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First Thoughts: Obama vs. Ryan

Obama once again criticizes Ryan, but the tone was softer… And Ryan himself says he’s seeking more “mutual respect”… Three other things that struck us from Obama’s day in California yesterday… Reno 911: Obama holds a town hall on reducing the deficit in Reno, NV at 2:50 pm ET… On Libya… The races of 2011: MS GOV… And King vs. Vilsack. 

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann
*** Obama on Ryan: At his Facebook town hall yesterday, President Obama didn’t back away from his criticism of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which almost all House Republicans voted for last week. But the president’s tone, like Tuesday in Northern Virginia, was again softer than it was last week. Asked by an attendee if Ryan’s plan was bold, Obama answered, “The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical. I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous. I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”

*** And Ryan on Obama: For his part, Ryan has taken his budget plan to Wisconsin voters and says he’s seeking more “mutual respect,” the New York Times writes. “I’m trying not to get into some partisan bickering war with the president,” Mr. Ryan told a Wisconsin audience. “I don’t see what purpose it serves to do that.” The Republican also said this about Obama, per the Times: “He’s got the bully pulpit. But I think he’s bigger than this. I think he’s bigger than this moment, I think he’s bigger than his speech last week. I think he’ll come to realize that — at least that’s my hope.”  One can sense both sides really want to have a partisan campaign fight, but every time either gets too far out there on the rhetoric, they pull back. A difference between 2011 and 2012?

*** Three other things that struck us: Three other things from Obama’s day in California yesterday struck us. One was his admission that there are some Americans “who are probably better off renting” homes than buying them. (He's hinted at this before but given all of the cheerleading for home ownership the last two presidents did, striking to hear this one talk about "renting" again.). Second, was how he used the final question at the Facebook town hall -- what would have you done differently -- to discuss gas prices, which hadn’t yet been mentioned. (On the president's Facebook page, much of the discussion was about gas prices, so it probably was welcome to some that he finally talked about it despite NOT being asked.) And third was his remark at one of the fundraisers how everyone has become a political consultant. "I know there are times where you're sitting there and you're thinking, ‘You know, Obama's made some compromise with the Republicans on this or that. You know he should have done it this way.’ You know everybody's a political consultant. ‘This seemed to be a subtle jab at those on the left (lots of them on the West Coast) who have done the most backseat driving of his presidency.

*** Reno 911: On the second day of the president’s Western swing, he hits another fundraiser in San Francisco at 12:40 pm ET, holds another town hall on the deficit and debt reduction in Reno, NV at 2:50 pm ET, and then hits a trio of fundraisers in Los Angeles in the evening.

*** On Libya: One note about Libya: While the situation there could resolve itself in the next few weeks or months, the stalemate we see there now is the reason why it has the POTENTIAL to be a political problem for President Obama. The longer this drags out with no apparent progress (but horrible headlines like yesterday regarding the two heroic journalists), the harder it will be for an already war-weary American public to have patience.

*** The races of 2011: MS GOV: A day after profiling Kentucky’s gubernatorial contest, where Democrats have the advantage (at least for now), we look at a race where the GOP has the clear edge: Mississippi GOV. Incumbent Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is term-limited -- and probably running for president – and a handful of Republicans are vying to succeed him. They include Lt. Gov Phil Bryant and businessman Dave Dennis. The top Democratic contenders, meanwhile, are Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and attorney Bill Luckett. Either of them would have “their hands full in the general election,” says Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report. The Dem and GOP primaries are set for Aug. 2.

*** King vs. Vilsack: It’s only the spring of 2011, we might already have our best House race for 2012, at least when it comes to cable TV: conservative Rep. Steve King (R) vs. Christie Vilsack (D), the wife of the former Democratic governor and current U.S. Agriculture secretary. Presidential battleground state? Check. A difference of opinion, especially on social issues? (Husband Tom Vilsack said the race would be a “holy war”). Check. A potential first (Iowa, as Jill Lawrence writes, has never elected a woman to the House, Senate, or governor’s mansion)? Check. And get this: King vs. Vilsack won’t be the only competitive House race in the Hawkeye State next year. The best member vs. member redistricting matchup is set for Iowa -- Tom Latham vs. Leonard Boswell. America, if you want to have competitive House races, move to Iowa, where they actually redistrict in a logical way.

Countdown to NY-26 special election: 33 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 113 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 201 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 291 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up