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First thoughts: Using the bully pulpit

The nuclear summit as an example of Obama using the bully pulpit… Dems go up on airwaves to push for financial reform… Naming the names under consideration for Obama's SCOTUS pick… Scott Brown, Tea Party hero?... Andy Stern to step down?... Reid presses for immigration reform (ostensibly to help his own re-election bid)… Today's special election down in Florida… And McCain -- again -- ridicules Hayworth.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Using the bully pulpit: President Obama's nuclear summit, which concludes today, has definitely been an example of the president using his bully pulpit to push his agenda. This summit isn't somehow being driven by some recent incident, nor is it clearly driven by polls. Rather, it's an issue that Sen. Obama, Candidate Obama, and now President Obama is concerned about, so he's driving this train. And note that no Republicans -- example Lamar Alexander on "FOX" last night -- are criticizing the summit itself. But how can you? The concern over terrorism of any kind is real, and the thought of nuclear terrorism is downright horrifying. It was interesting to see the Obama administration bring a focus to this summit (which did seem to be lacking). Obama's chief counter-terrorism aide, John Brennan, put the issue in a very matter of fact way, talking about the history of al Qaeda's ambition for a nuclear weapon and noting how international organized crime syndicates (think Russian mobsters) are trying to find highly-enriched uranium simply so they can make BIG bucks (yes, it did seem like a plotline ripped from "24").

*** Iran, today's agenda: Also yesterday, the White House touted the news that the Chinese will support some qualified form of U.N. sanctions against Iran. But the question has to be asked: Will any Chinese-supported sanctions have real teeth, or is this about showing international unity at the UN in order to move a "coalition of the willing" (think E.U. and others) to unite on their own more serious sanctions? Today's agenda at the summit: Obama participates in a group photo with the other world leaders (at 9:20 am ET), delivers opening remarks at the day's first plenary session (9:30 am ), attends a working lunch (noon), meets with Turkey's prime minister (1:30 pm ), attends the day's second plenary session (2:00 pm), meets with Argentina's president (4:00 pm), holds a news conference with reporters (at 4:30 pm), and meets with German Chancellor Merkel (at 6:00 pm). 

*** Hitting Wall Street: Goodbye, health care. Hello, financial reform. Key Democratic groups are going up on the airwaves to provide a push for the Senate to pass financial reform. Yesterday, the DNC announced it was airing a TV ad (on DC and national cable) with this message: "Wall Street's risk and greed cost us trillions. It could all happen again if we don't pass President Obama's plan to reform Wall Street." Now, the Dem-leaning group Americans United for Change says it's launching a TV ad (on cable, a five-figure buy) that pressures Republicans not to side with Wall Street. "Fortunately for the American taxpayer, pigs can't vote in Congress," the ad states. "But there are those elephants in the room. Tell them it's time to hold Wall Street Banks accountable."

*** Naming names: Per NBC's Pete Williams and Savannah Guthrie, administration officials say at least eight names are on President Obama's list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Six are women and two men. The names: U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Merrick Garland of the DC Court of Appeals, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former George Supreme Court Chief Judge Leah Ward Sears, Sidney Thomas of the 9th Circuit, and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow. Of these names, people outside the government but familiar with White House thinking say the serious contenders are Kagan, Wood, Garland, Napolitano, and Granholm. Guthrie adds that Obama is likely to meet next week with key senators to discuss the vacancy. Many of the new additions are about interest group appeasement. And note the growing concern in the liberal/progressive blogosphere about Kagan.

*** Flying solo: Also today, Michelle Obama makes her first solo international trip as first lady -- to Mexico.

*** Tea Party hero? Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) yesterday joined 56 Democrats and three Republicans (Collins, Snowe, and Voinovich) to beat back a GOP filibuster against the unemployment benefits package the Senate is considering. A final vote is expected later this week, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports. In addition, Brown and a couple other notable Massachusetts Republicans -- gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker and congressional candidate Jeffrey Perry -- say they won't be attending tomorrow's Tea Party rally in Boston with Sarah Palin. These events really do demonstrate the limits of the Tea Party/conservative movement in the Northeast, even in the best of times for Republicans. We've said before that if Brown really had his eyes on winning re-election in 2012, he'd be voting with Snow and Collins. Well, guess what…

*** Andy Stern to step down? Politico's Ben Smith broke the news, citing SEIU officials, that union president Andy Stern is planning to resign. The New York Times adds, "'It will be very soon,' said one board member, who insisted on anonymity. Another board member said that Mr. Stern, who is 59, was thinking it was time to resign because Congress enacted one of his longtime goals, a health bill." Stern retiring just as others in the SEIU world are pushing to create a third party in North Carolina to punish Democrats. Coincidence?  and

*** Reid's wedge: Trailing in the polls for his re-election, and apparently with his eye on winning over Latino voters in his state, Senate Majority Harry Reid says he's pushing ahead on immigration reform. As Roll Call writes, "Reid caught many colleagues and activists off guard with his forceful stance on the need for reform this year during a speech at an immigration rally last weekend in his home state, where Hispanic voters will play a crucial role in his sagging re-election campaign… Senate Democratic aides close to the issue said Reid is planning to try to get a bill to the floor as early as June. In the meantime, Reid will be pressing Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — who have been fleshing out bipartisan aspects of the issue over the past year — to translate their blueprint for reform into a bill."

*** Deutch vs. Lynch in FL: In the first House race of 2010 -- and also the first contest since health care became law -- Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch takes on GOP challenger Ed Lynch in the special election down in Florida to replace ex-Rep. Robert Wexler (D). Per the AP, Lynch is hoping "to make the election a referendum on President Barack Obama's massive health care bill in a district where seniors make up about 40 percent of the electorate. Lynch says they're dissatisfied with the bill, but Deutch says it brings immediate relief." In 2008, Obama got 66% of the vote in this congressional district, which includes Palm Beach and Broward counties. This is a case that anything under, say, 55%, for Deutsch should be a concern to Democrats because it would point to BOTH an enthusiasm problem and a senior problem. There's also a run-off in Texas today to decide which Republican gets to take on Texas. Rep. Chet Edwards (D) in the fall.

*** Super Senate Tuesday: In the Arkansas GOP Senate primary, John Boozman is up with his first TV ad… And in Kentucky's Democratic Senate primary, Jack Conway has a new ad claiming primary opponent Dan Mongiardo spent taxpayer money on "fancy hotels, state dinners and crème brulee."

*** More midterm news: In Arizona, the McCain campaign has yet another Web video slamming/ridiculing J.D. Hayworth… In Iowa, vulnerable Gov. Chet Culver (D) has seen his fourth campaign manager leave, the AP says…

Countdown to IN, NC, and OH primaries: 21 days
Countdown to NE and WV primaries: 28 days
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries: 35 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 203 days

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