the national stage -- first as a presidential candidate, now as the president -- he’s always experienced his toughest months in the summer, particularly in July. In the summer of ‘07, he was trailing Hillary Clinton in the primary horserace, and donors were whining about lack of movement; in the summer of ‘08, he saw his poll lead over John McCain narrow as he struggled not to look like he was being coronated; in the summer of ‘09, we saw those health-care town halls; and in the summer of ‘10, the Greek debt crisis and the BP spill helped lock in what was going to be a brutal midterm season for the Democrats. You’ve been able to see it in his poll numbers, too. The summer of ’09, according to the NBC/WSJ survey, was when Obama’s approval rating declined from the 60s to the low 50s. And in the summer of ’10, it went from the low 50s to the mid-40s. He’s now at 49%, per our latest poll.
*** How the White House is trying to minimize any summer pain: And this summer has the potential to be another summer of Barack Obama’s discontent, especially with the polarizing and high-stakes debate over the debt ceiling. But the White House is doing a few things to try to minimize any damage. For starters, they’re not traveling overseas as they did in the summers of ’09 and ’10; don't underestimate the impact of the president's absence and the impact of him being in DC this year to be more responsive to Capitol Hill madness. In addition, they’re trying to reframe the debate on their terms -- something they never were able to do on health care. Wednesday’s news conference was the first try to be on offense; it's why it took many by surprise. All that said, Obama IS headed to Camp David for the weekend after scolding Congress to roll up its sleeves on the debt ceiling…
*** Will Geithner leave? Bloomberg News was the first to report it yesterday. “[Geithner] signaled to White House officials that he’s considering leaving the administration after President Barack Obama reaches an agreement with Congress to raise the national debt limit, according to three people familiar with the matter.” But in an appearance with former President Bill Clinton at a Clinton Global Initiative event last night, Geithner said he would remain in his position for the "foreseeable future.” Bottom line: We're told it's accurate that Geithner is “thinking about it," but we're also told not to read as much into it as some others are. This is personal for Geithner; it's about living in DC. He actually is very close to the president and his political team.
*** Can he leave? But it would be a big surprise if Geithner did actually leave before the election. Why? Do note that confirming a new Treasury secretary would be very difficult -- and painful -- for the White House, because the confirmation hearings would only serve to re-litigate the administration’s economic policies at a time the presidential campaign is getting started. Obama cannot afford this, period. And if Geithner did leave, other cabinet secretaries who also may be burning out would raise their hand, too. It's a snowball effect that would take a toll on the West Wing. Of course, the West Wing is still struggling with USING its Cabinet secretaries effectively; perhaps this Geithner scare will re-focus those efforts.
*** Where things stand in the GOP race: Heading into the July 4 holiday weekend, here’s how we see the emerging GOP presidential contest. Mitt Romney is the strong yet still-vulnerable front-runner. (But will that last through the year? Since ’04, no summer leader -- Dean, Clinton, or Romney himself -- has gone on to win the nomination.) Michele Bachmann, as we predicted, has established herself as the early anti-Romney. (But can the congresswoman, who’s never held statewide office, hold up to the scrutiny?) Tim Pawlenty has seen his stock drop over the last few weeks. (Can he rebound with a strong performance in the Ames Straw Poll? The pressure is on…) And we’re still not sure what to make of Jon Huntsman’s candidacy just yet. (He has the potential to put pressure on Romney in NH and FL, but will he be a factor?) And then there’s Rick Perry waiting in the wings. (The chances of him getting in are greater than not.)
*** Romney backtracks on Obama attack: As we reported last night, Romney -- at his press avail in Allentown -- backtracked on the claim he’s made over the past couple of weeks that Obama has made the economy worse. Here was Romney at the debate in New Hampshire: "[T]he president's failed. He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse." And here he was in New Hampshire on Monday: "He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer." But when asked by NBC's Sue Kroll if the economy was really worse than it was in '09 -- with the economy now growing instead of declining, with the Dow at 12,000-plus instead of in a free-fall, and with the unemployment rate (though still very high) down a full point since Oct. '09 -- Romney changed his tune. "I didn't say that things are worse."
*** Pawlenty and the shutdown in Minnesota: Washington isn’t the only place where Democrats and Republicans are locked in a budget stalemate. The government of Minnesota shut down yesterday. (And when you throw in the NFL and NBA stalemates, there’s A LOT of conflict out there.) Pawlenty, the state’s ex-governor, held a news conference on the state’s shutdown. But as the New York Times notes, Minnesota’s stalemate is a potential problem for him. “[T]he potential of a shutdown in the state that Mr. Pawlenty led until six months ago provides fresh ammunition to his Democratic critics and, potentially, to his Republican rivals. Democrats blame Mr. Pawlenty for budget maneuvers that they say helped cause a $5 billion budget shortfall. Mr. Pawlenty says runaway spending by the Legislature and the Democratic governor is to blame.”
*** Huntsman’s haul: $4.1 million: Huntsman became the first 2012 presidential candidate to unveil what he/she raised in the 2nd quarter. NBC has confirmed from the campaign that he raised $4.1 million in the quarter, with "less than half" of the amount coming from Huntsman's own personal money. (Translation: He will officially raise a bit more than $2 million when you take out his personal contribution.) Huntsman has been in the race for just two weeks, and this is the amount he raised in that time. Because of his late start, he doesn't officially have to file until the 3rd quarter. Per the campaign, this is all primary money.
*** Will Romney really raise less than $20 million? As for Romney, his campaign told First Read yesterday that his 2nd quarter haul wouldn’t exceed $20 million. The campaign has cited the poor economy, but raking in LESS than what he raised in the 1st quarter of 2007 (a bit more than $20 million) would be surprising and disappointing for someone who’s been running for president for much of the past six years (2006 through 2011).
*** Will Obama have a big quarter? Meanwhile, the thrust of a Politico piece on Obama’s 2nd quarter fundraising is similar to what we’ve written: that Team Obama will probably have a big quarter. “Several Democratic fundraisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that the campaign would easily surpass its goal of raising $60 million. That would best George W. Bush’s record-breaking $50.1 million haul for the third quarter of 2003, a pre-election year record for a presidential hopeful. ‘They are going to be fine,’ said one Washington-based Democratic rainmaker. ‘The big money is a little pissed, but it’s coming on board… The small donations are coming in strong.’” And consider: With the campaign reporting 491,000 individual donations, an average contribution of $150 gets you nearly $74 million, while an average contribution of $200 gets you $98 million. Obama’s average donation in the 2nd quarter of 2007: a little more than $200.
*** On the 2012 trail over the July 4th holiday: Ron Paul today is in New Hampshire… Cain today is in Ohio… Bachmann spends Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in Iowa… Huntsman and Romney will both be in New Hampshire on the 4th… And Gingrich spends his 4th in Iowa.
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 43 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 74 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 130 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 220 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up