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« Blaming The Messenger? White House Ramps Up Media Critique | Blog Home Page | Dean Confident Public Option Will Survive »

Strategy Memo: Opting Out?

Good morning, Washington. President Obama today wraps up his Western swing with an appearance at the VFW National Convention in Phoenix today. The first family, which enjoyed a bit of sightseeing at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon while the president sold health care, then return to Washington this evening.

In his final week of work before an extended vacation, Obama will meet with Egyptian President Mubarak on Tuesday, and Wednesday honor the 2008 Sprint Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson. The work on health care will continue as well, with the White House shifting publicly yesterday and indicating that it may be ready to drop public option.

Some notable political news outside of Washington: two-term Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin will announce today that he's not seeking a third term. There's some speculation he may leave his post early as well to give Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton, a fellow Democrat, the advantage of incumbency as she seeks the post. But as we're seeing this year, being an incumbent governor isn't the advantage it used to be.

**Health Care
*"Bowing to Republican pressure and offering political cover to fiscally conservative Democrats, Obama's administration signaled on Sunday that it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance," AP reports. "The shift leaves open a chance for compromise with Republicans that probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority."

*But Marc Ambinder reports, "An administration official said tonight that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius 'misspoke' when she told CNN this morning that a government run health insurance option 'is not an essential part' of reform. This official asked not to be identified in exchange for providing clarity about the intentions of the President."

*Washington Post: "Even as the Obama team hinted it could accept concessions that moderate Democrats are seeking, one of the leaders of that faction raised another hurdle for the administration. He warned that Senate Finance Committee negotiators may not meet the president's Sept. 15 deadline for producing a bill." "We will be ready when we are ready," Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) said.

*Obama wrote an op-ed in the Times on health care.

*While some members faced heated constituents, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) "filled the first week of the Senate recess with controlled events before respectful crowds, like business forums and civic club luncheons," the New York Times reports. "The cautious scheduling, avoiding any risk of an ugly videotaped confrontation, underscored the political hazards of the health care debate for centrist Democrats like Ms. Lincoln, who faces re-election next year."

**President Obama
*The New York Times profiled Rahm Emanuel, who "is emerging as perhaps the most influential White House chief of staff in a generation. But with his prominence in almost everything important going on in Washington comes a high degree of risk.

"As the principal author of Mr. Obama's do-everything-at-once strategy, he stands to become a figure of consequence in his own right if the administration stabilizes the economy and financial markets, overhauls the health care system and winds down one war while successfully prosecuting another."

*While in Montana, the president did some fly fishing. "Obama had been eagerly anticipating the fly-fishing trip, so much so that his Secret Service detail gave him his own personalized fishing rod. ... New rod or not, Mr. Obama came up empty-handed, though his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, also a first-time fly fisherman, did land a fish," the Times tells us.

**Congress
*"This year's federal budget deficit will be bigger than any previous deficit, but it won't be as big as once expected," The Hill reports. The White House and CBO "projected the 2009 deficit to be slightly more than $1.8 trillion for 2009. But budget experts said the deficit will be closer to $1.6 trillion when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30."

*With health care on the front pages, "Democrats have been far less focused on their climate change ambitions, which they still hold even as the calendar gets more crowded and lawmakers' stomachs for tough votes shrink. But while all the recent focus has been on health care, that doesn't mean there hasn't been any action on energy,"
Roll Call reports. Democrats say that while the spotlight is on health care, they are quietly negotiating the nitty gritty details of a cap-and-trade bill that can pass the Senate, perhaps garnering the votes of Republicans such as Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who has backed similar legislation in the past."

*"Conservatives are calling it their August Revolt -- a surprising upsurge of activism against President Obama's proposed healthcare overhaul. Spurred on by the success of their efforts to dominate the news at Democratic town hall meetings, conservative groups are reporting increases in membership lists and are joining forces to plan at least one mass demonstration in Washington next month," L.A. Times reports.

**Campaign Stuff
*Politico broke the Doyle news. "Sources familiar with his decision not to seek a third term say Doyle recognized the difficulties he may have faced next year and didn't want to go through another campaign after a long political career. He's had to raise taxes and fees while furloughing state workers to help plug a $6.6 billion budget deficit. In doing so, his approval numbers have fallen below 40 percent. And just this week, he faced the embarrassment of seeing his legal counsel quit because she hadn't passed the state bar."

*VA Gov: A new Washington Post poll finds Bob McDonnell (R) leading Creigh Deeds (D) 54%-39% among likely voters, though 52% say they remain undecided or could change their mind. "Widespread criticism of the direction of a state run for the past eight years by Democrats and an increasingly GOP-friendly electorate have propelled McDonnell," WaPo reports.

*NY Gov: A new Quinnipiac survey finds New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo leading Gov. David Paterson 61%-15% in the Democratic primary -- a 9-point margin increase since June. Rudy Giuliani leads Paterson 53%-33%, and Cuomo leads Giuliani 48%-39% in general election matchups.

*More intrigue in Nevada, from the Reno Gazette Journal: "In a surprise announcement, U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval submitted his resignation from the federal bench Friday, giving up a lifetime appointment for what many expect to be a run for governor."

*Palm Beach Post: "The first Floridian appointed to the U.S. Senate in more than 60 years could be a man or woman, a conservative or moderate, a well-known politician or someone unfamiliar. But many political strategists say the only absolute qualification, aside from age and residency requirements, is the next senator must make Gov. Charlie Crist look good."

Miami Herald has speculation that Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart is "considering giving up his House seat to serve the rest of Mel Martinez's Senate term." Part of the speculation then has Marco Rubio, who is challenging Crist now for the 2010 primary, would run for the seat of Diaz-Balart's brother, Mario.

*Politico reports from the GOPAC conference in Chicago that "Republicans finally have a little spring back in their step thanks to a health care debate that has done more to cool off Obama-mania and reignite the conservative base than even most of its leaders had hoped."

*The Hill: "The economy may be in a recession, but people are as anxious as ever to spend their money trying to get into Congress. So far this cycle, 30 candidates have spent at least $100,000 of their own money on their campaigns for House or Senate. That is nearly twice as many as the 16 who had done so at this point in the 2008 election cycle."

*If former Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche runs in SC-3, Politico reports, he "would be the latest candidate to go from the pro gridiron to campaign trial, in a year when at least three other NFL veterans have weighed a run for political office. And the men all have one thing in common -- they're Republicans, like nearly every professional football player or coach who has made a bid for elected office in recent years."

*Kay Bailey Hutchison launched this Web video ahead of her gubernatorial campaign announcement this week.

**Almanac of American Politics 2010: The moment has arrived. The new edition of the political "bible" has been released. (Conflict of Interest Note: Kyle is a former Almanac researcher)

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad