By MICHAEL FALCONE AND AMY WALTER
Selling Health Care, Again. President Obama spends the day marking the six-month anniversary of the signing of the new health care law with a meeting of state health commissioners followed by a trip to Falls Church, Va. where he’ll discuss the Patient’s Bill of Rights. But is the president all alone? Most Democrats on the campaign trail have not only been reluctant to tout health care reform, in many cases they’ve distanced themselves from it entirely. At Tuesday’s briefing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted that “the president is not directing the messaging or ads for individual candidates. Obviously they’ll do what they think and what they believe is best in terms of what they want to talk about in their districts.” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did her best to push back on the notion that Democrats were running away from the law in an interview with Politico, saying that “a variety of members of Congress” were talking to their constituents about it. “I think it’s a bit of a one-sided approach saying that’s not going on. I would suggest that it is very much going on.” Still, as the Washington Post’s Anne E. Kornblut points out President Obama is “assuming the role of solo champion” of the law as vulnerable Democrats across the country focus on other talking points.
The Woodward Effect. The Beltway is abuzz about the tantalizing details in Bob Woodward’s new book, “Obama’s Wars,” a copy of which fell into the hands of The New York Times. As The Times’ Peter Baker notes in his book report, Woodward’s latest tome “depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there amid suspicion that he was being boxed in by the military. Mr. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.” ABC’s Jake Tapper gets the White House’s swift response to the book, amplifying some of the excerpts and taking issue with others: “A senior administration official who read the book says ‘the President comes across in the review and throughout the decision-making process as a Commander in Chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role.’ The official says of the descriptions of the infighting in the book that ‘the debates in the book are well known because the policy review process was covered so exhaustively.’”
Losing Larry. While the departure of White House economic adviser Larry Summers wasn’t a total shock, it presents both a problem and an opportunity for the Obama administration. On one hand, there’s the damaging jump-ship phenomenon. Summers the latest to leave, following in the footsteps of Christina Romer, chair of Council of Economic Advisers and Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. And, of course, there’s mounting speculation that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will depart in the next few months to launch a bid for mayor of Chicago. Defense Secretary Bob Gates could be calling it quits too. Who’s next and how does it present an image problem White House? In the short term, Summers’ exit could also be an opportunity to bring some new voices into the fold. Will Obama pick a business type or another academic? Will he choose from within his existing circle of advisers or turn to someone from the outside? The floodgates of speculation have already opened about potential replacements for Summers, as Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Kendra Marr report: “The pick doesn’t have to fit that bill precisely, but it’s highly likely Obama’s pick will be either a woman or a business leader – and preferably both, said several people familiar with the situation. … Potential Summers replacements reportedly being initially considered include Rebecca Blank, a Commerce Department official who oversees the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Ursula Burns, chairwoman and CEO of the Xerox Corp.; Ann Mulcahy, the company’s former CEO; and veteran economist Laura Tyson, who held the NEC director’s post in the Clinton administration.”
(NOTED: Much of the speculation about Rahm’s departure had the Chief of Staff sticking around through the midterms, but Time Magazine’s Michael Scherer hears that he “may step down as chief of staff as soon as early October if he decides to run for mayor of Chicago, according to a person familiar with deliberations in the West Wing. One issue hastening the timing of Emanuel’s departure is concern over whether he can build a campaign operation while holding down the second most powerful job in the Federal Government.”)
Controlling The Narrative. The battle over who’s got the momentum in the closing weeks of the fall campaign is heating up with Republicans pointing to signs that after a number of stunning upsets during the primary season, they are now beginning to close ranks with Tea Party activists ahead of Election Day. GOP operatives are circulating a report by the AP’s Jim Kuhnenn that bolsters their case: “Separate tea party groups still squabble over roles for Republican insiders within the movement, but the conservative activists and GOP stalwarts have reached a truce for the common goal of defeating Democrats, heeding calls for unity from Republicans including Sarah Palin.” Democrats, meanwhile, have a new favorite word: “resurgence.” The Hill’s Russell Berman files a dispatch from a briefing on Tuesday with House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer: “Hoyer trumpeted a recent Gallup poll that gave Democrats a one-point edge over the GOP in a generic candidate comparison. And he chided the media for playing up an August Gallup generic ballot survey that showed a 10-point Republican advantage, saying the latest poll marked a ‘dramatic’ Democratic turnaround. ‘That doesn’t sound like a death knell to me. That sounds like a party that’s on the move,’ Hoyer said. ‘I not only don’t think there’s a death knell. I think there’s a resurgence of Democrats throughout the country.’” (NOTED: Sarah Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC, released a new video titled “Tea Party” on Tuesday that celebrates the rise of the movement but makes no mention of the Republican Party.)
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein sit down today with Scott McAdams, the Democratic Senate candidate in Alaska who is trying to find a path to victory against two opponents — Tea Party-backed favorite Joe Miller, the GOP nominee, as well as the sitting senator Miller beat, Lisa Murkowski, who is running as a write-in. Does Murkowski’s recent decision give McAdams an opening? Also on “Top Line,” New York Times political number-cruncher extraordinaire, Nate Silver. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
Going Dark. Delaware GOP Senate candidate, and former witchcraft dabbler, Christine O’Donnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview last night that her days of national media interviews are over. ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports: “She told Sean Hannity that many of her provocative past statements which have resurfaced in recent days do not reflect her current outlook and are intended as a distraction for her campaign. O’Donnell explained her 1999 comment on Bill Maher’s show ‘Politically Incorrect’ that she had ‘dabbled in witchcraft’ during high school as an act of ‘teenage rebellion.’ ‘Some people dabble in drugs to rebel. That’s how I rebelled,’ she said. ‘Who didn’t do some questionable things in high school?’”
Obama (The Other One) Hits The Trail. First Lady Michelle Obama will begin a series of campaign trail appearances in mid-October. Most of them are fundraisers, including events for Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, Alexi Giannoulias, Representative Debbie Halvorson, Dan Seals, and Bill Foster in Illinois, Senator Michael Bennet in Colorado, Senator Patty Murray in Washington, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Barbara Boxer in California. As ABC’s Sunlen Miller points out, there’s a reason President Obama nicknamed his wife “the closer” during the 2008 campaign.
THE NUMBER: 43%
The percentage of support that Carl Paladino, the New York gubernatorial candidate who pushed aside former Rep. Rick Lazio, to with the GOP nomination last Tuesday is getting, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll out this morning. The Democratic nominee, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo , is still in the lead with 49 percent, but the relatively slim margin is surprising in a race that most political prognosticators have been predicting would be a cakewalk for Cuomo. Some are taking the poll with a grain of salt, but as National Journal’s Jeremy P. Jacobs writes: “The poll is a striking example of the national mood this year – a Tea Partier doing better-than-expected against a candidate hailing from a leading political dynasty. Paladino was widely dismissed for bizarre statements in the primary, then he went on to beat Lazio by more than 20 points. The Republican is enjoying overwhelming support from New York’s fairly small Tea Party contingent, which make up 18 percent of the likely electorate. They back him by a 79-point margin, 87% to 8%, over Cuomo.”
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