Obama finishes his two-day western swing in Nevada, where he'll announce money for housing assistance… Bush and Cheney make a comeback at CPAC… Pawlenty, Pence, Bachmann, and Ron Paul give the big speeches at CPAC's second day… First Read's Top 10 Senate takeovers… And the NYT one again body-slams David Paterson -- this time on the eve of his campaign kick off.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** You're so money … and you don't even know it: On a Friday that will largely be dominated by Tiger Woods and his statement to the media, President Obama finishes his two-day western swing (a.k.a. the "Save The Senate" swing). Today in Nevada, Obama -- with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in tow -- holds a town hall in Henderson at 1:00 pm ET. Then, at 2:55 pm ET, he delivers remarks to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (where we'll probably hear something related to the Vegas furor at Obama's past remarks urging folks not to blow their kids' college money in Las Vegas). Like Colorado, which Obama visited yesterday, Nevada is a swing state that usually leans Republican that Democrats turned blue in 2008. And, like Colorado, it's a state where Democrats look to be in trouble this November, whether it's Reid's re-election or the gubernatorial race featuring Reid's son, Rory.
*** Focusing on housing: Today in Henderson, Obama is announcing funding to help families in the states -- like Nevada -- that have been hit the hardest in the aftermath of the housing bubble. Today's announcement is a reminder that one of the under-performing parts of the economic rescue plan that Obama rolled out last year is his housing plan, and it brings attention to one of the parts of the economic crisis that hasn't hit bottom yet. And the White House knows all of this. Part of the under-performance has to do with problems in the credit markets and banks making it harder to refinance, even as the government tried to create incentives for lending. So this program being unveiled today is an attempt to use some TARP money and directly intervene in the hardest-hit places for housing and unemployment.
*** Out with the new and in with the old? As Republicans and conservatives begin envisioning taking back control of Congress -- and maybe even the White House in 2012 -- there's a reason why they've embraced Marco Rubio, Scott Brown, and the Tea Party movement: They have nothing to do with the GOP's past. After all, they didn't inherit a surplus and turn it into a trillion-dollar deficit; they didn't make the case that Iraq had WMD; and they didn't get blamed for their response to Hurricane Katrina. But a funny thing happened at the first day of CPAC yesterday. First, Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance, declaring that Obama will be a one-term president. And then Mitt Romney devoted part of his speech to defend George W. Bush's legacy. "I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly," he said.
*** Miss me yet? There is no doubt that being associated with Bush or Cheney is no longer as politically toxic as it used to be. Former Bush official Rob Portman's doing well in his race for Ohio Senate; former Rove protégé Tim Griffin is running for Congress and is currently favored; and both Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie were able to blunt Dems using Bush to attack them. But that doesn't mean Bush and Cheney are suddenly much more popular than they were a year ago. In our NBC/WSJ poll last month, Bush had a 30%-51% fav/unfav rating, which is virtually unchanged from his last days in office. And in last June's NBC/WSJ poll, Cheney's fav/unfav was 26%-48%. But with the GOP base, which has no interest in hearing apologies, praising Bush and Cheney works.
*** Where was the response? Remember the campaign mantra to never let an attack go without a response? Well, yesterday we heard tons of attacks on President Obama at CPAC -- Cheney calling him a one-termer, Romney describing him a failure, Romney blasting Obama-care (when it's virtually identical to Romney-care in Massachusetts) -- and there was no response from the DNC or any other Democratic group. In fact, the liberal organization that perhaps pushed back the hardest yesterday was Media Matters. In this era of the perpetual political campaign, are the Obama White House and DNC going to give Republicans -- including potential 2012 opponents -- a free pass? *** UPDATE *** DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse emails First Read that it did release this statement on Romney (which we missed or didn't receive). "Mitt Romney's address to CPAC today – and the overwhelming greeting that attendees gave to Dick Cheney - makes one thing perfectly clear: The Republican Party still pines for the very leadership that bankrupted this country financially, with their reckless economic policies, and ethically, with their allegiance to special interests over the American people. And that's what real failure looks like."
