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Morning Fix: The White House Plays (Political) Hardball

New York Gov. David Paterson faces a difficult path to re-election in 2010, leading the White House to intervene. Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The White House's decision to wade into the New York governor's race is the latest example of the deep engagement of President Obama and his senior aides in the rough and tumble world of Democratic primary politics.

White House political director Patrick Gaspard met with Gov. David Paterson last Monday to express concern on behalf of the administration about Paterson's extremely weak standing in recent polls, according to several sources familiar with the sitdown.

While neither Gaspard nor anyone else at the White House specifically asked Paterson to step aside -- and he apparently has no plans to do so at the moment -- the message sent by the Gaspard meeting was clear: the president and his inner circle don't believe the New York governor can win a full term in 2010.

"The Paterson push is one more piece of evidence that this is Barack Obama's Democratic Party," said one veteran Democrat granted anonymity to speak candidly about the White House's efforts. "The question is, will he use the same strong-arm Chicago tactics against House and Senate Democrats who defy him on health care?"

The Paterson meeting marks the second time this year that the White House has jumped into a statewide race in New York. In hopes of strengthening the re-election chances of appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), the President personally called Rep. Steve Israel to ask him to stay out of the primary contest. Israel obliged and, after an extended flirtation with the race from Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Gillibrand has a clear primary field and is a heavy favorite next fall.

There are several other examples of a White House willing to mix in potentially contentious primary fights. Last week, the president threw his support to appointed Sen. Michael Bennet who faces a serious primary in the form of former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff. In Pennsylvania, President Obama not only has endorsed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter in the primary against Rep. Joe Sestak but was in Philadelphia last week to help collect cash for the incumbent.

The hand-picking of preferred candidates has been met with mixed reactions about Democrats. Some liberals have been critical of the heavy involvement -- arguing that the Obama White House has consistently backed the more conservative candidate in contested primaries.

But, much of the professional Democratic political class has welcomed the White House's hardball approach to intraparty politics as a necessity to keeping Democrats as the majority party.

"Hallelujah, for a White House political operation that understands it needs to flex its muscle -- legally, unlike the last administration -- so that the party is playing what the White House believes to be the best hand in November 2010," said Steve Rosenthal, a Democratic operative.

The White House strategy is not without risk. A loss by one of the Obama-endorsed candidates -- either in a primary or a general election next year -- opens up the White House to criticism and second-guessing about their involvement and could even do some peripheral damage to the president's political brand in 2012.

The president and his inner circle, which is populated with former campaign operatives, are well aware of the risks. But, at least for the moment, they seem to have adopted a nothing ventured, nothing gained approach to Democratic primary politics.

Monday's Fix Picks: Employee at new Fix gym said we have the body of a 41-year old. We are 33. Good times.

1. Republicans have a pulse!
2. Just when you thought the John Edwards story couldn't get worse....
3. Deeds rising.
4. South Carolinians want Mark Sanford gone.
5. Jack Donaghy gets his rightful award for the second straight year.

RNC Outraised DNC in August: The Republican National Committee raised $7.8 million in the month of August, nearly $1 million more than its Democratic counterpart, according to finance reports filed over the weekend. The RNC ended the month with $21 million in the bank while the DNC's warchest stood at $15 million. The RNC's cash total in August appeared to be fueled -- at least in part -- by conservative anger toward President Obama's health care plan; the GOP committee averaged more than 9,000 donations a day in August and had an average contribution of just $41. RNC Chairman Michael Steele attributed the fundraising success of the committee to "working families alarmed by President Obama's big-government policies."

Obama Raises Cash for DGA: President Obama will headline a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association on Oct. 1 at the St. Regis hotel in Washington. The event, which is expected to bring in $500,000 for the DGA, is the first time the president has raised money for the group since coming into office. Among the Democratic governors expected to attend include: chair Brian Schweitzer (Mont.), vice chair Martin O'Malley (Md.), Jack Markell (Del.), Jay Nixon (Mo.), Mark Parkinson (Kan.) and Steve Beshear (Ky.). In the first six months of 2009, the DGA raised $11.6 million as compared to $12.2 million collected by the Republican Governors Association in that same time frame. There are 39 gubernatorial contests on the ballot between now and November 2010.

