Topics
Administration
Congress
Democrats
Elections
Ethics
Governor -- Alabama
Governor -- Alaska
Governor -- Arizona
Governor -- California
Governor -- Colorado
Governor -- Connecticut
Governor -- Delaware
Governor -- Florida
Governor -- Georgia
Governor -- Hawaii
Governor -- Illinois
Governor -- Indiana
Governor -- Iowa
Governor -- Kentucky
Governor -- Louisiana
Governor -- Maryland
Governor -- Massachusetts
Governor -- Michigan
Governor -- Minnesota
Governor -- Missouri
Governor -- Montana
Governor -- Nevada
Governor -- New Hampshire
Governor -- New Jersey
Governor -- New Mexico
Governor -- New York
Governor -- North Carolina
Governor -- North Dakota
Governor -- Ohio
Governor -- Oregon
Governor -- Pennsylvania
Governor -- Rhode Island
Governor -- South Carolina
Governor -- Texas
Governor -- Utah
Governor -- Vermont
Governor -- Virginia
Governor -- Washington
Governor -- Wyoming
Governors
Health Care
House
House -- Alabama -- 02
House -- Alabama -- 03
House -- Alabama -- 05
House -- Alaska
House -- Arizona -- 01
House -- Arizona -- 03
House -- Arizona -- 05
House -- Arizona -- 08
House -- Arkansas -- 01
House -- Arkansas -- 02
House -- California -- 04
House -- California -- 12
House -- California -- 26
House -- California -- 32
House -- California -- 50
House -- Colorado -- 02
House -- Colorado -- 04
House -- Connecticut -- 04
House -- Connecticut -- 05
House -- Florida -- 06
House -- Florida -- 08
House -- Florida -- 13
House -- Florida -- 15
House -- Florida -- 16
House -- Florida -- 18
House -- Florida -- 19
House -- Florida -- 21
House -- Florida -- 24
House -- Florida -- 25
House -- Georgia -- 05
House -- Georgia -- 10
House -- Georgia -- 12
House -- Idaho -- 01
House -- Illinois -- 01
House -- Illinois -- 03
House -- Illinois -- 05
House -- Illinois -- 06
House -- Illinois -- 10
House -- Illinois -- 11
House -- Illinois -- 14
House -- Illinois -- 18
House -- Indiana -- 03
House -- Indiana -- 07
House -- Indiana -- 09
House -- Iowa -- 03
House -- Iowa -- 04
House -- Kansas -- 02
House -- Kentucky -- 02
House -- Kentucky -- 03
House -- Louisiana -- 01
House -- Louisiana -- 02
House -- Louisiana -- 04
House -- Louisiana -- 06
House -- Maine -- 01
House -- Maryland -- 01
House -- Maryland -- 04
House -- Massachusetts -- 05
House -- Michigan -- 01
House -- Michigan -- 07
House -- Michigan -- 09
House -- Michigan -- 13
House -- Minnesota -- 01
House -- Minnesota -- 03
House -- Minnesota -- 06
House -- Mississippi -- 01
House -- Mississippi -- 03
House -- Missouri -- 09
House -- Nevada -- 02
House -- Nevada -- 03
House -- New Hampshire -- 01
House -- New Hampshire -- 02
House -- New Jersey -- 03
House -- New Jersey -- 05
House -- New Jersey -- 07
House -- New Mexico -- 01
House -- New Mexico -- 02
House -- New York -- 13
House -- New York -- 15
House -- New York -- 20
House -- New York -- 21
House -- New York -- 23
House -- New York -- 24
House -- New York -- 25
House -- New York -- 26
House -- New York -- 29
House -- North Carolina -- 03
House -- North Carolina -- 08
House -- North Carolina -- 10
House -- North Dakota
House -- Ohio -- 01
House -- Ohio -- 02
House -- Ohio -- 05
House -- Ohio -- 07
House -- Ohio -- 10
House -- Ohio -- 15
House -- Ohio -- 16
House -- Oklahoma -- 05
House -- Oregon -- 05
House -- Pennsylvania -- 03
House -- Pennsylvania -- 04
House -- Pennsylvania -- 06
House -- Pennsylvania -- 10
House -- Pennsylvania -- 11
House -- Pennsylvania -- 12
House -- Pennsylvania -- 15
House -- South Carolina -- 01
House -- South Carolina -- 02
House -- South Carolina -- 05
House -- South Dakota
House -- Tennessee -- 07
House -- Tennessee -- 08
House -- Tennessee -- 09
House -- Texas -- 07
House -- Texas -- 10
House -- Texas -- 14
House -- Texas -- 22
House -- Utah -- 03
House -- Virginia -- 01
House -- Virginia -- 05
House -- Virginia -- 09
House -- Virginia -- 11
House -- Washington -- 08
House -- West Virginia -- 02
House -- Wisconsin -- 08
House -- Wyoming
Inauguration 2009
International
Issues
Judiciary
Local Elections
Media
Miscellaneous
Morning Thoughts
Politics Weekly
Polls
Rankings
Republicans
Senate
Senate -- Alaska
Senate -- Arizona
Senate -- Arkansas
Senate -- California
Senate -- Colorado
Senate -- Connecticut
Senate -- Delaware
Senate -- Florida
Senate -- Georgia
Senate -- Idaho
Senate -- Illinois
Senate -- Indiana
Senate -- Iowa
Senate -- Kansas
Senate -- Kentucky
Senate -- Louisiana
Senate -- Maine
Senate -- Massachusetts
Senate -- Minnesota
Senate -- Mississippi
Senate -- Missouri
Senate -- Montana
Senate -- Nebraska
Senate -- Nevada
Senate -- New Hampshire
Senate -- New Jersey
Senate -- New Mexico
Senate -- New York
Senate -- North Carolina
Senate -- North Dakota
Senate -- Ohio
Senate -- Oklahoma
Senate -- Oregon
Senate -- Pennsylvania
Senate -- South Carolina
Senate -- South Dakota
Senate -- Tennessee
Senate -- Texas
Senate -- Utah
Senate -- Virginia
Senate -- Wisconsin
Senate -- Wyoming
Sports
Supreme Court
WH 08
WH 08 -- Democrats
WH 08 -- Republicans
WH 12
WH 12 -- Republicans
White House

RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> Morning Thoughts

The Week Ahead: Snowy Capital, Chilly Partisanship

The Senate worked through one of the biggest snow storms in D.C. history over the weekend, and it will continue cranking during this holiday week -- when members, staff and reporters all are wishing they could fly home. In the meantime, this is what to watch for this week in Washington:

The White House: President Obama's only scheduled public event Monday focuses on government efficiency. He'll also meet with his National Economic Council. On Tuesday, Obama will again meet with bank CEOs, this time representing small and community banks, with an eye on the economy and loosening the credit markets. Obama is due to head out with his family to Hawaii for the holidays, as is their custom. He's expected to return after the New Year.

What remains to be seen is whether health care legislation will be passed by the Senate before his departure. David Axelrod, senior White House strategist, did his best to spin the apparent compromise that should give Democrats 60 votes it needs to get there. "I think that we're going to have some work to do when we come back," he said of the conference committee process that will begin after the holidays.

The Capitol: Should things fall in line and Republicans continue to filibuster, the Senate will take a final vote on health care reform Thursday, the evening of Christmas Eve. After a procedural vote early Monday morning -- 1 a.m. -- Democrats proved they had the necessary 60 votes to end the filibuster and bring the reform bill up for final adoption.

The vote schedule this week is likely to look like this: a second cloture vote Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., a third Wednesday at 1 p.m., and voting on final passage of the bill Thursday at 7 p.m.

The party-line debate and votes has put on display the level of partisanship that still exists in Congress. As a New York Times story put it this morning: "A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse."

After Christmas, the majority staffs from the House and Senate will begin negotiations on a conference report -- the next major hurdle for health care reform.

Politics: In the final days of 2009, there may not be much activity on the surface but it's an important week behind the scenes. There's incredible pressure on candidates to keep raising big bucks for the fundraising quarter that ends December 31. And, with all the focus on the holidays, don't be surprised in the weeks ahead to see more retirement announcements from House and potentially even Senate Democrats.

Michael Steele continues to bang the drum on his "Listen To Me" anti-health care campaign, with a conference call today with Dick Armey. And speaking of health care opposition, here's a reminder that one shouldn't make any snap judgments about anyone's political fate: Mike Huckabee drew 1,800 people in Omaha, just across the river from Iowa, for a rally on Sunday meant to pressure Sen. Ben Nelson to vote against the final health care bill. Also, its quotes like this, from an interview on "Hannity" Friday. Speaking of the president, Huckabee said: "I would almost venture to say he's broken more promises than Tiger Woods, and I'm not sure we can give him a mulligan."

** Poll Watch
Obama Job Performance: Approve 49.3 / Disapprove 44.9
Congress Job Performance: Approve 27.4 / Disapprove 65.8
Generic Ballot Test: Republicans +2.3

** In Case You Missed It: Depending upon where exactly in the Washington area you lived, you may have seen as much as 20 inches of snow this weekend in what was the worst December storm ever. How's this for a whopping stat: 25 million pounds of snow needs to be cleared from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, before tonight's big Monday Night Football matchup between the Redskins and the Giants. The Redskins Blog has the story on getting the field ready.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Working Overtime

Health care press conferences continue today in the House, as GOP leaders and Rep. Joe Wilson are holding at least three events on the Hill. Floor debate on health care reform is set to begin tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., with a vote expected Saturday night or Sunday so members can go home to their districts for the entire week of Veterans Day. On the floor today, the House will vote on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, and the Senate will hold no roll call votes.

The economy will also be part of the discussion today, as unemployment increased again to 10.2 percent in October -- the highest since April 1983.

Today after his morning briefings, President Obama signs the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. Later he'll visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a stop added in the wake of yesterday's killings in Fort Hood, Texas. Back at the White House, Obama will then welcome Congressman-Elect Bill Owens to the Oval Office. Tomorrow he will meet with House Democrats on the Hill to push for their support on the impending health care reform vote.

And it will be like old times in Des Moines this weekend, with a 2012 double feature this weekend. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at an Iowa GOP dinner on Saturday. Mike Huckabee visits West Des Moines and two other cities promoting his new Christmas book.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Working Overtime" »

Strategy Memo: Start Spreading The News

Today, President Obama participates in the White House Tribal Nations Conference. After meetings with advisers, he'll then have lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon, he has separate meetings with Treasury Secretary Geithner, Secretary of State Clinton, and representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He'll also meet Botswana President Ian Khama.

Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team are currently whipping votes on health care, as they prepare for a Saturday vote. In the meantime, House Republicans are holding what they're calling a health care "House Call" on the West front steps of the Capitol today at noon. GOP leadership will speak, with most of the conference standing on the steps behind them.

On the House floor today, the chamber will vote on the Senate-altered Unemployment Compensation Extension Act and begin consideration of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009. The Senate will debate and move closer to a vote on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Start Spreading The News" »

Strategy Memo: Election Remains Edition

Republicans swept the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, while Democrats picked up another House seat with the special election in New York's 23rd District. The GOP wins continues the decades-long streak of the party in power in the White House losing the following gubernatorial elections in both states.

As pundits debate what last night's elections mean for the future of his administration, President Obama will leave the Beltway bubble and travel to Wisconsin for an event focused on education. On the anniversary of his election, Obama also participates in a credentialing ceremony for foreign ambassadors, and tonight will host an event celebrating classical music back at the White House.

In Congress, the House takes up the Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act of 2009, while the Senate resumes consideration of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Election Remains Edition" »

Strategy Memo: E-Day 2009

Today is Election Day, and voters are voting as you read this. The major contests to watch are the Congressional race in New York-23, and the down-to-the-wire gubernatorial race in New Jersey. The race in Virginia looks much sleepier, with a likely Republican win. There are also some big races for mayor among the downballot contests nationwide.

In Washington, meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits. She'll meet with President Obama at the White House before heading to Congress to speak to a joint session. Also at the White House, Obama meets with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and later joins a U.S.-European Union Summit with the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana. He'll also sit down with Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), a key vote on health care.

Merkel's address to Congress is at 10:30 am. Outside of that event, the focus on the Hill remains health care, as Democratic House leaders are hoping for a vote on their bill by the end of the week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: E-Day 2009" »

Strategy Memo: The Great Debate

The House will begin floor debate this week on the Democrats' comprehensive health care reform legislation, with a vote taking place perhaps as early as Thursday. The Senate continues to move forward today on the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act.

President Obama's day focuses on the economy. He'll meet with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board to talk about job creation, a session that will be streamed online in its entirety. Also today, the National Economic Council will hold a principals-level meeting, led by Larry Summers. Later, the president meets with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden.

Today Vice President Biden heads to upstate New York to campaign for Bill Owens in NY-23 race, which saw a big shakeup this weekend with the withdrawal of Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava.

Election Day is tomorrow for the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as special elections in New York-23 and California-10, and the New York City mayoral race.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Great Debate" »

Strategy Memo: Meet The Chiefs

President Obama's schedule today includes another meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, this time with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. First, he has his daily briefings and meets with senior advisers. He'll also sign into law the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act. This weekend, Obama's schedule includes yet another trip to New Jersey to campaign with Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

The House is not in session today, and the Senate will have no roll call votes or committee hearings today.

The candidates for governor of Virginia and New Jersey and for the special election races in New York 23 and California 10 are preparing for the final weekend of campaigning. The first three are the most competitive races, and both parties are pushing hard to build momentum for the 2010 midterm elections. Get-out-the-vote efforts will now step up to high-gear.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Meet The Chiefs" »

Strategy Memo: The Unveiling

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last night in a press release to reporters that House Democrats will unveil their long-awaited health care reform legislation in a 10:30 a.m. event on the West front of the Capitol. About an hour later, Minority Leader John Boehner and GOP leaders are holding their own press conference on health care.

On the House floor docket today is the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and Continuing Resolution, as well as the Small Business Financing and Investment Act of 2009. The Senate has no bills on the schedule, but will convene at 9:30 a.m. for two hours of morning business.

President Obama, who returned to the White House just hours ago after a late night visit to Dover Air Force Base, will start his day with remarks about the administration's plans to help businesses. Scheduled to be on hand: members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with whom the White House has clashed. Later, Obama meets with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, followed by a meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and later the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Vice President Biden today is back on the political circuit, raising money for the DNC at two events in Florida.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Unveiling" »

Strategy Memo: World Serious

Today, President Obama heads to Capitol Hill after his morning briefings to speak at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in honor of former Senator Edward William Brooke. He and Vice President Biden will then have lunch back at the White House, followed by a meeting with the co-chairmen of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) and the senior leadership of the intelligence community.

This afternoon, Obama will sign the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 in the Rose Garden. Tonight: he'll plant a tree, and then host a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Biden today will also meet with Sens. Bob Casey and Dianne Feinstein.

On Capitol Hill today, the Senate will resume debate on Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. The House is in session at 10 am to consider a number of bills.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: World Serious" »

Strategy Memo: Checking the Score

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that the health care reform bill that hits the Senate floor this year will indeed include a public option, though it will have an opt-out clause for states. Reid is now awaiting a CBO scoring on the varying proposals that he and a select group of negotiators formed from the HELP and Finance committee bills. House Democrats are still deciding what form the public option will take in its final bill, while House Republicans are split on whether to offer an alternative.

On the Senate floor today will be a debate and vote on the nomination of Irene Cornelia Berger to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia, and a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009. The House will vote to instruct conferees on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

President Obama wakes up in Miami today and crosses the state to Sarasota to tour the Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia. He will announce Recovery Act funding for Smart Grid technologies aimed at modernizing the nation's electricity grid. He'll then head to Norfolk, Virginia to stump for Creigh Deeds at Old Dominion University. Vice President Biden is helping out a fellow Democrat as well, appearing at a New York City event for Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Checking the Score" »

Strategy Memo: War Games

President Obama heads to Florida today, where he'll speak with servicemen and women this afternoon at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and later gets back to politics with a speech at a fundraising dinner in Miami for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The president begins his day with daily briefings at the White House, followed by a national security meeting with Vice President Biden (via videoconference); Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; National Security Adviser James Jones; Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon; John Brennan, assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security; and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

On the docket for the Senate this week is the Unemployment Insurance Extension Act, the Commerce-Justice-Science and Military Construction appropriations bills, as well as completion of the merging of the Finance and HELP health care bills. No roll call votes are scheduled for today, though. The House will take up nine suspension bills, with votes not expected to occur until 6:30 p.m.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: War Games" »

Strategy Memo: Incumbent Protection

Today President Obama makes his third political trip to the Northeast this week and his second in support of embattled Democratic incumbents. On the official schedule: a stop at a research lab at MIT, and a speech on the recovery act. Then, the politics: fundraising events for Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who will face a tough three-way race in '10. In Connecticut, Obama will then tour a small business before speaking at a fundraising event for Sen. Chris Dodd (D)

House Democratic leaders are holding a press conference this morning to discuss new details regarding seniors and health care reform legislation. On the floor, the House is expected to vote by 1 p.m. on the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. Senators Carl Levin and Patrick Leahy are holding a press conference alongside civil rights leaders to discuss hate crimes legislation. The Senate is not in session.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Incumbent Protection" »

Strategy Memo: You Must Whip It

Today is the rare day on President Obama's schedule this week without any politicking. He starts his day with morning briefings, and will then speak with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan via videoconference. He'll have lunch with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then sign the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act. In the afternoon he'll have separate meetings with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Senate will resume consideration of the conference report for the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is holding a hearing this morning on "The Past, Present, and Future of Policy Czars" in the White House. The House will vote today on the Solar Technology Roadmap Act and begin consideration of the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

House Democratic leaders have begun to pronounce how close they are to having the votes to pass a health care form bill that includes a robust public option. Speaker Pelosi said yesterday that a bill will certainly be passed by Thanksgiving, and possibly even have Obama's signature by then depending on how quickly the two chambers can work together.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: You Must Whip It" »

Strategy Memo: Health Care Hiatus

President Obama starts his Wednesday with his daily briefings and a meeting with senior advisers. He'll then sit down in the Oval Office with Sen. John Kerry, who played a role in bringing the Afghan election to a runoff. Later, he'll visit a small business in Maryland to "announce a package of initiatives that will increase credit to small businesses." He'll also attend a Cabinet-level exercise simulating the aftermath of a "fictitious catastrophic earthquake" in the country. Finally, the president heads to New Jersey to campaign with Gov. Jon Corzine.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders are holding an economic forum this morning with Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel with jurisdiction over TARP. Democratic Senators Harry Reid, Patrick Leahy and Charles Schumer are holding a press conference at 11:30 a.m. on health insurance reform.

The Senate will debate the nomination of Roberto A. Lange to be the U.S. District Judge for the District of South Dakota, with a vote expected at 2 p.m. Later the Senate will move to consider the Medicare Physician Fairness Act. It's another light day on the House floor, with several votes on suspension bills expected to end by 3 p.m.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Health Care Hiatus" »

Strategy Memo: Bill Clinton Day

President Obama today starts with morning briefings and then meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. He'll then hold a ceremony to honor a unit of 86 Vietnam veterans "in recognition of their exemplary service and personal sacrifice nearly four decades ago." He'll then travel to New York for fundraisers for the DNC and the New York 23rd District candidate, Bill Owens. But first, he'll stop at the Joint Terrorism Task Force Headquarters.

Meanwhile, it's Bill Clinton day on the campaign trail. He'll start his day rallying voters for Creigh Deeds in Virginia. Then he has several events in New Jersey on behalf of Jon Corzine's campaign.

Negotiators in the House and Senate will continue their push this week to merge the multiple bills in each chamber. House Democrats are awaiting scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, which will help decide what form the public option will take. In the Senate, they're still deciding whether to include the government-run health insurance option -- Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and a group of White House aides, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, are merging two bills, only one of which includes a public option.

On the chamber floors, the House will consider a half-dozen suspension bills, and the Senate will begin consideration of the conference report for the Homeland Security Department Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Bill Clinton Day" »

Strategy Memo: A Week On The Trail

Good morning, Washington and beyond. President Obama has a light public schedule at the White House today. He meets with winners of the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge this morning. The afternoon includes meetings with senior advisors and then Sen. Kent Conrad, a centrist Democrat and key player in health care and other issues. Vice President Biden, meanwhile, starts with a breakfast meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Later, he presides over a Middle Class Task Force meeting before heading on the road for some politics: in New Jersey, he'll campaign for Gov. Jon Corzine, and then head to Pennsylvania for events with Sen. Arlen Specter and Allegheny County Democrats.

Later this week, Obama himself has a busy schedule of political events. Tuesday, he's in New York raising money for the DNC and Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate in New York's 23rd District special election. Wednesday, he's in the Garden State for Corzine. And Friday, he'll travel to Boston for an event with another embattled first-term governor, Deval Patrick, and then to Connecticut for a fundraiser for Sen. Chris Dodd.

Today on Capitol Hill: The Senate will debate the Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009, though there will be no roll call votes today. On the other side of the Capitol, the House is not in session.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Week On The Trail" »

Strategy Memo: Out West

President Obama wakes up on the West Coast, and will travel from San Francisco to Houston where he'll take part in a Points Of Light forum at Texas A&M, hosted by former President George H.W. Bush. The president will return to Washington tonight.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, is in Nevada where he'll do a familiar dance: sell the stimulus impact to make it an official trip, but also raise money for Democrats at night to give it a political twist. This time it's not just any Democrat, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

It will be quiet on the Hill today, as the House meets in pro forma session and the Senate is not in session.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Out West" »

Strategy Memo: Back To New Orleans

Today, President Obama makes his first trip to New Orleans as president, his first since February of 2008. He'll meet with students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School, and then hold a town hall meeting at the University of New Orleans. All told, he'll be in the city for just under four hours before flying to San Francisco, where he speaks at a DNC fundraiser. He overnights there. Vice President Biden is also raising money, in St. Louis for Senate candidate Robin Carnahan and in Minnesota for the DNC.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner will give their weekly press conferences this morning, though Boehner will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the topic du jour is health care.

The House will consider the conference report of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and may begin consideration of the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act, a bill that has caused some friction between California congressmen. The Senate will vote today on the conference report for the Energy and Water Appropriations Act, and may move to begin consideration of two other appropriations conference reports -- Defense and Homeland Security.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Back To New Orleans" »

Strategy Memo: Merging Of The Bills

President Obama will hold a morning meeting with his war council as the White House closes in on a final Afghanistan strategy announcement. Vice President Biden will join that meeting after a sit-down with General David Petraeus. Later today, Obama heads to Virginia with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to tour a project using stimulus dollars. Back at the White House, Obama will then sign an executive order reinstating a commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and observe the Diwali "Festival of Lights" in the East Room. Tonight, he'll attend a fundraiser benefiting the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Following the Senate Finance Committee's 14-9 approval yesterday of the Baucus health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will lead a group including Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and White House reps in merging the Finance and HELP committee bills. The group meets today for the first time.

Reid will also testify this morning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation he co-sponsored with Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would repeal a federal antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies. Consideration of the Energy & Water Appropriations bill will begin today on the Senate floor.

The House Financial Services Committee is beginning its push today as part of Obama's efforts to regulate the financial institutions that caused last year's economic collapse. On the floor, the House will vote on as many as 19 suspension bills, including one "recognizing the 40th anniversary of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas."

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Merging Of The Bills" »

Strategy Memo: D-Day In The Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee will finally vote today on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) $829 billion health care bill, which is expected to pass. Up next is meshing it with the HELP Committee bill passed nearly three months ago.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill, while the House takes up a number of suspension bills, including one that expresses support for students to learn about Christopher Columbus.

The White House will certainly be watching the Finance Committee vote. President Obama has a busy schedule of his own, though, starting with morning briefings and a meeting with senior advisers and Vice President Biden. Later, he welcomes Spain President Zapatero for a working lunch, after which the two will address the media. Then, he meets with Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), potentially a swing vote on health care. Obama and Biden then meet with Defense Secretary Gates. Tonight, the White House is hosting a "Fiesta Latina," calling it "a concert celebrating Hispanic musical heritage." Marc Anthony, Jimmy Smits, Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, and George Lopez are among the acts on hand.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: D-Day In The Finance Committee" »

Strategy Memo: A Nobel President

President Obama, now a Nobel Peace Prize winner, will start his work day with morning briefings and a meeting with senior advisors, then give brief remarks in the Rose Garden at 10:30 a.m. He'll sit down with Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in the Oval Office, followed by lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon, he'll speak in the East Room to rally support for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency and urge passage of a regulatory reform package. Then, another meeting with his war council on Afghanistan. Tonight, Obama hosts a barbecue for members of the Secret Service and their families.

The Senate Finance Committee has set the vote for Tuesday on the chairman's health care bill, and the House ethics committee has expanded its investigation into Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), whom Republicans have been calling on to step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

Both the House and Senate meet in pro forma session today, meaning most Members have left for the Columbus Day recess. Both chambers return to session Tuesday.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Nobel President" »

Strategy Memo: Hoopster In Chief

Yes, the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing. But it's basketball day at the White House. Tonight, President Obama will play on the White House court with four Cabinet secretaries and 11 members of Congress -- nine of them Democrats. He starts his day with morning briefings and then has lunch with business leaders. He'll also drop in this afternoon on a game of hoops played by the National Naval Medical Center Marine Wounded Warrior basketball team. He and the vice president will also hold separate meetings with Secretaries Clinton and Geithner.

Vice President Biden, seemingly always in campaign mode these days, will head to Virginia today for an event with Creigh Deeds. As part of today's economic briefing, Biden will also discuss progress in implementing the recovery act.

The Senate Finance Committee could vote on the chairman's health care bill as early as tomorrow after CBO delivered an encouraging score, at least as Democrats see it. On the floor today, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill. Still awaiting House action is the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act conference report. Also scheduled for a vote on the floor is a bill giving active service members a one-year extension on the first-time homebuyers credit, through Nov. 30, 2010.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Hoopster In Chief" »

Strategy Memo: Awaiting the Score

Today President Obama starts his day with his daily briefings and a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. This afternoon, he awards the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in the East Room. Then, it's back to Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a meeting with his security team in the Situation Room. Tonight, he and the first lady host an event on the South Lawn for local students "to star gaze and conduct hands-on experiments with astronomers." It's meant to encourage the study of science.

Vice President Biden starts his day with events in New Jersey to boost Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in his re-election bid. He'll take part in the Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing, and then get back to his role as fundraiser-in-chief, with an event in DC for Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.).

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is hopeful to get a CBO score on his health care bill today, which would restart movement toward a final committee vote. On the floor, the Senate will resume consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. The House may take up the conference report for the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Act of 2010

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Awaiting the Score" »

Strategy Memo: Republicans At The White House

After morning briefings, President Obama will visit the National Counterterrorism Center. This afternoon, he'll welcome bipartisan and bicameral leadership to the White House to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan in the State Dining Room. Reports indicate that it will be the first formal visit in six months for some members of the GOP leadership.

Vice President Biden, after a day of politics yesterday, will join Obama for the Afghanistan briefing with Congressional leadership at the White House today. But first he'll have breakfast with Secretary of State Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tomorrow he's back on the stump, though, campaigning with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will consider the nomination of Thomas Perez to be an Assistant Attorney General and later resume consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill, including votes on 14 amendments. The House returns to session at 12:30 p.m. with a series of votes expected at 6:30 p.m., including one to send the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to conference.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Republicans At The White House" »

Strategy Memo: Biden On the Trail

Today at the White House, President Obama will get back to selling health care. He hosts a Rose Garden event with doctors from around the country. Later, he meets with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Looking ahead: On Tuesday, Obama will visit the National Counterterrorism Center. Wednesday, he awards the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology, meets with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and hosts an event for middle-school students on science. Friday he'll again meet with his team on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Vice President Biden has a busy day boosting New England Democrats. In Connecticut, he'll attend a fundraiser for Rep. Jim Himes, then hold an official event with Himes and Sen. Chris Dodd (D). Tonight he'll raise money for New Hampshire Senate candidate Paul Hodes in New York.

There will be no roll call votes on the Hill today -- the House is not in session and the Senate will only hold debate on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Tomorrow, Speaker Pelosi will present the Dalai Lama with the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Biden On the Trail" »

Strategy Memo: Unemployment Ticks Up

The Senate Finance Committee worked late into the night to complete debate on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) health care bill, which the committee will vote on in the middle of next week. Neither the House or Senate will hold any debate or roll call votes today.

Across the Atlantic, President Obama has already made his pitch for the Chicago Olympic bid. The IOC begins voting on the 2016 host city after 11 am ET, but by then Obama is scheduled to be en route back to Washington. After returning to the White House, he'll deliver remarks in the Rose Garden -- perhaps hoping Chicago's bid has been successful.

But this will also likely come up: The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the country lost 263,000 jobs last month and unemployment increased to 9.8 percent, up one-tenth since last month.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Unemployment Ticks Up" »

Strategy Memo: Selling a City

After daily briefings and a meeting with senior advisers, President Obama heads a few blocks from the White House to speak at a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association. He'll then return to the White House to meet separately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. He then heads to Denmark for a quick trip to sell the 2016 Chicago Olympic bid. Already there: first lady Michelle Obama, and, of course, Oprah.

The Senate will resume consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill, and 10 Democratic freshmen will give back-to-back speeches on the floor this morning to argue the benefits of health care reform. The House will take up the conference report for the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Tonight is the first debate in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. It will include all three candidates -- Jon Corzine, Chris Christie, and Chris Daggett. If you missed Daggett's debate parody video, you can check it out here.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Selling a City" »

Strategy Memo: War Council

President Obama starts his day with daily briefings, and then heads to the National Institutes of Health for an announcement of stimulus dollars earmarked for the facility. Back at the White House, he'll host Arnold Palmer in the Oval Office to sign the Arnold Palmer Gold Medal Act. The main event is later, however, as he meets with his national security team on Afghanistan.

Vice President Biden will be in that meeting. But first he'll be back in his home state of Delaware to speak at an event celebrating his son's return, along with his Delaware National Guard unit, from Iraq.

The Senate will debate and vote on the conference report for the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, with a series of three votes expected at 4:30 p.m. The House will consider another dozen or so suspension bills. Off the floor, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is hosting a meeting between representatives of GM and Chrysler and the auto dealers forced to close shop as a result of the automakers' bankruptcy proceedings. The Senate Homeland Security committee will hold a hearing on current terrorist threats to the United States, and Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will unveil their climate change bill.

Today also marks the final day for candidates to raise money for the 3rd Quarter FEC filing period. Expect your inboxes to be flooded with appeals.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: War Council" »

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."

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Public Option Day" »

Strategy Memo: Olympic Pitch

Good morning, Washington. President Obama's public schedule is rather empty after a week focused on foreign policy. He'll have his daily briefings this morning and meet with senior advisers; no other events are listed. Vice President Biden will join the president for those meetings, and also meet later with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

If there's any health care lobbying going on this week, it's mostly behind the scenes. Tuesday, Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen at the White House. Thursday afternoon, Obama attends a fundraiser for the DGA. And then, it was announced today, he'll leave for Copenhagen to pitch his home town's Olympic bid.

The House and Senate are not in session today, as both return for regular business tomorrow. The Senate Finance Committee is set to resume mark up on a health care bill tomorrow that Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) hopes to finish by the end of the week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Olympic Pitch" »

Strategy Memo: A New Senator

This morning, President Obama is due to make a statement on the latest news out of Iran about their nuclear weapons program. That news also now hangs over the activity at the G-20 Conference Obama hosts in Pittsburgh today. There is a plenary session followed by a working lunch for the leaders of the world's largest economies. The schedule then calls for a news conference before he returns to Washington.

Vice President Biden today will travel to Georgia to survey damage from recent flooding there. He then returns to Washington to swear in Massachusetts' new senator, Paul Kirk. He'll spend the weekend at home in Delaware.

Kirk is expected to serve just four months until a special election is held to choose another temporary successor to Ted Kennedy. Along with the swearing in ceremony, the Senate will also resume consideration of the Defense Appropriations bill, while the House considers the conference report on the 2010 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A New Senator" »

Strategy Memo: Steel City Summit

Today, President Obama transitions from the UN to the G-20. First, he chairs a meeting of the UN Security Council -- the first American president to do so. He'll then preside over a meeting of the Friends of Pakistan leaders along with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He then heads from New York to Pittsburgh, where he'll start his G-20 hosting duties with a working dinner at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Holding up the fort in Washington, Vice President Biden has mostly closed-door meetings, but tonight heads to Northern Virginia to raise money for three potentially vulnerable Congressmen: Gerry Connolly, Glenn Nye, and Tom Perriello.

The Joint Economic Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the future of newspapers, with discussion centering on funding alternatives and the industry's outlook. Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) are holding a press conference this afternoon to announce their efforts to speed up implementation of the Credit Card Act by two months, keeping companies from further raising rates.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Steel City Summit" »

Strategy Memo: In the Interim

President Obama's diplomatic dealing steps up even more today in New York. His day starts with a meeting with Japan's new Prime Minister Hatoyama, followed by an address to the United Nations General Assembly. He then joins in a meeting with leaders of peace-keeping troop contributing countries. This afternoon, he attends a lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for heads of state. Then, a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Medvedev. Tonight, he and Mrs. Obama host a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Vice President Biden keeps talking health care today, with an event at the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring, Md.

In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee will likely continue mark up on Chairman Max Baucus's (D-Mont.) health care bill into next week. The House passed yesterday an extention of unemployment benefits; today it will consider the Senate's Defense Production Act Reauthorization of 2009. The Senate will continue to consider the Interior Appropriations bill.

The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to have a bill on Gov. Deval Patrick's desk today that gives him the power to appoint a temporary successor to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. The appointment could come by tomorrow.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: In the Interim" »

Strategy Memo: Art Of Diplomacy

After a day marked by awkward domestic politics, President Obama's day is all foreign policy with events built around the UN General Assembly this week. This morning he'll speak at a Climate Change Summit at the UN. He then holds separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas, followed by a trilateral meeting. Obama then hosts lunch with Sub-Saharan African heads of state and meets with China's President Hu. The day ends with a speech at former President Bill Clinton's Global Initiative.

Today Vice President Biden carries the torch on health care, delivering a speech at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners annual conference. He'll also talk health care at the Leisure World retirement community in Maryland tomorrow, targeting a demographic he also worked in the campaign: senior voters.

The Senate Finance Committee will begin mark up on the health care bill Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced last week. On the chamber floors, the Senate continues consideration of the Interior Appropriations bill, while the House votes tonight on 15 suspension bills.

The Census Bureau released last night its annual American Community Survey, which "compiles social, housing, demographic and select economic data collected throughout 2008." Health care data was added to the research this year -- Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation (24.1%), while Massachusetts has the lowest (4.1%).

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Art Of Diplomacy" »

Strategy Memo: UN Week

President Obama leaves Washington this morning, and won't be back until week's end. His week starts near Albany, New York, where he'll visit a community college with Dr. Jill Biden and then give a speech on the economy. He'll then head to New York City, where he'll spend a few days at the UN General Assembly. But before getting down to business there he'll sit down for one more interview, with Late Show host David Letterman.

Vice President Biden starts the day in Delaware, where he'll host a fundraiser for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He then comes to Washington, where he will prepare for more public events on health care while the president tends to foreign policy at the UN and this week's G-20 Summit.

The House meets this afternoon only in a pro forma session, with regular business for the week beginning tomorrow. The Senate meets this afternoon to consider the Interior Appropriations bill, though no roll call votes are expected.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: UN Week" »

Strategy Memo: Sunday Show Blitz

Happy Friday, Washington. President Obama's public schedule today includes just the daily intelligence and economic briefings, and a meeting with recpients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Most of his time will be spent taping the five, count 'em, five interviews to air on Sunday shows this weekend on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and Univision. We call the all-Obama weekend: "State of This Week: Face The Press (en espanol)."

