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Strategy Memo: Public Option Day

Today begins a series of meetings focused on Afghanistan in the White House. After morning briefings, President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the Oval Office. The administration says he'll meet with his national security team on Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Vice President Biden joins Obama for those meetings; he'll also host an event at the Naval Observatory tonight to mark the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which he championed in the Senate.

There could be fireworks inside the Senate Finance Committee hearing room today, as discussion will focus on the public option. On the Senate floor, debate will resume on the Dept. of Defense Appropriations bill, and a vote will be held on the nomination of Jeffrey Viken to be U.S. District Judge in South Dakota. The House Oversight committee is holding a hearing on the administration's flu vaccine program. The House will vote tonight on a dozen suspension bills.

Finally, downtown today, filmmaker Michael Moore; Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen; and Fred Redmond, vice president of United Steelworkers will deliver remarks at a news conference to "challenge President Obama and Democratic members of Congress to get tough on Health Care Reform."

**President Obama
*Cillizza makes a good point: does the White House need an attack dog?

*Time's Scherer asks if Obama's health care plan can really deliver savings. "The answer, according to a wide range of experts, is frustratingly vague: Maybe. Hopefully. Probably."

*Obama's meeting today with NATO's secretary general is likely to focus on Afghanistan, AP reports. He said yesterday that "things are going to have to change" in Afghanistan to win there, but he "stopped short of calling for more combat troops to be sent to Afghanistan, as the Obama administration currently is debating."

*Chicago 2016: The Tribune: "As his proposed health care overhaul struggled to gain traction in Congress, Obama had talked about skipping the trip and relying instead on first lady Michelle Obama as Chicago's A-list advocate. But White House aides said Obama always wanted to make the trip, and he is now satisfied that health care legislation is on track. That allows him to dash to Denmark without being diverted from a crowded agenda, aides said."

*The Wall Street Journal looks at what's at stake in the new Supreme Court session. There's also questions about how the new makeup of the court will impact its rulings. "Some legal observers think the conservative majority may be ready to move more forcefully."

**Health Care
*AP: The Senate Finance Committee today is expected to consider whether there will be a public option. That is "the top goal for liberals, but it has no Republican support and moderate Democrats say the Senate will never go along. So Tuesday's debate is expected to pit Democratic liberals against moderates."

*"The debate over whether to create a public insurance plan to compete with private plans is about to explode in the Senate Finance Committee. The stakes are high and so is the suspense," writes Politics Daily. "It's unclear what the outcome will be Tuesday when the committee, continuing work on its 10-year, $900 billion health reform bill, is scheduled to take up three versions of a public health insurance option."

*NY Times adds that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) "intend to press the issue in separate amendments before the committee. The prospects for passage there appear dim, but supporters hope they can build momentum by debating the issue now and holding a roll-call vote of committee members under the gaze of Democratic constituencies like labor unions, which strongly support the public option."

*Finance Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) "biggest antagonist so far is Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, who has emerged as the combative leader for the GOP, fiercely defending Republicans' right to argue amendments at length and pushing back on Democrats' claims that the GOP has no plan of its own," Politico reports.

*"At least 14 of the nation's 22 Republican governors have sent, or will soon send, letters to their respective congressional delegations claiming the Democrats' health care bills would bankrupt their states. Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have been actively involved in the effort," The Hill reports.

**2012
*Mitt Romney continues "to maintain close contact with his one-time House GOP backers and put a premium on their needs for 2010 as he weighs his next move. And it appears a possible rival for the 2012 presidential nomination, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), may be stealing from Romney's playbook," Roll Call reports.

*Politico reports that "despite Palin's high negative ratings in recent national polls, Republicans at the grass-roots level and their leaders still hold a very favorable impression of the former Alaska governor."

*An interesting title for Sarah Palin's new book: "Going Rogue." It's "a reference to the anonymous criticism directed at Palin by aides to Republican presidential nominee John McCain during the final days of last year's presidential race," CNN's Hamby reminds us.

**Campaign Stuff
*Houston Chronicle looks at the Senate campaign of its mayor, Bill White. "The mayor has traveled the state trying to introduce himself to a wide swath of people, many of whom have never heard of him. The mayor's one-on-one conversations with voters, sausage on a stick in hand, may not seem too unusual to a Houstonian peering in on his campaigning for a day. But one may have a harder time recognizing the passionate Democrat that took shots this weekend at Gov. Perry, Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Sens. Hutchison and John Cornyn and the South Carolina congressman who recently called the president a liar."

*The Hill's Wilson writes that Democrats are happy the midterms will be a referendum on Obama, thinking it will help their chances.

And The Hill's Blake reports that the GOP is expanding its hit list for 2010.

*MA Sen: "Candidates in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's death are scrambling to collect the cash, signatures and backing needed to mount a winning campaign in less than four months," AP reports.

Are the Kennedys backing Rep. Mike Capuano for the Senate seat in Massachusetts? Stephen E. Smith, the late senator's nephew, is, the Boston Herald reports.

*Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D) is staffing up for a gubernatorial run, ProJo reports.

*The challenge for the "seven white men" running to succeed Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is to "show that he's a high-performance Lexus, not just a sensible Camry," the Philly Inquirer reports.

*Voters are again voting in New York (though likely not many of them). It's a runoff in the Democratic primaries for public advocate and city comptroller.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli