Things Fall Apart — Again (The Note)

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

Another big deadline in Washington, another failed attempt at compromise.

And this time the consequences are real: Because of the so-called Congressional supercommittee’s inability to reach a deal by their deadline, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts are on the way. That’s going to affect everything from Medicare and Medicaid programs to the Pentagon.

Capitol Hill sources say to expect a joint statement by the committee’s chairs, Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington State. It will not be the kumbaya moment that the legislators were hoping for, but rather an acknowledgement of what ABC News’ Jonathan Karl called a “colossal and embarrassing failure” on “Good Morning America” today.

The battle to come is likely to be a centerpiece issue of the 2012 presidential race. In fact, several of the Republican candidates are already turning today’s news into a campaign talking point.

“It is another example of failed leadership,” Romney said in Nashua, N.H. yesterday, adding that President Obama “has not taken personal responsibility to get the supercommittee to find ways to balance the budget and cut spending. Instead he set a trap and said we are going to cut military spending by $600 billion over the next 10 years.”

And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released a told-you-so web video this morning touted his months-old pessimistic prediction about the 12-member committee charged with finding ways to cut the deficit.

“I think this supercommittee is about a dumb an idea as Washington has come up with in my lifetime,” Gingrich is quoted in the video as saying at a presidential debate in August. “What they ought to do is scrap the committee right now.”

In a way the time and place of this week’s presidential debate could not be better. The candidates will descend en masse on Washington, DC — the city that they vilify daily on the campaign trail — to discuss the economy and foreign policy on Tuesday night. The forecast is already calling for fireworks tomorrow.

And don’t forget: President Obama’s re-election effort is not about to take the barrage of criticism they are about to receive lying down. A spokesman for the campaign immediately blasted out a response to Romney yesterday.

“Mitt Romney rejected asking the wealthiest for a dime to reduce the deficit — instead, his plan would give them more tax cuts — and he would leave our troops in Iraq indefinitely,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. “That’s the approach that led to the recession and created the deficit in the first place.”

More from ABC’s Jonathan Karl about what happens now on Capitol Hill from his “Good Morning America” report. WATCH:   

SUPERCOMMITTEE BACKSTORY: “The one sliver of real hope came a week ago, in the darkened Capitol on the Sunday night after Veterans Day,” write the New York Times’ Robert Pear and Jennifer Steinhauer. “Called away from dinner tables, the Jets-Patriots game on television and, in one case, a soccer team party, several Democratic members of the special Congressional committee on deficit reduction raced to the office of Senator Patty Murray for a hasty 8:30 meeting to discuss the outlines of a potential agreement. Crucially, it appeared to have the backing of at least one Republican on the 12-member panel even though it included a tax increase. As the members spoke, they began to see the outlines of a deal, tentatively agreeing on tax rates, revenues, spending cuts and changes to Social Security and Medicare, according to interviews with members of the committee and their aides. Whether the committee could reach the finish line was very much in question, but at least it was in sight, for the first time in the nine weeks the group had been meeting. It disappeared almost as quickly.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: JACK ABRAMOFF. ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview former lobbyist Jack Abramoff who served time in prison and is the author of a book: “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist.” Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  



IS RETAIL POLITICS DEAD? “While no campaign would ever say so publicly, it’s hard to overlook what’s happening on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire. In places where close contact with voters is a time-honored tradition, the usual rules appear to have been turned upside down: the candidates atop the GOP polls have spent the least amount of time meeting with voters and the cellar-dwellers are the ones who have hit the hustings the hardest,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports. “Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, both of whom ride high in early state polls, have spent more time promoting their own interests and book projects than on the trail in Iowa and New Hampshire. Mitt Romney, another top finisher in early state polls, has barely been in Iowa or South Carolina at all this cycle, concentrating almost solely on New Hampshire, where his brand of Republicanism plays better. Meanwhile, the two candidates who have spent the most time focused on specific states — Rick Santorum in Iowa and Jon Huntsman in New Hampshire – have yet to experience any measurably large bounce. The 2012 Republican primary dynamic, it turns out, has been largely driven by free media and the crush of headline-making debates. Both forces have shaped the arc of the campaign — allowing some candidates to overperform as a result of high national television exposure, and others to sink because of their inability to master either.”

ROMNEY SNAGS ANOTHER HIGH PROFILE ENDORSEMENT. “Mitt Romney has gained the support of two high-profile Republican leaders in New Hampshire in as many days, preparing today to announce the support of Granite State congressman Charlie Bass,” ABC’s Emily Friedman notes. “Bass’ endorsement, first reported by the Nashua Telegraph, comes hours after state Sen. Kelly Ayotte appeared at a rally in Nashua to announce her own support of the presidential candidate. Bass previously endorsed Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in his presidential bids in 2000 and 2008. Bass, who will appear with Romney today at a campaign stop at Nashua’s BAE Systems, one of the state’s largest employers, will serve as co-chair of the New Hampshire steering committee and will be a member of the campaign’s national steering committee. The endorsements of Bass, a moderate in the state, and Ayotte, a far more conservative leader who last year was backed by former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, leaves one GOP congressional member from New Hampshire up for grabs: Rep. Frank Guinta.”

