5 p.m. ET: With all the attention paid to the fact that President Obama may soon finally have a complete Cabinet, it's easy to forget that we don't yet have a complete Senate. And if Norm Coleman gets his way, the chamber will be missing a member for a while longer.
Even as the Senate election trial in Minnesota continues, Coleman and his lawyers have made waves over the last two days by suggesting that the results of his contest against Al Franken might just have to be thrown out. That's right -- Coleman might just want a do-over.
Franken's team, of course, wants no such thing, and suggests that the court doesn't have the right to just set aside the results of an election. And if the Minnesota election system is so flawed that the first contest has to be thrown out, what evidence is there that another election would be any more fair? Regardless, Franken's attorneys are presenting their arguments over the next two or three weeks, after which the court will rule and then Coleman can choose to keep appealing if he doesn't like the result. The Senate has been at least one member short for over a month now, and it doesn't look like that seat will be filled any time soon, do-over or not.
8 a.m. ET: On Friday, President Obama will be in Columbus, Ohio, to tout the benefits of the economic stimulus measure, a bill that would not have made it to his desk without the assent and firm imprint of Nancy Pelosi. The same will be true on health care reform, energy and every other major piece of legislation Obama hopes to sign during his tenure.
Given how important each is to the political success of the other, it's worth examining the state of the burgeoning relationship between Obama and Pelosi, a subject that has prompted a host of sometimes contradictory stories in recent days. Depending on whom you read, the president and the Speaker either get along well or not, agree on most issues or not and stand in each other's way or not.
On Saturday, Newsweek published a piece titled, "Obama's Pelosi Problem," which suggested -- as we've heard before -- that Obama really did want bipartisan support for the stimulus package but Pelosi really didn't. And, for that matter, it said that the two Democrats "get on each other's nerves" even though they "need each other politically." But the very same day, the New York Times posted a story headlined, "Frustrated G.O.P. Tries to Drive Wedge Between Obama and Pelosi." That piece mostly blamed Republicans for advancing the theory that the two are working at cross-purposes, saying that while Pelosi might be a bit more liberal than Obama, "the two share plenty of common philosophical ground and have similar policy goals."
Both of those pieces were published a day after Politico's story, "Pelosi Butts Heads With Obama." You can guess what that was about. The piece cited specific policy examples where Pelosi has differed with the president -- on how many troops to leave in Iraq, on how quickly taxes should be increased on the wealthy and on whether former Bush administration officials should face possible prosecution. “She is totally supportive of him on most things,” a Pelosi aide told the paper. “But as with anything, there are going to be disagreements.”
That quote probably best sums up the still-nascent relationship between the two. They have different constituencies -- Obama was elected by the whole country, Pelosi was elected by San Francisco; Obama represents Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats, while Pelosi represents a mostly liberal Democratic caucus. Pelosi is instinctively more liberal than Obama, and more conditioned to expect a partisan fight after years in the House trenches. So it's unrealistic to expect them to approach most issues from the same perspective. But they will, in most cases, end up at the same result -- as they did on the stimulus package -- even after some fits and starts and a few whispered comments that they're not getting along.
Just as Republicans may be trying to drive a wedge between Obama and Pelosi, so too are Democrats now working to expose a divide between two GOP leaders -- Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh. As many stories note this morning, the RNC chairman and the radio host got into a war of words Monday, after Democrats stepped up their efforts to suggest that Limbaugh is the real face of the party. (Speaking of faces, check out Paul Begala's quote in this morning's White House Cheat Sheet. In or out of bounds?)
While the GOP squabbles over Limbaugh, Obama keeps stumbling on the road to a full Cabinet. The latest headache: Ron Kirk, the nominee for U.S. Trade Representative who failed to pay about $10,000 in taxes over the last few years. There's no suggestion at this point that Kirk's mistakes will be important enough to derail his nomination the way they did Tom Daschle's (but didn't derailTim Geithner's). It's just another embarrassing headline for Team Obama that they could have done without.
And speaking of embarrassing, Rod Blagojevich is writing a book that will expose "the dark side of politics." The working title is, "The Governor," but here's your chance to suggest something much better.
March 3, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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