From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Finding an enemy: You can mark yesterday as perhaps a key turning point in the fight over health-care reform. Why? Because President Obama and the White House found a political enemy in South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), who earlier said that health care could be Obama's "Waterloo" and could "break" him politically. Obama replied yesterday: "Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health-care system that is breaking America's families." As it turns out, Obama is much more comfortable when he has someone to run against. He hasn't really had that … until now. Will Republicans regret turning this into a political fight? Polls, including yesterday's Washington Post/ABC survey, show that the public trusts Obama more than Republicans on health care. And that means they're more likely to side with the president in a political fight, even if they aren't convinced his plan is the right one.
Video: The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson debates with a Morning Joe panel whether the Obama administration needs to take a more reasonable approach to achieving health care reform.
*** Risk vs. reward: Of course, Republicans would have drawn criticism had they not attempted to seize this political opportunity. So the GOP strategy of turning this into a political fight was something they had to attempt, because the reward is great (see DeMint's prediction). But it may have given the president a lifeline -- just as he was showing a growing frustration with members of HIS OWN party. But, suddenly, the president looks much more comfortable when back to campaign mode, running against Republicans.
*** Playing into Obama's hands? Honest question: Is this "Will it pass or won't it?" drama on health care actually playing right into Obama's hands? Truth is, with the Democrats at 60 in the Senate and with a very strong majority in the House, they are -- more than likely -- going to be able to pass health care, especially when you have Senate Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe who still apparently want to play ball. As a result, any victory Obama gets on health care is going to look more significant. Then again, he's got to achieve that victory first, and that's why he's meeting today with House Democrats on Energy and Commerce Committee, to get them to pass the House bill.
*** Seizing the bully pulpit: Another day, another example of President Obama seizing the bully pulpit to press for health-care reform. At 1:05 pm ET (before meeting with those House Democrats), he once again delivers brief remarks on the subject from the White House -- the eighth day in the last nine in which he spoken on health care (in some form or fashion) since returning from his recent overseas trip. Yet another example was his interview with NBC's Meredith Vieira on TODAY. On why he set an August deadline to get health-care bills passed through the House and Senate: "Well, because if you don't set a deadline in this town, nothing happens. You know, the default in Washington is inaction and inertia. And there's a reason why we haven't had health-care reform in 50 years." But in a separate interview with PBS, Obama did admit that the deadline could "spill over." He said, "You've been around here long enough to know that you have to say, 'Get this done.' If somebody comes to me and says, 'It's basically done; it's going to spill over by a few days or a week,' you know, that's different."
*** The Great American Health Care Fight: Other health-care developments: It looks like the surtax on high-income earners is more on life support than Republicans wish, because it was turning into an easy thing to attack Democrats over… The U.S. Chamber of Commerce holds a conference call with reporters at 2:00 pm ET today to announce a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to protect "employer-sponsored health care"… Obama held a conference call with liberal bloggers last night… Has Obama lost David Brooks? The White House's favorite non-liberal columnist unloads on House Dem "old bulls" … And everyone is waiting to see if today's the day that the Senate Finance Committee releases its health-care bill.
*** Birth(ers) of a Nation: Remember that McCain event last year during the presidential campaign, when a woman asked if Barack Obama was an Arab? Well, that's nothing compared to YouTube clip of a Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) town hall, in which a woman carries on and on about Obama's citizenship and birth certificate. Let's get something straight: If Obama weren't a United States citizen, don't you think the Clinton campaign (first) or the McCain camp (second) would have said something during the two-year-long presidential campaign? (In fact, McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, was the one who had the bigger potential legal question mark about his eligibility for the presidency.) But the real story in all of this is that Republican Party has a HUGE problem with its base right now. That some Republicans believe a man who won last year's presidential contest by seven percentage points is not the legitimate president is a base problem much bigger than Cindy Sheehan anti-war protestors or black helicopter conspiracy theorists who flock to some Ron Paul events. Check out how flummoxed Castle looked. How many other Republican elected officials are dealing with questioners like this woman? Meanwhile, did Lou Dobbs really GO THERE? Seriously? This is getting absurd.
*** Mr. Unpopular: Here's more evidence that simply BEING a governor is an unpopular job these days, per a new Quinnipiac poll: "Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's job approval rating has shrunk to its lowest level ever, 39 - 53 percent negative, and voters see him as most responsible for the state's budget mess." What has Rendell done wrong other than be chief executive of a state running out of money. You can write this storyline about some 35 of the 50 governors. By the way, California struck a budget deal… FINALLY. It's ugly for all involved.
*** Sotomayor news: At 10:00 am ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee will gather to consider Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, and some members will hold a stakeout afterward. It's expected that Republicans will move to delay a committee vote on her nomination until next week. That said, the full Senate vote is still on target before the chamber departs for its August recess. Meanwhile, has Sotomayor become a campaign wedge issue for some Republicans seeking re-election in 2010? If so, keep tabs on Richard Burr's vote. The normally down-the-line conservative from a swing state is undecided.
*** Elsewhere today: Vice President Biden
is in Ukraine and Georgia through Friday… Secretary of State Clinton is in Bangkok, where she meets with the Thai prime minister… Fed Chair Ben Bernanke testifies at 10:00 am ET before House Financial Services (Bernanke is getting more political grief from BOTH sides of Pennsylvania Ave, by the way) … TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky testifies on his TARP report before House Oversight and Government Reform at 10:00 am… And Chu on this: Energy Secretary Steven Chu appears tonight on "The Daily Show," and he also launches Facebook and YouTube to discuss energy and climate change.
*** Two steppin' with the Obamas: Finally, the White House will host a country music celebration tonight, with country acts like Brad Paisley, Alison Krauss, and Charley Pride.
Countdown to Palin Stepping Down: 5 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 105 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 469 days