Going Nowhere Fast: Debt Talks Stagnate While 2012 Wildcard Emerges (The Note)

Jul 18, 2011 9:00am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter) 

It was a familiar refrain from House Speaker John Boehner’s office on Sunday: “Conversations have continued throughout the weekend, but there is no news or progress to report.”

So goes the long, hot summer of debt ceiling negotiations in Washington — talks that ABC’s Jonathan Karl points out will follow a predictable path toward an unpredictable conclusion this week.

In a preview of things to come, the House plans to move forward with the Republican “cut, cap and balance” plan and the Senate will likely vote on it as well as another balanced budget amendment later this week. The failure of those proposals could give way to the compromise deal hashed out between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

As Karl, notes, the McConnell-Reid plan is almost certainly a choice the overwhelming majority of Republicans will reject. But now there are fresh signs that a “big deal” — once thought to be dead in the water — is back on the table.

ABC’s David Kerley hears from Capitol Hill sources that President Obama and Speaker Boehner are again talking about reducing the deficit by more than $4 trillion over roughly the next decade. Boehner reportedly wants the president to lay out specific cuts to entitlement programs. http://abcn.ws/orjEJU

But the challenge for any of the proposals remains rounding up enough votes to get them through Congress.

2012 WATCH. While lawmakers and the White House may be at a standstill on the debt negotiations, Texas Gov. Rick Perry sounds like he’s moving forward with a presidential bid.

Perry told the Des Moines Register in a recent interview that he feels “called” to run for president but insisted he’s not ready to make an announcement just yet.

“I’m not ready to tell you that I’m ready to announce that I’m in,” Perry told the Register in a phone interview last week. “But I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do.  This is what America needs.” http://abcn.ws/r4PbjV

What would Perry’s entry mean for the field? He’s an immediate threat to Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty in Iowa. And even though he won’t even be in Ames on August 13 (he’s slated to appear at a conference in that other battleground state of South Carolina), he starts as an early frontrunner in the straw poll.

But can that Texas swagger play in a place like New Hampshire? George W. Bush obviously flopped there in 2000, but that was in the pre-Tea Party era. Can Perry’s Tea Party credentials help sell him in the Live Free or Die state?

ABC’s John R. Parkinson and Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.


HOW MUCH LONGER CAN OBAMA DEFY GRAVITY? Although President Obama’s job approval rating of 48 percent (according to Pollster.com average) isn’t exactly stellar, it is remarkably high given the level of economic pessimism and despair among American electorate, writes ABC Political Director Amy Walter.
 
The most recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 38 percent of Americans approved of the job the president was doing on the economy and just 27 percent were “satisfied” with the direction of the country. Polling done by ABC News-Washington Post and CBS-New York Times in June found similar results on both counts. Even so, President Obama’s job approval in the Quinnipiac Poll was 47 percent, a full nine points higher than the 38 percent who thought he was doing a good job on the economy. In the ABC-Washington Post poll, his overall approval rating was seven points higher than his approval rating on the economy. In the CBS-New York Times poll, the gap between his overall approval rating and his handling of the economy was 8 points.
 
Obama’s job approval ratings defy political gravity. The only question now, is if they can do so for much longer. Psychologists talk about “cognitive dissonance,” the tension that people feel when their thoughts are inconsistent with one another.  In this case, it’s feeling as if the president is doing a pretty lousy job on the economy, but still giving him decent (though not glowing) marks when it comes to his overall presidency. At some point, psychologists will tell you, relief from the tension comes only when you try to restore consistency. In this case, it means that either voters need to start feeling better about Obama’s handling of the economy or they will start to feel worse about his overall ability to handle of his job. http://abcn.ws/qiJsHB

 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter speak with Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, a member of the House Budget Committee, who will weigh in on the ongoing debt negotiations. We’ll also hear from former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez, a Democrat running for Congress in New Mexico. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc

 

2012ers WANT TO BE LIKE MIKE. ABC’s Matthew Jaffe reports from Des Moines that at two candidates, in particular, are looking to be the Mike Huckabee of 2012 primary season — Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. Both would like to reprise his unexpected first-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses this time around. “It all started for Huckabee at the Ames Straw Poll in the summer of 2007. Huckabee came in second in Ames with 18.1 percent of the votes, trailing only Mitt Romney, who had heavily outspent all his rivals. But the silver medal that day felt like gold to Huckabee. … If anyone can tap into Huckabee’s large Iowa fan base, it would appear to be Bachmann, who has rocketed up in polls in recent weeks. The darling of the Tea Party, she shares many of the same traits that made Huckabee so popular: her outsized personality, her popularity with evangelicals and her claim of strict adherence to the Constitution all echo of Huckabee. She can count former members of the Huckabee team among her ranks, namely her campaign director, Ed Rollins, and her press secretary, Alice Stewart. Barring a setback in the next few weeks, she will enter Ames riding an impressive wave of momentum. … Hoping to change all that is another key player in Iowa: Pawlenty. Despite his campaign’s struggles in recent weeks, the former Minnesota governor plucked none other than Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to run his Hawkeye State operation. Four years ago, Huckabee Sanders was her father’s national political director when he won the caucuses.” http://abcn.ws/oSgQp4

