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First Thoughts: Here we go again

“Here we go again”: Another female allegation against Cain… GOP rivals so far have been unable to land a punch against Romney… So Democrats are showing them how to do it (see yesterday’s DNC ad)… Guess who’s winning the ad-spending race? It’s the DNC… Meanwhile, Obama camp up with its first TV ads (as part of a small satellite buy)… And Team Romney rolls out more endorsements.

*** “Here we go again”: Herman Cain’s reaction -- in advance (talk about a shrinking news cycle!) -- to a woman’s allegation that she had a 13-year-old affair with the GOP presidential candidate sums up the state of Cain’s campaign, as well as the state of the Republican horserace: “Here we go again.” As Cain told CNN before a local Atlanta TV station aired its report of the allegation, “My wife’s reaction was very similar to mine: Here we go again… We will basically show when the details become available that I didn’t do anything wrong.” The multiple sexual-harassment allegations against Cain may not have ruined his candidacy, though they certainly knocked him off message. His pregnant pause when talking about Libya might not have killed his chances, but it did bring into question his lack of experience and knowledge about world affairs. And this new allegation of an affair might not be the final nail in his political coffin, but we aren’t seeing the same conservatives rallying around Cain that we saw after the sexual-harassment allegations first surfaced. But when you take them all together, it’s pretty clear we’re watching a replay of the “Sixth Sense”: Everyone knows this candidacy is dead, except the campaign. Cain and the allegations have become a sideshow, bordering on a distraction to the rest of the field.


NBC's David Gregory and Chuck Todd discuss the impact the extra-marital affair claims against GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain will have on Cain's campaign and the overall Republican field.

 *** GOP rivals have been unable to land a punch against Romney…: First, there was the infamous NON-attack by now ex-candidate Tim Pawlenty, who telegraphed an “ObamneyCare” attack line one day but then took a pass the next at a June debate. Then in September, Rick Perry tried to actually deliver an attack on Mitt Romney that his '08 GOP rivals routinely delivered, with plenty of success. The charge: that Romney is a habitual flip-flopper. But Perry swung and missed, big time, at the September FOX debate in Florida. “Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the 2nd Amendment before he was for the 2nd Amendment? Was it -- was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade?” And it has been that GOP inability to effectively land a punch on Romney -- or even try -- that may have compelled the DNC to begin airing its TV ad against the former Massachusetts governor. Translation: "Let me show you guys how this is done." The ad buys are too small to be about actually trying to speak to swing voters; they appear to be a blatant attempt to drive a narrative -- a narrative the Obama campaign apparently would like some Romney rival to pick up on.

*** … So Democrats are showing them how to do it: Then again, as we mentioned yesterday, the Romney folks LOVE this Obama/Democratic attention, because they believe it helps rally skeptical Republicans around their guy. On the other hand, Democrats love this, too, because it helps cement a narrative about Romney -- that he's taken almost every side of every issue -- and it could peel off support from on-the-fence Republicans. (Did you know Romney was a pro-choice politician just six years ago? Did you know he signed a health-care mandate into law in Massachusetts?) In fact, you could argue that Democrats and the Obama campaign want the next 35 days to be about Mitt Romney, not Newt Gingrich (or another anti-Romney alternative). The question is whether any of the Republicans will take this blueprint.

*** Guess who’s winning the ad-spending race? It isn’t a GOP presidential candidate: With 35 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, Romney, Perry, or Ron Paul isn’t winning the TV ad-spending race. Rather, it’s the DNC. According to an ad-tracking source, the DNC has aired $6.8 million in TV ads so far in 2011. That’s followed by Perry’s $2.8 million (which includes his national Fox News buy), Ron Paul’s $2.1 million, the pro-Huntsman Our Destiny PAC’s $1.4 million, the pro-Perry Make Us Great Again Super PAC’s $775,000, Romney’s $134,000, and Cain’s $78,900. By the way, check out the candidate we did NOT include on this list: Newt Gingrich, who has yet to spend a dime on TV ads.

*** Obama campaign up with its first TV ads: Speaking of TV ads, the Obama campaign has gone up with its first ads of the race, although it tells First Read that it’s a small national satellite buy (so on things like DirectTV and DISH). The ads, per NBC’s Alex Moe, urge supporters to go call the campaign’s number or visit its website. “It all starts with you, making a decision to get involved because we've got so much more to do,” President Obama says in one of the ads. In another ad, he says, Starting right now, call the number on your screen or visit JoinObama.com to help build our campaign in your community. It's up to you to fight for the values we all share. Don't sit this one out.”

*** Team Romney rolls out more endorsements: As he campaigns in Florida today, Romney is rolling three more endorsements -- from GOP Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, GOP Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, and former GOP Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. But as NBC’s Garrett Haake points out, all three Republicans voted for the DREAM Act last year, which is legislation that Romney opposes.

*** On the 2012 trail: Romney stumps in Florida… Perry campaigns with Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in New Hampshire… Huntsman’s also in New Hampshire… Gingrich and Anita Perry remain in South Carolina… And Cain delivers a foreign-policy speech in Michigan.

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, on the prospects for a payroll tax deal… Politico’s Jonathan Martin and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza on all the moving parts for 2012 GOPers with just 35 days until Iowa… NBC’s Ali Weinberg on Gingrich’s South Carolina tour… more 2012 news with National Review/Bloomberg View’s Ramesh Ponnuru, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon and the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut.

*** Tuesday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn (on Obama’s new TV ads), as well as Bloomberg’s Jeanne Cummings and the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney.

*** Tuesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews Politico’s  Joe Williams, Melissa Harris Perry and teen tweeter Emma Sullivan (who refused to apologize to Gov. Sam Brownback).

*** Tuesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), Newark Mayor Corey Booker, White House chef Sam Kass, Roll Call TV’s Robert Traynham, Politico’s Ben White, and Financial Times’ Gillian Tett. 

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews top White House economic aide Gene Sperling, Dem Rep. Luis Gutierrez, South Carolina GOP Chair Chad Connolly, Howard Dean, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, and Bloomberg’s Josh Green.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall”: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews MSNBC contributor Michael Smerconish and NBC News Military analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrrey

Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 35 days
Countdown to New Hampshire primary: 42 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 53 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 63 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 67 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 98 days
Countdown to Election Day: 345 days

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