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First Thoughts: Obama's tricky task at the U.N.

Obama’s tricky task at the U.N… Ponder this: What if Dean or Kerry had bashed Bush -- the same way Perry did to Obama yesterday -- before Bush spoke at the U.N. in ’03?... Florida, Florida, Florida: Why Thursday, Friday, and Saturday could be important in the GOP race… All of today’s campaign activity is in the Sunshine State… And Palin still has time to get into the race, but probably not enough time to be a serious player.


President Barack Obama addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, September 21, 2011.

*** Obama’s tricky task at the U.N.: At 10:00 am ET, President Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly, and he faces a tricky task, per the Washington Post: reconcile his desire for a Palestinian state that coexists peacefully with Israel, with the United States’ current opposition to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. The Post adds, “Obama will specifically address, his advisers say, the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue he made a priority on taking office. Obama will seek to draw a distinction between his support for Palestinian statehood and his opposition to pursuing that goal through the United Nations. He will be doing so for two audiences — one suspicious of his intentions toward Israel, the other seeking to understand how he can encourage self-rule in some places and not in others.”

*** What if Dean or Kerry had bashed Bush in New York in fall of ’03 hours before Bush spoke at the U.N.? Before Obama’s tricky task today, Rick Perry traveled to New York City yesterday and -- appearing with foreign nationals -- accused the president of “appeasement” on the issue of Middle East peace. Ask yourself this question: If Howard Dean or John Kerry had shown up in New York City while Bush was at U.N. in ‘03 -- and had accused Bush of “appeasement” (with foreign nationals) at a time of tricky negotiations at the U.N. -- wouldn’t that have drawn widespread condemnation? We understand why Perry criticized Obama on Israel in New York; it’s certainly good politics for him in a GOP primary. And we get the campaign’s thinking in the moment; it was a good news-cycle hit, allowing Perry to be one-on-one with the president on the international stage. But the way Perry did it, plus its timing, opens him up to plenty of criticism, even among fellow Republicans.

*** Florida, Florida, Florida: Florida decided the presidential election in 2000; it helped push Barack Obama over the top in the 2008 general election; and it ended Mitt Romney’s presidential bid in the ’08 primaries. And about four months from now, it could once again decide who wins the GOP presidential nomination -- or at least determine how long the race will last. That’s why all the activity this week in the Sunshine State is so significant. Tomorrow night, the Republican candidates will gather in Orlando to participate in the sixth GOP presidential debate. On Friday, also in Orlando, the candidates will speak at a CPAC meeting in the state. And on Saturday comes the Florida GOP’s presidential straw poll.

*** Why is Florida so important? Just look at the expected calendar: If the Republican race turns into a two-man contest, Perry will probably win Iowa and South Carolina, while Romney will probably win New Hampshire and Nevada. Then comes Florida (as well as Arizona and Michigan). What’s more, many of the races on Super Tuesday (March 6) and the week after (March 13) are set to take place in the South, which could benefit Perry. So Florida -- if Romney wins it -- could give him the momentum he needs to withstand Super Tuesday and the week after. Or it could -- if Perry wins it -- end the nomination fight for good.

*** On the 2012 trail: And guess what: All the campaign-trail activity today is in the Sunshine State: Romney holds a town hall in Miami… Perry hits fundraisers in Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach… And Cain makes two stops in Florida.

*** Palin has time to get into the race, but not enough time to be a serious player: Last night, Sarah Palin was on FOX suggesting -- once again -- that there’s plenty of time for her to get into the presidential race. “There is still time,” she said, per NBC’s Matt Loffman. “And I think on both sides of the aisle you'll see people coming and going in this race.” She’s right: There’s still time for her and any other U.S.-born citizen who’s 35 or older to run for president. And with Bachmann’s poll numbers collapsing, there is some space for a Palin candidacy. But with likely less than four months until Iowa -- that’s right, folks, FOUR months -- there isn’t much time to raise the money, demonstrate the heft on the issues, and to rehabilitate her image to be a serious player for the Republican nomination. Oh, and she would need to start qualifying for ballots before the end of OCTOBER. So Iowa might be less than four months away, but some key ballot-access deadlines are before that. (Hey, Chris Christie, it’s a similar problem for you!)

*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on jobs legislation and debt reduction… Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) a day after announcing he is leaving Senate GOP leadership … Former WH Counsel Bob Bauer on the slew of campaigns whose coffers have been defrauded by their own treasurers … And a political panel joining Chuck in New York: Politico’s Maggie Haberman, National Review’s Reihan Salam, and TheGrio.com’s Joy-Ann Reid.

*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews NBC’s Ali Arouzi (on the hikers release from Iran), Richard Haass, Diana Buttu, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabani Khar, National Journal’s Major Garrett, Dr. James Ammons of Florida A&M University (as part of Education Nation), and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.  

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 48 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 138 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up, and it’s likely that the contest takes place earlier.

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