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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> May 2009

Gibbs: Sotomayor's Word Choice "Poor"

At the tail end of a more than hour-long press briefing White House press secretary made a stunning admission about the administration's Supreme Court pick while discussing her controversial 2001 speech.

"I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor," Gibbs said of Sonia Sotomayor's argument that a "wise Latina woman" would reach better conclusions than white men. "She was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judgment, that your personal experiences have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts in certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding. I think we'd all agree with that."

Gibbs then tried to compare her comment to remarks from now-Justice Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearing, when he said that while hearing cases involving immigrants, "I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't long ago that they were in that position."

"I think if she had the speech to do it all over again, I think she'd change that word," Gibbs said.

Asked how he came to that conclusion, Gibbs said he has been told as much from people Sotomayor has spoken with.

A moment earlier, Gibbs had responded to a new attack from Rush Limbaugh, who compared Sotomayor to David Duke.

"I don't think you have to be the nominee to find what was said today offensive," he said, pointing as well to other Republicans who have recently condemned Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich's claims that she's a racist. "It's sort of hard to completely quantify the outrage I think almost anybody would feel at the notion that you're being compared to somebody who used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan."

The Man Likes His Burgers With Mustard

President Obama again headed outside of the White House grounds for a cheeseburger lunch, this time heading to a Five Guys near the Nationals Ballpark in Southeast DC. Joining him was the usual protective pool of reporters, as well as an NBC television crew filming the president's every movement today for a prime-time special next week.

"I need one cheeseburger and one fries for me. Jalapeno, tomato, mustard. That's it for me," Obama said at the counter, later adding a request for lettuce.

Full pool report, from USA Today's David Jackson, is after the jump.

POOL REPORT:

Another Obama burger run, this time to a Five Guys in Southeast Washington.

President Obama ordered cheeseburgers for himself and members of his staff, and paid at least $80 in cash. The entourage included a NBC News crew that has been trailing the president for a "day-in-the-life" documentary to air next week.

NOTE: Obama visited Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., a few weeks ago. And First Lady Michelle Obama took her staff to another Five Guys in Washington earlier this year.

Play-by-play

Motorcade left the White House at 12:42 p.m. The NBC crew caught Obama's walk out with two crews, one stationed just outside the Oval Office and another on the other side of the presidential limo. The latter crew had a camera attached to a long crane that arched over the driveway.

At 12:51 p.m., we arrived at the Five Guys at 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, a few blocks from Nationals Stadium. As the pool scurried up to the restaurant, we could shrieks of delight and squeals of "O, my God! O, My God!"

Obama, sans jacket, walked up the counter, scanned the menu posted above, and began ordering. Aides Reggie Love and Marvin Nicholson slipped him various requests from the crew. At one point, he brought up NBC's Brian Williams, who ordered a cheeseburger with ketchup and fries. The pool believes it spotted the president peeling off at least four $20 bills for payments.

A little presidential dialogue: "Reggie, you got you orders? Where's Reggie? Whaddya got?"

To his order taker: "I need one cheeseburger and one fries for me. Jalapeno, tomato, mustard. That's it for me ... Plus lettuce on mine too."

Obama then read out other orders, cheeseburgers and at least one grilled cheese sandwich, with various toppings. Unlike last time, Obama did not offer to buy food for the pool.

Obama received order slip number 41, then proceeded to walk around the restaurant to greet the patrons and pose for pictures.

He tended to ask people their and names and occupations. Hard to hear over the media and customer scrum in the small restaurant, but the pool picked up some snippets.

"How long you been doing that?" he asked one person. To one man who appeared to cite his military background, Obama said: "Appreciate your service." At another point, Obama could be heard saying that someone "didn't know the economy was going to collapse."

A couple of women requested and got a group picture. "It's such an honor," one of the women told the president.

He asked a woman with a distinct accent where she was from, and she said, "Ireland."

Obama: "What part of Ireland?"
"Dublin"
Obama: "Dublin? Outstanding. I've got to visit Ireland."

After his number was called, Obama went to claim his burgers and such. He summoned White House photographer Pete Souza for a group picture with the Five Guys staff.

Obama then walked out, carrying two very large brown paper bags. Motorcade left the site at 1:05 p.m., and was back at the White House at 1:15 p.m. Obama, jacket over his shoulder, walked to the Oval as the cameras rolled.

David Jackson
USA Today

Polls Find Americans Approve of Sotomayor

Two polls released in the past two days find a plurality of Americans approve of the selection of Sonia Sotomayor to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. A plurality of Republicans, however, disapprove of the president's choice.

In the Quinnipiac survey released this morning, 54 percent said they approve of Sotomayor, while 24 percent disapprove and 22 percent are undecided. The poll was taken of 1,438 registered voters nationwide from May 26-28, with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.

Worded slightly different and based on just one night of polling (Tuesday, when the announcement was made), Gallup found that 47 percent think Sotomayor was either a good or excellent choice. This survey was based on interviews with 1,015 adults with +/- 3 percentage-point margin of error.

Most important, Gallup respondents said, to President Obama was Sotomayor's 17 years on the federal bench (61 percent), followed closely by her intellect (59 percent). Two-thirds also said that being a woman and Hispanic were at least somewhat important considerations in Obama's choice.

The Quinnipiac poll found that 70 percent believe the fact that Sotomayor could become the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice was at least somewhat important to Obama's decision making process.

That survey also found voters to be split on what U.S. senators should consider when deciding whether to support her nomination: 47 percent said senators should only look at whether she is qualified to serve, while 43 percent said her views on controversial issues like abortion and affirmative action should be considered. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans said her views on those issues should count, 56 percent of Democrats said only qualifications should matter, and independents were split, favoring qualifications by 2 points.

"Elections Have Consequences"

I wrote today about the role of the so-called "sherpa" in the Supreme Court confirmation process, getting some perspective from those who've held that role in past administrations. Among them was former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who was tasked with guiding first Harriet Miers, and then Samuel Alito through the process.

I started my conversation by asking him about his vote in 1998 to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Circuit Court -- he was one of 25 Republicans who backed her then. Coats explained that at the time, many Republicans were willing to defer to the president.

"We were really operating under the philosophy that elections have consequences, and the president had his or her right to select a nominee," he said. "I voted for a number of appointments where ideologically, people were on a different part of the spectrum than I was. But I operated on that basis."

Coats said, however, that Republicans have since had "some bitter pills" to swallow -- most recently with the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but having roots in the nomination of Robert Bork -- where Democrats did not show the same kind of deference to a Republican president. Threats of a filibuster against Alito were especially troubling.

He cautioned against using the Sotomayor nomination as an opportunity to rally under the Republican flag, but said they should engage in a vigorous debate on judicial philosophy. And to contrast with what he sees as Sotomayor's expansive view on the role of the judiciary ("make policy"), he reminded me of this quote from Alito during his confirmation process.

"Results-oriented jurisprudence is never justified, because it is not our job to try to produce particular results," Alito said. "We are not policymakers. We shouldn't be implementing any sort of policy agenda, or policy preference. The judiciary should always be asking itself whether it is straying over the bounds, whether it's invading the authority of the legislature."

NJ Gov Poll: Christie Leads Corzine

On the heels of a Rasmussen poll showing him leading in the June 2 Republican primary, a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll out today finds New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie ahead of Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in a potential general election matchup (May 25-27, 600 LV, +/- 4%).

With 55% of voters holding an unfavorable opinion of Corzine, Christie holds a 46%-39% lead. Close to half of voters hold no opinion of Christie, while two-thirds don't know enough about his primary opponent, Steve Lonegan -- who leads Corzine by 3 points.

Strategy Memo: Meet the Cyber Czar

Good Friday morning. Today, President Obama will announce a new "cyber czar," the product of an administration review of the security of Internet infrastructure. Obama will later meet with his National Economic Council, and then visit FEMA headquarters for a briefing on the hurricane season. All the while, NBC cameras will be following him around as the network films an "Inside The White House" special to air next week.

North of the border, former Presidents Clinton and Bush 43 come together for a paid speech at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on the global and domestic challenges facing the U.S. and Canada. It's closed to the media, however.

Congress remains out of session until next week, with the Senate returning Monday and the House on Tuesday.

**President Obama
*Gallup: "So far in May, Barack Obama has averaged 65% job approval. Since World War II, only three of the previous eight presidents elected to their first terms -- Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan -- have had a higher average approval rating in May of their first year. Obama's average exceeds those of the three most recent presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush."

*On a Friday, The New York Times runs a trio of critical stories on Sotomayor. First, a look at questions being raised about her role with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Second, a look at her "blunt and even testy side" on the bench." More: "To detractors, Judge Sotomayor's sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner -- some lawyers have described her as 'difficult' and 'nasty -- raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen. Her demeanor on the bench is an issue that conservatives opposed to her nomination see as a potential vulnerability -- and one that Mr. Obama carefully considered before selecting her."

And for good measures, they note she hasn't voted in New York elections in 2002 (when an African American led the Democratic ticket for governor) and 2006 (when Democrats won back the Senate), but did vote in the '08 presidential.

*A somewhat surprising defense of Sotomayor from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the head of the NRSC but a former state Supreme Court justice. "I think it's terrible," he said on NPR of allegations of racism from other Republicans. "This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent."

On "Morning Joe," NBC's Chuck Todd said the only fight over Sotomayor so far is within the GOP.

*Despite winning an $8,000 jackpot at a Florida casino, the Los Angeles Times reports that Sotomayor's "net worth is probably on the low end within the federal judiciary."

*Mike writes about the traditional roles of the sherpa in the Supreme Court confirmation process.

*AP has details on today's "cyber czar" effort, coming six weeks after the White House completed a review of cyber threats. "Obama is expected to say that cyber security is a top priority of the administration and to call for a new education campaign to raise public awareness of the challenges and threats cyber security involves. ... According to officials familiar with the discussions, the cyber czar would be a special assistant to the president and would be supported by a new cyber directorate within the National Security Council."

*Meeting with Palestinian lead Mahmud Abbas, Obama "renewed pressure on Israel but rejected a timetable for his peace drive, noting domestic pressures heaped on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," AFP reports.

*Former President Bush made his own case defending his administration's national security policies in Michigan on Thursday, saying all practices employed were cleared by White House lawyers. "I made a decision within the law to get information so I can say, I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people," he said. "I can tell you, the information gained saved lives."

**Congress
*" 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews had a remarkable interview with Burris, the Illinois Democrat, and Burris only dug himself into a deeper hole as Matthews grilled him over the taped conversation," Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet writes. "Basically, Burris told Matthews that the stuff he said on the tape about raising money for Blagojevich at the same time he brought up the Senate job was just B.S."

*"Pat Roberts is the first Senate Republican to say he'll vote against Sonia Sotomayor. A conservative talk radio host dared the Kansas Republican to oppose the SCOTUS nominee -- and Roberts obliged this morning, citing his Semper Fi," Politico reports.

*In National Journal's bi-weekly Political Insiders Poll, 64% of GOP operatives say it would not be politically smart for Republicans to try to block the SCOTUS nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. A quarter said it would be.

*"All the talk of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill appears to be keeping moderate Republican Olympia Snowe in high demand among Senate Democrats. A NationalJournal.com analysis shows that as of May 13, no GOP senator had signed on to more legislation this session than Snowe, with 131 bills -- including 104 co-sponsorships, good for eighth overall in the Senate (Richard Durbin, D-Ill., was first with 136). Right behind was Snowe's fellow Maine moderate, Susan Collins..."

**Campaign Stuff
*Mitt Romney, who last we checked was not a member of the United States Senate, is not ruling out a filibuster on Sotomayor, The Hill reports. "I think the process that was applied during the Bush administration should be the same process applied during the Obama administration," Romney said. "I don't believe in the nuclear option on either side of the aisle."

*T-Paw in Huck country? Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) is going to headline the Arkansas GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner on June 26.

*Ralph Nader of all people weighs in on Terry McAuliffe, accusing the Virginia gubernatorial hopeful and former DNC chair of "orchestrating an effort to remove him from the presidential ballot in 2004. Nader tells the Washington Post that McAuliffe offered him an unspecified amount of money to campaign in 31 states if Nader would agree to pull his campaign in 19 battleground states."

*"Twenty four hours after his semi-announcement that he would take on Sen. Arlen Specter in next year's Democratic primary, Rep. Joe Sestak laid out his strategy for toppling the incumbent in a conversation with the Fix today."

*In an interview with the Plum Line, Sestak says not even White House pressure could lead him to quit the Senate race. "At the end of the day my responsibility is to [the people] here in Pennsylvania," he said.

*President Obama plays a role in the first campaign ad from Chris Dodd. "I want to give a special shout out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done," Obama says in the 30-second spot, Politico reports.

*Rep. Roy Blunt, a Senate candidate in 2010, owes nearly $7,000 in back taxes on his Georgetown home, the Kansas City Star reports. It's a result of the DC government recalculating taxes because the Blunts had been assessed with a homestead exemption.

*The Detroit News has results of a poll on the 2010 gubernatorial race. Interestingly, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), who has not expressed any interest in the race, is a favorite among primary voters. It's a close race on the Republican side, with Pete Hoekstra narrowly leading Mike Cox.

Some of the candidates already had their first forum, on Mackinac Island, of course.

*Kentucky Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo's campaign put out a poll showing him leading Attorney General Jack Conway 43-28 in the Democratic Senate primary. But Conway's camp called it "all spin," the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

*A sneak peak? Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), both front runners for Senate nominations in Florida, crossed paths in the Everglades yesterday, the St. Pete Times notes.

**Republicans
*Cornyn writes on RedState about the NRSC's endorsement of Crist in the GOP primary. The conservative blog had been critical of the move snubbing Marco Rubio's candidacy. "Some believe that we should be a monolithic Party; I disagree. While we all might wish for a Party comprised only of people who agree with us 100 percent of the time, this is a pipedream," he says. "There is no doubt both of these candidates have a bright future in the Republican Party. But with his record of leadership and astronomical approval ratings, including strong numbers among Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Charlie Crist represents the best chance for Republicans to hold this seat in Florida."

Kyle wrote about the contentious relationship in a column earlier this week.

**Sports Alert: LeBron James just took over in the 4th quarter last night, keeping the Cleveland Cavaliers from being eliminated. The series heads to Orlando tomorrow night, with the Magic ahead 3-2 in the series. The Lakers lead the Nuggets 3-2, with a chance to end the series tonight in Denver. Great, great playoffs.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

NRCC Knocking Dems for Pelosi Connection

The National Republican Congressional Committee is launching a radio and robocall offensive against Democrats for voting against an investigation into Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA misled Congress on interrogation techniques.

The radio ad will run in the districts of six Democratic members of Congress: Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24), Glenn Nye (VA-02), Tom Perriello (VA-05), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL), Vic Snyder (AR-02) and Harry Teague (NM-02).

The robocalls are going out in 10 districts: John Boccierri (OH-16), Bobby Bright (AL-02), John Hall (NY-19), Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Harry Mitchell (AZ-05), Walt Minnick (ID-01), Mark Schauer (MI-07), Steve Kagen (WI-08) and Larry Kissell (NC-08).

The ads and robocalls, which can be heard here, give the Members' office telephone number and ask the listener to call and request that the congressman either "stop siding with" or "stop voting to protect" Pelosi.

The NRCC previously announced the launch of a TV ad in Maryland's 1st District, represented by freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D). The purpose and content of the ad is much the same as the radio ads and robocalls.

NJ Gov: Lonegan Hits Romney For Christie Endorsement

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, who is counting on strong conservative support in his effort to win the GOP nomination for governor, took a swipe at former and potentially future presidential candidate Mitt Romney for endorsing his opponent, Chris Christie.

"Mitt Romney was rejected by Republican Primary voters because he was a moderate trying to pass himself off as a conservative just in time to win an election. Chris Christie has done the exact same thing in this race, so it follows that Romney would back him," he says in a statement.

"This is a case of one fraudulent moderate trying to help another one. Republican voters will see through Chris Christie the same way they did Mitt Romney last February."

Polls have consistently shown Christie ahead in the primary, but that Lonegan has a stronger base of support among more conservative voters. These voters, the campaign argues, are more likely to show up at the polls next Tuesday, and overcome Christie's support among the party establishment.

Moran Slapping McAuliffe for Past Dealings

I noted in a column a couple weeks ago how neither Brian Moran or Terry McAuliffe is being forthright with their personal and fundraising connections. With less than two weeks to go until the June 9 primary, the Moran campaign wants voters to know all about McAuliffe's.

McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and longtime fundraiser for the Clintons, is getting his past thrown in his face in recent days by fellow Virginia gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran.

The Moran campaign released a scathing statement today regarding a direct mail piece McAuliffe distributed comparing the three Democrats and one Republican vying for the state's top slot. And, as this AP piece today details, Moran is hammering him for selling stock in a business that later went into bankruptcy:

McAuliffe's most bitter primary rival is pounding him on it. State House Democratic Caucus leader Brian J. Moran's only television ad, which debuted last week, accuses McAuliffe of "working insider deals for himself."

Moran maintains the jobs lost at Global Crossing counter McAuliffe's claims that he can generate jobs for Virginia.

"It undermines his reason for running for governor," Moran said in an interview.

In reaction to the direct mail piece (which can be seen here), Moran campaign manager Andrew Roos said: "Brian Moran will take no lectures on ethics from the booking agent of the Lincoln bedroom and the architect of the Business Leadership Forum. The last place we would go for a public service lesson is a Wall Street insider. For decades, Mr. McAuliffe traded access for money, ensuring that big companies - not people - were in control, all the while pocketing millions through his proximity to power."

McAuliffe has raised the most money and run a tireless campaign, so the odds are on his side to pull out a win. Running against two longtime state legislators, though, McAuliffe needs to get his voters to the booth in the state's traditionally low-turnout primary.

Obama: Now Or Never On Healthcare

On a conference call organized through Organizing For America, the president lays down the marker on health care reform. Per the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says that if Congress doesn't deliver health care legislation this year, it will never happen.

Obama on Thursday told his re-election campaign-in-waiting that volunteers must pressure lawmakers to support the White House's goal on health care -- or else the opportunity would be forever lost. He says delay is unacceptable.

Obama's political organization, Organizing for America, plans a nationwide June 6 kickoff to pressure lawmakers and demonstrate support.

Outside Group Continues Ad Campaign In Virginia

A left-leaning group is set to air its third TV advertisement against the Republican candidate in Virginia's gubernatorial race. Common Sense Virginia is launching today a 30-second ad titled, "Jobs Governor," which combats former state attorney general Bob McDonnell's campaign mantra -- that he'll create jobs.

"Bob McDonnell has a long record of opposing help for Virginia's unemployed," said Common Sense Virginia press secretary Yoni Cohen. "McDonnell is out of touch and voted again and again to ignore the challenges Virginians face in tough times. When McDonnell claims he'll be a 'Jobs Governor,' he's gotta be kidding."

It appears to be an extensive ad buy, as the spot will air in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke -- the four largest media markets in the state.

Pawlenty Says Re-Election Decision Coming Soon

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), considered a potential presidential candidate in 2012, has a big decision to make before he tests the waters in Iowa and New Hampshire: whether to seek a third term in the North Star State. This morning, Pawlenty told Minnesota Public Radio that an announcement will come soon.

"I'm going to be making that decision sometime this summer and announcing it sometime this summer," he told the station. "Everybody will know shortly."

Pawlenty said his decision will be based in part on whether feels he still has something to offer, adding that he likes serving as a check on the Democratic-controlled Legislature. "I have a lot of energy and ideas left," he said, adding that there are family and "career considerations" that might lead him to step down.

Part of the dilemma he faces is this: as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state, a third term is no certainty. His first two victories came with less than 50 percent of the vote, and he's now considering deep cuts to the state budget to balance the books. "Anytime you're somewhat conservative in Minnesota and you run for election or re-election, it's always an uphill battle," he said.

A 2010 loss could torpedo a White House bid, and the specter of national candidacy would likely be an issue in that race. Stepping aside would, on the other hand, leave a lot more time for the rubber chicken circuit.

PA Sen Poll: Specter Leads Toomey, Sestak

A Quinnipiac poll released this morning finds Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (D) leading Republican Pat Toomey by 9 points and potential intra-party challenger Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) by 29 points (May 20-26, 1191 RV, +/- 2.8%).

Sestak said yesterday that he intends to challenge Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party one month ago today. Forty-six percent hold a favorable opinion of Specter, while 61% don't know enough about Toomey to have any opinion of him.

"Sen. Arlen Specter's numbers have slipped since the controversy that followed his switch to the Democratic Party, but he's still better off than he would have been if he stayed a Republican and faced a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

For the GOP nomination, Toomey leads Rep. Jim Gerlach and Peg Luksik by a wide margin.

General Election
Specter 46 (-7 vs. last poll, May 4)
Toomey 37 (+4)
Und 14 (+4)

Sestak 37
Toomey 35
Und 23

Dem Primary
Specter 50
Sestak 21
Und 27

GOP Primary
Toomey 38
Gerlach 10
Luksik 3
Und 47

Strategy Memo: Coast To Coast

Good morning, Washington. After waking up in Los Angeles, President Obama will board Air Force One and return to the District, where he's set to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office. A one-on-one meeting will be followed by expanded meetings with staff; the president then meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Vice President Biden today focuses on the Recovery Act in the morning, speaking with mayors and governors about its implementation one day after the administration marked the 100th day since the bill was signed into law. Tonight, Biden will become the first non-Italian to be honored by the Sons of Italy Foundation with the 2009 National Education & Leadership Award. Dr. Jill Biden, meanwhile, drops by the Spelling Bee.

Congress remains out of session for the week -- the Senate returns Monday, the House on Tuesday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation continued discussions on the environment in China yesterday, meeting with President Hu Jintao. The House GOP's third straight day of National Energy Summits continues in San Luis Obispo, Calif., following events in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

**President Obama
*Gallup: "Americans' first reactions to the news of President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court are decidedly more positive than negative, with 47% rating the nomination as 'excellent' or 'good,' 20% rating it 'only fair,' and 13% rating it 'poor.' "

*The New York Times reports that some are beginning to worry about Sonia Sotomayor's true views on abortion. "When she has written opinions that touched tangentially on abortion disputes" during her 11 years on the federal bench, "she has reached outcomes in some cases that were favorable to abortion opponents." In a letter, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, "urged supporters to press senators to demand that Judge Sotomayor reveal her views on privacy rights before any confirmation vote."

*The LA Times reports that, faced with a nearly filibuster-proof Democratic majority, Republicans "are looking for other strategies to gain political yardage in the debate" over Sotomayor. Conservative activists "see lines of attack that would make a filibuster unnecessary: They aim to paint a portrait of Sotomayor to make conservative Democrats squirm, eroding support from within Obama's party."

*AP: Obama yesterday "picked a major Democratic fundraiser as ambassador to Britain, a theology professor to represent the United States at the Vatican and a former member of the 9/11 Commission to be the top U.S. diplomat in India." Heading to London is Louis Susman, retired vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking, and a former Solomon Brothers employee.

*In Los Angeles, Obama "basked in the glow of his Hollywood supporters and thanked them for making his candidacy possible," the Times notes. Obama: "If it weren't for you, we would not be in the White House." He also gave himself a strong grade so far: "I would put these first four months up against any prior administration since F.D.R."

*Oh that Joe: the Vice President jokes about his boss' reliance on a teleprompter, and during his speech at the Air Force Academy, no less. "What am I gonna tell the president?" Biden said as a gust of wind knocked down his left teleprompter, per CNN. "I'm gonna tell him his teleprompter is broken. What will he do then?"

*Ted Kennedy has an op-ed in the Boston Globe on health care outlining the terms of a health care bill.

**Cheney Alert: In an interview with CNBC's Kudlow, Dick Cheney tempered his comments about Colin Powell. "We're happy to have General Powell in the Republican Party," Cheney said. "I meant no offense to my former colleague. I wasn't seeking to rearrange his political identity."

**In the States
*A Quinnipiac poll out this morning finds Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) leading ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R) by 9 points. Specter leads Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) 50%-21% in the Dem primary.

*TPM reported yesterday that Sestak was soliciting fundraising for a Senate bid. The second-term lawmaker then told the Philly Inquirer in an interview last night that "he needs to consult with his wife, Susan, and their 8-year-old daughter, Alex, before launching what would be an all-consuming statewide campaign."

*VA Gov: Brian Moran raised $150k at the McLean home of Ethel Kennedy, who's endorsed Moran along with her nephew, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.).

AP, on McAuliffe: "In a governor's race that's all about jobs, Terry McAuliffe is facing questions about huge profits he made from a company that collapsed two years later, leaving 10,000 people unemployed."

*Ben Smith flags a comment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who says she doesn't think there will be a Cuomo-Paterson primary in New York. "I think that at the end of the day, Andrew and the Governor are all focused on solving the problems of this state," she told NY1.

*Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) "added another layer Wednesday to the evolving story of his appointment, saying he was only trying to 'placate' then- Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother to keep his Senate prospects alive knowing no campaign money would ever change hands," the Chicago Tribune reports.

*Brownstein v. Brownstein: "The most striking thing about the 2008 election, however, is that for all the noise and hullabaloo about it being a realignment, there was very little evidence to support such a claim," RCP's Trende writes.

*At least San Francisco commuters have some good news: the bad economy is likely contributing to a 12% drop in drive-time for Bay Area workers, the first drop "since 2003, when it dipped after the technology boom went bust," SF Chronicle reports.

Sestak Says He'll Likely Challenge Specter

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), after weeks of saying he was considering a challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary next year, today announced he'll likely get in the race.

Sestak, a Navy Admiral first elected to the House in 2006, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer a short time ago that he's motivated to run because while Specter has "done some good things in the past," he's not sure he can be counted on to advance President Obama's agenda in the future.

"I don't think that a 'D' next to your name makes you a Democrat," he said.

Sestak specifically referred to health care as a driving issue, saying Specter derailed reform efforts in the '90s.

"Maybe he's changed. But I'm not sure we can take that chance," he said. "We have to ask the question, will he be with the right policies that our president presently has put out there. ... There's too much doubt in my mind not to have the intent right now to get in this race."

Sestak, who said he still wants to take time to consult with his family before formally declaring his candidacy, said he hasn't heard any encouragement or discouragement from the White House, but has occasionally spoken with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the head of the DSCC.

The White House had come out strongly in support of Specter when he announced he was switching parties last month. Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native, penned an e-mail message to Pennsylvanians in support of his former colleague.

"If the president is asked to raise money for Senator Specter, he will. If the president is asked to campaign for Senator Specter, we'll do that too," Robert Gibbs said last month. Coincidentally, Specter is with Obama tonight in California, where the president is raising money for the DNC.

The campaign of Republican Pat Toomey welcomed Sestak to the race.

"I commend him for being a principled liberal who stands up for his beliefs and values. I have always believed that Pennsylvania voters -- not party bosses in Washington -- should have the final say over whom their nominees will be," he said in a statement. A spokesperson added that a Toomey-Sestak general election would give Pennsylvanians "the kind of refreshing campaign they deserve -- honest and straightforward, without the distortions and mudslinging that characterize Arlen Specter's tired old approach to politics."

Polls show Specter with a comfortable early lead over Sestak, though it's obviously very early.

TPM first reported Sestak's heightened interest in the race.

RNC Bashes WH Stimulus Report

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele issued a statement of rebuke a mere 20 minutes after the White House released its "100 Days, 100 Projects" report on the 100th day since President Obama signed the economic stimulus package.

"In the Obama administration the word 'report' must be code for 'PR,' " Steele said. "One hundred days after spending $787 billion of the taxpayers' money, President Obama is touting a second progress 'report' on the stimulus bill to convince voters his reckless spending plan is working. Let's be clear: 100 projects, nearly $1 trillion spent, and 1 million jobs lost doesn't sound like progress to me. The Obama administration may believe its own spin, but American families want jobs and to keep more of what they earn, not another 'report.' "

According to the report, "In the first 100 days since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, we have obligated more than $112 billion, created more than 150,000 jobs."

Republicans, though, would like to keep the focus on the current job numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported at the beginning of the month that 539,000 jobs were lost in April, increasing the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent to 8.9 percent.

Is Sotomayor A Racist?

That seems to be an emerging line of attack from opponents of the new Supreme Court nominee.

The criticism is based on two incidents involving Judge Sonia Sotomayor. First, a ruling in the Second Circuit upholding a decision by the city of New Haven to deny promotions to firefighters because minorities who took the test did not pass. Second, Sotomayor's quote in a 2001 speech, that a "wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion as a judge than a white male who has not lived that life."

The "racist" counterattack began when Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor a "reverse racist" on his radio show yesterday.

"Here you have a racist - you might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist," he said. "And the libs of course say that minorities cannot be racists because they don't have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone."

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo then said last night on MSNBC that Sotomayor "appears to be a racist," calling her 2001 statement both racist and sexist.

And just an hour ago, Newt Gingrich tweeted: "White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw."

Some argue that the White House invited a race discussion by focusing so heavily on her background in yesterday's rollout. Notably today, the administration is hosting a conference call with "legal experts" to discuss her nomination, however.

UPDATE: Robert Gibbs was asked about the Gingrich statement at today's press briefing. The press secretary said it's important for people involved in this debate to be "exceedingly careful with the way in which they've decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation."

Cox Enters Michigan Governor Race

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced his bid for governor this morning, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

Cox joins a couple fellow Republicans already in the race: Rep. Pete Hoekstra and state Sen. Tom George.

Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land and Ann Arbor venture capitalist Rick Snyder are considering running. Other GOP possibilities include Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and businessman David Brandon, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) is term-limited, but Democrats come in with a nice statistic to hold up: President Obama won the state by 16 points. Of course, 2010 is a long ways from 2008.

Dueling National Endorsements In N.J. Primary

Mitt Romney, who has done some campaigning in Virginia this week, head to New Jersey tomorrow where he will endorse Chris Christie in the Republican primary for governor. Christie is considered the more moderate candidate in what is basically a two-candidate race.

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, meanwhile, today touts the support of Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, as his campaign attacks Christie on illegal immigrants. "As Governor, Steve Lonegan will stop the coddling of illegal aliens under Corzine and Christie that has made New Jersey an illegal alien sanctuary," Gilchrist says in a statement.

