Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NBC's "First Thoughts"

NBC does a nice job of summing up today's political headlines, including info on Hillary Clinton's newly unveiled health care plan, so I'll just let them take it from here:

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Julia Steers
*** A clean bill of health: Clinton’s health-care rollout could not have gone better for the campaign: A national poll underscores Democratic primary voters' confidence in Clinton to pass a health-care plan, and her plan even gets a positive review from a conservative columnist like David Brooks. Perhaps most important for the campaign, as others have pointed out, her plan blurs (for the most part) any differences between the Edwards and Obama plans. Of course, those rivals -- as they did yesterday -- will hark back to the past to differentiate themselves with Clinton on this issue. But, lo and behold, here comes Clinton breaking from the past: On TODAY this morning, Matt Lauer asked her if her health-care plan would have been one that she would have rejected in 1993 when she pushed the issue then. That’s “absolutely the case,” she replied. Today, the campaign begins airing a new TV ad in Iowa and New Hampshire on -- guess what? -- health care, as well as hosting a live webcast on the plan.

*** Is the GOP licking its chops? But on a day when her focus was health care, did Clinton make a statement that could come back to haunt her, especially if she's the Democratic nominee? Speaking to the SEIU yesterday, Clinton made a promise to the anti-war crowd that she may or may not be able to keep, NBC’s Lauren Appelbaum reports. "I have voted against funding this war and I will vote against funding this war as long as it takes," she said. Doesn't this invite a Mitch McConnell to do whatever he can to get bills on to the Senate floor that force her (like what happened to John Kerry) to be in the minority on various troop-funding (read: "support the troops") measures? Earlier this year, Clinton -- along with Obama and Dodd -- voted against an Iraq supplemental because it didn’t contain a timetable for withdrawal.

*** Barack backing away? We encourage you to watch yesterday’s entire Brian Williams-Barack Obama interview. A few key takeaways: Obama seems to be tacitly acknowledging that his "turn the page" message is not resonating with Democratic primary voters (note his comment about Bill Clinton's popularity with Dems). Also, don’t miss Obama conceding that a Norman Hsu-like problem is systemic to fundraising -- not to a particular candidate. Finally, an overall observation from the interview as a whole: Obama seemed to take pains not to point out contrast with Clinton. Is he just that uncomfortable with getting down and dirty? And while some independents may see that as a badge of honor, do those candidates win primaries?

*** Minority Report: With GOP Rep. Jim Ramstad yesterday becoming the seventh Republican congressman to announce his retirement -- and with more possibly on the way -- the question no longer seems to be: Will Democrats hold onto control of the House after 2008? Rather, it’s: How big will the Dem majority be? The same is true of the Senate, where four Republicans (including Craig) have announced they will retire, and Democrats have recruited some impressive candidates (Mark Warner, Jeanne Shaheen, and maybe Bob Kerrey). Given this situation, does that produce -- as NBC political analyst Charlie Cook put it earlier this year -- a vicious cycle for Republicans? That a poor political environment produces retirements and poor fundraising and recruitment, which then produces even more retirements and even poorer fundraising and recruitment. Is the goal for congressional Republicans now to keep down the Dem gains as much as possible and shoot for 2010?

*** On the trail: Clinton hosts a “New York Farm Day” event on Capitol Hill; Obama, in DC, unveils his middle-class tax relief plan and then hits small-dollar fundraiser/rally; McCain raises money in DC; Richardson, in Chicago, takes his turn speaking to the Laborers and then fundraises in DC; and Romney campaigns in Florida.

Countdown to LA GOV election: 32 days
Countdown to Election Day 2007: 49 days
Countdown to LA GOV run-off (if necessary): 60 days
Countdown to Iowa: 118 days
Countdown to SC GOP primary: 123 days
Countdown to Tsunami Tuesday: 140 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 413 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 490 days

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