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First Thoughts: Did Perry go too far?

AP

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), left, speaking at the State Fair in Des Moines, IA, yesterday and President Barack Obama, right, speaks in Decorah, IA.

Did Perry go too far in criticizing Obama and the Fed?... The essential question: Did his remarks hurt him -- or help him?... Perry also comfortably jabs Romney… Obama (41% approval in Gallup) makes Congress (13% approval) his opponent… Lots of pressure on Obama’s economic/deficit plan to deliver… GOP members of Congress are charging the public to attend some town hall-style meetings (really?)... The final Wisconsin recall races… And Perry’s in Iowa, Romney’s in New Hampshire, and Bachmann’s in South Carolina.

*** Did Perry go too far? A day after appearing to outshine Michele Bachmann on her home turf in Waterloo, albeit with some tough rhetoric aimed at President Obama, Rick Perry might have gone a bit too far in criticizing Obama and even the Federal Reserve while campaigning in Iowa yesterday. For Texans, this is typical Perry. But for Americans who do not know him, it's eyebrow-raising rhetoric. In fact, he sounded more like Trump or Gingrich. "I think the greatest threat to our country right now is this president trying to spend his way out of this debt," Perry said last night in Cedar Rapids, per NBC’s Carrie Dann. (A greater threat than international terrorism?) When reporters asked if he believes Obama doesn’t love America, Perry responded: “You need to ask him.” And then he upped the ante in remarks directed at the Fed. "Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous or treasonous in my opinion," Perry said, per Dann. He went on to say that promoters of such an idea -- hinting but not naming Ben Bernanke specifically -- would get an "ugly" treatment in his home state of Texas.

The newest candidate in the GOP race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is already making his mark for his Texas swagger and for launching his campaign with all guns firing. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

*** And did his remarks hurt him -- or help him? Those comments -- especially those regarding the Fed -- must be making some folks on Wall Street and in the GOP establishment very nervous right now. Bernanke, after all, was an original Bush appointee. The question becomes: Do Perry’s remarks disqualify him among some in the GOP establishment? Or is this where the Republican primary voters are right now? Perry supporters will argue that he was joking and simply Perry being Perry. The importance of getting establishment money and support will be known later today if somehow we hear the slightest walk-back of the Bernanke comments. Bottom line: We got a glimpse of the Perry that some Romney supporters believe will be the Texan's undoing. It also won't quiet the Ryan-Christie speculation.

*** Perry vs. Romney: But Perry didn’t criticize only Obama and the Fed yesterday. He took some jabs at GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. When asked yesterday about Romney’s claims about his business experience, Perry replied, “Running a state is different than running a business." He added, “What I would say is go take a look at his record when he was governor. Look at my record when I was governor. Romney might not be ready to engage Perry right now, but Perry is ready to engage Romney… Romney did fight back a bit, but stayed on the same script he's used for the last week on Perry: I've been in the private sector (he reminds folks), noting Perry has not.

*** Obama vs. Congress: Our biggest takeaway from President Obama’s two events in Minnesota and Iowa yesterday was that he made Congress his opponent. “We’ve got a politics in which some folks in Congress -- not the folks who are here -- but some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than America win,” he said. Also: “Congress right now could start putting folks to work rebuilding America.” More: “There’s a bill sitting in Congress right now that would set up an infrastructure bank to get that moving, attracting private sector dollars, not just public dollars. Congress needs to move.” And: “What is needed is action on the part of Congress, a willingness to put the partisan games aside.” Why is Obama targeting Congress? Consider that Gallup -- which had Obama’s approval rating at 39% (it’s now at 41%) -- shows Congress’ approval at just 13%, which ties the poll’s all-time low.

*** That’s the plan: President Obama also said this in Iowa yesterday: “I'll be putting forward, when they come back in September, a very specific plan to boost the economy, to create jobs, and to control our deficit.” Why didn’t Obama and his team introduce this kind of plan earlier? There will be a lot of pressure on this plan to be specific. Obama has raised the expectations bar… A final point on Obama yesterday: For a White House that is often criticized for its stagecraft, yesterday’s backdrops – the river in Minnesota and the barn in Iowa – were stunning visually.

*** Pay-per-view representatives? If members of Congress’ approval ratings weren’t low enough, how’s this going to go over? Several members of Congress are charging constituents to ask questions, Politico reports. For Paul Ryan (R-WI), who took lots of criticism for his budget which would partially privatize Medicare, it’ll cost you $15; Chip Cravaack (R-MN) $10; Ben Quayle (R-AZ) $35. They’re not holding face-to-face town halls during their August recess. “By outsourcing the events to third parties that charge an entry fee to raise money, members of Congress can eliminate most of the riffraff while still – in some cases – allowing in reporters and TV cameras for a positive local news story,” Politico writes. The fees go to event organizers, who provide refreshments. Sure, they say they’re holding “office hours,” but seriously, this is democracy? Running from questions from the people who put you in office, unless they pay a fee?

*** The final Wisconsin recalls: After deciding the fate of six Republican state senators facing recall last week (with four keeping their jobs and two losing them), Wisconsin voters today head to the polls to cast judgment on the final two state senators facing recall -- this time Democrats who fled the state during the showdown over collective bargaining. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Democrats will find out if they'll hold onto the gains they made last week in the Wisconsin Senate. Republicans will learn if they can reclaim some of the political momentum they grabbed in last November's midterm elections.” Polls close at 9:00 pm ET.

*** On the 2012 trail: Perry remains in Iowa, making stops in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Walcott… Romney is still in New Hampshire, where he hits Merrimack, Littleton, and Berlin… Bachmann campaigns in South Carolina, visiting Spartanburg and Greenville… And Gingrich, at the Heritage Foundation in DC, delivers a speech on his alternative to the “Super Committee.” 

***Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up (live from Dubuque, IA!): Former Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) on President Obama’s road trip and the economy… NBC’s Michael Isikoff on the super-PACs shaping the 2012 presidential race… New York Times/CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on the markets… NBC News campaign reporters Garrett Haake (covering the Romney campaign in New Hampshire) and Carrie Dann (covering the Perry campaign in Iowa)… Plus more 2012 with National Journal’s Ron Fournier, USA Today’s Susan Page and syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (the newly minted chairman of the Republican Governors Association), Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s Michael Quinn Sullivan (on Perry’s job-creation record), and Dem Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (on the Congressional Black Caucus’ job tour in Detroit).

Countdown to NBC-Politico debate at Reagan Library: 22 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 28 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 84 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 174 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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