The Note: Not So Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Aug 4, 2011 9:08am

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

Check out the front pages of America's newspapers today, and it's a pretty bleak "good morning" for President Obama who is celebrating his 50th birthday.

Splashed on the Ft. Collins Coloradoan is this headline: "Going Nowhere; economy struggles to find its footing.”

The same Associated Press headline topped local papers in other key swing states: the Florida Times Union, the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa and the Las Vegas Review Journal in Nevada.

This is the reality that the president and Congress face as they finally depart Washington after weeks of partisan wrangling over the debt ceiling and meet up with real America.

It's also clear that the debt ceiling deal did nothing to help Americans feel better about the direction of the country. According to the results of a USA Today/Gallup poll taken shortly after Obama signed the debt deal, 46 percent of Americans disapprover of the agreement while 39 percent approve. http://usat.ly/pKk8Uy

Forty-one percent of Americans say the debt-limit bill will make the economy worse, 17 percent say it will make it better, while one-third reckon it will be a wash.

Nevertheless, at a birthday fundraiser in Chicago last night President Obama described the plan as a “responsible” step, but he lamented the damaging political fight that got both sides to an agreement.

“I think this episode was just a severe example of what's been going on for quite some time and it’s part of what led me to run for president,” Obama told the crowd at a private donors dinner. “It’s part of the reason why, hopefully, all of you are here tonight, because you recognize we still got some more work to do.” http://abcn.ws/pyeroV

More work, indeed. The weak economy and the battles in Washington over debt have taken a toll on the president not only nationally but in key swing states as well. Take Florida for example.

After the deal was announced, 44 percent of Florida voters gave him a negative job approval rating, compared to 51 percent who gave him positive marks, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released today. http://bit.ly/r2NNCa

Does Obama deserve to be re-elected? Half of Florida voters surveyed after the deal say he does not compared to 42 percent who say he does. (Before the debt deal voters in the Sunshine State were nearly evenly split on that question.)

“President Barack Obama’s numbers in the key swing state of Florida have gone south in the last two months,” said Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown. “The debt ceiling deal is not making any difference in that decline and any bounce he got from the bin Laden operation is long since gone. The president’s drop off is huge among independent voters who now disapprove almost 2-1.”

BOTTOM LINE: When he blows out the candles on his cake today, President Obama ought to choose his birthday wish very carefully because things  don’t look like they’re going to get any easier from here on out.

More partisan strife is on the way, and the president will be firmly wedged in the middle of it as we enter the thick of the 2012 election cycle. Just take a look at the opening lines of today’s front page story by The New York Times’ Robert Pear:

“Republicans and Democrats maneuvered for advantage on Wednesday in the next battle over federal spending, trying to influence the choice of members and frame the agenda for a powerful ‘supercommittee’ that is supposed to recommend at least $1.5 trillion of additional deficit reduction measures,” Pear writes. “A huge fight has already erupted over how to count the costs of extending tax cuts for high-income people, which are due to expire at the end of 2012. Republicans want to extend the tax cuts, but Democrats want the cuts for more affluent people to expire. … Lobbyists scrambled Wednesday to figure out how to influence the new panel to protect the programs and tax breaks from which they benefit.” http://nyti.ms/qmyAay

 

RALLYING THE BASE. “For all the frustrations and the challenges and resistance, we have to bringing about change. … When the American people join together, we cannot be stopped,” Obama said to full house at the historic Aragon Ballroom in Chicago last night at Democratic National Committee fundraiser. “We say to ourselves, ‘Yes, we can.’  It doesn’t matter how tough a week I have in Washington, because I know you’ve got me — you’ve got my back.  When I come to Chicago, when I travel across the country, I know we can’t be stopped.  I know America is the greatest nation on Earth.  And I know we will bring about the change that all of us believe in.” (via ABC’s Mary Bruce Devin Dwyer and Teresa Crawford) http://abcn.ws/pyeroV  

HOW THE PRESIDENT WILL CELEBRATE. The president has a clear public schedule today, ABC”s Mary Bruce notes, but there are birthday celebrations in the works. The White House staff will toast the president in a midday gathering in the Blue Room. In the evening, a dinner party is planned for family and friends, including some from Chicago. First daughter Malia is also coming home from summer camp today to celebrate her father’s big birthday. 

 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Amy Walter and Zach Wolf sit down with Congressman Jim Moran, D-Va. Moran voted ‘no’ to the recent debt deal, saying that Democrats should have held the line on adding revenues and the president should have used the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling without Congressional approval. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc 

“TOP LINE” REPLAY: MADE IN AMERICA? ABC News reported Monday that at least four Republican presidential candidates are selling campaign tee-shirts manufactured abroad, notwithstanding near-universal promises by politicians to grow American jobs. Yesterday on “Top Line,” Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing brought along two “Made in America” T-shirts to show that it’s still quite possible to buy apparel made domestically.  “All you have to do is go to the Internet look up ‘American-made T-shirt and you can find them,” Paul said. “I have two here — happy to give them to Rick Santorum and also to Newt Gingrich. We would be honored to have them wear it.” Paul also expressed concern that the debt compromise signed by the president yesterday will make it harder for Washington to find ways to create jobs. http://abcn.ws/nBDreC In case you missed the ABC World News “Made In America” campaign 2012 report, watch it here: http://abcn.ws/q5do7h  

 

VIDEO OF THE DAY: HERMAN CAIN APPEALS TO THE CARNIVORE VOTE. In a late-night e-mail Team Cain unveiled an installment of their "Herman Cain Stands With Us," video series, “showcasing the hard-working, decent Americans” who support Cain’s presidential bid. This one features Kent Short, a butcher from Santa Paula, California. “Kent is a small business owner who ‘turns steers into steaks’ (vegetarians, cover your eyes!) and whose carne asada is his delicious trademark. Kent, like so many of America's job creators, feels that this economy is "in the tank" and that the federal government only makes things worse with sky-high taxes and regulations that cripple businesses.” WATCH: http://bit.ly/pKc55B

NEW ON THE WEB: The Department of Energy has rolled out a new http://www.energy.gov/. An agency official tells the Note that the “relaunched page will offer a cutting-edge, interactive platform focused on getting consumers and businesses localized data and resources that will help them save energy, save money, create jobs and find opportunities in the new energy economy.”  Energy Secretary Steven Chu notes: “Our goal is to make Energy.gov easier to use, more transparent and more participatory.”

 

THE BUZZ

FAA STALEMATE: THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES.A dispute over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration has left an estimated 74,000 people out of work for a dozen days and tossed Congress into the throes of yet another interparty battle. Now, with lawmakers leaving town or already on recess, there seems to be little hope of a resolution on the horizon,” the Washington Post’s  Ashley Halsey III reports. “Lawmakers allowed funding for the FAA to expire July 23, leaving 4,000 agency workers on furlough and 70,000 people in construction-related jobs out of work, possibly until September, when Congress will reconvene. On Wednesday, party leaders blamed each other for the deadlock, and President Obama said Congress had “decided to play politics” and put the nation’s fragile economic recovery at risk. He said he expects a resolution of the issue by the end of the week. But a handful of furloughed workers discovered that the chances for a quick solution were dim when they trekked to the Capitol and had trouble finding anyone to hear their pleas. The House left town on Monday, and most senators were gone by Wednesday. ‘We’re staring at a possible six weeks without pay, and they’ll all get nice suntans on their vacations,’ said Dan Stefko, a furloughed FAA engineer who flew in from Pittsburgh. … Though the impasse may cost $1.2 billion in lost ticket-tax revenue if it stretches into September, it will have no apparent impact on air travel. Air traffic controllers are remaining on the job.” http://wapo.st/mUSCkF

DRAMA IN CAMP HUNTSMAN.A blistering internal feud in the Jon Huntsman presidential campaign is erupting into public view, with dueling camps trading charges and an exodus of campaign officials,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin notes. “And now, a longtime family friend tells POLITICO that Huntsman’s wife and father fret that his presidential prospects have been threatened by the turmoil — and he places the blame on John Weaver, Huntsman’s controversial chief strategist. … ‘I look forward to a future of less drama, more money and increasing contrasts with my opponents. We can win this thing,’ Huntsman wrote in an email to the friend just hours after the resignation of his first campaign manager, Susie Wiles, became public July 21. … The recipient of that email — David Fischer, who has known Huntsman since the 1980s and later worked for his father — shared with POLITICO behind-the-scenes details about Huntsman’s stumbling start. He described Huntsman’s organization as disorganized and full of staff tension, disclosed new facts about the candidate’s announcement day mishaps, recounted tearful conversations with the recently departed Wiles and revealed other previously undisclosed resignations. … ‘It’s not an ego [thing],’ Fischer said, when asked why he was going public. ‘In fact, a lot of it is if the story gets told, I want the story to be, because Weaver’s history in past campaigns is when they don’t work out, for whatever reason, he attacks the candidate. And in this case, I am hoping that people at least focus on, well, what went wrong here? The strategy went wrong. The strategy didn’t work. At least to this day it hasn’t worked.’” http://politi.co/pETvBJ

THE PUSHBACK: “Dave Fischer tried to threaten the campaign regarding his participation in this story and we refused to cooperate with him,” Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller told Politico. “As a volunteer staff member he attempted to usurp authority, asked inappropriate questions about junior staff and was rightly asked to leave by Governor Huntsman. His statements about this campaign are untrue. The fact that he would be willing to undermine Governor Huntsman in this way says everything you need to know about his character, his credibility, and whether he has the Governor’s best interests at heart.”

EMBATTLED CONGRESSMAN SAYS GOODBYE.“U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., formally resigned from Congress Wednesday with a phone call to Gov. John Kitzhaber, capping a day of mounting speculation over when he would finally leave. The action kicks off what is expected to be a wide-open race for his replacement,” The Oregonian’s Harry Esteve reports. “It also brings an inglorious end to the nearly 13 tumultuous years that Wu represented the 1st Congressional District. ‘Serving as a U.S. Congressman has been the greatest honor of my life,’ Wu said in a statement accompanying his resignation announcement, effective a minute before midnight Eastern Daylight Time. ‘There is no other job where you get up each day and ask, 'How can I try to make the world a better place today?' But, he said, ‘there comes a time to hand on the privilege of elected office — and that time has come.’ Wu's departure allows Kitzhaber to start the timeline for a special election to replace him. The plan, according to spokesman Tim Raphael, is to call for a special primary election to coincide with an already scheduled election Nov. 8, as a way to save money. That would be followed by a special general election on Jan. 31.” http://bit.ly/p7Rv2v

BIG MONEY RECALL FIGHT IN WISCONSIN.It is now the home stretch of the Wisconsin state Senate recalls, with six elections this Tuesday targeting incumbent Republicans — which could potentially flip control of the chamber to the Democrats — to be followed by two more elections targeting Democrats the week after. And the usually obscure world of state legislative races has seen a lot of money flooding into the state,” according to Talking Points Memo’s Eric Kleefeld. “As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, the labor-backed group We Are Wisconsin announced that it raised a total of $9.7 million for the recalls. The numbers are not as clear on the other side, but the paper reports that conservative groups are estimated to have actually spent slightly more than the liberals on the elections, though not by a huge margin. For example, the Capital Times reports that the Club For Growth's Wisconsin division has spent an estimated $3 million to $4 million on issue ads in the races — compared to just $1 million they had previously spent in the state in the last four years. In addition, a Citizens United affiliate called The Presidential Coalition, is spending $300,000 in the state. Also, donations have come in through the liberal clearinghouse site Act Blue. According to statistics supplied to TPM, total donations sent just through this source to non-federal candidates and committees in Wisconsin totaled over $575,000 each in both June and July — with almost $250,000 so far in August, in just the last few days.” http://bit.ly/puKrcn

RICK PERRY WATCH: ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports:  In his first sit-down television interview since June, Texas Governor Rick Perry told CBN that he supports a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage and outlawing abortion. http://bit.ly/q7Vh0t This comes after controversial comments last week that he supports states making the final decisions on these two matters, drawing ire from social conservatives. 

Also news emerged regarding the governor's recent spinal fusion in early July which involved an injection of his own stem cells, a therapy not approved by the FDA and costing tens of thousands of dollars. The governor supports adult stem cell research but opposes any type of embryonic stem cell research. "When Gov. Rick Perry emerged from back surgery on July 1, he tweeted that his 'little procedure' — a spinal fusion and nerve decompression designed to treat a recurring injury — had gone 'as advertised.' The possible presidential contender didn’t reveal that he’d undergone an experimental injection of his own stem cells, a therapy that isn’t FDA approved, has mixed evidence of success and can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.  The governor’s procedure did not involve embryonic stem cells, which he and many other conservatives ardently oppose using for medical research on both religious and moral grounds. His treatment involved removing his own adult stem cells from healthy tissue and injecting them back into his body at the time of surgery, with the belief that the cells would assist tissue regeneration and speed recovery," according to the Texas Tribune. http://bit.ly/n05CNH

 

NOTED: CALL FOR INTERNS. The Note and the ABC Political Unit are in the market for interns for the Fall of 2011. We require actively enrolled students and we prefer applicants who are spending the semester in DC and can commit a regular 9-5 schedule. E-mail a resume and cover letter to Zachary.B.Wolf@abc.com

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@AP: Unemployment dipped last week, providing a small glimmer of hope that job market is improving: http://apne.ws/qDTa7t 

@DaveWalkerCAI: It’s critically important that Congressional leaders appoint capable & credible members to the special Joint Committee: http://bit.ly/og9vlv

@JohnCornyn: A rarity – a simple economic explanation of how serious a threat the debt is to our future. http://fb.me/VaHR6eZm

@CarrieNBCNews: Did you know: @GovernorPerry says he was almost a Southwest airlines pilot http://bit.ly/pvpjkW #HeIsNowFreeToMoveAboutTheCountry?

@vermontgmg: I vote for @mayorvincegray to begin doing the same thing: Lithuanian Mayor Crushes Illegally Parked Car With a Tankhttp://ti.me/n9PzPM

 

POLITICAL RADAR: 

(all times local)

* Herman Cain stops in Des Moines, Oskaloosa and West Des Moines, Iowa as part of his Common Sense Solutions Bus Tour.

* Rick Santorum hosts a town hall meeting in Rock Rapids, Iowa at 8 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., he hosts a town hall in Orange City. At 12:30 p.m., Santorum hosts a town hall meeting in Sioux City, and at 6 p.m., he speaks at the Public Educators of Iowa 30th Anniversary Event in Des Moines as part of his Santorum Family Tour.

* Jon Huntsman speaks to members of the Chamber of Commerce in Salem, N.H. at noon. He meets members of the Derry GOP Committee at Halligan Tavern that evening at 7 p.m.

* Newt Gingrich attends a meet-and-greet and luncheon with the Linn Eagles in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at 11:30 a.m.

* Gary Johnson visits City Side Grille in Concord, N.H., for breakfast and conversation with the staff and local residents at 8:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Johnson meets with small business owners at the Amoskeag Business Incubator in Manchester. He will visit the Downtown Manchester Farmer's Market at 4:30 p.m. To end the day, at 6:30 p.m., Johnson participates in a weekly "group run" with the crew from Runner's Alley in Nashua.

 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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