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First thoughts: Skip to my Lew

Breaking down the Lew appointment to head OMB… Cloture vote (and maybe also final passage) of financial reform will take place tomorrow… Pelosi takes a shot at Gibbs for stating that the House is in play… In Alabama’s GOP gubernatorial run-off, Bentley defeated the establishment favorite Byrne, and that gives Democrats the potential to put this race into play… Also in Alabama, Rick “Gather Your Armies” Barber lost his congressional run-off… Manchin’s temporary appointment to fill Byrd’s Senate seat to come on Friday… New polls in Florida and also in Pennsylvania, where Obama’s approval is upside down… And: “What’s the matter with Colorado?” part 2.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro and Ali Weinberg
*** Skip to my Lew: The news of Jack Lew replacing Peter Orzsag as OMB director gives the Obama administration a good elevator pitch regarding the deficit. The White House can say, as President Obama did yesterday, that they’re bringing in the last budget director who left the country in surplus. That’s the upside. The downside, however, are Lew’s ties to Citigroup; he wasn't just a banker, he was CFO of Citi’s hedgefund -- an entity that will be finding more scrutiny under the new Wall Street reform rules. But make no mistake: Obama turning to the deficit is perhaps his best way to win back independent voters. And regardless of what happens in November, the conversation about the deficit will dominate the first six months of next year. Lew largely buys them some good will with Senate Dem deficit hawks. How will the Republican deficit hawks respond?

*** Will final passage on financial reform come tomorrow? Speaking of those new Wall Street rules… Per NBC’s Ken Strickland, the Senate’s cloture vote on the final financial reform legislation will take place tomorrow, and Democrats appear to have the 60 votes to clear a GOP filibuster. If Republicans play nice, Strick advises, the vote on passage could happen immediately following the cloture vote. But if the GOP plays hardball, vote for passage could be as late as Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

*** Pelosi vs. Gibbs: Who knew that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stating the obvious -- that there are enough seats in play for the GOP to take back the House -- would turn into a four-day story? But that is what is has become with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling her members how furious she is with Gibbs. "How could [Gibbs] know what is going on in our districts?" Pelosi told her members Tuesday, per Politico. "Some may weigh his words more than others. We have made our disagreement known to the White House." Here is where Pelosi and her allies are coming from: Some folks -- though definitely not your authors here at First Read -- are just waking up to the news that the House is in play after Gibbs’ statement, and that is spooking Dem donors. On the other hand, Pelosi blasting Gibbs only extends this story another day.

*** Yesterday’s run-off results in Alabama: Yet another establishment candidate went down to defeat. In Alabama’s GOP gubernatorial run-off yesterday, Bradley Byrne -- who was endorsed by the state’s top Republicans, including outgoing Gov. Bob Riley (R) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) -- lost to state Rep. Robert Bentley, 56%-44%. Bentley will take on Ron Sparks (D) in the fall election, and Democrats now have a shot in this race. It’s a case where the primary created an opportunity for Democrats. Look, is Bentley still the favorite? Yes. But Byrne would have walked into office. Now SOME in the Alabama business community will at least listen to what Sparks has to say. Also in Alabama last night, establishment fav Martha Roby defeated Tea Party fav Rick “Gather Your Armies” Barber in the congressional run-off for the right to challenge Dem Rep. Bobby Bright in the fall. And in the Alabama Democratic run-off for Artur Davis’ House seat, Terri Sewell defeated Sheila Smoot, making her the odds-on favorite to become the state’s first African-American congresswoman.

*** Manchin appointment to come Friday: West Virginia Gov. Manchin (D) will call the legislature into special session on Thursday to consider legislation to set up a special election for Robert Byrd’s Senate seat, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reported yesterday. Manchin is expected to make his appointment to temporarily fill the seat by Friday afternoon. Politico’s Toeplitz adds that Manchin’s proposed legislation “includes a special primary in August or September and a November general election. Manchin said last week that because the state attorney general, secretary of state and other legal officials have differing interpretations on when and how to conduct a special election for the Senate seat, it was necessary to call the legislature together to revise and clarify the law.”

*** State poll wrap: There are some new polls out in Florida and Pennsylvania. In the race for Florida Senate, Reuters/Ipsos shows Charlie Crist (I) at 35%, Marco Rubio (R) at 28%, and Kendrick Meek (D) at 17%; in a three-way featuring Jeff Greene as the Dem nominee, it’s Crist at 34% and Rubio at 29%. In the race for Florida governor, Reuters/Ipsos also finds Rick Scott (R) at 34% and Alex Sink (D) at 31%, while Sink is at 31% and Bill McCollum (R) is at 30% in a hypothetical Sink-McCollum match-up. And in Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac poll of state voters has Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R) deadlocked in the Senate race at 43% each.

*** Obama’s approval is upside down in Pennsylvania: Yet the biggest news in that Quinnipiac poll is President Obama’s standing. His approval rating in Pennsylvania is upside down, at 46% approve/49% disapprove. Folks, this isn’t in a true battleground like Ohio, Virginia, or even Colorado. It’s in a state Democrats pretty much need to hold on to in presidential elections, and a state Republicans have NOT carried in a presidential contest since the landslides '80s. We know some like to call Pennsylvania a battleground, but it's really not. It's a CLOSE state but not a swing state.

*** What’s the matter with Colorado? Part 2: Likely GOP Colorado gubernatorial nominee Scott McInnis is in damage control. The Denver Post writes, “A new example of possible plagiarism by Scott McInnis surfaced Tuesday as the Republican gubernatorial candidate faced calls to repay $300,000 he received for plagiarized essays on water that he submitted as ‘original works.’ A Denver Post review of McInnis' floor speeches and columns published during his congressional career found striking similarities between a 1995 speech and 1994 column by McInnis and a previously published Op-Ed in The Washington Post.” More: “McInnis has declined interview requests from The Denver Post since the paper first reported that the ‘Musings on Water’ articles he submitted to the Hasan Family Foundation as ‘original works’ included passages that were similar to or copied directly from a 1984 essay by now-Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.” These allegations for McInnis are potentially crippling to his campaign. He was trying to define himself as an outsider and desperately trying to lose his Washington ties. Now he's getting defined in a negative light, just as voters in the state are beginning to tune in. Meanwhile, McInnis' likely Dem foe, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, has a day job he can always be focused on. http://bit.ly/anIlsC

Countdown to GA primary: 6 days
Countdown to OK primary: 13 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 20 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 27 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 111 days

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