What They're Saying . . . About the "Full Ginsburg": President Obama's appearances on five Sunday shows drew widespread coverage as he talked health care, the economy, Afghanistan and race in America. The Washington Post led with Obama's thoughts on health care as did the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Politico went with Obama's skepticism about putting more troops into Afghanistan as did the Wall Street Journal.

Branstad Looks Strong in Iowa: Former Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who is openly weighing a run against Gov. Chet Culver (D) in 2010, received largely positive reviews for his time in office in a new Des Moines Register poll. Seven in ten voters approve of the job Branstad did as governor -- he was the state's chief executive from 1982 to 1998 -- and roughly half of the sample (48 percent) think Branstad running again is a good idea. (Among self-identified Republicans those numbers were stronger with six in ten saying another Branstad bid was a good idea.) Meanwhile, Culver's approval ratings have slipped from the 60s in 2008 to 50 percent in the latest Iowa poll, which is conducted for the Register by J. Ann Selzer. Iowa has trended strongly Democratic in the last two elections but national Republicans believe Branstad has the profile to win the state back for the GOP.

Baker Rakes It In: State Sen. Gilbert Baker (R) collected more than $200,000 in his first two weeks of active campaign as he seeks to distance himself from a crowded -- and undistinguished -- group of Republicans seeking to knock off Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) next November. Baker said he plans to have $1 million on hand by the end of the year, a total which, if he can reach it, should clearly make him the class of a field that includes a state senator who referred to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) as "that Jew" and a businessman who said you would need "shots" to go to southeast Arkansas. Polling conducted in the race earlier this month showed Lincoln leading Baker by a 44 percent to 37 percent margin -- despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of all voters didn't know enough about the Republican to offer an opinion on him.

Another GOP Candidate in NH-Senate?: William Binnie, a wealthy businessman from New Hampshire's Seacoast, is considering a run for the Republican Senate nomination in 2010, he told the Manchester Union-Leader over the weekend. Binnie told the paper he is "actively exploring" a candidacy, joining businessman Ovide Lamontagne and Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney in the consideration phase of the campaign. Former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte is already in the race for the GOP nod and has secured significant establishment support from Republicans in Washington. If Binnie ran, his personal wealth would likely make him a player although, as the Union-Leader pointed out, he has contributed to Democrats as well as Republicans during his years as a donor. The increasingly crowded Republican field provides a stark contrast to the Democratic side where Rep. Paul Hodes is running unopposed.

Say What?: "I am like a mother bear when it comes to campaigns." -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) draws a somewhat odd parallel when discussing his upcoming primary fight against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 21, 2009; 5:34 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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LOL!!! This ain't going to win over any friends in the White House:

Posted by: JakeD | September 22, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

W wasn't quite the idiot he liked to portray himself as. The morals of a slaver, yes, as reflective as lampblack, yes, incurious and smug and vain and insecure as the day is long, but the bumpkin speaking style was an affectation to appeal to the nasty-grimy southern cracker contingent which he, and the rest of his ugly party, thought was a lot bigger than it really was.

Bush dropped his Gs and mangled words but you can bet when the cameras were off him he sounded more like a Yale grad.

Palin on the other hand is the real deal, babbling incoherently because she is using words aloud she has never seen in print.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 22, 2009 12:30 AM | Report abuse

President Barack Obama..I just love saying kills trolls like the way snowbutty, your little missives do they have a point?..President Barack Obama has given a lot more interviews as opposed W.. Well, no surprise there, President Barack Obama is articulate, intelligent and has something to say...W choked on a pretzel, enough said....

Posted by: ruraledcomm | September 21, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Alas! poor Paterson, I knew him well..still, stranger things have happened..Paterson could survive and thrive..A week is long time in politics, a year is an eternity..Spitzer anyone!!!