Elsewhere in Washington today, the Family Research Council hosts a Values Voter Summit. This morning, speakers include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Mike Huckabee. Tim Pawlenty speaks there tonight, and Mitt Romney tomorrow. There will be a 2012 presidential straw poll conducted.

The House and Senate are not in session today after both took action yesterday to strip federal funding to ACORN. The Senate returns Monday, while the House comes back for regular business on Tuesday.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Sunday Show Blitz" »

Strategy Memo: Up For Debate

President Obama gets back on the stump for health care today, as he heads across the DC border for a rally at the University of Maryland this morning. This afternoon, he's back at the White House for a solemn ceremony to award the Medal of Honor posthumously to Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti. Tonight, he hosts a screening of Ken Burns' new documentary on the National Parks in the White House theater.

On the Hill, the Senate will take up a couple appropriations bills -- Interior and HUD/Transportation -- while the House is expected to complete consideration of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. to discuss troop levels in Afghanistan. The four Dem and GOP leaders of the House and Senate will meet with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Meet the Press" host David Gregory is moderating a D.C.-area debate this morning between Virginia gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds (D) and Bob McDonnell (R).

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Up For Debate" »

Strategy Memo: Olympic Spirit

President Obama is back in Washington for the full day after two days on the road. After morning briefings, he holds a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This afternoon, he does his part to help his hometown of Chicago in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics, as he and the first lady will host Olympic and Paralympic athletes on the South Lawn. After, he meets separately with Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Tonight, he speaks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Capitol Hill is buzzing today as Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, introduces the long-awaited health care bill, which a bipartisan group of six senators on the committee have been negotiating for weeks. Baucus is holding a press conference at noon to discuss the bill. On the floors, the House will debate the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009 and begin consideration of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, while the Senate continues consideration of the HUD and Transportation Appropriation bill.

In New York City, the general election campaign is underway for perhaps the third most prominent race in the country this year. William Thompson Jr. easily won the Democratic primary last night and will now take on incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's running for a third term.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Olympic Spirit" »

Strategy Memo: Election in NYC

Today, President Obama's itinerary has him playing to core Democratic interests. He leaves Washington this morning and makes his first stop in Warren, Ohio, where he'll hold a roundtable with auto workers focused on the economy. Then he travels to Pittsburgh, where he'll address the AFL-CIO Convention. He just gave a feisty speech to an AFL-CIO crowd on Labor Day. He ends his day by following through on a promise to support newly Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, at a fundraiser in Philadelphia. The president returns to Washington tonight.

On health care, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is expected to introduce his bill into committee today, with mark up scheduled to begin next week. On the other side of the Capitol, House Democratic leaders are holding a health care forum to "highlight the urgent need for comprehensive health insurance reform." House GOP Conference vice chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is holding a press conference "to highlight how current health care reform will harm children with disabilities."

Also today, voters are voting! In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an independent, is on the Republican ballot as he seeks a third term; city Comptroller Bill Thompson will likely emerge as the Democratic nominee. Bloomberg has consistently lead in the polls; today, more focus is on downballot primary races in the city.

And, because an election in New Hampshire is always more important, we note a primary for mayor in Manchester. The top two vote-getters will face off in November, looking to succeed Frank Guinta, who is leaving the mayor's office to challenge Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) in the first Congressional District race.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Election in NYC" »

Strategy Memo: Another Major Speech

Good Monday morning, Washington. Today, on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, President Obama travels to New York City for what is being called a "major speech" on the financial crisis. "He will discuss the aggressive steps the Administration has taken to bring the economy back from the brink, the commitment to winding down the government's role in the financial sector and the actions the United States and the global community must take to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again," the White House says. He'll return to Washington this afternoon.

Both chambers of Congress return this afternoon, with the Senate set to resume consideration of the HUD and Transportation Appropriations bill and the House taking up suspension bills. The health care debate resumes as well after a busy day for many members of Congress and the president on the Sunday talk shows.

Also today, the AFL-CIO conference continues in Pittsburgh. Obama will address the conference Tuesday. The president will also talk to autoworkers in Ohio and raise money for Arlen Specter in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Another Major Speech" »

Strategy Memo: Eight Years

Today marks eight years since September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 died. More than 5,000 have died in battle since.

At the White House, President Obama will pause at 8:46 for a moment of silence at the time the first plane hit the Twin Towers. Later, he heads to the Pentagon, where he'll speak at the memorial to the attacks there. He and the first lady also will mark a day of service with an event in the city. Vice President Biden will be in New York for memorial events there.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Obama will hold a rally for health care reform in Minnesota on Saturday. He also is set to appear once again on "60 Minutes."

The Senate will hold a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. After morning business it will continue consideration of the Transportation and HUD Appropriations bill, though no votes are expected today. The House is not in session.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Eight Years" »

Strategy Memo: Shout Heard Round The Nation

As the White House studies reaction to last night's speech, President Obama will be right back at it, delivering remarks on insurance reform this morning at the EEOB. He'll then convene a meeting of his Cabinet, followed by lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon he'll meet separately with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Geithner. Tonight, another sports celebration: this time honoring the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins.

Biden's schedule also includes a trip to the Capitol today for a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus. There, he'll also swear in Florida's newest senator, George LeMieux.

Today on the Hill, reaction to the speech will continue with the weekly press conferences of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader John Boehner and a Senate Democratic leadership press conference. The Senate will dedicate the morning to for tributes to the late Senator Edward Kennedy, followed by debate on the nomination of Cass Sunstein to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget. The House will take up the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act, with a vote expected by 3 p.m.

And Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) will probably be the focus of his own media circus on the Hill today, after his already-infamous shout during the president's speech.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Shout Heard Round The Nation" »

Strategy Memo: A Night On the Hill

Today's main event: a presidential address to a joint session of Congress. President Obama makes his second trip to Capitol Hill for such a speech, in what will be the sixth major prime time address of his presidency. But he starts his day with a trip to New York, where he'll speak at a memorial service for legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite.

Vice President Biden, who we'll see next to Speaker Pelosi behind the president tonight, has a busy day leading up to the speech. He heads to Syracuse, New York, for a middle class task force event, and also some political fundraising for a potentially vulnerable Democratic House incumbent, Rep. Dan Maffei, as well as for Bill Owens, the Democrat running in a special election to replace Rep. John McHugh (R). Biden returns to Washington for a Rosh Hashanah observance at the Naval Observatory before he heads to Capitol Hill.

It's Day 2 of the return of Congress, and the Capitol is a bustling place as the fight over health care reform looms large in both chambers. While backroom negotiations continue before the president's speech tonight, members of Congress will gather on the East Capitol Steps for a Congressional Remembrance Ceremony of the anniversary of September 11, 2001.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Night On the Hill" »

Strategy Memo: The Fall Campaign

Good morning, Washington. With Labor Day now in the rear view mirror, it's good bye to the summer and back to work in the nation's capital. President Obama has a busy day, starting with what became a controversial speech to students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. The White House posted his planned remarks in response to complaints that he was bringing politics into the classroom. After the event, Obama will head to the Supreme Court to attend an investiture ceremony in honor of Sonia Sotomayor.

Then, it's back to the White House, where he'll meet with House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid. The meeting will of course focus on health care, with the president heading to Capitol Hill Wednesday in a speech that aides promise will give greater detail to his vision of health care. The official schedule ends with a meeting with PGA champions.

The House and Senate will gavel back into session today after a long August recess filled with temperamental town halls and dipping presidential approval ratings. A new Gallup survey finds that Americans "are no less divided on health care reform today than they were a month ago" -- not exactly the welcome home sign Democrats had hoped for when they left Capitol Hill five weeks ago.

Labor Day also marks the traditional kickoff of the fall campaign. Yesterday, the candidates for governor in both New Jersey and Virginia spent their day darting from street fairs to parades to house parties. Though Democrats in each race are increasingly optimistic about their chances because of August controversies involving the Republicans, it's still an uphill fight. The RCP Average has Bob McDonnell leading by 10.2 in Virginia, and Chris Christie ahead by 6.5 in New Jersey.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Fall Campaign" »

Strategy Memo: Obama Departs Again

President Obama, after taking care of some business yesterday, dives back into vacation mode today as he heads to Camp David. He'll remain there through Sunday. When he returns, his September schedule is quite busy. Next wee includes his first 9/11 anniversary; later this month he'll address the AFL-CIO, attend the UN General Assembly meeting, and host the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh. Reports indicate today that somewhere at the front end, he may make a major speech to reframe the health care debate as well.

Congress returns from August recess next week, and two vacancies remain -- NY-23 (Rep. John McHugh, R, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate as secretary of the Army) and CA-10 (former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D, was appointed to a position in the State Department), though Tauscher's replacement may have been chosen last night.

In the special election to fill the vacant seat in California's 10th Congressional District, no candidate received 50% in the multi-party primary, so a runoff will be held Nov. 3 for the leading vote getters from each party. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D), who received 26%, will face attorney David Harmer (R), who won 21%, as well as three minor party candidates with no primary opposition. Garamendi is expected to win easily, as the district leans heavily Democratic -- Tauscher won with at least two-thirds of the vote in the last four elections, and Obama won 65% here in 2008.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Obama Departs Again" »

Strategy Memo: Don't Call It A Comeback

Good morning, Washington. After spending a good chunk of Monday on the golf course, President Obama's "staycation" looks to be on hold today. This afternoon, he'll be briefed on preparations for the upcoming flu season, with H1N1 still a concern. He'll also meet with Vice President Biden. Tonight, he'll host a dinner celebrating Ramadan and "highlight the contributions of American Muslims." Former President Bush also hosted such a dinner, but it's of note given the underground rumor campaign in '08 about whether Obama was a Muslim.

With Labor Day on the horizon, the AFL-CIO today will hold a briefing to talk about its priorities in the coming elections and when Congress returns. The union is heavily invested in gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia this fall -- don't miss new polling on the Garden State race today.

And in this quiet final week of the summer, two disgraced former governors find their way back into the headlines. Eliot Spitzer is plotting a political comeback in New York, potentially a challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. And get ready for a steady stream of Rod Blagojevich as he starts to promote his new book.

A special primary election is being held to replace Ellen Tauscher (D) in California's 10th District. Fourteen candidates are running -- if no one receives more than 50%, the top vote-getters from each party will meet for a special runoff election Nov. 3. The district leans heavily Democratic.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Don't Call It A Comeback" »

Strategy Memo: Back to Work

Today President Obama is back in Washington, but is not expected to dive back into work. He actually has no public events scheduled today, and within days will be back en route to Camp David through this upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Vice President Biden will start his day in Philadelphia with freshman Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.), and then return to DC this afternoon for conference calls on the stimulus bill. Also this afternoon, he'll meet with the top general in Iraq, Ray Odierno.

Fourteen candidates are vying tomorrow for the open seat in California's 10th Congressional District, left vacant when Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D) took a job in the U.S. State Department. The large, Northern California district is cross-shaped and includes much of the land between Oakland and Sacramento. The district leans heavily Democratic -- Tauscher won with at least two-thirds of the vote since redistricting in 2002, and Obama defeated John McCain here by a 65%-33% margin.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Back to Work" »

Strategy Memo Is On Vacation

With the president and Congress both out of town this week, we're sending Strategy Memo on vacation for the week as well. The blog will still be updated throughout the day at the normal pace. Check back at the regularly scheduled Strat Memo times next week for everything you should be reading.

-KT and MM

Strategy Memo: Government Shutdown

Happy Friday, Washington. There's just one event on the docket this morning for President Obama: a meeting with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, once his choice to quarterback the health care reform effort. What could have been? Then the president takes off for Camp David at about 1 pm today, marking the beginning of a week-long vacation. He'll spend most of the weekend at Camp David before flying to Martha's Vineyard, where he'll enjoy some R-and-R next week with the first family. With Congress still on recess and the White House promising that Obama's week will include more golf games than conference calls, you're looking at the quietest seven days of the year, perhaps. Or so we think -- something always seems to change that in a hurry. We can also expect the president to pay a courtesy call not far from the Vineyard to see Sen. Ted Kennedy at Hyannis.

Vice President Biden will be on duty next week, however. Today he has meetings at the White House before joining his wife for a doctor's appointment, and returning home to Wilmington. Milestone alert: It was one year ago this Sunday that Obama tapped the then-Delaware senator as his running mate.

In the world of politics, Creigh Deeds is ramping up his campaign for Virginia governor, making a major speech on policy and launching his first TV ad.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Government Shutdown" »

Strategy Memo: Lion Succession

President Obama today will again try selling his health care plan by tailoring his message to specific constituency groups, rather than with general town hall meetings or White House events. Yesterday he spoke to religious groups. Today he'll be on conservative talk radio, during a live broadcast of the Michael Smerconish show from the Diplomatic Reception Room. He'll follow that by speaking to his base, in an online "National Health Care Forum," live from DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill. According to the Organizing for America website, "The President will update supporters on what's happening in D.C. and around the country, and he'll lay out our strategy and message going forward."

Vice President Biden will step up his profile in the health care debate today in Chicago. He's hosting a a roundtable discussion with health care professionals, joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others. Later, he'll be raising money for another freshman Congressman, Debbie Halvorson in Chicago.

A big story to watch outside of the U.S. today, as Afghans are voting in national elections. The White House has called this a critical moment for the nation, and it's the process and not so much the result that is of concern. A smooth election may influence the president's policy toward the nation as some are calling for an increased level of forces there.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Lion Succession" »

Strategy Memo: Who's In The Driver's Seat?

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama again has a rather low-key day when it comes to selling his health care plan. The highlight of the schedule is an event to honor 2008 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson. He and other NASCAR racers will be on the South Lawn, as will Jimmie Johnson's #48 Chevy. He will hold a conference call tonight with "faith leaders" to talk health reform, however.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, heads to Florida for a Recovery Act-related event on education. He's also raising money at separate events for Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson in Orlando.

An NBC News poll released last night found Obama's job approval at 51%. This lowers Obama's RCP Average approval to 52.0% -- his lowest mark since taking office.

Less than three months away from the elections, Republicans aren't just leading the two governor races this year -- so far they're dominating. Bob McDonnell leads in Virginia by 12.0 points in the RCP Average, and Chris Christie is up in New Jersey by 11.3 points. What impact would a GOP sweep in 2009 have on the outcome of the 2010 midterms?

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Who's In The Driver's Seat?" »

Strategy Memo: Memory Lapse

Some interesting meetings at the White House today. First, President Obama holds meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, including a working lunch. This afternoon he'll sit down with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. And the big headline for some, he'll sit down with his predecessor, former President Bill Clinton, at 4 pm.

A number of liberal Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, opened up yesterday in opposition to the administration's apparent waffling on the public option portion of the party's health care reform plan. The White House denies there has been any change.

Either way, the Dems still have three weeks before Congress returns to Washington -- plenty of time to win unity, or more division, on the issue.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Memory Lapse" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Opting Out?" »

Strategy Memo: It's A Netroots Nation

Today President Obama travels to a red state for a town hall meeting on health care. It actually takes place in an airplane hangar outside Bozeman, Montana, which also happens to be the home state of the key Democrat in the Senate handling legislation right now, Finance Committee chair Max Baucus. After this afternoon's forum, the first family spends the night in Big Sky. They'll visit Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon as well on this western swing. Obama also has another town hall scheduled for this Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo.

The life and work of Eunice Kennedy Shriver will be remembered today at her funeral in Hyannis, Mass. Vice President Joe Biden will be just one of the dignitaries to attend.

Bill Clinton provided the opening keynote speech last night at the fourth annual Netroots Nation convention for progressive political activists, being held in Pittsburgh. This morning, Howard Dean, a former governor and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will give a town hall-style address on health care.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: It's A Netroots Nation" »

Strategy Memo: Time Out

It's a light schedule for President Obama today. The White House schedule lists only private meetings with his staff today. Tomorrow, though, he'll be back on the road, with town hall meetings coming in Colorado and Montana.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues what has been a somewhat rocky tour of Africa in Liberia today. She's being criticized for talking yesterday about the disputed 2000 Florida recount as she talked about democracy in Nigeria.

The fourth annual Netroots Nation convention kicks off today from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. The four-day meeting of liberal political activists opens with a day of panels and salons, with the keynote speech delivered tonight by former President Bill Clinton.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Time Out" »

Strategy Memo: Town Halls Galore

Today, President Obama celebrates one of the big victories of his administration, the quick confirmation of his Supreme Court choice, Sonia Sotomayor. Later he'll award the Medal of Freedom. One of the honorees is Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose sister, herself a recipient of the medal, passed away yesterday.

Obama survived one rather mild town hall meeting; there's now two more scheduled. The first this Friday will be in Bozeman, Montana.

There are dozens more scheduled today hosted by members of Congress, who remain on recess until the second week of September -- when both chambers will continue the health care debate back on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Town Halls Galore" »

Strategy Memo: Seacoast Showdown?

President Obama is back on the road today selling health care. After morning meetings at the White House, Air Force One will take him to Portsmouth, N.H., where he holds a town hall meeting at 1 pm today. He returns to the White House after for a meeting with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

The Senate and House remains out of session, as most members of Congress stay in their districts and states holding their own town hall meetings.

And we now have a set field in the race to replace Rep. John McHugh in New York's 23rd Congressional District. After their top recruit passed, Democrats chose Bill Owens to face Dede Scozzafava in the special election. No date has yet been set.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Seacoast Showdown?" »

Strategy Memo: The Heat Is On

After a pretty mild summer, we're in for the real dog days of Washington in August. It comes as the health care fight has moved -- for the most part -- outside of the Beltway and into Congressional districts across the country. We can expect a steady stream of reports from the town hall meetings and other forums that Congressmen and senators are hosting -- especially the rowdy ones.

President Obama starts off his week in Mexico, however, focusing on regional concerns in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Harper and Mexican President Calderon. They hold a trilateral meeting this morning and then a joint press conference. Obama returns to Washington from Guadalajara tonight.

Looking ahead, he'll host a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday. On Wednesday he'll honor new Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the White House, and host the Medal of Freedom ceremony. Friday he and the first family start a long weekend vacation in Montana, with stops also coming in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Continue reading "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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Unemployment Stays Under 10%" »

Strategy Memo: Out of Towners

Today President Obama continues working on health care legislation and will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee. Later, he'll sit down with Treasury Secretary Geithner and his homeland security czar, John Brennan. Brennan today will speak about the administration's strategy on terrorism. Tonight, Obama will hold a rally in Virginia with gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds.

Let the vacation lull begin. Vice President Biden has started a week-long vacation to Kiawah Island in South Carolina. House Members left town last Friday and won't be back for another four weeks.

At 3 p.m., the Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed as expected, Sotomayor will become the first Latina to sit on the high court. The upper chamber will follow the House out of town for the next month after final votes tonight.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Out of Towners" »

Strategy Memo: Back To Elkhart

Good morning, Washington. President Obama leaves shortly for a trip to Indiana, where he'll speak near Elkhart, the site of his first trip outside of Washington as president. He'll speak about the economy an RV company, and is expected to unveil new funds for job creation through the Recovery Act. He returns to Washington this afternoon.

Vice President Biden is also on the road, heading to another economically troubled city in Detroit. He'll also announce federal funding for the production of advanced battery technology in Motor City.

Debate about the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court began on the Senate floor yesterday and will continue through today, with a vote likely to come tomorrow. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) are leading a rally in support of Sotomayor at noon in the Upper Senate park.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Back To Elkhart" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Happy Birthday, Mr. President" »

Strategy Memo: Read My Lips

Welcome to the dog days of August.

The president's day starts with his economic and security briefings, after which he will be joined by Vice President Biden and others in Fairfax, Va., for an event to mark the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Then it's back to the White House for a meeting and lunch with the emir of Kuwait. This afternoon, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.) comes to meet with Obama at the White House.

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Democrats' health care bill Friday night, just before House members departed for a five-week recess. Members must now face their constituents back home, before returning to Washington Sept. 8.

The Senate remains in session this week, as Democrats work toward consensus on their own health care plan. On the floor today, the Senate will resume consideration of the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Read My Lips" »

Strategy Memo: See Ya In September

The day after an over-hyped beer summit, President Obama has a low-profile day at the White House. After morning briefings, he hosts business leaders for lunch. He later meets with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton. Tonight, he'll convene top advisers and members of his Cabinet for a mid-year retreat at Blair House.

While House Democrats were not able to get a health care bill to the floor prior to the August recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow leadership members are holding a news conference this afternoon to tout what they did accomplish over the last seven months. House Members take off tonight for five weeks, while the Senate remains in session for another week.

On the chamber floors, the House will take up the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act, and the Senate resumes consideration of the Agriculture Appropriations bill. Debate on Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation will likely begin Tuesday, with a vote by the end of the week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: See Ya In September" »

Strategy Memo: Audacity Of Hops

Two new polls offer more bad news for the Obama administration in the midst of its health care fight. But what's the biggest story out of the White House today? The presidential "beer summit" with Skip Gates and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him. It happens tonight at 6, with Red Stripe, Blue Moon and Bud Light the drink of choice for the participants. Also today, President Obama meets with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines. And he'll have separate sessions with Treasury Secretary Geithner and Vice President Biden.

The House will likely leave for five weeks after the close of business tomorrow without consensus on a health care bill and certainly without a vote on one, though a deal between Democratic leaders and Blue Dogs showed some progress is being made. Today, the House will vote on the Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

The Senate, having its own trouble with health care, will begin considering the Highway Trust Fund and Agriculture Appropriations bills. At 1:00 p.m., members of the House and Senate will hold a committee hearing on cap-and-trade in the Senate Environment and Public Works hearing room.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Audacity Of Hops" »

Strategy Memo: Swing State Travel Continues

Good morning, Washington, where the forecast is for extreme humidity. President Obama takes off from the South Lawn at 10 am for a day of health care reform stumping in red states he turned blue last fall. First, he'll hold a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. Then he flies to Bristol, Va., where he'll speak at a Kroger Supermarket and take questions from employees.

Democrats in both chambers of Congress continue to struggle for a consensus on a health care plan, in which some Senate moderates appear willing to leave out a public option -- a priority for Democratic leaders.

Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination was sent to the full Senate yesterday on a 13-6 Judiciary Committee vote. The Senate will vote on her confirmation by next Friday. Today, the Senate continues consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, and will likely next consider the Agriculture Appropriations bill. The House will begin considering the Department of Defense Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Swing State Travel Continues" »

Strategy Memo: Sotomayor Gets A Vote

It's back to health care for President Obama today. He heads to the AARP headquarters this afternoon for a tele-town hall meeting where he'll take questions from the organization's members. Later, he'll again talk China with the leaders of the summit he spoke to yesterday, which include Secretaries Clinton and Geithner from the U.S. side. In Philadelphia this morning, Vice President Biden makes an announcement awarding stimulus dollars to cities through the COPS program.

House Democrats are still struggling for a compromise on health care legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and seven Blue Dog Democrats continue to negotiate. The Senate Finance Committee could be close to an agreement, though neither chamber of Congress is expected to vote on a health care bill until after the August recess.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote today on whether to send Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor. Just one Republican on the committee, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), has announced he will support her, though every Democrat is expected to vote her way. The full Senate will vote by the end of next week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Sotomayor Gets A Vote" »

Strategy Memo: Former Governor Palin

President Obama starts the week talking about U.S.-China policy during the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. He'll return to the White House for his briefings, and then meets has two sports items on the agenda: a meeting with FIFA President Joseph Blatter, and an event to honor the WNBA champions, the Detroit Shock to the White House. Tonight he hosts a reception for ambassadors, which may look like a reunion of top fundraisers.

Both chambers of Congress are in session today. There is no major business scheduled in the House, though Democrats are holding a five-hour caucus meeting late this afternoon to discuss health care. The Senate takes up the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

Sarah Palin, elected in 2006 as Alaska's youngest and first woman governor and selected in 2008 as the Republican vice presidential nominee, stepped down Sunday from her post. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was sworn in to replace her for the remaining 18 months.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Former Governor Palin" »

Strategy Memo: Palin's Swan Song

Happy Friday, Washington. Health care negotiations continue on both sides of the Capitol. With the House scheduled to go on recess a week from today and the Senate leaving town the following Friday, neither chamber is expected to bring a health care bill to the floor until September -- though House Democrats are still trying.

At the White House, President Obama does his part to keep negotiations moving in a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus. He then has lunch with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This afternoon, he'll give an education speech at the Department of Education. Clinton will then introduce the President back at the White HOuse as he signs the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Tonight, he and Mrs. Obama will attend the Marine Corps Evening Parade.

Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood, Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, and Interior Sec. Ken Salazar will appear before a House Budget Committee hearing on the economic stimulus package. Also on the Hill are Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, who will go before the House Financial Services Committee.

This weekend, Gov. Sarah Palin officially steps down and hands over power to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell at the annual governor's picnic in Fairbanks.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Palin's Swan Song" »

Strategy Memo: Primetime Leftovers

President Obama starts his Thursday with briefings at the White House, then boards Marine One to start a journey to Ohio. There he'll tour the Cleveland Clinic and hold a town hall meeting on health care reform. Later, he heads to Chicago where he'll raise money for the DNC at the home of Penny Pritzker, and later at the Hyatt. He returns to DC late tonight.

House Republicans are holding a Health Care Solutions Group Hearing that will include a press conference, and House Democrats are holding another health care press conference as well -- calling for an end to denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The Senate resumes consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization bill, while the House takes up the Department of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Primetime Leftovers" »

Strategy Memo: East Room Sales Pitch

In one day, President Obama will confront his most pressing international and domestic challenges. After morning briefings and a meeting with Treasury Secretary Geithner, the president welcomes Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to the Oval Office. After a one-on-one and expanded meeting he'll meet the press in the Rose Garden with the Iraqi leader. Then he'll prepare for tonight's prime time press conference, the fourth of his presidency, which is sure to be dominated by health care questions.

The Department of Defense Authorization bill lives to see another day in the Senate after the McCain-Levin amendment stripping money for new F-22 fighter jets was approved yesterday. Sen. John Thune's concealed weapons amendment is up for a vote today. House Democrats are attempting to reinstitute statutory PAYGO legislation, which requires the net effect of all legislation passed during a session of Congress be deficit neutral. The House will begin considering the "pay-as-you-go" bill today.

Also today in DC: former presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani gives a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, and potential future presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at the National Press Club. Both are on the economy.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: East Room Sales Pitch" »

Strategy Memo: Health Care Offensive

Today, President Obama will again make remarks about health care at 1 p.m. -- part of a media offensive that includes interviews with NBC and PBS yesterday, CBS tonight, and a conference call with liberal bloggers yesterday. Later, he'll meet with Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Tonight, the Obamas host an event "celebrating country music," which will feature Charley Pride, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss and Union Station.

The Senate will debate and vote today on the controversial McCain-Levin amendment, which strips $1.75 billion to build seven F-22s from the Department of Defense Authorization bill. Obama supports the amendment and has threatened using his veto power should the money remain in the bill.

Democrats in the House continue their push toward consensus on a health care bill. In the meantime, up to 30 suspension bills -- including honoring the life of former Phillies announcer Harry Kalas -- will be taken up on the House floor. The official photo of the 111th Congress will be taken on the floor at around 2 p.m.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Health Care Offensive" »

Strategy Memo: Six Months Down

Today the Obama presidency hits the half-year mark, and he'll spend it by focusing on his health care reform effort. After morning briefings, he'll leave the White House for an event at the Children's National Medical Center. After, he'll make a statement to the press. He'll return to the White House to meet with the head of the Mormon church, joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Then he'll mark the anniversary of the moon landing by meeting with the Apollo 11 crew, and new NASA Administrator Bolden.

On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue markup on the Democrats' health care bill. The two other committees with jurisdiction over the bill approved it Friday, though it's still unclear how much support the completed plan will have when it reaches the House floor.

House members will vote this evening on about a dozen suspension bills, while the Senate continues consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

**Check out all the Sunday talk show highlights you missed at RealClearPolitics Video.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Six Months Down" »

Strategy Memo: Health Care, Health Care, Health Care

The President has a light Friday schedule, with just his usual morning briefings followed by lunch with Vice President Biden. National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers is speaking at the Peterson Institute "to provide a progress report on economic policy and Obama Administration efforts to rescue and rebuild the U.S. economy."

Sonia Sotomayor completed four days of testimony yesterday, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy scheduled a committee vote for Tuesday. However, Republicans have indicated they will delay the vote one week.

House committees worked through the night on a health care plan, in a rush to complete and vote on the bill before the August recess. On the House floor today, votes will be held on a wild horses health and management bill, as well as the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The Senate has scheduled no roll call votes today.

The National Governors Association meets in Biloxi, Miss., this weekend, though no more than 30 governors are expected to attend, due largely to state budget constraints.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Health Care, Health Care, Health Care" »

Strategy Memo: Campaigner In Chief

President Obama starts his day at the White House lobbying a conservative Democrat - Ben Nelson - and a moderate Republican - Olympia Snowe - on health care. From there, he becomes the partisan in chief, flying to New Jersey to campaign for Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election. The visit includes a fundraiser and a rally at the PNC Bank Arts Center. He then heads to New York to address the NAACP's 100th Anniversary Convention, followed by a fundraiser for the DNC at the Waldorf Astoria.

Vice President Biden also has some campaign activity on his schedule in Virginia. But first, he'll hold a Middle Class Task Force event on health care in Alexandria, and then a stimulus-related event in Richmond. He ends the day with a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Creigh Deeds.

It's Day 4 of the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will resume at 9:30 a.m. After continued questioning from committee members, the committee is scheduled to hear from outside witnesses called by both the majority and minority.

The Senate will resume consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization Act. The House will vote on the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill and also consider the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. And Judy Chu, fresh off a special election victory Tuesday in California's 32nd District, will be sworn in today, leaving just one more vacancy in the House. Democrats now have a 256-178 seat advantage.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Campaigner In Chief" »

Strategy Memo: Clinton Speaks

President Obama spends the full day at the White House making another big pitch on health care. He reportedly is sitting down for interviews with medical correspondents from the TV networks. He'll also speak publicly on the reform effort from the Rose Garden this afternoon. Later, he meets with Secretaries Clinton and Gates in the Oval Office.

Speaking of Secretary Clinton, she is set to deliver a major policy speech today at the Council of Foreign Relations. A State Department spokesperson said she will "lay out some of our approaches to implement President Obama's foreign policy vision."

Sonia Sotomayor faces questions from eight more senators on the Judiciary Committee today after hearing from 11 yesterday. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m.

House Democrats unveiled a $1 trillion health care plan yesterday, and this morning House Republicans will hold a press conference to denounce it. The House will consider the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill, and the Senate resumes consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

In election news, Judy Chu (D) won the special election in California's 32nd Congressional District with 62% of the vote. Chu will become the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, and replaces former Rep. Hilda Solis (D), who resigned her seat to serve as U.S. Labor Secretary.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Clinton Speaks" »

Strategy Memo: A Midsummer Classic

It's Day 2 of the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. After hours of opening statements yesterday from the 19 Judiciary Committee members and Sotomayor herself, today the senators will get a chance to directly question the nominee.

The full Senate will resume consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization bill, while the House could take up two dozen suspension bills. The House Oversight subcommittee on D.C. will examine the June 22 Metrorail crash.

The highlight of President Obama's schedule today is throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star Game. But he starts the day in Washington, where he'll meet with the prime minister of the Netherlands. After additional briefings, he flies to Michigan, where he'll speak at Macomb Community College in Warren. Officially, he's there to talk about community colleges, but expect a health care push as well. Then, it's off to St. Louis for the Midsummer Classic. In addition to the first pitch, Obama appears in a video with five of his predecessors to promote his "United We Serve" initiative.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Midsummer Classic" »

Strategy Memo: Sotomayor, Day 1

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning for the first time. Commencing at 10 a.m., New York Democrats Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand will introduce the nominee to the committee, followed by a statement from Sotomayor.

President Obama has a rather low-key day considering how much needs to be done with regard to health care. After his morning briefings, he meets with labor leaders. He then congratulates the MLS champion Columbus Crew, and finally speaks to the Urban and Metropolitan Policy Roundtable. Also this week: Obama gives a speech in Michigan tomorrow before heading to St. Louis to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game. And Thursday he'll hold his first campaign event as president, rallying the faithful for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

The Senate will vote today on the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and consider the nomination of Robert M. Groves to be director of the Census. The House will vote tonight on more than a dozen suspension bills.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Sotomayor, Day 1" »

Strategy Memo: A Papal Audience

Good Friday to you. The traveling White House press corps may be enjoying the Eternal City, but they're missing another fantastic day in the nation's capital.

President Obama's stay in Italy continues today. As we speak, he's conducting his first extended press conference -- and can expect as many questions on his flagging domestic agenda as his diplomatic endeavors. Later this afternoon, he'll travel to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. He'll fly to Ghana tonight for his final stop on the trip. In Washington, Vice President Biden shifts from the stimulus to health care, holding a roundtable discussion on rising costs.

Both chambers of Congress are in session today, though the Senate will hold no roll call votes or committee hearings. In the House, members will vote on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, and Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner will appear before a joint hearing of the Agriculture and Financial Services committees to discuss the administration's proposal to regulate the over-the-counter derivatives market.

The Senate Judiciary Committee continues to gear up for hearings on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Hearings begin Monday, with New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand introducing the nominee.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Papal Audience" »

Strategy Memo: Stimulus, Or Stimuli?

Today, the President's schedule is packed with meetings at the G-8 in L'Aquila, Italy. The leaders today are joined by five additional leaders from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt. Obama will deliver a statement to the press toward the end of the sessions today; later he'll attend a working dinner. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden travels to Ohio and New York to promote the stimulus.

On the chamber floors, the Senate will resume consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act and the House will likely vote on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

Off the floors, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee will examine the EPA's clean air regulations one year after the CAIR and CAMR federal court decisions. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on "The Rise of the Mexican Drug Cartels and U.S. National Security." Also, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner hold their weekly press conferences this morning.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Stimulus, Or Stimuli?" »

Strategy Memo: On To Italy

Good morning, Washington. The president has now arrived in Italy for the second leg of his trip. He met in Rome with President Napolitano, and now has moved to L'Aquila, site of the G-8 Summit. After today's sessions, Obama and Prime Minister Berlusconi tour the earthquake-ravaged town, before a working dinner of all G-8 leaders.

Vice President Biden picks up the slack on domestic issues, and will make an announcement this morning on health care with representatives of the hospital industry. Tomorrow, he'll travel to Cincinnati and upstate New York State to promote the impact of the stimulus bill, which seems to be facing greater scrutiny each day.

The Senate continues consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The Senate Finance and Foreign Relations committees hold hearings on the economic effects of climate change legislation. The House begins considering the Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009 and the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: On To Italy" »

Strategy Memo: Call Me Senator

In Russia, President Obama has already had a breakfast meeting with Vladimir Putin, and a session with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He also spoke at the New Economic School graduation. Left on the schedule is a second meeting with President Medvedev. Later, he'll meet with Russian opposition leaders at his hotel.

Back in Washington, Vice President Biden will swear in Al Franken (D-Minn.) just after noon as the final senator to be seated in the 111th Congress. He will then return to the White House to deliver remarks about food safety with Secretary Sebelius.

The House returns today from July 4 recess, with votes not expected until 6:30 p.m. The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee examines the fairness of college football's Bowl Championship Series at a 2:30 p.m. hearing, and the full Senate will begin consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

Not only did all of the networks interview Obama in Russia, but they also sat down with Gov. Sarah Palin in Alaska yesterday. Her interview with Fox will be airing at 9 am. They're also all expected to cover Michael Jackson's memorial service at the Staples Center in L.A. at 1 p.m.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Call Me Senator" »

Strategy Memo: Back To Reality

Welcome back from a long weekend. The new week finds President Obama in Moscow, where he has already begun meetings with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. They hold a joint press conference later today, and will then be joined by their wives for dinner. It's the first full day of a trip that will also include stops in Italy Wednesday through Friday, and then Ghana until Saturday.

