Reid and Boehner both blink -- for now… But who has the harder job if a two-week stopgap passes?... Obama meets with the governors at 11:00 am ET… Boehner criticizes Obama administration’s DOMA decision… Republicans admit that Obama might be tough to beat in 2012… Newt to form his exploratory committee soon… First Read’s timetable for the other potential presidentials… Palin’s numbers decline in Iowa… And Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t speak in Yazoo City, MS in 1962, as Haley Barbour previously recounted.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Both Reid and Boehner blinked: As NBC's Ken Strickland reported on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office released a statement suggesting that Congress is moving toward a deal avoiding a government shutdown, at least in the short term, as the Democrats said they were "encouraged" by reports about the stop-gap spending bill House Republican are expected to pass and send to the Senate on Tuesday. It appears that both sides blinked: Democrats have agreed to the GOP’s $4 billion number for the size of the cuts over the two-week extension, while the GOP agreed to many of the particular cuts from President Obama’s budget. (Irony alert: Although Beltway pundits panned Obama’s budget for not going far enough, it created the roadmap for this first round of cuts.) But this is the easier part. If Democrats and Republicans reach this deal, it buys them just two weeks, and then we’ll watch this process play out again over legislation to keep the government operating for the rest of the year. By the way, the two-week stop-gap would expire right when Obama is supposed to travel to South America.
*** But who has the harder job after the stopgap passes? The question is who has the harder job with the longer spending measure -- Reid (with his moderates who are up for re-election in 2012) or House Speaker Boehner (with his Tea Party freshman)? Right now, it looks like Reid might have the tougher job. Why? Because the GOP has won the debate on cutting. The only question is what the number will be. Need more evidence that the Senate moderates are running this show on the Dem side?
*** Obama and the governors: At 11:00 am, Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of governors, who are in DC for the annual National Governors Association meeting. (It's a lengthy list of attendees at this morning's event but expect the White House to have a little news to showcase following the event.) In his remarks at a dinner for the governors last night, Obama told them they had a partner in the White House, despite any ideological differences (as evidenced by the budget standoff in Wisconsin). “One thing that we all absolutely share is the belief in the American Dream and the confidence that when our people get opportunities… [O]ur goal has to be to find ways to find common ground and to work together, and I’m confident that we can do that moving forward.” Policy-wise, the issue governors are grappling with is Medicaid. The Washington Post: Democratic and Republican governors, burdened by crushing budget pressures from Medicaid, said Sunday that federal officials should allow them more freedom to change eligibility rules and other aspects of the public health insurance program for the poor. But they displayed sharp ideological differences over how far such flexibility should go.”
*** Boehner criticizes Obama on DOMA: As we noted last week, the real sign whether the politics of gay marriage has changed is if the Obama administration’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act would be an issue a week later. Well, that story has been buried by the news in the Middle East, the standoff in Wisconsin, and the sheen of Hollywood. That said, in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Boehner criticized the administration’s move. “It strikes me as something that’s just as raw politics as anything I’ve seen knowing that a lot of people who believe in DOMA are probably not likely to vote for him and pandering to the other side on this issue.” More Boehner: “[I]f the President won’t defend DOMA then you’ll see the House of Representatives defend our actions in passing a bill that frankly passed overwhelmingly.” Yet just the fact that Boehner believes that Obama is playing “raw politics” here is a clear indication how the issue is no longer as potent for Republicans as it was in 2004. Moving in the direction of gay marriage in the past has never been viewed as some sort of political move for the center before.
*** Tough to beat? Politico’s Martin writes that Obama “is going to be a lot tougher to defeat than he looked late last year,” which is consistent with much of the conventional wisdom after the president’s legislative victories in December and his Arizona speech in January. And that’s a view shared by top Republicans. Said Mike Huckabee: “The people that are sitting around saying, ‘He’s definitely going to be a one-term president. It’s going to be easy to take him out,’ they’re obviously political illiterates -- political idiots, let me be blunt.” The reasons: the power of incumbency, the Obama campaign’s infrastructure and fundraising, and history. “Just once since 1896, he noted, has a sitting president lost his re-election after taking over from the opposite party four years earlier: Carter in 1980.”
*** Newt’s next: Yesterday, the AP reported that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- as expected -- “intends to take a formal step in the next two weeks toward a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.” Newt spokesman Rick Tyler told NBC: "We have said for weeks now that Newt will decide whether or not to move to an explore phase by late February/early March. We are sticking to that schedule.” Also on Sunday came this front-page New York Times story on Gingrich: "If Mr. Gingrich moves forward with a presidential bid ... he will start with a reputation as one of his party’s most creative thinkers and a record of leading Republicans back to power in the 1990s and confronting Democrats on spending. But he will also have to grapple with aspects of his life and career that could give pause to elements of the Republican primary electorate, including a lack of a well-established association with religious conservatives and attendant questions about his two divorces."
*** The others: Here is when the other GOP potential presidentials are expected to make up their minds: Barbour (not until the legislative session in Mississippi ends in April), Daniels (not until the legislative session in Indiana ends in April/May), Huckabee (in “the next few months” and he added by the "summer" yesterday), Huntsman (after his ambassadorship expires on April 30); Pawlenty (in the next few weeks), Romney (sometime this spring?), Santorum (in the next three months), and Trump (in June, post "Apprentice"). Right now, only one Republican has formed an exploratory committee: Herman Cain.
*** Palin’s numbers slip in Iowa: And what about Palin? Per a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, “Palin's favorability has ebbed with Iowa Republican likely voters, whose most active members make up the state's presidential caucus electorate, in the past 15 months… Palin's favorability has slipped among Iowa Republicans who say they will vote in 2012 to 65 percent in the poll taken this month from 71 percent in November 2009.” What’s more, “The new poll shows fewer likely voters who are Republicans view Palin very favorably, 18 percent, than the 27 percent who did so in the Register's November 2009 poll.”
*** King and I: This is yet another tough story for Barbour on the issue of civil rights. The headline in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “Gov.'s memories of King may be inaccurate.” From the story, regarding Barbour’s statement to the Weekly Standard about seeing an MLK speech in Yazoo City, MS in 1962: “A search of the King Papers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute and the papers of David Garrow, author of the definitive biography on King, Bearing the Cross, failed to find evidence King spoke in Yazoo City in 1962.”
Countdown to continuing resolution’s expiration: 4 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 165 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 253 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 343 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up