PAWLENTY: THE COME-FROM-BEHIND KID?  Long-time Minnesota political analyst Blois Olson weighs in on Pawlenty’s record of being a come-from-behind kind of candidate: “Most signs show that fmr. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s campaign is challenged to get traction in his attempt to be President Obama’s opponent in 2012. Pawlenty this week begins an “all-in” attempt to exceed expectations in the Ames Straw poll next month in Iowa. Timing and late surges is a core trait that Pawlenty brought to his two victories as Governor of Minnesota. In 2002, he handled a potentially disastrous campaign finance issues masterfully and surged with the rest of the GOP in the end to beat fmr. Sen. Roger Moe. In 2006, he was behind the entire election and squeaked out a victory over fmr. Atty Gen. Mike Hatch. DFLers grumble that Pawlenty didn’t win either race, but that between the Wellstone plane crash in 2002 and Hatch’s losing his temper in 2006 they lost the races. It’s likely a little of both, but in the end, Pawlenty is used to playing from behind, and as opportunity presents itself over the next few weeks, watch him to take advantage of his circumstance.”  

 

THE BUZZ

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: 2012 SPENDING SPREE. “Mitt Romney is big into political consultants and security guards, underscoring the establishment nature of his campaign. Newt Gingrich is so fond of the Internet and luxury jets that he got himself $1 million in hock. And President Obama has devoted about a third of his $14 million in early expenditures to fundraising — suggesting that it really does take money to make money. These and other details, gleaned from the first major spending reports of the 2012 campaign, provide a revealing look at the contrasting priorities and styles of the White House hopefuls. Taken together, the candidates burned through $32 million for telemarketing calls, posh hotel rooms, makeup artists and myriad other expenses, even with the first ballots still half a year away,” the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam write. “Tim Pawlenty outpaced his rivals by spending $200,000 at businesses in Iowa, while Romney showered nearly $750,000 on vendors in New Hampshire, where he hopes to command the field. … The campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.)has a hankering for burgers, barbecue and farmers markets, while Pawlenty’s staff dropped more than $600 on teleprompters and cosmetic services for his campaign kickoff in Des Moines. Moby Dick Airways provided more than $500,000 worth of charter service for Gingrich, who has yet to pay most of the bill. The spending patterns seem to back up many of the political stereotypes attached to the major candidates: Obama as grass-roots organizer turned campaigner in chief; Romney the chief executive of a by-the-books campaign; and Pawlenty the eager newcomer struggling to get ahead.” http://wapo.st/ndJ9mO

GAY RIGHTS GROUPS SET SIGHTS ON BACHMANN. “In the early weeks of her presidential run, Michele Bachmann has avoided getting bogged down in the divisive, distracting terrain of social policy. Gay rights groups say they plan to change that,” Politico’s Ben Smith reports. “Even as Bachmann’s tightly-disciplined campaign pivots sharply away from her roots as a social conservative warrior to embrace her newer image as a Tea Party fiscal crusader, gay leaders are looking to drag her back into the fray. Energized by victory in New York last month, they say Bachmann’s campaign will be both the focus of their attention and a useful rallying cry as the presidential campaign hits its stride during the crucial summer of 2011. The reason: The third-term Minnesota congresswoman and her husband, therapist Marcus Bachmann, have a history of battling gay rights groups in Minnesota long before she stepped onto the national stage. ‘Michele Bachmann is the very definition of a target-rich environment, and given her husband’s positions and things she’s said in past she’s going to have a really hard time appearing as a reasonable mainstream candidate,’ said Michael Cole-Schwartz, the communications director for the group Human Rights Campaign. ‘We’re going to be looking or opportunities to get her record and her rhetoric out there,’ he said, arguing that voters of both parties would view ‘any candidates who espouse those kind of beliefs [as] living in the Twilight Zone.’” http://politi.co/nbClFK

PALIN DOCUMENTARY EXPANDING RELEASE. “Much of Sarah Palin’s outreach since the 2008 election has been through social media – Facebook and Twitter – with considerable impact. Now it looks as though the documentary about her, ‘The Undefeated,’ has sought success with a similar strategy,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Directed and written by Stephen K. Bannon, the film opened this weekend in AMC Theatres in 10 selected digital markets. … According to a release Sunday from distributor ARC Entertainment, which partnered with digital distributor Cinedigm, the film grossed approximately $5,000 per screen through Saturday night, with ‘large markets trending towards weekend per screen averages above $10,000.’ … Palin remains in Alaska, on call for jury duty through the end of July, and it’s unclear if the response to ‘The Undefeated’ will affect her decision on whether to seek the GOP 2012 presidential nomination.” http://lat.ms/p4EG9a

