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First Thoughts: Is the economy picking up steam?

Is the economy picking up some steam?… Economy grows at rate of 2.5% in 3rdQ… Team Perry to limit debate participation after Nov. 9… Yesterday was a day of backtracks for Romney and Perry… Herman Cain: Disorganization Man?… And Connie Mack gets into FL Senate race. 

*** Is the economy picking up some steam? The most significant political story over the past few months -- at least as it relates to 2012 -- hasn’t been the latest developments in the GOP presidential field, or President Obama’s barnstorming through the country, or even the Occupy Wall Street protests (which have become more violent recently). Instead, it’s been the stalling economy, which began last spring (with the rising gas prices and the devastation in Japan). Today, there’s evidence that the economy is picking up some steam, at least for now. The Commerce Department says, per the AP, that the economy grew at a rate of 2.5% in the 3rd quarter. By comparison, 1st quarter GDP growth was at 0.4%, while 2nd quarter growth was 1.3%. "The big story is we're no longer on life support," said Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi financial economist Chris Rupkey, per CNBC’s Patti Domm. "We're not at stall speed of 1%, like we were in the first half of the year. Stall speed is where bad things can happen."

*** Perry to skip debates after Nov. 9? The fall debate season hasn’t been kind to Rick Perry, and his campaign is now suggesting he will limit his participation in future debates after the CNBC debate in Michigan on Nov. 9. “We’re about 60 days away from votes being cast,” Perry Communications Director, Ray Sullivan said on CNN, per Bloomberg. “The candidates need to spend time in Iowa doing those town halls and spending a lot more time with the voters, who oftentimes have the best questions and press the candidates the hardest.” Sullivan went on to say, “We’re taking each of these as they come, examining the schedule and examining the opportunities and the opportunity costs.” And Perry spokesman Mark Miner told Politico: "We said we would do Michigan but the primaries are around the corner and you have to use your time accordingly." If you've followed Perry's career closely and if you've read the "Eggheads" about the Perry way of doing this on the campaign trail, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Perry's folks believe in the retail campaign strategy; it's a Perry strength, one he's yet to be able to showcase which is why they want off the debate trail.

*** A day of backtracks: Yesterday’s news from the GOP campaign amounted to a day of backtracks. First, after declining on Tuesday to comment on Ohio's referendum on its collective-bargaining law, Romney apologized. "I'm sorry if I created any confusion in that regard," Romney said at a rally in Fairfax, VA yesterday. "I fully support Gov. Kasich's, I think it's called Question 2, in Ohio. Fully support that." (It’s called Issue 2.) Next, Perry walked back his birther comments yesterday. "I don't think I was expressing doubts," he said of his previous comments about the validity of the president's birth certificate in an interview with Tampa's Bay News 9 to be aired Sunday, per the St. Petersburg Times. "I was just having some fun with Donald Trump." Folks, neither candidate has had a very good week. Just read the paragraph again.

*** Disorganization Man: The New York Times is the latest to look at the disorganization inside the Cain campaign. “[I]nterviews with Mr. Cain’s former staff members, volunteers and supporters give a glimpse of a candidate who appeared to show ambivalence toward basic campaign management, which led to problems in hiring, scheduling, fund-raising and messaging.” The Times also has this nugget: “And then there was that e-mail to the staff about traveling in a car with Mr. Cain: ‘Do not speak to him unless you are spoken to,’ the memo said. ‘I found it odd,’ said a former staff member who liked to prep Mr. Cain for appearances while driving.” And be sure to read Dan Balz’s take on a Peter Hart-conducted focus group, which liked Cain but wasn’t sure he was ready to be president. 

*** On the 2012 trail: Cain (via satellite), Gingrich, and Santorum participate in the News Corp/College Board "Education & Election 2012" Presidential Forum in New York City… Paul attends a house party in New Hampshire… And Cain speaks at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Arkansas. 

*** Connie Mack gets into FL Senate race: There’s another Republican getting into the Florida Senate race, the Miami Herald reports. “Florida Congressman Connie Mack planns to enter the Republican race for U.S. Senate, adding a big name to a contest that has lacked drama for months. ’Connie Mack is running for the U.S. Senate. He is making calls. He is assembling a team. And he will have more to announce about the run in the weeks ahead,’ said David James, a senior adviser.” (Hat tip: Taegan Goddard.) Bill Nelson could be very vulnerable, but the current GOP field has been lackluster in fundraising and is not well known. Connie Mack, whose father with the same name served in the Senate for two terms, has the instant name ID to potentially put this race in play.

*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: White House Deputy Senior Adviser Stephanie Cutter on President Obama’s executive action push… Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on his brewing fight with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the Big 12’s plans for college football expansion… One of us (!!!) on reactions to Romney’s recent reactions and NBC’s Mike Isikoff on Romney’s big D.C. establishment fundraiser… Daily Beast/CNBC’s Fast Money Contributor Zachary Karabell on what Europe’s debt developments mean for the U.S… And more 2012 news with TIME’s Michael Scherer, National Journal’s Beth Reinhard, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews former White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki, Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka, EU Ambassador Joao De Almeida, Rep. Allyson Schwartz, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Time’s Richard Stengel, Rep. Kevin Brady, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. 

*** MTP’s “Press Pass”: In his weekly “Press Pass,” NBC’s David Gregory interviewed Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who said this about Herman Cain: “I think the Tea Partiers like him because he has these fast snappy answers and they don’t want to be, you know they’ve been accused as being racists, and I think when they can vote for a Herman Cain and hear him say the things that he says they feel like, ‘Well, you know, I can, I support this guy and he’s and so he, he’s, it shows that I’m not racist and I’m supportive.’” 

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 12 days
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 68 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 79 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 86 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 131 days

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