Shadow Boxing 2012: Real Strength, Perceived Strength, Obama’s Bully Pulpit and Anatomy of a Default

Jun 29, 2011 9:05am

By Z. BYRON WOLF (@zbyronwolf) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

The race for the White House is as much about perceptions of strength as it is about actual punches.

Landing in Iowa a day after Michele Bachmann's triumphant return to Waterloo, Sarah Palin let us all know that she can still draw a crowd. Not only did she not tamp down speculation of a 2012 run, she actually encouraged it. At a presser outside the Pella theater where the pro-Palin biopic was being screened, Palin played coy and, as ABC's Sheila Marikar reports, "elaborated little on Bristol Palin's statement today that her mother had made up her mind.. 'What I told Bristol too, I said what is talked about on the fishing boat stays on the fishing boat."

It's clear that Michele's the one with the mo'. A new poll out in New Hampshire today from Suffolk University shows Bachmann shooting up to second place in New Hampshire (albeit a distant 25 points behind Mitt Romney).

As Jake Tapper Reported on GMA, pointing to a Gallup survey, when people like her, they really like her. Read the poll:  Watch the report:

Tom Petty is not, apparently, among the people who really like her. 

Tapper will be in Chicago later to interview former President Bill Clinton, who is kicking off a Clinton Global Initiative event in Chicago, focusing on domestic jobs. That’s a very political topic in the city that houses the campaign headquarters of another important Democrat. Watch World News to see what advice Clinton has for Obama.

President Obama takes to the bully pulpit at 11:30 a.m. Eastern with a press conference at the White House. Fresh from his trip own trip to Iowa, he’ll have a lot of answering to do on jobs and the economy. But season that with some likely questions on his evolving stance on gay marriage, for instance, and Congressional angst over Libya.

Meanwhile, two new outside groups are also trying to flex their muscles, or at least their perception of strength.

In the wake of the news that GOP American Crossroads has begun a $20M ad  attack on Obama's economic record, Democratic Priorities USA says they're fighting back with a $750K buy in key battleground states. While one GOP mocked Priorities buy to us as responding to a "roundhouse with an off-balance swat in the air," Priorities USA's Bill Burton tells the Note that in "battleground states where they’re [American Crossroads] up, we’re keeping pace with them at about 80% of their buy."

Here at the Note, we're waiting for our friends at CMAG to give us the real tale of the tape. They track all ad spending and, as a non-partisan group, won't pull any punches.

Local Reads: The Pella Chronicle on Sarah Palin swooping into their town for the premiere of her documentary: “She made her way through the hundreds of onlookers, signing autographs and shaking hands as she strolled down Franklin Street into the Opera House:"  

The Quad City Times: “Obama Pitches Optimism” The president's visit was a mere three hours, but Quad-Citians lined the motorcade route, and 350 people waited inside Alcoa while Obama took a tour of the factory floor with company and union officials."

Anatomy of a Default – What Happens August 3?

The boxing back in Washington is very real as Republicans and Democrats, the White House and Congress hone in on the August 2nd deadline to extend the debt ceiling beyond $14.29 trillion.

Senate Democrats are set to head to the White House today to meet with President Obama about the debt ceiling talks. But no Republicans are set to be there. This follows meetings Monday between the President and Senate Democrats and, separately, the President and Senate Republicans.

Sen. Chuck Schumer was personally blaming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who along with most Republicans  is adamant that no tax hikes should be considered. Retiring Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Tuesday  that members of both parties seem "downcast about the failure of the process" of the debt talks.

Add to those doldrums the perception among some that  that blowing through Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s August 2 deadline will be that big a deal.

“How many extensions now? Hype re: "need" to incur more debt NOW is nonsense,” tweeted Sarah Palin on Tuesday. Over the weekend Michele Bachmann called Geithner’s deadline “scare tactics.”

There are a litany of similar comments in our Top Line archives – Rep. Allen West, for instance, or Rep. Jim Jordan, who said last week, “its not like the world ends on August 2.”

What does happen?

Susana Kim from the ABC News business unit takes a look with a nifty flow chart.  Terp economist Peter Morici tells her the U.S. economy gets about 65 percent of its money these days from taxes and the rest from borrowing.

“We could do a lot of things on 65 percent of the money,” Morici said. “We couldn’t do everything, but we could do a lot.”

It's what the government would decide not to do that could send the bond markets reeling.

“Nobody believes that the United States is going to walk away from its obligations.  But I’m going to tell you, Sean, when I said this is the moment, and this is the opportunity, it is exactly what I mean.  … We cannot miss this opportunity,” House Speaker John Boehner told Sean Hannity on Fox last night.

It took about a nanosecond for Democratic leaders to reject a proposal released yesterday by Lieberman and Coburn on Tuesday that would raise the retirement age to 67. ABC’s Sunlen Miller had more on the odd couple’s idea:

Even when there is a deal on the debt, when will it get the public debate and consideration it probably deserves? ABC’s Amy Bingham crunched some Congressional scheduling numbers and found that the House and Senate will be in session together during 12 of the remaining 24 work days between today and the August 2 default deadline.

