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First Thoughts: When world affairs meet American politics

When world affairs (in Greece, Egypt, and in Mexico) meet American politics… Obama’s immigration announcement and the power of the bully pulpit… The GOP’s big immigration mistake: Why did it wait so long?... Romney still not filling in the blanks on what he would do as president… Romney’s bus tour, on its fourth day, goes through Wisconsin and Iowa… Sheldon Adelson shelling out millions more… And the Romney horse goes for the gold.

*** When world affairs meet American politics: The past weekend was a rare couple of days when world events influenced domestic American politics. For starters, the Obama White House breathed a sigh of relief when the Greek political party that supports a bailout for the country and remaining in the euro zone narrowly won in elections yesterday, giving observers some optimism about the situation in Europe. But for every step forward there, there are often two steps back. And as if on cue, world stock markets -- which had welcomed the outcome at the start of the day -- have since turned south.) In addition, the events in Egypt are something that could turn into a bigger political story here, especially given the role President Obama played in the transfer of power there in early 2011. The Washington Post: “Egypt’s military leaders issued a constitutional decree Sunday that gave the armed forces sweeping powers and degraded the presidency to a subservient role, as the Muslim Brotherhood declared that its candidate had won the country’s presidential runoff election.” And today at the G20 summit in Mexico, Obama meets with Russia’s Putin, and the situation in Syria will obviously be an issue. Quick reminder: This is the president’s final SCHEDULED international trip before November.  

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd explains which issues will dominate the summit during the next two days.

*** Obama’s immigration announcement and the bully pulpit: After his worst three political weeks of the year, Friday was a reminder why the bully pulpit matters -- and why an incumbent president has so many powers at his disposal: Obama changed the subject immediately. His announcement that the administration would no longer deport young illegal immigrants who have graduated from high school, served in the military, and have a clean criminal record clearly put Mitt Romney on the defensive over the weekend. In fact, after previously saying he’d veto the DREAM Act and using immigration as a political weapon in the GOP primaries (remember him blasting Rick Perry for supporting the so-called Texas DREAM Act?), Romney declined to say if he would overturn the policy if elected president in his interview on CBS. And he charged Obama for playing politics on the issue. Don’t forget: If one side is accusing the other of playing politics, they’ve typically lost the argument. Three good days -- the immigration announcement and the Greek vote -- don’t make up for three bad weeks. But Plouffe and company would call it a start.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is harshly criticizing President Obama's decision to stop deporting young illegal immigrants, while Obama is in Los Cabos, Mexico, to attend the G20 summit. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

*** The GOP’s big immigration mistake: Regarding this immigration story, Romney and Republicans have to be asking themselves this question: Why did they wait so long in trying to craft an alternative that could woo Latino voters? Make no mistake, Marco Rubio’s DREAM Act alternative could have been a get-out-of-jail card with this voting bloc. But Republicans, including Romney, never grabbed on to it, and Rubio never even drafted actual legislation. It was a trial balloon, it seems, that crashed and burned with the GOP base. Romney said this in his interview on CBS: “If [Obama] felt seriously about this [issue] he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn’t. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election.” But the same thing applies to Romney and the GOP: They should have taken action on a DREAM Act alternative that could have Etch A Sketch-ed away the Republican Party’s rhetoric on immigration, including Romney’s. But they didn’t. (Had the GOP rallied around Rubio’s alternative and had Senate Dems killed it, well, then their charge over the weekend of “politics” would be taken more seriously.) By the way, the Romney camp is up with a new Spanish-language TV ad, but it’s simply another ad that’s just translated into Spanish (the one hitting Obama on the “the private sector is doing fine”).

*** Still not filling in the blanks: Here’s a final observation we had after watching Romney on CBS yesterday: If he’s not attacking Obama on the economy, the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t perform as well. Indeed, not only did he struggle in answering the questions on immigration -- Will he overturn Obama’s action? Does he support Rubio’s proposal? He never really said -- Romney was unable to identify a single loophole he’d close to pay for his additional tax cuts. CBS’s BOB SCHIEFFER: “Which of the deductions are you going to be willing to eliminate?... When are you going to be able to tell us that?” ROMNEY: “We’ll go through that process with Congress.” Bottom line: We’re nearly four months away from Election Day, and the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee can’t say how he’d act on a new immigration policy, or which tax loopholes he’d close to pay for his tax cuts. Romney’s camp has decide how to go forward on this issue of allowing his stances remain vague. On one hand, when he’s only attacking Obama’s record, he does well; it’s the “referendum” argument. But when he’s talking about his plans (or avoiding it), he provides the Obama folks with “choice” fodder. It explains why Romney has been careful about his media interviews but doesn’t it argue for Romney to spend more time filling in the blanks so that he can get over the “choice” hump?

*** On the trail: Romney is on the fourth day of his bus tour, which today takes him through Wisconsin and Iowa. At 10:00 am ET, he hits Janesville, WI (along with Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan). Then he holds events in Dubuque, IA (at 2:30 pm ET) and Davenport, IA (6:10 pm ET).

*** More millions for Adelson: We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The biggest story this election season could very well be the outside groups and money influencing the major races. And after learning the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife will give $10 million to the pro-Romney Super PAC, the New York Times writes that the Adelsons also plan to give millions more to GOP-leaning groups like Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. “Mr. Adelson, whose net worth approaches $25 billion, has suggested that he is willing to spend up to $100 million to defeat Mr. Obama and elect Republicans this year. ‘He’s fully committed to beating Barack Obama,’ said Fred S. Zeidman, a Texas energy executive and a friend of Mr. Adelson’s. ‘We think ‘$100 million, wow!’ But it’s a meaningless amount of money to him.’”  Wow indeed…

*** Going for the gold: Lastly, we learned over the weekend that the horse that the Romneys own will compete in the Olympics. “Jan Ebeling, Mrs. Romney’s longtime riding tutor, and his horse Rafalca, co-owned by Mrs. Romney, earned a berth on the United States Olympic dressage team on Saturday,” the Times says. When CBS’s Schieffer asked Romney about the horse and its competition in the Olympics, Romney said: “Yes, it's the sport of dressage, not many people are familiar with it. But something for which [Ann Romney] has a passion and frankly, her getting back on a horse after she was diagnosed with MS, was able-- she is convinced to help her regenerate her strength and renew that-- that vigor. And so she cares very deeply about-- about this sport and about-- and about horses. She's-- she's a real-- I-- I joke that I'm going to have to send her to Betty Ford for addiction to horses.”

Countdown to GOP convention: 70 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 77 days
Countdown to Election Day: 141 days

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