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« Another "Five Day" Exception As Obama Signs Lands Bill | Blog Home Page | Budget Alternative In House, Not Senate »

Strategy Memo: From G-20 to NY-20

Good morning, Washington. As we post, President Obama is taking off in Air Force One en route to London, as he makes his first major trip abroad (sorry, Canada). Our take on his trip can be found here. When he arrives in London, he'll meet with U.S. Embassy workers before calling it a night; his full schedule starts Wednesday. Meanwhile, VP Joe Biden has returned to Washington, where he'll be preparing for his next Middle Class Task Force Event.

The major domestic political news: It's Election Day in the Hudson Valley, as the voters in New York's 20th District select a replacement for Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate. Republican James Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy finally face off after a few competitive months of campaigning, debates and ads. As the first congressional election during the new administration, both parties are looking at this race as more than just one House seat.

With Congress set to recess on Friday for two weeks, the Senate continues today its 50 hours of debate on the budget resolution. The House will soon take up its own budget resolution, but today it will consider the Senate amendments to the GIVE Act and a number of suspension bills. Also, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.) faces her first hearing in the HHS confirmation process.

**President Obama
*A new Washington Post/ABC poll gives Obama strong approval numbers - 66 percent. Importantly for Obama, he "continues to benefit from a broadly held perception that others should bear the bulk of responsibility for the severe economic problems that confront his administration. Americans see plenty of offenders, but only about a quarter blame the president and his team for an economy that's in the ditch." Also of note, the "right track" number has nearly tripled, to 42 percent.

*As Obama heads to Europe, 7 in 10 respondents tell CNN that world leaders respect Obama. Only 49 percent thought the same at the start of George W. Bush's term.

*GM Fallout: The LA Times says Obama's announcements on the auto industry "put the Obama administration squarely in the position of adopting a so-called industrial policy, in which government officials, not business executives or the free market, decided what kinds of products a company would make and how it would chart its future. ... The notion that it was the president, not car company executives, who would pick such a course drew immediate criticism, especially from conservatives."

*Obama did not ask for advice before ousting GM CEO Rick Wagoner, Sen. Carl Levin tells The Hill. "He didn't ask us about it, he informed us," Levin said. He also also raised the idea of a "double standard for a long time between the financial industry and the way the auto industry is treated."

*The NY Times gives some behind-the-scenes. "The internal debate that led to the announcement culminated in two back-to-back 45-minute sessions in the Oval Office last Thursday. Members of Mr. Obama's auto task force, led by two former investment bankers, Steven Rattner and Ronald Bloom, presented the president with what one senior administration official called 'an incredibly difficult and painful set of decisions.'"

*Bloomberg looks at the other Big Three automaker, Ford, which did not take government money and thus was spared yesterday. An industry observer said the company "has done all the right things, but it could all turn negative if GM gets in a competitive situation that's dramatically different" after a potential bankruptcy. Ford said it is "prepared to do whatever is necessary to remain competitive, including going beyond the cost-cutting efforts already under way."

*Politico found the Republicans not on the same page, ranging from concern over a president ousting a CEO to support for a tough line with the auto industry. A senior GOP aide said the party was caught "flat-footed."

*Reset Accomplished?: NBC reported this morning that Russia was interested in a "broad agreement" with the Obama administration over key priorities. Andrea Mitchell said the White House sent a top diplomat to the Hague on short notice to hammer out something concrete that could be announced in London. The news comes on the same day Dmitry Medvedev pens an op-ed in the Washington Post. "The exchange of letters between myself and President Obama this year showed mutual readiness to build mature bilateral relations in a pragmatic and businesslike manner," he writes.

*Secretary of State Clinton confirmed something long suspected, that the Obama administration has ditched the "war on terror" term. "The administration has stopped using the phrase, and that speaks for itself, obviously," Clinton said en route to the Hague. While it was not an official directive, "It's just not being used," Clinton said.

*Washington Post sees that Michelle Obama "is enjoying a second look from the American public -- particularly from those who were put off by her as a candidate's wife, but are warming to her as the president's wife."

*"President Obama made a strong pitch for his budget to House Democrats in a closed-door meeting on Monday night, arguing that the budget includes key components to turning around the ailing economy, according to several Democratic sources who took verbatim notes in the meeting," CNN reports.

*Per the NY Times, Obama said: "If we don't pass the budget, it will empower those critics who don't want to see anything getting done." Obama also "said that he intended to keep pressing to reduce the red ink and that the spending would help prompt the growth needed to turn the economy around. According to one account, he said he was 'as serious as a heart attack' about lowering the deficit."

*"The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said Monday that if Republicans attempt this week to block a $3.55 trillion budget resolution that contains funding for the president's health care overhaul, Democrats would likely submit a second resolution" that would include reconciliation, allowing the Senate to pass it with just 50 votes, NPR reports.

*Perry Bacon profiles Judd Gregg: "Now, after turning his back on the post and the administration, the always confident and occasionally sarcastic Gregg has rediscovered his voice as the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and de facto leader of the opposition to Obama's $3.5 trillion budget."

*The Hill: "Some Democrats -- from the Blue Dogs on the right to the Progressive and Black caucuses on the left -- are not sold on the resolution that will be voted on the House floor this week."

**Campaign Stuff
*NY-20: "The polls are open in the 20th Congressional District, where voters today will choose the next representative in the heated race between Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican James Tedisco."

Politico: "But no matter how you look at it, the first congressional contest of the Obama era has taken on an importance that belies its strategic value. ... Still, the upstate New York contest to succeed Kirsten Gillibrand is worth paying close attention to, if for no other reason than that the results will be breathlessly interpreted and the winning side will rally around them."

The Hill: "The party that wins the election to fill the House seat vacated by now-Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) will seize political momentum. But it will also inflate -- or puncture -- the power base of high-profile politicians on both sides of the aisle, including President Obama."

*MI Gov: Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) threw his hat in the ring yesterday, joining "other potential Republican candidates [including] state Sen. Tom George of Texas Township, Attorney General Mike Cox, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Ann Arbor businessmen David Brandon and Rick Snyder."

*Richmond Times Dispatch covers Mike Huckabee's visit to Virginia to campaign with Bob McDonnell. Huck criticized those who say "that the Republican Party has sort of already experienced its demise and that the funeral services are being planned in the near future." Huck: "You come to places like Virginia and you see that with Bob McDonnell, we've got a very strong pulse," Huckabee said. "Cancel the memorial."

*Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones endorsed Del. Brian Moran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

*Also of note in VA: the DNC chairman signs a bill okaying "Choose Life" license plates.

*Sue Davis of WSJ looks at last-minute appeals from Congressional campaigns as the first quarter comes to a close. From the DSCC: "The Republicans think that betting against America is the way to beat us on Election Day. I know that betting on you is a surefire way to prove them wrong." From the NRCC: "Help us stand up against the Democratic spending spree in Congress and end the reign of Speaker Nancy Pelosi."

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad