From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Stimulus winners and losers: For the fourth-consecutive day, President Obama hits the road to sell his stimulus -- this time visiting Caterpillar in Peoria, IL, before heading to Springfield to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. But today's campaign stop is mostly superfluous, especially after congressional negotiators struck a final deal on the now-$789 billion spending measure. The House could vote on the legislation either today or tomorrow, with the Senate soon following to get the bill to the president's desk by Monday. The obvious winner here, of course, is Obama, who will get the first big victory of his four-week-old presidency. Other winners are Collins/Snowe/Specter (who proved that they will control what passes in the 111th Congress), Harry Reid (who got the 60-plus votes he needed), Joe Lieberman (who helped behind the scenes with Collins), White House aide Phil Schiliro (who played an unsung role on the Hill), the Republican Party (which demonstrated unity after its big losses in November), and No.2 House Republican Eric Cantor (who raised his profile during the debate, although he took a BIG hit yesterday for that profane AFSCME video his office released). The losers, in our opinion, are Nancy Pelosi (some House priorities lost out in the end) and governors (who didn't get all the money they wanted and will have to make some tough cuts before a re-election year).
*** In the long run…: But those are the winners and losers in the short term. In the long run, we won't really know who won this debate until 2010 or even 2012. Indeed, the eventual state of the economy -- no matter if the stimulus played a real role or not -- will be the deciding factor here. If the economy begins to pick up steam before the midterms, the Democrats will look like geniuses. If not, Obama is going to have a race on his hands in 2012. So the stimulus was a political gamble for the White House. But ask yourself what you'd rather inherit: a booming economy that could go nowhere but down, or a struggling economy that could -- and we stress "could" -- go nowhere but up by 2010?
*** Rove's two cents:
In his Wall Street Journal column today, Karl Rove applauds the way congressional Republicans played their hand during the stimulus, saying that they were smart to point out politically unpopular spending provisions; that they were "gracious" in talking with the Obama White House (really?); and that they were wise to propose alternative solutions (tax cuts). But, echoing our comment above, he also issues this warning to his party: "[I]f Republicans predict economic doom, they will overplay their hand. The Democratic stimulus will slow recovery, but not stop it. Recessions don't last forever and, if history is a guide, sometime late this year or early next the economy will rebound on its own. When that happens, Democrats will argue that their untargeted, permanent spending actually revived the economy." Yet perhaps the bigger risk for Republicans is this: Does the president that Rove worked for end up getting blamed for the current economic climate?
*** A Few other White House victories: In addition to the stimulus, Congress also made some movement yesterday on a few of Obama's stalled nominees. The full Senate approved Bill Lynn (the ex-lobbyist) to be deputy Defense secretary; a committee finally voted to send Labor nominee Hilda Solis to the full Senate; and the Senate Intelligence Committee also moved to approve Leon Panetta's nomination to head the CIA.
*** Bobby Jindal's big night: Republicans yesterday tapped Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal -- one of the party's rising stars and a potential presidential candidate in 2012, 2016, or beyond (he's just 37!) -- to deliver the GOP's response to Obama's congressional address on Feb. 24. But as NBC's Abby Livingston points out, giving your party's response to a State of the Union (or other big address) hasn't always been a stepping stone to bigger and better things politically. Some past responders: Bob Dole (who lost the '96 presidential election), Christine Todd Whitman (out of politics), J.C. Watts (out of politics), Bill Frist (out of politics, decided to not run for president), Dick Gephardt (lost '04 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, out of politics), Gary Locke (out of politics), and Tom Daschle (defeated in '04, out of politics).
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 110 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 117 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 264 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 628 days
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