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: Instant analysis of President Obama’s press conference with ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf and Devin Dwyer. They’ll be joined by Major Garrett of the National Journal. And later, by ABC’s Supreme Court watcher Ariane de Vogue. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. Watch the press conference LIVE at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

“TOP LINE” REPLAY: Gay Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger told us the current Republican platform is “despicable” – “27 pages of trying to drive people away.” Karger said his goal is to change the current party to the “Republican party I grew up with. Also on program: Jonathan Karl’s interview with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who had a stark warning for Republican who favor a higher debt limit, and who didn’t quite rule out a run for the presidency himself.


TEA PARTY FINDS POWER LEADS TO POLICY SPLITS: The New York Times’ Kate Zernike looks uses the failure of a school choice bill in Pennsylvania “offers a microcosm of the Tea Party’s struggle as it tries to turn the potency it showed in the midterm elections into influence in legislative battles and the 2012 presidential campaign.” More: “Having been brought together primarily by what they oppose, Tea Party groups have had difficulty agreeing on what they stand for. Just saying “Tea Party” strikes fear in many Republicans in Washington and state capitols. But in practice, the Tea Party is often fractious and undefined.” Other grist cited: an anti-terror bill in Tennessee, the lack of unity behind a Lugar challenger in Indiana, and brewing disagreement over the 2012 race.

OBAMA GAY MARRIAGE STANCE A NOD TO '12 BATTLEGROUNDS: President Obama’s position on the issue is “evolving.” ABC’s Devin Dwyer takes a look at which battleground states will have gay rights on the ballot in 2012 and how the gay community and Democrats feel about President Obama, who is still among the large minority of Americans who oppose gay marriage:

DEBT DEBATE PUTS GOP FRESHMAN IN FIX: The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid travels with freshman Republican Rep. Sean Duffy to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, where he dodges questions about how he’ll vote on a a yet-to-be-determined debt ceiling plan. The Journal notes that while many Freshman came into Congress with a take no prisoners attitude, but “instead, they find themselves buffeted by an array of political forces more diverse than seemed likely in January. Many are eyeing 2012 with some trepidation.” More: “And it isn't just the freshmen; in all, 61 House Republicans represent districts that went for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential vote, and 13 of those districts also backed Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Outside Mr. Duffy's town hall meeting, liberals were picketing. Inside, conservatives were demanding he stay the tea-party course. "This is going to be a hard vote," he says.”   

BACHMANN'S MEDICAID MONEY: “While Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., has forcefully denounced the Medicaid program for swelling the ‘welfare rolls,’ the mental health clinic run by her husband has been collecting annual Medicaid payments totaling over $137,000 for the treatment of patients since 2005,” MSNBC’s Michael Iskioff reports. “The previously unreported payments are on top of the $24,000 in federal and state funds that Bachmann & Associates, the clinic founded by Marcus Bachmann, a clinical therapist, received in recent years under a state grant to train its employees, state records show.” Iskioff says that the clinic reportedly offers “‘quality Christian counseling.’” “Questions about the Bachmann family's receipt of government funds arose this week after a Los Angeles Times story reported that a family farm in which Michelle Bachmann is a partner had received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.”  


ICKY BUT LEGAL: Jake Tapper canvases various Washington watchdogs and reports that the solicitation of campaign funds in the White House, as long as its not in certain offices, is “unseemly” but “perfectly legal.”

DOES ROVE TOP OBAMA AS DEM FUNDRAISER?: Bill Burton tells Bloomberg that the specter of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers is a bigger fundraising draw for Democrats than President Obama’s accomplishments.

WAGE WAR: The minimum Wage is reemerging as a campaign issue after Michele Bachmann told George Stephanopoulos that the $7.25 hourly wage floor, like everything else, should be on the table as lawmakers consider how to spur job creation. ABC’s Amy Bingham with a fact check:


@jonkarl: Welcome Jonah Frank King and congrats to @DanaBashCNN and @JohnKingCNN!

@jmartpolitico: Rocky Top RT @MEBraden: Rep Shuler reportedly considering AD job at UT Knoxville

@chamberflack: Chamber backs compromise on US trade deals, calling it a "moment of truth" for Congress

@repmcgovern: Corrected: We shouldn't undermine basic human rights concerns and labor rights in order to pass the Colombia FTA.

@senbennelson: I’m going to support ways to make Medicare better and less expensive, not undo it.


* President Obama holds a news conference at
11:30 a.m. Eastern.
* Former President Clinton kicks off the Clinton Global Initiative, focusing on the U.S. for the first time, in Chicago.
* John Huntsman has fundraisers in Houston, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
* Rick Perry speaks to the Boy Scouts of America in San Diego.
* Michele Bachmann pushes  her campaign swing into South Carolina with events in Charleston,     Lexington, Greeneville and Rock Hill.

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