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First thoughts: Pelosi on the midterms

In an interview with NBC, Pelosi’s confident that Dems will hold the House… She also urges Obama to make the distinction between criticizing Washington and criticizing Republicans… And she defends continuing to blame Bush… First Read’s Top 10 Senate takeovers… What should Democrats do about the Florida Senate race?... Jerry Brown compares Whitman to Goebbels, violating First Read’s Law about Nazi references in politics… And the mysterious case of Alvin Greene.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Pelosi on the Midterms: In an interview with one of us yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi maintained that Democrats would hold on to the House after the midterm elections. “Take it to the bank,” she said, adding: “I’m very pleased with how the primaries have been going in terms of the votes that my members have received. Looking at the other side and who the challengers are, I feel pretty good about it.” Pelosi continued to make a distinction between how House Democrats are dealing with this election cycle versus the rest of the Democratic Party.

*** Don’t lump us with Bush and the Republicans: Asked about the House Democratic complaint of President Obama railing against Washington -- but not against Republicans in particular -- Pelosi said she prefers that Obama distinguish between the two, given that House Democrats have done almost everything the president has asked. “No one is more eloquent and dynamic in terms of making the case for why we need to take the country in a new direction.” But she said that when Obama talks about Washington’s problems, many of them hark back to the Bush days. “Because it’s their lack of supervision, of regulation, of discipline … that caused recklessness on Wall Street, [that caused] joblessness on Main Street, people losing their jobs, their health care, their homes, their pensions, perhaps their children's higher education… Those were the policies of the Bush administration. We're not going back to that. But we don't wanna be lumped in with it.”

*** Defending the Bush blame game: Asked how much longer Democrats should continue to blame Bush, Pelosi replied: “Well, it burns out when the problems go away. And here's what the president inherited. He inherited a deficit, when this president inherited from the Clinton administration four budgets that were either in surplus or in balance. And he turned it into a massive deficit. He … brought us to the brink of a financial crisis. He brought us to the brink of deep recession, ignoring issues that relate to climate change.” (It's clear that while some Democrats aren't sure whether "blame Bush" is still a viable campaign tactic, the speaker believes it is. And she was pretty emphatic about this.)

*** On the oil spill and on Carly Fiorina: Turning to the oil spill in the Gulf, Pelosi also she wanted to get rid of the liability cap on oil companies -- to be able to punish BP to the fullest extent. “They are liable for the damage that they caused. To the ecology, to the economy, to individuals, to the taxpayer. And the taxpayer will not pay the bill for BP.” But she seemed to acknowledge that it won't be the easiest sell to the House. And asked about Carly Fiorina’s critical comments about Barbara Boxer’s hair, Pelosi responded: “Well, let me say this: I wasn’t surprised… I wasn’t surprised that she would say that.”

*** Top 10 Senate takeovers: After the May 18 and June 8 primaries, after the dust settled in the story about Richard Blumenthal's military service, and after Dino Rossi's entry in Washington state, it's time for another First Read Top 10 Senate takeover list. Below we rank what we consider the 10 most likely Senate seats that will flip to the other party; Republicans need to net 10 seats to take control of the chamber, and their opportunities are the first seven races on our list. The number in parentheses is our ranking from last month.

