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« NC: Dole +8, Obama Close | Blog Home Page | OK: Inhofe +22 »

Strategy Memo: High Energy

Good Monday morning. We know Peyton Manning didn't play as he comes back from an injury, but it was still fitting that the Washington Redskins gave the Indianapolis Colts a drubbing in last night's Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, given the induction into the Hall of Skins greats Art Monk and Darrell Green this weekend. Here's what a happy Washington is watching today:

-- The House and Senate kicked off August recess last week, and the Congress will not return to Washington until the week of September 8. If you happen to live in Fort Yates, North Dakota, or near Long Beach, California, you can drop by field hearings of the Senate Indian Affairs or House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, respectively. Even President Bush is getting out of town, with a stop at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska before continuing on to South Korea, eventually en route to China for Friday's start of the Olympic Games.

-- Congress may be out of session, but House Republican leaders are spending their first day of recess on the House floor, resuming a protest the party began as Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the session closed on Friday. Led by Reps. Mike Pence, Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Price, as many as forty Republicans stayed on the floor and gave speeches demanding action on rising gas and energy prices. The lights were off, the microphones were off (save one brief period when Arizona Rep. John Shadegg figured out the key sequence), but Republicans made their point: Energy is an issue that works for the GOP, and they're going to use it all through August recess to close the gap with Democrats.

-- House Minority Leader John Boehner yesterday called for members of his caucus to return to Washington for a repeat performance, and several members, mostly in safe seats and with little competition, will return today to keep the focus on lifting bans on offshore drilling and oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Pelosi, meanwhile, told ABC's "This Week" that there will be no votes on new offshore drilling, per USA Today's Susan Page, ensuring both that several appropriations measures will not go through this year and that Republicans will have an issue in the Fall.

-- The issue is settling at the fore of the presidential campaign as well, as Barack Obama is set to unveil a sweeping energy plan today in Lansing, Michigan, that his campaign says will eliminate the need for Middle Eastern oil in a decade, create five million new green-collar jobs and hand Americans an energy rebate, CNN's Steve Brusk previews. And while Obama launches "Energy Week," which will make stops in Ohio and Indiana as well, John McCain will spend time on the subject as well, dropping by a nuclear power plant near Detroit to highlight his own call for expanded energy production.

-- Side note: This is the second time Obama has called for some kind of rebate, after his proposal for a second round of stimulus checks. Take a look at the proposals through three separate lenses: First, assuming that stimulus money actually works (Which is a long shot, given shrinking consumer spending even as the first round went out), it's a smart move for the economy. Second, it's a cynical ploy to win votes by telling people he'll give them money. Third, it lends new credence to an old GOP slam on Democrats, that the free-spending Obama will wreck the budget. Two rebate proposals could be a coincidence, but three will be a trend.

-- Final point on energy: Gas is currently $3.88 a gallon, according to AAA's daily national average. That's down 22 cents a gallon from a month ago, and as the Summer winds down and the driving season comes to an end, the number of miles U.S. drivers travel will shrink further, reducing prices even more. Don't get us wrong, if gas prices stabilize at $3.50 a gallon, or even as low as $3 a gallon, the toll on consumers will still be heavy. But something about $4 a gallon seemed like a psychological bridge too far. We've been down this road before, as both parties have used gas and energy prices -- and their attending debates over ANWR and offshore drilling -- during the Summer only to see it fade as a priority in the Fall (See, for example, 2006). Will Republicans find the issue effective in November? That may depend on just how far prices fall.

-- Back to the presidential trail. Happy birthday, Barack Obama! After 47 years on Earth, you're running for President of the United States, and look what the conservative movement has brought you: Released on his birthday, The Case Against Barack Obama has jumped to #23 on the Amazon best-seller list. It's published by the same company, Regnery, that launched the anti-John Kerry "Unfit for Command" four years ago, but don't expect a hatchet job from author David Freddoso, who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend of Politics Nation. Will it be effective in moving votes away from Obama? If so, when will Democrats launch their own monster of the publishing industry, a la blogs as a response to talk radio?

-- Puzzle Of The Day: We were surprised over the weekend when reports surfaced that Rep. Eric Cantor has been asked for vetting documents by McCain's vice presidential selection team, but not because the 45 year old Virginian is apparently under consideration for the position. Cantor would bring youth, a new vitality with young conservatives who are looking for a new direction for their party, and he'd lock down Virginia, a state Obama wants to make competitive, among other advantages the LA Times' Leslie Hoffecker details. Rather, it is surprising that new vetting is taking place so late in the process. Is it nervousness with leading candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney? Or is it a move toward a controlled Hail Mary? Then again, it may just be repaying a prominent backer with a heightened profile. After all, that's a lot of what a short list is for.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama presents his plan, "New Energy for America," in a speech in Lansing, Michigan today, before flying to Boston for a fundraiser this evening. McCain starts his day at the National Label Company in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, where he will host a small-business roundtable. Later, he heads to Sturgis, South Dakota for a rally at the annual motorcycle rally.