@ EmilyABC : Step right up, Romney’s on the rope line – candidates work hard to connect with voters, guessing ages and names:

THE MANAGER BEHIND MITT ROMNEY. “Romney 2012 campaign manager Matt Rhoades keeps such a low profile that he once nearly made his career disappear,” writes the Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz. “‘He was so quiet,’ said Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Rhoades’s friend and mentor, who nearly let him go from the Republican National Committee during a 1999 staff overhaul despite sensing his talent. ‘We just didn’t know whether he wanted to stay, whether he wanted to be part of the team with us. He didn’t talk.’ Rhoades, 36, now comes through loud and clear whenever Mitt Romney speaks about jobs, the economy and Barack Obama’s mismanagement of the presidency. … An expert at manipulating the news cycle with a coveted connection to the elusive media power broker Matt Drudge, Rhoades is particularly well suited to run a campaign that Romney himself characterized this weekend as employing a ‘confidentiality of strategy.’ … And that is about all you will see of him. Rhoades, who almost never travels with the candidate, came of political age in the dark recesses of the opposition research universe and, either by career coincidence or design, has rarely appeared in the media. One exception: A 20-something blowup when he shattered a computer screen with his fist.”

NEWT HOLDS THE LINE OF FREDDIE MAC WORK. “Newt Gingrich is not abashed. The fact he was paid close to $2 million as a consultant by Freddie Mac, the quasi-government housing agency he has blasted? He calls it a reflection of the agency’s good judgment, given his long interest in housing policy,” writes USA Today’s Susan Page, who recently interviewed Gingrich. “That his think tank raked in more than $35 million from the health industry? The power of the big ideas he’s developed in the field, he says. What about those who see hypocrisy, crony capitalism or worse in his financial success? ‘You start with people with a socialist bias that you shouldn’t earn money,’ the former House speaker tells USA TODAY. If you do, he says, ‘you’re automatically suspicious of having done something bad.’ He promises to respond ‘cheerfully’ to inquiries and predicts reporters will move on within weeks. … If anything, Gingrich seems delighted that, after months in which he was relegated to also-ran status, reporters and rivals now deem him worthy of opposition research.”

@ jmartpolitico : More Newt to  @SusanPage: “Mitt will have more money than I will, but I will have more talk radio than he has.”

@ ByronYork : Everyone should read Wash Examiner’s  @TPCarney, ‘Newt Gingrich was a lobbyist, plain and simple.’

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: From The Brody File’s David Brody: “In an interview … over the weekend in Des Moines Iowa, co-frontrunner Newt Gingrich gives himself some advice saying he will need to be, ‘Calm, Steady, Positive’ if he’s going to win the GOP presidential nomination. The Brody File was on the road this weekend with Gingrich in Iowa. We are working on a behind the scenes national profile story that will air on The 700 Club in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we are releasing a little bit of our television interview that we did with him on the road.”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH. From ABC’s Mary Bruce: “President Obama will sign legislation into law that will provide tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans, open press.  In the afternoon, the President will meet with Treasury Secretary Geithner. In the evening, the President and First Lady will host a celebration of country music at the White House.”


@ karentravers : A big happy birthday to my pal  @rickklein . For my gift, I will not taunt him about the  #Eagles win over the  #Giants last night.

@ McCormickJohn : Attention ORD travelers: food delivery to your gate now available, per the S-T:  #Chicago

@ JohnJHarwood : Why should Romney feel confident 6 weeks before Iowa? He’s lining up for race in which every GOP rival has sprained ankle or broken leg.

@ JillDLawrence :@jonathanchait asks why liberals are always disappointed in their presidents, says their standards are unrealistic

@ hillballotbox : Trump warns GOP he’s still considering run

@ kathrynlopez : “Feliz Navidad” playing on cab radio  #toosoon!



* Mitt Romney continues to campaign in New Hampshire, where he is expected to address employees at BAE Systems in Nashua.

* Jon Huntsman will also be in Nashua later today for a “We The People” town hall at Norton’s Classic Cafe.

* Newt Gingrich will hold a meet and greet with local business leaders at Rivier College in Nashua. He is also expected to unveil his federal entitlement reform program at St. Anselm College’s Institute of Politics in the afternoon. Throughout the day, he’ll also hit the airwaves, by calling into Paul Westcott’s radio show and Howie Carr’s radio show.

* Ron Paul will hold a town hall meeting at Kenne State in New Hampshire. Later in the evening, he will also attend a private house party in Windham.

* Michele Bachmann will meet with Donald Trump at the Trump Towers in New York City this afternoon. She will then tape an interview with Jimmy Fallon, which will air later in the evening on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

* Rick Santorum remains in Iowa, where he will take his “Faith, Family and Freedom” tour to Waterloo, Waverly, Olewein, and Independence.

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