The Note: Campaign Chaos

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

We’re entering the September campaign season after a dizzying array of developments on the 2012 front.

Overnight, President Obama acceded to Republican demands to shift his economic address to a joint session of Congress from Wednesday — the same night as a planned GOP presidential debate — to Thursday.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin’s on-again, off-again speech to a Tea Party rally in Iowa is now on again.

And, all of a sudden, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appears to be moving in the direction of the Tea Party as fast as he can.

After first petitioning House Speaker John Boehner to address both houses of Congress at the same hour as an NBC News/Politico debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday night, the White House backtracked when the Speaker balked.

“The President is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8th and challenge our nation’s leaders to start focusing 100 percent of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people,” read a statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued last night.

The White House said they consulted with the Speaker’s office about the original timing, but that Boehner “determined Thursday would work better.” Many Republicans were furious about what they saw as the president’s attempt to pre-empt the debate, but the same critics are claiming victory today.

“Potus jobs speech has now become the Dem response to the GOP debate,” Republican National Committee Spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted this morning.

Elsewhere on the 2012 front, Palin watchers spent a chaotic day trying to follow the drama playing out in Iowa where Palin is expected to attend a Tea Party rally this weekend. As ABC’s Shushannah Walshe and Sheila Marikar reported yesterday, Palin nearly pulled out over a flap with event organizers, but she’s planning to show up — for now.

As Walshe notes, the real question is: If she does decide to get into the race, could drama like this prevent her from running a presidential campaign?

“If she is running for president, she needs a team of advisors and people that will put on events that will have her best interests in mind,” Craig Robinson, former political director of the Iowa Republican Party told ABC News. “A lot of what went on today and yesterday, Palin’s best interest wasn’t in mind when making decisions about the events. She needs her own political team around her.”

And, as we noted yesterday, Romney is hoping to start feeling the warm embrace of the Tea Party now that rival Rick Perry seems to be scooping up their supporters. Romney’s got two Tea Party-themes events on his schedule for Labor Day weekend (both late additions).

As the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser and Tracy Jan write today, Romney advisers “downplayed any notion that the candidate was shifting his strategy, saying that he had said months ago that his campaign would pick up its activity after Labor Day. … The challenge for Romney is winning a primary that is still energized by the Tea Party movement without hurting his chances in the general election, should he become the nominee.”

CARVILLE: WHITE HOUSE ‘OUT OF BOUNDS’ Democratic strategist James Carville told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the Obama administration was in the wrong when they requested that the President address Congress on the same night and time as a Republican presidential debate. “I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was out of bounds…in trying to schedule a speech during a debate,” Carville said on “GMA.” This will be Gov. Rick Perry’s first debate, and as Carville said this morning the stakes are high. “Given a choice between watching a debate and the speech I would have watched the debate and I’m not even a Republican or even close to being a Republican,” he said, adding it will be a “barn burner.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE. ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. Also on the program — Dale Murphy — the former Major League Baseball all-star who just might become a future politician. (Sources say Murphy is also Rick Klein’s boyhood idol.) Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


OBAMA ENERGY LOAN PROGRAM — A WASTE? “Prominent Republican members of the House energy committee accused the Obama administration of “wasting” more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer money by making a federal loan guarantee to a “troubled” solar power company that collapsed in bankruptcy Wednesday,” ABC’s Matthew Mosk, Brian Ross and Ronnie Greene report. “‘This is really bad news…. Half a billion dollars of taxpayer money and we may end up holding the bag,’ House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told ABC News, raising serious concerns about the administration’s energy loan program. ‘This is just a classic case of fraud and abuse and waste.’ Solyndra, a California-based manufacturer of rooftop solar panels, opened in 2005 and in 2009 became the Obama administration’s first recipient of an energy loan guarantee to the tune of $535 million meant to help minimize the risk to venture capital firms that were backing the solar start-up. Obama made a personal visit to the factory last year to herald its bright future. ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News first reported on questions about the choice of Solyndra for the loan in May after the Department of Energy disclosed it was being forced to restructure its loan package for the company, which was showing early signs of financial distress. One of Solyndra’s major investors was George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama during the 2008 election.” More on the investigation:



HUNTSMAN ROLLS OUT JOBS PLAN. “Jon Huntsman revealed his jobs plan at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating in Hudson, New Hampshire this afternoon, marking his first policy speech since announcing his candidacy in June,” ABC’s Sarah Kunin reports. “In a speech titled “Time to Compete,” the former Utah governor introduced an economic strategy that fuses ideas from the Paul Ryan plan as well as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission. Huntsman’s speech focused on five distinct areas: debt, tax reform, regulatory reform, energy independence, and free trade. ‘My plan may be challenged by the special interests, on the left and the right. But it represents a serious path forward – toward fiscal discipline and economic growth,’ Huntsman said to the crowd of 50 to 60 people, according to the campaign. ‘It also represents a very different vision for our country than the current occupier of the White House. The President believes that we can tax and spend and regulate our way to prosperity. We cannot. We must compete our way to prosperity.’ On controlling the nation’s debt, Huntsman noted that he supports many of the Ryan Plan’s ideals paired with a balanced budget amendment. ‘Our debt is immoral and it should be unconstitutional as well. But we cannot restore our nation’s economic strength by cuts alone,’ he said.”

