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First thoughts: One month down

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** One month down: Today marks exactly one month since Obama was inaugurated. The country, and the world frankly, is engaged on pretty much anything this president does. The Blackberry-clutching candidate Obama joked on the campaign that a president needs to multi task. Well, he's gotten his shot at that so far. It's been a month of successes: passing the largest economic stimulus bill in the history of the country while retaining high approval numbers. And pitfalls: losing the spin war at the outset of the stimulus, Daschle (and other nominee) tax problems, lobbying exceptions, the Commerce Department (just in general -- what a mess), Geithner's TARP II rollout. And there's a whole lot more to come: Housing, health care, climate change, the labor-business fight, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Israel-Hamas, and on. Republicans have been unimpressed. In an e-mail blasted out (twice) to reporters this morning, they stress this has been a "disappointing month," one "marked by wasteful spending, failed bipartisanship, and questionable ethics." Ask yourself this, what will be more remembered -- Nancy Killefer's taxes, field mice and Bill Lynn's lobbying? Or that Obama got a more than $700 billion bill through Congress in less than a month -- and most importantly, to both Democrats and Republicans, whether it works at all?

*** The great challenge that this White House is dealing with is the 24/7 nature of the Twittering media that no other president has ever dealt with on the policy front. It's the natural evolution, considering that campaigns have gotten this kind of coverage for years. Still, this environment of incremental up-down rulings by the punditocracy (most notably business pundits, see yesterday) on Obama's first month of policy, is quite the message handling challenge for this White House. Right now, it's chosen to deal with it by flooding the zone; instead of pushing one storyline a week, they go ahead and try and sell multiple messages. Can they keep up the pace?

Video: GOP governors split over stimulus. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., discusses.

*** The governors are coming: After a furious week (including Obama signing the stimulus into law, unveiling his home-foreclosure plan, and traveling to Canada), all eyes are now turning to Tuesday's big address to Congress. But before then, the governors are coming to town for the National Governors Association conference. Some events: Saturday kicks off with a press conference with Govs. Ed Rendell (D) and Jim Douglas (R) at 10:00 am ET, as well as with a panel on energy and infrastructure (with T. Boone Pickens and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger). Schwarzenegger and Rendell will debate at 3:00 pm ET on what the nation's priorities should be. On Sunday, President Obama hosts a black-tie dinner for the governors at 7:30 pm. And on Monday, there's a governors-only meeting with Obama at 9:30 am ET. There are two obvious storylines: The first is the economy and the stimulus plan, which provides quite a bit of money to the states to help balance their budgets. Some prominent Republican governors, all potential 2012 presidential candidates, (Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Mark Sanford) have not only been outspoken against the stimulus, they've also said they might reject the funds intended for their states. Recently, however, both Perry and Sanford have now signaled they'll probably take the money. It's also worth noting that other Republican governors like Schwarzenegger and Charlie Crist have supported the stimulus.

*** Showcase showdown: The other storyline is 2012, given that the NGA will most definitely be a showcase for GOP governors who might run for president: Palin, Jindal, Crist, Tim Pawlenty and possibly Sanford. Palin's office, though, told First Read that she WILL NOT be attending. (They'll have to change the program, since Palin's still listed as hosting a "natural resources" panel.) Wonder what the temperature will be like when Sanford and Crist pass in the hall… just sayin'. With no Palin, it'll be Jindal who may get the most "Is he the future of the party?" coverage. He gets the prime spot on Tuesday, the Republican response to President Obama's joint session speech, but before Tuesday, he'll be on "Meet the Press" -- a place quite a few presidential wannabes have begun their invisible campaigns.

*** The Dems: Don't forget the potentially news-making Democratic governors expected to attend, like, New Jersey's Jon Corzine (who's up for re-election in 2009 and dealing with poor poll numbers), New York's David Paterson (still under fire after the badly executed Senate appointment), Illinois' Pat Quinn (who might have to make his own Senate appointment, if Roland Burris resigns -- fat chance, right?), Kansas' Kathleen Sebelius (headed to HHS?), and Michigan's Jennifer Granholm (who leads a prime auto manufacturing state facing tough economic times).

*** Against the stimulus before they were for it: We clipped a few items yesterday that mentioned House Republicans who now are for at least parts of the stimulus after they voted against it. Look at this list of House Republicans that the DCCC has tracked:
-- Michigan's Pete Hoekstra's Twitter boasting the $8,000 home rebate (which was a Republican idea, we should say);
-- Leonard Lance (NJ) hoping for money for a local project
-- Greg Walden (OR) advocating for taking the funds for his district
-- Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) touting "shovel-ready" as well as educational benefits of the bill;
-- Don Young claiming he "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners" in the stimulus;
-- Ken Calvert (CA) saying he'd take what money he can; and
-- John Mica (FL), who we mentioned yesterday, lauding Obama's dedication to high-speed rail.

Huh? This is going to be a tight rope for these GOPers to walk. It's why we thought they'd given themselves cover to vote for it on the second go round when $100 billion had been stripped out. But they were all whipped into voting against, and if these statements are any indication, could be problematic at home.

*** You don't know Jack: AP does a roundup of all the ethically challenged Democrats, included in the roundup is just one line about the mess involving Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha.

It involves illegal contributions from a defense contractor, among other things; of course, Murtha's always had a very cozy relationship with the defense industry, thanks to the prominence of his brother, the defense lobbyist. But keep an eye on this one: it could to be ugly. First, Murtha himself, seems to walk the ethical line regularly, starting with his involvement in ABSCAM in the early '80s to now. Second, he's close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will he end up muddying her up, even if it's unsuspecting? DId she turn too much of a blind eye toward him, simply because she goes out of her way to respect the House's seniority system? Murtha was a cause celeb for about six months in '06 when he became the party's anti-war spokesperson; quite a few unaware Democrats sidled up to Murtha and may now find out they made a mistake.  

*** Obama today: While the governors will be getting Obama's attention over the weekend, today he meets with mayors. Obama, Vice President Biden, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attend a meeting at the White House at 10:30 am ET with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss the stimulus bill. If there's been one group that has embraced the stimulus, it's been this one, but Obama, per NBC's Savannah Guthrie, will also issue a bit of a warning: Spend the money on good projects; don't be wasteful or you'll have to come back to the White House to answer for it. Afterward, the president meets with senior advisers and then lunches with Biden. Obama's schedule also has him looking at next week. In the afternoon, he works on his Tuesday address to Congress.

*** BCS meet Capitol Hill: After an undefeated season, Utah finished sixth in the BCS and was eliminated from contention for a potential national championship. (Of course, other teams, like Texas -- no specific reason for mentioning them -- had even better claims to the title game.) And today, the commissioner of Utah's Mountain West Athletic Conference pitches Congressional staffers on his proposed reforms to the Bowl Championship Series. (There will be more details on his proposal in a couple of weeks. Generally, he wants to make it more of a "performance-based system" -- was all we could get from his folks.) The system is broken; we've oft-advocated on this page for an eight-team college playoff solution. 'Horns spring practice starts later this month. Let's get this done.

Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 102 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 109 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 256 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 620 days

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