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« Obama Presser: "Philosophy of Persistence" | Blog Home Page | NY-20: Obama Endorses Murphy »

Strategy Memo: Taking It To The Hill

Good Wednesday morning. The day after his prime time news conference, President Obama has a full schedule that starts with a meeting with NATO's secretary general. He'll later head to Capitol Hill to speak to the Senate Democratic Caucus. Vice President Biden will also be on the Hill, having lunch with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Tonight, however, it's a mix of politics and partying: Obama hosts an event commemorating Greek Independence Day, and then heads to not one but two DNC fundraisers. Biden has already done some fundraising for the party and for one candidate in particular; the DNC needs the cash, since the RNC outraised them last quarter.

The House and Senate Budget committees will begin marking up the budget today, with numerous spending cuts expected. The Senate will continue consideration today of the House-passed National Service bill, as the House considers a Senate bill that would create a special inspector general for TARP.

**President Obama
*Some reviews of Obama's prime time presser from the newspapers that didn't get called on. USA Today: "President Obama was walking a careful line." New York Times: In his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs. Washington Post: "President Obama sought to reassure Americans last night that his administration has made progress in reviving the economy and said his $3.6 trillion budget is "inseparable from this recovery." WSJ: "Obama largely focused on defending his domestic economic proposals. He repeatedly took openings to make the case that the government should spend now on renewable-energy development, education and a health-insurance overhaul that would put the economy on a sounder footing once it recovers." LA Times notes that Iraq and Afghanistan did not come up.

*Former RNC flack Alex Conant notes that Obama has already had half as many prime time newsers as Bush and Clinton did in their eight years.

*Under the radar, considering the long road it took: Obama now has a Commerce Secretary, as Gary Locke was confirmed yesterday by unanimous consent.

*With Congress already cutting into his budget plan, the White House will launch a task force to find other tax revenues in the form of "loopholes and subsidies, tougher enforcement against tax avoidance, and tax simplification."

*A Gallup poll shows that 54 percent of voters approve of Obama's handling of the AIG mess, while 39 percent disapprove. Only 28 percent approve of Treasury Sec. Geithner's handling of it, compared to 26 percent who approve of Congress. The poll was conducted March 21-22, 2009.

*Hillary Clinton is polling well, according to CNN, with a 71 percent job approval rating. That's 10 points higher than Condi Rice. "The poll's release comes as Clinton teams up with Mexican officials to kick off several weeks of meetings designed to find ways to fight drug violence on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Tuesday the Obama administration announced a major increase in security funding and agent deployments along the border."

*Speaking of Rice, she was on Leno. "These are difficult questions and difficult issues. My view is, we got to do it our way; we did our best. We did some things well, some things not so well. Now, they get their chance," Rice said. Her defense of the president: "I saw many a cabinet secretary go in and have the president be the best questioner in the room. This was a president who was compassionate; he knew the issues."

*Stay tuned for the online town hall meeting coming up Thursday. The White House web site is soliciting questions, which will then be voted on by visitors.

**Congress and the Budget
*WaPo: "Key Democratic leaders were performing major surgery yesterday on President Obama's first budget plan in an effort to bring skyrocketing annual deficits under control, while preserving the option of enacting some of the president's most significant and costly domestic priorities."

*Politico: "Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad outlined a five-year spending plan Tuesday that would narrow the deficit by two-thirds but severely weaken President Barack Obama's ability to achieve the tax cuts and health care reform at the heart of his domestic agenda."

*USA Today: "Key Democrats such as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, said some of Obama's most ambitious ideas must be jettisoned to reduce the deficit, including extending tax cuts of $400 for most workers and $800 for couples that were approved in the stimulus package. ... Lawmakers also are dropping $250 billion requested for future bank bailouts."

*New York Times: "The Senate Democratic plan also does not set a dollar amount for a health care overhaul fund; Mr. Obama called for $634 billion to be set aside for health care changes over the next decade. But Mr. Conrad said the budget created special reserve funds that would allow legislation on both health care and energy as long as those plans did not add to the deficit."

*'Rough Patch' for Cantor?: "House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), a politically shrewd up-and-comer in the GOP, has broken with his party on two high-profile issues. And the defections on last week's AIG bonus tax bill and the Obama administration's troubled assets plan have exasperated some members in the GOP conference."

*The Hill says that the air "rushed out of the AIG bonus outrage balloon" as lawmakers all but tabled the tax bill. "While he insists the bonus tax bill remains a priority in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged it won't come up for weeks."

*Wall Street Journal follows up on Arlen Specter's rejection of the EFCA. "The Pennsylvania senator's move could strengthen the business community's resolve to defeat any legislation that would boost labor's ability to organize workers and win contracts. ... Unions, meanwhile, appeared to be caught flat-footed by the announcement."

*The Senate takes up Chris Hill's nomination to be ambassador of Iraq today. NYT: "Hill is not likely to be tripped up by the committee, since he has been strongly endorsed by its chairman, Senator John F. Kerry, and is viewed as acceptable by the ranking Republican, Senator Richard Lugar. But his confirmation could be delayed in the full Senate if Mr. Brownback or Mr. McCain places a hold on it - something neither has ruled out. Another Republican senator who had expressed opposition, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told reporters on Wednesday he would not be a roadblock."

**Campaign Stuff
*NY-20 Special Election: "What's clear is that businessman Scott Murphy, the Democrat, has the momentum over state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R), and a loss for Republicans could be potentially disastrous for a party looking for good news," The Fix writes.

*Politico says that while the RNC "is going all out" to elect James Tedisco, the DNC has not played a role in the NY-20 race on behalf of Scott Murphy. And "Obama has yet to officially endorse Democrat Scott Murphy or to cut a TV ad touting the candidate -- despite the fact that the election is less than a week away."

*Josh Kraushaar notes that while Specter has a healthy approval rating, he's getting "crushed" by Pat Toomey in the primary, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. It shows Toomey leading 41 to 27 percent, with 28 percent of Republicans undecided.

*AP: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) was again in the mode of presidential response last night, speaking at a GOP fundraiser last night as Obama was speaking in prime time. "We are now in the position of being the loyal opposition," Jindal. "The right question to ask is not if we want the president to fail or succeed, but whether we want America to succeed." He joked about his state of the union response, saying: "They're not allowed to show my speech at Gitmo anymore."

*Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the Los Angeles Times: "I'm not running for anything." It came as he defended raising taxes. "I'm more comfortable with it because I'm not running for anything, because I know it's the right thing. Even though I promised the people of California I'm not going to raise taxes, at the same time I said I'm not going to sign a pledge, because what if there's an emergency?" Asked if that meant he won't run for Senate, he confirmed: "When I say I'm not running for anything, that's exactly what I mean ..... until you change the Constitution."

*Clearing up any doubts, Larry Kudlow said on his CNBC show that he's not running against Sen. Chris Dodd.

*A Quinnipiac poll shows that Mayor Mike Bloomberg is under 50 percent in key matchups for his re-election bid. He leads City Comptroller Bill Thompson 49-35 percent, and Rep. Anthony Weiner 46-36 percent. 57 percent of voters disapprove of the decision to extend term limits.

*Jim Bunning alert: He's criticizing Sen. Mitch McConnell for raising money to pay down his own campaign debt while Bunning has his own race now. Bunning, to the Louisville Courier-Journal: "I refrained from doing it for two years, he sent out his, so you know where he stands." He says he'll decide whether to stay in the race in three months.

-- Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad