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2012: Perry's loss isn't necessarily Romney's gain

A new FOX News poll has Mitt Romney back on top, but with just 23% (essentially unchanged from August). Perry is second with 19% (a 10-point drop from the last poll), followed by a rising Herman Cain 17% (up 11 points) and Newt Gingrich 11% (up 8 points). Michele Bachmann has dropped all the way down to just 3% (down 5 points from August and 12 points from July). President Obama beats Romney (45%-42%) and Perry (47%-39%). More Republicans than Democrats (39%-30%) say they are “extremely interested” in the next election with supporters of the Tea Party being the most interested – 53% say they’re extremely interested.

Politico contends: “Rick Perry needs an early knockout win. A long, drawn-out primary slog favors Mitt Romney.” More: “[I]f the nomination fight remains a Romney-Perry two-man race after Super Tuesday, among the likeliest scenarios is a long, expensive spring trek through Romney’s political heartland. Perry has just one clear path: To blow the doors off the race with early momentum, and never let up.”

“Florida officials indicated yesterday the key presidential primary state would push its election up to Jan. 31, a decision that would spark a rapid reshuffling of the GOP calendar, accelerate campaigning, and force candidates to once again spend their Christmas season stumping in Iowa and New Hampshire,” the Boston Globe writes. “Ignoring efforts by the national Republican Party to prevent a repeat of the chaotic and compressed 2008 primaries, states such as Florida are again jockeying to hold an influential early primary. In response, New Hampshire is again defending its tradition of holding the first-in-the-nation primary, vowing to push its contest to the earliest days of January or even December of this year, if that is what it takes to stay first.”

BACHMANN: In a speech yesterday before 12,500 students (by the school’s count) at the Liberty University basketball arena, per NBC’s Jamie Novogrod, Michele Bachmann drew on the phrase that seems to have become her new campaign slogan: “don’t settle.” Bachmann introduced the phrase last week, during events connected to the Florida GOP convention in Orlando.  Then Bachmann brought it to Iowa on Monday, telling roughly 50 supporters in Cedar Rapids: “we don’t have to settle.” But the message seems to have evolved since then, becoming a statement of her political and life philosophy.

During her speech yesterday, Bachmann used the word “settle” -- or some form of the word -- 44 times.  She used the word as a prescription for tough choices, including finding relationship with God, which she described as “the most important decision I made in not settling.” She used the word in terms of finding a spouse, and finding an occupation. She used it in terms of finding a college major, and she used it in terms of finding the will to avoid cutting class. 

Traveling to Greenville, SC after her speech at Liberty University, Bachmann continued to lean heavily on her new phrase, “don’t settle,” NBC's Ali Weinberg reports. After doing a radio interview, Bachmann said that South Carolinians were telling her, “Michele, we don’t want to settle” and she implored voters to “have it all and not settle and choose the most conservative candidate in the race.” Bachmann also responded to a question about her citation of a story, apparently from a single Italian newspaper, that Hezbollah might be parking missiles in Cuba. “We’ve put the sources out for that,” was all she would say when asked whether her criteria for getting information would change if elected president. Bachmann finished the day at a private fundraiser in Moore, South Carolina, and has two more fundraisers in North Carolina today; one to raise money for the state's Republican Party and one at a private home.

Today, she heads to a fundraiser in Concord, N.C., followed by a roundtable event at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, and another fundraiser in Pinehurst. Next week, starting Monday, Bachmann returns to Iowa for two days.

CAIN: He says he couldn’t support Rick Perry if he were the nominee. And he says, "African-Americans have been brainwashed into” voting for Democrats. And he claimed: "This whole notion that all African-Americans are not going to vote for Obama is not necessarily true," Cain said, adding, "I believe a third [of African-Americans] would vote for me, based on my own anecdotal feedback.” The latest NBC/WSJ polling shows President Obama with a 92%-5% approval rating among black voters.

CHRISTIE: The CNS News says Tony Perkins is questioning Christie. “Perkins said the New Jersey governor ‘has made questionable appointments’ to state offices and ‘has backing from individuals who are clearly on the other side of social issues,’” GOP12’s Heinze finds irony in that: “Fascinating, because Perkins gives a free pass to Rudy Giuliani, who -- by nearly every count -- is more socially liberal than Christie.”

PERRY: The LA Times: “Rick Perry's campaign is fighting back forcefully to defend his record and reassure supporters concerned about his shaky debate performances, sending the Texas governor's wife on the campaign trail to explain his position on immigration and holding telephone town halls in which the candidate himself engaged voters on those subjects.”

ROMNEY: The Washington Post’s Rucker: “Once again, there was another group of Republicans begging its latest dream date to run for president. And once again, there was Mitt Romney, in his fifth year of running for president, facing questions about why he never seems to be the one Republicans are swooning over.” Romney, it appears, is “sticking to his tortoise-beats-all-the-hares strategy.”

AP notes that Romney selling himself as “an outsider conflicts with the reality of his lengthy political resume: He has run for higher office four separate times, dating back to an unsuccessful Senate run in 1994. Since then he has crafted a political network, raised mountains of campaign cash and largely focused on life in the public sector. He's essentially been pursuing the presidency full time since leaving the governor's office almost five years ago. And, although he emphasizes his business background as just what the economically ailing country needs, Romney has not held a private-sector job with a regular paycheck in more than a decade.”