Gilchrist also notes that Christie has been supported by another former presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, "who made New York City one of the first places in the country to grant illegal aliens 'sanctuary' status," he adds.

The primary is next Tuesday, June 2.

Strategy Memo: How's It Playing In...

Good Wednesday morning. The President is still on the West Coast, where he starts the day with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, touring a "solar photovoltaic array" in Las Vegas. He'll then mark the "100th Day" since the Recovery Act in a speech at the Thunderbird Hangar at Nellis Air Force Base. Obama then heads to L.A. where he'll raise money for the DNC. Vice President Biden today delivers the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.

The House and Senate remain out of session for the week, though many Members still had their voices heard yesterday in response to Sonia Sotomayor's selection for the Supreme Court.

In California, where the State Supreme Court yesterday upheld Proposition 8, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has submitted to lawmakers a plan for $5 billion in budget cuts to keep the state from going under, and he's expected to come up with $3 billion more in cuts by the end of the week.

**President Obama
*AP: "The GOP faces an uphill battle in defeating the New York-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents, but Republicans are promising a thorough and perhaps lengthy hearing process that scrutinizes her record and judicial philosophy."

*Over at RCP Blog, there's a long roundup of mostly positive editorials about the Sotomayor pick.

*A New York Times analysis of Sotomayor's rulings is less than overwhelming. She "has issued no major decisions concerning abortion, the death penalty, gay rights or national security. In cases involving criminal defendants, employment discrimination and free speech, her rulings are more liberal than not. But they reveal no larger vision, seldom appeal to history and consistently avoid quotable language."


*It's probably no coincidence that some of the top aides who accompany the president, usually press secretary Robert Gibbs and sometimes David Axelrod, have stayed behind in DC to focus on the Supreme Court spin. The first 48 hours is critical with any nomination, and Axelrod in particular has been all over TV.

*Michael Steele told CNN radio: "You want to be careful" on Sotomayor. "You don't want to be perceived as a bully." He called her an "interesting pick" with "overwhelming political overtones to it."

*But CNN reports that the Columbus Police Department may have to layoff some of its force. Obama had said in February that the Recovery Act would allow the city to keep these jobs. "The White House said the $1.2 million grant only guaranteed their jobs until the end of the year. And facing a growing deficit and a fight to pass an income tax hike, Columbus Police Tuesday announced massive budget cuts that could mean hundreds of layoffs."


**In the Parties
*L.A. Times: "Rush Limbaugh called her a "reverse racist." The conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said she carried a "personal political agenda" and should be blocked from the Supreme Court. But beyond such heated criticism, commonplace in partisan court battles, the nomination Tuesday of Sonia Sotomayor to the high court brought a surprisingly muted response from the Republican senators who will actually vote on it."

*"An all-out assault on Sotomayor by Republicans could alienate both Latino and women voters, deepening the GOP's problems after consecutive electoral setbacks. But sidestepping a court battle could be deflating to the party's base and hurt efforts to rally conservatives going forward," Washington Post reports.

*"Still many liberal organizers said they weren't too worried either. In addition to the sizable Democratic Senate majority, several predicted that Republican senators would tread lightly around the first Hispanic nominee, just as Democrat felt hesitant at the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas, an African American conservative," NY Times reports.

*The RNC fumbled its talking points on Sotomayor, The Hill reports.

**In the States
*"President Barack Obama told a Las Vegas audience Tuesday night that if they like what he's been doing in office, they have Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., partly to thank. At a sold-out fundraiser that was also a concert extravaganza, Obama was back in campaign mode as he had been in Nevada so many times before the election," Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

*Does Harry Reid want his son, Rory, to run for governor next year, creating a Reid-Reid ticket? Jon Ralston doesn't think so.

*In one of their final debates before next week's Republican gubernatorial primary, Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan "turn[ed] up the heat on one another's flaws," the Star-Ledger reports.

*The California Supreme Court's decision yesterday to uphold Proposition 8 isn't stopping gay marriage advocates from preparing a new initiative, the Sacramento Bee reports.

*Gallup: "Americans' views on same-sex marriage have essentially stayed the same in the past year, with a majority of 57% opposed to granting such marriages legal status and 40% in favor of doing so. Though support for legal same-sex marriage is significantly higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1996, in recent years support has appeared to stall, peaking at 46% in 2007."

*An interesting look by L.A. Times columnist Hector Tobar at the CA-32 Democratic primary last week, in which Judy Chu -- a Chinese American -- defeated Gil Cedillo in a district where Latinos outnumber Asian Americans.

*"More than 200 state parks would be closed, college students would no longer receive Cal Grants and millions of Californians would lose health and welfare assistance under the latest proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to deal with the state budget crisis," SF Chronicle reports. Veteran Reagan/California reporter Lou Cannon has more on the California budget problems here.

*Speaker Pelosi is headlining a DCCC fundraiser in Des Moines June 6, the Des Moines Register reports.

**Sports Alert: Are the Orlando Magic really up 3 games to 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers? Amazing.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

White House Reacts To "Regrettably Predictable" Sotomayor Criticism

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today called the early criticism of Judge Sonia Sotomayor "regrettably predictable," while saying that the administration was confident she can be confirmed before the Senate adjourns this summer.

At the daily press briefing, Gibbs called concerns raised about the Supreme Court pick's record premature, saying critics need to look at her full record.

"I don't think anybody could reasonably argue, based on looking at her cases, that she's somebody that legislates from the federal bench," Gibbs told reporters. "I think that an honest and fair hearing, which we believe that she'll get, will demonstrate somebody who understands and respects the law, somebody that honors and respects judicial precedent, and somebody that the president thinks is well qualified."

Gibbs lightly knocked a "cottage industry" that "revs up" for these judicial fights, but stuck to White House talking points about Sotomayor's moderate record, noting she was appointed to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush. Republicans have been quick to point out, however, that the elder Bush was granting Senatorial courtesy to then-Sen. Patrick Moynihan of New York.

It was pointed out that seven current Republican senators voted to support Sotomayor's 1998 nomination to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Asked if the White House would consider "nay" votes by those senators hypocritical, Gibbs granted them a new opportunity to evaluate her record.

"I think they're certainly well positioned to support her again," he added.

Rep. Scott: Previous Nods Suggest Moderate Temp.

Calling her "well qualified and highly experienced," Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said Sonia Sotomayor's previous nominations to U.S. district court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton "suggests a judicial temperament that will likely be moderate."

Whether accurate or not, this seems to be a line of argument many Democrats are taking.

"I suspect her decisions on the U.S. Supreme Court will not satisfy completely neither those who wish to see a more conservative, nor those who wish to see a more liberal, philosophy than reflected by the decisions of Supreme Court Justice Souter whom she will replace."

Scott, who represents both the Hampton Roads area as well as Richmond, sits on the House Judiciary Committee and was reportedly being pushed himself by the Congressional Black Caucus for the Supreme Court vacancy.

As of 5 p.m., no Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee had statements regarding the nomination available on their official websites .

More GOP Senate Reactions to Sotomayor

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered a short statement on the nomination Sonia Sotomayor. Below we'll have his remarks, as well as a running and constantly updated post including other members of the Senate.

McCain: "I congratulate Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her nomination by the President to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. I look forward to examining her record thoroughly during the Senate confirmation process."

Here are some more: Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.).

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who's running for governor:

"While I celebrate Sonia Sotomayor's life story, I am troubled by some of her statements. Now that the president has nominated her, it's up to the Senate. She deserves a fair and respectful hearing. I look forward to a thorough process and to hearing more from her. I do have serious questions about her record and her judicial philosophy regarding how she views the role of the Court. In my view, the role of a justice is as an umpire, not a policy maker."

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri), who's retiring: "I look forward to reviewing Judge Sotomayor's record and learning more from her hearings. Judge Sotomayor once said 'I don't believe that we should bend the Constitution under any circumstances,' I agree that is how judges should rule and I will expect her to continue that view."

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.):

"Without doubt, Judge Sotomayor's personal life story is truly inspiring. I congratulate her on being nominated. As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation process, I look forward to looking closer at her recent rulings and her judicial philosophy.

"Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern. In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences."


Toomey: Nominee Deserves Fair Shot

While taking a quick shot at Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who has already indicated his approval of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for the Supreme Court, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey offered a tempered reaction to President Obama's nominee.

"For the past twenty years, the Supreme Court confirmation process has very regrettably become a political football. Arlen Specter has played those political games more aggressively than most, arguing against Judge Bork and for Justice Thomas, depending on Specter's calculation of his own political needs. That approach is bad for our country. Just as it was wrong for liberal Democrats to adopt a knee-jerk opposition to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, it would be equally wrong for Republicans to oppose Judge Sotomayor on a partisan basis. Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair hearing. If that hearing proves her to be of sound judicial temperament with the requisite knowledge of and respect for the Constitution, then she should be confirmed."

In his statement, Toomey argues against voting on Supreme Court nominees based on ideology -- as has been recent tradition. A correspondent for Polics Daily reminds us that the Senate confirmation process changed in the mid- to late-1980s -- when Joe Biden took over the reins of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Leaders Offer Thoughts on Sotomayor

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner offered the following statements on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Pelosi:

"I commend President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor's experiences and understanding of the law will assure a strong voice for fairness on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor will preserve our civil liberties, maintain the independence of the judiciary, and protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

"As the first Latina to be nominated for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor's nomination and life story are a testament to the American values of equality, opportunity, and justice. Her outstanding intellectual achievements -- as a student, attorney and judge -- make her one of the most qualified nominees in many years. I look forward to her timely confirmation by the United States Senate."


Boehner:

"Each nominee to the Supreme Court must undergo a rigorous examination, and Judge Sotomayor's record must be scrutinized thoroughly to ensure that the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is one with a consistent record of applying the law equally and impartially to all, rather than a record of judicial activism and legislating from the bench. She deserves a fair hearing on her qualifications for the Court and her record on interpreting the Constitution as it is written."

UPDATE: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer weighs in:

"In Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama has selected someone eminently qualified to serve on the nation's highest court. Overcoming adversity to rise to the upper echelons of her profession, Judge Sotomayor not only meets the standard of intellect, integrity and command of the law required of a Supreme Court Justice, but offers a breadth of experience that instructs an understanding of the law's practical impact. I hope the Senate will act quickly to move forward with confirmation proceedings."

Sotomayor Ruled On Clarett Case

Football fans will remember this one.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King notes in today's column that Sonia Sotomayor was a member of the three-judge panel that ruled against Ohio State star running back Maurice Clarett's attempt to enter the NFL Draft one year early.

Players are not eligible to enter the NFL Draft until they are three years removed from their high school graduation.

Clarett's attorney, Alan Milstein, argued that keeping Clarett out of the NFL would unreasonably restrict his client's earnings. Of course it would restrict his earnings, because it would keep him out of the NFL for another year. But the question for the three-judge panel was whether this was unreasonable or unfair.

Opined Sotomayor: "That's what unions do every day -- protect people in the union from those not in the union. Why is this case different?''


Reid Approves of Sotomayor Nomination

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), who's receiving fundraising help from President Obama tonight in Las Vegas, issued a statement of approval for the president's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor:

"As Majority Leader, I will do all I can to ensure Judge Sonia Sotomayor receives a fair and respectful hearing and the Senate's quick confirmation.

"I commend the President for selecting such an accomplished, qualified and experienced nominee to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor has had wide-ranging experience not only in the legal world, but in the real world as well, which has helped to ensure that her understanding of the law is grounded not only in theory, but also in practice.

"Both Democratic and Republican Presidents have nominated Judge Sotomayor to the federal bench, and the Senate has confirmed her with strong bipartisan support in the past. I look forward to working with both Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the Court.

"Justice Souter has been a friend of mine for a long time and powerful defender of our constitutional rights. Americans everywhere again thank him for his decades of service to the nation."

Click through for more statements from Senate Democrats.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.):

"President Obama made an impressive choice by nominating Judge Sotomayor for the position of Associate Justice for the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor's career represents the best of the American dream and she possesses distinguished and superior legal credentials. I look forward to the upcoming hearings and I hope that there is a bi-partisan effort to ensure a fair confirmation process."

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), per the Boston Globe:

"President Obama has made a history-making selection that meets his own criteria of an excellent mind coupled with real world empathy but also passes Justice Potter Stewart's famous test of someone who is neither liberal nor conservative but simply a great judge. ... Already twice confirmed by the Senate, Justice Sotomayor will be uniquely qualified to understand the challenges faced by so many Americans. I look forward to a swift and fair confirmation process in the coming months."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.):

"I strongly support President Obama's historic nomination. Judge Sotomayor's remarkable life story is an inspiring example of the American dream, and she has a highly distinguished legal background. She'll bring intelligence, insight, and experience to the vital work of protecting the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans. She is eminently qualified for the Supreme Court, and I look forward to her prompt confirmation by the Senate."

Senate Judiciary GOPers React to Sotomayor

Judiciary Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.):

"The president's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court today is an important step in a constitutional process that includes the advice and consent of the Senate. I congratulate Ms. Sotomayor on her nomination.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee's role is to act on behalf of the American people to carefully scrutinize Ms. Sotomayor's qualifications, experience, and record. We will engage in a fair and thorough examination of Ms. Sotomayor's previous judicial opinions, speeches, and academic writings to determine if she has demonstrated the characteristics that great judges share: integrity, impartiality, legal expertise, and a deep and unwavering respect for the rule of law.

"Of primary importance, we must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one's own personal preferences or political views.

Click through to read the rest of Sessions' statement.

"President Obama has stated his desire to have a full court seated at the start of its next term, a reasonable goal toward which the Judiciary Committee should responsibly and diligently move. But we must remember that a Supreme Court justice sits for a lifetime appointment, and the Senate hearing is the only opportunity for the American people to engage in the nomination process. Adequate preparation will take time. I will insist that, consistent with recent confirmation processes, every senator be accorded the opportunity to prepare, ask questions, and receive full and complete answers.

"I look forward to the coming months as we move forward with this process. As I told the president this morning, I will do all I can to ensure that Ms. Sotomayor receives a fair hearing before the Committee. I firmly believe that the American people deserve a full and thoughtful debate about the proper role of a judge in the American legal system, an issue that will be central to our review of Ms. Sotomayor's record."

Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.):

"I congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her nomination to the United States Supreme Court.

"Each member of the Senate has a constitutional duty to scrutinize judicial nominees before deciding whether to support their confirmation, and I will take great care in examining her record to ensure that she demonstrates personal integrity, a commitment to the rule of law, and a judicial temperament.

"To that end, when John Roberts was first nominated on July 19,, 2005, and subsequently re-nominated to be Chief Justice on September 6, 2005, Senate Republicans afforded the minority ample time to adequately examine his background and qualifications before he received a confirmation vote 73 days later.

"When Samuel Alito was first nominated on October 31, 2005, the minority was afforded 93 days before he received a confirmation vote on January 31, 2006.

"I would expect that Senate Democrats will afford the minority the same courtesy as we move forward with this process."

John Cornyn (R-Texas):

"Now that President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the United States Supreme Court, it is time for the Senate to perform its Constitutional duty of advice and consent. Because Judge Sotomayor would serve for life if she is confirmed, it is essential that the Senate conducts this process thoroughly and the President has assured me that we will have ample time to give Ms. Sotomayor's record a full and fair review.

"Therefore, it is imperative that my colleagues and members of the media do not pre-judge or pre-confirm Ms. Sotomayor. It is my hope that the process will allow her to prove herself to possess the impartiality, integrity, legal expertise and judicial temperament that we have come to expect from those that sit on our highest court. She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences."

Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):

"I congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her nomination and commend President Obama for nominating the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to the United States Supreme Court. The confirmation process must focus on determining whether Judge Sotomayor is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. Qualifications for judicial service include not only experience and character but, most importantly, a proper understanding of the power and role of judges in our system of government. Judges must decide cases based on the law, not on their personal views or opinions. Judges swear an oath to decide cases impartially, without regard to the identity of the parties before them. I will focus on determining whether Judge Sotomayor is committed to deciding cases based only on the law as made by the people and their elected representatives, not on personal feelings or politics. I look forward to a fair and thorough process."

Charles Grassley (R-Iowa):

"A lifetime appointment requires a thorough vetting, and I expect Judge Sotomayor to receive fair and deliberative consideration. The United States Senate has a responsibility to carefully review nominees to the Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee should take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences. We need to ask tough questions to learn how this individual views the role of a Supreme Court justice. The last 25 years of Senate review of nominees has been entirely different than the first 200 years, and today the Senate can't just be a rubber stamp for President Obama's nominees."

The Rollout: Obama Praises Sotomayor's Experience

President Obama called Sonia Sotomayor "an inspiring woman" with a "distinguished career" as he nominated her to the Supreme Court today.

In choosing a justice, Obama said he had three qualifications. First, a "rigorous intellect" and "mastery of the law." Also, he said a judge must understand that his or her job is "to interpret, not make law."

But he said paramount was the quality of experience. "It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live," he said.

Touting her qualifications, Obama said that the New York judge "would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed."

Of all the rulings she has made, he highlighted one in particular: to end an injunction that paved the way for Major League Baseball to resume after a lengthy strike. "Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball," the president said.

Admitting her nervousness as she spoke to the audience in the East Room, Sotomayor thanked her family, especially her mother. "I am all I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is," she said.

She highlighted the "challenging circumstances" of her life, coming from a Bronx housing project to this lofty status.

"This wealth of experiences, personal and professional, have helped me appreciate the variety of perspectives that present themselves in every case that I hear," she said. "I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government."

Obama said he hoped the Senate would act "in a bipartisan fashion," noting that they confirmed Sotomayor twice already, and that she was first appointed to the federal bench by a Republican President, George H. W. Bush.

"And when Sonia Sotomayor ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court in the land, America will have taken another important step toward realizing the ideal that is etched about its entrance: Equal justice under the law," he said.

After the jump, see the White House's background briefing memo on Judge Sotomayor.

Sonia Sotomayor has served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since October 1998. She has been hailed as "one of the ablest federal judges currently sitting" for her thoughtful opinions,i and as "a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity"ii for her ascent to the federal bench from an upbringing in a South Bronx housing project.

Her American story and three decade career in nearly every aspect of the law provide Judge Sotomayor with unique qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Justice. She is a distinguished graduate of two of America's leading universities. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator. Before she was promoted to the Second Circuit by President Clinton, she was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. She replaces Justice Souter as the only Justice with experience as a trial judge.

Judge Sotomayor served 11 years on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most demanding circuits in the country, and has handed down decisions on a range of complex legal and constitutional issues. If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit, said "Sonia is an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind. She brings a wealth of knowledge and hard work to all her endeavors on our court. It is both a pleasure and an honor to serve with her."

In addition to her distinguished judicial service, Judge Sotomayor is a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School until 2007.

An American Story
Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II - her mother served in the Women's Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father's death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.

Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.

At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate. At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. One of Sotomayor's former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school: "She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone." [Washington Post, 5/7/09]

A Champion of the Law
Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system - yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable - and is currently not represented -- on our highest court. New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an "able champion of the law" who would be "highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character could be assets." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09]

A Fearless and Effective Prosecutor
Fresh out of Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor became an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan in 1979, where she tried dozens of criminal cases over five years. Spending nearly every day in the court room, her prosecutorial work typically involved "street crimes," such as murders and robberies, as well as child abuse, police misconduct, and fraud cases. Robert Morgenthau, the person who hired Judge Sotomayor, has described her as a "fearless and effective prosecutor." [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/09] She was cocounsel in the "Tarzan Murderer" case, which convicted a murderer to 67 and ∏ years to life in prison, and was sole counsel in a multiple-defendant case involving a Manhattan housing project shooting between rival family groups.

A Corporate Litigator
She entered private practice in 1984, becoming a partner in 1988 at the firm Pavia and Harcourt. She was a general civil litigator involved in all facets of commercial work including, real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law. In addition, her practice had a significant concentration in intellectual property law, including trademark, copyright and unfair competition issues. Her typical clients were significant corporations doing international business. The managing partner who hired her, George Pavia, remembers being instantly impressed with the young Sonia Sotomayor when he hired her in 1984, noting that "she was just ideal for us in terms of her background and training." [Washington Post, May 7, 2009]

A Sharp and Fearless Trial Judge
Her judicial service began in October 1992 with her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush. Still in her 30s, she was the youngest member of the court. From 1992 to 1998, she presided over roughly 450 cases. As a trial judge, she earned a reputation as a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into departing from the rule of law. In 1995, for example, she issued an injunction against Major League Baseball owners, effectively ending a baseball strike that had become the longest work stoppage in professional sports history and had caused the cancellation of the World Series the previous fall. She was widely lauded for saving baseball. Claude Lewis of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that by saving the season, Judge Sotomayor joined "the ranks of Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams."

A Tough, Fair and Thoughtful Jurist
President Clinton appointed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998. She is the first Latina to serve on that court, and has participated in over 3000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions. Sitting on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has tackled a range of questions: from difficult issues of constitutional law, to complex procedural matters, to lawsuits involving complicated business organizations. In this context, Sotomayor is widely admired as a judge with a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine. "'She appreciates the complexity of issues,' said Stephen L. Carter, a Yale professor who teaches some of her opinions in his classes. Confronted with a tough case, Carter said, 'she doesn't leap at its throat but reasons to get to the bottom of issues.'" For example, in United States v. Quattrone, Judge Sotomayor concluded that the trial judge had erred by forbidding the release of jurors' names to the press, concluding after carefully weighing the competing concerns that the trial judge's concerns for a speedy and orderly trial must give way to the constitutional freedoms of speech and the press.

Sotomayor also has keen awareness of the law's impact on everyday life. Active in oral arguments, she works tirelessly to probe both the factual details and the legal doctrines in the cases before her and to arrive at decisions that are faithful to both. She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts. For example, In United States v. Reimer, Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales and a series of similar cases, she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control, evincing in her opinions a keen awareness of those women's plights.

Judge Sotomayor's appreciation of the real-world implications of judicial rulings is paralleled by her sensible practicality in evaluating the actions of law enforcement officers. For example, in United States v. Falso, the defendant was convicted of possessing child pornography after FBI agents searched his home with a warrant. The warrant should not have been issued, but the agents did not know that, and Judge Sotomayor wrote for the court that the officers' good faith justified using the evidence they found. Similarly in United States v. Santa, Judge Sotomayor ruled that when police search a suspect based on a mistaken belief that there is a valid arrest warrant out on him, evidence found during the search should not be suppressed. Ten years later, in Herring v. United States, the Supreme Court reached the same conclusion. In her 1997 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor spoke of her judicial philosophy, saying" I don't believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it." Her record on the Second Circuit holds true to that statement. For example, in Hankins v. Lyght, she argued in dissent that the federal government risks "an unconstitutional trespass" if it attempts to dictate to religious organizations who they can or cannot hire or dismiss as spiritual leaders. Since joining the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has honored the Constitution, the rule of law, and justice, often forging consensus and winning conservative colleagues to her point of view.

A Commitment to Community
Judge Sotomayor is deeply committed to her family, to her co-workers, and to her community. Judge Sotomayor is a doting aunt to her brother Juan's three children and an attentive godmother to five more. She still speaks to her mother, who now lives in Florida, every day. At the courthouse, Judge Sotomayor helped found the collegiality committee to foster stronger personal relationships among members of the court. Seizing an opportunity to lead others on the path to success, she recruited judges to join her in inviting young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods Her favorite project, however, is the Development School for Youth program, which sponsors workshops for inner city high school students. Every semester, approximately 70 students attend 16 weekly workshops that are designed to teach them how to function in a work setting. The workshop leaders include investment bankers, corporate executives and Judge Sotomayor, who conducts a workshop on the law for 25 to 35 students. She uses as her vehicle the trial of Goldilocks and recruits six lawyers to help her. The students play various roles, including the parts of the prosecutor, the defense attorney, Goldilocks and the jurors, and in the process they get to experience openings, closings, direct and cross-examinations. In addition to the workshop experience, each student is offered a summer job by one of the corporate sponsors. The experience is rewarding for the lawyers and exciting for the students, commented Judge Sotomayor, as "it opens up possibilities that the students never dreamed of before." [Federal Bar Council News, Sept./Oct./Nov. 2005, p.20] This is one of many ways that Judge Sotomayor gives back to her community and inspires young people to achieve their dreams.

She has served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Boards of Directors of the New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Judiciary Chairman Leahy, Specter on Sotomayor

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a top player in Sonia Sotomayor's movement through the Senate confirmation process, issued a statement today regarding her nomination. Here is an excerpt:

While I was visiting with our troops in Afghanistan today, President Obama called to inform me that he will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench. She has been nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and she was twice confirmed by the Senate with strong, bipartisan support. Her record is exemplary. Judge Sotomayor's nomination is an historic one, and when confirmed she will become the first Hispanic Justice, and just the third woman to sit on the nation's highest court. Having a Supreme Court that better reflects the diversity of America helps ensure that we keep faith with the words engraved in Vermont marble over the entrance of the Supreme Court: "Equal justice under law."

Click through for more reaction from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, including Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).

Specter:

"I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process."

Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.):

"I congratulate Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her nomination to the United States Supreme Court and President Obama on his first Supreme Court nomination. I supported Judge Sotomayor's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998 and from all accounts, she is a highly qualified and very experienced judge. Judge Sotomayor's nomination marks a historic moment for our nation. She is the first Hispanic American to be nominated to our nation's highest court and if confirmed, she would be just the third woman to serve on the Court. Evaluating a Supreme Court nominee is a responsibility I take very seriously considering the significant impact a Supreme Court justice can have on our country. I look forward to thoroughly reviewing Judge Sotomayor's record and questioning her during the Judiciary Committee's hearings."

25 Republicans Voted To Confirm Sotomayor In 1998

Sonia Sotomayor last faced a confirmation vote in the Senate in 1998, when President Clinton chose her for her current seat on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. A hold was placed on the nomination, but she was eventually confirmed on October 2 by a 67-29 vote.

In total, 25 Republicans voted for her nomination, while 29 voted against it. Of those who are still serving in the Senate, the vote breaks down 8 for, 11 against.

Here are the Republicans who voted for, and against, her nomination. Current members are in bold. Current members of the Judiciary Committee are bold and italics. (Note -- Specter is now a Democrat).

Yays:
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.)
Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.)
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.)
Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)
Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn.)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.)
Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.)
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)
Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)
Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Sen. Bill Roth (R-Del.)
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.)

Sen. Tedd Stevens (R-Alaska)
Sen. John Warner (R-Va.)

Nays:
Sen. Sepncer Abraham (R-Mich.)
Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.)
Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)
Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.)
Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.)
Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)
Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.)
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla)
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.)
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.)
Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.)
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.)

GOP Leaders' Statements On Sotomayor

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued the following statement today, as President Obama introduced Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee:

"Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.

"Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a 'rubber stamp.' Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications."

RNC Chairman Michael Steele:

"Republicans look forward to learning more about federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor's thoughts on the importance of the Supreme Court's fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law. Supreme Court vacancies are rare, which makes Sonia Sotomayor's nomination a perfect opportunity for America to have a thoughtful discussion about the role of the Supreme Court in our daily lives. Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views."

Strategy Memo: It's Sotomayor -- Let The Games Begin

Good morning, Washington. Nothing shakes off the Memorial Day weekend cobwebs like the announcement of a Supreme Court nominee. AP reports that President Obama will choose Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, she would be the first Hispanic woman to serve on the high court. The pick will be announced in the East Room at 10:15.

Obama's public schedule for today had been suspiciously open. He'll leave for Las Vegas this afternoon, where he'll hold a star-studded fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Vice President Biden, meanwhile, holds a Middle Class Task Force meeting in Colorado.

Although the House and Senate are out of session until next week, many Members are still working. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation in China, where she's been discussing climate change. House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence is leading an American Energy Solutions Group event in Pittsburgh today and Indianapolis tomorrow.

**President Obama
*The pick comes today, at 10:15 am, per a White House official.

*In listing the "final four" this morning, the New York Times noted that the candidates, including Sotomayor, "are liberal on most issues that divide the court -- and surely too liberal for many Republican senators -- but have not been the outspoken leaders of the legal left that advocates crave."

*Obama told C-SPAN this weekend: "What I want is not just ivory tower learning. I want somebody who has the intellectual firepower but also a little bit of a common touch and a practical sense of how the world works."

*North Korea: UN Ambassador Susan Rice made the rounds of the morning talk shows today to talk North Korea. AP: Rice said "that China's growing increasing concern about North Korea's nuclear tests presents the international community with a stronger diplomatic card to play against the Pyongyang regime."

*Yesterday, Obama said: "As a result North Korea is not only deepening its own isolation, it's also inviting stronger international pressure -- that's evident overnight, as Russia and China, as well a our traditional allies of South Korea and Japan, have all come to the same conclusion: North Korea will not find security and respect through threats and illegal weapons."

*Cillizza notes that Obama's stop in Las Vegas today is part of a string of fundraising visits already. "The Reid event is the fourth fundraiser Obama has done for the party -- he raised money for the Democratic National Committee in March at the Warner Theater in Washington and again in Indiana last weekend. During that same weekend in Indiana, Obama held an event to benefit four Hoosier State House Members: Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Andre Carson."

*Just more than half of Michigan voters think Gov. Jennifer Granholm would have made a fine Supreme Court Justice, according to a Detroit News poll

**Congress
*WSJ: "U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the past one of China's sharpest critics, Tuesday promoted common ground with China in the fight to combat global warming. 'I think this climate crisis is game changing for the U.S.-China relationship. It is an opportunity we cannot miss,' Ms. Pelosi told the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, which brings together experts and businesses from both sides to come up with recommendations on climate-change policy."

*"The congressional drive to bring tobacco under Food & Drug Administration control -- given new life in the Senate last week -- is poised to approach the finish line in the Senate in June, but not without a bipartisan fight from North Carolina's two senators," The Hill reports.

**Republicans
*Everyone's favorite game: CNN's latest poll shows that Colin Powell has a much higher favorability rating (70 percent) than Dick Cheney (37 percent) or Rush Limbaugh (30 percent).

*And Tom Ridge weighed in on the internal battle this weekend, telling CNN: "I think for the American public, for the Republican Party to restore itself, not as a regional party, but as a national party, we have to be far less judgmental about disagreements within the party and far more judgmental about our disagreement with our friends on the other side of the aisle. "

**Campaign Stuff
*NY Daily News: "Former Long Island Rep. Rick Lazio today took the first formal step toward a 2010 run for governor by filing paperwork with the state Board of Elections to create a new campaign committee."

*Denver Post: "Michael Bennet's record U.S. Senate fundraising pace is built on out-of-state donations, Colorado donors concentrated in Denver, and well-heeled associates from his past endeavors in politics and business."

*One of the Republicans' top candidates to challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), Tim Griffin, is out.

*PA Sen: Rep. Joe Sestak told the Philly Inquirer he's "leaning very much toward getting in" the Democratic primary for Senate, despite the endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter by Obama, Gov. Ed Rendell and Sen. Bob Casey.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

AP: Obama Picks Sotomayor

President Obama will attempt to make Sonia Sotomayor the first Latino justice on the Supreme Court, the AP reports.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Officials tell The Associated Press that President Barack Obama intends to nominate federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor (SUHN'-ya soh-toh-my-YOR') as the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter if confirmed by the Senate. The officials spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because Obama has not yet announced his decision.

The White House has called a 10:15 a.m. news conference in the East Room, where Obama will formally announce the nomination.

Obama To Announce SCOTUS Pick Today

A White House official confirms that President Obama will announce his choice to replace Justice David Souter this morning at 10:15 am.

UPDATE: AP reports that the choice is Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The White House now announces that the pick will be made in the East Room.

Obama E-Mails Connecticut Dems

President Obama e-mailed more than 100,000 supporters of the Democratic National Committee and Obama's own Organizing for America in Connecticut to show his support for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) -- a potentially vulnerable incumbent in 2010.

In the message, Obama thanked Dodd for his "extraordinary efforts" on the credit card reform bill the president signed this afternoon at the White House.

"But today -- thanks to the extraordinary efforts by your senator, Chris Dodd -- I signed a bill that restores a sense of fairness and transparency to the credit card insutry," Obama writes in the e-mail. "As Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Dodd was the driving force behind this bill."

Obama then asks supporters to send Dodd a thank you note for his "exceptional service," including their name, e-mail address, home address and phone number.

House GOP Leaders Respond To Pelosi Newser

The three top Republican leaders in the House issued statements responding to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's news conference today -- which was heavier on opening remarks than answering reporters' questions.

Minority Leader John Boehner:

"Today, the Speaker stood by her accusation against our intelligence professionals. She has had more than a week to produce evidence supporting her allegation that the CIA deliberately lied to Congress and does so 'all the time.' She still has not done so, and House Democrats are now stonewalling a bipartisan investigation to determine the facts. That is simply unacceptable. Claiming that the CIA engaged in a pattern of deception without either backing it up with evidence or retracting her statement and apologizing is an affront to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country. They deserve better than this type of stonewalling."

Minority Whip Eric Cantor:

"I'm disappointed that Speaker Pelosi has stood by her troubling allegation that the CIA lied to Congress and does so 'all of the time.' Equally troubling is that Speaker Pelosi has failed to make any effort to offer evidence that substantiates her accusations, has stood in the way of a bipartisan investigation to find the facts, and even refused to answer questions from reporters searching for the truth.

"The men and women dedicating their lives to the safety and security of our country deserve better than the behavior that Speaker Pelosi - second in line to the Presidency - has exhibited. Moving forward, I hope that Speaker Pelosi will permit her Members to support a bipartisan investigation so the American people can judge the facts for themselves."

GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence:

"While Speaker Pelosi may view the CIA misleading Congress as a 'distraction,' this is a serious matter of national security. Last night Republicans brought forward a simple resolution that would have allowed a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of this important issue. Democrats voted unanimously to reject the investigation.

"The American people deserve to know that their Speaker and their national intelligence officials are serving this country honestly and with integrity. It is time for Congress to insist that the House intelligence committee immediately begin a bipartisan investigation into this matter and make a full public report to Congress."


VA Gov Poll: McAuliffe Leads Again

For the third time in two days, a new poll shows Terry McAuliffe leading his Democratic primary opponents -- State Sen. Creigh Deeds and former State Del. Brian Moran -- in the race for governor of Virginia. Today, a new PPP poll shows McAuliffe ahead of both candidates by 9 points, with close to a third of June 9 primary voters still undecided.

Deeds, who was endorsed today by the Washington Post, has jumped ahead to tie Moran for second place and enjoys the highest favorability rating (42%) among the three candidates. More people have an unfavorable opinion of McAuliffe (36%) than Deeds (16%) or Moran (20%).

McAuliffe 29 (-1 vs. last poll, May 5)
Moran 20 (nc)
Deeds 20 (+6)
Und 31 (-5)

Obama Reinforces Security Message At Annapolis

President Obama again made his case that closing Guantanamo Bay is the right move, saying that Americans "reject the false choice between our security and our ideals."

"As our national debate on how to deal with the security challenge that we face proceeds, we must remember this enduring truth: The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security," Obama told the graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. "We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are."

Obama's third and final commencement speech was, by tradition, at one of the military service academies. And there, the commander in chief also promised only to send these men and women into battle "when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done."

He also payed special tribute to the work of Navy SEALs in last month's high-risk rescue of Captain Phillips, held hostage by pirates off the Somali coast.

OH Sen: Brunner Facing Pressure With Redistricting Looming

The retirement of Sen. George Voinovich presented Democrats with another opportunity to build on their recent winning streak in the Buckeye State. The party took all but one of the statewide offices in 2006, including a landslide win by Gov. Ted Strickland. In 2008, Democrats not only turned the state blue in the presidential race, but took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in 14 years.

But now a looming Democratic primary contest spells trouble for the party. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner both have set their sights on the Voinovich seat and Democrats worry that a bitter and costly primary fight might not only weaken the party's chances of winning the seat next year (shoring up their dominance in the U.S. Senate). It could also weaken Democratic chances of controlling the Ohio redistricting process that begins after 2010.

That's why some Democrats say Brunner should give up the race and seek re-election to her current job. In her current job as secretary of state, Brunner happens to be one of five members of the Ohio Apportionment Board that oversees the redrawing of state legislative and congressional district lines.

Also on the board are the governor, state auditor, and two representatives from the state legislature, including one of the minority party. Gov. Strickland is a slight favorite to win re-election next year. State Auditor Mary Taylor, a Republican, announced this week that she would seek re-election too. If both were to win, that would make the secretary of state the swing seat in the apportionment process. Republicans held majorities in the reapportionment panel in 1991 and 2001.

It hasn't helped Brunner's case that Fisher, buoyed by support from Gov. Strickland, has gotten off to a fast fundraising start. She reported raising just $207,000 in the first quarter, compared to $1 million raised by her Democratic rival. Brunner attributes the early disparity to Fisher's longer career in state politics, having served as attorney general from 1991-95, and his failed 1998 gubernatorial bid. But Brunner herself is hardly an unknown: She succeeded the controversial Ken Blackwell in a job that has assumed a high profile because of Ohio's need to fix election systems strained by large turnouts and close finishes in the key presidential battleground state.

So far Brunner isn't buckling. She wrote to party leaders this week insisting she was in the Senate race for good. "I want to make it clear that under no circumstances will I consider seeking re-election to the Secretary of State's position, or any other statewide or federal office, other than the open U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator George Voinovich," she said in an email to key Democrats last week, as reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Meanwhile, former Rep. and Bush OMB director Rob Portman appears to have a clear field in winning the GOP Senate nomination. Though early polls show him being beaten by either Brunner or Fisher, he is personally popular and dissatisfaction with Democratic dominance in Washington could be a bigger factor by late 2010.

NRCC Responds To Pelosi News Conference

NRCC Communications Director Ken Spain issued the following statement in response to the Democratic leadership press conference:

"Speaker Pelosi stammered and filibustered around the elephant in the room because she knows full well that she has become a political liability to her fellow Democrats in Congress. Her obsession with the previous administration and her disdain for America's intelligence officials has reduced her to cheerleader status within the far left wing of her party and a distraction to the substantive debate over how to best move our economy forward."

Pelosi, Dem Leaders Sum Up First Five Months

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's weekly news conference is usually held on Thursdays, but this week it was pushed to this morning. As Pelosi entered the small reporter-packed briefing room, behind her followed Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen (Md.).

Following last week's performance, during which Pelosi said the CIA had misled Congress -- comments roundly criticized by Republicans -- it appeared Pelosi was bringing in backup. Officially, though, the Democratic leaders were there to sign off on the first five months of the 111th Congress, as members head off for a week-long Memorial Day break.

Asked about her commments last week and Minority Leader John Boehner's request for an inquiry into them, Pelosi said, "I stand by my comment. What we are doing is staying on our course, and not be distracted from it."

Before the question-and-answer session with reporters, Pelosi, Hoyer, Becerra and Van Hollen touted the work Congress has done since January, including the SCHIP expansion and the bills being signed by President Obama today -- a weapons systems acquisition reform bill and a credit card holders' bill of rights.

"What we have done in these last five months has been a joint effort with President Obama," Pelosi said.

The leaders were also ecstatic that the Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Waxman-Markey climate change bill last night. Pelosi called Waxman's effort to win consensus "masterful."

Pelosi and Hoyer traded compliments, smiles and private jokes, and emphasized that they were working in close tandem.

"The partnership, frankly, between Speaker Pelosi and I over the last six years," Hoyer said, "I might say it has been a leadership team."

Pelosi also confirmed she is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to China next week, as had been reported.

Strategy Memo: Memorial Day Break!

Happy Memorial Day Friday, Washington and beyond! There are no more votes scheduled in either chamber of Congress until after the week-long break, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sticking around for one last press conference at 10:15 this morning. Her last one drew some criticism, so Pelosi's performance today will be closely monitored.

Today, President Obama delivers the commencement address at the US Naval Academy, his third and final commencement speech. Sen. John McCain will be in attendance, as will his son John Sidney McCain IV, who is graduating.

Before the speech, Obama will sign the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act; afterward, he signs the credit card bill into law -- yet another example of him ignoring a campaign pledge to wait five days after passage of a bill to sign it into law. Obama will spend Memorial Day weekend at Camp David.

**President Obama
*New York Times' Baker writes that Obama "faces a daunting challenge. He must convince the country that it is in safe hands despite warnings to the contrary from the right, and at the same time persuade the skeptical left that it is enough to amend his predecessor's approach rather than abandon it. ... Rather than an easily labeled program, Mr. Obama is picking seemingly disparate elements from across the policy continuum -- banning torture and other harsh interrogation techniques but embracing the endless detention of certain terror suspects without trial, closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but retaining the military commissions held there."

*Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on "Today" that the administration had no choice but to close Guantanamo, which he called "probably one of the finest prisons in the world today." But it had become "a taint" on the reputation of America, he said.

*AP on Obama's speech today: Obama "planned to tell the graduates that his administration would invest in military personnel to fight the unconventional threats facing the country, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the speech ahead of its delivery.

*Obama will be speaking to an Annapolis class that includes Jack McCain, son of the Arizona senator. McCain will receive a Bachelor of Science degree, take the oath of office and be commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy 103 years after his great-grandfather did the same, CNN reports.

*Joe Biden will visit Lebanon today. WaPo: "The planned visit is interesting enough, but so is the announcement. Normally, senior U.S. officials never announce in advance that they are traveling to Beirut, for security reasons. The main airport is located in the Southern part of the city and diplomatic motorcades generally have to travel through Hezbollah-controlled territory to get to Beirut's center for meetings."

*"A new tax on employer-provided health insurance is emerging as a likely option to finance an overhaul of the nation's health-care system, key Democrats say, despite opposition from organized labor and possibly the Obama administration," Washington Post reports.

**Congress
*House Democrats unanimously lined up behind Speaker Pelosi yesterday (and two Republicans, too), "rejecting a Republican resolution calling for an investigation into the California Democrat's assertion the CIA misled her about the nature of terrorist interrogations in 2002," Washington Post reports.

*Charlie Cook writes: "If I were a confidant of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, my advice to the California Democrat would be, 'No more news conferences. No more television appearances. Keep your public profile low. Focus on what you do best.' "

*71% of Dem members of Congress say Pelosi has hurt herself a little and 81% of GOP members say she's hurt herself a lot with her handling of the waterboarding controversy.

*"Eleven Democrats crossed the aisle to support a GOP-sponsored resolution blocking any future funding for Jack Murtha's lushly appointed and under-used airport in Johnstown, Penn," Politico reports.

*"The Senate late Thursday easily passed a $91 billion spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After stripping it of funds to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and placing restrictions on the transfer of its detainees, the bill was adopted 86 to 3," CNN reports. The Senate also inserted language prohibiting the release of detainee photos.

*"A controversial climate-change bill cleared a key hurdle on Thursday night, passing the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a 33-25 vote. The 932-page bill imposes dramatic cuts on greenhouse-gas emissions and creates a cap-and-trade system requiring power plants, manufacturers and other polluters to buy emissions allowances. Only four Democrats voted against the bill, an indication of the series of compromises made by the sponsors of the legislation," Waxman and Markey, Politico reports.

**Republicans
*"Founded in the decade before the Civil War as the Northern voice of union, the Republican Party today is more electorally dependent on the South than at any point in its past. In the House and Senate, nearly half of all Republicans were elected from that region, defined as the 11 states of the Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma," National Journal reports.

*The RNC released a web video this morning that attempts to highlight a difference of opinion among Democrats on Gitmo.

**Campaign Stuff
*The Washington Post endorsed Creigh Deeds in the Democratic primary for governor in Virginia.

*Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tells ABC that the 2010 landscape will be decided not by national security, but by "spending and borrowing and the anxiety the public have there as well as the failure to deal with other looming fiscal challenges like entitlement reform that threaten to swamp us."

*Florida Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson decided not to run for governor, leaving Attorney General Bill McCollum as the leading Republican in the race. Or did he? "Bronson was, however, careful not to completely rule out a possible run for governor. He noted there are 18 months to go before the 2010 general election, and not until July 2010 will candidates officially qualify."

*A DSCC-commissioned poll shows Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) leading Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) 56-16.

*Terry McAuliffe led the VA Gov Dem Primary field in two polls released yesterday, while Republican Bob McDonnell led all three Dems in both polls as well.

*Conservative Crist?: "Looking to tout his conservative credentials, Gov. Charlie Crist wrote an op-ed in [yesterday's] Tampa Tribune attacking President Obama's budget proposals while making the case that he cut taxes and spending as governor of Florida. This, from the governor who stood alongside the president at a rally designed to help him win key support for a stimulus bill that was opposed by most Republicans," Politico's Kraushaar reports.

More on Crist: "With the faltering economy squeezing would-be primary contenders for the 2010 Senate race, the focus for the next 18 months is likely to stay on Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D). For now, advantage Crist," National Journal's Herbert writes.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

VA Gov Poll: McDonnell Leads Three Dems

A second Virginia governor race poll released today, this one by Daily Kos/Research 2000 (May 18-20, 600 LV, MoE +/- 5%), shows Republican Bob McDonnell leading the three Democrats vying for the party nomination. The Daily Kos poll also shows Terry McAuliffe leading Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds by double digits in the Democratic primary race.

Some of the numbers in the SurveyUSA poll released earlier today were significantly different than the Daily Kos survey. Deeds' 13 points in the Dem primary in this poll were half what he got in the SUSA poll, while the McAuliffe and Moran numbers were practically identical.

For the general election, McAuliffe performed the best against McDonnell in the SUSA poll, while Moran performs best in this one.

Dem Primary
McAuliffe 36
Moran 22
Deeds 13

General Election
McDonnell 42 - Moran 35 - Und 23

McDonnell 44 - McAuliffe 34 - Und 22

McDonnell 45 - Deeds 32 - Und 23

Pelosi Reaction to Obama Nat'l Security Speech

UPDATED with a statement from House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Here is a statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the national security speech President Obama delivered this morning from the National Archives:

"I share President Obama's commitment to protecting the American people while preserving American values. The President offered a sensible, balanced approach to the treatment of detainees and to the handling of state secrets. President Obama pledged to reassert our nation's moral authority and the rule of law consistent with providing maximum security to the American people.

"President Obama proved again today that being honest with the American people about the threats we face, without resorting to hyperbole and fear mongering, is how responsible leaders conduct themselves in dangerous and difficult times. Congress will continue to work hand-in-hand with the President to provide our military and intelligence services all the tools they need to fight terrorism and to keep the American people safe."


Here is Boehner's reaction to Obama's speech:

"Today the President spoke a great deal about trust, but he did not provide Americans with a clear plan for what to do with these terrorists. What he did make clear is that despite overwhelming opposition from the American people and a bipartisan majority here in Congress, he's moving ahead with either releasing or importing the terrorists currently held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States. With all due respect to the President, this is a pre-9/11 mentality and it will make our nation less safe. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. "It's disappointing that the President dismissed the concerns of the American people and a strong bipartisan majority in Congress about releasing these terrorists or importing them into our local communities. I've supported the President's approach to Afghanistan and Iraq, but on this one I think he's wrong, and most Americans agree. Two weeks ago, Republicans introduced the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act to ensure they won't end up in our communities. This legislation ensures that governors and state legislators must pre-approve the transfer of prisoners into their states. More than 150 Republicans have co-sponsored this bill thus far, and I think the Congress needs to pass it."

NJ Gov: Christie Takes On Corzine In New TV Ad

With recent polls showing that Chris Christie is poised to avoid a scare in the Republican primary, his campaign signals today that it's shifting focus back to the Democratic incumbent in the New Jersey gubernatorial contest.

Christie's camp released this tough new television ad today, taking direct aim at Gov. Jon Corzine (D) for using his personal wealth to get elected, "attacking everyone in his path."

"Spend enough on negative ads, and maybe we'll ignore the governor's record of high taxes, tremendous debt, and failed leadership," the former U.S. attorney says. Christie promises to cut taxes and grow the economy to "make New Jersey affordable again."

"Want to change Trenton? Let's start by changing governors," he concludes.

Corzine launched his first TV ads last week. The primary is June 2.

Obama's Speech: Restoring American Values To Keep U.S. Safe

From my perch at the National Archives, President Obama's national security speech actually felt like two speeches.

For the first 20 minutes, Obama outlined the situation he inherited, the immediate steps he took to reverse what he considered the failed approach of his predecessor. This section was at times defensive, but delivered with a bit more passion than Americans have seen from the president recently. The second section was at times a wonky, legalistic outline of the next steps he plans to take. He conceded the difficulty his administration has had living up to the goals he stated on the campaign trail, but made it clear he still intended to fulfill them.

The dominant theme of the first portion was values.

He used the word a half dozen times, calling the values enshrined in the nation's founding documents our best national security asset - in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval." And he used this notion to criticize the administration of his predecessor for its "hasty decisions," arguing that the country cannot be safe "unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values."

"Too often, our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight. All too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions," he said. "Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford."

He said there was a consensus in the nation that the Bush administration did go too far in its prosecution of suspected terrorists, citing as evidence the fact that both major parties nominated candidates for president who "rejected torture and recognized the imperative" of closing Guantanamo Bay.

"We are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates," he said - the closest yet to an utterance of "war on terror." "We do need to update our institutions to deal with this threat. But we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process, in checks and balances and accountability."

What was striking about this portion of the speech was how he seemed to at times shift the heat of scrutiny off of him and back on the Bush administration. Notably, he argued that the whole debate being had now was not a result of his decision to close Guantanamo Bay, but in fact to open it in the first place. "The legal challenges that have sparked so much debate in recent weeks here in Washington would be taking place whether or not I decided to close Guantanamo," he said as well.

The pivot of the speech included a criticism of how the current debate has become politicized, and said we are "ill-served by some of the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue."

He then explained the way forward, prefacing his remarks by saying his administration would not release any individual "if it would endanger our national security." He explained that there is a review of each detainee's situation, and that going forward, they would be handled in five different ways:

• Where a clear case can be made in court, they will be transferred to U.S. soil for prosecution.
• Those who violate "the laws of war" will be tried through military commissions, which he took pains to explain are "appropriate venues" that have been used throughout the nation's history. Rather than a reversal, he said that stronger protections for suspects will fulfill his promises.
• Those who have already been ordered to be released will be released. "The United States is a nation of laws, and we must abide by these rulings."
• Where it's determined that a detainee can be transferred to another country, that will happen.
• And finally, the "toughest" class involves those whose cases may not be easily prosecuted, but who "pose a danger." And in his language, he made an important distinction in saying they "remain at war with the United States." He spoke of reshaping standards "to ensure they are in line with the rule of law," but could not say where they would be detained.

Obama also defended some of the recent controversial decisions by his administration, releasing legal memos used by the Bush administration to justify enhanced interrogation methods, and not releasing photos that showed alleged acts of torture. He rejected the notion that releasing the memos offered information to terrorists, while saying the releasing the photos would potentially endanger the troops.

He closed by promising greater transparency and accountability in all the critical national security decisions ahead. But to an audience that included civil liberties advocates, he was careful to state that such a promise did not mean he would always satisfy their concerns.

"Even as we clean up the mess at Guantanamo, we will constantly reevaluate our approach, subject our decisions to review from other branches of government as well as the public," he said.

Notably, the president said he could not promise to prevent all threats to the homeland.

"But I can say with certainty that my administration, along with our extraordinary troops and the patriotic men and women who defend our national security, will do everything in our power to keep the American people safe," he said. "The terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies. They will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are, if we forge tough and durable approaches to fighting terrorism that are anchored in our timeless ideals."

It isn't immediately clear how the speech was received, particularly since it was immediately followed by a rebuttal from former Vice President Cheney. But consider this statement from Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) as a clue, from the pool reporter following the president today: "He said he doesn't want to look backwards then spends all that time trashing the Bush administration."

Cheney: 9/11 Affected My View

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking just after President Obama's speech on terrorism, torture and Guantanamo Bay, defended the Bush administration's anti-terrorism tactics and said his perspective on his role as vice president changed drastically after September 11, 2001.

"There in the bunker came the reports and the images that so many Americans remember from that day," Cheney said, as he described some of the horrifying scenes he and the general public watched that day.

"In the years since, I've heard occassional speculation that I'm a different man after 9/11. I wouldn't say that. But I'll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities."

On the focus of interrogation techniques used under the Bush administration, and which Obama has put an end to, Cheney said it's far more important to look forward than to continue to investigate what happened in the past.

"It's hard to imagine a worst president filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policiy decisions of his predecessor," Cheney said. "The danger here is a loss of focus on national security and what it requires."

Obama Stands Up for Banning Torture

Speaking now at the National Archives, home of the Constitution and located on Constitution Ave., President Obama explained his opposition to torture.

"I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe," Obama said. "I could not disagree more.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What's more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America.

"They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts - they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all."

McConnell to Obama: Show Flexibility on Gitmo

Ahead of President Obama's speech on Guantanamo Bay this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped the president presents a plan for the military prison that would continue to keep Americans safe. If not, though, McConnell said "closing it without a plan is unacceptable" to both parties in Congress.

"The President has an opportunity to reassure the American people that future releases won't lead to the same result," McConnell said from the Senate floor. "If he isn't able to provide specifics about his plan for terrorist detainees at Guantanamo, he could still provide this assurance by simply revising his policy. The President has shown adaptability on military commissions, prisoner photos, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Here's an opportunity to show more of that flexibility on Guantanamo."

Strategy Memo: Obama vs. Cheney

The battle between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney comes to a head today as the two leaders give dueling speeches on national security this morning in Washington. Obama's address at the National Archives will focus on the administration's "broader vision for strengthening the country's security," and he will "outline how the steps his Administration is taking and plans to take going forward support those goals and principles." Cheney's address at the American Enterprise Institute is entitled "Keeping America Safe." The speeches are scheduled about a half an hour apart.

Also today at the White House, Obama welcomes the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, sans NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. The team's owner, Dan Rooney, was named U.S. ambassador to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. The president of Tanzania also pays a visit - now noteworthy because of reports the administration will send a Tanzanian who has been detained at Guantanamo to New York for trial. Vice President Biden is still overseas, visiting Kosovo today.

On the Hill, the Senate will resume consideration of the war spending bill, while the House votes on the conference report for the "Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight Act of 2009." The House Energy and Commerce Committee continues markup on the energy and climate change bill, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2009/May/21/senate_set_to_approve_obama_war_funding_request.html**Today's Speeches
*The Washington Post reports that Obama's speech is meant to remind "Americans that strong national security and adherence to laws and national values are not mutually exclusive."

*LA Times: "In a possible sign of a new approach, an administration official said that for the first time, a Guantanamo detainee is being sent to the U.S. to stand trial in a criminal court. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian captured in Pakistan in 2004, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on allegations that he took part in attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998."

*Obama sat down with human rights advocates yesterday, the New York Times reports. He told them "that he was mulling the need for a 'preventive detention' system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said."

*Ben Smith reports that Obama's remarks will be piped into AEI before Cheney's speech. He adds: "One question is how directly Obama will refer to the unpopular former Veep in his remarks, and use Cheney's speech as an illustration of the bad old days; another whether Cheney will address Obama directly, and in particular call on him to personally release classified reports that Cheney has requested."

*ABC previews a Cheney line: "When President Obama makes wise decisions he deserves our support. When he mischaracterizes the decisions we made, he deserves an answer."

*A CNN poll finds "that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise." His unfavorable rating is 55 percent, compared to 37 percent favorable - up eight points since January.

*The Hill, on the minority party finding one issue where it has an advantage: "Senate Republicans on Wednesday vowed to stay on the attack until the Obama administration reverses its decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp."

**President Obama
*The AP reports that President Obama interviewed federal appeals court judge Diane Wood for the Supreme Court, "one of the face-to-face meetings he's holding with finalists, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama is getting closer to one of the most far-reaching decisions of his presidency."

*Washington Post reports that the Recovery Act's Web site is not providing the kind of transparency promised, and instead "offers little beyond news releases, general breakdowns of spending, and acronym-laden spreadsheets and timelines. And congressional Democrats, state officials and advocates of open government worry that the White House cannot come close to clearing the high bar it set."

*Judge Diane P. Wood ("who reportedly met with the president this week while in town for a legal conference"), U.S. Solicitor Gen. Elena Kagan, Judge Sonia Sotomayor and "other possible nominees have undergone deep background checks as part of the selection process, according to a Democratic official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter," L.A. Times reports.

*A fairly juicy nugget in Richard Wolfe's forthcoming book on the president. Per FoxNews, Obama is so "distracted by his vice president's indiscipline" that he has been forced to rebuke privately Vice President Biden. "He can't keep his mouth shut," Wolffe quotes a "senior Obama aide" as saying in "Renegade: The Making of a President," set for release June 2.

**Republicans
*Rather than brand the party as "Democratic Socialists," the RNC adopted a resolution condemning Democrats' "march toward socialism," CNN reports. The previous plan was scrapped because some members saw it as "embarrassing and counterproductive."

**In the States
*"Direct democracy has once again upended California -- enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years," NY Times reports.

*SurveyUSA's latest take on the Virginia governor race: McAuliffe leads with 37 percent, over Deeds 26 and Moran 22. McAuliffe and Deeds would each lose to Bob McDonnell by 6, with Moran trailing the Republican by 10.

*SurveyUSA also polls potential matchups in the 2010 Minnesota governor race, assuming that Tim Pawlenty seeks a third term. He leads all of the DFL candidates, most of the time with more than 50 percent. He dips under when matched up against former Sen. Mark Dayton, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

*And Public Policy Polling finds that Republicans have a strong chance of taking back the Oklahoma governor's mansion. Rep. Mary Fallin (R) is the most popular candidate (51% fav rating), followed by former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts (46%), Democratic Attorney General Drew Edmondson (43%) and Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, also a Democrat (35%).

*Politico has the details on the unfolding Senate race in Utah, "the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party is playing out." Sen. Bob Bennett (R) will face a more conservative challenger in state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

*Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer, who personally has backed Gov. Charlie Crist in the Senate race, says the party itself is officially neutral. "Several county Republican groups have protested Greer's avid support" of Crist over former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

**Congress
*Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) test drives a 100-mpg Hummer, with Milbank there to chronicle it.

*War Supplemental: "President Barack Obama is likely to get a sweeping bipartisan endorsement when the Senate votes on his request for continuing military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $91.3 billion measure being taken up by the Senate on Thursday closely tracks Obama's request for war funds, although the $80 million he was seeking to close the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was dropped Wednesday," AP reports.

*"Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), the outspoken Democratic chairman of the Agriculture panel, has been making it well-known that he wants his committee to have full jurisdictional authority over whatever climate change bill emerges from Chairman Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) Energy and Commerce Committee. But Peterson is no longer making idle threats. Peterson earlier this week met with the 26 Democrats on his panel and emerged with a "virtually unanimous" agreement that his committee members would stand with him in opposition to a climate change bill that didn't adequately address the concerns of the agriculture industry, according to one of those Democrats," The Hill reports..

*"Sen. Arlen Specter appeared to side with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday in her spat with the CIA over harsh interrogation methods, saying the agency has a history of being less than forthright with Congress," Politico reports.

**Sports Alert:: Two nights ago, the Lakers barely avoided an upset defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Last night, the Orlando Magic pulled off the upset against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Great start to the NBA Conference Finals.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

VA Gov Poll: McAuliffe +11

Terry McAuliffe leads the Virginia gubernatorial Democratic primary field by double digits, according to the latest poll from SurveyUSA (May 17-20, 502 Dem LV, +/- 4.5%). McAuliffe and Brian Moran's numbers stayed the same since the last poll released at the end of April, but State Sen. Creigh Deeds shot ahead of Moran. The primary takes place June 9.

McAuliffe 37 (-1 vs. last poll, April 28)
Deeds 26 (+4)
Moran 22 (nc)

The survey also looks ahead to the general election and tests each Dem against GOP nominee Bob McDonnell, the former state attorney general. Deeds and McAuliffe both trail McDonnell by 6 points, while Moran trails by 10 points (May 17-20, 1692 RV, +/- 2.4%).

Deeds has faced McDonnell before, losing by 323 votes in the 2005 attorney general race.

