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First thoughts: 'Bam on the run

Don’t ignore Obama’s economic speech today. It’s a sign of things to come… Is the Pacific trip up in the air? … Another incumbent bites the dust in Alabama. … Is Artur Davis’ loss a surprise, or not surprising at all? … Immigration’s key role in GOP primaries, but does it fizzle in general elections? … Only the third-ever all-female governor’s race. … and when the truth isn’t good enough.

From NBC’s Chuck Todd, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** ’Bam On The Run: President Obama’s trying to make a big case on the economy today on his latest stop on his White House to Main St. tour in Pittsburgh, PA. (He speaks at Carnegie Mellon University at 1:30 pm ET.) But it isn’t going to get noticed in today’s oily news cycle. But don’t ignore the speech. It should be read carefully; because the themes in it will be themes he touches on again, as he tries to sell the recovery (read: fall 2010 and 2012.) By the way, many economists expect big numbers from Friday’s jobs report, but keep in mind it'll be heavy with Census hires.

*** On Oil: The White House is clearly trying to divorce BP now after a shaky marriage. NBC’s Pete Williams reported that a Justice Department investigation of the company began "some weeks ago" into whether criminal and civil laws were violated in the Gulf Oil spill. (By the way, BP’s stock fell 15 percent yesterday after it admitted “top kill” didn’t work. Now, it’s on to the “cut-and-cap” containment strategy.) It was also intriguing yesterday that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t immediately say Obama is staying with his Indonesia trip later this month. Critics will say if this trip was canceled once for something more political -- the health-care vote. So if it was postponable for the health care vote, how is it not postponable for this? As awkward as the international diplomacy may be re: canceling for a second time, remember, the president HAS to return to the region later this year for an economic conference.

*** Filling Space: We’ve noted some of the legitimate criticism of this president on the oil crisis, particularly on the P.R. front. But it seems some talkers and columnists have gone into overdrive. There's not much since the weekend that is new as it relates to Obama and the oil spill to warrant further criticism, but they don't know what else to talk about. They have that video without much new to say -- and there’s nothing like having to talk over video when there isn’t much to add. The analysis can't be the same, so the default to fill the space is often more “questions” about the president and the administration’s response. This is a dangerous period, politically, for the administration as it is kind of like an August around Washington with Congress out of session and all eyes only on one story, one region and one president.

*** Yesterday’...: … Another incumbent went down to defeat. Parker Griffith became the latest incumbent to lose, and by a wide margin, 51%-33%. He thought when he made his party switch from Democrat to Republican, it would help his chances at reelection in November and perhaps he would have been right but he'll never know. Instead, he went the way of Arlen Specter. His party switch and his conservative bona fides became the main issue in the primary. And Mo Brooks, a county commissioner, won handily, clearing the 50 percent threshold and avoiding a runoff even against two other candidates. Brooks now becomes the favorite this fall and will likely become the first Republican ever elected from this district to Congress. Party switchers always struggle. But THIS is clearly NOT the year to try it.

*** Maybe I'm Amazed’...: Or maybe not that Rep. Artur Davis lost. Davis was expected to cruise to victory in the Democratic primary for governor of Alabama -- and make history as the first African American in the state to win his party's nomination for the office. But black voters and leaders didn’t rally around Davis. Instead, he lost by a wide margin, 62%-38%, to state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white. Sparks was the one who was able to get the “support from the state's four major black political groups,” AP writes. Why? Davis snubbed black leaders, saying he and black voters needed “no permission” from black groups. Plus, Davis voted against health care -- maybe a good position in Alabama in a general election, but a tough one to get around in a Democratic primary when half the electorate is black and so is the president of the United States. Davis' defeat is a good lesson for any African American or Hispanic politician who thinks they automatically will get support based on skin color or ethnicity. By the way, the two candidates who may be most intrigued by Davis' defeat are Roy Barnes and Thurbert Baker, two Democrats running for governor in Georgia where some believe race could play a role in how the primary turns out.

*** Byrne, Baby, Byrne (and James or Bentley): Sparks will take on the winner of state community college chairman Bradley Byrne and either businessman Tim James or Robert Bentley. (The top two will face off in a July 13th runoff, but the margin between James and Bentley is too close to call yet). By the way, speaking of Ag Commish, Dale Peterson, who gave us that entertaining ad (with all the jump cuts and the rifle) failed to qualify for the runoff for that office. In yesterday’s races, just one of the candidates with the most provocative ads might make it through -- James -- who got wide attention for his English-only ad that helped boost him. That ad and Susana Martinez’s win in New Mexico are signs of just how big a role immigration is playing in GOP primaries this cycle. The question is, does immigration translate to a general election. Remember, immigration played an out-sized role in many GOP primaries in 2006 but fell flat in the general. The president is meeting this week with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed into law that state’s controversial immigration bill, who is on his Council of Governors.

*** 'She's a Woman': We mentioned Martinez in New Mexico. The county prosecutor won last night, giving national Republicans their preferred candidate. That means New Mexico will elect its first female ever to be governor this fall, since Martinez’s opponent will be Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D). This will be just the third all-female gubernatorial matchup in U.S. history. The others, NBC’s Sarah Blackwill points out, were Kay Orr vs. Helen Boosalis in the 1986 Nebraska governor’s race and then, in 2002, Linda Lingle against Mazie Hirono in Hawaii.

***Getting Better’? After a string of races in which the NRCC didn’t get its preferred candidate, allowing opponents to push the Tea Party/ideological divide storyline, the NRCC got a win in MS-1. Impressively, in a three-candidate field, state Rep. Alan Nunnelee avoided a runoff by getting more than 50 percent, and now gives the GOP a very good shot at flipping this seat in the fall. By the way, Gallup shows Republicans with a 49%-43% lead in the generic ballot, their largest lead ever in the poll. Republicans are rightfully enthusiastic. But with this Gallup poll be very careful. It has a tendency to swing like an EKG report right after you go running.

*** When the truth isn’t good enough: What strikes us about the flap over Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk’s award in the military is let’s say he’s only guilty of rounding off the edges. In this day and age, you’re not going to get away with rounding the edges. But what puzzles us, what makes no sense about this, is that his record -- on its own -- is admirable. And his opponent Alexi Giannoulias (D), as Kirk points out, never served. So what was he doing? The truth seemed good enough, but apparently wasn’t for Kirk.

*** The Rest of the Day: Before heading to Pittsburgh, President Obama meets with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq (remember Iraq?). When Obama returns to Washington, he and the first lady will host a concert in honor of singer Paul McCartney. McCartney is being awarded the Third Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress. Vice President Biden is in New York City touting the stimulus and what it's done for jobs and infrastructure in the state at 2:45 pm ET. Dr. Jill Biden receives an award from the group behind Sesame Street at 7:00 pm ET in New York City.

*** 'Jet'-setter: Tune into MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, as Mitchell reports live from Israel, as she covers the Gaza flotilla story.

*** More Midterms: In Illinois, Bloomberg reports there’s “another video featuring U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk of Illinois making false claims of being the U.S. Navy’s intelligence officer of the year.” … Charlie Crist laments fair-weather friends. … A liberal group is running ads targeting senators on climate-change legislation.

Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NJ, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 6 days:
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 153 days

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