The next phase of the GOP race: defining Romney… Get on the bus, Gus: Obama embarks on three-day bus tour through NC and VA… The Cain scrutiny cometh… Making sense of the GOP calendar: The Walking Dead (Month of February)… Romney and Paul are in NV in advance of tomorrow’s Vegas debate… Bachmann and Cain stump in AZ… And Huntsman files his candidacy papers in NH.
*** Defining Romney: We’re about to enter the next phase of the Republican presidential race, which could ultimately decide who wins the GOP nomination (and maybe the presidency, too): defining Mitt Romney. During this phase, his Republican rivals will begin to question his conservative bona fides. (When will we see the first anti-Romney TV ad?) And Team Obama will begin to portray him as a creature of Wall Street; in fact, Herman Cain on “Meet the Press” yesterday used a line you’ll probably see the Obama folks borrow if Romney becomes the nominee: “[Romney] has been more of a Wall Street executive; I have been more of a Main Street executive.” As we discovered in our recent NBC/WSJ poll, Republicans like Romney, but his GOP support is an inch deep (with a 16% VERY positive rating, versus 28% for Cain).
*** And redefining him: Romney himself has slowly and steadily been trying to redefine himself as a private-sector businessman. Notice how often he uses the phrase “private sector.” And given the appeal Herman Cain has with many in the Republican Party -- simply because of his business experience -- we get why Romney’s doing this. But now, it’s the next level of definition that will decide the direction of this race. Romney still has work to do, but so do his opponents. And speaking of Romney’s opponents, don’t miss David Axelrod’s not-so-subtle attempt to help Romney’s primary opponents over the weekend with his comments on ABC making the case Romney’s a flip-flopper, something Team Obama thought would already be a big part of this campaign and hasn’t been. It’s all part of Team Obama’s hope that Romney has to fight harder for his nomination than he has so far.
President Obama at Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, N.C., Monday, Oct. 17, 2011.
*** Get on the bus, Gus: President Obama kicks off his three-day bus tour that takes him through North Carolina and Virginia. He begins with remarks in the Asheville area at 10:50 am ET, and then he gives a speech in Miller’s Creek at 5:00 pm. And then he’ll be in Virginia on Tuesday and Wednesday. How important are these two New South states to Obama’s electoral math? Consider this: He could lose Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Ohio (states he currently is losing in many polls) -- but still easily surpass 270 electoral votes by winning EITHER North Carolina OR Virginia. Or he could also lose Pennsylvania and still get 270-plus by winning BOTH of those New South states. The Karl Rove-backed group American Crossroads will be airing this TV ad in both North Carolina and Virginia during the president’s bus tour. As we’ve noted before -- and will note plenty of times for next few months -- the Obama playbook for 2012 is about finding as many paths to 270 that do not include Ohio (or to a lesser extent) Florida.
*** The scrutiny cometh: Announcer: “Herman Cain, you just shot up in the national polls. What are you going to do next?” Answer: “I’m going to Disney World -- er, ‘Meet the Press.’” And on “Meet” yesterday, Cain received plenty of tough questions and scrutiny. The New York Times' take: “Herman Cain found out how tricky being in the national spotlight is on Sunday as he was pushed to admit that his signature economic plan, 9-9-9, would result in increased taxes for some people. The Republican presidential candidate also sought to back away from fiery comments he had made just hours earlier, saying he was only joking about killing people trying to cross the border from Mexico with an electrified fence... Beyond that, Mr. Cain acknowledged that he was unfamiliar with the neoconservative movement, and was not exactly sure what the word ‘neoconservative’ meant.”
*** Big bucks, big bucks, no whammy: But also on “Meet the Press,” Cain said that he had raised $2 million in the first two weeks of October. If true, that’s a significant amount of money he’s bringing in….
*** The Walking Dead (Month of February): The month of February in 2008 ultimately decided the Democratic nomination, with Barack Obama winning more delegates on Super Tuesday (Feb. 5) than Hillary Clinton, and with him running up the score on Chesapeake Tuesday (DC, MD, and VA) and the next week (HI and WI). But this time around, February is shaping up to be a dead month, which would allow the campaigns to regroup after the initial contests. Consider: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida will all go in January (and maybe December, too). Then you have only a few minor contests (Maine caucuses beginning Feb. 4, Colorado and Minnesota caucuses on Feb. 7) before you get to the Arizona and Michigan primaries on Feb. 28. And then comes Super Tuesday on March 6 (Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia).
*** Hey, big spender: The Times front-pages how Obama is using his financial advantage (given that he isn’t facing a credible primary challenge). “Since the beginning of the year, Mr. Obama and the Democratic National Committee, for which the president is helping raise money to finance his party’s grass-roots efforts, have spent close to $87 million in operating costs... That amount is about as much as all the current Republican candidates together have raised so far in this campaign." More: "The president is already paying staff employees in at least 38 states, including Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico and North Carolina. His Chicago campaign headquarters hums with more than 200 paid aides. And Mr. Obama has spent millions of dollars investing in social media and information technology."
*** The 3rd quarter numbers: By the way, here are the official 3rd quarter numbers (from July 1 through Sept. 30):
-- Obama: $42 million raised; $61.4 million cash on hand, $1.7 million debt
-- Perry: $17.2 million, $15.1 coh
-- Romney: $14.2 million, $14.7 coh
-- Paul: $8.3 million, $3.7 coh
-- Bachmann: $3.9 million, $1.3 coh (Bachmann says with second committee - michelebachmann.com, she's at $4.1 million raised)
-- Cain: $2.8 million, $1.3 coh
-- Huntsman: $2.3 million ($4.5 million total receipts, including $2.2 million loan to self; $3.1 million debt, $327,614 coh)
-- Gingrich: $800,000 ($1.2 million debt); $353,000 coh
-- Santorum: $704,000, $190,000 coh
-- McCotter: $513,000, $1,500 coh, $105,000 debt
-- Johnson: $236,000, $11,000 coh
*** On the 2012 trail: In advance of tomorrow’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, Romney opens his Nevada campaign headquarters there… Paul’s also in Vegas, where he holds a press conference and fundraiser… Bachmann participates in a border-security roundtable in Phoenix, AZ and later holds a tele-town hall with Donald Trump… Cain’s also in Phoenix, meeting with Sheriff Joe Arpaio… And Huntsman files his candidacy papers in New Hampshire.
*** Monday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC's Kristen Welker live from North Carolina as the president kicks off his bus trip… Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) on the economy, the super committee, and the Occupy Wall Street movement… NBC's Mara Schiavocampo with the latest on the protests in New York… Huffington Post's Jon Ward on Romney and the Tea Party… one of us (!!!) on why February could feel like the longest month of the primary season… And more on 2012 and the president's jobs plan pitch with National Journal's Major Garrett, USA Today's Susan Page, and former Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL).
*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Bloomberg’s Jeanne Cummings and the Chicago Tribune’s Melanie Mason, CNBC’s Ron Insana, and NBC’s Kristen Welker (on Obama’s bus tour).
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 22 days
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