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First Thoughts: The governing phase is over

The governing phase is over and the campaigning has begun… Who will get blamed for the Washington gridlock -- Obama or a Do-Nothing Congress?... Israel v. Palestine dominates UN meeting… “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially ends… Perry to hit Obama on Israel in NYC… Winthrop poll shows Perry narrowly leading Romney in SC… And Nader calls for Dem primary challenge against Obama.


President Obama speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, September 19, 2011.

*** The governing phase is over: So what will be more difficult for the White House over the next couple of days? Getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a process for Palestinian recognition at the UN? Or getting congressional Republicans to agree with President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan? Neither seems like a good bet -- at least right now. Indeed, with some 14 months until Election Day 2012, Obama’s speech yesterday essentially marked the end of the governing season and the beginning of the campaign. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer admitted as much to the New York Times. “The popular narrative is that we sought compromise in a quixotic quest for independent votes. We sought out compromise because a failure to get funding of the government last spring and then an extension of the debt ceiling in August would have been very bad for the economy and for the country.” Pfeiffer added, “We were in a position of legislative compromise by necessity. That phase is behind us.”

*** Who gets blamed for the gridlock -- Obama or a Do-Nothing Congress? "That phase is behind us.” Remember, that's not an analysis from the chattering class; that's the White House essentially saying the campaign has begun. And right now, the battle is over who will get the blame for the gridlock -- congressional Republicans are hoping that the public blames Obama (who promised to change politics), while the White House is hoping that the public points its finger at a Do-Nothing Congress. Here’s a related question: If public opinion is on the White House’s side to tax the rich, why isn’t that able to convince the political system (see: last December’s extension of the Bush tax cuts)? One explanation is that Obama’s own political party isn’t 100% united behind it. Another explanation is that the Republican Party is 100% against it. One can't help but also wonder: If the president's own political standing both publicly (and in his own party in DC) were stronger, he might be able to use the fact he has overall public opinion on his side on taxes, say, to his advantage. But he doesn't. It gets at the leadership deficit which polls have shown exist for this president among Dems and swing voters.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at United Nations headquarters Monday, September 19, 2011.

*** Israel v. Palestine dominates UN meeting: A few weeks ago, you might have thought that the current United Nations gathering would be a victory lap for the Obama White House -- after the ousting of Khaddafy from Libya. Instead, the conversation is about another difficult issue: Israel vs. Palestine. It's just another example of how they feel they can't catch a break. And it's yet more evidence how after one crisis is resolved, there's always another crisis to deal with. At the UN today, Obama has a full slate of events, but perhaps the most important is with Turkey Prime Minister Erdogan regarding the thorny issue of Middle East peace.

*** “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” officially ends: “After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks,” the AP says. “Repeal of a 1993 law that allowed gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT.” Amazing after all the Washington handwringing over the last two decades on this issue that it's happened with such little fanfare and with little controversy by the end. A case where public opinion led policymakers?


Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry in New York City, Monday, September 19, 2011.

*** Perry to hit Obama on Israel: While Mitt Romney has tried to bracket Obama while the president has been on the road, Rick Perry has physically been in the same place as Obama -- first in Iowa back in August, and now in New York City with Obama at the UN meeting. At 10:00 am, Perry holds a media avail in the Big Apple to criticize Obama on Israel. Per excerpts of his remarks that the AP got its hands on, Perry will accuse the Obama administration of “appeasement” in trying to reach Middle East peace. "It's vitally important for America to preserve alliances with leaders who seek to preserve peace and stability in the region," Perry is expected to say. "But today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created great uncertainty in the midst of the Arab Spring."

*** Winthrop poll shows Perry narrowly leading Romney in SC: Meanwhile, a new Winthrop poll shows Perry narrowly leading Romney in South Carolina among Republicans planning to vote in the state’s primary, 30.5%-27.3%. Also per the poll: “Among Republicans/Republican leaners who are definitely planning on voting in the GOP Primary in SC, 59.9% said that it was more important to select a Republican presidential nominee who matched their beliefs, while 33.5% in this category disagreed, saying it was more important to select a candidate who could beat President Obama in 2012.” 

*** On the 2012 trail: Elsewhere today, Bachmann, Gingrich, and Paul are in Iowa… Cain campaigns in Florida… And Buddy Roemer is in North Carolina.

*** Nader calls for a primary against Obama: Leave it to someone who isn’t a Democrat -- and who’s run for president in three-straight elections against the Democratic nominee -- to suggest what’s good for the Democratic Party: a primary challenge against Obama. Here’s Ralph Nader to the LA Times: "If [Obama's] smart, he'll welcome it, because nothing's worse than an incumbent president slipping in the polls, being constantly on the defensive, being accused by supporters of having no backbone and running an unenthusiastically received campaign.” (Actually, recent history has proven that nothing’s worse for an incumbent president to receive a serious primary challenge.) As the LA Times writes, Nader and Obama critics like Cornel West have released a “Dear Colleague” letter urging a primary challenge against Obama.

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s campaign reporters Carrie Dann, Garrett Haake, and Alex Moe have the latest from the campaign trail … OMB Director Jack Lew joins to explain the president’s deficit-reduction plan … And the latest on the politics of the week with MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, Politico’s Ben Smith, and columnist and host Errol Louis.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Chuck Todd (on Obama at the UN), New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, Hanan Ashrawi (on Palestinian statehood request), Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, Eugene Robinson and Jonathan Alter, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 49 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 139 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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