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First Thoughts: Back to (non-debt) business

Back to (non-debt) business… Obama hits two DNC fundraisers in Chicago tonight; he’s embarking on a bus tour across the Midwest later this month; and he makes three visits tied to the 9/11 anniversary… What will Obama’s tone be at tonight’s fundraisers?... Town hall madness or exhaustion?... Hatch and Lugar take different paths… Palin once again jabs Romney… Santorum’s in Iowa; Huntsman campaigns in New Hampshire… And Bryant wins the GOP gubernatorial primary in Mississippi, while Dems are headed for an Aug. 23 run-off.

*** Back to (non-debt) business: Over the last several weeks, the White House, Congress, and the political world were singularly focused on the debt ceiling. Indeed, in just over a month, President Obama held four news conferences, delivered one primetime address, held one town hall, gave five other televised statements, and participated in countless meetings -- all of them tied to the debt debate. Now? He gets back to non-debt business. Tonight, he attends two DNC fundraisers in Chicago that are tied to his birthday (which is tomorrow) and tied to a series of satellite events around the country. Later this month, he’s embarking on a bus tour though the Midwest. (The states are TBA, but don’t be surprised if they’re states like Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin -- states that his re-election campaign CAN’T afford to become battlegrounds in 2012.) And yesterday, the White House announced that Obama will visit the Pentagon, Lower Manhattan, and Shanksville, PA to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

*** What will Obama’s tone be tonight? As for Obama’s DNC fundraisers in Chicago -- which take place at 8:15 pm ET and 9:25 pm ET -- the thing to watch is his tone. How does he frame the debt deal to his friendly hometown audience? Does he express anger? (Unlikely.) Does he express disappointment mixed with hope? (Probably.) Whatever his reaction is will be fodder for tomorrow morning. As far as liberal reaction to the debt deal, the Washington Post’s Cillizza has this take: It could dampen some enthusiasm and fundraising for Team Obama in the short run. But where else are these folks going to go in 2012? “It’s hard to imagine even the most embittered liberal choosing to vote for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (or whoever else Republicans nominate) over Obama.”

*** Town hall madness or exhaustion? While Obama gets back to (non-debt) business, Congress returns home for the rest of August, with little else to show constituents other than the debt deal -- and an economy that's gotten worse since the Republican House pushed its austerity agenda. And guess what takes place in August? Constituent town halls. The question is whether we see town hall madness (like we saw in the summer of ’09), or if we see exhaustion (after the long and frustrating debt debate).

*** Hatch and Lugar take different paths: Two Senate Republicans -- Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar -- will face contentious GOP primary fights next year, and they took two different paths in yesterday’s debt-deal vote in the Senate. Hatch voted “no,” while Lugar voted “yes.” Other senators facing key contests in 2012: Republican Scott Brown voted yes; Republican Dean Heller voted no (while his likely general-election opponent, Shelley Berkley, voted yes); Democrats Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester, and Debbie Stabenow voted yes; and so did Republican Olympia Snowe, who faces her own challenge from the right. And in your 2012 Veep Watch, Republican Marco Rubio voted no.

NBC's Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd has more on the contentious debt deal no one wants to take credit for.

*** Palin once again jabs Romney: We’re probably not the only ones who now realize that Sarah Palin will be a thorn in Mitt Romney’s side -- whether or not she makes a White House bid. “Bless his heart, I have respect for Mitt Romney,” Palin said on FOX last night. “But I do not have respect for what he has done through this debt increase debate. “He did this:” -- as she licked her finger and pretended to hold it up to the wind -- “He waited until it was a done deal.” Palin added, “And then he came out and he made a statement that, aw, he didn't like the deal after all.” Of course, earlier this summer, Palin criticized Romney’s health-care law just before his presidential launch in New Hampshire.

*** On the 2012 trail: Santorum makes several stops in Iowa… Huntsman continues his swing through New Hampshire… And Gingrich again holds a talk-radio interview.

*** Bryant wins in Mississippi; Dems headed for run-off: As expected, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant won the GOP gubernatorial primary in Mississippi for the right to replace term-limited Gov. Haley Barbour (R). Meanwhile, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and lawyer Bill Luckett will have to face off in an Aug. 23 primary for the Democratic nomination. The Jackson Clarion Ledger says that Bryant "will be the candidate to beat" in the general election in this now GOP-leaning state. "A half century ago, winning the Democratic primary for governor meant a cakewalk in November. Now the reverse is playing out. Whichever Democrat wins the Aug. 23 runoff ... will face an uphill struggle to beat Phil Bryant, the unofficial Republican nominee."

*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Former Obama White House Communications Director Anita Dunn on the president’s pivot… Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) on how the mood this August compares to 2010 & 2009… The latest on Syria with Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass… Pre-Ames straw poll tension building with the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon, USA Today’s Susan Page and Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 6 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 10 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 23 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 41 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 97 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 187 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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