From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Health-care forecast -- lots of Snowe: It appears that Senate Finance Committee Democrats have gotten the message from the White House: Do whatever it takes to get Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe on board. She's sending EVERY signal that she'll be there at the end, as long as she gets a large say in how the bill is shaped. Snowe yesterday releasing a statement with three moderate Dems (Ben Nelson, Lieberman, and McCaskill) tells you she is looking for a way to support the bill -- not oppose it. And if the White House and Dems get Snowe, suddenly her Maine colleague, Susan Collins, is probably in play too. But remember: This isn't about getting Snowe and Collins; it's about making sure the White House can get Nelson and other moderate-conservative Dems like Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, and Mary Landrieu. Clearly, the White House wants to do this with 60 votes and avoid reconciliation. The entire strategy appears to be predicated on 60.
*** Boy, that was fast: Speaking of 60… Democrats now seem to be well on their way toward getting their 60th Senate vote back, by maybe next week. The Boston Globe says that in Massachusetts, "House lawmakers approved legislation last night that gives Governor Deval Patrick the power to appoint a temporary successor to the late Edward M. Kennedy in the US Senate, putting Massachusetts on track to have a new senator in place by next week… The legislation now goes to the Senate, where top lawmakers believe they have enough votes for it to pass, presuming some supporters do not get cold feet. Republicans, however, vow to use parliamentary maneuvers to stall final passage for as long as possible." The two front-runners to be the interim pick, the Globe says, are former Gov. Michael Dukakis and former DNC Chair Paul Kirk.
*** The partisan missile war: We know we're never supposed to be surprised by anything in American politics, but the partisan response to the administration's decision yesterday on missile defense was yet another example of how the political debate has eroded in Washington. It's no wonder there is collective disapproval of both congressional Dems and congressional Republicans in the latest Gallup poll. Obviously, the idea of politics stopping at the water's edge disappeared a long time ago as both parties in Congress have violated the credo for years. What made this criticism somewhat surprising was that it's the first time we've seen congressional Republicans unload on a decision that was largely made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The one-time Republican appointee had been somewhat untouchable by many in the mainstream GOP community. As for the ACTUAL decision, the administration is taking pains to claim the benefits in regards to relations with Russia played no role, but it would be naïve not to think they didn't see the benefit that the TIMING wouldn't be beneficial. The ball is in Russia's court now; if they aren't productive allies of the U.S. when it comes to Iran NOW, then maybe these predictions of the return of the Cold War will be truer than we realized.
*** That '70s Show? Who is going to be the first Republican to call on House Speaker Pelosi to apologize for comparing the protests and opposition that President Obama is receiving to the violence in San Francisco in the '70s? It was a heavy charge, one that is likely going to force the president -- when he's interviewed today by NBC's David Gregory for "Meet the Press," among other interviews -- to probably rebut her. Will the president take it a step further and start calling on everyone to cut out the heated debate OVER political debate? It's one thing for columnists to hand-wring about the state of political discourse. But when it comes from former presidents and sitting speakers, it elevates things to a level that isn't politically helpful for anyone.
*** You be the editor: The House deciding to strip ACORN of federal funding was certainly news yesterday. But ask yourself this: What was more consequential to every day Americans -- the House's vote on ACORN, or it's vote on the larger bill the ACORN measure was stuffed inside, which was an overhaul of student-loan funding in this country? Speaking of, don't miss this quote from conservative Web entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart: "Everybody that is a conservative news junkie thinks that ACORN is the most important institution for us to uncover to the American public."
*** 2009 watch: In Virginia's gubernatorial race, Bob McDonnell (R) has always been the more polished candidate, while Creigh Deeds (D) has been the folksy one. Yesterday's Deeds-McDonnell debate, moderated by NBC's Gregory, made that clear. It also was the candidates' toughest debate yet. The YouTube clip of Deeds after the debate (on taxes) probably isn't helping the candidate much.
*** 2012 watch: Earlier this year, conservatives gathered in Washington for the annual CPAC conference, which brought us speeches by potential '12 candidates, a '12 straw poll (which Mitt Romney won) and, of course, that memorable image of Rush Limbaugh (dressed in black without a necktie) jumping up and down. Well, there's another conservative confab going on this week in DC -- the Value Voters Summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council. Today, two potential GOP presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee (in the morning) and Tim Pawlenty (evening) address the summit, and a third, Romney, speaks on Saturday. Other GOP speakers today include Mike Pence, Michele Bachmann, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and former Miss California Carrie Prejean.
*** More on the Value Voters Summit: On Saturday, John Boehner, Romney, and Rick Perry will speak. Also that day will be these breakout sessions: "True Tolerance: Countering the Homosexual Agenda in Public Schools"; "The Threat of Illegal Immigration"; "ObamaCare: Rationing Your Life Away"; "Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face Of The Pro-Death Agenda"; "Speechless -- Silencing The Christians"; "Thugocracy -- Fighting The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy"; "Defunding Planned Parenthood"; and "Activism And Conservatism: Fit to a Tea (Party)."
*** T-Paw turn to the right: Speaking of Pawlenty… He's always been a conservative on the Minnesota scale of things, but he's been sending even more signals to gain notice with the activist conservative base. The local Star-Tribune has noticed the change. "For two terms as governor, Pawlenty worked to cast himself in the public eye as a conservative with one foot planted in the political center -- a strategy that attracted the statewide support crucial to his close wins in Minnesota. Now widely believed to be testing a potential presidential run, Pawlenty is making public statements and taking stands likely to gain him some notice by the conservatives who will determine which candidate will rise from the GOP pack as their nominee." Of the major 2012 players, Pawlenty -- unlike Romney -- has inserted himself into the everyday debate over health care and other issues, which has helped with his name I.D. on the right. Pawlenty, by the way, is the first target of the DNC's new "Call'em Out" campaign intended "to set the record straight on GOP lies, scare tactics and mistruths on health insurance reform and other issues."
*** Cheney update: Finally, it appears that former Vice President Cheney's surgery went well. Last night, he was having dinner in his hospital room with Mrs. Cheney and expects to be released soon.
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 46 days
Countdown to Primary to Replace Ted Kennedy: 81 days
Countdown to Special Election to Replace Kennedy: 123 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 410 days