McDonnell 46 - Deeds 40 - Und 15

McDonnell 46 - McAuliffe 40 - Und 13

McDonnell 47 - Moran 37 - Und 16

DPC Investigates Electrocution Deaths In Iraq

Pasta or chicken?

As in, what meal would you like on your flight back to the United States?

That's what Eric Peters was told would be his choice if he questioned the shoddy electrical wiring he found in buildings wired by Houston-based KBR, Inc., on bases in Iraq. Peters, licensed as a master electrician in nine states, worked for KBR in Iraq from February to April of this year.

Peters, along with Jim Childs, a former project manager in Iraq for the Army Corps of Engineers, and Charles Smith, the former head of the Army Field Support Command, testified today at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing regarding tens of millions of dollars in government bonus money paid to KBR, a contractor whose faulty work is said to have led to the electrocutions of American soldiers.

"The American people have been outraged, and justifiably so, over the issue of wasteful spending," DPC Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said in his opening remarks. "When our soldiers answered the call to serve our country on the battlefield, they never expected that their lives might be endangered by an electrical contractor that was paid to keep them safe. And they certainly could not have imagined that our government would pay over $83 million in bonuses to the contractor that put their lives in danger."

The most well-known electrocution was that of Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted and died while taking a shower in his room in January 2008. According to Dorgan, the previous occupant of Maseth's room had been shocked "four to five times" from June to October 2007, and that each time KBR claimed to have fixed the problem.

Three months after Maseth's death, KBR was given more than $30 million in "award fees."

Peters testified that about half of the KBR electricians in Iraq "do not understand the basic principles of bonding and grounding," a safety measure. According to the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, "each person deemed to be qualified to do electrical work must clearly understand what bonding and grounding is, why it is necessary and how it must be done."

Childs, a master electrician who oversaw KBR's contract with the government beginning in July 2008, said "the electrical work performed by KBR in Iraq was some of the most hazardous, worst quality work I have ever inspected," and that while working on what was called Task Force SAFE (Safety Actions for Fire and Electricity), "my co-workers and I found improper electrical work in every building we inspected" that had been wired by KBR.

Of the new construction buildings KBR worked on, 90 percent "were not properly wired," Childs said. "This means that over 70,000 buildings in Iraq were not up to code."

After investigating KBR's work from March to May 2008, the Defense Contract Management Agency Report found 26,205 incidents of improper wiring, 5,225 errors with fuses and panel boxes, 2,285 conduit and raceway hazards, 4,571 incidents of outlet box hazards, and 3,201 hazardous switches and boxes.

"So how could it be that, given these obviously widespread problems with KBR's electrical work, the Pentagon decided to give KBR bonuses totaling $83.4 million for such work?" Dorgan asked. "These bonuses are supposed to be awarded for work that is deemed, overall, to range from 'very good' to "excellent.' "

Reached for comment, KBR corporate communications director Heather Browne disputed that the company was paid more than $83 million for work performed in Iraq, but maintained that the federal government had no problem with the company's work.

"Our customer, the US Army, remains satisfied with our work, as evidenced by our award fee board scores that have consistently ranged from good to excellent," Browne said in an e-mail.

"KBR's position remains that it was not responsible for the electrocution deaths that have been publicized. Further, the assertion that KBR has a track record of shoddy electrical work is unfounded. KBR remains proud of the work it performs in Iraq."

Dorgan said that the Pentagon continues to say "there isn't as much of a problem here as people think," and KBR gives a "routine denial."

"We're just trying to follow the facts and find out the truth," said Dorgan.

Moran Airs First TV Ad; McAuliffe Responds

Less than a month before the June 9 Democratic primary in the race for governor of Virginia, former State Delegate Brian Moran (D) released his first TV ad of the campaign. The ad criticizes rival candidate Terry McAuliffe's record as a businessman, comparing it to Moran's years as a state legislator and county prosecutor.

"For five months Terry McAuliffe has been on television trying to rewrite history and avoid his record," Moran campaign manager Andrew Roos said. "Our ad uses media reports to set the record straight and show that Brian Moran is the person who will fight for Virginia families."

McAuliffe apparently was ready to go with a response, because he released a TV ad of his own yesterday that reacts to Moran's ad.

"It's very telling that Brian Moran is once again relying on negative and misleading attacks against Terry in his first television ad," said McAuliffe spokeswoman Lis Smith. "Terry is running on his strong record of creating thousands of jobs-a record verified by the Washington Post today. In these troubling economic times, Virginians are looking for a governor with the right experience to create jobs and get our economy back on track - someone with a positive vision for Virginia's future - not someone focused making misleading and negative attacks."

Here is Moran's "Records," which aired for the first time yesterday prior to the Democratic debate:

Here is McAuliffe's "Stepped Up":

McAuliffe also released this week a radio ad in response to a Moran radio ad regarding his support for Barack Obama following the Democratic primary, during which he worked for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama handily won the Virginia primary.

"I campaigned hard for Hillary Clinton," McAuliffe states in the ad. "But when the primaries ended I campaigned just as hard to help elect Barack Obama."

The 60 second ad "will run on adult urban contemporary, gospel, and religious radio stations in the Norfolk and Richmond media markets," according to the campaign.

NJ Gov: Second Poll Shows Christie Ahead

Monmouth University also has a New Jersey gubernatorial poll out today which reinforces Chris Christie's frontrunner status in the Republican primary.

Primary Election Matchup
Christie 50
Lonegan 32
Merkt 2
Undecided 16

One cautionary note in what could be a low-turnout race, however: Lonegan has a strong edge among voters who describe themselves as "strongly conservative" (51-36) and "conservative" (56-28). And 47 percent of likely primary voters considered Christie a moderate, while 35 percent said conservative and 5 percent said liberal. Lonegan was seen as conservative by 56 percent, compared to 21 percent who said moderate.

The survey also finds that most voters seen Christie as the more electable candidate in the general election, with more than two-thirds saying he can beat Gov. Jon Corzine, Only 39% say Lonegan can win in November.

The telephone survey was conducted May 13-18 of 706 likely primary voters, and had a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.

Strategy Memo: No Plan For Gitmo

Good Wednesday morning. Today, President Obama will sit in on the first meeting of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a panel of outside advisers led by Paul Volcker. The meeting will be streamed live on the White House Web site. Later today, Obama signs the "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act" and the "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act" in the East Room. Tonight he hosts a "bipartisan" group of lawmakers for a reception in the Blue Room.

The House will take up the Senate-amended Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights today, after the Senate passed it with 90 votes in the affirmative yesterday. The Senate will resume consideration of the war supplemental appropriations bill, which Democrats announced yesterday will not include $80 million for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

After winning the 12-person, multi-party special primary last night in California's 32nd Congressional District, Democrat Judy Chu is now likely to win the July 14 special general election against Republican Betty Chu. The Los Angeles-area district voted 68% for Barack Obama in 2008, and former Rep. Hilda Solis -- who vacated the seat to serve as Secretary of Labor -- ran unopposed last year.

**President Obama
*The AP reports that the administration "is considering creation of a regulatory commission to protect consumers of financial products such as credit cards and mortgages." But such a panel "could set off a turf war among federal agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the various bank regulatory agencies."

*WaPo on today's recovery board meeting, the first significant public forum since it was assembled. "Volcker has had sporadic contact with the president, and his role in the administration remains unclear, according to sources with direct knowledge of his thinking. ... Volcker is unsure what influence the panel ultimately will have, the sources said." The White House "acknowledged getting off to a slow start, but said the panel is among the most influential advisory boards in Washington."

*The New York Times answers its own question: Why did automakers suddenly change course and agree to new fuel emissions standards? "Because they had no choice. ... Simply put, Detroit and the other companies need Washington's help, and they are powerless to block the rules Washington dictates."

**Congress
*Gitmo: "Democrats rejected President Obama's request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility's 240 detainees," WaPo reports.

*Pelosi: "Democrats, including the president, rallied around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday as Republicans plotted their next step in the politically charged flap over CIA interrogation tactics. President Obama praised the Speaker's work; House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), a powerful Pelosi ally, took aim at the credibility of CIA records; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) went out of his way to back Pelosi; and conservative Democrats dismissed the feud as partisan politics," The Hill reports.

*More Pelosi: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi would like to move past the controversy over her claim that the CIA 'misled' her about waterboarding, but Minority Leader John Boehner seems determined to stand in her way," Politico reports. "suggest privately that Boehner is using the Pelosi flap in order to shore up support among his own members. Although he's the top Republican in the House, Democrats say Boehner is under pressure from the more aggressive leaders just below him: Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana."

*A provision allowing loaded guns in national parks was included in the Credit Card bill passed in the Senate yesterday, and the House will likely approve it in a vote today, AP reports.

**Republicans
*The Baltimore Sun covers the RNC Chairman's key speech yesterday. "Michael Steele, in an effort to move beyond the woes of his party and his own gaffe-prone leadership, declared in a speech Tuesday that Republicans have turned a corner and are ready to step up their attacks on President Barack Obama." While he dismissed "inside-the-D.C. Beltway chatter about 'phony disputes and intra-party intrigue.' But in an earlier, closed session with the party leaders, he conceded that he had made mistakes and learned from them, according to several people who were present."

*CNN reports that Steele's supporters argued that the media has "ignored the chairman's efforts to rebuild the party from the bottom up by getting out of Washington and meeting with Republicans in 23 states since assuming the chairmanship." They say grassroots activists are being courted, candidates are being recruited, state party chairmen are communicating about strategy on a weekly basis, and low dollar donations are pouring in to the committee like never before.

*Also, after Steele came out against the "Democratic Socialist" resolution, RNC member David Norcross says language "is being changed so that the proposers and chairman Steele are on the same page."

**Campaign Stuff
*CA-32: Judy Chu (D) won 32% of the vote in the 12-person, multi-party primary yesterday. Because she didn't win a majority, she will face Republican Betty Chu, the Republican with the most votes (10%) yesterday, in a July 14 special general election.

More on the Dem fight between Judy Chu and Gil Cedillo (23%), per L.A. Times: "From the start, the race was generally seen as a two-way contest between Cedillo, a labor union leader before his 1998 election to the state Assembly and later the state Senate, and Chu, a former member of the Monterey Park City Council and the Assembly.

Both are liberal Democrats with similar views and strong ties to labor in the working-class district. But their candidacies were testing the power of ethnic politics in the district, home to large numbers of Latinos -- about half the registered voters -- and a growing population of Asian Americans.

*KY Sen: Jim Bunning once again went off on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) during a conference call with reporters. From the Louisiville Courier Journal: "If Mitch McConnell doesn't endorse me, it could be the best thing that ever happened to me in Kentucky," Bunning said.

*MN Sen: By a 54%-41% margin, a majority of Minnesota voters think Norm Coleman should concede now, and 67% say Gov. Tim Pawlenty should sign an election certificate for Al Franken if the state Supreme Court rules in his favor, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

*Chris Christie has jumped out to a 23-point lead with less than two weeks to go in the New Jersey GOP primary for governor, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

*Chris Kennedy, son of RFK, is apparently all but in to the Illinois Senate race. He tells the Sun-Times: "I'm keeping my options alive and working through a whole series of issues still."

*For the second time in recent weeks, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) is denying speculation that she will drop her bid for the U.S. Senate, the Plain Dealer reports. The latest rumor had her running for state Supreme Court. "I want to make it clear that under no circumstances will I consider seeking re-election to the Secretary of State's position, or any other statewide or federal office, other than the open U.S. Senate seat," she wrote to Democrats last week.

**Sports Alert: The Los Angeles Clippers won the NBA Draft Lottery last night and the right to select Oklahoma stud Blake Griffin with the 1st overall pick in next month's draft. We here at Politics Nation feel bad for Griffin and his family, but in four years or so he'll be a free agent and able to leave.

**Mr. Tony Alert: We're happy to hear that Tony Kornheiser is looking to return to the DC radio airwaves, after ESPN announced he's off the Monday Night Football gig. He talks to the Washington Post about the news, and it's clear he wasn't expecting to leave.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

NJ Gov: Christie Surges Ahead In GOP Primary

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie appears to have regained the momentum in the Republican gubernatorial primary in New Jersey, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll.

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan appeared to have narrowed the gap considerably in recent weeks, but several debates and a more direct campaign by Christie against his Republican rival puts him in more comfortable position with less than two weeks to go before the primary election.

Primary Election Matchup
Christie 56 (+10 from 4/22)
Lonegan 33 (-4)
Merkt 2

Gov. Jon Corzine (D), who faces no serious opposition in the Democratic primary, still trails both Republicans in general election matchups. The incumbent can take heart, at least, that his numbers have remained steady for several months now.

General Election Matchups
Christie 45 (unch from 4/22)
Corzine 38 (unch)
Undecided 13

Lonegan 42 (-1 from 4/22)
Corzine 40 (+1)

Both Republicans remain fairly unknown quantities statewide, while Corzine maintains an upside-down favorability and job approval rating.

Fav/Unfav
Christie 33/11
Lonegan 19/11
Corzine 37/51

Corzine Job Approval
Corzine 38/53 (37/54 on 4/22).

The survey finds that President Obama's approval rating in the state is 67 percent, with 27 percent disapproving. Corzine is likely to tie himself the popular administration whenever possible, and in fact will welcome Vice President Biden to the state when he kicks off his re-election campaign officially on primary election night.

On The Opposite Coast, No Respite For Schwarzenegger

With ballot measures he supports heading to defeat today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) might have thought he'd have an easier go of things in Washington today. As he addressed White House reporters, he claimed a large share of credit for the new fuel emissions accord that was promoted today.

"As the president said, if it wouldn't have been for the great leadership of our great state, this would have never happened," he said.

But the very first question he faced offered no additional opportunity to claim a political victory, as he was asked why he chose to be in Washington instead of at home.

"I did vote by absentee, and I'm looking forward to the outcome tonight," he said. "I will be back tomorrow morning to bring back the good news of what happened here today."

Californians are voting on a slate of initiatives meant to shore up the Golden State's troubled finances. According to the Los Angeles Times, the initiatives would boost the rainy day fund, invoke a spending cap and extend recent tax hikes, among other steps. Most are headed for defeat, according to polls, except for an initiative to ban pay increases for state lawmakers in lean budget times.

"We always respect the will of the people. ... We don't know what the outcome of the election - tomorrow we will analyze that - but today we are going to go and celebrate this great victory," he repeated.

President Obama did praise Schwarzenegger in his Rose Garden remarks, but even he seemed to pick on the former action star as he introduced the three governors in attendance.

"Let me take them in order of good looks -- sorry, Arnold," the president joked, listing him behind Govs. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.) and Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) Payback, perhaps, after Schwarzenegger mocked Obama's "skinny legs" and "scrawny arms" during the presidential campaign.

Florida Poll: Crist Cruising In GOP Primary

A new Mason Dixon poll of Florida voters shows that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has a solid early lead in the race for his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Republican Primary Matchup
Crist 53
Rubio 18
Undecided 29

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio had announced for the seat prior to Crist, and has much lower name recognition in the Sunshine State. Among likely Republican primary voters, 50 percent had a favorable impression of Crist, compared to 19 percent unfavorable. Rubio's ratio was 20/2, with another 56 percent saying they did not recognize him.

In the Democratic race, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) maintains an early edge over state Sen. Dan Gelber.

Democratic Primary Matchup
Meek 26
Gelber 16
Undecided 58

In early general election matchups, Crist defeats either Democrat.

General Election Matchup
Crist 55
Meek 24
Undecided 21

Crist 57
Gelber 22
Undecided 21

Each party sample size was 300 likely primary voters, with a margin of error of +/- 6%. The general election matchups are taken from a survey of 625 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

After the jump, an early look at numbers in the gubernatorial race, with the field only now coming together.

Attorney General Bill McCollum has already declared, while state Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson has not made it official yet. Mason Dixon also tested former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has said he will not run.

Gubernatorial Primary Election Matchup
McCollum 39
Bronson 12
Undecided 49

Bush 64
McCollum 13
Bronson 2
Undecided 21

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is likely to face no major opposition in the Democratic primary. She leads Bronson, but trails McCollum in early general election matchups.

General Election Matchup
McCollum 40
Sink 34
Undecided 26

Sink 37
Bronson 29
Undecided 34

Notably, the poll sample skewed Democratic: 43 percent of respondents, compared to 38 percent Republican and 19 percent independent.

Emissions Accord Reached, Parties Highlight Historic Cooperation

Whatever the environmental impact may be, the sense at the White House today as President Obama announced new fuel emissions standards for automobiles was at how significant the agreement was among the disparate factions.

"This is an extraordinary gathering," Obama said as he opened his remarks in the Rose Garden this afternoon. "It's no secret that these are folks who've occasionally been at odds for years, even decades. In fact, some of the groups here have been embroiled in lawsuits against one another. So that gives you a sense of how impressive and significant it is that these leaders from across the country are willing to set aside the past for the sake of the future."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) was on hand because of the role California has played in the emissions debate, having long battled for a waiver to set its own emissions standard. He praised Obama for finally bringing auto manufacturers, government entities, unions and environmental groups together.

"California was the David, and having all those giants fighting us and taking us to court. ... The president has pulled everyone together and now we're marching forward all in the same direction," he said.

Schwarzenegger echoed a phrase often attributed to chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as well, suggesting that a major catalyst for the agreement was the dependence of GM and Chrysler -- long opponents of tougher emissions standards -- on government funds.

"It's all about timing," he said. "I'm sure that President Obama said to them, okay we're going to give you that help. But here's what you need to do. So I think certain things changed very quickly because of that."

Press secretary Robert Gibbs denied that, however. "The notion that two of the 10 companies here are receiving assistance played a role in the other eight agreeing one something that they have generally been on the opposite side of for the better part of 20 years - I just don't think that makes sense," he said.

Senate Passes Credit Card Bill

The Senate passed by an overwhelming margin today its version of the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights. The bill is aimed at ending what consumer advocates say is unfair practices, including hiding percentage hikes and penalties in small print and language the average American doesn't understand. It would also make it more difficult for credit cards to be issued to younger adults.

Ninety senators voted for the bill, with five voting against (four GOP, one Dem) and four not voting.

"We stood up for consumers and stood up to abusive credit card companies," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today in a press release following the bill's approval. "We said that big banks can no longer take advantage of hardworking Americans. We demanded that when Americans use a credit card -- as almost everyone does almost every day -- they no longer have to fear that they'll be abused."

The House passed its version April 30 by a 357-70 roll call vote, with no Republicans supporting it and just one Democrat voting against it. The differences between the two versions will now need to be hashed out before it's sent to President Obama.

All three South Dakota members -- Sens. Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R), and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) -- voted against the bill. South Dakota is home to Citibank and many credit card companies.

NV Senate Poll: Poor Numbers for Reid

Just 35% of Nevada voters say they would vote to re-elect Sen. Harry Reid (D), according to a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll conducted by Mason-Dixon (May 12-14, 625 RV, MoE +/- 4%). Worse yet, 45% said they would vote to replace him, while 17% said they would consider voting for him.

Reid's favorability rating (38%) is 17 points lower than Obama's, while 50% had an unfavorable view of him -- 20 points higher than Obama. Sen. John Ensign (R) has a 53%/18% favorability rating.

Senate Dems Say No Dough For Gitmo

CNN is reporting that Senate Democrats have decided against including $80 million in a war spending bill to help close the military prison located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Republicans have been on the attack regarding President Obama's lack of a plan for what to do with the detainees currently located there, and the GOP campaign arms have been calling on Democrats to say publicly whether they would accept suspected terrorist detainees transferred into their districts and states.

Some Democrats, like Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), have said they would accept detainee transfers to facilities in their districts, but most have simply come out against appropriating money without a set plan for what to do.

"What this means is that Senate Democrats are now doing what House Democrats did last week," said CNN reporter Dana Bash, "Which is to say, you know what, Mr. President, if you want this money, this $80 million, you are going to have to present a plan, which he does not have yet, on what he will do with the detainees who are currently at Guantanamo Bay."

House Democrats also decided against including funding for the prison's closing when it passed the war supplemental last week.

"It was decided, because this has become a huge political hot potato," Bash reported. "And Democratic sources told us that they simply understand that Republicans are trying to use this as a wedge against Democrats. They don't want to let that happen."

Strategy Memo: No More Apologies

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama will make an announcement about new fuel standards, scheduled to take effect in model year 2016. He'll be joined in the Rose Garden by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, each of whom have stakes in the announcement but also other political subplots. Arnold is staring at the defeat of ballot initiatives he's sponsored today in California, while Granholm is on just about every Supreme Court short list there is.

The House will vote on a number of suspension bills, including the Senate-amended "Helping Families Save Their Homes Act," while the Energy and Commerce Committee continues markup on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate change plan. The Senate resumes consideration of the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights, while the Foreign Relations and Commerce committees hold hearings examining administration nominees.

And just outside of Washington today, the RNC holds a meeting that Michael Steele is hoping to use to relaunch his chairmanship. According to multiple reports, he'll announce an "end to the era of apologizing."

**President Obama
*Today, Obama will announce "the first-ever national emissions limits for cars and trucks," along with a 35.5 miles per gallon standard. Consumers "should expect to pay an extra $1,300 per vehicle by the time the plan is complete in 2016," though a senior White House official said last night that the cost would be a wash with savings in gasoline. AP: "The plan also would effectively end a feud between automakers and statehouses over emission standards -- with the states coming out on top but the automakers getting the single national standard they've been seeking and more time to make the changes."

*The New York Daily News, on yesterday's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. "Two hours of talks between Obama and the hawkish prime minister didn't produce any breakthroughs -- but U.S. officials said the President made clear Netanyahu must cool his jets, literally -- on talk of taking out Iran's nuclear facilities."

The New York Times adds that Obama for the first time "had seemed willing to set even a general timetable for progress in talks with Iran," giving diplomatic efforts until the end of the year.

*Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be at the White House today for the fuel standards announcement, and the White House was "coy" about whether she might also be interviewed about the Supreme Court.

*The Times also looks into Janet Napolitano's prospects for the bench, writing that her resume looks a lot like Earl Warren's did when he was named to the Supreme Court. "To some, the fact that she has never been a judge makes Ms. Napolitano a long shot for the high court. To others, her success in elected office -- putting pragmatic compromise ahead of ideology or standard partisan lines -- gives her just the kind of real-world experience setting policy and reaching consensus that Mr. Obama might seek to add to a court filled entirely by former federal appellate judges."

**Congress
*A CNN poll finds that Speaker Pelosi's approval ratings are at "roughly the levels Newt Gingrich had in his first year as Speaker of the House."

*"Union groups are targeting one of their close allies in Congress over a controversial proposal to tax employee healthcare benefits. In a coordinated campaign using radio advertising, mail and other pressure mechanisms, three top unions are urging Oregonians to voice their displeasure to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose proposal may be stalled in the Senate," The Hill reports.

*"In a bid to defuse political skirmishing over the Bush administration's interrogation methods, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta urged Congress on Monday not to allow the debate to become a distraction from the security threats facing the country," L.A. Times reports.

*Panetta will be on the Hill today, Politico reports.

**Republicans
* Today, RNC chair Michael Steele will say: "The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over," the AP reports. "We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

*As Steele hopes to relaunch his RNC chairmanship, Washington Times reports that he hired personal friends at salaries considerably higher than their people in similar posts made. Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Willis Lee: "If certain staff at the national committee are making that much, then the public understandably might think they are examples of cronyism."

*Reid Wilson lists what's on the table: "If the meeting achieves quorum, RNC members will vote on a proposal to label rival Democrats the 'Democrat-Socialist Party'; a resolution calling on members of Congress to forgo earmarks; and a measure thanking Republican members of Congress for voting against bailout and stimulus legislation, while implicitly condemning votes in favor of that legislation by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine)."

*Gallup: "The decline in Republican Party affiliation among Americans in recent years is well documented, but a Gallup analysis now shows that this movement away from the GOP has occurred among nearly every major demographic subgroup."

**Campaign Stuff
*Jonathan Martin has the scoop on efforts by John Coale, a Democratic donor who supported the McCain-Palin ticket last fall, to persuade Sarah Palin to use her PAC to help Hillary Clinton pay campaign debt. "He thought the Clintons could rein in some of the Democratic firepower aimed at her," said a "dumbfounded Republican privy to the discussion who advocated fiercely against the idea." A former Clinton aide hadn't heard of the plan but deemed it "not rooted in anything that would touch on reality."

*Replacing Hilda Solis: Heading into today's special primary election in California, "all eyes are on two Democrats who are considered the frontrunners": former Assemblywoman Judy Chu and state Sen. Gil Cedillo. NPR: "Chu is backed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a gubernatorial hopeful and perhaps the state's most visible Hispanic politician. She has also been endorsed by members of Solis' family, though the former House member has stayed neutral." But the seat is a "Hispanic seat," as Rep. Joe Baca said, and he and other Hispanic members from California are backing Cedillo.

*Californians will also vote on statewide ballot initiatives. "The most contentious measure, Proposition 1A, would create a state spending cap and rainy day fund, which Schwarzenegger has promoted as necessary to smooth out California's budget cycles in the years ahead. But the measure also would extend income, sales and vehicle tax increases enacted earlier this year by one or two years, a provision that has stirred opposition from conservative groups."

*Merrick Alpert, an Air Force veteran and former aide to Vice President Gore, announced that he's challenging Chris Dodd. "You deserve a senator...who represents the interests of the people of Connecticut, not the interests of massive corporate campaign contributors," Alpert said in an announcement video. "Who represents a fundamental change from the culture of corruption that permeates Washington today."

*The NRCC is unveiling today its "Patriot Program" -- a "revamped incumbent retention program designed to help vulnerable House Republicans raise cash for their reelection campaigns -- and warning members that the committee will not bail out those who are insufficiently prepared for competitive races," Politico reports.

*NY Gov: Andrew Cuomo (D) leads Rudy Giuliani (R) by 18 points in a new Rasmussen poll. Giuliani leads Gov. David Paterson by 28 points. Cuomo leads George Pataki (R) by 28 points, and Pataki leads Paterson by 14 points.

*Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) tells WWAY that he hasn't yet ruled out a Senate bid in North Carolina.

*Pat Toomey said in Harrisburg yesterday that he's spoken with Sen. John Cronyn, and "despite earlier statements by Cronyn that Toomey was too conservative to win a general election in Pennsylvania," their chats "are paving the way for GOP support of Toomey's candidacy," the Harrisburg Patriot-News reports.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Obama, Netanyahu Talk Iran, Peace Process

President Obama's meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went well beyond their scheduled time today as the White House looks to jump start the Mideast peace process. But speaking with the press pool after an expanded meeting, the potential nuclear threat of Iran seemed to dominate the discussion.

Obama said he has "deepening concern" about the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran. He noted that his administration has worked to reach out to Iran, but said he told Netanyahu today that "we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including much stronger international sanctions, in assuring that Iran understands that we are serious." He noted that with elections being held there next month, any significant progress may have to wait.

On the critical issue of a two-state solution, Obama said that such a resolution is "in the interests not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community." Netanyahu said he wants to hold talks with the Palestinians, adding that Israel does not want to govern them. "The goal has to be an end to conflict," he said. "There'll have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike. We're ready to do our share. We hope the Palestinians will do their share as well." Specifically, he said he wants Palestinians to "recognize Israel as a Jewish state."

Obama was asked at one point whether his "out-stretched hand" toward the Iranians was being seen as a sign of weakness. Obama started by saying that no one should expect that "30 years of antagonism and suspicion between Iran and the United States would be resolved in four months."

"We think it's very important for us to give this a chance," he said. "Part of the reason that it's so important for us to take a diplomatic approach is that the approach that we've been taking, which is no diplomacy, obviously has not worked."

Daschle Back In the Game

Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, has announced his endorsement of Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor race.

Daschle hasn't been heard from much since his unceremonious exit from consideration for Secretary of Health Human Services, amid scrutiny over unpaid taxes. He now becomes the latest in a string of nationally known names to endorse McAuliffe.

The McAuliffe campaign made sure to note that Daschle served as national co-chair of President Obama's campaign, as the candidate continues to attempt to tie himself to that successful bid -- as opposed to Hillary Clinton, for whom he worked.

Here is Daschle's full statement:

"As the national co-chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and one of his earliest supporters, I was impressed by the time and energy Terry put into traveling across Virginia and the country on Barack Obama's behalf during the general election.

"From the day Hillary Clinton ended her historic bid for president, Terry worked tirelessly to unify our party around Barack Obama and get him elected President. His energy and enthusiasm were tremendous assets on the campaign trail and we were grateful to have him on our side.

"Terry has decades of experience creating jobs and turning around struggling businesses, including bringing the Democratic National Committee out of debt for the first time in modern history. I believe this experience makes him uniquely qualified to be the next governor of Virginia and I support his candidacy."


Gillibrand Racking Up Endorsements

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has notched a few more endorsements on her belt in the last few days. Running for the 2010 special election, every endorsement counts as the new senator -- appointed in January to fill the vacant seat left by Hillary Clinton -- could face intraparty challenges from some of her former House colleagues.

The Gillibrand campaign announced today that State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith is endorsing her candidacy.

"Throughout her career, Kirsten Gillibrand has exhibited the kind of leadership that has yielded results for the people of New York," Smith said in a press release. "Her agenda to advance economic development opportunities and revitalize our communities is the kind of vision we need in Washington fighting for us."

Last week, Gillibrand won an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice New York, a leading abortion rights group that has previously backed the House campaigns of Gillibrand's potential Dem challengers -- Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Carolyn McCarthy.

Just days after being appointed by Gov. David Paterson in January, Emily's LIST made a suprisingly fast endorsement of Gillibrand's special election bid.

Each endorsement Gillibrand touts is one less that a potential rival could use as ammunition against her in a primary, and the backing of two women's groups and a leading state Democrat -- not to mention the public support of New York's senior Senator Charles Schumer -- could be enough to keep others out of the race.

One already has dropped out. After a 15-minute phone conversation with President Obama on Friday, Rep. Steve Israel announced he would no longer run. Maloney and McCarthy, though, have yet to follow suit.

No Consensus On Cheney Within GOP

The reaction to Dick Cheney's media blitz the last few weeks has been divided within the Republican Party.

National Journal's bi-weekly poll of political operatives, released Friday, found that 57 percent of Republican ops think Cheney has hurt the GOP since leaving office, while 33 percent say he's helped (5 percent said he's had no effect, 5 percent said "both").

