With Chris Christie In The Spotlight, Is Mitt Romney The Biggest Loser? (The Note)

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

We’re sure President Obama meant no disrespect to Mitt Romney when, at a fundraiser in California last night, he chose to take aim at Rick Perry but left the former Massachusetts governor unmentioned.

“Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republicans but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party, are puzzled by what’s happening to that party,” Obama said. “I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.”

The president didn’t name names, but it was clear that the target of his verbal jab was the Texas governor, who has suddenly become the 2012 race’s fragile front-runner. The president may have swiped at Perry, but in the process, he slighted Romney.

In some ways, Romney, who was knocked off the front-runner pedestal just weeks after Perry entered the race, is the biggest loser in all of this. In head-to-head match-ups he’s beating Obama in national polls, he’s tied with him in a key state — Florida — yet many Republicans are still looking for an alternative.

Look no further than the flurry of speculation over the weekend about whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is reconsidering his decision not to enter the Republican presidential fray. ABC News heard from sources close to the governor that “the pressure from donors and other people has intensified,” and that the “volume of calls” urging Christie to run have increased.

This week Christie will likely come face-to-face with some of the big-money GOP contributors who are hoping to lure him into the race.

Today, he opens a week-long fundraising tour that will take him to three states — Missouri, California and Louisiana. His schedule includes stops near St. Louis, Mo. today and Orange County and Beverly Hills, Calif. tomorrow. He will also deliver a speech on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the site one of this month’s Republican presidential debates. Christie sources insist, however, that “nothing has changed.”

When asked about the possibility that Christie could jump in, Perry replied with his characteristic Texas swagger.

“I see anybody that gets in the race that believes in America and is a small government but efficient government individual, I would welcome into the race,” Perry said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Chris Christie is a great competitor.”

Still, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for Romney. According to The New York Times, his campaign “is honing plans for an attack on Mr. Perry’s readiness to be president and commander in chief. They intend to press Mr. Perry on foreign policy, demand that he produce a national jobs plan and relentlessly pursue the case that Mr. Perry is out of step with his party on how to address illegal immigration.” http://nyti.ms/paRSVd

To wit, the Romney campaign is out with a Monday morning attack on Perry that landed in reporters’ inboxes: “Illegal Immigration Imitation: Rick Perry and Barack Obama The Same On Illegal Immigration.”

And, as conservative commentator George Will said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” roundtable, Romney may have some success with the foreign policy angle, particularly after Perry’s rambling answer to a debate question on the subject last week.

“The more serious the world becomes,” Will said, “the more people will say, ‘who do we want to manage the calamity that may be coming at us.’”

ABC’s John Berman looks into the Christie chatter on “Good Morning America”:  http://abcn.ws/r4U03a


MORE PERRY PROBLEMS? ABC’s Whitney Lloyd points out that today could bring more controversy for Rick Perry with a report out that commissioners he appointed may grant some of the nation’s largest refineries a tax refund of more than $135 million. Nearly half the refund would be taken from public schools — just a year after Texas slashed spending on public schools by more than $4 billion. Perry may, of course, be able to spin this as proof that being friendly to business does attract the jobs his state has added in recent years. From the Associated Press: “The refund would mean more pain for some communities after a year in which state lawmakers had to grapple with a $27 billion shortfall and slashed spending on public schools by more than $4 billion. ‘We were already cut at the knees as it is, but more cuts? It’s appalling,’ said Patricia Gonzales, a single mother of 13-year-old twins at Park View Intermediate School in Pasadena, a refinery town just south of Houston. Gonzales was just elected president of the school’s new parent-teacher organization, which was formed this summer after the state budget cuts left the school lacking everything from pencils to paper towels.” http://bit.ly/rd4EcH


PERRY PUSHBACK. The Perry camp is also out with a new web video accusing Romney of flip-flopping on the merits of the Massachusetts health care reform plan in his book, “No Apology.” And the Romney camp is already out with a response: “It has been widely proven that Rick Perry’s weak claim on Mitt Romney’s book is just a tall tale,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Governor Perry should spend his time explaining his own book, Fed Up, and not take on the challenge of two.”


CAN PERRY RECOVER? MATT DOWD’S TAKE: Yes, but he needs to do so quickly and he needs to come prepared and ready to win the debate on Oct. 11 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. If he fares badly there his fundraising will begin to dry up, he will begin to lose significant support in national polls and he will likely be on a death spiral. Yes, the pressure is on, and he better be ready to rumble, and not stumble.”


