By Rick Klein Now that the economy has been saved and all — how about the Senate? Hypocrisy is your watchword of the week from the White House. If the public isn’t supposed to quite love the stimulus, perhaps the public hate those who love to hate it. And from the politics of policy to the pure politics: President Obama gets to see first-hand how the map has morphed. On Thursday, the president’s bid to save the Democratic majority takes him to Colorado and Nevada, on behalf of incumbent senators who are battling perceptions of Washington as much as anything else. The view from Mile High was a bit more pleasant…. “Although Democrats are facing difficult prospects across the electoral map, nowhere has their light dimmed as quickly as in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest,” The Denver Post’s Michael Riley reports. “Rather than transforming the region into a Democratic stronghold, the quick disaffection with Democrats in Washington suggests that key states in the Intermountain West may emerge as more of a bellwether — like Ohio — where parties fight for fickle independent voters tooth and nail and the political mood can swing violently,” Riley writes. “There are also signs that the party's expansive agenda during the first year of the Obama administration was simply out of step with the views of many of the region's voters.” ABC’s Karen Travers: “Obama was able to redraw the electoral map in 2008, winning states that Democrats had not won in decades, but with his approval ratings hovering around 50 percent, there are questions about how and where Obama can be effective this year. The president is on a multi-state campaign losing streak right now. … Yet party officials say the midterms are a different story and that Obama will be active on the campaign trail this year and aggressively working for Democratic candidates where and when he can be helpful.” Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith: “The electoral map candidate Barack Obama remade in 2008 appears to be retreating into its familiar patterns.” “The Western swing, an unusual effort so early in an election year to bolster a top party figure, begins with a fund raiser Thursday for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who is running a tight race,” The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson and Naftali Bendavid report. “In Nevada, which has the second-highest jobless rate in the nation and the highest level of home-mortgage foreclosures, the president will headline a Democratic National Committee fund raiser Thursday evening. On Friday, flanked by [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, he will hold a town-hall meeting and speak to business leaders.” E.J. Dionne Jr., keeping score: “If you want to be honest, face these facts: At this moment, President Obama is losing, Democrats are losing, and liberals are losing. Who's winning? Republicans, conservatives, the practitioners of obstruction, and the Tea Party.” Greeting (or not greeting) the president in Nevada: “Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says he hasn't changed his mind: He won't meet with President Obama Thursday or Friday unless the president will ‘straighten the record out’ about what he said about people not spending money in Las Vegas,” the Las Vegas Sun’s Dave Toplikar reports. Republicans don’t have to travel as far to see some campaign energy: the Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off with Tea Party darling Marco Rubio, R-Fla., firing up the crowd first. Other big speakers on Thursday include former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.; Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio; and Dick Armey of FreedomWorks. As for that new energy: “On Thursday, when some 10,000 activists gather in Washington for this year’s conference, they will find themselves part of a conservative movement significantly different than it was during the Bush administration, or even in 2009,” Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports. “A jolt of anti-Obama populist energy has upended the movement’s traditional hierarchy, lifting some new or previously low profile groups to unprecedented heights while leaving traditional powers struggling to adapt.”
Newt Gingrich, in a Washington Times op-ed: “The timing is perfect. This week, CPAC. Next week, President Obama has invited Republican leaders to a ‘bipartisan’ health summit that will be televised. There is no better time for the conservative movement to remind elected officials of the key values and principles that have made America great.” NPR’s Ron Elving: “A year ago the CPAC gathering was rather downbeat, stunned by the breadth and depth of the Democrats' national victories in 2008. But this year will be something else again. Conservatives are no longer prostrate in defeat. Quite the contrary: Their blood is up, stirred by both the actions and the troubles of the Obama administration.” This is the governing environment — featuring skirmishes on both sides, mistrust that’s rarely run deeper, and a campaign season that’s upon us already. New promises — House Minority Leader Boehner, in his speech Thursday to CPAC, taking on not just the Pelosi era but the Hastert one, per excerpts provided to The Note: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you help elect a Republican Congress this November, and I’m fortunate enough to be elected Speaker of the House, I pledge to you right here and now: we’re going to run the House differently. And I don’t just mean differently than the way Democrats are running it now. I mean differently than it’s been run in the past under Democrats OR Republicans,” Boehner plans to say. “One of my first orders of business will be to post every bill online for at least three days before a vote. … For too long – under Democrats and Republicans alike – Congress has been too closed and too insular. Both parties are guilty. I want to change it. I’ve wanted to change it for a long time. And now we have a chance to do it.” Karl Rove with a Tea Party prescription: “The tea party movement will be more effective than it otherwise would be if it refuses to allow itself to become an appendage of either major political party,” Rove writes in his Wall Street Journal column. ”Allowing third-party movements to co-opt the tea partiers' good name, which is happening in Nevada, will only serve to elect opponents of the tea party philosophy of low-taxes and fiscal restraint. It could also discredit the tea party movement.” The AP’s Liz Sidoti does some Palin prognosticating: “At a time when the distance between obscurity and celebrity is shrinking, the journey between celebrity and the White House may be growing shorter as well. That's why, no matter how unconventional she is, Palin can't be counted out as a credible 2012 competitor — even if it's difficult to see her path to the presidency.” George F. Will, with finality: “She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states.” Remember that Grover Norquist doesn’t like when you don’t sign… “Is Palin running for president? The answer is no. She could have spoken to 10,000 people, but instead she chose to speak to 600 and get paid $100,000. That’s being a spokesperson and making a living, not running for president,” Norquist