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First thoughts: Giving voice to the disappointment

Questioners at CNBC forum give voice to why Obama’s ’08 supporters aren’t fired up… Hours later, however, the president exhorts Democrats to roll up their sleeves again… By the way, the female questioner who said she was “exhausted” later said she’s still 100% in support of Obama… Today’s Senate showdown on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”… Dem committees outraise their GOP counterparts in August… CREW’s complaint against O’Donnell… Murkowski campaign misspells her name (!!!)… And profiling OR-5.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Giving voice to the disappointment: What was captivating about yesterday’s CNBC town hall with President Obama is that it gave voice -- from real people -- to the reason why his party faces the possibility of big losses on Election Day, which is now exactly six weeks away. That reason: His supporters aren’t fired up right now. “Quite frankly, I'm exhausted,” said one questioner. “Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.” Here was another questioner: “Like a lot of people in my generation, I was really inspired by you and by your campaign and message that you brought, and that inspiration is dying away. It feels like the American dream is not attainable to a lot of us.”

*** “Change is always hard”: Obama’s response to these questions is what he usually says: The economy is moving in the right direction; his administration has passed changes that will help the middle class; and that the American Dream is still obtainable. The questioners, more than likely, are folks Obama can still win back in 2012. But that kind of dissatisfaction isn’t going to help Democrats THIS November. That’s why, hours later at a fundraiser for Joe Sestak in Philadelphia, Obama was exhorting Democrats to get fired up about the upcoming election. “Because we’ve gone through a difficult time over the last two years, there are a lot of people who are suddenly saying, ‘Well, you know what, maybe our hopes were too high. Maybe it’s not worth getting involved. Change didn't happen as quickly as I expected.’… Well, I am here to say that change is always hard. Things that are worthwhile are always hard… And because we live in a big, messy democracy with a diverse population of people from every walk of life, and because we have freedom of speech and freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, sometimes democracy can look just tough.”

*** “We are going to continue moving this country forward”: Obama added, “If each and every one of you are knocking on doors and making phone calls and talking to your friends and talking to your neighbors, I guarantee you, Joe Sestak will be senator. And he will join with Bob Casey, and he will join with me, and together, we are going to continue moving this country forward.”

*** Still in support: By the way, the woman who made the statement about being “exhausted,” Velma Hart, later said she was “100%” in support of the president. However, per the New York Post: "She complained that [Obama] didn't say whether these tough times are a 'new reality' or just temporary. 'He didn't answer that,' she said. 'That was the heart of my question. Like most Americans, fear is starting to take hold, anxiety is taking hold. You can have all the hope in the world, but it has to be backed by action. It's been a long time since I had to make decisions about grocery purchases." The White House might be a little disappointed by all the attention these questioners are getting, but realize that this was the first time in some time where real people directly questioned the president in a setting that wasn't a rally or even a White House-controlled event. These folks gave voice to what we're seeing in polls. What will be interesting is how this affects the president's own psyche. It's one thing to read or hear about it; it's another to come face-to-face without the filter of the media or staff.

*** Senate showdown: It's still unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the 60 votes needed to start debate on the defense authorization bill that includes the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” NBC’s Ken Strickland reports. The vote on "the motion to proceed" is at 2:15 pm ET. On policy, Republicans say Congress should not repeal the ban until the military has completed it's review of repealing DADT. Strick adds that’s an objection that one of the swing votes -- Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) -- expressed yesterday. Snowe and her state colleague, Susan Collins, are viewed as critical for Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to proceed. (That’s why Lady Gaga held a rally yesterday in Maine.) The other GOP objection is one of politics. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have complained that Reid plans to attach an immigration measure to the defense bill -- the Dream Act -- that would give young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they graduate from high school or serve in the U.S. military.

*** McCain’s opposition -- and support: One of the chief GOP critics of the Democratic maneuvers on the defense bill is Sen. John McCain. While his opposition is rooted in process it's worth reminding everyone that he's been open to both measures on the substance. “The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to,” he said on “Hardball” in 2006. (And Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen has called for the change.) Also in ’06 and ’07, McCain supported creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Here’s what McCain said on the Senate floor last week: "I want to make one thing very clear: I do not oppose or support the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' at this time, but I do oppose taking legislative action prior to the completion of a real and thorough review of the law."

*** Dem committees still raking in the bucks: Despite having the political winds at their backs, it’s a significant story that Republicans weren’t able to outraise Democrats last month. The DNC raised nearly $11 million to the RNC’s nearly $8 million; the DCCC raised $8.3 million to the NRCC’s $6.6 million; the DSCC raised $7.4 million to the NRSC’s $6 million. As the Washington Post’s Cillizza notes, “While money isn't always determinative in elections … it is often a sign of momentum. Given the doom and gloom predictions for Democrats over the past month, the expectation was that Republicans would easily win the cash dash.”

*** Complaint against O’Donnell: A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), yesterday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that cited a former aide to Christine O'Donnell who claimed that O'Donnell spent campaign donations on rent, gas, and meals, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports. Christine O'Donnell responded that the complaint was politically motivated. "They're scared that the person that Harry Reid called his 'pet' is not gonna get the seat," she said. "The momentum surrounding this campaign is obvious that's why they're creating baseless accusations." But as O'Donnell's old campaign manager alleged in a recent robo-call: "I found out that she was living on campaign donations -- using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt."

*** Talk about a bad metaphor: Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign misspelled her name, per Politico’s Ben Smith. This underscores that while Joe Miller might not have much of an organization, neither does she. By the way, can we be sure Murkowski will caucus with the GOP if she wins? Here’s what she told the AP: "You've got a situation where people are, they're counting numbers. And if it's a Republican body, that's the body we want," she said in an interview from Anchorage. "Here in Alaska, what I hear so often is, 'I vote for the individual. I look at the person, I don't really get myself tied into the party label.'"

*** 75 House races to watch: OR-5: The Democratic nominee is first-term incumbent Kurt Schrader, and the GOP nominee is state Rep. Scott Bruun. In 2008, Obama won 54% of the vote in the district, while Bush got 50% in ’04. As of June 30, Schrader had more than $900,000 in the bank, versus nearly $200,000 for Bruun. Schrader voted for the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. Cook rates it Lean Democrat, and Rothenberg has it Democrat Favored.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 42 days

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