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First thoughts: Iraq, Afghan violence

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Iraq, Afghanistan violence: Today, we're not starting with health-care debate or the gubernatorial races in New Jersey or Virginia. Instead, the headlines are coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. "Two synchronized suicide car bombings struck at the heart of the Iraqi government here on Sunday, severely damaging the Justice Ministry and provincial council complexes, leaving a scene of carnage that raised new questions about the government's ability to secure its most vital operations." Then there was this: "A series of helicopter crashes killed 14 Americans in insurgent-wracked Afghanistan on Monday, the U.S. military said. It was one of the deadliest days of the war for U.S. troops." All this comes as the president nears a decision on a new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. He meets with the national security team this morning. The clock is ticking, as one would assume he has to make a decision before he leaves for Asia on Nov. 10. By the way, read between the lines of Washington Post story on the Pentagon war-gaming a couple of troop increase scenarios. Does this mean the president is leaning toward the 40,000 troop increase? 

*** Jobs, jobs, jobs: Turning to the domestic front, the White House's pro-active message this week might be "jobs, jobs, jobs." On Tuesday, Obama will be in Arcadia, FL for a tour of the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center. (Also, Vice President Biden will be in Delaware to help christen a decision by an unknown auto company to turn a defunct Delaware factory into a plant for fuel batteries.) And later this week, sources tell us the president will speak to the NFIB, which is not exactly the friendliest audience to Democrats. But the administration wants to get him out front on the issue of small business and job creation.

*** Reid vs. Obama? OK, so the two Democratic leaders aren't at odds on health care, but there is some hand-wringing on both sides as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tries to find 60 votes for HIS version of the public option (the "opt out"), while the White House doesn't want him doing anything that upsets the Olympia Snowe applecart. Could Reid and Speaker Pelosi, by going so public with their attempts to find the votes for the public option, be putting on a show of sorts, letting the left know they tried and finally ending up in a compromise? However, the White House yesterday stressed that the president and Reid are on the same page. "A rumor is making the rounds that the White House and Senator Reid are pursuing different strategies on the public option. Those rumors are absolutely false." The New Republic's Jon Cohn sums it all up: Obama "wants a good public plan but he wants a bill even more--and he's not sure that the former is compatible with the latter. So he's being careful--more careful, in fact, than some of his Senate allies would like."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has his health bill set to go, but it contains an alternative to the public option which would allow states to opt-out. Will this bill work?

*** The more things change…: Bloomberg's Al Hunt writes a column that has been waiting to be written: All of the promise of changing the way Washington does business hasn't been turned into a reality yet by the president. One just has to look at his fundraising schedule to see that the political realities continue to creep in. While unrelated, today's Washington Post story about Dem Rep. Pete Visclosky's use of earmarks to raise money is a reminder how just how the culture hasn't changed all that much, even as the party in control did change. Just asking, but if the president had vetoed an appropriations bill that contained earmarks (which he could have done this past spring), would he be looking like more of a change agent, making it harder for the Al Hunts of the world to note how the president has spent more time promising change than delivering on it? Speaking of vetoes, anyone else surprised he hasn't found something to veto? Talk about a way to show some Washington independence at a time when the rest of the country has had it up to HERE with Washington. 

*** Obama's day: At 11:30 am ET, President Obama meets with his national security team to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan. Attendees include Vice President Biden (via teleconference), Secretary of State Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates, National Security Adviser Jones, Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Is today's war-gaming story in the Washington Post a sign that the president is going to reluctantly give McCrystal his troops?) After that, Obama travels to Jacksonville, FL, where he will address U.S. servicemen and servicewoman at the Naval Air Base. Then he heads to Miami, where he headlines a fundraiser for the DSCC and DCCC.

*** 2009 watch: It's just a little over a week until Election Day… The coverage of the gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia seem to underscore the conventional wisdom that Corzine and McDonnell are rising, while Deeds and Christie are flailing… On Saturday, the Corzine campaign announced that President Obama would return to New Jersey on Sunday, Nov. 1… Obama heads to Virginia to stump for Creigh Deeds tomorrow (not exactly the best GOTV day)… And Mitt Romney will campaign for McDonnell on Wednesday. It was interesting to hear over the weekend so many elected Republicans talk up McDonnell. He's on the verge of becoming the new darling of the party -- should the polls be right. 

*** The micromanaging White House? A follow-up question from Friday's Washington Post story, which included anonymous administration aides complaining about how Deeds has run his campaign so far: Come next year, is the White House really going to play armchair quarterback in the press -- in the 38 Senate, 37 governor, and 435 House races across the country? If so, it's going to be a VERY busy and frustrating year for Team Obama. They are expected to help make decisions behind the scenes, but to go public BEFORE the election really is something that won't sit well with quite a few Democrats, even those who believe Deeds has been an awful candidate. Speaking of 2010, Vice President Biden today is in the battleground state of Ohio, where he attends events for three Ohio Democratic Reps. -- Mary Jo Kilroy, Zach Space, and John Boccieri. He participates in today's briefing on Afghanistan via teleconference. And don't miss this news via the New York Post's Fred Dicker: New York AG Andrew Cuomo has apparently told Rudy Giuliani that he's running for governor. "It was sent as a courtesy … and as a warning that the former presidential candidate would face a brutal and, according to a dozen recent polls, losing battle against the highly popular attorney general." 

*** The absent governor? An impeachment resolution targeting South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) will be introduced Tuesday. Will it go anywhere? Meanwhile, the Columbia State newspaper examines Sanford's schedule, which in recent years suggested a governor who was no longer focused on the state's business. "The portrait that emerges from Sanford's calendar -- his office's official record of his activities -- is one of a clear second-term focus elsewhere, not on South Carolina. By this year, staff meetings - almost nine a week in 2004 - had dwindled to just more than four a week, according to an analysis of Sanford's calendar by The State. Some of Sanford's public outreach, such as holding office hours in the far corners of the state, also had fallen by the wayside." 

*** Meet the Press, Take Two: Don't miss Andrew Ross Sorkin and Dan Senor discussing their new books, the state of the global economy, and the culture of Wall Street in Meet the Press' online extra.

*** Breaking into the boy's club: Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't pass along this stat from CBS' statistician poobah, Mark Knoller, who notes yesterday was Obama's 24th golf outing. It took Bush 43 more than two years to get to 24 rounds. Also, did it take a tough question by NBC's Savannah Guthrie on the boys-only hoops games to suddenly have the president his first woman golfing yesterday (Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes)? Apparently. Timing wasn't coincidence, it seems.

Countdown to Election Day 2009: 8 days
Countdown to MA Special Primary: 43 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 85 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 372 days

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