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First Thoughts: Nobody's really a winner

Our verdict after last night’s debt-deal announcement: Nobody really won, but some lost more than others… What we learned about Obama: He still hasn't mastered dealing with Congress, but he had to put compromise and averting economic calamity (and its real and political impact) above everything else… What we learned about Boehner: He presides over an ideologically similar coalition that acts as if they aren't. And his toughest challenge will come in the next 24 hours… What we learned about the Tea Party and the GOP: They don’t know when to declare victory… A final Senate vote on the deal could come later this afternoon… If you missed Brian Williams’ “Taking the Hill” special last night, you can watch it online… Some 2012 candidates react to the deal (Bachmann and Huntsman) and some don’t (Romney)… Romney’s Super PAC raises more than the Super PAC backing Obama… And a pro-Perry Super PAC is airing a TV ad in Iowa.

*** Nobody’s really a winner: Just like last year’s BP spill, this entire debt debate took a months-long psychological toll on the nation. But unlike the BP spill, it was a crisis created entirely by Washington’s political leaders. And now that it appears this crisis has been plugged -- though the House and Senate still must vote on the agreement reached last night -- it’s clear there were no winners, as NBC’s Tom Brokaw observed on “Meet the Press” yesterday. While Republicans got the cuts they were demanding (and at least got to delay any revenue/tax increases), the past few weeks have throw into question their ability to govern. And while President Obama gets his debt-ceiling increase and gets to avert economic disaster, Democrats are demoralized and commentators argue that the president has been diminished.

*** What we learned about Obama in this debate: He put compromise and averting economic calamity above everything else. His critics say he should have staked out a tougher negotiating stance -- like brandishing the 14th Amendment or producing a liberal-leaning negotiating start point -- but he never did so, which allowed the hard-charging Republicans to win more concessions. As we pointed out last week, Democrats were forced to retreat time and time again: They retreated on their push for a clean debt-ceiling raise; they retreated on the size of the spending cuts; and they backed away from insisting that tax revenues be included (although that still might happen with the upcoming congressional committee and/or the expiration of the Bush tax cuts). But through it all, Obama came across as the reasonable person in the room. Will independents and swing voters reward him for that next year? He can say to Mitt Romney or whoever his GOP opponent is next year: “Can you land the plane like I was able to?” It was ugly and messy, but got done. And there’s this: There’s no longer talk of Obama being a big-government socialist… But he didn't get the big deal, and we saw again that his inability to forge personal relationships on Capitol Hill cost him.

*** What we learned about John Boehner: In the end, he got his deal with Obama, but it wasn’t easy. Balancing doing the responsible thing -- raising the debt ceiling -- but getting his rank-and-file to go along proved to be challenging for the speaker. But his biggest challenge will come in the next 24 hours or so, to convince his rank-and-file to accept the deal. And chew on this: It’s quite possible that more Senate Democrats will vote for the compromise than Senate Republicans, while more House Republicans will vote for it than House Democrats. In the same way some on the left are questioning the president's ability to lead, Boehner's being questioned, too -- him herding cats has not been pretty to watch.

*** What we learned about the GOP and the Tea Party: Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that they don’t know how to declare victory. As bruising as this entire debate was for President Obama, last Thursday’s failure by Boehner to round up the GOP votes for his House bill -- before it had to be amended -- was a body blow for the House GOP. While Democrats lost in the particulars on the deal, Republicans lost in looking like a responsible governing party that deserves control of both the legislative and executive branches. But they still got what they wanted: a sizable bite out of government. But strikingly, just like how the left didn’t celebrate Obama’s landmark health-care achievement (even though it was the biggest expansion of the social safety net since the 1960s), the right isn’t really cheering this deal (even though it represents a historic cut in government spending).

*** Senate vote timing: NBC’s Libby Leist reports that both Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans meet with their respective caucuses at 11:00 am ET. If Senate goes first in voting for this deal, debate would start around noon ET, with a final vote late afternoon at the earliest.

*** Inside Congress: By the way, if you didn’t see last night’s special look at Congress -- “Taking the Hill” -- by NBC’s Brian Williams and his team, click here for the video.

NBC's Tom Brokaw and David Gregory talk about the impact of the Tea Party on the debt deal.

*** Some 2012 candidates react (Bachmann and Huntsman) -- and some don’t (Romney): So how did the 2012 candidates react to the deal? Not surprisingly, Michele Bachmann said she would vote against it. “The president continues to press for a ‘balanced approach,’ which everyone knows is code for increased spending and taxes,” she said in a statement, per NBC’s Jamie Novogrod. “Someone has to say no,” she says. “I will.” By comparison, Jon Huntsman recommended its passage. "While this framework is not my preferred outcome, it is a positive step toward cutting our nation's crippling debt,” he said. And Mitt Romney? His campaign didn’t comment one way or the other, maintaining its relative silence on this story.

*** Super PAC-men: On Sunday, “Restore Our Future” -- the Super PAC supporting Romney -- reported it has raised $12.2 million dollars in the first six months of this year, NBC’s Garrett Haake reports. The Super PAC, which can accept unlimited donations, was funded exclusively by just 86 donors. There were four $1 million dollar donations, and no single donation was less than $2,500. Among the bold-faced names who wrote checks to the committee: members of the Marriott family (on whose board Romney sat until earlier this year), beer magnate August Busch III, and New York investor John Paulson, who was the only individual to write a $1 million check to the Super PAC. By the way, that $12.2 million haul is substantially larger than the $3 million-plus haul by the Democratic Super PAC supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action; its sister group, Priorities USA, brought in an additional $2 million.

*** And a Perry Super PAC is up with TV ad in Iowa: And speaking of Super PACs, one supporting Rick Perry -- who isn’t even in the GOP presidential race yet -- is going up with this TV ad in Iowa. Politico: “Jobs for Iowa is spending less than $40,000 for two week’s worth of air time on Fox News Channel in the state… But the group is rumored to have the backing of wealthy Texas Republicans who have long supported Perry and are considering expanding the ad campaign to other states in the near future.” We thought these Super PACs would be players in the general election, but we never thought they’d also be players in the primaries.

*** On the 2012 trail: Bachmann and Santorum stump in Iowa, while Huntsman campaigns in New Hampshire.

*** Monday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Debt deal debriefings with House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), “Gang of Six” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tuesday Group Co-chair Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), and White House Deputy Senior Adviser Stephanie Cutter… And 2012 implications with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, National Journal’s Ron Fournier and former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY).

Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 8 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 12 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 25 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 43 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 99 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 189 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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