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First Thoughts: Saturation

Good luck trying to avoid Obama, Romney today. They’ll be doing interviews and high-profile speeches in the media capital of the world … Romney wins a news cycle … The risk for Obama in trying to do no harm in meeting with foreign leaders … In UN speech, Obama to take on two Romney criticisms … This might be Romney’s make-or-break-week in Ohio … The shrunken battleground (what happened to PA, NM and what does it mean for the future of politics) … Obama up in new polls in OH, FL, PA, NC … Akin’s drop dead deadline … And Massachusetts Senate race takes a nasty turn. … And just 1,000 hours to Election Day – tick, tick, tick.

NBC's Domenico Montanaro discusses the busy day ahead on the 2012 campaign trail with both President Obama and Mitt Romney keeping busy schedules full of speeches and interviews.

*** Saturation: We’re now inside 1,000 hours to Election Day (can you believe it!?!?!), and get ready to see A LOT of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, starting with a near unprecedented level of media saturation. Let’s run through the schedule: the two candidates are holding high-profile speeches -- with world leaders and a former popular president and both appear in interviews for NBC’s “Education Nation” – all in the media capital of the world. On top of that, Romney will appear in distinct interviews today that will air on NBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox and that doesn’t count the usual slate of local TV interviews. Bottom line: It’s going to be nearly impossible to miss either of them today. And New Yorkers, by the way, good luck with the traffic. Here’s the rundown: 7:00 am hour: Clip of Obama’s interview with NBC on Education Nation aired on TODAY. 9:00 am ET: Romney speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative. 10:00 am ET: Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly. 11:00 am ET: Obama interview on The View airs. 11:00 am ET: Romney interviewed by NBC’s Brian Williams at Education Nation (then heads to Vandalia, OH, for a 3:00 pm ET rally with Paul Ryan and Sen. Rand Paul). Noon ET: Obama speaks at CGI (then returns to Washington). That’s a lot of Obama and Romney.

*** Romney wins a news cycle: While both will be very public today, what will be interesting to see is if Romney’s doing as much attacking today as he did yesterday. It’s not likely. His speech at CGI, for example, will focus on his vision for foreign assistance and he’s presenting a fairly interesting public-private idea for foreign assistance that will likely get lost in partisan attacks but deserves some attention. Back to the raw politics -- yesterday, Romney and his campaign had a plan and they executed. Sure, some will say they were chasing the news cycle, but they were chasing with a plan. They had a point they wanted to drive home – on “bumps in the road” before the UN General Assembly and did so with mini interviews with all the networks and were on message. They were able to win a news cycle, which right now, a one-day win is important compared with what they’ve been through over the last three weeks starting with Clint Eastwood.

*** The harm in trying to do no harm: With football on the minds of many today (after last night’s refereeing debacle – full disclosure: one of us is a big Packers fan), Obama’s plan today has a whiff of prevent defense. What it’s doing – like in a prevent – is it allowing the opposition to pick up yards over the middle and get a couple of first downs. If you compare former President Bush’s 2004 schedule at the U.N. and Obama’s it’s a pretty big difference. It made sense politically for Bush to meet with world leaders, given that his election was largely about foreign policy, and we get Obama’s strategy – first, do no harm, don’t make any news before the debates, take the criticism from the “media elites.” But it doesn’t show a lot of courage -- and winding up on The View (and not doing one-on-one meetings with foreign leaders while they are conveniently in NYC) makes him subject to criticism from the right. If foreign policy is supposed to be one of Obama’s strengths and multilateralism is a hallmark of his policy, why wouldn’t Obama want to HIGHLIGHT that? Why wouldn’t he want to meet with both Israel’s Netanyahu and Egypt’s Morsi? And above politics, it’s striking with all that’s going on in the Arab world that the ostensible leader of the free world is not meeting with anyone. For their part, the Obama folks are counting on the public not caring about this issue as much as the Romney campaign or the media. And perhaps they will be proven right. After all, Mr. and Mrs. Ohio will see the president address the United Nations. Sure looks like he’s dealing with foreign affairs.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Joy Behar talk during a break in a taping of "The View" at ABC Studios September 24, 2012 in New York, New York.

*** Obama to take on two Romney criticisms: All of that said, Obama is addressing the U.N., and that speech, according to excerpts, will likely make the “bumps in the road” attack seem pretty petty. Obama will say, per prepared remarks, "The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.” He will add, “We must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations." On Iran, Obama will say, “America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited.” And: “The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Those statements on Libya and Iran go right to the heart of two of Romney’s chief criticisms – that the president said developments in the Middle East and North Africa were “bumps in the road,” and that Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Iran. By the way, we mentioned The View above, Obama did talk foreign policy on the show and largely admitted the attacks were terrorism: "There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action." Speaking of “bumps,” flashback to 2005, when then-Bush foreign policy adviser, now Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor said of violence in Iraq: “It's democracy. We often said that when we're there, democracy is messy. If you want clean and tidy, there's dictatorship.”

