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First Thoughts: Better (but still not great) jobs news for Obama

Better (but still not great) job news for Obama: 163,000 jobs added in July, while unemployment rate ticks up to 8.3%... An ode to Congress on its August recess: We salute you -- for not getting much done… Put up or shut up: More Harry Reid vs. Mitt Romney… And Romney camp/RNC try to distract the Obama campaign.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Loudoun County High School on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 in Leesburg, Va.

*** Better (but still not great) job news for Obama: Well, the July jobs numbers are in, and they are better news for President Obama than they’ve been since the early spring. Here’s the AP’s write-up: “U.S. employers added 163,000 jobs in July, a hopeful sign after three months of sluggish hiring. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose to 8.3% from 8.2 % in June. July's hiring was the best since February. Still, the economy has added an average of 151,000 jobs a month this year, roughly the same as last year's pace.” As we said before, anything above 150,000 new jobs per month is good news for Obama. But expect Mitt Romney and the Republicans to focus on the slight tick up in the unemployment rate. The president will likely comment on the job numbers at his 11:45 am ET event at the White House, which is scheduled to press Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. Meanwhile, we’ll certainly get reaction from Romney, who campaigns in Las Vegas around the very same time.

*** An ode to Congress on its recess: For those who have departed on their August recess, we salute you -- for going down as one of the most unproductive, contentious, and unpopular Congresses in modern history. So in addition to last summer’s debt-ceiling debacle, the Super Committee’s failure, and the near-government shutdown during 2011, Congress has failed to come together to pass a comprehensive farm bill. And Senate Republicans yesterday filibustered a cybersecurity bill. So here’s your current Congress: Republicans are working to block or dismantle laws; Democrats are focusing on protecting what’s already law; and no one is getting stuff done. As we wrote earlier this week, one of the most profound changes on Capitol Hill is the job requirement. It’s no longer about bringing home deliverables to your state or congressional district (like roads, bridges, or new schools). Instead, it’s about scoring ideological points and waging partisan crusades.

Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, joins Morning Joe formally announced he won't seek a 10th term in office, citing extreme polarization as his reason for retiring. LaTourette joins Morning Joe to further discuss his reason for leaving Congress.

*** Put up or shut up: It’s now pretty clear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is accomplishing what he set out to do: get under Mitt Romney’s skin. After Reid doubled down on his baseless charge that Romney might not have paid taxes over a 10-year period, the Republican presidential candidate responded on Sean Hannity’s radio program, “It’s time for Harry to put up or shut up.” More Romney: "It's untrue, dishonest and inaccurate. It's wrong. So I'm looking forward to have Harry reveal his sources and we'll probably find out that it's the White House." But Romney’s put-up-or-shut-up reply gave Reid precisely the opening he was looking for. “When it comes to answering the legitimate questions the American people have about whether he avoided paying his fair share in taxes or why he opened a Swiss bank account, Romney has shut up,” Reid said in a statement last night. “But as a presidential candidate, it’s his obligation to put up, and release several years’ worth of tax returns just like nominees of both parties have done for decades. It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is.”

*** Fatal Distraction: And while Reid is trying to get under Romney’s skin, it’s clear that the GOP is trying to do the same thing to Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina. Earlier this week, the Romney camp and the RNC seized on reports that Messina -- when he was working at the White House -- sent work-related emails from a private account and held meetings at a coffee shop near the White House to avoid showing up in the White House’s visitor logs. This GOP hit on Messina, as well as yesterday’s hit on Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, has a simple goal: to distract the people running the Obama campaign. But the Romney/RNC attack on transparency falls short when they aren’t promising more transparency under a potential Romney administration. In fact, by not releasing the identity of its bundlers or the candidate’s tax returns, the Romney campaign so far has been less transparent than the most recent past presidential candidates.

Countdown to GOP convention: 24 days
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Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 61 days
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