April 8 Looms in Battle Over Budget

BY David Chalian  March 16, 2011 at 8:31 AM EDT

The Morning Line

Circle April 8 on your calendars. With Republicans and Democrats acknowledging the short-term funding bill passed Tuesday by the House and now making its way through the Senate will be the last, April 8 looms as the real deadline by which a continuing resolution must be passed funding the government for the remaining six months of the year — or a shutdown will occur.

The 54 Republicans who voted against the three-week continuing resolution Tuesday are not an insignificant minority. POLITICO’s David Rogers writes up the GOP defections as giving House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a weaker hand to play in the negotiations and a clear sign that no deal is yet in sight.

NewsHour’s Capitol Hill team, Quinn Bowman and Linda Scott, caught up with two Republican House members who came down on different sides of Tuesday’s vote. Both provide insight into the party’s struggle to define how to cut spending while dealing with a Democratically-controlled Senate and White House.

Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., is a freshman member who voted for the resolution. He said the $10 billion in cuts made during the series of short-term budget votes in the current Congress was a significant achievement. He also spoke with several of his colleagues who voted against the measure and said they were “all over the map” on why they voted against the bill. He called on the Senate to put forward a proposal for funding the government until October in order for negotiations to continue.

Rep. Jeff Flake, R.-Ariz., is running for the Senate in Arizona and has made spending cuts a part of his platform for several years. He voted against Tuesday’s measure and told the NewsHour that he’s worried that as time goes on, Republicans will be forced to roll the spending debate into negotiations over raising the government’s debt limit. That debt limit vote is expected to come this spring. Flake told us that this could weaken the possibility of using the debt limit vote to force concessions from Democrats on entitlement spending.

RUN DNC

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland would be a top candidate to succeed Tim Kaine as chairman of the Democratic National Committee if the former Virginia governor decides to run for Senate.

“Two well-placed Democrats said that Strickland is seen as a strong contender for the job, but cautioned that no decisions have been made,” reports POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin.

Martin reports that senior Democratic officials have begun discussing possible replacements for Kaine, assuming the current chair is “all but gone.”

A DNC spokesman said Monday that Kaine was “increasingly likely” to seek the seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Jim Webb.

By turning to Strickland, the DNC would be filling some of the holes left by a Kaine departure. The Ohioan is considered a strong fund-raiser, and his moderate views (pro-gun rights, pro-abortion rights) would allow him to campaign in many parts of the country. Strickland might be particularly helpful in the Midwest, where Democrats suffered big losses in last year’s midterm elections.

PALIN’S PLUMMET

ABC News and the Washington Post are out with latest poll results on the 2012 Republican field, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin does not seem to be wearing well with Republicans.

From ABC News pollster Gary Langer:

“Favorable impressions of Sarah Palin have dropped to a new low in her own party, with negative views of the former Alaska governor substantially exceeding those of other potential Republican presidential candidates, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

“Fifty-eight percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents see Palin favorably, in the top league with Mike Huckabee (61 percent), Mitt Romney (60 percent) and Newt Gingrich (55 percent). But on the flipside she’s weaker: Thirty-seven percent see Palin unfavorably, exceeding Gingrich’s unfavorable rating by 11 points, Romney’s by 16 and Huckabee’s by 19.

“Palin also is following a different trajectory. She peaked at a remarkable 88 percent favorable among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (known collectively as “leaned Republicans”) after stepping onto the national stage as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate in Sep tember 2008. That’s declined since then to today’s level, 30 points lower.”

The former Alaska governor continues to do very little of the behind-the-scenes work other potential presidential contenders are doing, suggesting she’s not as likely to mount a campaign.

BARBOUR BARNSTORMS IOWA

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour lunched Tuesday with the Iowa Federation of Republican Women and made no secret about the reason for his visit to the Hawkeye State.

“I’m seriously thinking about running for president…If I run, I’m going to run to win Iowa — to win Iowa in the Caucuses and to win Iowa in the General Election because I think Republicans can win Iowa in 2012 and, in fact, I think it’ll be a key state in our campaign,” Barbour told the gathering, according to Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson.

Later Tuesday, Gov. Barbour delivered remarks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Chairman’s Dinner, where he said “economic growth and job creation is what we consider to be the first national priority,” reports Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register.

Obradovich also notes that Barbour “questioned whether the U.S. needs such a large force to accomplish the mission” in Afghanistan, but said he wasn’t promoting a shift in policy.

Formal policy shift or not, POLITICO’s Ben Smith calls it a “major moment” in the early stages of the nomination race, and TIME’s Joe Klein calls it “the first sort of interesting event” in the contest.

Gov. Barbour clearly seems to be looking for a way to tap into Americans’ frustration with the war effort. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday showed nearly two-thirds of those surveyed felt the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting.

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