Posted by: ruraledcomm | September 21, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Obama favors Specter over Sestak because he feels he will be able to accomplish more with Specter.

Obama sees Paterson as an impediment to accomplishing things in this country. My guess is that Paterson is the Democratic counterpart to Palin. He has exceeded his capacity.

Posted by: Gator-ron | September 21, 2009 9:45 PM | Report abuse

snowbama is incapable of forming a reasoned argument or using that well known feature called a *citation*.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 21, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Like those forum rules mean anything. Their enforcement shows that this forum is a safe zone for lying birther trolls who need emotional support.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 21, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree that the information about the newspapers is not on point. My point is that you copied-and-pasted an entire article, minus the last paragraph, then added one line of cliched comment.

Again without attribution, stealing ideas from professional commentators and presenting them as your own. That is not debate, it is plagiarism. It is expressly prohibited in the rules of this forum.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Actually it's cherry-picking.

Hey, could someone get the IP of the proxy server that mental-boi is posting through? Given that we should be able to email his hospital administrator and get his PC access taken away.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 21, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

You left off the last paragraph:


Because it was not on point. It's called editing. I don't broadcast every trivial idea that enters my brain, like most pea-brained liberals do.

we were establishing that Obama is afraid of Fox news among many others, and is busy demonstrating that he is weak and indecisive.

today the Army asks for a quick decision on Afghanistan. Obambi replies, that he is busy picking a church until next year, the dog choice having exhausted his abilities. Plus there is Russia to apologize to and appease all week and there may still need to be some surrender and defeat in East Europe to advance (retreat).

Perhaps a new surrender czar.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

You left off the last paragraph:

"Obama is also out-hustling his predecessors with the print media, giving 36 interviews with newspapers and magazines during his first seven months in office -- nearly doubling the numbers given by Bush and Clinton."

Apparently to leave room to insert a favorite cliche. So the remark about sewage was a warning that you were about to revert to your favored form of "debate?"

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

the descent into sewage begins.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

During his first eight months in office, President Obama has sat down for three times as many television interviews as his most recent two predecessors combined.

And with yesterday's run of the Sunday-morning news show circuit and tonight's airing of "Late Night with David Letterman," Obama continues to blaze through the media hotter than any political figure in modern history.

"He's turning the presidency into an infomercial," warned former White House speechwriter Matt Latimer. "It's not just damaging to the White House. It will also ultimately hurt President Obama's image as a fresh, non-Washington leader."

As of mid-August, Obama submitted to a total of 66 television interviews, dramatically outstripping his two predecessors, according to Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project at Towson University in Maryland.

One of them was on Fox News, the highest rated cable outlet, hosting all top ten shows.

During the same period of their own presidencies, President George W. Bush gave 16 television interviews and President Bill Clinton gave just six.

when all you have is a hammer, the world looks like one big nail.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Is "working families" now RNC code for Corporate Pockets?


It's one of those distraction phrases like "children" to get people to stop thinking and reason with their glands.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 21, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Re: Paterson. I think the point is, the
Dems would like Cuomo to run, but they'd also like to avoid a primary battle. Not to mention they'd rather not have to come out against a black, incumbent governor. Michael Steele has already made noises about it in those terms.

If Cuomo runs, he will win. But its a little tricky getting there when Paterson is in denial about his electability.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse


There is NO REASON a White House shouldn't urge a weak candidate out of the race if they've got a 'winner' like Cuomo in their party. And why make such a deal out of it when the Bush WH did exactly the same thing with, for example, Norm Coleman vs. Paul Wellstone and countless others as well? Time for the WH to actually play more hardball than basketball!

I can see Gov. Perry as a great many things, but NOT as a 'mother bear' (nor even a father bear)! Has anyone else noticed how Blago-esque Perry's hair is?

The John Edwards stuff is like an auto collision on the M23--one doesn't want to look, but it's unavoidable. What, if one were a fly on the wall, would we have heard Elizabeth Edwards say yesterday--if anything?

