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First Thoughts: Now what?

Now what -- for U.S.-Pakistan relations, the Afghanistan war, relations in Congress, the GOP presidential field, and Obama’s political capital?... The next few weeks will be a test if poll bounces still exist in today’s media environment… What will the U.S. government release to further confirm bin Laden’s death?...  Republicans look to end the “silly season”… Filling the void in the GOP race… A free-for-all in NV’s special election… And Seattle’s finest -- Dennis Kucinich?

*** Now what? If there’s a theme to the second day after Osama bin Laden’s death, it’s this: Now what? Now what for U.S.-Pakistan relations? (Congress isn’t taking too kindly to the fact that bin Laden was residing in a relatively affluent part of the country, so expect some hearings in the days and weeks ahead.) Now what for the war in Afghanistan? (Speaker Boehner made a statement yesterday that the U.S. engagement there is now even more important.) Now what for relations in Congress? (“It is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face,” President Obama said at a bipartisan dinner he hosted last night.) Now what for the GOP presidential field? (The first debate -- minus Romney, Bachmann, and Gingrich -- takes place on Thursday.) And now what for Obama’s political capital? (On the same day of that GOP debate, he heads to Ground Zero.)

*** Where’s the bounce? Speaking of Obama’s political capital, our friends at the GOP polling firm Public Opinion Strategies yesterday released historical data showing that, outside of 9/11, a president’s approval rating jumps an average of 13 points and lasts an average of 22 weeks after a big national-security story. But do bumps like this exist anymore with the facts that the public is more informed and more defined in their political views, that news travels so fast, and that news cycles end so quickly? Frankly, this event will be the test of that.

*** Where’s the further evidence? Here’s another question worth pondering: What will the U.S. government release -- and when -- to further confirm bin Laden’s death? There is video and photographic evidence of both the capture/kill of bin Laden and of the burial at sea. Administration officials haven't made a decision on whether to release anything just yet; in fact, they note the reaction among bin Laden's cohorts indicates THEY know he's dead. That said, conspiracy theories take hold in some parts of the world rather easily, so expect something more to be released. The question is when. Perhaps in concert with the Thursday presidential visit to Ground Zero makes the most sense?

*** Victory always has 100 fathers: Nearly two and a half years after leaving office, it’s striking to see all of the Bush administration aides and officials popping up on TV. And it’s even more striking how Republicans are clinging to the news that the hunt to bin Laden’s compound originated from enhanced interrogation techniques six years ago. It’s more proof that victory has 100 fathers, while defeat is always an orphan. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that somehow this debate about interrogations has popped up again, but it seems a bit of a reach to somehow directly connect the successful Sunday operation with a string of intelligence gathered six years earlier. Is it not possible that this intelligence would not have been discovered at all? It seems pains are being taken here to make a case for something that no one can prove definitively. 

*** An end to the silly season? As for the Republican presidential field, Politico’s Martin writes that U.S. forces killing bin Laden is a wake-up call for the entire party. “In the span of 100 hours, the spectacle of a national discussion over President Obama’s long-form birth certificate—sparked by the pronouncements of a real estate developer who doubles as a reality show celebrity—gave way to a moment of utmost seriousness, defined by the president’s somber delivery of history-making news. The hope among establishment Republicans is that the succession of events will trigger an end to what they see as the silly season – that party activists will sober up and end their flirtation with the fringe.”

*** Filling the void: It was one of the big punch lines at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner; it was the front-page subject of Sunday’s New York Times; and it’s the biggest story (so far) of the early race for the GOP presidential nomination -- Republicans aren’t happy with their field. That means two things: 1) some early GOP handwringing, and 2) candidates will inevitably try to fill the void. As Hotline recently observed, nature -- as well as politics -- abhors a vacuum. So just two days before the first GOP presidential debate, Jon Huntsman has returned from China and is set to deliver a commencement address in South Carolina on Saturday. And Mitch Daniels, after saying he will sign an anti-Planned Parenthood bill into law, seems closer to a run than he did a week ago. On Friday, Daniels allies emailed national political reporters about his accomplishments in Indiana this year (they wouldn’t do that if Daniels wasn’t at least eyeing a bid), and he delivers an education speech on Wednesday in DC.  

*** A free-for-all in Nevada’s special: Yesterday, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) announced that the special congressional election to fill Dean Heller's (R) House seat will be a free-for-all contest without a primary. The C.W. is that either this helps Sharron Angle (R) if she runs (because she would be the most recognizable candidate) or it could help the Democrats win (because the GOP vote gets split up). The NRCC wasn't too happy with news: “This blatantly partisan ruling from Harry Reid’s political machine is only the beginning of what will surely be a long and drawn out process,” an NRCC spokesman said. The special takes place on Sept. 13.

*** Seattle, here I come? The Daily Caller reports that Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is thinking of moving -- to Washington state. "According to Kucinich’s communications director Nathan White, 'After people found out that Congressman Kucinich’s district could be eliminated or substantially altered in congressional redistricting by the Ohio Legislature’s Republican majority, Congressman Kucinich received requests from people in twenty states, including Washington State, encouraging him to move and run in their area.'" More from White: "'As he has repeatedly said, he fully intends to remain in Congress; he just doesn’t know in what district he will run. In the meantime, he is devoted to serving Ohio’s 10th district as it currently stands.'"

Countdown to NY-26 special election: 21 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 101 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 133 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 189 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 279 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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