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First Thoughts: The show must go on

The show must go on… Tonight’s two big speeches: Ann Romney’s soft sell vs. Chris Christie’s hard sell… Christie second-guesses Romney on the recent birth certificate comment… Keep an eye on Santorum’s speech, as well as Isaac… Obama to campaign in college towns  in Iowa and Colorado… Priorities USA’s latest TV ad… How the GOP might be losing any advantage it had on abortion… And Quinnipiac poll shows McMahon (!!!) leading in Connecticut. 

TAMPA, FL -- At 2:00 pm ET, the Republican convention here will get back to business after yesterday’s cancellation, with the roll-call vote that formally nominates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan taking place in time for the 6:30 pm evening newscasts. And tonight’s primetime schedule features two main speakers: Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is delivering the keynote address. “We expect no change over the next three days,” Romney adviser Russ Schriefer said on a conference call with reporters yesterday. “We are full-speed planning ahead with our Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule.” But Schriefer adds that the campaign is monitoring Isaac’s path and is leaving open the possibility of more schedule changes. “Our thoughts are with the people in the path of the storm,” he said. “We hope they are spared any major destruction."  

*** Ann Romney’s soft sell vs. Chris Christie’s hard sell: The Ann Romney and Chris Christie speeches will try to accomplish these two different goals: the soft sell of Romney (which is Ann’s role) and the hard sell (which is Christie’s). In fact, you could argue that those are the dual themes of the entire convention. Ann Romney will attempt to humanize her husband, as well as try to appeal to women. (Romney trails President Obama by 10 points among women in our recent NBC/WSJ poll.) Meanwhile, Christie’s job is to make the hard sell -- that the job of a leader is to make the tough decisions, no matter how unpopular they are. On “TODAY” this morning, Christie previewed part of his speech saying that he would use New Jersey “as an illustrative example” to show you can solve problems when you stick to your principles. (That said, one illustrative example Christie probably won’t point to is New Jersey’s 9.8% unemployment rate.) 

*** Second-guessing Romney: But Christie’s “TODAY” interview also revealed why the Romney campaign might not regard the New Jersey governor as its most loyal and reliable surrogate. While Christie knocked down the New York Post article (which alleged that he took himself out of the VP running because he would have to give up being governor and didn't think Romney would win) by calling it “complete garbage,” he said that Romney probably wished he could take back the crack at Obama’s birth certificate. “If he had to do it over again, he probably wouldn’t make the joke,” he said. And speaking of second-guessing, don’t miss what Karl Rove said yesterday at a breakfast sponsored by Politico. Rove said he was a "little bit mystified" by what he regards as the Romney campaign's handling of the tax-returns issue, Politico wrote. “Rove said Romney could have pressed Obama for making no issue four years ago about Sen. John McCain releasing just two years of returns, a contradiction that shows Obama's supposed concern about disclosure this year ‘is all about politics.’ ‘I would have called him earlier and more forcefully than they have.’” 

*** Keep an eye on Santorum’s speech: In addition to the speeches by Ann Romney and Chris Christie, the Romney camp has been billing Rick Santorum’s address tonight, which he’ll deliver during the 7:00 pm ET hour. On yesterday’s conference call, Schriefer said that Santorum’s speech is “going to be particularly good,” and he reminded reporters that Santorum was a “leader in the fight to reform welfare in 90s,” and that he “believes strongly in dignity of work.” So expect the former Pennsylvania senator and GOP presidential candidate to deliver the debunked welfare attack hitting Obama, which would certainly fire up the crowd here. While Christie might be the keynote speaker for suburban America, Santorum might be the keynote speaker for inside the hall. 

*** And keep an eye on Isaac: While we’re all focused here on the conventions comings and goings, much of the country is watching the hurricane approaching New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. It’s possible that Isaac doesn’t pack much of a punch. But it’s also possible that it could cause plenty of destruction. And if that happens, it could drastically change the tone of the convention. 

*** Tuesday’s speaking schedule

7:00 pm ET hour: House Speaker John Boehner, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, Utah House candidate Mia Love, Rick Santorum, Cathy McMorris Rodgers

8:00 pm hour: Kelly Ayotte, John Kasich, Mary Fallin, Bob McDonnell, Scott Walker

9:00 pm hour: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Texas Senate nominee Ted Cruz, Democrat-turned Republican Artur Davis, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

10:00 pm hour: Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

*** The old college try: Meanwhile, President Obama today begins his two-day swing through college campuses in battleground states. Tuesday’s stops: Iowa State University in Ames, IA at 2:05 pm ET and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO at 7:20 pm ET. Tomorrow, he heads to Charlottesville, VA, where the University of Virginia is located. While our recent NBC/WSJ poll found that Obama maintains his lead among young voters, they’re not as enthusiastic as they were four years ago. That’s the objective of this two-day swing and the future ones he’s going to make in the next few weeks. To counter the president’s visit in Iowa, the Romney camp is running an advertisement in the Iowa State Daily noting the high youth unemployment rate, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) holds a press conference at 9:30 am ET to pre-but the president’s visit to the Hawkeye State. 

*** Priorities USA’s latest TV ad: In other Democratic news, the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA Action is up with a new TV ad (airing in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia) featuring an independent female from Massachusetts who says she voted for Romney in 2002 but will vote for Obama in 2012. “Gov. Romney promised that he would bring jobs to this state. By the time Gov. Romney left office, we had fallen to 47th in the nation in terms of job growth,” the woman says to the camera. “Gov. Romney cares about big business, he cares about tax cuts for wealthy people and I certainly do not believe he cares about my hardworking employees. I feel like I was duped by Mitt Romney. I’m going to vote for President Obama.” In addition, the DNC has a new web video -- entitled “You Didn’t Build That, You Destroyed It” -- that plays the Bain card. 

*** How the GOP is losing any advantage it had on abortion: Over the past several years, Republicans -- due to advances in technology (like sonograms) -- have largely (but not always) been winning the political fight over abortion. But what the controversy over Todd Akin’s controversial comments on rape and abortion has exposed is that some Republicans are finding ways to surrender any advantage on the topic. The latest example: Tom Smith, the Republican running against Sen. Bob Casey (D) in Pennsylvania, compared conceiving a child out of rape to conceiving out of wedlock. “‘I lived something similar to that with my own family, and [my daughter] chose the life, and I commend her for that,’ Smith said, per the AP. ‘She knew my views, but fortunately for me ... she chose the way I thought.’ Asked how that was similar to rape, Smith said: ‘Having a baby out of wedlock.’ After another follow-up question, about whether the out-of-wedlock pregnancy was similar to a case of rape, he said: ‘No, no, no, but, well, put yourself in a father’s position. Yes, I mean, it is similar, this isn’t, but I’m back to the original, I’m pro-life — period.’”  

*** Q-poll: McMahon leads in Connecticut: And in Connecticut, a new Quinnipiac poll finds Linda McMahon (R) leading Chris Murphy by three points among likely voters, 49%-46%, in that Senate contest. DSCC spokesman Matt Canter emails First Read, “McMahon ran nearly $12 million [in positive ads] over the summer. But all our research shows that once you remind people about McMahon, it all l collapses. She lost by double digits in the best Republican year of our lives. We think 2012 will be far too steep a climb.” That said, this also means Democrats will have to spend in Connecticut. While Dems are catching a break in Missouri, they have some work to do in Connecticut.  

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