From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Healer-in-Chief: The commander-in-chief tries to become the nation's healer-in-chief when he travels to Texas to participate in the memorial service at Fort Hood after Thursday's massacre there. President Obama and the first lady arrive in Killeen, TX at 12:25 pm ET; they meet with the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy at 12:50 pm; they then meet with wounded soldiers and their families at 1:20 pm; finally, the president addresses the Fort Hood community at 2:00 pm. These kind of moments are BIG for presidents; in fact, they're more defining than presidents themselves sometimes realize. Does Obama say anything about some of the reaction we've seen to Muslims serving in the military? (Yesterday, the conservative group America Family Association called for the purging of Muslim soldiers in the U.S. armed forces.) It would be surprising if he did NOT address this potential firestorm which, while not yet spreading, is no where near contained. That said, stories like this piece in the Washington Post on Maj. Hasan's warnings of Muslim uprisings INSIDE the military will only make this issue of Hasan's religion a continued focal point.
*** No decision on Afghanistan -- yet: Per NBC's Savannah Guthrie, senior White House sources dispute the reports that the president has made up his mind to deploy more than 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. In fact, the White House says President Obama has NOT decided. One senior official, who spoke to the president yesterday on the subject, stressed that Obama had not made up his mind. A senior U.S. military official adds to NBC's Jim Miklaszewski that Defense Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs have NOT yet presented the president with additional options that he asked for more than a week ago; they are expected to do that later this week, and Guthrie says the White House is awaiting four options. But while the White House is pushing back on this 30,000-plus number, that doesn't mean this won't be the administration's ultimate decision. The concerted effort to push back has to do with the administration's belief that the focus should be on its new strategy, not on troop levels. As for a decision, it obviously won't come during his trip to Asia (Press Secretary Gibbs himself all but said that yesterday). Will he really let Thanksgiving go by before announcing?
*** Bubba heads to the Hill: Former President Bill Clinton heads to Capitol Hill today to speak to Democratic senators at their weekly caucus meeting at 1:45 pm ET. The topic, of course, will be health care. What's particularly interesting is that Clinton has strong ties to the Senate centrists who could very well decide the fate of the health-care bill in the Senate. Clinton was governor when Ben Nelson served as governor of Nebraska; Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor just happen to represent Clinton's home state of Arkansas; and Clinton and Joe Lieberman used to be VERY close personally and ideologically -- all before the Lewinsky scandal. In particular, what kind of advice does Clinton give to Lincoln and Pryor? What does he say to Lieberman (if the Connecticut senator ends up attending)? During the '08 campaign, Clinton found his stride campaigning in, well, red America -- in places that are similar politically to Arkansas, Nebraska, Indiana, etc. Clinton's at his best when he's giving OTHERS political advice, and he excels at framing an argument better than just about anyone on the political stage today.
*** NARAL -- fired up and ready to go? Staying with health care… Is the pro-choice community considering funding primary challenges to pro-life Dems? Sounds like it from this Politics Daily report. "It's too early to say whether the abortion rights lobby is a sleeping giant, but it is definitely, some would say finally, awake. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL ProChoice America, was in a fighting mood in an interview on Monday. 'There's elections coming up in 2010. We will know who stood with us and who stood against us,' she told me. The latter, she said, may face primary challenges. 'Nothing's off the table,' she said. 'It's a new day and I'm here to tell you we're going to hold those accountable who voted against us.' This would be a departure. According to Keenan, her group has supported a challenger in a Democratic primary only once." What will the pro-choice community say today in response to Rep. Loretta Sanchez's (D-CA) contention on "Morning Joe" today that there are only approximately 150 pro-choice votes in Congress? This is the unintended consequence of trying to become a big-tent party on certain issues (like guns and abortion).
*** RGA loses two in one day: Just one week after the GOP's wins in New Jersey and Virginia, we assumed that Republicans would be gaining key gubernatorial candidates -- not losing them. But that's exactly what happened yesterday. First, up-and-coming Colorado Republican Josh Penry announced that he wouldn't run for governor, which essentially means that former GOP Rep. Scott McInnis will be the Republican who will challenge Gov. Bill Ritter (D) next year. Then, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) said she won't run for another term next year, which gives Dems a pretty good shot at winning that seat. Something must have spooked Penry; a source tells us that a pro-McInnis 527 was gearing up to go after Penry, who used to work as an aide to McInnis. But the energy behind Penry was palpable, which his VERY early exit a surprise to a lot of folks, particularly here in DC. As for Rell, her poll numbers -- while better than most governors' -- have declined; she isn't as popular as she once was. Indeed, a new Quinnipiac poll has her with a 64% job rating, which (believe it or not) isn't close to the high she once enjoyed in the 70s and 80s. Rell was going to have her first tough campaign as governor and, well, being a governor these days is difficult.
*** Another thing to add to Wednesday's calendar: Tomorrow, on Veterans Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will join the national service group ServiceNation to launch its "Mission Serve" initiative, a network of military and civilian service organizations to meet the needs of troops, military families, and veterans. Both Michelle Obama and Jill Biden will deliver remarks at the event, which takes place in DC.
Countdown to MA Special Primary: 28 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 70 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 357 days