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First thoughts: Six months in

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Six months in: Six months ago today, Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation's 44th president. But it seems much longer ago than that, doesn't it? Since that cold day in January, so much has happened: the legislative fight over the stimulus, the rescue from those Somali pirates, the budget battle, the president's first European trip, the Obama vs. Cheney duel over national security, the Sotomayor nomination, the Cairo speech, the aftermath of the Iranian election, the Russia-Italy-Ghana trip, and the current fight over health care. In his article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai likened Obama to an iPod shuffle. "Obama is the nation's first shuffle president. He's telling lots of stories at once, and in no particular order. His agenda is fully downloadable. If what you care most about is health care, then you can jump right to that. If global warming gets you going, then click over there." But there's a danger to this, Bai adds. "Random play may popularize your music in the aggregate, but it doesn't foster the same kind of investment in the songs themselves. U2 may have more fans than ever, but that doesn't mean these listeners can name half the tracks on the band's latest release."

Video: The New York Times Magazine's Matt Bai talks about the Obama administration's wide range of objectives and whether the president is trying to do too much too soon

*** Still personally popular, but less so on the issues: Six months in and one piece of conventional wisdom appears to be holding: Obama is personally more popular than his proposals. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, the president's overall approval rating stands at a still-strong 59%. But his ratings on the issues have declined: 49% approve of handling of health care (down eight points since April), 43% approve of his handling of the deficit, and 52% approve of his handling of the economy.

Video: Morning Meeting's Dylan Ratigan and a panel, which includes NBC's Chuck Todd, debate whether the country is increasingly becoming unhappy with the president.

*** All Obama, all the time: On the first day of his seventh month in office, the Washington Post also front-pages that Obama is launching an all-out media blitz on health care. "With skepticism about the president's health-care reform effort mounting on Capitol Hill -- even within his own party -- the White House has launched a new phase of its strategy designed to dramatically increase public pressure on Congress: all Obama, all the time." More: "'Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton. Now's that time,' said senior adviser David Axelrod. 'I don't know whether he will Twitter or tweet. But he's going to be very, very visible.'" Indeed. Today, from the Children's National Medical Center in DC, Obama will once again deliver remarks on health care. On Wednesday, he's holding a primetime news conference. And the following day, he heads to Cleveland, OH.

*** One small step for reform, one giant leap for conventional wisdom: Obama's hopes for getting a health-care bill through the Senate lie in the hands of one man: Montana Sen. Max Baucus (D). At some point this week (maybe today), his Senate Finance Committee is going to be releasing more details of his proposal. Can he become the Obama administration's savior? Will it be one small step for health-care reform legislation getting passed by the August recess? Whatever he announces, it will be one giant leap for health care conventional wisdom. (If you didn't get our reference to Neil Armstrong's famous words, today is the 40th anniversary of man's landing on the moon, and Obama today meets with Apollo 11 crew and NASA Administrator Bolden at 2:00 pm ET.)

*** The Great American Health Care Fight: The other moving parts on health care: In their interviews on the Sunday shows, administration officials (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and OMB Director Peter Orszag) were no longer demanding that Congress pass their bills before the August recess… Per the Wall Street Journal, Democratic congressional members representing some of the nation's more affluent areas are expressing concerns about the House health-care bill that would tax high-income earners… Governors are concerned about the bills moving through Congress… Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), per the Washington Post, is stepping back into the national spotlight by writing op-ed and appearing on cable TV to talk about health care (Jindal once served as Louisiana's top health official)… And RNC Chairman Michael Steele will criticize Obama's health-care proposals in a speech at the National Press Club at 9:00 am ET.

Video: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responds to critics of the proposed health care bills with NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press."

*** Where's the cover? Speaking of Sebelius, she wasn't full of answers in her appearance on "Meet the Press." The fact that she can't definitively talk about which bill the president likes and doesn't makes it that much harder -- right now -- for congressional Democratic leaders to twist arms to get this done. These folks need some public guidance (and cover) if they are going to support, say, a surtax on millionaires. No wonder the White House is signaling that the president is going to try and wrestle even more control of the debate. But he was fully engaged last week and that didn't help. This week, he's doing more TV interviews and the prime time press conference. Will it be enough?

*** Burying bad news: The news, per the AP, that the administration is delaying its budget mid-year review is a signal it's scared about what the new numbers will show -- making support for new initiatives from Blue Dog Democrats in the House and conservative Dems in the Senate that much more difficult. This is the BIGGEST piece of news no one is paying attention to. Clearly, the White House is trying to bury this news as best they can, in August, post-recess. Speaking of August, the White House set it as the deadline to get those health bills through Congress. It's artificial, but it's a big test politically. Perhaps Obama can withstand letting the August goal slide, but not getting a bill at all this year would be a huge defeat. Then again, it does seem as if, whether they meant to or not, that the expectations game is now in Obama's favor. The debate is about the process more than it is about the separate proposals.

*** I'm sorry, so sorry, please accept my apology:

Yesterday, embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) penned an extraordinary op-ed in the Columbia State newspaper apologizing for his affair and its aftermath. "It is true that I did wrong and failed at the largest of levels, but equally true is the fact that God can make good of our respective wrongs in life," he wrote. "In this vein, while none of us has the chance to attend our own funeral, in many ways I feel like I was at my own in the past weeks, and surprisingly I am thankful for the perspective it has afforded." More: "It's in the spirit of making good from bad that I am committing to you and the larger family of South Carolinians to use this experience both to trust God in his larger work of changing me and, from my end, to work to becoming a better and more effective leader." http://www.thestate.com/editorial-columns/story/869645.html

Countdown to Palin Stepping Down: 6 days
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Countdown to Election Day 2010: 470 days

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