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First thoughts: Scare tactics


*** Scare tactics: It’s far from the previous administration’s warnings of a “mushroom cloud,” or the inaccurate statement that Saddam Hussein “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” But yesterday, the Obama administration began to use a little fear to sell its tax-cut agreement. “Failure to pass this bill in the next couple weeks would materially increase the risk that the economy would stall out and we would have a double-dip” recession predicted outgoing chief White House economic adviser Larry Summers. And on an OFA conference call yesterday, President Obama said that not passing the agreement would mean that “two million folks would have seen their unemployment insurance run out” and that it would be “damaging to the economy." And the president went even further, suggesting that a million jobs could be lost if no agreement was reached by the end of the year -- something administration officials have said economists have been warning them of privately.

*** A more vigorous sales job: Related or not, this has been the Obama White House’s most vigorous and dynamic sales job we’ve seen in months. For instance, the White House -- from Tuesday to Wednesday night -- blasted out 26 e-mails in 27 hours touting endorsements for the tax compromise, mostly from officials who do not have votes in Congress. As mentioned above, it’s stressing what COULD happen if the deal doesn’t go through (which sounds to us like Hank Paulson’s selling of TARP in ’08). And economic adviser Austan Goolsbee is now featured on a “white board” video arguing that the president’s priorities in the tax agreement (jobless benefits, payroll-tax holiday, and other targeted tax cuts) are a larger part than extending the Bush tax cuts. Of course, this sales job has to be really frustrating to left, which legitimately can ask: “Where was this during the fight over the public option or getting energy/climate change through the Senate”? By the way, Goolsbee appears on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” and the show also will interview Sen. Patty Murray in her first TV interview since becoming DSCC chair.

*** Forget about a serious Obama primary challenge: Memo to pundits and political reporters: President Obama is highly unlikely to receive a legitimate primary challenge. Oh, someone out there might challenge him (to get a book deal or a TV show), but right now there’s no evidence that the person will be a serious threat. As Politico’s Martin and Smith write, “Some angry liberals may want to see President Barack Obama face a primary from his left in 2012, but they have no answer to a basic question: Who? Two of the Democratic Party's most well-known progressives – Howard Dean and Russ Feingold - have both indicated that they won't take on Obama and there are few others who have the stature and willingness to mount a credible campaign against the president.” Our guess why this “Is Obama going to get a primary challenge?” talk is gaining traction: Because with the GOP presidential contest getting a late start (compared with 2007-2008), there’s a void of other political stories to write about. That said, the more people write about this, the more likely it could become self-fulfilling, serious challenge or not. Remember this: If the two weakest incumbent presidents in modern history, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, would win primary challenges against a Kennedy and a Reagan, it's proof that defeating an incumbent president in a primary is not NEARLY impossible; it IS impossible.

*** Today on Capitol Hill: NBC’s Ken Strickland reports that the Senate is scheduled to take a procedural vote to start debate on the DREAM Act today at about 11:00 am ET. Because 60 votes are required to break the filibuster on the bill, it's expected to fail. The legislation passed the House last night by a 216-198 vote. Strick also notes that Senate Majority Leader Reid said he may also call for vote today to start debate on the defense bill which includes the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” No time has been set as Reid continues to negotiate with Susan Collins (R) and Joe Lieberman (I-D).

*** Bush 41 backs START: Look at the latest Republican to support ratification of New START: George H.W. Bush. The New York Times’ Baker: “Former President George H.W. Bush, who signed and won Senate approval of the original Start arms control treaty with the Soviet Union in 1991, endorsed the proposed follow-up treaty with Russia on Wednesday, lending another well-known Republican voice to the White House campaign for approval. ‘I urge the United States Senate to ratify the Start treaty,’ Mr. Bush said in a one-line statement that offered no elaboration.”

*** Bloomberg = Obama? One man is a Democrat and former community organizer who’s the country’s first African-American president. The other is a Jewish billionaire businessman who’s now New York City’s independent mayor. But beyond those differences, it’s striking how much Michael Bloomberg sounded like Barack Obama, per the big political speech Bloomberg delivered yesterday. In it, the New York City mayor railed against the partisanship in Washington and stressed that economic solutions don’t exist solely on the right or the left -- which are exactly two of the messages that Obama campaigned on in 2008 (and still talks about today, e.g.: the tax-cut debate). So if -- and it’s still a big if -- Bloomberg runs for president in 2012 in a third-party bid, it’s likely he’d occupy the same ground as Obama: the pragmatic center. Bloomberg appears on “Meet the Press” this Sunday.

*** Bloomberg’s one jab at Obama: By the way, Bloomberg’s speech did criticize Obama, at least implicitly. Example, according to his prepared remarks: “Unfortunately, very little of the stimulus package passed in Washington promotes innovation. Very little of the health care bill passed in Washington promotes innovation. And the Obama administration will have to be very careful to make sure that the financial services bill passed this year doesn’t hinder innovation.” But that’s an unfair charge. For starters, the stimulus contained what many experts say is one the most innovative federal education programs ever, “Race to the Top” (which, as it turns out, New York is benefiting from). Also, the health-care law contains numerous pilot programs intended to reduce health costs and efforts to streamline medical technology and paperwork. and

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