Mitt Romney’s good week… The Dem group Priorities USA hits Romney with TV ad in South Carolina, and the Romney camp responds… The 1967 borders have become the new individual mandate -- an idea that wasn’t really controversial before Obama proposed it… Obama meets with Netanyahu at the White House, and the two make a statement to the press at 12:05 pm ET… In interview, Huntsman backs the Ryan budget plan, including the Medicare phase-out… Making sense of this week’s mayoral election in Jacksonville… The GOP’s judicial victory in NV… And Paul Ryan headlines “Meet the Press.”
*** Romney’s good week: What a difference a week can make. Last Friday, Mitt Romney was pulling out all the darts and arrows he took after his health-care speech in Michigan. This Friday, however, caps a 2012 week dominated by Newt Gingrich’s numerous missteps and even Rick Santorum’s dust-up with John McCain over torture. And the positive campaign news came from Team Romney with its announcement of raising $10 million-plus in one day. Even the fact that Democrats are attacking him with a TV ad (see below) is oddly good for him. Bottom line: Any week filled with clear displays of his strengths and others’ flaws is a good week for Romney.
*** Priorities USA hits Romney with TV ad: Tied to his Saturday visit to South Carolina, the Democratic group Priorities USA Action -- led by former Obama White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney -- is airing a TV ad aimed at Romney on Medicare and the Ryan budget plan. We’ve had our first feeding frenzy of the 2012 cycle (with Newt), our first $10 million-dollar day (with Romney), and now our first TV ad targeting a GOP 2012er this cycle. “Newt Gingrich says the Republican plan that would essentially end Medicare is too ‘radical,’ the ad goes. “Gov. Haley thinks the plan is courageous, and Gingrich shouldn't be cutting conservatives off at the knees. Mitt Romney says he's ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan, who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare. But with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder...which page is he on today?” Burton, who appears on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” today, tells First Read the ad will run at election-year levels across the state this weekend. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responds, “President Obama and his team are desperate to change the subject to anything other than jobs and the millions of Americans out of work. With 9.6% unemployment in South Carolina, voters are looking for a jobs plan not a smear campaign."
*** Throwing Israel under the bus? For longtime chroniclers of the Middle East peace process, the most surprising part of President Obama’s speech yesterday was the reaction to his call for the eventual Israel-Palestine borders to be based on the 1967 lines. Israeli PM Netanyahu said it was “indefensible.” Romney fired off this statement: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.” Pawlenty followed by saying it was a “mistaken and very dangerous demand.” Why was this reaction surprising? Because, as the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg writes, the 1967 lines have been the basic Middle-East-peace idea for at least the last 12 years. “This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.”
*** The ’67 borders have become the new individual mandate: So in that respect, you could compare the 1967 lines to the individual health-care mandate or cap-and-trade -- ideas that weren’t really controversial before Obama proposed it. Also, note the difference between the tough Romney/Pawlenty statements and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s. In his statement, Rubio began by praising the president, and then he said this on the ’67 borders: “Unfortunately, the President’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not pre-determine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” That’s a fair point -- Obama was negotiating publicly in his speech by mentioning the borders. But it’s hard to see how the president was throwing Israel “under the bus” when he also used his speech demanding that the eventual Palestinian state be “non-militarized” and questioning the Hamas-Fatah agreement. “How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama asked. That's a "get out of negotiations" card for Israel, but apparently no one heard THAT? A truth about people who are passionate about this Middle East debate: They only hear what they don’t like.
*** Barack and Bibi: Of course, all these issues -- and many more -- will serve as the backdrop to today’s White House meeting between Obama and Netanyahu. The two meet in the Oval Office at 11:15 am ET, and they will make statements to the press at 12:05. The New York Times writes about the complicated Obama-Netanyahu relationship. “By all accounts, they do not trust each other. President Obama has told aides and allies that he does not believe that Mr. Netanyahu will ever be willing to make the kind of big concessions that will lead to a peace deal. For his part, Mr. Netanyahu has complained that Mr. Obama has pushed Israel too far.”
*** Huntsman on Obama, Libya, the stimulus, and Ryan: Jon Huntsman, who’s on the second day of his swing through New Hampshire, made some news in his interview with ABC. When he was asked to judge Obama after earlier calling him a “remarkable leader,” Huntsman replied, “History will show how effective he is.” He also criticized the U.S. involvement in Libya, saying he would have “chosen from the beginning not to intervene.” He defended his support for the stimulus -- as well as his critique that it wasn’t big enough -- by saying it “was not properly focused” on tax cuts. But the biggest news from the interview wasn’t included in the ABC package: Huntsman said he would have voted for the Ryan budget, including the phase-out of Medicare. He also said he would vote to raise the debt ceiling “if there was a corresponding level of cuts.”
*** Making sense of Jacksonville: The special congressional election in NY-26 is just four days away, and it’s receiving a considerable amount of attention from the political parties and the DC news media. But here’s something to chew on: This week’s mayoral election in Jacksonville, FL -- won by a Democrat for the first time in 20 years -- might tell us more about a swing state than whatever happens in NY-26 next week. In that race, the African-American Alvin Brown defeated conservative Republican Mike Hogan. One reason Brown won was due to the early investment from the Florida Democratic Party. “Given the political history of the city, it was a gutsy call,” Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale tells First Read. “They drove the ship.” Another factor was ideology. “Alvin came in second in a four way primary, with two moderate GOPers falling below the run-off,” Schale adds. “The final match-up was a Tea Party Republican against a center-right Democrat. Jacksonville has a long tradition of electing center-right mayors… Alvin ended up in filling that role.” One other factor Democrats are touting, according to other strategists: New GOP Gov. Rick Scott. His numbers are worse than Obama's in this traditionally Republican city. But know this about Jacksonville: It's Republican, but not Tea Party Republican; they are Chamber-of-Commerce Republicans.
*** The GOP’s judicial victory in NV: Meanwhile, in the upcoming special congressional election in Nevada, Republicans scored a victory when a district judge ruled against the free-for-all election that would most likely include Sharron Angle. The Las Vegas Sun: “A district judge sided today with the Republican Party, ruling against a free-for-all special election to fill the 2nd Congressional District seat of Rep. Dean Heller, who was elevated to the U.S. Senate. After a more than two-hour hearing, District Judge Todd Russell ruled the major parties have time to hold conventions and nominate one candidate to appear on the ballot. Russell said his decision will most likely be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.”
*** Meet’s Sunday lineup: On “Meet the Press” this week, NBC’s David Gregory will interview House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The roundtable will consist of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Ryan’s Democratic counterpart; Andrew Ross Sorkin; NBC’s Andrea Mitchell; and Mike Murphy. On his weekly “Press Pass,” Gregory interviewed Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough just after the president’s Middle East/North Africa speech.
*** On the 2012 trail: Gingrich today makes six stops in Iowa; Huntsman travels throughout New Hampshire; and Santorum is in Iowa… On Saturday, Herman Cain officially announces his presidential bid in Atlanta, GA; Gingrich remains in Iowa; Huntsman delivers the commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University; Romney is in South Carolina; and Santorum stays in Iowa… On Sunday, Huntsman has three more events in New Hampshire.
Countdown to NY-26 special election: 4 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 85 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 116 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 172 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 262 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
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