White House Cheat Sheet: Salesman-in-Chief
President Obama, fresh (or maybe a bit jet-lagged) from an eight-day trip abroad, returns to his role as the nation's economic salesman-in-chief today as he hosts a round table discussion designed to draw attention to low interest rates and, presumably, spur home-buying.
The event, which will be held in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, will feature Obama and his economic team as well as a "handful of homeowners who have re-financed their homes and benefited from lower mortgage payments," according to a release from the White House.
The roundtable event comes amid increasing signs that the housing market is recovering -- one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy economic outlook. Mortgage applications increased to their highest level in the past three months and new home sales also rose in February.
Despite those encouraging numbers, there still remains considerable skepticism about whether or not the home slump is indeed over or whether this is the equivalent of a false positive.
In a piece entitled "A False Spring for U.S. Homebuilders?," Businessweek's Ben Steverman writes that the housing market remains on very unstable ground. Of the current state of affairs, he asks: "It could be a time of opportunity--time to prepare for the dawn of new growth in housing. Or is it just time to accept that it could be several years before the sun again rises on homebuilders?"
A series of recent national polls have shown that a majority of Americans trust that the president is doing the right things to fix the economy and believe that things are headed in a better direction economically since Obama took office.
In the most recent Washington Post/ABC News survey, six in ten voters approved of the way Obama was handling the economy with more than half that number (34 percent) strongly approving. That same poll showed 64 percent of Americans are confident that Obama's "economic program" would turn the economy around; those numbers are down from 72 percent saying the same in a Post/ABC poll just before Obama's inauguration but still remain very healthy.
The truth is that most Americans who express confidence in Obama's economic proposals probably have only a basic understanding (if that) of the massive overhaul of the financial system that the president has put in place over his first 11 weeks in office.
But, they trust him as a figure and therefore they are more likely to feel good about the proposals being issued by his administration.
Obama, himself, said as much during an interview with Post reporters and editors days before he was sworn in. After running through his various proposals to restart the economy, Obama acknowledged that "some of this just had to do with psychology and confidence."
Today's housing event then is best understood as Obama leveraging his personal popularity and the trust he engenders with average Americans to help spur a level of faith and optimism in regards to the economy that still remains largely absent in most peoples' minds.
What To Watch For:
Thursday Fix Picks: You can now find these picks in the top left-hand spot on the Fix homepage. We'll be listing them here for the next few days until you re-condition yourselves.
1. Change has come to the Justice Department.
2. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg says 7,000 more city jobs need to be trimmed.
3. Former Rep. Chris Chocola to head Club For Growth.
4. Ben Smith on "Common Purpose" and Democratic coordination efforts.
5. Can Adam Lambert be beaten?
Evangelicals For Mitt Re-Launches: A group of evangelical Christians who helped organize for former Gov. Mitt Romney's (Mass.) presidential campaign in 2008 are back at it. Husband and wife team David and Nancy French relaunched "Evangelicals for Mitt" on Tuesday; "As the religious right explains why the GOP lost in '08, we wanted to make sure they didn't pin the blame on the Governor," explained Nancy French in an email to the Fix. The spark that re-started the blog? Kathleen Parker's column that profiled Christian radio talk show host Steve Deace and the rift between the older and younger generations of evangelicals. During the 2008 campaign Romney struggled to convince evangelicals that his Mormon faith was a non-issue. If Romney runs again in 2012, voices like the Frenches will be critical for Romney to continue making inroads with this important community of voters.
McAuliffe's Money Roll: Anyone who follows politics with even passing interest knows that former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is a fundraising machine. So, expectations (at least from the Fix) were high when it came to how much McAuliffe could raise for his gubernatorial bid in Virginia. And yet, McAuliffe managed to exceed them by collecting a stunning $4.2 million in the first three months of the year, a total that dwarfed the $800,000 collected by former state Assemblyman Brian Moran who is also seeking the Democratic nod. State Sen. Creigh Deeds had yet to release his own money numbers but it was expected they would be well below what McAuliffe brought in. "We are thrilled with the grassroots and fundraising support we have received over the last few months," said McAuliffe campaign manager Mike Henry in an email announcing the money total. Moran sought to spin his own fundraising by noting that he had eclipsed his original goal and that his cash position was "putting us in a position to have the resources to win," according to campaign officials. (That's an argument not dissimilar from the one top aides to former Sen. John Edwards made during the early months of 2007 when he was being badly outraised by then Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.) Money isn't everything in politics but with northern Virginia, which is covered by the pricey D.C. media market, seen as the critical area in the battle between McAuliffe and Moran, the former's cash position has to be seen as a major asset. One caveat: McAuliffe's $2.5 million cash on hand total shows that he is spending money at a rapid pace as well and makes the distance between him and Moran/Deeds slightly more manageable.
Click It!: The Fix's List of the best state political blogs is out. Everything you need to know about politics in each state. EVERYTHING.
American Future Fund Hosts 2012 Wannabes: The American Future Fund, an Iowa-based conservative independent organization that funded several ads during the presidential election, is hosting a series of discussions -- they call it the "Conservative Lecture Series" in the Hawkeye State for candidates with an eye on a potential bid for national office. The first of these addresses will come from former New York governor George Pataki on April 22 at Drake University Law School and will be titled "Yes We Still Can: Why Washington Failed and how We Can Reclaim America's Future." (Dare we say it -- that sounds a little like an outsider candidate campaign platform, no?) Nevada Sen. John Ensign is scheduled to speak in Sioux City on June 1 -- first reported by Congress Daily's Erin McPike -- and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum will deliver a speech on Oct.1 in Dubuque. As we have said, MANY times before: no politician goes to Iowa by accident. No matter what they say. Ever.
Palin PAC Puzzlement: Texan Clayton Paslay wanted to do something to help Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) pay her legal bills from the Troopergate investigation so he started a political action committee to do just that. One problem: Palin can't accept the money. Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the Palin family, released a statement Wednesday afternoon thanking people for their "continued generosity" but making clear that "the official legal defense fund for Governor Sarah Palin has not been formed and the Governor cannot accept any monies for those obligations from any other entity than the one in formation." The only federal committee Palin maintains at the moment is for SarahPAC; that organization was officially formed on Jan. 26, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. It will report its contributions and expenditures over the first three months of the year by April 15.
Gun Control a Fading Issue: In light of last week's shooting in Binghamton, N.Y., we were struck by a polling trend document put out by our friends at Gallup. Since 1959, Gallup has been asking Americans whether there should or should not be a law banning the possession of handguns. And, over time the numbers favoring such a ban have steadily eroded from 60 percent in 1959 to 43 percent in March 1991 all the way down to 29 percent in October 2008. That trend line is why guns have faded as an issue in political campaigns. Democrats, who were once ardently in favor of more gun control legislation, have nearly abandoned it as an issue -- recognizing that it is a sure loser from a political perspective. As we have written before, the numbers in favor of more gun control barely even tick up in the wake of a spree shooting like the one in Binghamton.
Say What?: "I actually drive a MINI Cooper, believe it or not." -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan during an interview with the Post's Lois Romano as part of her "Voices of Power" series.
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