President Obama’s Push for Innovation Hits Happy Valley

BY David Chalian  February 3, 2011 at 8:39 AM EST

Last week, President Obama visited Wisconsin to highlight efforts to rebuild the economy. He heads to Pennsylvania next. Photo by Brian Kersey/Pool-Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The crisis in Egypt has largely sidelined President Obama’s plan to sell his “Winning the Future” message delivered in his State of the Union address. The White House is fond of saying that it always has to walk and chew gum at the same time, but think back over the last week if you have seen President Obama doing anything other than deal with Egypt.

On Thursday, President Obama hopes to alter that by heading to Penn State University to unveil his “Better Buildings Initiative.”

In a conference call with reporters previewing the president’s plan, a senior administration official said the ultimate goal is “over the course of a decade to reduce the energy intensity of the commercial building sector by 20 percent.”

According to a White House fact sheet, the energy efficient upgrades will save companies and small businesses $40 billion per year.

The plan, which will be included in the president’s budget to be released on Feb. 14, is largely reliant on Congress changing the current tax deduction for energy upgrades into a tax credit that will be 10 times as generous for companies to retrofit their commercial buildings.

The administration was not ready to put a price tag on this initiative, but said that the costs will be covered by eliminating the oil and gas subsides President Obama addressed in his State of the Union address.

WARNING SIGN IN THE SUNSHINE STATE

When Barack Obama bested Sen. John McCain 51 percent to 48 percent in Florida in 2008, he upended eight years of frustration and heartache for Democrats in the Sunshine State.

Despite some chest pounding from the Democratic National Committee, its pick of Charlotte, N.C., as President Obama’s convention city does little to indicate the 2012 electoral map will look strikingly similar to 2008.

Florida may prove to be a prime example.

At a time when President Obama is seeing his national poll numbers uptick to a healthy 50 percent or higher mark, his numbers in Florida, a key battleground state, remain upside down and stagnant.

According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll out Thursday morning, 47 percent of Florida voters approve how the president is handling his job, compared to 49 percent who disapprove. (Serving as a reminder of which voters are front and center in the Obama operation’s mind, the 47-49 split on presidential approval is precisely the same when you look at just independent voters.)

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed say the president doesn’t deserve a second term, compared to 45 percent who say that he does.

To be sure, Florida is a winnable state for President Obama in 2012, but it may prove to be a much tougher slog than it was the first time around when he emerged with a 237,000 vote margin over Sen. McCain.

Florida gained two House seats according to the Census numbers, which puts its electoral college haul at 29 critical votes.

‘KNOWN AND UNKNOWN’

Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir, “Known and Unknown,” won’t hit bookshelves until next week, but based on reports of leaked excerpts, it appears the former secretary of defense has few regrets when it comes to the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War.

The Middle East would be “far more perilous than it is today” if Saddam Hussein had remained in power, Rumsfeld writes, according to portions of the book obtained by Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

Rumsfeld does not shy away from criticism though, including suggestions that more troops should have been sent when the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. While the former secretary says the commanders never asked him for additional forces, he concedes that “in retrospect, there may have been times when more troops could have helped.”

The word “regret” does come up when Rumsfeld addresses the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal. He said the situation became a “damaging distraction,” leading him to write President Bush two letters of resignation, but both were rejected.

“More than anything else I have failed to do, and even amid my pride in the many important things we did accomplish, I regret that I did not leave at that point,” Rumsfeld writes.

Rumsfeld eventually was forced to step down in November 2006 after Republicans lost their majorities in both houses of Congress, based in large part on public dissatisfaction with the administration’s handling of the war.

DRAFT GATES

There’s an online movement afoot to enlist Rumsfeld’s successor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to join the field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates to challenge his current boss, President Obama.

It doesn’t appear that the newly-launched DraftGates2012.com campaign has yet convinced Gates to abandon his previously announced plans to retire in 2011.

“Secretary Gates is both amused and flattered by the website, but he will retire from government for good later this year,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Wednesday in a statement. “He has never run for any political office and has no intention of ever doing so. He looks forward to following the 2012 presidential campaign from his home in the Pacific Northwest.”

The website, organized by two graduates of Texas A&M University, where Gates served as president, hopes to change the secretary’s mind by calling on his sense of service. “Every time his country called him to a new and more challenging position, Gates answered, with a steadfast commitment to his nation, a pursuit of excellence in the midst of mediocrity, and a willingness to seek what is right instead of settling for what is easy,” the website reads.

Gates was sworn in as secretary of defense in 2006, during the George W. Bush administration, but was asked by President Obama to continue serving in the position following the 2008 election. It marked the only time a secretary of defense had been asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president.

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