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First Thoughts: What a wild week

What a wild week, and it’s not yet over… The latest developments in the Cain story… Cain: “This stuff is totally fabricated”… October jobs reports: Economy adds 80,000 jobs and unemployment rate falls to 9.0%... The latest news from the G20… Romney vows to cut spending and appears to embrace the Tea Party… Corzine resigns from MF Global… Both Cain and Romney address Americans for Prosperity summit in DC, while Bachmann, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, and Santorum speak at Reagan dinner in Des Moines… And Huntsman to appear on “Meet the Press.”

*** What a wild week: The original news -- and subsequent reporting -- that Herman Cain was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior back in the 1990s has created the first scandal of the 2012 presidential campaign, the first media feeding frenzy, and the first GOP circular firing squad. It’s been wild a week, and no one is quite sure how this story will end. Will it bring down Cain’s meteoric rise in the polls (and even his entire campaign)? Or will it serve to bolster his support (his campaign says it has raised $1.2 million over the past three days, per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty)? According to the first national poll taken after the story exploded -- a Washington Post/ABC survey -- it doesn’t appear to be hurting him, at least so far. “Seven in 10 Republicans say reports that Cain made unwanted advances toward two employees … do not matter when it comes to picking a candidate.” And the poll shows him running neck-and-neck with Romney nationally (with Romney at 24% and Cain at 23%).


Herman Cain in Washington, DC on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011.

*** The latest developments: Here are the latest developments in the story: Both Politico and the New York Times report, according to multiple sources, that Cain engaged in “flirty banter” that “crossed over into propositions” and made a “sexual overture” to Female Accuser A (who worked in the National Restaurant Association’s government-relations office); the NRA will decide today if it will allow Female Accuser B (who worked in the communications office) to release a statement telling her side of the story; Politico reported that Accuser B received a $45,000 payout; an organization supporting Cain has produced a Web video equating the media’s scrutiny to a “high-tech lynching”; and Cain’s wife Gloria will not appear in a FOX interview tonight, as was originally thought.

*** Cain: “This stuff is totally fabricated”: Cain continued to defend himself on Sean Hannity’s radio program, NBC’s Lisa Myers reported on “TODAY” this morning. “This is absolutely fabrication, man,” Cain said. “I don’t know what else to say. How many more ways can I say this stuff is totally fabricated.” There was also this exchange in the interview:

Hannity: Did you tell a woman she looked good? That that dress looks hot?
Cain: Nope
Hannity: Anything?
Cain: Nope
Hannity: Any flirtation that you can think of?
Cain: Nope, nope.

*** 80,000 jobs added in October, unemployment rate falls to 9.0%: While it’s been a wild week, the news is far from over. This morning, we received the monthly jobs report. The verdict: Another mixed report. The AP says: “The Labor Department says the economy added 80,000 jobs last month, the fewest in four months and below September's revised total of 158,000. The unemployment rate dipped to 9 percent. Businesses added 104,000 jobs, below September's total. Government shed 24,000 jobs.” That said, “The report included some positive signs. The government revised August and September's figures upward by 102,000. Average hourly earnings rose. And the unemployment rate fell for the first time.”

*** The news from the G20: Also today, President Obama remains in France for the G20 gathering. In addition to the news that Greece’s prime minister has called off his proposed referendum on the debt deal, the other story coming out of the G20 will be promises of more international resources to Europe for their version of a TARP bailout fund. But notably, the U.S. will NOT being ponying up more money for the International Monetary Fund. The reason the U.S. is standing firm on this, according to Obama administration officials, is that they believe Europe has the resources to do this on their own. After all, the U.S. didn't use int'l loans for TARP. (Politically, imagine if Obama did ask for more U.S. money for the IMF? To say it would become a domestic GOP attack line on him is an understatement.) Obama will hold a news conference at the G20 at 10:15 am ET, and he heads back home later this afternoon.

*** Romney vows to cut spending: The other big 2012 news today is Romney’s speech -- on deficits and spending -- this afternoon at the Americans for Prosperity summit in DC. Romney previewed his remarks yesterday in a USA Today op-ed, as well as in a speech yesterday in New Hampshire. NBC’s Jo Ling Kent reports on Romney’s NH speech: “In front of more than 200 people, GOP front runner Mitt Romney unveiled his most detailed spending policy to date, promising to slash government spending by $500 billion in his first term by cutting federal spending like Amtrak, reducing foreign aid, and reorganizing federal government programs to the state-level. Reading from handwritten notes on yellow legal paper, Romney pointed to the financial crisis in Greece to illustrate his reasoning for fostering what he called ‘a smaller, simpler, smarter approach’ to government. ‘If we keep spending like we're spending and borrowing like we're borrowing, at some point we could face what Greece faces,’ he told the standing-room only audience.”

*** Embracing the Tea Party? One way to view Romney’s speech yesterday, as well as his op-ed, is as an embrace of the Tea Party. For starters, he stood beneath a banner that read, “Cut the spending,” and he stressed in his speech that “Deficits do matter” (even though the former GOP vice president he has praised once stated that they don’t). He also appears to be embracing Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, though in a modified way. “Tomorrow's Medicare should give beneficiaries a generous defined contribution and allow them to choose between private plans and traditional Medicare. And lower-income future retirees should receive the most assistance,” he wrote in his USA Today op-ed. “I believe that competition will improve Medicare and the coverage that seniors receive.”


*** Corzine resigns: Jon Corzine’s announced resignation from MF Global is an embarrassing end to a onetime rising political star. To resign a day after the bankruptcy and day after word that MF Global was trying to cover up losses by shifting the books makes Corzine look guilty. Why not stick around and fix this? Why run away? Perhaps there are legal reasons to do. Perhaps he thinks it's the honorable thing to resign. Maybe he was an absentee CEO and is embarrassed this happened on his watch. Whatever the explanation, it's not good for Corzine's reputation. The whole point of Corzine's relevance in politics was his knowledge and success of the financial world. Politicians can recover from sex scandals because the public is willing to separate the personal flaws if the professional work is on the up and up. Corzine's fall may be harder to recover from.

*** On the 2012 trail: Cain also speaks at the Americans for Prosperity Summit in DC… This evening beginning at 8:30 pm ET, Paul, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry (in that order) speak  at the Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, IA… And Huntsman remains in South Carolina.

*** Friday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up (with guest host Chris Cillizza): Reaction to the new job numbers with National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi… One of us (!!!) talks to philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates… The latest news from President Obama’s G20 trip in France… And the latest on Cain and more 2012 news with USA Today’s Susan Page, National Review/Bloomberg View’s Ramesh Ponnuru, and Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American Progress.

*** Sunday’s “Meet the Press”: NBC’s David Gregory will interview Huntsman.

Countdown to Election Day 2011: 4 days
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 60 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 78 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 88 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 92 daysCountdown to Super Tuesday: 123 days

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