The Note: Splitting the Baby Pinata

WASHINGTON, May 16

There are three main possible pre-election outcomes on immigration:

1. No bill.

2. The President and a majority of the Senate accept an enforcement-only bill.

3. A serious number of House Republicans accept a comprehensive bill, agreeing to the President's definition of "amnesty" and risking the wrath of town hall meeters, talk radio hosters, column writers, and Internet bloggers.

In a classic contest of the-prisoner's-dilemma-meets-a-game-of-chicken, Republican leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill both want to avoid Outcome 1 but are a million miles away on choosing between Outcomes 2 and 3 -- which could lead back to 1.

Remember, the baby can be given a haircut -- maybe a limb or two could even be amputated -- but the baby cannot be split.

As an exercise to see if the President can win this, assume that House leaders do not abandon their majority-of-the-majority rule, then go ahead and try to make a list of 116 Republican House members who would potentially vote for a guest worker program as part of a majority-of-the-majority coalition.

Feel free to monitor citizen opinion, talk radio, columns, and blogs today (You will not find many conservative voices agreeing with John Podhoretz's pro-Bush take.). LINK

But better if you want to understand the President's problem: try to name the senior, persuasive, skilled vote-counting Republican House member who will whip for the President's side if there is a conference report. And try to imagine HastertBoehnerBlunt giving that person permission to whip. And PelosiHoyer-Rahm giving Democrats full permission to bail the President out.

Possible? Sure. Likely? Let Tony Snow be the judge -- if he has enough information. (And if you can't follow the above, may we suggest you enroll in a little School House Rock? LINK)

The Tony Snow (on-camera) era officially gets underway today. The new White House press secretary will hold his first televised briefing at 12:30 pm ET.

As part of the Bush Administration's effort to show real progress on the border over the next few weeks, President Bush meets with members of Congress at 2:40 pm ET and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff holds a 10:00 am ET briefing on border security.

President Bush will also be focused on the US-Australian relationship today. The White House has already held an arrival ceremony, to be followed by a joint press availability, and an official dinner with Prime Minister Howard. ABC News' Karen Travers reports that today's joint press availability with Bush and Howard will be their seventh; their first came on Sept. 10, 2001.

The US District Court holds a 1:30 pm ET hearing before Judge Walton on former Cheney aide Scooter Libby's request to subpoena NBC News, Time magazine, and the New York Times to turn over drafts and documents related to the Valerie Plame outing.

A status conference hearing in the case of David Safavian is scheduled for 9:30 am ET. ABC News' Jason Ryan reports that the judge may be going over final details including whether Jack Abramoff will testify at the trial and the submission of even more e-mails from Safavian, Abramoff, and others.

The Congressional Black Caucus holds a news conference and demonstration on the Darfur crisis outside the Sudanese Embassy.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivers Columbia's College Class Day address in New York City.

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