*** Romney’s make-or-break week for Ohio: We noted yesterday the importance of Ohio in this presidential election and to Romney. But it’s hard to overstate it – this may be the make-or-break week for the campaign in the state. If this week’s bus tour doesn’t move the needle, as the Romney campaign might say, they very well could decide to all but write off the Buckeye State. They won’t say it explicitly; they’ll go through the motions, but they may have no choice than to try and shore up or make in roads in places like Wisconsin, Colorado Florida, and Virginia.

*** Cheap applause line alert for Battleground Wisconsin: Which candidate takes a stand against replacement refs? Does Paul Ryan do it, given he’s a Packers fan? Something to watch today perhaps. Ryan holds a rally in Cincinnati at 11:30 am ET.

*** Ad spending – the shrunken battleground: Last presidential cycle, then-candidate Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain were running ads in 21 states, according to SMG Delta – Obama (21): AZ, CO, FL, GA, IN, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, PA, VA, WV, and WI; McCain (16): CO, FL, IN, IA, ME, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, WV, WI. This week, both campaigns are spending (so far) $19 million in the exact same states and there are just nine of them – IA, CO, FL, NC, NH, NV, OH, VA, and WI, with one outside group (Restore Our Future) running almost $1 million in ads in MI. Just look at all those states from last time to this. It’s a striking shift – the candidates are spending more money in fewer states and in fewer markets. Nowhere, by the way, that’s left out jumps out more than Pennsylvania and New Mexico. If this election is supposed to be like 2004, remember, George W. Bush only lost the Keystone state 2.5 points and he WON New Mexico (albeit by less than a point). It highlights, once again, how Romney has to largely run the table in these toss-up states and -- in the bigger political picture for the future – how the changing demographics currently favor Democrats. (With outside groups factored in, total spending is more than $33 million, with Team Romney outspending Team Obama $18.8 million to $14.5 million.)

*** Polling update – Obama up in FL, OH: Speaking of Ohio, another poll shows Obama with a sizable lead. A Washington Post poll has Obama up 52-44%. … In Florida, the Post has Obama up 51-47%. … In Pennsylvania, a Mercyhurst University poll shows the president with a 48-40% lead. … And in North Carolina, a Civitas poll (conducted by National Research) shows Obama up 49-45%.

*** Akin, remember that? And Massachusetts gets nasty: Today’s the drop dead deadline for Todd Akin (R) to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. Remember that story? It’s not going to happen. Watch your TV sets in Missouri at 5:01 pm for those McCaskill ads featuring Republicans obliterating Akin. … In Massachusetts, the Senate race has taken a nasty turn – focusing again on Elizabeth Warren’s Native American claims. Both candidates don’t seem to particularly like each other and it’s getting personal. There’s some risk for Brown here though -- if he goes too far, he might make Warren look like a victim. There’s a fine line here. You do wonder if he needs to dial it back a little. By the way, the new tack probably means Brown’s polling shows him down.

*** Education Nation – starkly different visions: As part of NBC’s Education Nation, First Read will have a detailed look later this morning at where the candidates stand on education. The subject has peeked into the 2012 campaign with Obama's push for low-interest student loans, Romney's contrasting views (“shop around”) on how to pay for college, Obama seizing on comments Romney made on class sizes for a TV ad, and of course debate over proposed domestic cuts in the Ryan budget. But, like on so many other issues, Obama and Romney would take starkly different approaches, if elected. Obama would likely try to expand many of the same initiatives he has pursued in his first term -- a reform-minded agenda implemented largely through the Department of Education and outside the purview of Congress. That agenda includes content standards that will be implemented in at least 45 states by 2014. Obama, who has not always been in the favor of the teachers’ unions that strongly support him, would continue to try and implement reforms while working with the unions. Romney, on the other hand, takes a more adversarial approach to unions, which he sees, in large measure, as part of the problem. Romney’s plan calls for vouchers and a restructuring of funding for special-needs and low-income students that would assign money directly to individuals instead of schools and school districts.

Countdown to 1st presidential debate: 8 days
Countdown to VP debate: 16 days
Countdown to 2nd presidential debate: 21 days
Countdown to 3rd presidential debate: 27 days
Countdown to Election Day: 42 days

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