EXCLUSIVE: DAVID MUIR TALKS TO TIM GEITHNER. Today ABC’s David Muir will sit down with  Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner in Louisville, Ky. as he meets with business leaders and local companies there. Muir will take the tough questions about the President’s plans to get the economy moving again to the White House’s top economic advisor. The exclusive interview will air tonight on “World News with Diane Sawyer.” Check out ABCNews.com for more of Muir’s conversation with Secretary Geithner. http://abcn.ws/pfOo6z (h/t David Ford)


OBAMA: A GOP PRESIDENT ‘WOULD FUNDAMENTALLY CRIPPLE AMERICA.’ In addition to his swipe at Perry last ngiht, ABC’s Jake Tapper and Tahman Bradley highlight another Obama attack line from his fundraising swing this weekend. Electing a Republican president next year would usher in “an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century,” the president said. Obama is on a mad dash for cash in advance of the Sept. 30 third-quarter reporting deadline. Before he returns to Washington later this week, he will have attended 7 events in Washington State and California that could raise $20 million or more for his re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee’s joint fundraising account.

On “Good Morning America” today, Tapper discusses the president’s recent attacks on the GOP: http://abcn.ws/pnEEGO



OBAMA GOES GAGA. More from the Tapper-Bradley duo on a special guest at last night’s $17,900 per person Obama fundraiser last night at the home of Facebook’s COO Cheryl Sandberg and David Goldberg in Atherton, Calif. Guess who? Wearing a black dress and blond hair with black flowers and a black Lady Gaga showed up at the big-money event for the president. Tapper hears from a person present in the fundraiser that Gaga asked a question during the question and answer session: “First she thanked the president for what he’s accomplished. Then she read from what she said was a letter from a fan about the suicide of another fan who’d been subjected to bullying.  She thanked POTUS for hosting anti-bullying conference with FLOTUS, and then made a general plea to everyone in the room, including the president, to do what they can to prevent bullying.  POTUS thanked her, spoke about his administration’s anti-bullying campaign, and then more generally about the importance of values and who we are as Americans. Earlier, before the dinner, she came through the photo line with her manager. She and POTUS spoke for maybe two minutes, just pleasantries, with many others in the room. Not really a ‘private’ conversation.” http://abcn.ws/o0RISt


YOUR VOICE, YOUR VOTE. In keeping with the spirit of ABC News’ 2012 election slogan, “Your Voice, Your Vote,” The Note will regularly feature voices from the campaign trail. Our first dispatch is from ABC News Political Director Amy Walter who spoke with a GOP activist in Orlando, Fla. over the weekend.

April, a Tampa Republican and Presidency 5 conference delegate was less than impressed with Rick Perry’s debate performance last week and offered this prescient warning to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: “If you are going to run for President you need to hit the ground running or don’t run at all.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter talk to U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Bongino, a Maryland Republican. Also on the program: Al Cardenas, President of the American Conservative Union, the group that hosted this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc


WHITE HOUSE WATCH: WEST COAST EDITION. ABC’s Mary Bruce previews the president’s day: President Obama wakes up in San Jose, Calif., and will continue selling his jobs plan and re-election bid today on his three-day West Coast swing with stops in San Diego and Los Angeles. Before attending three campaign events, Obama will first get to some presidential business, pitching his $447 billion jobs bill at a town hall hosted by LinkedIn at their Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Obama will then head to San Diego for a high-dollar fundraiser at a private residence. Then it’s on to L.A. for a campaign event at the House of Blues and another private fundraiser.



WILL ROMNEY AND TRUMP KISS AND MAKE UP? The parade of 2012 presidential candidates knocking on Donald Trump’s door continues on Monday when the New York real estate mogul greets his latest suitor: Mitt Romney. Romney and Trump plan to sit down for a chat in Trump’s Fifth Avenue office in the afternoon. It will be the first time the former Massachusetts governor and Trump have come face-to-face since Romney jumped into the presidential race (the two have met before). As ABC’s Emily Friedman points out the meeting was scheduled at Romney’s request several weeks ago” — before his rival, Rick Perry, met with Trump. Monday’s meeting with Romney might be an opportunity for reconciliation between the two — they’ve had their differences. For example, here’s how Trump sized up Romney’s resume in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in April. “If you look at his record as governor, it wasn’t totally stellar,” Trump said. “His job production was not great at all.  In fact, it was the third worst in the nation. There are some pretty negative things with respect to Mitt Romney, which frankly he’s going to have to overcome.” Trump also dismissed Romney as “basically a small business guy.” “I’m a much bigger business man and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean, my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney,” Trump said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” in April.   http://abcn.ws/o1G0hr THE NOTE’S INBOX: DNC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. In advance of Romney’s visit to Trump Tower on Monday afternoon, the Democratic National Committee is out with a web video titled, “Trump, Romney: YOU’RE FIRED!” The video states that the two have a lot in common: “They have both done well for themselves. Both support an economic plan that would help out the richest – and the big corporations – but not the middle class. That would slash Social Security. End Medicare as we know it. Cut funds for healthcare, research and development, and schools.” The spot concludes: “And what do the American people have to say to those who would return to the same failed policies that created our challenges? You’re fired! You’re fired! You’re fired.” WATCH: http://bit.ly/qJe2Ak