Then you have Byron York's piece today, which quotes John Weaver, the Republican strategist who advised Jon Huntsman on a possible presidential run and was a longtime adviser to Sen. John McCain: "If it's 2012 and our party is defined by Palin and Limbaugh and Cheney, then we're headed for a blowout. That's just the truth."

However, on the Sunday talk shows, Republican leaders John Boehner and Michael Steele defended the former vice president's actions. Calling Cheney "a big member in our party," Boehner said "having these voices out there doesn't hurt us, it helps us."

Strategy Memo: Memorial Day Sprint

Today, President Obama welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. It's the first of three scheduled meetings with Mideast leaders as he begins tackling the peace process. The two meet one on one, before holding an expanded meeting with advisers and later a working lunch.

Vice President Biden picks up where Obama left off -- commencement speech duties -- as he delivers the address at Wake Forest University. Afterward, he'll head overseas on a trip that includes stops in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo.

On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin a week of markup on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate change bill, which Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says the committee will pass by the end of this week. The House will vote on a series of suspension bills, while no committee hearings or votes are scheduled in the Senate.

Check out all the Sunday talk show highlights you missed, including the DNC's Tim Kaine and RNC's Michael Steele, at the RealClearPolitics Video page.

**President Obama
*The New York Daily News reports, "Expectations are modest for President Obama's meeting Monday with Benjamin Netanyahu, but observers say Israel's prime minister will be more flexible than he was at peace talks a decade ago."

*Notre Dame speech: "Tackling an emotionally charged issue he largely managed to avoid during his candidacy, Obama said he doesn't believe the clash over abortion 'can or should go away' even though 'the views of the two camps are irreconcilable,'" the Globe reports. The speech "was largely well received by the audience."

*Jonathan Martin reports that in appointing Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be his ambassador to China, Obama "doesn't merely remove a likely challenger -- it strips the Republican Party of one of its few voices urging moderation." GOP consultant Mark McKinnon described it this way: "Keep your friends close and your enemies in China."

*Stephanie Cutter will be leaving her job at the Treasury Department to lead the confirmation effort for the new Supreme Court justice. AP: "Cutter will shape the White House's message during the high-volume debate on the Hill and in the media. She knows the turf well; she coordinated the Democrats' opposition to President George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominees and was a frequent Democratic spokeswoman."

*The White House announced Saturday that Obama's trip to Russia and Italy will also include a final stop in Ghana.

*Wall Street Journal reports that Obama's decision "to maintain Bush-era military commissions is the latest in a series of compromises and delays that allies on the left see as a disappointing shift away from campaign pledges."

*Dan Balz writes that Obama's ability to appeal across the spectrum during the campaign is impossible now, "once presidential decision making begins and choices have to be made." Early attacks from the right were not unexpected. "What has been more surprising is that Obama has gotten himself into a scrap with the left as he has begun to refine those very national security policies that seemed to signal such a sharp break with the Bush administration. The eruption of anger on the left suggests a new phase of Obama's presidency that represents a significant step in his transition from candidate to commander in chief."

*The New York Times' Baker writes about the common phrase in Obama's economic rhetoric, "new foundation," wondering if it's "a new New Deal." "New Foundation may not come tripping off the tongue quite as easily as New Deal -- it has twice as many syllables, after all -- but it has become a staple of Mr. Obama's speeches in the last month. Whether a 21st-century public buys a 20th-century political technique is another question."

**Congress
*"House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman spent last week immersed in percentages - should carbon emissions drop 20 percent or 17 percent by 2020. But starting Monday, the important number is 30 - the number of votes he needs to get his cap-and-trade bill out of committee," The Hill reports.

*Republicans kept the heat on Speaker Pelosi in a series of Sunday talk show appearances.

*Supreme Court Battle?: "While there is growing anticipation that the summer will bring the spectacle of a pitched Supreme Court confirmation battle, some Senate Republicans are lowering expectations that they are planning any major political fight," NY Times reports.

**Democrats and Republicans
*Redistricting: "Republicans and Democrats are already organizing and strategizing for their decennial battle over Congressional redistricting, with a decade's worth of elections hanging in the balance. While the fight over conducting the census is expected to take center stage over the next year and a half, partisans on both sides of the aisle are keenly aware of what is at stake in the post-2010 redrawing of district boundaries."

*GOP: "The Republican Party has scarcely begun to repair a wound that threatens to confine it to minority status: its 2006 collapse among Hispanic voters," Politico reports.

We touched on this last week, as well, with the release of new Census figures.

*Dems: "From competitors to collaborators, Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) have gradually warmed to each other as the new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman has solidified his leadership standing and his predecessor has shifted his focus to legislating," Roll Call reports.

**The Atlanta Journal Constitution notes different tone in two speeches from RNC chair Michael Steele. First, he "paid red-meat tribute to the defiance" of delegates at the Georgia GOP convention. "We don't have to re-make anything," he said. But earlier, Steele "had delivered a quite different message, using the blunt language that's made him famous. The chairman said he had inherited leadership of a party that was 'stuck in a 1980s philosophy, using a 1990s strategy to win campaigns.'"

**Campaign Stuff
*Cillizza reports that with Attorney General Roy Cooper taking himself out of the Senate race, Democrats are again looking at Rep. Heath Shuler (D) to take on Sen. Richard Burr.

*On Fox News Sunday, Mitch McConnell sidestepped an endorsement in his state's Senate race. AP: "McConnell, who has skirted the question several times in past weeks, would only respond that the contest is still unfolding."

*Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert is next in line, and though he and Huntsman "twice shared the ballot" in the state, "the two share little else," the Salt Lake Tribune notes, pointing to disagreements on civil unions and climate change. In 2012, Herbert is a favorite to hold the governor's mansion, while Rep. Jim Matheson or Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon are seen as the Democrats who could have a realistic chance of winning.

*Opportunity missed? Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, who replaced Kathleen Sebelius and had pledged not to run in 2010, appointed a new lieutenant governor Friday who made the same promise. The Capital Journal: "It has raised more talk of the Democrat's short bench. There is no Sebelius, Parkinson or Paul Morrison heading into next year's campaigns. Attorney General Steve Six and State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, Democrats appointed by Sebelius, are expected to concentrate on holding those jobs."

*In Virginia, Del. Brian Moran is up with a new radio ad that slams Terry McAuliffe for leading the fight against Obama in the 2008 primaries. "The fact is, if Terry McAuliffe had his way, Barack Obama wouldn't be our president today," the ad says.

*In the latest New Jersey Republican primary debate, Steve Lonegan "came out swinging hard against" Chris Christie, "accusing him of being less conservative and evasive on tax issues," the Star-Ledger reports. Christie kept most of his attacks focused on Gov. Jon Corzine, rarely mentioning him without also blaming his Democratic predecessor Jim McGreevey for the state's dismal fiscal situation."

**The Most Viewed Article on WashingtonPost.com Right Now: "Ever Wondered How Astronauts Pee in Space?" -- located in the KidsPost section of the paper.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Speaker In The Spotlight

Happy Friday, Washington. Today President Obama honors the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the White House, a visit that was postponed after the death of Harry Kalas. Obama also meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and may make an announcement on continuing military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay.

Joe Biden, who cheered the Phillies on during the campaign, will not be at the White House today, and is instead making stops in California to promote the Recovery Act.

On Capitol Hill, there are no votes scheduled in either chamber. The Senate Homeland Security committee will consider the nomination of Robert M. Groves to be Director of the Census, within the Commerce Department. Two House Armed Services subcommittees will hold hearings on FY 2010 budget requests. As Congress leaves town, though, focus will continue on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's epic press conference yesterday.

**Lede of the Day: "Nancy Pelosi is a woman of many talents. Yesterday, she performed the delicate art of backtracking while walking sideways," writes Washington Post's Dana Milbank.

**Congress
*In case you missed it (and there's no way you did), Speaker Pelosi had a press conference yesterday: "Under fire from Republicans for what she knew about harsh questioning of terror detainees, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday acknowledged that she had learned in 2003 that the C.I.A. had subjected suspects to waterboarding, but she asserted that the agency had misled Congress about its techniques. At a tense press conference, Ms. Pelosi said for the first time that a staff member alerted her in February 2003 that top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee had been briefed on the use of tough interrogation methods on terror suspects," NYTimes reports.

*War Supplemental: "The House passed a bill yesterday that would provide more than $96 billion in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through Sept. 30, as President Obama had requested, but a bloc of 51 Democrats opposed it."

**President Obama
*A Fox News poll finds Obama with a 60% approval rating. He now has a 61.0% RCP Average Approval Rating.

*WSJ: The Obama administration's new Afghanistan commanders are likely to order fresh military strikes against the Taliban as part of a broad push to encourage more militants to join U.S. and Afghan reconciliation efforts, senior defense officials said. The shift comes amid a growing U.S. realization that outreach to the Taliban -- a core part of the American strategy for pacifying Afghanistan -- won't succeed until the armed group feels its power is waning, the officials said."

*Gallup: On the issue of abortion, 51% of Americans call themselves "pro-life" and 42% "pro-choice." "This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995."

*The New York Times reports that on abortion, "Obama is suddenly in the thick of the battle he had hoped to transcend, and his delicate balancing act is being put to the test." His speech at Notre Dame and the opening of a Supreme Court seat "threaten to upend Mr. Obama's effort to 'tamp down some of the anger' over abortion, as he said in a news conference last month, and to distract from his other domestic priorities, like health care."

*At his town hall yesterday, the president called on Congress to send him a bill by Memorial Day "that would curb what he described as abusive credit card practices in which lenders raise interest rates and slap consumers with high fees," per the LA Times. Obama also stressed that consumers may need to rethink spending practices. "This is not free money; it's debt," he said. "And you shouldn't take on more than you can handle."

*Also during his town hall, Obama said the EFCA doesn't yet have sufficient support to pass. "I think that there may be areas of compromise to get this bill done. I'm supportive of it, but there aren't enough votes right now in the Senate to get it passed," Obama said.

*And, he took a pot shot at the media, which he said unfairly downplayed $17 billion in budget cuts while condemning him for signing a bill with earmarks. "Well, you can't have it both ways," the president said. "If those earmarks were important, then this money is important, too."

*AP follows up on the report that Obama will restart military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, "reviving a Bush-era trial system he once assailed as flawed but with new legal protections for terror suspects." The administration does plan some changes, however, including restrictions on hearsay evidence that can be used in court, and giving detainees greater leeway in choosing their own military counsel.

*Obama announced today that he has appointed Dr. Thomas Frieden, currently Commissioner of the New York City Health Department, as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

*The president called an agreement among health care stakeholders to lower costs a "watershed moment." But now the New York Times reports, hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that Obama "substantially overstated their promise," and "the companies' trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country."

*Defense Sec. Robert Gates: "For decades, the Pentagon's focus has been on building expensive, high-tech weapons programs for conventional wars. Gates has embarked on an ambitious effort to force the department to focus more of its energy on developing arms and equipment that can help troops on the ground as they battle insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq," WaPo reports.

*David Axelrod is on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" this weekend. He was asked what the campaign might have done different. "The whole Barack Hussein Obama thing," Axelrod replied, joking. "We thought about changing that... Barry O, or something..."

**Republicans
*Politics Daily's Cannon, on Cheney: "When first tapped to be George W. Bush's running mate, Richard Cheney received the kind of press you cannot buy. In what might be seen now as the last hurrah of the old mainstream media, Cheney was heralded as an accomplished man, prudent and wise, experienced in the ways of Washington. ... Nine years later, the most frequent comments about the former vice president cannot be published in a family newspaper like The Times. Today, when Democrats, bloggers, and liberals discuss Dick Cheney they are plotting how he can be prosecuted."

*Some day this has to stop. Rush Limbaugh fires back at John McCain's mom, who said she belongs to a different GOP than he does. "She is absolutely right," he said. "The Republican Party she belongs to gets shellacked election after election after election."

**Campaign Stuff
*Joe Torsella clears the way for Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, Hotline notes. "Senator Specter's decision to join the Democratic Party transformed this election," he said. "Over time, it's become clear to me that the kind of campaign this would become is not the kind of campaign I - or you - signed up for. It would probably become negative, personal, and all about Senator Specter's past, not our common future. And that doesn't do Pennsylvania any good."

*The Washington Times calls the Florida Senate a test of the GOP's response to the stimulus. "Key national Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who chairs the party's 2010 senatorial campaign, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky quickly endorsed Mr. Crist - despite his pro-stimulus stance - in advance of a potential primary fight. Mr. Steele, despite his previous statements, said he won't be playing favorites as Florida Republicans choose their nominee."

*In Florida yesterday, Crist showed he was determined to focus on his gubernatorial duties. "What was originally scheduled as a 25 minute 'media availability' was instead four minutes and 23 seconds of his avoiding questions about the Senate race," the Sun-Sentinel reports.

*Rand Paul, son of Texas Congressman and viral presidential candidate Ron Paul, plans to get into the Kentucky Senate race. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that he planned to make his announcement on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show - "an indication that he expects his father's national network of Libertarian-leaning Republicans to play a key role in any campaign he runs."

*MO Sen: "A new Democracy Corps survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research shows Secretary of State Robin Carnahan leading Republican Congressman Roy Blunt 53 to 44 percent and leading former Treasurer Sarah Steelman 54 to 42 percent."

*Potential Missouri Senate candidate Thomas Schweich came to the state Capitol Thursday to meet with Show Me State political leaders. Former Sen. Jack Danforth served as the sherpa. "What I'm hearing is we need a fresh face," said Schweich, a Washington University political science professor. "I think we need to win the seat. I believe I would have the best chance to beat Robin Carnahan. I'm very worried about losing this seat."

*More, from Roll Call: "Nearly three months after Rep. Roy Blunt (R) announced his plans to run for Senate, the Republican primary to replace him in Missouri's conservative Southwestern 7th district is a crowded affair -- and it appears likely to keep growing."

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Democracy Corps: Carnahan With Early Lead

Secretary of State Robin Carnhan (D) leads two potential Republican opponents, Rep. Roy Blunt and former Treasurer Sarah Steelman, in a new Democracy Corps survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (April 28-30, 800 LV, MoE +/- 3.5%).

Carnahan 53
Blunt 44

Carnahan 54
Steelman 42

NJ Gov: Corzine Starts Making His Case On Air

Over at the RCP Blog I wrote about a new poll that shows a very fluid race still for the GOP nomination for governor in New Jersey. Well, it appears that Gov. Jon Corzine (D) isn't waiting to see who his opponent is before taking to the airwaves.

His campaign e-mailed supporters to preview two 30-second spots, both putting a positive spin on the work he's done in the first term to support the economy and education. "Got It" touts Corzine as having been the author of the "nation's first economic recovery plan," while claiming he cut $5 billion in state spending. The other ad, "Children," features Corzine himself speaking about money he's directed toward education and health care, even as the overall budget has been cut.

Both ads end with the tag line, "Governor Corzine: Working every day to keep New Jersey working." You can see both after the jump.

Got It:

Children:

The Country Is Evolving; Will the GOP?

Expanding the party base to include more minorities was a leading topic at the Republican National Committee meeting in January, when members gathered in Washington to elect a new party chairman. It's also one of the calling cards of Michael Steele, the party's controversial new chief.

Well, population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau prove GOP leaders were on the right track in identifying a key to electoral success in the future. Minority voters are quickly becoming a dominant force in politics.

With two stinging national losses fresh in mind, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in January discussed at length the party's need to reach out to Latino voters. One committeeman told RealClearPolitics that the GOP could "soon lose Texas" if something isn't done. (Texas has voted Republican in the last eight presidential elections.)

Sure enough, today's Census release shows increasing minority populations in vital electoral states. In 2008, Florida's Orange County -- the 35th largest county in America -- became a majority-minority county, meaning more than half of its residents are non-white. In 2008, two of the three House Republican incumbents in Orange County's three congressional districts were defeated.

Two counties in Texas were also among the six nationally to become majority-minority last year. Since 2000, 56 counties have become majority-minority, bringing the total to 309, or 10% of the nation's counties.

Census estimates show that minorities now account for 34% of the U.S. population, as well as 47% of children under the age of five. If the last election wasn't a loud enough wake-up call for the GOP, perhaps these numbers will be.

Pelosi's CIA Accusation

In case you missed it, here's the video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing the CIA of misleading Congress regarding the "enhanced" interrogation techniques it was using against terrorist suspects.

From The Note's write-up:

"The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed," Pelosi said, reading from a prepared statement. "Those briefing me in Sept. 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information."

"At the same time, the Bush administration was misleading the American people about the threats of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," she added. "The CIA was misleading the Congress. At the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

Porter Goss, who in 2002 was the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and later director of the CIA, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post late last month that Pelosi's comments continue to contradict.

He wrote that he is "slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as 'waterboarding' were never mentioned."

Strategy Memo: South By Southwest

The president starts his day in New Mexico, where he'll hold a town hall meeting to discuss credit card reforms. He returns to the White House later this afternoon.

The House is expected to vote today on a bill that would distribute billions of dollars in grants to states to renovate and modernize schools. Also on the docket is the war supplemental appropriations bill. Appearing before House committees today are Attorney General Eric Holder (Judiciary) and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (Appropriations subcommittee).

On the north side of the Capitol, the Senate will resume consideration of the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights. Yesterday, the Senate rejected an amendment to the bill that would have capped interest rates at 15 percent. This afternoon, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on "the road to peace" in the Middle East.

**President Obama
*The Arizona Republic reports that more than 60,000 "waited for hours in the broiling sun" to hear Obama's commencement at ASU, a speech that was a "witty response to a lingering controversy over the school's decision not to give him an honorary degree." "It is moments like these that force us to try harder and dig deeper and discover gifts we never knew we had. To find the greatness that lies within each of us. So, don't ever shy away from that endeavor. Don't ever stop adding to your body of work," he said.

*Obama based his decision to block release of prisoner abuse photos on "military concerns the images could stoke anti-American passions overseas." He said any abuse is unacceptable, but he worried "how the release of these photos would impact on the safety of our troops," USA Today reports.

*The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House "is weighing plans to detain some terror suspects on U.S. soil -- indefinitely and without trial -- as part of a plan to retool military commission trials that were conducted for prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay."

*AP reports that Obama's Supreme Court short list is down to six: Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno is also under review by Obama. "The disclosure of top candidates came as the president met privately at the White House with four leading senators likely to play a key role in confirmation proceedings. Separately, top aides invited the leaders of several liberal-leaning outside groups to a meeting."

*A CBS poll finds that 55 percent trust that Mr. Obama will nominate a good justice to fill Justice Souter's seat, and 35 percent are uneasy about who he might select. His approval rating is 63 percent.

*The Obama administration is seeking "new authority over the complex financial instruments, known as derivatives, that were a major cause of the financial crisis and have gone largely unregulated for decades," the New York Times reports. "The proposal will probably force many types of derivatives into the open, reducing the role of the so-called shadow banking system that has arisen around them."

*The VP's office said that the stimulus program is ahead of schedule, Politico reports. "Although some state and local governments want speedier spending, Biden said in the 21-page report: 'We set a goal of outlaying 70 percent of Recovery Act expenditures by the end of 2010; after just three months, we have already obligated more than $88 billion.'"

*Bill Clinton wants the Obama administration to make a "genuine effort" to prod healthy banks to repay TARP. Clinton also told Bloomberg that the prospects are "good" for Congress to pass this year an energy bill and an overhaul of the health-care system.

*Clinton also takes this shot at VP Cheney. "I wish him well," Clinton told CNN while greeting voters in Virginia. "It's over. But I do hope he gets some more target practice before he goes out again."

**Congress
*"Despite complaints that banks and credit card companies are gouging customers by charging outrageous interest rates, the Senate on Wednesday easily turned back an effort to cap interest rates at 15 percent," NY Times reports.

*Politico: "As the House prepared to vote this week on Republican Rep. Jeff Flake's push for an ethics investigation involving Rep. John Murtha and other senior appropriators, Democratic leaders sent an unmistakable message to their members: 'Don't be a Flake.' "

*When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) took control of the Energy and Commerce Committee, conservative Dems worried he and Speaker Pelosi "would try to ram through a politically toxic climate change bill," Roll Call writes. "But this week, Waxman and Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) showed a pragmatic streak that appears close to lining up support from nearly all the panel's Democratic members."

*"Republicans believe that rising gas prices are their trump card against a Democratic-sponsored climate change bill," The Hill reports. "The Democrats' plan of moving a cap-and-trade bill this summer plays into GOP hands because as the cost of gasoline spikes, so does the public's awareness of energy prices, Republican leadership aides say."

**Republicans
*Cheney's "running argument with the new administration has spawned a noisy side debate all its own: By leading the criticism, is Cheney doing more harm than good to the causes he has taken up and to the political well-being of his party?" WaPo's Dan Balz writes.

**Campaign Stuff
*VA Gov: "The irony of this race is that McAuliffe, who worked his tail off to defeat Obama in Virginia's primary last year, wins only if he can persuade some of those Obama-inspired political newbies to get back in the water," WaPo's Fisher writes.

*Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe were an hour late to the first of two campaign appearances in Northern Virginia yesterday. "You can be proud of him on every single measure," Clinton said of McAuliffe. "He was born to lead at this moment and I want you to elect him."

*Really? Sarah Palin weighed in on the Miss California controversy. "What I find so remarkable is that these politically-motivated attacks fail to show that what Carrie and I believe is also what President Obama and Secretary Clinton believe -- marriage is between a man and a woman," Palin said.

*Bloomberg says Republicans are adopting a "Rahm" strategy for recruitment in 2010. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) "said he wants his party to select candidates based less on ideology and more on their chances of winning. The goal, he said, is to seek out prospects who are ethnically diverse, female, less partisan and even supportive of abortion rights."

*AP says "the outreach to more moderate candidates is angering many in the party's conservative base, further exposing a rift over the direction Republicans should take after disastrous election losses in 2006 and 2008. Republican leaders such as Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, and Cheney, the former vice president, have warned the party against moving toward the middle."

*A Rasmussen poll has Chris Christie leading the Republican primary in New Jersey, leading Steve Lonegan 39-29, with another 29 percent undecided.

*A Marist Poll finds Mayor Mike Bloomberg with an approval rating of 59 percent, and ahead of three potential Democratic candidates.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Crist Fallout Continues, As Sink Announces For Governor

Florida's Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink, announced today that she will join what is now an open-seat race for governor. Sink's campaign Web site as recently as yesterday indicated she was planning to seek a second term to her current post, though the switch was not unexpected in the wake of Charlie Crist's decision to run for the U.S. Senate.

In a statement, Sink says she's heard from Floridians that they "need leaders committed to protecting the middle class, strengthening our economy and giving our families a fighting chance. As a businesswoman and working mom, I couldn't agree more."

Sink was elected to the CFO post in 2006, the only Democrat to win a statewide election that year. In her four years Sink says she's seen that "Tallahassee's tired old ways of doing business just aren't enough to answer the urgent new challenges we face. And a state government influenced by narrow special interests cannot put the best interests of everyday Floridians first."

The 60-year-old North Carolina native had previously served as president of Bank of America. Her husband, Bill McBride, lost to incumbent governor Jeb Bush in the 2002 election. An early poll showed her neck-and-neck with Bill McCollum, the state attorney general and a likely candidate for governor in 2010.

Obama, Pelosi Promise Health Care Bill By July

President Obama emerged from what he said was an "extremely productive meeting" with the House Democratic leadership this morning with a commitment to pass health care reform this year.

"We've got to get it done this year, both in the House and in the Senate. And we don't have any excuses. The stars are aligned," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she's "quite certain" that legislation will be on the floor in July, before the August recess. Obama said that's "the kind of urgency and determination that we need to achieve what I will be historic legislation."

The president again argued that health care reform is a necessary step in bringing America's deficit and debt under control. He cited new forecasts for Medicare that show the system becoming unsustainable sooner than previously predicted, a fact that "only underscores the need for reform," Obama said.

"If we don't reform how health care is delivered in this country, then we are not going to be able to get a handle on that," he said.

Obama closed by saying previous reform efforts have "too often" failed because of "special interest lobbying and petty politics," but claimed that there is "a shift in these patterns" underway.

"We're seeing now that traditional opponents of health care reform are embracing these ideas," he said. "They recognize that the time is now. And so I am just deeply encouraged and I want the message to go out all across America - we are not going to rest until we've delivered the kind of health care reform that's going to bring down costs for families and improve quality, affordability, accessibility for all Americans."

DSCC Hires Daily Kos Blogger

The netroots' increasing influence on the national political scene has just taken another step forward. On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hired Arjun Jaikumar to serve as the blog and netroots outreach manager.

Jaikumar is better known in the netroots community as Brownsox, a frontpage blogger for Daily Kos.

"We are thrilled to have Arjun join our team," DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz wrote in an e-mail to RCP. "He's talented, smart, and will help strengthen our relationships with the ever-expanding netroots community."

RCP spotted Jaikumar in Arlington, Va., on Monday at a fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. He said he was there unofficially and noted that he had just been hired by the DSCC.

Earlier in the day, Jaikumar wrote in his final blog post on Daily Kos that this was "a great moment for the netroots - three and a half years ago, I was an anonymous, underemployed college graduate who stumbled across Daily Kos while looking for news on Senate races. Now, I'm going to be employed by one of the party committees."

The DSCC is not alone in its strategy for netroots outreach. Hotline's Blogometer noted yesterday that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) campaign has also hired a netroots blogger -- MyDD's Todd Beeton.

Strategy Memo: Supreme Pow Wow

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with the House Democratic leadership at the White House. He'll make a short statement afterwards. Later he meets with Senate leaders from both parties to discuss the Supreme Court nomination. Obama then leaves DC for Arizona, where he'll deliver the commencement address at Arizona State University. He ends the day in Albuquerque.

The Senate will vote this morning on the nomination of David J. Hayes for Deputy Secretary of the Interior before turning its attention back to the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights legislation. The House will likely vote to send the Weapons Acquisition System Reform bill to conference.

A number of administration officials will be on Capitol Hill today, including Secretaries Tom Vilsack, Eric Shinseki and Janet Napolitano, as well as Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

**President Obama
*President Obama and Senate leaders will meet on Wednesday to discuss how long it will take to approve his Supreme Court nominee, a question that could delay the president's announcing his pick," The Hill reports. Dems Harry Reid and Pat Leahy, and GOPers Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions will meet with Obama tonight.

*White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that he couldn't say whether Obama would be "washing names" through the senators at Wednesday's meeting but that it would focus heavily on process. "Obama is intent on trying to keep the names of those he is considering private," AP reports.

*"Senate GOP leaders are urging their Conference to avoid making any early pronouncements -- and, more importantly, endorsements -- of President Barack Obama's pending Supreme Court pick," and Obama has tapped Senate Dems Claire McCaskill, Dick Durbin and Charles Schumer "to serve as informal advisers ... to help him vet and gauge Senate support for prospective nominees," Roll Call reports.

*Gallup: "64% of Americans say it doesn't matter to them whether Obama appoints a woman, with slightly higher percentages saying the same about the appointment of a black or Hispanic."

*Bloomberg on the Social Security and Medicare reports: "The Social Security trust fund will run out of assets in 2037, four years sooner than previously forecast, the trustees said yesterday. Medicare's hospital fund will be exhausted by 2017, two years earlier than predicted a year ago. ... The declining financial health of the two entitlement programs puts pressure on Congress and President Barack Obama to come up with ways to cut costs and boost revenue for both."

*The New York Times reports that three months after the stimulus program became law, "the federal government has paid out less than 6 percent of the money, largely in the form of social service payments to states. Although administration officials say the program is right on schedule, they have actually spent relatively little so far."

*Republicans pounced Tuesday on a White House document that said regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act "is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities."

*WSJ also reports that the idea of taxing health care benefits "is gaining strength in Congress," which needs to find a way to pay for President Obama's health care plan. Problematic for Obama, though, "because on the campaign trail he opposed it, while his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, made it a key plank of his health-care proposals."

*The GOP is voting unanimously to block an Obama nominee to run the Interior Department, Politico reports. Opposition to David Hayes' nomination "is being spearheaded by Utah Republican Robert Bennet, who is trying to pressure the administration to reconsider the cancellation of oil and gas leases in his home state."

*The Arizona Republic estimates that 71,000 will be on hand for the president's visit to ASU today. He won't get a degree, though. "The president is expected to 'discuss the amazing opportunity that graduates have, the challenging world that they enter into,' said Robert Gibbs."

**Congress
*"House Democrats said last night that they would scale back some of the most aggressive provisions of a bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a compromise designed to win the votes of fellow Democrats whose states rely on coal or heavy industry," WaPo reports. "Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the bill's architects, said that the compromise should ensure rapid passage in the House Energy and Commerce Committee."

*"With the "what did she know and when did she know it" questions more or less resolved -- Pelosi learned that the Bush administration was waterboarding detainees no later than February 2003 -- Republicans are now directing their attacks on the muted, indirect way in which she responded," Politico reports.

*"The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition likely holds the key to enacting a universal health care plan this year, but so far the Democratic bloc feels like it's being cast aside," Roll Call reports.

**Murtha Alert: "The Republican who challenged Rep. John Murtha in 2008 says a top aide to the embattled Pennsylvania Democrat threatened to have him recalled to active duty in the U.S. Army so he could be court-martialed for engaging in politics while serving in the armed forces," Politico reports.

**Republicans
*First Read has the highlights of Dick Cheney's latest interview, where he talks about torture, prosecutions of Bush officials, and this answer on Jeb Bush: "I'd probably support him for president."

*AP: "Cheney, widely remembered for heading to undisclosed secure locations at times of national crisis and for working invisibly behind the scenes, has done just the opposite" of President Bush since leaving office - the former president "slipped intentionally into anonymity and honored protocol by staying silent about his successor."

*The RGA is planning a "Tea Party 2.0" ABC reports. A national conference call will "drive home the message that 'out of control spending is both a federal and state issue,' according to RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

**Crist For Senate
*Crist unbeatable? "Don't assume anything in this volatile political and economic climate," St. Pete Times' Adam C. Smith writes.

