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« IL-5: Quigley Wins Special Election | Blog Home Page | NY-20: NRCC Sees Victory »

Strategy Memo: Rahm Replaced

Good Wednesday morning. Back on U.S. soil, President Obama (and the aides who traveled with him) has a quiet day. He landed back at the White House at 3 a.m., much later than originally planned because of the surprise Iraq visit. Vice President Biden, meanwhile, will travel to Fort Bragg with his wife to welcome home the XVIII Airborne Corps back from Iraq.

Congress remains on a two-week recess -- the Senate returns April 20, and the House a day later. The House will welcome a new member, Democrat Mike Quigley, who won the Illinois 5th District special election yesterday with 69 percent of the vote.

The results of the special election in New York's 20th District, which took place over a week ago now, could begin to crystalize today. Some of the 10 counties in the district will begin counting absentee ballots today, with Republican Jim Tedisco now clinging to a 17-vote lead.

**President Obama
*AP: "The president returned to Washington in the early hours of Wednesday morning, bringing his lengthy debut on the world stage -- including his first stop in a war zone as commander in chief -- to a close. Aides said he brought home achievements both large and small, evidence, they said, of the benefits of the extended travel that turned attention away from all the pressing matters at home for the first time in his less-than-three-month-old presidency." That "pile of problems on Obama's desk was high before he left, and remains so now that he's home."

*The Hill says Obama has "more political capital than when he left" for Europe, and now "has the opportunity to face down Democrats on Capitol Hill as major bills on energy, healthcare and education work their way through Congress. Some believe Obama will seize the moment and become more of a legislative force, instead of deferring to seasoned congressional Democrats."

*The New York Times on Obama's Iraq visit. "In Baghdad, reiterating his pledge to end a war he opposed from the start, he told a cheering crowd of American troops that it was time for Iraqis 'to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.' Later, with a hint of impatience in his words, he urged Iraq's leaders to unite the country's deeply divided ethnic and sectarian factions and to incorporate them all into government and security forces."

*In Baghdad, Obama met with Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and said he "strongly encouraged" the Iraqi leader to calm sectarian tensions. WSJ notes that "Obama's visit comes at an important time for Mr. Maliki. Little more than a year ago, he was being criticized by Iraqis and some U.S. officials as a weak, sectarian leader. But Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, won over many Iraqis by ordering troops to battle Shiite militias as well as Sunni ones, giving him a new reputation as a strong nationalist."

*Former VP Cheney continues to draw fire from the Obama administration. VP Biden said on CNN his statement that the U.S. was less safe is "dead wrong." "This administration -- the last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world. ... I guarantee you we are safer today, our interests are more secure today than they were any time during the eight years" of the Bush administration.

*Biden will also take a lead role in the administration's efforts to pass a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, the Washington Post reports. "In 1999, as ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden led the Clinton administration's unsuccessful attempt at ratification. At that time, the treaty fell 19 votes short of the 67 needed for approval by the Republican-controlled Senate."

*The Obama administration plans to spend $45 million on an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.
A study finds that the Bush administration's efforts saved 1.1 million lives in 15 targeted countries, the Washington Times notes.

*Politico writes about Obama's TV habits - heavy on "Entourage" and ESPN.

**Congress
*AP headline: Lawmakers meet Castros, urge end to embargo.

*Earmarks: "Scores of House members are hiding their earmark requests in obscure corners of their official websites -- sticking to the letter of their new rule while shunning its spirit," The Hill reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*Democrat Mike Quigley wins the IL-5 special election with 69% of the vote, 4 points lower than Obama's take in the district in November. "Quigley told supporters at a North Side tavern that he knows he will initially be recognized in Washington as 'the guy taking Rahm Emanuel's seat,' but he promised to establish his own credentials, push for change and help tackle the nation's problems," Chicago Tribune reports.

"No one expected otherwise in the heavily Democratic 5th District, which has sent characters ranging from Dan Rostenkowski to Rod Blagojevich to Emanuel to Congress," Politico's Mahtesian writes. He also notes that with the primary and general combined, "Quigley ended up capturing a congressional seat by winning less than 50,000 votes in total. The average population of a congressional district is roughly 647,000 people."

*NY-20: Republican Jim Tedisco's lead over Democrat Scott Murphy decreased to 17 votes yesterday, while some counties will begin counting absentee ballots today, the Oneonta Daily Star reports.

*Fairleigh Dickinson Poll: New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine "continues to trail former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie by nine points, 33%-42%. Just 58% of Democrats line up behind Corzine while 78% of Republicans prefer Christie. ... Corzine runs even with former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan 37%-36%."

*The Star Tribune updates the Franken-Coleman recount, where a tally of absentees put the Democrat ahead 312 votes. "Not long after a decisive majority of once-rejected absentee ballots were counted and broke for Franken on Tuesday, attorneys on both sides were already jawing over the merits of an appeal in the 10-week-old U.S. Senate recount trial." Coleman says they'll appeal to the state Supreme Court.

*Gov. Sarah Palin (R) will raise money for Sen. Lisa Murkowski's (R) re-election campaign - not challenge her for the seat, as some speculated. Spokesperson Meg Stapleton told the Anchorage Daily News that talk that Palin might challenge Murkowski in next year's Republican primary is "just something that's been drummed up by the media."

*Rudy Giuliani, asked on "Morning Joe" whether he would run for governor: "I have no idea. I'm not gonna say yes; I'm not gonna say no."

**Sports Alert: The Frozen Four -- college hockey's national semi-finals -- has descended upon Washington this week, with the two faceoffs set for tomorrow night. Who isn't rooting for Bemidji State, the small school from the tiny town in northern Minnesota (Rep. Collin Peterson's 7th District for you junkies)?

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli