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First thoughts: On Janet's shoulders

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** On Napolitano's shoulders: If you hadn't realized it, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano might have the toughest public relations job in Washington these days. Already, she has found herself on the frontlines of some very tricky issues. First, it was border security and the Mexican drug war; then it was the infamous memo about the rise of right-wing hate groups that her department wrote; and now it's swine flu. This is the ultimate job in government where you have to have a thick skin, because you only are in the news when the news is bad. (Here's the latest on swine flu: U.S. officials have declared a health emergency as 20 cases of the flu have been confirmed in the United States. In Mexico, there have been more than 1,600 illnesses and 103 deaths.) Indeed, the flu frenzy seems to be falling on Napolitano's shoulders, given -- as Politico writes -- that HHS secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius hasn't been confirmed yet (due to GOP concerns over abortion) and that we have an acting CDC director. If there was one subject area this administration wished they could have waited a few more weeks before dealing with its first mini-crisis, it was something in the public health arena.

Video: Napolitano discusses the U.S.'s response to the swine flu.

*** A Hallmark holiday: The White House has been quick to call the 100-day mark nothing more than a Hallmark holiday -- a meaningless marker somehow they are stuck acknowledging. And yet, it's NOT acting as if this is a burden. If anything, the White House is embracing it to take a victory lap of sorts. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. Yesterday, on the 97th day of his presidency, Obama went golfing with friends and colleagues at Andrews Air Force Base. It's doubtful he would have golfed (taking a brief few hours off), even on a Sunday, if he didn't feel confident his first 100 days are going well. But a few issues have knocked the president off stride. Most recently: whether to turn the page on the issue of enhanced interrogation methods used during the Bush administration. Obama is keeping a light public schedule today and tomorrow -- today he delivers remarks to the National Academy of Science's annual meeting at 9:00 am ET, he hosts the University of Connecticut's national championship women's basketball team, and then attends a dinner with foreign economic, finance, and environmental ministers -- and the White House seems intent on letting us in the media observe this 100-day mark. That said, we will hear from the president in a pretty big forum on Wednesday, his 100th day in office: a primetime news conference.

Video: Robert Gibbs talks about Obama's first 100 days in office.

*** Another disappointing loss for the GOP: Although the late Friday concession, as well as the nearly four weeks of overtime, might have lessened the sting, let's make no mistake: The Republicans' loss in NY-20 was yet another blow to an already-bruised GOP. It had the registration advantage, it had the better-known candidate, and it was expected to benefit from a Republican base fired up after the first several weeks of the Obama administration. As the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman told First Read a week before the March 31 contest, "I think Republicans will have to do some introspection if they lose this race… If there is any district in New York they should be able to get back, it is this one." But they lost this contest, even though it was by the narrowest of margins. The GOP now controls just three out of New York's 29 congressional seats, and it doesn't have a single congressman from New England. This is the lowest level the GOP has been in New York State -- ever. It's stunning.

*** A tough 100 days: In fact, as the 100 days polling and analyses continue to trickle out, the GOP better be glad we in the national media are so obsessed with President Obama. Because if we turned our attention to the GOP, it would be ugly for a lot of leaders. The first 100 days of the Republicans being in the minority on every level of government have gone about as badly as possible. Leadership vacuums are being filled by leaders of the past -- not the future -- and the Washington Republicans are in a battle for the soul of the party with grassroots conservatives. It's an ugly time for the GOP. Of course, Democrats have had their bad moments in semi-recent history. Still, you don't recover in months; it sometimes takes years. Republicans ought to hope it doesn't take decades.

*** Patient Minnesotans running out of patience? Speaking of close political contests that have gone into overtime, a new Minneapolis Star Tribune poll finds that 64% of Minnesotans believe Norm Coleman should accept the results of the recently concluded recount trial, which found Al Franken ahead by 312 votes. By comparison, just 28% think Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court is "appropriate." As we mentioned on Friday, that court decided that it wouldn't begin hearing oral arguments from Coleman and Franken until June 1. That seems ridiculously long at this point. At what point does Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is trying to step up as a national leader and who isn't always worried about the partisan food fights of the past, throw in the towel?

*** Bubba and the Macker: If the swine flu weren't dominating today's news, this would be a heavily covered event: Bill Clinton stumps today for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. The dynamic duo makes two stops -- first in Richmond at 9:30 am ET and then in Roanoke at 12:15 pm. The stops come as the Washington Examiner reports this news: "A network of donors who aided Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign is shoveling six-figure donations into Terry McAuliffe's gubernatorial war chest, taking advantage of no-limit giving rules to pump up his bid for Virginia's top job." 
 
Countdown to Obama's 100th day: 2 days 
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 36 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 43 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 190 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 554 days

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