*Crist's Senate candidacy "is being cast by Republicans as a sign that their political fortunes are turning for the better with the emergence of a new crop of moderate voices lining up for 2010 races," WaPo reports.

*"It is a heated debate in the struggling Republican Party: whether to broaden its ideology or follow the advice of Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and others who argue against deviating from core conservative principles. Now, the GOP has a chance to see whether a moderate can become a model for Republican resurgence," L.A. Times reports.

*Crist was asked if Floridians are better off now than they were when he took office. This Miami Herald video shows his answer: "I certainly hope so."

*The Herald also senses some dissatisfaction among Hispanics over the fact that the NRSC endorsed Crist so quickly over a Hispanic candidate. GOP fundraiser Ana Navarro: "They have paid all this lip service to how desperately Republicans need to build bridges with the Hispanic community and young people, but a 37-year-old Hispanic running for statewide office gets the door slammed in his face. They might as well have put up a sign that said, 'Hispanics need not apply.'"

*Former House Speaker Alan Bense takes himself out of the running for governor or Senate. State Sen. Dan Gelber (D) says he's still running for Senate, but won't shut the door on switching to the Attorney General race. Rep. Ron Klein (D) also says he's still in the mix, though it's considered unlikely.

**Other Campaign Stuff
*The Republican candidates for governor in New Jersey had their first debate last night. The Star-Ledger: "Lonegan and Christie fought over who is the true 'conservative' and why the other guy is not the best to challenge Corzine and take over the most powerful governor's office in the nation. There were repeated references to the late congressman Jack Kemp and former President Ronald Reagan, two icons of the GOP's conservative revival in the 1980s. At one point, Lonegan remarked 'you know, Chris keeps talking about Ronald Reagan,' adding that the late president would disagree with Christie's views on taxes."

*GA Gov: Former Gov. Roy Barnes "said Tuesday that he has yet to decide whether to run again in 2010, but said he believes the Democratic field is lacking," the AJC reports. He said his wife has given support for him to run. "Do I have a pleasant life? I do. I enjoy going home every night. At the same time, I love this state." He plans to make an announcement either way by June 1.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Club For Growth: Crist Could Be Next Specter

The Club For Growth is considering weighing in on the Florida Senate race, and offers a warning to Gov. Charlie Crist (R).

"We're deeply concerned about Crist's liberal record on fiscal issues so we're doing our due diligence and currently weighing a possible involvement in the race," said spokesperson Andy Roth. "Crist could easily become the new Specter."

From White House Ally To Senate Foe?

Just three months after the president shared a stage with Gov. Charlie Crist (R) in Florida, the White House today signaled that Obama would likely support his Democratic opponent in the Senate race.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said it was too early to speculate about whether Obama would campaign in Florida against Crist. But when asked if Obama would support the Democratic nominee, Gibbs said that the president "generally support[s] Democratic nominees." "I think you have a sense of where the president's party allegiance lies," he added.

During a town hall meeting in Fort Myers this February, Obama thanked Crist for his strong public backing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party," he said. "When the town is burning, we don't check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose! Governor Crist and governors across the country understand that."

These words could be very helpful to Crist in a general election campaign. But of course, Crist needs to get through a Republican primary first, and today he was asked if his support for the stimulus package could backfire amongst a conservative electorate.

"I think what's important to bear in mind is that we do things a little bit differently here in Florida and that's another reason that I run for the United States Senate. We work together to solve problems and do what's right for the people of our state," Crist said, according to CNN. "The people are the boss. And I think, regardless of party, we have to work together to get things done. And that's what I'd like to take to Washington, D.C."

NRSC, McConnell Endorse Crist

Well that was fast. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who formally announced a bid for Senate this morning, has already been endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The GOP leaders announced their support for Crist despite the fact that another respected Republican is running -- State Rep. Marco Rubio, the former Florida House speaker. Already facing an uphill battle against Crist in the Aug. 24, 2010 primary, the NRSC's endorsement -- which implies financial and organizational help for Crist -- makes the climb that much steeper for Rubio. Not to mention, the state party is touting their endorsements on its website.

"While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," Cornyn said, acknowledging the snub. "Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."

DGA Jumps On Crist Senate Announcement

With Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) announcing his bid for the Senate this morning, the Democratic Governors Association has labeled the 2010 gubernatorial election a "top-tier pick-up opportunity."

Democrats held the Tallahassee governor's mansion for much of the 20th Century, but the 21st has so far been dominated by Republicans -- beginning with Jeb Bush's first election in 1998, re-election in 2002 and Crist's 7-point win in 2006. President Obama, though, won Florida by 3 points.

In a press release, the DGA says it's "well-positioned for the 2009 and 2010 election years, having already announced record-breaking fundraising of $5.3 million in the first quarter alone." It also touted a Mason Dixon poll released last month showing Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollum in a dead heat -- with 35% for Florida CFO Sink and 36% for Attorney General McCollum, with 29% undecided.

"Democrats have been winning in Florida, and we are committed to seeing a Democrat put the state back on the path to recovery," said DGA Chairman Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana. "Strong leaders in the state like Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink give us an excellent opportunity to return this governorship to the Democratic column."

Crist Announces Senate Bid, Promising To "Put People First"

The Florida Republican Party released a statement on behalf of Gov. Charlie Crist (R) making his decision to run for the U.S. Senate official.

"Here in Florida, we've shown that when we put people first and work together much can be accomplished, and I intend to bring that same approach to Washington," Crist says.

The NRSC quickly endorsed Crist, even as he faces a primary challenge from former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

"While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said in a statement. "Governor Crist is a dedicated public servant and a dynamic leader, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."

Rubio expressed disappointment at the NRSC's endorsement, saying on his Twitter feed: "Remember that reform must always come from the outside. Status quo won't change itself." He also posted this YouTube video, titled "Let the Debate Begin."

The state's primary is August 24, 2010. Crist's full statement is after the jump.

"Over the last several months I have spoken with many Floridians about the challenges that we face together and the issues affecting our daily lives. Our country is facing the most profound public policy questions in our lifetime -- questions relating to the economy, taxes, healthcare, the environment and national security. The answers to these questions will have a lasting impact on the country we love and the nation we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

"As I have previously said, my decision whether to seek the office of U.S. Senator or re-election as Governor would not be made until after the important work of the Legislature was completed at which time I could reflect on how to best serve the people of this great state. Here in Florida, we've shown that when we put people first and work together much can be accomplished, and I intend to bring that same approach to Washington.

"That is why, after thoughtful consideration with my wife Carole, I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate. As Governor, each day I will continue to focus on fighting for all Floridians. And if I am given the honor of serving as their Senator, I will take that fight for the people of this state I love so dearly to the halls of Congress. Thank you and God bless the great state of Florida and the United States of America."

Mideast Leaders To The White House

The White House just announced the dates of planned meetings this month with the leaders of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

New Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come to Washington on May 18. Egypt President Hosni Mubarak will meet with President Obama on May 26, and finally Mahmoud Abbas will visit on May 28.

"With each of them, the President will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab states," press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Obama is to visit Egypt in early June for a speech to the greater Muslim world.

McAuliffe Seeks Young Voters in Virginia

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Seeking "young professionals" and the "young-at-heart," Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe held a fundraiser last night at a Northern Virginia club, featuring hip-hop stars Will.i.am and Biz Markie.

Will.i.am, a member of the Black Eyed Peas, appeared at four campaign stops and did some eight radio interviews yesterday with McAuliffe, who's hoping some star power will boost youth turnout in the June 9 Democratic primary. While an event in Norfolk earlier in the day drew just 30 people, a few hundred attended the event last night -- which charged $20 to get in, and $500 for a VIP reception beforehand.

Biz Markie served as disc jockey for most of the event, until Will.i.am took over the turntables for the last hour or so. During a press gaggle in the basement before appearing on stage, McAuliffe and Will.i.am could hardly hear reporters' questions as the bass boomed from the ceiling.

Calling McAuliffe a "wonderful guy," Will.i.am said he believes McAuliffe "as governor will bring the jobs to Virginia" and that he wished McAuliffe was running in California, where he lives.

After working together for John Kerry's presidential bid in 2004," Will.i.am said he and McAuliffe "went our separate ways since then -- he supported Hillary Clinton, I supported Barack Obama. But that didn't change how I felt about Terry."

Introducing McAuliffe to the stage, Biz sang his classic hit "Just a Friend" but altered the lyrics to fit the moment. "Oh baby you/Got what I need/Because Terry is our friend/Because Terry is our friend/Oh baby you!"

"The Republicans, they're upset," McAuliffe told the crowd, citing the GOP's losses in Virginia last year. "They say, 'This is our chance. If we win, it sets us up for 2010, and that sets us up for 2012.' "

Saying the November 2009 general election will be a tough race that Democrats need to win, McAuliffe touted a campaign volunteer roster of 4,000 and a "campaign no one's seen before."

Prior to that, McAuliffe will need to boost turnout to get through the primary against Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds -- both veterans of state politics. McAuliffe, the ultimate Washington insider who now refers to himself as a Richmond "outsider," is admittedly new to the Virginia political landscape, as well as its voters.

Strategy Memo: Crist Campaign Begins

Good Tuesday morning. Today, President Obama continues a push on health care as he meets with business leaders to discuss cutting employer health care costs. Later, Obama and Vice President Biden honor the recipients of the Top Cops awards from the National Association of Police Organizations. He'll then meet with top Iraq advisers in the Situation Room. Tonight he and the first lady host another social event in the East Room -- this one an "evening of poetry, music and the spoken word," including a reading by actor James Earl Jones.

On Capitol Hill, the House will consider a slate of suspension bills, including one recognizing the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election as the first female prime minister of Great Britain. Also on the House side, two cabinet members -- Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano -- will testify before House Appropriations subcommittees regarding their departments' budgets. The Senate will continue consideration of its version of the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights.

In Florida today, Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to formally announce his bid for Senate. The move sets up a primary battle with former State House Speaker Marco Rubio and a tough general election race, possibly against U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek or State Rep. Dan Gelber.

**President Obama
*HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared on all of the morning shows today to follow up on yesterday's health care announcement. She said the White House "wouldn't hesitate" to call out providers and insurance companies if they don't live up to their pledge to slow spending increases.

*LA Times: "As the president was celebrating the collaboration among industry groups responsible for derailing previous healthcare overhaul campaigns, it became apparent that the carefully tended effort was about to face its biggest test. ... Insurance industry leaders have already rebelled at the administration's proposal to pare federal spending on the Medicare Advantage program, under which private insurers contract with the federal government to provide health coverage to seniors."

*The New York Times reports that "the continuing crisis still bedevils [Obama's] budget projections and his domestic agenda." Revised figures released by OMB showed a deficit $90 billion higher than projected, and Treasury figures showed a plan to finance health care would raise $267 billion less than projected. "Congressional Republicans seized on the new deficit projection to tweak the Democratic administration for its boast last week that its 'line-by-line scrub' of the federal budget had produced proposals to save $17 billion in the 2010 fiscal year."

*AP on the decision to change commanders in Afghanistan: "Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of Gen. David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the Senate. ... McKiernan's exit after less than a year comes as more than 21,000 additional U.S. forces begin to arrive in Afghanistan, dispatched by President Barack Obama to confront the Taliban more forcefully this spring and summer."

*Washington Post reports on the SCOTUS pick, saying that those involved in the process inside the White House and those advising from outside "say President Obama would relish" the choice of a Hispanic nominee. "He studiously and successfully courted Hispanic support during the campaign and has maintained close ties to Latino leaders since coming to office. But the White House is constructing its appointment strategy on the belief that this will not be his only appointment to the court and that he need not reach his goal of changing the racial, ethnic and gender balance on the court with just one pick."

*In a letter to the president, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) asked Obama to select a woman for the Supreme Court, stating "it needs to be diverse and better reflect America," where more than half of the population is female.

**Congress
*A silver lining for GOP after Specter defection? "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) now leads a leaner, more politically unified Conference and arguably has a freer hand to swing a conservative hatchet at President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats," Roll Call reports.

*Robert C. Murtha Jr. has made a sizable living for years working with companies that rely on Pentagon contracts over which his uncle, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), holds considerable sway," WaPo reports, citing newly obtained documents showing RM namedropping JM as leverage in business dealings.

*"Usually a master of message discipline, Pelosi has been thrown off balance by a mounting firestorm over whether she or her staff learned six years ago that intelligence officials were using extreme tactics such as waterboarding," Roll Call reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*VA Gov: Hip hop stars Biz Markie and will.i.am at a Terry McAuliffe fundraiser in Arlington last night. Biz, singing his hit "Just a Friend," alters the tune a bit: "Oh baby you, got what I need, because Terry is our friend, because Terry is our friend. Oh baby you!" will.i.am, a bit more serious, told reporters: "I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe in the guy."

*The Palm Beach Post reports that in choosing the Senate, Charlie Crist is the first Florida governor to decline a re-election bid since term limits were expanded in 1968.

*Miami Herald: "For the next 18 months, as the state battles its worst financial crisis in at least half a century, Florida will be led by a bunch of lame ducks. Virtually every statewide leader in Tallahassee, beginning with Gov. Charlie Crist, is expected to be seeking higher office."

*Sheryl Crowe and Bette Midler will perform at a May 26 fundraiser President Obama headlines for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jon Ralston reports.

*"Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's (R) camp is not happy with Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele's suggestion that base Republicans had a problem with the 2008 presidential candidate's Mormonism," The Hill reports.

*Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom reacts to Michael Steele's comments on why he lost in the '08 primaries: "Sometimes when you shoot from the hip you miss the target. This is one of those times."

**Sports Alert: Last night was a good one for Washington sports fans. The Caps forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Penguins after a 5-4 overtime victory last night in Pittsburgh. And up-and-coming Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman extended his hit streak to 29 games, batting 4 for 5 with two home runs.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

NH-01: Guinta Says Congress Out Of Touch With NH Values

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R) made it official today, announcing that he's running for Congress to bring "New Hampshire values" to Washington, DC.

"In new Hampshire we have a sense of frugality. We have a sense of pulling up our own bootstraps. We have a sense of trying to figure out the way together to get through tough times. That is in direct contrast to what's going on in Congress, and how our Congressman is voting," Guinta said on a conference call this morning.

He called the stimulus bill "wasteful," and said it "doesn't provide the long-term economic viability that our country demands." He also slammed the Employee Free Choice Act as "blatantly against" the Granite State's "Live Free Or Die" credo. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D), the first district incumbent, is a co-sponsor of the EFCA and voted for the stimulus bill, though Guinta didn't mention her by name.

"The problem with Washington is that our representation is only looking as far as the next election. The policies that they are implementing today are only short-term risks that do not address long-term problems, not offer long-term solutions," he said.

Guinta, the mayor of the state's largest city, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for several statewide offices, but said he's running for Congress because that's where "my heart is." He chose to announce his candidacy now to be honest with his city, and because he said he wants strong candidates run to replace him this fall. He said he'll keep his focus on the city this year, with a full campaign schedule picking up next year when his term is over.

Other Republicans are still considering the race. Guinta said he's not focused on a primary yet, saying he brings "the right credentials" to the race and has a record that "speaks for itself."

Asked what direction he thought the Republican Party should go in as it plots a comeback, Guinta cited the tea party movement as evidence that most Americans feel the country is on the wrong course.

"What I hope other Republicans do across the country is take up the mantle of being forthright, being true to their own particular principles, and respect what people are saying," he said. Those who participated in tea parties "are not just Republicans or conservatives, but people with all ideological backgrounds, and they're coming together for common cause and a common purpose, and that is to take back our government and to change the direction of America."

He said his own party can always do better, and should "restore some basic principles of limited government, of focusing on reducing spending, on bringing prosperity back to America."

"That's part of the reason that I'm running and I'm putting myself out as a candidate," he said.

New Hampshire Democrats are already criticizing Guinta, saying he's "running away from the challenges of City Hall" as Manchester faces higher crime and declining schools.

"The people of Manchester know all too well his personal ambitions have always come before the needs of our city," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.

House Campaign Chairs Hit, Hit Back

The heads of the two parties' House campaign arms got into a back-and-forth today -- press release style -- over comments NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions made in a New York Times article. An excerpt from that piece:

In an interview, Mr. Sessions cited rising unemployment in asserting that the administration intended to "diminish employment and diminish stock prices" as part of a "divide and conquer" strategy to consolidate power.

In reaction to Sessions' comments, DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen issued a statement that referenced the remarks as "bizarre" and conspiritorial:

"The American people want leadership to address our economic challenges, yet the Republicans are responding with one ridiculous sound bite after another while refusing to offer a constructive alternative to their failed economic policies of the last eight years.

"The latest remarks by NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions have no place in our current economic debate and reflect a Party more pre-occupied with offering bizarre conspiracy theories than offering credible solutions to get our economy back on track. Families coping with the loss of a job, their home, or their health care need solutions from Washington, not more of the same broken politics embodied by Chairman Sessions and the Republican Leadership in the House, and talk show host Rush Limbaugh."

Not to be outdone, Sessions responded with a released statement of his own, in which he refused to back down from his comments in the NYT article and said Van Hollen was simply "lobbing rhetorical missives":

"I have said it once and I will say it again. Democrats are intent on passing an agenda that puts their liberal interests first, and the future of American jobs second. Despite their efforts to re-frame my comments, I was simply reiterating what many members of the Democratic Party have echoed over the past several weeks, which is that many of the so-called economic 'solutions' proposed by liberals in Washington either already have or have the potential to inflict further damage on our economy and undercut our country's free enterprise system.

"After publicly feuding with the Democratic leadership over the political merits of Nancy Pelosi's crusade to institute a national energy tax, it appears that my counterpart at the DCCC is lobbing rhetorical missives with the desperate hope of scoring points with the liberal party leaders he infuriated. If Chris Van Hollen, or any other member of the Democratic leadership, takes issue with my comments, then I would urge them to take a look at what some of their own members have been saying about their reckless economic policies."


Obama Calls Health Care Announcement A "Watershed Moment"

President Obama today announced the commitment on the part of a coalition of stakeholders to reduce the costs of health care $2 trillion over the next 10 years, calling it a "watershed event in the long and elusive quest" to reform the system.

"What they're doing is complementary to and is going to be completely compatible with a strong, aggressive effort to move health care reform through here in Washington with an ultimate result of saving health care costs for families, businesses and the government," Obama said.

Speaking from the State Dining Room of the White House, Obama said that he wanted to give everybody a "seat at the table" in the larger effort for reform, outlining three core principles any plan should contain: bring down costs, allow individuals to maintain existing coverage if they choose, and create a system that covers all Americans.

"These are principles that I expect to see upheld in any comprehensive health care reform bill that's sent to my desk," he said. "It's reform that is an imperative for America's economic future, and reform that is a pillar of the new foundation we seek to build for our economy; reform that we can, must, and will achieve by the end of this year."

The administration and the president himself called this a historic step, though some are questioning that. Critics are already pointing out that there is no hard requirement of health care and insurance providers to follow through on their promise.

"Today's announcement promises savings with no concrete plan to achieve them and no enforcement mechanism if they don't," House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said that when Obama met with the stakeholders this morning, he said: "You've made a commitment.We expect you to keep it."

"We certainly believe that the players that are involved and the trade associations that they represent are genuinely serious about moving health care reform forward," Gibbs said. "But we will be, certainly, evaluating throughout this process how effective they're being, how effective the government is being at curtailing costs for Medicare and Medicaid in hopes of making sure that that savings is realized by American families."

Gibbs was also asked where the $2 trillion figure comes from, quite literally a "where's the beef" moment.

"I'm going to leave to the individual trade associations," Gibbs said. "I think some of this is contained in the letter they sent the president." Obama had said the savings would come from "standardizing quality care, incentivizing efficiency, investing in proven ways not only to treat illness but to prevent them."

Today's event came together only recently, according to Linda Douglass, a spokesperson for the Office of Health Reform. Participants had been discussing the proposed commitment for weeks, but only Friday night did it become apparent that a deal could be made public. The White House held a conference call Sunday with senior administration officials involved in the reform effort leading up to the event today.

N.Y.: The State to Watch in Primary Season

With rumblings today that Rep. Steve Israel may jump into the Democratic primary mix for Senate, New York will be the state to watch next year for intraparty fireworks.

Israel joins fellow Reps. Carolyn McCarthy and Carolyn Maloney as a potential challenger to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's vacant seat. Gillibrand's politics in her first two years in office fit her upstate congressional district well (she won re-election in 2008 by 24 points), however she'll likely have trouble if one of the three Dems from NYC decides to run.

A Marist poll released last week found Gillibrand leading Maloney by just 5 points in a hypothetical primary contest. Add to the drama the Will he/Won't he aspect of Sen. Charles Schumer's potential to steer votes toward Gillibrand, whom the New York Times reported last week Schumer has taken under his wing.

Should any of the three run for Senate, their decision not to run for re-election would also set off a rush of Dems to fill their shoes.

Then, of course, there is the gubernatorial showdown, in which Gov. David Paterson (D) -- also appointed to his post -- is getting pulverized in the polls by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D), not to mention potential GOP opponents.

It seems unlikely anyone would run in such harsh conditions. But if Paterson does, the race will be interesting to watch at the very least.

Gibbs Says "20th Hijacker" Joke In Poor Taste

At today's White House press briefing, Robert Gibbs was asked how the president felt about comedian Wanda Sykes' joke calling Rush Limbaugh the 20th hijacker -- one the comedian herself conceded may have been "too much."

The press secretary began by saying he hadn't spoken with President Obama specifically about it, and stressed that the choice of the entertainment is made by the White House Correspondents Association. He even referred to the WHCA president, Associated Press reporter Jennifer Loven, seated in the front row as he addressed the topic.

"My guess is that I think there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy. I think there is no doubt that 9/11 is part of that," said Gibbs.

VA Gov: McDonnell Releases First TV Ad

Bob McDonnell, the GOP nominee for governor in Virginia, began airing his first TV ad of the campaign today. Unlike the Democrats, who face a competitive three-way primary race, the GOP has no primary race, and McDonnell has been able to sock away his campaign funds and hold off on TV advertising until now.

The positive ad, which can be viewed here, touts McDonnell's resume -- "21 years in the Army and Reserves," "bipartisan actions against internet sexual predators" as state attorney general -- and refers to him as the "jobs governor."

Airing on broadcast and cable channels in Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke, Tri-Cities, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, the ad will appear in media markets on the I-81 corridor (which runs along the Appalachian Mountains on the west side of the state) and I-64 corridor, which cuts through the central part of the state. The ad will not air in the expensive Washington, D.C., media market, which includes populous Northern Virginia.

The Democratic primary is June 9.

Biden To Help Corzine Kick Off Re-Election Campaign

NJ Gov. Jon Corzine, who faces an uphill battle in his bid for re-election this November, is getting an assist from Vice President Biden as he prepares to formally kick off his campaign.

In an e-mail to supporters, Corzine invites recipients to join him and his former Senate colleague on the night of the state primary, June 2. The event will be held at the Codey Arena in South Orange, a venue named after the state Senate president and former governor.

The e-mail makes clear that Corzine intends to use the popularity of the Democratic administration to his advantage this fall.

"I share the President and Vice President's vision for what America can become once again. In fact, I have been working for the last four years to move New Jersey in that new direction," Corzine writes. "We've made a lot of progress, but, together, we can do even more."

The vice president just appeared with Corzine in New Jersey last week for an event to highlight the effect of the Recovery Act in the Garden State.

Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie are battling for the Republican nomination to be decided that night.

Obama Approval Up After 100 Day Mark

President Obama joked during his speech at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington that Saturday was the 10-day anniversary of his first 100 days.

Speaking of the first 10 days of the rest of his presidency, Gallup reports today that Obama's approval rating average since the 100-day mark is 66%, 3 points higher than the average rating of his first 100 days.

Perhaps of more importance to Obama's re-election -- which is still three and a half years away -- is that 25% said they would definitely vote for him in 2012, while 28% said they would probably vote for him. That 53% total includes 90% of Democrats, 46% of independents and 16% of Republicans.

On the other side, 25% said they would definitely not vote for Obama, and 12% said they probably would not.

A similar question was asked in June 1994 and January 1995, and both surveys found just 11% saying they would definitely vote for Bill Clinton in 1996. Clinton would go on to defeat Bob Dole by more than 8 points in the popular vote and 220 electoral votes.

Strategy Memo: Raising The Health Care Stakes

Today, President Obama announces what the administration is portraying as a significant step toward health care reform, an agreement among "stakeholders" to reduce costs. He'll meet with these parties this morning before delivering remarks in the EEOB. Later today, the president hosts the NCAA men's basketball champion UNC Tar Heels.

The Senate begins consideration of the Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights -- the Chris Dodd version. The House passed its own version of the bill two weeks ago. The House will take up the war supplemental appropriations bill this week. Today, no committee hearings are scheduled in either chamber.

And the big political news as the week begins comes out of Florida, where multiple reports indicate that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will be announcing his candidacy for the Senate tomorrow.

Check out highlights of all the Sunday talk shows you missed at the RealClearPolitics Video page.

**President Obama
*The AP lead on health care: "President Barack Obama's plan to provide medical insurance for all Americans took a big step toward becoming reality Sunday after leaders of the health care industry offered $2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years to help pay for the program."

*Washington Post: "The pledge comes amid a debate over how, or whether, to overhaul the nation's health-care system, and Obama administration officials predicted that it will significantly increase momentum for passing such changes this year."

*New York Times adds: "At this point, administration officials said, they do not have a way to enforce the commitment, other than by publicizing the performance of health care providers to hold them accountable."

*Obama used his weekly address to promote a credit card bill of rights. The president said too many Americans are victims of "fine print that hides the truth" - including sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees. "Instead of abuse that goes unpunished, we need to strengthen monitoring, enforcement and penalties for credit card companies that take advantage of ordinary Americans," he said.

*USA Today sums up the Correspondents Dinner remarks. We thought his ribbing of Michael Steele was the highlight. Also funny: "In the next 100 days, I will be so successful, I will be able to do them in 72. ... I will learn to go off the prompter, Joe Biden will learn to stay on the prompter."

*Gallup: "President Barack Obama appears to be slightly more popular with Americans at the start of his second 100 days in office than he was, on average, during his first 100."

**Congress
**"The House expects to clear its version of a $96.7 billion war spending bill this week, after lawmakers added money above President Obama's request and sidestepped a difficult issue on terror detainees," NYT reports. "In the Senate, lawmakers are set to return to the issue of credit cards by taking up a measure that would put new limits on how the card companies can change their policies and fees and market the cards."

*AP: "It's a political squall that won't die: What did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi know about harsh questioning of detainees, and when did she know it?"

*"Republicans say new revelations about a CIA briefing Pelosi received in 2002 have given them their best shot yet at blocking a sprawling probe into Bush administration interrogation techniques by allowing them to insist that its targets would include the speaker of the House," Politico reports.

*In Baghdad Sunday, Pelosi "told Iraqi officials on a visit Sunday to Baghdad that America would need to improve its intelligence in their country after U.S. troops pull out," AP reported.

**Republicans
*Michael Steele, who marked 100 days as RNC chair, may find his "standing as a national leader ... on the line" this week at a special RNC meeting in Maryland. LA Times: Steele "plans to deliver a major speech at the party gathering, which could relaunch his chairmanship and stop him from sliding into irrelevance and becoming little more than an object of ridicule for his opponents."

*Big word of the day, courtesy of The Hill's Reid Wilson: "As Republicans undergo an omphaloskeptic examination of their own party amid historic losses,the party must reach out to more voters, top GOP officials said Sunday."

*Different takes on the GOP from John McCain and Dick Cheney. The 2008 nominee for president told ABC: "We can have people in our party who do not have the same views on specific issues, as long as we share common principles. We have to understand that maybe a candidate that can win in one part of our country, like the South, may not be able to get elected in Pennsylvania."

Cheney, however, sided with Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell, saying on CBS that he didn't even think Powell still considered himself a Republican.

*The DNC asks what year it is in a new web video.

**Campaign Stuff
*FL Sen: The Pensacola News Journal first reported it. The Miami Herald and others confirmed it. Gov. Charlie Crist is running for Senate, and he'll face former State House Speaker Marco Rubio in the GOP primary. "It's probably going to be low-key," Florida GOP chair Jim Greer told the St. Pete Times about Crist's Tuesday announcement. "It's his intention not to do anything that would take away from what he's got to be focused on in the coming weeks. There's a lot to do with being governor."

*The Hill notes how Crist's decision shakes up the entire state government, with all major statewide elected officials looking to now change jobs. ""It's the biggest opportunity they've had in decades," Florida political analyst Justin Sayfie said of Democrats. "This is a golden opportunity for Democrats to regain control of the Florida cabinet."

*Awkward night at the Kentucky GOP dinner Saturday night, where both Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning spoke. "There is no hiding the fact that there is tension in the air this evening," state House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover said during his remarks, according to the Louisiville Courier-Journal.

Bunning "touted his conservative credentials and congressional voting record and asked his fellow Republicans for support in the coming year. He reiterated his re-election plans," AP says. "I am nobody's puppet. I am my own man," Bunning said during his remarks. "I hope and pray I can count on your support in the coming months. The battle is going to be long, but I am prepared to fight for my values. I hope you are with me."

*The Newark Star-Ledger, on the Republican primary in the New Jersey gubernatorial race: Steve Lonegan's "creeping poll numbers have forced his opponent to redirect ad spending against him. In short, there are signs Chris Christie has grasped the risk of underestimating Steven Mark Lonegan."

*Today, Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta announces his candidacy for the New Hampshire first congressional district seat held by Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

*George Stephanopoulos reported this weekend that senior campaign officials who came to believe rumors about John Edwards' affair had a plan to "sabotage" his candidacy should he look like a potential nominee.

**White House Correspondents Association dinner: Chronicled by WaPo, the Examiner, Politico, etc. Mike had had a solid time at the Capitol File after party, where celeb sightings included Eva Longoria, Dule Hill, and Christian Slater.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Caldera Loses WH Job Over AF1 Photo in NY

AF1_photo1.jpg

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released the following statement and photo late this afternoon:

The President has accepted the resignation of Louis Caldera as Director of the White House Military Office. Attached is Mr. Caldera's resignation letter. Also attached is a report sought by the President and conducted by Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and a photo.