*** CPAC, Day 2: Today's speakers at CPAC include Tim Pawlenty (10:00 am ET), Mike Pence (11:00 am), Michele Bachmann (12:20 pm), John Ashcroft (1:15 pm), Tom Price (3:30 pm), and Ron Paul (4:30 pm). A source familiar with Pawlenty's speech tells First Read that the Minnesota governor "will discuss his common-sense agenda for America, specifically offering four principles. He will speak about conservatives' comeback in the past year, and give credit to the audience's shared principles, including limited government, rule of law, individual responsibility and free markets. Recognizing that he's still largely unknown, he'll share his personal story growing up in South St. Paul and record of balancing budgets as governor of Minnesota. He'll also offer his common-sense ideas for how to address our nation's current challenges both foreign and domestic."
*** CPAC as a GOP convention: By the way, CPAC's growth as an influential stop in Republican Party politics is truly striking when one looks back over the last 10 years. In the late '90s and even early '00s, it took a lot to get Republican Party leaders to show up. But over the last few years, CPAC has gotten more and more popular again. This year has the feel, as NBC's David Gregory pointed out this morning, of a nominating convention, which makes the Democrats' decision to completely ignore the attacks coming out of the "convention" even more surprising.
*** First Read's Top 10 Senate takeovers: If it's Friday, it means another First Read Top 10. Today, we look at the Top 10 Senate takeovers. Quite a bit has changed since our prior Senate list last month -- including the news that Evan Bayh won't seek re-election. The biggest takeaway: The first eight (!!!) on this list are GOP pick-up possibilities. The number in parentheses is our last ranking.
1. North Dakota (1) -- More likely than not, this state will be No. 1 on our list from now until November
2. Indiana (unranked) -- Once Democrats get their candidate (Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill?) this will move down the list
3. Delaware (2) -- Mike Castle (R) is the clear front-runner, but can Chris Coons (D) make this competitive?
4. Nevada (3) -- Harry Reid, whom Obama campaigns for today, remains the most vulnerable Dem incumbent. Can Harry pull a Houdini and survive?
5. Arkansas (5) -- We're all watching that March filing deadline. Does Blanche Lincoln run?
6. Colorado (4) -- Not only is this a challenging environment for Michael Bennet, he also has a primary on his hands.
7. Pennsylvania (8) -- Pat Toomey (R) continues to perform better than any of us thought was possible a year ago
8. Illinois (10) -- It's Alexi vs. Kirk. And despite that Dem poll, Kirk might have the very slight edge
9. Missouri (6) -- Finally, a Dem pick-up opportunity. A year ago, many considered this the No. 1 pick-up opportunity
10. (tie) New Hampshire (7) and Ohio (9) -- The other two Dem pick-up possibilities. In NH, Hodes has become a better candidate than a lot of pundits thought earlier.
*** NYT vs. Paterson: The New York Times continues to body-slam New York Gov. David Paterson (D) as he continues his quixotic bid to seek election, which he officially kicks off tomorrow. The paper's lead: "When a plane crashed outside Buffalo about 10:20 on a Thursday evening last year, killing 50 people, aides to Gov. David A. Paterson of New York could not find him for more than three hours, and it was nearly five hours before his office released any statement about what was the deadliest air disaster in the nation since 2001… Last summer, as some advisers warned him that he needed to travel around the state to shore up his poll numbers, Mr. Paterson spent long stretches in the Hamptons, relaxing with friends and mingling with wealthy donors and celebrities."
*** Today's filing deadline: Indiana.
Countdown to NC filing deadline: 7 days
Countdown to TX primary: 11 days
Countdown to AR filing deadline: 17 days
Countdown to OR, PA filing deadlines: 18 days
Countdown to CA, NV filing deadlines: 21 days
Countdown to IA, UT filing deadlines: 28 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 256 days