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First thoughts: Lots of moving parts

Several moving parts in the battle over financial reform (Obama to speak in NY on Thursday, DNC up with new TV ad, Goldman Sachs earns $3.3 billion in 1st quarter and hires Greg Craig, and Mitch McConnell's tone shifts)… New Gallup poll shows that saying "Wall Street" makes quite a bit of difference in the results… The Crist soap opera continues… Rahm expects a real SCOTUS battle… First Read profiles Diane Wood… And Joe Sestak is up with his first TV ad.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Lots of moving parts: With the financial reform legislation expected to hit the Senate floor later this week, there are several moving parts out there. President Obama is set to deliver a speech on the subject on Thursday in New York… The DNC is up with a new TV ad hitting Wall Street (to run on national cable over the next two weeks)… Goldman Sachs' 1Q earnings doubled to $3.3 billion, and it hired former WH counsel Greg Craig to help it battle the legal and political challenges it's now facing… Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's tone was less confrontational yesterday. ("In his remarks on Monday, the Washington Post says, McConnell conceded that 'both parties agree on this point: No bailouts.' He urged his Democratic colleagues to 'come together and direct our energies toward making sure we achieve that goal, and leave aside all the name-calling and second-guessing.'") And, perhaps most importantly, the Post mentions that GOP Sens. Bob Corker and Olympia Snowe said their concerns about the legislation could be resolved in a matter of days.

*** Wall Street, we have a problem: By the way, these new Gallup findings are interesting: 46% say they favor Congress passing a new law that would give the federal government new powers to regulate "large banks" and "major financial institutions," while 43% say they oppose the move. But when the wording in the question is changed to say "Wall Street banks," 50% say they favor the regulations, versus 36% who say they oppose them. And now you know why the president and the White House have shifted their rhetoric to ALWAYS include the phrase "Wall Street" before reform or financial regulation.

*** The Crist soap opera: The Charlie Crist story in Florida has sure turned into a soap opera. Yesterday, Crist left the door wide open to run as an independent. "I'm getting all kinds of advice. I take my cues from people in Florida. That's what I care about," Crist told the St. Pete Times. "I want to be very thoughtful in this. This is a decision that has to be made by (April) 30th, and I want to do what's right for the people of our state." Crist also told the AP that he intends to be "very, very thoughtful and deliberate" between now and the 30th. Still, that doesn't quite make the case to Florida voters -- or Republicans who've voted for him in the past -- why he should make an indie bid, other than personally benefiting his own political fortunes. After all, remember that his campaign released a statement on April 8 saying, unequivocally, that he wouldn't run as an independent. "He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation."

*** How does he use the next two weeks? If Crist is going to run as an independent, he needs to start making the case beyond just political expediency. He has a window for the next two weeks where everyone in Florida will hang on to his every word. How he uses these next two weeks will tell us whether he has the chops to pull this off come the fall -- and perhaps beyond. His first challenge should he go indie: How does he answer the "which party will he caucus with?" question. Is it the Republicans or neither party? Meanwhile, Eric Cantor becomes the latest Republican to endorse Marco Rubio.

*** Rahm expects a real SCOTUS battle: Outside of Rahm Emanuel saying that he's definitely interested in becoming mayor of Chicago, the biggest news he made on "Charlie Rose" last night was his somewhat surprising prediction that there will be a battle over Obama's SCOTUS pick -- no matter who the nominee. "I think that there'll be a huge, huge battle… I think the President will obviously appoint a person that he thinks is appropriate and right for the Supreme Court, as he laid out the kind of criteria in the Justice Stevens model. I think if people took a fresh look at that, I don't think it has to be that type of battle. But we may be at a system and a time in which we have that type of battle." Of course, we haven't had a real SCOTUS battle since Clarence Thomas in 1991, and the current vacancy is swapping one liberal (John Paul Stevens) for probably another liberal (whomever Obama picks). Then again, if the financial reform legislation has turned into a full-out battle, then maybe Rahm is right…

*** Meet Diane Wood: In the next of our brief profiles of Obama's potential SCOTUS picks, we take a look today at Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit. Wood's pros: She wins praise from colleagues and lawyers for her smarts, her preparation, and her "incisive" opinions… A Wood pick would please the left, given that she has served as a liberal counterweight to conservative intellectuals on the 7th Circuit like Richard A. Posner and Frank Easterbrook (the three are friends, however, and they often have lunch together, and Posner even officiated Wood's wedding in '06, according to Bloomberg News)… In fact, she has won praise for finding consensus on the court, even with her conservative colleagues… If selected, she would bring educational diversity to the court, becoming the only current SCOTUS justice without an Ivy League degree (she earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, and you know First Read certainly won't hold that Longhorn education against her)… And Obama knows her -- the two taught law together at the University of Chicago, and they were reportedly friendly but not close.

*** Pros and cons: Wood's cons: Conservatives have more ammunition to use against her than they would against Elena Kagan or Merrick Garland, although none of her positions are outside the Democratic mainstream… She has a clear pro-choice record and has praised the late Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade (and for whom she clerked), for articulating privacy and individual rights… Wood delivered a lecture in 2005 stating her view that the Constitution is a living document that's adaptable to a changing world… On the 7th Circuit, she argued that atheists should be able to challenge mostly-Christian prayers that open the Indiana Legislature… And she ruled that a gay Wisconsin teacher should be able to sue for alleged discrimination… But this could be Wood's biggest shortcoming: At 59, she's one of the older Supreme Court possibilities for Obama (and she will turn 60 on July 4). By the way, John Paul Stevens turns 90 today…

*** Super Senate Tuesday: In Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak is expected to release his first TV ad today, PA2010 reports (hat tip: Politico). "Sestak's campaign will hit the airwaves Tuesday during the morning news cycle, according to someone familiar with the ad buy. This person described the initial airtime purchase as large, and said the statewide push would begin with a 60-second spot that starts the ad blitz with a positive tone."… Also in Pennsylvania, in that May 18 special election for the late Jack Murtha's House seat, the Washington Post's Cillizza reports that a poll taken for a conservative group shows Mark Critz (D) at 40% and Tim Burns at 39%. This is a special election that Dems should win, especially since it's taking place on the same day at the Dem SEN and GOV primaries.

*** More midterm news: In Iowa, another one bit the dust in Gov. Chet Culver's re-election campaign -- as chief of staff John Frew became the latest in "a series of top aides" to announce his resignation…  In New York, "Attorney General Andrew Cuomo maintains a nearly 40-point lead over former Republican Representative Rick Lazio and an even larger lead over Democrat-turned-Republican Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy," a Siena Research Institute poll finds… And in Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune says that only person who might be able to save Sen. Bob Bennett is Mitt Romney.

Countdown to IN, NC, and OH primaries: 14 days
Countdown to NE and WV primaries: 21 days
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries, and PA-12 special: 28 days
Countdown to HI special election: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 196 days

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