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First Thoughts: Obama's next act

Obama’s next act: selling his jobs plan… In interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Obama talks about that jobs plan (calling it “insurance against a double dip”) -- plus his poll numbers and the GOP presidential candidates… Another GOP debate, another food fight over Social Security?... CNN-Tea Party Express debate takes place at 8:00 pm ET from Tampa, FL… Bachmann in the debate spotlight… Pawlenty endorses Romney… Dems could lose NY-9 special… That race, as well as the NV-2 special, is either an exclamation point on a bad summer for Dems, or it’s a sign of things to come.

*** Obama’s next act: After his rough summer, his jobs speech on Thursday, and his addresses marking the 9/11 anniversary, President Obama enters a new act in his presidency: selling his jobs plan. At 10:40 am ET, he will deliver remarks from the Rose Garden on the need for Congress to pass his American Jobs Act. Then, later this week, he takes that message on the road to the battlegrounds of Ohio and North Carolina (he spoke in Virginia on Friday). And the White House today formally submits that jobs legislation to Congress. If Obama is to turn around his political fortunes, it has to begin this month. In fact, you could consider today to be the first day of the rest of the fall -- with the president selling his jobs plan and with the Republican presidential candidates going after each other (more on that below).


President Obama in Richmond, VA on Friday, September 9, 2011.

*** Obama addresses his poll numbers and says his jobs plan is “insurance against a double dip”: In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Obama addressed his sinking poll numbers. “One of the things that I learned very early on is not to worry about polls, because if I was worrying about polls, I wouldn't be sitting here interviewing with you,” he said. “There are still a lot of folks hurting out there. And my job as president of the United States is not to worry about my job -- my task is to worry about their job and their economic situation.” He didn’t take the bait in responding to the GOP presidential candidates. “I'm not going to start reacting to Republican rhetoric in a presidential campaign. Let them decide who it is that is going to be their standard-bearer, and we'll have more than ample time to have a debate with them.” And he said this about his jobs plan: “[T]his buys us insurance against a double dip recession. And it almost certainly helps the economy grow and will put more people back to work.”


Republican presidential candidates at NBC News/Politico GOP presidential debate at the Reagan Library on September 7, 2011.

*** Another GOP debate, another food fight over Social Security? Tonight, in Tampa, FL, the Republican presidential candidates participate in their fifth debate -- and second one in five days (after Wednesday's NBC-Politico slugfest). The top issue going in, especially with it taking place in Florida -- Rick Perry's position on Social Security. Per NBC's Carrie Dann, Perry has penned a USA Today op-ed saying that he will be "honest" with Americans about the "dire financial challenges" facing the Social Security system. He adds that benefits for current recipients and those close to retirement must be protected, but "we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable" for younger workers. Tonight's debate, sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express, begins at 8:00 pm ET, and it features the same eight GOPers who took part in Wednesday's debate: Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney, and Santorum.

*** Bachmann also in the spotlight: With the Tea Party Express co-sponsoring tonight’s debate, the GOP candidate most identified by the Tea Party -- Michele Bachmann -- is in the spotlight. That’s especially true after she was unable to break through in last week’s NBC-Politico debate. The New York Times: “Her advisers acknowledged that she had a disappointing night Wednesday. She failed to seize opportunities to contrast herself with Mr. Perry, her chief rival for evangelical and Tea Party support, or with Mr. Romney, who at one point said that every candidate deserved to take ‘a mulligan’ or two on bad decisions from the past — a missed opportunity to scold him that presidents do not get.” On Friday, NBC’s Jamie Novogrod notes, Bachmann went drew a distinction between her position on Social Security and Perry’s. Bachmann told Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson that it’s wrong “for any candidate to make senior citizens believe that they should be nervous about something they have come to count on.”


Former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on April 9, 2010.

*** Pawlenty backs Romney: Earlier this morning, on FOX, former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsed Romney, NBC’s Garrett Haake reports. Pawlenty said he based his decision on Romney’s experience with the economy and his belief that Romney will repeal the federal health-care law. Haake adds that Pawlenty will travel with the Romney campaign to Florida for tonight’s debate. 

*** On the 2012 trail: In addition to tonight's debate, Romney unveils his labor policy at 9:00 am ET in North Charleston, SC (and tries to make political hay out of that Boeing-National Labor Relations Board issue)... And, in DC at noon, Thaddeus McCotter speaks at the Heritage Foundation.

*** Dems could lose NY-9 special: In further proof how quickly politics -- and the issue du jour -- can change, it was just about four months ago when Democrats captured a reliably GOP congressional seat in New York (Chris Lee's, he of that shirtless photo) largely due to Medicare. And on Tuesday, Republicans could very well win a reliably Dem congressional seat in New York (Anthony Weiner's, he of those lewd Tweets and messages). Part of the reason for the Dems' struggles is due to Obama. “That is a major factor,” said a Democratic observer of the race, noting that Obama’s approval in the district is in the 30s. Part of it is the Democratic candidate -- David Weprin -- who has made gaffe after gaffe in the race. But don’t forget this other reason: Anthony Weiner. “Anthony Weiner is why we're in this situation to begin with,” the same Dem observer tells First Read. The same could be said why Republicans lost Lee’s seat back in May.

*** Well, isn’t THAT special? Yet keep this in mind about tomorrow’s NY-9 special, as well as NV-2 race (which Republicans are favored to win): Special elections sometimes foretell what will happen in American politics -- like they did during the ’08 cycle. And sometimes they don’t -- like when Democrats won in NY-20, NY-23, and PA-12, but later got clobbered in the midterms. It’s a lesson that almost every political journalist learns the hard way after covering and writing about a special election: Special elections matter, unless they don’t. That said, tomorrow’s races should still worry Obama’s Chicago headquarters. The contests are either an exclamation point on a disastrous summer for Team Obama, or they’re a sign of things to come (like an enthusiasm gap that still exists for Dems).  

*** Monday's "Daily Rundown" line-up: More from President Obama’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams… Former Gov. Doug Wilder (D-VA) on the president’s jobs plan… NBC’s Kristen Welker previews the president’s Rose Garden remarks today… Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman and Rothenberg Report’s Nathan Gonzales on Tuesday’s special elections in New York and Nevada… NBC’s Atia Abawi with the latest on this weekend’s attack against a coalition base in Afghanistan… more 2012 news with Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Lois Romano, Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews NBC’s Brian Williams (on his interview with Obama), former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson (on the economy and the deficit), and Sen. Jim Webb (on the 9/11 anniversary and the terror threat).

Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 1 day
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 57 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 147 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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