Oppo Wars (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

Rick Perry’s advisers often say that that their candidate is still new to the presidential race, having jumped in just a few weeks ago. But his opponents in rival campaigns and elsewhere have been using Perry’s incubation period as a candidate to put as many obstacles in his path to the Republican nomination as possible.

Today, in particular, it looks as if the opposition research file got opened and dumped directly on Perry’s head.

The Austin-American Statesman has an in-depth look at Perry’s former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, who once lobbied for the drug company, Merck, and has been a close confidant of the Texas governor for years. (Merck manufactures the drug Gardasil, which Perry attempted to require all sixth-grade girls in Texas to receive in 2007.) The issue has become a point of contention between Perry and GOP rivals, including Michele Bachmann who brought it up in this week’s debate.  http://bit.ly/oSkJoG

Perry and Toomey’s relationship “continues in the presidential contest as Toomey promotes Perry’s presidential aspirations with his committee Make Us Great Again,” writes the Statesman’s Laylan Copelin. “The political committee is exempt from federal fundraising limits as long as it does not coordinate its activities, usually ad buys, with the Perry campaign. That raises the question of how Toomey can put aside his friendship with Perry, as well as his ownership of a resort island on a New Hampshire lake with Perry campaign strategist Dave Carney, as his so-called super PAC tries to raise millions of dollars to elect his friend. After all, Toomey has a track record in Texas with similar quasi-campaign operations that have landed him either in court or in the middle of controversy.”

Politico’s Ken Vogel and Ben Smith weigh in on Perry’s governing style. He has “been criticized as one of the most secretive governors in the country,” they write. “At home, Perry has fought for years to keep even mundane details of his schedule, spending and decision-making away from reporters and the public.” http://politi.co/ovtfgF

Meanwhile, there was the breaking news that the U.S. Supreme Court has delayed the execution of a Texas man who was scheduled to be put to death last night. It’s unclear whether it will present any problems for Perry, but some have raised questions about why Perry did not choose to look into the case himself before the Supreme Court intervened.

The Romney campaign has also been hitting Perry all week over everything from his stance on immigration to his comments that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme.” Team Romney circulated another missive this morning headlined: “Perry’s Social Security Problem In Iowa.” (Perry has a busy schedule of campaign events in the Hawkeye State today.) Notably, it’s unclear how intensively the Romney campaign is even going to play in Iowa.

For his part, Perry has been fighting back. In Iowa last night he took aim at Romney after a study released yesterday by a conservative think tank showed that Massachusetts lost thousands of jobs as a result of the health care reform bill Romney signed into law as governor.

“Government-mandated, government-run health care — it is part of what he put in place as the governor of Massachusetts,” Perry told a crowd in Jefferson, Iowa. “If it cost Massachusetts 18,000 jobs, think about what ObamaCare is going to do to this country … RomneyCare has driven private insurance costs up by $4.3 billion in Massachusetts.” http://bit.ly/qr7k78

And there’s also some evidence that despite his opponents’ best efforts to paint him as an extremist, that line of attack just doesn’t play with a Republican primary electorate. A new Gallup poll out today reveals that Perry’s sharply-worded statements on Social Security may be a “non-issue” for his candidacy. “As many Republicans say they are more likely to vote for Perry for president because of his views on Social Security as say they are less likely — 19 percent each,” according to Gallup. http://bit.ly/pSq91Q

Among independents, however, “12 percent are more likely to vote for him,” based on the “Ponzi scheme” characterization, “and 32 percent less likely.”

OBAMA: BUYERS’ REMORSE? “The most popular national political figure in America today is one who was rejected by her own party three years ago: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” writes Bloomberg News’ John McCormick. “Nearly two-thirds of Americans hold a favorable view of her and one-third are suffering a form of buyer’s remorse, saying the U.S. would be better off now if she had become president in 2008 instead of Barack Obama. The finding in the latest Bloomberg National Poll shows a higher level of wishful thinking about a Hillary Clinton presidency than when a similar question was asked in July 2010. Then, a quarter of Americans held such a view. … While 34 percent say things would be better under a Clinton administration, almost half — 47 percent — say things would be about the same and 13 percent say worse.” http://bloom.bg/p98gvF

REALITY CHECK: ABC pollster Gary Langer weighs in on the results on the Bloomberg Poll: “Secretary of state is a position tailor-made for broad popularity (think Colin Powell). The reason is that it’s comfortably removed from the to and fro of contentious domestic policymaking — and in particular, safely insulated from responsibility for current economic conditions. Were Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Clinton’s jobs reversed, their approval ratings likely would be, too.”

AND NOW, A MESSAGE FROM THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN. Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod pens a memo to Sunday show producers: “Public polling released this week makes clear that Americans strongly agree with the President’s plan to create jobs and provide economic security for the middle class and believe that leaders in both parties should move quickly to pass the American Jobs Act. Members of the media have focused on the President’s approval ratings as if they existed in a black box. Following the intransigence of the Republicans during the debt debate, the approval rating of the GOP brand dropped to a historic low. … There’s no doubt that Americans are calling on leaders in Washington to take immediate action to address their economic challenges — exactly what the President is advocating for. … Despite what you hear in elite commentary, the President’s support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong. According to the latest NBC-WSJ poll, Democrats approve of his performance by an 81%-14% margin. That’s stronger than President Clinton’s support among Democrats at this point in his term and, according to Gallup, stronger than any Democratic President dating back to Harry Truman through this point in their presidency.”


THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK”: BILL CLINTON, TONY BLAIR, ERIC SCHMIDT AND MORE. Christiane Amanpour welcomes former President Bill Clinton as he prepares for the seventh annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative next week in New York City. And as Palestinians push for statehood, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair joins Amanpour to discuss how, in his role as Middle East envoy, can help avert a confrontation at the United Nations. Plus, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on what it will take to get this economy going again. Finally, this week’s release of the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes brought new insights into Camelot and the JFK presidency. The “This Week” roundtable features George Will, Cokie Roberts, ABC News senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl and presidential historian Michael Beschloss who look at the former first lady’s reflections on President Kennedy’s leadership, and what makes a great president. http://abcn.ws/qxNYgZ


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Jim Lehrer, author and retired PBS NewsHour anchor. Also on the program, Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc



CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL RATING DIPS TO RECORD LOWS. Congress faces historically low approval ratings as it wades into the debate over the $447 billion jobs package proposed by President Obama, with just 12 percent of Americans now approving of the way Congress is handling its job, matching its all-time low, recorded in October 2008 at the height of the economic crisis, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll,” The New York Times’ Allison Kopicki reports. “Voters are slightly more disapproving of the Republicans in Congress than they are of the Democrats, with just 19 percent approving of Republicans in Congress, compared with 28 percent that approve of their Democratic counterparts. Republican voters are more dissatisfied with their own party representatives than are Democrats. Half of Republican voters say they disapprove of Republicans in Congress, while 43 percent of Democratic voters say they disapprove of Democrats in Congress. Independents are slightly less approving of Congressional Republicans than Congressional Democrats.” http://nyti.ms/o6hBQ1

PERRY ADVISER’S THEORY OF POLITICS: ‘IF SOMEONE HAS A BETTER IDEA, WE STEAL IT.’ In the October issue of Townhall Magazine, Dwayne Horner, a Texas political operative who previously worked on Gov. Perry’s state election campaign, profiles the current frontrunner in a piece titled, “Never Lost a Fight.”  The article features an exclusive interview with Dave Carney, Perry’s chief political strategist.  Some highlights: Carney shuts down any notion of a feud between Mike Huckabee and Perry after Perry endorsed Giuliani in 2008: “To have a feud, it has to be two ways. The governor doesn’t hold any animosity towards Gov. Huckabee.” It details Carney’s election theory: “…if someone has a better idea, we steal it. The point of the campaign is to win, not relive the great hoorah. We adapt to putting resources, time and effort into those tactics that are successful in reaching voters and getting them to be more supportive and to turn out.” COVER IMAGE: http://bit.ly/pUvJNb