1. North Dakota (1): Still our No. 1…
2. Delaware (2): Still our No. 2, but Democrats continue to believe Coons (D) will give Castle (R) a race.
3. Arkansas (3): Blanche Lincoln (D) shocked the political world -- and maybe even herself -- by winning Tuesday’s run-off. But the bigger shock would be pulling off the same feat in the general against John Boozman (R). Don't be surprised, though, if she gets a bounce. But if she can't pull even by end of this month, can she ever?
4. Indiana (5): Surprisingly, the Dan Coats (R) vs. Brad Ellsworth (D) contest has been quiet. In the short term, that has benefited Coats.
5. Nevada (4): Harry Reid (D) keeps moving down our takeover list. If the race becomes a referendum on Reid, he loses. If it’s a referendum on Sharron Angle (R), he probably wins. It's that simple. Here's what we do know: This race is more of a toss-up today than it was last month.
6. Illinois (6): As our friends at Hotline have observed, when's the last time we've heard about Alexi Giannoulias' bank? The flap over Mark Kirk's (R) military record has helped Democrats here. But who lands the next punch? This does have the feel of a race to the bottom.
7. Pennsylvania (7): With the job-offer story over (we think), Joe Sestak (D) vs. Pat Toomey (R) is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races of the cycle.
8. Ohio (8): Here's the first Democratic pick-up opportunity on our list. Lee Fisher (D) is ahead of Rob Portman (R) by a fingernail, according to Quinnipiac. But Portman has the cash advantage, and he's now up on the air. This is a very important month for Portman; he has a HUGE money edge and he needs to create some space to overcome the Democrats' ground advantage in the state.
9. Kentucky (10): Rand Paul (R) is no longer talking on TV, and that has stopped the bleeding. But this race is now more competitive than it was immediately after Paul's May 18 primary.
10. Washington (unranked): Dino Rossi (R) is now challenging Sen. Patty Murray (D), and that instantly made this race competitive. Rossi's challenges: 1) navigating a GOP primary that has been tricky for other establishment picks, and 2) winning statewide in a blue state where he came up short in 2004 and 2008.

*** What do Democrats do about Florida? Connecticut has moved off our Top 10 list; other states that didn’t make it but that we’re still watching: California, Missouri, and New Hampshire. Then there’s Florida. We didn’t include the Sunshine State in our Top 10 list because a Charlie Crist (I) win isn’t technically a Democratic or Republican takeover. But the recent polls we’ve seen -- including Quinnipiac -- show Crist leading Marco Rubio (R) and Kendrick Meek (D) in a three-way race. And with Meek stuck in the teens, how much more time do national Democrats give him before some start placing their bets with Crist? In a briefing with reporters yesterday, DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez said his committee was firmly behind Meek. "We are committed to Kendrick Meek. We believe that he can win the general election… I'm focused on having Democrats support Kendrick Meek." He attributed Meek's standing in the polls to his low name ID. By the way, Crist is about to get his THIRD photo-op with Barack Obama in the last three weeks when the president heads to Pensacola on Monday.

*** Achtung Baby: What’s going on in California? First, Carly Fiorina (R) is caught on an open mic criticizing Barbara Boxer’s (D) hair. And now Jerry Brown (D) is comparing Meg Whitman (R) to Nazis. In a conversation Brown had with KCBS reporter Doug Sovern, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee worried about the millions Whitman would pour into the race. Per Sovern: “‘You know, by the time she's done with me, two months from now, I'll be a child-molesting...’ He let the line trail off. ‘She'll have people believing whatever she wants about me.’ Then he went off on a riff I didn't expect. ‘It's like Goebbels,’ referring to Hitler's notorious Minister of Propaganda. ‘Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That's her ambition, the first woman president. That's what this is all about.’”

*** First Read’s Law: Not surprisingly, the Whitman campaign fired back at Brown. “Just last week, Gov. Brown promised he wasn’t going to engage in mudslinging, but now he is comparing Meg Whitman to Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,” Whitman’s campaign manager said in a statement last night. “Jerry Brown’s statements comparing our campaign to a propagator of the Holocaust is [sic] deeply offensive and entirely unacceptable.” You’ve heard of Godwin’s Law -- in an online argument, the person who brings up the Nazis or a Nazi comparison automatically effectively ends (and loses) the arguments. Well, here’s First Read’s Law -- bringing up the Nazis in American politics never does anyone any good. And guess what: The first one to bring it up always sees it boomerang.

*** The Mysterious case of Alvin Greene: Finally this Friday, we turn to the mysterious case of Alvin Greene, the unemployed vet who won South Carolina’s Democratic Senate primary -- despite having no campaign structure, no campaign Web site, and no previous political experience. And on top of it all, he’s been charged with a felony. Well, Greene has now been interviewed by the Washington Post and by Keith Olbermann. The biggest question: How – and why – did Greene pay the $10,000 fee to get on the ballot? The Washington Post: “Greene says he put up his own money in March for the $10,400 campaign filing fee, an assertion that many in South Carolina doubt.” If there was ever a case of "follow the money" to figure out what happened, it's here.

Countdown to UT primary and NC and SC run-offs: 11 days
Countdown to AL run-off: 32 days
Countdown to GA primary: 39 days
Countdown to OK primary: 46 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 53 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 60 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 144 days

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