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First Thoughts: Invoking Teddy Roosevelt

Obama to invoke Teddy Roosevelt at 1:55 pm ET speech in Osawatomie, KS… The president will focus on income inequality… The RNC and Romney campaign are already bracketing Obama’s speech… A new poll has Gingrich with a large lead in South Carolina… Is Romney World getting nervous?... Romney and the benefit of the doubt… And Romney to get Dan Quayle’s endorsement in AZ.

*** Invoking Teddy Roosevelt: Barack Obama loves to invoke famous past Republican presidents. He paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln when he officially launched his presidential bid in Springfield, IL. During his primary battle, he said he admired how Ronald Reagan was able to change the trajectory of American politics. And today, he heads to Osawatomie, KS, where Teddy Roosevelt delivered his “New Nationalism” speech more than 100 years ago on Aug. 31, 1910. In this speech -- which the 26th president gave after leaving office and which marked his more progressive turn -- Roosevelt called for a “square deal” for all Americans, he advocated for stronger government regulations, and he said that the “right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted.” When President Obama delivers his major economic speech from Osawatomie, he’ll refer to Roosevelt’s 1910 address. 

*** Focusing on income inequality: According to senior administration officials, NBC’s Kristen Welker reports, there is a tremendous amount of parallel between 1910 and now. One of Roosevelt’s critiques in his speech is that there are things out balance -- like income inequality -- that are affecting the nation. And Welker adds that income inequality will be a major focus of the speech. The president, these senior administration officials say, will hail the free market but make the point that a free market doesn’t mean you have a free license. The Washington Post notes that the speech also this objective: to demonstrate how much the Republican Party has changed. Senior administration officials “cited still other Republican presidents who took actions that current Republicans might balk at — Richard Nixon starting the Environmental Protection Agency, Dwight Eisenhower expanding the federal highway system — to highlight the stakes facing the country. Roosevelt ‘was criticized by members of his party,’ said one administration official… ‘That’s why he ultimately left his party and gave the speech… We’re at a crossroads here.’” Is this the re-election message? The Obama campaign does still seem to searching for one, or at least struggling to refine it.

*** Bracketing Obama’s speech: Meanwhile, Republicans are bracketing Obama’s speech. “Maybe instead of trying to be like other presidents, Obama should try being president,” RNC spokeswoman Kristen Kukowski says in a statement. “The fact remains the president is desperately trying new slogans and messages to see what sticks because he can't figure out how to sell his last three years of high unemployment and more debt. The fact is he's failed to lead or live up to the promises he's made.” And the Romney campaign is holding a conference call at 10:00 am ET with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to pre-but Obama’s speech. And the campaign has released this statement from TPaw: [T]here's a big difference between the ‘Square Deal’ Teddy Roosevelt spoke of and the ‘Raw Deal’ that President Obama has given us.”

*** Gingrich up big in Iowa and South Carolina: Yet another poll -- Washington Post/ABC -- has Newt Gingrich in the lead in Iowa, with Newt at 33% among likely caucus-goers and Romney and Ron Paul tied at 18%. And now a new Winthrop poll out in South Carolina has Gingrich with nearly a 2-to-1 lead over Romney in South Carolina. Per NBC’s Ali Weinberg, Gingrich is at 38%, Romney’s at 22%, and Perry’s at 9%. (That Winthrop poll was conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, so mostly before Cain announced the suspension of his campaign, and it has Cain at 7%.) Remember, every winner of the South Carolina Republican primary since 1980 has gone on to win the nomination. The same CANNOT be said of Iowa and New Hampshire winners.

*** Romney World getting nervous? The traditional campaign strategy for dealing with a surging candidate with little or no money just four weeks out from the voting (see: Gingrich, Newt) is to pummel him/her with attack ads. And now Politico has this piece: “Nervous Mitt Romney supporters: Hit Newt Gingrich harder.” From the story: “Romney’s backers aren’t panicking — yet. But to many, especially among the GOP donor elite, Gingrich looks like Romney’s most formidable opponent to date... With precious little time left before voting starts — and a big cache of votes now up for grabs thanks to Cain’s withdrawal — Romney supporters say the pressure is building on their candidate to step up and seize the Republican nomination that has drifted just out of his reach all year.” Then again, you could make the argument that this is not a traditional campaign. There is a boomerang fear among some establishment Republicans who saw what happened in 2010.

*** Romney and the benefit of the doubt: Yesterday, Democrats and the Obama campaign jumped all over Romney’s support for extending the payroll tax cut. "I would like to see the payroll tax cut extended because I know that working families are really feeling the pinch right now -- middle-class Americans are having a hard time," Romney said yesterday on conservative talker Michael Medved's radio show. Why they jumped on Romney: During the Oct. 11 Bloomberg/Washington Post debate, Romney didn’t sound as enthusiastic about the payroll-tax cut. When asked if he would be OK with the payroll tax cuts, he said: “Look, I don't like temporary little Band-Aids, I want to fundamentally restructure America's foundation economically.” Now, that’s more a change in tone for Romney than an actual flip-flop, because he never said in that Oct. 11 debate that he was opposed to the payroll-tax cut. But here’s the potential general-election problem for Romney, if he becomes the nominee: All winning presidential candidates tend to get the benefit of the doubt but losing ones don’t. And you could argue that getting the benefit of the doubt will be difficult for Romney with a political press corps and Democratic Party ready to jump on any perceived change in position, no matter how small/nuanced it is.

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman talks to TODAY's Matt Lauer about his conservative credentials and why he won't appear at the upcoming GOP debate moderated by Donald Trump.

*** On the 2012 trail: Romney raises money in California and then heads to Arizona, where he’ll receive Dan Quayle’s endorsement… Rick Perry fundraises in Texas with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)… Santorum stumps in Iowa… Jon Huntsman gives a speech in DC… And Ann Romney campaigns for her husband in New Hampshire.

*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: DNC Chair and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) on the economy and 2012… CNBC’s Ron Insana on what the latest economic moves in Europe mean for the U.S… Freshman Reps. Jim Renacci (R-OH) and John Carney (D-DE) on how they’re trying to break the gridlock on the Hill with fellow freshmen… One of us (!!!) on how Gingrich profited from Newt, Inc…. And more 2012 news with USA Today’s Susan Page, former Bush 43 White House Political Director Sara Taylor Fagen, and former Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL).

*** Tuesday’s “Jansing & Co. line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews Robert Gibbs (on Obama’s speech), Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and the Washington Post’s EJ Dionne.

*** Tuesday's “MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC's Thomas Roberts talks with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) on the payroll tax cut fight and Jared Bernstein on Obama channeling Teddy Roosevelt.

*** Tuesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, Politico’s Ben White, and the Washington Post’s Melinda Hennenberger.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: It’s a big day for MSNBC and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, as MSNBC launches on HOT TV in Israel. Mitchell will interview Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Intelligence Director Efraim Halevy, author Ronen Bergman, Shibley Telhami, NBC’s Martin Fletcher and John Ray, plus Vin Weber with the Romney campaign.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall”: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut and Michael Smerconish (on the president’s speech), Salon’s Justin Elliot, and author Peter Schweizer.

Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 28 days
Countdown to New Hampshire primary: 35 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 46 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 56 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 60 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 91 days
Countdown to Election Day: 338 days

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