The Senate returns to session this afternoon and is expected to vote on the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. Senator-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.) will likely be sworn in tomorrow. The House returns from a week-long recess tomorrow afternoon.

And with everyone back at work today, expect that Sarah Palin's shocking announcement at the start of the long weekend will still be a hot topic. She's going to be at the helm as Alaska's governor until July 26, and then -- who knows?

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Back To Reality" »

Strategy Memo: Break Time

Happy 2nd of July, Washington. Today, President Obama squeezes in some business before like many Americans, he sneaks out of town ahead of the long weekend. He'll meet this afternoon with the leaders of companies that the White House says are creating jobs even in a tough economy. He'll then deliver remarks about innovation in the Rose Garden, before heading off to Camp David for some R-and-R.

The president is talking jobs as new employment figures come out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the economy lost 467,000 jobs and the unemployment rate changed little -- rising to 9.5 percent.

Still on a week-long recess, the Senate returns Monday to vote on the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The House returns Tuesday afternoon.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Break Time" »

Strategy Memo: 60 Votes

Happy July, Washington - we're halfway through 2009. Today, President Obama heads to the Commonwealth of Virginia for a town hall meeting on health care. He'll field questions not just from the audience at Northern Virginia Community College, but also online via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The White House wants us to know that single employees in Virginia "pay the highest percentage of premiums (24%) through employer plans in the country." Also today, Obama will sign a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Vice President Biden is in Pennsylvania today, with a speech in Erie focused on broadband investments in the Recovery Act, and later a fundraiser for the DNC in Pittsburgh. Biden has appeared at nearly a dozen fundraisers for party committees or individual candidates already this year.

The House and Senate remain on a week-long Fourth of July recess, as most Members put in face time back home. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) will campaign today in Northern Virginia with gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell (R). When the Senate returns, it could finally have a full 100 senators -- with Senator-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.) set to be sworn in early next week. Now, the health of Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) is all that stands between Democrats and 60 votes.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: 60 Votes" »

Strategy Memo: Countdown to the 4th

Today, President Obama will speak in the East Room to highlight "innovative programs that are making a difference in communities across the country," the White House says. He also meets with Energy Secretary Chu.

And tonight is the second quarter reporting deadline for federal candidates running in 2010. It's a key point in the cycle for some challengers and incumbents to demonstrate that they have what it takes for the long haul.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned of an appeals court ruling endorsed by Judge Sonia Sotomayor and in favor of 20 white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who had sued for reverse discrimination. The ruling comes two weeks before Sotomayor steps before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearings.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Countdown to the 4th" »

Strategy Memo: Washington Slows Down

Good Monday morning, Washington. Today, President Obama welcomes Colombia President Alvaro Uribe to the White House. They'll meet one-on-one in the Oval Office this afternoon, with news from Honduras likely added to their agenda. Later, the president and first lady host a reception in the East Room to mark GLBT Pride Month, part of the administration's recent efforts to sooth tensions with a gay community that thinks it's being overlooked. Obama's day ends with remarks to his national finance committee at the Mandarin Hotel.

Congress is not in session this week, starting its 4th of July recess after a flurry of activity last week capped by the passage of "cap-and-trade" energy bill on Friday night. For the rest of Washington, it's at least a short week - Obama heads for Camp David on Thursday for some down time before heading overseas next week.

And today is the final day in session at the Supreme Court, where justices will likely announce their decision in the New Haven firefighters case. That outcome may add some sizzle to an otherwise sleepy confirmation process for Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Today is Justice David Souter's final day on the High Court.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Washington Slows Down" »

Strategy Memo: A Thriller

Today at the White House, President Obama meets once again with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They'll hold a joint press availability in the Rose Garden after their Oval Office meetings, and then have lunch. Obama will later host a picnic on the South Lawn for White House staff.

On Capitol Hill, there's a rush to finish business today before the week-long Fourth of July recess. As promised, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has placed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, better known as the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, on today's docket. Votes could begin as early as 9 a.m. House Republicans are holding a press conference on the bill at 10:30 a.m.

The House is also scheduled to complete consideration of the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010. The Senate confirmed Harold Koh yesterday as legal adviser to the State Department, and today it considers the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Thriller" »

Strategy Memo: South of the Border

It's Luau Day at the White House. It starts with the president and first lady joining members of Congress with a service project at Fort McNair to benefit the children of servicemen and women. Back at the White House, Obama and Vice President Biden will hold a meeting with a group of lawmakers on immigration reform. He'll then meet with Secretaries Clinton and Geithner. Tonight: It's the Congressional Picnic, which the Hawaiian-born president has turned into a luau.

The Senate will vote on the confirmation of Harold Coh to be legal adviser for the State Department and may begin consideration of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The House will vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY10 and may also consider the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

With the energy and climate change bill heading to the House floor tomorrow, former Vice President Al Gore will join Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders at a 2:00 p.m. press conference.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: South of the Border" »

Strategy Memo: An ABC Special

Good morning, Washington. Today marks President Obama's biggest health care push yet at the White House, most of it for the benefit of ABC network cameras. It starts this afternoon when he meets with a bipartisan group of governors to discuss their findings from regional health care forums earlier this year. Tonight, he'll take part in a town hall meeting on health care that will air at 10 pm on ABC.

House Democrats reached a deal last night on an energy and climate change bill, making it a sure thing that the Waxman-Markey bill will hit the House floor Friday. Today the House considers the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and could begin consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.

The Senate convenes at 9:55 a.m. and immediately begins impeachment proceedings of Samuel B. Kent, whom the House impeached last week. The chamber will then resume consideration of the nomination of Harold Koh to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State.

And Mark Sanford is back! Turns out he went to Argentina, not the Appalachian Trail.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: An ABC Special" »

Strategy Memo: The Barbour Tour

Today, President Obama holds his fourth solo press conference, the first in the Rose Garden. Later, he meets with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Vice President Biden is in Perrysburg, Ohio, to chair a meeting of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families. He'll also make an announcement about a new task force to help communities hit hard by the auto industry collapse.

The House returns this morning and will consider a number of bills related to veterans' affairs. The Senate meets this morning before recessing for weekly policy lunches -- Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is expected to address his colleagues at the GOP lunch. If a deal is reached, the Senate may vote on the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) continues his out-of-state travel in Washington, D.C., where he'll appear with House Republican leaders at an afternoon press conference to discuss health care. After stops in Virginia yesterday for gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, Barbour heads to New Hampshire and Iowa later this week -- leading to speculation that he's gearing up for a 2012 presidential bid.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Barbour Tour" »

Strategy Memo: To Your Health

Good Monday morning, Washington. After his usual briefings, President Obama today will sign into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. He'll also make an announcement about a deal with pharmaceutical companies to cut the cost of prescription drugs for seniors through Medicare. It's part of what will be an ongoing health care push this week at the White House, capped by Wednesday's prime-time town hall meeting on ABC Wednesday. Obama will also host a meeting with lawmakers on immigration later this week.

After passing its first appropriations bill last week, the House this week could take up the following bills: the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act; National Defense Authorization Act; and the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The House, though, is not in session today.

The Senate is in session and will resume consideration of the Travel Promotion bill. The Senate Banking committee will examine over-the-counter derivatives, and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee looks at the Affordable Health Choices Act.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: To Your Health" »

Strategy Memo: Fathers Day

This morning, President Obama will speak at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Later he holds a number of events to mark Father's Day, which are "designed to illuminate the importance of fatherhood and mentorship and how dads are strengthening themselves, their families and their communities," The White House reports. It includes a visit to area non-profits, a discussion of fatherhood at the White House, and a mentoring event on the South Lawn.

Tonight the president will be among the DC politicos enjoying the "junior prom," the Radio and TV Correspondents Association Dinner.

After passing its first normal appropriations bill of the year last night, the House will begin consideration of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. Also on the floor is the impeachment of U.S. District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent of Texas, who was sentenced last month to 33 months in prison for obstruction of justice after being accused of assault by two former courthouse employees.

The Senate meets this morning but no votes are scheduled today.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Fathers Day" »

Strategy Memo: Wither The Honeymoon?

Good rainy Thursday, Washington. As new polls show voters have soured somewhat on the administration's broad agenda, President Obama and Vice President Biden will be raising money for the Democrats who will have to defend it at the polls next year. Obama starts his day with the regular daily briefings, and later will meet with Mideast envoy George Mitchell and Treasury Secretary Geithner. Tonight, he speaks at the DSCC/DCCC fundraiser at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Biden speaks at the fundraiser this afternoon.

The House is set to complete consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, with 27 amendments to be voted on today and votes potentially beginning at 10 a.m. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, alongside OMB Director Peter Orszag, introduced yesterday the president's statutory PAYGO legislation, which includes "the principle of paying for what we buy."

The Senate will begin consideration of a slavery apology bill, which Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) began working on last year. The House passed a similar measure last July, and the Senate passed an apology for Native Americans in February 2008. The Senate will also take up this week the war supplemental appropriations conference report; the House passed it earlier this week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Wither The Honeymoon?" »

Strategy Memo: A United Front

Good morning, Washington. After addressing the Iran issue yesterday, today President Obama tackles North Korea. He meets with South Korea President Lee Myung-bak this morning, after which the two leaders will hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden. Later, he'll meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Myung-bak will later head over to Capitol Hill for meetings with Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House members.

The House could vote on the war supplemental conference report as early as today and will begin consideration of an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies. The Senate takes up a motion to consider the Travel Promotion bill and will likely vote on the supplemental conference report later this week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A United Front" »

Strategy Memo: Chi-town Bound

Good Monday morning on a beautiful day in Washington. President Obama heads home to Chicago this morning to talk about health care at the American Medical Association. The AMA last week signaled opposition to a public insurance option. After the speech, the president returns to Washington where he'll meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; Obama heads to Italy next month for the G-8 summit.

Both chambers of Congress are in session; no votes are expected in the House until early evening. The Senate convenes at 1:45 p.m. -- the House at 12:30 p.m. The supplemental appropriations conference report will be voted on this week.

Health care was the main topic of debate on the Sunday talk shows. Check out all the highlights at the RealClearPolitics Video page, including interviews with Vice President Biden, Mitt Romney and a slew of senators.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Chi-town Bound" »

Strategy Memo: Absolutely Not Necessarily

Today, President Obama meets with two former colleagues in the Senate - Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dianne Feinstein of California -- as negotiations continue on health care and national security policy. He also welcomes the prime minister of Zimbabwe to the Oval Office in one the first such meetings with an African head of state. It's a light schedule on Capitol Hill, meanwhile.

An election being watched extremely closely in the U.S. happens halfway around the world starting today. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks re-election in Iran, but faces a serious test in former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi. A win for the latter will certainly change the dynamic in southwest Asia, and be interepreted by some as the latest validation of Obama's foreign policy after a defeat of Hezbollah in Lebanon last week.

Looking ahead to the Sunday shows: former Gov. Mitt Romney debates HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on "This Week." Vice President Biden is on "Meet The Press." And speaking of "Meet," tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Tim Russert's tragic passing. Hard to believe, even today.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Absolutely Not Necessarily" »

Strategy Memo: On The Road

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama continues to ramp up his health care push with a visit to Green Bay. He holds a town hall at Southwest High School "to discuss the need to reform our health care system," the White House said, though one official said he won't spell out any new details. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden is out on a multi-state tour to promote the stimulus plan. Today's stops are in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Overland Park, Kansas.

In Congress, the House and Senate conferees for the supplemental appropriations bill (for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and pandemic flu) will meet at 3 p.m. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he will bring the conference report to a floor vote next week.

The House will vote on the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009 and on naming a federal courthouse in Canton, Ohio, after former GOP Rep. Ralph Regula. The Senate will vote today on the tobacco control bill, which for the first time gives regulation authority to the Food and Drug Administration.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: On The Road" »

Strategy Memo: Good Deeds Rewarded

Good Wednesday morning. In the race for governor of Virginia, State Sen. Creigh Deeds won the three-way Democratic primary last night with 50% of the vote and now faces Republican Bob McDonnell. The two candidates faced each other four years ago in the attorney general race, with McDonnell winning by less than 400 votes. The race has national implications, as the GOP hopes a McDonnell win in November brings an uptick in momentum and fundraising for the 2010 midterm elections. In a show of party unity, Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran will appear alongside Gov. Tim Kaine in Richmond this morning.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate continues consideration of the tobacco regulation bill, which the House passed in April, and the House takes up the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. House Republicans will unveil an alternative energy plan at a 10:30 a.m. press conference.

Today President Obama has no scheduled public events. After his morning briefings, he has lunch with Vice President Biden. This afternoon me meets with Secretaries Geithner and Clinton.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Good Deeds Rewarded" »

Strategy Memo: Virginia Is For Voters

Good stormy morning, Washington. Today at the White House, President Obama will speak about restoring "paygo" rules to coincide with any new tax or entitlement policies. The announcement comes as lawmakers prepare to announce details of health care legislation, and as polls show Americans disapprove of the administration's spending. Later, Obama will host Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee.

On the Hill: the Senate continues consideration of the tobacco regulation bill, while the House takes up a number of suspension bills. The $100 billion war spending bill continues to await a Senate-House conference. Defense Sec. Robert Gates and Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner will testify in front of Senate Appropriations subcommittees.

The Virginia Democratic Primary takes place today. State Sen. Creigh Deeds, former State Rep. Brian Moran and former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe are vying to take on Republican Bob McDonnell. Deeds has surged into the lead in recent polls, though with a traditional low turnout (and bad weather so far this morning) it's unclear which of the three Democrats will win.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Virginia Is For Voters" »

Strategy Memo: This Side of the Pond

On his first full day back in Washington, President Obama turns back to domestic policy. He holds a meeting of his Cabinet this morning, which will be used to announce a "ramping up" of the stimulus program. The president will be at the White House most of the week, leaving Washington Thursday for an event in Wisconsin.

Both chambers of Congress return today, with the Senate picking up where it left off on the tobacco regulation bill and the House voting tonight on a series of suspension bills.

In Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have just one more day to make their cases. In the last week, the "other guy" -- State Sen. Creigh Deeds -- has led in most polls, including a 14-point lead in the most recent survey.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: This Side of the Pond" »

Strategy Memo: The Longest Day

It's finally Friday. The president's day is almost through. He's going to tour the Buchenwald concentration camp soon, and later meet with U.S. forces at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. This morning, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and held a press conference. After today's stops, Obama heads to France to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day. He'll meet up with the first lady and his daughters in Paris to close out his trip.

Stateside, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced this morning that the unemployment rate has increased to 9.4%, up half-a-percent since last month. The BLS monthly report also stated that the number of unemployed persons increased by 787,000 to 14.5 million

Neither the House or Senate are in session today. The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing this morning on the BLS's new employment statistics.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Longest Day" »

Strategy Memo: Democracy in Cairo

Most of President Obama's day is already through. Just an hour ago he finished a major speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, where he called for a "new beginning." He also met with Egyptian President Mubarak. What's left? He'll tour the Pyramids and the Sphinx, before flying to Germany. Back in D.C., Vice President Biden holds more meetings on the stimulus bill, and tonight he'll host committee chairmen and ranking members at the Naval Observatory.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding a press conference today with three Latino organization leaders to discuss the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. On the west lawn, Speaker Pelosi will speak at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Two Cabinet officials will testify in front of Appropriations subcommittees today: Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack on the Senate side and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood in the House. The House takes up the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act of 2009 and the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009, while the Senate continues consideration of a tobacco regulation bill.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Democracy in Cairo" »

Strategy Memo: Christie vs. Corzine

Good morning from Washington. President Obama has touched down in Riyadh, where he will spend the day meeting with the nation's King Abdullah. It's the first stop of his foreign trip, with tomorrow's speech in Cairo, Egypt, a main focus. Obama attends a welcome reception at Abdullah's farm, and then a bilateral reception. He spends the night there. Vice President Biden heads things up in Washington, where he'll hold a roundtable with governors and transportation officials to discuss the stimulus plan.

Sonia Sotomayor will be back on Capitol Hill today, as the Supreme Court nominee has meetings scheduled with 10 more senators. Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions will meet privately, perhaps today, to discuss their difference of opinion on when Judiciary hearings on her nomination should begin -- July or September. The Senate will resume today consideration of a bill that would authorize the FDA to regulate tobacco.

And after last night's primary election, it's Chris Christie versus Jon Corzine in the New Jersey governor's race. State and national Republicans breathed a sigh of relief as Christie defeated the more conservative Steve Lonegan, who while polls showed him ahead of Corzine, was considered the less electable of the two. Can Corzine count on New Jersey's blue tint to overcome his weak popularity? Only 150+ days to go.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Christie vs. Corzine" »

Strategy Memo: Election Day in New Jersey

President Obama leaves tonight for a week-long overseas trip, which starts in Saudi Arabia. But first the White House is kicking off a health care push, with the president meeting with Senate Democrats on the issue this afternoon. He'll also meet at the White House with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

It's a busy day on Capitol Hill as House members return for evening votes after a week-long recess, and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor makes her first official visit. Sotomayor is scheduled to meet with 10 senators today, including party leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and Judiciary ranking members Patrick Leahy and Jeff Sessions. She was at the White House Monday prepping for those meetings and finalizing her Judiciary Committee questionnaire.

As we write, the polls are open in the Garden State, where the main focus is on the Republican gubernatorial primary. A new poll out yesterday shows former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie well ahead of former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a conservative making his second bid for the nomination. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden will join Gov. Jon Corzine as the embattled Democrat kicks off his re-election campaign.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Election Day in New Jersey" »

Strategy Memo: Government Motors

Good Monday morning, Washington. General Motors has just filed for bankruptcy; President Obama will discuss the government's role in the company's restructuring just before noon at the White House. Later, he'll head to the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for his first checkup, perhaps.

After a weeklong recess, the Senate opens for business at 2 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act. Expected for a tour of Senate offices this week is Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The House returns tomorrow afternoon.

At the U.S. Navy Memorial in downtown Washington, Mitt Romney is giving what the Heritage Foundation calls a "timely policy speech," in which he'll make the case for a stronger military. This will be the latest in a string of public appearances for the former Massachusetts governor and presumed 2012 presidential candidate. In other political news: the Minnesota Supreme Court takes up the Senate recount.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Government Motors" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Meet the Cyber Czar" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Coast To Coast" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: How's It Playing In..." »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: It's Sotomayor -- Let The Games Begin" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Memorial Day Break!" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Obama vs. Cheney" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: No Plan For Gitmo" »

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."

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: No More Apologies" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Memorial Day Sprint" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Speaker In The Spotlight" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: South By Southwest" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Supreme Pow Wow" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Crist Campaign Begins" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Raising The Health Care Stakes" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Unemployment Still on the Rise" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Specter's Seniority Takes a Hit" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Over There" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Offshore No More" »

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.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Supreme Development" »

Strategy Memo: First Day of the Rest of Your...

Good Thursday morning. Today, on his 101st day (is it safe to stop that now?) President Obama pays special attention to the military, first in a meeting with top Armed Services committee members in Congress (including John McCain) to talk military procurement. He will later speak at an event called "White House to Light House," benefiting veterans who suffer "life-altering injuries" in battle.

Both chambers of Congress move on today after approving the budget resolution yesterday. The Senate takes up a bill that would help prevent mortgage foreclosures, and the House will complete consideration of the Credit Card Holder's Bill of Rights.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will testify this morning to the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding the war supplemental.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: First Day of the Rest of Your..." »

Strategy Memo: 100

President Obama marks his 100th day with a recent political victory and a more distant minor defeat. He and Vice President Biden were just joined by Arlen Specter (D-PA), the newest members of the caucus, for a brief statement at the White House. He'll shortly leave for a town hall meeting in Missouri, a state he narrowly lost in November to John McCain, one of many trips he's made to battleground states.

Biden will spend his day at the White House, including a conference call with regional reporters as the administration presses its 100 day talking points. But the big show is Obama's prime time press conference, his third East Room event and 11th substantive Q&A session overall.

The House is expected to vote today on the budget resolution conference report agreed to late Monday night, and the Senate will begin debate on the report. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify in front of the Senate Homeland Security committee today regarding the federal government's response to the swine flu.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: 100" »

Strategy Memo: 99 Days and Counting

Good Tuesday morning. House and Senate budget resolution conferees reached an agreement last night, allowing the possibility that the budget will be approved in both chambers by tomorrow -- President Obama's 100th day in office. A vote in the House could come as early as today.

The Senate will vote today on the confirmation of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sebelius's confirmation would complete Obama's Cabinet, and comes almost three months after Tom Daschle -- the original choice for HHS -- withdrew his name from consideration due to unpaid taxes.

On the eve of his 100th day, President Obama will make his first trip to the FBI and speak to employees. Later today at the White House, the president meets with his left flank in Congress, the Progressive Caucus, with whom there is much to discuss as they debate his next 100 day agenda and how to respond to the interrogation issues. Later, Obama honors the Teacher of the Year and ends the day with a reception for his Cabinet.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: 99 Days and Counting" »

Strategy Memo: A Gift

Good Monday morning, another warm one in Washington. President Obama speaks this morning at the National Academy of Sciences meeting. After some meetings back at the White House, he'll welcome the UConn women's basketball team. Tonight he'll host a reception for economic, finance and environmental ministers. Vice President Biden is in Chicago to talk about the Recovery Act, and speak at Richard J. Daley Urban Forum.

The joint House and Senate conference on the budget meets today and is expected to agree to a budget report that could be voted on in both chambers by Wednesday. The House takes up a number of suspension bills today, while an Energy and Commerce subcommittee takes a look at trade between the U.S. and Cuba. The Senate continues consideration of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act.

Check out all the Sunday talk shows you missed at RealClearPolitics Video, including Sens. Leahy, McCain, Bond and Levin discussing torture, and Vice President Biden on his gaffes.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: A Gift" »

Strategy Memo: Who Knew What and When

Good Friday morning. Today President Obama will hold his usual morning briefings, and have lunch with Vice President Biden. Later he'll meet with a "family struggling to afford the cost of college," and use it as a chance to discuss the impact of rising tuition costs, the White House says.

The House is not in session today, but General David Petraeus will appear before an Appropriations subcommittee, and an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the comprehensive energy bill will feature testimony by Al Gore, Newt Gingrich and John Warner.

The Senate is in session, though no confirmation vote is expected on HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius until early next week. Republicans had blocked Majority Leader Harry Reid's attempt to hold a vote yesterday, then agreed to vote next week after eight hours more of debate Tuesday.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Who Knew What and When" »

Strategy Memo: Branching Out

Today President Obama reaches out to the Legislative Branch again, starting with a visit to Capitol Hill to speak at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony. Back at the White House, he'll meet with representatives of the credit card industry to talk about the impact of higher interest rates on consumers. He and the vice president will also meet with Congressional leaders this afternoon, before hosting a reception for some lawmakers and spouses later tonight.

Also on the schedule: honoring the Florida Gators football team, who won the BCS title in January. Will this be awkward at all? When asked if they were the best team after winning the title game, the then-president-elect was non-committal. "If I'm Utah, or if I'm USC or if I'm Texas, I might still have some quibbles," he said.

The House takes up a couple of suspension bills, as well as a national water research bill, while the Senate continues consideration of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. Hillary Clinton returns to the Hill, appearing at a House Appropriations subcommittee to request war supplemental appropriations.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Branching Out" »

Strategy Memo: Hey, Earth Day

Good Wednesday morning and Happy Earth Day. President Obama spends Earth Day in Iowa, where he's going to tour a plant that produces towers for wind energy production. He'll promote how his comprehensive energy plan can create jobs. Vice President Biden meanwhile continues to promote the recovery act during an event at the New Carrolton, Maryland, Amtrak station.

Three Cabinet members will testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning in favor of a comprehensive energy plan written by Chairman Henry Waxman and Edward Markey. Gen. David Petraeus and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton will also testify before House committees today.

A number of suspension bills will be considered on the House floor, while the Senate continues debate on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Hey, Earth Day" »

Strategy Memo: Called To Serve

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah, one of the United States' key allies in the Middle East. He'll also hold his first Rose Garden event as president, awarding the Commander in Chief's trophy to the Naval Academy football team. He later meets with former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) before signing the Kennedy Serve America Act at a local public school.

Congress today will vote on Kathleen Sebelius' nomination for Health and Human Services secretary. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also begins hearings on a bill to regulate carbon emissions.

And as energy legislation takes a leading role, we'll be checking out Sen. John McCain's speech at a National Energy Symposium. Sen. Lisa Murkowski also addresses the event.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Called To Serve" »

Strategy Memo: Back to Work

Good Monday morning. Congress returns this week after two weeks away. The Senate reconvenes this afternoon and begins consideration of a bill that would improve the enforcement of fraud related to federal assistance and relief programs. The House returns tomorrow, with just one major bill to be considered this week.

President Obama has spent two out of the past three weeks on foreign soil. He just returned to Washington last night after an eventful trip to Mexico and Trinidad. But for the foreseeable future he'll be in the States, and he'll start his first full day back in the White House with a symbolic first Cabinet meeting today. The only missing part will be the HHS Secretary - but Kathleen Sebelius should be confirmed this week.

Obama will also make his first visit to the CIA headquarters in Langley - a noteworthy visit considering the release last week of the so-called torture memos.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Back to Work" »

Strategy Memo: Island In The Sun

Today the president leaves Mexico en route to Port of Spain, Trinidad, where he will attend the Summit of the Americas. There's a target on the United States at the two-day summit, after the announcement of new policies toward Cuba. Many have also questioned whether Obama will meet with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez - something the White House has denied.

Vice President Biden is also outside of Washington, holding a meeting of the middle class task force in Missouri.

Congress will return next week from a two-week break. Upon returning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday she plans to set up a commission to probe what led to the Wall Street financial collapse. There is still no congressman in New York's 20th District, though Democrat Scott Murphy now leads by 178 votes. The winner may indeed be decided in court, just as the Senate race in Minnesota will be.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Island In The Sun" »

Strategy Memo: South of the Border

Good Thursday morning. President Obama and Vice President Biden this morning will promote efforts to spur development of high-speed rail in the U.S. The two then both leave D.C., with the president making his first trip to Mexico. He'll meet with President Felipe Calderon and the two will hold a joint press conference. Biden travels to Missouri, where he'll visit Whiteman Air Force Base and later talk about the Recovery Act.

Congress's two-week hiatus is coming to a close this weekend. In the meantime, Members' fundraising reports -- due yesterday -- shed some light on what they've been up to in the first three months of the year. The reports are available on the Federal Election Commission website.

The special election in New York's 20th District has become reminiscent of the still-ongoing Senate race in Minnesota. Democrat Scott Murphy now leads Republican Jim Tedisco by 86 votes, as counting, recounting and ballot-challenging continues.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: South of the Border" »

Strategy Memo: Tax Day

Good Wednesday morning. Today marks two important occasions: Not only are Americans' taxes due, but all federal candidates' first quarter FEC fundraising reports are due tonight. With campaigns gearing up for the 2010 midterm elections, the numbers provide the first glimpse of a candidates' competitiveness.

Speaking of Tax Day, conservatives around the country are holding hundreds of Boston Tea Party-styled protests against the economic policies, including the stimulus, being passed through Congress. The tea party founders got their idea from a now-infamous on-air rant by a CNBC commentator.

As we noted yesterday, President Obama will mark the day by discussing the impact that tax cuts in the Recovery Act have had on the economy. He'll also have lunch with the Vice President and meet with Trade Rep. Ron Kirk on his final full day in Washington before heading to Mexico.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Tax Day" »

Strategy Memo: State of the Economy

During a speech today at Georgetown University, President Obama will update the nation on the state of the economy. Reports indicate that it will not contain any new policy announcements, but will reset the president's view as some believe the worst is over. Also today, the president and first family are officially rolling out the new dog, Bo.

Congress remains on a two-week hiatus, and both chambers still await two elections to conclude. Two weeks since the special election, Democrat Scott Murphy now leads by 25 votes in New York's 20th District, with plenty of absentee ballots still to be counted.

And five months since the Minnesota Senate election, judges ruled Al Franken the winner yesterday, though Norm Coleman reserves the right to appeal.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: State of the Economy" »

Strategy Memo: Egging On

The Nationals are 0-6, but none of that matters as they prepare their home opener at the ballpark this afternoon. President Obama's schedule does not include any ceremonial first pitch. But we're just saying -- he can definitely blow off that meeting with "senior advisors" if he has a change of heart shortly before 3 pm today.

Of course, the main event at the White House is the Easter Egg Roll that will be taking place all day. Obama himself and the rest of the first family (maybe new dog Bo?) will head out to the South Lawn to join the festivities at about 10 am. The president also will be joined by Vice President Biden for a speech at the Department of Transportation.

Congress continues its two-week recess this week, with proceedings continuing early next week. The lead in New York's 20th District special election stands at 35 votes for Scott Murphy. A few of the district's 10 counties still have not completed counting domestic absentee ballots, including Saratoga -- the largest county in the district.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Egging On" »

Strategy Memo: Good Friday

Good Friday morning. Today's White House schedule is rather light. The president will meet this morning with his entire economic team, including Fed chair Ben Bernanke. This weekend, the Obama family will attend Easter services somewhere in Washington, DC, though the White House would not say where.

Vice President Biden is home in Wilmington already, and Congress remains on a two-week hiatus.

In New York's 20th District, Scott Murphy now holds an 8-vote lead, including a 76-vote lead in absentee ballots. Six of the district's 10 counties have recorded absentee ballot counts.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Good Friday" »

Strategy Memo: Different From All Other Nights

Good morning, Washington, on this Holy Thursday and Passover.

After a rare weekday in seclusion to recover from his Europe trip, President Obama has a full schedule at the White House today. He'll highlight the impact of low interest rates on homeowners during a morning event in the Roosevelt Room. He'll later join Secretaries Bob Gates and Eric Shinseki for an announcement on health care for U.S. veterans. He has closed meetings this afternoon, and will end the day with a Passover Seder with friends and staff.

If you missed it, the public schedule had some interesting and not-meant-for-public comments from White House staff on the seder, among other internal discussions.

Congress is out of session for two weeks, with the Senate returning April 20 and the House on April 21 -- when Rep.-elect Mike Quigley, who won Tuesday's special election in Illinois's 5th District, will be sworn in to office. Re-canvassing and absentee ballot counting continue today in New York's 20th District.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Different From All Other Nights" »

Strategy Memo: Rahm Replaced

Good Wednesday morning. Back on U.S. soil, President Obama (and the aides who traveled with him) has a quiet day. He landed back at the White House at 3 a.m., much later than originally planned because of the surprise Iraq visit. Vice President Biden, meanwhile, will travel to Fort Bragg with his wife to welcome home the XVIII Airborne Corps back from Iraq.

Congress remains on a two-week recess -- the Senate returns April 20, and the House a day later. The House will welcome a new member, Democrat Mike Quigley, who won the Illinois 5th District special election yesterday with 69 percent of the vote.

The results of the special election in New York's 20th District, which took place over a week ago now, could begin to crystalize today. Some of the 10 counties in the district will begin counting absentee ballots today, with Republican Jim Tedisco now clinging to a 17-vote lead.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Rahm Replaced" »

Strategy Memo: Flying High

Good morning, Washington. President Obama is now on his way back to Washington, having concluded his European trip with events in Istanbul this morning. He'll return to the White House as polls indicate most Americans think his trip was a success. His popularity also remains high, with a CBS/New York Times poll finding that two-thirds approve of his job performance.

Congress is on recess, so we turn even more toward politics. Today is election day in Chicago, where Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (D) is heavily favored to come out victorious in today's special election in Illinois's 5th Congressional District. Facing Quigley in White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's former northern Chicago district is Republican Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel.

And don't miss Arlen Specter's comments on "Morning Joe" as he starts to get engaged in his primary battle against Pat Toomey.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Flying High" »

Strategy Memo: Opening Day

Good Monday morning. Obama's day is nearly over in Turkey, where he has already met with that nation's president. He will shortly speak at the Turkish Parliament, and then meet with the prime minister. He ends the day in Istanbul, where he will his week-long European tour comes to a close.

The House and Senate are at the beginning of a two-week recess. A new member will be elected tomorrow, as three candidates vie for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's former Chicago-area seat. Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley (D) expects to win the heavily Democratic seat with ease.

Today marks both the end of the college basketball season and the official start of the baseball season. Yes, there was a game last night, but today is truly Opening Day in Major League Baseball. Vice President Joe Biden will throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Baltimore today, where the Orioles face the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees. Reports out of Boston indicate that Sen. Ted Kennedy will throw out the first pitch there before the hated Red Sox take the field.

In the NCAA championship game tonight in Detroit, North Carolina -- President Obama's pick to win it all -- goes head-to-head against Michigan State, in a rematch of a 2005 Final Four game.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Opening Day" »

Strategy Memo: Budget Accomplished

Happy Friday. After approving their budget resolutions last night, the House and Senate have completed votes for the week. After two committee hearings this morning, including on the latest jobs report, Congress will commence a two-week recess. A vote on HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius will take place following the recess.

Meanwhile, President Obama has moved to the Continent as he tours Europe, and is now delivering a speech in Strasbourg. He has already met with President Sarkozy, and later will make the short trip to meet with German Chancellor Merkel. He'll end his day meeting with fellow NATO leaders.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment situation summary this morning, reporting a loss of 663,000 jobs last month and a rise in unemployment from 8.1 to 8.5 percent. In the last five months, 3.3 million jobs have been lost -- 5.1 million have been lost since the recession began in December 2007.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Budget Accomplished" »

Strategy Memo: Budget Votes Today

In London, the G-20 Summit is underway as President Obama and his counterparts abroad seek to reach some compromises on a global stimulus and greater international regulation of the financial industry. The president also continues his face-to-face meetings; he's already met with the president of South Korea this morning and will later sit down with leaders of Saudi Arabia and India. He'll end the day with a solo press conference.

Vice President Biden is heading up the shop in D.C. while Obama is overseas. He'll hold some meetings on the stimulus implementation and later address the National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner.

A slew of budget votes are expected in the House and Senate, while the House also completes consideration of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Reports yesterday afternoon found that the margin in NY-20 was down to 25 votes, and thousands of absentee ballots still are left to be counted.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Budget Votes Today" »

Strategy Memo: Too Close To Call

Good Wednesday morning. Today President Obama gets to work in London at the G-20. He's already held a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the White House has since issued a joint statement with Russia on negotiations Later, Obama meets with the UK Conservative Party leader, the Chinese president, and the Queen of England, before joining the rest of the G-20 leaders for dinner.

The House budget resolution hits the floor today, with the goal of approving it by Friday. House Republicans will introduce their alternative budget proposal today, as well. The Senate continues its budget debates, with Budget Committee heads Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) leading the spirited Senate floor discussions.

Just 65 votes separate the Democratic and Republican candidates in yesterday's special election in the 20th Congressional District of New York. Scott Murphy, the Dem, holds the lead, but with as many as 10,000 absentee ballots left to be counted, both parties remain hopeful.

Meanwhile, the latest 2012 speaking role is tonight, as Mitt Romney headlines an NRSC dinner. This comes on the heels of an announcement yesterday that Newt Gingrich will replace Sarah Palin as the headliner for a major joint Republican fundraiser this summer.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Too Close To Call" »

Strategy Memo: From G-20 to NY-20

Good morning, Washington. As we post, President Obama is taking off in Air Force One en route to London, as he makes his first major trip abroad (sorry, Canada). Our take on his trip can be found here. When he arrives in London, he'll meet with U.S. Embassy workers before calling it a night; his full schedule starts Wednesday. Meanwhile, VP Joe Biden has returned to Washington, where he'll be preparing for his next Middle Class Task Force Event.

The major domestic political news: It's Election Day in the Hudson Valley, as the voters in New York's 20th District select a replacement for Kirsten Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate. Republican James Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy finally face off after a few competitive months of campaigning, debates and ads. As the first congressional election during the new administration, both parties are looking at this race as more than just one House seat.

With Congress set to recess on Friday for two weeks, the Senate continues today its 50 hours of debate on the budget resolution. The House will soon take up its own budget resolution, but today it will consider the Senate amendments to the GIVE Act and a number of suspension bills. Also, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.) faces her first hearing in the HHS confirmation process.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: From G-20 to NY-20" »

Strategy Memo: Big Day for Detroit

One day before he leaves for Europe, President Obama's schedule reflects some of his biggest domestic challenges. He'll announce the administration's plans for the auto industry this morning -- the biggest news is the resignation of GM's CEO. He'll also highlight conservation efforts when he signs the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act this afternoon. Later he'll travel to Capitol Hill to speak with House Democrats about his budget.

Vice President Biden ends his latest international jaunt in Costa Rica, where he meets with the country's president. If you missed it, be sure to read Mark Leibovich's piece in the Sunday Times profiling Biden's role in the administration. Our favorite part: the VP was not made available to comment, but the president was; he said Biden can "help stir the pot." Also, a 2016 bid is NOT ruled out.

The Senate today begins consideration of the budget resolution, which the House will also do this week. The House is expected to once again take up the GIVE Act, which the Senate altered and passed last week.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Big Day for Detroit" »

Strategy Memo: Border War

Happy Friday, Washington. Today, President Obama unveils his much-anticipated strategy for Afghanistan, which also pays considerable attention to Pakistan. Obama will discuss his plans this morning at an event in the EEOB, surrounded by interested parties from the region and his administration. Later, he'll speak at a ceremonial installation event for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, and address the CEOs of the nation's largest banks to discuss his financial rescue plan.

Neither the House or Senate are in session today. For the next few days, the focus will be on the special election in New York's 20th District, where both parties have invested heavily. The DNC begins airing a TV ad today in Albany highlighting President Obama's endorsement of Democrat Scott Murphy.

Looking ahead, this Sunday will be a big one on the talk shows. Obama will appear on "Face the Nation," while Tim Geithner appears on both "Meet the Press" and "This Week."

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Border War" »

Strategy Memo: Regulators, Mount Up

Today President Obama will be hosting an online town hall meeting in the East Room, where he'll answer questions "submitted and voted on by the public" at the White House web site. Vice President Biden leaves today for another foreign trip. He'll be in Chile and Costa Rica, meeting with leaders from South and Central American nations, in addition to Gordon Brown of the UK. His wife Jill Biden is joining him.

In Congress, the Senate Budget Committee continues to work on its budget plan today, following the House committee's approval last night. House Republicans will unveil their alternative budget proposal at a morning press conference.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is back on the Hill today at a House Financial Services Committee hearing. He is expected to detail his request for expanded authority to regulate the financial system, including hedge funds and large insurance companies such as AIG.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Regulators, Mount Up" »

Strategy Memo: Taking It To The Hill

Good Wednesday morning. The day after his prime time news conference, President Obama has a full schedule that starts with a meeting with NATO's secretary general. He'll later head to Capitol Hill to speak to the Senate Democratic Caucus. Vice President Biden will also be on the Hill, having lunch with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Tonight, however, it's a mix of politics and partying: Obama hosts an event commemorating Greek Independence Day, and then heads to not one but two DNC fundraisers. Biden has already done some fundraising for the party and for one candidate in particular; the DNC needs the cash, since the RNC outraised them last quarter.

The House and Senate Budget committees will begin marking up the budget today, with numerous spending cuts expected. The Senate will continue consideration today of the House-passed National Service bill, as the House considers a Senate bill that would create a special inspector general for TARP.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Taking It To The Hill" »

Strategy Memo: Prime-Time Obama

President Obama will hold his second prime-time news conference tonight at 8:01 ET, placing himself directly into American households to discuss the nation's economic situation and path forward. He starts his day talking to astronauts at the Space Station during a morning phone call.

Obama will also hold a one-on-one meeting with Australia Prime Minister Paul Rudd as he continues to keep an eye on the coming G-20 Summit. The White House released an op-ed written by the President on the global economy, which is being published in newspapers across the globe today.

Vice President Biden begins his day hosting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, followed by daily briefings at the White House and conference calls with mayors and governors to discuss implementing the economic stimulus.

The House will vote on a number of suspension bills, while the Senate takes up the House-passed National Service bill, a.k.a. the GIVE Act, which encourages volunteering and triples the size of AmeriCorps.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Prime-Time Obama" »

Strategy Memo: Budget Week

Good Monday morning, Washington. Today's news is focused on the full rollout of Treasury's plan to address the banking crisis. Treasury Secretary Geithner will discuss the plan shortly with reporters, and later meet with President Obama.

Obama, meanwhile, is kicking off a week focusing on the budget with remarks this morning about how investing in clean energy is a critical component of the plan. Obama is under pressure to make some headway in selling his plan to a Congress and even a public that appears to be growing more skeptical. Not only does he need to rebound after what was considered his toughest week yet as president. But next week he will be traveling to Europe for the G20 Summit.

Congress won't be very busy today on the floor, but lawmakers are gearing up to hold their own hearings on the budget soon. The Senate will also be taking up the AIG bonus tax, a provision that did not get the full support of the White House this weekend.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Budget Week" »

Strategy Memo: Late Night, Early Morning

Good Friday morning.

After a late arrival from the West Coast last night, Obama starts his day a bit later than usual with his daily morning meetings. This afternoon, he'll meet with the National Conference of State Legislatures to discuss the stimulus plan. Later, he'll talk infrastructure with Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ed Rendell, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are all slated to appear Sunday on "Meet the Press." Obama will later address the National Newspaper Publishers Association, who is awarding him the Newsmaker of the Year award.

The White House had said Obama will head to Camp David this weekend, though it was not on the public schedule for today. If he follows through on that plan, it means snubbing the Gridiron Dinner, which is held this weekend. VP Biden is filling in at the annual affair.

Another Friday, another quiet day on Capitol Hill. Neither the House or Senate are in session today.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Late Night, Early Morning" »

Strategy Memo: Tipping Point?

Happy Tournament Thursday. But the new cliche is that March Madness is in Washington as the government continues to deal with the AIG mess.

But President Obama and Vice President Biden will spend most of the day outside of the Beltway. Obama is in California, where he'll start his day with a tour of an electric car plant in Pomona. He'll later hold a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, which will also include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. He then tapes the "Tonight Show" before returning to DC.

Biden is in St. Cloud, Minn., for a Middle Class Task Force town hall meeting. He'll be joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The House will vote today on a bill that would tax employee bonuses paid by companies that received at least $5 billion in TARP money. Meanwhile, after confirming Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative yesterday, the Senate will begin consideration of the nomination of Elena Kagan for Solicitor General. Debate and votes on amendments to the omnibus lands bill will likely be followed by a final vote on the package.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Tipping Point?" »

Strategy Memo: AIG CEO on the Hill

Good Wednesday morning, on what should be a beautiful day in Washington.

President Obama will meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the White House this morning before taking off for Southern California, where he'll hold a town hall event with local residents in Costa Mesa.

Congress will get its chance to grill the head of AIG today, as CEO Edward Liddy testifies before a House Financial Services subcommittee and answers questions regarding the $165 million in retention bonuses handed out to AIG employees.

The Senate will consider Ron Kirk's nomination for the post of U.S. Trade Representative and is expected to vote at around noon. It will also continue consideration of the omnibus lands bill.

Here are the headlines we're reading today:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: AIG CEO on the Hill" »

Strategy Memo: Green Day

Top o' the morning to ya. On this St. Patrick's Day in Washington, President Obama will continue the custom of welcoming leaders from Ireland to the White House. The Irish prime minister -- or "Taoiseach" -- will present shamrocks, but also talk issues. But first, Obama will meet this morning with the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees. Tonight, the White House will host a social event in honor of the holiday.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate continues consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 146, the new vehicle for the omnibus lands bill. The House will vote on a series of suspension bills, and Energy Sec. Stephen Chu will testify before the Science and Technology Committee. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also host the traditional St. Patrick's Day Lunch, which Obama will attend.

And bringing a taste of Chicago to DC, the fountain on the South Lawn has been dyed green. It's not the Chicago River, but it'll do.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Green Day" »

Strategy Memo: Tourney Time

Good Monday morning, Washington and beyond. This morning, President Obama appears with Treasury Secretary Geithner to announce some new policies meant to help small businesses. This comes after reports this weekend that AIG will still pay out significant bonuses to its top executives, despite administration objections. Later, Obama will speak at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, will speak at the IAFF conference in DC, and later at a DNC function. Biden is playing a somewhat typical vice presidential role of rallying the party faithful; he also helped Sen. Blanche Lincoln kick off her re-election campaign in Arkansas this weekend.

The House and Senate are back in session this afternoon. The House will rename a few U.S. Post Offices, while the Senate considers the omnibus lands bill once again. The lands bill easily passed the Senate in January, but the House rejected it last week.

Here are the headlines we're watching today:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Tourney Time" »

Strategy Memo: The Hot Seat

Happy Friday. Today, President Obama will receive a report on the stimulus from Paul Volcker, the chair of his Economic Recovery Board. He'll then make some remarks on the economy. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden will swear in Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and then make an announcement about Amtrak funding at Union Station. He and the president will then have lunch. Also, Larry Summers will speak at Brookings, ending a week in which the president's economic team took a higher profile.

Get ready for another quiet Friday on the Hill, as neither the House or Senate are in session today. Yesterday, the Senate confirmed the nominations of David W. Ogden and Thomas John Perrelli for the posts of deputy and associate attorney general, respectively. The House celebrated Pi yesterday, designating March 14 (or 3.14) as National Pi Day.

The other big topic du jour remains Michael Steele. Folks alternately speculate that Steele is toast, will survive, or that his fate depends on the NY-20 special. This much is clear -- it's hard for the GOP to rebuild when the chairman is fighting to stay afloat.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: The Hot Seat" »

Strategy Memo: Economic Stimuli

Good Thursday morning, Washington and beyond. President Obama's day is highlighted with a speech to the influential Business Roundtable. Earlier, he will drop in on a day-long conference being run by Vice President Biden to discuss with state officials the implementation of stimulus funds. He'll also attend the dedication of Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University.

The Senate is likely to approve today Obama's nominee for deputy attorney general, David Ogden, whose represenation of defendants in pornography cases has caused backlash toward his nomination among some conservatives.

The House will begin consideration of the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, which would distribute $15 billion to the states for water and sewage projects. The land management bill, which would have expanded the nation's wilderness areas, failed in the House yesterday.

Here are the headlines we're watching today:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Economic Stimuli" »

Strategy Memo: Earmark Madness

Good morning, Washington. This morning, President Obama will sign the omnibus spending bill, warts and all. But he'll later make an announcement on reforming the earmark process going forward. Later, he'll sign an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, and then meet with members of the House and Senate budget committees.

Vice President Biden, back from his trip to NATO, will announce the administration's new drug czar today. First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be together to present the Secretary of State's Award for International Women of Courage.

The House will vote today on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which greatly expands the nation's wilderness areas. The Senate passed the bill in January by an overwhelming majority. The Senate will consider David Ogden's nomination as deputy attorney general. Also, Senate and House Judiciary subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on a constitutional amendment that would require Senate vacancies to be filled by special elections, not appointment.

Here's what's in the headlines today:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Earmark Madness" »

Strategy Memo: Omnibus Vote Today

It's a busy day for President Obama, starting with an education policy speech this morning to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. After some private meetings, Obama will then meet with members of the New Democrat Coalition at the White House, and then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The Senate will continue consideration of the omnibus appropriations bill, with a final vote likely today. Republican amendments to the bill will also be considered, including one that would require lawmakers to vote publicly on their pay raises.

The House will vote today on the naming of some federal buildings around the country. An Energy and Commerce subcommittee will look at the future of coal under climate legislation.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Omnibus Vote Today" »

Strategy Memo: Political Science

Happy Monday, Washington. Today is science day at the White House, headlined by President Obama signing an executive order and presidential memorandum on stem cell research and "scientific integrity." He'll speak from the East Room on the topics this morning, and later meet with finalists from the Intel Science Talent Search. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden is heading overseas to meet with NATO in Belgium. "The purpose of his trip is to consult with allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to ensure that their views help inform the strategic review ordered by President Obama," the White House says.

The Senate will pick up today where it left off last week, as Senate Democrats searched for one more vote to pass the omnibus appropriations bill. In the meantime, Republican amendments to the bill will be considered, and a temporary continuing resolution Congress passed Friday will keep the federal government running through Wednesday.

U.S. Trade Representative nominee Ron Kirk will testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee today, a week after the committee announced that Kirk owed -- and had agreed to pay -- nearly $10,000 in back taxes.

Some of today's headlines after the jump.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Political Science" »

Strategy Memo: Omni-bust

Good Friday morning.

President Obama heads to Columbus, Ohio, today, a visit that will highlight another effect of stimulus funds. The city had laid off police recruits, citing budgetary shortfalls, but new federal funds have allowed the city to keep them. Vice President Biden will also visit with police officers in Miami. Obama will return to Washington this afternoon and have private meetings.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeking one more vote to avoid a filibuster, decided last night to hold off on a procedural vote that would have brought the $410 billion omnibus appropriationsbill up for final approval. The Senate will continue debate and consideration of amendments on the bill today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released this morning its latest job report, with job losses rising to 8.1 percent, and the number of unemployed persons up to 12.5 million. Congress's Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing this morning on this latest report.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Omni-bust" »

Strategy Memo: On A Budget

Good Wednesday morning. U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will speak this morning to a joint meeting of Congress. The Senate will continue consideration of the omnibus appropriations bill, while the House deals with the D.C. Voting Rights Act, among other bills.

Congress also continues to examine President Obama's proposed budget. The Senate Finance Committee begins looking at it today, while OMB Dir. Peter Orszag testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Obama will reportedly sign an executive order today changing the process for awarding government contracts. The rest of his day is in private meetings, but tonight he'll host another social event at the White House, this time a dinner for Congressional committee chairmen.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: On A Budget" »

Strategy Memo: Rush's Party

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama has a full schedule, with the main event being a visit by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The economy should be the focus as both countries look toward recoveries. Obama will also visit both the Transportation and Interior Departments -- the former to promote the stimulus plan, and the latter in honor of its 160th birthday. The president also hosts Boy Scouts in the Oval Office, before meeting with Eagle Scout and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

On the Hill, the Senate continues consideration today of the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill, with votes scheduled to begin by noon. Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner and OMB Dir. Peter Orszag will be testifying in separate House committees today on Obama's budget.

And it's always a good day when voters are voting. Today it's in Chicago, where the Fifth District seat once held by Rahm Emanuel is up for grabs. The Democratic primary is where all the action is, and despite a wide field, the favorites are Mike Quigley (backed by the Tribune and Sun-Times), Sara Feigenholtz (heavy union support and EMILY's List), and John Fritchey (backed by most ward organizations).

Here's what we're reading this a.m.:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Rush's Party" »

Strategy Memo: Cabinet Complete

Good snowy Monday morning, Washington. The House and Senate return today amidst possibly the largest snow storm to hit the capital area in three years. The Senate will begin considering the $410 billion appropriations omnibus package that the House passed last week. The House will vote tonight on a few minor bills, including the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act and Shark Conservation Act.

Congress will begin holding hearings this week on the president's newly-offered budget. OMB Director Peter Orszag and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are both expected to testify on the Hill.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is set to be announced today as President Obama's pick for HHS Secretary, barring a last minute weather delay. If all goes according to plan, it will be the final Cabinet appointment by the administration, nearly four months after Election Day and almost four weeks after former nominee Tom Daschle dropped out due to an issue with unpaid taxes.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Cabinet Complete" »

Strategy Memo: 19 Months

Good morning, Washington. Today, President Obama will announce his way forward on Iraq. Multiple reports indicate he'll announce that most U.S. forces will be out of Iraq in 19 months, by August 2010. Some Democrats are concerned about the number of forces that will remain, as many as 50,000 perhaps. After his trip to North Carolina for the speech, the president returns to Washington, where he'll watch the Bulls play the Wizards tonight.

Today the Vice President holds his first public meeting of the Middle Class and Working Families Task force. He'll be joined by a number of Cabinet officials for the event, being held in Philadelphia.

Capitol Hill will be relatively quiet today, with no scheduled committee hearings or roll call votes in either chamber of Congress. Most of the action in Washington will instead be at CPAC, where today's speakers include Rep. John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford.

Here's what's happening today:


Continue reading "Strategy Memo: 19 Months" »

Strategy Memo: Budgeting Time

Today is all about the budget. The President will give a brief overview for the public at 9:30, with his administration getting more into details at a briefing later. The headlines so far revolve around another change in the tax code to affect the highest wage earners, and the creation of a $634 billion reserve fund for health care.

Also today, the president will have lunch with the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House, meet with Secretaries Geithner and Clinton, and greet his favorite team, the Chicago Bulls.

After a day of Republican amendments and Constitutional points of order that were swiftly voted down, the Senate could vote as early as today on the D.C. Voting Rights Act of 2009. The House passed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill yesterday, and today it will take up housing legislation that would give bankruptcy judges an increased ability to erase mortgage debt.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Budgeting Time" »

Strategy Memo: Grading The Speech

Good morning, Washington. President Obama today will follow up on his address to Congress last night with a number of meetings with senior staff, the Democratic caucus and leaders of the respective banking committees today. He'll also formally announce his pick for Commerce secretary this morning, expected to be former Gov. Gary Locke of Washington. Tonight, the president will honor Stevie Wonder with an East Room concert.

Vice President Biden has a busy day as well, which started with round-robin interviews on the network morning shows. This morning, he'll hold the first Recovery Plan Implementation meeting in the Roosevelt room. He'll also meet with school superintendents from around the country, before being honored by the Adjutants General Association of the Untied States.

After agreeing yesterday to consider the legislation giving Washington, D.C. a full-voting member in the House of Representatives, the Senate will debate the bill today and tomorrow before a vote that could come by tomorrow night. The House Judiciary Committee will likely approve of the House version of the bill today, while the full House begins debate on the omnibus appropriations bill, which will fund the federal government through the end of September.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Grading The Speech" »

Strategy Memo: Fat Budget Tuesday

Good Tuesday morning, Washington, and Happy Fat Tuesday.

President Obama will meet at the White House today with the prime minister of Japan but hold no other public events as he prepares to deliver his first address to Congress tonight at 9:01 pm. Americans will see a new trio at the rostrum tonight -- all Democrats, with Vice President Biden and Speaker Pelosi seated behind Obama.

House Democrats released yesterday a $410 billion omnibus spending package that will fund the federal government through the end of September, and a vote on the bill will take place later this week.

The Senate will vote today on moving forward with the D.C. Voting Rights bill, which would add two congressional districts in the House -- one in Washington, D.C., and one in Utah -- increasing the number of House seats to 437.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Fat Budget Tuesday" »

Strategy Memo: Barack The Knife

Good morning, Washington. After a black-tie dinner last night, the nation's governors return to the White House this morning for a working session with President Obama, where the focus will be on implementing the stimulus plan in the states. The governors had a full weekend of politics and policy at the NGA's Winter Meeting, where much of the focus was on the different approaches the Republican governors (and some potential 2012 candidates) have taken on the massive spending plan.

Today also begins a full week dedicated to the first Obama budget plan. After the meeting with governors, the president will hold a "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" with lawmakers, business leaders and labor groups, a session meant to highlight the administration goal of halving the budget deficit by 2012. Vice President Biden joins the president at these events, and will also squeeze in a meeting with George Clooney on Darfur.

Congress returns today from a week-long recess, with both the House and Senate considering new legislation. The Senate begins debate today on the D.C. Voting Rights Bill, which would give the District a full-voting member in the House of Representatives, as well as add a House district in Utah. A vote could come as early as tomorrow.

Here's what else we're watching:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Barack The Knife" »

Strategy Memo: Earth Wind and Fire

Good Friday morning, Washington and beyond.

About 80 mayors from around the country will meet with Obama and members of his Cabinet at the White House today to discuss the economic stimulus plan. After a week on the road, it looks like the President will spend most of his weekend in Washington.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton continues her dipolomatic tour of Asia. After sitting down with the president of Indonesia and appearing on a popular youth TV show there yesterday, Clinton visits South Korea today.

Most of the country's governors, sans Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will descend upon Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association winter meeting. After meetings, panel discussions and luncheons over the weekend, the governors will head over to the White House Sunday night for dinner and performances by the Marine Corps band and Earth Wind and Fire.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Earth Wind and Fire" »

Strategy Memo: Meeting The Neighbors

Good morning, Washington, Ottawa, and capital cities everywhere.

President Obama makes his first visit outside the nation's borders, a short trip to Ottawa to meet with Canada's leaders. The main focus of discussions with Prime Minister Stephen Harper are expected to be about trade and the war in Afghanistan.

Vice President Biden will head to McLean to swear in CIA director Leon Panetta, and speak about the agency's vital role. He'll also host dinner at the Naval Observatory with Richard Holbrooke and some other foreign policy minds. Michelle Obama continues her agency tour, visiting the Department of Agriculture.

With Congress in recess, 2010 Senate races are ramping up this week. In Missouri, Rep. Roy Blunt (R) is announcing today that he's running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Kit Bond. In Ohio, Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, both Democrats, announced earlier this week that they're running for the seat of Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who's retiring next year.

Here's what else is on tap:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Meeting The Neighbors" »

Strategy Memo: Tough Week For Burris

Good Wednesday morning, Washington and beyond.

Barack Obama delivers a speech on the foreclosure crisis today in Mesa, Arizona -- a state that, without John McCain on the ballot, could be an electoral battleground in 2012. The president will offer his $50 billion plan to slow the number of home foreclosures, including lowering homeowners' monthly mortgage payments.

After a two-day trip to Japan, Hillary Clinton has departed for Indonesia, where Obama lived for a time as a young boy. Vice President Biden meets today with outgoing Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Michelle Obama, meanwhile, opens the White House to local students for a music performance.

An Illinois prosecutor has been given transcripts of the statements Senator Roland Burris made to the House impeachment panel. Burris's statements about his contact with aides to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich have seemed to change over time, and many are questioning whether he committed perjury. The Chicago Tribune has called on Burris to resign from the U.S. Senate.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Tough Week For Burris" »

Strategy Memo: Rocky Mountain Signing

Good morning, Washington. This morning, President Obama will depart shortly for Denver, where he will sign the stimulus bill into law. He'll also tour a solar panel manufacturing plant to highlight the bill's green energy provisions.

Details should begin leaking out about the president's plan to deal with the foreclosure crisis, which will be rolled out tomorrow in Phoenix. Press secretary Robert Gibbs also promised yesterday that more details on the administration's plans in Afghanistan will come soon.

Congress remains on recess, which means those members who aren't at home in their districts are touring the world. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for instance, is in Italy -- and reportedly will meet with the pope. Here's what else we're watching.

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Rocky Mountain Signing" »

Strategy Memo: Presidents Day Recess

Good Presidents Day morning, Washington and beyond.

The Obama family returns from Chicago this afternoon, and the president has no public events scheduled. Tomorrow, Obama will head to Denver where he'll sign the economic stimulus bill that Congress passed last week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is making her debut on the world stage, having arrived in Tokyo this morning.

Obama has decided against appointing a "car czar," a new administration position that would have overseen the restructuring of the three Detroit automakers. Instead, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other administration officials will oversee the process.

The House and Senate are both in recess this week, though Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) has still managed to make news. Illinois Republicans are calling for him to resign after discovering potentially contradicting statements he made regarding his contacts with close associates of Rod Blagojevich, including his brother.

Here are the stories we're watching today...

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Presidents Day Recess" »

Strategy Memo: Friday the 13th

Good morning, Washington and beyond on a grim Friday the 13th.

After spending most of the week on the road, President Obama will speak from the East Room of the White House today about his stimulus plan to members of the Business Council. He'll also have lunch with Vice President Joe Biden before the first family makes its first return trip to Chicago since moving to the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The first couple will enjoy Valentine's Day at an as-yet undisclosed location in their hometown.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs will hold his briefing at 1 pm, where he can expect another grilling about troubled Cabinet appointments as well as conflicting information yesterday about Judd Gregg's selection and withdrawal.

Before heading out of town for a week-long Presidents Day recess, the House is expected this morning to vote for a final time on the economic stimulus bill. The Senate will likely vote tonight following a day of debate, and the bill will be awaiting Obama's return.

And giving us all hope, pitchers and catchers for all 30 Major League Baseball teams will have reported to spring training camps by Sunday. Here's what we're watching today:

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Friday the 13th" »

Strategy Memo: Abe's Bicentennial

Good Thursday morning, Washington and beyond. And Happy 200th Birthday to Abraham Lincoln.

The House and Senate conference brokered a deal yesterday on a $790 billion stimulus deal that both chambers are expected to pass over the next few days and be on President Obama's desk by Monday. The bill will go to the House first, which could begin consideration as early as today.

Obama will join Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others at the Capitol today to celebrate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. Both also spoke last night at the grand reopening of Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was fatally shot 144 years ago. "As commemorations take place across this country on the bicentennial of our 16th President's birth, there will be reflections on all he was and all he did for this nation that he saved," Obama said last night.

Later in the day, Obama will jet to Peoria, Ill., with Sen. Dick Durbin and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood (both fellow Illinoisans) to speak at a Caterpillar plant, where thousands of people have recently lost their jobs. However, Caterpillar has said that the stimulus package will allow it to begin hiring again. Tonight, Obama will give remarks at the 102nd Abraham Lincoln Association Annual Banquet in Springfield, Ill.

We'll be watching "The Daily Show" tonight to see what it was exactly John Oliver was up to in the White House yesterday. This is what else we're watching today...

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Abe's Bicentennial" »

Strategy Memo: Done Deal?

Good morning, Washington. The Senate passed an $838 billion stimulus bill yesterday and immediately entered into negotiations with the House on a compromise package to send to President Obama. The progress of late night negotiations has reportedly caused lawmakers and White House officials to be "cautiously optimistic" that a deal could be passed as early as today.

Obama makes a much shorter trip today to pitch the stimulus plan, joining Gov. Tim Kaine at a construction site in Springfield, Va., to demonstrate how the legislation will create jobs. He'll then return to the White House, where he'll meet with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Vice President Joe Biden heads a bit north to Pennsylvania, where he'll be joined by Gov. Ed Rendell to discuss the need to invest in infrastructure. Rendell is chair of the National Governors Association, and had chosen infrastructure as his yearly theme. Michelle Obama will be part of a panel discussion on African American History Month at Howard University.

Here's what else we're looking at today...

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Done Deal?" »

Strategy Memo: Stimulus Vote, Take 2

Good Tuesday morning, Washington and beyond.

The Senate is expected to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 today, with three Republicans likely to cross over and support the economic stimulus bill. On a 61-36 roll call vote late yesterday afternoon, the chamber voted to end debate and bring the $838 billion bill up for a final vote, which is expected at noon.

The final tally today will likely be close to yesterday's vote, which was just enough to avoid a potential legislative maneuver by Republicans to block the bill's progression. Following the vote, the Senate and House, which passed its bill two weeks ago with no Republican support, will then send their separate versions of the bill to a conference, where one package will eventually emerge for President Obama to sign.

For leverage, both parties have been angling their positions -- for or against the bill -- as the will of the people, and Obama's news conference on primetime national television was his biggest stage yet in selling it. And really, he's only just started to make the case to the American people, after working earlier to sell it just to lawmakers in Washington.

"He's by far and away our best weapon explaining directly to the American people the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that he wants to see get through Congress," press secretary Robert Gibbs said this morning.

Monday's town hall in Indiana and East Room press conference appeared to go well, and today Obama gets to further burnish his case in Florida with another public event that will also feature Gov. Charlie Crist, one of the most popular Republicans in the country. With new polling that shows Obama remains popular despite early hiccups, the administration is more confident that Republicans will feel pressure to provide more votes for final passage than their initial public display.

Click through to check out what news articles are driving the day...

Continue reading "Strategy Memo: Stimulus Vote, Take 2" »

Strategy Memo: Traveling Salesmen

Good morning, Washington. A spring-like weekend gives way to another very busy week. It starts with President Obama trekking again away from the White House with a visit to Elkhart, Ind., to sell his stimulus bill. Tonight he holds his first press conference in prime time. The "Jobs Squad," the centrist senators who forged the compromise, have taken to selling it in the press. Here's what we're watching.

**Economic Stimululs
*The Senate's vote on the slimmed down $827 billion stimulus bill is expected to take place Tuesday, with the necessary votes. "After cutting deals Friday with three moderate Republicans to pare the cost of the package, Senate Democrats, who control the chamber with a 58-41 majority, are confident of attracting the 60 votes needed to close off debate Monday," the WSJ reports.

*Washington Post, on the GOP's newfound optimism: "Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party's liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it."

*Although Republicans have touted poll numbers in their arguments against the stimulus and Democrats, the latest Gallup poll finds that the people may not be as behind them as they've said. Obama received a 67%-25% approval-disapproval rating for his handling of the economic stimulus bill. Democrats in Congress were 48%-42%, while Republicans were a dismal 31%-58%.

*Of course, there are political risks for both parties. "The risks for Obama are considerable. He and the Democrats will have no one else to blame if the package fails to boost the economy," Politico's Martin and Raju write. "Still seeking a way forward from their Election Day thumping, [Republicans] risk appearing out of touch as the unemployment rate jumps to 7.6 percent and a popular new president is appearing to seek their support to address the crisis.

*Arlen Specter, one of the moderates who forged a compromise, lays out his support in the Washington Post, arguing as Obama has that the country couldn't afford any delay. "The unemployment figures announced Friday, the latest earnings reports and the continuing crisis in banking make it clear that failure to act will leave the United States facing a far deeper crisis in three or six months. By then the cost of action will be much greater -- or it may be too late."

**President Obama
*Obama is taking his case for the stimulus on the road, traveling to Indiana today -- where he'll hold a town hall before tonight's primetime news conference at the White House -- and Florida tomorrow. "In both states, he will be working to counter Republican criticism of his $800 billion recovery package and take greater control of the debate," reports the New York Times.

*The Indianapolis Star looks at Elkhart's plight; it leads the nation in unemployment largely because the recreational vehicle industry, long the backbone of Elkhart's economy, "is in a deep funk." Democratic Mayor Dick Moore "is chomping at the bit to move on Obama's stimulus package."

*Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who had taken herself out of consideration for a Cabinet selection, now seems to be a top choice to be the HHS secretary. Polling sponsored by the Daily Kos had shown her with early leads in a potential 2010 Senate race, though she had not reached 50 percent against two potential rivals for the open seat.

*Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will announce a new approach to addressing the financial industry crisis Tuesday, one that may not require that much new money. Bloomberg: "They include a new round of injections of taxpayer funds into banks, targeted at firms identified by regulators as most in need of new capital, people briefed on the matter said. A Federal Reserve program designed to spur consumer and small-business loans will be expanded, possibly to include real-estate assets, they said."

*Vice President Joe Biden made a major speech this weekend, signaling to the world that the Obama administration is "determined to set a new tone in Washington, and in America's relations around the world." He said that the U.S. is open to talks with Iran, and wants to press the "reset button" in ties with Russia.

**Republicans: New RNC chair Michael Steele appeared on "This Week," and was hit with questions raised in the Washington Post about payments made to his sister's company when he ran for the Senate in 2006. "It's all false," Steele said. "I want to clear my good name. ... This is not the way I intend to run the RNC with this over my head. We're going to dispense with it immediately."

**Technology Alert: A warning to those techno-savvy lawmakers showing off on Twitter. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking member on Intelligence, broke an embargo by announcing his arrival in Iraq through the web site. "Nobody expected ... that a lawmaker with such an extensive national security background would be the first to break the silence. And in such a big way. Not only did Hoekstra reveal the existence of the lawmakers' trip, but included details about their itinerary in updates posted every few hours."

-- Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Counting The Votes

Good morning, Washington and beyond. After last night, here's betting Obama is having Wheaties again today. Here's what we're watching.

**President Obama
*Today, President Obama will announce the members of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board in the East Room. Later, he'll meet with the families of victims of the 9/11 and USS Cole attacks. Vice President Biden gets ready to fly to Germany.

*Conservative economist Martin Feldstein, who criticized Obama's stimulus plan, will be one of the economic board members. Prominent CEOs and labor leaders will fill out the board, led by Paul Volcker, which is meant to provide "independent advice" to the president.

*CNN reports that the administration is vetting some candidates for HHS, though more names may still end up on there.

*The Washington Post profiles White House Counsel Gregory Craig, and reports he will take over the vetting of Cabinet nominees. "But his most important role, White House officials say, is as a trusted voice who has lived through the extremes of Washington controversies and has a keen eye for a potential conflict of interest or a decision that might trigger public outcry."

*This story may be getting downplayed amidst all the tax controversies: General Anthony Zinni says he was offered the post of ambassador to Iraq, but then saw the appointment withdrawn. "With General Zinni fuming in undiplomatic fashion about the way he was treated, the question of who should be the next ambassador to Iraq has turned into an embarrassing mess for the Obama administration as it struggles to recover from other stumbles over high-profile nominations. There has still been no formal announcement about the Iraq job."

*Despite issues with several Cabinet nominees, more than 50% of Americans say they are more confident in Obama's "ethical standards" and "ability to manage the federal government," Gallup reports. Less than 20% say they are less confident in Obama in both categories. His current 65% approval rating is about even with where its been since he took office.

*National Journal's latest Political Insiders Poll: 39% of Democratic insiders think Obama's image has been hurt "some" by his cabinet nominee controversies and 42% think his image has been hurt "only a little"; similar numbers for Republican insiders, as 45% say his image has been hurt "some" and 35% say "only a little." Less than 10% of insiders from both parties think his image has been hurt "a great deal."

**Stimulus
*With the cost of the Senate stimulus bill now more than $900 billion, a group of about 20 moderate senators was unable to cut a deal last night on how to trim the cost of the plan, the Washington Post reports. "Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that he would allow the centrist, bipartisan group to continue working and that, if it reaches consensus, he will schedule a vote for today on final legislation. If that fails, he will call for a rare Sunday session for a key procedural vote that would require 60 votes for passage."

*NY Times: "Members of the bipartisan group, led by Senators Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said they wanted to trim provisions that would not quickly create jobs or encourage spending by consumers and businesses. They spent much of the day scrutinizing the 736-page bill and wrangling over what to cut."

*"A fired-up Barack Obama ditched his TelePrompter to rally House Democrats and rip Republican opponents of his recovery package Thursday night - at one point openly mocking the GOP for failing to follow through on promises of bipartisanship," Politico reports, on Obama's speech at the House Democratic conference in Williamsburg, Va. Our write-up here.

*AP looks at potential criticism of lawmakers for holding retreats at luxury resorts. "It's serious and it's from morning till night. We've been dwelling, rightfully, on the economy," said House Democratic Caucus chair John Larson.

**Supreme Court Watch: Nothing would disrupt the current political environment more than a Supreme Court vacancy. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting after surgery. "Pancreatic cancer is often deadly, although the court said doctors apparently found Ginsburg's growth at an early stage," AP reports.

**Minnesota Senate Watch: The recount goes on, with the Republican seeking to count more ballots from GOP-leaning areas, and the Democrat doing the same for liberal areas.

**2012 Today: Time interviews Mitt Romney, and asks him about the HHS job. "I think my first choice would be to keep Gov. Mike Leavitt in the spot. I think he's been one of the best HHS secretaries this country has ever seen." On Obama, he says he's off to a "rocky start." "The theme 'Yes, we can' seems to have been replaced with 'Well, maybe we can't.'"

**Redistricting Alert: There will be some reallocations of House seats, but the Wall Street Journal reports that "Suddenly, Americans are less willing and able to move," and that may result in fewer changes to the map.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Stimulating The Senate

Good Thursday morning, Washington and beyond. Super Tuesday was one year ago today, if you can believe it. Today, President Obama continues to sell the stimulus, while the Senate continues to search for a compromise.

**Economic Stimulus
*Obama took his stimulus sales job directly to the people this morning, with an op-ed in the Washington Post: "This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent."

*Obama also unleashed some harsh words for stimulus critics yesterday. "President Obama abruptly changed tactics Wednesday in his bid to revive the economy, setting aside his bipartisan stance and pointedly blaming Republicans for demanding what he cast as discredited "piecemeal measures," the L.A. Times writes.

*However, Politico writes that Obama is "losing the message war. Despite Obama's sky high personal approval ratings, polls show support has declined for his stimulus bill since Republicans and their conservative talk-radio allies began railing against what they labeled as pork barrel spending within it."

*"The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, suggested that a final vote on the stimulus plan could come on Thursday," writes the New York Times.

**The White House
*Obama has now twice broken a campaign pledge to wait five days before signing any bill to allow for public input. The White House had no comment.

*Chris Cillizza reports that Obama will continue to ratchet up his rhetoric next week, with a primetime news conference planned for Monday, and potentially an Oval Office address as well.

*Hilda Solis will finally see a vote on her nomination for Labor Secretary.

*Former chief of staff Andy Card wants Obama to put his jacket on when he's in the Oval Office.

*The White House says Judd Gregg is not a target of an investigation of his former aide in the Abramoff affair.

*As Obama speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast today, he's rolling out an expansion in President Bush's office of faith based initiatives.

**Minnesota Senate Watch: The Minnesota Supreme Court today will hear Al Franken's request for a provisional certification of election.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Making The Rounds

Good Wednesday morning, Washington and beyond. The stimulus bill is still in the Senate, Obama's hitting the airwaves to defend it, and Dick Cheney is worried about the country's safety.

**Administration
*President Obama made the network anchor rounds yesterday, sitting down for brief interviews with ABC's Charlie Gibson, NBC's Brian Williams, CBS's Katie Couric, CNN's Anderson Cooper and FOX's Chris Wallace. On Tom Daschle, Obama told Cooper he "screwed up" and Couric he "messed up." Watch the interviews here.

CNN: "I think I screwed up." NBC: "It made me angry and disappointed and it's something I have to take responsibility for." CBS: "When you make these self-inflicted wounds, you end up being distracted really from the people's business." ABC: "I think I've been very clear of the fact that this was a bad mistake. I don't think it was purposeful, but I think it was a mistake." FOX: "I think it's fair to say that I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox."

*The latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds that as many people think the tone in Washington between Republicans and Democrats has gotten worse as think its gotten better (21% vs. 23%). "In the category of small favors, Obama can feel gratified that a slight majority of Americans believe the political tone in Washington hasn't grown any worse under his presidency. But given his efforts at bipartisanship...he could well be disappointed in the finding that as many Americans say the political climate has gotten worse since his election as say it has improved," Gallup's Lydia Saad writes.

*CBN's David Brody reports that Obama "will announce the creation of a new President's Advisory Council on Faith during this Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC."

*So it looks like Claire McCaskill was floating a trial balloon. Last week, she proposed that no executives at banks receiving TARP funds should be paid more than the president, $400,000. Well, now new rules on executive compensation that the Obama administration will put forth today will cap salaries at $500,000. NY Times: "Executives at companies that have already received money from the Treasury Department would not have to make any changes. But analysts and administration officials are bracing for a huge wave of new losses, largely because of the deepening recession, and many companies that have already received federal money may well be coming back."

**Tom Daschle
*Must-See-TV: Read Mark McKinnon's piece on Daschle, including a YouTube video of an old Daschle campaign ad. "But I'll tell you what probably sealed it for most folks: the commercial of Daschle when he ran for the Senate bragging about driving his own car around Washington, D.C. Ouch. Hypocrisy is the scarlet letter in politics."

*Washington Post puts the Daschle withdrawal in perspective: "Now Obama must forge ahead without his close friend and Washington mentor, a setback that health experts across the political spectrum described yesterday as serious but not insurmountable."

*Among the many names being floated for HHS: Debbie Stabenow. Also Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Howard Dean, former Oregon Gov. David Kitzhaber.

**Economic Stimulus
*Washington Post: "Senate Democratic leaders conceded yesterday that they do not have the votes to pass the stimulus bill as currently written and said that to gain bipartisan support, they will seek to cut provisions that would not provide an immediate boost to the economy. ... Moderate Republicans are trying to trim the bill by as much as $200 billion, although Democrats working with those GOP senators have not agreed to a specific figure."

*Larry Summers says that Obama is willing to shed some spending items, but doesn't want to weaken the overall stimulus bill. "We're focused on the pie, not the crumbs," Summers told USA Today. "The president's prepared to compromise but our focus is on the fact that the American economy badly needs help."

**Back In The News: Dick Cheney sat down with Politico yesterday and "warned that there is a 'high probability' that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration's policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed."

**Political Journalism Alert
*Huge news in Iowa : Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen leaving the paper to head the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Another Senate Deal

Good Tuesday morning, Washington and beyond. Democrats won't get a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But at least they still have one in the Cabinet.

**Cabinet News
*President Obama will announce Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) as his new Commerce secretary this morning at the White House.

*"The deal appears to be done" in New Hampshire, reports the Union Leader's DiStaso. Judd Gregg takes the Commerce post, and Gov. John Lynch will name a Republican to replace him.

*But not all Democrats are happy with the deal. "I'm still hoping Barack Obama comes to his senses," said state Rep. Jim Splaine. "It's a lose-lose for Democrats." Radio host Arnie Arnesen: "I keep hearing about this deal. After Blagojevich, I don't want to hear about deals any more."

*Gregg apparently hasn't always supported the department he's about to lead, however, once voting to abolish it in 1996.

*Tom Daschle's tax issues remain in the news. Politico reports that before the tax flap came up, Daschle had lobbied Obama to select Leo Hindery to his Cabinet. Hindery "hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing in Daschle's failure to declare the value of the limo service on his taxes."

*Obama pledged a "new era of responsibility," but "what he did not talk much about were the asterisks," the New York Times reports. Now, "the Obama team finds itself being criticized by bloggers on the left and the right, mocked by television comics and questioned by reporters about whether Mr. Obama is really changing the way Washington works or just changing which political party works it."

*On the op-ed page, the Times says Daschle's nomination should be pulled. "In both the Geithner and Daschle cases, the failure to pay taxes is attributed to unintentional oversights. But Mr. Daschle is one oversight case too many. The American tax system depends heavily on voluntary compliance. It would send a terrible message to the public if we ignore the failure of yet another high-level nominee to comply with the tax laws." The paper also notes his ties to "major players" in health care community as potentially "more troublesome."

*Smoother sailing at the Justice Department. The Senate confirmed Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General on a 75-21 roll call vote. No Democrats opposed his confirmation. Holder becomes the nation's first black Attorney General.

*Washington Post: "The Senate vote occurred four days after Holder overcame concerns by a small but vocal group of GOP lawmakers about his position on national security and gun rights, as well as his recommendations in two controversial clemency decisions by President Bill Clinton."

**Economic Stimulus
*Yesterday, Obama downplayed "modest difference" between Democrats and Republicans on the stimulus. But in a meeting with Democratic leadership, Obama "took a blunt tone" and urged them "to drop whatever needs to be cut from the bill to gain bipartisan support and to pass Congress soon."

*The Senate began debate on their version of the bill yesterday, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans' goal is to "reformulate" it, "not kill it."

**L.A. Times: "Senate Republicans will propose a panoply of amendments to make the bill more palatable -- including moves to strip out spending they consider inappropriate in an economic stimulus bill. One target: $75 million to help people quit smoking. Such changes, if accepted, could win support for the plan from conservative Democrats such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, as well as Republicans."

*The AP has a breakdown of the "highlights" of the Democrat-written Senate stimulus plan.

*Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), on MSNBC's "Morning Joe": "To sustain a filibuster, we need just 41 Republicans to stay together. If we stay together in the Senate like they did in the House, we can shelve this bill; we can hold it up. ... But I'm willing to put the 41 together if we can and hold together."

*The Democrats increased their majorities, but now Blue Dog Democrats are pushing the party leadership to resume regular order, The Hill reports. "Since last year, many senior House Democrats -- many of them subcommittee chairmen -- have grown overly frustrated with how only small and select bands of legislators have been responsible for writing bills. ... Democratic leaders have acknowledged that the 'regular order' process of methodically developing and writing bills in subcommittees and committees has been abandoned recently. But they have defended the handling of such sensitive and important legislation by only an exclusive group of leadership and senior lawmakers as a necessary tactic during exceptional times."

*Gallup: 75% of Americans want Congress to pass some version of a stimulus bill -- 38% want the bill passed as Obama proposed it, while 37% want major changes to the bill. 47% think the plan will make the economy a little better, and just 17% think the bill could make things a lot better.

**Palin Alert
*Sarah Palin already has picked sides in a potential intra-party battle in Texas, picking incumbent Gov. Rick Perry over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010.

*Newt Gingrich thinks Palin has "a substantial base" in Iowa in 2012, if she runs. He also called her "very formidable," and "suggested the Alaska governor spend time developing 'fairly sophisticated positions' on a range of issues."

**Blago Watch: The now ex-gov is doing a second media tour, including stops today on NBC's Today and tonight on David Letterman, the Chicago Tribune reports.

**Sports Alert: The Lakers' Kobe Bryant dropped 61 points on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night, setting an arena record. He surpassed Michael Jordan's opponent record of 55 points and Bernard King's home record of 60 points -- not bad company. We didn't see the game or King's record-setting day in 1984, but we'll never forget watching Jordan (wearing No. 45 after just coming back from playing baseball) torching the Knicks on national TV and delivering the game-winning assist to Bill Wennington.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Super Bowl Monday

Good Monday morninig, Washington and beyond. Congrats to the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the Arizona Cardinals, who put on a show last night. Now to the post-Super Bowl world: The Senate begins today its shot at the economic stimulus, for which no one can figure out yet whom will be hurt politically -- if not everyone.

**Daschle's Tax Problems
*In a classic late-Friday end-of-the-week news dump, HHS nominee Tom Daschle admitted that he had not paid taxes on the use of a private car while working for an investment firm.

*He "released a letter early today apologizing to the top lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee for mistakes on his personal income tax returns that resulted in $146,000 in back payments," the Washington Post reports. Daschle: "I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns."

*The AP also notes that Daschle was paid $5.2 million as a lobbyist, and a quarter-million for paid speeches by insurers and hospitals. "He welcomed every opportunity to make his case to the American public at large and the health industry in particular that America can't afford to ignore the health care crisis any longer," spokesperson Jenny Backus said.

*John Podesta, on "Morning Joe": "I think he will survive. He will have a discussion with the members of the committee tonight...He's eminently qualified for it."

**Congress
*Bloomberg: "Lawmakers remain divided over whether President Barack Obama's fiscal stimulus would do enough to pull the economy out of recession as an $819 billion package passed by the House with no Republican votes heads to the Senate."

*Politico's Thrush and Bresnahan write that because of the GOP's "Rush-and-Drudge media campaign" and lack of a single vote last week for the stimulus, "the speaker's public commitment to bipartisanship may quickly yield to a depressingly familiar pattern of partisan combat that comes along with her new role as Obama's human shield."

*Joe Biden is putting his skills working the Senate to use this week as the stimulus plan heads to his former stomping grounds. And Biden also discusses his views on his new gig: "All the years you covered me, I never, quite frankly, thought about the vice presidency. And when President Obama asked me to join him, I wasn't at all sure whether there was a right place for me. But it's working out."

**Senate Appointment Watch
*Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is poised to be the next Secretary of Commerce. But in an only-in-New Hampshire move, the state's Democratic governor may appoint a Republican placeholder, Bonnie Newman, to his seat. Newman "was Gregg's top aide when he was in the U.S. House, served as a Harvard dean and was one of Lynch's first Republican supporters."

*Mitch McConnell, on "Face the Nation" yesterday, stating that Democrats would not pick up a 60th seat in the Senate should Gregg be tapped for Commerce: "Senator Gregg has assured me that if this were to happen - if it were to happen - he would not change the makeup of the Senate. In other words, whoever is appointed to replace him would caucus with Senate Republicans." The Boston Globe writes that McConnell's statement has raised questions about whether a deal has been struck.

*Similar -- but not the same -- situation: Republican Senator Craig Thomas, of Wyoming, died in 2007. Although Wyoming's governor is a Democrat, Wyoming state law required the Republican Central Committee to choose three candidates for the governor to choose from -- ensuring Thomas's successor would be a Republican.

**RNC Chairman Michael Steele: Baltimore Sun profiled Steele, saying his "upbeat image may be his most potent weapon in motivating a beleaguered party organization...Steele said he doesn't want to be judged on just the number of elections won or millions of dollars raised during the next two years. He wants to make progress with small donors as well as fat cats. He's seeking gains among voters, including minorities, who have shunned Republican candidates in growing numbers at the national level."

**Campaign Alert
*IL-05: State Rep. John Fritchey, one of the candidates in the IL-05 special election, said that Rahm Emanuel told him he may want to run for his old seat again some day. Fritchey: "I told him that should I be fortunate enough to run, and should I be fortunate enough to win the seat, I would look forward to campaigning against him."

*FL-12: Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.), who as recently as a year ago was in the Republican leadership, will give up his seat to run for Agriculture Commissioner next year.

*NY-20: Venture capitalist Scott Murphy will run in the special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand.

**Super Bowl Party Mix
*Obama's live interview during NBC's Super Bowl pregame show was a mix of fluff and substance. Watch it here. Obama, on family life in the White House: "It's the best deal of, of this whole thing is it turns out I've got this nice home office. And at the end of the day, yeah, I can come home, even if I've got more work to do, I can have dinner with them. I can help them with their homework. I can tuck them in. If I've gotta go back to the office, I can. But I'm seeing them now more than anytime in the last two years. And, and that's been great for the whole family."

Obama, on the stimulus package: "I've done extraordinary outreach I think to Republicans because they had some good ideas. And I wanna make sure that those ideas are incorporated. I am confident that by the time we actually have the final package on the floor that we are gonna see substantial support. And people are gonna say this is a serious effort. It has no earmarks. We¹re gonna be trimming up ‹ things that are not relevant to putting people back to work right now."

*Our take: This game marked yet another great one this decade, with last year's Giants-Patriots matchup and the February 2002 Patriots-Rams battle the other standouts.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: RNC Chair Election Today

Good Friday morning to you. Republicans pick a new leader today, while the President overturns some executive orders of the GOP's former leader.

**Secretary Gregg?
*Sen. Judd Gregg is being considered for Commerce Secretary, setting up the potential for Democrats to take their 60th Senate seat.

*The Union Leader's DiStaso: "Gregg is up for reelection in 2010 and Rep. Paul Hodes has already said he is seriously considering running against him. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has been rumored to be considering a Senate run, but she has not commented on the possibility."

*Coincidentally, the NY Times had led with Gregg in a story about Republican senators being targeted by Obama and Democratic-friendly groups who are working the Senate stimulus vote.

**President Obama
*Obama today will overturn four Bush executive orders that were opposed by unions. "Labor leaders have been lobbying the Obama administration to repeal scores of executive orders they view as hostile to their cause. Officials gave administration officials their top 10 executive orders they wanted to see dismantled."

*Today Joe Biden steps up his profile a bit, with the launch of the middle class task force. He continues to sell the stimulus, and next week heads to Munich. WSJ: "The flurry of activity follows a first week marked by gaffes."

*Biden has an op-ed in USA Today on putting the middle class "front and center."

*Yesterday's Ledbetter event was also a bit of a coming out for Michelle Obama, who had some of her first public appearances as first lady.

*Washington Post looks at the army of lawyers working in the Obama White House, "who will help formulate and interpret legal policy in the new administration, signaling a dramatic departure from the legal approach and policies of Bush and his aides. The list includes heavy-hitters educated at some of the nation's most prestigious law schools, and many who were sharply critical of Bush administration policies on detention, prisoner treatment, surveillance and other issues."

*LA Times: "As Republicans fight President Obama's gargantuan economic plan, they have plenty of ideas. What they don't have is a party-wide consensus: They can't agree among themselves on the best alternative, or on whether government action is even needed to pull the economy from its nose dive."

*Obama's labor secretary pick is still being held up.

**RNC Winter Meeting
*No one seems to know who the next chairman of the Republican Party will be. But they'll soon find out -- voting takes place this afternoon at the RNC Winter Meeting, being held in downtown Washington. Five candidates are competing, with former Tennessee GOP Chair Chip Saltsman dropping out, though Michael Steele's camp says it's a two-man race between Steele and current Chairman Mike Duncan.

*Marc Ambinder reports on a survey that finds that young Republicans feel ignored by party leadership and prefer Steele.

**Congress
*National Journal's latest Congressional Insiders Poll finds that 68% of Republican members of Congress say it's not desirable to have significant GOP support for the economic stimulus bill, with one member stating: "This needs to be clearly a Democrat initiative so blame is clear when money is misspent." Also, more than 60% of both Democrat and Republican members of Congress believe the recession will last another one to two years.

*The Senate yesterday extended government-provided health insurance to four million more children than were covered under the current plan, known as SCHIP.

**Campaign Stuff
*"In what could be a preview of the 2012 presidential race," Obama and Palin will share a stage at the Alfalfa Club dinner; a member says Palin won't speak, though her spokesman said she would.

*The St. Pete Times looks at how the possibility of Gov. Charlie Crist running for Senate has kept the field frozen, for now. "The governor has expressed zero interest in running for Senate, his political advisers haven't given the slightest hint that he is looking at it, and even Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp told a group in Bonita Springs the other day that he expected he and Crist would run for re-election. But it's a testament to Crist's remarkable popularity in these remarkably rocky times for Florida that almost everybody thinks he'd walk away with the race if he got in."

*While Norm Coleman puts up a fight for his Senate seat, Al Franken has gone to Florida for vacation. "In a variety of subtle ways, the Franken campaign has tried to portray Franken's installation in the U.S. Senate as inevitable -- and the trial now taking place a formality that is Coleman's doing, not theirs."

*The NY Times profiles Delaware's temporary senator, who denies that he's just a placeholder for Beau Biden. "I don't get it. It's the opposite. I'm going to fill the seat for two years, and anybody that wants to run in 2010 can run. So how am I a placeholder? The people of Delaware should pick the person they want, and they will do that in 2010 because Governor Minner selected me and I'm not going to run then."

*Looks like members of Congress could all afford to chip in for the stimulus; the average net worth of the 535 members jumped by $1 million this year.

*Former NY Rangers goalie Mike Richter will not seek Kirsten Gillibrand¹s old seat.

**Blago No Mo'
*Rod Blagojevich was kicked out of office by the Illinois State Senate yesterday by unanimous vote. Pat Quinn, who served as lieutenant governor under Blago, now takes over.

*Quinn compared himself to Gerald Ford as he took office last night. "[Ford] pointed out that he was not elected by the ballots of the people, so he asked the people of America to confirm his office by their prayers, and I have the same request for the people of Illinois," Quinn said. "This is by far the most trying and difficult time in the history of our state."

*Obama's statement: "Today ends a painful episode for Illinois. For months, the state had been crippled by a crisis of leadership. Now that cloud has lifted. I wish Governor Quinn the best and pledge my full cooperation as he undertakes his new responsibilities."

**Sports Alert: Who ya got? Cardinals or Steelers? E-mail us and let us know.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Turning Up The Heat

Good morning, Washington, where you can vote against the president at 6 p.m. and have drinks with him at 8 p.m.

**Stimulus Vote
*All the focus this morning on the lack of GOP support in yesterday's first stimulus vote. "This was a bipartisan rejection of a partisan bill," House Minority Leader John Boehner said after the vote. "It is time for Capitol Hill Democrats to finally work with Republicans on a job-creation package that lets families and small businesses keep more of what they earn."

*Per the NY Daily News, GOP insiders said even if Senate Republicans toe the party line as their House colleagues did, many of them will eventually come around once the final version of the bill is crafted by merging House and Senate versions. With the economy in crisis, Republicans understand they'll be punished at the polls in 2010 if they're seen as obstructionists.

*White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on "Today": "This president is committed to reaching his hand out and working every day with people who want to work with him."

*But on the other hand, a group that includes labor unions and Moveon.org will release TV ads targeting Republican Senators on the stimulus package.

*A Republican wants to know if National Parks receive significant funds because their lobbyist just happens to be Budget Committee chair David Obey's son, Washington Times reports. Obey's spokesperson says no, and that the money was requested by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and had wide support.

**President Obama
*Obama today will sign the Ledbetter Bill, then hold meetings at the White House with Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner, and VP Biden.

*It turns out the president "has not gone beyond a four-mile radius from the White House since his swearing-in." But with the economy a focus, advisers tell the Washington Post he's "likely to stay close to his new home for the foreseeable future." We do know he'll head to Canada next month, however.

*Biden is leading a more beefed up delegation to Germany next month; typically it's a job for the secretary of defense. "This is a break from tradition but one that the secretary thinks sends the perfect message to Europe that this new administration is committed at the highest levels to continue to work with our European allies on security matters," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told the AP.

*NY Times looks at the new, relaxed Oval Office dress code. No jackets, perhaps because Obama is cranking up the thermostat. "He's from Hawaii, O.K.?" David Axelrod said. More on his routine: "He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters ... off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs. ... He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day."

*USA Today: Half of the Obama Cabinet are millionaires.

*Karl Rove notes that Obama's director of political affairs will be in the West Wing, not EEOB. "That's a sign of the importance of politics for Team Obama."

**Blagojevich Watch
*IL Gov. Rod Blagojevich will finally show at his impeachment trial today; it had been expected that a vote could come today. He'll get 90 minutes to make his case, per the Sun-Times.

*"I definitely plan to be in Springfield and I will be ready," Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn said.

**Politics Watch
*NoLimits.org, a non-profit and nonpartisan Web site being launched by some longtime Hillary Clinton supporters, could be a vehicle for her to come back to politics down the road.

*Sarah Palin talked to reporters yesterday about her new PAC, saying it was not a sign she's running for president. "No, not at all, not at all, no. It's helpful to have a PAC so that when I'm invited to things even like to speak at the Lincoln Day dinner in Fairbanks, to have a PAC pay for that instead of have the state pay for that because that could be considered quasi-political." She also said she's heading to DC soon "to meet with those who are making decisions for Alaska in the stimulus package."

*The Harvard Crimson agrees with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), who's pushing for Senate vacancies to be filled by special election only -- no more governor appointees.

**Minnesota Senate Watch
*In the third day of the Norm Coleman lawsuit, lawyers for Al Franken "sought to blunt Coleman's recent position that he is championing the counting of all valid votes while Franken is fighting to prevent it." A deputy secretary of state said that Coleman wasn't so eager to examine all absentee ballots when he had a lead in December.

Strategy Memo: The First Big Vote

Good morning, Washington. An ice storm just in time for the first major vote of the new Congress. How many members will use the weather as an excuse not to cast their vote?

**Economic Stimulus
*Politico: "President Barack Obama's economy recovery plan hits the House floor Wednesday after a day of final adjustments by Democrats, adding more tax relief in the Senate and excising a handful of expenditures that have drawn the ire of conservatives."

*The New York Times notes that the package "would shower the nation's school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education's current budget."

*While Republicans have been outspoken in their criticism of the package's size, "some Democrats on Capitol Hill and other administration supporters are voicing a separate critique: that the plan may fall short in its broader goal of transforming the American economy over the long term," the Washington Post reports.

*Meanwhile, House Dems have now stripped $200 million to refurbish National Mall from stimulus package. Robert Gibbs defended the spending yesterday.

*Notebook Leftovers: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, in a pen-and-pad session with reporters yesterday: "I don't think [Obama] made a mistake talking to Republicans. ... I think that's what the American public expects him to do." Is the economic stimulus package large enough? "I'm not sure." On bipartisanship: "Bi- means two, at least."

**President Obama
*Today, Obama meets with some CEOs at the White House in advance of the House vote on his recovery plan. Later, he'll visit the Pentagon for the first time as commander in chief.

*The New York Times also notes how rare personal presidential visits are on the Hill. "Protocol generally holds that Congressional leaders come to the White House -- at the president's invitation -- when it comes time to negotiate legislation. But there Mr. Obama was, standing before an array of microphones without a presidential seal anywhere in sight. Had the hallway not been swarming with extra security, it might have seemed that Mr. Obama was back in the Senate."

*Bloomberg thinks that Obama needs a good "villain" to help his presidency. "Theodore Roosevelt railed against the 'malefactors of great wealth,' Franklin Roosevelt assailed 'unscrupulous money changers,' Ronald Reagan belittled government, which he said 'does not solve problems; it subsidizes them,' and Bill Clinton stared down Gingrich."

*Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), after a thorough grilling, announced he will vote for AG-designee Eric Holder. Any coincidence that this came after his only potentially serious primary challenger passed on the race?

**State of the Parties
*After 350,000 interviews last year, Gallup has ranked the 50 states and D.C. by partisanship. It's found that D.C., Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii are the most Democratic states; and that Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska are the most Republican. "All told, 29 states and the District of Columbia had Democratic party affiliation advantages of 10 points or greater last year. ... In contrast, only five states had solid or leaning Republican orientations in 2008."

*Perry Bacon of the Washington Post previews the RNC vote this week, and says current chairman Mike Duncan may suffer from an anti-Bush sentiment in the party. "In a further sign that the group wants to signal its displeasure with Bush policies, members are expected to adopt an unprecedented resolution attacking 'the bloated bank bailout bill' that Bush championed and demanding that the committee 'take all steps necessary to oppose bailouts of industries, individuals or governments.'".

*Rep. Phil Gingrey defends his colleagues. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party.You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

*"Democrats are fortunate Barack Obama is commanding the bulk of the nation's attention this week because, well, the sporadic spotlight being shed on the rest of the party isn't that flattering," Carl Cannon writes.

**Campaign Alert
*"A public rift opened" Tuesday when Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R) "groused to reporters" that colleague Mitch McConnell hasn't backed him for re-election, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. "[McConnell] had a lapse of memory when he was speaking to the press club last week when he said he didn't know what my intentions were," Bunning said. "Whatever Mitch says is whatever he says. He's the leader of the pack, and he can say whatever he wants and get away with it."

**Clinton-Gore Alert
*According to a new disclosure, Bill Clinton received $4.7 million in speaking fees from foreign nations last year.

*And look out for Al Gore on the Hill today, testifying on global warming as Washington skates to work in an ice storm.

**Sports Alert: Mark Sanchez, the USC quarterback who could be a top 3 pick in the NFL Draft this year, has signed his brother as his agent. Here's hoping Sanchez's bro -- with a bachelors from Yale and a law degree from USC but no known experience as a sports agent -- doesn't ruin his rookie contract like rapper Master P did for Ricky Williams.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Obama On The Hill

Good Tuesday morning. It's snowing here in Washington this morning, and for the first time this year it's actually sticking. What if it had snowed one week ago, when 2 million people were crammed onto the National Mall to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as president? Pure chaos.

**President Obama
*Obama is headed to the Hill this morning to court GOP votes for his economic stimulus bill. Republicans have been talking for a week now about wanting to meet with him to offer their ideas for the bill, which was written by Democrats, and Obama will sit down separately with the GOP's House and Senate conferences.

"The president is betting that politeness and high poll numbers will help defuse some of the partisan tensions stirred up by the massive, fast-moving stimulus bill," Politico reports.

*"Americans are not your enemy." Those were the words, as well as the general theme, of Obama's first TV interview since becoming president, which he gave to the Arabic satellite TV network, Al-Arabiya. "The interview underscored Obama's commitment to repair relations with the Muslim world that have suffered under the previous administration," the AP writes.

*Obama's Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner was confirmed by the Senate yesterday by a 60-34 roll call vote. Three Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders) voted against Geithner's confirmation and 10 Republicans voted for him.

"The 60-34 vote speaks to the controversial nature of Mr. Geithner's nomination after disclosures that he failed to pay some employment taxes in a timely manner while working for the International Monetary Fund," the Wall Street Journal reports.

*The e-mail outage at the White House has caused some headaches. "One person, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the disruption was made worse by the fact that people were still finding their way around the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building and were relying heavily on e-mail to communicate with their new colleagues."

*Meanwhile, automakers are worried about Obama's new environmental mandates. "One concern automakers have with states regulating tailpipe emissions is that keeping up with a hodgepodge of standards would be difficult. They expressed support Monday for the ideal of cutting emissions but want their engineers to be concerned with meeting just one set of requirements nationally."

**Economic Stimulus
*The Congressional Budget Office released its report on the Democrats' stimulus bill, stating that it would produce a "noticeable impact on economic growth and employment," the Washington Post reports. "That would fall short of President Obama's goal of pushing at least 75 percent of the cash out the door over the next 19 months to create millions of jobs and ease the effects of what many economists say will be the longest, deepest and most painful recession since the Great Depression."

*The Hill calls today "high noon" for the stimulus. "Republicans are expected to press the president strongly on the stimulus bill, and if the meeting becomes tense, it would quickly remind voters that partisanship in the nation's capital - despite Obama's vow to reduce it - is alive and well. There are risks for Republicans as well. If they are highly critical of the popular president, Democrats could portray them as childish."

*L.A. Times: "Whether or not he picks up support from Republican lawmakers, Obama has already accomplished one important aim: He is winning over more Republican voters than he did on election day. If that continues, the president's hand could get stronger on Capitol Hill."

*The AP reports that family planning funding will likely be dropped from the stimulus bill.

*The Obama administration is insisting it wants no earmarks in the stimulus. "We don¹t want any room for Republicans or Democrats to put earmarks in - even to worthy projects," said a West Wing aide.

**Congress
*Democratic lawmakers from the Midwest and Plains states, which are heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing "have banded together to fight legislation they think might further damage their economies."

*House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers subpoenas Karl Rove again.
"Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it," Mr.
Conyers said. "After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk."

**Interesting Revelation of the Day: The "17-year conference call" ­-- Bill Clinton alums chat each morning, John Harris reports. James Carville, Rahm Emanuel, George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala manage to hold the daily chat "about what's happening, what the implications are of what's happening and what's going on," said Emanuel.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Off To A Good Start

Good Monday morning, the first day of Super Bowl week. The administration begins its second week with a high approval rating and an economic stimulus package quickly making its way through Congress.

**President Obama
*Obama's first approval rating came in over the weekend. Taken over the first three days of his presidency, 68% said they approved of the job Obama is doing, according to Gallup. That number places him in a tie for second among the last eight presidents -- trailing only JFK. Gallup reports this morning that Obama's approval rating is up to 69%.

*Obama "plans to instruct key federal agencies today to reexamine two policies that could force automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars that yield fewer greenhouse gas emissions," Washington Post reports.

New York Times' Green Inc. blog: "Barack Obama has been talking about the need for higher fuel-economy standards for the past five years. And now Detroit can see that he means it."

*Mark Leibovich has a good profile of the new White House chief of staff. "At a White House gathering with Mr. Obama and a bipartisan team of lawmakers on Friday, the House majority leader, Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, joked that Mr. Emanuel was too busy to talk to him, so he called the president instead. In meetings, it is not uncommon for Mr. Obama and Mr. Emanuel to engage in teasing banter."

*The New York Times also reports that Obama's new "Democracy for America" could be a way in which the administration bypasses traditional media to get its message to the public. "The most prominent example of the new strategy is his weekly address to the nation what under previous presidents was a speech recorded for and released to radio stations on Saturday mornings."

**Economic Stimulus plans
*Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown tells Democrats and Republicans how to sell a stimulus. Both parties have spent the last few weeks dropping buzz words that help their side of the argument. "Even the title of his economic package is a gem of opinion-gathering precision: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, which mixes buzzwords and policy goals that scored best in polling on the crisis."

*House Minority Leader John Boehner said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that he and he and "a lot of Republicans will vote no because they see this as a lot of wasteful Washington spending padding the bureaucracy and doing nothing to create jobs and save jobs." Here is the video.

*John McCain stated his opposition to the stimulus as well, calling for "major rewrites" of the plan. He was also critical of other early moves by the Obama administration.

Larry Summers and Vice President Biden carried the torch for the administration. Biden said Republican ideas have been incorporated and predicted a strong bipartisan vote. Summers warned that the coming months are "going to be very, very difficult," but said the package was sized properly.

*Obama talked stimulus as well, using his weekly radio address to sell the plan. Watch the video here.

**Campaign Stuff
*This is interesting booking. Virginia Democrats have a competitive primary on their hand in the governor¹s race, which of course includes Terry McAuliffe. Who will speak at the party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner next month? Bill Clinton.

*It's early, but trends show that fundraising is in sharp decline for Democrats. "The good news for the Democrats? They're not the Republicans," Politico writes.

*Sen. Russ Feingold is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to end the practice of filling Senate vacancies by gubernatorial appointments. He calls special elections the "democratic approach." "People have seen this as a spectacle and it's not very attractive," he said of recent attempts to fill vacancies.

**Blago Alert: Gov. Rod Blagojevich's impeachment trial begins today, but it's his TV blitz getting the most attention. "I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi, and tried to put some perspective in all of this, and that's what I am doing now," he said of the idea he would go to jail.

**Sports Alert: It's Super Bowl week, and we're excited about the prospects for a good game. Sports Illustrated's Peter King is "dizzy from all the connections between" the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are still favored by 7 points with six days to go.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Murtha In Trouble?

Good Friday morning. After 30,000 interviews last year, Gallup finds that an average of 36% of Americans identified themselves as Democrats and 28% as Republicans. The 8-point gap is the largest since Gallup began regular phone interviews in 1988.

**Top News: New York Gov. David Paterson has selected Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate, the New York Times reports. Gillibrand, a second-term congresswoman, represents upstate New York.

**President Obama
*President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House this morning. The topic of discussion is the economy and the economic stimulus package Democratic leaders hope to have ready for the president by Feb. 13, when Congress is scheduled to recess. However, Republicans are upset that they've been left out of the crafting of the bill, which House Democrats are currently rushing through committee markups so it will be ready for a vote by the middle of next week.

*Obama will also meet with Treasury-designee Tim Geithner, and have lunch and meet on the budget with Biden.

*National Journal's Stuart Taylor sees a promising start for Obama's administration, partly due to his national security and economic cabinet choices: "I worried in a pre-election column that Obama's down-the-line liberal voting record and associations with some extremists did not give a centrist like me much confidence that he would "resist pressure from Democratic interest groups, ideologues, and congressional leaders to steer hard to the left." But since then he has done much to fulfill the hope expressed in that same column that he might prove to be "the pragmatic, consensus-building, inspirational Obama who has been on display during the general election campaign."

*A day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Obama will issue an executive order to restore funding for family planning groups involved with abortion.

*Washington Post: "With the stroke of his pen, [Obama] effectively declared an end to the 'war on terror,' as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless."

*The big issue with Gitmo: where do the detainees go. Among the options, per USA Today: "transfer them to other countries or try them in court. About 525 detainees have been sent elsewhere, but a few nations, such as Germany, have balked. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Obama's inauguration has made some European nations more willing to cooperate."

