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First Thoughts: Obama's rough news day

Obama’s rough news day: GOP wins Weiner seat in NY… GOP also wins Heller seat in Nevada… Bloomberg poll finds doubts about Obama jobs plan… Solyndra takes center stage on Capitol Hill… Obama delivers remarks on jobs plan in NC at 12:55 pm ET… What Sandoval’s endorsement of Perry means… Perry speaks at Liberty University at 10:00 am ET… Romney’s in AZ… And Elizabeth Warren makes it official.

*** Obama’s rough news day: If Tuesday was “Pile on Rick Perry Day,” today is “Pile on Barack Obama Day.” Consider: Democrats last night lost special elections in New York and Nevada, and Obama’s approval rating didn’t help; a new poll shows that 51% of Americans don’t believe his jobs plan will help lower the unemployment rate; and a congressional hearing today is looking into the administration’s half-billion-dollar loan via the first stimulus to a solar-panel manufacturer, Solyndra, that later went belly up. All of these stories can be explained away via individual context. But taken together, they signal how Obama’s brand has taken a big hit. A stronger Obama could have helped the Democratic candidates, especially the one in New York; a stronger Obama would be getting a bigger reception for his jobs plan; and a stronger Obama would be able to dismiss the Solyndra story as just a minor irritant.


Bob Turner (R), center, at an election night party, last night.

*** GOP wins Weiner’s seat in New York: Less than four months ago, Democrats scored an upset special-election victory in Upstate New York to replace Rep. Chris Lee (R) -- he of that shirtless photo -- largely on the issue of the GOP’s plan to shift Medicare to a voucher program for future seniors. The day after that May 24 congressional race, we called it a wake-up call for the Republican Party. And last night, Democrats received their own wake-up call when Republicans scored a special-election victory in Queens, NY, to replace Rep. Anthony Weiner (D), he of those lewd Tweets and messages. In the race, Republican businessman Bob Turner defeated Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin, 54%-46%. A confluence of factors that contributed to the Dems’ loss in a district where Weiner got 61% of the vote in ’10 and President Obama won 55% in ’08: the president’s sinking approval rating, Weprin’s poor campaign, Weprin’s vote for gay marriage (which didn’t sit well with the district’s numerous Orthodox Jews), and the hangover from the Weiner scandal. Yet no matter how you spin it, the loss isn’t good news for Democrats. And to make matters worse for the White House, the loss happened in the backyard of the media capital of the world (and the country).

*** How things can change in less than four months: But as we pointed out earlier this week, what the two New York special elections prove is how things can change. In May, Democrats -- buoyed by Medicare and Osama bin Laden’s death -- were riding sky high. Now -- after the bruising debt-ceiling debate, the S&P downgrade, and the stalling economy -- they’re back to where they were before the 2010 midterms: in deep trouble. So it’s not only a wake-up call for Democrats; it’s also a sign how quickly things can change in America politics. As we said on Monday, last night’s race will either be an exclamation mark on a disastrous summer for Democrats, or it will be a sign of things to come in Nov. 2012. The answer will be determined by what happens in the next 14 months. As for the White House, they’ll argue privately this is an August problem that has hung over into September. They’ll also say they’ve made the necessary strategic and message shifts already when it comes to some of the Obama problems that were exposed in NY-9. They now have a jobs message and a bill to sell. To prove their point about effective localized selling of the jobs plan, they point to some of the local Ohio coverage of the trip. Here’s Dayton, and here’s Cleveland.


Mark Amodei (R) speaking at a victory party in Reno, NV, after defeating Kate Marshall (D) in a special election for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District.