THE BACHMANN PROBLEM. In the pugilism of this week’s Republican presidential debate, Representative Michele Bachmann seemed to have landed a clean blow against Gov. Rick Perry over an order he issued requiring Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus. But then in follow-up interviews, Mrs. Bachmann suggested the vaccine was linked to ‘mental retardation,’” writes The New York Times’ Trip Gabriel. “As experts quickly pointed out, there is no evidence whatsoever linking the vaccine to mental retardation — and Mrs. Bachmann ended up shifting the focus off Mr. Perry and on to her long-running penchant for exaggeration. It is a pattern her current and former aides know well — her tendency to let her passion for an issue overwhelm a sober look at the facts, resulting in indefensible remarks that, in a presidential primary race, are raising questions about her judgment and maturity. … Jim Dyke, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee unaffiliated with any candidate, said: “This is the nail in the coffin in her campaign. Because you can be a cable television darling by saying provocative things, but you can’t be president of the United States.” Supporters pushed back, arguing that Mrs. Bachmann’s appeal has never been to the party establishment. “Maybe she’s a little passionate, but she’s not scripted,” said Kent Sorenson, an Iowa state senator who is chairman of her campaign there.  … People close to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Bachmann is often influenced by the last person she speaks with on an issue rather than maintaining discipline in communicating a message.” http://nyti.ms/q2mbbs

TOM RIDGE BACKS HUNTSMAN. Jon Huntsman will receive an endorsement from former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge at Saint Anselm College this morning, New Hampshire’s Union Leader reports,” according to ABC’s Sarah Kunin. “The announcement will take place at the college’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics auditorium at 10:15a.m. ‘I know Jon to be a serious, insightful leader who will bring together people from across the political spectrum to solve the many challenges we face, both at home and around the world,’ Ridge said in a statement to the Union Leader. ‘He has the experience we need to rebuild our nation’s economic foundation and reduce our crushing debt.’ Huntsman had allegedly sought Ridge’s endorsement even before he confirmed that he was running for president. Two weeks before Huntsman’s official announcement, Roll Call reported that the pair had met and talked, and Ridge was excited about the idea of Huntsman’s candidacy.” http://abcn.ws/qO5UxV

CAN ELIZABETH WARREN CONNECT IN MASSACHUSETTS? Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law school professor and consumer advocate, officially entered the Massachusetts Senate race. She’d been testing the waters for weeks and now faces the ultimate test: Can she connect with Massachusetts voters and withstand a long primary to take the Senate seat of Republican Scott Brown?” ABC’s Shushannah Walshe notes. “Longtime Massachusetts Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said Warren had a strong message, but as a brand-new, first-time candidate she is still getting her ‘sea legs.’ Marsh, who is  not affiliated with the Warren campaign, outlined the message that she believes should be the Warren campaign’s pitch to Massachusetts independent voters. ‘In a year when everyone is mad at Washington and Wall Street, Scott Brown joined the club and Elizabeth Warren has been throwing bombs at it,’ Marsh said. … Doug Rubin, a Warren campaign adviser, said he’s seen ‘genuine excitement’ on their two days on the trail, and said the key to a ‘successful campaign’ is building the grassroots support. ‘We need to earn this one day at a time in the primary, and that’s where the focus is,’ Rubin said. ‘We need to win the primary, and then we’ll have the opportunity to take on Sen. Brown.’ … Before taking on Brown, Warren  needs to beat  City Year co-founder Alan Khazei; Newton Mayor Setti Warren; State Rep. Thomas Conroy;  Bob Massie, who is a former candidate for lieutenant governor; immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco; and engineer Herb Robinson from Newton.” http://abcn.ws/pIXIg1

