White House Cheat Sheet: Obama Goes (Mostly) All In in NY
President Obama is putting his political capital on the line in a New York special election, cutting an ad in support of the Democratic candidate and using his massive email list built during the presidential campaign to recruit volunteers for the final days of the race.
To date, Obama and his senior advisers have been loathe to run the risk of tarnishing his powerful political brand, turning down myriad requests during the fall campaign to appear in ads or on the trail with downballot candidates.
Why then is Obama weighing in with a televised endorsement (although neither the president nor his voice appears in the ad) in an Upstate New York special election? Because he and his political inner circle recognize that the race will be analyzed as an early referendum on his economic vision whether or not he plays an active role in the contest.
Businessman Scott Murphy (D) has wholeheartedly embraced the $787 billion economic stimulus plan passed through Congress, attacking state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco's (R) opposition to the legislation as anti-jobs in an area struggling mightily on the economic front. Tedisco, in turn, is hammering Murphy for backing legislation that allowed bonuses to be paid out to AIG executives.
With that backdrop, it's easy to see how national strategists, donors and, yes, reporters are painting this race as the first chance to see how America is reacting to the Obama agenda.
In truth, casting this race as a straight up or down vote on Obama is imprecise. Special elections are battles between the two parties' bases as only the most loyal party footsoldiers are willing to turn out on a non-traditional election day. In that, Republicans have a clear edge as registered GOPers outnumber registered Democrats by 70,000 in the Albany-area seat.
But, as Obama and his team well know, politics isn't fair all the time. This race will be regarded as a referendum on the new president and he has made the decision to take control of his own political destiny.
What To Watch For:
Friday Fun Reads: Because the Fix just wants to have fun.
1. The president ups the troop ante in Afghanistan.
2. A (conditional) auto bailout appears to be on the way.
3. Time's James Poniewozik asks (and answers) the question of whether President Obama is doing too much TV.
4. An interesting take from National Review on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's reelection prospects in 2010.
5. The economic recession even affects Google.
Dodd in Dogfight: A new independent poll confirms that Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd faces a very tough reelection fight in 2010. Conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal Daily Kos site, Dodd holds a narrow 45 percent to 40 percent lead over former Rep. Rob Simmons, the likely Republican nominee. (Those numbers are an improvement over the dead heat between Dodd and Simmons in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.) Dodd's favorable numbers are only fair with 47 percent of Connecticut voters feeling favorably toward him and 40 percent unfavorably. Simmons has a stronger 41 fav/18 unfav score. Those numbers came on the same day that the Cook Political Report (a Fix alma mater) moved Connecticut into the "toss up" category. One potential bright spot for Dodd: former Ambassador Tom Foley, who is independently wealthy, is seriously considering a bid for the Republican nomination, which, if it comes to pass, will complicate Simmons's path to victory.
Health Care Ads Coming from Conservative Group: A Florida multimillionaire is spending more than $600,000 on a national cable television ad buy that urges Congress to stop and ask questions about President Obama's plans for health care. "Isn't it amazing folks in Congress were shocked the plan they passed allowed those huge bonuses for AIG?" asks the ad's narrator. "Now some in Congress want to raise taxes and spend $634 billion for the president's health care overhaul -- without even seeing all the details of his plan." The ads are sponsored by Conservatives for Patients' Rights Action Fund, an organization funded heavily by Rick Scott, a health care executive who founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation in the late 1980s. Scott is reportedly willing to spend as much as $1 million on the ads if the fight over health care extends beyond Congress' Easter break.
ABC Fills the "Top Line": Starting Monday, ABC News is launching a daily web show called the "Top Line" that will run from 12 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. every day. "We hope that our users read 'The Note' over breakfast and watch 'Top Line' so they know what to talk about at lunch," said Rick Klein, who along with ABC News political director David Chalian, will host the show. (Klein's comment begs the question: What will we do for dinner?) Both Rick and David are Fix friends and savvy political minds. So, after you're done consuming the Cheat Sheet, the Line, which is coming later today, and the rest of the Fix content, jump over and check out ABC's "Top Line."
Say What?: "I can't divulge names." -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs when asked who advises him on his fashion choices during an interview with the Post's Lois Romano.
March 27, 2009; 5:26 AM ET
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