From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Back to the economy: While the Af-Pak summit continues for another day, President Obama and his administration turn their focus today to the economy and domestic affairs. At 9:00 am ET, the administration unveils its full budget (the one it released back in February was an overview; this one goes program by program), and Obama delivers remarks about it at 10:35 am. The White House says it's cutting $17 billion in spending by reducing 121 programs, but Republicans -- as they did when Team Obama instructed cabinet secretaries to find $100 million in savings -- say these cuts are miniscule compared with the $3.5 trillion budget. Today's BIG event, however, is the release of those bank stress tests, which will come after the markets close at 4:00 pm. On "Charlie Rose," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said none of the biggest 19 banks is at risk for insolvency. But some will need more money. They'll have 30 days to develop a plan and six months to implement it. The administration hopes they find the money from private sources. "I think the results will be, on balance, reassuring," Geithner said. Also today, the president meets with Al Sharpton, Michael Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich to discuss education reform, and he also sits down with Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
*** Cuts you can believe in? Regarding those relatively small budget cuts, Team Obama can clearly read the polls because they are trying -- yet again -- to look like budget-cutters, especially since the public is concerned about government spending. In our NBC/WSJ poll, nearly seven in 10 respondents said that the budget deficit is a real and important number, and spending was one of the top concerns about the Obama administration. As a result, it's no wonder the White House is trying to overshadow the release of the line-by-line budget today with spending cuts. The public may be leery of the administration's spin on this one. Their employer is talking 5%-10% cuts, and the government is at one half of one percent.
*** The two big questions: Turning to Af-Pak, there are two questions hanging over the summit. One, can Pakistan stabilize without U.S. troops? And two, can they keep their nukes safe? Well, the purpose of the summit was to prevent the need from having to answer yes to the first question and no to the second. As one smart observer said, this summit comes at a pre-crisis moment. It could be the last best hope we have before being faced with a direr situation in Pakistan.
*** Good news for Cornyn? There has been lots of discussion about the dire straits of the Republican Party -- and with good reason. But very quietly, as the Washington Post's Cillizza notes, the GOP is putting together a decent Senate recruiting class. They already got Rob Portman in Ohio, and Roy Blunt and/or Sarah Steelman in Missouri (although all of them will face tough Dem candidates, and a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Dems with a clear advantage in Ohio). But if Republicans add Charlie Crist in Florida and Tom Ridge in Pennsylvania -- and both could happen in the next week or two -- then Republicans will have some good news to cheer. Mark Kirk in Illinois and Mike Castle in Delaware are real possibilities, too. It's still uphill, and still very early, but John Cornyn might be the only Republican having a decent first 100-plus days.
*** Mr. Low Key: And finally, don't miss today's Washington Post profile of national security adviser Jim Jones, which notes that he's been an outsider so far in this administration, although things appear to be getting better. Jones held his first reporter briefing on camera yesterday, and it's clear the low-key former marine isn't interested in being a Kissinger or a Rice. In fact, low-key is a generous description. If he is this way in private meetings, then he may not be fitting in with the styles of Clinton, Gates, Biden, or Rahm.
Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 26 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 33 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 180 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 544 days
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