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« At Deeds Rally, Obama Knocks GOP Critics | Blog Home Page | Strategy Memo: The Heat Is On »

Strategy Memo: Unemployment Stays Under 10%

Happy Friday, Washington. Here's the breaking unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline in July (-247,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.4 percent."

Today is the 200th day of the Obama administration. After his morning briefings, he'll speak about the economy at Fort Myer. He also meets with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) back at the White House. Looking ahead to the weekend, Obama leaves on Sunday for the North American Leaders Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico.

After confirming Sonia Sotomayor and passing the cash-for-clunkers extension, the Senate gets ready to join the House in their recess. They'll convene briefly this morning. Speaking of Sotomayor, she'll be sworn in as the nation's 111th Supreme Court justice in a private ceremony tomorrow at the court. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer two oaths, actually, and for the first time ever one of them will be done in front of television cameras. The White House likely will hold an event for her down the road, as well.

**Unemployment: The AP sees this as positive news. "Employers throttled back on layoffs in July, cutting just 247,000 jobs, the fewest in a year, and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent. It was a better than expected showing that offered a strong signal that the recession is finally ending. ... To be sure, the report still indicates that the jobs market is on shaky ground. But the new figures were better than many analysts were expecting and offered welcomed improvements to a part of the economy that has been clobbered by the recession."

**Health Care
*St. Pete Times blog says that reporters covering a town hall meeting last night ended up "covering total mayhem, as hundreds of protesters turned the event into a near riot."

*David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina met with Senate Democrats Thursday afternoon "to strategize over how to talk about healthcare during the August break," The Hill reports. "Axelrod told lawmakers to focus on reform of the health insurance industry when talking to constituents in their states," and also "to talk about Democratic healthcare reform plans in comparison to the status quo."

*The Wall Street Journal reports that Messina and Axelrod also vowed to stand up for Democrats politically. "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard," Messina told senators, according to two people in the room.

*Washington Post says the key question as Democrats head home to town hall meetings is this: "Even if one believes the public option is a good thing, should reformers stake everything on its inclusion?" "The hard reality is . . . that a public option does not have enough support in the Senate to pass," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

**Justice Sotomayor
*AP reports that Sonia Sotomayor will be sworn in tomorrow. "She'll be able to claim two firsts: first Hispanic justice and first high court member to have her oath-taking made available to TV cameras. She will repeat one oath as prescribed by the Constitution in a private ceremony at the high court. It will be open only to members of Sotomayor's family. Then, Roberts will administer a second oath, taken by judges, with the new justice's family and friends, and reporters present."

*The New York Daily News describes the scene as Sotomayor was confirmed to the High Court. "The departing appellate judge huddled with dozens of friends, judges and clerks in an eighth floor conference room at her Manhattan courthouse to watch the vote. Sotomayor clutched the hand of a clerk as she looked intently at a big screen TV as senators rattled off their yeas and nays. ... Clapping and cheering neighbors gave the newest Supreme Court justice a hero's welcome when she arrived at her West Village home last evening. Family and friends began flocking to her pad, carrying in flowers and food - and sporting 'Justice Sonia' buttons."

**President Obama
*The Globe: "Hopes for a bipartisan approach to solving the nation's ills, a goal President Obama made a core element of his 'change' election campaign pitch, have virtually evaporated as party-line feuding and harsh exchanges between political leaders overshadow their earlier efforts to work together. ... While Republicans were wary earlier this year of personally criticizing the popular president, they have been emboldened by Obama's drop in public opinion polls, slamming the 'Obamacare' package that has been crafted largely on the Hill and not in the White House."

*The Note asks: "Two hundred days into the Obama presidency, have the president's critics grown more passionate than his fans? We already know that they're louder and angrier. But if this means a genuine passion gap, then a troubled agenda might be set for a wilting summer."

*In an interview with Bloomberg, Obama ally Dick Durbin says the president will "own the pulpit" during the August congressional recess. "Most presidents can't wait for Congress to leave town," he said. "They own the pulpit" and can "really dominate the news."

