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First Thoughts: Day 500


*** Day 500: With hyperpartisan stories like the Romanoff job offer (dredged back into the news), the kickoff of the Blagojevich trial, and, of course, the continued oil spill, it might go unnoticed by some that today is Barack Obama's 500th day in office (though, some might argue TOMORROW is 500; We’ll let Judge Mark Knoller decide, but we digress). There's always a lot of hype surrounding a president's first 100 days, but Obama has now been in office five times longer than that marker and what a stretch it's been. On a day -- in a presidency -- when small-picture brushfire stories (like Romanoff) are dominating, here's a step back at the big picture and all that's gone on. It could almost read like Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”… Oil spill, Health care, Tea Parties, Financial reform, bailouts for cars and banks, the stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, Toyota, Haiti, L’Aquila, Iran's elections, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Israel flotilla, North Korea sinks South Korean ship, Afghanistan troop increase, underwear bomber, Ft. Hood, Times Square, Predator drones, Nobel Peace Prize, State of the Union/Bobby Jindal, Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin resigns, Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, special elections, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, incumbent fever (Bennett, Specter, et al), Charlie Crist's party switch, Evan Bayh, Sex Scandals: The Appalachian Trail, John Ensign, Eric Massa, Mark Souder, Jim Traficant out of jail, announces independent bid, The Salahis, Carrie Prejean, It’s John Edwards’ baby, Rangel loses his gavel, The Replacements: (Blago/Burris, Gillibrand/Caroline Kennedy, Beau Biden/Iraq/hospitalization, Al Franken sworn in as a senator MONTHS after Election Day, The Gores separate. And, by the way, for a little more context, remember this: JFK, at Day 500, had not yet faced the Cuban Missile Crisis and his attorney general, RFK, had yet to order the integration of Ole Miss. or the University of Alabama.

*** When Slicks Get Sticky: Watching the president give a defense of his economic agenda yesterday has a stark reminder of just how hard it's going to be for this White House to do much until this oil spill is under control. It's not as if the Pittsburgh speech feel on deaf ears but it had almost zero impact, even the president's call for a renewed push for comprehensive energy/climate legislation barely registered. To say everything the White House is working on outside oil is on hold is an overstatement, but it's not an understatement that as long as this hole in the ocean is spewing oil, the public isn't going to have a lot of patience for seeing Washington work on much else other than this. The New York Times’ Peter Baker: “Mr. Obama had hoped to spend his summer creating jobs, passing financial reform, promoting his health-care program, getting a Supreme Court justice confirmed and an arms control treaty with Russia ratified, pressing for international sanctions against Iran and jump-starting the troubled Middle East peace process. … ‘This has hijacked his entire legislative agenda,’ said Douglas Brinkley.” The L.A. Times: “This was supposed to be the season when Obama could make jobs and the economy his central focus -- working to convince a skeptical public that he and his allies in Congress are addressing what polls show to be voters' No. 1 concern.” The president gets a chance to prove this thesis WRONG (which we're sure he will attempt to do) during an interview today with Larry King.

*** What Romanoff Really Reveals About the White House: There's one undeniable fact on this slightly over hyped storyline: This White House is not good at using its political muscle. In fact, they stink. Let's look at their track record, three sitting Democratic senators ended up with very serious primary challenges. Let's not forget the David Paterson near-debacle or the Illinois craziness (which comes roaring back, potentially, thanks to the Blago trial) or the failure to recruit better candidates (after trying) in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. And we haven't even gotten to the two senate retirements of North Dakota or Indiana where they either didn't make an effort or did and failed. And then there's the fact that neither Sestak nor Romanoff seem to fear the wrath of the White House, meaning going public (as they did, perhaps for their own politics) has been rather easy. For those believing there's a scandal here re: Sestak and Romanoff are blinded by their own partisan rage. But what these stories are bringing to light is the fact that, at best, the White House political operation is a clumsy bunch.

*** Back to the Future, The Search for Another Sestak: So how is the fact that what is essentially an eight-month-old story, that the White House was in talks potentially about offering former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff a job, back in the news? It’s two-fold: (A) a candidate who in an anti-incumbent year where traditional rules don’t apply, might think he sees a path to victory. His view might be: Heck, it worked for Joe Sestak, right? Romanoff, as one Democratic strategist told First Read, has to keep trying to draw stylistic contrasts between himself and incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, whom the White House has endorsed, because there aren't any substantive policy differences; (B) The GOP has proven adept at pushing these stories. Right now, Obama is still more popular than nearly every other politician in Washington. The real danger for this president is if the narrative sticks -- if he's able to be painted as being just like the rest of 'em, just another practitioner of politics as usual.

*** It’s No Fun Being An Illegal Alien: The president meets this afternoon with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed into law that controversial immigration bill. They should have LOTS to talk about. Brewer is on Obama’s Council of Governors, but she lambasted the president in a Web video, chiding him for joking about the law at the White House Correspondents Dinner. “And we all know what happens in Arizona when you don’t have I.D.,” Obama said. “Adios, amigos!” Brewer’s video: “President Obama, broken borders are not a laughing matter. No one in Arizona is laughing. Do your job and secure the border.” The meeting is closed to the press but we’ll see if Brewer decides to speak to the cameras that will be staked out in the White House driveway.

*** Miami Vice: The Republican establishment (as well as Charlie Crist) in Florida are in a vice when it comes to the arrest of former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer. Greer was a vocal supporter of Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Senate as an independent. Yesterday, at a press conference on the oil spill (!!!), he was forced to address the Greer arrest, which he called “disappointing and surprising.” And in the governor’s race, state Attorney General Bill McCollum is on the defense. Primary opponent Rick Scott’s campaign said the arrest “disgraced” McCollum. The campaign called Greer a McCollum “Kingmaker” and charged that the incident “raises serious questions about Attorney General McCollum’s motivations in stalling the investigation into Greer’s activities and serves as another blow to McCollum’s gubernatorial campaign.” Marco Rubio certainly isn’t exactly off Scott-free, so to speak. Greer, like Rubio, was accused of charging chartered planes and expensive meals to his party credit card. So any attention to the, um, offbeat ways the state GOP handles its finances could end up touching Rubio. The only Republican this Greer scandal does NOT touch in Florida: Rick Scott. By the way, Crist is learning what it’s like to get it from BOTH sides. Rubio and Meek as well as the Florida Democrats and national Republicans just unloaded on Greer’s ties to Crist in what was a barrage of press releases.

*** Blago Trial Begins: Today is jury selection in the trial of disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. How might this touch the White House? By the way, the person who was MOST looking forward to the start of the Blago trial was Mark Kirk as they’ve been convinced that all of this Illinois corruption stuff will hurt Alexi Giannoulias but so far, it’s Kirk who has had the REALLY bad week.

*** The Rest of the Day: The president will meet with Vice President Biden and also Secretary of State Clinton at the White House. He will speak at a reception at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue at 4:30 pm ET. Clinton holds court with India’s foreign delegation for most of the day.

*** More Midterms: The 2010 cycle must be in full gear (there’s another big primary Tuesday, by the way!!!) when we’re talking about sex scandals and Nazis…. South Carolina is as South Carolina does, as another person is claiming to have had an affair with Nikki Haley. The campaign vehemently denies the charge. … And in Arizona, Jan Brewer came under fire yesterday not for her support of the Arizona immigration law, but “for saying in an interview that her father ‘died fighting the Nazi regime in Germany’ when he actually died in the 1950s,” per AP. “He was a munitions worker in Nevada during the war.”

Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NJ, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 5 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 152 days

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