Democrats searching for at least one GOP vote to bring the financial bill to the Senate floor… Why Bob Corker might be the easiest vote to get… Obama heads to LA to hit three fundraisers for Barbara Boxer… Obama vs. John Roberts… Profiling potential SCOTUS pick Elena Kagan… Men with guns protest outside of DC… "Daily Rundown" to interview Sen. George LeMieux (R)… Bill Clinton talks midterms and Lincoln vs. Halter… And Romney stumps for Rubio in Tampa, FL.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Seeking one more vote: As NBC's Ken Strickland reported on Friday, Senate Democrats are hoping to bring the financial regulatory reform legislation to the floor later this week. But to do so, they need at least one Republican vote to stop a GOP filibuster. Also on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to the White House saying that all 41 Republican senators are opposed to the legislation (but as we noted, saying they're opposed to the bill and saying they'd support a GOP filibuster are two different things). So Democrats and the White House are searching for a Republican or two -- Corker? Collins? Snowe? Gregg? Brown? Voinovich? Even Bunning? -- to get 60 votes to bring the legislation to the floor. Today, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner meets with Collins to discuss the bill, and last week he met with Brown. The question that everyone is wondering is whether the fraud charges against Goldman Sachs make it harder for the GOP to sustain a filibuster -- for simply beginning debate on the bill...
*** What about Bob? The easiest GOP vote for Democrats and the White House to get might be Corker. Why? It turns out he helped negotiate the $50 billion fund that McConnell and the GOP is arguing establishes a perpetual bailout for Wall Street. Check this out: "The issue of how to shut down large financial firms without a taxpayer bailout and without damaging the nation's economy was precisely the issue Corker had spent the most time negotiating with Dodd," the Nashville Tennessean's Theobald reports in his column. "In the wake of McConnell's withering attacks on the bill, a distressed Corker took to the Senate floor Wednesday to defend his efforts while trying not to offend GOP leaders. He said criticisms of the bill's bailout-avoidance provisions were technically accurate but overblown. And he said problems with those provisions could be dealt with in 'about five minutes.'" And more from Corker, per Gannett: "That's all industry money. To classify that as a bailout fund, in fairness, is not intellectually pure."
*** California Dreamin': Not since the 2003 recall of Gray Davis, and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, has the state of California really mattered in electoral politics. But that could very well change this year. First, there's the toss-up gubernatorial contest between Democrat Jerry Brown and likely GOP nominee Meg Whitman. (A group affiliated with the RGA, in fact, already has a TV ad hitting Brown.) And second, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) potentially has a race on her hands against either Carly Fiorina (R) or Tom Campbell (R). That's precisely why President Obama is heading to California tonight to raise money for Boxer. (Note that, for the DSCC, it's more cost effective for Obama to raise money for Boxer than for the Dem committee to spend money on expensive TV ads in the state.) Obama is speaking at THREE fundraisers for Boxer in Los Angeles -- one at 9:00 pm ET, one at 9:40 pm ET, and one at 11:45 pm ET.
*** Obama vs. Roberts: On Sunday, the New York Times' Peter Baker wrote a fascinating piece arguing that Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts have emerged "as the intellectual gladiators in a great struggle over the role of government in American society. In this moment of churning uncertainty and ideological ferment, it is a struggle that is already defining the selection of the next Supreme Court justice and could easily help shape the course of the nation for years to come." More from the article: "Much more so than last year, when he made his first nomination to the court, Mr. Obama has Chief Justice Roberts on his mind as he mulls his second, according to Democrats close to the White House. For an activist president, the chief justice has emerged clearly in recent months as a potentially formidable obstacle, and Mr. Obama has signaled that he plans to use the political arena and his appointment power to counter the direction of the Roberts court." As Baker suggests, this issue is so big with the president that it could influence whom the president picks. Obama, according to sources, would like to find someone that could go toe-to-toe with Roberts, perhaps a politician (Napolitano or Granholm?) or perhaps someone who is cut from same cloth as Roberts (Garland?)
*** Meet Elena Kagan: With President Obama's SCOTUS pick coming soon -- presumably after the president's White House meeting on the subject with congressional leaders this Wednesday -- First Read will begin a daily look at the SCOTUS possibilities. Today, we begin with U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who's considered by many to be the front-runner and who's also drawing the most opposition from the left. Pros of a Kagan pick: She's viewed as having an easy road to confirmation (seven Republican senators voted for her confirmation as solicitor general: Coburn, Collins, Gregg, Hatch, Kyl, Lugar, Snowe)… She won praise from both liberals and conservatives during her tenure as dean of Harvard Law… She knows the president pretty well (while at the University of Chicago, she tried to recruit Obama, then a part-time lecturer in constitutional law, to a full-time job in academia)… A woman, she would be the court's third female, which would be a record… And at 49, she's one of the younger Supreme Court possibilities for Obama.
