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First Thoughts: 'Pass this bill'

Fiery Obama: “Pass this bill”… A surprising reaction from GOP leaders: They didn’t reject the speech out of hand… Obama delivers remarks at 11:35 am ET in Richmond to sell his American Jobs Act… Terror threat before 9/11 anniversary… And Romney vs. Perry on Social Security continues.

*** “Pass this bill”: Before last night’s presidential speech on jobs and the economy, we asked what kind of Obama we’d see. Inspirational Obama? Conciliatory Obama? Fiery Obama? The answer was behind Door No. 3 -- Fiery Obama. He had a message to Congress, and he repeated it 17 times to make sure no one missed it: “Pass this bill.” The American Jobs Act, which he formally sends to Congress next week, calls for tax breaks for companies that hire new workers, an extension of unemployment benefits for another year, and keeping the payroll tax cuts for another year. What struck us was how simple Obama’s language was (for instance, he never uttered the word “infrastructure”). The speechwriting team actually finished this speech on the early side (for them). They knew exactly the tone they wanted to take for a week and decided that short and to the point was their best angle. Obama was also very specific in his remarks. And he demanded urgent action. “The next election is 14 months away, and the people who sent us here … they don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months… They need help, and they need it now.”  


*** A surprising reaction from GOP leaders: The Republican reaction to the president’s remarks was almost as interesting as the speech. The leadership was conciliatory. House Speaker Boehner issued this statement: “The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well.” While House Majority Leader Cantor didn’t like Obama’s all-or-nothing approach, he said this: “What we should do is go for the things in the package that we both can agree on.” The GOP leadership reads polls and cares about them. That’s never been the issue. What is the issue: the party’s rank-and-file and its presidential candidates (all of whom released statements last night criticizing Obama’s speech). So the challenge for House GOP leaders -- and the Obama White House -- is how they bring along the base and the presidential candidates. Realistically, if half of the proposal gets passed, the White House would see that has a victory.


President Obama boards Air Force One, September 9, 2011.

*** Selling the plan: The day after the president’s speech last night, Obama speaks in Richmond, VA -- in Eric Cantor’s district -- to sell his American Jobs Act at 11:35 am ET. Next week, the president travels to Boehner’s home state of Ohio. Speaking of Richmond, Democratic pollster Geoff Garin yesterday conducted a dial test there of 32 swing voters to gauge the president’s speech for the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action. Consider the source, of course, but Garin said Obama’s speech tested well among the respondents. “Many respondents came into the room feeling discouraged, dispirited, and disappointed, but in last night’s speech they saw the Barack Obama they had hoped they were electing in 2008,” Garin said in a memo to reporters. “Their simple message to President Obama is: Keep it up. They saw the speech as a beginning, and they want the President to continue pressing the case for the agenda he laid out before Congress.” In an email to First Read, Garin even compared the speech to Obama’s Iowa J-J address in Nov. 2007. To be sure, the president has had other speeches score well, but what’s hurt the White House is staying focused on selling its message around the country for a sustained period of time.


Officials stop a commercial vehicle at a checkpoint in Manhattan, September 9, 2011.

*** Terror threat: Yet possibly overshadowing Obama’s speech yesterday -- especially with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Sunday -- was news of a terror threat tied to the anniversary. Per NBC’s Jon Dienst, Bob Windrem and Pete Williams, U.S. government officials said yesterday that recent intelligence advised of a plan to set off car or truck bombs in Washington or New York. The information indicated that three people would travel to the U.S. from Pakistan to carry out an attack. But the information included very little else in the way of specifics -- in terms of timing or target. Officials say that while the information has some specificity, and the source has been credible in the past, it's uncorroborated. They have no idea whether this is for real or not. 


Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

*** Romney vs. Perry continues: Turning to the 2012 race… A day after Wednesday’s NBC-Politico debate -- and days before another debate in Florida -- Mitt Romney and Rick Perry kept up their spat over Social Security. The Romney camp dumped their oppo file on Perry. “RICK PERRY: RECKLESS, WRONG ON SOCIAL SECURITY” was the title of a Romney press release yesterday. The Perry camp fired back with this release: “Mitt Romney’s Social Insecurity: Despite Debate Posturing, Romney’s Writings Compare Social Security to a Criminal Enterprise.”

*** On the 2012 trail: Huntsman stumps in Florida… Gingrich remains in New Hampshire… And both Cain and Roemer speak at a Tea Party Express event in South Carolina.

*** Friday's "Daily Rundown" line-up: White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer on President Obama’s jobs plan pitch to Congress and reaction to the plan from Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN… NBC’s Pete Williams with the latest on what officials are saying about a terror threat related to the 9/11 anniversary… Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, on the 9/11 anniversary and President Obama’s jobs plan… And 2012 news with AP’s Liz Sidoti, National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru and The Hotline’s Reid Wilson.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews former Bush Homeland Security head Tom Ridge, Sen. Joe Lieberman, GOP Rep. Tom Price, Dem Rep. (and DCCC Chair) Steve Israel, and major Republican fundraiser Fred Malek on 2012. 

Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 4 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 60 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 150 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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