The President has asked his Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Defense Secretary Gates or his designee to jointly review the organizational structure of the White House Military Office and the reporting relationship of its components to the White House and the Air Force, and to make recommendations to him to ensure that such an incident never occurs again.

The "resignation" comes after a White House internal report regarding the April 27 "photo shoot" of Air Force One flying over New York found that "structural and organizational ambiguities exist within WHMO that at times affect the organization's ability to operate effectively" -- which ulitmately led to many people within the White House unsure of who was at fault.

Obama Proposes Shift On Unemployment Compensation

President Obama said it is "somewhat encouraging" that new unemployment figures were lower than in past months. But the 539,000 lost jobs is a "sobering toll," and with unemployment at its highest point in a quarter-century, the administration wants to change "senseless" state compensation rules.

"The idea here is to fundamentally change our approach to unemployment in this country, so that it's no longer just a time to look for a new job, but to prepare yourself for a better job," he said. "That's what our unemployment system should be - not a safety net, but a stepping stone to a new future."

He cited a program in Maine as an example. It lets those who collect unemployment to continue doing so as they pursue further education, paid for with a Pell Grant. He said all Americans should pursue education beyond high school, and said community colleges are "underappreciated assets." Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, has been tasked with leading a national effort to "raise awareness about what we're doing to open the doors to our community colleges."

"We're moving forward because now is not a time for small plans," the president said. "It's not a time to pause, to be passive, or to wait around for our problems to fix themselves."

Gallup: Dems Lead Party ID Among All Age Groups

Gallup released an interesting report and accompanying chart showing party identification by age. At every age, more people currently identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans. The biggest contrast is among the youngest voters -- Millennials -- and Baby Boomers in their 50s and early 60s.

Perhaps the most interesting line of data: The number of people identifying themselves as independents gradually decreases as age increases. It's not hard to figure that younger voters still haven't found exactly where they fit, while older voters are less likely to stray from their solidified views.

The data comes from more than 123,000 interviews conducted between Jan. 5 and March 3.

5-8-09_Gallup Age Party ID.gif

5-8-09_Gallup Partisan Gap By Generation.gif

Strategy Memo: Unemployment Still on the Rise

Good Friday morning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning in its monthly jobs report that 539,000 jobs were lost last month, and the unemployment rate increased from 8.5% to 8.9%.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $96.7 billion war spending bill yesterday, which is expected to hit the House floor next week. Neither chamber is in session today, though the Joint Economic Committee will examine the jobs report.

Today, President Obama will speak from the EEOB about job creation, and later will meet with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Obama won't participate, but the White House is also promoting a Spanish-language town hall meeting to be moderated by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, which will address concerns about the H1N1 virus.

This weekend is the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington. Obama will be there, as will most of the DC glitterati (even Alberto Gonzales! Sarah Palin, it turns out, will not). Comedienne Wanda Sykes is providing the entertainment - good luck to her.

**President Obama
*The Hill: "The Congressional Black Caucus is launching a campaign to persuade President Obama to appoint one of their members to the Supreme Court seat that will be vacated by Justice David Souter. They are pressing the merits of Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who would increase the number of African- Americans on the court to two."

*AP has the details on today's jobs announcement. One measure will encourage states to allow unemployed individuals who decide to go back to school to keep receiving their unemployment check.

*Even though the administration took tough questions about whether $17 billion in cuts was sufficient, Reuters reports that "both critics and supporters of Obama consider the plan ambitious," and it will "face a tough sell in the U.S. Congress."

*Washington Post adds that much of the criticism came from Democrats. "Though the proposed reductions represent just one-half of 1 percent of next year's budget, the swift protest was a precursor of the battle Obama will face within his own party to control spending and rein in a budget deficit projected to exceed $1.2 trillion next year."

*USA Today notes that many of the programs being cut, cited as unnecessary or ineffective, received stimulus funds. "Obama administration officials are 'talking out of both sides of their mouth, saying they want to cut programs which have been increased this year,' said Tom Schatz of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste said. 'It makes it harder to get these programs eliminated or reduced when there's just been an increase.'"

*Stress tests: ABC reports that the banks found to be needing capital "will have to seek out private sources of capital or accept the government's offer to convert already existing preferred stakes in the banks -- which the government acquired through the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program -- to common equity. Converting these existing investments would help provide needed capital without requiring additional taxpayer funds. But it also means that if a bank were to collapse, taxpayers would be less likely to see their investment repaid."

**Congress
*Reporters and Republicans aren't the only ones questioning Obama's $17 billion in cuts -- Democrats don't want to say goodbye to their pet projects, WaPo reports.

*Obama didn't get the $80 million he wanted to transfer detainees out of Gitmo, but Republicans focused on that issue yesterday during debate.

*Roll Call: "A declassified report submitted to Congress on Wednesday states that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed on the use of 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' which include waterboarding, on terrorist suspect Abu Zubaydah in September 2002. But Pelosi's office maintains that the content of those briefings did not include details on the use of waterboarding."

*On a 300-114 roll call vote, with 60 Republicans crossing over, the House "approved a bill to tighten regulation of the mortgage industry, as part of an effort by Congress to eliminate the aggressive marketing tactics and predatory lending practices that contributed to the housing collapse and the steep economic downturn. ... The bill now heads to the Senate where it seems likely to be approved, although the timing is uncertain," NYT reports.

*Sen. Charles Schumer is looking out for the junior senator from New York, the NYT reports. "Ms. Gillibrand faces steep challenges as she tries to win over skeptical Democrats after a shaky debut as the state's new senator. But in ways that are surprising and angering her rivals in the party, Mr. Schumer has quietly made her success his cause too."

**Campaign Stuff
*Gallup: "Although Democrats currently enjoy a party identification advantage over Republicans among Americans at every age between 18 to 85, the Democrats' greatest advantages come among those in their 20s and baby boomers in their late 40s and 50s. Republicans, on the other hand, come closest to parity with Democrats among Generation Xers in their late 30s and early 40s and among seniors in their late 60s."

*The Hill's Wilson and Blake sit down with Burris: "Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said he would like to keep his job in the Senate, but will make a formal decision whether to seek reelection in the next few weeks based on his ability to raise money for a campaign."

*Looks like Sarah Palin won't be coming to the Correspondents Dinner after all. CNN reports she's staying in Alaska because of record flooding in Eagle.

*Dick Cheney speaks: via Politico, he told a North Dakota radio host that it "would be a mistake" for the GOP to go moderate. "Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren't eager to have someone come along and say, 'Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'"

*Tom Ridge
explained
his decision not to run for the Senate on "Hardball," calling it the "toughest personal political decision I ever had to make." He also called for the Republican Party to be more tolerant and civil in its debate, saying at one point the GOP needs to "reduce the decibel level -- we're a little bit too doggone shrill."

*Cillizza cites polling on the Texas gubernatorial primary showing that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison leads Gov. Rick Perry, 45-39. But there's strong opposition to the bank bailout Hutchison supported.

*Nine Top Politics Sites

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

In NH-01, Manchester Mayor May Hold Key For GOP

NH Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) has been underestimated before, much to the chagrin of former GOP incumbent Rep. Jeb Bradley, whom she upset in 2006 and edged out again last year. But Republicans say her last two general election wins were helped by strong Democratic waves nationally, a factor that may not be in play next year.

If so, the GOP's hopes for a Northeast comeback may end up riding on Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, who filed paperwork last week to form an exploratory committee for a Congressional run. One of the state's few prominent Republican officeholders after the retiring Sen. Judd Gregg, Guinta has been mentioned frequently as a potential gubernatorial candidate. But with popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch likely to run again, the National Republican Congressional Committee also identified him as a top recruit for a House race.

What makes Guinta's candidacy so enticing is his home field advantage in the Queen City. Though Manchester is a majority Democratic city, he won a second term in 2007 by nearly eight points, and raised record funds in the process. Manchester also played a key role in Shea-Porter's last win. She carried every ward last year and took the city by 5,000 votes -- accounting for 40% of her reelection margin in the 1st Congressional district. No wonder Republicans hope Guinta's special appeal for the city's voters could be the X-factor in next year's House race.

A Guinta campaign adviser said that the greater Manchester area accounts for 37% of the vote in the House district and Guinta's popularity and standing in the city will "be a huge advantage." A new University of New Hampshire survey released this week presented some additional warning signs for the incumbent. Shea-Porter's approval rating remains under 40% in the district, while her disapproval climbed to 35% -- her worst since taking office. Her favorability rating in the Manchester area is actually the lowest of any of the regions surveyed -- just 29%. Compare that to Guinta, who has a 52% favorable rating there.

Shea-Porter's problem, Republicans say, is a voting record more liberal than her constituency. And even Democrats gripe about her lackluster fundraising. Unlike last year, Shea-Porter is "actually going to have to run on her own," the Guinta adviser said, noting the boost provided by Barack Obama's strong performance in New Hampshire in 2008.

Guinta plans officially to announce his candidacy next week.

Ridge Won't Run For Senate; Says GOP "Facing Challenges"

First Read has a statement from the former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary taking him out of contention.

Tom Ridge says he is grateful for the support and encouragement he received, but that he decided against the race. He says, however, that his career in public service is not over. "There are causes to which I remain intensely committed, including my work on behalf of the disability community, our nation's veterans, our national security and the GOP -- the party I enthusiastically joined more than four decades ago."

In the long explanation, Ridge speaks about the state of the GOP, saying: "To those who believe that the Republican Party is facing challenges; they are right." But he adds: "To those who believe the Democratic Party is without its own difficulties, they are wrong. No one party has a monopoly on all of the answers."

He says he hopes to play a role in helping the Republicans "craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace."

Full statement after the jump:

"After careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate.

"I am enormously grateful for the confidence my party expressed in me, the encouragement and kindness of my fellow citizens in Pennsylvania and the valuable counsel I received from so many of my party colleagues. The 2010 race has significant implications for my party, and that required thoughtful reflection. All of the above made my decision a difficult and deeply personal conclusion to reach. However, this process also impressed upon me how fortunate I am to have so many friends who volunteered to support my journey if I chose to take it and continue to offer their support after I conveyed to them this morning how I believe I can best serve my commonwealth, my party and my country.

"Public service has long played a significant role in my life. That service does not end here. There are causes to which I remain intensely committed, including my work on behalf of the disability community, our nation's veterans, our national security and the GOP -- the party I enthusiastically joined more than four decades ago.

"To those who believe that the Republican Party is facing challenges; they are right. To those who believe the Democratic Party is without its own difficulties, they are wrong. No one party has a monopoly on all of the answers. The more important view, in my mind, is that we remember, whether Republican or Democrat, we are foremost Americans. And as Americans, we have always overcome challenges when we put partisanship aside and solutions first.

"And so my desire and intention is to help my party craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace. My hope is to raise the level of civility in public debate and raise the bar on outcomes that serve our citizens fully, fairly and equally. My belief is that those in my home state can best be served by the principles of limited government, less taxes, competent governance and shared responsibility. So I stand ready and excited to help my party and my country prevail as we continue to work to preserve and protect our strong, storied and much beloved nation."

DNC Web Video Questions McConnell's Leadership

A new web video from the Democratic National Committee takes the argument made by Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R) that the GOP's nearly-20 seat deficit in the Senate is a reflection of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership.

GOP Takes On Release of Gitmo Detainees

House Republicans announced this morning the introduction of a bill that aims to halt the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison and transfer of detainees into the United States. In the war supplemental appropriations bill, House Democrats stripped the funding requested by President Obama to transfer detainees currently being housed in the prison to domestic facilities -- helping fuel the GOP argument that the administration's plan is unwise.

"Not only should there not be any money in the supplemental to move these detainees, we ought to make clear that none of these detainees should be brought to the United States until such time as the president has had a conversation with the American people, which is the essence of this bill we're bringing," Minority Leader John Boehner said, as the "Keep Terrorists Out of America Act" was introduced at a press conference.

During a speech this morning on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also criticized President Obama's proposal to close the prison and transfer detainees.

"Does the administration really think Congress will appropriate these funds before it presents us with a plan that keeps the American people as safe as Guantanamo has?" McConnell said. "The administration needs to explain its actions to the American people and their representatives in Congress. And Republicans will continue to ask these questions until they do."

A Rasmussen survey released last month found that just 36 percent support the closing of Gitmo -- down 8 points from January -- and 75 percent oppose releasing the detainees into the United States. Lawmakers from states with facilities administration officials have targeted for transferring detainees, such as Virginia, have been particularly concerned with the plan.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) introduced a bill -- co-sponsored by fellow Virginia GOP Reps. Eric Cantor, Frank Wolf and Robert Wittman -- in February that would prohibit the use of federal funds to transfer detainees to facilities in Virginia.

"If there ever was a time for protectionism, this is it," said Minority Whip Eric Cantor. "Coming from Virginia, where there are two facilities on the list of potential sites for relocating these terrorists, I am particularly passionate about making sure that the president's desire and some in this Congress to bring these enemy combatants to the soil of the United States does not happen."

The issue is also likely to come up in forthcoming elections. Bob McDonnell, the GOP nominee in the Virginia gubernatorial race, has supported the Forbes bill. "As Governor I will take all prudent actions to ensure that the terrorists and enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay never step foot on Virginia soil," McDonnell said last month.

Cutting Costs: Admin Promotes Reductions

An administration that was first defined by a massive spending program to stimulate the economy is now highlighting cuts made in the FY'10 budget released today. President Obama just spoke about the line-by-line effort to find savings, which up to now has netted $17 billion.

"Even by Washington standards, that should be considered real money," Obama said. That figure, he added, could fund a tuition tax credit, larger Pell Grants and security at national parks. "Today we have taken an important step, albeit just a first step."

He acknowledged that some cuts are "painful," but urged lawmakers to sustain them. Defense cuts account for half of the $17 billion -- but Obama said the administration is eliminating only unnecessary spending that could "prevent us from spending money on what does keep us safe."

OMB Director Peter Orszag, who regularly blogged when he lead the Congressional Budget Office, posts today on the White House Web site about the administration's efforts.

"The steps we are detailing in Terminations, Reductions, and Savings are part of the Administration's larger effort to change how Washington does business and put the nation's fiscal house in order. Today represents a significant installment in our commitment to review the federal budget line by line," Orszag writes.

One problem, though: the link to the full list of terminations, reductions and savings is dead as of this posting, giving visitors a "File Not Found" message instead.

Who's The Most Popular Alaska Republican?

It's not Sarah Palin, according to a new survey from Hays Research. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's favorability rating continues to climb as Alaskans have taken a more unfavorable view of their governor, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president.

Favorability Rating
Palin 54/42 (compared with 60/35 in March)
Murkowski 76/18 (compared with 72/20 in March)

The survey found that 30.5% of respondents had a "very positive" view of Palin, down from 34.9% in March, while 24.8% now have a "very negative" view, up from 21.2% in March. A survey conducted in May of 2008 pegged Palin's favorability rating at 86% -- a 32-point drop in just one year. Then, only 3% had a "very negative" view of their governor.

The new survey of 400 voters was conducted May 4 and 5, and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 %

Strategy Memo: Line By Line

Today, the White House releases its full itemized budget. Senior administration officials previewing it last night highlighted the $17 billion in cuts being made - calling them significant, even in a more than $3 trillion package. The president will speak about the budget after his morning briefings. Later, he'll also meet with Michael Bloomberg, Rev. Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich to discuss education policy.

Today Vice President Biden is in New Jersey to appear with Jon Corzine, the state's embattled Democratic governor. The event is meant to highlight the stimulus package, but has the side effect of lending high profile support to Corzine, who faces re-election this fall. Be sure to check out the campaign news below for a look at how the Republican primary continues to get more interesting.

The House will complete consideration of the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, and the Senate begins considering the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, co-sponsored by Carl Levin and John McCain. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack will testify in front of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the 2009 H1N1 virus (or swine flu), and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder will appear before a separate Appropriations subcommittee on funding and oversight of the Department of Justice.

**President Obama
*AP on the president's budget: "In twin strokes, President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to award generous budget increases to domestic programs while proposing relatively modest cuts to wasteful or obsolete programs that just won't seem to die." The report notes that some cuts "won't be easy for Congress to swallow."

*A senior administration official, on the $17 billion in cuts: "Seventeen billion, to anyone's accounting, is a significant amount of money -- that's in one year alone. ... This is an important first step, but it is not the end of the process."

*Wall Street Journal: "Compared with the total $3.6 trillion spending plan for 2010, the proposed trims amount to one-half of 1%. Half the cuts would come from defense, especially Pentagon weapons programs already spelled out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates ... . The other half would come from programs that have strong support among progressive activists who cheered Mr. Obama's election."

*CNN notes that today is a National Day of Prayer, but the White House is not planning the kind of public event the Bush administration would hold. "Prayer is something that the president does everyday," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday. Asked if Obama thought his predecessor's ceremonies were politicized, Gibbs said, "No, I'm not going to get into that again."

*New York Times wraps up yesterday's trilateral meetings, which were "intended by the White House, in part, to press both men to do more to crack down on the rising threat from the Taliban and Al Qaeda in both countries. ... Pakistani officials told their American counterparts this week that they were moving large numbers of troops toward the border with Afghanistan, which American officials described as encouraging. But it remains a question whether these troop movements are real or token, and some of Mr. Obama's senior aides caution that Pakistan's military is ill suited to carry out the kind of counterinsurgency operations needed" against the Taliban.

*The Washington Post takes a close look at Sonia Sotomayor, one of the names on everyone's short lists for the Supreme Court. "Sotomayor presents a contradiction, say those who know her. Her detractors have said she can be short-tempered, tough on the bench and at odds with the amicability that President Obama has often sought in his appointments. But her supporters -- former Yale classmates, law firm colleagues and former clerks -- say she meets the definition of what Obama has said he is looking for: a qualified nominee with legal and real world experience, as well as an appreciation for the impact of court decisions on everyday life."

*Bloomberg, Gingrich, Sharpton at the WH: "The president invited the three political leaders - whose ideology spans the political spectrum - to discuss how all sides can work together to close the racial and economic gaps in American education," NY Times reports.

*Karl Rove, on the Supreme Court process: "In my service on the vacancy committee, I was startled by how many prospective nominees didn't want to be considered, an experience Team Obama is likely to have. Some prospects were content to have their names mentioned but had no interest in being nominated, because the process has a reputation for brutality."

**Congress
*Sen. Arlen Specter's transition to the Dems continues to make headlines. Today's is from the New York Times, which writes that Specter "has rapidly discovered that switching parties is not as simple as checking a new box on a voter-registration card. After a week and a day as a Democrat, Mr. Specter is viewed with suspicion by his new Democratic colleagues, with general disdain by his old Republican friends, and with an odd mix of amusement and pity all around."

*Roll Call's Drucker looks at the potential leadership battle between GOP Sens. John Ensign (Nev.) and John Cornyn (Texas), who "appear from the outside to be locked in a behind-the-scenes duel to fill the GOP's leadership void, but the conservative Senators' separate ambitions could ultimately head off a direct confrontation between the two."

*Politico's Isenstadt asks whether Guantanamo is the GOP's winning issue, and I ask whether it's energy.

*"Democratic centrists are pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to set aside a flagging climate change bill to focus on what they think is a more achievable goal: overhauling the nation's healthcare system. But those close to Pelosi (D-Calif.) say she is charging forward on cap-and-trade legislation, despite the potential defections of Democrats who represent states with industries that would be adversely affected by the bill," The Hill reports.

*Barney Frank has been working to strip an amendment from the mortgage bill that Michele Bachmann successfully added during committee, which would prohibit any group indicted for voter fraud from receiving federal funds.

**Campaign Stuff
*Al Franken had a sit-down at the White House with Joe Biden, and "the whole meeting was planned as a way of showing White House support for Franken, the official said."

*The Morning Call reports that Tom Ridge could decide whether to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania "could decide as soon as next week, people familiar with his thinking say." He's being lobbied by moderate Republicans "unhappy with the prospect of fiscal conservative Pat Toomey being the party's 2010 standard-bearer." ''I think he really does miss public service,'' said Leslie Gromis-Baker, Ridge's longtime fundraiser.

*Roll Call reports that the GOP doesn't appear any closer to finding anyone to challenge Rep. Paul Hodes in the N.H. Senate race.

*Joe The Plumber appeared with Republican candidate Steve Lonegan yesterday as the primary election draws nearer, per the Newark Star-Ledger. "He acknowledged knowing little about New Jersey politics, but he said he liked Lonegan personally and wanted to support him."

*The AP reports on an unholy alliance between Lonegan and national Democrats aimed at wounding Chris Christie, who had been seen as the likely Republican nominee and has lead Jon Corzine in most recent polls. "It's obvious they are concerned about my candidacy," said Christie. "The only hope Jon Corzine has, with the record he has, is to run against Steve Lonegan."

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Obama Reaffirms Commitment To Afghan, Pakistani Governments

Standing with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama said the three leaders had "reaffirmed their commitment" to confronting the threat of terrorism, and move forward with "unprecedented cooperation."

"We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future," Obama said in the Grand Foyer of the White House.

He said that in addition to military efforts that he announced last month, there must also be an effort toward a "positive program of growth and opportunity" to support the fragile governments there. He said the United States will support national elections later this year in Afghanistan and seek new economic alternatives to the poppy trade. In Pakistan, he called for "sustained funding" from Congress to support infrastructure as well.

"The United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al Qaeda, but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan," Obama said. "That commitment will not waiver. And that support will be sustained."

Speaking to reporters later, National Security Adviser Jim Jones said that with regard to Pakistan in particular that "miracles do not happen, so this will not happen quickly." But he said it was a "very warm meeting" between the three.

"They have embraced common themes, an intent to work together, and I think was a very good start," Jones said.

Additional meetings among delegations from the three nations will continue this week.

After Franken Meeting, VP Calls For "Full Representation" For MN

Vice President Biden released the following statement after meeting with Al Franken, the Democrat who has claimed victory in last fall's razor-thin Senate election in Minnesota:

"The election process and recount in Minnesota have lived up to the state's reputation for organization, transparency, and bipartisanship. The officials have been meticulous and every ruling has been unanimous.

"While Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of the hardest working members of the United States Senate, Minnesotans deserve their full representation.

"Once the Minnesota Supreme Court has issued its final ruling in this case, the President and I look forward to working with Mr. Franken on building an economy for the 21st century."

Energy Provides First Test in GOP Rebranding

Here is my piece today on Republicans' push to rebrand the party and campaign against the Democrats' energy plan:

Facing a growing image problem, a 78-seat deficit in the House of Representatives and soon to be on the short end of a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, Republicans set out this week to try and recast the Grand Old Party with voters by focusing on an issue Democrats have yet to build consensus around.

"Our brand has been tarnished," House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said Thursday during his weekly press conference. "We've been in a difficult position having lost a lot of seats in the 2006 election cycle, a lot of seats in the 2008 election cycle, and our candidate for president didn't do nearly as well as we all would have liked."

Two new organizations have sprung up from the House Republican Conference to remedy the situation: the National Council for a New America and the American Energy Solutions Group. The NCNA, led by Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), and the AESG, chaired by Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), are taking the show on the road, holding "conversations" with Americans around the country. They say the best solutions come from the people, not the leaders, and these efforts will provide a direct channel between the two.

You can read the rest here.

Secretary Clinton Heralds "Breakthrough" AfPak Meetings

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a cameo in the press briefing room this afternoon to give a readout on today's meetings with delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Leading up to the get-togethers were notes of skepticism on the part of U.S. officials about the ability on the part of the two nations' leadership to address security threats. But Clinton seemed determined to downplay those sentiments, calling today's discussions "very significant," and "in some ways a breakthrough."

"This process is producing some very promising early signs," she said, standing behind the White House podium. "The level of cooperation between the governments of the two countries is increasing. The confidence building that is necessary for this relationship to turn into tangible cooperation is moving forward. And I think today's series of meetings are another step along that road."

She was especially insistent that the U.S. has "strong support" for the government of Pakistan, talking about her personal relationship with President Zardari and calling for greater understanding of the situation he is in.

"He inherited a very difficult and unmanageable situation," she said. "We have a pretty well functioning government that changed direction policy-wise. But we didn't' have to start from scratch. ... I think if we can be more understanding about the history and the conditions, not only can [we] perhaps empathize with him a little bit, but be smarter in those suggestions, understanding what the consequences can be. That's what we're trying to do in this process."

She said that her meeting with President Karzai was a "future oriented one." And she said the U.S. strategy of dealing with the two nations in tandem was the right one, referring to them as "conjoined twins."

"I think seeing the two countries as connected geographically, as they are, and in a common struggle against al Qaida and the Taliban and their allies has given us the flexibility to move more agilely than we did before," she said.

Presidents Karzai and Zardari are meeting jointly with President Obama now; he's expected to make his own statement on today's events in an hour.

When Clinton entered the briefing room, reporters did not stand as they did when Obama made a surprise visit last week. She joked as she began speaking that she "successfully avoided this room for eight years."

Strategy Memo: Specter's Seniority Takes a Hit

Today President Obama balances weighty domestic and foreign policy matters in one busy day. After his morning briefings, he'll meet with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), a conservative he had a good working relationship with in the Senate. Later he and Vice President Biden will have lunch with Sens. Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee. Finally he'll meet separately with Afghanistan President Karzai and Pakistan President Zardari, and then later with the two leaders together

The House begins consideration of the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, which would make it illegal to give a mortgage to someone who would be unable to pay it back. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify before the Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate resumes consideration of the Helping Familes Save Their Homes Act. The Veterans Affairs Committee considers several administration nominees, while the Commerce Committee continues to look at the future of journalism.

**President Obama
*The LA Times on today's AfPak summit: "U.S. officials acknowledge that their influence on the government is limited, consisting mostly of the money and arms they can supply. One sign of America's limited influence is that the Pakistani who has the most control over the country's military effort, army Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, won't be at the meetings. Afghanistan, in contrast, seems more manageable: 'By comparison, it looks like Canada,' one U.S. official said in an interview."

*Washington Post notes unease among Obama officials about Karzai. "Senior members of Obama's national security team say Karzai has not done enough to address the grave challenges facing his nation. They deem him to be a mercurial and vacillating chieftain who has tolerated corruption and failed to project his authority beyond the gates of Kabul."

*AP: "Justice Department investigators say Bush administration lawyers who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects should not face criminal charges, according to a draft report that also recommends two of the three attorneys face possible professional sanctions."

*Politico wonders whether Obama will keep his wealthy friends because of his tax policy. "One striking, if little-noted, trend of the past presidential election was that Obama won the affluent vote -- those making more than $200,000 annually -- with 52 percent. Moving down the income scale a bit, he and John McCain essentially tied among those making between $100,000 and $200,000. ... Obama's gamble that he can ask affluent progressives to pay more without complaint has been made riskier by the collapse of home prices and stock portfolios."

**Congress
*Politico's O'Connor takes a look at the Pelosi-Hoyer relationship: "Far from friends but no longer enemies, this long-feuding pair has forged a once-unthinkable partnership, leveraging their former rivalry -- and the ideological divide that separates them -- for a tighter grip on the party they lead."

*Roll Call's Stanton reports on Sen. Jeff Sessions's (R-Ala.) elevation to ranking member of the Judicary Committee: "Sessions' rise will thrust him into the national spotlight when President Barack Obama announces his pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter. After his meeting with fellow Republicans, Sessions struck a conciliatory tone -- but stressed he will not back a nominee who uses his political or personal views to shape rulings."

*Climate change legislation: "Rep. Henry Waxman, fresh out of a White House meeting with President Obama on Tuesday, pushed back against those who have suggested climate change legislation might need to be put on the backburner. Waxman (D-Calif.) said his Energy and Commerce Committee expects to mark up a climate change bill by the Memorial Day recess and present a bill for Obama's signature by the end of the year."

*"The Senate dealt a blow tonight to Sen. Arlen Specter's hold on seniority in several key committees, a week after the Pennsylvanian's party switch placed Democrats on the precipice of a 60-seat majority," WaPo reports.

**Republicans
*Washington Times: "Capitulating to critics on the Republican National Committee, embattled Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele has signed a secret pact agreeing to controls and restraints on how he spends hundreds of millions of dollars in party funds and contracts. ... The 'good governance' agreement revives checks and balances Mr. Steele resisted implementing for RNC contracts, fees for legal work and other expenditures that were not renewed after the 2008 presidential nominating contest."

**Campaign Stuff
*A new Quinnipiac poll out this morning finds Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) in good shape for re-election, and both leading Democratic Senate candidates -- Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner -- leading ex-Rep. Rob Portman (R). Fisher holds a 4-point lead over Brunner in the Senate Democratic primary race, with three-fifths of voters still undecided.

*Gallup finds that four-in-ten women identify themselves as Democrats, while just more than one-in-four say they're Republicans. Both parties have about an equal portion of men, while four-in-ten identify themselves as independents.

*Marc Ambinder looks at Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) as a 2012 presidential candidate and asks: "How in the heck can he possibly compete in Iowa?"

*The Swing State Project has results of a Republican-commissioned poll of the Pennsylvania Senate race. Tom Ridge would defeat Pat Toomey easily in the GOP race, 59-21. Arlen Specter has little trouble in the Democratic primary, leading Joe Sestak 57-20. In a general election, Ridge would top Specter, but Specter tops Toomey.

*The New York Times reports that Democrats will not honor Specter's seniority on his committees, meaning he's dead last. "Under a deal reached with Democratic leaders before his jump across the aisle, Mr. Specter is now the most junior Democrat on all of the committees on which he had previously served as a Republican, including the Judiciary Committee, where he was the ranking Republican. In addition to judiciary and aging, Mr. Specter is now the most junior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs."

*Getting ahead of ourselves? GOP consultant Bill Pascoe says a Ridge Senate bid could set the table for a 2012 White House bid, saying he'd need the practice not having run for anything in more than a decade. "It would give him a chance to stretch his campaign legs, to remind himself what's it like to spend the majority of your day calling strangers and asking for money."

*Why are not all Democrats comfortable with Specter? Quotes like this, to the New York Times: "There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."

*NJ GOV: The Star-Ledger reports that former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie has a big fundraising advantage over Steve Lonegan, with six times as much cash on hand to spend in the final month -- $3 million to $500,000.

