A total stalemate as congressional leaders meet once again at the White House at 3:45 pm ET… Obama claims the high ground in the debt talks… But a potential problem: the higher the ground, the steeper the fall… Bachmann’s firm gets the O’Keefe-like treatment… Huntsman takes a swipe at Romney’s economic record… Romney -- MIA from the debt debate?... Iowa poll: Bachmann loses support when you throw Christie, Palin, and Perry into the mix… Gingrich, Huntsman, and Santorum are all in South Carolina… Hahn vs. Huey in today’s CA-36 special run-off… Wisconsin’s recall season begins today… RGA TV ad hits Beshear… And Thune and Hadley appear on “Daily Rundown.”
*** A total stalemate: After more than a week of meetings with congressional leaders and backchannel talks between President Obama and the Speaker John Boehner, the two sides are now FARTHER apart in the debt talks than they have been in a while. It’s a total stalemate bordering on a financial and political disaster that, in the long run, could damage all the parties involved. Democrats want Republicans to compromise. “I do not see a path to a deal if they don’t budge,” Obama said yesterday. And Republicans aren’t willing to give one inch on increasing revenues. Is there a Plan C to fall back on? Today, the bipartisan congressional leaders once again meet at the White House with President Obama, this time at 3:45 pm ET.
*** The high ground: By shooting for the big deal and saying he’s willing to displease his base, Obama has claimed the high ground in the debt talks. “The president’s advisers have kept their focus on political independents, who they think are sick of gridlock in Washington and willing to reward politicians who step outside pure partisanship to solve the country’s problems,” the Washington Post’s Balz writes. “Democratic strategists think Republicans have misplayed the debt-ceiling negotiations to the point that, almost no matter the outcome, Obama can claim the high ground.” The New York Times makes a similar point, saying Obama has “made or offered policy compromises on an array of issues and cast himself in the role of the adult referee for both parties’ gamesmanship, or the parent of stubborn children.” But there are a couple of problems with being on the high ground. First, the higher the ground, the steeper the fall. If there isn’t an agreement, if Republicans don’t end up budging, then this whole process could blow up in Obama’s face.
*** The higher the ground, the steeper the fall? Second, Obama could actually be on higher ground with a stronger foundation. Remember, he has never really come up with his own plan during these talks. We understand why the White House has avoided this, given that anything called “the Obama plan” would probably be summarily rejected. But had Democrats actually put out their own detailed plan months ago, then maybe they would be meeting Republicans in the middle, instead of their 20-yard line. (It was only YESTERDAY when Senate Democrats began circulating their plan, a 1-1 ratio of cuts and taxes, that could have served as a meaningful starting point.) Yes, Obama is winning the politics of the moment. But the long-term politics are unclear.
*** Bachmann’s firm get the O’Keefe-like treatment: On “TODAY” this morning, NBC’s Mike Isikoff reported on a videotaping done at Bachmann & Associates -- the Christian counseling center owned by presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her psychologist husband Marcus Bachmann. “In five one hour sessions that [John] Becker secretly taped on behalf of a gay rights group, Becker says a clinic therapist advised him how he could become straight -- through counseling, prayer and Scripture. "Anytime I felt the temptation to act out homosexually or have homosexual thoughts to pray about it, to take to the Bible," Becker said. The videotaping at Bachmann & Associates was first reported by ABC.
*** Huntsman takes a swipe at Romney’s economic record: Keynoting a GOP dinner in South Carolina last night, Jon Huntsman took a thinly veiled swipe at front-runner Mitt Romney – which, by the way, was the same line of attack Democrats were making against Romney earlier in the day. Here’s what Huntsman said, per NBC’s Matt Loffman: "Not only did we achieve the greatest tax cut in the history of the state of Utah, but we undertook an effort from an economic development standpoint to get that state moving again. And it got right into the poll position of No. 1. When you look at the absolute increases in job creation, Utah led the way in the United States in terms of job creation. That compared and contrasted to certain states like, say, Massachusetts that I'll just pull out randomly -- not first but 47th.”
