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« NY-20: DNC Launches TV Ad | Blog Home Page | NY-20: Murphy +4 »

Strategy Memo: Border War

Happy Friday, Washington. Today, President Obama unveils his much-anticipated strategy for Afghanistan, which also pays considerable attention to Pakistan. Obama will discuss his plans this morning at an event in the EEOB, surrounded by interested parties from the region and his administration. Later, he'll speak at a ceremonial installation event for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, and address the CEOs of the nation's largest banks to discuss his financial rescue plan.

Neither the House or Senate are in session today. For the next few days, the focus will be on the special election in New York's 20th District, where both parties have invested heavily. The DNC begins airing a TV ad today in Albany highlighting President Obama's endorsement of Democrat Scott Murphy.

Looking ahead, this Sunday will be a big one on the talk shows. Obama will appear on "Face the Nation," while Tim Geithner appears on both "Meet the Press" and "This Week."

**President Obama
*Gallup Poll on economy: "For the past two weeks, the percentage of respondents in The Gallup Poll who say the economy is getting better has been steadily ticking up," USA Today's Page reports. "That doesn't mean everyone's outlook is rosy -- 66% continue to say the economy is getting worse -- but it does signal a significant improvement in public attitudes after nearly two years of downbeat forecasts."

*AP has details on the new Af-Pak plan: Obama plans "to dispatch thousands more military and civilian trainers on top of the 17,000 fresh combat troops he's already ordered. ... The strategy includes 20 recommendations for countering a persistent insurgency that spans the two countries' border, including sending 4,000 U.S. trainers to try to increase the size of the Afghan army."

*Bloomberg: "Obama also would support legislation to boost economic aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year in exchange for that country cracking down on Taliban and al-Qaeda militants hiding out along border," officials said last night.

*Obama will caution "that the fight will not be easy, and will get tougher before it gets easier." Secretaries Gates and Clinton will join him, ABC notes. The Washington Post says Obama will describe his policy "as a sharp break with what officials called a directionless and under-resourced conflict inherited from the Bush administration." An official said al-Qaida wasn't defeated, but saw its leadership move to Pakistan.

*The New York Times writes about yesterday's online town hall, saying the White House "learned it must be careful what it wishes for" by inviting an online audience to vote on questions. "More than 100,000 questions were submitted, with the idea that Mr. Obama would answer those that were most popular. But after 3.6 million votes were cast, one of the top questions turned out to be a query on whether legalizing marijuana might stimulate the economy by allowing the government to regulate and tax the drug. ... The marijuana question later took up a good chunk of the daily White House press briefing, where Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, suggested that advocates for legalizing marijuana had mounted a drive to rack up votes for the question."

*Obama will visit Normandy for the D-Day anniversary, an aide to the French president announced.

*The Washington Times reports that Obama continued collecting money for his 2010 re-election account after being elected president. One of the donors, Bruce A. Heyman, is managing director at Goldman Sachs, which received a $10 billion bailout last year. "The donations are legal, but the timing is unusual because Mr. Obama formally left the Senate on Nov. 16 and already had a surplus in his Senate campaign treasury."

*Kathleen Sebelius' confirmation hearing is set for April 2.

**Congress
*Senate committee approves budget: "President Barack Obama's fiscal agenda gained steam, as the Senate Budget Committee Thursday embraced a $3.6 trillion budget that Republicans complained would pile up a huge federal debt," reports WSJ.

*The Washington Times notes that the GOP Budget alternative was "light on numbers and specific policy proposals": "Endorsing across-the-board tax cuts, the 19-page 'Republican Road to Recovery' was a general policy statement that slams Mr. Obama's spending and tax plan as harmful to future generations without identifying a detailed alternative."

*DNC response to GOP budget "blueprint": Spokesman Hari Sevugan: "After 27 days, the best House Republicans could come up with is a 19-page pamphlet that does not include a single real budget proposal or estimate. There are more numbers in my last sentence than there are in the entire House GOP 'budget.'"

*Sen. Gillibrand's former life: The NYT takes a look into Gillibrand's work representing Philip Morris, and notes that she plays down her role in her firm's work for the tobacco giant. "But a review of thousands of documents and interviews with dozens of lawyers and industry experts indicate that Ms. Gillibrand was involved in some of the most sensitive matters related to the defense of the tobacco giant as it confronted pivotal legal battles beginning in the mid-1990s."

**Campaign Stuff
*NY-20: The DNC has launched an ad for Scott Murphy in the special election race. The ad features President Obama's endorsement of Murphy.

*Fundraising Decreases: "Combined donations from individuals to the six major party campaign committees have fallen by more than 26 percent from a similar period two years ago, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission," WaPo reports.

*LA-6: John Boehner is heading to Baton Rouge tomorrow to campaign and fundraise for freshman Rep. Bill Cassidy (R).

*Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz reports that Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta is considering a run against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.).

*Interesting nugget from the Miami Herald, which reports on conventional wisdom in Florida now tilting toward a Crist Senate run. From his former chief of staff, George LeMieux: :Everyone does seem convinced. I talked to him this week and he hasn't made up his mind."

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad