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Change comes to embattled White House

By Ben Pershing
A president that got elected promising change is making good on that pledge a year into his term, as the weekend brought a new White House political team, Wednesday's State of the Union address will bring a new message, and the coming weeks -- Democrats hope -- will bring a new legislative focus.

"Populist or professor? Contrite or uncompromising? President Obama will have a chance Wednesday to reintroduce himself to the nation," USA Today writes. So which course will he choose? The New York Times offers a preview: "President Obama will propose in his State of the Union address a package of modest initiatives intended to help middle-class families, including tax credits for child care, caps on some student loan payments and a requirement that companies let workers save automatically for retirement, senior administration officials said Sunday." Get ready for a new label: The story says Obama will focus on "'the sandwich generation' -- struggling families squeezed between sending their children to college and caring for elderly parents."

The Los Angeles Times explains why a shift is needed: "With congressional support eroding, his popularity falling and his renomination of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke potentially in trouble, President Obama faces an even more daunting task to save his entire domestic agenda -- convincing millions of angry Americans that his economic policies will bring them a brighter future." The Associated Press ledes, "A politically shaken White House promised Sunday a sharper focus on jobs and the economy, but key advisers were less sure-footed on health care reform," The Washington Times notes that Congress will also shift its focus, as "Democrats hope to release a jobs bill this week or next."

On the personnel front, the big news of the weekend was the formal return of David Plouffe to Team Obama, where he will occupy a still-undefined political role above/below/aside Jim Messina, Patrick Gaspard and the real political director -- Rahm Emanuel. The Fix says "no White House likes to admit mistakes but it's hard not to see the expansion of Plouffe's role as a direct reaction to the party's stunning setback in Massachusetts six days ago." Jake Tapper adds that "other mid-level operatives from the 2008 Obama campaign who helped bring candidate Obama victories in Iowa and in Feb. 5 'Super Tuesday' primary states, will be enlisted to work on campaigns to keep expected Democratic losses to a minimum."

The Washington Post looks at how and where Obama gets his information, finding that he "reveres facts, calling for data and then more data. He looks for historical analogues and reads voraciously. ... Obama is the first truly wired president, the first to have Internet access at his desk and to converse regularly via e-mail." Mark Steyn mocks the idea that Obama needs to communicate more with the public, since "he only gave (according to CBS News's Mark Knoller) 158 interviews and 411 speeches in his first year. That's more than any previous president -- and maybe more than all of them put together. But there may still be some show out there that didn't get its exclusive Obama interview -- I believe the top-rated Grain & Livestock Prices Report -- 4 a.m. Update with Herb Torpormeister on WZZZ-AM Dead Buzzard Gulch Junction's Newstalk Leader is still waiting to hear back from the White House."

On health care, Politico reports that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi "have begun considering a list of changes to the Senate bill in hopes of making it acceptable to liberal House members, according to sources familiar with the situation. ... The effort also puts Reid and Pelosi on the side of giving a sweeping reform bill one more try, instead of adopting a course being floated by some Democrats in Congress and at the White House of adopting a scaled-back bill including popular reform provisions." The administration seems to favor a different option. The Wall Street Journal writes, "The White House, with its health-care initiative in doubt, on Sunday zeroed in on several elements it hoped would survive, including measures to extend the life of Medicare, lower prescription drug costs for seniors and cap consumers' out-of-pocket medical expenses." Roll Call frames it this way: "Democratic leaders in Congress insist they will pass a health care reform bill. They just have no idea how or when they will do it." The story adds that everyone agrees the onus is on Obama "to referee any negotiations between the House and Senate."

Under the headline, "Pass the Senate Bill, Please," Paul Begala writes to Democrats, "You're going to get the attack anyway, you may as well get the accomplishment. I don't mean to be rude, but if health care is the kiss of death, you've already been kissed." Ross Douthat observes that since Ronald Reagan's days, "nearly every major attempt at reforming the way our government does business has found itself where the Democratic health care bill is now -- losing altitude, shedding supporters and tailspinning toward defeat." He suggests "modesty, simplicity and incrementalism in legislative efforts. You can make big changes to small programs, and small changes to big ones. But comprehensive solutions tend to produce comprehensive resistance."

Is Ben Bernanke out of the woods? The Washington Post says the outlook for Bernanke "brightened over the weekend, as the Obama administration and key senators expressed confidence in his prospects." The Wall Street Journal agrees that "political winds appear to be shifting in" Bernanke's favor, though "confirmation wasn't a certainty. As of late Sunday, 31 senators were publicly committed to voting for Mr. Bernanke, with 17 opposed, according to a Dow Jones Newswires survey." Mitch McConnell predicted Sunday that Bernanke would be confirmed, and Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod did the same. AP warns, "A defeat of ... Bernanke's quest for another four-year term could raise the risk of a 'double dip' recession if political jousting over a successor were to drag on for months, economists warn. ... The chance of Bernanke's defeat has unsettled Wall Street, contributing to last week's 4 percent loss by the Dow Jones industrial average, its worst performance in 10 months. If Bernanke were rejected, uncertainty over a successor would further roil global markets, at least in the short run." Politico interviews Tim Geithner on Bernanke and other subjects.

Looking ahead to November, "Republicans are luring new candidates into House and Senate races, and the number of seats up for grabs in November appears to be growing, setting up a midterm election likely to be harder fought than anyone anticipated before the party's big victory in Massachusetts last week," the New York Times writes, while devoting a significant portion of the story to the preferred Democratic theme: "Republicans still face many obstacles, not least a number of potentially divisive primaries in coming months that will highlight the deep ideological rifts within the party." CQ Politics writes that "Democrats appear to be in political free-fall. Can they reverse the trend in nine months?"

The story adds that the GOP is benefiting from no longer being weighed down by President Bush, but "what gains Republicans make in this election will owe more to voters firing Democrats than hiring Republicans, whose party continues to have a poor public profile three years into minority status." Politico notes that Democratic candidates in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts all tried "Bush-bashing," and "the strategy didn't resonate. Voters were more focused on the current administration or local political issues -- and the onetime Democratic magic formula seemed yesterday's news." James Carville disagrees, calling for the party to blame Bush even more.

Marion Berry -- the Arkansas one, not the D.C. one -- is expected to announce his retirement from the House today, the Fix reports, making him "the sixth Democrat in a competitive seat to leave in the last two months but the first to announce his retirement since the party's special election loss in Massachusetts last Tuesday." Ben Smith notes that since Democrats' loss in Massachusetts, "the feared floodgates of retirements haven't opened, at least not yet. But the drip-drip isn't soothing any Democratic nerves."

In Delaware, Vice President Biden seemed to say that his son would not run for his old Senate seat against Mike Castle. It turns out that's not exactly what he meant, but there are still doubts over whether Beau Biden plans to make the race or perhaps just wait until Castle retires. In Nevada, a Daily Kos poll finds that Oscar Goodman would have a better shot at holding the Senate seat for Democrats than Harry Reid does. The filing deadline is March 12.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 25, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Rundown  
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Next: Obama to announce help for middle class ahead of State of the Union


Our country is in deep trouble when the news media is focused on the comeback or revival of our president and the two political would seem to the average American the concerns are grossly misplaced.

The talk of Health Care reform...etc,etc,etc etc...while our sons and daughters are being killed and maimed in two wars that the Obama administration will not talk about (one wonders how many times he talks to his generals in Afghanistan and Iraq.) It is strange that President Obama has envoys of all strips and colors flying around the world talking with heads of states involved in the fighting...yet, his promise of talking and getting involved personally in the conflicts are not there.

There is a deep flaw in the priorities of President Obama...the brave men and women in harms way to keep us safe...are taking a back seat to the stated concerned legacy of the Obama presidency.

The reporting by the news media of President Obama's handling of the ongoing wars is a disgrace to all Americans. President Bush was hammered daily about the conduct of the wars...President Obama is never confronted about the Middle East...especially Afghanistan where there seems to be no end in sight.

Again, it is the politicians and their bureaucrats that seem to come first, with the help of the news media...before the American people

Posted by: adamscar | January 25, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Speaker Pelosi: You have an opportunity NOW to end the Recession by encouraging the Banks to make prudent CRE Loans. The Banks are now unfettered to make Prudent Loans; which in Major Cities there are thousands of Major Projects with Entitlements. CRE produces the greatest number of jobs than any other segment of the Economy. Glass mfg, Steel Industry, truckers, architects, brokers, agents, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, office furniture manufacturers....WE COULD HAVE 6% UNEMPLOYMENT WITHIN 4 MONTHS....THERE ARE 140 SHOVEL READY, ENTITLED, PROJECTS OF 70 OR MORE UNITS ALONE, READY TO GO IN LOS ANGELES.

Posted by: MSFT-PELOSI | January 25, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Living in America has become very difficult when all the whinners are in harmony! Former Senator Llyod Benson of Texas had a saying when he was running saying! "Some on the people who have been riding in the Wagon need to get out and push" I feel the same was about some of these people who have been voting for this or these wars under emergency apporations need to understand that they've become the problem rather than the solution"

They Rant and Rave about ALL THIS GOVT. SPENDING, but I have never seen an apporations bill on these BUSH wars they didn't vote for!!!!

Posted by: obrown1033 | January 25, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Still believe the President can pull it off. He just needs to add a real 'kitchen cabinet' that will tell him when needed that there is a 'hole' in the doughnut.

Posted by: Victoria5 | January 25, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

The Lying King is winding up to "re-connect" with The People in his State of the Union Address.
What's the betting that he will again blame Bush for the state of the Economy?
What's the betting that he will again promise transparency and bi-partisanship?
What's the betting that he will announce a huge grab-bag of goodies to entice back everyone of his 63million supporters and more?
Obama is like a run-away train on steroids. No-one in his own Party has yet twigged to the fact that the President needs to be stopped before he does anymore damage. The governing Democrats need to wake up. Barack Obama is not the boy wonder that they believed him to be. He's a flop President! They have to stop being scared of him. They have to act or they will go down like Coakley did in Massachusetts.
One can only pray that the mid-terms will bring in an avalanche of strong Republican candidates to put most of these Democrats out of their misery and stop the Obama-Change coming to America and destroying a Country that did not need it.

Posted by: sarah4pres | January 25, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

If Obama thinks pushing this so called health care debacle is his answer back, boy is he mistaken. People in my little sphere are still fuming from that massive invasive political bomb they tried which everyone saw as a federal takeover plan. That garbage did not have cost reform and was simply to put in place this massive maize of government agencies we all know are a cesspools of waste and fraud. Our family considered this a nightmare. This was not the portable affordable health care with tort reform w wanted. So let his advisors spin this garbage in his ear and if they push this horrible nightmare of a bill, the liberal Dems are finished. We need to elect people we trust to do the job because Obama and his cronies are not interested in jobs and the economy. The stimulus bill was a joke and had no intention to create jobs. It was a payoff scheme written by resurfaced hippies of the 60's to pad the palms of leftists, environmentalists and union. Vote these liberals out in 2010 and 2012. Move Obama to the center, portray him the friend of the common man, push this I feel your pain but in the end, we know the truth that he is a suit with alot of hot air.

Posted by: greatgran1 | January 25, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Obama's Address to the Nation will be a giant balloon with promises written on as graffiti and nothing more. Sure it will generate a lot of brouhaha and big headlines the next day, Thursday, but the balloon will deflate completely by the weekend, and next Monday, February 1, 2010, life will drag along as today, which is "the desperate way." Addresses to the Nation work only when the president announces war - because it is easy to start shooting, or when he announces that forklifts at the U.S. Treasury are unloading billions on Wall Street firms truck outside - because both can be done with executive orders. But Obama cannot push a catatonic economy up with rhetoric or with executive order.

Obama came to the white house with a flux of populist rhetoric, but once settled in, his No. 1 priority became survival until 2016, not "change" - the core of his election mantle. And the team that helped him getting elected remained close to him to help him tip-toe his "supposed change" within the parameters of republican tolerance, and also keep his 63 million voters within the parameters of a trance of illusionary changes that can last until 2012. There is only one picture of Obama today that most Americans must see: He is the boy hitching a free ride on top of a giant turtle [his voters], by holding a banana [his promises] pierced in a stick in front of the turtle. The turtle keeps moving to reach the banana -held just one foot away from her mouth, but it won't get it until the boy reach his destination. Obama's destination is 2016, and his priority now is not "change," but how to keep the banana in front of the turtle from rotting before 2012. Expect his Address to the Nation speech, therefore, to be just "a modified public atmosphere preservative," but nothing more! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by: Nikos_Retsos | January 25, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

It is absolutely stunning that the Dems can construe the Mass election as a "response to the anger of the last eight years"! Brown made it very clear that a vote for him was vote against the health care bill and a vote for Coakley was a vote for the health care bill. Brown ran against Obama's policies, while Coakley ran against G. Bush. This "upset" makes it perfectly clear that the electorate rejects Obama's health care bill and unrestrained spending. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: r1dean | January 25, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I can't wait until republicans are back in power:


I can't wait until republicans are back in power:

Today the Medicare prescription-drug debate is remembered mainly for the political shenanigans Republicans used to get their bill through. Bush officials lied about the numbers and threatened to fire Medicare's chief actuary if he shared honest cost estimates with Congress. House Republicans cut off C-SPAN and kept the roll call open for three hours—as opposed to the requisite 15 minutes—while cajoling the last few votes they needed for passage. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay was admonished by the House ethics committee for winning the eleventh-hour support of Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican, by threatening to vaporize Smith's son in an upcoming election.

Posted by: printthis | January 25, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Barack Insane Obummer

1. One term president.

2. First and last colred president.

Posted by: Jeffersoda | January 25, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Barack Insane Obummer

1. One term president.

2. First and last colred president.

Posted by: Jeffersoda | January 25, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

You know it's getting desperate for the White House when it attempts to spin the Massachusetts smack-down as a frustrated reaction that the pace of "Change", (screwing the American people) isn't happening fast enough. How about the Washpost do some stories that don't include concern about the fate or perception of Reid, Pelosi or obama? I think We The People already have a solid opinion of these ineffective leaders.

Posted by: Superpower | January 25, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Democrats are mad the stacked deck is thrown out? But let them keep their beliefs - we'll get rid of them in November. OhBummer is a lying weasel, and we'll get rid of him in 2012 - if he is not impeached first.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | January 25, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

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