BACHMANN ABANDONING NEW HAMPSHIRE? “Michele Bachmann’s campaign all but confirmed Wednesday what New Hampshire Republicans have suspected for weeks: the Minnesota congresswoman’s political calculus no longer includes the first-in-the nation-primary state,” Politico’s Molly Ball reports. “She hasn’t been back to New Hampshire since her campaign kickoff two months ago. She canceled a planned visit to the Granite State after her Ames straw poll win — and began spending her time in South Carolina, Florida and Iowa instead. In fact, in the two-and-a-half weeks since the straw poll, Bachmann is the only 2012 GOP contender not to visit the Granite State. From Rick Perry and Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain and Ron Paul, the rest of the White House hopefuls have all made stops in the state. The Bachmann campaign conceded for the first time Wednesday that the state ranks low on its list of priorities. ‘Iowa is our main focus right now, secondly is South Carolina,’ Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in an email. ‘We do plan to build on our efforts in New Hampshire in due time.’”

ENDANGERED SPECIES: MODERATE DEMS. “The shrinking group of moderate House Democrats could get much smaller after the 2012 elections, when half of this once-influential group could be wiped out by energized Republican challengers and a fickle electorate,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio. “The House Democratic Blue Dog Coalition saw its ranks decimated after the wave election of 2010, when voters in swing districts expressed their anger at the Democratic majority and White House by tossing out incumbent Democrats, including Allen Boyd of Florida, Lincoln Davis of Tennessee and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota. In all, 28 of the group’s 54 members were defeated or retired last year and many of those who did survive Election Day did so by the slimmest of margins. Now the 2012 election looms with the economy still sagging and unemployment stuck above 9 percent. Political prognosticators say voters are again poised to vent their anger at the polls on Democrats, the most vulnerable of whom are the remaining Blue Dogs whose districts are often more conservative. At least a dozen seats held by moderates are in competitive districts and vulnerable to a Republican takeover next year. In other words, when Congress reconvenes in January 2013, there may be only 13 — or fewer — Blue Dogs left.”

PERRY’S DEFENSE OF 1988 AL GORE ENDORSEMENT RUNS AFOUL OF REALITY. Rick Perry has been fielding uncomfortable questions lately about his support for Al Gore in the 1988 presidential race. Perry, who did not switch to the Republican Party until 1989, served as a high-profile Texas supporter of Gore’s presidential bid. More than two-decades later, as the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, Perry frequently cites Gore’s support of the Strategic Defense Initiative, a Ronald Reagan-era anti-ballistic missile proposal that later came to be known as Star Wars. “I was a Democrat in my days in the Legislature in the 80-s and I was under the false idea that somehow or another that conservative Democrats could save the Democrat Party. They couldn’t,” Perry said in an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “Al Gore appeared to be the most conservative — a strong Strategic Defense Initiative guy — and frankly we thought that he would be the most conservative Democrat. You, know, we were wrong.” But Gore’s support for the Strategic Defense Initiative while he was running for president in the late 1980-s was not nearly as enthusiastic as Perry implies. In fact, just weeks before Gore launched his presidential bid in the summer of 1987, he dismissed the defense proposal as “an electronic Astrodome over the United States” in an interview with the Associated Press. In April 1988, Gore was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the Strategic Defense Initiative was wrong-headed. “‘I’m sure that President Reagan sincerely believes he is acting with the best of purposes in looking to SDI as a way to permanently end the threat of mutual nuclear annihilation,” Gore said. “But he is wrong — wrong because SDI is not feasible, wrong because it would entail exorbitant costs and, most important, wrong because it would make the possibility of a nuclear first-strike more likely.”



@ hillballotbox : Obama hits record low in Quinnipiac poll

@ markknoller: In a CBS Radio interview this AM with my colleague  @PeterMaerCBS, Jay Carney dismissed the speech to Congress dust-up as a “side show.”

@ benpolitico : Palin’s Seoul speech overlaps with GOP NH debate 10/11

@ sppeoples : Huntsman sets expectations at NH’s Politics & Eggs: “We’re going to win this state.”

@ pwire : Is the control of the U.S. Senate the Republicans’ to lose in next year’s elections? Very tough odds for Democrats




(all times local)

Jon Huntsman speaks at the Politics and Eggs lecture series in Manchester, N.H., at 8 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., he addresses the Concord Chamber of Commerce Business Roundtable.

Ron Paul hosts a town hall meeting in Henniker, N.H., at 7 p.m.

* The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness hosts a “listening and action” session a Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas at 10 a.m.


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