Obama and Triangulation 2.0

Jonathan Cohn notes that while President Obama’s policy strategy has differed from Bill Clinton’s efforts to compromise with Republicans, “triangulation can take different forms” and Obama is definitely triangulating.

“Clinton’s version was all about splitting the difference between right and left… With Obama, the triangulation isn’t so much ideological as it is methodological. He’s made clear his strong preference for Democratic and, yes, liberal values. During the health care fight, he dropped the public option but never wavered in his position that it was a good idea… But Obama has drawn an implicit equivalence between what he considers the extremists in both parties–the nihilists on the right, who would disavow even their own ideas for the sake of defeating Democrats, and the purists on the left, who would reject even reasonable compromises for the sake of drawing sharp ideological divisions.”

Greg Sargent also sees Obama’s “constant quest to compromise” as “more about temperament and process than about occupying the ideological ‘center,'” but he shies away from calling it triangulation.

Despite Speech, Bloomberg Not Running

Though New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a far-reaching economic speech today which the New York Times said “instantly intensified speculation about the mayor’s political ambitions,” he told CBS News there is “nothing” that would compel him to enter the coming presidential race.

Said Bloomberg: “I’m not going to run for president, period. End of story.”

When asked if his remarks would “come back to haunt you?” he said they would not.

“I’m not going to run for president,” he repeated

Vulnerable Democrats Embrace Tax Deal

The Hotline reports that for all the Democrats who have ripped the compromise for extending tax cuts, a number of Senators who face difficult re-election races in 2012 have come out in support.

They include: Kent Conrad (D-ND), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Jim Webb (D-VA).

“Their support suggests that for all the talk of Obama alienating the left with the compromise, it may be more popular than the party’s leadership is willing to acknowledge. In particular, it may appeal to independent voters in suburban parts of the country — the constituencies Obama needs to win re-election in 2012.”

Bushism Endures

Daniel Larison: “One of the stories some conservatives told themselves in 2010 was that the Tea Party movement had succeeded in getting the Republican Party ‘out from under Bush.’ Fresh off of a significant electoral victory aided in part by the Tea Party movement, what has been the first and most pressing priority of the Republican leadership? To make sure that the deficit-expanding tax cuts they failed to pay for in the Bush years continue to increase the deficit in the future, and to make sure that they don’t pay for them now.”

White House Warns of Double-Dip Recession

White House economic adviser Larry Summers told ABC News that a failure to pass the tax cut compromise President Obama negotiated “would significantly increase the risk” of a double-dip recession.

Said Summer: “If this process were to break down and a bill were not passed, downward revisions would commence.”

Of course, just yesterday Reuters notes President Obama said that “he no longer sees the danger of a double-dip recession.”

Lamont Not Likely to Challenge Lieberman

After two unsuccessful statewide campaigns in four years, Ned Lamont (D) says he is “strongly disinclined” to challenge Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) in 2012, CT Mirrorreports.

Said Lamont: “Four years ago, I couldn’t get anybody to challenge Joe Lieberman. It looked like an impossible race. Four years later, there’s going to be a number of good folks ready to make the challenge.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“It has become a widely-noticed habit of yours to concede or to adopt both the Republican terms of policymaking and Republican policies and programs… For many of your 2008 voters, this will indeed be the last straw for any active support they might have considered providing you.”

— Ralph Nader, in a letter to President Obama, attacking his tax cut deal with Republicans.

Candidate Convicted in Voter Suppression Probe

Former House candidate Tan Nguyen (R) was convicted yesterday of lying to investigators during a voter suppression probe, the Orange County Register reports.

The charges stemmed from an incident during his failed 2006 challenge of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) in which his campaign sent 14,000 intimidating letters to registered voters with Latino surnames and foreign birthplaces.

Nguyen faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Huckabee Likes His Poll Numbers

Mike Huckabee tells NewsMax that he’s seriously mulling another presidential bid.

Said Huckabee: “I’d be less than honest if I said, ‘Oh no, I never think about it.’ Of course I do, especially when poll-after-poll puts me in position that shows me in a real position to win all the way to the White House.”

Christian Heinze: “Pointing out his strength in polls has become a recent theme for Huck, and it’s notable because most candidates, at this point, are loathe to talk about any sort of polling publicly.”

LePage Will Back Snowe in Maine

Maine Gov.-elect Paul LePage (R) says he’ll support Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) for re-election even if a more conservative Tea Party candidate launches a primary challenge against her in 2012, according to a local Fox News affiliate.

“Snowe has recently come under criticism from conservatives, who say she’s not conservative enough. LePage, who’s a favorite among the die-hard conservatives in Maine, says he’ll continue to support Snowe, who — along with her late husband Peter Snowe — helped a young LePage get into Husson College.”

Obama Reality Check

John Avlon: “One of the strangest signs of our political times is that while the far right considers Obama a socialist, the far left thinks he’s a corporate sellout. Of course, he can’t be both. But this distorted view disproportionately dominates our political debates.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“It is not derailing us in any way. This is a turning tide and starting a trend that you can’t really stop unless you want to shut down the Internet.”