*** Romney -- MIA from the debt debate? Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports how Romney has appeared to avoid the debate over the debt ceiling. “That has attracted the attention of his GOP challengers, who have begun to accuse him of ducking the most vital issue of the campaign so far. ‘The current debate is about what kind of leadership you're going to show,’ former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said in an interview Monday. ‘If you're running for president, you've got to show how you would handle a situation like this.’” More: “‘The debt ceiling is a gut-check time for all Republicans on spending and size of government,’ said Alex Conant, spokesman for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. ‘Apparently, Gov. Romney is still checking his gut to figure out where he should stand.’”
*** Team Romney responds: The Romney camp tells First Read that the former Massachusetts governor believes the debt ceiling should not be increased until there are significant cuts, until there’s a spending cap, and until there’s a balanced-budget amendment. “A vote on raising the debt ceiling has to be accompanied by a major effort to restructure and reduce the size of government,” Romney has said in a statement.
*** Bachmann loses support when you throw Christie, Palin, and Perry into the mix: Yesterday, we reported on an Iowa poll showing Bachmann in the lead, at 25%. But guess what happens when that poll throws other Republicans into the mix: Romney leads with 18%, followed by Bachmann at 15%, Chris Christie at 13%, Cain and Palin at 7%, Rick Perry and Pawlenty at 6%, Paul at 5%, and Gingrich at 3%.
*** On the 2012 trail: Gingrich, Huntsman, and Santorum are all in South Carolina today: Gingrich attends a Tea Party town hall in Charleston… Huntsman makes an announcement in Greenville… And Santorum makes stops in Charleston and Conway.
*** Hahn vs. Huey: In California today, L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn (D) faces off against businessman Craig Huey (R) in the special run-off to fill the congressional seat ex-Rep. Jane Harman (D) vacated earlier this year. Obama won 64% of the vote in this district in 2008, but as we noted earlier this week, the race has made some Democratic strategists nervous, suggesting the contest could be closer than expected. Still, Hahn is expected to win it, and she will likely survive because Huey is too conservative for the district. A more moderate candidate would have given the GOP a real shot at picking up this seat. (Hahn received some sad news yesterday, when her 86-year-old mother passed away, and she has suspended her activities for today.) Polls in California close at 11:00 pm ET.
*** Wisconsin’s recall season begins: It’s been a few months since the collective-bargaining showdown in Wisconsin captured national headlines. But beginning today -- and lasting through the next five weeks -- that story returns, and it could change the balance of power in the GOP-controlled state Senate. Democrats were able to successfully trigger recall elections against six Republican state senators who voted for Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) collective-bargaining legislation, and the Democratic primaries to challenge those GOP senators take place today. (Yet these aren’t REAL primaries; Republicans recruited token candidates to run in the Democratic primaries to give the incumbent GOP state senators additional time to campaign until next month.) Democrats need to gain a net three state Senate seats to win back the chamber.
*** The other Wisconsin recall dates to remember: July 19 brings us two GOP primaries and one general election (the first truly meaningful race) to recall three Dem state senators; Aug. 9 brings us the general elections tied to today’s Democratic primaries; and Aug. 16 brings us the general elections for the July 19 primaries. Polls in Wisconsin close at 9:00 pm ET.
*** RGA TV ad hits Beshear: In Kentucky, the thick-walleted Republican Governors Association is up with a TV ad hitting incumbent Dem Gov. Steve Beshear and propping up struggling GOP opponent David Williams. “Kentucky’s heading in the wrong direction,” the ad goes. “Ninety-four thousand Kentucky jobs lost in four years. Unemployment up -- 75%. Kentucky needs a new direction. David Williams. Experienced. Tough enough to get Kentucky working again. He fought Frankfort’s wasteful spending and tax increases. David Williams’ plan -- support small business to create new jobs. Fight Obama’s job killing policies.” But make no mistake: The GOP has an uphill climb in this race.
***Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” with Chuck Todd at 9 am ET: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on the debt talks… CA-36 preview with USC’s Dan Schnur… NBC’s Atia Abawi on her exclusive interview with Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan… Former Bush Administration National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley… Charlie Cook, Stu Rothenberg & Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance on 2012, and more…
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general/primaries for Dem senators: 7 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 28 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 32 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 35 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 63 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 119 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 209 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
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