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First thoughts: No pain, no gain?

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** No pain, no gain? In a way, last week epitomized President Obama's 10 months in office. There was lots of seemingly short-term pain -- members of Congress calling for his Treasury secretary to resign, more P.R. snafus over the stimulus, the chattering class criticizing his Asia trip, and his approval rating dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup's poll. But there also was long-term gain -- the Senate on Saturday moving one step closer to passing health-care reform and a growing economic consensus, via the New York Times, that the stimulus is working despite all the P.R. headaches it has caused. Indeed, this short-term pain/long-term gain for Team Obama occurred during the presidential campaign. For all the hits they took (Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, "bitter," the PUMAs, Bill Ayers, Landstuhl, even Joe the Plumber), they were always working toward the prize (270-plus electoral votes). And remember this: If you simply judged the last three months of the 2008 campaign by which campaign "won" the daily news cycle, McCain came out ahead. That's perhaps the best example of the short-term/long-term.

*** Saturday was the easy part: As for Saturday's initial health-care vote in the Senate, Democrats got their 60 votes to start debate. But that was the easy part. Now they've got to keep that coalition together, despite significant differences between liberal and centrist Democrats over the public option. "If the public option is still in there, the only resort we have is to say no at the end to reporting the bill off the floor," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-D) said on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Sen. Ben Nelson added on ABC, according to the Washington Post: "I don't want a big-government, Washington-run operation that undermines the private insurance that 200 million Americans now have." On the other hand, Sen. Chuck Schumer said on "TODAY" that he was pushing for the so-called "opt-out" public option, even as he acknowledged that the Senate bill will change during the amendment process. "At the end of the day, the moderate 'opt out' will prevail." Health care is turning into the ultimate test of the Democratic "big tent." 

*** Don't forget about Snowe and Collins: While the Democrats' path to 60 seems to include keeping Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln, and Landrieu on board -- without losing any of the liberals -- let's not forget that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins seem willing to play ball here. Both said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "reached out to them after he unveiled the Senate measure, encouraging them to bring forward their ideas and concerns," the New York Times notes. "Ms. Collins also received a personal visit from a high-level Obama emissary, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former senator who worked closely with her on various issues as part of a bipartisan coalition." By the way, should Voinovich be considered "in play" since he didn't vote Saturday? Probably not, but he's retiring and could be more unpredictable than folks realize. Be sure to click here for more on the "Meet" coverage of the health-care debate. 

*** Palin's renaissance: It was bound to happen… After all the attention and media coverage her book and book tour have generated, Sarah Palin is enjoying a bit of a political renaissance. As Frank Rich wrote yesterday, "Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves… Palin is at the red-hot center of age-old American resentments that have boiled up both from the ascent of our first black president and from the intractability of the Great Recession for those Americans who haven't benefited from bailouts." Even Maureen Dowd, hardly a Palin fan, believes that Obama can learn something from her. All this isn't to say that Palin has suddenly become the GOP favorite for 2012 -- her flaws and baggage are still there -- but she is a political force. and

*** Political player or political celebrity? The real test whether Palin has an interest in being a political player or just wants to be a celebrity is if she starts to make actual policy proposals. What was the last proposal of any kind that she's introduced? She's taken positions, but that's easy. Will she introduce a new idea? That's much harder and only done by folks who are interested in being a presidential contender. So far, it appears her interest is celebrity. By the way, Palin's book tour today takes her to Fort Bragg, NC.

*** 2010 watch: Chris Cillizza reports that Kansas Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore is planning to retire. This kind of retirement should scare the be-jesus out of House Dems…

*** Obama's day and week: At 11:40 am ET, the president is hosting an event at the White House to highlight initiatives designed to boost science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. At 1:45 pm, he meets with his cabinet (pool spray at the bottom). And later in the day, at 5:50 pm, he presents the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Also today, as NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports, the president has another meeting on Afghanistan with his national security team. Tomorrow, Obama holds an East Room press conference with India Prime Minister Singh and then hosts a state dinner for the Indian leader -- the first in Obama's presidency. On Wednesday, the president has his turkey-pardoning ceremony. And he will spend the Thanksgiving holiday at the White House.

Countdown to MA Special Primary: 15 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 57 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 344 days

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