*The Washington Times reports on yesterday's speech on the administration terrorism policy, focusing on the end of "war on terror." Reacting is Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism to Pres. Bush: "It's a straw man. The question is: How do you deal with the policy?"

*The Hill reports that while in the Middle East, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor criticized the administration's policy toward the region. "We're here to try and make things better; we are here because we are concerned," Cantor said. "We are concerned about what the White House has been signaling as of late in their desire to push through in terms of a Middle East peace plan."

*Another top Obama fundraiser wins a plum ambassadorial post: Alan Solomont off to Madrid, the Globe reports. "Solomont, a long-time Democratic money man, bundled at least $500,000 in contributions for Obama, and Solomont and his family gave nearly $230,000 themselves to candidates in the 2008 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."

*The grade in CNN's public report card on the president: C+.

**Congress
*Bloomberg reports on the 60-37 vote last night in the Senate on "an emergency measure giving $2 billion to the 'cash for clunkers' discount program, which lawmakers said was helping ailing automakers and the U.S. economy. ... Seven amendments, including one that would have imposed an income limit for participants and another to temporarily halt the program to clear a backlog of discount applications, were rejected before the final vote."

*More Countrywide scandal? Reuters: Rep. Edolphus Towns, "chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, obtained two loans from Countrywide, which was bought last year by Bank of America."

**Campaign Stuff
*Our report from last night's rally in Virginia, where Obama gave a sober assessment of Creigh Deeds' chances: "Let's be honest: This is going to be a tough race," he said. Despite a string of statewide victories for the party, including himself, he said Virginia is "still a purple state." "The key right now is making sure we fight through the doubt, fight through the cynicism," he said.

*The Hotline reports that leading up to the event, the Deeds camp "launched a decidedly Obama-like push for grassroots support. The 'Join Deeds' campaign, as the Deeds camp calls it, centers around "a steady stream of information about campaign activity through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr" as well as text messages, tools Obama used successfully to win VA twice in 2008." The campaign also launched ads targeted at Hispanic and African American demos.

*Adam Nagourney looks at the White House role in the '09 races. "The New Jersey and Virginia races for governor are the only big-ticket political contests for 2009. And fairly or not ... the contests are being held up as an early measure of how Mr. Obama is doing and a predictor of how Democrats might fare in next year's Congressional campaigns.

"Officials in both parties say that in the end, the races will be driven by local forces and concerns and note that historically, state midterm elections have proved to be poor prognosticators about future elections. Still, the confluence of these two races -- coming in the year after Mr. Obama's election and at a time when Democrats are trying to consolidate the gains they have made over the past two election cycles -- could prove the exception."

*Chris Cillizza looks at what the fallout would be if Republicans won both gubernatorial races this fall. Partisans on both sides have predictable statements, but this quote from Democratic pollster Fred Yang sounds right: "The real message it should send is that incumbents (of both parties) in 2010 will face a very unsettled and dissatisfied electorate."

*A potential big get for Democrats in South Carolina. The State reports that State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex will file paperwork with the State Ethics Commission that will allow him to raise money for the 2010 gubernatorial race. "I'm trying to keep both options open right now," said Rex, referring to the potential he'd also seek re-election.

*Politico reported on a poll of the Illinois Senate race showing state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis with "a commanding lead over his two potential primary rivals." The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, shows Giannoulias winning 45 percent of the primary vote against businessman (and RFK son) Chris Kennedy and Chicago Urban League president Cheryle Jackson. In the three-way race, Kennedy tallies 17 percent of the vote, with Jackson at 13 percent.

*Mark Fernald dropped out of the NH-02 race, citing difficulty raising money, the Telegraph reports.

*Also in NH, former state Republican chairman Fergus Cullen writes in the Union Leader: "It's only a matter of time before some opportunistic New Hampshire politician sees the rise of the independent, like David Ortiz looks at a hanging curveball: a dangling invitation to swing for the center field fence. Running as an independent might hold special appeal for a Katrina Swett, Kelly Ayotte, John Lynch, Bruce Keough, Fred Bramante or a wildcard like Fred Tausch."