The Morning Line: Obama 2.0 Launches

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  November 29, 2010 at 8:46 AM EDT

President Obama

The Morning Line

As the tryptophan wears off and before the reality of divided government takes hold in January, President Obama enters a week chock full of opportunities to demonstrate how the post-shellacking Obama presidency will present itself.

In the four weeks since the election, the president has held the obligatory press conference to take his lumps, traveled overseas twice, enjoyed some holiday time with the family, and demonstrated he is tough enough to take an elbow to his lip and keep on trucking.

What President Obama has not yet done is demonstrate through action how he and his administration plan to adjust to the new political realities in Washington and prepare for his reelection campaign.

Secretary Gates is expected to release the findings from the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” survey Tuesday. Although many of the findings have already been reported by the Washington Post and others, the completion of this military study was one of the major requirements by many senators for further action on the administration’s DADT repeal goal. Watch carefully how President Obama handles the release of the study as it will tell us much about his post-election relationship with his Democratic base.

Also on Tuesday, President Obama will have a high profile opportunity to start to win back some of those independents who abandoned his party a few weeks ago. The president will sit down with the bipartisan bicameral congressional leadership for the first time since the midterm elections and plot a path forward for the lame duck session. If a Bush tax cuts compromise is on the horizon, details may begin to emerge from tomorrow’s session. Watch to see if the president moves a lot further from his campaign season position on the tax cuts than do the Republicans. Then watch to see how the president attempts to make a major concession into a political victory.

Per the Washington Post, the Schumer solution appears to be gaining traction among the fractious Democrats on the issue. The New York senator has taken the lead on pushing to raise the cutoff threshold at $1 million. President Obama has always defined the wealthy as those families earning more than $250,000 per year and argued they did not need their Bush era tax cuts continued. Sen. Schumer and others believe Democrats sharpen their message by raising that income level to $1 million in hopes of making Republicans extend tax cuts for millionaires.

On Wednesday, the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission is expected to deliver its final report on how to get America out of its deep fiscal hole. If the early partisan reaction to the draft findings are any sign, getting the requisite 14 of 18 commissioners to vote for the recommendations and send them to Congress looks to be an extraordinarily uphill climb.

But with so much talk about debt and deficits during the campaign, the president can choose to simply provide lip service to the topic or use the Simpson-Bowles report as a springboard for his Obama 2.0 mission statement. And the liberal base of his party will clearly be looking over his shoulder, per the New York Times.

Add in some critical arm twisting on the New START treaty Mr. Obama seeks to get ratified in the Senate and you’ve got a week in Washington that will tell us more about the next six months than you might imagine.

STEELE OPPOSITION

Nearly a quarter of Republican National Committee members would prefer if embattled chairman Michael Steele decided not to run for another term, according to an Associated Press report released Saturday.

The wire service interviewed 51 of the 168-member committee with 39 responding they want Steele to step aside before chairman elections are held in January.

“You can’t keep spending the kind of money they’re spending every month just to operate the RNC,” said North Carolina committee member Ada Fisher.

Indiana’s James Bopp, meanwhile, told the AP: “I just don’t think Steele has performed at the level we need for the presidential cycle.”

Some members said Steele should be reelected, arguing a visible leadership fight could damage the party. “Now is not the time to change leaders. And now is not the time to be distracted into internal strife and battles among one another for power and control of the GOP infrastructure,” said Idaho Republican chairman Norm Semanko.

Steele has yet to announce if he will seek a second term, but challengers have already begun lining up against him. Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis has formally declared his candidacy. Others rumored to be considering bids include former Missouri GOP chairwoman Ann Wagner, former RNC strategist Gentry Collins, Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus and former Bush administration official Maria Cino.

Another report Saturday from the Washington Post’s Dan Balz looked at the RNC’s spending on its 2012 convention preparations, at a time when some party officials have openly questioned Steele’s financial stewardship of the organization.

Balz writes: “Spending through September topped $636,800, according to figures in a report to the Federal Election Commission. That is 18 times the amount spent in a comparable period four years ago.”

“I can’t imagine what you’d spend $636,000 on at this point,” former New Jersey committeeman David Norcross told Balz.

KIRK’S FIRST BILL

Sen.-elect Mark Kirk, R-Ill., will be sworn into office this evening by Vice President Biden to assume the seat once held by President Obama. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Kirk previewed his first move as a senator.

“My first bill that I’m going to introduce tomorrow is called the Spending Control Act,” Kirk said. One provision of the bill he highlighted is an attempt to give the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission BRAC like ability to submit its proposal to Congress for one up or down vote.

“The Senate gutted the original proposal of the deficit commission,” Kirk said. “That procedure should be put back in place.”

The senator-elect also called the early Simpson-Bowles draft report a “serious proposal,” but said he expects when the full commission votes much of the teeth in the initial draft will be gone.