*** GOP wins Heller’s seat in Nevada: Republicans also won another congressional special election in Nevada last night. “Republican Mark Amodei chalked up a crushing victory in Tuesday’s special election for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s old House seat, routing Democrat Kate Marshall by 22 percentage points,” the Las Vegas Sun writes. “With an assist by national Republicans wary of losing another special election in the run-up to a presidential campaign year, Amodei’s win surprised few in the heavily Republican district… Amodei received 74,976 votes, or 58 percent, while Marshall collected 46,669 votes, or 36 percent.” But what’s lost about this race is that four months ago (during the aftermath of the Dems’ NY-26 success): The party recruited a top notch candidate in Marshall and envisioned another chance to use Medicare to win a GOP-leaning seat. And then, well, July and August happened. And voila: a GOP blowout

*** Poll finds doubts about Obama’s jobs plan: Per a new Bloomberg poll, “A majority of Americans don’t believe President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan will help lower the unemployment rate, skepticism he must overcome as he presses Congress for action and positions himself for re- election.” (However, that assessment doesn’t match what economists are saying about the legislation. The New York Times writes that Macroeconomic Advisers projects “that the plan would add roughly 1.25 percentage points to gross domestic product and create 1.3 million jobs in 2012. JPMorgan Chase estimated that the plan would increase growth by 1.9 points and add 1.5 million jobs.”) The Bloomberg poll also finds Obama’s job-approval rate at 45% and approval of his economic handling at 33%. It’s a lesson in the fact that Washington brands are a mess, including the president’s. And while the ideas might be receptive to folks, the minute the idea is tied to a Washington brand, it becomes unpopular. A day after the president stumped for his jobs legislation in Ohio, he does the same at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC at 12:55 pm ET.

*** Solyndra takes center stage on Capitol Hill: At 9:30 am ET, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee takes a look at Solyndra. As the Washington Post writes, “The Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory, newly obtained e-mails show… The August 2009 e-mails, released to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators.”


President Obama holds up his jobs bill legislation while speaking in Columbus, OH, yesterday

*** A consistent message? Meanwhile, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that White House officials are pushing back against assertions that their message about the president’s jobs plan got muddled yesterday. The day started with top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, telling ABC: "We want them [Congress] to act now on this package... We are not in negotiation to break up the package. And it's not an a la carte menu." A few hours later, though, senior administration officials told a group of reporters that Obama would sign portions of the “American Jobs Act,” while continuing to push for passage of the rest of the bill. Yet by mid-afternoon, Welker adds, administration officials insisted Axelrod’s comments were not inconsistent with the White House’s. According to one official, "We're going to take this to them [Congress] every day ... and challenge them to pass the whole bill." Bottom line, White House officials say, Obama is open to passing portions of the bill, but he will continue to press Congress to pass each measure -- and won’t be “satisfied” until that happens. 


Presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in Boston yesterday

*** What Sandoval’s endorsement of Perry means: Turning to the 2012 race… Just when the Conventional Wisdom (thanks to an assist from the New York Times) was suggesting that the GOP establishment was beginning to embrace Mitt Romney over Rick Perry, the Texas governor picked up a major endorsement yesterday -- from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. As it turns out, Sandoval checks a lot of boxes. Call it a four-fer: Hispanic governor. GOP rising star. Figure from a general-election swing state. And a figure from a state that Romney won in 2008. Perhaps the best news here for Team Romney is that Sandoval endorsement forces Perry to make more of a play for Nevada than he was probably counting on.

*** On the 2012 trail: Perry speaks at Liberty University at 10:00 am ET… Huntsman stumps in New Hampshire… Romney holds a business roundtable in Tucson, AZ… Santorum campaigns in South Carolina… And Gingrich remains in Florida.

*** Warren makes it official: The other 2012 news today: Elizabeth Warren officially kicks off her Senate campaign in Massachusetts. She has already released an announcement video, and she hits Boston, New Bedford, Framington, Worcester, and Springfield.

*** Wednesday's "Daily Rundown" line-up: Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-CA, on the first meetings of Congress’ super deficit committee… NBC’s Ken Strickland and the Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez on the outlook for President Obama’s jobs bill and how it shapes the super committee’s plans… NBC’s Lisa Myers on today’s Solyndra hearing on Capitol Hill… Producer Mark Farkas on C-SPAN’s new series “The Contenders” about history-making presidential race losers… More 2012 news with USA Today’s Jackie Kucinich, National Review’s Jim Geraghty and Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Cynthia Tucker.

*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell today interviews MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, TV producer Fenton Bailey, the New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 55 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 145 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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