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First thoughts: Owning the results

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Owning the results: By yesterday offering up two top White House aides -- David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs -- to talk about Tuesday's elections, the White House decided to own the results. And the move seemed to send two signals: 1) they believe the outcomes weren't as disastrous as some in the chattering class were making them out to be, and 2) they don't want to look as if they are thick-headed and don't see the obvious -- that their party didn't do well in a VERY important swing state, Virginia.

*** Nationalizing 2010: In Axelrod's interview with one of us, he talked about the Democrats' turnout problem on Tuesday, and he claimed that if they nationalize 2010, they won't have that problem. Translation: The White House is going to take a page from the 2002 White House playbook, which is to nationalize the midterms and try and do it on your terms. The downside of trying to AVOID nationalizing 2010 is what happened in Virginia -- the base doesn't show up, etc. So if the White House wants to minimize losses in 2010, then it has to get as many of their 2008 voters to the polls. And that means the president has to be front and center. Axelrod made that crystal clear in his interview.

*** Tea'd off: Two days after their victories in New Jersey and Virginia (where their candidates played down their conservatism and didn't run directly against President Obama) and their loss in NY-23 (where a conservative-vs.-moderate split led to their defeat), Republicans today are welcoming conservative Tea Party activists to Capitol Hill to protest the Democrats' health-care legislation. Organizer Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), per NBC's Luke Russert, has called the event "The Super Bowl of Freedom." In fact, today's conservative gathering epitomizes this challenge for Republicans: How do you tap into a fired-up conservative base (which obviously benefited them in NJ and VA) but make sure that base doesn't begin eating its own (which happened in NY-23). By the way, there have been a couple of interesting developments in the wake of NY-23: 1) NRSC Chair John Cornyn saying that his committee would not be spending any money where there are contested GOP primaries, which seems as a response to its earlier endorsement of Charlie Crist in Florida, and 2) Senate candidate Mark Kirk seeking Palin's endorsement to help him survive the primary challenge he's receiving from the right in Illinois.

*** Does Kirk really want Palin by his side in Illinois? By the way, Kirk's move is fascinating. One Republican said to us that it seemed ham-handed. Added this Republican: What if Kirk gets the endorsement? Does he want her as a running mate in Illinois? Does he want to nationalize his race in this blue home state of the president? Maybe, the decision was, "If you ask her for the endorsement, she'll at least STAY OUT of the primary." But it's awfully high risk for the general. Don't forget -- Kirk's primary is the next one on the political calendar of any consequence.

*** Don't lose focus on the Dem primaries: While we've focused on the upcoming 2010 GOP primaries in the wake of what happened in NY-23, Republicans have reminded us that Democrats face some pretty contentious primaries next year, too. In Colorado, incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet is receiving a challenge from Andrew Romanoff; in Pennsylvania, there's the Specter-vs.-Sestak showdown; in Kentucky, Jack Conway is battling Dan Mongiardo; and in Ohio, the DSCC has appeared to take sides in the Fisher-vs.-Brunner contest. But the big difference to us -- so far -- is that the Democratic primaries don't seem to be the rallying cry for liberals the same way that the Republican primaries have become for conservatives. After all, we haven't seen Joe Sestak on the cover of The Nation the same way that National Review had Marco Rubio on its cover.

*** The great American health-care fight: In addition to today's conservative protests on Capitol Hill, AARP is set to endorse the House Democratic health-care bill… The House is slated to vote on that bill this coming Saturday… And liberal-leaning Americans United for Change says it's airing a new TV ad ($17,000 buy on DC-area cable) criticizing the House GOP health plan.

*** Get it done -- now: In a way, you can see the House decision to vote on health care this Saturday as a direct response to the elections. Bottom line: Don't give wavering lawmakers more time over the weekend to think about the election results or listen to punditry; just get their vote done. Also, the quick health-care vote is an attempt to put some pressure on the Senate. The fact is this: If health care slips into 2010, it could die… One other point: The last thing the White House needed was Nancy Pelosi to say "we won" like she did yesterday. One could make an argument that the House Democrats DID have a good Tuesday night. And, strategically, the DCCC looks like a smooth operation (like the NRCC did circa 2000-2004). But, tonally, was it helpful to her party to verbalize what she believed as far as this fact is concerned? It gave the cablers and the intertubes something to rally around and debate in a superficial way that only puts the speaker in a more negative light.

*** Obama's day: President Obama delivers opening remarks (at 9:30 am ET) and then closing remarks (at 4:50 pm) at a White House-sponsored Tribal Nations Conference that takes place at the Interior Department. Per the White House, this conference "will provide leaders from the 564 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the president and representatives from the highest levels of his administration. Each federally recognized tribe has been invited to send one representative to the conference." Also on his calendar today, Obama meets with President Ian Khama of Botswana (pool spray), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (closed press), Vice President Biden (closed press), and Secretary of State Clinton (closed press).

*** Also today: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Department of Energy before leading a practice session for students participating in the Science Bowl at 2:00 pm ET… Vice President Biden hosts a panel on challenges facing the middle class at 10:30 am… On Capitol Hill, Democrats Bill Owens and John Garamendi, winners of special elections in NY-23 and CA-10, respectively, are sworn in… And Secretary of State Clinton meets with Germany's foreign minister (at 1:15 pm), then with the families of the missing hikers in Iran (3:00 pm), and then with National Security Council principals at the White House (5:00 pm). Speaking of Clinton, she's the cover of the latest issue of Time magazine.

Countdown to MA Special Primary: 33 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 75 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 362 days

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