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First Thoughts: Daley troubles

Daley troubles: Reports complaining about the White House chief of staff surface… But don’t expect a knee-jerk move from this White House… Axelrod pens memo listing what is going right for Team Obama… At 11:10 am in Virginia, the president signs patent reform legislation into law… On the 2012 trail, Perry unloads on Romney… Bachmann’s struggling -- big time… Tom Ridge to endorse Huntsman in New Hampshire… And Bill Clinton to appear on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.


*** Daley troubles: When things are going well for an administration or campaign team, they’re hailed as geniuses and the toast of Washington. But when things aren’t going so well, you begin to see stories like these. Politico: "[White House Chief of Staff] Bill Daley is off to a very rocky start... [C]ritics inside and outside the West Wing are questioning whether he is the tough, competent manager needed to shake up the operation and propel Obama into the 2012 election year." Here's the Huffington Post: “Bill Daley Leaves Some Democrats Longing For Rahm Emanuel.” (Who would have ever thought you’d see that headline in HuffPo, of all places?) What’s more, a new book by author Ron Suskind details rivalries and conflicts inside of Obama’s old economic team. It’s been a “pile on” week -- first on Perry at the debate, then on Obama, and now on Daley. In Daley’s case, as sports fans know well, when you can’t do much about the owner (Obama), you complain about the coach (Daley).

*** Don’t expect a knee-jerk move from this White House: One the complaints about Daley is his relations with Capitol Hill Democrats. But in his defense, congressional Dems are no longer in charge (though Democrats are in charge of the Senate). But Daley was brought in to deal with the business community and Republicans, and those relationships have yet to pay dividends. Arguably, whatever positive personal developments have taken place between the White House and Boehner/McConnell, they’ve given the president nada. The final straw for some congressional Democrats was the speech-timing debacle. Also, keep in mind the Schumer-Durbin rivalry here. Durbin and Daley have known each other for years, and whether there’s ACTUALLY something there or just an assumption of something there by folks, it has an impact. Finally, despite what James Carville has called for -- to panic and fire a bunch of folks -- the last thing you’ll see this White House do is something knee-jerk. It’s simply not in Obama’s DNA. Rather, expect those who have the president’s trust but also have close friends on Capitol Hill (the Pete Rouses of the world perhaps?) to (re)expand their portfolios. The White House went through a more dramatic leadership change than many folks appreciate. While the names may have been familiar, Daley-Plouffe have a MUCH different management style than Rahm-Axe.

*** Remain calm. All is well! Despite the White House’s tough week, the re-election campaign team has released a memo from senior strategist David Axelrod listing what’s going right for them as we head into 2012. “Public polling released this week makes clear that Americans strongly agree with the President’s plan to create jobs and provide economic security for the middle class,” Axelrod says. “Members of the media have focused on the President’s approval ratings as if they existed in a black box. Following the intransigence of the Republicans during the debt debate, the approval rating of the GOP brand dropped to a historic low... Despite what you hear in elite commentary, the President’s support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong... The Republicans have yet to choose a nominee, and therefore, most Americans have yet to learn much about their records or visions for the country. Their candidates are busy courting the Tea Party, signing off on any economic pledge it might demand.” 

*** Obama’s day: At 11:10 am ET in Alexandria, VA, the president will sign into law the America Invents Act, which reforms the patent system.

*** Perry unloads on Romney: Last night in Iowa was the first time this week when Rick Perry was on offense against Mitt Romney. Per NBC’s Alex Moe, Andrew Rafferty, and Anthony Terrell, Perry distinguished his upbringing from Romney’s. “As the son of tenant farmers, I can tell you I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand,” Perry told a crowd of more than 250 at the Greene County Republican party fundraiser. Perry continued, “Gov. Romney … said it’s pretty easy to be governor when you have four aces in your hand and you think you’re good at poker. There are some folks back in Texas who are a little offended by that. We work hard in Texas.” Perry also hit Romney on health care, noting the similarities between Romney’s law in Massachusetts and Obama’s federal law.  “I think it is very important that we put someone as the nominee that doesn't blur the line between Obama and the Republican Party,” Perry said. It appears Perry’s game plan for the NEXT debate is to not simply defend himself from the slings and arrows, but to throw a few more punches Romney’s way.

*** Bachmann’s struggling -- big time: The New York Times writes about Bachmann’s numerous gaffes and misstatements, including her recent accusation (not supported by the facts) that the HPV vaccine is linked to mental retardation. People close to her campaign “spoke of their frustration that Mrs. Bachmann, who entered the race with a reputation for making unsupportable statements on cable television, has not found the discipline to win credibility with major Republican donors and influential referees in the conservative news media... Jim @!$%#, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee unaffiliated with any candidate, said: 'This is the nail in the coffin in her campaign. Because you can be a cable television darling by saying provocative things, but you can’t be president of the United States.'" Bottom line: Bachmann’s candidacy is struggling -- and if she never gets back on track, this week will be seen as the final nail. She had a good debate on Monday, but blew it the day after. And the folks who are probably most pleased by this are the ones from Austin, TX. 

*** Ridge to back Huntsman: At 10:15 am ET in Manchester, Jon Huntsman will pick up an endorsement from former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, NBC’s Jo Ling Kent reports. Ridge will announce his endorsement at a press conference -- with Huntsman -- at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College. In a statement to the New Hampshire Union-Leader, Ridge said Huntsman is a "serious, insightful leader who will bring together people from across the political spectrum to solve the many changes we face, both at home and abroad." Kent notes that the endorsement comes in the midst of significant staffing changes within the Huntsman campaign. Huntsman still suffers from low poll numbers nationally and locally, but said he is upbeat about the campaign's future. "All I can cite is anecdotal evidence," he told reporters yesterday. "We are making progress, we are absolutely making progress." Our take: This endorsement would have been a much bigger deal 12 years ago, even four years ago. Today? It just feels like a different Republican Party than the one Tom Ridge was a rising star, during the first decade of the 21st century.

*** On the 2012 trail: Bachmann is in California, where she holds a rally in Orange County, tapes an appearance for the “Tonight Show,” and addresses the California GOP fall convention… Cain is in South Carolina… Huntsman remains in New Hampshire… Paul is in Reno, NV… And Perry makes multiple stops in Iowa.

*** Friday's "The Daily Rundown" line-up: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) on why he's backing Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) for president… Former Reps. Martin Frost (D-TX) and Tom Davis (R-VA) on the fight in Congress over jobs and debt… Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on the 2012 fight… NBC News Perry Campaign Reporter Carrie Dann with the latest on his campaign… And more 2012 news with NPR's Ari Shapiro, Comcast's Robert Traynham and Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz.

*** On “Meet the Press” this Sunday: NBC’s David Gregory interviews former President Bill Clinton, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 53 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 143 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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