— Kristinn Hrafnsson, in an interview with ABC News, on the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“This country was founded on compromise. I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union.”

— President Obama, at a hastily-called press conference to defend his tax cut deal with Republicans.

Elizabeth Edwards is Dead

Elizabeth Edwards, who became a national figure in her fight against cancer and as a partner in her husband John’s political career, died today, the Raleigh News and Observer reports. She was 61.

Politico: “Edwards was the driving force behind her husband’s steep rise in half a decade from gifted trial lawyer to the Democratic Party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee, and she was the strategist, the campaign manager, surrogate, and public interpreter for a man who never seemed to emerge fully from behind his pitch-perfect political performances. While John Edwards began and ended his public career as a cipher to the American public and even to some of his close aides, Elizabeth’s charm, intelligence, and even her public vindictiveness put her on a first-name basis with the nation.”

From Both Sides of the Party

When Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) have a similar position on the tax cut deal, it’s an indication of just how difficult the politics of the issue are for President Obama.

Here’s what Landrieu told the Wall Street Journal: “We’re going to borrow $46 billion from the poor, from the middle class, from businesses of all sizes basically, to give a tax cut to families in America today that, despite the recession, are making over $1 million. This is unprecedented.”

Meanwhile, Sanders took to the Senate floor in a must-watch speech.

See more…

Early Look at the 2012 Races

The Cook Political Report has its first rankings for the 2012 House and Senate races.

Key findings: Several freshman House Republicans are either in tossup or lean-Republican districts, meaning Democrats have a chance to bring many of them back to their column.

Obama Approval Steady

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds President Obama’s job approval rating holding steady at 45% since late October despite last month’s “shellacking” of Democrats in the midterm elections.

In dealing with specific issues, Republicans fared better than Democrats on the economy, deficit, terrorism and taxes, while Democrats were given higher marks on education and the environment.

Said pollster Julia Clark: “Republicans are positioning themselves well heading into the 2012 presidential campaign.”

Klobuchar Way Ahead in Minnesota

A new Public Policy Polling survey shows Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “is overwhelmingly popular and would cruise to reelection at this point pretty much no matter who her Republican opponent was.”

Key finding: Klobuchar’s approval rating is 59% with only 29% of voters disapproving of her.

Klobuchar leads a quintet of hypothetical Republican challengers by margins ranging anywhere from 10 to 18 points. Her closest competitor is Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who she leads 53% to 43%.

Bush Tax Cuts Are Only Part of It

First Read: “Despite being billed as a great debate over the Bush tax cuts, the struggle between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans appears to have ended with an extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts representing only about 37 percent of the total cost of the agreement Obama announced Monday night.”

“In August, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that that a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for 2011 and 2012 would amount to $336 billion. The New York Times estimates the cost of the entire package under consideration at $900 billion.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. Whether they have committed a crime, I think that bears a very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department.”

— Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in an interview with Fox News on the publication of secret diplomatic cables obtained through WikiLeaks.

Huckabee’s Book Tours

Mike Huckabee’s current book tour — to promote and sign copies of his new children’s book, Can’t Wait Til Christmas, as well as his reissued adult title, A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories that Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit — has the “real feel of a dry run for the presidency,” the Fresno Bee reports.

But the real test may be early next year when his book, A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t!) is published. Christian Heinze notes the book was due out in February and has now been pushed to March 1.

Obama Contributors Deeply Opposed to Tax Deal

A new SurveyUSA poll of those who contributed to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign finds that 74% are opposed to his deal with Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for those making over $250,000 a year.

The depth of opposition is severe with 51% saying they are less likely to contribute to Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. In addition, 57% say it makes them less likely to support congressional Democrats who support this deal in 2012.

Obama Gets Rolled

John Avlon: “There is one point of growing agreement between the left and right: this president is a lousy poker player, with no love for the tough-minded gamesmanship of high-stakes negotiations. He believes in reasoning together, even with unreasonable people. This honorable approach leaves him liable to get rolled.”

Another Look at Kennedy vs. Nixon

Just published: Kennedy v. Nixon: The Presidential Election of 1960 by Edmund Kallina Jr.

An examination of what happened before, during, and after one of the closest presidential elections in history. The author concludes that there isn’t sufficient evidence to determine whether Chicago’s Democratic machine stole more votes there than Republicans did in downstate Illinois.

House Democrats Resist Retirement

Roll Call: “The average age of Democrats in the next Congress skews slightly older than Republicans (59.1 for Democrats to 53.6 for Republicans), but there are nearly twice as many septuagenarians and octogenarians in the Democrats’ ranks, raising questions about whether some of those folks might soon head for the exits. Democrats will have 29 Members older than 70 in the next Congress. Republicans will have 15.”

Traficant Was Top Independent Candidate

Smart Politics finds that former Rep. James Traficant’s 16.1% of the vote in this year’s midterm elections was the best showing by an independent or third party candidate in House districts contested by both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Traficant bested the 15.2% he won back in 2002 when he ran for his seat from behind bars after being incarcerated in federal prison.

Mollohan Eyes Comeback Bid

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), “who lost the seat he held for nearly three decades in a Democratic primary, is looking into a comeback bid for 2012,” Politico reports.

