The Note: Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

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

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The numbers are enough to send chills down the spines of Obama aides from Washington to Chicago.

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today shows President Obama with the highest disapproval ratings of his presidency and the lowest marks yet on his handling of the economy.

Just 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president with 53 percent disapproving. Meanwhile, 62 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, including 47 percent who “strongly” disapprove.

These are the sorts of numbers that most incumbents find to be career enders. The 2012 Republican presidential candidates did their best to exploit the president’s vulnerabilities yesterday at a forum in South Carolina led by Tea Party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and they’ll do so again at a debate on Wednesday night in California.

It’s the first in a rapid-fire series of three debates in less than a month for the GOP contenders that will be a critical proving ground for many of them as the focus of the race has shifted, with the spotlight squarely on Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Today’s dismal approval numbers for the president couldn’t have come at a better time for Romney, who releases his jobs plan this afternoon at a speech in Las Vegas.

“I will introduce a plan consisting of 59 specific proposals — including 10 concrete actions I will take on my first day in office — to turn around America’s economy,” Romney wrote, previewing his message in an Op-Ed in USA Today. “Each proposal is rooted in the conservative premise that government itself cannot create jobs. At best, government can provide a framework in which economic growth can occur.”

Romney’s challenge — and that of all the GOP candidates running for president — is to find a way to distance himself from an even more unpopular GOP Congress. Sixty-eight percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their jobs – the highest on record in the annals of ABC News-Washington Post polling.

But two of Romney’s rivals are suddenly facing challenges of their own.

Perry, in an illustration of the perils of campaigning for one job while holding down another, cancelled his planned appearance at yesterday’s forum in South Carolina in order to return to Texas to deal with the raging wildfires there. (This was after a weekend of events in New Hampshire and South Carolina.)

No sooner did he land in Texas than he declared, “I’m not paying any attention to politics right now. There’s plenty of time to take care of that.” His campaign still says he plans to attend Wednesday night’s debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Bachmann experienced a shakeup of a different sort last night. In a late-night e-mail she announced that her campaign manager, Ed Rollins, was stepping down and transitioning into a senior advisory role. Another top aide, deputy campaign manager David Polyansky is also leaving his position. Stepping in is campaign strategist Keith Nahigian, who will become the interim campaign manager,

The Bachmann campaign and Rollins said that health issues were at the root of his decision to step aside. And the statement from the Bachmann campaign, sent just after 10 p.m. Monday night, called the moves a “planned restructuring strategy.”

BOTTOM LINE: As for Obama, it’s clear the public has lost confidence in his handling of the economy and getting it back without some significant change in the economic reality is going to be tough. Americans not only are unhappy with his performance, but they aren’t open to his solutions either. Fifty-six percent say they’d rather have smaller government and fewer services. Meanwhile 70 percent think Obama favors larger government with more services.

It’s hard to find any silver lining for the president in this poll. The one sliver may be this: Given the tremendous amount of discontent out there, the fact that 45 percent of Americans say they are optimistic that the jobs situation will improve over the next year suggests that Americans haven’t totally given up hope. It also suggests that GOP has to do more than criticize the president: they have to sell hope as well.


WHERE BACHMANN GOES FROM HERE. The National Review’s Robert Costa gets a taste of Bachmann’s campaign strategy going forward: “In coming weeks, Bachmann’s campaign, sources say, will be focused on debates. But don’t expect Bachmann to go after Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, her tea-party competitor, at least initially. Bachmann, another adviser explains, is aiming to use the debate at the Reagan library this week to reassert her credentials and message, ‘in the style of her New Hampshire debate, not the Iowa debate, where she fought with [Tim] Pawlenty.’ Bachmann will also use the autumn campaign season to play up her congressional leadership, taking bold positions on the Obama jobs plan and other issues that pop up. She hopes to utilize her seat in the House to draw the spotlight to her political, ‘in-the-arena message,’ which, campaign sources lament, has been a tad muted by the summer recess.”

WHAT ROMNEY WILL SAY. More excerpts from Romney’s USA Today Op-Ed previewing his economic address today: “I will pare back regulation, including eliminating ‘ObamaCare.’ I will direct every government agency to limit annual increases in regulatory costs to zero. …  I will create the ‘Reagan Economic Zone,’ a partnership among countries committed to free enterprise and free trade. It will serve as a powerful engine for opening markets to our goods and services, and also a mechanism for confronting nations like China that violate trade rules while free-riding on the international system. … I will fight against measures that deprive workers of basic rights, such as the secret ballot. … I will restore fiscal discipline by cutting the federal budget and placing an ironclad cap on spending. I will also press for a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget.”

