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First Thoughts: A tough vote

Today’s House vote on Paul Ryan’s budget could be a tough vote for the GOP… Breaking down yesterday’s votes on the short-term measure to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year… Obama talks about his “political vote” against raising the debt ceiling in ’06… Santorum, Pawlenty, Cain, and Roemer attend Tea Party tax protest in New Hampshire… Palin to attend a similar rally in Wisconsin on Saturday… Romney focuses on Florida… The Democratic Super Pacmen… Deval Patrick hits Romney… Geithner to appear on “Meet the Press”… And Arizona legislature passes birther bill.

From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** A tough vote: Despite a little pre-vote drama, the House of Representatives easily passed the short-term spending measure yesterday, albeit with some help from House Democrats. And with passage by the Senate, the legislation now heads to President Obama’s desk. But a more consequential House vote -- as far as the 2012 elections are concerned -- takes place today. Between 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm ET, the House will vote on Paul Ryan’s budget. And because it (among other things) phases out Medicare as we know it, which Obama reinforced in his speech on Wednesday, it could end up being a harder vote for GOP members than they may realize. “This is a tough vote, and this vote is going to come back and haunt some members,” former GOP Congressman and NRCC head Tom Davis said on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” this week. In retrospect, the Dem votes on health care in 2009 and 2010 certainly impacted last year’s midterms. But Democrats, after months of debate, knew what was coming. We’re not sure that some House Republicans know what they’re in store for after today’s vote. For those Republicans in the Midwest and states with older populations, take note.

*** Breaking down yesterday’s votes: Speaking of yesterday’s spending vote, the House passed it by a 260-167 margin, with 59 Republicans voting against it and 81 Democrats supporting it. Here’s a further breakdown, per NBC’s Shawna Thomas and MSNBC.com’s Carrie Dann: 27 of the 59 GOP dissenters were freshmen. And out of those 27, 12 are classified by NBC News as Tea Party-backed freshmen. Other notable GOP no’s are declared or possible statewide candidates for president or statewide office: Bachmann, Chaffetz, Flake, Heller, Pence, and Rehberg. In the Senate, the vote was 81-19. Per NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, the GOP no’s were: Coburn, Crapo, DeMint, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, Inhofe, Johnson, Lee, Paul, Risch, Rubio, Shelby, Toomey, and Vitter. And the no’s from Democrats and Dem-leaning independents: Leahy, Levin, Sanders, and Wyden.

*** “A political vote”: In an interview with ABC yesterday, Obama talked about another vote -- his 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling, which he described as “political.”” He said: “I think that it’s important to understand the vantage point of a senator versus the vantage point of a president. When you’re a senator, traditionally what’s happened is this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars or a trillion and a half, whatever the number is. And so, traditionally the president’s party bears the burden of passing it. As President, you start realizing, ‘You know what? We-- we can’t play around with this stuff. This is the full faith in credit of the United States." And so that was just a example of a new senator you know, making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it.”  Do as I say, not as I do? Tough lesson for anyone to learn until they themselves make the mistake?

*** The Tax Day protests cometh -- early: Beginning at 11:30 am ET at the statehouse in Concord, NH, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity -- which has ties to the billionaire Koch brothers -- holds a third annual Taxpayer Tea Party rally. Among the speakers are four Republicans running for president: Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Buddy Roemer. And on Saturday, Sarah Palin will attend an Americans for Prosperity Tea Party rally in Wisconsin. Note: Tax Day this year takes place on Monday, April 18.

*** Florida, Florida, Florida: How important is Florida becoming to Mitt Romney, even this far out? Consider: 1) Romney will be in Orlando today talking to Florida taxpayers outside an H&R Block branch at 11:00 am ET; 2) he has penned an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel in which he praises the Tea Party, calls for the health-care law to be repealed, and proposes to reform corporate taxes; and 3) the early Romney campaign picked up the endorsement of Florida Congressman Connie Mack. Team Romney probably sees Florida the same way John McCain saw South Carolina in ’08: the place where you need a win after New Hampshire. Romney probably realizes that he’s going to lose in Iowa and South Carolina, and so needs a win in Florida. The possible danger: What happens if -- a la 2008 on the Dem side -- Florida ends up violating the RNC calendar and the other GOP presidentials decide not to play in the Sunshine State? Chew on that for a moment…

*** Super Pacmen: A year after various outside GOP groups -- like Americans for Prosperity, American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- helped Republicans win back control of the House and pick up Senate seats, Democrats are responding with their own groups for 2012. They are either “Super PACs” (which accept unlimited contributions from named donors) or 501c(4)s (which accept unlimited contributions from anonymous donors, a practice Democrats decried last year). Strikingly, these groups have their own individual niches, and they are talking to one another as much as the law allows, they say. There are five of them:

-- The effort by former Obama White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, which will focus on TV advertisements to help Democrats in the presidential contest
-- Majority PAC, which will focus on Senate races and is being run by former Harry Reid aides Susan McCue and Rebecca Lambe, as well as party operatives Jim Jordan and J.B. Poersch
-- House Majority PAC, which will focus on House races and is being run by former DCCC aides Ali Lapp, Nicole Runge, and Ryan Rudominer
-- American Bridge, which will focus on research and communications and is led by founder David Brock, chair Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, and former Reid aide Rodell Mollineau
-- Protect Your Care, which will focus on defending the health-care law and is being led by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, and the Center for American Progress’ Neera Tanden.

Every campaign cycle has the other party learning (and sometimes OVER-learning) the tactical lessons from the last cycle.

*** Patrick vs. Romney: Speaking of Patrick, don’t miss his comment about Romney on Meet the Press’ Web “Press Pass”: “I think he was not as interested in and focused on doing the job as governor as many of us wanted, and he got a lot of criticism for that at the top. He’s always wanted to be president—he’s been running for president for a long, long time. I’m backing the other guy.” By the way, here’s the “Meet” lineup for Sunday: Treasury Secretary Geithner, plus a roundtable consisting of GOP Sen. Mike Lee, Alan Greenspan, former Dem Sen. Jennifer Granholm, Jon Meacham, and Tavis Smiley.

*** Arizona legislature passes “birther” bill: Three months after President Obama helped rally Arizona after the shootings in Tucson, the state legislature passed a bill that is considered an insult to the president. The Arizona Republic: “The Arizona Legislature has become the first in the nation to pass a measure requiring presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship in order to get on the state's ballot. House Bill 2177 got final approval Thursday night from the House. It will be transmitted to Gov. Jan Brewer, who will then have five days to sign it, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law.”

Countdown to NY-26 special election: 39 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 119 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 207 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 297 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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