SHUTDOWN? NAH. “Once again Congress is tied up in knots over how to fund the government — complete with dire warnings that a critical agency, in this case FEMA, is about to run out of money and that the entire government could shut down by week’s end,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports. “Here’s what you need to know: the government will not shutdown. FEMA will not run out of money. Congress can’t seem to do anything anymore without going into crisis mode, but top Democrats and Republicans in Congress tell me there is no doubt that this will be resolved. Congress must pass a funding bill before the fiscal year ends on Friday. FEMA also needs emergency disaster money to keep it running for the rest of this year — until the end of the week. The showdown — which will play out with a Senate vote tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. — boils down to this: House Republicans passed a temporary funding bill last week but they off-set FEMA’s emergency money with about $1.5 billion in spending cuts to two alternative energy loan programs. Senate Democrats voted down the House bill because they oppose those cuts. The off-setting cuts for the FEMA emergency funding represent a tiny portion of the overall bill to keep the government funded. And this is the only part of the bill in dispute.” Karl outlines three ways this dispute can be resolved — and will be resolved by Monday evening: http://abcn.ws/nhWuIr

DECISION DAY DRAWS NEAR FOR PALIN. It’s an exciting week in politics because this is the week Sarah Palin will tell the world her 2012 intentions. Or not,” writes ABC’s Shushannah Walshe. “At least that’s what she indicated to ABC News’ Jake Tapper at the Iowa State Fair last month, telling him September was ‘practically speaking … kind of a drop-dead timeline’ when it comes to ‘jumping in the ring.’ With only five days left in the month, that means this week is the ‘drop-dead timeline,”‘ right? Not exactly. Since her early August trip to Iowa, she’s backed off on her self-imposed date, but as the days, debates and campaign events creep by and  the state filing deadlines loom, the window may be closing. Is she just stretching it out to stay in the debate without participating in the debates or is she going to jump in right before the filing deadlines at the end of next month and the beginning of November? The answer: Only she knows. Not even her staff is aware of whether she will pull the trigger or not. According to a source with knowledge of the SarahPAC inner-circle, just as it was six months ago she has not made an announcement to her staff about her intentions.  As the days creep toward state filing deadlines, no new staff has been hired. Her core group of about six staffers runs the organization while a volunteer group completely independent of SarahPAC called Organize4Palin or O4P tries to lay the groundwork in states, most notably Iowa. The same source told ABC News that ‘there is a developing consensus among former aides with knowledge of SarahPAC that she has decided not to run.’” http://abcn.ws/qX7uy1

GOOGLE INVESTING IN CONSERVATIVE INFRASTRUCTURE. “You can’t swing a dead cat video in Washington lately without hitting a lobbyist, consultant, attorney or adviser on retainer to Google or one of its tech rivals. Google, whose top executives have long been a bottomless cup of campaign coffee for Democrats, is finally entering its bipartisan phase, theatrically hiring Republican operatives and broadcasting the news through insider Washington publications, pumping air into a K Street tech bubble,” reports the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, Zach Carter and Paul Blumenthal report. “The shift in political strategy comes as Google faces a serious antitrust threat, punctuated by a high-profile hearing on the company held Wednesday afternoon in the Senate. But Google’s investment in the infrastructure of the conservative movement goes much deeper than what’s been reported this summer. The company known for its progressive politics is now giving money to the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Republican Governors Association, the GOP firm The David All Group, Crossroads Strategies, the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee, among others. On Thursday, Google and Fox News cosponsored a Republican presidential debate. In the last nine months, Google has hired 18 lobbying shops — not 18 lobbyists, but 18 firms, a dozen of them since July, a head-turning torrent of hiring that also includes consultants not required to register as lobbyists.” http://huff.to/ob15XU



@ ladygaga : I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it. Trend it  #MakeALawForJamey

@ stevenportnoy : Eagle-eyed Tom Shine on the  @ABC Washington assignment desk spotted a great story in CQ. Reid’s CR amendment is missing some zeros.  #whoops.

@ thinkprogress : Bachmann got only 40 votes in Florida straw poll — Herman Cain got 2,657.  bit.ly/pOxWWg

@ petersgoodman : Obama: “compare me to the alternative.” really? This is standard now? “I’m not as crappy as other guy” this is we we’ve been waiting for?!

@ AlexPappasDC : Angling for vp? RT  @HotlineReid: Tim Pawlenty leading delegation of US election monitors to Tunisia. TPaw: “I wish I were still in the race.



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


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