WARREN, UP CLOSE: Jill Lawrence spent a day on the campaign trail with Warren. Here’s her take in the Atlantic: “I confess I was among the many who wondered if Warren would come across as the out of touch Ivy-Leaguer that Republicans are trying to portray her as — and curious if, like the ill-fated Martha Coakley, she would be terrible at politics. Maybe it’s rash to make a judgment so early in her campaign, but Wednesday’s appearance suggested that if she wins the Democratic nomination, she could give Republican Sen. Scott Brown quite the race. Warren has no barn-coat, battered-truck ‘schtick,’ as one voter called Brown’s everyman campaign persona. Nor does she plan to pose for a nude centerfold, as Brown did for Cosmopolitan while a young man. ‘I’m not competing there,’ she told me with a laugh. … As for Republicans who dismiss her as a liberal academic, ‘I grew up hanging on to the edge of the middle class by my fingernails,’ Warren said. ‘All I can say is I’ve been there. I’ve lived this. My family lived one pink slip, one bad diagnosis away from falling off the economic cliff. Yeah, I’ve got a fancy job at Harvard and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m proud of that job. I worked hard to get there. I wasn’t born at Harvard. I was born to a family that had to work for everything it’s got.’” http://bit.ly/omxXoh

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: OBAMA SIGNS PATENT REFORM BILL. “President Obama will focus on science and technology today by signing the American Invents Act, a new law intended to streamline the patent system, spur innovation and ultimately create jobs,” ABC’s Mary Bruce writes. “The bill, which marks the first change to patent law since 1952, is also aimed at reducing  costly legal battles over patents and will transition the U.S. from a ‘first to invent’ to a ‘first to file”‘ system. President Obama will visit the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., this morning and view a classroom demonstration of students’ science projects. Obama will then deliver remarks and sign the bill into law. Expect the president to also continue to push his $447 billion jobs bill.”



@ jonkarl : Reassuring? Obama last night: “The odds of me being reelected are much higher than the odds of me being elected in the first place,”

@ FredVMalek : Here’s my op-ed  @politico: “Obama Should Take Notes on TX” politi.co/mSNTfO

@ ezraklein : Two big stories with anonymous Dems grumbling about Bill Daley in one day:  politi.co/oXt861 and  huff.to/qW90mk Hmmm.

@ adamsmithtimes : Excluive Fla Insider Poll: Romney seen as strongest candidate to beat Obama in Fla  bit.ly/nABSdz

@ DLeonhardt : The WH debates using drones to target foot soldiers in Yemen and Somalia. A  @charlie_savage exclusive:  nyti.ms/rgNNjW



(all times local)

Rick Perry attends a meet-and-greet at Uncle Nancy’s Coffee in Newton, Iowa at 8:15 a.m. At 12:15 p.m., he speaks at the Iowa Credit Union Convention in Des Moines. Perry tours the Atlantic Bottling Company in Atlantic at 2:15 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., he attends a meet-and-greet at Tish’s Restaurant in Council Bluffs.

Jon Huntsman speaks at a Rotary Club Meeting in Salem, N.H., at 7:30 a.m. an announces the endorsement of Tom Ridge later this morning.

Herman Cain attends the Aiken Stump Rally in Aiken, S.C., at 9:30 a.m. At 1 p.m., Cain attends a meet-and-greet in Simpsonville. He attends a rally at 4:30 p.m. in Rock Hill.

Ron Paul gives the keynote speech to the Liberty Political Action Conference in Reno, Nev., at 7 p.m.

Michele Bachmann hosts the “Join Team Bachmann! Orange County Rally” at 9 a.m. in Costa Mesa, Calif. At 7:30 p.m., she addresses the California GOP in Los Angeles.

The Note Futures Calendar:  http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV


* Get  The Note delivered  to your inbox every day. * For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog:  http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/ and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics