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First thoughts: Under pressure

Obama administration under growing pressure to do more in the Gulf… The GOP's financial and organizational disadvantage, and how it might cost the party House seats in November… Republicans win in Hawaii… Blumenthal says he's sorry (but in a statement and nearly a week after his press conference)… The anti-establishment folks performed well in Colorado's conventions… Cuomo officially enters New York's gubernatorial contest (and portrays himself as an outsider)… And McCain -- again -- criticizes the administration on immigration.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Under pressure: As everyone can attest, receiving blame for something that's not your fault -- or that you can't fix -- isn't fair. But life, being president, and the state of American politics aren't fair. And the Obama administration is now coming under increased criticism for the oil spill in the Gulf and its response to the crisis. One of President Obama's more underappreciated talents is his public demeanor; he's never too hot or too cold, too high or too low. But as the underwater spill continues and as the oil has reached the shore, there's growing pressure for Obama to do something more -- even if it's just on the P.R. front. That's why we wouldn't be surprised if the president once again visits the Gulf region. He's got to demonstrate that he's doing something or that he's as publicly frustrated as everyone else is. The real issue many seem to have with the administration is their reliance on BP, which in many ways is unavoidable. But what's been hard to stomach is the fact that BP has either intentionally misled the public on the scope of the disaster or, just as bad, can't get its arms around it and is overwhelmed. At noon ET, Obama participates in a conference call with Gulf Coast governors on the BP spill.

*** Money and organization matter: As we mentioned last week -- as well as in the New York Times op-ed we wrote on Sunday -- the Democrats' PA-12 win proved that good candidates and good campaigns can win even in the worst of political environments. The victory also cast doubt on the GOP's ability to gain the net 40 or so seats it needs to win control of the House in November. One thing to keep in mind is that in the best possible political environment for the Democrats in 2006 (after Hurricane Katrina, after casualties had increased in Iraq, after numerous GOP ethics and corruption scandals, and with Bush's approval below 40%), Democrats gained 30 seats. And two reasons why it wasn't more than that were the NRCC's money and organization. Indeed, a GOP source who helped oversee the 2006 House races tells First Read that the GOP committee helped save at least 15 House Republican incumbents, including Marilyn Musgrave, Chris Shays, Jim Gerlach, Thelma Drake, Jon Porter, and Dave Reichert. (Some of those members, of course, didn't survive in '08.)

*** 2006 vs. now: Indeed, when you think about it, Democrats could very well have won 40-45 seats in 2006. And now the situation has reversed itself: Republicans are the ones who have the advantage with the political environment, but Democrats have the edge in money (the DCCC has $27 million in the bank, versus the NRCC's $11 million) and organization (evidenced by the DCCC's streak until Saturday in winning special elections). The Republicans' money disadvantage, in particular, will force the GOP to make some tough decisions in the fall. "Do they spend what it takes to win -- so 20 seats or so? Or spread the money thin in 40-50 [seats] and hope for the best?" that GOP source emails asks.

*** The demoralization factor: One other point not to be missed about 2006 and now (as well as 1994 and now) is the demoralization factor, and it's not there for Democrats. Sure, the enthusiasm gap is there, but there isn't a doom-and-gloom in the base that was there with Democrats in '94 and Republicans in '06.

*** GOP wins in Hawaii: On Saturday, however, the GOP finally ended its losing streak in highly competitive House special elections when Charles Djou (R) won the contest to fill the seat vacated by Neil Abercrombie, who is running for governor. But the 39% Djou won -- compared with Colleen Hanabusa's (D) 31% and Ed Case's 28% (D) -- isn't reason to believe that Republicans will keep the seat in November. Why? Because the combined Dem percentage was nearly 59% to Djou's nearly 40%. The bitter feud that divided the Democratic vote in this district that Obama won with 70% in 2008 is embarrassing for the Democratic Party, but it should be able to easily win back the seat in November, when it will have just one candidate after the party's Sept. 18 primary. For bragging rights about winning in Obama's birthplace, the GOP needed Djou to be in the mid 40s. Hanabusa, who was in third in the polls, appears to be in a stronger position for that primary after her surprising second-place finish.

*** Blumenthal says he's sorry: In Connecticut, embattled Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal (D) has now apologized for exaggerating his military service. The apology comes via a written statement, and it comes days after his press conference where he expressed regret but not apology. "At times when I have sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps Reserves. I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words. I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone. I will always champion the cause of Connecticut's and our nation's veterans." It wasn't nearly as defiant of a tone as his press conference was last Tuesday. It turns out to have been mixed weekend for Blumenthal. DNC Chairman Tim Kaine said he was "wrong" to misstate his past military service; a new Democratic poll (conducted May 19-20) shows Blumenthal leading Linda McMahon, 55%-40%; and Blumenthal ended up winning Connecticut's Dem convention on Friday.

*** More anti-establishment wins: In the other conventions over the weekend, in Colorado, the anti-establishment beat the establishment -- businessman Dan Maes topped front-runner Scott McInnis for the top billing in August's GOP gubernatorial primary; Ken Buck beat Jane Norton in the GOP Senate race; and Andrew Romanoff got 60% to Sen. Michael Bennet's 40% in the Democratic Senate race. These convention contests determine the placement on the Aug. 10 primary ballot, and victory at the convention doesn't predict eventual primary success. As the AP writes, "In 2004, Colorado Springs Schools Superintendent Mike Miles got top billing over Salazar in the Senate Democratic primary. But Salazar went on to win the primary and the general election." 

*** Cuomo makes it official: And now even the establishment types are trying to portray themselves as the outsiders. Officially announcing his bid for New York governor on Saturday, Andrew Cuomo aimed directly at Albany. "Appearing in front of the former Manhattan courthouse named for Boss Tweed, the corrupt political boss of Tammany Hall, Mr. Cuomo told a crowd of supporters: 'Unfortunately, Albany's antics today could make Boss Tweed blush. Our message today is simple. Enough is enough,'" the New York Times wrote on Sunday. "In a year in which incumbents everywhere are under attack, Mr. Cuomo is trying to run against Albany, which could be difficult to sell, given his history. He is the son of former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, for whom he served as political director, and he has deep connections in state and national politics."

*** More Midterm News: In Arizona, while delivering petition signatures for a position on the August ballot, Sen. John McCain "defended Arizona's tough crackdown on illegal immigration and lashed out at President Barack Obama for criticizing it," the AP writes… In California, Steve Poizner hits Meg Whitman on immigration (and even compares her to Mexico's president)… And in Florida, a new St. Pete Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll has Charlie Crist at 30% among registered voters, Marco Rubio at 27%, and Kendrick Meek at 15%.
Countdown to ID primary: 1 day
Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NJ, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 15 days:
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 162 days

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