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Here’s Why Mitt Romney Has to Make Up His Mind Now

Image: Mitt Romney

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney answers questions during a question-and-answer period following his address to the student body and guests in Starkville, Miss., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. Romney joked about his time as a candidate and addressed a number of world issues including terrorism, world economy and domestically "the need for strong American leadership," and job creation for Americans. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) AP

Your big political news of the day is that Mitt Romney plans to hold a conference call at 11:00 am ET today with his closest supporters to discuss his 2016 presidential intentions, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt confirms. No one knows for sure what Romney will announce, but the hunch coming from Romney World is that the former Massachusetts governor is going to give it another try. But here’s why Romney has to make up his mind now: The ground underneath his feet is already beginning to crumble. Just yesterday, we learned that Romney’s top Iowa strategist in 2008 and 2012 -- David Kochel -- is set to be Jeb Bush’s campaign manager. We also learned, via the AP, that some of Romney’s past donors are jumping aboard the Jeb Train. And get this: We can tell you that folks whom Romney has INVITED on this call are already planning to work for Bush. (Remember, a lot of these people have been connected to the Bush World longer than to Romney.) So if Romney is going to do this, he needs to make a clear statement ASAP (and don’t be surprised if it comes in the form of a PAC or other committee). It’s not too dissimilar for what Jeb had to do a couple of months ago: convince skeptical politicos and donors that you’re actually in the race.

From 2012 GOP nominee to “even footing” at best

When it comes to Romney possibly losing former advisers and donors to rivals, keep this in mind: Romney is going from being the GOP’s general-election nominee -- with most of the party fully behind him -- to someone who’s making a THIRD primary run. So you’re bound to have these kinds of defections. As political scientist Jonathan Bernstein puts it, “The best case for [Romney] at this point is that he’s on more or less even footing with several other candidates.” Now, you can certainly win your party’s presidential nomination on even footing. But Romney also won’t be as strong right now as he was in the summer/fall of 2012 -- it’s just a fact.

Measuring Romney vs. Jeb

By the way, here are Romney’s and Bush’s fav/unfav from our most recent (Jan. 2015) NBC/WSJ poll:

  • Overall for Romney: 27% positive, 40% negative
  • Overall for Bush: 19% positive, 32% negative
  • Among Republicans for Romney: 52% positive, 15% negative
  • Among Republicans for Bush: 37% positive, 15% negative

Bottom line: Both men are unpopular overall (and have actually lost ground since our previous polling); Romney is more popular than Bush among Republicans; but Bush also has more room to grow.

Obama fires up Democrats in Philly

Here’s Roll Call on President Obama’s words to House Democrats at their retreat in Philadelphia last night: “A fiery President Barack Obama addressed House Democrats Thursday night, making the case that, while there’s more work to do in restoring the economy, Democrats can’t be shy about what they’ve already accomplished.” From Obama’s remarks: “Obviously, we were all disappointed with the outcome of the last election, and there are a lot of reasons for it and I'm happy to take on some of the blame. But one thing I'm positive about is, when we're shy about what we care about, when we're defensive about what we've accomplished… We need to stand up and go on offense, and not be defensive about what we believe in!” Obama also took a not-so-subtle dig at Mitt Romney: “We've got a former presidential candidate on the other side who suddenly is just deeply concerned about poverty.” That prompted Romney to return the fire via Twitter: “Mr. Obama, wonder why my concern about poverty? The record number of poor in your term, and your record of failure to remedy.”

During Q&A that was off-camera, we learned that Obama told House Democrats that they can vote against his trade deals, but don’t make a spectacle out of it

Senate passes Keystone bill. What happens next?

After three weeks of work, the Senate yesterday passed its bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, 62-36, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. The bill now goes to the House, which must pass the Senate version if they plan to test President Obama's willingness to veto the legislation -- something the White House has indicated he would do. So what happens next? According to NBC's Alex Moe, "discussions are underway" regarding what House Republicans will do next. Two options are available: One, they could simply pass the Senate version. Or two, they could try to go to conference, where they would negotiate a middle ground between the House-passed and Senate-passed versions of the bill. The main difference between the House and Senate bills is the amendments that were added on to the Senate bill. Important note: The 62 Senators who voted for the bill is not enough to override a veto (you need 67 votes, or two-thirds of the Senate). The House, which passed its bill to approve the pipeline 266-153-1 on Jan. 9, also did not have the 290 votes needed to override a veto.

NBC/WSJ poll: Nearly four in 10 would discourage kids from football

With Sunday’s Super Bowl approaching, it’s been a tough year for Roger Goodell and the NFL. Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. Deflate-gate. But neither of these stories is a serious, long-term threat to professional football. What is a threat – health and safety, especially as it relates to concussions. Well, new results from our most recent NBC/WSJ poll find that nearly four-in-10 Americans -- 37% -- say they would encourage their child to play another sport other than football due to concerns about concussions. By contrast, 60% of respondents say they disagree and would back their children if they wanted to play football. These findings are essentially unchanged from an NBC/WSJ poll from a year ago, when 40% said they’d encourage their children to play another sport, while 57% wouldn’t. In the new poll, the percentage preferring their children play a different sport due to concerns about concussions is higher among seniors (51%), those with post-graduate degrees (50%), liberals (49%), Democrats (47%), Obama voters (46%), urban residents (40%), women (40%), and those who don’t have children under 18 living in their household (38%). And it’s lower among conservatives (28%), those ages 18-34 (28%), Republicans (30%), Romney voters (30%), those with a high school education or less (31%), men (32%), and those who do have children under 18 living in their household (34%).

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