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Obama agenda: 'A stiff political challenge'

The New York Times: “President Obama will talk about troop numbers in Afghanistan when he makes a prime-time speech from the White House on Wednesday night. But behind his words will be an acute awareness of what $1.3 trillion in spending on two wars in the past decade has meant at home: a ballooning budget deficit and a soaring national debt at a time when the economy is still struggling to get back on its feet.”

The Washington Post adds, “President Obama will face a stiff political challenge Wednesday in presenting his plan for a gradual end to the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. His prime-time address must remind a skeptical electorate and a concerned Congress that the country’s longest war remains worth fighting — and funding — for several more years.”

“No matter how many troops President Obama announces will leave Afghanistan in his prime-time address to the nation Wednesday night, the United States will be at war on Election Day 2012,” The Hill writes, adding that leaving 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan carries “a risk for a president who must appeal to both independents and liberals to form a winning reelection coalition in 2012. The left is already disappointed with Obama for sending more troops to Afghanistan last year, even though in doing so Obama largely fulfilled a campaign promise.”

A Bloomberg poll out today finds: “By a 44 percent to 34 percent margin, Americans say they believe they are worse off than when President Barack Obama took office in early 2009.”