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First thoughts: Let's try this again

If at first you don't succeed on Wall Street reform, try, try again… Goldman's Blankfein testifies on the Hill… Obama heads to IA and the Midwest… Grover Norquist's group goes after Alan Simpson (and Simpson will respond on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports")… First Read profiles SCOTUS possibility Martha Minow (who taught Obama at Harvard Law)… Tim Burns plays the Murtha card in PA-12… And a new Salt Lake Tribune poll has Sen. Bob Bennett in third among UT GOP convention-goers.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Let's try this again: In the early evening yesterday, Republicans united to stop Democrats from getting 60 votes to move the financial reform legislation to the Senate floor. In the 57-41 vote, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson joined the Republicans (as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a procedural move so he can call for another vote later). Democrats immediately pounced, accusing Republicans of trying to protect Wall Street. Republicans responded with their attack that the Dem legislation institutionalizes Wall Street bailouts. Reid plans to call for more votes today, tomorrow and beyond, and the betting is that the legislation will eventually reach the floor and get passed after Dems make some tweaks to the bill. The Washington Post: "GOP negotiators said their goal remains a final bill that includes enough changes that it can win broad support from both parties. But Democrats are looking to limit their concessions and say they will probably win a few conversions among Republicans who have expressed support for the overwhelming majority of the bill in its current form."

*** Goldman on the Hill: As the Senate attempts to get the financial reform bill to the floor, Goldman Sachs is back in the news. Beginning at 10:00 am ET, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. According to open remarks, Blankfein will say this about the SEC's fraud case against Goldman: "While we strongly disagree with the SEC's complaint, I also recognize how such a complicated transaction may look to many people. To them, it is confirmation of how out of control they believe Wall Street has become, no matter how sophisticated the parties or what disclosures were made. We have to do a better job of striking the balance between what an informed client believes is important to his or her investing goals and what the public believes is overly complex and risky." Fabrice ("fab Fab") Tourre also will testify.

*** Obama's Midwest swing: As we noted throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, geography was an important secret to Obama's success. In both the nominating contests and general election, he won the states -- or came really close -- that border Illinois: IN, IA MO, and WI. (The sole exception was KY, which also shares a border with Illinois.) Indeed, his electoral math was pretty much this: Win the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest (as well as CO, NV, NC, and VA). Today and tomorrow, President Obama returns to the Midwest region to talk jobs and the economy. He makes two stops in Southeast Iowa today (delivering remarks in Ft. Madison at 2:10 pm ET and holding a town hall in Ottumwa at 5:35 pm ET.) According to a Des Moines Register poll in February, Obama's approval rating in Iowa dipped to 49%-44%. On Wednesday, the president hits Macon, MO and Quincy, IL. 

*** Obama, Culver, Carnahan, and Alexi: The New York Times' Zeleny writes that this trip to Iowa, the state that brought Obama's presidential candidacy to life, appears designed to bolster his standing. "The president's name may not be on the ballot in November, but his record is on the line. For the past 50 years, nearly without exception, the party has lost seats whenever its president's average approval rating in September and October before the election dropped below 50 percent." But Obama isn't the only Democratic politician whose political standing might need a boost while the president is on this Midwest swing -- so too does Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (whose re-election chances look incredibly shaky), Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (who will appear with Obama on Wednesday and is locked in a tight contest vs. Roy Blunt), and Illinois Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (who will join Obama in Quincy, IL on Wednesday). 

*** Grover Norquist vs. Alan Simpson: Before Obama departs on his Midwest swing, he will greet members of his deficit-reduction commission, chaired by former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles (D) and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R). And the president will deliver brief remarks about the commission's work at 9:45 am ET. But already, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform is trying to delegitimize Simpson's GOP and tax-cutting credentials by noting that the former senator, among other things, voted for the tax hike that broke George H.W. Bush's "read my lips" tax pledge, supported the Social Security tax hike during Reagan's presidency, and voted against the Tax Reform Act of 1986. (Of course, what does this say about Americans for Tax Reform when H.W. Bush and Reagan also backed some of these tax increases?) Tune into MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," which airs beginning at 1:00 pm, for Simpson's response to Norquist; Andrea Mitchell pre-taped an interview with both Simpson and Bowles. "Andrea Mitchell Reports" also interviews Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to talk about the new Arizona immigration law. 

*** No SCOTUS pick this week: Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that President Obama WOULD NOT be making his Supreme Court pick this week. Our best guess is to expect the pick to come next week or the week after…

*** Meet Martha Minow: In our latest look at potential SCOTUS replacements, we profile Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. She's served in that post since 2009, when she replaced Elena Kagan, who's another SCOTUS possibility. Minow, who has been on the Harvard faculty since 1981, is close to Obama and taught him while he was in law school there. In 2009, Obama nominated her to the board of the Legal Services Corporation. The Boston Globe reported: "Minow helped inspire Obama to enter public service instead of seeking his fortune on Wall Street. 'When I was at Harvard Law School I had a teacher who changed my life -- Martha Minow,' he said during the 2008 presidential campaign." Minow's father, Newt, was one of Obama's mentors at the Chicago law firm where Obama worked." Minow clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, earned her law degree from Yale, did her undergrad work at Michigan, and got her master's in education at Harvard. (She's also a lecturer at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.) 
 
*** Minow's pros and cons: Pros: Minow is an accomplished academic. The White House could sell her as someone who knows how law affects the daily lives of the American people because of her work on human rights (she founded Co-existence, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Program), as well as her background in family law and her work on challenges students with disabilities face. Among her cons: Minow has never been a judge, so there are no judicial opinions to comb through that would signal what kind of justice she would be. What is out there reveals a pretty liberal track record, which could make for a fight from Republicans. She was one of four law school deans to pen a letter to Congress, advocating for a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

*** Super Senate Tuesday: In Kentucky, Rand Paul is airing a new TV ad touting the endorsement he received from retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R)… Also in Kentucky, Dan Mongiardo and Jack Conway are running new TV ads… And in the special election to replace the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D), Tim Burns (R) has a new TV ad hitting Mark Critz's ties to Murtha.

*** More midterm news: In Massachusetts, the RGA is hitting independent Tim Cahill in TV and radio ads "to clear a path" for GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker, the Boston Globe writes… In New York, Republicans are preparing "to file a lawsuit this week that would force New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson to call a special election for the seat vacated by former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.)," Politico says… And in Utah, a new Salt Lake Tribune poll shows incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett (R) in third place among GOP convention delegates.

Countdown to IN, NC, and OH primaries: 7 days
Countdown to NE and WV primaries: 14 days
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries, and PA-12 special: 21 days
Countdown to HI special election: 25 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 189 days

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