ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
Yes, they did. But can they do it again?
President Obama jumps into Campaign '09 on Tuesday — raising money for a New York congressional candidate and for the DNC. Four more events are spread over the next week, in the year's two marquee contests, and to help two friends up in 2010.
The burst of campaigning, of course, is primarily about the three approaching races that the president is inserting himself into — New York's 23d congressional district, and gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey. (And a fourth where he really isn't: The president is in New York City Tuesday, but the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City only gets a shout-out from the podium at a DNC fundraiser?)
But the implications are broader — for hints of winning strategies of 2010; for the perils of incumbency and the lasting draw of change; for the role of independents (and independent candidates) in the age of Tea Parties; for how a still-popular president spends (and doesn't spend) political capital; for what Obama's pull means, on the Hill and beyond.
The president's audience extends right into the halls of Congress, where fears of an electoral backlash color the health care debate, and skepticism about Obama's electoral staying power impacts everything else he's asking of his base.
The president hits the trail with some new evidence in hand: The new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the president and his top domestic priority bouncing back, after the angst of August angst produced some low points:
"President Obama's holding the line at an even division in public views on health care reform, boosted by support for two key elements — a personal mandate and a public option — and aided by continued weakness in the opposition party," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes in his analysis.
It's 57 percent support for a government-sponsored insurance option; support jumps to 76 percent if it's limited to those who can't get affordable private insurance. The president himself is at a 57 percent approval rating — the first time since April it hasn't declined, as Langer points out.
(Everyone sure that level of support for a public option is welcome at the White House? When the political math is more important than the polling math?)
Progress, primarily: "Americans by 51-37 percent in this latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they'd rather see a plan pass Congress without Republican support, if it includes a public option based on affordability, than with Republican backing but no such element," Langer writes.
Key talking point: The public option is outpolling bipartisanship, Greg Sargent blogs at The Plum Line. "A majority wants a Dem-only bill rather than a bipartisan one if the Dem-only one includes a public insurance option and the bipartisan one doesn't. A majority of Independents wants the same."
(And for all those predicting GOP waves in 2010 — Democrats hold a 51-39 edge in the generic congressional ballot in the poll.)
Key constituencies: "Independents and senior citizens, two groups crucial to the debate, have warmed to the idea of a public option, and are particularly supportive if it would be administered by the states and limited to those without access to affordable private coverage," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write for the Post. "Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform."
Will it shift the debate? "The new numbers will certainly encourage Democrats pushing hard to have the president side with them over Olympia Snowe and centrist Dems opposed to a full-blown public health insurance plan," ABC's George Stephanopoulos writes. "It's likely, however, that those numbers aren't strong enough — at least not yet — to shake enough swing Senators off their opposition to the public option. Especially when the public is still divided — 45-48 — on the overall merits of reform."
Abroad, the president gets some breathing room: "Under heavy international pressure, President Hamid Karzai appears set to concede as early as Tuesday that he fell short of a first-round victory in the nation's disputed presidential election, but the path to ensuring that the country has credible leadership remains uncertain," The New York Times' Sabrina Tavernise and Helene Cooper report. "Some Obama administration officials, who say a pending decision on whether to increase troop levels in the country depends partly on resolving the election outcome, now argue that they should push Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah to form a coalition government to avoid a runoff altogether."
The view from the White House: "At times, the formation of a unity government has seemed to have more traction," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "The Karzai campaign has publicly rejected the idea of a second round of voting, and US officials have generally expressed their view that a unity government might be logistically easier, given the three weeks left until the harsh Afghan winter makes voting all but impossible. In addition, there's nothing to say that the fraud that marred the August election wouldn't return."
"The US is desperate for a reliable ally in Kabul. It says that if doesn't have that, more US troops are going to be killed, or the country could once again become a terrorist safe-haven," ABC's Nick Schifrin reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, from Afghanistan.
"Failure to accept the election panel's finding, diplomats and administration officials warned Karzai, could risk triggering a constitutional crisis and raise the specter of street violence and ethnic strife," the Los Angeles Times' Laura King reports.
Angst in the ranks? "After nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military," The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller writes. "A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room."
The AP's Lara Jakes, trave ling with a Defense secretary who's making his voice heard: "The Obama administration needs to decide on a war strategy for Afghanistan without waiting for a government there to be widely accepted as legitimate, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday. Gates' comments put him at odds with top White House and NATO officials who are balking at ordering more troops and other resources to Afghanistan until the disputed election crisis there is resolved."
