Morning Fix: Leveraging Foreign Policy?
President Obama's prominence on the world stage this week -- he chairs a U.N. Security Council meeting today before heading to Pittsburgh for a gathering of the G-20 -- is being touted by some Democrats as the perfect antidote to his ongoing struggle to pass a health care bill on the home front.
"For Obama, the ability to dominate on a world stage will help project leadership, allow him to dominate the free media real estate, not get caught in the back and forth crossfire and make clear he is a strong leader," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist based in San Francisco.
Lehane, a former Clinton administration official, added that the tactic has worked for past president. Lehane argued that former president Bill Clinton's trip to Europe -- and, in particular, his speech in Northern Ireland -- in late 1995 served as the start of a political comeback for the president in the wake of the 1994 Republican wave election. "[It] bolstered his standing back in the U.S. and gave him a little wind at his back," said Lehane.
The thinking among many Democratic strategists is that Obama is at his best when he is on a big stage, looking and acting like a statesman. His electoral appeal -- as demonstrated during the campaign -- originated in a belief among the American public that he had a broad vision for the country and was enough of a statesman to get it done.
Time and again during the campaign, when small events threatened to drag him down, Obama went big -- giving a "major" speech or otherwise projecting an image of himself as above the petty partisan fray.
"It allows him to rise above the heated rhetoric of the health-care debate and pursue progress on problems that most people believe need addressing," said Democratic media consultant Allan Crow about the political benefits of Obama's foreign-policy focused week.
Obama's numbers on his handling of foreign policy have come back to earth somewhat, however, which suggests that simply shifting his -- and the news media's -- attention fro domestic to foreign affairs is not enough.
In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, 50 percent approved of the way Obama was approaching foreign policy while 36 percent disapproved. That's a significant drop off from a July NBC/WSJ poll where 57 percent approved and just 33 percent disapproved of how Obama was handling foreign policy.
And, not all Democrats are convinced that a strong week for Obama on foreign affairs has any measurable affect on the fate of health care, which continues to wend its way through the Senate Finance Committee.
"I don't see the president's foreign policy favorables rubbing off onto his health care numbers, as much as I would like them to," said Democratic media consultant Jennifer Burton. "I mean Ashley Judd doesn't make Wynonna look any better."
The truth is that while a strong performance this week for Obama could help firm up voters' impressions of his leadership qualities, it isn't likely to significantly affect the handful of senators -- Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), etc. -- who hold the fate of his health care bill in their hands.
Thursday Fix Picks:
It's Getting VERY Ugly in N.J.: New Jersey is known for its rough and tumble politics but a new ad from Gov. Jon Corzine (D) is among the toughest we have seen in recent memory. Not only does Corzine hammer former U.S. attorney Chris Christie (R) for hitting a motorcyclist while going the wrong way down a one way street and for being caught speeding in an unregistered vehicle but he also seems to take a subtle dig at the Republican's weight. "In both cases, Chris Christie threw his weight around as U.S. attorney and got off easy," says the ad's narrator as a picture of the overweight Christie is shown on screen. OUCH! Voters always insist that a candidate's personal appearance has nothing to do with how they cast their ballot but, time and again, attractive candidates wind up winning elections. (Hello John Edwards!) Will raising Christie's weight as an issue work for Corzine or backfire on the already embattled incumbent?
McMahon Hits TV in CT: Linda McMahon (R), CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and a newly-minted U.S. Senate candidate, is putting her money where her mouth is -- launching two ads statewide (including the costly New York City media market) aimed at introducing her to Connecticut voters. In one, McMahon tells the story of she and her husband founding a business -- she never mentions that said business revolves around professional wrestling -- 30 years ago and tells of the work they did to grow it into a publicly traded company. "It took hard work and perseverance," says McMahon. "Washington could use some of that." In a recognition of McMahon's odd path to a Senate bid, both ads end with her insisting: "It's time for something different." Whispers in Connecticut are that McMahon is planning to spend between $30-$50 million of her own money on the race, a massive sum that almost certainly makes her a factor in a race that has long been regarded as a two-way primary contest between former representative Rob Simmons (R) and former ambassador Tom Foley (R). Democrats, clearly aware of the threat McMahon's wealth poses, put out a release blasting her ads. "If Linda McMahon has any sort of substantive policy ideas or plans to fix all of the things she feels are wrong in this country, we have yet to hear what they are," said party spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan.
Wide Open Race for Michigan Guv: A new independent poll shows the Michigan Republican primary for governor is a wide open affair with no candidate receiving more than 27 percent of the vote. Among those likely to vote in a Republican primary next year, state Attorney General Mike Cox takes 27 percent while Rep. Pete Hoekstra comes in at 26 percent. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard stands at 15 percent while wealthy businessman Rick Snyder and state Sen. Tom George each take two percent. The poll, which was conducted by the Michigan Research Group and "Inside Michigan Politics," is largely a gauge of name identification at this point and is not necessarily predictive of the final outcome -- particularly if Snyder, a former executive at Gateway computers, spends heavily from his own pocket. Republicans have to feel good about where they stand in the general election as Lt. Gov. John Cherry, the likely Democratic nominee, is stuck in the low 40s.
Porter's Out (Again) in Nevada: Former representative Jon Porter (R) will not challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in 2010, the second time the former member has removed himself from the contest in recent months. "Congressman Porter told us months ago that he was not planning to run so this shouldn't come as a surprise," National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh told Jon Ralston. Porter, who was widely seen as preparing a challenge to Reid before his defeat in 2008, had already ruled the race out once but was reportedly re-considering. Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to challenge Reid after a series of polls showed the Democrat's vulnerability; Danny Tarkanian, the son of the legendary UNLV basketball coach is in as is state Sen. Mark Amodei. State Republican party chairwoman Sue Lowden is considering a bid.
Paul's Million: Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R), crested the $1 million raised mark in his Senate bid on Wednesday. "Our fundraising success ensures that Rand will be able keep the focus of the Republican primary on balanced budgets, term limits and following the Constitution rather than just having to listen to mindless attacks from political opponents," said David Adams, Paul's campaign manager. Paul has been aggressively raising money via the Internet -- using the network built during his father's presidential bid -- despite the fact that the Kentucky establishment has lined up behind Secretary of State Trey Grayson. Grayson raised just over $600,000 through the end of June, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Polling suggests Grayson is the favorite, however, and it remains to be seen whether Rand Paul can convert Internet excitement (and dollars) about his campaign into actual votes. The seat is open as Sen. Jim Bunning (R) is retiring.
Click It!: In case there was any question that Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) planned to use President Obama against Rep. Charlie Melancon in 2010, a new e-mail from the Republican should clear that right up. In it, Vitter points out the fact that Melancon has a video on his website of Obama addressing a joint session of Congress on health care. "After holding 21 town halls across the state of Louisiana during the month of August, it couldn't be clearer that Louisianians aren't interested in President Obama's plans to meddle in the health care of Louisiana's families," writes Vitter. Given Vitter's own negatives and the fact that Obama took just 40 percent in the Bayou State, attempting to turn the race into a referendum on the president is sound strategy.
A New Klein!: Jack Herman Klein was born last night to proud parents Rick "The Note" Klein and his wife, Laine. The newest Klein clocked in at 8 lbs, 4 ounces and mom and newborn are "alert and resting at Sibley Hospital," the proud papa said via email last night.
Say What?: "For Majority Leader Reid, it seems that 'oversight' is a selective responsibility, and the misuse of taxpayer dollars by a fraud-ridden organization does not qualify as a priority in his purview as the Leader of the U.S. Senate." -- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) doesn't mince words after Harry Reid turned down his request for a formal investigation of the community organizing group ACORN.
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