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White House Cheat Sheet: Obama Goes (Mostly) All In in NY

President Obama is putting his political capital on the line in a New York special election. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

President Obama is putting his political capital on the line in a New York special election, cutting an ad in support of the Democratic candidate and using his massive email list built during the presidential campaign to recruit volunteers for the final days of the race.

To date, Obama and his senior advisers have been loathe to run the risk of tarnishing his powerful political brand, turning down myriad requests during the fall campaign to appear in ads or on the trail with downballot candidates.

Why then is Obama weighing in with a televised endorsement (although neither the president nor his voice appears in the ad) in an Upstate New York special election? Because he and his political inner circle recognize that the race will be analyzed as an early referendum on his economic vision whether or not he plays an active role in the contest.

Businessman Scott Murphy (D) has wholeheartedly embraced the $787 billion economic stimulus plan passed through Congress, attacking state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco's (R) opposition to the legislation as anti-jobs in an area struggling mightily on the economic front. Tedisco, in turn, is hammering Murphy for backing legislation that allowed bonuses to be paid out to AIG executives.

With that backdrop, it's easy to see how national strategists, donors and, yes, reporters are painting this race as the first chance to see how America is reacting to the Obama agenda.

In truth, casting this race as a straight up or down vote on Obama is imprecise. Special elections are battles between the two parties' bases as only the most loyal party footsoldiers are willing to turn out on a non-traditional election day. In that, Republicans have a clear edge as registered GOPers outnumber registered Democrats by 70,000 in the Albany-area seat.

But, as Obama and his team well know, politics isn't fair all the time. This race will be regarded as a referendum on the new president and he has made the decision to take control of his own political destiny.

What To Watch For:

Friday Fun Reads: Because the Fix just wants to have fun.

1. The president ups the troop ante in Afghanistan.
2. A (conditional) auto bailout appears to be on the way.
3. Time's James Poniewozik asks (and answers) the question of whether President Obama is doing too much TV.
4. An interesting take from National Review on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's reelection prospects in 2010.
5. The economic recession even affects Google.

Dodd in Dogfight: A new independent poll confirms that Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd faces a very tough reelection fight in 2010. Conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal Daily Kos site, Dodd holds a narrow 45 percent to 40 percent lead over former Rep. Rob Simmons, the likely Republican nominee. (Those numbers are an improvement over the dead heat between Dodd and Simmons in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.) Dodd's favorable numbers are only fair with 47 percent of Connecticut voters feeling favorably toward him and 40 percent unfavorably. Simmons has a stronger 41 fav/18 unfav score. Those numbers came on the same day that the Cook Political Report (a Fix alma mater) moved Connecticut into the "toss up" category. One potential bright spot for Dodd: former Ambassador Tom Foley, who is independently wealthy, is seriously considering a bid for the Republican nomination, which, if it comes to pass, will complicate Simmons's path to victory.

Health Care Ads Coming from Conservative Group: A Florida multimillionaire is spending more than $600,000 on a national cable television ad buy that urges Congress to stop and ask questions about President Obama's plans for health care. "Isn't it amazing folks in Congress were shocked the plan they passed allowed those huge bonuses for AIG?" asks the ad's narrator. "Now some in Congress want to raise taxes and spend $634 billion for the president's health care overhaul -- without even seeing all the details of his plan." The ads are sponsored by Conservatives for Patients' Rights Action Fund, an organization funded heavily by Rick Scott, a health care executive who founded the Columbia Hospital Corporation in the late 1980s. Scott is reportedly willing to spend as much as $1 million on the ads if the fight over health care extends beyond Congress' Easter break.

ABC Fills the "Top Line": Starting Monday, ABC News is launching a daily web show called the "Top Line" that will run from 12 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. every day. "We hope that our users read 'The Note' over breakfast and watch 'Top Line' so they know what to talk about at lunch," said Rick Klein, who along with ABC News political director David Chalian, will host the show. (Klein's comment begs the question: What will we do for dinner?) Both Rick and David are Fix friends and savvy political minds. So, after you're done consuming the Cheat Sheet, the Line, which is coming later today, and the rest of the Fix content, jump over and check out ABC's "Top Line."