FACEBOOK TAPS INTO GOP TALENT. “Facebook has made an immeasurable imprint in national politics since Barack Obama utilized it in his run for president, and the social networking giant is taking steps to ensure Republicans get in on the action, too,” Real Clear Politics’ Erin McPike notes. “A steady stream of veteran Republican operatives has gone to work for the California-based website in recent months, and GOP politicians also have been flocking to its headquarters to learn more about how Facebook works. It’s all part of a tacit admission by party members that they have seen the future, and it is online. …  Five high-profile GOP strategists have joined Facebook’s outreach team in recent months; they say one of their motivating factors is simply learning how it works so they can deliver that knowledge to their party’s politicians. Ted Ullyot, a former counsel to George W. Bush, is general counsel and a vice president at Facebook. His administration colleague Joel Kaplan, a former deputy chief of staff at the White House, is the vice president of U.S. public policy for the site. Also in the policy shop are Katie Harbath, a former Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee digital guru; Myriah Jordan, the former counsel to North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr; and Tucker Bounds, the national spokesman for John McCain during his 2008 presidential run. ‘President Obama proved Facebook can be a very potent tool in elections,’ Kaplan said in an interview. He explained part of what attracted him to his current job: ‘Facebook is changing the way people are living their lives — certainly in the public policy space.’” http://bit.ly/oa9kg5

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: U.S. ‘DUMBING DOWN’ GLOBAL TRADE TALKS. The Washington Post reports that World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Sunday that “the United States was failing to assert its natural leadership in the global economy.” According to the Post, “He elaborated in an interview, saying he was concerned that none of the major trading nations are talking ambitiously about how to lower global trade barriers — putting economic growth at risk, particularly for the less-developed countries on which the bank’s work focuses. ‘The whole discussion has become very defeatist,’” Zoellick told the Post. “‘I draw out the U.S. because the U.S. should still be the world leader.’” http://bit.ly/p80ClL

 

WHITE HOUSE WATCH. Today President Obama will announce that he is nominating former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ABC’s Mary Bruce reports.  Obama’s pick, which he will formally announce in the Rose Garden this afternoon, is seen as a slight to Elizabeth Warren, who first came up with the idea and helped create the agency, but whose nomination would have faced opposition in the Senate. Also today, President Obama will meet with members of the Giving Pledge, including Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, who started the pact to encourage America’s wealthiest people to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.  Finally, the president will host an education roundtable with business leaders, Education Secretary Duncan, Melody Barnes, and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and Founding Chair General Colin Powell. http://abcn.ws/qaV4T6

NOTABLE: BIPARTISAN GROUP RALLIES AGAINST DEBT DEADLOCK. The national advocacy group, No Labels, which is composed Independents, Democrats, and Republicans is organizing a rally on Capitol Hill today to speak out against “hyper-partisan gridlock and in support of a bipartisan solution to our debt crisis.” According to the group, “With only 15 days left before August 2, these Citizen Leaders will gather to send Congress and the White House the urgent message, loud and clear, that the American people expect lawmakers to put country before party and work together to reach a deal and avert a default” The rally will take place at the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. ET.

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@pfeiffer44: Not sure what it says about politics or journalism that the New York Times quotes Yoda in a front page story on the debt ceiling

@HowardKurtz: My Newsweek column on the GOP’s split personality disorder: purists vs. pragmatists. http://thebea.st/pXKFoF

@HotlineJess: Headline of the morning: “Campaign on life support, Gingrich meets a coroner” http://bit.ly/nqNI8z News|p

@pwire: Is Elizabeth Warren about to launch a MA-Sen bid? http://pwire.at/oHetkI

@SamChampion: happy summery monday….this heat will be worse than the last wave…and will last longer

 

POLITICAL RADAR: 

(all times local)

* Tim Pawlenty attends the Johnson County Town Hall in Coralville, Iowa at 12:30 p.m.

* Rick Santorum meets with supporters at his New Hampshire campaign headquarters in Manchester at 10 a.m. In the afternoon, he is the featured guest at a house party in Henniker. Santorum will give remarks at the Third Annual Grafton County Republican Committee’s Golf Tournament at 3 p.m. Then at 6:30 p.m., he speaks at the New Hampshire House Republican Victory PAC fundraiser at the Wentworth Inn in Jackson.

* Thad McCotter attends the Clay County GOP dinner after stopping in Sioux City, LeMars and Orange City.

 The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

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