From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** America's Rorschach Test: Jimmy Carter's comments to NBC's Brian Williams -- that racism is playing a role in much of the current opposition to President Obama -- will be the ultimate Rorschach test. The question is whether this turns into an adult discussion, or whether it turns into your usual political food fight (and we probably know the answer to that, right?). It's tough to find a middle ground on this issue. Call us cynics, but we're not sure the debate on cable today will successfully explore a middle ground. The fact is that MANY of the president's supporters see the collective opposition coming mostly from the South, and they believe it's hard to come to any other conclusion after the armed protestors outside Obama events, the questions about his citizenship, the Nazi/Hitler/Communist signs, etc. But obviously, there's more nuance to that, even when simply examining the southern opposition. Yet nuance is something that never gets the attention. Instead, it's the loudest, shrillest voices on both the left and right that do.
*** A loser for the White House? Politically, the White House sees this as nothing more than a political loser. As Michael Eric Dyson acknowledged on "Morning Joe," to even entertain the idea of race being a part of the opposition to the president is political suicide. Of course, there are those on the president's side who will argue that they believe the mainstream elements of the opposition to the president haven't done enough -- or anything -- to denounce the extremist elements on their side, and that's yet another reason why we can expect this back-and-forth over the issue of race won't go away. Yet the last thing White House needs is for the 10-15% of people who disapprove of his policies right now -- but at one time approved of his job -- to feel alienated away from ever supporting him. Let's face it: One of the worst insults anyone can feel is being called a racist, and the White House politically doesn't want average white independents to believe if they ever disagree with the president, they'll be labeled racists. By the way, Colin Powell is visiting the White House today. Will he comment on this?
*** Baucus' bill: After months of bipartisan negotiations, after other key congressional committees have already passed their bills, and after keeping Washington waiting, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus will finally introduce his health-care today at noon ET. And it's not being embraced by either party. Said ranking member Chuck Grassley (R) in statement last night: "I'm disappointed because it looks like we're being pushed aside by the Democratic leadership so the Senate can move forward on a bill that, up to this point, does not meet the shared goals for affordable, accessible health coverage that we set forth when this process began," he said, per NBC's Ken Strickland. On the other hand, Finance Committee Democrat Jay Rockefeller said he was disappointed that Baucus' bill wouldn't include the so-called public insurance option. "There is no way, in its present form, that I will vote for it," he said. But "present form" is key here, given that the Finance Committee will mark-up the bill and add amendments next week.
*** How did you get from $300 billion to $500-$600 billion: Speaking of health care, how has Obama gone from touting $300 billion in Medicare waste/fraud/abuse savings in June as part of his plan to pay for health care to now claiming the White House has found $500-$600 billion in these savings. The fact is the president still hasn't release a detailed plan in general, let alone gotten into the "how to pay for" weeds when it comes to exactly how they found yet another $200 billion in cuts. This actually gets at the nut of the president's potential credibility problem: If there is so much money in waste/fraud/abuse in the Medicare system, then why do we continue to let it happen? Why are we waiting so long to deal with it? The average cynical voter is thinking, "Well, the president may be well meaning, but the bureaucracy that is the American government let this waste/fraud/abuse happen once, who is to say they won't let it happen again?"
*** Mr. Exposure: If it weren't for Carter's comments, we're guessing one of the topics that cable and the internet would be focusing on today is the fact that the president is EVERYWHERE. It started last week with his joint session speech, continued with his "60 Minutes" interview, and then business cable interviews followed the next day. Now five Sunday shows (on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and Univision) are coming up this weekend, and then there's Letterman next Monday. We're sure the White House will also be doing something online, since that seems to be the only venue they haven't touched on this week.
*** Is the Amtrak Corridor elite wrong? The issue of over-exposure has come up before, and while the Amtrak Corridor Elite (NY-DC) believes he may be over-exposed, the White House has previously gotten positive results from its strategy. They believe that with folks getting their news and info for hundreds of different places on multiple platforms, you have to use multiple platforms to touch everyone you want to touch at least once. By the way, our reporting from a summer Peter Hart/Annenberg focus group of swing voters suggested that Obama's speeches, interviews, and news conferences were a plus for him, not a minus. So this may be one of those Beltway-created storylines that the facts don't bear out as much. Still, the White House should be a tad concerned that last week's address attracted 31 million views, compared with the 50 million he got for his first presser. Then again, 31 million is a lot of people…but where do those 19 million go? Are they tuning out Washington?
*** A Buckeye bounce? A day after talking to GM workers in the battleground state of Ohio, a new Quinnipiac poll conducted last week shows that President Obama's numbers have slightly rebounded in the Buckeye State, from 49%-44% approve/disapprove in July to 53%-42% now. Moreover, the two Democratic candidates for Senate, Lt. Gov. Lee Fischer and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, lead the top Republican in the field, Rob Portman. With perhaps the exceptions of Colorado and Virginia, there's no state in the country that's more important in measuring the Democrats' health than in Ohio. On the other hand, of course, Republicans have argued that recent national polls (WashPo/ABC, USA Today/Gallup) didn't move the needle that much on Obama's health-care numbers.
*** Obama's day: In advance of next week's G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama sits down at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper beginning at 10:45 am ET. Then, at 1:00 pm, Obama has 2016 on his mind – not that year's presidential election, but rather the Olympics. He and First Lady Michelle Obama host an event at the White House promoting Chicago's bid for that Olympics.
*** 2010 watch: Let's get ready to … RUMBLE. First Read has confirmed that Linda McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO and wife to WWE honcho Vince McMahon, today is announcing that she's running for the Senate in Connecticut, setting up a Republican cage match for the right to challenge vulnerable Sen. Chris Dodd (D). Indeed, McMahon will be joining a growing GOP field that includes former Rep. Rob Simmons, former Ireland Ambassador Tom Foley, and state Sen. Sam Caligiuri. Considering the image Congress is portraying to the American public these days, is it any wonder that no one dismisses out of hand the possibility that someone associated with professional wrestling is a legitimate candidate for the U.S. Senate? Forget Mrs. McMahon; why not just have Vince himself run. At this point, it's only fitting, right?
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 48 days
Countdown to Primary to Replace Ted Kennedy: 83 days
Countdown to Special Election to Replace Kennedy: 125 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 412 days