Say What?: "I can't divulge names." -- White House press secretary Robert Gibbs when asked who advises him on his fashion choices during an interview with the Post's Lois Romano.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 27, 2009; 5:26 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: DNC Enters the Fray in NY-20
Next: Friday Senate Line: Two Old Bulls in Trouble



Mrs. BHO
Amanda Terkel (profile in courage)
UPS (for withdrawing as a Bill-O sponsor)
Gibbs's tie
New Media
Brazil's President
Donna Brazile
Wall Street numbers this week
Kia Spectra
Rachel Maddow
Bruno Sammartino
Guy Williams
Kristi Toliver


Laura Ingraham sub-host Tammy ("Trash" in the White House) Bruce (no apology yet from Bruce or Ingraham to our knowledge)

Congresswoman Bachman (for using increasingly dangerous coded supremacist language)

AP's Ron Fournier (for another tiresome anti-BHO blast, this time a bogus, Rush-generated talking point about BHO's teleprompter/usually he offers anti-BHO "analysis" that is in direct conflict with any objective polling information)

The MSM (for taking Fournier's idiotic bait)

Starbucks (for serving more nasty, burnt tasting, overpriced swill around the world than any coffee company in history/we once saw an elderly lady from Iowa (who hadn't had it before) spit it out in the middle of a cafeteria/does anyone serve a smooth cup of Maxwell House anymore?)

Faux News's Juan Williams (this is kinda automatic)

Post's Kathleen Parker ([non]achievement award for most illogical, bigoted, rambling anti-BHO rants in a six month period)

"Morning Joe" (snarling, low-rent junk that is totally out of sync with the insightful progressive programming on MSNBC in the evening/what's up with that?)

Robber Barons

Posted by: broadwayjoe | March 28, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

nice job, chris. the cheat sheet is getting a shout out from the NYT:

Posted by: plathman | March 27, 2009 9:04 PM | Report abuse


Do something -- tell your story to the American Civil Liberties Union (link below).

And read in the "comments" section the ongoing account of a journalist in search of his First Amendment rights.

Then demand that ACLU renew its free speech fight by filing a class-action suit against unconstitutional, rogue government surveillance operations that aren't just spying -- but apparently, using surveillance "programs" as a tool of harassment, censorship and intimidation.


"FIX" / "44" READERS:

The commentary I attempted to post a couple of minutes ago to the "44" blog elicited a "held for blog owner" message -- even though only foul language causes posts here to be rejected.

I believe this is blatant, flagrant prior restraint/censorship of political speech on the web by rogue government surveillance "fusion center" operatives.

This week, I first learned of a Bush-Cheney "doctrine" of "ideological exclusion" -- apparently used to bar political "activists" from abroad from visiting the United States.

Now I am wondering if authoritarians within the bureaucracy are using this doctrine to censor political speech in this country.

Please visit (link below) and join the fight to RESTORE FREE SPEECH IN AMERICA. Or try: RE: "Free Speech," "internet filters" thread (under "older entries").

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 27, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Should be interesting to see how this vote turns out, and I agree with nodebris when he says it's nice to see a piece like this. While obviously it's a small event in the long run, the symbolic power placed upon it would make for lamentably over-covered news.

Hopefully we can turn this economy around and actually focus on solving the deeper, systemic issues for why we're in this situation. Obviously bad banking's a good place to start, but there are other issues, like global poverty, that have huge economic and geopolitical ramifications.

The Borgen Project ( has some interesting insight into addressing the issues of global poverty, something we can remedy easily and sustainably.

Some interesting figures to ponder:
$30 billion USD: The annual shortfall to end global poverty.
$550 billion USD: The annual US defense budget.

