Obama's SOTU had a little something for everyone, but much of it was focused on independents… It also included plenty of shout-outs to GOP ideas… Obama said job creation is his No. 1 goal for 2010, but he listed plenty of other priorities… Obama vs. Alito is bound to get tons of cable play… Bob McDonnell's SOTU-lite… Bloomberg backtracks on KSM trial… Profiling Quinn vs. Hynes in IL… And Joe and Mika host GOP South Carolina gubernatorial debate in Charleston.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Something for everyone: It sounds contradictory, but President Obama's State of the Union address last night was an appeal to independents (stressing deficit reduction and fixing Washington), but also a populist battle cry (taking on the bank bailout, Wall Street, and even the Supreme Court). He attempted to reach across party lines, but also reminded Republicans that he inherited many of the country's problems from them. And he stressed that jobs would be his No. 1 priority, but also maintained that he wouldn't give up on health care, although not in a very forceful way ("Let's get it done") and other priorities. So much of the speech was responding to frustrated independents and anger at Washington -- almost like he had read our new NBC/WSJ poll (or perhaps his own). Indeed, a cynic might say last night's speech was the opening salvo in Obama's re-election in 2012. But it's also true that to regain his political standing from '08 and the first half of '09, he again has to win over independents, who broke for the Republicans in NJ, VA, and MA. The question many Democrats in Washington might asking: Is what's good for Obama good for the party in 2010?
*** Who's more willing to work with the other side? What was particularly fascinating was Obama listing all the GOP ideas he would support (cap gains cuts for small businesses, tax cuts, nuclear energy, off-shore drilling, free trade, earmark reform) for their backing on larger bills. Of course, it's almost certain he won't get much support from his Republican counterparts, but it was almost a dare asking Republicans to list the Democratic ideas that they'd be willing to put on the table. From a P.R. standpoint, Obama's conciliatory talk appeared to score points -- at least early on. That Republicans were sitting on their hands when Obama was lauding tax cuts in the stimulus probably didn't play well with independents. But as the speech wore on, Republicans seemed like they got the message and became more engaged and loudly applauded when Obama talked about off-shore drilling and trade. (Did GOPers see the criticism they were receiving via Twitter? Or did the president's OWN shout out asking for applause nudge them?) You're probably going to hear some congressional Democrats criticize Obama's embrace of some of those GOP ideas.
*** Not really a policy speech: While Obama stressed that job creation is his No. 1 goal this year -- and devoted more than half of his speech to the economy -- he also talked a lot about other priorities. Reducing the deficit. Finishing health care. Working on energy, financial, and immigration reform. And repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Yet that laundry list, in a way, risks contradicting his promise to focus like a laser on jobs. And it gives his critics the opportunity to say, again, that he's doing too much.
*** Your cable moment Of zen: It wasn't the equivalent of "You lie!" but Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito apparently mouthing "That's not true" when President Obama scolded the Supreme Court decision for its recent campaign-finance decision will certainly get its share of attention on cable today. "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said. "Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities." A New York Times fact-check seems to side with Alito. "The president appeared to have mischaracterized the Supreme Court's decision to overturn restrictions on corporate-paid political commercials by suggesting that the decision invited political advertisements by foreign companies, too." White House folks push back and say it's possible their decision DID open the door for foreign involvement in campaigns.
*** McDonnell's SOTU-lite? Reacting to last year's very awkward GOP response by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republicans responded by having this year's responder -- Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell -- give a speech inside Virginia's House of Delegates to a crowd of applauding supporters. It a bit jarring to see someone who's been governor for just 11 days deliver a SOTU-lite speech with all the presidential trappings (teleprompter, family shout-outs, etc.) But the speech itself seemed as poll-tested as the president's speech.
*** The day after: Today, President Obama and Vice President Biden head to Tampa, FL to tout $8 billion from the stimulus for high-speed rail. The duo hold a town hall at 1:05 pm ET. Politico reports that embattled Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will greet Obama on the tarmac, but won't attend the town hall. (By the way, Jeb Bush took a subtle shot at Crist on "TODAY," saying, per NBC's Sarah Blackwill: "I wouldn't necessarily have embraced the stimulus plan that did not have support in the state and campaigned for it and put Republicans in a vulnerable position in Congress.") [*** UPDATE *** It's worth pointing out that Bush also said it was appropriate for Crist to meet with the president and that he, himself, would go to the event if he were governor: "I would go when the president comes to the state,'' he said. "I think it's more than appropriate. It's not a sign of support."] Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray hold a press conference at 12:15 pm ET responding to last night's State of the Union. And don't miss today's lineup on MSNBC: "Daily Rundown has Anita Dunn and Eric Cantor, and "Andrea Mitchell Reports" interviews Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (about Harold Ford) and Dianne Feinstein.
*** Bloomberg backtracks on KSM trial: Today's big non-SOTU story comes via the New York Times: "The Obama administration on Wednesday lost its most prominent backer of the plan to try the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the trial should not be held in New York City. The mayor's reversal was a political blow to the White House's efforts to resolve a landmark terror case a few blocks from where Al Qaeda hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Center, a trial that the president saw as an important demonstration of American justice." This is a BIG blow politically to the president and Attorney General Eric Holder. Does this mean the KSM trial will NEVER see the light of day in NYC?
*** Quinn vs. Hynes: Five days from now, the inaugural primary season kicks off in Illinois. And while most of the national attention has been focused on the Democratic contest for Senate -- and things have gotten very interesting with the consent decree on Alexi Giannoulias' family bank -- the Democratic gubernatorial primary could end up being the better race. Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, who succeeded Rod Blagojevich, is getting a tougher fight than he expected from state Comptroller Dan Hynes who, as CQ Politics writes, "made waves with an ad launched a couple of weeks before the Feb. 2 primary. The spot unearthed video of an interview given by the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington -- who died in 1987 -- in which he declared that he had fired Quinn as city revenue director because Quinn was "a totally and completely undisciplined individual." In another ad, Hynes blasts Quinn for an inmate release program designed to save the state money. Chicago affiliate WLS writes, "[C]ontroversy over an inmate early release program and the state's budget woes continue to pick away at Quinn's once-significant lead." Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's brother endorsed Hynes, and a recent Chicago Tribune poll shows Quinn with just a four-point lead, 44%-40%.
*** Debate in Charleston: Speaking of governors races… The four Republicans running to succeed Mark Sanford (R) as South Carolina governor -- U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov Andre Bauer, State Rep. Nikki Haley, and state Attorney General Henry McMaster -- participate in a debate in Charleston at 8:00 pm ET. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are moderating the debate, and one of your First Read co-authors is in Charleston to watch and report on it. South Carolina is home to both Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, two Republicans who have taken dramatically different tacts in dealing with the Democrats.
Countdown to IL primary: 5 days
Countdown to TX primary: 33 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 278 days