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First Thoughts: Did last week's speech backfire?

Did Obama’s tough speech last week backfire?...  New Washington Post/ABC poll shows his approval rating upside down… Obama to address the deficit/debt in Northern Virginia at 10:15 am ET… Standard & Poor’s wake-up call… DCCC goes on the offensive… DCCC Chair Steve Israel appears on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown”… Trump sees a right to privacy and criticizes Ryan’s Medicare phase-out… Trump’s also VERY well-versed in financial-disclosure requirements for presidential candidates… The races of 2011: Profiling WV GOV… And Brewer vetoes AZ “birther” bill.

From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Ali Weinberg, and Carrie Dann
*** Did last week’s speech backfire? A new Washington Post/ABC poll -- which shows President Obama’s approval down to 47%, and with 44% believing the U.S. economy is getting worse (when employment is actually on the rise) -- suggests that the climbing gas prices have soured the public’s mood, big time. “Almost eight in 10 say inflation in their area is getting worse, and more than seven in 10 say higher gasoline prices is causing financial hardship at home,” the Post writes. But this poll, as well as the Gallup surveys, also seems to confirm that the president’s speech last week might not have played well. For one thing, and this is true going back to the ’08 campaign, Obama usually doesn’t get rewarded when he comes off as too partisan (even though the left loves it). More importantly, last week’s speech was on a topic -- the deficit/debt -- that most Americans don’t find as important as the economy/jobs. And in the Post/ABC poll, Obama took a hit with independents, with 55% of them disapproving of his job. 

*** Watch Obama’s tone today: So as Obama talks about the deficit and debt today in Northern Virginia at 10:15 am ET, it’s worth asking: What will his tone be? And will his focus be exclusively on the deficit/debt, or will he place a bigger emphasis on the overall economy? (Speaking of tone, don’t miss Obama lecturing a Dallas reporter after the interview had concluded, “Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview.” The combative tone in was mostly about NASA's decision to NOT give a Shuttle to Houston. Watch the entire interview; it's a classic example of someone allowing irritation to show. As the old deodorant commercial once quipped -- don’t let us see him sweat.)

*** Standard & Poor’s wake-up call: It will also be interesting to see how Obama weaves the news of yesterday’s Standard & Poor’s warning, which sent U.S. stocks tumbling. More than anything else, that news served as a wake-up call to Washington that Wall Street is paying attention -- and that failure to reach a long-term agreement could have negative impact. The last time Wall Street sent such a dire warning to Washington was after the House defeated the initial TARP legislation. Both parties are spinning the S&P decision as proof they are right: Dems say it means they have to meet in middle; Republicans say it means president needs to get more serious about the problem. By the way, Vice President has called for May 5 to be the first White House-led bipartisan meeting to forge a compromise on the deficit.

*** DCCC goes on the offensive: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is going on the offensive against the House GOP budget plan. The DCCC is launching a paid and grassroots campaign (consisting of radio ads, Web ads, phone calls, and email alerts) that targets the effort to phase out Medicare. Here’s a sample radio ad: “Did you know Congressman Chip Cravaack [R-MN] voted to end Medicare forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage? Tell Cravaack to keep his hands off our Medicare.” DCCC Chairman Steve Israel will appear on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” today.

*** Trump sees a right to privacy, criticizes Ryan budget plan: As MSNBC.com's Carrie Dann has noted, Donald Trump hasn't always thought President Obama is the worst president ever. (In 2009, he praised both the economic stimulus and the president. “I think we have a president who is working very hard and trying very hard. He inherited a mess.”) And now comes an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that might raise more conservative eyebrows. When asked if there’s a right to privacy in the Constitution -- which was the legal underpinning in Roe v. Wade -- Trump said, “I guess there is. I guess there is.” He went on to say, “Look, I’m pro-life.” Trump also criticized the House GOP budget plan when it comes to Medicare. “I think the Republicans are too far out in front in terms of Medicare... I think Paul Ryan is too far out front with this issue.”

*** The “ultimate blowhard”: But the rest of the interview made Trump appear more like Charlie Sheen than your typical presidential candidate. He boasted that his wealth is higher than Forbes’ estimate of $2.7 billion. “I have a great company. Very under-leveled. Tremendous amounts of cash. And a huge net worth. Much higher than anybody has really said.” When Trump disagreed with raising the debt ceiling, he said, “What do they know, the economists? Most of them are not very smart.” In his column today, David Brooks explains why some people like Trump. “Many people regard Trump as a joke and his popularity a disgrace. But he is actually riding a deep public fantasy: The hunger for the ultimate blowhard who can lead us through dark times.”

*** Well-versed on financial-disclosure requirements: Here’s a final point on Trump: Why does he know much about the financial-disclosure requirements for presidential candidates? And how does he know that the FEC allows 60-day extensions on that requirement. Check out what he told Guthrie: “If I announce … you’re allowed to do it in 30 days. But they give you a 60-day extension. I don’t need any extensions, because on that I’m already working.” Does Trump sound like a candidate anxious to disclose his real net worth? How important is the perception of wealth to Trump? Bottom line: Trump knows he can be an active candidate for a good two months before revealing a single thing about his personal finances. Hmmm.

*** The races of 2011: With Congress on its two-week recess, First Read will spend the next few days profiling some of the more noteworthy political races of 2011. First up: West Virginia’s gubernatorial contest. The incumbent is acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D), who filled Joe Manchin’s (D) office after he embarked on his Senate bid. While Tomblin is probably the favorite in the May 14 primary, he faces a crowded field of Democratic challengers -- including the state Treasurer (John Perdue), the Secretary of State (Natalie Tennant), and the state House speaker (Rick Thompson). The GOP primary is equally crowded. The top two Republicans are probably former Secretary of State Betty Ireland and businessman Bill Maloney. Republicans didn't get the candidate they wanted (Shelley Moore Capito), and so Democrats are viewed as the slight favorite to hold the seat. But nothing is certain until these messy primaries are sorted out. The special general election date is Oct. 4.

*** Brewer vetoes AZ’s “birther” bill: It appears Arizona’s governor did the GOP a favor for the fall of 2012. The Arizona Republic: “Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday shot down an effort by the Arizona Legislature to require presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship in order to get on the state's ballot. In her veto letter, Brewer said House Bill 2177 ‘creates significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona.’ The House and Senate could override the governor's veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber, but on Monday, such a move appeared unlikely.” 

Countdown to NY-26 special election: 35 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 115 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 203 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 293 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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