HUNTSMAN COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman leapfrogged Romney last week, releasing his own jobs plan in New Hampshire. Today, he writes in a competing editorial in the Wall Street Journal detailing his ideas: President Obama believes we can tax and spend and regulate our way to prosperity. We cannot. We must compete our way to prosperity. To do that, we must equip the American worker and the American entrepreneur with the tools to compete in the global economy. Restoring our competitiveness will not be possible without first recognizing our constitutional commitment to limited government, a precondition for unleashing the spirit of American entrepreneurialism. In the long term, this will mean dramatic education and immigration reform, but in the short term, tax simplification, regulatory reform, and changes in energy and trade policy will jump-start the American economy and allow us to export more and import less, creating sustainable growth and jobs.”

THE CONTRAST. Huntsman campaign manager Matt David sets the table for a dueling jobs plan battle with Romney, writing on the campaign blog that “the American people should hope the vision and policies he puts forth for our nation are the antithesis of what he implemented during his one term as governor of Massachusetts.” The campaign also released a new web video comparing Romney’s record as governor and Huntsman’s as governor of Utah titled, “#1 vs. #47.” WATCH:


NOTABLE AND QUOTABLE: I like the USC come from behind victory because I identify with teams that fumble early in the game and then still come back.” – Newt Gingrich at yesterday’s Palmetto Freedom Forum in Columbia, S.C. on the challenges his campaign faces

“I’m a highly analytical guy so I look at all the data and all the analysis I write it all down and I summarize it. I talk to my wife and get her feelings and her sense of her confidence and comfort. I go on my knees and I’m a person of faith and I look for inspiration.” – Mitt Romney at the South Carolina forum, talking about how he makes tough decisions


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter talk to Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic SuperPAC taking an active role in the 2012 election. Also on the program, ABCs Jonathan Karl had a chance to sit down with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., yesterday in South Carolina for a one-on-one interview. Find out what he had to say about the presidential front-runners. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


POST-PALMETTO WRAP. Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain spent Labor Day afternoon in front of a panel of three conservative inquisitors, including Tea Party icon, Sen. Jim DeMint. They peppered each candidate with a detailed series of questions on everything from gay marriage to their view of the 14 Amendment to whether the United States was still the “shining city on a hill” that Ronald Reagan famously envisioned. And when they weren’t explaining the depth of their commitment to conservative principles, each used Monday’s Palmetto Freedom Forum to take a few swipes at President Obama. When asked what he would do differently in the area of foreign policy, Romney replied, “A lot. First, I’d have one.” Gingrich dismissed the jobs speech President Obama plans to deliver this week, predicting that it would be a “collection of minor ideas surrounded by big rhetoric.” Michele Bachmann said that Obama has failed in his responsibility “to act under the Constitution and not place oneself over the Constitution.”



CONGRESS RETURNS WITH LENGTHY TO-DO LIST. “There are times when it seems to Americans that Congress is doing nothing of substance. This fall is not going to be one of those times,” writes The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer. “Congress returns this week from its August recess with a laundry list of urgent matters to tackle, most of them fiscal in nature and politically divisive. The two biggest highlights of the week will be the official convening of a bipartisan Congressional committee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, and President Obama’s speech concerning jobs before a joint session on Thursday. But there are myriad other issues on deck, including measures to avoid the furloughing of transportation employees, federal aid requests from scores of towns and cities hit by hurricane Irene and appropriations bills that need immediate action. There are trade bills to fight over and payroll taxes to ponder. As if that were not enough, on Tuesday the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, ominously, ‘United States Postal Service in Crisis: Proposals to Prevent a Postal Shutdown.’”

LOBBYISTS: NO STRANGERS TO THE SUPERCOMMITTEE. “Nearly 100 registered lobbyists used to work for members of the supercommittee, now representing defense companies, health-care conglomerates, Wall Street banks and others with a vested interest in the panel’s outcome, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data,” notes the Post’s Dan Eggen. “Three Democrats and three Republicans on the panel also employ former industry lobbyists on their staffs. The preponderance of lobbyists adds to the political controversy surrounding the supercommittee, which will begin its work in earnest this week as Congress returns to Washington. The panel has already come under fire from watchdog groups for planning its activities in secret and allowing members to continue fundraising while they negotiate a budget deal. ‘When the committee sits down to do its work, it’s not like they’re in an idealized, platonic debating committee,’ said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, which is tracking ties between lobbyists and the panel. ‘They’re going to have in mind the interests of those they are most familiar with, including their big donors and former advisers.’ The 12-member committee is tasked with identifying $1.5 trillion in long-term spending reductions by Thanksgiving, with a final plan to be approved by Congress. If no deal is reached, however, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts will be triggered beginning in 2013, with the amount evenly divided between defense and non-defense programs.”

DEMOCRAT KICKS OFF WISCONSIN SENATE RACE. “U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison announced Tuesday that she is entering the 2012 race to succeed retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl,” reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal’s Bill Glauber. “Baldwin is the first Democrat in the field and likely the front-runner for her party’s nomination. In a video statement emailed to supporters and posted on the Internet, Baldwin set out the broad theme of her campaign: ‘to stand up for you (voters), no matter how tough the odds or how powerful the special interest it means fighting against.’ She linked herself to the political tradition of Kohl and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and declared, ‘It’s time politicians looked out for seniors, working families and the middle class – instead of protecting the profits of big oil and Wall Street.’ Baldwin’s early entry puts pressure on potential Democratic rivals U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse and former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Appleton to make up their minds about entering the race, even though a possible primary is about a year away. With a strong base of support in voter-rich Dane County — and no candidates from the Milwaukee area – Baldwin has a viable path to claim the nomination.”

DEM STAYS OUT OF VIRGINIA SENATE CONTEST. “U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott is staying out of next year’s U.S. Senate race,” the AP reports. “The 10-term representative endorsed Democratic former Gov. Tim Kaine at Scott’s annual Democratic Labor Day Picnic in Newport News Monday, introducing him as Virginia’s next U.S. senator. Scott had hinted at a possible run for the seat Sen. Jim Webb will vacate with his retirement after only one term, saying he’d make up his mind this summer. He waited until the traditional end-of-summer holiday to announce his decision. ‘Today, I am announcing I will not run for the U.S. Senate,’ Scott said. ‘Though I believe I can win the Democratic nomination and the general election, a winning campaign would require me to devote all of my time for the next 14 months to that campaign. This would mean that my work on issues critical to Virginians and other Americans would have to be postponed,’ he said.”

NOTED: PRAYER AND 9/11. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative group that that defends religious and constitutional freedoms, weighs in on the topic of whether or not to allow religious clergy to participate at the upcoming Sept. 11 memorial service. “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision not to invite clergy of any faith to commemorate the anniversary Sunday at Ground Zero is a mistake,” Sekulow writes in a USA Today Op-Ed. “In the days following 9/11, prayer was an integral part of the grieving process. Thousands attended the ’Prayer for America’ event at Yankee Stadium, where representatives of many faiths offered prayers. It was an event that united, not divided, Americans. … The nation has a long and cherished history of prayer, from the first prayer in Congress in 1774 to the National Day of Prayer celebrated each year. Even the Supreme Court acknowledges our religious heritage. … There’s a growing chorus of Americans — religious and non-religious alike — calling on Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider his decision.”



  @DWStweets: Follow  @DemConvention for 2012 Dem Convention news and updates!

@ globeglen : TEA PARTY: Romney, Palin offer different approaches but she show weekend potential as kingmaker… #2012  #magov  #mapoli

@ HotlineJosh : Big NYT front-page hit on  #NVSEN Shelley Berkley, alleging she pushed legislation to benefit her husband financially

@ brianstelter : RT  @nicatnyt: It’s a new day at the Times: //  @JillAbramson is now the NYT’s executive editor.

@ TomBevanRCP : RCP’s Scott Conroy: Palin Warns Tea Partiers of Disunity as Her Decision Looms

@ daveweigel : New thing to be tired of: Google Maps pointing to defunct gas stations



(all times local)

Mitt Romney delivers a major speech on the economy in Nevada.

* Rick Perry holds a press conference on the wildfires in Texas.

* Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will address a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C.

Newt Gingrich hosts a hall meeting in Pasadena, Calif., at 7:30 p.m.


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