Discuss as:

First Thoughts: A tale of two different strategies

A tale of two different strategies: Obama is running against the GOP, while Romney is running against Obama… How Obama and Romney can counter these strategies… Why Romney might want Santorum to exit the race -- now… Gillespie joins Team Romney… Politicizing the courts: Everyone is to blame… And how Justice Kennedy could play Solomon.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney addresses a luncheon hosted by Newspaper Association of America and American Society of News Editors during the MediaXchange conference April 4, 2012 in Washington, DC.

*** A tale of two different strategies: So what we did make of the back-to-back speeches by President Obama and Mitt Romney before newspaper editors in DC? The two men appear to have two very different strategies as we transition to the general election. Obama, as we wrote yesterday, is running against the Republican Party and its brand (see the Ryan budget), and wants to tie Romney to them. “This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan Horse,” he said.  “Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.” Romney, meanwhile, is campaigning directly against the president -- against his record and against him personally. “[Obama] does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press… He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.” So Obama wants to make the general election a referendum on the Republican Party, while Romney wants to make it about Obama. That’s maybe why Romney mentioned Obama’s name or “Obamacare” 22 times in his speech, according to NBC’s Morgan Parmet. By comparison, Obama mentioned Romney’s name just once.

Related: Romney, GOP must remember lessons from 2008 veepstakes

*** How Obama and Romney can counter these strategies: To combat these attacks, both candidates have work to do. For Obama, he has to make the case that things are getting better (all eyes will be on Friday’s job numbers) and that he deserves another four years in office. For Romney, as we mentioned yesterday, he either has to distance himself -- at least somewhat -- from the GOP, or he has to work to repair the party’s brand. Political strategist Matthew Dowd offers some additional advice to Romney. “Right now you … seem to have adopted three key attacks: that Obama is out of touch, out of the mainstream and can't be trusted. Funny thing is, Obama is saying the same thing about you. You need to settle on one message, as does the president, and be disciplined about it. But because you're vulnerable on each of these attacks, you might also consider some other strategy.”

*** Why Romney might want Santorum to exit -- now: In his Q&A with the newspaper editors yesterday, Romney expressed his desire for the GOP primary season to come to an end -- ASAP. "I hope that we're able to resolve our nomination process as soon as possible,” he said. And this is now Romney’s immediate challenge: How does he convince Rick Santorum to get out, preferably before the April 24 Pennsylvania primary? Consider: If Santorum remains in the race, and if Romney wants to win Pennsylvania, Team Romney is going to have to go negative (as we saw in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin), and that will only drive up Romney’s own negatives, as well as make it harder to unify the party for the general. But if the Romney campaign doesn’t go negative, it’s very possible to see how Santorum ends up winning in Pennsylvania -- and possibly some of the later contests in May (North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas). And for Romney, having the inevitable nominee lose primary races is never a good thing. Given these two scenarios, convincing Santorum to get out now is probably their preferred. But how do they achieve that? By the way, Santorum is off the trail for the next FIVE days for the holidays…

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd talks about the growing pressure on Rick Santorum to leave the Republican race.

*** Gillespie joins Team Romney: Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is beginning to staff up for the general election. NBC’s Garrett Haake confirms that the campaign is bringing in former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie as a senior adviser to help with strategy. As Politico’s Martin writes, “Gillespie will be a sort of strategist without portfolio to the likely GOP presidential nominee, offering counsel on planning for the Tampa convention, the candidate’s message and a general election strategy for a campaign that is already moving beyond the primary.” By the way, Gillespie had served with the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads, and Crossroads tells First Read that he has suspended his role with that organization. Even by following the letter of the law, it’s just more evidence of the thin line separating the campaigns from the Super PACs that aren’t supposed to be coordinating with each other.

*** On the trail, per NBC’s Adam Perez: Romney remains in Pennsylvania, hosting a meet-and-greet in Harrisburg and attending an energy event in Tunkhannock… Gingrich stumps in Delaware, making stops in Greenwood, Magnolia, and Millsboro… And Paul hosts a town hall event at UC Berkeley in California.

*** Politicizing the courts -- everyone’s to blame: So what do we make of the furious back-and-forth over the Supreme Court? Everyone is to blame here. President Obama contributed to it by referring to the fact that the court was “unelected.” (And he probably realized it when he seemed to walk back his criticism the next day.) Supreme Court Justice Scalia contributed it when he talked more about politics and process than the law during the oral arguments, even adopting Tea Party talking points. And this 5th Circuit Judge, Jerry Smith (appointed by Reagan), contributed to it when he demanded the Justice Department to explain if it believes the courts have the right to strike down laws. (Many Supreme Court experts “expressed surprise at Smith's overtly political rebuke of the president,” Yahoo writes.) But it’s also nothing new that the courts have been politicized. After all, we’re not sure we saw too many Republicans criticize Newt Gingrich last December, when he said that the 9th Circuit should be abolished and that U.S. marshals could bring judges before Congress to explain unpopular decisions. But does “tit-for-tat” make it right? That’s the question for everyone this week who has contributed to this cynical political analysis about the court.

*** If Justice Kennedy wanted to play Solomon: Speaking of the Supreme Court, the New Republic’s Jonathan  Cohn raises an intriguing theory: There’s a way to strike down the health-care mandate but keep the penalty for not getting insurance in place. “Joey Fishkin, an assistant professor of law at the University of Texas, proposed this option over the weekend. Writing at Balkinization,* Fishkin notes that the mandate to obtain insurance and the penalty for violating it are actually two separate sections in the Affordable Care Act. The mandate, known as the “minimum coverage requirement,” is Section 5000A(a). The penalty, known as the "shared responsibility payment," is Section 5000A(b).”

*** On “Meet the Press” this Sunday: NBC’s David Gregory hosts a general-election preview with a debate between Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D). The program also has a special Easter Sunday discussion on faith and politics.

Countdown to the CT, DE, NY, PA, and RI primaries: 19 days
Countdown to Election Day: 215 days

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower