From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Jumpstarting job creation: For the fifth time in the past week, President Obama today will be addressing the politically potent issue of jobs and the economy. (His previous remarks, by our count, came at Thursday's jobs summit, Friday's speech and town hall in Allentown, Saturday's radio/internet address, and yesterday's brief remarks with Turkey's prime minister.) Today's speech, which will take place at the Brookings Institution at 11:25 am ET, will focus on additional ways to jumpstart job creation at a time when the unemployment rate is at 10%. The few previews we've received from the White House suggest that the address isn't going to be as big of a push as some might have expected. Per an administration official, the speech will focus on three key priorities for investment -- "steps to help small businesses grow and hire new staff; an additional investment in infrastructure to continue modernizing our highways and railways, bridges and tunnels, airports and seaports; and a new program to provide rebates for consumers who retrofit their homes to become more energy efficient."
*** Solving the credit crunch: In his remarks with Turkey's prime minister yesterday, Obama also said he's looking for ways to spur more lending. "Although we've stabilized the financial system, one of the problems that we're still seeing all the time … was the fact that small businesses and some medium-sized businesses are still feeling a huge credit crunch. They cannot get the loans that they need to make capital investments that would allow them to then expand employment." Obama also said this: "What my speech tomorrow will focus on is the fact that having gotten the financial crisis under control, having finally moved into positive territory when it comes to economic growth, our biggest challenge now is making sure that job growth matches up with economic growth." By the way, is it time to start referring to the TARP program as the $200-billion plan to bailout the country's financial system? All estimates now are that, at most, it's the amount of taxpayer money that's going to be lost. Losing money is never something to brag about, but the fact that this bailout is going to cost us a number FAR lower than $700 billion seems like a big deal.
*** A big SCOTUS decision coming? Obama's speech on jobs, however, could very well be overshadowed today by the U.S. Supreme Court. There's buzz that the court might issue its decision in that Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, and the expectation is that the court will knock down the precedents banning direct corporate and union contributions to political campaigns. If that happens, it could transform the political landscape in a GIGANTIC way. It would also hammer home the point that while Democrats control most of Washington, they don't control the Supreme Court. And it would call attention to this promise John Roberts made during his Senate confirmation hearing back in 2005: "Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire... I will remember that it's my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat." One could easily make the argument that Roberts' decision re-hear this case to address corporate contributions was precisely stepping into the batter's box…
*** One other reminder here: Be careful of the initial analysis and spin if the court indeed overturns most of the campaign finance restrictions. When campaign finance rules change, it's not about which party benefits at the time; it's about which party is nimble enough to change its ways.
*** Developments in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan: While the focus has been on Afghanistan, violence in Iraq has returned as a series of car bombings in Baghdad have killed more than 100 people… The New York Times front-pages how the Obama administration has been pressuring Pakistan to fight the Taliban… Defense Secretary Gates arrived in Afghanistan (along with NBC's Matt Lauer and Al Roker)… And today, General Stanley McChrystal and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Eikenberry testify on the Afghanistan troop surge before House Armed Services Committee (9:30 am ET) and Senate Armed Services Committee (1:30 pm).
*** Developments in the health care debate: It's expected that the Senate vote over Ben Nelson's (D) abortion amendment -- which is identical to the anti-abortion Stupak amendment in the House -- could take place today. But it's unlikely that it will get the 60 votes it needs to pass. In addition, with momentum seeming to fade on the public option's prospects in the Senate bill, liberal Democrats are turning to this compromise: expand eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid.
*** Our interview with Geithner: In an interview yesterday with NBC News, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that TARP will be shut down in months once housing stabilizes a tad more. "We want to wind down the whole thing and we don't want to have it any longer than we have to." (Geithner ducked the question about whether TARP could be used to bail out state budgets.) He also was asked about the White House economic team's business experience (or lack thereof). "We spend a lot of time talking to people running businesses around the country… We want people with experience from all walks of life, coming for working for the country. Nothing will make me happier we've got extraordinary people working for us now." And when asked about how he feels the economic pain, Geithner responded, "I have friends who've lost their jobs. I have friends that work as teachers, as nurses, as social workers as part of America in the real world. I have a very good sense of how much basic pain and damage this crisis has caused them, and I feel a huge personal obligation to work as hard as I can for this president to make sure we have trying to fix what was broken in our economy."
*** Go your own way: Per the Washington Post's Cillizza, it appears Sarah Palin has left the door open to a possible third-party presidential bid. The entire Tea Party movement is something that has many establishment Republicans excited and nervous at the same time. Why? Because of this kind of threat. The worry that these new conservative activists are not invested in the GOP, and so if they don't like the nominee or don't like the party, they'll go another way (see NY-23).
*** Programming note: MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," which airs beginning at 1:00 pm ET, will interview Al Gore on Wednesday, as well as Rachel Maddow.
*** Election Day in Massachusetts: After Ted Kennedy passed away in the summer, and after the state legislature changed its law to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement (Paul Kirk), Massachusetts today holds its Democratic and GOP primaries to permanently fill Kennedy's seat. The Democratic side -- and the Democratic winner will be the overwhelming favorite in the Jan. 19 general election -- features state Attorney General Martha Coakley (the favorite, according to the polls), Congressman Michael Capuano, investor and Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei. The Republican primary pits state Sen. Scott Brown versus Jack Robinson. Polling places open no later than 7:00 am ET and they close at 8:00 pm ET. As the AP notes, this is the first time since 1984 when a Massachusetts Senate contest hasn't featured an incumbent.
Countdown to MA Special Election: 42 days
Countdown to IL primary: 56 days
Countdown to TX primary: 84 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 329 days