By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Declaring that he remains “focused on the job you elected me to do,” President Barack Obama announced in an email message to supporters this morning that he was unveiling his 2012 re-election campaign.
“As my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we've made — and make more,” Obama wrote. “We also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest.”
ABC’s Jake Tapper, who broke the news that Obama’s official announcement would come early Monday, notes that a more than two-minute video accompanying the email message features Obama supporters and not the president himself. It's aimed at re-engaging the 2008 voters who may have sat out 2010 and drawing in new voters this time around. http://abcn.ws/e2UFc7
Obama advisers, Tapper reports, believe the election will be tight and could come down to just a few votes in each precinct — the way they win, they say, is by expanding the electorate and bringing in new voters as they did in 2008. Notice, for example, that one of the supporters in the video — identified as “Mike” from New York — says he wasn't old enough to vote in 2008.
“I just saw the energy and hope that he had for this country,” Mike says in the video. “Even though I couldn’t exactly vote at the time, I knew that someday I’d be able to help re-elect him, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
The video carries the weight of incumbency. His supporters remain committed to his vision, but they are more realistic — less idealistic about what it means to have this man in the White House. Another voter featured in the video, “Ed” from North Carolina, says bluntly: “I don’t agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him.” (Watch the video: http://abcn.ws/e2UFc7)
And it’s no coincidence that three of the supporters featured are from Nevada, Colorado and North Carolina. These are important battlegrounds for 2012 and the incumbent president is likely to have a rougher go of it in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia.
With a government shutdown potentially just days away, some Republicans have criticized the timing of Obama’s announcement.
“I find it kind of ironic that the week we're trying to engage the president, the Democrats and the country with an honest debate about our budget, with real solutions to fix this country's problems and prevent a debt crisis, the president is launching his re-election campaign,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., told “Fox News Sunday.” http://abcn.ws/evbJ9Q
But note that the last two presidents to run for a second term, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, both announced around the same time.
“Even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more,” Obama wrote in his message, “the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.”
EXCLUSIVE: EMERGING GOP BUDGET THEME: ‘PATH TO PROSPERITY.’ “ABC News has learned the long-awaited budget to be released this week by Republican budget chairman Paul Ryan will be called "The Path to Prosperity,’” Jonathan Karl reports.” It's a path paved with deep cuts in spending and significant changes to entitlement programs. And it's a proposal that will dominate political debate in Congress for the rest of the year. Ryan said on ‘Fox News Sunday’ that his budget will cut federal government spending by more than $4 trillion over the next 10 years — cutting the deficit even more than the plan put forward by the debt commission appointed by President Obama. Ryan's budget will set the agenda for the Republican House on the critical issues of deficit reduction, entitlement reform and spending cuts. It will also be target No. 1 for Democrats who will say Ryan's plan would destroy Medicare and impose devastating spending cuts that would kill the economic recovery. … For that reason, some top Republican leaders had urged Ryan to refrain from putting out a comprehensive plan until the President made the first move on entitlement reform. But Ryan, with the strong backing of many of the 87 newly elected House GOP freshman who had won election by promising to cut spending and get the budget back in balance, argued that Republicans have a moral imperative to tackle the issue now.” The details of Ryan’s plan are set to be released Tuesday and it will include proposals to “transform” the Medicaid program, among other things: http://abcn.ws/gxbm70
BOTTOM LINE: Ryan’s plan not only stands zero chance of getting anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but it gives Democrats a nice fat target for 2012 campaigning. Even Ryan admitted on "Fox News Sunday" that "we are giving them a political weapon to go against us, but they will have to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon."
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is on the cusp of winning billions of dollars in cuts and concessions from Democrats. Yet, that victory could be short-lived if his party is defined by Ryan's more ambitious budget blueprint. What would that definition look like? Here's what Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the budget committee had to say about it: "To govern is to choose, and it is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies, and other big money special interests while slashing our investment in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. That's not courageous, it's wrong.”
DEMOCRATS ALREADY ON OFFENSE. Democrats aren’t wasting any time. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to challenge over 50 House Republicans — mostly freshman, they say –about whether they support the proposed “voucherizing of Medicare for seniors and deep cuts to Medicaid for low-income families.” For example, the DCCC will ask: “Will Representative Allen West stand behind this controversial Republican budget or will he stand up for the people of Florida and against his leadership?” Other lawmakers who the Democratic committee plans to “challenge” include, Rep. Nan Hayworth of New York, Mary Bono Mack of California, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Dan Benishek of Michigan and Steve Stivers of Ohio.
“House Republican leaders are now full speed head on a partisan plan that would dismantle Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for low-income families. Now is the chance for Representative Allen West to draw a line in the sand and say he won’t slash Medicare and Medicaid because they’re too important to seniors and low-income families,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the DCCC in a press release going out in West’s Florida district. “Seniors who have paid into the Medicare system don’t deserve to have the costs of their health care increase but that’s exactly what this House Republican budget will do. If Representative Allen West can’t stand against this now, then it’s clear he’s no longer standing up for Florida seniors.” (Similar releases will be circulating in the districts of the other targeted House Republicans this morning.)
SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN. “Members of Congress are working behind closed doors to hash out a deal to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year as federal workers nervously prepare contingency plans,” ABC’s Huma Khan reports. “But just five days away from the deadline, the threat of a government shutdown looks more real than it has in recent weeks as pressure from the Tea Party and conservative lawmakers mounts. Democratic sources indicated last week that the two sides had agreed $33 billion would be slashed from the 2011 budget. But the GOP leadership has downplayed those reports amid calls from their caucus that the number is far from acceptable. ‘Heck no, it's not enough,’ freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., an ardent Tea Party supporter, told ABC News. ‘The deficit and the debt that we're under right now demand a bigger number.’ … Lawmakers narrowly averted two shutdowns in recent weeks by passing short-term stopgap measures. But a growing number of Republicans, pressured by Tea Party groups, say they won't support such a move again, even it results in a government shutdown.” http://abcn.ws/dO934T
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter talk to freshman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., about the ongoing budget negotiations on Capitol Hill and the looming possibility of a government shutdown as well as reports that BP is close to resuming oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Also on the program, David Kilcullen, author of “The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars In The Midst Of Big One.” Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
BILL CLINTON ON LIBYA: WOULD HE ARM THE REBELS? “Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said he thinks the United States should consider arming the rebels in Libya's civil war. "It would depend … and I might need to know a little more, but I would be inclined to do it," Clinton told Weekend ‘Good Morning America’ anchor Bianna Golodryga today in San Diego during an exclusive interview. Clinton was in San Diego for his annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting,” reports ABC’s Suzan Clarke. But Clinton said he wouldn't completely rule out the idea of supplying arms to Libya's rebels. ‘Let me just say this. I sure wouldn't shut the door to it. I think … we may need to know a little more,’ he said. Clinton, husband of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stressed that he was speaking without ‘any official sanction’ whatsoever. ‘I'm just speaking from myself. But I certainly wouldn't take that off the table, too,’ he said.” http://abcn.ws/hsjAuk
INSIDE OBAMA’S DOMESTIC POLICY INNER-CIRCLE. “One group of aides is emerging as highly influential as President Obama shifts the focus of his economic policy from crisis management to trying to stimulate and manage growth: the Domestic Policy Council, led by Melody Barnes,” writes the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb. “Barnes, a onetime top lawyer to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and her team have navigated to the center of the administration’s economic strategy. They’ve helped to craft policies on education and clean energy, which Obama has said are key to securing the nation’s economic future — what he has called a “competitiveness” agenda. For Barnes, education, above all else, is the linchpin for economic and domestic policy. Barnes’s high-profile role on economic policy is a key example of an administration in transition. In the first two years, Obama’s policies centered largely on stemming sharp economic decline. Now the president has turned toward building a foundation for economic growth — and education, energy and infrastructure are its cornerstones.” http://wapo.st/fkzl34
UNION FIGHT HITS WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT RACE. “A conservative judge’s campaign for re-election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court has become the next front in a growing multi-state Republican effort to limit the power of organized labor,” Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports. “The once-obscure judicial race, which will be decided in a Tuesday election, has taken on national implications both because Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation stripping public union bargaining powers could be decided by the court and because it’s the first time voters have gone to the polls since Walker signed the bill that sparked the national push. The contest between incumbent David Prosser and liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has attracted an infusion of outside spending that could total as much as $5 million. ‘It looked like this was going to be a relatively sleepy affair where the incumbent was going to coax to victory,’ said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan watchdog. ‘But everything changed about seven or eight weeks ago when all hell broke loose in Wisconsin and almost instantly this race became a referendum on Scott Walker – and a dogfight,’ said McCabe.” http://politi.co/ewKDdt
BACHMANN MAKING INROADS IN IOWA. “Sarah Palin, the reigning heroine of many social conservatives, has given few signals that she will make a presidential bid. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 on the strength of his appeal to evangelicals and other constituencies, has mostly offered reasons for not joining the race. So into that space has come Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota,” reports The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny. “After a four-day visit to Iowa late last month in which Ms. Bachmann declared “I’m in!” at several stops, it became clear that Republicans were taking notice. At a minimum, the clamor among some social conservatives for Ms. Palin to run has quieted as the attention surrounding Ms. Bachmann has grown. … ‘If Congresswoman Bachmann gets in, she has the potential to appeal to a lot of people who might have gone for Governor Palin,’ Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa said in an interview. ‘Imagine if they both got in. That could make it really interesting.’ … While voters at this stage may be more inclined to listen than to sign on the dotted line, the energy she creates among leading conservative groups is unmatched by anyone but Ms. Palin.” http://nyti.ms/gtf98e
THE TRUMP CARD. “Appearances to the contrary, the early stage of a presidential nominating contest is not a reality show. That means the likely Republican 2012 contenders can't say to Donald Trump, ‘You're fired,’” notes ABC’s Rick Klein. “Regardless of whether Republican primary voters actually get a chance to vote for The Donald, he could shape the GOP field in ways that aren't likely to help the more seasoned and serious candidates for the presidency. Like any celebrity candidate, Trump is drawing press interest that could go elsewhere. That's a particular concern for Republicans who are anxious to break through early and big in opposing what could be a billion-dollar candidacy in the Obama reelection campaign, which is set to formally launch in the coming days. To make matters worse for the other candidates, Trump is appealing to the ‘birther’ elements inside the conservative movement in his many media appearances.” http://abcn.ws/gHKBzW
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama will spend the day behind-closed-doors at the White House in private meetings. In the afternoon, he meets with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and later with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (h/t ABC’s Sunlen Miller).
NOTABLE: RODELL MOLLINEAU’S NEXT MOVE. Rodell Mollineau, former spokesman and top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been named President of American Bridge 21st Century, the research and communications Super PAC recently started by Media Matters founder David Brock. According to an announcement of his new job, “Mollineau will lead the overall efforts of the Super Pac and its companion 501 (c)(4) foundation to build a permanent progressive counterweight to the outside Republican groups that took hold of the electoral process in 2010.” Mollineau spent four years in the Senate Democratic Communications Center and has also worked in statewide and presidential races. Joining him is Bradley Beychok, a Louisiana political hand, who will serve as the group’s Campaign Director in 2012.
* Newt Gingrich will speak at Saint Anselm College's New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire.
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