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Romney's up-and-down summer

Romney’s up-and-down summer… Vin Weber signs on with Romney… Romney makes three stops in New Hampshire, while wife Ann stumps in Nevada… Report: Bachmann to unveil health-care plan soon… Rubio in the spotlight last night and says: “I’m not going to be the vice-presidential nominee”… But his speech gets overshadowed a bit by Nancy Reagan’s fall (she’s fine)… And DuPree wins gubernatorial run-off in Mississippi, making history (but he’s the underdog in the general election).

*** Romney’s up-and-down summer: Just like the Dow over the past couple of weeks, perceptions about Mitt Romney’s strength as the GOP front-runner have gone up and down this summer. At times (his fundraising, his performance so far at the debates, and his laser-like focus on the economy), Romney looks like he’s the nominee-in-waiting. But at other times, he appears vulnerable. In fact, that vulnerability has surfaced in the past two weeks. For starters, despite an overall strong performance at the Des Moines Register’s soap box, he let this line slip: “Corporations are people, my friend.” Next, he criticized President Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation when it turns out he’s raising money in the Vineyard too -- as well as in the Hamptons. And then earlier this week came the news that he’s quadrupling the size of his $12 million beachfront home in La Jolla, CA. Isolated, none of these stories is big enough to bruise Romney. But taken together, they can solidify a narrative that his GOP rivals -- and Team Obama -- could exploit: that he might not be able to relate to the Americans who’ve been hurt most by the economy.


Mitt Romney speaking at the Iowa State Fair.

*** But is it a surprise that Romney is rich? Yet a source close to Romney World doubts these stories -- especially the one about the La Jolla home -- will have an impact. “The fact that he has been very successful in the private sector has already been well-established. I'd be surprised anyone was surprised by that,” the source tells First Read. “Given the current state of economic exasperation, the voters who are most persuadable right now are much more inclined to judge candidates based on their vision or plan to put America back to work. They're asking: 'What can you do to fix the economy so I have a job tomorrow?'”

*** Vin Weber signs on with Romney: The Romney campaign released some good news this morning: Vin Weber, the ex-Minnesota congressman who had served as the co-chair of Pawlenty’s campaign, has joined Team Romney as a senior adviser. Weber was policy chair of Romney’s ’08 campaign. “Vin will be a trusted adviser, and I look forward to working with him to help get our country moving in the right direction again,” Romney said in a statement.

*** On the 2012 trail: Romney is the only major GOP candidate who’s campaigning today. He’s in New Hampshire, where he holds a town hall in Keene (at noon ET), a business roundtable at The Common Man in Claremont (at 3:00 pm), and another town hall in Lebanon (at 5:30 pm)… Romney’s wife, Ann, makes two campaign stops in Nevada… And Thaddeus McCotter addresses Drake University College Republicans in Des Moines, IA.

*** The (Bach)Mann with the Plan: Meanwhile, the Washington Examiner reports that Bachmann plans to release her health-care plan soon. “‘We plan to unveil a formal health care plan in the coming weeks,’ Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart wrote in an email.” More from the Examiner: “Releasing her own plan is an opportunity to lay out how she would ‘replace’ the health care law if it's successfully repealed.”

*** Rubio in the spotlight: With all the GOP presidential candidates off the campaign trail yesterday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) grabbed the political spotlight with his speech at the Reagan Library last night. His message: criticizing a government that spends too much money. “Americans in the 20th Century built here, we built here, the richest, most prosperous nation in the history of the world, and yet today we have built for ourselves a government that not even the richest and most prosperous nation in the face of the earth can fund or afford to pay for,” he said, per NBC’s Morgan Parmet. Rubio added, “I know that it's popular in my party to blame the president, the current president. But the truth is the only thing this president has done is accelerate policies that were already in place and doomed to fail.”


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

*** “I’m not going to be the vice-presidential nominee”: Asked if he’d serve as VP, Rubio responded, “It's a great honor to be thought of in that way… I love being in the United States Senate at this time in our history... So reality of it is I'm not going to be the vice-presidential nominee, but I look forward to working with, for whoever our nominee is.”

*** Nancy Reagan falls, but is fine: But what overshadowed Rubio was Nancy Reagan’s fall before the speech. NBC’s John Boxley notes that the former first lady stumbled as Rubio was escorting her to her seat. Luckily, Boxley adds, Rubio and others nearby caught her before she hit the floor. The room was quiet for several seconds. Finally, once it was clear that Mrs. Reagan was fine, the relieved crowd clapped as she sat down. Officials at the Library explained that it was a sold-out event and they had added more chairs in the room to accommodate people, which meant narrower aisles.  Also they added "stanchions" for crowd control. Mrs. Reagan tripped on one of these stanchions, but quickly recovered and took her seat. 

AP/Hattiesburg American.

Democratic Mississippi gubernatorial candidate Johnny Dupree giving his victory speech Tuesday night.

*** You, me, and DuPree: In Mississippi yesterday, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree won the Democratic gubernatorial run-off, becoming “the first African American in modern history to win a major-party nomination for Mississippi governor,” the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. “DuPree, 57, who led in the Aug. 2 primary, defeated Clarksdale lawyer and businessman Bill Luckett, 63, in the Democratic runoff Tuesday, snagging 55 percent of the vote.” But DuPree will be a significant underdog in the Nov. 8 general election against GOP nominee Phil Bryant, the state’s lieutenant governor.

*** Wednesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up (with guest host Chris Cillizza): NBC’s Richard Engel and former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, on the latest in Libya… one of us (!!!) with political headlines… NBC’s Tom Costello live from the East Coast earthquake’s epicenter in Mineral, Virginia… Dueling executive directors -- NRSC’s Rob Jesmer and DSCC’s Guy Cecil -- on the 2012 Senate outlook… And more 2012 with AP’s Kasie Hunt, PBS NewsHour’s David Chalian and Democratic strategist Karen Finney.

*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Hisham Melham, Michael Singh, and Mark Mazzetti on Libya; John Sununu and Jeanne Cummings on politics; and North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton on Hurricane Irene.

Countdown to NBC-Politico debate at Reagan Library: 14 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 20 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 76 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 166 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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