Morning Fix: Obama convenes the Cabinet
1. President Obama meets with his Cabinet this afternoon at a critical time -- on both the domestic and foreign fronts -- for his administration. Obama won a victory over the weekend with the Senate's vote to bring his health care bill to the floor for debate but statements by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) among others on the Sunday talks shows suggest that trouble lurks -- most notably over whether or not a public option will make the final version of the bill (if, of course, there is a final version of the bill). Internationally, Obama's decision on Afghanistan is expected any day -- make sure to read the Post's Mike Shear's terrific piece on the ever-shrinking calendar -- but it has become increasingly clear that the time the president has taken to make the decision has actually complicated things. Wrote the Post's Dan Balz in his Sunday Take: "The lengthy policy debate inside the administration has spun out of control as it nears its finish, with damaging leaks and counterleaks." Cabinet meetings have become more photo-op than serious policy discussion in recent years but the gathering of the Obama braintrust -- the first since Sept. 10 -- is sure to set off discussion of the series of challenges facing the administration in the coming months.
2. The headline out of Gallup's daily tracking poll Friday was that the president's job approval numbers had dipped below 50 percent. Context matters, however. First, as Gallup noted, Obama's numbers have fluctuated within a relatively small range this fall after dropping somewhat precipitously in July and August. Second, as we noted when we wrote about the Quinnipiac poll, which showed Obama at 48 percent, last week's polls are a snapshot in time and using them as predictive measures is a major mistake. Interestingly, the arc of Obama's job approval as president most closely mirrors that of Ronald Reagan who dropped under 50 percent just days before Obama -- albeit 28 years earlier. If Obama stays on the Reagan path, the 2010 midterms will be tough on House Democrats (Reagan's party lost 26 seats in the House in 1982) and a break-even year for Senate Democrats (Republicans picked up a single seat in 1982).
3. The New York Times's Frank Rich has penned an insightful column on former Alaska governor Sarah Palin that includes this critical observation: "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves." We couldn't agree more -- whether or not you agree with Palin, she is a prime mover in Republican politics and cannot be ignored by anyone hoping to understand where the party is and where it's going. While Rich is highly critical of Palin in the piece, he does get at the heart -- we think -- of her outsize role within the political world; at one point Rich calls Palin the "pit bull in the china shop of American politics" and adds that "she can do what she wants, on her own timeline, all the while raking in the big bucks she couldn't as a sitting governor." Rich is right and that scares the Republican establishment.
4. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) continues to insist he will not run for president in 2012 even while giving speeches that sound very much like those of a national candidate. Daniels' latest came in an address to the state Republican Party in which he pledged loftily that the GOP must "be soldiers who think always of opportunity, not of reputation." Daniels also slammed the Obama administration: "The pose is over," he declared. "I don't know what color these dogs are, but friends, it ain't blue, I'll tell you that right now." Daniels, as we have written in this space, could well be an appealing national candidate for Republicans as he has spent the past five years running out the same sort of hope and change message with which President Obama captivated the country last year. But, despite that appealing profile, Daniels pledged during his 2008 gubernatorial campaign that he would not run for any other office and he seems to be sticking by it. Of course, minds can change in politics....
5. Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio's (D) strident call for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to resign -- the only House Democrat to do so to date -- has the whiff of politics, according to some longtime political observers. DeFazio, who turned down recruitment efforts for the 2008 Senate race, continues to flirt with the possibility of running for governor next fall. Running as a populist could be DeFazio's way into a governor's race with several well known names led by former governor John Kitzhaber. Republicans lost their best candidate late last week when Rep. Greg Walden announced he was staying in Congress. Without Walden, Republicans may well cede the state to whomever Democrats nominate.
6. The hemming and hawing of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) about when she will resign her seat -- she insists she will do so after the early March gubernatorial primary whether she wins or loses -- has led to significant speculation about the future of the Democrats' top prospect in the race. Houston Mayor Bill White (D) continues to be the subject of rampant rumors that, when the Jan. 4, 2010 filing deadline for governor comes, he will have filed his paperwork to run. The Houston Chronicle's Joe Holley lays out the case for White to run for governor, the critical principle of which is that KBH hasn't stuck to her past pledges about the Senate seat and, if she wound up losing to Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary next year, she would have little incentive to quit. White and former state Comptroller John Sharp are both running for Senate; Sharp ran and lost to Perry in the 1998 lieutenant governor's race. One knowledgeable source said White remains far more likely to run for Senate but that it is not a done deal.
7. How much will Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, spend on her bid to win the Republican Senate nomination next year? Conventional wisdom suggested between $30 and $50 million -- a massive sum for a state as small as Connecticut. (For perspective, Ned Lamont, who beat Sen. Joe Lieberman in a 2006 Democratic primary only to lose to the incumbent in the general election, spent $16 million.) The Hartford Courant notes that "Superstar" Billy Graham has publicly speculated that McMahon will spend $100 million, a sum that would equal what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped to win a third term earlier this month and nearly double what Jon Corzine spent on his 2000 Senate victory. McMahon's early spending -- $3 million -- has quickly moved her into second place in polls and those familiar with the campaign (and the candidate) insist there is MUCH more where that came from.
8. Think you know everything about the Senate vote on health care last weekend? Put it to the test with the Post politics quiz. (Full disclosure: the Fix missed the last question but four for five ain't bad.)
9. For our money, the best ads we've seen so far in the 2010 midterms are in Illinois for Republican gubernatorial candidate Andy McKenna. McKenna, a former state party chair, has featured the famous hair of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in each of his early ads -- a symbol of the corruption and business as usual that has dominated politics in the state. McKenna's new ad starts with an image of Blago's hair atop the state capitol dome while a narrator details what Blagojevich -- and, by extension, his successor Pat Quinn -- have done to the state. McKenna faces a serious primary challenge from, among others, former state attorney general Jim Ryan but win or lose he has provided a potent blueprint for the GOP nominee to ensure voters don't forget about Blagojevich next year.
10. Even book tours are political nowadays, writes James Oliphant in the Chicago Tribune. Oliphant says that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's entourage at a recent book signing had the look of a "NASCAR pit crew, red uniform shirts adorned with the corporate logos of Mike Huckabee's Web site, his speaker's bureau, his publisher, and 'Huck' emblazoned on their epaulets."
November 23, 2009; 5:25 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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