*** The pros and cons: Cons of a Kagan pick: Some liberals think that if she's nominated, Kagan would move the Supreme Court to the right (compared with Stevens)… They argue that she -- a la Harriet Miers -- has a tiny paper trail, and so they believe it's inconclusive if she's as liberal as other possible Obama picks… Liberal critics also cite Kagan's past statements that suggest she believes in strong executive-branch powers… Meanwhile, conservatives point to this: While at Harvard, she filed a friend of the court brief opposing the Solomon Amendment, which required universities that receive federal funding to be cooperative with military recruiters. Kagan contended that the military's ban on gays broke the law school's anti-discrimination policy against gays. Once the 3rd Circuit ruled that the amendment was unconstitutional, Kagan instructed Harvard Law's Office of Career Services to stop helping military recruiters. But she reversed course when the Supreme Court overturned the 3rd Circuit's decision. Still, she urged students to protest the recruiters.
*** Men With Guns: For the second time in less than a week, protestors will descend on the DC area -- this time bearing arms and supporting the 2nd Amendment. But the Washington Post notes that the "Restore the Constitution" rally at a national park outside of DC is more about Obama's health, tax, and social policies than about guns. (After all, Obama expanded gun rights more than any other Democratic president when he signed legislation into law that, among other things, allows people to carry weapons in national parks like the one where the rally will take place.) There's another pro-gun rally on the National Mall, the Second Amendment March, but folks there won't be carrying guns (because of DC law). Critics have seized on the fact that these protests are coming on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, but organizers say they are commemorating the Lexington and Concord anniversary of April 19, 1775. Speaking of Oklahoma City, former President Bill Clinton has a New York Times op-ed on the bombing, as well as the anti-government rhetoric then and now.
*** Charlie's Angel: Despite all of those stories above, the best political story in America is probably still this one: What is Charlie Crist going to do? Does he stay in his GOP primary against Marco Rubio? Does he make an independent bid? Or does he drop out of the race altogether? Today, MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" interviews Sen. George LeMieux (R), who was appointed to his position by Crist and who was Crist's top adviser/confidante before the appointment. Interestingly, if Crist quits the Senate race and focuses on challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in 2012, that could potentially set up a GOP primary between Crist and LeMieux.
*** Bill Clinton on 2010: In his interview NBC's Luke Russert, Bill Clinton talked about the Democrats' prospects in the upcoming midterms, as well as the Lincoln-vs.-Halter primary in his home state of Arkansas. On the midterms: "This is a different America than we had in 1994. The only way that we can lose the House is if young voters like you don't show up… This election will be determined not so much by the polls, who's up and who's down, but by who actually cares enough to go vote." On the primary in Arkansas: "A lot of the labor unions have picked out Arkansas, and are spending a fortune near to run ads against Sen. Lincoln because she [opposed] the card-check proposal… I endorsed her months ago. I like Bill Halter. I've known since he was a very young man. He worked in two different capacities in my administration, and I support him for lieutenant governor strongly. But I think that a lot of this criticism against Sen. Lincoln is overheated… They're having a fight… But I told her months ago I'd support her before I knew she'd have a primary opponent, and I still believe that's the right decision."
*** Super Senate Tuesday: Sticking with the Lincoln-vs.-Halter primary in Arkansas, the Washington Post's Cillizza writes that the challenge has re-energized Lincoln. "Before Halter's candidacy, which had been discussed for months in Democratic political circles in the state, Lincoln's reelection campaign seemed moribund... Three days after Halter made it official, however, Lincoln launched television ads touting her Senate seniority (she is the first Arkansan to chair the Agriculture Committee) and casting herself as an independent... Suddenly, Lincoln was relevant again. And, polling suggests that despite Halter's eye-popping fundraising and a slew of national labor groups spending money to bash her, Lincoln is holding steady in advance of the May 18 primary."
*** More midterm news: In Florida, Mitt Romney stumps for Marco Rubio in Tampa; Romney officially endorsed Rubio on Saturday… Also in Florida, Bill McCollum (R) has a slight lead over Alex Sink (D) in the gubernatorial race, according to a new Quinnipiac poll… In Massachusetts, Republicans settled on Charles Baker as their gubernatorial nominee… And in Pennsylvania, Democrat Mark Critz -- who is running to succeed his late boss Rep. Jack Murtha in the May 18 special election -- is running a TV ad saying that he opposes the health-care law (which is striking because Murtha voted for it). Politico suggests this is a sign "that the legislation is a tough sell even in working-class blue-collar Democratic confines."
Countdown to IN, NC, and OH primaries: 15 days
Countdown to NE and WV primaries: 22 days
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries: 29 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 197 days