Obama Holds House Odds At Second Presidential News Conference

By Jennifer Parker

Mar 24, 2009 4:42pm

How is a prime time presidential news conference like a Vegas casino? The odds are stacked for the House. The Obama team knows this.  They understand that taking a few tough questions is a small price to pay for a prime time audience. They called the press conference tonight because they know they have enough good news to fill the first 10 minutes, when the audience is paying the most attention. White House aides see this as the third in a series of "fireside chats" — adding tonight’s estimated audience of tens of millions (49.5 million viewers tuned into Obama’s first presidential news conference in February), to the 16 million viewers that watched the president’s interview on "60 Minutes" Sunday, and the estimated 14 to 15 million viewers that watched his appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last Thursday. Watch for the president to spotlight those "flickers of hope" he mentioned on "60 Minutes" — home sales starting to rise, workers getting rehired — thanks, in part, to the administration’s $787 billion stimulus package. He’ll also talk about credit flowing again, thanks to TARP and TALF. And, expect a shout out to Paul Holland, venture capitalist and board member of "Serious Materials" an energy-efficient window manufacturing plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for creating so-called green-jobs. Obama’s message boils down to this: My plans are starting to work … we’re not out of the woods yet … but we can’t turn back … which means Congress must pass my budget. When the questions begin tonight, watch for this: How does Obama hit the rhetorical sweet spot with words that reassure Wall Street without enraging Main Street? The president knows Congress will amend his budget … but will he draw red lines that cannot be crossed? And, how much leg will Obama show on his plans for Afghanistan? And, how will the president handle Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s slap back of Obama’s "Nowruz" overtures to Iran? Will the president cut down the length of his answers (last time, they were in the five to six minute range), and tamp down stabs at humor? We saw how well that worked with his "séance" jab at former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and his bowling remark on Leno. But perhaps the biggest question tonight: Can the president leverage his political capital to get his $3.6 trillion budget passed though Congress?  –George Stephanopoulos

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