From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** First and 10 for Obama: Fresh off his first legislative victory in getting the second half of the TARP money released -- Rahm Emanuel called it the equivalent of completing an 80-yard pass on the first play of the game -- Obama today hits the road to sell another priority, his stimulus plan. In Bedford Heights, OH, just outside of Cleveland, the president-elect will visit Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company, which makes parts used to construct wind turbines. Per the transition office, Obama will tour the plant and then hold a discussion with workers on the factory floor. Coinciding with Obama's stop in Ohio is a brand-new TV ad that Americans United for Change, a group funded by liberal organizations and labor unions, is running today in the Cleveland area that urges retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R) to support the stimulus. While we wouldn't compare yesterday's TARP win to an 80-yard pass -- it was more like a solid 20-yard completion over the middle -- it was certainly much better than fumbling the first snap of the play, and it makes it MUCH easier to set up a touchdown with the stimulus.
*** You don't see this every day: Perhaps more striking than the passage of the TARP money were some of the statements we saw from GOP senators, who nearly apologized for voting against the money. Here's Minority Leader Mitch McConnell statement: "Again, I want to express my appreciation to the incoming administration for its responsiveness to Republican concerns. Every time we asked a question it was promptly answered. So far, Republican interactions with the incoming administration have been quite encouraging and appreciated. While I voted on the losing side, I hope the new administration will consider some of my concerns, and we hope their stewardship of these funds is successful in stabilizing the markets according to the original purpose of the TARP." Here's Sen. Corker's: "This was a painful vote for me. I greatly respect President-elect Obama's economic team, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, and I look forward to working with them in any way I can .I told them that in order for me to support releasing the additional funds, I needed them to diagnose the problem." Wow! These two statements show an amazingly gracious GOP right now. The Obama-Rahm charm offensive, so far, appears to be working.
*** The vote and 2010: NBC's Ken Strickland says the 52-42 vote on the TARP money broke down mostly along partisan lines. Six Republicans, however, voted with Obama (Alexander, Gregg, Kyl, Lugar, Snowe, Voinovich), and nine Democrats voted against him (Bayh, Cantwell, Dorgan, Feingold, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Shaheen, Sanders, Wyden). But to show you how hot of a political potato the TARP money is, FIVE of those nine Dems are up for re-election in 2010 (Bayh, Dorgan, Feingold, Lincoln, Wyden). And out of the six GOPers who voted with Obama, just ONE is up for re-election in 2010 (Gregg). One Republican up in '10 didn't vote (Bunning). Overall, of the 29 senators up for re-election who voted on the legislation yesterday, 19 (so 66% of them) voted against Obama. By the way, outgoing senators Biden, Clinton, and Salazar voted with Obama, and so did Roland Burris.
*** $825 Billion and growing: Turning back to the stimulus, the House yesterday released the details of its legislation. The price tag: $825 billion. So it has already grown $50 billion from Obama's earlier $775 billion estimate. Folks, this will keep growing…
*** Tackling entitlements: In a conversation with Washington Post reporters and editors yesterday, Obama pledged to tackle entitlement reform and also to convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" next month. Now, did he say what he'd do? No, but the symbolism will earn Obama early praise from deficit hawks. Who knows what comes out of the summit -- a blue-ribbon panel that takes months to come up with an incredibly watered-down reform? Given the history of politicians tackling entitlements, it's more likely than not, but starting the conversation is good early P.R.
*** Decision day? The Washington Post's Cillizza reported yesterday that New York Gov. Paterson could have a choice to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat very soon.
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 4 days
Countdown to RNC winter meeting: 12 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 144 days
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 137 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 291 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 655 days
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