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Please begin with an informative title:

Visual source: Newseum

Mark Blumenthal:

President Barack Obama's job approval ratings have hit new lows over the past month, yet he continues to hold slight leads over Republican candidates in head-to-head polling. Of the two, the approval ratings are a slightly better measure of Obama's re-election prospects, signaling a very tough contest ahead. But history tells us to be wary of both as predictors of the 2012 outcome. It is still very early.
Frank Newport:
[Chris] Christie is well known in New Jersey and in Republican political circles. He is not well-known nationally. Charles Franklin of the University of Wisconsin recently reviewed all extant polling data on Christie. There is not a lot of it. Between 50% and 65% of Americans say they have never heard of Christie or don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. As Charles says: “Christie looks like a lot of governors who, however well known in their home states, are far less visible nationally, or even regionally."
...
At any rate, were Christie to get into the race, his weight no doubt would become an issue. Our data suggest that most Americans claim one’s weight doesn’t affect their views of a person, but it’s difficult to pinpoint the impact of weight in a more subliminal, subconscious evaluation or reaction to a candidate. Research shows that people make quick judgments based on just looking at the face of a political candidate -- judgments that can predict the winner of political races. It’s certainly possible that quick judgments based on a candidate’s weight could also factor into a voting decision.
I guess there's a difference between arguing that weight should not make a difference and arguing that weight does make a difference, but it's a subtle one. Just no "momentum" jokes, please. And remember, "no one is as popular as the day before they run." I think Fred Thompson said that (and if he didn't, he should have.)

Speaking of Fred, was it really only two months ago that I wrote this?

Now, Rick Perry is no Grampa Fred. He's a great deal more energetic and possibly a great deal more ambitious. He has cash to tap and a strong appeal to evangelicals and social conservatives. He plays well in GOP primary polling, even without declaring. But how is he going to play on a national stage?
...

Things can change, and they undoubtedly will. But Rick Perry, while formidable, is not automatically the next president just because he decides to run.

And speaking of Rick Perry:
The campaign of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas found itself on the defensive on Sunday over a report that he had hunted at and taken guests to a West Texas camp with a racially charged name that his father, and later Mr. Perry, had leased.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that at least seven people it interviewed said the name for a portion of the property, Niggerhead, was visible on the rock at the entrance “at different points in the 1980s and 1990s,” and that a former worker said he believed he had seen it as recently as three years ago. ...

“Campaigns are like an MRI for the soul — whoever you are, eventually people find out,” Mr. Axelrod said in an interview Sunday night. “Time will tell whether this comes to reflect him or not.”

How is he going to play on a national stage? Not so well.

AP/NPR:

By age 6, children should have vaccinations against 14 diseases, in at least two dozen separate doses, the U.S. government advises. More than 1 in 10 parents reject that, refusing some shots or delaying others mainly because of safety concerns, a national survey found.

Worries about vaccine safety were common even among parents whose kids were fully vaccinated: 1 in 5 among that group said they think delaying shots is safer than the recommended schedule. The results suggest that more than 2 million infants and young children may not be fully protected against preventable diseases, including some that can be deadly or disabling.

The nationally representative online survey of roughly 750 parents of kids age 6 and younger was done last year and results were released online Monday in the journal Pediatrics. They are in line with a larger federal survey released last month, showing that at least 1 in 10 toddlers and preschoolers lagged on vaccines that included chickenpox and the measles-mumps-rubella combination shots. That survey, also for 2010, included more than 17,000 households.

The Pediatrics survey follows other recent news raising concerns among infectious disease specialists, including a study showing the whooping cough vaccine seems to lose much of its effectiveness after just three years — faster than doctors have thought — perhaps contributing to recent major outbreaks, most notably in California. Also, data reported in September show that a record number of kindergartners' parents in California last year used a personal belief exemption to avoid vaccination requirements.

And since we're talking vaccines, don't miss It's flu season (featuring a shot without pain!) from yesterday.

EJ Dionne:

Obama’s victory, in the meantime, partly demobilized the left. With Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, stepped-up organizing didn’t seem quite so urgent.

The administration was complicit in this, viewing the left’s primary role as supporting whatever the president believed needed to be done. Dissent was discouraged as counterproductive.

This was not entirely foolish. Facing ferocious resistance from the right, Obama needed all the friends he could get. He feared that left-wing criticism would meld in the public mind with right-wing criticism and weaken him overall.

But the absence of a strong, organized left made it easier for conservatives to label Obama as a left-winger.

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