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The Morning Line: Obama to Renew Focus on Jobs

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  June 8, 2011 at 9:34 AM EDT

President Obama. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Of course, saying that while standing next to the German chancellor in the East Room of the White House is not necessarily the best backdrop.

On Wednesday, he will try to put some optics to his jobs message when he appears at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria to talk about expanding an initiative aimed at training community college students for the manufacturing jobs of the future.

Christi Parsons of the Tribune Company’s Washington Bureau provides the context:

“The message is not a new one for the president, but he is renewing his emphasis on it at a time when Americans are worried about a slowdown on job growth and the possibility that the economy could be headed into a second recession.”

A Gallup poll out Wednesday morning helps explain why the White House has said the president will be doing weekly economy/jobs events for the foreseeable future. As a presidential candidate three years ago, Mr. Obama was battling criticism from John McCain (and Hillary Clinton) for being inexperienced and naive on the world stage, without the backbone to use America’s military might yet eager to talk with America’s enemies.

Gallup reports that 63 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s handling of terrorism, 53 percent approve of his handling of Afghanistan, and 51 percent approve of his handling of foreign affairs more broadly.

Yet it’s the economy and jobs that Americans care most about, and President Obama cannot seem to find his footing there. Thirty-seven percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, while 60 percent disapprove.

Weekly images of the president pressing a jobs message will likely do little to improve those numbers, but he must guard against the Republican line of attack that he’s completely out of touch on the top issue of concern to voters.

ROMNEY LEADS THE PACK

Make that two in a row for Mitt Romney.

One day after a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the former Massachusetts governor running in a dead heat with President Obama, a second survey released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University also finds Romney to be the most competitive of the GOP contenders.

In the case of the Quinnipiac poll, however, Romney still trails the president by six percentage points, 47 to 41, well clear of the survey’s 2.2 percent margin of error.

The three other contenders surveyed all face double-digit deficits in head-to-head matchups with President Obama.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty trails by 12 percent, 48 to 36. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is 14 percent back, 48 to 34. And 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin runs 17 percent behind President Obama, 53 to 36.

For all of the president’s disadvantages, including 9.1 percent unemployment and a clear majority of the public unhappy with his handling of the economy, it’s numbers like these that reinforce the notion that he will still pose a formidable challenge for whomever the Republican voters pick to be their nominee.

Among Republican and GOP-leaning independent voters, Romney has the strongest support for the nomination with 25 percent. The only other GOP contender in double-digits is Palin, at 15 percent, although 20 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The rest of the field shapes up like this: Herman Cain at 9 percent; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul each receive 8 percent; Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann gets 6 percent; Pawlenty takes 5 percent; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum scores 4 percent; and Huntsman is in last with 1 percent.

It appears the clearing out of potential candidates, such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, may have helped Romney put some space between himself and the rest of the GOP pack. Still, there’s a long ways to go between now and the Iowa Republican Straw Poll in August, let alone the 2012 caucuses, leaving plenty of time for another candidate to make a run, especially with 20 percent still looking for someone to support.

BACHMANN AIDE TAKES ON PALIN

Veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who only a few days ago signed on to advise Rep. Bachmann’s presidential campaign-in-waiting, has decided not to wait for the congresswoman’s official launch before going after her potential rivals.

On Tuesday, he started with Palin, accusing the former Alaska governor of failing to take a serious approach to politics in the years since she was the Republican Party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee.

“She has not been serious over the last couple of years,” Rollins said on a radio show hosted by Brian Kilmeade. “She got the vice presidential thing handed to her. She didn’t go to work in the sense of trying to gain more substance. She gave up her governship.”

In an interview with POLITICO, Rollins went even further, contending that Rep. Bachmann would benefit by making the contrast. “People are going to say, ‘I gotta make a choice and go with the intelligent woman who’s every bit as attractive,’” Rollins said.

Rep. Bachmann has said she will announce her presidential plans later this month in Iowa. Palin, meanwhile, just wrapped up a highly publicized bus tour along the East Coast, during which she divulged few details about her plans.

One thing’s for certain, if both Bachmann and Palin enter the 2012 race, their pursuit of the Tea Party movement’s support will be one of the key storylines to watch.

WEINER WATCH

The Anthony Weiner resignation drumbeat continues, but outside his New York home Tuesday the congressman repeated his refusal to resign.

The New York Times offers this key detail:

“One suggestion of his new vulnerability: Some New York Democrats have approached former Councilman Eric N. Gioia of Queens about running for Mr. Weiner’s seat, according to two people briefed on the conversations. Mr. Gioia, these people said, is open to the possibility. He declined to comment.”

POLITICO’s David Catanese notes that former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine called for Rep. Weiner’s resignation. Kaine is running for a U.S. Senate in Virginia in what will likely be one of the most high-profile races next year.

If Rep. Weiner can withstand the pressure from the press and his colleagues, he can likely hang on to his job at least until the ethics committee takes action.

A new NY1 News/Marist poll shows city voters are in no rush to see him quit.

“An exclusive NY1-Marist poll shows that 51 percent of city voters want Weiner to remain in office. Only 30 percent believe he should resign and 18 percent are unsure.”

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