As for the sphincteresque bloke at your new gym, you need to 'move on'. You look so baby-faced that a 6-week regimen (plus fewer of those calorie filled 'latte' concoctions which Starbucks turn out) at the gym will give you the body of a 26-year-old instead!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | September 21, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

My mistake. I don't waste money on cable television.

My point stands. Obama has given interviews to these people before, so it is silly to state that he is "afraid" of them. He also answers their questions at press conferences.

Compare that to a past president who only allowed party members in to his "town halls" and I think we can all figure out who was afraid of answering a non-friendly question.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Is "working families" now RNC code for Corporate Pockets?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 21, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

That depends on the meaning of the word tax now doesn't it:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think I'm making it up. Merriam-Webster's dictionary: "Tax- — A charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes."

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's dictionary, the definition of tax increase indicates to me that you are stretching a bit right now. Otherwise you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on it.

How is defining the term "stretching a bit"?

more desperate by the minute. Perhaps a dictionary czar???

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Explosive New Audio Reveals White House Using NEA to Push Partisan Agenda

Deploy the propoganda arm. the Dems are desperate to fool us anyway they can. It's not like their ideas can stand on their own.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"RNC Chairman Michael Steele attributed the fundraising success of the committee to working families alarmed by President Obama's big-government policies." Chris, is there any reporting as to whether it actually was working families that contributed to the fundraising success, or are y'all taking what Steele said at face value?

Posted by: benniecsmith | September 21, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I have no idea where I watch Obama's primetime stuff. I just flip until I hit it. It's usually on single digits on my TV, so it's broadcast. No idea of what network.

Also, I do know that FOX skipped out on a few of the Bush primetime events as well. If ratings were a concern with Obama, I imagine they were much more of a concern with Bush who had pretty much lost the attention of the country during his remaining five years.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 21, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

The message is clear: if you want White House access, then show the prez when he asks. If not, then don't. Simple.

Posted by: mikeinmidland

wow, you libs have no problem with the Pravda president. at least he's a gentle dictator.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

you have it backwards. have you ever watched fox news?

the cable news network always runs Barry's reruns. It is the broadcast station that did not run the repetative fillibuster you all call a speech. and, in retrospect, they had the highest ratings. I know you are against capitalism, but to demonstrate you have no understanding of it is another thing.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"In addition to Beck's rantings, let us not forget that Fox News chose not to run the President's last couple of prime time speeches. If they consider him not newsworthy, then why should they complain?"

They show them on the regular FOX station, don't they?

Posted by: DDAWD | September 21, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Won't Paterson need to survive a primary, and isn't that unlikely given current polling?

Posted by: nodebris | September 21, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Obama is not afraid of the press, and certainly not afraid of Fox News Sunday. He's been on there before.

In addition to Beck's rantings, let us not forget that Fox News chose not to run the President's last couple of prime time speeches. If they consider him not newsworthy, then why should they complain?

The message is clear: if you want White House access, then show the prez when he asks. If not, then don't. Simple.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Bb. Fox is strong, honest, brave and popular. Opposite qualities of the dem leadership.

It is unseemly and petty to be afraid of the press.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Boehner prounounced health care dead on meet the press. Another stunning bumble by the AA present ident. Dem leadership on display. But now his tv appearances are winding up and it is time to get on with surrendering to Russia. After all, simply displaying weakness is insufficient. You must live it, breath it.

Posted by: snowbama | September 21, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Obama: "If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out." Or, in the case of Fox News Sunday, we simply won't call you.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 21, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"working families alarmed by President Obama's big-government policies." and thus contributed to the GOP.

How does that explain the $800 (just eight hundred) that the Maryland GOP has on hand. (The organization that Steele ran)

Posted by: edlharris | September 21, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I think it was Chris Rock who quipped on Bill Clinton's infidelity saying that the same qualities that get one elected President are also the qualities that get one laid.

