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First Thoughts: Obama: 'We've got a politics that's stuck right now'

Obama: “We’ve got a politics that’s stuck right now”… The president’s tough balancing act -- trying to elect a Democratic House while working with Republicans on immigration, the budget… Cruz touts new generation leading the conservative movement… Obama expected to tap Comey to lead FBI… Poll: Economy is a bigger priority than the trio of controversies… Big red flags for the GOP in Colorado and Virginia… Another party switch for Lincoln Chafee… And the new Anthony Weiner, same as the old Anthony Weiner?

President Barack Obama talks about his view on bipartisan compromise at an event Wednesday in Chicago.

*** Obama: “We’ve got a politics that’s stuck right now”: Speaking at a pair of fundraisers in his hometown of Chicago on Wednesday night, President Obama once again touched on an issue that’s bedeviled him since Republicans took control of Congress in 2011: Washington’s political dysfunction. “We’ve got a politics that's stuck right now. And the reason it’s stuck is because people spend more time thinking about the next election than they do thinking about the next generation.” (Ironically, he said this at the first of two events raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for next year’s midterm races.) The president added, “For me to govern effectively over the next three, three and a half years, part of my task is to constantly, continually reach out to the other side to try to find common ground.” But then he said: “If day in, day out, what we confront is obstructionism for the sake of obstructionism and what appears to be an interest only in scoring political points or placating a base … then we’ve got to figure out a way to work around that. And one of the best ways to work around it is to have a Democratic House of Representatives.” 

*** A tough balancing act: And that represents Obama’s tough balancing act over the next two years. On the one hand, he knows that the best way to get his agenda passed is with Democrats in charge of the House of Representatives (even though achieving that in the 2014 midterms will be a difficult climb). On the other hand, if he’s to accomplish anything in the next two years -- on the immigration or on the budget -- he has to get bipartisan help, including from the GOP-controlled House. 

*** Cruz touts new generation leading the conservative movement: Meanwhile, at another fundraiser last night (in New York), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was touting his generation of conservatives -- “the children of Reagan,” he said -- who won office in 2010 and 2012, per NBC’s Alex Moe. “‘If you sit back and you list who are the brightest stars in the Republican Party, who are the most effective advocates for free-market principles, you come up with names like Marco Rubio, like Mike Lee, like Rand Paul, like Pat Toomey, like Scott Walker,’ Cruz said as a man in the audience at the New York State Republican Party dinner yelled his name.” He went on to say, referring to the politicians who grew up while Reagan was in office: “You have to go back to World War II to see such a transformation of the people leading the fight, leading the argument for conservative principles, being an entirely new generation of leaders stepping forward.” Strikingly, the folks Cruz DID NOT mention are the Republicans he’s battled with on the issue on whether the GOP should go to conference committee with the Democrats on the budget -- folks like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). 

Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a Democratic party fundraiser in Chicago May 29, 2013.

*** Obama expected to tap Comey to head FBI: In other news -- and in an example of Democrats and Republicans working together -- NBC’s Pete Williams reports that President Obama intends to nominate former Bush Deputy Attorney General James Comey to succeed Robert Mueller as FBI director. The Washington Post: “Comey, 52, was at the center of some of the most bruising debates over counterterrorism during the Bush administration and established a reputation as a fierce defender of the law and the integrity of the Justice Department regardless of the political pressures of the moment. The expected nomination of Comey, a Republican, was seen in some quarters as a bipartisan move by a president besieged by Republicans in Congress. But Chuck Hagel’s prior service as a Republican senator from Nebraska did not spare him from a bruising nomination battle for secretary of defense.”  

*** Poll: Economy is a bigger priority than trio of controversies: Regarding the IRS/Benghazi/leak controversies the Obama administration, a new Quinnipiac poll finds -- not surprisingly -- that American voters believe the IRS targeting conservative-sounding groups applying for tax-exempt status is the more pressing matter. According to the poll, 44% say the IRS issue is more important to the nation, 24% say the Benghazi attack, and just 15% say the Justice Department’s seizure of AP phone records in a leak investigation. Yet in a separate question, a whopping 73% think that dealing with the economy should be a bigger priority than investigating those three controversies. The poll also shows the president’s approval rating dropping to 45%, but that finding is contrary to other public polls released last week. 

*** Big red flags for GOP in Colorado and Virginia: Writing in National Journal, Josh Kraushaar makes a very smart point: The GOP’s inability to recruit top-tier Senate challengers in the presidential battleground states of Colorado and Virginia points to a disturbing problem for the Republican Party. Kraushaar zeroes in on Colorado: “The party's brightest recruit, Rep. Cory Gardner, just opted to pass up a Senate campaign against Mark Udall, leaving the GOP empty-handed. Even more startling is the reemergence of immigration hardliner Tom Tancredo as a legitimate gubernatorial candidate, jumping in the race this month against Gov. John Hickenlooper… If Republicans can't contest the Senate and governorship in 2014, it would mark eight straight setbacks in presidential, Senate, and gubernatorial contests dating back nearly a decade. An 0-8 record would get the Denver Broncos coach fired, but there hasn't been a comparable shakeup in the state party's practices in a long time.” 

The Gaggle discusses Gov. Chafee's party switch and has an overall talk about regional politics and give their shameless plugs.

*** Another party switch for Chafee: Meanwhile, as we reported yesterday, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) will run for re-election next year as a Democrat. Before running as an independent during his successful 2010 gubernatorial bid, Chafee served as Republican senator (from 1999 to 2007) before losing his Senate seat to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. But according to observers of next year's race for Rhode Island governor, it is very possible that Chafee -- now a Democrat -- might NOT win a potentially crowded Democratic primary that likely will also feature state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Yet these observers say Chafee made the switch from independent to Democrat to give himself a better chance of winning a state where President Obama got 63% of the vote in 2012. After all, Chafee won just 36% of the vote in the state’s three-way gubernatorial contest in 2010. 

*** 2016 Watch: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley today discusses the middle class at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress in DC.

*** New Anthony Weiner, same as the old Anthony Weiner? Finally, Politico’s Maggie Haberman makes this point in New York’s mayoral race: “The new Anthony Weiner bears an uncanny resemblance to the pugnacious, hard-charging Anthony Weiner of old. The fallen congressman’s comeback attempt prompted a natural question: Was this a bid for personal and professional redemption — or an expression of the narcissism that got him in trouble in the first place? There may never be a clear answer.” In an interview with Haberman, Weiner responds: “I will leave it to you to analyze the old versus the new, but to me my views on these things haven’t changed… I would think a much worse critique would be if somebody appeared, if I appeared, to be a different person than the one I was. This is who I am.”

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