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First Thoughts: Trying to get back on track

Perry tries to get back on track… He delivers his economic/energy speech in Pittsburgh at 10:30 am ET… Business Week: What Texas miracle?... Obama heads to Michigan… Hillary speaks on the economy, again… More Team Obama vs. Team Romney… Romney raises $14.2 million for the quarter… Anita Perry speaks with NBC… On “Meet the Press” this Sunday: Herman Cain… And today, NBC’s David Gregory holds a live “Press Pass” discussion why debates matter. 

*** Trying to get back on track: Over the last few weeks, the storylines surrounding Rick Perry have been everything but the one subject he wants to talk about -- jobs and the economy. He’s had to answer questions on immigration, the HPV vaccine, the debates, his poll standing, and a supporter who criticized Mitt Romney’s faith. But today, he tries to steer the conversation back to the economy. At a 10:30 am ET speech from Pittsburgh, Perry will unveil the first part of his economic package, and it’s a subject he knows well as Texas governor: energy. “The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy,” Perry will say, according to advance excerpts. “But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.” More: “When it comes to energy, the president would kill domestic jobs through aggressive regulations while I would unleash 1.2 million American jobs through safe and aggressive energy exploration at home.” Consider this: Perry has been a candidate now for 63 days, and this is his first major policy speech.

*** Perry on “TODAY”: In Perry’s interview on “TODAY” this morning, however, NBC’s Matt Lauer peppered the Texas governor with plenty of non-economic questions. What happened to your poll numbers? “Polls are going to go up and down. I don’t worry too much about polls,” adding that he’s more worried about people who don’t have jobs. What about his wife’s recent comments that he’s been “brutalized” on the campaign trail? “Family members always take their things a little more personally than the candidates do.” And on the Perry supporter who criticized Romney’s Mormon faith? “We distanced ourselves from those comments… These are all distractions… We’ve gotta get this country focused on getting back to work.” The last quote, replace “country” with “campaign” and they could have been from the mouth of Perry strategist Dave Carney.

*** What Texas miracle? Yet just as Perry tries to steer the conversation back to the economy and his economic record in Texas, Business Week’s Josh Green writes that Perry’s record is less than meets the eye. “Unemployment in Texas is now on the rise. In fact, the state is one of only a dozen with growing unemployment since the end of the recession. In August joblessness in the state hit 8.5 percent as Texas experienced a net loss of 1,300 jobs… [L]ook closely at Rick Perry’s Texas and it seems less like an answer to Washington’s problems and more like a reflection of them—rising poverty and unemployment, too many people without health insurance, serious long-term challenges, and not nearly enough revenue to meet them.” And don’t miss these new Census numbers: 26.3% of Texans under 65 lack health insurance. Romney has already indicated he has no problem using this stat against Perry every time Perry brings up the Massachusetts health care law.


President Obama welcomes South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, October 13, 2011.


*** Obama heads to Michigan: While Perry’s in Pittsburgh, President Obama -- with South Korea President Lee in tow -- travels to Lake Orion, Mich., where he and his administration believe they have a good story to tell when it comes to the U.S. auto industry. The New York Times: “[M]ore than two years after the White House offered a government lifeline to help the industry survive the recession and a credit crunch, the General Motors assembly plant here has roared to life, producing the only subcompact car made on American soil, the Chevrolet Sonic.” And the Times notes just how important Michigan could be to Obama, especially if Romney is the GOP nominee. A plugged-in source tells us that there will be sparse attendance by the Michigan congressional delegation at today’s event. In fact, it appears not a SINGLE member of the state’s congressional Democratic delegation will attend. We know there is squeamishness with Michigan Democrats promoting trade deals, let alone a foreign country whose cars are starting to sell like hotcakes in this country. Obama speaks at 1:50 pm ET.

*** Hitting a nerve? Has President Obama’s criticism that Republican leaders haven’t come up with their own jobs bill hit a nerve with the GOP? Roll Call says that Obama yesterday called House Speaker Boehner to congratulate him on passing the free-trade agreements, but that Boehner used the call to take “exception to the president’s remarks about GOP efforts on job creation.” What’s more, John McCain and other GOP senators have unveiled their own jobs legislation. This is after the Senate Republican leadership had indicated they would not try to come up with their own competing package. Was this McCain-Rand Paul legislation signed off on by the leadership or simply “tolerated”?

*** Hillary speaks on the economy -- again: Don’t miss Hillary Clinton’s speech this morning -- on the economy and foreign policy -- at the Economic Club of New York. When she spoke on the economy last week, chairing the jobs council, it seemed like a one-time event. But today is now the second Friday in a row in which she’s given an economic-themed speech. Is this a new strategy? Trying to tap into the Clinton brand?  Remember when the new chief of staff, a former cabinet secretary himself, was going to be instrumental in using the cabinet better as surrogates? Hasn’t really happened, but this is the first REAL evidence we’ve seen. 

*** More Team Obama vs. Team Romney: Turning back to 2012, this video back-and-forth is only going to further the Chattering-Class narrative that the general election has already begun. The DNC has a new web video hitting Romney for calling Obama’s payroll tax cut “temporary little Band-Aids.” Meanwhile, the Romney camp hits back with a video suggesting that Team Obama is most worried about Romney.

*** Romney raises $14 million in 3rd quarter: The Washington Post reports -- and NBC News has confirmed -- that Romney raised $14.2 million for the 3rd fundraising quarter, and ended the quarter with $14.65 million in the bank. So to recap: Obama’s campaign brought in $43 million, Perry brought in $17 million, and Romney brought in $14.2 million. Last quarter, Romney raised more than $18 million.

*** Anita Perry speaks with NBC: Yesterday, NBC’s Ali Weinberg yesterday rode with Anita Perry and the Perry campaign’s South Carolina chairman Katon Dawson between stops in Columbia (at the state fair) and Newberry (the last event of day). Anita Perry addressed further some of the comments made yesterday on the race being tough; Perry's debate performance; and her emotional moment this morning where she had to pause at the podium. It’s been a “rough month but a good month,” she said. Attacks from other campaigns are the “nature of the beast.” And she said her husband’s third debate performance, in Florida, wasn’t as good as they would have liked, but his other performances have been good.

*** On the 2012 trail: Bachmann campaigns in Iowa… Huntsman is in New Hampshire… Perry travels to Iowa for a fundraiser for a state representative… His wife, Anita, continues to campaign in South Carolina… And Cain has three campaign events in … Tennessee.

*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Romney Campaign Senior Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom… Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Politico’s Jonathan Martin on the state of the GOP field… NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo with the latest on the Wall Street protests… Fact-checking Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan with the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler… And more 2012 news with the Center for American Progress’ Jennifer Palmieri, the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson and PBS NewsHour’s David Chalian.

*** Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Fred Malek (on 2012), Rep. Peter Welch, Michael Leiter, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Politico’s Julie Mason, NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo, and US Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk.

*** Sunday’s “Meet the Press”: NBC’s David Gregory will interview Herman Cain on Sunday. And today, in a special LIVE edition of “Press Pass -- which will be streamed on the program’s Facebook page (facebook.com/MeetThePress) -- Gregory will speak with Jim Lehrer, Ron Klain, and Kevin Madden about why debates matter.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 25 days

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