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First Thoughts: It takes two

It takes two to make an agenda go right… Partisan gridlock is the norm during divided government… Polls: Boston bombings haven’t significantly impacted the immigration debate… Updated cabinet shuffle: Pritzker to Commerce, Froman to USTR… Under Pressure: Emily’s List unveils national campaign “to put a woman in the White House” (hint, hint, Hillary)… Tapping the brakes on the ’16 Cruz speculation… And Buzzfeed’s bomshell on Terry McAuliffe. 

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, D-W.Va., left, and Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., arrive at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, to announce that they have reached a bipartisan deal on expanding background checks to more gun buyers.

*** It takes two: For all the questions and scrutiny President Obama has recently received when it comes to his stalled agenda -- especially on the topics of budget and guns -- it’s important to quote the immortal philosopher MC Rob Base: It takes two to make a thing go right. And Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who partnered with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the compromise background-check measure, admitted as much when explaining why that bipartisan gun-control amendment was defeated. "In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized," Toomey told editors from Digital First Media in an interview published Wednesday by the Norristown Times Herald, per NBC’s Mike O’Brien. "There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it," Toomey added. That also was the conclusion a recent New York Times/CBS poll: Americans largely retreat to their partisan camps, even if they overwhelmingly support background checks or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “Yes, I believe the Republicans should have voted for background checks,” a respondent told the New York Times. “But it’s like marriage. You stick with your wife no matter what, and you don’t just ditch your political party on one issue.”

The Daily Rundown's guest host Luke Russert explains why new numbers provide a reminder of why divided government is a recipe for gridlock.

*** Partisan gridlock is the norm during divided government: Of course, this is hardly something that’s new when it comes to American politics. As one of us wrote yesterday, partisan gridlock -- even on what would seem the simplest of issues -- is the norm, particularly in times of divided government. The exceptions have come when at least one party has had an incentive to compromise. Think Bill Clinton signing welfare reform into law before his re-election, or the tax cuts under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (who doesn't like tax cuts?), or maybe immigration reform this year. The exceptions have also come when it's an absolute necessity to compromise. Think the Social Security fix during the 1980s, the debt-ceiling deal in 2011, and the fiscal-cliff deal at the end of 2012. But that's about it under divided government. Conversely, the greatest legislative achievements have occurred when one party controls the White House and Congress -- usually by overwhelming numbers. In the 1930s, as Congress was passing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Democrats held between 69 and 75 Senate seats, as well as 300-plus House seats. In 1965, during Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, Democrats controlled 68 Senate and 290-plus House seats.

*** Polls: Boston bombings haven’t significantly impacted the immigration debate: So will immigration reform be one of those historic exceptions to gridlock during divided government? We won’t find out for sure until later this summer, but two new polls show that the Boston bombings haven’t significantly impacted the debate. Per a national Quinnipiac survey, 70% of registered voters said that the bombings haven’t changed their opinion about whether there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And a separate Pew poll finds that nearly six-in-10 (58%) see the bombings as mostly a separate issue from the immigration debate. That said, the same Pew survey shows that Republicans (46%) are more likely to say that bombings should be a factor in the debate than Democrats (33%) or independents (34%).

*** Updated cabinet shuffle -- Pritzker to Commerce, Froman to USTR: NBC’s Peter Alexander confirms that President Obama will name friend and donor Penny Pritzker to run the Commerce Department and international economics adviser Mike Froman to be his U.S. trade representative. Obama will make this announcement at 10:15 am ET before he departs on his trip to Mexico and Latin America. On that trip, Obama and Mexico President Pena Nieto hold a press conference at 5:10 pm ET, and they have a working dinner at 8:15 pm ET. By the way, here is First Read’s updated look at the president’s second-term cabinet.

John Kerry at State (replaced Hillary Clinton)
Chuck Hagel at Defense (replaced Leon Panetta)
Jack Lew at Treasury (replaced Tim Geithner)
Sally Jewell at Interior (replaced Ken Salazar)
Sylvia Burwell at OMB (replaced acting director Jeffrey Zients)
Lisa Jackson at EPA (Gina McCarthy nominated)
Steven Chu at Energy (Ernest Moniz nominated)
Hilda Solis at Labor (Tom Perez nominated)
Ray LaHood at Transportation (Anthony Foxx nominated)
Commerce (N/A) (Pritzker nominated)
U.S. Trade Representative (Froman nominated)

And here are the cabinet secretaries who are remaining:
Janet Napolitano (DHS)
Arne Duncan (Education)
Tom Vilsack (Agriculture)
Eric Holder (Justice)
Kathleen Sebelius (HHS)
Shaun Donovan (HUD)
Eric Shinseki (Veterans Affairs)

*** Under Pressure: At 9:30 am ET, the Democratic abortion-rights group Emily’s List is holding an event in DC today to unveil its national campaign “to put a woman in the White House.” This campaign includes Emily’s List polling that shows battleground-state voters are ready for a female president; a six-figure digital buy to reach women on popular online sites; and a new “Madam President” video. And it all has an obvious message: Hillary Clinton -- hint, hint -- we really want you to run for president. And Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock says as much in a CNN op-ed tied to today’s rollout. “So who will it be? There's one name on all our minds: Hillary Clinton. Voters across the country are excited about her possible run. But if she decides not to run, we still have a deep bench of incredible female leaders to choose from.” And that’s perhaps the best way to view all the Hillary-related activity, whether it’s Emily’s List or that Draft Hillary campaign. These folks are putting pressure (gently but obviously) on the former secretary of state to make a 2016 bid. And by the way, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton blowing away the potential Democratic field. She gets 65% of Democratic voters, Vice President gets 13%, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets 4%. 

*** Tapping the brakes on the Cruz speculation: In other 2016 news, National Review’s Robert Costa yesterday wrote a piece noting that freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “is considering a presidential run, according to his friends and confidants.” But as our colleague Mike O’Brien has noted, you might want to tap on those 2016 brakes -- given the conservative competition Cruz would face, concerns by the GOP establishment, and the fact that he was born in Canada. While Costa reports that Cruz “isn’t worried that his birth certificate will be a problem,” we’re not so sure. Here’s what the Constitution says: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.” Is a natural-born citizen someone who was born abroad (in Canada)? Is it someone who was born to just one parent who’s a citizen? Bottom line: It all comes down to how courts define “natural born.”

*** Buzzfeed on McAuliffe: Lastly, just after Terry McAuliffe released this warm and fuzzy TV ad showing him, among other things, in the delivery room when one of his children was born came this Buzzfeed bombshell: “McAuliffe also wrote about the birth of his children in his 2007 book What A Party, noting on one instance he left his wife at the hospital to attend a party for Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove before the birth of his daughter Sarah.” Ouch. This has become the theme of the McAuliffe-Cuccinelli gubernatorial race in Virginia: Every day, there’s an issue that seems to hurt one of these candidates. For McAuliffe, this piece of news is hurtful, because it shows that he will have the difficult task of shaking the persona that he’s a DC-establishment operator -- something that might be easier to shake if he were running in a state without a ton of Beltway media living there.

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