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First thoughts: Back to candidate Obama

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Back to candidate Obama: The president is ramping up the rhetoric as he tries to get back on offense to sell his economic stimulus plan. It started yesterday with two events, where for the first time in public he reminded folks who won the election, pointing to the scoreboard. And now he has an op-ed in the Washington Post. The op-ed's message -- not to the public, but rather to Washington (i.e. Congress and the media) -- makes another case for passage of the plan. Of course, the irony of this ramping up is that it's the Republicans who have come after this bill like a campaign, finding the negatives in the smallest of places and creating bumper-sticker attacks on them. The White House didn't seem ready to deal with the small-ball campaign tactics, hoping they could stay at 30,000 feet when selling the stimulus. Well, think again.

*** One year ago today…: Sticking with the campaign theme, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of Super Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton won the big states (California, New Jersey, New York), but Obama ended up netting more delegates. Seems like a lifetime ago, right? Super Tuesday, in fact, was perhaps the ultimate example of how well Obama's campaign did the little things right -- like organizing for the Idaho caucuses. But in these first 16 days, the Obama White House hasn't done the little things in this battle for the stimulus, and that's why they seem to be losing the spin war. The good news? They'll get their stimulus and learn a valuable lesson: They need to remember what got them here and never stop learning those "little things" lessons, like dispatching more surrogates to TV.

*** At least he didn't use a Nazi metaphor: When you're in campaign mode, it's probably best to choose your words -- and metaphors -- wisely. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions (R), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, didn't exactly do that when speaking yesterday to editors at The Hotline. Sessions referred to the Taliban when talking about the GOP's resistance to the stimulus, as well as its strategy as the minority party. "Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban," he said. "And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person's entire processes. And these Taliban -- I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban -- no, that's not what we're saying. I'm saying an example of how you go about is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with." Wow, we can think of plenty of other examples of insurgencies (American Revolution, Indian resistance to Great Britain), but the Taliban? Imagine what Drudge would do if a Democrat said this. 

*** Today's moving parts: It's another busy day in politics. President Obama just finished speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast (where he's talking about his vision for faith-based policies); he will later sign an executive order forming his advisory council on faith; and then he gives remarks at noon ET at the Energy Department.

Video: Obama talks faith and good works.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, per the New York Times, that a final vote on the Senate's stimulus legislation could happen tonight (which would allow senators to attend this weekend's conference in Munich). And Obama's pick to head the CIA, Leon Panetta, has his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30 pm ET.

*** The intended effect: While plenty of day-after reports about Obama's CEO pay announcement note that it lacks some teeth and has its share of loopholes, the reaction from Wall Street firms seems to suggest that the plan might have its intended impact. Check this out: "On Wednesday, for instance, David A. Viniar, the chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs, which received $10 billion from the Treasury Department, told analysts that his firm wanted to repay the government as quickly as feasible to 'be under less scrutiny and under less pressure,' according to Bloomberg News."

*** Dodd and 2010: Earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd announced that he was refinancing the controversial VIP mortgages he received from Countywide.

And given that Dodd's up for re-election in 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pounced on that news. While Connecticut is a fairly blue state, it will be interesting whether the Countrywide controversy or even Dodd's own presidential bid could make him vulnerable next year. Remember, when the recession began, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee wasn't in Washington or Connecticut -- but in Iowa. That's an easy 30-second TV ad to write. Republicans in Connecticut, of course, have not fielded a competitive candidate for federal statewide office since Lowell Weicker, and he's now (basically) a Democrat. The one Republican Dodd may fear the most is recently ousted moderate Republican Chris Shays. If Obama wants to do Dodd a favor, he'll find a job for Shays. Perhaps the Peace Corps?

*** The never-ending recount: In the latest activity in Minnesota, Franken's attorneys today will bring a case before the state Supreme Court, arguing that Franken -- because he was ahead by 225 votes when the vote was certified -- should be seated in the U.S. Senate, despite the ongoing legal contest over the recount. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reminds us, "Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, have declined to sign an election certificate because state law says none can be issued before the legal battle ends."

Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 117 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 124 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 271 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 635 days

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