Posted by: concernedcitizen1111 | March 27, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Let's see... If I were a Republican strategist I would go back to that business leaders forum Obama had about a month back. You know where he was glad handing IBM's CEO Palmisano and a grand collection of hi-tech executives drumming for more H1-B visas and outsourcing tens of thousands of jobs every month. I would get phonographs of those hugs and kisses and run them with todays headline where IBM is laying off thousands of additional U.S. workers and outsourcing more jobs. Do that with the executive from HP, Microsoft, etc. Repeat that with Washington's Senator Maria Cantwell and the whole collection of free trading NeoLiberal fools in Obama's camp and you will utterly destroy him and anyone Obama supports. Propose sand end to the H1-B visa, punitive taxes, fees, tariff's, duties, and, f they move offshore, strip them off any U.S. patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The Constitution grants Congress the power to do those very things. This is the sort of economic nationalism advocated by Pat Buchanan, and a growing number of people on the right and the left. I hope, with the NeoCon's thoroughly discredited, that the genuine conservatives retake the Republican Party and push the NeoLiberal's onto that same garbage heap of history occupied by the NeoCon's.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | March 27, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Rogermurdock, it was really refreshing to see an informative, fact-based post here. Thanks!

Posted by: nodebris | March 27, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"When you see the abuse of power, you've got to speak."

-- VP candidate Joseph Biden, Aug. 27, 2008, Democratic National Convention

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 27, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse





And federally-funded programs equip the "community gang stalkers" who are terrorizing their neighbors -- in the process, destroying their livelihoods and degrading their health.

When victims complain, they are told there is "nothing to investigate."

True -- because federal and local authorities KNOW ALL ABOUT IT.

Will the national press corps -- and Team Obama -- wake up and realize that democracy is being stolen at the GRASSROOTS?

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 27, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"Mostly" because the New York State regular Dems have not been supporting Obama. They marginalized him and his supporters during the campaign and they continue to do so.
Even this special election is occasioned by Patterson's choice of a non mainstream Dem over Kennedy, an Obama supporter.

Posted by: miriamac2001 | March 27, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Mostly all-in? That's like being a little bit pregnant. You're either all-in or you aren't.

Posted by: kscheidegger | March 27, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Chris, thank you for the auto industry rescue link.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | March 27, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

A little analysis of the 20th CD --

The voter registration breakdown in the district is as follows:125,000 Democrats (39% of those who identify with a party). There are 196,000 Republicans (61% of those who identify with a party). There are 118,000 non-enrolled or other.

The total number of enrolled voters is 321,000. The total number of voters is 439,000.

45% of the total enrollment is Republican
28% of the total enrollment is Democrat

If turnout percentage is equal, then Murphy needs to pick up almost 80% of the non-enrolled to win, or he needs to win the majority of the non-enrolled and then pick up a substantial number of Republican registered voters.

Anything less than at least 55% of the vote for Tedisco is a huge loss for him and the Republicans.

Posted by: Rogermurdock | March 27, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

This i not a referendum on Obama or tye stimulus or "socialism" or anything else.
It's a Republican district, and the GOP has much more to lose here than the Dems or POTUS.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 27, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Dodd's hair is a mess...he's a great argument for term limits. I wonder if all Presidents (of the U.S.) have been egomaniacs.

Posted by: newbeeboy | March 27, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I heard president Paris is scheduled to do The Price is Right this week. Only problem is he thinks everything costs a trillion bucks.

After government messes it up, a trillion could be a bargain.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | March 27, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Since dodd is so crooked, he is the perfect face of the thugs running things.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | March 27, 2009 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Dodd's future is tied very tightly to the success or failure of the stimulus package. If by the summer of 2010 the economy is on the rise then he will walk to reelection. If not then the GOP might have a chance, and I stress might. Dodd and his wife are a serious political team and they know how to win. Simmons may look like a good alternative now but give the Dodd's a year and half to raise money and campaign and they'll have a solid strategy and the money to compete. Moving Connecticut to a 'toss-up' at this point is a bit premature, IMO.

Posted by: AndyR3 | March 27, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

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