White House Cheat Sheet: What's Next?
President Obama returns stateside today, concluding a trip abroad that serves as a bookend for a breakneck first eleven weeks in office that has seen his administration fundamentally reshape the financial and auto industries, propose and pass the outline of a $3 trillion budget, and begin to redefine America to the world community.
The obvious question: What's next?
There's little debate that Obama's first 77 days in office have been among the most active (and activist) of any modern administration -- drawing comparisons to the first 100 days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, both of whom, like Obama, dealt with a major national (FDR) or international (JFK) crisis in their first days in office.
Now that so much has been set in motion -- from broad economic reforms to an increased focus on the war in Afghanistan -- there is some sense that the only thing to do is sit back and wait to see whether the early actions have the desired effect.
But, the American public tends to equate movement with progress so don't expect the Obama administration to do anything that projects an image of luxuriating in their own accomplishments over the next few months.
The primary focus of the administration efforts likely will be, unsurprisingly, Obama's continued salesmanship for his economic plan as the best way to a long term recovery. Obama acknowledged that part of the recovery has to do with people believing things are getting better and, given his continued high popularity ratings, he is the best messenger to instill the sort of confidence average Americans need and want.
A recent national poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News suggests that the economic corner hasn't yet been turned in the minds of most Americans. Twenty-seven percent of those polled said the economy was getting better while 36 percent said it was getting worse and an equal 36 percent said the economy was holding steady.
Given those numbers, expect Obama to continue his habit of spending a day or two (or more) outside of Washington in the coming weeks, perhaps with the town halls he has employed to much success both during the fight over his economic stimulus plan and during his time in Europe.
In truth, there will be something of a slowdown over the next few months -- particularly from a legislative standpoint. Congress is now on a two-week recess and the major fights on issues like health care and the environment aren't likely to come up until the fall.
But, Obama knows that with the country still in dire economic straits nothing but full speed ahead is acceptable. How and whether he matches the pace of his first seven weeks, however, is an open question.
What To Watch For:
Tuesday's Fix Picks: Soon -- we promise -- these picks will migrate into a permanent spot in the top left hand corner of the blog. Stay tuned!
1. President Obama insists America "is not and never will be at war with Islam" during a speech in Turkey.
2. There will be no attempt to overturn the Iowa same sex marriage decision by the state legislature.
3. New Yorkers do not like their governor. Like, at all.
4. Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) comes out against the Employee Free Choice Act. Is she worried about her 2010 race? Paging Tim Griffin.
5. The showdown for the future of journalism may come down to this: the Associated Press vs. Google.
More Ads for Americans United: As President Obama arrives back in the United States, he'll be greeted by ads applauding passage of his budget last week and urging Republicans to work with the president on future legislative measures. "Last week Members of Congress from across America came together to make history," says the narrator in the ad, which is being sponsored by Americans United, a liberal outside group. "They voted overwhelmingly to turn the page on the failed economic policies of the past." Later, the narrator notes that not a single Republican voted for Obama's budget blueprint, adding: "Tell the Republican leaders that when it comes to future decisions on health care, energy, education and jobs, America doesn't want 'no we won't'... we want 'Yes we can.'" The ad buy is in the "five figures" and will run only on D.C. cable stations, according to Americans United spokesman Jeremy Funk, meaning that it is intended not to persuade voters but rather to influence the chattering class as they debate future fights between Congress and the administration.
2012 Like It's Tomorrow: The Democratic National Committee seems to be making a habit of attacking unannounced candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The latest victim? Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal whose preferred candidate in a state Senate special election got clobbered over the weekend. Hari Sevugan, deputy communications director at the DNC, whipped around an email on Monday taking note of the loss with the addendum: "I don't usually make a habit of sending out clips of Republican electoral victories, but this one merited an exception." Asked about the governor's unsuccessful endorsement, Jindal consultant Curt Anderson said simply "You stick by your friends." Anderson added that he was "amused" by the DNC's interest in the race, noting that Democrats failed to even qualify a candidate for the state Senate special. The DNC's decision to elevate Jindal by attacking him is an interesting one. Strategists for the party insist that the fact that Jindal was chosen to give the Republican response to President Obama's address to Congress in February is a sure sign he was already elevated in the eyes of most political observers.
The Clinton Alumni Association: Ever wonder what happened to the massive political machine then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton built for her unsuccessful presidential bid? While some of her top aides have made high profile moves -- communications director Howard Wolfson to the same position in the reelection race of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Patti Solis Doyle to a D.C. law firm -- a number of other operatives have made more under the radar moves that have put them in influential positions in the campaigns of 2009 and 2010. Geri Prado, who served as deputy political director for Clinton, has signed on to manage the Senate candidacy of Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher; former Clinton state director Jonathan Drobis is the deputy campaign manager for New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson who is running against Bloomberg this year. And then of course there are Ace Smith and Nick Clemons -- two leading state operatives for Clinton -- who are overseeing the political operations of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, respectively. Both men are eyeing the 2010 governor's race in the Golden State. Got any other tips on where Cinton alums have landed? Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com or leave your tip in the comments section below.
The Missing Linc Running for Gov?: Former Rhode Island senator Lincoln Chafee took a major step toward returning to the political arena Monday, forming an exploratory committee to raise money for a potential gubernatorial bid in 2010. A statement released by his fledgling campaign said that he would spend the next few months "meeting with advisers and supporters" to put together the framework of a bid -- as an Independent -- for governor. Chafee, who was defeated by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) in 2006, is a household name in the state thanks to his own service as well as the iconic status of his father, John, who spent decades representing the state in the Senate before his death in 1999. Sources on both sides of the political aisle acknowledge that Chafee has a real chance at winning a three-way race particularly with Democrats headed to a rock 'em, sock 'em primary and Republicans without a particularly stellar candidate. If he does get elected, Chafee will follow in the footsteps of Maine's Angus King and (gulp) Minnesota's Jesse Ventura.
UNC Wins, McDonnell Loses: When Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell (R) put together an NCAA basketball tournament competition on his gubernatorial campaign Web site -- offering the winner the chance to dine with him or play a two on two basketball game with him and his two sons, he and his political team likely saw it as a fun distraction to get people to visit his site. He didn't count on Greg Scanlon, however. (No one ever does.) Scanlon, who is a researcher for the Virginia Democratic Party, won the pool -- cinching it with his pick of national champion University of North Carolina in last night's championship game. Um, awkward. Of the possibility of playing against McDonnell in hoops, Scanlon said: "If we play basketball, I know I'll have to watch out for Bob's hard driving to the right." Heyooooo!
Vandenberg to Davis: Rep. Artur Davis's (D-Ala.) fledgling bid for governor will be managed by Jessica VandenBerg, an experienced Washington hand, the campaign announced on Monday. VandenBerg, an Iowa native, rose to prominence in 2006 when she guided Jim Webb to an upset victory over then Sen. George Allen in Virginia. She has also spent time in Minnesota and North Carolina as a political operative. "Joining Congressman Davis' campaign is a no-brainer," Vandenberg said when contacted by the Fix. "His polling shows him leading Democrats and Republicans next year...and it's an open seat in a state that has very competitive and very close general elections." Davis will face state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and, potentially, state Sen. Roger Bedford in the coming Democratic primary as he seeks to become the first African American governor of Alabama.
Say What?: "They make you take your shoes off and everything, it's terrible." -- Disgraced financier "Sir" Allen Stanford tells ABC of the perils of flying commercial.
April 7, 2009; 6:15 AM ET
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