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First Thoughts: Disconnect

Disconnect between Obama and the Senate vs. House Republicans and the Tea Party… In 2010, the Tea Party and independents were largely on the same page, but that’s not the case anymore… White House is winning the PR battle in the debt fight, per new NBC/WSJ poll… The poll on the economy, Obama, and 2012… And Romney leads the GOP horserace, but Bachmann surges into 2nd place… Bachmann and son respond to the migraine story… Six GOP presidential candidates participate in Twitter debate… Hoekstra and Dewhurst are running for the Senate… And Dems win first Wisconsin recall race.

*** Disconnect: Yesterday provided us with a clear example of the current disconnect between President Obama and the Senate vs. House Republicans and the Tea Party. In the Senate, we saw dozens of Democratic and Republican senators tripping over themselves to embrace the bipartisan Gang of Six deficit-reduction proposal, which Obama also praised. But in the House, Republicans passed their symbolic "Cut, Cap, and Balance" measure through a mostly party-line vote. And to top it off, freshman Tea Party Rep. Allen West (R-FL) fired off a mean-spirited email to DNC Chair and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), after she suggested that West’s support for “Cut, Cap, and Balance” would increase costs for Medicare recipients. “You are the most vile, unprofessional ,and despicable member of the US House of Representatives,” West wrote. “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady.” 

*** The Tea Party vs. everyone else: This disconnect is also evident in our brand-new NBC/WSJ poll. When provided arguments from both sides on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, 49% support increasing it -- including 66% of Democrats, 50% of independents, and even 50% of non-Tea Party Republicans. Meanwhile, 43% oppose raising the debt ceiling -- including 62% of Tea Party supporters. Moreover, 58% say they favor Obama’s mixed approach to reduce the deficit (through spending cuts, tax increases, and changes to entitlements), including 88% of Democrats and 54% of indies. On the other hand, 36% back the House Republican plan (spending cuts only), including 70% of Tea Party supporters (!!!). House Republican leaders now find themselves caught between their Tea Party base and independents. In 2010, these groups were largely on the same page. That’s not true anymore.

*** The White House is winning the PR battle: The poll also shows that Obama is clearly winning a legislative argument -- in terms of public opinion -- for the first time in his presidency. In addition to having a 22-point lead on his deficit proposal vs. the House GOP’s, a plurality in the poll (by a 38%-31% margin) says the debt ceiling should be raised, which is a sharp reversal from June when a plurality (39%-28%) opposed the move. When told that failing to raise the debt ceiling could jeopardize payments to Social Security recipient and military personnel, 49% support increasing it. And 43% oppose it when told that an increase would make it harder to reduce the deficit. “You are watching opinion shift as people are learning more about the debate,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R). By the way, one smart Republican said to one of us yesterday: If only his party hadn't gotten themselves trapped by the debt ceiling, they MIGHT have a better shot at winning the LARGER argument.

*** The economy, Obama, and 2012: The other big story in the NBC/WSJ poll remains the public’s pessimism on the economy. Only 26% believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months (down three points from June), while 45% think the worst is still ahead (up four from last month). Perhaps most significantly, 67% say the nation is head in the wrong direction -- the highest mark in Obama’s presidency. But so far, Obama’s overall numbers have held up despite that pessimism. His approval rating stands at 47%, which is down two points from last month. (The growth of the "wrong" track number is among African-Americans and Hispanics, two groups that have NOT largely shifted in their opinion of the president. It explains why the president's number did NOT move much even as WRONG track did.) And in hypothetical 2012 match-ups, he leads Romney by seven points (48%-41%) and Bachmann by 15 (50%-35%). Yet the margin is closer when the president is paired with a generic Republican: 42% say they’d probably vote for Obama, while 39% pick the Republican candidate.

*** Romney’s still ahead, but Bachmann surges into 2nd: In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Romney’s still the national leader, getting support from 30% of Republican primary voters. But Bachmann has surged into second place with 16% (she was at 3% last month before announcing her presidential bid). The two are followed by Perry at 11%, Paul at 9%, Gingrich at 8%, Cain at 5%, Santorum at 3%, and Pawlenty and Huntsman at 2%. In the crosstabs, Romney narrowly leads Bachmann among Tea Party supporters, 24%-20%, while Bachmann is ahead among GOP primary voters who identify themselves as very conservative, 24%-22%. This is the third poll in a row where we've had a different Republican surging into double digits out of nowhere. In April, it was Trump; in June, it was Herman Cain; and now it's Bachmann. Of course, don't overlook the fact that Rick Perry is ALREADY sitting in double digits and he hasn't announced. Combine Perry and Bachmann (27%), and there's clearly an opportunity for a coalescing around a Romney alternative.

*** Bachmann and her son respond to the migraine story: Yesterday, Bachmann responded to the Daily Caller report about her migraine headaches, saying: “Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controllable with medication." And it appears her campaign made her son, a doctor, available for comment to the New York Times. “She would not in any respect meet the definition for not having capacity in one of these episodes,” Dr. Lucas Bachmann told the newspaper. “She is probably not going to run a mile, but in terms of being able to engage, she can comprehend and assess information — without a doubt.” Our take on this whole issue: Rivals can make many arguments about her qualifications to be president, but a lack of energy and inactivity don’t seem to be among them.

*** Bachmann and Paul vote against Cut, Cap, and Balance: By the way, the two GOP presidential candidates -- Bachmann and Paul -- who were able to vote on yesterday’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” measure voted AGAINST it. Bachmann said in a statement that it didn't go far enough. "While I embrace the principles of Cut, Cap and Balance, the motion does not go far enough in fundamentally restructuring the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars. The principles found in this bill are a step in the right direction toward the fundamental restructuring we need in the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars. Along with cutting spending, putting in place enforceable spending caps that put us on a path to balance and passing a balanced budget amendment, we must also repeal and defund ObamaCare."

*** The Twitter debate: Today, some of the Republican presidential candidates will participate in a debate via Twitter. Politico: “The debate, sponsored by TheTeaParty.net, will feature Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Gary Johnson, Michele Bachmann, Thad McCotter and Herman Cain. Conservative commentator S.E. Cupp and conservative radio host Rusty Humphries will pose the questions, which the candidates will then be encouraged to answer in at most two or three tweets. Others can submit questions to the moderators and candidates by mentioning @140townhall in a tweet.”

*** On the 2012 trail: Cain is in New Hampshire… Pawlenty remains on his RV tour through Iowa… Mitt Romney holds a medial avail in Los Angeles, CA at 5:15 pm ET… Ann Romney campaigns in South Carolina.

*** Hoekstra, Dewhurst running for the Senate: Senate Republicans picked up two significant recruits. Ex-Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) now says he’s running to challenge incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in Michigan. And in Texas, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) is going to run in the crowded GOP field to fill Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)’s seat. Hoekstra lost last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Michigan to Rick Snyder.

*** Dems win first Wisconsin recall race: “Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay was the first of nine state senators to face a final recall election, and he easily survived Tuesday,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. “Hansen won a lopsided victory over his Republican challenger, wind farm developer David VanderLeest of Green Bay, against whom Democrats and their allies have been hammering away on his personal and legal problems. The victory keeps Democrats in control of a seat that Hansen, 63, has held since 2000.”

*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” lineup: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) on the Gang of Six debt plan… NBC/WSJ pollsters Bill McInturff and Peter Hart with more details from our new poll… 2012 news with Roll Call’s Christina Bellantoni, PBS NewsHour’s David Chalian, and Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution…

*** “Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” lineup: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports from Capitol Hill, and she will interview Dem Sen. Chuck Schumer and Wasserman Schultz.

Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 20 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 24 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 27 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 55 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 111 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 20` days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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