told Newsweek’s Eve Conant. Peter Beinart, in the new Time, with prescriptions for fixing Washington: “First, more New Hampshires… If every state took New Hampshire's example to heart — and allowed independents to vote not only in presidential primaries but in congressional ones as well … more moderate candidates win, but the same candidates would stake out more-moderate positions, the result of which might be something of a bipartisan rebirth. … Second, more Crossfires… Third, more Ross Perots.” Democrats, meanwhile, continue to rally their troops behind the stimulus — and against Republicans who like it more in their districts than they ever did on the House or Senate floor. Organizing for America goes video with the graph Democrats are trying to turn into a Twitter trend: “The economy is beginning to grow,” the on-screen text reads. “Mr. Obama’s appearance [Wednesday] was part of an intense sales pitch by the White House to convince Americans of the virtues of the stimulus bill, which has become a kind of political albatross for Democrats as they head into this year’s midterm elections,” Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in The New York Times. “White House officials concede that they have made mistakes in framing the public discussion of the measure; many Americans, for example, confuse the stimulus bill with Wall Street bailouts.” Thinking about what’s next: “The Obama administration is acknowledging that its program of spending cuts and tax breaks has yet to ease joblessness, and White House officials are increasingly engaged in shaping the details of new legislation to boost job creation,” The Washington Post’s Neil Irwin, Lori Montgomery and Alec MacGillis report. President Obama: “So it doesn't yet feel like much of a recovery. And I understand that.” Vice President Joe Biden: “Truly, the best is yet to come.” Austan Goolsbee, of the Council of Economic Advisers, on ABC’s “Top Line” Wednesday: “The first couple of quarters of this year is when it’s going into its peak impact on the economy.”
That other end of accountability: “A new report obtained by ABC News says a $5 billion weatherization program that was meant to save energy and create jobs has not yet done much of either,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports. “As of December 31, only 9,100 homes had been weatherized nationwide, according to the new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be released Thursday. The Department of Energy, which runs the program, says it actually weatherized more than 22,000 homes last year with Recovery Act funds. Either way, it's a far cry from the 593,000 they plan to complete over the course of the Recovery Act.” Time’s Stephen Gandel, with a report card: “What makes the bill's success hard to judge is that it was oversold.” The stimulus jobs claims gets a “mostly true” from Politifact’s Robert Farley and Louis Jacobson: “Obama has cherry-picked the highest number of the most favorable estimates. For him to be right about 2 million jobs having been created or saved would mean using the highest end of the administration's own range, or the highest end of the CBO's range. Indeed, leaving the CEA's analysis out of it and looking only at the independent estimates, you get an average of 1.38 million jobs created or saved, which is about 30 percent lower than the president's 2 million-job-benchmark. However, if you fast-forward the employment estimates by one quarter — to the first quarter of 2010 — the numbers creep closer to what Obama and other Democrats are suggesting.” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with some good news Thursday: Party officials are announcing that they raised $5.1 million last month, the DSCC’s biggest month of the cycle, and biggest January haul ever. DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz: "Our supporters are driven to get involved when they see the other party standing with the corporate interests on any given issue. Despite momentum on the other side, our committee and our candidates are raising strong amounts — and will be well positioned to face any headwinds in November."
The president on Thursday signs the executive order creating the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and meets with its co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Will this be their high point? “The obstacle has been political: The public doesn't want the spending cut or taxes raised, so politicians do neither,” McClatchy’s David Lightman and William Douglas report. “That's the Catch-22 overshadowing Obama's commission, experts said Wednesday: To matter, its recommendations must win support from both political parties and, ultimately, Congress.” The scary part: “Economic forecasters say future generations of Americans could have a substantially lower standard of living than their predecessors' for the first time in the country's history if the debt is not brought under control,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “But public dissatisfaction has not proven enough to compel members of Congress or current and previous Administrations to set aside their partisan differences to achieve a balanced budget. Most Republicans don't want to raise taxes; most Democrats don't want to cut spending. The result is a stalemate on how to put America back in the black.” Looking toward next week — if there’s something to look forward to. “U.S. House Democrats said their party may not be able to present a single health-care proposal at a Feb. 25 meeting that President Barack Obama has called with a challenge to Republicans to present their alternative,” Bloomberg’s James Rowley reports. “Obama has promised to ‘post online the text of a proposed health-insurance package’ in advance of the televised meeting.” A first GOP RSVP: “GOP Senator Mike Enzi has formally notified the White House that he’s accepted the invitation to attend next week’s health care summit, becoming the first GOP leader to do so and possibly upping pressure on other GOP leaders to make their plans to attend official,” The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent reports. Nuclear reverberations: “The early optimism of environmental advocates that the policies of former President George W. Bush would be quickly swept away and replaced by a bright green future under Mr. Obama is for many environmentalists giving way to resignation, and in some cases, anger,” John M. Broder reports in The New York Times. In New York: The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait, on Harold Ford, potential candidate: “The notion that Democratic primary voters in New York will embrace Ford may be more fantastical than the wildest investment scheme that predated the crash. Harold — don’t call me. We’ll call you.”
The Kicker: “I think the President would love to, just maybe not Colbert.” — White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, committing his boss to Jon Stewart, but not necessarily Stephen Colbert.
“Everybody here back home is excited about this…. And Stephen Colbert at least is excited about his treadmill.” — President Obama, in a call with astronauts, after Colbert’s viewers won a contest to name a new space treadmill after Colbert.
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