Revisiting Obama's presidential announcement speech from exactly three years ago -- and where Obama has made progress and where he hasn't… GOP gains ground in new Washington Post/ABC poll… Yesterday's day of bipartisanship -- or its lack thereof… You can't say David Paterson is boring… Profiling Debra ("Funky Cold") Medina in Texas… And GOP Rep. Vern Ehlers to retire.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Three years ago: Exactly three years ago today, Barack Obama officially launched his presidential bid in a speech he gave in Springfield, IL. On that bone-chillingly cold day -- though there was no snow like we're seeing this Wednesday on the East Coast -- Obama unveiled the themes of his ultimately successful campaign: 1) change Washington, 2) reduce the level of partisanship, 3) bring U.S. soldiers home from Iraq, 4) improve America's image around the world, and 5) pass universal health care by the end of the president's first term. And it's easy to see what he has accomplished (or begun to), and what he hasn't. Here's where Obama appears to have made the most progress: "Let us also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will come only by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions around the globe." (Though these rebuilt alliances, particularly with Russia and China, will be put to the test in the coming days, as the U.S. pushes for tougher sanctions against Iran.) And: "America, it's time to start bringing our troops home [from Iraq]."
*** Where he's made progress -- and where he hasn't: And here's where he hasn't made progress: "I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change." Or: "Let's be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president's first term." And: "Most of all, let's be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we've got. Politics doesn't have to divide us on this anymore - we can work together to keep our country safe."
*** Obama's rhetorical consistency: However, when re-reading Obama's presidential announcement speech, perhaps the most striking thing is his consistency. Whether or not he has accomplished the goals he laid out three years ago, the rhetorical Obama of 2007 sounds a lot like the rhetorical Obama of 2010. In fact, what he said on that cold day in Springfield was pretty similar to what he said in his news conference yesterday. "It was here [in Springfield] we learned to disagree without being disagreeable - that it's possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we're willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst." Or: What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics." And: "But Washington has a long way to go. And it won't be easy."
*** GOP gains ground: Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC poll that comes out on this third anniversary of Obama's presidential announcement shows him holding steady with a 51% job approval. But the GOP is now tied with Democrats on the generic ballot (after Dems held a 12-point lead on this question four months ago), and Republicans have cut into the Democrats' advantage on the issues. "These findings illustrate why the political landscape looks increasingly favorable for Republicans to pick up House and Senate seats in November, with some handicappers predicting major gains of 25 to 30 seats and Republican House leaders expressing confidence that they can win the 40 seats they need to take back the majority."
*** Gridlock, an update: We told you that yesterday would be about bipartisanship -- or the lack thereof. On the very day that Republican and Democratic congressional leaders visited the White House to discuss jobs and the economy, and after Obama held a news conference where he said bipartisanship was a two-way street, the Senate blocked -- via a filibuster -- the president's nominee to sit on the National Labor Relations Board. The vote was 52-33, falling short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. In somewhat of a bipartisan fashion, two Democrats joined the GOP filibuster: Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson. What do those two Democrats have in common? They hail from conservative-leaning states; they were unreliable votes for organized labor on card check; and their poll numbers have tanked after the health-care debate. By the way, don't be surprised if Obama issues a recess appointment on Becker. As the president said yesterday, "If the Senate does not act to confirm these nominees, I will consider making several recess appointments during the recess."
*** Entertainment in Albany: Say what you want about New York Gov. David Paterson (D), but you certainly can't say he's boring. One, he held a news conference yesterday where he said this: "The only way I'm not going to be governor next year is at the ballot box, and the only way that I will be leaving the office before is in a box." Two, a Paterson aide wrote the New York Times' public editor, complaining that the paper has not issued a "public clarification" about a story regarding Paterson it may or may not be working on, which has created plenty of buzz in New York. And three, WPIX is now reporting that federal prosecutors are investigating Paterson allegedly "awarding of a lucrative contract to a politically connected group to run a gaming center at Aqueduct Raceway."
*** Funky cold Medina: In last year's gubernatorial contest in New Jersey, a little-known candidate -- Chris Daggett (I) -- came out of nowhere and began getting double-digit support in some polls, giving Jon Corzine (D) a possible path to victory over Chris Christie (R). In the end, however, Daggett got just 6% of the vote, and Christie ended up winning. But Daggett certainly helped shape the race. Is a similar situation happening in Texas' high-profile Perry-Hutchison primary? Also running in that GOP contest is a little-known woman named Debra Medina, who's now getting double digits in some robo-polls and really appears to be tapping into the Tea Party movement (By the way, who knew there was any room to run to the right of Perry and Hutchison? Then again, both Perry and Hutchison are OFFICEHOLDERS, and that could be the biggest strike against BOTH of them with some voters). "She's a Constitutionalist," Medina campaign manager Peggy Longford told one of us in an interview. "And she believes in protecting the rights of the people and she has a view of the correct role of government… And so on the one side you have these two big government politicians that are in bed with Wall Street, and on the other hand you've got a person that protects the rights of people."
*** Run-off, run-off, run-off: Of course, come next month, Medina might meet Daggett's same fate and get less support than what she's currently polling. But the practical effect of her current strength -- fueled in part by her appearance and performance at the debates -- is that it could force a run-off, since the primary winner must get 50%. Then again, that would probably just return this to a Perry-vs.-Hutchison race. But what would happen to Medina's supporters? Would they go to Perry? To Hutchison? Would they stay home? It's important to remember that Perry was re-elected in 2006 with just 39% of the vote, so there is room for someone -- either in the GOP primary or the general election -- to give Perry a real run for his money. Given some of Medina's more controversial statements about secession (which may have appeal in a primary but not a general) could either Perry or Hutchison afford to publicly court Medina?
*** More midterm news: In Florida, speaking of anniversaries, Marco Rubio has an event today with Dick Armey highlighting the one-year anniversary of Charlie Crist touting the stimulus with Obama in Ft. Myers, FL…. And in Michigan, it's being reported that GOP Rep. Vern Ehlers will announce his retirement this morning. Per Hotline, "This Grand Rapids-based seat, under the right circumstances, is a potential pickup opportunity for Dems. In the '08 Dem wave, and with the GOP virtually conceding MI, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) eked out a 49%-49% win over Pres. Obama."…
Countdown to TX primary: 22 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 267 days