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First Thoughts: Do-or-die time for Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

Do-or-die time for Perry at tonight’s GOP debate, which takes place at 8:00 pm ET in NH… New NBC News-Marist polls show Romney leading in Iowa (barely) and in New Hampshire (by a wide margin)… The polls also find that Obama is struggling in both states… NBC: Romney’s advisers helped shape federal health-care law… How many Senate votes will Obama’s jobs bill get?... Axelrod’s warning to Congress: You’re much more unpopular than the jobs bill… On the road: Obama sells jobs bill in speech from Pittsburgh, PA at 1:50 pm ET… And on the couch: Press begins to psycho-analyze the president.

*** Do-or-die time for Perry: How rough were those past debate performances for Rick Perry? Rough enough that brand-new NBC News-Marist polls show the Texas governor is in fourth place (or tied for it) in both Iowa and New Hampshire. The Iowa result is even more troublesome for Perry, since it’s so important for his path to the GOP nomination. So not only do all the national polls show him losing ground to Mitt Romney -- and now Herman Cain, too -- but polls in the early nominating states show the same result. And that’s why tonight’s Republican debate (and the other ones for the rest of the year) is so important for Perry. It’s do-or-die time for him; nobody has more riding on his or her debate performance. Tonight’s debate, sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post, begins at 8:00 pm ET from Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.


Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a campaign stop in Hopkinton, N.H., Monday, Oct. 10, 2011.

*** Romney leads in Iowa (barely): Per the NBC-Marist surveys, Romney gets the support of 23% of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers -- identified based on interest, chance of voting, and past participation -- and Cain gets 20%. They are followed by Ron Paul at 11% and Perry and Bachmann, who are tied at 10% each; 16% are undecided. Where Romney is vulnerable in Iowa: Among Tea Party supporters, who make up half of all likely Iowa caucus-goers in the poll, Cain is ahead of Romney, 31%-15%. And among those who "strongly" support the Tea Party, Cain's lead is a whopping 41%-7%. What’s more, likely caucus-goers say the most important quality that will decide their vote is that the candidate shares their values (30%) or the candidate’s position on the issues (29%), rather than electability (20%) or experience (17%). So this Iowa poll finds what other surveys have shown: Despite Perry’s plummeting numbers, conservatives haven’t moved to Romney just yet. One other fascinating note in the Iowa survey: Romney does better with first-time caucus-goers than those who have participated before. Yet another reason why Romney has been so hesitant about getting in? It’s an EXPENSIVE proposition to get first-timers to show up.

*** But he laps the field in New Hampshire: In the Granite State, however, Romney gets support of 44% of likely primary voters, followed by Cain and Paul at 13%, Perry at 6%, and Jon Huntsman at 5%; 11% say they are undecided. The NBC-Marist polls are the latest surveys -- on both the state and national levels -- to show Romney ahead, Cain in second and Perry and Bachmann trying to keep up with the leaders. Other examples this week include a national Washington Post/Bloomberg poll and a national Gallup survey.


President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

*** Obama’s struggling in both states: And the NBC-Marist polls in Iowa and Hampshire are the latest to show President Obama’s political struggles, especially in key battleground states. Just 42% of all registered voters in Iowa approve of Obama’s performance as president, and it’s lower in New Hampshire -- with his approval rating at just 38%. In hypothetical general-election matchups, Obama leads Romney by three points in Iowa, 43%-40%, and he leads Perry by nine, 46%-37%. In the Granite State, however, Romney has a nine-point advantage over the sitting president, 49%-40%, while Obama leads Perry by six, 46%-40%. Remember: In 2008, Obama won both Iowa and New Hampshire by nearly double digits. And remember: New Hampshire voted for Kerry over Bush in 2004 -- the only red state to flip blue that year.

*** Romney advisers helped shape federal health-care law: While tonight’s Washington Post-Bloomberg debate is focused on the economy, don’t miss this story by NBC’s Michael Isikoff, which could give ammunition to Romney’s rivals (like Perry). “Newly obtained White House records provide fresh details on how senior Obama administration officials used Mitt Romney’s landmark health-care law in Massachusetts as a model for the new federal law, including recruiting some of Romney’s own health care advisers and experts to help craft the act now derided by Republicans as ‘Obamacare.’ The records, gleaned from White House visitor logs reviewed by NBC News, show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006, when the Republican presidential candidate was governor of Massachusetts. One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.”   

*** On the 2012 trail: All the candidates are in the Granite State before tonight’s debate: Santorum hits Manchester, Milford, and Warner… Huntsman holds a town hall in Hanover… And Gary Johnson -- who is not participating in the debate -- has a “Ride for Freedom” finish-line celebration in Milford.

*** How many Senate votes will Obama’s jobs bill get? In addition to tonight’s GOP debate, the other big political story is the expected procedural vote in the Senate on Obama’s jobs bill. The legislation isn’t expected to get the 60 votes needed to clear the procedural hurdle; the question is how many Senate Democrats end up voting for it (or against it). And is McConnell releasing ANY Republicans to vote for it (see: Brown, Scott?) According to The Hill, “Democrats who will vote no or are leaning no include Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), who all hail from red states and are up for reelection next year.” On “TODAY” this morning, White House adviser David Plouffe predicted that the “vast majority” of Senate Democrats would support the measure. “We have to act, and we have to act right now,” Plouffe said. “We have too many people out of work.” Per NBC’s Libby Leist, the vote will probably occur around 6:15 pm ET.

*** Axelrod’s warning to Congress: You’re more unpopular than the jobs bill: Meanwhile, David Axelrod has penned a memo for Obama’s re-election campaign, arguing that various polls show the jobs bill (and its components) to be popular. And he also points out what is unpopular right now: Congress. “[A]s members of Congress take up the American Jobs Act this week they need to understand that their failure to focus on what matters most to Americans is why disapproval for Congress is at a historic high,” Axelrod writes.

*** Obama on the road: As the Senate takes up Obama’s jobs bill, the president will once again urge its passage when he visits Pittsburgh, PA this afternoon. After his speech at 1:50 pm ET, Obama heads to Orlando, FL for a pair of fundraisers before returning to the White House.

*** Obama on the couch: It is never a positive story when the press begins to psycho-analyze the president. In a piece entitled “Obama, the loner president,” the Washington Post wrote: “Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work... Which raises an odd question: Is it possible to be America’s most popular politician and not be very good at American politics?”

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the fight over the president's jobs bill… More on today's new NBC News/Marist Univ. polls of Iowa and New Hampshire with Marist polling director Lee Miringoff… NBC's Michael Isikoff on how the Obama administration consulted with some of the same advisers that then-Gov. Romney consulted with before passing Massachusetts' health care law… And more 2012 news with Newsweek/Daily Beast's Lois Romano, Republican strategist Phil Musser, and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza (on tonight’s GOP debate), the White House’s Dan Pfeiffer, Vin Weber of the Romney campaign, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 28 days

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