Expect a chilly reception when Obama addresses House Republicans in Baltimore… Economy grew 5.7% in 4th quarter… It's looking like the White House will move the KSM trial from New York… Michael Steele continues to make news, even in Hawaii… First Read's Top 10 primaries of 2010… And Mark Sanford got more praise than Lindsey Graham did at last night's South Carolina GOP gubernatorial debate.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** A chilly reception? Pick your adage -- "If at first your don't succeed, try, try again," or "Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result." Around noon ET today, President Obama addresses the House GOP retreat in Baltimore, where he's expected to again call for Republicans to work with the White House like he did in Wednesday's State of the Union and yesterday in Florida. But Republicans aren't having any of it. In an interview with Politico, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor accused Obama of "lecturing" Republicans. "I felt like he was admonishing Congress and certainly lecturing Republicans," he said, "accusing us of being an obstructionist party, when what it is we're about is trying to focus on the issue, which is control the spending and let's go about creating an environment for jobs. ... [The] president says he's going to be open to discussion. We're all about going and participating with him." And here's what Minority Leader John Boehner said yesterday: "[T]here was nothing last night, in the president's speech that there was any willingness to sit down and work together."
*** Dog-and-pony show: It's worth pointing out that, substantively, today's Obama-House GOP meeting is a bit meaningless. Why? Minority parties in the House don't govern; it's the minority party in the Senate that has real power. It would be more useful for Obama to address Senate Republicans, but not their colleagues in the House. Today's meeting helps both sides look bipartisan -- potentially, we might add -- but little will come of this. Before he speaks to House Republicans, President Obama tours a local small business in Baltimore, and then makes remarks on the economy and a jobs tax credit at 11:25 am ET. By the way, note that yesterday's trip to Florida, the event in Baltimore today, and the New Hampshire stop early next week are all examples of the type of schedule the White House hopes to keep for the near term as the goal is to get the president outside of Washington as much as possible.
*** Today's biggest news? The economy grew 5.7% in the 4th quarter of 2009. The AP says it's the second-straight quarter of growth and fastest since 2003… Cue all the GOP press releases about a jobless recovery. But the economy is clearly growing. Are jobs, always a lagging indicator, about to move, too?
*** Did Mike Bloomberg actually help the White House? Per NBC's Pete Williams, two Justice Department officials say a New York Daily News report -- that the White House has ordered the department to consider places other than New York to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 detainees on trial -- is wrong. "The White House hasn't ordered us to do anything," one official says. But it is increasingly clear, Williams adds, that the Justice Department is under intense pressure to consider conducting these trials elsewhere. A senior Justice official said last night that "everyone is aware of the changing realities, and it would be unwise not to look at contingency plans." The official says that department officials have told the White House that they would begin doing so. On Thursday, an official told WNBC's Jon Dienst that during the Mayor Michael Bloomberg's phone conversation today with Attorney General Eric Holder, Bloomberg asked him to consider other locations. Bottom line: The administration is paving the way for holding these trials somewhere other than New York City. And it is beginning to look like a change will almost certainly be made, though not within the next few days. The idea of holding these trials in Manhattan is all but dead. In our NBC/WSJ poll from earlier this month, an overwhelming majority said they DIDN'T support allowing terrorist suspects to have the same legal rights as U.S. citizens have. Bloomberg may very well have bailed out the White House (and Democrats running in 2010), because Republicans have made it clear they want to make the terror trial debate a big campaign issue this year.
*** Steele making news in Hawaii: Being thousands of miles away hasn't stopped RNC Chairman Michael Steele from making news. At the RNC's winter meeting in Hawaii yesterday, Politico reports, Steele got testy with reporters asking him questions about his performance as chair. "Asked about the party's fundraising … the chairman demanded of a reporter: 'Check your facts.' 'But get it right, because you've been getting it wrong,' he said." More: "Asked by the reporter if the members want to have him, the chairman shot back: 'Yeah, did you get intel otherwise? You know something I don't know?' When the reporter noted that Republicans had grumbled privately about Steele, the chairman replied with a dose of sarcasm, 'Oh, they've said critical things privately to you?' He continued: 'Well, I'm sure they have and I look forward to that conversation publicly.'"
*** First Read's Top 10 primaries: Last Friday, we took a look at the Top 10 Senate takeovers. Today, with the first 2010 primary just four days away, we take a look at the Top 10 primaries of 2010:
1. FL SEN (R): It epitomizes the current ideological divide within the GOP, and Rubio is now in driver's seat
2. TX GOV (R): The Perry-vs.-Hutchison Lone Star showdown takes place 32 days from today; everything is BIGGER in Texas, right?
3. PA SEN (D): This is Crist vs. Rubio, but on the Democratic side…
4. AZ SEN (R): Could the GOP's '08 standard-bearer lose his primary? Right now, McCain has a comfortable lead in the polls, but this contest remains one to watch; what's more, McCain has made some dramatic changes in the last six months in how he votes and what he says in preparation for a serious conservative challenge
5. IL SEN (D) and GOV (D): Not only are these the first primaries of the year, these contests are shaping up to be good races, too; a sitting governor just might lose his primary, which doesn't happen often
6. SC GOV (R): Is there another GOP gubernatorial primary with more rising stars in their respective state than this one? And as we all know, South Carolina politics can be absolutely nasty…
7. NY SEN (D): Harold Ford Jr. isn't officially in yet, but this could be the best primary by the summer…
8. NY GOV (D): Andrew Cuomo isn't in either, and David Paterson isn't out. But both these things could change in a couple of months
9. KY SEN (R): Can Ron Paul's son, Rand, ride the Tea Party wave to beat the establishment favorite, Trey Grayson?
10. UT SEN (R): The best GOP ideological fight that no one is paying attention to.
*** Last night's S.C. debate: In Thursday night's GOP gubernatorial debate in South Carolina moderated by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the four candidates were asked who better represents their values -- Jim DeMint or Lindsey Graham. Two ducked the question (Rep. Gresham Barrett and state AG Henry McMaster) and two answered DeMint (Andre Bauer and Nikki Haley). In fact, Haley was the only one who said she would have voted to censure Graham for his support for cap-and-trade and immigration reform. "If they are not conservative, we don't need to support them," she said. Also, a good portion of the debate was devoted to outgoing Gov. Mark Sanford, who was in attendance. Asked whether Sanford was an effective governor, all of them said yes. Bottom line: Sanford was praised more at the debate than Graham, which when you think about is absolutely stunning…
Countdown to IL primary: 4 days
Countdown to TX primary: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 277 days