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First Thoughts: The Christie buzz increases

The Christie buzz increases -- with his speech tonight at  the  Reagan Library and with Tom Kean saying Christie’s giving “a lot” of thought to jumping in… This continued buzz says as much about Perry and Romney as it does about Christie… A reality check on the GOP horserace: At this point in ’07, Giuliani and Thompson were leading the national field… Congress averts a government shutdown -- again… Ryan’s dig at the Super Committee… Denver for Obama, three years later… Romney’s meeting with Trump yesterday was hardly a profile in courage… And Perry hits fundraisers in Baltimore and DC, while Paul’s in Iowa and Santorum’s in South Carolina. 

AP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking during a Town Hall in June 2011.

***  The Christie buzz increases : Even though you have to take Chris Christie at his word that he isn’t running for president, the presidential buzz surrounding him is only increasing. Tonight, the New Jersey governor delivers a speech at the Reagan Library at 9:00 pm ET. The title of the speech is buzzworthy, too: “Real American Exceptionalism.” Per Christie’s office, the governor’s remarks will use Reagan's “transformative leadership to depict how the United States’ role and significance in the world is defined by who we are at home.” And then comes the quote from former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean (R) that Christie is “very seriously” considering getting into the presidential contest. “It’s real,” Kean told  National Review. “He’s giving it a lot of thought. I think the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago.” Either Christie is having fun with all of this speculation, or something is afoot. The former is the more likely situation, but Christie probably needs to give one more unequivocal “no” to stop the speculation -- especially after Kean’s comments. He can EASILY stop this tonight, if he wants to; he’ll have a large forum to do it.

*** Doubts about Perry and Romney: So why are we in this position where some Republicans are still pining for Christie -- or another GOPer -- to get into the race? Part of it is due to Rick Perry’s shaky debate performances over the past couple of weeks. But much of it can be traced to Republican doubts about Mitt Romney. Indeed, this desire for Christie (or Jeb Bush or Mitch Daniels, etc.) existed WELL BEFORE Perry got into the race. And while Romney’s campaign has to feel better today than it did last month, it’s still got to be frustrating to them that’s he’s unable to close the sale with these fence-sitter Republicans. What’s the rub? For conservatives, it’s a lack of trust about ideology. For the pragmatic donor types, it’s concern that he won’t connect. And for others, it’s about his history of tailoring a message to the audience of the moment (see Massachusetts Senate ’94, Massachusetts Gov ’02 and then President ’07). Of course, John McCain had some of these same issues in 2007, which brings us to…

*** A reality check on the GOP horserace: And here’s a reality check about where we are in the GOP nominating contest: At this point in 2007, Rudy Giuliani was leading the Republican field in our national NBC/WSJ poll at 30%, followed by Fred Thompson at 23%, the eventual winner John McCain at 15%, and Romney at 10%. And at this point in the 2007 Democratic race, Hillary Clinton was at 44%, followed by eventual winner Barack Obama at 23%, and John Edwards at 16%.

AP

Senate Democrats meet with reporters following the vote on a short term funding bill on Capitol Hill, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

*** Shutdown averted: Well, Congress appears to have avoided a shutdown -- again. But it wasn’t easy, even though it should have been since the subject was the usually non-partisan issue of disaster relief. The Washington Post: “After days of brinkmanship reminiscent of the budget battles that have consumed Washington this year, key senators clinched a compromise that would provide less money for disaster relief than Democrats sought but would also strip away spending cuts that Republicans demanded. The pact, which the Senate approved 79 to 12 and the House is expected to ratify next week, is expected to keep federal agencies open until Nov. 18.”

*** Ryan’s dig at the Super Committee: Don’t miss House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s dig at the “Super Committee.” At yesterday’s House GOP town hall at Facebook, Paul said, “One of the reasons I didn't want to go on the Select Committee is because the budget process is just broken. The fact that we have a Select Committee is testament to the fact that Congress does not budget our money at all.” He added, “Twelve people in Congress are not going to cut a backroom deal that is going to fix all of the country's fiscal problems, nor should they try. We ought to have to real government that works.” Paul Ryan is a bit of a walking conundrum sometimes: He correctly identifies problems (like the budget process is broken), but then whenever there’s a solution proposed that Ryan’s not in control of, he’s more likely to find problems with those solutions (like Bowles-Simpson). Is he simply more polite in saying “my way or the highway”?

*** Denver, three years later: President Obama remains out in the West, where he will once again promote his jobs bill -- this time in Denver, CO at 4:15 pm ET. The Denver Post previewing Obama's remarks: “President Barack Obama this afternoon will push his $447 billion jobs bill from an asphalt parking lot facing a grim stretch of South Federal Boulevard where locals say only the most recession-proof franchises flourish. The lot — behind Abraham Lincoln High School, a few miles south of Sports Authority Field at Mile High — will be devoid of the enthusiasm, pomp and 84,000 supporters at the stadium that helped propel Obama to the Democratic nomination in August 2008.”

*** Hardly a profile in courage by Team Romney: Yesterday, Mitt Romney agreed to meet with Donald Trump (after Rick Perry’s earlier meeting with the real-estate tycoon). The campaign stationed an aide an entrance of Trump Tower to assure the assembled press corps -- which had gathered there to do their jobs -- that Romney was on his way. And then as the press corps waited for Romney an hour after the scheduled meeting time, the aide flagged down a cab, told the press that the meeting had ended, apologized, and left, almost like the ending to a bad sitcom episode. So let’s get this straight: Romney and his team were willing to meet with Trump, but then deceive the press corps about the meeting? Why set up the meeting if Romney was fearful of having any photos taken of it? An incident like this is small, but it goes to a larger issue Romney has to deal with: He’s trying to have something both ways. In this case, he wanted to meet with Trump in an attempt to quiet the criticism (remember Trump’s demeaning of Romney’s business experience?) But because he didn’t want to offend some swing voters or (swing donors?) who don’t like Trump or his style, he wanted to duck the photo-op? Hardly a profile in courage by a candidate who has been trying to project strength on the campaign trail, in press releases, and at the debate podium.

*** On the 2012 trail: Perry hits fundraisers in Baltimore and DC… Paul campaigns in Iowa… Santorum is in South Carolina, while Gingrich is in Pennsylvania… And Roemer stumps in New Hampshire.

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Former Bush and McCain campaign strategist Mark McKinnon on the GOP’s 2012 field… NBC’s Kristen Welker and Variety’s Ted Johnson on President Obama’s Hollywood fundraisers… NBC’s Pete Williams on the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling on the health care law soon… NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell on the deal to keep the government funded for a while… And more 2012 news with the AP’s Kasie Hunt, the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon and the New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: As part of NBC’s “Education Nation,” Andrea Mitchell interviews Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Vicki Phillips of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who chairs Pittsburgh Promise.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 42 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 132 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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