Said Mollohan: “It’s kind of like keeping your options open. There’s a lot of support out there. It is in the category of ‘I’m absolutely considering running again’ and also in the category of ‘I absolutely could not run again.’ It will depend a whole lot on the environment that these elections will be played out in.”

Alleged Bra Stuffer Takes Seat

Despite federal charges that she destroyed evidence, Leslie Johnson was sworn in as a member of Prince George’s County Council, WTOP reports.

Prosecutors charge Johnson with flushing a $100,000 check down a toilet and tried to hide nearly $80,000 cash in her bra as federal agents waited outside her home to arrest her husband.

Wrong Message for Democrats

Charlie Cook: “I think I could start a bonfire if I had kept all the poll memos from Democratic pollsters over the last two years. First arguing that climate change would be a winning issue, and then health care reform, they now think they can score points by drawing a line and extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for everyone except the top income brackets. What seems to escape many of them is that they haven’t won a message fight in two years on anything.”

Add Rice to List of Treaty Backers

With Condoleezza Rice’s Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for the ratification of the New START treaty, all living former Republican Secretaries of State now support the treaty’s ratification.

She joins five others who made their case last week.

Minnesota GOP Bars Former Governors, Senator

Minnesota Republicans are punishing former Gov. Arne Carlson (R), former Gov. Al Quie (R), and former Sen. Dave Durenberger (R) for backing Independence party candidate, Tom Horner, in this year’s governor’s race, KEYC-TV reports.

In total, party leaders voted to ban 18 republicans from Party activities for two years, including the 2012 Republican National convention.

Quote of the Day

“What became abundantly clear was the supposed stars on the rainbow weren’t there and I think we were able to debate the issue at hand. I was less the issue, and the issue was more the issue.”

— South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), in an interview with WIS-TV, suggesting his scandalous extramarital affair actually allowed him to govern more effectively.

Is Obama Using Tax Cuts to Win in 2012?

Ezra Klein notes the tax cut compromise “is looking more and more like the White House’s opening gambit in the 2012 campaign.”

“The White House has stopped negotiating for ideal — or even acceptable — tax policy and moved to negotiating stimulus policy… Democrats are negotiating toward a two-year extension of the tax cuts. They’ve rejected a three-year extension. That means the next fight over the tax cuts will be part of the 2012 election. And the White House believes that an improved economy and a bigger deficit will make it much harder for Republicans to support extending tax cuts for the rich. If they try, that gives Democrats both a populist cudgel and a way to take hold of the deficit issue.”

Fool me once: “The White House’s problem is that they handled the politics of this argument so poorly in 2010 that their allies on the Hill don’t trust them to do better in 2012.”

Government Earned $12 Billion in Profit on Citi Bailout

The U.S. Treasury sold the last of its Citigroup common shares that capped the government’s biggest bank bailout of the financial-market meltdown, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The stock sale, which was finalized Monday evening, means taxpayers will reap a profit of $12 billion on their $45 billion cash investment in Citi, the Treasury said. It also helps the government quell some of the criticism that it went too far in propping up the financial system, and allows the bank to shake the market stigma that it has effectively been a ward of the state.”

Something for Everyone?

Ezra Klein argues the tax deal “has something to annoy everyone — but also something for everyone.”

“You’re a Democrat? The tax cuts for the rich are extended, and the estate tax deal exempts inheritances up to $5 million while cutting the rate heirs pay to 35 percent. But that’s why the Republicans like it. You’re a Republican? The tax cuts are only extended for two years, and they’re paired with 13 months of unemployment insurance, an extension of a variety of tax credits passed in the stimulus, and a new payroll tax cut — all of them deficit-financed. But that’s why the Democrats like it. You’re a deficit hawk? The deal adds more than $700 billion to the deficit. And, let’s be honest, you got nothing in return.”

“It’s important, however, to keep the actual policy in perspective. If you’re a Republican who argues that long-term uncertainty about tax rates and the deficit are the main problem for the economy, this deal only eases tax uncertainty for two years and it makes the deficit worse. If you’re a Democrat looking for more stimulus, this isn’t nearly enough, and most of what’s there is just an extension of programs that are currently in place.”

White House Blames House Democrats

The White House is pushing back against criticism from congressional Democrats on the tax deal reached last night with Republicans, ABC News reports.

Said a senior White House official: “We wanted a fight, the House didn’t throw a punch. The House wouldn’t vote before the Senate, and the Senate was afraid they’d lose a vote on it.”

Obama Makes Tax Deal with Republicans

President Obama reached agreement with Republican congressional leaders “on a broad tax package that would extend the Bush-era income tax cuts for two years, reduce worker payroll taxes for one year and give more favorable treatment to business investments,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Other elements of the deal include a temporary reinstatement of the estate tax at 35% — the level favored by most Republican lawmakers — as well as an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

However, as the New York Times reports, congressional Democrats “pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.”

Politico: “The deal amounts to a major reversal for Obama — who campaigned for president on a pledge not to allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to continue beyond their scheduled expiration on Dec. 31. The two-year extension means the fight will be waged during the middle of his reelection campaign in 2012.”

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