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First thoughts: Holding up Sebelius

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
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Holding up Sebelius: At a time when the swine flu is dominating headlines and TV news, how many Republicans today will vote against Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' nomination to be President Obama's Health and Human Services secretary? Sebelius is expected to be confirmed, but the AP says the vote could be close. NBC's Ken Strickland notes that Senate debate over the nomination begins at 10:00 am ET, and Dems hope to have her confirmed by 6:30 pm. She will need 60 votes to overcome the GOP's filibuster. The left has been pulling its hair over the fact that conservatives have been holding up her confirmation -- over abortion -- during this swine flu frenzy. Indeed, it's amazing that there's been very little finger-pointing that the president doesn't have an HHS secretary, surgeon general, or his own CDC head. Obviously, if Republicans started pointing fingers, they'd get grief right back given that members of their party have slowed down Sebelius. This entire incident, as it turns out, is a pretty good lesson for those who believe the partisan nature of Washington can hold up the serious work of government. Paging David Brooks… 

*** Stepping on 100 days: Here's another thing swine flu has done -- it has stepped on the 100-day stories. Many news organizations are still doing them; they just aren't getting the same prominence. (And why should they if a pandemic is possible?) Speaking of the possibility of a pandemic, we're about at that moment when the administration's response will start getting judged by the media. We've already seen some early "How's Napolitano doing?" stories, as we noted yesterday. Is there a more thankless job than Homeland Security secretary, the ultimate if-you-are-in-the-headlines-the-news-is-bad job? Right now, the administration is walking the line between being overly cautious and not causing panic. They seem to be striking the right balance. Of course, the minute someone dies -- or the minute the outbreak gets bigger exponentially, if it does -- then questions about when or if to close the border will kick in, as will questions about whether American airports should be screening for passengers with fevers. Meanwhile, folks should realize that Mexico City is truly in a panic. According to some reports from locals, the streets are empty; the trust in the government is at (or near) an all-time low; and folks are flooding health-care clinics and hospitals. This is a city of 20 million people brought to a grinding halt. And don't think the economic devastation Mexico will experience the rest of this year won't have consequences on our economy.

Video: NBC's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman and psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz offer advice for hypochondriacs who think they may have symptoms of the swine flu.

*** Polls galore: Still, the 100-day stories go on… Right before that milestone tomorrow, there are two new national polls out that find President Obama enjoying broad support from the public. Per the New York Times/CBS survey, his approval rating is 68%, compared with Bush's 56% at this juncture. And a CNN/Opinion Research poll has Obama's approval at 63%, but it also shows that approval of his policies is somewhat lower (57%). Our own NBC/WSJ poll will be released tonight beginning at 6:30 pm ET on NBC Nightly News, as well as on MSNBC.com. Will it show similar support for Obama? How does the public view his legislative priorities? Who is Barack Obama -- a liberal or a moderate? How popular (or unpopular) are Republicans right now? And how does the public view the debate over those controversial interrogation practices? Be sure to tune in -- or click on -- for the answers.

*** Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a fly-by: Just how boneheaded was that Air Force One flyover/photo shoot? It seems to have been boneheaded enough that Obama let it be known that he was incensed, and the White House released this statement yesterday from Louis Caldera, director of the White House's military office: "Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

*** Obama today: It looks like the torture story will be on the agenda today whether Obama wants it or not… At 10:45 am ET, he travels to FBI headquarters to meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller and other officials before addressing FBI employees at 11:10 am. Later in the day, he meets with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (closed to the press) and then presents the National Teacher of the Year award. It's the meeting with the progressive caucus that could provide some interesting nuggets. Will they press him on torture? On a truth commission?

*** Also today: Vice President Biden visits the National Domestic Violence Hotline headquarters in Austin, TX and then holds a fundraiser in the city for the Democratic National Committee. Also, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and others participate this morning in the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth bust in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor's Center.

Countdown to Obama's 100th day: 1 day 
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 35 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 42 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 189 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 553 days

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