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First Thoughts: Shake it up

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd explains how the Obama campaign will take on the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Romney picking Ryan shakes up the race, but will it last? … Big crowd turns out for Romney-Ryan in Wisconsin… Three questions we have: 1) Is Romney already distancing himself from Ryan’s budget plan?... 2) Which party is more comfortable debating the Ryan budget -- the GOP or Democrats?... 3) And just how will the Medicare debate play out, especially in Florida?... Romney stumps in the Sunshine State today, while Ryan heads to Iowa… And Obama begins three-day bus tour through the Hawkeye State.

*** Shake it up: By selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate on Saturday, Mitt Romney did something that Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, Al Gore, and John McCain did in previous presidential contests: They used their VP pick to try to shake things up. Trailing in the summer, they chose a running mate -- be it Geraldine Ferraro, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman, or Sarah Palin -- to change the fundamentals of the race. These picks all worked in the short run, but only once (with Lieberman) did it serve its purpose for the rest of the campaign. (Gore, after all, was able to battle back to where he actually won the popular vote.) So how will this play out for Romney? By picking Ryan, he made the calculation that he needed to pick someone to help redefine himself, first and foremost. The move also serves to fire up conservatives, give the GOP ticket a jolt of youthful energy, and make the case he now stands for something big. But it also wasn’t the kind of VP selection we saw from George W. Bush in 2000 or Barack Obama in 2008 that essentially said: “I’ve got this thing.” Instead, by picking Ryan, Romney said: “I need some help.”

Following the news that Rep. Paul Ryan will serve as Mitt Romney's running mate, senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter assess how it will affect the campaign.

*** Big crowd turns out for the GOP ticket in Wisconsin: And help is what he got last night. Per NBC’s Garrett Haake and Alex Moe, the largest campaign crowd of the season greeted Romney and his new running mate on Sunday in Waukesha, WI. “The energy generated by Ryan seemed to inspire the man at the top of ticket, who took on a heckler midway through his own remarks, then turned the moment into an indictment of President Obama's campaign, whose tactics have riled Romney in recent weeks.” In the first 48 hours after the Ryan pick, Romney looked like he’s enjoying being a candidate again. But after just two days of campaigning together -- during the final days of the Olympics (including yesterday’s USA vs. Spain basketball gold-medal basketball game) -- Romney and Ryan are now going their separate ways, and they possibly might not campaign together until the GOP convention. Romney today stumps in Florida, while Ryan heads to Iowa, where Obama also begins a three-day bus tour.

*** Romney: “I have my budget plan”: Is Romney already distancing himself from Ryan’s budget plan? It seemed that way in yesterday’s Romney-Ryan interview on “60 Minutes.” When CBS’s Bob Schieffer asked Romney if Democrats were going to be able to turn the presidential contest into a referendum on Ryan’s budget plan, the former Massachusetts governor responded, “I have my budget plan as you know that I've put out. And that's the budget plan that we're going to run on.” So wait a second: Romney selects as the running mate a man best known for his budget plan -- under the rationale that this race needs to be about big ideas. But then Romney says he has his own budget plan? On “TODAY” this morning, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Romney spokesman Kevin Madden if Romney would sign the Ryan budget if it came to his desk. Madden replied -- as Romney has said before -- that he would sign it.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd is joined by Obama Campaign Adviser Robert Gibbs to discuss Mitt Romney's new running mate and key issues hitting the campaign trail including Medicare.

*** Which party is more comfortable debating Ryan and his plan? Here’s another question to ponder: By picking Ryan, are Romney and the Republicans playing on their turf? Or on the Democrats’ turf? On the one hand, the Romney-Ryan ticket will double down on the argument that Obama and the Democrats have failed when it comes to the deficit/debt. After all, the deficit was $1.4 trillion in FY ’09; $1.3 trillion in ’10; $1.5 trillion in ’11 (projected); and $1.1 trillion in ’12 (projected). On the other hand, Obama and the Democrats have been DYING to turn the presidential contest into a race against House Republicans. And guess what: Romney just selected a House Republican to be his running mate. As one of us wrote over the weekend, Obama has already delivered three big speeches in the past two years taking aim at House Republicans and the Ryan budget. “It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them,” Obama said during his April 2011 speech at George Washington University. “If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can’t afford to send them… It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors.” Obama’s other two speeches were in Kansas (in Dec. 2011) and at the AP luncheon (in April 2012).

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney claps as vice president select Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., gives the thumbs up to supporters during a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin August 12, 2012.

*** The battle over Medicare: And here’s a third question we have: Just how is the Medicare debate going to play out? One of Romney’s demographic strengths is with seniors, and three of the oldest populations in the country happen to be in these battleground states: Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. But Romney -- already at a disadvantage with other demographic groups like women and Latinos -- can’t have seniors turn into a jump ball in November. So far, Romney and Republicans will counter that Obama’s health-care law is the bigger threat to seniors and Medicare. "There's only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare," Romney told “60 Minutes” yesterday. "What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it's there for current seniors. But here is the challenge for the Republicans: Romney and Ryan are talking about FUNDAMENTALLY changing Medicare whereby future seniors will receive vouchers/premium support for LESS than they currently get under Medicare. What Obama did under the health care law was reduce the rate of growth in non-essential services (like Medicare Advantage), as well as increase premiums for higher-income recipients. That doesn't affect the Medicare benefits that current/future seniors receive.

Watch: How Ryan formed his economic plan 

*** The battle over Florida: In fact, Romney today campaigns in Florida. And he’s being greeted by headlines like this one from the Miami Herald: “Ryan could be a drag on Romney in Florida.” It is possible for Romney to get to 270 electoral votes without Florida -- but it’s extremely unlikely. If Obama were to win Florida, Romney would need to win CO, IA, NV, NH, NC VA, and WI. In other words, he’d have to run the table. By the way, we can report that according to a Romney-Ryan campaign source, Ryan will make his first visit to Florida next weekend.

*** Today’s back-and-forth: The Romney camp is up with its second TV ad hitting Obama welfare. “Barack Obama has a long history of opposing work for welfare,” the ad goes. “On July 12th, Obama quietly ended work requirements for welfare. You wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job.” However, as First Read and others have pointed out, it’s a BIG stretch to say that the HHS’s waiver to states ends work requirements for welfare; work requirements are clearly stated in the HHS announcement… Meanwhile, the Obama camp has a web video of Floridians commenting on the Ryan budget plan and its cuts to Medicare. 

*** On the trail: President Obama begins a three-day swing through Iowa. Today, he hits Council Bluffs at 10:15 am ET and Boone at 6:15 pm ET… Romney stumps in Florida, visiting St Augustine at 8:20 am and Miami at 5:25 pm… Paul Ryan stops by the Iowa State Fair at 2:00 pm ET, while Joe Biden campaigns in North Carolina… And First Lady Michelle Obama appears on the “Tonight Show.”

Countdown to GOP convention: 14 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 21 days
Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 51 days
Countdown to VP debate: 59 days
Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 64 days
Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 70 days
Countdown to Election Day: 85 days

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