Back to politics:
"The concentrated push begins Tuesday and is shaping up, at least to some degree, as a gauge on Obama's political influence," the AP's Ben Feller writes. "At separate events in New York City, the president will raise money both for Bill Owens, a Democrat trying to win a special election in an upstate New York congressional district, and for the Democratic National Committee. The national party fundraising event alone is expected to generate between $2 million to $3 million."
Bill Thompson, running for mayor of New York as a Democrat, gets — what, exactly? "Thompson, facing an uphill fight against Mayor Bloomberg in the Nov. 3 citywide election, is expected to get a shoutout from the commander in chief at a Manhattan fund-raiser, a source told the Daily News," per the New York Daily News' Ken Bazinet and Michael Saul. "An aide to Thompson declined to say if the candidate would be photographed with Obama, a potential boost given that the President is widely popular in bright-blue New York City — especially with black voters."
Look who's not coming to a fancy dinner, at the Mandarin Oriental: "From the financial giants like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup that received federal bailout money — and whose bankers raised millions of dollars for Mr. Obama's election — only a half-dozen or fewer are expected to attend (estimated total contribution: $91,200)," David D. Kirkpatrick reports in The New York Times.
"Part of the reason, several Democratic fund-raisers and executives said, is a fear of getting caught in the public rage over the perception that Wall Street titans profiting from their government bailout may use their winnings to give back to Washington in return. And the timing of the event, as the industry lobbies against proposals for tighter regulations to address the underlying causes of last year's meltdown on Wall Street, has only added to the worry over public appearances."
On Wednesday, Obama will be at a rally Gov. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., and Friday he raises cash for two allies: Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. Next Tuesday, it's Virginia, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds.
The AP's Liz Sidoti and Bob Lewis check in on Virginia — maybe the toughest approaching race for the president's party: "Loyal Democrats are more subdued than last fall. Republicans are energized. Independents are proving to be … independent. Voters of all kinds seem disenchanted," they write. "Republicans are far more fired up than Democrats, and independents who leaned left just a year ago are tilting away. Frustration over the status quo, fear of the country's direction, and disillusionment about political leaders span the ideological spectrum."
They add: "Given Virginia's newfound swing-voting behavior, the McDonnell-Deeds outcome will be a key measure of how America feels and, perhaps more importantly, how independent voters are acting ahead of the 2010 elections."
Former President Bill Clinton and former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe campaign for Deeds on Tuesday in Northern Virginia.
In New Jersey — what else do you need to know about how Corzine wants to end the race? "Yes we can. Yes we can," the governor said Monday.
Too early to give up on the public option in the Senate? "Prospects are growing that one of these variations — or a blend of them — will make it into the final Senate bill," The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy report. "The fact that the public option is gaining new attention says a lot about the state of debate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats feel a breeze at their backs, despite the slow pace of action since Labor Day and continued attacks from the political right."
"Senate Democrats are fashioning a strategy to control the battle for public opinion over a health care reform package that is unlikely to hit the floor until the first week of November," Roll Call's David M. Drucker reports.
Vote-counting, from the left: "If he wants the bill to pass it's going to have to include a public option. There's no other path," Darcy Burner, executive director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation, said on ABCNews.com's "Top Line" Monday.
Beating a retreat? Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, writes a Washington Post op-ed titled, "About that health-reform cost study": "Let me be clear and direct: Health plans continue to strongly support reform. In fact, last year we proposed new insurance market rules and consumer protections to achieve universal coverage, remove restrictions on preexisting conditions and end the practice of basing premiums on health status or gender. We firmly believe that all the cost concerns the report raised can be resolved."
Whether or not AHIP's on board… "The White House and Democratic leaders are offering doctors a deal: They'll freeze cuts in Medicare payments to doctors in exchange for doctors' support of healthcare reform," The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports. "At a meeting on Capitol Hill last week with nearly a dozen doctors groups, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would take up separate legislation to halt scheduled Medicare cuts in doctor payments over the next 10 years. In return, Reid made it clear that he expected their support for the broader healthcare bill."
"Now the bill's supporters are making a play to lock in the American Medical Association, the organization that says it represents 250,000 doctors and medical students in every state and congressional district. The principal enticement, a $247 billion measure making its way to the Senate floor, aims to wipe out a scheduled 21 percent rate cut for doctors treating Medicare patients and replace it with a permanent, predictable system for future fee increases," the AP's David Espo reports.