*NY Times speculates that the appointment of high-level envoys, Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, to global hot spots "could pose a challenge to Mrs. Clinton as she seeks to carve out her place as the nation's chief diplomat. Each was once viewed as a potential secretary of state, and Mr. Holbrooke, in particular, will have a wide-ranging portfolio."

*Helen Thomas' review of Robert Gibbs: "He acted like a pro. He dodges like every other one. But it's only the second day. We'll give him a little slack."

**Congress
*Lots of back and forth between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate about the economic stimulus bill. See our write-up on what happened on the House side yesterday, and Washington Post's overview of the situation.

*"Federal agents raided two small Pennsylvania defense contractors that were given millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress," the Wall Street Journal reports. A federal official said ties to lawmakers would be part of the probe.

**Inauguration Leftovers:
*According to National Journal's Political Insiders Poll, Democratic members of Congress gave Obama an average grade of B+ for his inaugural address, and Republicans gave him a B.

*How's this for bizarre: the musical interlude at the inauguration was piped in, not live. "Truly, weather just made it impossible," Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said. "No one's trying to fool anybody. This isn't a matter of Milli Vanilli."

**Campaign Leftovers
*Mac is back? Washington Post writes about the Arizona senator's "maverick" persona returning. "In the weeks after his loss to Obama in November, McCain kept a low profile. He often cut a lonely figure as he walked from his office to the Senate floor for votes, fending off reporters with a clipped, 'Not now.' This week, McCain appeared to be loosening up."

*Gov. Sarah Palin gave her state-of-the-state address last night. She announced a hiring freeze, talked national gas pipeline and wants to build a road to Nome. And, she hinted at her run: "Alaska, as a statewide family, we've got to fight for each other, not against, and not let external, sensationalized distractions out there on the periphery draw us off course," she said.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Oath, Take Two

Good Thursday morning. President Obama took the oath of office again yesterday, allaying any doubts that he may legally be president.

**Top News: Caroline Kennedy has decided she no longer wants the New York Senate seat, the AP reported late last night. Recent reports indicated that Kennedy had been Gov. David Paterson's choice all along. She would have, of course, been a legacy to the seat, which her uncle Robert once held.

A bit of confusion ensued when, one hour after reporting Kennedy was out of the race, the AP came out with a follow-up story that she was back in. However, Kennedy released a one-sentence statement early this morning that she was indeed withdrawing her name from consideration.

**President Obama
*Obama is expected to begin his presidency with a job approval rating well above 50%. This will continue the streak of presidents who have begun their first terms with ratings above that mark, Gallup reports. Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has received a 50%+ initial approval rating.

*Hillary Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state by the Senate yesterday, on a 94-2 vote, with Senators Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and David Vitter (R-La.) the two detractors.

*D.C. is reporting that 1.8 million people were on the National Mall Jan. 20 to watch Obama's inauguration, the Washington Post reports. As expected, others estimate it was much smaller. But those of us who were there sure believe it.

*The official statement from White House counsel Greg Craig, on the reasoning behind Obama taking the oath of office for a second time: "We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the President was sworn in appropriately yesterday. But the oath appears in the Constitution itself. And out of an abundance of caution, because there was one word out of sequence, Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath a second time."

*Today's the day Obama will sign executive orders to shut down Gitmo and direct the CIA to shut down its secret network of prisons and end coercive interrogation techniques.

Washington Post: "The actions are dramatic evidence that Obama is ready to use his authority and political capital to turn back some of the most controversial practices of George W. Bush's administration. They also suggest that he believes he needs to push quickly for broad changes."

*Hillary Clinton is now secretary of state, having been sworn in at her Senate office, former President Clinton at her side. She and Obama will meet at the State Department today, and address staff.

*WaPo's Anne Kornblut looks at the frustration of the high-tech Obama staffers entering a low-tech White House. Former Bush staffer David Almacy: "The White House itself is an institution that transitions regardless of who the president is. The White House is not starting from scratch. Processes are already in place."

*Politico reports that Obama will get to work on his health care plan in late winter or early spring by convening a "working session" on reform.

*The president signed executive orders on ethics yesterday. But The Hill reports that K Street is bracing for "a bonanza" because of the push of legislation.

*NBC News's Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd wondered this morning whether Obama will need to re-sign the executive orders he signed yesterday due to the oath re-do.

**Congress
*The House passed -- on a 260-166 vote -- new rules on the TARP funds, after last week releasing the second half of the $700 billion bailout.

*While Clinton was confirmed yesterday, Republicans have delayed the votes on Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner and Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. A vote on Geithner could come as early as today, while Holder will have to wait until next week, the Baltimore Sun reports.

**Sports Alert: Virginia Tech upset No. 1 Wake Forest in an ACC basketball matchup last night. It was the Demon Deacons' first loss of the season. Go Hokies.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: First Full Day On The Job

Good Wednesday morning, America. And Happy Day Two, officially, President Barack Obama. After a long night and surely an early morning, the country is watching to see what the new president does on his first day on the job.

**Inauguration
*Be sure to check out our Inauguration Notebook, pictures from our seat on the Capitol's west lawn and a write-up on Obama's speech.

*Most Inauguration commenters have noted that the most amazing thing from yesterday was the never-ending crowd along the National Mall.

*Peggy Noonan calls the inaugural a "subdued, moderate speech both in tone and content, a serious and solid speech."

*Corn Alert: We were cold yesterday, but when 2 million people fell completely silent as the new president spoke from the inaugural podium, the shivers went away.

*Ted Kennedy should be released today after suffering a seizure at yesterday's luncheon. Doctors said it was probably "simple fatigue."

*Spotted At The Ceremony: Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon pushing their way through a security gate line (Carey took an elbow from someone who only later realized who it was -- "Did I just elbow Mariah Carey?"; Cannon, to upset people in line: "She's gotta sing! What, do you want to sing for her?"); Former Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean in a gray and white fur coat; Vanessa Williams, with huge sunglasses on.

*The Obama girls apparently had a scavenger hunt instead of heading out to the balls. It ended with a surprise visit by the Jonas Brothers.

*Major Newspaper Headlines (You can see them all at the Newseum website)
Washington Post: Obama Takes Charge
New York Times: After a Day of Crowds and Celebration, Obama Turns to Sober List of Challenges
Los Angeles Times: Obama Era Begins
Wall Street Journal: President Barack Obama
Chicago Tribune: Barack Obama's Inauguration: Amid Bleak Times, A Bright Day for U.S.
Boston Globe: Obama: 'The Time Has Come'

**President Obama
*Obama wasted no time, apparently. Shortly after being sworn in, "the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration," the Washington Post reports.

*A Gallup poll out this morning finds that 45% of Americans think Obama should not close Gitmo, while 35% think he should and 20% aren't sure.

*ABC News reports that though the Obamas didn't make it home until about 1 a.m. ET, the lights were on in their living quarters before 8 a.m. Jake Tapper also notes that Obama will hold an early-afternoon event at the White House "in which he will issue presidential declarations and executive orders dealing with ethics and openness and the way he wants his White House and administration to operate."

*Six Cabinet secretaries were confirmed unanimously yesterday. Hillary Clinton's nomination will be voted on today. Meanwhile, Timothy Geithner will finally face his hearing at the Senate Finance Committee. WSJ: "Geithner will likely be grilled over his tax missteps and his role in helping to craft the Bush administration's financial-sector rescue. But senators' seeming reluctance to derail his confirmation while the economy is sputtering and the lending freeze is worsening makes it likely he will be confirmed for the cabinet post."

*Obama talked to Robin Roberts at one of last night's balls. "Government is going to work, we're going to make it work," Obama said. "But it's ultimately the American people coming together that is going to determine what we accomplish and how we get through some very difficult challenges." He said that today he'd be "making a series of announcements on both domestic and foreign policy that I think will be critical for us to act swiftly on. We¹re not going to be able to delay." As for the oath flubbing: "We were up there, we've got a lot of stuff on our minds. He actually, I think, helped me out on a couple of stanzas there. Overall, I think it went relatively smoothly and I'm very grateful to him."

*White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was one of the first to head to work yesterday, chatting with some of the reporters there.

*Check out these old photos of Obama from a college roommate. He says he wanted to share memories of Obama now that he's president. "When they lived together, Mr. Boerner said he thought Mr. Obama wanted to be a writer, not a politician."

*A great picture of the note waiting for President Obama from former President Bush ­ in a manilla envelope with a Post-it for "44."

**Former President Bush, after returning to Texas: "I'm coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment. Even among the most difficult days of my presidency, I was always optimistic about the future."

**Blago Alert: As Obama was sworn in, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was fingerprinted again. Chicago Tribune also reports that he failed to respond to the impeachment charges against him by the 4 pm deadline, so he'll be considered to have entered a "not guilty" plea.

**Sports/Politics Alert:: President Bush did not pardon pitcher Roger Clemens, whom a federal grand jury may indict, the New York Daily News reports. "Despite Clemens' ties to the Bush family, Washington insiders said in recent weeks that a pardon was unlikely. One reason revolved around race."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Bush's Last Day

Good Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Washington is flooded with people right now with just 27 more hours until Barack Obama is sworn in as president. And for John McCain and the Arizona Cardinals, just 13 days until Super Bowl XLIII! The latest forecast has the temperature between 25 and 30 degrees tomorrow during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony. The Tampa, Fla., Super Bowl will be far warmer.

**Inauguration
*At yesterday's opening concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, "more than 400,000 people filled the western end of the Mall for the official start of a three-day jubilee of prayers, parades and parties," the Washington Post writes. Politics Nation spies spotted people climbing trees to get a better view of the stage -- a big no-no on the Mall, but with so many people police didn't do a thing about it.

*Obama, at the Lincoln: "But despite all of this - despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead - I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure - that the dream of our founders will live on in our time." Sounds like a line from an inaugural address. We'll see tomorrow how many lines he's been testing on us over the last few days.

*The line from Obama's speech that seems to jump out of most headlines: "I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time... For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith ‹ a faith that anything is possible in America."

David Axelrod hinted yesterday that Obama's inaugural address will be centered around the concept of personal responsibility. "One thing about Barack Obama, his themes have been consistent not just through this campaign, but through his public life," he told George Stephanopoulos. "From his convention speech in 2004 through today. So I don't think you're going to be surprised by what you hear."

*People are coming to Washington to witness this historic moment in the country's history. And according to Gallup, "78% of Americans see Barack Obama's presidential election as at least one of the most historic the nation has had, including 33% who consider it the most historic ever."

*Party Alert: Places to read about the parties: WaPo's Celebritology, Politico's Shenanigans, and Fishbowl DC.

**President Bush has no public events scheduled for his last full day in the White House. President-elect Obama will have lunch with community service volunteers, then attend the kids inaugural at the Verizon Center. Tonight the new president will fete his vice president, as well as John McCain and Colin Powell at three "bipartisan" dinners.

**The Transition
*The Obamas attended services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of the city's oldest historically black churches. The Obama inaugural committee said he will continue visiting local houses of worship as he searches for a new parish. From one of the readings: "Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King Jr. could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Barack Obama could run. Barack Obama ran so that all children can fly."

*Mike Allen says that some Obama White House staffers expect to be on site within hours of the inauguration. "Day One," on Wednesday, could see a host of executive orders and meetings with top economic and military advisers.

*Before his train tour on Saturday, Obama announced that his 13-million strong "Obama for America" e-mail network will be put to work for the DNC as "Organizing for America."

*Those who show up in the White House will just have to live without IM.

*But Bush staffers promise their keyboards will have the letter "o."

*Nancy Pelosi tried to force Obama's hand on raising taxes on the wealthy and other issues he has been "reluctant" to address. She also told Fox News Sunday she thought there ought to be some investigations into Bush administration practices. "I think that we have to learn from the past, and we cannot let the politicizing of the -- for example, the Justice Department -- to go unreviewed," she said.

**An Obama official seems to lean on Gov. David Paterson to choose Caroline Kennedy this morning. "We can't follow the logic in his process. We want Caroline. We won't indicate disappointment with where he ends up."

**The AP reports that Virginia's gubernatorial candidates are finding it difficult to raise campaign funds in this economic climate.

**On a serious note, the military is seeing increased recruitment as many are unable to find work elewhere, the New York Times reports.

**Sports Alert: Congrats to the Steelers and Cardinals, who won their respective conference championships yesterday and will meet at the Super Bowl in Tampa two weeks from yesterday. Redskins fans certainly noticed something during the Cardinals-Eagles NFC Championship game that shouldn't have felt good: the Skins beat those two teams a total of three times this year. Sure, the Steelers stomped them on national television, but still.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Not Since Brad Pitt

Good Friday, Washington. Today is really the calm before the inaugural storm.

President Bush flies to Camp David; the final press briefing by Dana Perino is today. President-elect Obama flies to Ohio for an event to push his stimulus plan. Vice President-elect Biden will watch his former aide Ted Kaufman take his Senate seat.

The inaugural festivities begin in earnest tomorrow with Obama's whistle-stop train tour from Philadelphia to Washington.

** Obama Interviews
*The Washington Post headlines its interview with the President-elect with his pledge to reform Social Security. "That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a 'fiscal responsibility summit.'" "What we have done is kicked this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further," he said. "We have to signal seriousness in this by making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch, not someone else's."

* Washington Post's Howard Kurtz: "There hasn't been this much excitement in the Washington Post newsroom since Brad Pitt dropped by."
Washington Post editorial: "Pragmatist in chief."

* USA Today leads with foreign policy after its interview, with Obama pledging to appoint a team to address the Gaza crisis immediately after his inauguration. On his inaugural speech: He said he had finished "a good, solid draft" last weekend although he might still do some "tinkering" on it.

* He explains his trip to Ohio today as saying he needs to continue rallying the American people behind his agenda. "I wouldn't have won without our ability to organize ordinary people. We want that to continue. That's important not just for winning elections, but it's important for governing. In some ways, it may be more important for governing. It's also important for holding me accountable."

** Transition News
* The New York Times rounds up some of the challenges Obama has faced as his transition winds down, which the team naturally discounts. "We're sitting at 71 percent job approval in the midst of the worst economic crisis," said Rahm Emanuel. "That's one measure of performance, not Washington talk."

* Obama is getting some credit for sealing the TARP vote yesterday. But conservatives, including Dick Armey, are planning to raise constitutional questions over the plan in court.

** Inaugural News
* Philadelphians are disappointed that Obama's train tour doesn't include an open event in the City of Brotherly Love.

* Beau Biden is using personal leave time and has returned from Iraq to witness his father's inauguration. "I'm excited about it," Joe Biden told the Wilmington News Journal. "I wish he were home, and not at the Pentagon all day. But he's here."

* Not going? Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL).

** Congress
* The Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus plan. But Appropriations Committee chair David Obey (D-WI) warns it may not be enough.

* The Minneapolis Star Tribune (which filed for bankruptcy yesterday) reports that the Senate is letting Norm Coleman keep his office open.

* Congress is upping its allowance members can spend "representing their constituents," Roll Call reports.

** Campaign News
* Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) proposed business tax cuts to close a budget deficit. And this is his 2012 primary-themed rationale: "In Washington, they're sending billions of dollars to Wall Street,'' Pawlenty said. "Here in Minnesota, I want us committed to helping Main Street.''

* Michael Bloomberg's re-election campaign is officially open for business.

* In Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell has raised more than $2 million for his gubernatorial bid. Terry McAuliffe has raised under a million, with the other Democrats trailing behind.

* In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley is launching a push to eliminate the death penalty. "I'm going to lobby people on the merits of the issue," said O'Malley, Catholic. "I just feel personally compelled to try."

Strategy Memo: Hearing Problems

Good Wednesday morning. You know your presidency is coming to a close when Gallup ends its approval rating polling of you. And by the way, it feels like Obama brought more than we thought with him when he moved to D.C. We're getting a dose of Chicago weather in the run-up to Inauguration Day.

**Outgoing President
*President Bush ends his presidency with a slight uptick in his Gallup approval rating (not that he cares about polls), shooting above the 30% mark for only the third-worst final rating of any president since World War II. Despite the relatively positive bump to 34% approval, his 61% disapproval rating is surpassed by only Richard Nixon.

*Today Pres. Bush has no public events. President-elect Obama will be briefed by VP-elect Biden on his Asia tour; the two will then meet with the Supreme Court.

*None other than Bob Woodward reports that a Bush administration official overseeing Guantanamo Bay detainees has concluded that at least one was tortured.

**Congress News
*Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that Congress is "making great progress and that we fully intend to meet our deadline of having a package passed and signed into law" before the President's Day recess. She noted, as she has previously, that "if we are not finished, we are not leaving" for the scheduled recess.

*Up for consideration today is the SCHIP reauthorization bill that aims to pay for health insurance for 11 million American children. Bush vetoed a similar bill in October 2007, and two weeks later the House failed to override his veto by coming 13 votes short of a two-thirds majority. According to the Speaker's office, the bill is completely paid for by a 61-cent raise in the tobacco tax, as well as by restricting self-referral to physician-owned hospitals.

*Tom Vilsack (Agriculture), Eric Shinseki (Veterans Affairs) and Lisa Jackson (EPA) face the Senate today for their confirmation hearings.

**Obama Transition News
*The late buzz was the reported dinner party last night that Obama attended at the home of conservative columnist George Will. Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and David Brooks were also on the guest list, according to a pool report. The transition won't confirm anything but to say it was off the record.

The pool reporter suggested bloggers would not like it, but liberal blogger-in-chief Kos writes: "Let him try to work his charm with that crowd. There's little downside."

*Two senior Republicans are endorsing Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner despite problems with taxes and the immigration status of a temporary housekeeper. The Obama vetting team apparently found the tax problems in November, and emphasized that they were common mistakes.

*Amazing how little came out of the Hillary Clinton confirmation hearings. Headlines this morning focus on "smart power," Iran and some of the back-and-forth over Clinton Foundation donations. Rather than "advise and consent," Dana Milbank thinks the senators took an "admire and congratulate" approach.

Meanwhile, "Arne Duncan's Senate confirmation hearing to be education secretary was as much of a kumbaya moment as any appointee to Barack Obama's Cabinet is likely to see."

*The outgoing and incoming White house chiefs of staff met again yesterday, with Rahm Emanuel gushing about the "unprecedented" cooperation from the Bush team. "I'm going [to] miss you," he said to counterpart Bolten.

*The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, and the transition office confirms, that Obama will stop in Bedford Heights, Ohio, on Friday, leading up to his train tour.

*Federal agents tell the NY Daily News that they're on heightened alert because of racist chatter, though there are no credible threats.

*Steve Rattner will be Obama's "Car Czar," according to the New York Times.

**Blago Alert: "I think it's going to be eerie." That's how IL state Sen. Susan Garrett describes today's peculiarity that Gov. Rod Blagojevich will swear in a state Senate that will soon try his impeachment.

**Campaign-ish News
*Via Drudge, WCBS in New York reports that Caroline Kennedy hopes to bring Obama to New York next year, when she and Gov. David Paterson --­ who would appoint Kennedy ­-- are on the ballot.

*Former Rep. and U.S. Trade Rep. Rob Portman will travel the state next week to discuss his interest in the open U.S. Senate seat.

*The nephew of MS Gov. and former RNC chair Haley Barbour has endorsed SC GOP chair Katon Dawson.

*Mike Huckabee, who's been oh so active, takes some shots at Palin in an interview with Esquire. "I must say I did not think that either the Charlie Gibson interview or the Katie Couric interviews were unfair," says Huckabee.
"In fact, if anything, Katie Couric was extraordinarily gentle, even helpful. [Palin] just...I don't know what happened. I can't explain it. It was not a good interview. I'm being charitable."

**Sports Alert: Kentucky shooting guard Jodie Meeks stroked 54 points last night in Kentucky's mauling of rival Tennessee, setting a school record and accounting for 60% of his team's total points. This comes one month after he dropped 46 points on a team and with him averaging 26 on the season. Washington Wizards brass, are you paying attention?

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Inauguration Countdown

Good Tuesday morning. One week from today, the United States will swear in its 44th president. RCP will be there, bundled up with everyone else. According to Weather.com's 10-day forecast, it should be sunny and cold on the west front of the Capitol, though above freezing.

***Today Pres. Bush will hold his final Cabinet meeting, and then award the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pres.-elect Obama will meet with Senate Democrats over lunch on Capitol Hill.

**Roland Burris is now the senator-designate from Illinois, as Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Dick Durbin announced in a statement yesterday. The former attorney general's credentials were approved yesterday by the Secretary of the Senate.

"We have spoken to Mr. Burris to let him know that he is now the Senator-designate from Illinois and as such, will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a Senator-elect," said Reid and Durbin. "Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week. We are working with him and the office of the Vice President to determine the date and time of the swearing-in."

**Hillary Clinton back on the Hill
*The big show is Sen. Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing at the Foreign Relations Committee. It's one of four confirmation hearings today.

*CNN lists some of the talking points for Sen. Clinton. She'll stress "a renewal of American leadership" and a "revitalization of diplomacy to promote our security interests and advance our values."

*Just in time, the AP reports that Clinton "intervened at least six times in government issues directly affecting companies and others that later contributed to her husband's foundation."

**Obama and Transition News
*Obama plans to issue an executive order closing Guantanamo on his first full day in office. But experts say it could take as much as a year to actually shut it down.

*He plans to drop a $3,000-per-job-created tax credit, with fellow Democrats warning it was ripe for abuse.

*This morning, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said Obama's stimulus plan could give a "significant boost" to the economy, but that other steps are needed.

*ABC News reports that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be in DC speaking at Howard Univ.

*The Chicago Tribune has a nice piece on David Axelrod, who spoke at a Chicago venue where his disabled daughter, Lauren, lives. He gave some insights into campaign moments, like after tough defeats in Texas and Ohio last March. "As he was leaving, he turned around and said, 'I want you to know that I'm not yelling at you guys.' He took a few more steps and turned around and said, 'After blowing $20 million in two weeks, I could yell at you, but I'm not yelling at you.' You know what, had he yelled at us it would not have been nearly as effective." On reading Obama's draft of the race speech: "I read this beautiful, moving speech and I messaged him back and said, 'This is why you should be president.'" On the general: "After the first debate we had with John McCain, this race in many ways was over as far as we were concerned from a polling standpoint," he said. "We really gained steadily after that."

*Speaking of Texas, David Plouffe tells the Washington Post that he mishandled the March 4 primaries. "I think if we focused more on Texas, we might've been able to win the primary. And the price of that was that the primary went on for another three months."

*Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) predicts that Obama will get 65-70 votes for his health care reform

**Blago Alert: New York Times has some of the bizarre theater at state government offices in Chicago, where everyone laments Blago's persistence.

**Campaign News
*Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2010, adding yet another GOP seat to the vulnerable category. The two-term senator is the fourth Republican so far this cycle to announce his retirement -- Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida, Kit Bond of Missouri and Sam Brownback of Kansas preceded him.

Brownback's seat should be safe for Republicans, but Florida, Missouri and Ohio are all competitive states for Democrats. In 2006, Ohio elected Democrats by double-digit margins for governor and senator; in 2008, Obama won the state by 4 points, and Democrats picked up three House seats, giving them control of 10 of the state's 18 House seats.

Former Rep. Rob Portman (R) is already moving toward a bid, The Fix reports, while the Democratic field is still unclear.

*Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) is throwing his hat in the ring for the state's open-seat race for Senate. Meek was an active HRC backer in the Democratic primaries. His entry comes as many in the state wait to see what CFO Alex Sink decides. Sink is the only Democrat in statewide office.

*Hardly high praise from Gov. Paterson on Caroline Kennedy, whom he met with this weekend. "She didn't eliminate herself in the meeting," he said.

*An interesting nugget in Ohio, where the state GOP chairman endorses incumbent Mike Duncan, and not his party's last gubernatorial nominee, Ken Blackwell. It should be pointed out, though, that the two clashed often, with Bennett saying during the 2006 election that Blackwell was "burning down the house" to win the primary.

**Sports Alert: Gov. Ed Rendell, we all know, will be rooting for the Eagles even in a potential Super Bowl versus the Steelers. And he warns about Pennsylvanians flooding Florida. "Governor Crist is a friend of mine, so I will offer to send the Pennsylvania National Guard down to help."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Skin in the game

Good morning, Washington. Obama really seemed to be making this town his home this weekend, touring the Lincoln Memorial with his family and stopping by Ben's Chili Bowl. He also told ABC's Stephanopoulos that he hopes to bridge the two Washingtons, the "company town" tied to the levers of government and those who he said struggled each day to get by.

Meanwhile, an Obama stand-in was sworn in as president yesterday.

Today, Obama meets with Mexico President Felipe Calderon. Pres. Bush will hold a press conference at 9:15 am, likely his final one in office. Both 43 and 44 will "tag team" Congress to request the final $350 billion in TARP funds. Team Obama plans to would "sell the plan by laying out a series of changes in how the program is run," AP reports.

On "This Week," Obama said that for a long-term economic fix, all Americans will have to sacrifice. "Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game," Obama said.

He also said he won't close Gitmo in the first 100 days, and wouldn't likely seek to prosecute abuses in the Bush administration. "My instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn't mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation's going to be to move forward."

Chuck Todd noted on NBC this morning that today was supposed to be the day a stimulus bill landed on Capitol Hill. Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has news that the death tax will live on, with lawmakers seeking to freeze it at current levels rather than letting it expire.

David Broder had harsh words for the president-elect this weekend, focusing on his reversal on the Burris matter and some of the brushback pitches fellow Democrats have thrown. The venerable reporter writes: "Obama justifiably figured that Burris was not worth a knockdown fight when he has so many bigger battles ahead of him. But the lesson that other politicians have drawn is that Obama may not always be able to count on his congressional allies and they may not be able to count on him. That is not the way he wanted to begin."

Chicago Tribune: "Some clashes could be the inevitable stumbles of a new relationship. Others may reflect contending visions of how to do business, involving basic differences between the Obama viewpoint and what the president-elect refers to as the Washington 'way.'"

Yes, Lincoln seems to be a focus for the president-elect, but the New York Times reports today that it's FDR who Obama is modeling his first 100 days over. Obama "in particular had seized on the notion of Roosevelt having a "conversation with the American public" to try to prepare it for a difficult time. He has, aides said, even looked at the words Roosevelt used and the tone he struck."

Jake Tapper posts a rough translation of the interview Barack and Michelle Obama did in 1996, before he was even a state senator. It was a conversation about their marriage, but he also discusses his potential interest in politics. "My priority is to return social values to public debate, because we are all one big family, transcending racial or class differences. We have obligations and responsibilities towards one another." He says, "perhaps that's where the private and public spheres meet, when it comes to couples, relationships, families or tribes. What's important is empathy, an understanding of shared responsibilities, the ability to put yourself in other people's shoes.

John McCain will be honored at a pre-inaugural dinner, as will Biden and Colin Powell.

Fox had some interesting nuggets from an interview from both Presidents Bush. The current president talked abut pressure from his own party to soften on Iraq. "I didn't -- I didn't compromise that principle for the sake of trying to, you know, bail out my political party, for example."

No coverage of the Golden Globes here, but the New York Times looks at how Hollywood is clamoring to be part of the inauguration. Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and Sharon Stone are among the celebs who coughed up $50,000 to the inaugural committee, earning them four tickets.

VP-elect Joe Biden's overseas trip continued this weekend with a "surprise visit" to Afghanistan, specifically a Taliban stronghold. According to a statement from NATO, Biden will end his trip with a visit to Iraq. His son, Beau, is currently deployed there.

Politico has some insight on Hillary Clinton's preparations for her confirmation hearing tomorrow. She's "intent on downplaying old disagreements with Barack Obama and parrying questions about her husband's overseas entanglements, aides say." An aide: This is the re-emergence of the non-political Hillary. The most discomfort is where she and Obama disagree -- the 'you're naive' stuff. She can't show up the president, she can't appear like she's trying to formulate her own foreign policy."

Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday that Roland Burris could finally be seated this week. Senate Democrats spent a half hour considering the matter on Sunday, leaving Obama economic adviser Larry Summers "cooling his heels" in the halls.

Howard Kurtz writes that the White House press corps lacks diversity. On Saturday, Adam Nagourney wrote about the RNC chairmanship race and the potential choice by party members of a black leader. "There certainly is an advantage of a credible message of inclusion if you have a minority as chairman," said Florida GOP chair Jim Greer, who endorsed Michael Steele last week.

Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the retirement of Sen. George Voinovich, and lists some potential candidates for the 2010 open-seat race. Democratic speculation includes Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Rep. Tim Ryan. On the Republican side, former Reps. Rob Portman and John Kasich, as well as Auditor Mary Taylor. Taylor is currently the only Republican statewide officeholder; Democrats won both the governor's office and the other U.S. Senate seat in 2006. This fall, Democrats also took control of the state House of Representatives.

In case there was any doubt, Joe Scarborough does not want to be Florida's next Senator. "I'll let Chris Matthews be the only MSNBC person focused on the Senate," he said.

Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy finally had her interview with Gov. David Paterson for the Senate appointment. "Insiders expected Paterson would likely ask why she thinks she's right for the job, about her poorly-received rollout and whether she is prepared to run statewide in 2010 and then again in 2012."

Interesting tidbit: the National Conference on State Legislatures can't find many state officials who've been impeached.

Strategy Memo: President-Elect, Officially

Good (TGI) Friday morning. Barack Obama and Joe Biden officially became prez- and vice prez-elect yesterday, as VP Dick Cheney announced the official Electoral College vote tallies during a joint session of Congress.

**Economic Recovery News
*Wonder if President-elect Obama expected to be facing so much trouble from his own party this week. The latest clash comes over Obama's economic recovery plan, with several key Senate Dems going on record with their concerns. Per the New York Times, "Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation's energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes." David Axelrod downplays it, however, saying: "These folks are not potted plants. They're elected officials, and they're doing their jobs."

*In National Journal's Congressional Insiders Poll, Democratic members rate infrastructure spending as the most effective way to stimulate the economy, while Republican members say tax cuts for businesses is the best way.

*Treasury Secretary-designee Timothy Geithner and other members of Obama's economic team "are urgently overhauling the embattled" $700 billion Wall Street bailout. "Much of the work by Obama's team has focused on establishing principles that would clearly define the program's course and the conditions of government aid to financial firms," the Washington Post reports.

**Transition News
*This morning Obama is expected to officially announce Leon Panetta as his choice for CIA director and other key intelligence posts. He¹s also expected to take questions at the press conference in his transition offices (several reporters bristled when he did not do so yesterday at the announcement of Tim Kaine as DNC chair).

*CIA veteran John Brennan will be tapped as Obama's top adviser on counterterrorism, according to the Washington Post.

*Later, Colin Powell will speak at a press conference hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee "about President-elect Obama's call to national service."

*Politico reports that Howard Dean's absence from yesterday's DNC announcement was no accident, and the story quotes several unhappy Dean allies who think he's not being paid his due by the incoming Obama team.

*Today, Rep. Hilda Solis will have her confirmation hearing for Labor Secretary.

**Blago Watch: The Illinois House Investigations Committee unanimously recommended impeaching Gov. Rod Blagojevich yesterday, ³paving the way² for an impeachment vote by the full house today, according to the Chicago Tribune.

**Biden News: Vice President-elect Joe Biden concluded a visit to Kuwait, according to his Senate office. The CoDel lost several members and now just includes Biden and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who was one of John McCain¹s most loyal surrogates in 2008, and coined the phrase ³Joe the Biden² during the campaign.

*Meanwhile, check out this quote from Karl Rove on Biden's trip: "This is a time when he ought to be preparing to become vice president of the United States. It's almost as if he wanted to get a jump, or a leg up, if you will, on Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton."

**Campaign News
*Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) announced yesterday from the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2010. Before coming to the Senate in 1986 -- the same year as John McCain and Harry Reid -- Bond served two non-consecutive terms as governor.

Marc Ambinder reports on who may run for the seat: For the GOP, Rep. Roy Blunt, former Sen. Jim Talent and former Rep. Kenny Hulshof (who lost the 2008 governor race); for the Dems, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and Attorney General Chris Koster.

Missouri Trivia: If history is any indicator (and it probably isn't), Hulshof will be the next senator of Missouri. The last two losers in the race for governor have gone on to serve in the Senate: Talent lost the 2000 race and two years later won a special election to the Senate; Sen. Claire McCaskill lost the 2004 race and knocked Talent out of his seat in 2006. The problem for Hulshof is that he lost the race for governor by 19 points, which may give Republican primary voters pause when deciding their nominee.

*In the "race" to be appointed to the NY Senate, ABC News catches Gov.
David Paterson admitting that Caroline Kennedy "has pluses and minuses." He plans to speak with 10 candidates, but hasn't met in person with Kennedy yet.

*Catching up on some of the key races in 2009: Terry McAuliffe is off and running for Virginia governor, with his kick-off tour hitting southern Virginia yesterday. In Bristol, he said: "I promise you, I'll create more jobs than 49 other governors or I'll consider myself a failure," he said. Meanwhile, Brian Moran finished up his "Virginia Values Tour" this week, ending with a big drop of Arlington County elected officials' endorsements.

*Big news in New Jersey, where former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie ended "years of speculation" and answered "the prayers of more than a few Republicans" by telling supporters he'd enter the race.

*A new Fairleigh Dickinson poll shows Gov. Jon Corzine with a 7-point lead over Christie as the race just gets going; the Democrat leads 40-33, and has just a 45 percent approval rating.

*The New York Post reports that Mike Bloomberg is looking to get the Republican ballot line for his bid for a third term. He famously became an independent in 2007, before term limits were ditched. Republicans have some gripes, but the Post says he¹ll likely get it anyway. One source: "Let's be real. He's got $20 billion."

*And last but not least, Kennedy is but one of the topics in the online video interview with Sarah Palin. She also fights back against the SNL crew, Katie Couric, and even her handlers on the McCain camp. "I knew it didn't go well the first day, and then we gave her a couple of other segments after that," she said of the CBS interview. "And my question to the campaign was, after it didn't go well the first day, why were we going to go back for more; going back for more was not a wise decision either."

**Sports Alert: And once again, Florida is at the center of a disputed championship.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Electoral Tally Day

Good Thursday morning. One year ago on this date, the Democratic nominating fight was extended by five months with an upset win by Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Today, the Congress will officially tally electoral votes to formally declare that Barack Obama is president-elect.

**Obama is set to deliver the first major policy speech since the campaign this morning, warning again that "this recession could linger for years" and unemployment could hit double-digits if nothing is done. Selling his economic plan, he will say: "I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan. Our government has already spent a good deal of money, but we haven't yet seen that translate into more jobs or higher incomes or renewed confidence in our economy. That's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won't just throw money at our problems ­ we'll invest in what works. The true test of the policies we'll pursue won't be whether they're Democratic or Republican ideas, but whether they create jobs, grow our economy, and put the American Dream within reach of the American people."

According to excerpts released by the transition office this morning, Obama also previews other actions he will take on the economic front, on foreclosures, on supporting financial institutions, and reforming regulatory systems.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Obama's plan may not pass until mid-February, and "is bogging down in a welter of competing ideas, ideologies and agendas, and may be further slowed by Obama's desire to win over as many Republicans as possible."

**Obama told CNBC's John Harwood that his transition "has been as smooth as any we've seen in history partly because President Bush and Josh Bolten and his team have worked very closely with ours." Asked if he's overconfident, Obama said: "No, I am enormously humbled by the challenges ahead of us. What I do have confidence about is that I'm a good listener, I'm good at synthesizing advice from a range of different perspectives, and that we will make the best possible decisions from the perspective of what's good for ordinary Americans."

**The Washington Post reports on Obama's White House staff, or "Super
Cabinet": "Not since Richard M. Nixon tried to abolish the majority of his Cabinet has a president gone so far in attempting to build a West Wing-based clutch of advisers with a mandate to cut through -- or leapfrog -- the traditional bureaucracy." But a former Nixon White House adviser, Bruce Herschensohn, warns: "Everyone will be fighting with everybody. You'll have conflict with every Cabinet officer who will now have a superior in the West Wing." And then there's this interesting nugget: HHS Secretary Tom Daschle will have a West Wing office.

And speaking of Daschle, The Politico reports that he is employing an "ABC"
or "Anything But Clinton" strategy as he maps out health care reform strategy. And he also wrote about the failed '94 reform plan in his book, saying: "The health-care debate might have played out differently if President Clinton had launched it in the spring of 1993, when he still had some momentum from his election victory."

**ABC's The Note reports that the Presidential Inaugural Committee may have helped pay down some of Hillary Clinton's campaign debt by buying her e-mail list for a fundraising solicitation. It was sent in the name of President Bill Clinton, an honorary co-chair of the Inaugural Committee.

**On January 20, President Bush will fly to Midland, Texas, where a rally will be held in the then-ex-president's honor.

**It seems that Sen. Dianne Feinstein is "warming" to Leon Panetta after all. "We laughed together," she said after chatting with Obama's CIA pick.

**Amazing. A real live Viking could decide the Minnesota Senate contest. Well, a former Minnesota Viking, at least. "Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, former No. 88 for the Vikings and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will decide how to pick the three-judge panel that will rule on Republican Norm Coleman's election lawsuit," the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports.

**Roland Burris thought he had been through everything after spending two days on the Hill, with reporters following his every move in swarm. Today, Burris must testify in front of the Illinois impeachment panel, as Republicans have promised tough questions as to why he would accept a Senate appointment from disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the AP writes.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Two Senators Short

Good Wednesday morning. The 111th Congress is now in session. The highlight of the day yesterday -- besides the Burris show -- may have been Vice President-elect Biden being sworn in for his seventh Senate term (which will last only several days) by outgoing VP Dick Cheney.

**Former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris, recently appointed to the Senate by scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, showed up to the Capitol yesterday to take his seat. As expected, Burris was turned away by the secretary of the Senate because the Illinois secretary of state has not signed his certificate of election, which is required under Senate rules.

However, Burris now "heads into a pivotal meeting" with Reid and Majority Whip Richard Durbin "with an unmistakable sense of momentum" on his side, Politico reports. "The key question now for Reid and Durbin: How do they find cover in a political story that has run amok? One idea being considered is to have Burris win an endorsement from the sitting lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, one Democratic insider said."

**In other Blagojevich-related news, the Chicago Tribune reports that a state House panel is hitting a "crucial step" in the Blagojevich investigation that "may culminate in his impeachment by week's end."

**The battle over whether or not Al Franken has won the Minnesota Senate race continued on the Senate floor yesterday, with Harry Reid calling on incumbent Republican Norm Coleman to concede the race. "This is a difficult time for former Senator Coleman and his family, and he is entitled to the opportunity to concede this election graciously," Reid said. "But we cannot let this drag on forever."

**Of course, Coleman did just the opposite yesterday, announcing at a press conference in St. Paul that he intends to file a lawsuit contesting the results. Despite finishing the recount trailing Franken by 225 votes, Coleman is challenging whether or not the recount was conducted accurately, saying not every vote was counted and some were counted twice.

**In Biden news, the hometown Wilmington News Journal calls Vice President-elect Biden's swearing in yesterday a "bittersweet moment." He became the youngest person ever to be seated for a seventh term. Ted Kaufman, who will take his seat in a few weeks: "We all encouraged him to do it. It's historical."

And as a "Senate man" still, Biden called the failure to consult with Sen.
Dianne Feinstein a "mistake."

Marc Ambinder explains one rationale for Biden's Southwest Asia trip now, saying that if he went as Vice President, it would take months for the Secret Service, State Department and military to plan.

**Presidential Transition News

One day after warning of trillion dollar deficits, the New York Times reports, President-elect Barack Obama plans to announce this morning the selection of a chief performance officer: Nancy Killefer. The former assistant Treasury secretary under President Clinton will have "the task of finding government efficiencies."

Politico looks at the "game plan" for Obama's economic package, which starts with Chairman Max Baucus using an executive session of the Senate Finance Committee to test key health care and tax cut proposals.

It's already cliche:­ "Paging Doctor Gupta." In choosing the CNN medical correspondent for Surgeon General, Obama signals he is "looking to a popular television personality to help provide a public face for his healthcare agenda," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Bloomberg highlights the fact that DNC chair-designee Tim Kaine currently chairs the Southern Governors Association, "a group that raises money from tobacco, oil, energy and pharmaceutical companies in exchange for access to governors and other state officials." CREW's Melanie Sloan: "If Tim Kaine is going to be the head of the DNC, given Obama's rhetoric in the past, Mr. Kaine will have to either change the rules of the SGA or step down as chairman."

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: Say Hello To 111

Good Tuesday Morning. The 111th Congress opens today with formal swearing-in ceremonies. Al Franken will not be sworn in; will Roland Burris?

**Yesterday had that first-day-at-school feel for more than just the Obama girls. Just over two months after election day, and now two weeks before his inauguration, Barack Obama seemed more presidential than ever on his first full day in Washington. He dominated the headlines yesterday with his meetings on the Hill and high-profile announcements, testing the limits of his 'one president at a time' mantra.

Today, as Congress opens for the 111th time, Obama will meet with his economic team at his transition offices, as the details of a stimulus plan continue to seep out.

**Obama may face one of his first big intra-party tests yet over his pick for CIA director, former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta. Incoming Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein reacted to the pick of the fellow Californian with uncharacteristic brusqueness, questioning the choice of someone without operational experience at the agency. "My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time," Feinstein said in a statement, adding that she "was not informed."

**Team Obama didn't say much publicly, but one official tells the New York Daily News that Panetta's experience and strong opposition to the Bush administration's torture policy make him "an easy choice."

The New York Times reports that Obama's picks for other key Justice Department posts, also announced yesterday, "signal a sharp break from the legal policies of the last eight years."

**Roland Burris likely will not be one of the senators sworn in to office today. The Illinois secretary of state refused to sign the documentation Burris needs to enter the Senate, and the secretary of the Senate rejected the paperwork handed in yesterday because both the governor and secretary of state must sign, the New York Times reports. What it boils down to for Senate Democrats is the fear that Burris would be defeated for re-election in 2010, and a Republican would win a seat the Dems feel should and could be easy to hold on to.

**Al Franken is in a similar pickle. Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) disagreed yesterday on whether or not Franken had actually won his Minnesota Senate race against incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. The state Canvassing Board certified the results of the recount, which concluded with Franken in the lead. But Coleman is not giving up, and a winner can not be certified until all litigation regarding the election has concluded. "This process isn't at the end," said Coleman counsel Tony Trimble. "It is now just at the beginning."

**One of those storylines in Congress today surrounds Vice President-elect Joe Biden's swearing in for a seventh term as Delaware's senator. Look for a great photo up of the incoming and outgoing VPs today on C-SPAN2. He'll resign his seat just before inauguration, giving way to longtime friend Ted Kauffman.

Meanwhile, Biden's Senate office announced yesterday that he, in his capacity as outgoing chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, will visit Southwest Asia later this week. "The fact-finding delegation will make it clear to foreign leaders that they are not there to speak on behalf of the U.S. government, or convey policy positions for the incoming administration," a Biden office release stated.

The exact itinerary is being withheld for security reasons, but a number of overseas outlets have reported that the CoDel will visit Pakistan. Biden has focused on the vital interests at stake in the region, and during the campaign he reffered several times to the fact that a plane carrying him and several other senators was forced to make an emergency landing in the hills of nearby Afghanistan.

--Mike Memoli and Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: A New Year

Good Monday morning. The PEOTUS and fam are now in Washington, as are most members of Congress, which will officially open its 111th session tomorrow.

**While Republicans are set to choose their new leader at the end of the month, President-elect Obama will name Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine as the DNC chair-in-waiting, the Washington Post's Michael D. Shear reports.. Kaine's gubernatorial term ends in January 2010, when Kaine will take over full-time duties.

**Aboard his first official Air Force plane (as President-elect) last night from Chicago to Washington, Obama told reporters that he "choked up a little bit" upon leaving his house. "Malia's friend had dropped off an album of the two of them together," Obama said. "They had been friends since pre-school and I just looked through the pages and the house was empty and it was a little tough, it got me." On staying in a hotel with his family for the next 10 days, Obama said: "Living in a hotel for two weeks, we kind of did that for two years."

**Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be on Capitol Hill Monday with an economic recovery package the topic of discussion. Incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters during the flight to Washington that it's "very, very unlikely" a stimulus bill could pass through both houses of Congress by Jan. 20, the first day Obama could sign it. "We don't anticipate that Congress will have passed both Houses an Economic Recovery and Reinvestment plan by the time the inauguration takes place," Gibbs said. "Tomorrow begins anew that work but I think the added urgency that we've seen, statistics, we've seen Christmas sales, consumer confidence and obviously upcoming job numbers which underscore that a very serious situation has only gotten worse and isn't likely to get better any time soon."

**The Obama transition team is dealing with another "pay-to-play" controversy, with the news that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination as Commerce Secretary "under pressure of a federal investigation into how his political donors landed a lucrative transportation contract." In a statement sent to reporters yesterday, Richardson said that he and his administration "have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact." But he says the investigation "would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process." ABC News and Politico both quote Obama insiders who say that Richardson was less than forthcoming with information about the investigation.

**The Minnesota Canvassing Board is set to declare a winner in that state's bitterly-fought Senate race today, the AP reports. Democrat Al Franken holds a 225-vote lead over incumbent Norm Coleman, whose term actually expired this weekend. Democrats are pushing to make today's declaration stand, with outgoing DSCC chair Chuck Schumer saying "there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota." But according to state law, there will be a seven-day waiting period until the certification of election is complete, and as soon as a lawsuit is filed, that certification becomes conditional.

--Kyle Trygstad and Mike Memoli

Strategy Memo: One More Senate Seat

Good Tuesday morning. Another Democratic Senate seat will open up later this week, though matching the excitement of the Illinois and New York seats will be tough...

The Transition
President-elect Obama is expected to announce his choice for Secretary of Education today -- Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan. Education reform leaders appear to approve of this choice so far. Obama will introduce Duncan at Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school that is part of the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a specialized new-teacher preparation program that seeks to improve the quality of teachers in the city.

Obama is also expected to announce later this week his choice for Interior Secretary -- Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar. Salazar, elected to the Senate in 2004, hails from a western state -- as has become tradition in filling this post -- as well as a battleground state, which Obama turned blue for just the second time since 1964. Salazar's selection also adds another Latino to his cabinet. As the L.A. Times reports, Salazar criticized Interior earlier this year for opening his state's Roan Plateau for drilling, and his appointment "could put the brakes on several controversial energy development projects across the West."

The Senate
Salazar's selection also opens up a fourth Democratic Senate seat since the election. The other three include: Obama's Illinois seat (which is the most-watched and controversial), Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton's New York seat (the second most-watched seat with Caroline Kennedy in the mix), and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's Delaware seat (longtime Biden aide Edward Kaufman was appointed, and appears he'll serve as a placeholder until a 2008 special election for Biden's son Beau, the state attorney general).

Salazar would be up for election in 2010, but in the meantime, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter will appoint someone to fill in for the next two years. Obvious frontrunners would include Salazar's older brother John Salazar (both were elected to Congress in 2004, Ken as a senator and John as the 3rd District representative), Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and 1st District Rep. Diana DeGette, a member of House Democratic leadership. DeGette, who represents Denver, could be passed over due to her relatively liberal voting record, which may not translate statewide in 2010. The Fix has more thoughts on the Colorado seat, as well.

The Recount
Today marks yet another crucial juncture in the Minnesota Senate recount, as the state Canvassing Board meets today to rule on some 1,500 challenged ballots, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

At the heart of the matter is voter intent and how the five-member board will determine it by examining each remaining challenged ballot: Is a partially filled oval sufficient to cast a vote? How about an 'X' written near a candidate's name?

Strategy Memo: Can The Bailout Be Bailed Out?

It's Friday Dec. 12, with less than two weeks of shopping days left until the holidays. Washington's local basketball team, the Wizards, are on life support. Boston's world-champion Celtics showed them last night just how bad they are. These are Washington's other stories...

The Big Three
Senate Republicans and Democrats failed to compromise on legislation last night to give an emergency $14 billion loan to the American auto industry. Democrats needed 60 votes to cut off debate on the bill, but were only able to garner 52, with 35 voting against and 12 not voting.

"The legislation would have provided emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler, which have said they face imminent collapse without federal help," the Washington Post's Kane writes. "The high-stakes talks broke down over when the wages of union workers would be slashed to the same level as those paid to nonunion workers at U.S. plants of foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda."

"The date certain was pivotal to a proposal by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to toughen the terms set in the underlying administration's bill, which had cleared the House Wednesday night," Politico's Rogers writes. "Corker demanded large concessions as well from bondholders to reduce the debt levels on GM. But the labor provisions were the most contentious, and much as the UAW gave ground on several fronts, it resisted the date certain demand as unfairly political."

Both Pres. Bush and President-elect Obama were in support of this bill; its failure was a "bruising defeat" for both of them, the New York Times' Herszenhorn writes. More importantly, "The failure to reach agreement on Capitol Hill raised a specter of financial collapse for General Motors and Chrysler, which say they may not be able to survive through this month."

The Tainted Senate Seat
Revelations continue to roll out of Chicago in connection with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempt to sell Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. We learned earlier that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) was in fact "Senate Candidate #5," as referred to in the 76-page criminal complaint against the governor. The Chicago Tribune reports that businessmen with ties to both the governor and Jackson discussed holding a fundraiser to raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign to encourage him to pick Jackson for the seat.

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly called on the governor to resign. In an interview yesterday on NPR, Quinn said he and the governor had spoken no more than a sentence or two to each other in the past year, as the governor was extremely insulated and isolated. He also noted that he would support a special election in principle, but he feared the new senator would not be seated when the new Congress comes into session -- therefore he would like to succeed Blagojevich and choose Obama's successor.

The Recount
The Minnesota Canvassing Board meets this morning to decide the fate of possibly 1,000 improperly rejected absentee ballots. "The five-member board, headed by Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, still have two other issues ahead of it: thousands of ballot challenges the two campaigns have filed in the recount, and what to do about 133 missing ballots in a Minneapolis precinct," the Star Tribune reports.

Strategy Memo: To Bail Or Not To Bail

Good Thursday morning. 11 days until Hanukkah, 14 days until Christmas, 15 days until Kwanzaa. These are the stories a wet Washington is watching today...

The Congress
The House approved the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act last night on a 237 to 170 vote, though the hurdles the bill faces in the Senate could spell its doom. The bill would provide a $14 billion loan within days to the Big Three automakers. The White House supports the measure and wants a Senate vote today if possible.

"Today, we are considering legislation not as life-support to sustain a dying industry, but a jump start for an industry that is essential to our country's economic health," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said from the House floor last night. "One in 10 American jobs is linked to the domestic auto industry, and it is a key pillar in an American manufacturing sector critical to our national security and economic competitiveness for decades to come."

The Transition
President-elect Obama will name former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services today at his 10 a.m. CT press conference in Chicago. The new administration's energy and environmental team is also starting to take shape, with four names reported yesterday: Steven Chu, as Energy Secretary; Lisa Jackson, as EPA administrator; Carol Browner, as energy czar; and Nancy Sutley, to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. These four will likely be officially announced in the coming weeks.

The Corruption
Obama, through a spokesman, yesterday called on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign. He wasn't the only one, the New York Times's Saulny writes. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn called on Blagojevich to resign, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Blagojevich not to appoint anyone to Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Reid also distributed a letter among Senate Democrats calling on Blagojevich to step down, and every member of the Democratic Caucus signed it.

Strategy Memo: Cao Tipping

Good Tuesday morning. Washington gets a welcomed break from the blistering cold today and will be watching these stories...

The Transition
President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden are scheduled to meet with former VP Al Gore today in Chicago "to discuss energy and climate change and how policies in this area can stimulate the economy and create jobs," according to the Transition team. Obama listed alternative energy as one of the core areas of job creation in his proposed economic recovery package. Gore is not interested in a cabinet position, though Obama has said previously that Gore's voice on energy and the environment would be welcomed in an Obama White House.

The Big Three
"Congressional Democrats and the White House yesterday settled on a plan to rush $15 billion in emergency loans to the cash-strapped Detroit automakers and were working into the night to resolve final disputes over the conditions the government should attach to the money," the Washington Post reports.

On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Obama cautioned that the U.S. should not be interested in nationalizing the auto industry, the New York Times reports. "But what Mr. Obama went on to describe was a long-term bailout that would be conditioned on federal oversight. It could mean that the government would mandate, or at least heavily influence, what kind of cars companies make, what mileage and environmental standards they must meet and what large investments they are permitted to make -- to recreate an industry that Mr. Obama said 'actually works, that actually functions.'"

As the L.A. Times reports, a government-appointed "car czar" wouldn't have complete control of the industry. "Under the proposal, the monitor's authority would stop short of the near-complete operational control some critics wanted the new "car czar" to have. But the official, to be appointed by the president, would negotiate far-reaching plans for restructuring General Motors Corp. and Chrysler by March 31. Ford Motor Co., which is in better financial condition, apparently would not be part of the initial outlay."

The Elections
The man responsible for knocking indicted Congressman Bill Jefferson (D-La.) out of the House -- Anh "Joseph" Cao -- continues to receive extensive publicity, including a profile of the man in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, as well as a front-page story in the Washington Post today.

This hype was initiated by the GOP itself, with House Minority Leader John Boehner distributing a memo Sunday night titled, "The Future is Cao." Politico delves into this phenomenon in a story today.

Strategy Memo: '08 Elections Not Over

In less than two weeks, the first college football Bowl game of the year will be played at RFK Stadium, just 20 blocks down East Capitol Street from the U.S. Capitol. Wake Forest will take on local favorite Navy in the EagleBank Bowl at 11 a.m. on Dec. 20. We'll be far more interested in the last game -- Oklahoma vs. Florida, who do appear to be the two best teams in college football.

The House
There was plenty more election news over the weekend, with embattled Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana losing his seat to a Republican in the delayed general election Saturday. Taking the indicted congressman's place representing the 2nd District is Joseph Cao, who becomes the first Vietnamese American ever to serve in Congress after defeating Jefferson by a 49.6%-46.8% margin. "Joseph Cao represents a new era in Louisiana - one in which voters continue to reject the politics of corruption," said NRCC Chairman Tom Cole.

While the GOP took a second seat in Louisiana from the Democrats, the Dems grabbed Ohio's 15th District. Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, thanks to provisional ballots counted since Nov. 4, defeated Republican Steve Stivers to win the open Republican seat.

In Louisiana's 4th District, Republican John Fleming and Democrat Paul Carmouche are currently separated by just 356 votes, with Fleming clinging to a 48.07%-47.69% lead. Carmouche has yet to concede the race and is likely to call for a recount.

Other than LA-4, the lone remaining undecided seat is Virginia's 5th District, where Rep. Virgil Goode has requested a recount after Democrat Tom Perriello initially appeared to defeat him. Should LA-4 remain Republican and VA-5 flip to the Democrats, the Dems would come out of the 2008 elections with 21 more House seats than they had in the 110th Congress.

The Big Three
"Congressional Democrats are drafting legislation that would give the teetering Detroit automakers at least $15 billion in emergency loans early next week and grant the federal government broad authority to manage a massive restructuring of their operations," the Washington Post reports. On CBS's Face the Nation, Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd said the Big Three automakers should "consider new leadership" as part of a restructuring that would be part of the loan they receive.

The Senate
Caroline Kennedy is indeed interested in replacing Hillary Clinton in the Senate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told the Associated Press over the weekend. "She spent a lot of her life balancing public service with obligations to her family," RFK Jr. said. "Now her children are grown, and she is ready to move onto a bigger stage."

New York Gov. David Paterson, charged with choosing Clinton's replacement, told the New York Times that though he and Kennedy have talked, she "has not yet explicitly indicated to him that she wants" the job.

Strategy Memo: 59, The New Magic Number

Besides local fans blaming QB Jason Campbell for the Redskins' woes and the possibility that there will be no "last call" at bars during inauguration week, Washington is talking about these stories...

The Big Three
Detailed plans for how they would utilize billions of dollars in government assistance were due on Capitol Hill yesterday, while Ford, GM and Chrysler executives will follow for House and Senate committee hearings Thursday and Friday to defend the plans. At a press briefing yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the GAO and Federal Reserve would review the plans first, and that she expects the federal government to intervene in some way, either through legislative action or an executive loan from the Bush administration.

The AP's Davis and Krisher write that the automakers' plans include pledges to "slash workers, car lines and executive pay in return for a federal lifeline."

General Motors said it wouldn't last until New Year's without an immediate $4 billion and could drag the entire industry down if it fails. It is seeking as much as $18 billion to keep afloat.

"There isn't a Plan B," said Fritz Henderson, GM's chief operating officer. "Absent support, frankly, the company just can't fund its operations."

The Transition
POTUS Obama and VPOTUS Biden met with the National Governors Association in Philadelphia yesterday, with some always-fun off-the-cuff remarks from Biden to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as well as some serious business.

The Washington Post's Montgomery and Shear write that Obama and the governors both stressed that the speed -- not haste -- with which an economic recovery stimulus package is spent on state and local construction projects is crucial.

"With President-elect Barack Obama vowing to plow hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation's infrastructure, some state officials are warning that public works projects will fail to effectively lift the country out of recession unless they are chosen carefully and implemented rapidly. In a private meeting yesterday in Philadelphia with 48 of the nation's governors, Obama stressed the importance of identifying projects that could put people to work quickly, participants said."

The Senate
The Georgia Senate runoff election was called at about 9:00 p.m. yesterday, with GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss winning a second term in the upper chamber and Democrats' hopes of 60 Senate seats dead, for now. With 97% of precincts reporting as of this morning, Chambliss held a 57.4%-42.6% lead over Democratic challenger Jim Martin. It was common knowledge that turning out one's base was key to winning the runoff, and it appears Chambliss did a better job of it.

Chambliss received 650,000 less votes yesterday than he did on Nov. 4, while Martin received 850,000 less votes. In DeKalb County, a heavily-Democratic county, Martin received some 95,000 less votes than he did Nov. 4, while Chambliss lost only 18,000 votes. Martin won the county by 6 points less than he did on Nov. 4. In Gwinnett, another large Atlanta-area county, Chambliss won 64%-36% yesterday, after carrying the county by just 10 points (53%-43%) on Nov. 4.

One Republican senator, up for re-election in 2010, announced yesterday that he won't run for a second term. Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, with relatively low approval ratings and tight ties to the Bush administration, decided that, at 62 years old, he didn't want to spend another two years campaigning and another six years in Washington, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Martinez's retirement also sets off a maelstrom of political intrigue for potential candidates from both parties. The hottest name is Jeb Bush, who told Politico he's "considering" running.

Strategy Memo: It's Official

It's Tuesday Dec. 2, and we have another election upon us. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is fighting for his elected life against Democratic challenger Jim Martin in the Georgia Senate race. We'll find out today, perhaps, just how influential Atlanta-native rapper Ludacris (known for such classic songs as "Move B*tch") is on turning out voters. In the meantime, here are today's top stories...

The Transition
President-elect Obama ended any doubts yesterday when he officially nominated Sen. Hillary Clinton for the position of secretary of state. Their drawn out battle during the presidential primaries this year leaves some to wonder how well these two can work together. Obama made Clinton appear as the out-with-the-old candidate with less foreign policy experience than she claimed to have. Now Clinton joins the in-with-the-new administration.

Here is the Washington Post's Abramowitz and Kessler on the whether this can be a successful relationship: "Many of the most successful secretaries of state, though not all, enjoyed great influence with the presidents they served, giving them crucial leverage with foreign leaders and inside the national security establishment. But Obama and Clinton are only starting to develop the kind of rapport that could lead to that trust, and the ultimate success of the senator from New York in her new role may depend as much on Obama's willingness to admit her to his inner circle as her ability to master the intricacies of the Middle East peace process or North Korea's nuclear weapons program, according to senior foreign policy officials from past administrations."

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes that the takeaway from Obama's press conference yesterday was the idea of "holism," as he introduced six cabinet positions at once: "Announcing, at once, an attorney general, the homeland security chief, Obama's defense chief, his chief diplomat, his chief negotiator and his chief adviser sends the message that Obama's conception of national security includes the need to defend against terror attacks at home and to devise a sensible mechanism to detain and punish those who attack us. More prosaically, Obama has chosen to render the foreign policy decision making mechanism as a table, over which people will disagree to the point of consensus."

The Big Three
The Big Three automakers' detailed plans for how they'll use $25 billion in government assistance are due on Capitol Hill today, while the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler will appear in person later this week.

From the L.A. Times's Puzzanghera and Bensinger: "But skeptics still abound. And the companies' detailed reports to Congress, just like their executives' new travel plans, may be more about public relations than economics. Analysts say the expected promises to renegotiate labor contracts, cut benefit costs or reduce product lines may placate some in Congress but will be hard to achieve."

The Washington Post's Marr has a glimpse inside some of the three companies' plans: "In its second attempt to persuade Congress to grant the U.S. auto industry $25 billion in emergency loans, Chrysler plans to make the case that automakers can cut their costs and point to the future by forging an alliance to share fuel-efficient vehicle technologies. Ford will tell lawmakers that it intends to retool plants for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars as a part of its goal of becoming the fuel-efficiency leader in every vehicle category. General Motors will address its $43.3 billion debt burden and an upcoming multibillion-dollar payment to a union-run trust that will cover employee health-care costs."

The Media
It appears NBC is set to make its chief White House correspondent, David Gregory, the next moderator of "Meet the Press." While we were rooting for someone else, here's hoping Gregory can become the likeable -- yet tough -- interviewer Tim Russert was.

Strategy Memo: What's The Deal

Two days until Thanksgiving. Seven days until the $621 million Capitol Visitors Center opens (it looks pretty nice from the outside). 37 days until New Years Day. 56 days until the Inauguration.

**President-elect Obama announced his economic team at a press conference yesterday. The names include...
-Treasury Secretary: Timothy Geithner
-National Economic Council director: Lawrence Summers
-Council of Economic Advisers director: Christina Romer
-Domestic Policy Council director: Melody Barnes

**Today, Obama is scheduled to outline budget details -- presumably how he intends to pay for the half-trillion-dollar stimulus plan aimed at spurring job growth. Also believed to be on the agenda at the noon ET press conference is the announcement that Congressional Budget Office director Peter Orszag has been appointed director of the Office of Management and Budget. National Journal's Alexis Simendinger got the scoop on this last week.

**Politico's David Rogers writes today about this "Newer Deal": "Democrats are thinking in terms of two-year investments and a mid-February deadline for passage of an economic stimulus bill sought by the incoming Obama administration." This longer-term commitment, he writes, "could open the door to capitalizing a new, more permanent "national infrastructure bank" that could be a source of revolving loans for future joint public-private projects."

**In other transition news, Vice President-elect Biden's longtime Senate aide Ted Kaufman will take over Biden's Senate seat for the next two years until a special election is held to fill in the remaining four years of the term Biden just won. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner announced her choice for the seat yesterday, saying "I believe Ted Kaufman meets every test I set for this office. His political views are close to Sen. Biden's, and he has agreed to focus solely on doing the people's work, not seeking re-election," the Wilimington News Journal reports. Many are speculating that Kaufman, who has no interest in running in two years, will hold the place for Biden's son, Beau Biden -- Delaware's attorney general who is headed to Iraq -- to run in the 2010 special election.

**The race for chairman of the Republican National Committee got a little more crowded yesterday, when South Carolina GOP chair Katon Dawson officially announced his bid. Of course, yesterday's announcement only made things official for Dawson, who has been rumored to be eyeing the slot since the Republican convention in early September. Dawson joins Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele as the three officially-announced candidates. The Fix takes a look today at each candidate, and also notes that the race so far "has been defined so far by a cavalcade of announced and potential candidates and a dearth of individuals with the star power to emerge as the frontrunner."

**It remains a mystery who will win the two undecided Senate races in Georgia and Minnesota. Some 2.1 million ballots had been counted in Minnesota as of last night, the AP reported, leaving only about one-fifth of the ballots to be recounted. Of course, there are still problems with both campaigns challenging ballots, which will be decided upon by the state Canvassing Board. In Georgia's Dec. 2 runoff, a new Politico/Insider Advantage poll out today shows Chambliss up 3 points, 50%-47% -- almost identical to the 49.8%-46.8% finish in the general election. Chambliss currently leads by 4.8 points in the RCP Average.

Strategy Memo: Turkey Week

It's Turkey Week already, and here on Capitol Hill things are pretty quiet. After a week of bustle inside the Capitol, most of the news for now will be coming out of Chicago...

**The President-elect is set to announce this morning key members of his economic policy team, whose goal it will be to lead the country out of its financial slump. The noon ET press conference, being held in Chicago, will introduce New York Federal Reserve president Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers as National Economic Council director, and University of California - Berkeley economics professor Christina Romer as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, ABC News reported this morning.

**Those advisers may oversee a stimulus package totalling as much as $700 billion over the next two years -- more than the U.S. has spent in Iraq over the last six years, the Washington Post reports. "This is as big of an economic crisis as we've faced in 75 years. And we've got to do something that's up to the task of confronting that," Goolsbee said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I don't know what the exact number is, but it's going to be a big number."

**Over on the RCP Blog, Tom Bevan welcomes readers to "another week in our brave new world." As the New York Times reports, Federal regulators yesterday "approved a radical plan to stabilize Citigroup in an arrangement in which the government could soak up billions of dollars in losses at the struggling bank."

**While Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the House Financial Services Committee chairman, is upset with the plan, as Politico reports, it's already produced some results. The Dow Jones is reportedly up 300 points so far this morning, though the Wall Street Journal's Benoit and Curran note a key point: "That the U.S. government felt compelled to backstop a bank of Citi's scale shows how fragile the financial system is, and how limited the success from the drastic measures already implemented by governments and central banks."

Check back later for updates on the Senate elections still going on in Georgia and Minnesota, as well as updates on all things political.

Strategy Memo: Smooth Sailing

Good Thursday morning. Take that, Tony Kornheiser! The popular ESPN host watched his Binghampton Bearcats go down to the mighty George Washington University Colonials here in Washington last night. Here's what the rest of the Beltway is watching today:

-- Barack Obama is speeding up the Cabinet picks, with Eric Holder tapped earlier this week as Attorney General, Tom Daschle reportedly planning to take over the Department of Department of Health and Human Services and Bob Gates negotiating his continued tenure at the Pentagon. Last night, Politico's Mike Allen added another name to the list in Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who will be tapped to lead the Department of Homeland Security. The two-term Democrat has long been an Obama backer and wanted a position in the Cabinet. Her name was also floated for Attorney General.

-- Most of the early picks Obama has made are likely to sail through the Senate. Holder could present a bit of a problem given his involvement in the controversial pardon of Marc Rich toward the end of Bill Clinton's term, but Daschle, Gates and -- should she be named -- Hillary Clinton are not going to face hurdles in confirmation hearings (In fact, one thing that might give Obama pause is just how many Republicans have praised Clinton lately). But the Obama team is going to have to keep answering questions about some possible conflicts of interest, like Daschle's work on the board of the Mayo Clinic and with a law firm that has big health care clients, as the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick notes.

-- Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats slapped colleague Joe Lieberman on the wrist for publicly backing John McCain this year, revoking the Connecticut Independent's chair of an Environment and Public Works subcommittee but letting him keep the top job on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs panel. In an interview with CBS News, Lieberman backpedaled on some of his attacks on Obama but didn't admit that he owes the newly-minted president-elect a big one.

-- Democrats on the House side are less forgiving, taking the first step toward stripping a key committee from the hands of the lower chamber's most senior member. The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted by a narrow margin in favor of California Rep. Henry Waxman, who is challenging Michigan Rep. John Dingell for the top slot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the New York Times' John Broder writes. The surprise challenge from Waxman had support from a number of close allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though Pelosi maintains she had nothing to do with the challenge and has told George Miller, one of her top lieutenants, not to use her name when making calls on Waxman's behalf.

-- The final verdict on Dingell's chairmanship will come during a vote of the full caucus today, and the Michigan Democrat is likely in better position than he was on the Steering Committee. That panel, which has more Californians and environmentalists on board than the caucus as a whole, is largely controlled by Pelosi allies. The battle will come down to advocates of strong climate change legislation, something Dingell has resisted, and those who worry about the collapse of the seniority system, which Dingell represents. Watch the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whose members voiced strong support for the seniority system earlier this week. Thanks to that system, CBC members Charlie Rangel, Bennie Thompson and John Conyers hold chairmanships of prominent committees.

-- House Republicans named their own slate of new leaders yesterday, with everything going to plan. Minority Leader John Boehner beat back a weak challenge from California Rep. Dan Lungren, while NRCC chairman Tom Cole dropped his ill-fated re-election bid just before the votes were cast, handing the party's campaign arm to Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. But look to Minority Whip Eric Cantor and Conference Chair Mike Pence to make the biggest noise this cycle, as both bring an influx of new blood the conference desperately needs. Still, their appointments have some wondering where all the moderates have gone.

-- But there are still races left to be concluded, as counters in Minnesota started going back through the state's ballots in an effort to conclude the Senate election. Republican incumbent Norm Coleman held a 215-vote lead going into yesterday's counting, but that lead shrank to 174 by the end of the day. Both Coleman and Democrat Al Franken are challenging more than 100 ballots across the state, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes, meaning the outcome might not be known until well after the December 5 target for finishing the recount. Those disputed ballots will head to the state Canvassing Board for resolution in mid-December.

-- Though NRSC chair John Ensign said he was optimistic about Coleman holding onto his lead, some of Coleman's Republican colleagues aren't feeling as positive. One Senate Republican told the Washington Times that Coleman might be a good pick to head the Republican National Committee, before clarifying that he hopes Coleman would win. Ask Mel Martinez how serving as a senator and a chairman at the same time works. Hint: Not well. If Coleman, who just said no to a run for NRSC chair, were to lose and run for the RNC spot, he might join defeated New Hampshire Senator John Sununu, whose name has been floated by some Northeastern Republicans.

-- Brawl Of The Day: First, he wanted to boot Ted Stevens out of the Republican conference. Now, Senator Jim DeMint is behind proposals to impose term limits on leadership and on tenure on the Appropriations Committee, Politico reports today. Both proposals were defeated, but DeMint and a few other Senate conservatives are starting to assert themselves more, leading to what could be a repeat of the rise of the right in the House.

Strategy Memo: Gambling On GM

Good Monday morning. If anyone had any doubt that Winter was on its way, doubt no more. Here in Washington, the old man has definitely arrived. Here's what else the Beltway is watching today:

-- Congress returns to session this week for a lame-duck meeting Democrats hope may lead to a bailout of the auto industry. The language will come from the Senate, but many Republicans are opposed to a bailout, and the White House has signaled its own reluctance, CNNMoney's Chris Isidore writes. Some wonder if General Motors will be able to survive more than eight months without federal money. What happens if GM goes under? The Center for Automotive Research, an industry-affiliated group that backs the bailout, estimates about 2.5 million jobs lost and perhaps hundreds of billions in lost tax revenue.

-- The Senate Banking Committee will hold hearings on automaker bailouts on Tuesday (Ranking Republican Richard Shelby remains the most outspoken opponent of the plan) and the House Financial Services Committee will chat about it Wednesday. And even though Barack Obama supports the measure, he won't be voting for it; in fact, Obama's Senate voting days are over after resigning from the body yesterday and writing a letter to the people of Illinois, published in newspapers across the state including the Sun-Times. Governor Rod Blagojevich has not yet laid out a timetable for naming an Obama successor beyond saying a name will come out by the end of the year.

-- Obama spent the weekend naming a few more top posts in his White House, including Washington power lawyer Greg Craig as counsel and Pete Rouse as a senior adviser, the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher reports. Craig is a former Clinton loyalist who played John McCain in Obama's debate prep this year, while Rouse is a former top aide to Tom Daschle who served as Obama's Senate chief of staff before moving over to the campaign. Jim Messina, the campaign's chief of staff, and Mona Sutphen, a foreign policy expert currently with a business consulting firm located in Washington, will serve as deputy chiefs of staff.

-- No Secretary-level Cabinet positions have yet to be confirmed, though that doesn't mean the Obama team is dragging their heels. Obama advisers are actively vetting Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, and rumors flying around all weekend claim she is a finalist along with Bill Richardson and Chuck Hagel for the job. But, as the New York Times' Baker and Cooper write, vetting Hillary means vetting Bill Clinton, a process that requires a team of attorneys sifting through information and data that has never been required in public disclosures.

-- Today, the Illinois Democrat will sit down in his transition office in Chicago with John McCain, his erstwhile enemy, as both former presidential candidates pledge to work together to help the country. They each have something to gain, the Wall Street Journal's Weisman and Meckler write. For Obama, it's the opportunity to build his bipartisan credentials, especially among independent voters who still like McCain. McCain can rebuild his national standing as a maverick with independent appeal. It won't matter for a future presidential run, but even longtime senators have legacies to attend. Senator Lindsay Graham and Rep. Rahm Emanuel will also be there.

-- Republicans will have a say in this week's special session, but it may be the last time for a while. The party is still searching for a direction and a purpose two weeks after big electoral defeats, and GOP meetings in Miami and Myrtle Beach late last week sought to answer those questions. The Republican Governors Association showed off some of the party's new talent, while the Myrtle Beach meeting, of prominent Republican National Committeemembers, served as a post-mortem and an argument about the future of the party.

-- One thing many GOP strategists are recognizing is that their party has serious outreach to do among black and Hispanic voters, as the Washington Times' Gary Emerling writes. Obama won a number of swing states in part because of his overwhelming margins among minority voters, and Republicans, facing the prospect of needing similarly huge margins among white voters, are rightly concerned. The real trouble, as activists meeting in Myrtle Beach showed this weekend, is that any move to the middle on immigration, an issue that has caused an especially deep fissure between the GOP and Hispanics, will be greeted by a revolt on the right.

-- Meanwhile, there remain races to call, and this week the long and arduous process of counting more than 2.5 million ballots in Minnesota will commence, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. By Wednesday, volunteers from around the country will begin counting ballots in the state, where Republican Senator Norm Coleman leads by just over 200 votes. Just to infuriate Republicans (Well, okay, and to ease his own possible transition), Democrat Al Franken will be in Washington on Wednesday for meetings with Senate Democratic leaders, though he won't attend freshman orientation. His spokesperson said that would be "presumptuous," per CNN's Chris Welch.

-- Power Play Of The Day: Question Sarah Palin's fitness to lead the Republican Party, now or in four years, and you're likely to get angry looks and a fair amount of derision (That's what Politics Nation got this weekend in Myrtle Beach). But it's not just the media, and don't forget that other Republicans want a shot at the leadership title. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich is the first to cut the Alaska governor down to size. "She's going to be one of 20 or 30 significant players. She's not going to be the de facto leader," Gingrich said this weekend on Face the Nation, per The Hill's Alexander Bolton. Don't forget, Gingrich himself may not be finished with his own political ambitions.

Strategy Memo: A Will And A Way

Good Thursday morning. Does anyone think Alabama and Texas Tech can hold on through the next few weeks? Here's one fan who's hoping so. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- Remember when Democrats were excitedly hinting that a filibuster-proof 60 Senate seats might be attainable this year? Those hopes were seemingly dashed on Election Day when the party picked up only -- only -- six seats, putting them at 57 votes. But with three races in recounts and runoffs, with at least one all but guaranteed to go to court, Senate Democrats are suddenly thinking about that magic number once again. And if they don't get to 60 this year, 2010 is definitely a possibility.

-- More than a week after Election Day, with 60,000 early and absentee votes finally counted, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich leads Alaska Senator Ted Stevens by a narrow 814-vote margin, erasing Stevens' 3,200-vote lead, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Begich was leading among early voters, but the fact that he gained so many votes means he's leading among absentee voters as well, a good sign for the Democrat. There are still about 35,000 ballots to count, meaning neither Stevens nor Begich should start packing their bags for Washington. Counting will continue over the next week.

-- In Minnesota, where a recount of Republican Norm Coleman's 206-vote lead over Democrat Al Franken will commence next week, the parties are getting lawyered up, per the Star Tribune's Kevin Duchschere. A Coleman attorney estimates the GOP will send out 120 lawyers to the 100 recount sites around the state, while Democrats promised a similar number. Republicans are already on edge, alerting the media to what it says is fraudulent vote counting, but media outlets have noted similar trends in Senator Amy Klobuchar's blowout win in 2006 and in several earlier contests.

-- Finally, the impending runoff in Georgia's Senate race is dredging up old skeletons for Republican Saxby Chambliss. Six years ago, Chambliss won after running an ad that put opponent Max Cleland's photo next to those of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Now, Cleland is fundraising for Democrat Jim Martin while recalling that ad, and Democrats are keeping the pressure on by reminding voters that even John McCain called the ad "reprehensible." And what timing, given that McCain will be in Cobb County stumping alongside the freshman Republican. The Gwinnett Daily Post's Camie Young reports that's not the only big-name Republican headed down there; on Sunday, Chambliss will campaign with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Martin is still trying to woo Barack Obama to the Peach State.

-- Democrats have better than a 50-50 chance in Alaska, while the parties are running even in Minnesota. Republicans are the favorites in Georgia, where a lower turnout general election will benefit Chambliss. Democrats need all three seats to reach the magic 60 number, and it will take the party catching serious breaks to accomplish that. But more than a week after Election Day, the story remains that Democrats still have a chance to block Republican filibusters.

-- No matter what happens to Senate Democrats, Joe Lieberman faces the fight of his political life next week. The Connecticut Independent Democrat who campaigned with McCain and backed two Republican senators this year faces a secret vote among the Democratic caucus next week as to whether to strip him of his chairmanship of an influential committee. Barack Obama wants Lieberman to remain in the Democratic caucus, writes the AP's Andy Miga, and Lieberman has a group of senators including Ken Salazar, Tom Carper, Bill Nelson and Chris Dodd, whipping votes on his behalf, Politico's Grim and Kady report. But will those efforts be overcome by Democratic anger at Lieberman's efforts and by the netroots, furious at Lieberman? The pressure may be too much for some Democrats to bear.

-- Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to rebuild and everyone has something to say. Perhaps the most important gathering is taking place in Miami, where the Post's Robert Barnes wraps up the Republican Governors Association meeting. There will be just 21 GOP chief executives left come January, but the hardy few who survive are going to be the next generation of national candidates -- names like Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Mark Sanford, maybe even Rick Perry; and Sarah Palin will definitely play across the front pages in Iowa and New Hampshire four years from now. Republican governors helped their party come back in the early '90s, while Democratic governors did the same for their party earlier this decade. How quickly the GOP can get back on the horse remains in the hands of this crop of state leaders.

-- Palin, for now the most famous woman in American politics (Sorry, Senator Clinton) has someone skilled in the dark arts of communication giving her some pretty good advice. Instead of returning to Alaska to govern and remaining in the media cocoon built by McCain's campaign, Palin has come out for virtually every interview that's been requested, the Post's Howard Kurtz writes. She took care of her local media, then hit CNN twice and NBC once before holding a press conference at the RGA meeting in Miami. Don't let anyone tell you Palin's not considering a 2012 bid. Whether she runs and wins or not, she'll be around for a while.

-- Job Of The Day: Looking for a new gig? Ever consider being one of the thousands of political appointees who works in Barack Obama's White House? If so, prepare to get personal, the New York Times' Jackie Calmes writes. The incoming administration wants to know if you've ever sent a text message that could be embarrassing, while they'd like to page through your diary as well. The huge questionnaire is only for top-level appointees, but in order to achieve Obama's promise to run the most open government in history, apparently everything about everyone in it has to be open as well.

Strategy Memo: A White House Welcome

Good Monday morning. Our email inbox is surprisingly quiet just a week after press releases were coming in every three seconds. All the easier to clean out said mailbox, we suppose. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- President-elect Barack Obama owes one man a debt of gratitude for his winning the presidency, and today he'll get the opportunity to offer thanks when the two meet. Obama is headed to the White House, where the Illinois Democrat with sky-high approval ratings will meet the Texas Republican with approval ratings in the tank. It could be an awkward meeting, writes the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg; during the campaign, if there was a shot to be taken at President Bush, Obama took it. Bush and Obama have met before, Fox News' Bill Sammon writes, and their first encounter was less than pleasant. Still, today's meetings have upsides for both men: Obama can look more presidential and Bush is actually being praised by Democrats for his work on the transition.

-- Obama will kick off his administration with a bang as he considers using executive orders to reverse Bush Administration policies on stem cells, drilling and other issues, the AP's Stephen Ohlemacher writes. Obama is going through Bush's executive orders in the hopes of having an immediate impact while Congress works more slowly on his other priorities, transition chief John Podesta said on morning shows yesterday.

-- Meanwhile, expect some of Obama's first cabinet appointees to be rolled out this week, as the president-elect spends his political capital to fill important posts dealing with the economy and security first. Obama's economic advisers are split between former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and New York Fed president Tim Geithner, the Wall Street Journal writes today. Washington insider types are backing former U.S. Attorneys Eric Holder and Jamie Gorelick for Attorney General, as others suggest Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano or Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick would be better suited for the AG post, Politico's Chris Frates writes.

-- But some names aren't likely to change any time soon. An Obama administration will still include Admiral Mike Mullen, who chairs the Joint Chiefs of Staff until late next year; Ben Bernanke, who is still at the helm of the Federal Reserve Board and FBI director Robert Mueller, the Washington Post's MacGillis and Tyson write. Buzz around Washington is that Obama would like to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon, as well. Then again, has anyone asked Gates whether he'd be interested in staying?

-- The new administration hasn't even been named and already preparations are being made for 2010. Not happy with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen's decision to step down as House Democrats' top campaigner, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has successfully talked the Marylander into serving for another cycle, the Post's Chris Cillizza writes. Van Hollen also gets a more prominent role of coordinating policy communications between House Democrats and the White House, a more prominent role that could be compensation for not getting the Conference Chairman's position vacated by Rep. Rahm Emanuel.

-- In the Senate, Democrats have picked up at least six seats, with races in Minnesota and Alaska still to be counted. That's giving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid an excuse to cut the number of seats the minority GOP gets on committees, The Hill's Alexander Bolton writes. Republicans will lose one seat on most committees and two seats on some prominent committees including Appropriations. Reid's plans aren't final, according to a spokesperson, especially given the two outstanding races, but Democrats are modeling their efforts on the 103rd Congress, the last time the party held 57 seats. (Side note: No one's losing their seat on Approps, though; even after chopping two seats, at least three and perhaps four Republicans on the panel stepped down this year, meaning as many as two younger members get a shot at the prestigious committee)

-- Meanwhile, Reid is also dealing with an increasingly delicate situation surrounding Homeland Security and Government Affairs chairman Joe Lieberman, the bane of his existence for the past year. Lieberman's support for John McCain and GOP senators Norm Coleman and Susan Collins have not won him friends or influence in the Democratic caucus -- even after giving a little over $200,000 to the DSCC -- and he's going to have to fight for his chairmanship. Reid wants to keep Lieberman in the Senate, but given the hard feelings among many in the caucus, that may not be possible. "Joe Lieberman votes with me a lot more than a lot of my senators," Reid said on Late Edition yesterday. Lieberman will face the Democratic caucus in a few weeks and plead his case.

-- Finally, it's not only the House and Senate contests and structure that are shaking out this week. Buzz is actually beginning around the 2012 presidential race as well. Close associates of former Speaker Newt Gingrich have told Republicans that Gingrich would chair the Republican National Committee if asked, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes today. The news comes after a weekend float from Bob Novak suggesting Gingrich will be a likely White House candidate.

-- Party Of The Day: While Gingrich considers mounting his own comeback, other possible 2012 contenders are making their own first forays into the pool. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee dips his toe in this week with a return to Iowa for two book tour stops, while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the GOP flavor of the moment, will keynote the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center's annual dinner this month, KCCI-TV first reported back in October. Mitt Romney spent the weekend on a cruise sponsored by National Review, while other incumbent governors will head to Florida this week for an RGA meeting. Thought you were done with the presidential contest? The next round is just starting.

Strategy Memo: Still Counting

Good Wednesday morning. The difference between waking up on Monday and waking up on Thursday: About 100 emails no longer received over night. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The Obama Administration continues to take shape, as a new transition team launched yesterday is already considering candidates for top positions. The team will be headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, Obama's Senate chief of staff Pete Rouse and close Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett. The names are already spilling out: Democratic Conference Chairman Rahm Emanuel is considering an offer to become chief of staff, while former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is leading the buzz to serve in his previous capacity again, the New York Times' Baker and Zeleny write.

-- Other names include current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig to lead the Pentagon. John Kerry is a top pick for Secretary of State, as sources tell several news outlets that he's actively seeking the job, while Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean might be a candidate to lead the Health and Human Services Department. Top Obama aides like finance chair Penny Pritzker, former Clinton counsel Greg Craig and Susan Rice, among others, could be in line for prominent positions as well.

-- Meanwhile, the 2008 elections aren't over, and those in the Obama campaign still don't have a perfect picture of the Congress with which they'll be working. At least two Senate races have yet to be called, along with at least four prominent House races. Late last night, The Oregonian projected state House Speaker Jeff Merkley would beat out Republican Gordon Smith to narrowly capture Democrats' sixth Senate seat. With 85% of the votes counted, a disproportionate number still have to come in from Portland-based Multnomah County, where Merkley is leading better than two to one (County-by-county results available here).

-- It should be no surprise that the Minnesota Senate race is getting ugly, as Republican incumbent Norm Coleman led the latest unofficial count by just 477 votes, the Star Tribune reports this morning. That's out of 2.9 million cast. And while the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out every statement they could yesterday congratulating Coleman for his victory, the statement Coleman sent out announced the legal team he would be using to represent him in a recount, something Democratic opponent Al Franken will push for.

-- Alaska Senator Ted Stevens still leads Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by about 3,300 votes out of more than 208,000 cast, and with just 1% of precincts left to report, things aren't looking good for Democrat Begich. Absentee ballots have yet to come in, and even the state's House race, in which Don Young leads by a 52%-44% margin, hasn't been called yet. Other races still hanging out there include California's Fourth District, where Republican Tom McClintock leads by 400 votes out of more than 310,000, and Virginia's Fifth District, where Tom Perriello leads GOP Rep. Virgil Goode by 80 votes out of 314,000 cast. In Washington's Eight District, Rep. Dave Reichert sports a 2,000-vote lead with 45% of the ballots left to count.

-- If all leads stand, Democrats would end the election with 257 seats in the House, a pickup of 21, and 57 seats in the Senate (with Georgia's seat to be decided in a December 2 runoff). That looks like a big majority, but Democratic leaders in Congress are already managing expectations, The Hill's Mike Soraghan writes. Any legislation that gets through the Senate will need to win some Republicans over, making moderate senators like Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins some of the most powerful forces on Captiol Hill.

-- Back to the election, in which more voters cast ballots than ever before, and in a higher percentage than in any election for forty years, the Associated Press' Seth Borenstein writes. About 133.3 million people cast ballots, or about 62.5% of eligible voters, according to Geroge Mason University expert Michael McDonald. American University vote-watcher Curtis Gans expects the total to be slightly lower, between 126.5 and 129 million. Either would be the highest turnout for any election since 63.8% voted in the 1960 contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

-- Divisions Of The Day: All the dirty little secrets always come out of the losing camp, and John McCain's campaign is no different. The war between the Palin and McCain factions has spilled into the pages of the New York Times thanks to Elisabeth Bumiller, who reports on strife between the Arizonan and the Alaskan. Palin went so far as to consider her own speech on Election Night, only to be told no by McCain aides Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt. Watch for more leaks in the days and weeks to come.

-- Editor's Note: With the election drawing to a close, Strategy Memo is going to slow down as well. We'll be publishing Mondays and Thursdays until the action heats up. In the meantime, stay with Politics Nation for the latest on House leadership races, freshmen members of Congress and their first trip to Washington and the latest news on the Obama Administration's new hires.

Strategy Memo: Historic Moment

Good Wednesday morning. No big news today, right? Did we sleep through something? Here's what Washington is watching this morning:

-- Illinois Senator Barack Obama, four years removed from the State Senate and a dramatic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, will serve as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the office and the first Democrat to win more than 50.1% of the popular vote since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. In all, Obama won 52% of the popular vote and at least 28 states, for a landslide 349 electoral votes. As of the early morning, Obama also led by a small 50%-49% margin in North Carolina and trailed by the same margin in Missouri, the last two uncalled states.

-- Obama won election by fundamentally altering the electorate, the Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak writes. About one-tenth of all voters cast ballots for the first time, most of them younger, and a good portion of whom were African Americans and Hispanic voters. And even as pundits warned of a possible Bradley effect, which would keep white voters from backing a black candidate, Obama won a larger portion of the Caucasian vote than John Kerry did in 2004. Obama won across the spectrum of voters, according to exit polls, taking majorities among those who never went to high school to those who hold post-graduate degrees, won moderates by a 60%-39% margin, and won every religious denomination other than Protestants.

-- Obama's victory came largely in states in which the Democratic Party has not seriously competed in a generation. While Obama won traditional swing states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, the Democrat also won electoral votes from Indiana, Virginia and Nevada, states that traditionally give their votes to the GOP. Obama lost other heavily Republican states by a narrow margin, falling less than ten points short in states like South Carolina, Georgia and the Dakotas. Even in Arizona, John McCain's home state, Obama lost by a narrow 54%-45% margin. In all, the 2008 electoral map is fundamentally unique and could lead to dramatic and long-term changes.

-- In his victory speech to hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago's Grant Park, Obama warned of the long road ahead and echoed his themes of change, the Associated Press' Terence Hunt writes. Facing treacherous economic terrain and two wars abroad, Obama said change might not come "in one year or even in one term." But, he said, "I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there."

-- Obama's process of transitioning to the Oval Office has already begun, 76 days before he will take the oath, the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray writes. Headed by former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, the transition team will be quick but not hasty, sources tell Murray. Obama advisers are debating whether to ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to continue to serve and are tossing around names for other prominent Cabinet posts.

-- One post Obama is likely to fill sooner rather than later is that of chief of staff. Obama has offered the job to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the hard-nosed Illinois congressman who served as a top aide in the Clinton White House and later guided Democrats to the majority as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, NBC's Mike Viqueira reports. Sources tell multiple news outlets that Emanuel is either seriously considering the position or has already accepted, and that an announcement will be made shortly. Emanuel's office would not speculate on the congressman's future, though neither did they deny the rumors.

-- Obama will enter the White House three weeks after the 111th Congress convenes with a dramatically expanded Democratic majority in both chambers. The party beat at least two GOP incumbents, though ballots are still being counted in Oregon and Alaska, and snapped up three open seats. Results in Minnesota remain too close to call (Check out the Times' Grynbaum and Herszenhorn for more on the Senate races). The party also expanded its majority in the U.S. House, picking up at least 20 seats while others are headed to recounts or still counting (More via the AP).

-- The bigger majorities mean one thing: Democrats now have to get something done. And the party doesn't face the easiest playing field on which to advance their cause. With two wars abroad, a global economic crisis and myriad other issues, Obama, as many others said this evening, will know neither prosperity nor peace as he enters office, the first president in such a precarious position since Franklin Roosevelt. The challenges will require superhuman effort, the Times' Peter Baker writes, and the new president-elect will face more obstacles than he may know.

-- Long Term Of The Day: House Republican losses came across the country on Tuesday night, from the lone Republican representing the Northeast, Rep. Christopher Shays, to at least five seats in the Southwest. But just two of their losses came in the old Confederacy. In fact, the South has become even more of a bastion for the GOP, making some moderates in the party wonder whether looking elsewhere for party leadership might help grow the tent. As Florida Rep. Adam Putnam announced he would not seek a new term as Conference Chairman, another sort-of-southerner, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, prepared his own campaign. Can a Texan bring the party a new direction? The smaller minority had better hope so.

Strategy Memo: Curtain Call

Good Tuesday morning, and happy Election Day. We've been waiting for this for two solid years, and we're going to have some fun with it. Tune in tonight for our analysis and live results on XM Radio's POTUS '08, which you can listen to here for free. We'll be on from the time the first polls close at 6 p.m. ET to the time the last results are known. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The first results are in, and Barack Obama has a serious lead, with 32 votes to John McCain's 16 in Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, New Hampshire. The two tiny towns in the north country really don't serve as indicators; instead, the tradition of voting right after midnight is just another of the symbolic moments of the day. Obama's win in Dixville Notch, the New Hampshire Union Leader points out, is the first time a Democrat has won the town since 1968, when Hubert Humphrey beat Richard Nixon there by an eight to four margin.

-- As voters across the country head to the polls, they are considering two key differences between the candidates, Gallup's Frank Newport writes. Obama stands for change, and the vast majority of voters who are looking for a change are going to pick the Illinois senator. McCain is the safer, more experienced pick, and his voters overwhelmingly cite experience when they give their reasons for choosing him. If McCain goes down tonight, watch for ample criticism that he didn't play up his experience enough. Sure, the strategy didn't work for Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but for a much older, more conservative electorate in the general election, it might have made a difference.

-- Meanwhile, the traffic on the way to Obama's final rally just outside Washington was horrific, we're told. But for those denizens of the District who hadn't seen the Democrat before got a special treat, as the candidate reached back to the primaries for his old "Fired up! Ready to go!" bit, per The Swamp's John McCormick. As McCain drew smaller crowds in the final days of the campaign, Obama ended his campaign with a rally for 90,000 in Manassas, Virginia, telling the crowd they have to go vote even if it rains.

-- That's a concern for both campaigns, especially in eastern North Carolina and Virginia, where a coastal storm is expected to dump rain and wind on voters heading to the polls. Voters in the Pacific Northwest will have to contend with rain and, in some higher elevations inland, snow, which might hurt Republican turnout, though in Washington and Idaho, two states that aren't expected to be close either way. But it's going to be a beautiful, warmer than average day around the Midwest, a perfect time to stand outside in four-hour lines with your closest friends. Keep updated on the day's weather with the Weather Channel's election coverage.

-- McCain, never willing to throw in the towel, is eschewing his normal movie-going tradition on Election Day to head to Grand Junction, Colorado, a Republican area where he is hoping to gin up turnout. McCain will stop by Albuquerque, New Mexico for a last-minute rally before returning home to Phoenix.

-- Just in time for absolutely no one to hear about it, McCain running mate Sarah Palin has been exonerated of wrongdoing in the so-called Troopergate scandal, the Anchorage Daily News' Lisa Demer writes. An independent investigator hired by the state Personnel Board sharply disagreed with a special counsel representing the state legislature, saying the counsel used the wrong state law under which to base his conclusions. The only thing the Personnel Board investigator found fault with was the use of personal email accounts, which are less secure than official email accounts.

-- Finally, even if he wins it will be a bittersweet day for Barack Obama. Madelyn Dunham, the woman who helped raise Obama in Hawaii and served as what he called his "rock" passed away in the early morning hours Monday, the campaign announced late yesterday. Obama saw Dunham a week and a half ago, leaving the campaign trail to say goodbye. Obama learned of her passing early yesterday. Win or lose, it would have been nice for Obama's grandmother to be able to see Election Day take place.

-- Predictions Of The Day: After more than a year running Politics Nation and almost two years covering the campaign trail, it's time to finally lay down our predictions. Tragically, someone's already done that for us: Turns out our projected map looks exactly the same as Karl Rove's, which Marc Ambinder posts, giving Obama 338 electoral votes and the White House for at least four years. So we'll have to stick with the House and Senate predictions. Democrats will net no fewer than eleven seats in the House and no more than 47 seats, though our prediction is a net gain of 26 seats (30 Democratic wins, while four of the party's incumbents lose). Republicans will lose a net of eight seats in the Senate. Are we right? Or are we crazy? Check in tomorrow to find out.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama will hit polling places in Indianapolis to talk with voters before heading back to Chicago for a game of basketball. Tonight, he holds his election night celebration at Grant Park in Chicago. McCain will vote in Phoenix this morning before rallying in Grand Junction and Albuquerque. McCain's big party tonight is at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. The last polls in the country will close at 1 a.m Eastern. Thanks for joining us during this incredible run; now, go vote.

Strategy Memo: The Airport Tour

Good Monday morning. The Washington Redskins are favored by less than a field goal in their matchup tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers, their final home game before the election. Here's what else Washington is watching today:

-- Barack Obama and John McCain are spending the final 24 hours of the campaign with a final fly-around, getting their last-minute face time with voters in key swing states. Those swing states have tightened a bit, but in the last days Obama remains ahead in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada. That tightening has cost Obama some electoral votes on the latest RCP Map -- he sits at 278, still eight more than he needs to win. Still, McCain has a long way to go; he's got just 132 votes on the latest map.

-- The ten tossup states, stretching from Montana and Arizona in the West to Georgia and Florida in the south, have one thing in common that will become the enduring legacy of the 2004 election: They are all states President Bush carried in both 2000 and 2004. As the election comes to a close, Bush is ultimately proving he's been a bigger factor than Republicans have wanted to admit, even as he stayed on the sidelines for most of the campaign season.

-- Nationally, Obama is closing out the campaign on an upward swing, Gallup's Jones, Newport and Saad write. Thanks to more voters expected to turn out this year, a Democratic advantage in the number of voters willing to self-identify with the party, Obama's huge lead among Hispanic voters and his success at attracting independent voters over McCain by a five-point margin, the Illinois senator is leading by a 53%-42% margin in both Gallup's likely voter models. We keep reminding that the national popular vote doesn't mean anything if you can't get to 270, and just ask Al Gore. But Gore won the popular vote by a little over 400,000 votes out of 100 million cast. If Obama becomes the first Democrat since LBJ to clock in above 50% and his margin looks anything like the final Gallup poll of the cycle, Obama's margin in the popular vote will be considerably higher than 400,000.

-- McCain is trying a final angle in the last hours, blasting Obama for a taped recording of an interview the Democrat conducted with the San Francisco Chronicle. In the interview, Obama suggests building new coal-powered plants would "bankrupt" the owners given new regulations. At a rally in Marietta, Ohio, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin went on the attack, blasting Obama for "talking about bankrupting the coal industry," CBS's Scott Conroy writes. Some in coal-heavy states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia are outraged, as the West Virginia Record's Chris Dickerson writes, but is it too little, too late?

-- Ohio is an interesting example of what's gone wrong for McCain this year. Some of it isn't his fault, as white working class voters who were resistant to an African American in the primaries feel just fine paying more attention to the "D" after his name than what he looks like once the economy tanks. Other parts of McCain's current Ohio position are his fault, as Obama simply out-hustles the Republican on the ground, the LA Times' Drogin and Abcarian write. From a lack of volunteers to a late-starting canvass program, the McCain campaign finds itself far behind and with little time to catch up.

-- It's the same thing that's happening across the country, the New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff writes. Despite a Friday conference call in which McCain strategists professed an enhanced ground operation even from four years ago, it is Obama's final push that looks more like Karl Rove's 72-hour program than McCain's. They estimate volunteers in the hundreds of thousands, offices in the thousands and voter contacts in the millions per day, numbers no Democrat has ever achieved.

-- Back to the number twos for a moment: Palin and her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden, have played an outsized role in this year's contest. Future vice presidential nominees should take that as a warning. In both 2000 and 2004, Dick Cheney was the less noticeable running mate as both John Edwards and Joe Lieberman played more prominent roles on their ticket. Both of Cheney's tickets won. This year, Palin has been more outspoken, and she may be a bigger drag on her ticket, per CNN's Paul Steinhauser, but Biden's done his part, providing the GOP with a number of gaffes on which to build. Note to next presidential nominees: Remember that the choice of a veep is like the oath a doctor takes, and above all, do no harm.

-- People Of The Year: As we wrote above, this presidential race will come down to voter feelings about two people, Barack Obama and President Bush. The Bush albatross is giving voters a reason to take yet another look at the Democratic candidate and robbing McCain, ironically never close with the president, of voters who might naturally vote Republican. McCain's made plenty of mistakes, including Sarah Palin, but that which will ultimately doom his candidacy will be the factor he couldn't control.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain starts his day in Tampa before heading to an airport rally in Blountville, Tennessee (No, it's not another swing state; Blountville is just south of the Virginia border in an area McCain needs to seriously boost turnout). Later, McCain hits airport rallies in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, Indianapolis, Indiana, Roswell, New Mexico, Henderson, Nevada and Prescott, Arizona. Obama is in Jacksonville, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina and Manassas, Virginia.

-- So many stops today we need a second graph for Palin and Biden. The Republican vice presidential nominee starts the day with a rally in Lakewood, Ohio before hitting the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. Stops in Dubuque, Iowa, Colorado Springs, Reno and Elko, Nevada end her day. Biden starts off in Lee's Summit, Missouri before holding rallies in Zanesville and Copley, Ohio and ending his day in Philadelphia, where Democrats will work to overwhelm Republicans with high turnout.

Strategy Memo: The Long Road

Good Sunday morning. With just hours to go before residents of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire head to the polls, here's what Washington is watching today:

-- For weeks, we've preached a devotion to state-by-state polls instead of the national average. Remember, it's not a race for a majority of the popular vote, it's a race for 270 electoral votes. Then, as the national race appeared to tighten, polls showed Barack Obama leading by wider margins in battleground states. Now, as the national race is favoring Obama by wider margins, a rash of late polls are showing swing states tightening. A series of Mason-Dixon polls conducted for NBC News and a number of newspapers show John McCain closing gaps in Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and other must-win states.

-- Is it natural tightening? Or is John McCain staging a comeback? Despite the latest polls, most political watchers think it's neither. The Washington Post's Broder, Balz and Cillizza, leading the paper's must-read coverage today, write Obama is on his way to an historic win. Obama has significant leads in every state John Kerry won in 2004 and sizable leads in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa, four states President Bush won that year. Obama also maintains narrow leads in Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, any one of which would be a virtually impenitrable wall between McCain and the presidency.

-- Looking back on this election, we could find more parallels with 1992 than any other election. A younger and energetic Democrat is benefiting from a struggling economy while an older Republican hasn't yet found the proper weakness to exploit. In 1992, James Carville's famous claim that it's the economy explained why voters overlooked Bill Clinton's flaws and elected him. This year, concerns that Obama is a socialist or too inexperienced or any of the many angles McCain has tried are sticking in people's minds, but none of them are overtaking the economy in the minds of voters, the Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness writes.

-- Wangsness writes from Rochester, Pennsylvania, a town like the ones McCain must win for a shot at the White House. In the last several weeks, the race has closed in Pennsylvania by a significant margin, down from a high of 14 to today's 7.0-point margin for Obama in the latest RCP Average. But seven points, fueled by a groundswell of voter turnout in Philadelphia and the so-called collar counties, is still a formidable lead, and McCain still has a big hill to climb.

-- McCain's troubles were evident yesterday when Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at a rally in his home state of Wyoming to endorse the GOP ticket. Cheney's kind words for his longtime intraparty rival made easy fodder for a new ad the Obama campaign has launched, the latest salvo in their largely successful effort to tie McCain to the current administration, the Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick writes. President Bush's job approval rating is at just 25%, while a shocking 9.8% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction. That's the albatross that could sink McCain's campaign.

-- In fact, the entire election is coming down to two people -- and John McCain isn't one of them. Undecided voters who walk into the booth have yet to make up their mind about Barack Obama. Most Americans have made up their minds about McCain, but many have yet to come to a conclusion about Obama. Weighing on those voters' minds will be President Bush and his singular unpopularity. For months, Republicans have insisted the president's absence from the ballot would mitigate any negative impact he might otherwise have. Now, that no longer appears to be the case. In spite of Bush's absence from the trail, the plummeting economy is enough of a reminder to voters to hurt Republicans.

-- Leaks Of The Day: Yet again today, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was absent from the Sunday shows, skipping out completely during her candidacy. A serious grilling from the late Tim Russert could have given Palin a huge opportunity to prove herself, though she emerged on the national scene after Russert passed away. So who's next as host of NBC's Meet the Press? Speculation swirls around internal talent like Chuck Todd (Full disclosure: This reporter used to work for Todd), David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell, and external names like Gwen Ifill, Katie Couric and Ted Koppel, the New York Times' Jacques Steinberg wrote on Friday.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama rallies in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati with wife Michelle today, while McCain focuses on events in Wallingford and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Peterborough, New Hampshire and Miami, Florida. Biden is in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Daytona Beach, Florida, and Palin has her own events in Canton, Marietta, Franklin County and Batavia, Ohio.

Strategy Memo: 72 Hours

Good Saturday afternoon. We're taking a break from obsessive football-watching to engage in obsessive politics-watching. Here's what Washington is taking note of today:

-- Rashes of new polls show a remarkably static race just over 72 hours before the first polls close. Barack Obama leads by 6.5 points nationally, slightly under his high of 8 points in early October, but his lead in critical swing states remains formidable. Obama leads John McCain by 6.5 points in Virginia; by 5.8 points in Ohio; by 6.6 points in Colorado; and by a whopping 7 points in Nevada. All four states voted for President Bush twice.

-- Spend some time today playing with the RCP Electoral College Map and McCain's herculean task becomes evident. While the Republican focuses his crucial time and resources on Pennsylvania, the actual climb ahead of him is far steeper. Assume for the moment that McCain wins every swing state -- neither candidate leads in Montana, Arizona, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia or Florida by more than five points -- and that he somehow stages a Keystone comeback. Thanks to Obama leads in five red states, McCain would still fall two electoral votes short.

-- But the McCain campaign is staying as upbeat as possible, holding a conference call Friday to talk up their chances. An accompanying memo, which Marc Ambinder posts, bragging they will outspend Obama in late television buys and that their volunteer and voter outreach programs are far ahead of 2000 and 2004 levels. Polls in Iowa, the Southwest, Colorado and the Rust Belt are tightening, they argue, and Obama has yet to reach the crucial 50% mark in many states. They do have at least one point: Voters will be thinking of Barack Obama when they go into the booth, meaning undecideds are more likely to break away from him. Still, the memo sure sounds like wishful thinking.

-- McCain campaign strategists aren't dumb. In fact, the memo serves an important purpose. If McCain has any chance at all, he'll need his supporters to show up at the polls, and the enthusiasm gap has the potential to dramatically hurt Republicans. 43% of Obama supporters are enthusiastic about their candidate while just 13% of McCain supporters say the same, according to a new AP poll. Meanwhile, a much higher number of McCain supporters say they are frustrated with the way their campaign is going. If those voters decide to skip out on the long lines, McCain has no chance of winning. Keeping Republicans vaguely interested in the race and convinced they have a chance will ensure they actually turn out to vote.

-- It doesn't help morale when Republicans are badmouthing their own party. Forget the anonymous quotes of McCain loyalists and aides to Sarah Palin slamming each other, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee was very much on the record when he took shots at the presidential ticket. "I do not think that Barack Obama or her are experienced enough to be president of the United States -- neither one of them," John Ensign said on a Nevada television program, per the AP's