Perhaps these guys cheat more than the general population because they have the qualities that make it easy to find a willing partner.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 21, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Bush/Cheney being blamed for Governor Patterson!! Ya gotta luv these fruit loops. Thanks for my Monday morning chortle. Really, thanks.

Posted by: CubsFan | September 21, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Would any Democrat look at Paterson's poll numbers and NOT be concerned? I'd think it prudent to send a guy up there and figure out whether the incumbent has a plan, or even a clue, before committing funds or effort to support him.

Michael Steele is hilarious. One minute he's claiming there should be no race in politics, the next minute he's talking about how Obama should support "one of only two black governors."

Paterson is gov because "Client #5" put him on the ticket with him. If he can't do the job, he shouldn't be propped up by Obama.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 21, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

So deconstructing that word reckless, accepting of unwarranted risk, is key.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 21, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Former politicians always have high approval ratings until they have to run again and all their problems are rehatched in the media.

I also find it strange that the White House went to Paterson and asked him not to run, instead of going to Cuomo and showing him alot of support. But then again maybe President Obama is listening to his critics who say he needs to take a more direct leadership role.

The polling data on Deeds has got to scare McDonnel's folks alot. Women are turning on him in a big way and this race is starting to look more and more like a redo of the Allen/Macaca debacle of 06 for the Republicans.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 21, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

shrink, my now retired Internal medicine personal physician and friend maintained for about the last decade that bipolar 2 folks were drawn to gambling, sexually reckless behavior, embezzling, acting, modeling, and electoral politics.

He was serious, but I always was amused, until a family member of mine was diagnosed bipolar 2 after inexplicably acting recklessly over a compacted period of time.

Thanx for the NYT link yesterday, btw.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 21, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse



What happened to the smoke-filled rooms?

Shouldn't White House political arm-twisting happen behind closed doors, not in the foyer?

Peterson isn't the Dem's big problem -- it is the failure to recognize that democracy, the rule of law and Democratic Party rule are under covert assault at the GRASSROOTS...


• When will Congress demand an investigation into America's "Silent Holocaust"?

A secretive federal-local multi-agency coordinated action program -- an ongoing legacy of the Bush-Cheney years -- is committing a quiet genocide on thousands of unjustly targeted Americans via microwave/laser weaponry; covert financial exploitation; and a grassroots, federally-funded vigilante army fronted by community policing, town watch and anti-terrorism units who use covertly placed warrantless GPS devices, and cell phones, to stalk and terrorize their targets...

...American brownshirts protected by federal and local law enforcement who know all about it...

...a Gestapo hiding in plain sight.

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 21, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Would it be so bad for Rudy Giuliani to be New York's next Governor? Democrats could point to his "accomplishments" in 2012, so they wouldn't have only the Bush/Cheney years to run against. That might be seen as throwing New York under the bus, but if they elect Giuliani, they deserve it.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 21, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I think it is pretty clear, the public adoration part. What is not so clear is why this means so many of them destroy their families. Public adoration and love at home are not mutually exclusive.

The Clinton's arrangement I'll call it, is evidently a political compromise, but the damage he did to his wife, Al Gore (the World?)and possibly Chelsea too was pretty bad for his public adoration numbers.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 21, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Sen. Gillibrand of new york being the "heavy favorite" in the 2010 general election seems off the mark, as a recent poll has former gov. Pataki running a few points ahead. anything can happen, of course, but nothing now to indicate she is a sure thing.

Posted by: johndog | September 21, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Fix Picks [2] and [4] remind us that pols are more inclined to shred the notion of marital vows than our friends, family, and neighbors. We think of people who live like this as roller coaster riders, thrill seekers, and actors in a soap opera imitation of life.

I have a guess here. I think most priests and boy scout leaders are decent human beings. I think most pols are pretty much in the normal range. But power over boys does attract a certain element into the priesthood and into the boy scout movement, and public adoration attracts a certain element into politics.

Is there a better explanation available?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 21, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

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