Just a whiff of tension among leadership: "As the Democratic players huddle behind closed doors to hammer out a deal, tempers are a little shorter, tongues are a little looser, nerves are a little more fra yed and egos are a little more bruised than during the usual course of Senate business," Politico's Glenn Thrush reports.
Start reading: The Finance Committee bill is a 1,000-page bill, one-and-a-half times over.
Also on the president's schedule Tuesday — from the DNC: At 7:45 pm ET, "President Obama will join Organizing for America's (OFA) ‘Time to Deliver' health insurance reform events via live webcast – which can be viewed live at My.BarackObama.com/Oct20 – and make a call to action for American's gathered in neighborhoods across the country to complete 100,000 calls and commitments to call Congress in a single day. . . . The President will deliver his remarks for the webcast at an OFA grassroots fund raising event at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City."
And do you think they like this phrase? A new DNC Web video challenges Republicans to "grab a mop" — building off a line the president delivered at a fundraiser last week in San Francisco.
Lots of action — with the White House at the center of it: "Proponents of revamping the nation's health care system will hold phone-bank events in 50 states today. Here in the nation's capital, a coalition of more than 100 liberal interest groups will convene its weekly meeting, with health care atop the agenda," USA Today's Richard Wolf reports. "And when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gather committee leaders to write the legislation, Obama's chief of staff and other aides are at the table."
Also on the presidential schedule Tuesday, per ABC's Sunlen Miller: "The President will visit the New York FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to thank the officers and agents involved in the arrest of alleged terrorist bomb plotter, Najibullah Aziz. . . . The presidential visit to the JTTF's offices in Manhattan's Chelsea district marks the second time that the president has publicly stated his satisfaction with the way law enforcement has handled the case."
The latest Public Strategies Inc./Politico poll: "As the nation struggles to climb out of a recession, 45 percent rated the economy as the most important issue in deciding their vote if the congressional election were held today, followed by 21 percent who said government spending, 20 percent who chose health care reform and 9 percent who said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just 4 percent ranked climate change as the top issue," Politico's Andy Barr reports. "Economic worries also led a majority of Americans to place jump-starting the economy ahead of concerns about the environment."
We'll believe this one… "This has been the year of coping with the economic mess. Next year will be the year of coping with the deficit mess that follows the economic mess," Gerald Seib writes in his "Capital Journal" column. "The Obama White House has come to that conclusion, and is already starting to plan how to go about tackling the job. The effort is likely to start early next year and will include plenty of direct presidential engagement, with equal parts psychology and substance."
Launching Tuesday (attention, Liz Cheney): the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo. Per the press release: "To combat the right-wing fear machine, the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo will run political ads and lead a grassroots campaign in key Congressional districts." See the first ad, running for a week on national cable starting Wednesday, HERE.
The New York Times editorial board takes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's side in the Humana controversy, calling it a "sorry attempt to stifle debate." "The Obama administration has dropped its ham-handed attempt to stop health insurers from warning buyers of private Medicare Advantage plans that their extra benefits might be cut under pending health care legislation."
Vice-presidential diplomacy: "Vice President Joe Biden departs today on a three-day trip to central Europe that appears to be aimed at smoothing over relations with U.S. allies there worried by the Obama administration's decision to abandon plans for a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic," ABC's Karen Travers reports.
Romney watch: "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) condemned the Obama Administration's approach toward Iran, a republic he described as ‘unalloyed evil' and controlled by ‘ruthless and fanatical' leaders in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee today in San Diego," Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza writes.
"Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons," said Romney. "It will not."
Not over yet for Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.: "Lawmakers will return to Columbia next week to correct an oversight that cut off extended unemployment benefits to almost 7,000 S.C. residents last week. And while legislative leadership said impeaching Gov. Mark Sanford will not be on the agenda, one lawmaker said he will raise the issue," The State's John O'Connor reports.
New bookmark: "The Inside Story with Ana Marie Cox," part of the redesigned Air America Website.
"Well, it's a depression — it's a depression for millions of Americans, through no fault of their own." — Vice President Joe Biden, Monday morning.
"Without Arlen having convinced two of his Republican colleagues to change their vote and vote for the stimulus package, we would probably be in a depression." — Vice President Joe Biden, Monday night.
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