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« Corzine Launches Obama Spot On NJ Airwaves | Blog Home Page | Toomey Campaign Statement on Dems »

Strategy Memo: Happy Birthday, Mr. President

On the president's 48th birthday, he has no public appearances scheduled. In the morning, he'll have his daily briefings and meet with the National Commander of the American Legion. Obama and Vice President Biden will then have lunch with the Senate Democratic Caucus, where they are expected to discuss the economy, health care, and perhaps have some cake. Later, Obama and Biden will meet one-on-one, followed by a meeting with Defense Secretary Gates.

Bill Clinton is in North Korea today to negotiate the release of two American journalists who were sentenced in June to 12 years of hard labor. The White House refused to comment in order to not "jeopardize the success of former President Clinton's mission."

On the Senate floor today, the Agriculture Appropriations bill will be considered in the morning. Following the caucus lunches, senators will debate the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) will officially get a primary challenger today, as Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.)formally announces his intentions at an event in Philadelphia. This is actually Specter's second primary challenger of the campaign -- his first, Republican Pat Toomey, forced him to switch parties.

**President Obama
*Gallup: "President Barack Obama's job approval rating, after hitting his administration low point of 52% in the middle of last week, has edged back up, and is 56% for the latest three-day period, July 31-Aug. 2." Obama's RCP Average Approval Rating is 54.2%.

*A shakeup brewing? The Wall Street Journal reports that "officials are holding discussions that could result in White House counsel Gregory Craig leaving his post, following a rocky tenure." Craig "has helped lead the administration's efforts on several national-security issues that once enjoyed popularity but have since become become political liabilities for Mr. Obama."

*Meanwhile, "the White House's senior aide on cybersecurity has decided to resign following delays in the appointment of a coordinator to spearhead the government's efforts to protect the nation's computer networks," the Washington Post reports. Melissa E. Hathaway reminded the paper that "it has been two months since President Obama made a highly acclaimed speech on the importance of cybersecurity and pledged to 'personally' select a cybersecurity coordinator."

*The AP: "President Barack Obama is struggling to find a way to pay for an overhaul of the nation's health care system without violating his campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class." The White House quickly shot down talk of a tax hike to pay for it the reform. "The problem is that his preferred financing alternative -- limiting charitable deductions by the wealthiest of Americans -- has gained no traction on Capitol Hill. And his nodding acceptance of a House plan to use a surtax on those with incomes above $350,000 has proven a nonstarter in the Senate. So as lawmakers head back to their homes for August, Democrats are facing the prospect of defending a sweeping health care overhaul without having any solid commitment from Obama on how the changes will be financed."

*Robert Gibbs released this statement on Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea: "While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment. We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton's mission."

*Obama imposed a ban on K Street donations. But The Hill finds that lobbying interests have still found a way to show their support, to the tune of about a million bucks. "In the reports, trade associations, companies and individual lobbyists reported spending more than $495,000 in honor of the new president, Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Termed 'honorary expenses,' the records list a broad range of lunches and conferences where Obama and others were commended and which the special interests helped finance via sponsorship."

*48th Birthday: "President Obama will celebrate his 48th birthday Tuesday by spending at least part of the day working. Obama will have lunch with Senate Democrats at the White House, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. They are likely to discuss health care, the economy, energy legislation and the "Cash for Clunkers" program. "Chuck E. Cheese was booked," Gibbs joked during his daily White House press briefing. Gibbs did not say how Obama would spend the remainder of his day," Washington Post reports.

*HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, in a WaPo op-ed: "As the political debate about how to pay for and pass health reform grows louder and more contentious, we shouldn't lose sight of the reason we're even having this conversation: We have a huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of all Americans, insured and uninsured alike."

**Congress
*"The Senate's last few days of action before its summer break is shaping up to be a frenzied week of challenges for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). From cash-for-clunkers to the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to a bill that would benefit his home state, Reid is pushing an agenda that will attempt to beat the clock, resist Republican slow-down attempts and appease several unhappy members of his party," The Hill reports.

*Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned yesterday that Democrats still have reconciliation in their back pocket, in case "Republicans are not able to produce an agreement."

*NRA: "For the first time, the NRA has weighed in against a Supreme Court nominee, urging senators to vote "no" on Sotomayor. So far, however, eight of the 36 senators who won endorsement from the NRA have said they will vote to confirm her," L.A. Times reports.

*John McCain said on the Senate floor yesterday that he will not support Sotomayor's confirmation.

**Campaign Stuff
*A new Monmouth University/Gannett poll shows that Gov. Jon Corzine is only falling further behind with just three months until election day.

*The Inquirer: "After weeks of hints and almost-declarations, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak plans to make it official today: He will challenge veteran Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic primary." The kickoff includes a morning rally at a VFW post, a tour through Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Harrisburg, and Scranton, and --believe it or not -- an appearance on The Colbert Report.

*South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster "made his first formal public move" in the governor race, filing a disclosure with the state ethics committee, AP reports.

*ND Sen: Politico's Kraushaar reports "the state's political stability would become a distant memory next year if Hoeven decides to leave the governorship to challenge Dorgan for reelection. It would mean North Dakota would become a major Senate battleground, pitting two of the state's most popular politicians against each other -- with other potential ripple effects to come. Hoeven is now seriously mulling over a Senate campaign, according to several Republican officials familiar with his thinking."

*Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) is getting a challenge from the left, reports the Providence Journal.

*How bout that? The Sun-Times reports that Blair Hull, who lost in the 2004 primary to Obama, angled to be appointed to replace him last year. He's the unnamed "Candidate C" in the Blagojevich indictment.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli