With 26 days to go until Iowa, Team Romney is preparing a more concerted effort to take on the person who has become their chief rival: Newt Gingrich. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.
Team Romney’s attack on Newt begins… And it’s a two-fold attack, going after Gingrich personally and professionally… New Quinnipiac polls: Gingrich isn’t that far away from Romney’s general election numbers… Huntsman also to jab Gingrich (as well as Obama and Romney)… On the White House’s Plan B decision… And Senate to hold cloture vote on Cordray nomination.
*** The attack on Newt begins: In the last 24 hours, Mitt Romney’s campaign has started its attack -- though in a subtle way so far -- against Newt Gingrich. First, it launched its latest TV advertisement with Romney saying what he mentioned at the November CNBC debate: “I’ve been married to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me, I’ll get in trouble -- for 42 years.” (Hmmm, with whom could he be trying to make a contrast?) Then last night in West Des Moines, IA, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was stumping for Romney, an undecided GOP voter asked the governor to say something she might not know about Romney to help influence her vote. Christie answered by observing how Romney interacted with Christie’s children. He added, “This is a guy who is a father and a husband and loves his wife and his kids.” And Christie concluded, “When you look at candidates say, ‘Is this the kind of person who’s always going to make me proud in the Oval Office and never have to worry will embarrass America? That I’ll never have to worry will do something that will just make me ashamed?’ [Romney] just won’t.” (Hmmm, who could possibly embarrass the country?)
*** It’s two fold: personal and professional: And today, at 9:00 am ET, two Romney surrogates -- former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu and former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent -- are holding a conference call to discuss Gingrich’s record. This is the first time that Team Romney has held a conference call to engage the former House speaker. And after the conference call, Sununu will appear on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.” Meanwhile, on TODAY this morning, Romney backer Dan Quayle said he chose Romney over Gingrich because of leadership. “It comes down to one thing: leadership,” he said. “Mitt Romney would be a much better leader.” So the attack on Gingrich is two fold: personal and professional.
*** Gingrich isn’t that far away from Romney’s general election numbers: This new Romney focus on Gingrich comes as more polls suggest not just CONTINUED strength for Gingrich, but growing (even in the general). A new round of Quinnipiac polls makes three points. One, Gingrich leads Romney -- overwhelmingly -- in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Two, Romney is ahead of President Obama in Florida (45%-42%), essentially tied with him in Ohio (43%-42%), and trailing the president in Pennsylvania (43%-46%). And three, Gingrich doesn’t fare considerably worse than Romney in those swing states. In Florida, it’s Obama 46%, Gingrich 44%; in Ohio, it’s Gingrich 43%, Obama 42%; and in Pennsylvania, it’s Obama 48%, Gingrich 40%. These are the other headlines from the Quinnipiac polls: Obama approval ratings in these states are all under water -- 41% in Florida and Ohio and 43% in Pennsylvania. Also, just 44% in Florida, 42% in Ohio, and 47% in Pennsylvania believe he deserves re-election. If there is ONE small piece of good news in these polls for Team Obama, it’s that Pennsylvania is starting to look a little more like a state they should win vs. one that’s slipped into the Ohio-Florida pure toss-up category.
*** Huntsman to jab Gingrich (as well as Obama and Romney): The Romney camp isn’t the only one leveling criticism at the new GOP front-runner. Today in DC, Jon Huntsman is delivering a speech on restoring the public’s trust, and he will go after Gingrich – as well as Romney and President Obama. Per excerpts of the address, which he delivers at noon ET, Huntsman will say: “The president came to office with a mandate to restore trust in Washington, yet his inexperience and failure to lead have left us worse off. He promised to change Washington, and then immediately succumbed to the partisanship, corporate handouts, bailouts, and spending that have made it so reviled. My opponents offer no better. Gov. Romney will say anything to earn the voters trust. We are in this mess because there are already enough people in Washington who make a career out of telling people what they want to hear. Newt Gingrich is a product of that same Washington, who participated in the excesses of our broken and polarized political system.”
*** Plan B: While the Obama administration is taking some hits from the left in its decision NOT to allow girls 16 and younger to obtain the Plan B morning-after pill off the shelves, it was a smart move politically. (Why subject yourself to a possible GOP attack that your administration is allowing 14-year-old girls to easily acquire morning-after pills? And that line of attack, in turn, would have potentially created problems for the president in places like Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc… places with high concentrations of Catholic Democrats and independents.) When you add this decision to the White House’s punt on Keystone XL, you see that Team Obama is operating under this rule: Don’t create political problems for yourself if you don’t HAVE to, especially over issues that most Americans aren’t paying attention to. Just like in football, sometimes a punt is a smart play – even if it’s not what the fans want to see.
*** The Cordray nomination: Turning to Capitol Hill, the Senate will hold its cloture vote around 10:30 am ET on Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, NBC’s Libby Leist reports. Senate Republicans are expected the block the nomination, because they believe the CFPB needs to be more accountable to Congress rather than run by a single director. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer has told reporters he’d be open to a recess appointment if that’s what it took to get Cordray into the position.
*** On the 2012 trail: Gingrich stumps in South Carolina… Romney raises money in Virginia… Ron Paul makes several stops in Iowa… Anita Perry is also in the Hawkeye State… Rick Perry spends his day in South Carolina… And Huntsman delivers a speech at the National Press Club before heading to New Hampshire.
*** Thursday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Two Sununus!!! Romney supporter and former Gov. John Sununu (R-NH) on Gingrich’s rise and former Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) joins former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) to talk about the looming deadline for a payroll tax cut holiday extension… Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler on who’s gaining steam in the Hawkeye State… And more 2012 news with Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz, NPR’s Ari Shapiro and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress.
*** Thursday’s “Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interviews Richard Wolffe and Wendy Schiller; Karen Hunter and Matt Lewis; and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.
*** Thursday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include RNC Chairman Michael Steele, BBC America's Katty Kay, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Emanuel Cleaver.
*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up (guest hosted by Chuck Todd): NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (on the payroll-tax fight), former Defense Secretary William Cohen, NBC’s Pete Williams (on the Fast & Furious hearing), CNBC’s Eamon Javers, NBC’s David Gregory, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, and National Journal’s Ron Fournier.
Countdown to Iowa caucuses: 26 days
Countdown to New Hampshire primary: 33 days
Countdown to South Carolina primary: 44 days
Countdown to Florida primary: 54 days
Countdown to Nevada caucuses: 58 days
Countdown to Super Tuesday: 89 days
Countdown to Election Day: 336 days
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