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First thoughts: Pep in Dems' steps?

Dems have relieved pep in their step after last week, especially Friday's Q&A heard 'round the world... But Republicans have reason to feel good, too… Obama administration unveils $3.8 trillion budget for FY2011… Breaking down the budget's winners and losers… President Obama holds interview via YouTube… Primaries in Illinois take place tomorrow… And DCCC hits Tim Griffin (R) in Web video.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Pep in the Dems' steps? Last Monday, we wrote that the Obama White House and congressional Democrats were having a very rough start to 2010. They lost the special election in Massachusetts, jeopardizing health care; the December jobs report was worse than expected; and Ben Bernanke's confirmation was in trouble. But it's fair to say that the White House now has stabilized things a bit after what took place last week, including the State of the Union, the positive GDP news, Bernanke's eventual confirmation, and the Q&A heard 'round the world. That Q&A, in particular, mesmerized many on Friday -- and throughout the weekend -- giving despondent Democrats a chance to feel better about the president, his prospects in 2012, and maybe even their chances in 2010 (although much more is going to have to happen on that front for them to minimize losses in November). But while Obama won that round in the Q&A, perception-wise, House Republicans had reason to feel good, too. The exchange made them look like they matter, even more so than their Senate GOP colleagues. And as GOP strategist John Feehery told Dan Balz, it perhaps gave Americans a sense of what Washington might look like if the GOP takes back control of Congress.

*** Budget day: Today, the Obama administration rolls out its $3.8 trillion FY2011 budget. The details: It projects a $1.6 trillion deficit for this year, it estimates a $1.3 trillion deficit for 2011, and it collects $678 billion over 10 years by phasing out the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Per USA Today, winners in Obama's budget include more money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, education, clean energy, airline security, and veterans programs. The losers: 38 Education Department programs are consolidated into 11, two National Park Service grant programs are eliminated include the consolidation of education programs, and NASA's moon mission is scrapped. It's important to remember that this budget isn't set in stone; it's only the administration's recommendation to Congress. Still, it's not good news for the White House that every news story here leads with the projected deficits (no wonder they rolled out the spending freeze idea last week). And the NASA cut might not play too well in Florida. President Obama speaks on the budget at 10:45 am ET, as does OMB Director Peter Orszag at 11:30 am.

*** Obama's YouTube interview: Also today, at 1:45 pm ET, President Obama participates in an interview via YouTube. Per the White House, Obama will "answer video and text questions submitted by YouTube users during and after the State of the Union. Users voted the best questions to the top on CitizenTube, YouTube's political platform, and Steve Grove, YouTube's news and political director, will ask a selection of the top-voted questions to the President in a live-streamed interview on YouTube and Whitehouse.gov."

*** Tomorrow's Illinois primary: The first primaries of 2010 -- in Illinois -- take place tomorrow. Here are the latest headlines: The Chicago Tribune reports that the Democratic race for governor "escalated along racial lines Saturday as Gov. Pat Quinn and Comptroller Dan Hynes traded charges of incompetence fueled by the scandal at Burr Oak Cemetery and a TV ad featuring the late Mayor Harold Washington… On Saturday, sharp rhetoric roiled the campaign as Quinn was joined by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush to criticize Hynes, the state's three-term comptroller. Quinn alleged that Hynes knew for years about disinterred human remains at Burr Oak, a predominantly African-American cemetery." And in the Senate Democratic contest, the candidates have all been trying to portray themselves as the most electable Dem in November.

*** Like father, like son? It's important to remember, though, that the Senate and gubernatorial primaries aren't the only races to watch in Illinois tomorrow. In IL-14, Ethan Hastert -- Denny Hastert's son -- is running for his father's old congressional seat, for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Bill Foster (D)… In IL-10, which is the seat Kirk is giving up, there are crowded Democratic and GOP primaries to replace him… And in IL-8, half a dozen Republicans are running for the right to take on Melissa Bean (D) in the fall. By the way, the New York Times profiles the GOP primary in IL-14, where Ethan Hastert is running against Randy Hultgren. 

*** More midterm news: In Arkansas, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released a Web video hitting GOP congressional candidate (and former RNC oppo-researcher and Rove protégé) Tim Griffin… In Indiana, GOP Congressman Steve Buyer said he's not running for re-election… And in Pennsylvania, CQ has moved the Senate contest from Lean Democrat to Toss-up.

Countdown to IL primary: 1 day
Countdown to TX primary: 29 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 274 days

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