Morning Fix: Obama's Ft. Hood moment
1. Key among the factors that make President Obama more personally popular than his policies are his considerable rhetorical gifts, which were on display in the remarks he delivered Tuesday at Fort Hood, days after shooting on the base that left more than a dozen American military men and women dead. The speech immediately drew rave reviews from some of those who cover the White House. "That's going to be a speech that's remembered and quoted from for quite some time; struck a balance of commander and consoler," tweeted NBC's Chuck Todd. And, the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder titled a blog post on the address: "The Best Speech Obama's Given Since...Maybe Ever". The full transcript of the speech is worth a read. A few excerpts: "Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- that is their legacy"....."It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know -- no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor"...."In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans." Will the speech fundamentally re-shape the political dynamic? Nope. But, it should serve as a reminder of Obama's considerable gifts as an orator and how he has learned to leverage those gifts at critical moments during the 2008 campaign (Rev. Wright) and now as president with this speech.
2. New data in an Associated Press national survey show -- in the words of the AP's Liz Sidoti -- that "America is in a funk." The evidence: 1) Nearly six in ten (56 percent) believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, a drastic turnaround from an AP April survey that showed 48 percent thought the country was going in the right direction and 44 said it was off on the wrong track. 2) There is considerable division about how Obama is handling the economy (46 percent approve/49 percent disapprove), the war in Afghanistan (42 approve/48 disapprove) and health care (49 percent approve/46 disapprove). 3) Less than four in ten Americans (39 percent) back the health care plan making its way through Congress while 45 percent disapprove of the plan, a decline from early October polling for the AP that showed 40 percent support and 40 percent opposition to the legislation.
3. Expect to see the "no women in the Obama inner circle" narrative pop back up in the wake of the news that White House communications director Anita Dunn is leaving to be replaced by deputy Dan Pfeiffer. (There was already some grumbling among female Democratic operatives in the immediate aftermath of the announcement Tuesday.) The White House pushback? That Obama has put more women in prominent positions -- Hillary Clinton at State, Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services -- than any president before him. And, to directly rebut the charges of no women in the inner circle, White House aides rattle off senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, scheduler Alyssa Matromonaco, energy czar Carol Browner and economics adviser Christina Romer.
4. North Carolina attorney Cal Cunningham's decision not to run against Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2010 was cast by national Republicans as the latest in a series of recruiting setbacks for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the state. True -- but only to a point. Senate Democrats and the White House were going hard after state Attorney General Roy Cooper -- President Obama called him to urge him to run -- and were disappointed when he decided against a bid. Polling suggested Cooper would have been a slight favorite in a race against Burr. And, while the DSCC didn't recruit Cunningham, they came away favorably impressed with him. Still, it might be a bit of premature celebration as Rep. Bob Etheridge, a former statewide elected official, continues to mull the contest with a decision expected this week. (Those familiar with Etheridge's thinking insist he remains genuinely undecided on the race.) If Etheridge is a "no," expect Senate Democrats to make another run at Cunningham a la 2008 when then state Sen. Kay Hagan said "no" before saying "yes" to her ultimately successful challenge to then Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R). And, although she has largely been lost in the shuffle, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) is already in the race.
5. The squeeze is on for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) on health care in the form of a new series of ads paid for by the liberal Blue America PAC that cast the Arkansas Democrat as bought and paid for by insurers. "Blanche Lincoln claims to fight for health care reform but whose interests does she really represent," asks the ad's narrator before noting that Lincoln has taken more than $2 million in campaign contributions from the health and insurance industries. The narrator concludes the ad by asking viewers to call Lincoln and "demand she allow an up or down vote on the public option." (This is the fourth ad paid for by Blue America targeting Lincoln this year.) Polling shows Lincoln, who is up for re-election in 2010, holding relatively slim margins over a series of unknown Republican candidates. Lincoln's dilemma? How to walk the line between the conservative leanings of the Razorback State -- Obama took just 39 percent there in 2009 -- and the increasingly vocal and well-funded left within her own party who see the inclusion of a public option as a sine qua non for health care reform.
6. Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal goes inside the last-minute polling in New York's 23rd district to figure out why the data showed a surge for Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman when Democrat Bill Owens prevailed on election day. His conclusion? There was significant volatility in the Syracuse media market -- Oswego, Oneida and Madison counties -- in the western part of the district where neither Hoffman nor Owens was well known. These voters had less information about the race than those in the central and western portions of the district and so, when state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) dropped out 72 hours before the vote and endorsed Owens 48 hours before the vote, they began to pay serious attention for the first time, argues Blumenthal. Concludes Blumenthal: "For those who shifted to Owens that weekend, however, the campaign had started anew. Their final decisions were probably not made until they cast a ballot on Tuesday." It's as good a theory as we've heard.
7. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) is one of the ultimate Hamlets of American politics -- forever weighing this race or that but never actually running for a promotion. (For a fuller list of political Hamlets, check out our post from way back in 2005 on the subject.) And so, it's hard for us to take too seriously this report in the New Haven Independent. "I have no present plans to run for governor," Blumenthal said in a classic example of purposeful leaving-the-door-open-ism. "I am hearing from a lot of people. At this point I have no plans to run for governor." Every Democrat we talk to in the state -- many of whom, granted, already have a horse in the race -- insists that Blumenthal has always had his eye on the Senate seat and has been working behind the scenes to ensure he has an unimpeded path to a challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in 2012. Assuming Blumenthal is not in, then the Democratic field with a top three of 2006 Senate nominee Ned Lamont, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy is set.
8. Polling conducted for the Indiana Democratic Party suggests that Sen. Evan Bayh (D) remains extremely popular in the Hoosier State despite criticism from the liberal left over his stance on health care. The poll, which was conducted in 20 competitive legislative districts across the state, showed that 63 percent of Indiana voters approved of the job Bayh is doing while 31 percent disapproved -- including a solid 55 percent job approval score among critical independent voters. Those numbers were far stronger than President Obama's job approval numbers in the 20 districts (48 fav/51 unfav). A memo on the poll obtained by the Fix touts Bayh's "enviable support for a Democrat in some of the most competitive areas of Indiana." Given those poll numbers and Bayh's massive campaign warchest -- nearly $13 million in the bank -- it's hard to see how the Indiana Democrat loses.
9. CNN's Dana Bash pens a piece on Fix 2012 darkhorse John Thune (R-S.D.) in which he demurs about his interest without totally ruling out a run. Thune touts his "regular guy" credentials and common-sense conservative principles. Those principles? "One is that you can't spend money you don't have," said Thune. "Two is, when you borrow money, you have to pay it back." Thune insisted to Bash that he is totally focused on his 2010 re-election race despite the fact that he has no Democratic opponent and ended September with $5.5 million in the bank. (Insert eye roll here.) Thune, a strong conservative without the hard edges, is widely regarded by smart operatives as making the sort of moves -- a broadened policy palette etc. -- that suggest a national bid in the offing.
10. Colbert does Delaware -- and Republican Rep. Mike Castle. Colbert's best line? "This is like interviewing a panda." (Due to Castle's status as a "moderate Republican.")
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