*But the Philly Inquirer writes about the Freedom's Defense Fund, a conservative PAC that is attacking Christie with ads on national cable. The ads accuse him of "making sleazy deals while U.S. attorney."

**Sports/Journalism Alert: David Steele, the Baltimore Sun sports columnist who was laid off over the phone while covering an Orioles game last week, writes a column for RealClearSports and explains exactly how bad it felt. Great, great read.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Polls Find McAuliffe Leading Primary Field

Two recent independent polls have found Terry McAuliffe leading the Democratic primary field by double digits in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

In a PPP poll released today, McAuliffe led with 30% to 20% for Brian Moran and 14% for Creigh Deeds. A SurveyUSA poll out last week found McAuliffe with 38% to 22% for both Moran and Deeds.

"This is the fourth time PPP has polled this contest and the first time one of the candidates has broken away from the pack," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.

With about a month until the June 9 primary election and a large chunk of the electorate still undecided, the race is far from over. However, McAuliffe appears to have been hitting the right notes during campaign appearances and in his many TV and radio ads. As voters have gotten to know him, McAuliffe's favorability rating has skyrocked -- at 42% now, it's the highest among the three candidates.

Countering the recent trend, the Moran campaign released today an internal poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which found McAuliffe leading Moran by just 2 points -- 31% to 29%, with 18% for Deeds and 22% undecided.

"This poll confirms that our message is breaking through and our grassroots campaign is working," said Andrew Roos, campaign manager for the Moran campaign. "We always knew that we would be outspent in this race, but we've held it close because people believe that Brian Moran is the one who will fight for them."

Bunning Criticizes Senate Leader McConnell

Embattled Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who has effectively been pushed toward retirement, let loose on a conference call with reporters today, criticizing fellow Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader.

"Do you realize that under our dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 and probably to 40 (Senate seats) in two election cycles, and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle," the Louisville Courier-Journal reports Bunning said. "So if leadership means anything, it means you don't lose ... approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership."

Bunning also confirmed that he encouraged Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R) to set up a Senate campaign exploratory committee, a move many saw as Bunning's first step toward retirement.

Read the rest here.

Strategy Memo: Over There

Happy Cinco de Mayo. Today, President Obama will meet with Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committees as Congress continues to haggle over details of a comprehensive energy plan, and readies for a health care debate. Later, Obama meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres, the first in a series of meetings he'll hold focused on the Middle East Peace Process.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden will speak at the AIPAC conference. The former chair of the Foreign Relations Committee will also hold his own meeting with Peres, and later host a dinner for Pakistan experts.

On Capitol Hill, the war spending bill requested by Obama is being scrutinized by both parties this week, and today House Republicans are holding an energy summit on the Democrat-written cap-and-trade legislation. The Senate continues consideration of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, while the House votes on a dozen suspension bills.

And voters are voting! Detroit today holds a special election for mayor, to pick a full-time replacement for the disgraced Kwame Kilpatrick.

**President Obama
*Shimon Peres is the first Israeli leader to meet with Obama. He previewed his visit during a speech to AIPAC yesterday, with AFP saying he's "set to raise the concerns of new right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." "I shall deliver to him (Obama) a strong message for a country yearning for peace. Today, there is a chance for real peace."

*AP reports that Inez Tenenbaum, 2004 Senate candidate and former South Carolina Insurance Commissioner, will lead an expanded Consumer Product Safety Commission, "an embattled agency that has been criticized by advocates for being too cozy with industry." Acting chair Nancy Nord "has been a lightning rod for Democrats in Congress and consumer advocates though defended by Republicans and manufacturers."

*Sen. Orrin Hatch says that Obama told him yesterday that he would not nominate a radical liberal to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, Washington Times reports.

*Bloomberg reports that Obama's proposals to crack town on tax breaks for offshore companies "drew a skeptical response from fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill, indicating that his plan may face obstacles on its path through Congress."

*The New York Times profiles Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "One of the astonishing things about Mr. LaHood, 63, is how limited his transportation résumé is, how little excitement he exudes on the subject (other than about high-speed rail) and how little he seems to care who knows it. So why exactly did President Obama pick this former seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois to oversee everything that moves? Mr. LaHood posits a theory. "They picked me because of the bipartisan thing," he explained, "and the Congressional thing, and the friendship thing."

**Congress
*Washington Post gives front page coverage to more defense contracting connections for Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) -- this time, $4 million in non-competitive Pentagon work for Murtech, a suburban Maryland-based company owned by Murtha's nephew, Robert Murtha.

*War Supplemental: "House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) on Monday outlined a $94 billion war spending bill -- $9 billion more than President Barack Obama has requested -- without a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq or binding restrictions on the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Roll Call reports. "The supplemental blueprint, which was endorsed Monday afternoon by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) through a spokesman, could present Democratic liberals with a quandary."

*Roll Call also takes a lighthearted look at the redistricting of space inside the Capitol as senators retire.

*The GOP is holding an energy summit today to highlight what they call a national energy tax, AP reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*FL Sen: Marco Rubio, a conservative former state House speaker, announced his candidacy for Senate yesterday, Politico's Kraushaar reports.

*NY Gov: Gov. David Paterson's numbers are now so bad that a majority of voters would rather see Eliot Spitzer in office, according to a new Marist poll.

*2012: "The Republican Party has a quite appealing presidential prospect for 2012: Creative ideas, articulate style, pleasant personality, and experience running an important swing state. There's just one problem with this guy. You guessed it, right? His last name is Bush," writes Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence.

*Sarah Palin will be attending this weekend's White House Correspondents' Dinner, as the guest of Fox News Channel.

*Specter Fallout: More threats for Pennsylvania's newest Democrat. The secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO said the union would likely not support the former Republican if he does not support card check. "If a candidate isn't good for workers, we won't be there. If they are good for workers, we will be there regardless of their party."

*And this from Rep. Joe Sestak, who met with SEIU's Andy Stern: "I cannot see the unions across the board supporting Specter if he cannot support EFCA. [Stern] let it be known that it's very much on the top of their agenda."

*A new Susquehanna Polling and Research survey shows Delaware Rep. Mike Castle leading Attorney General Beau Biden 55-34 in a hypothetical 2010 Senate matchup. Castle lead 55-28 among independents.

*Cillizza says the DGA is going on the air in Virginia with an ad hitting Bob McDonnell.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Pelosi Endorses War Supplemental

Speaker Nancy Pelosi released this statement last night supporting the war spending bill that the House Appropriations Committee will begin to consider Thursday:

"Chairman Obey and the Members of the House Appropriations Committee are to be commended for quickly drafting legislation to meet our military's needs in Iraq and Afghanistan and to address the H1N1 flu virus.

"The bill the Committee will consider on Thursday meets the first priority of Congress and the President, which is to protect the American people and to provide our men and women in harm's way with all the resources they need. Chairman Obey has also ensured that this legislation is fully consistent with President Obama's plan to end the war in Iraq and to refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"I look forward to our debate in the House and to working with the Senate to ensure that this legislation gets to President Obama's desk as soon as possible."


Gibbs: No "A List" Yet For Supreme Court Pick

Robert Gibbs said today that the Obama administration has been making preparations for a Supreme Court choice since before inauguration day, but at this point said he is unaware of whether there's an "A, B or C list" for the high court.

"The transition began identifying a long time ago candidates for what we assumed might be a pick for the Supreme Court," he said today. "Right now there's a collection underway for a pool of very qualified candidates."

At the daily press briefing, Gibbs was asked an array of questions from reporters looking for clues about what direction the president might go in making his pick. Would it be a woman or minority? Will he choose a younger individual who'd likely have a longer tenure? And how quickly can he expect to get a candidate confirmed?

On the latter point, Gibbs acknowledged that the process will need to be well under way before the Congress heads out for summer recess. In addition, given the other items on the legislative agenda, the administration knows September is "going to be a busy time." So to meet the goal of having a new justice by the Supreme Court's new term in October, "obviously this process has to be a decent ways down the field," he said.

Obama has already spoken today with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), more senior members of the Judiciary Committee. Gibbs repeated that the president is going to choose someone "who respects precedent, tradition and rule of law," and also someone who "understands that decisions have to be made using common sense and understanding people's every day lives."

"I'm sure he will look at candidates with diversity in their background," he said, but that whether the person is a "he or a she," that will be his primary mindset.

McAuliffe Pulling Out All the Stops

Thanks to Terry McAuliffe's candidacy, the Virginia gubernatorial contest is getting far more attention than normal, including multiple appearances by President Bill Clinton. Now comes the announcement by the McAuliffe campaign that rapper will.i.am will be appearing with the candidate at several stops around the state next Monday.

The grammy-winning peformer will appear alongside McAuliffe May 11 in Portsmouth, Hampton, Richmond and Arlington.

"Terry is my good friend and my closest political mentor," said will.i.am, in a statement released by the campaign. "He will be a great governor because of his passion to help people and his understanding of the grassroots community. I look forward to joining him on the campaign trail."

This is will.i.am's second recent foray into Democratic primary politics, after being a big supporter of Barack Obama -- not McAuliffe's candidate, Hillary Clinton. He may be best remembered for the YouTube video released during the presidential primary campaign last year, titled "Yes We Can," which put a speech by Barack Obama to music and included celebrity guest appearances.

Will Quinnipiac Poll Influence Ridge?

A Quinnipiac poll released this morning (April 29-May 3, 1120 RV, MoE +/- 2.9%) finds Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, now a Democrat, drubbing former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the Senate race, while leading former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) by just 3 points.

The survey found Ridge winning over some of the independent voters Specter would take against the conservative Toomey. Will the poll influence Ridge to take on Toomey, whose conservative record made him a favorite over Specter in the primary but now place him as a decided underdog in the general election?

As Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said: "Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money."

That has to worry Pennsylvania Republicans, who perhaps wanted a senator more reliably-conservative than Specter but, should they nominate Toomey, would likely see six more years of him.

Roll Call reported this weekend that Ridge is indeed considering a bid, despite previous statements that he would not run. With numbers like these, the poll could easily tip the scale toward running.

The results of the survey:

Gen Elec..Tot/Rep/Dem/Ind/Men/Wom/Union HsHolds
Specter...46 / 10 / 78 / 37 / 41 / 51 / 57
Ridge.......43 / 82 / 14 / 47 / 50 / 37 / 34
Und..........8

Gen Elec..Tot/Rep/Dem/Ind/Men/Wom/Union HsHolds
Specter...53 / 18 / 85 / 45 / 47 / 59 / 62
Toomey...33 / 74 / 4 / 36 / 41 / 26 / 27
Und.........10

Sessions Overtaking Judiciary Ranking Member Post

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) will take over Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-Pa.) former ranking member position on the Judiciary Committee, The Hill reports. The move will last until the next Congress, when Sessions will take over the top GOP slot on the Budget Committee.

Sessions and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reached the deal that will allow the Alabama Republican to take over for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), whose departure from the GOP last week left the committee without a ranking member.

Under terms of the deal, Sessions will serve as ranking member until the 112th Congress, when he will take over the ranking member post on the Senate Budget Committee. Current Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, will then become ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.

Gregg, appearing on MSNBC this afternoon, confirmed and approved of the move.

"He is one of the most talented, thoughtful and capable members of the Senate, and he will be a very strong ranking member on that committee," Gregg said. "I look forward to his assuming that position. I think he'll be great."

Obama, Geithner Outline Tax Haven Crackdown

Acknowledging that no one likes to pay taxes, President Obama announced proposals aimed at companies and individuals that use tax havens and offshore accounts to avoid doing so.

Obama made the announcement with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was confirmed despite not paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for several years while working overseas. Geithner described the changes being announced today as ending "indefensible tax breaks and loopholes which allow some companies and some well-off citizens to evade the rules that the rest of the America lives by."

"We will no longer provide tax incentives that disadvantage American innovation and American workers," Geithner said at this morning's announcement. "These are common sense changes designed to restore balance to our tax code."

Obama said the proposals are a "down payment" on his administration's larger effort to reform the tax code, changes meant to make taxes "simpler, fairer and more efficient."

"Let's begin with a simple premise: nobody likes paying taxes - particularly in times of economic stress" the president said. "But, most Americans meet their responsibilities because they understand that its an obligation of citizenship."

He repeated a line from the campaign, talking about a building in the Cayman Islands that 12,000 businesses claimed as its headquarters. He called it the "kind of tax scam that we need to end."

"The way to make American business competitive is not to let some citizens and businesses dodge their responsibilities while ordinary Americans pick up the slack. Unfortunately that's exactly what we're doing," he said.

The White House said that combined, the measures would bring $210 billion in revenue back to the federal treasury over 10 years. Obama said that money would be used to reduce the deficit, cut taxes "for American businesses that are playing by the rules," and provide "meaningful relief for hardworking families."

Strategy Memo: Offshore No More

Good Monday morning. President Obama starts the week by announcing a tax reform proposal with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It will reportedly address his promise to crack down on offshore tax havens. Tonight, he hosts a Cinco de Mayo event in the East Room.

Vice President Biden, still stinging from his H1N1 advice to avoid "confined spaces," celebrates the kickoff of the renovation of his beloved Wilmington train station today. He'll later speak at his alma mater, the University of Delaware, which has had confirmed cases of the flu.

The Senate will continue consideration of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and will also take up this week its own version of the credit card holders' bill of rights -- which the House passed by a large margin last week.

**President Obama
*AP reports that Obama "plans to propose changes to tax policy certain to be unpopular with corporations with international divisions and individuals who use tax havens." The plan "would eliminate some tax deductions for companies that earn profits in countries with low tax rates, as well as consider U.S. citizens who use tax havens such as the Bahamas or Cayman Islands guilty of violating U.S. tax laws. If Obama wins congressional approval for the changes -- and he faces a challenge on Capitol Hill -- it could deliver $210 billion in tax revenue over the next decade."

*USA Today on the Supreme Court pick: "As Obama and his aides screen candidates to make the first Democratic nomination in 15 years, well-established -- and often overlapping -- judicial models can guide his choices and shape public expectations. For example, all nine of the current justices are former U.S. appeals court judges, elevated by presidents ... who followed a familiar script of looking to lower courts for nominees. During the campaign, however, Obama expressed his preference for a justice with real-world experience in the mode of former California governor Earl Warren, who presided as the court struck down school segregation and helped generate a civil rights revolution."

*New York Times reports: "The results of the bank stress tests to be released by the Obama administration this week are expected to include more detailed information about individual banks -- assessing specific parts of their loan portfolios -- than many analysts have been expecting. Using these results, the administration seems prepared to argue that, while a few banks may need additional money, the broad financial system is healthier than many investors fear."

**Congress
*Disagreements among House Democrats regarding the cap-and-trade bill forced the need for a leadership meeting Thursday in the Capitol, Politico reports. "Brandishing an issue of that day's CQ in which Van Hollen laid out the merits of holding off, an agitated Waxman reminded his junior colleague that raising procedural concerns in public didn't make it any easier for the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman to broker a compromise with the members of his committee -- or help him pass an ambitious bill in the House."

*Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) "is set to introduce legislation that would open the door to more agricultural imports to Cuba, taking advantage of President Obama's pledge to 'seek a new beginning' with the island nation. The bill will likely trigger a fight with Democratic proponents of the current Cuba embargo policy," The Hill reports.

*"The Senate is set to take its crack at credit card companies this week after the House voted overwhelmingly to limit the ability of credit card issuers to change interest rates on their customers," NYT reports.

*Ted Kennedy has an op-ed on health care in Politico.

**Republicans
*Mitt Romney, asked about Rush Limbaugh's and Sarah Palin's presence on Time's most influential list. "Was that the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?" he said. "I'm not sure. If it's the most beautiful, I understand. We're not real cute." Politico: "Romney's quip reflects the deep unease among many in the GOP establishment about the continued high-profile of Limbaugh and especially Palin. There is almost a sense of exasperation among many party elites over the media coverage the two polarizing figures get - attention which, in Palin's case, is widely seen as a product largely of her good looks and tabloid-fodder family troubles."

*"With the party at its lowest standing in several decades, Republicans on Saturday launched a listening tour in the heart of the Democratic suburbs, where several of the party's leading voices steered clear of hot-button issues and instead emphasized the need to advance new policy ideas to revive the party's prospects," Politico reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*Quinnipiac released a Pennsylvania Senate poll this morning showing Sen. Arlen Specter (D) crushing Pat Toomey (R) by 20 points, and leading former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) by 3 points.

*Potential Senate candidate Joe Sestak, on Arlen Specter: "I'm not sure he's a Democrat yet." On Obama's support for Specter: "The president has said he respects Arlen's independence. He'll respect mine if that is the case, I know that."

*Via Politico, Roll Call's report on Tom Ridge being urged to consider a Senate race. "Specter said he switched parties because he could not win a primary against conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is popular with the party's base but whom many national Republicans believe cannot win the general election -- especially against a 29-year incumbent who is viewed favorably and gets high marks from Democrats. Ridge's moderate politics and national profile would make him a more viable candidate in the general election."

*But Toomey says in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review he can beat Specter. "Reagan carried this state twice. I don't think this state has changed," said Toomey.

*Washington Post front page story Sunday on Terry McAuliffe: "McAuliffe is, at his core, a salesman -- and even called himself a "huckster" in his autobiography. In his bid for governor this year, McAuliffe is selling the idea that his uncanny knack for making money can bring prosperity to all Virginia. But at a time when public mistrust of millionaires and politicians is high, that strategy could backfire."

*A Southern Media & Opinion Research poll finds Louisianans "are markedly ambivalent about their junior senator," David Vitter. The Times-Picayune: "They'd also be just fine living without him, if someone better were to come along. Only 30 percent said they would definitely vote to reelect him. Twenty-eight percent said they would push the button for someone else, and 35 percent said they would consider an alternative."

**Newspaper Alert: Could the Boston Globe cease to exist in 60 days?

**Remembering Kemp
*The Wall Street Journal: "Kemp was an early influence, along with economist Arthur Laffer and President Ronald Reagan, in getting the Republican Party to embrace the philosophy of tax cuts. Republican Sen. Robert Dole's selection of Mr. Kemp as his running mate in the 1996 presidential election reaffirmed Mr. Kemp's imprint on GOP economic policy. [His] death comes as the GOP debates its future after heavy losses in last fall's elections."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

At Daily White House Briefing, Obama Confirms Souter Retirement

Just after getting off the phone with Supreme Court Justice David Souter, President Obama surprised White House reporters at the daily briefing and confirmed that Souter would indeed be retiring this year.

"I will seek someone with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity," Obama said. "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.

"I will seek someone who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.

"As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties, across the political spectrum."

Obama said that he hopes the new Justice can be sworn in "by the first Monday in October, when the new Court term begins."

Georgia Gov, Sen Poll

A DailyKos/Research2000 poll finds Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) leading two potential Democratic challengers, and gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine (R) leading three Democrats.

*Dems tested: Rep. Jim Marshall, ex-Gov. Roy Barnes; Atty. Gen. Thurbert Baker; ex-Adjutant Gen. David Poythress. (Barnes defeated Poythress and others in the 1998 gubernatorial Dem primary, before going on to win the general election.)

*GOPers tested: Sen. Johnny Isakson; state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine; Sec. of State Karen Handel.

Senate
Isakson 48 - Marshall 40 - Und 12
Isakson 47 - Barnes 43 - Und 10

Governor
Oxendine 46 - Barnes 44 - Und 10
Handel 39 - Barnes 45 - Und 16
Oxendine 47 - Baker 42 - Und 11
Handel 40 - Baker 42 - Und 18
Oxendine 47 - Poythress 43 - Und 10
Handel 39 - Poythress 43 - Und 18

A Supreme Vacancy

NPR's report last night on Justice David Souter's retirement this year has led to ample speculation about who will fill his shoes. National Journal put together a slideshow of potential candidates to fill the expected vacant slot on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Included in NJ's list: Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan; 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor; 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood.

Check it out the rest, along with pictures, bios and background here.

Who else?

-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears is in the running.

-The Huffington Post has a list with some of the same names, but some others as well.

-Legal Times has a piece on replacements, as well as on the "accomplished appellate lawyer with 16 Supreme Court arguments under his belt" found dead in his office yesterday morning.

Obama Letter to Pelosi on 'Swine' Flu

President Obama sent the following letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday asking that Congress provide the $1.5 billion he asked for to combat the swine flu "with maximum flexibility."

TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES April 30, 2009

Dear Madam Speaker:

This week, as reports of the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak around the world were made public, my Administration has been carefully monitoring the situation, coordinating State and local responses, assessing the risks here in the United States, and cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe.

Out of an abundance of caution, I asked the Congress earlier this week to consider a proposal to provide $1.5 billion to enhance our Nation's capability to respond to the potential spread of this outbreak. As the attached detailed request reflects, these funds should be provided with maximum flexibility to allow us to address this emerging situation. Among the uses of these funds could be: supplementing anti-viral stockpiles; developing a vaccine; supporting monitoring, diagnostic, and public health response capabilities; assisting international efforts to stem this outbreak and to address related international needs.

Already, Federal, State, and local public health officials are working day and night to respond quickly and effectively wherever cases of this flu may be found and to prepare the entire country for any potential progression of this outbreak.

I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request, the details of which are set forth in the enclosed letter from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Sincerely,

BARACK OBAMA


Reid: Reconciliation Not Needed for Health Care

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today he thinks the Senate will agree to bipartisan health care legislation without the need for reconciliation by the 2010 midterm elections, and that the bill President Obama signs will move the nation closer to universal health care coverage.

"By the election in 2010, I think we're going to have health care legislation," Reid said in a wide-ranging interview this morning at a breakfast event hosted by National Journal. The interview was conducted by NJ political director Ron Brownstein.

Reconciliation authority, used by the majority party to get around a filibuster, was inserted into the budget resolution for health care, though Reid indicated that for a number of reasons his preference would be for a bill to go through the normal legislative process.

"A decision was made in the budget process to have in our back pocket reconciliation," Reid said. "The compromise we made was that it would not become available until October 15. That gives us five or six months to do a bipartisan bill. We all want a bipartisan bill."

As evidence that he's hoping not to rely on reconciliation, which requires just 51 votes, Reid noted that with Sen. Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party this week, he would need just one Republican to cross over to get the 60 votes needed. Also, Reid said, he told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that he wants Republicans to be able to offer amendments.

"As I told McConnell after Specter indicated he was going to change parties, we're going to try to do our best to get along," said Reid. "We need to get a bill that is good for the American people. And if we just jam one through without giving the Republicans the option to be part of the process, it won't be as accepted."

Asked what Democrats need to have passed for the midterm elections to be a successful one for the party, Reid said, "If we continue as we are this year," with health care and energy bills he thinks can be passed, "then 2010 will take care of itself."

On Specter's party switch earlier this week, the effects of which continue to ripple through Congress, Reid said his, President Obama's and Vice President Biden's endorsements of the new Democrat in the 2010 Senate election in Pennsylvania were not conditional, regardless of how Specter votes on Democratic bills going forward.

"He's going to be a valuable member in the Democratic caucus," Reid said. "And I think he'll be a lot of help to us. I don't think he'll be an automatic vote, but I don't have any automatic votes."

On President Obama, Reid described him as "cool in a time of stress" and "about as cool and calm a guy as I've ever dealt with."

Strategy Memo: Supreme Development

Just when you thought President Obama had seen everything in his first 101 days.

NPR reported yesterday that Supreme Court Justice David Souter has informed the White House he plans to retire when the current Court term ends in June, though he'll stay on until a successor is chosen and confirmed. The news is going to start a new frenzy in Washington over replacing who has generally been considered a moderate to liberal vote. Whether Obama can press ahead on other priorities amid such a highly charged debate will be a real test. And when you consider the age and health of John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Obama may have in a matter of years more appointments than President Bush had in two full terms.

Obama's day includes another Cabinet meeting - the first one since the final vacancy was filled. He'll later host Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke for a ceremonial swearing in. Obama also has his weekly lunch with Vice President Biden, one day after Biden made his biggest gaffe to date by over hyping the threat of N1M1 virus.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate will continue consideration of a mortgage foreclosure prevention bill. The House is not in session, though two Energy and Commerce subcommittees are holding hearings.

**Justice Souter Retiring
*NPR: "At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court. In fact, he is in the younger half of the court's age range, with five justices older and just three younger. ... Factors in his decision no doubt include the election of President Obama, who would be more likely to appoint a successor attuned to the principles Souter has followed as a moderate-to-liberal member of the court's more liberal bloc over the past two decades," NPR reports.

*NYT: "The departure will open the first seat for a Democratic president to fill in 15 years and could prove a test of Mr. Obama's plans for reshaping the nation's judiciary. ... Replacing Justice Souter with a liberal would not change the basic makeup of the court, where he and three other justices hold down the left wing against a conservative caucus of four justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate Republican appointee, often provides the swing vote that controls important decisions."

*WSJ: "Justice Souter has complained about life in Washington and even about aspects of the court's work, such as the numbingly technical cases involving applications of pension or benefits law. Earlier this year, he told friends he planned to retire at the end of the present term if Justices Stevens and Ginsburg decided to remain on the court for at least another term."

*AP reports that the pick will likely not come until the Supreme Court finishes its session in June. And it notes that because Arlen Specter is now a Democrat, Orrin Hatch will lead the Republican opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

*The Atlantic's Ambinder, on who Obama may choose to replace him: "Among those who might make the list of replacements: incoming solicitor general Elena Kagan, formerly the dean of the Harvard Law School, Cass Sunstein, a brilliant constitutional law prof who now works at Obama's Office of Management and Budget, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ppellate judge Diane Wood, and Leah Ward Sears, the chief justice of Georgia's Supreme Court. A dark horse might be Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York. If Obama has a short list, it is probably much longer than mine, and includes many judges I haven't considered."

*AP also has a list of potential candidates, which includes two governors: Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, and Deval Patrick of Massaschusetts.

**President Obama
*Gallup finds that Obama has strong approval from most religious groups, with Muslims and Jews among the strongest backers, 85 percent and 79 percent, respectively. He ranks lowest with Mormons, with only 45 percent approving.

*Anita Dunn will join the White House as communication director, some saying on an interim basis. ABC: "Dunn was originally President Obama's first pick to be communications director. She turned down the job to spend more time with her family, but after Moran announced she was leaving to become the chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the President asked Dunn to re-consider her original rejection of the job offer"

*The AP on Biden's gaffe: Less than two hours after he said on the Today show that he'd avoid confined spaces, his office "put out a statement gamely trying to rewrite the vice president's words." By 10 am, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to correct his intent. And at his briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to close the gap that Biden left between "what he said and what he meant to say."

*Interesting note from the Washington Post: "The Obama administration has relied on a Bush-era public health strategy aimed at coordinating its response across an array of government agencies in the week since the first reports of a swine flu outbreak emerged, officials say, as it attempts to balance safety concerns with a desire to prevent a panic."

*New York Times notes that the White House pinned the blame on the Chrysler collapse on Peter A. Weinberg, Joseph R. Perella "and a handful other financiers. ... As Chrysler's fate hung in the balance Wednesday night, this group refused to bend to the Obama administration and accept steep losses on their investments while more junior investors, including the United Automobile Workers union, were offered favorable terms."

**Congress
*"NYT: Behind closed doors, after the Senate recessed on Wednesday night, workers moved Mr. Specter's desk to the increasingly crowded Democratic side of the center aisle, giving the Democrats 59 seats. Congressional Quarterly reports that the Pennsylvania senator's desk, which he has not yet been seen using, has been squeezed in between those of new fellow Democrats Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont."

*Climate change bill stuck in subcommittee: "Several moderate Democrats on the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment said Thursday that fundamental issues such as how to soften the impact of the legislation on constituents and industries in their regions are still unresolved and that the panel might not be ready to vote on the measure by next week as Democratic leaders have called for," WSJ reports.

*Wiretapping Members: "House officials are hoping to restart dormant talks with the Justice Department on establishing guidelines for wiretapping and searching the offices of members of Congress, just days after the disclosure that federal investigators recorded the phone conversation of Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) sparked fresh controversy on the issue," WaPo reports.

*Credit Card Holders' Bill of Rights: "Responding to anger and frustration from consumers, and a push from President Barack Obama, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed sweeping legislation aimed at shielding consumers from sudden credit card rate increases," McClatchy reports.

**Republicans
*Politico says the new National Council for a New America launched "with an open letter that's notable for what it leaves out: The issues that a large segment of the party's base are most passionate about": same-sex marriage, immigration -- legal or otherwise -- or abortion.

*Now some RNC members are firing back at Newt Gingrich, who claimed that "they're a small bunch of egomaniacs who need to be coddled by the party chairman." Gingrich was reacting to an internal fight brewing over the powers of the party chairman. Tennessee GOP chair Robin Smith: "RNC members, on the whole, are committed individuals who sincerely work for the best of our party. Forming circular firing squads only gives aid to the Democrats who are doing quite nicely in undercutting the public trust in our government."

**Campaign Stuff
*KY Sen: "Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, the most endangered Republican up for reelection in 2010, appears headed for retirement after giving his leading GOP rival the blessing to prepare to run for his seat next year."

More from The Hill: "Bunning, who has angrily pushed back against talk that he would retire in 2010 at the end of his second term, met with Grayson on Wednesday in Washington. The senator has not announced his 2010 intentions but he made clear to Grayson that he would not begrudge an exploratory committee, a move sources said will allow Bunning to appear as a kingmaker."

*PA Sen: "The National Republican Senatorial Committee is recruiting Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) to run for the Senate because it views Pat Toomey as unelectable against Sen. Arlen Specter, according to Gerlach's lead consultant," Politico's Kraushaar reports.

More PA Sen: Sestak v. Specter in the Dem primary? Sestak has done numerous on-air interviews since Specter's decision to switch parties and run as a Dem next year, and he's never once ruled out running. The Hill reports he did so again yesterday and "also said he would not let Democratic leaders in Washington push him out of the race."

**Sports Alert: The Bulls-Celtics series has to now go down as one of the greatest NBA playoff series ever. Game 6 last night went into triple overtime, the fourth game of the series to go into bonus time. Kyle, unfortunately, fell asleep in the third overtime, but luckily the Bulls won to force a Game 7 Saturday night. What a boring series this would have been had the Kevin Garnett not been hurt.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad