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A word of advice: Don’t count out Perry just yet… Four reasons why: money (Perry will report raising more than $17 million in the 3rdQ), debate expectations, the calendar, and ideology… The central question: What will Romney look like after 60 days of anti-Romney shelling?... Tomblin wins WV GOV race, producing a huge sigh of relief for the White House and national Democrats… McConnell’s maneuver and the unpopular Congress… And cashing in on the presidential contest.
Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
*** Don’t count out Perry: After a string of solid debate performances, after being largely outside the intense glare of the presidential spotlight, and after Chris Christie’s final announcement that he’s not running, Mitt Romney is once again the man to beat in the GOP presidential race. A new national Quinnipiac poll, with findings similar to yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC survey, confirms Romney’s status. Per the poll, Romney’s at 22% (a four-point increase from last month), Cain’s at 17% (a 12-point rise), and Perry’s at 14% (a 10-point drop). Meanwhile, a CBS poll has Romney and Cain tied at 17% and Perry at 12%. But as the Republican establishment and big GOP donors -- like Home Depot co-founder like Ken Langone -- begin to embrace Romney, a word of advice: Don’t count out Rick Perry, at least not yet.
*** Money, debate expectations, the calendar, and ideology: There are four reasons why you shouldn’t. The first is money. First Read has learned that the Perry camp will report raising more than $17 million in the 3rd quarter (almost all of it in primary money), which is just slightly under what Romney raked in last quarter. Perry also will report having more than $15 million in the bank. What this means: Unlike Bachmann or Huntsman, Perry will have enough money to buy himself a second chance. The second reason is the upcoming debates. Yes, Perry has struggled in his past performances, but with expectations now so low, all it takes is one good performance by Perry -- and a shaky one by Romney -- to produce a story. (Remember, Hillary Clinton’s one bad debate performance didn’t come until Oct. 30, 2007.) A third reason: the primary calendar. Iowa and South Carolina are tailor-made for Perry, and with the 10 days in between South Carolina (1/21) and Florida (1/31), a Palmetto State win could give him momentum going into Florida and Super Tuesday (which features several southern states). And the fourth (and perhaps most) important reason is ideology.
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
*** Romney vs. Romney: While the past few weeks have focused on Perry’s departures from conservative orthodoxy (in-state tuition, HPV vaccine), Romney has yet to receive the same scrutiny (on abortion, health care, his own past views on illegal immigration). And with Perry having the resources -- and don’t forget help from pro-Perry Super PACs -- to remind Republican primary voters about Romney’s record, here’s our question: What does Romney look like after 60 days of shelling? The answer to that question will answer whether or not Romney is your eventual GOP nominee. Bottom line: This race is down to the idea of “Romney as the most electable candidate” vs. “is Romney conservative enough for the Republican electorate?”
*** A sigh of relief for Democrats and Team Obama: As we wrote yesterday, a Democratic loss in West Virginia’s gubernatorial contest would have been a problem for the White House and national Democrats -- not because West Virginia is a key 2012 state, but rather because a loss would have sent red-state Democrats running for the hills. But Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) pulled out a close win over businessman Bill Maloney (R), 50%-47%, which is a huge sigh of relief for Democrats, especially after Republicans tried to nationalize the contest. Organization -- as well as an assist from popular Sen. Joe Manchin -- helped Democrats win last night. So take note Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill: You can win in a tough environment in a red state, but you have to run a smart race; you can’t simply lament the state of President Obama and use that as an excuse.
*** McConnell’s maneuver: Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proved once again that he knows how to outmaneuver his opposition. Responding to the White House’s call for Congress to pass the president’s jobs bill, McConnell offered to give them what they wanted -- as an attachment to Senate Democrats’ China-currency bill, NBC’s Libby Leist reported. The move prompted Senate Democrats to drag their feet. "We need to move to this right away,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid replied yesterday. “There is no question about that. But to tack this onto the China currency manipulation legislation is nothing more than a political stunt. We all know that." White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also called McConnell’s move a stunt. “It was a very disingenuous attempt to draw attention away from the fact that this president is calling on members of Congress -- both houses -- to act on jobs and the economy.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, with Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, during a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.
*** An unpopular Congress: While McConnell’s maneuver was temporarily embarrassing for Senate Democrats, it doesn’t erase the perception that Congress is broken and unpopular -- something Obama can run against next year. Indeed, the new Washington Post/ABC survey finds that only 14% of the public approves of Congress’ job, which is an all-time low in the poll. What’s more, Obama “now holds a 49 to 34 percent advantage over congressional Republicans when it comes to the public’s trust on creating jobs. That is a change from September, when they were evenly split at 40 percent each.”
*** Cashing in: There’s always been this little secret in American politics: You can make money running for president. After all, just look at Mike Huckabee’s success after ’08. But this cycle, a couple of Republican presidential candidates aren’t even keeping this a secret. Today, with about 90 days until the Iowa caucuses, Herman Cain is beginning a book tour, which takes him to Florida, Texas, Virginia, and South Carolina. (Yes, nowadays almost every presidential candidate writes a book, but never this close to the actual races.) In addition, Newt and Callista Gingrich tonight are once again screening their documentary, “A City Upon a Hill.” And on Monday, Gingrich Productions posted this video of Callista Gingrich promoting her book, “Sweet Land of Liberty” (a children’s book about a time-traveling elephant).
*** Gingrich camp responds: Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis tells First Read, “I don't think holding free screenings is a money-making scheme... These are events where Newt is able to share [his views] in a different form than a speech.” DeSantis adds that the books and the movies are part of a “cultural campaign” the Newt and Callista Gingrich are waging.
*** On the 2012 trail: Elsewhere today, Romney remains in Florida… Paul addresses the National Press Club in DC… Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer are in New Hampshire… Gingrich holds a town hall in South Carolina… And Ann Romney stumps for her husband in Iowa.
*** Wednesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Cain 2012 Campaign Manager Mark Block… Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on jobs, the economy, and the 2012 GOP field… Former Reps. Martin Frost (D-TX) and Tom Davis (R-VA) on funding fights on Capitol Hill… And more on Christie’s decision and other 2012 news with the New York Times’ Helene Cooper, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin and Roll Call’s David Drucker.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will interview GOP Rep. Tom Price (on Obama’s jobs bill), the Economist’s Matthew Bishop (on the Wall Street protests), NBC’s Pete Williams (on “Fast & Furious), Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka (on Rick Perry), as well as MSNBC’s Tamron Hall, CNBC’s Ron Insana, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 34 days
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“Memorandum to Republican activists, voters and donors: Your presidential field is set. It’s time to start sizing up the candidates, learning to love at least one of them and preparing to head toward the voting booth,” the New York Times’ Zeleny writes.
The New York Daily News’ DeFrank: “Memo to Republican zealots desperate for Anybody But Romney: stop whining. Ronald Reagan isn't available.”
The Boston Globe asks today, “Just what does Mitt Romney have to do?” It adds: “He has raised more money than any other candidate, emphasized his business background, and drafted a 160-page jobs plan. Polls show he would be the strongest contender against President Obama. Yet Romney has repeatedly endured the awkward spectacle of GOP leaders pining for a new candidate to jump in the race… The search for a more perfect candidate underscores how Romney, for all his strengths, has yet to win over part of the GOP elite, even in the Northeast financial world where he has deep connections.”
The Herman Cain surge continues. Per a new CBS poll, Cain is tied with Romney for the lead -- albeit with just 17% of the vote each. Rick Perry nosedived to 12%, down 11 points from two weeks ago. Almost all of the Perry vote has gone to Cain. Cain jumped 12 points from two weeks ago, up from 5%, as the search for someone else continues. Quinnipiac has Romney in the lead with 22%, followed by Cain at 17% and Perry 14%.
National Journal reports that Cantor’s getting his own Super PAC “aimed at raising Cantor's national profile” and it “would give Cantor a vehicle he could use to run for vice president, should the opportunity arise, said a source close to the majority leader's office, who asked not to be named because the source was not authorized to speak publicly.” (Really?)
CAIN: He said this on The View yesterday, per GOP 12: “A lot of black Americans are thinking for themselves. Now there are some that are so brainwashed that they won't even consider a conservative idea.” Conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck, appearing to agree with his premise, asked, “What do you do about that?” Cain responded, in part: “You save the savable.”
CHRISTIE: The New York Times’ lead: “After a kinetic month in which some of the biggest names in American industry and Republican politics urged him to run for president, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spent a quiet weekend at home, coming to a sobering conclusion on Tuesday: ‘Now is not my time.’” More: “‘New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me,’ Mr. Christie said at an afternoon news briefing in Trenton in which he appeared to be reveling in the national attention his deliberations had drawn, while at the same time showing relief.”
“The obstacles Christie would have faced, had he entered the race this late in the season, underscored the likelihood that his decision marks the end of the Republican hopes for a ‘white knight’ candidate to swoop in and rescue a GOP field that has been characterized by false starts and flame-outs,” The Hill adds.
PALIN: GOP 12’S Heinze picks up on chatter of Sarah Palin running as an independent potentially: “There’s been some chatter this week about the possibility that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) might run for president next year — as an independent. The consequences for both her and the presidential race couldn’t be more profound, and there are a number of reasons why this could be a very real possibility.”
PERRY: Days after a controversy over a racial epithet at a hunting ground his family leased, the AP has this story: “Eleven years ago, when the NAACP stepped up a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South, it found an opponent in Rick Perry. Texas had a pair of bronze plaques with symbols of the Confederacy displayed in its state Supreme Court building. Perry, then lieutenant governor, said they should stay put, arguing that Texans ‘should never forget our history.’”
More: “Perry wrote to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in March 2000 that, ‘although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property.’ ‘I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,’ Perry wrote in the letter, one of several obtained by The Associated Press under a public information request. “I believe that Texans should remember the past and learn from it.’ He added, ‘We should never forget our history, but dwelling on the 19th century takes needed attention away from our future in the 21st century.’”
“Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) have reached a detente, mutually agreeing to sideline the feud that engulfed the two Republicans throughout the 2010 election cycle in favor of cooperation in 2012,” Roll Call reports. DeMint said: “The key is, is the Senate committee is not getting involved in primaries. I am. But John and I are talking. And, the fact is, I’m vetting candidates more carefully. They’re vetting candidates more carefully, and so far, in a lot of cases, we’re on the same page.”
ILLINOIS: “Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello’s announcement [yesterday] that he won’t seek a 13th term in Illinois next year leaves Democrats with yet another competitive House seat to defend in 2012,” Roll Call writes. “The now open 12th district leans Democratic, but Costello’s departure could force national Democrats to spend precious campaign cash on another House race in a challenging cycle.”
MASSACHUSETTS: “Elizabeth Warren used her first debate last night to solidify her position as the front-runner in the race for the Democratic Senate nomination, with her opponents doing little to knock her off her stride or challenge her on any fundamental issue,” the Boston Globe writes in its top story. Top quote: “Forbes Magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator, and I was thinking that’s probably not an award I’m going to get.”
The Globe’s Johnson: “Elizabeth Warren proved she was a champion debater in high school. She reiterated it last night, when she clearly was the most adept in the first debate among the six candidates vying for the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s 2012 US Senate nomination.”
WEST VIRGINIA: Despite Republicans' efforts to link Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin to President Obama and his health-care plan, Tomblin pulled out a 50%-47% victory over Bill Maloney (R), a former drilling company executive, in the West Virginia governor's race.
The Democratic Governors Association released this memo: “Last night’s result was a clear blow to national Republicans. Despite huge expenditures by the RGA, West Virginia voters were not swayed by attempts to nationalize the race. Instead, they went with a proven West Virginia tax-cutter and job-creator in Earl Ray Tomblin. Nationally, Democrats have seen setbacks in recent special elections. Tonight, Earl Ray Tomblin and the DGA beat the trend and showed the limitations of the Republicans’ money and attempts to tear down the president.”
“President Obama on Tuesday combined fund-raising and campaigning for his jobs bill in the home state of the Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry and the Congressional district of a House Republican leader, and he did not shy from telling donors that they and Texas’ oil companies should pay more taxes for the nation’s good,” the New York Times says. “At Eastfield College in Mesquite, just east of Dallas, Mr. Obama almost shouted into the microphone, as if he were speaking to the Congressional leadership: ‘The time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now.’”
More: “The president, to laughter, said Republicans would resist his plans ‘if I took their party platform and proposed it’ because they say they do not want to give him a victory. ‘Give me a win? Give me a break,’ he said, bringing the enthusiastic and diverse crowd of more than 1,000 to its feet. ‘This is not about giving Democrats or Republicans a win. This is about giving people who are hurting a win. This is about giving small-business owners a win, and entrepreneurs a win, and students a win, and working families a win. This is about giving America a win.’”
“Seeking to borrow elements of the conservative movement’s [Tea Party] minimalist format and to mirror its ability to generate fervor around the issues, thousands of liberal activists gathered in the nation’s capital this week in a bid to launch their own political insurgency,” the Boston Globe writes. “The goal is not to undermine President Obama, they say. Instead, they want to give him the tools to win not only the election next year but also the ongoing ideological battle over what America should stand for in the 21st century. … Birkenstock-wearing students mingled with older professionals clad in sharp suits and ties. Gay and transgender rights advocates sat alongside members of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Democratic Socialists talked politics with burly union members.”
“The House passed a spending bill yesterday to fund the government for six weeks, delaying a series of battles over spending and policy that include everything from labor law and environmental regulations to abortion and the Pentagon budget,” AP writes. “The 352-to-66 vote sent the measure to President Obama in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight. That ended a skirmish over disaster aid that seemed to signal far more trouble ahead as Obama and a bitterly divided Congress begin working to iron out hundreds of differences, big and small, on a $1 trillion-plus pile of 12 unfinished spending bills.”
“Frustrated House Republicans are grappling with the possibility that they will be forced to swallow the kind of massive spending package many of them campaigned against when Democrats were in power,” The Hill writes.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) on Tuesday further distanced his Democratic Conference from President Obama by nixing a major component of the White House’s jobs plan,” The Hill reports, adding, “Reid told his Democratic colleagues Tuesday that he would put together a new plan to pay for the package after rank-and-file colleagues balked at proposals to limit tax deductions for the wealthy and raise taxes on oil and gas companies.”
Despite Republicans' efforts to link Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin to President Obama and his health-care plan, Tomblin pulled out the victory in the West Virginia governor's race.
Tomblin, the acting governor and former state Senate president who took over when Joe Manchin became a U.S. Senator, defeated Republican Bill Maloney, a former drilling company executive, 50%-47%.
Polls, both public and private, had shown the race closing in recent days. And the Republican Governors Association blitzed the airwaves in the Washington, D.C., media market -- which reaches part of West Virginia -- with ads questioning why Tomblin hadn't signed on to a lawsuit seeking to stop the implementation of the federal health-care plan that passed last year.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Donald Trump, unveiling a new winery here in central Virginia today, told reporters he is "not that surprised" that Gov. Chris Christie chose to take a pass at a 2012 bid and that the decision "was the right one for him and his family."
Trump said that, based on his previous conversations with his "very good friend" Christie, he was surprised that the governor was even reconsidering his initial "no" to a run.
"He loves being the governor of New Jersey," he said. "And as he said he wasn't ready, he isn't this, he isn't that. He really loves what he's doing. So not that surprised at his decision.
Trump added that "selfishly" he's "not too unhappy" with Christie's decision, because of Christie's good performance in a state where Trump owns several high-dollar properties.
Trump appeared alongside Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whom he called "one of the most respected politicians in the country" and a potentially "amazing" running mate for the 2012 nominee.
Trump's purchase of the famed but recently bankrupted Kluge winery outside of Charlottesville offered the billionaire businessman a bucolic backdrop in front of which to assert his general mastery of the economic universe. He promised that the Trump name would attract customers to the "really low key" property.
His son, who will be managing the project, foresaw "hundreds and hundreds" of jobs created on the site.
President Obama today touted his jobs legislation in Texas, taking his case to the home state of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry and former President George W. Bush.
But during his remarks, Obama invoked the name of a different Republican –- former President Ronald Reagan. He told a boisterous audience in Mesquite, TX: “Years ago ... a great American said that he thought it was crazy that certain tax loopholes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing while a bus driver was paying 10% of his salary... You know who this guy was?... It was Ronald Reagan."
"Last time I checked, Republicans all thought Reagan made some sense,” he added.
The current president embraced the former president’s remarks from 1985 to make his case that that the middle class shouldn’t pay more in taxes than wealthier Americans -- as well as to draw battle lines with Republican lawmakers. “So the next time you hear one of those Republicans in Congress accusing you of class warfare, you just tell them, ‘I'm with Ronald Reagan,’”
This was the first time that Obama has used this line in his stump speech, and it reflects the president’s shift to a sharper tone as he travels across the country to promote his plan.
A combative Obama also took a swipe at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for suggesting that his American Jobs Act would be dead on arrival in Congress. The president told the crowd of about 1,500: “I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in. Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?” On Monday, Cantor said the president’s all-or-nothing approach was “unreasonable.”
Yet while Obama was in Texas, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the President’s bluff, attempting to bring the president's legislation for a vote. McConnell’s actions came after Senate Democrats acknowledged there are not enough Senate votes (60) to pass the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked a vote, calling McConnell’s move a “political stunt.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held an impromptu gaggle on Air Force One and also called McConnell's move a political stunt.
“Sen. Reid called that bluff, and said, ‘Let’s schedule it right after the China bill.’ The Senate minority leader objected... It was a very disingenuous attempt to draw attention away from the fact that this president is calling on members of Congress -- both houses -- to act on jobs and the economy.”
THE VILLAGES, FL -- With an audience of several hundred seniors hanging on his every word, Mitt Romney today told a town hall meeting here that Social Security was not a Ponzi scheme at all -- but that his chief rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, might make it something worse.
"I don't think the major problem is that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. I think the problem is keeping it from becoming a Perry Scheme," Romney said, debuting a new attack line to an audible reaction from the audience.
But Perry was not Romney's only target in his appearance at this sprawling retirement and golf community today, as the former Massachusetts governor also leveled some harsh words at President Obama.
In beginning an answer in which he went on to broadly criticize the president for his "failing leadership," Romney mocked the president's well-known campaign slogan.
"There's been kind of a change in attitude isn't it?." Romney asked the crowd rhetorically. "We've gone from 'Yes, we can' to 'Gee, I'm sorry, we can't."
That line, along with jokes about his growing brood of grandchildren and about having a drink on a lanai with a voter, earned Romney laughs from a very friendly crowd here -- some of whom had likely seen Romney speak before. Shaking hands and signing autographs after the event, he said he'd spoken around The Villages community more than a half dozen times since 2008. Moreover, the complex's owners, the Morse family, have been generous donors to Romney-supporting Super PAC "Restore our Future" as well.
But not everyone at the event was a supporter -- a group of some 35 demonstrators gathered outside to protest against any plans for cuts to Medicare. Romney addressed the protestors in an answer to a question on health care.
"I saw some signs out there, you may have seen them, that said 'Keep your hands off our Medicare'" Romney said, "By the way, there's only one person I know of that has cut Medicare. That's the president of the United States."
But Romney has praised House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare for future seniors currently younger than 55, in which they must purchase private insurance and receive a subsidy to help pay for it.
"I applaud Rep. Paul Ryan for recognizing the looming financial crisis that faces our nation and for the creative and bold thinking that he brings to the debate. He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page," Romney said in a statement last April.
Praising Jeb and Marco
Of course, no Florida campaign event by a GOP presidential candidate would be complete without a dash of praise for former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio -- and Romney touched both bases.
Asked about education reform, Romney said that while he believed education should be managed at the state level, he said he had also consulted the former Gov. Bush about the issue and considered him an expert.
"I don't know anybody who is a better governor, and an expert on education, than Jeb Bush." Romney said.
And Romney will be able to be lean on some of that expertise as well. This morning, his campaign announced the support of Jeb Bush's Chairman of Florida's state board of education, Phil Handy, who had previously been the Florida chairman of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign.
Asked twice about the possibility of Rubio's name appearing on a Romney presidential ticket, Romney twice demurred, saying he did not want to be presumptuous, but offered kind words for Florida's junior senator, who enjoys rock star popularity among many conservatives.
"You've got a good senator here in this state, no doubt about that." Romney said. "He would certainly be someone that anybody would be proud to be associated with."
And Romney also had kind words for another Republican whose name, we learned today with finality, will not be appearing on any presidential ballots next fall: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"Competition is always a good thing, and he would be a very fine contender and an excellent competitor if he were in the race." Romney said of Christie, responding to a shouted question after the event.
Asked why he himself was running again -- and why anyone would even want the job -- Romney gave the credit, or the blame, to his wife, Ann.
"It was my wife, by the way, she was the one who said, 'You've got to run again.' I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' You've got to run again! You've got to run again! Because the country needs you." Romney said, again, to laughs.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- When Herman Cain opens his South Carolina campaign headquarters on Friday, he’ll tout the fact that Gov. Nikki Haley was based in the same building when she launched her gubernatorial campaign.
Two weeks ago, when Anita Perry cut the ribbon on her husband Rick’s office here, she also noted that Haley’s campaign was headquartered there.
They’re both right.
Haley’s primary campaign was run out of the same West Columbia office building as Cain’s headquarters. According to property manager Ted McGee, the building has four units. Haley’s campaign was in unit A, while Cain’s will be in unit D.
During the 2010 election season, unit D was occupied by the campaign of Bill Connors, an Afghan war veteran who was running for lieutenant governor, McGee said.
Haley moved into her Columbia headquarters, where Perry’s campaign is now based, for the general election after she won a runoff against Rep. Gresham Barrett in June 2010.
According to campaign finance reports, Haley paid $500 a month in West Columbia and $1,750 when she moved into the capital city.
Senate Republicans sought Tuesday to force an immediate vote on President Obama's jobs plan in a ploy reacting to the President's nationwide barnstorm to push for a vote “right away” on the measure.
Holding a copy of the President's plan on the Senate floor this afternoon, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell moved to vote this week on the bill that he dubbed "Stimulus II." McConnell said he was responding to calls from the White House, including the president today, to hold a vote now.
"I think he's entitled to a vote. It won't surprise anyone to know I don't think it's a good approach, a way that's unlikely to create jobs, but he's asked for a vote and I think we ought to accommodate the president of the United States on a matter that he has been speaking about frequently over the last few weeks and give him his vote," McConnell said.
It was a maneuver by McConnell to try to set up a politically embarrassing vote for Democrats; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) hasn't yet secured the support of his full caucus of the jobs bill, partially because of some of the measures used to finance the $447 billion price tag.
Because of that, Reid promptly objected to holding a vote now, arguing there was other legislation pending before the Senate.
"We need to move to this right away. There is no question about that. But to tack this onto the China currency manipulation legislation is nothing more than a political stunt. We all know that," he said.
The two party leaders then debated the merits of an immediate vote on the package, for which Obama pressed during a trip this afternoon to Dallas. In that speech, Obama excoriated House GOP Leader Eric Cantor for refusing an up-or-down vote on the whole jobs package. Cantor has said he would allow individual votes on aspects of the bill that Republicans find palatable.
"Mr. President, I think my good friend's problem here and I sympathize with him is there's bipartisan opposition to the President's proposal," McConnell said.
Reid shot back: "Mr. President, I didn't want to hear my friend say that. I didn't want to get into a long dissertation about bipartisan opposition. There's 53 of us. A majority of Democrats will support the President's jobs bill."
Reid has promised to move to the president's bill later this month, and he indicated at a reporter stakeout today that he was working on gaining support of wavering Democrats by altering the pay-fors that the president had suggested.
"There are a wide range of things that we're looking at, because the only objections I've heard from my caucus on the president's jobs bill is dealing with the pay-fors. So we're resolving that issue as we speak," he said.
The president has proposed limits on itemized deductions and tax exemptions for individuals who earn over $200,000 and families earning over $250,000 as the bulk of how he would pay for his jobs bill.
DES MOINES, IA –- Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann held a press conference this morning focusing on social issues she feels other candidates are ignoring.
About two-dozen supporters –- many of them area Christian leaders -– sat behind her in a ballroom at a local hotel as she re-iterated her anti-abortion views. “We all understand that the No. 1 issue that people will be voting on in this election will be the economy and jobs,” Bachmann said. “But in the midst of this, we can’t forget the issue of the protection of the most innocent and vulnerable among us -- and that’s the unborn.”
Today's event seemed designed, in part, to underscore Bachmann’s strong appeal with conservative Christian voters at a time when she is slipping in national polls. But when the congresswoman misspoke during the Q&A period, she renewed attention on the health of her campaign –- and added to a list of gaffes dating back to her debut on the national stage.
“We have something like 250,000 donors to our campaign,” Bachmann told reporters. “That is a tremendous amount of donors. And our average donation is $50.”
But immediately following the event, Bachmann’s campaign spokeswoman approached the media to clarify that statement. Alice Stewart said the congresswoman misspoke –- the 250,000 donor number was actually, she said, “over the course of her entire political career.”
The press conference followed Bachmann's private tour took of a nearby clinic that counsels women out of abortions. The leaders of the Informed Choices Medical Clinic joined Bachmann onstage, and gave remarks on the role of faith in the debate over abortion rights. They said that the young women who visit are urged to consider keeping the baby.
“At the end of the entire process,” Pastor Brad Sherman said, “we try to ask a second question, and that is: There’s somebody else that cares very much about you as well, and about your eternal life, and his name’s Jesus Christ.”
The president will change up his standard jobs stump speech today in reaction to Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) comments that the House will not bring the American Jobs Act to the floor in its entirety.
President Obama has called for Republicans to explain what parts of the jobs package they take issue with but today, according to released excerpts, he’ll address Cantor directly.
“Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives," Obama is expected to say at a fundraiser in Dallas tonight, according to prepared remarks sent out by the White House this morning. "He won’t even give it a vote. Well, I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in.”
The president will continue, “Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?”
He’s also expected to say, “Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you’d rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle-class. And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote, so that the entire country knows exactly where every Member of Congress stands.”
Yesterday, during his weekly meeting with reporters, Cantor said Obama has his word that the House GOP will move on efforts to pass international Free Trade Agreements and review regulations that make it difficult for small businesses to raise capital, but that “this all-or-nothing approach is unreasonable.”
NBC's Jamie Gangel reports that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has decided to not run for president in 2012.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will announce that he will not run for president at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, sources told NBC News.
The Christie camp announced earlier that the governor would be making an announcement at a 1 p.m. EDT. NBC News' Jamie Gangel confirmed late Tuesday morning that the governor would make clear that he's not making a White House bid.
Despite his insistence for the better part of 2011 that he wouldn't run – Christie joked in February that he didn't know what he could do to convince people he's not running, "short of suicide" – the New Jersey firebrand spent the better part of the past two weeks reconsidering his stance against seeking the presidency.
A previously-planned speech last week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, at which Christie didn't to rule out running despite the audience literally imploring him to run, only sent speculation about his ambitions to a fever pitch.
All the while, Christie has received open encouragement from deep-pocketed donors and party luminaries who have argued that Christie's affable, if blunt, style would make him the best Republican to take on President Barack Obama next fall. "I think Chris Christie has been the guy that can get the conservatives on our side, but also take states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and he can cut into the blue collar ethnic unions," Republican New York Rep. Peter King said last year.
Christie's reconsideration has been driven by lingering uncertainty among Republican voters about the party's current stable of presidential candidates, especially front runners Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Rick Perry, the conservative governor of Texas. Romney has performed well in polls of GOP voters' preference in a nominee, but has struggled to build on his early advantage in the primary campaign. Many conservatives had looked to Perry as an alternative to Romney, but the Texas governor's stumbles in recent debates, combined with questions about his record on immigration and Social Security, have raised doubts about Perry's candidacy.
"There are a lot of guys with a Romney bumper sticker on their desk, but are waiting to put it on their car," a Republican tied to the party's fund raising circuit said last week of the Christie waiting game.
Republicans beckoned toward a variety of potential GOP saviors to make a late entry into the campaign throughout the summer and early fall, but have failed to lure them into the race. "Very tough to put together a national campaign with just a few months to go before Iowa, New Hampshire, and the like," said Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who received such encouragement, Tuesday on KPRC radio.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday found that Christie would be just as competitive against Obama as Romney or Perry; in a head-to-head matchup, Obama and Christie would be tied at 45 percent among registered voters. Adding to the encouraging numbers, 42 percent of Republican-leaning Americans said they would like to see Christie seek the GOP's nomination in 2012, while 34 percent oppose a bid by the New Jersey governor.
But that doesn't mean that Christie would have entered the race as an immediate favorite. Romney would still lead among Republicans, at 21 percent, according to the same poll, followed by Perry and pizza magnate Herman Cain at 14 percent. Christie would enter the primary campaign with the support of 10 percent of Republicans, the poll found.
What happens if Christie doesn’t run?… And what happens if he does?... Here we go again: Another Tea Party-fueled Republican jumps up in the polls, while another one falls down… Team Bachmann’s staff departures… Will we see an upset tonight in West Virginia?... If we do, will Democrats (especially those in red states) start running for the hills?.... Polls close at 7:30 pm ET… Obama delivers remarks on his jobs bill in Texas at 3:55 pm ET, and he hits fundraisers in Dallas and St. Louis.
*** If Christie doesn’t run: So what happens if Chris Christie, as so many in GOP circles assume, decides against running for president? We see essentially three scenarios. The first is that much of the GOP establishment -- after watching Perry struggle over the past few weeks -- begins to coalesce around Romney (just see David Brooks this morning). That doesn’t mean Romney’s a sure bet to stroll through the primaries, but he becomes the obvious man to beat. “You are going to see the flower bloom on Romney” if Christie takes a pass, a GOP strategist unaffiliated with any of the presidential campaigns tells First Read. A second scenario: The conservative vote coalesces around Perry (or another anti-Romney conservative), which becomes dangerous for Romney. Just look at the new Washington Post/ABC poll, which shows the combined Perry-Cain-Bachmann percentage (39%) beating the combined Romney-Gingrich percentage (32%). (Gingrich seems to be an “establishment” placeholder in many of these polls, despite the TYPE of campaign he’s running, so that’s why we include him with Romney.) A third scenario if Christie doesn’t run? Perhaps someone else tries to get into the race. But with most likely some 90 days until Iowa, that person’s chances of impacting the GOP contest become less and less as each day goes by.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking in Paterson, N.J., Monday, Oct. 3, 2011.
*** But if he DOES: Yet if Christie decides to take the presidential plunge, here’s what you can expect. One, the rest of the fall will be all about the New Jersey governor -- his record, his position on the issues, even his mini-controversies (that NY-NJ tunnel, the helicopter ride, the Disney World trip during the East Coast blizzard). Two, his performances at the debates in October, November, and December will matter (just ask Perry). And three is an unknown: Does he, in the short run, compete against Perry (and possibly Cain, too) for the title of anti-Romney alternative? Or is he competing with Romney for the establishment vote? It all depends on how some of his less-than-conservative positions get framed in the presidential prism. And this is where things get tricky. While the conservative ELITE might get behind Christie and excuse some of his conservative positions, don’t be surprised if there’s more room for a Perry or Cain to keep/gain traction on the more conservative side of the aisle. So then it becomes a true three-way race going into the early contests.
*** Here we go again: As mentioned above, there’s a new Washington Post/ABC poll, and it shows Romney in the lead at 25% (which is identical to his score a month ago and is about the same number he’s been getting for a year!), followed by Perry and Cain tied at 16%, Paul at 11%, and Bachmann and Gingrich at 7%. According to the Washington Post, that’s a THIRTEEN-point drop for Perry in one month, and a TWELVE-point increase for Cain. So here were go again: Last spring, we saw Donald Trump soar in the GOP horserace; then it was Michele Bachmann; then Rick Perry; and now it’s Herman Cain.
*** Team Bachmann’s staff departures: By the way, this is the sign of a presidential campaign running out of money. “Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is losing her pollster and senior adviser in a staff exodus that raises questions about the viability of her White House bid and her campaign finances,” the AP writes. “Pollster Ed Goeas plans to leave the campaign after upcoming debates in New Hampshire and Nevada, and senior adviser Andy Parrish is returning to the Minnesota congresswoman's office where he served as chief of staff.” The statement from Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart: "Given the changing caucus and primary schedule, we will not be utilizing full-time polling consultants and (will) concentrate heavily on retail politics in Iowa.” More Stewart: "Ed will work on several projects with us this month, then we shift focus to Iowa and he will shift to other projects not associated with the campaign."
Republican presidential candidate businessman Herman Cain in New York City, Monday, Oct. 3, 2011.
*** On the 2012 trail: Romney holds a town hall meeting in Florida… Bachmann campaigns in Iowa, as does Romney’s wife, Ann… Buddy Roemer is in New Hampshire… And Cain, remaining in New York, meets with former Mayor Ed Koch.
*** Will we see an upset tonight in WV? When we wrote about West Virginia's gubernatorial race last week, we described it as a contest where the Democrat (Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin) was the favorite, but where we wouldn't be surprised if the Republican (Bill Maloney) won. Well guess what: As the race takes place tonight, Democrats are increasingly nervous they might lose it. A hard-hitting TV ad the Republican Governors Association has been airing in West Virginia -- as well as in the DC market -- has had an impact on the race. The only question is how much. The ad ties Tomblin to President Obama for implementing the federal health-care law (which happens to be the law of the land). “I still think Maloney falls just short,” says Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. “But the odds of an upset are better today than they were a week ago.”
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., speaking to reporters at the Statehouse in Boston, Monday, Oct. 3, 2011.
*** Running for the hills? And if there is an upset? Think what happened after Scott Brown’s Jan. 2010 victory in Massachusetts -- but bigger. An upset would provide further evidence that Obama is toxic in red states -- a stark reversal from 2008, by the way -- and you’ll see Democrats start running for the hills, which could produce a self-fulfilling outcome 13 months from now. In September, you could dismiss the GOP’s congressional victory in New York (because of Anthony Weiner’s problems, because of the Democratic candidate’s poor campaign, and because of the district’s unusual concentration of Orthodox Jewish voters). But it will be hard for Democrats to spin away losing this race. Keep in mind: The Democrat in this race has the support of labor AND the Chamber of Commerce. There’s only ONE explanation for a loss. No one needs a win worse in West Virginia tonight than Team Obama. Polls close at 7:30 pm ET.
*** Obama’s day: Speaking of Obama, he travels to Dallas, TX, where he hits two fundraisers and then delivers remarks on his jobs bill at 3:55 pm ET. A White House official emails First Read, “President Obama will travel to Eastfield College, a community college in Mesquite, Texas, to tour the campus’ Children’s Laboratory School and meet with students and teachers before delivering remarks urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act now to keep teachers in the classroom and rebuild our schools across the nation.” After that, he heads to St. Louis, where he holds two more fundraising events. By the way, it’s really quite remarkable that the president is doing ONLY fundraising in Missouri; not a single public event in a “competitive” state (though, Team Obama knows Missouri is a state that probably can’t win, see 2008).
*** Tuesday’s “Daily Rundown” line-up: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, on President Obama’s jobs plan and 2012 outlook… Politico’s Jonathan Martin and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza on Christie, Perry and the 2012 calendar… NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo with the latest on the Wall Street protests… Roll Call/Rothenberg Report’s Nathan Gonzales on today’s West Virginia gubernatorial election… And more 2012 news with USA Today’s Susan Page, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews NBC’s Chuck Todd (on Christie and Obama), the Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka (on Perry), CNBC’s Steve Liesman, CNBC’s Ron Insana, Bob Wright, and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 35 days
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Are you better off? No, President Obama says: “I don’t think that they’re better off than they were four years ago,” Obama said in an interview with ABC. “They’re not better off than they were before Lehman’s collapse, before the financial crisis, before this extraordinary recession that we’re going through. I think that what we’ve seen is that we’ve been able to make steady progress to stabilize the economy but the unemployment rate is still way too high.”
A majority think President Obama will not win reelection. They say so by a 55%-37% margin in a Washington Post/ABC poll.
A CBS poll finds: “Sixty-nine percent say the president has not made real progress on the economy, which voters overwhelmingly cite as their most important issue. Twenty-five percent say he has made real progress. Perceptions are not improving. The percentage who said Mr. Obama has made real progress has dropped 10 points from a survey 13 months ago, when 35 percent said he had made real progress.”
“The White House sent three pending trade agreements to Congress on Monday after reaching a deal with House Republican leaders,” The Hill reports. “The agreement will allow trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to move forward, in addition to legislation to help workers who are hurt by increased trade.”
“A Silicon Valley investor and senior administration officials warned the White House to reconsider having President Obama visit a solar start-up company because of its mounting financial problems, saying he might be embarrassed later,” the Washington Post reports.
Obama, though, said he didn’t regret the Solyndra loan, per The Hill: "No, I don't, because if you look at the overall portfolio of loan guarantees that have been provided, overall it's doing well."
“Protests against Wall Street spread across the country yesterday as demonstrators marched on Federal Reserve banks and camped out in parks from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine, in a show of anger over the wobbly economy and what they see as corporate greed,” the Boston Globe reports. “In Manhattan, hundreds of protesters dressed as “corporate zombies’’ in white face paint lurched past the New York Stock Exchange clutching fistfuls of fake money. In Chicago, demonstrators pounded drums in the city’s financial district. Others pitched tents or waved protest signs at passing cars in Boston, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Mo.”
“First lady Michelle Obama will meet supporters who donate at least $250 at [Oct. 11] Washington, D.C., fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign,” Roll Call writes.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll, Mitt Romney leads with 25%, “which is identical to his support from a month ago.” Rick Perry dropped dramatically, losing half of his support since early September. He now stands at 16%, tied with Herman Cain, who went up 12 points.
Romney and Christie essentially tie Obama in the poll. Obama leads Romney 47%-46%, Christie 46%-44%, and has a slightly wider lead against Perry, 49%-44%.
The New York Daily News picks up on the Bloomberg Koch brothers investigation: “Tea Party bankrollers David and Charles Koch flouted U.S. laws by selling millions of dollars worth of oil equipment to the world's leading supporter of global terrorism - Iran, a bombshell report claimed.”
BACHMANN: The AP: “Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is losing her senior adviser and pollster in a staff exodus that raises questions about the viability of her White House bid and her campaign finances.” She lost her pollster, Ed Goeas, senior adviser Andy Parrish, who is her congressional chief of staff, Doug Sachtleban, who is her congressional spokesman, and her scheduler. “The moves signal an effort to preserve money three months ahead of the first Republican nominating contests.”
NBC’s Jamie Novogrod reports that during an evening visit to a "Faith and Values" meeting Monday, Michele Bachmann insisted that the news that four staffers are leaving her campaign is not a sign of trouble. “This has been in line with our plan all along,” she told reporters. “This isn’t a shakeup.”
The New York Times on the campaign staff departures: "Two more important players are leaving Representative Michele Bachmann’s campaign, on top of earlier high-profile departures, adding to the impression of drip-drip-drip troubles facing her candidacy."
The Washington Post’s fact checker gives Bachmann three Pinocchios for her claim that Chinese lasers have “blinded” U.S. satellites. “We don’t know what, if any, classified information Bachmann has access to about this incident, but the public record is pretty damning. Bachmann made a provocative charge based on flimsy and outdated evidence, citing her seat on the Intelligence Committee to give it credibility,” The Post writes. “Either because Bachmann does not know the difference between ‘blinded’ and ‘illuminated’ — or because she chose to ignore the difference — she made a very misleading claim.”
Bachmann's two-day swing of Iowa concludes Tuesday with events in Des Moines, Newton, and Grinnell.
CHRISTIE: The AP looks at some of the challenges facing a potential Christie launch: “Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has been silent in early-voting primary states, and if he decides to join the Republican presidential race, he would face the challenge of launching a campaign from a standing start.”
Chris Christie has not been reaching out to Republicans in Iowa or New Hampshire about organizing a potential run, the Washington Post reports. But it could be a sign that "confidence within Christie’s circle that the adoring and hungry Republican elites who have courted him can compensate for his organizational deficit with momentum."
“The governor has all but shut down communications with his advisers -- even his inner circle -- telling them he had already gathered all the information he needs to make his decision. The only thing left is for him to come to a decision in his own mind,” the New York Post adds. “
“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has kept the political world in suspense for weeks over his presidential intentions, told prominent California fund-raisers and donors as recently as last Wednesday he had no plans to seek the White House,” the Wall Street Journal reports (hat tip: Taegan Goddard). “One assurance took the form of a pledge Mr. Christie made to Meg Whitman, the newly appointed Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive, said two people familiar with the matter. As a condition of Ms. Whitman's hosting a high-priced fund-raiser for him, Mr. Christie said he wouldn't enter the Republican presidential contest, these people said.”
Though yesterday (Oct. 3) marked the 20-year anniversary of Bill Clinton's announcement, National Journal writes that the timing of Clinton's campaign should serve as a warning, not an inspiration, for a Christie run.
PERRY: The Washington Post writes about Perry’s “complicated” record on race. “As governor of Texas, Rick Perry appointed the first African American to the state Supreme Court and later made him chief justice. One of Perry’s appointments to the Board of Regents of his alma mater, Texas A&M University, became its first black chairman. One chief of staff and two of his general counsels have been African American.”
“But many of those minority legislators say Perry has a long history — dating to his first race for statewide office more than 20 years ago — of engaging in what they see as racially tinged tactics and rhetoric to gain political advantage.”
Perry’s “book’s sweeping states’ rights arguments have created a major problem for Perry and his advisers, forcing them to argue that his views are not out of the mainstream in the Republican primary, let alone in a general election matchup against President Obama,” the Boston Globe writes. “Filled with brash language and bold criticism of entitlements, clean-air rules, and education laws, “Fed Up!’’ grew out of Perry’s deepening interest in the Tea Party movement, which was a newly ascendant force in the middle of 2010, when he wrote it.”
ROMNEY: “Mitt Romney kept up his attacks on rival Rick Perry, slamming as ‘offensive’ the name that once adorned a rock outside the entrance of a hunting camp leased by the Texas governor’s family,” the New York Post writes of Romney’s appearance on FOX. Romney said, “I’ve followed it from afar. I think it’s offensive. I think most people think it’s offensive.”
“Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has bolstered his Florida campaign staff as the state shuffled the national primary schedule by moving the contest up into January,” Roll Call reports.
Pat Robertson “said he considers [Romney] the Mormon candidate ‘an outstanding Christian,’ but declined to say if he would be OK with a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the White House,” AP writes (via GOP 12).
CALIFORNIA: This contest is this year, but an openly gay candidate for San Francisco mayor -- Bevan Dufty (D) -- is airing a TV ad featuring his daughter. As one observer tells First Read, this is likely the first time “an LGBT candidate for office has featured their child in a network/cable television campaign commercial.”
WEST VIRGINIA: “After two September special election losses, Democrats are looking for a slice of good news. But what smelled like Democratic victory in West Virginia just a week ago is now far from certain, and even a win in today's gubernatorial contest shouldn't provide much solace to Democrats nationwide,” Nathan Gonzales writes in Roll Call. “No matter which party wins, political strategists will have to resist building the results into a mountain from a molehill.”
“A special election for governor that has attracted national attention, including nearly $6 million in electioneering expenditures by national party organizations, ends Tuesday in an apparent dead heat between the two top contenders,” the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette says. “Polls will be open today from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Monday, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant urged voters to shake off any election burnout -- despite this being the fifth statewide election in the past 17 months.” More: Tennant said 56,638 voters -- 32,086 registered Democrats, 19,745 Republicans and 4,807 independent and third-party voters -- took advantage of early voting, which ended Saturday. That's up about 15,000 votes from the May special primary, but about 51,000 fewer early votes than the 2010 general election, which featured the special election for U.S. Senate.”
The U.S. military's strike killing al Qaeda militant Anwar al-Awlaki was appropriate and justified, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Monday in a wide-ranging interview.
Romney forcefully defended the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda propagandist who was born in the US, in a lengthy interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.
"It is appropriate. When someone has, is engaged in treasonous behavior and has allied themselves with a force that has declared war on the United States of America and is in that sense an enemy combatant, we have every right to fire on them, as they would fire upon us — and have — fired on us," Romney said.
Other Republicans vying for their party's presidential nomination have been more critical; Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a critic of US foreign policy, suggested Monday that the assassination of al-Awlaki was an impeachable offense for President Obama.
Romney also tiptoed around a controversy stemming from a recent Republican debate, when a few audience members booed a member of the military who admitted being gay in a question to candidates about "Don't ask, don't tell." The moment has become politically charged, and Vice President Biden called the moment "reprehensible."
Romney noted that there had been some audience reaction in the last few debates he did not always agree with, but said that it was not his place to criticize the attendees for their views.
"I haven't made it my practice to scold the audience," Romney said. "I will tell you that the boos and the applause have not always coincided with my own views," he added, without clarifying which specific instances he was referring to.
"I don't know that cheering for executions is something I would agree with," Romney continued, referencing a moment at the NBC/Politico Debate at the Reagan library. "But I don't raise my hand and say don't do that."
Romney also used the interview to trot out attacks on Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his positions on immigration and Social Security. The former Massachusetts governor also managed to identify a new characteristic needed for the republican nominee: the ability to "post up" against Obama in the general election.
Romney renewed his critiques of Perry, his top rival in the race for the nomination, saying in-state college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants in Texas was "a bit like the idea of amnesty." That policy, approved by Perry, created an incentive for for people to come to the US illegally, Romney said, in a departure from his usual "magnet" rhetoric.
While he did not dispute Texas had a right to pass the law — the Union Leader moderators compared the choice to Romney's oft-criticized Massachusetts healthcare reform law as a "state solution" — Romney said he simply did not agree with it.
Romney also weighed in on Perry's recent comments in which the Texas governor suggested the possibility of sending US forces into Mexico to help fight drug trafficking there. While Romney said he would support offering logistical or intelligence help to the Mexican military, as the US had done in Colombia, he was opposed to putting actual US boots on the ground.
On Social Security, Romney used the longer, sit-down interview format to pick apart Perry's past statements comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme in a more detail. Romney said a Ponzi scheme is designed to make one person rich. Who, he asked rhetorically, was getting rich off Social Security? Certainly not its current beneficiaries, he said.
As the interview was concluding, Romney, who's not always as likely as other politicians to draw a casual sports analogy, deployed a bit of basketball parlance to explain why he felt Republican voters were being so slow to coalesce around any one candidate to take on the sitting president.
"This is really important this time. More important that usual. We have to have a candidate who can post up with Barack Obama and beat him," Romney said.
And despite his blistering criticism of Obama's handling of the economy and other issues, Romney was able to identify one other area in which which he and the current administration were in agreement, praising education secretary Arne Duncan for standing up to national teachers unions in pushing for school choice and merit pay.
Romney said that when a Democrat stands up to teachers' unions, "we ought to applaud that." He then hastened to add that he does not agree with Duncan on a national curriculum, or on shutting down DC charter schools, among other things.
GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa -- Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum claimed here there are incentives to remain single, and ramped up his rhetoric on the importance of family.
"At the time of the birth of the child of a mother having a child out of wedlock, 90% of the mothers are in a relationship with the father,” Santorum said, citing a Princeton University professor. Within a year after birth, he adds, “10% are in a relationship.”
"We shouldn't have incentives for people not to be married,” the former Pennsylvania senator continued. Santorum, who remains low in national polls, added that he also believes couples choose to cohabitate rather than marry, because it is cheaper.
But, as MSN Money reports: "The reality is that marriage has plenty of legal and financial benefits, including tax benefits. Even before Congress changed tax rules in 2001 to deal with the so-called marriage penalty, more married couples got a tax bonus from being married than paid a tax penalty."
He also told the group gathered at a Johnny Ray’s restaurant here: “Only 6% of families where there's a mom and dad and the children in the home are below the poverty line. The percentage of single-parent families below the poverty line is 32%.”
These numbers are slightly off. According to Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty, 5% of married family households were poor at some point during the past 12 months as opposed to 28.8% of single-parent family households.
Just over half of the U.S. population will experience at least one spell of poverty before they reach the age of 65, the center also finds.
Of course, the poverty figures could be the result of sheer mathematics, rather than values. Households today are more dependent on two incomes than a generation ago. When there aren't two incomes to draw from, it stands to reason that more would be in poverty. Even if a two-parent household relies just on one income, there is less strain on child care, for example.
Speaking of poverty, MSN Money writes, "The people who faced the most egregious penalties, as a portion of their income, were the working poor."
"We need to strengthen the family," said Santorum, wearing a wristband with the acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y on it. It stands for: “Forget About Me, I Love You.”
"We need to have a president who goes out and talks about the importance of marriage, the importance of fathers being committed to their children, the importance of moral values in this country," Santorum, author of “It Takes a Family,” said.
He also said he believes increasing marriage will boost the economy.
"You don't talk about the family, you don't talk about strong marriages and mothers and fathers helping to raise children, you can't have a strong economy," Santorum said.
Prior to meeting with his cabinet earlier this morning, President Obama told reporters that he wants Congress to schedule a vote on his jobs legislation by the end of the month, and wants Republicans to state what kind of proposals they would accept.
"If there are aspects of the bill that they don't like, they should tell us what it is that they're not willing to go for," he said. "They should tell us what it is that they're prepared to see move forward."
The congressional Democratic leadership -- including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- has called for the legislation's passage, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he does not anticipate the bill getting passed in its entirety.
Senior administration officials say the public’s dissatisfaction with Washington will help pressure Congress to act. Republicans have said they can find common ground on some of the president’s proposals, including tax benefits for companies which hire veterans and extending unemployment insurance. But they are strongly opposed to the payment plan, which would call for increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations.
The president also has waded more deeply into the 2012 waters. While speaking at the Human Rights Campaign dinner over the weekend, Obama criticized the 2012 Republican candidates for failing to defend a gay soldier who was booed during a recent Republican debate in Tampa. Senior administration officials said the president will not weigh into the GOP presidential primary discussion frequently, but he felt the Tampa incident required a response.
A web video released by Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign today puts the Minnesota Congresswoman's new stump message at the center of a pitch for her candidacy. The message -- "Don't settle" -- is a call to arms to conservative Republican voters and a rebuke of the GOP front runners.
"This is not the year to get behind the moderate," Bachmann says in the video, which was filmed after her address last week to more than 12,000 students at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Lynchburg, VA, that is a stop for many GOP candidates.
Bachmann does not say if she has a "moderate" candidate in mind.
"This is the election when conservatives can have it all," she says, before adding that voters "can have someone who will stand for life and for marriage, stand up for Israel, stand up for national security."
Bachmann introduced the message two weeks ago, during events related to the GOP state convention in Florida. She repeated the message in Iowa last week, and during her address at Liberty, where she used the word "settle" -- or a variation on the word -- 44 times during her remarks to students.
Bachmann begins a two-day swing through Iowa today, with events in Sioux City and Council Bluffs this afternoon.
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Ron Paul said President Obama should be impeached for the killing of the al Qaeda-linked, American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. But, then again, so should every other president he's known, he said.
An "impeachment process would be possible,” he told students at a University of New Hampshire town hall. “You could do more investigating into this. I put responsibility on the president. This is obviously a major step in the wrong direction.”
Asked on what crime or offense he would impeach Obama on, Paul responded: "I just said almost every president I've known I'd probably have to vote for impeachment, because there's very little respect for the Constitution -- and certainly there's no respect for the Constitution for assassinating American citizens."
NEW YORK -- Before a meeting with Donald Trump here, Herman Cain was again asked about a Sunday Washington Post report that painted on a rock on a property leased by the Texas Gov. Rick Perry's was a racial slur offensive to African Americans. But instead of criticizing Perry like he did yesterday, Cain dismissed it.
"I really don't care about that word," Cain said, adding that he was "satisfied" with both Perry's response yesterday, and the fact that the word was painted over. He called the whole story a "distraction" and presented to reporters a "lets-get-down-to-business" attitude, saying he was excited to talk to Trump about China and the American economy.
That’s a major change in tune from Cain, who yesterday said of the story, “I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off of that rock and renaming the place. It's just basically a case of insensitivity."
After his meeting with Trump, Cain again spoke to reporters, saying of the meeting, "It went outstanding."
Cain was inside Trump's midtown Manhattan headquarters for nearly an hour. Citing their mutual background as businessmen, he said they "hit it off right away," and had even exchanged phone numbers.
Trump did not come out to greet Cain before the meeting or speak to reporters after the meeting. Cain said the get-together focused mostly on two subjects -- his 9-9-9 tax reform plan, and the U.S. relationship with China, a subject in which Trump has professed his expertise as a result of his many business interests in the country.
"He likes my 9-9-9 Plan," Cain said, contending his plan would level the playing field with China by eliminating the taxes embedded in buying products.
He also claimed the plan would create "about a 5% GDP growth and six million jobs."
When pressed by NBC News on a timeframe for such robust economic growth, Cain merely said his numbers were checked by independent experts through "rigorous analysis."
Cain's focus on reforming the tax code and leveling the relationship with China has gained some traction in recent weeks with primary voters. His poll numbers have risen, with Perry’s stumbles and his surprising win at the Florida straw poll.
Cain is the third declared candidate to meet with Trump, after Perry and Mitt Romney also met with him last month.
Cain gave some insight into what he believes is Trump's thinking about a possible endorsement.
"Mr. Trump is the type of person that if he wants to endorse you, you don't have to ask him,” Cain said. “I believe -- and I would do the same thing -- that he's waiting for the field to narrow down a little more before he decides whether or not he wants to put his endorsement on a particular candidate."