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First thoughts: The domestic pivot

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The domestic pivot: After spending a week-plus focused on international affairs, President Obama today turns his attention back to the domestic arena. At 9:30 am ET, he attends a roundtable discussion at the White House on housing interest rates (in attendance will be a handful of homeowners who have refinanced their homes to take advantage of the current low interest rates). Then, at 11:45 am, he delivers remarks on improving health care for veterans. This speech comes after his visit with U.S. troops in Iraq on Tuesday; after Vice President Biden's own remarks on vet health care yesterday ("We owe them the obligation to ... provide them the absolute best medical care and service they need"); and after the Obama administration proposed -- then later dropped after opposition -- making veterans use private health-care insurance to pay for combat-related injuries. Also on the domestic front-burner today is chief White House economist Larry Summers' speech at noon in DC before the Economic Club of Washington.

Video: President Obama plans to turn his attention to the contentious battle over U.S. immigration policy. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

*** The push for immigration? And here's another domestic topic, courtesy of a front-page New York Times article: President Obama will address immigration this year, including the contentious path for citizenship for illegal immigrants. The Times says that Obama will give a speech on the topic in May, and it also points out that it will obviously trigger plenty of opposition, especially in this economic climate. "[W]ith the economy seriously ailing, advocates on different sides of the debate said that immigration could become a polarizing issue for Mr. Obama in a year when he has many other major battles to fight." But don't forget this: While there is loud opposition to immigration reform, both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees last year were on the exact same page on immigration (which is why it wasn't an issue during the general election). Also note that this news about an immigration push comes right before Obama's trip abroad next week to Mexico.

*** Something to thank Bush for: Turning back to Obama's recently concluded international trip, we'd like to make this additional point: While the Obama team regularly likes to blame the Bush administration for the economic problems it's dealing with on a daily -- if not hourly -- basis, Obama would not have had such a great, arguably historic, debut on the world stage without Bush. The low bar Bush set internationally made this trip that much easier for Obama, and gives the new president, at least in the short term, a stronger hand than he would normally have had.

*** Polar opposites: A lot has been made recently about that new Pew poll showing Obama to have the largest gap in partisan approval among recent presidents in their first year in office: 88% of Democrats approve of Obama's job, while just 27% of Republicans say the same thing. But here are a couple of things to consider: One, the Republican Party is more conservative now, and its moderates are now sitting in the independent category now (the Pew poll has Obama's approval among independents at 57%). Two, Obama is still approved by one in four Republicans. When that number gets into the teens or single digits, then the "P" word -- polarization -- can fairly be used. For example, in our January 2009 NBC/WSJ poll, right before he left office, just 6% of Democrats approved of George W. Bush's job.

*** Karl Rove irony watch, part 2: In his weekly Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove writes about that Pew poll. The op-ed's title: "The President Has Become a Divisive Figure." In it, he concludes: "We don't yet know the price Democrats will pay for Mr. Obama's fiscal radicalism. But we do know that no presidential hopeful in our lifetime has made bipartisanship more central to his candidacy and few presidents have devoted as many eloquent words to its importance. Yet no president in the past 40 years has done more to polarize America so much, so quickly." Last Thursday, as we pointed out, Karl Rove wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed that Team Obama was politicizing the White House.

*** Gun talk: We thought that this was interesting: Attorney General Eric Holder says the White House did not ask him to temper his recent remarks on guns, per The Hill. "Asked if the gun issue has become political and if Democrats are getting cozy with the National Rifle Association (NRA), Holder responded, 'I don't think it has and in fact, I look forward to working with the NRA to come up with ways in which we can use common-sense approaches to reduce the level of violence that we see in our streets and make the American people as safe as they can possibly be.'" Just asking, but how many more gun incidents have to happen before the pro-gun control crowd gets any legislative traction? It's truly stunning how mute the Democratic Congress has been in the face of what's been quite a few high profile gun incidents this year. Don't miss this pretty strong New York Times editorial on the subject.

*** Obama's Seder: Finally today the president and his family "host a private White House Seder, a meal celebrating Passover, the Jewish exodus from Egypt after four centuries of slavery. The White House says it's apparently the first time a U.S. president has hosted a Seder." The AP calls it "a signal that the new president intends to fulfill his promise that Jewish voters would have an ally." 

Countdown to Obama's 100th day: 20 days 
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 54 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 61 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 208 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 572 days

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