Campaign paraphernalia cover the wall in the famous Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City. Famous for its “Coffee Bean Caucus,” it’s a must-stop location for presidential hopefuls. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
The Iowa caucuses are a little less than eight months away, but the Hawkeye State will be the center of the political universe Tuesday as it plays host to President Obama and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Unlike his GOP rivals, the president doesn’t have to worry about a competition in next year’s caucuses. Instead, Tuesday’s visit to the Alcoa Davenport Works Factory in Bettendorf, where he will discuss the role manufacturing plays in the U.S. economy, is a nod toward the 2012 general election, when Iowa is once again expected to be a key battleground.
It’s still early in the game for the president to be directly taking on any of the Republican contenders, but he’s clearly putting the entire field on notice that they won’t have the state all to themselves these next few months.
The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reports, “Mr. Obama’s political advisers are concerned that with the Republican presidential nominating contests heating up, voters in states such as Iowa will hear a steady, unanswered stream of Obama bashing.”
The most recent example of that came Monday when Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann formally kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo, declaring, “We can’t afford four more years of Barack Obama.”
Palin, another of the president’s sharpest critics, will be a few hours west of President Obama in Pella, attending a screening of “The Undefeated,” a glowing documentary film about her. After the showing, the former governor of Alaska is expected to mingle with attendees at a cookout.
Palin has kept a low profile since she wrapped up her East Coast bus tour last month, but her visit to Iowa is likely to spark fresh speculation that she’s considering a run for the Republican nomination, especially given the timing of her arrival.
This is the second time Palin has stepped on a fellow Republican’s presidential announcement in an early nominating state. Her bus tour rolled into New Hampshire in June just a few hours after Mitt Romney launched his bid for the presidency there.
Given the roll Iowa plays in the nominating process, the state is no stranger to the political spotlight, which will only get brighter as August’s Straw Poll and next year’s caucuses draw closer.
MILES AWAY ON DEBT
President Obama met with Senate leaders Monday to try to draw up a plan for cutting the deficit in exchange for increasing the nation’s borrowing limit, but initial reports from the negotiations indicate there’s still a wide gulf between the White House and Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Monday the administration’s position that any debt limit deal be “balanced.”
“Americans get frustrated when they see Democrats and Republicans talking past each other,” Carney said. “And if you look at where compromise is possible, it really is in taking a balanced approach, a non-ideological approach, a realistic approach that places the burden broadly so that when prosperity is there it’s also shared, so that everyone gets to — everyone bears the burden, everyone shares in the prosperity. And I think that’s the right approach and it is, as you know, the president’s approach.”
But before his meeting with the president, Sen. McConnell repeated his mantra that any sort of tax increases would not be on the table, the Washington Post’s Paul Kane and Rosalind S. Helderman report:
“‘Let’s move past the tax hikes and talk about what’s actually possible,'” McConnell said on the Senate floor before the afternoon meeting. “‘This much is clear: If government spending were the answer to an economic slowdown, we’d be in a boom time right now.'”
Kane and Helderman point out that both sides in the recently ended talks led by Vice President Joe Biden were trying to get to $2 trillion in deficit reduction but likely remain far away from that goal.
“According to those involved in the talks, the White House has offered a roughly $1.3 trillion mix of cuts to domestic and national security agencies, but congressional Republicans had been pushing for $1.7 trillion. But Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who participated in the Biden group, suggested Monday that it had really only identified $500 billion in savings that all sides supported.”
President Obama might also have members of his own party feeling left out. The Hill’s Mike Lillis reports that House Democrats are showing signs of frustration that the White House isn’t taking their point of view into account:
“How is it that the House Democrats played such an important role [in the majority], and all of a sudden [the White House says], ‘Forget it, we’ll work with the Senate and the Republican leadership?’ ” asked Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), vice chairman of the Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee….
Capitol Hill Democrats have been steaming for months, since being sidelined during talks to extend the George W. Bush-era tax rates and fund the government this year. Many say the White House takes their support for granted but ignores them when it comes to making policy.
“Before this year we were playing a strong role,” said Cuellar, but “now a lot of us feel like we’re almost being ignored.”
PAWLENTY’S TOUGH TALK
Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty will deliver a major foreign policy speech Tuesday morning that will include a heavy dose of criticism for President Obama and a warning to his fellow party members who have struck a more passive tone when it comes to U.S. military engagement around the world.
The former governor of Minnesota is expected to target the president on his response to the Arab Spring. “President Obama has failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles,” Pawlenty will say, according to prepared remarks released by his campaign.
Pawlenty will also call on the president to stand strongly with Israel, arguing that is the only solution to the peace process. “Israeli-Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office,” Pawlenty plans to say.
Pawlenty intends to stake out a hawkish position among his GOP rivals: “What is wrong, is for the Republican party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world. History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item. America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal; it does not need a second one.”
Pawlenty’s remarks are set for 9:30 a.m. ET at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
PALMETTO STATE PRIMARY, NOT CAUCUS
It appears South Carolina will retain its status as the first-in-the-South primary after all.
The South Carolina Republican Party said it will move forward with the primary despite reports Monday that the contest might be in jeopardy over potential budget cuts being considered by Gov. Nikki Haley.
The money troubles could have forced the state to hold caucuses instead, but South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore told the Wall Street Journal, “That is not on the table and that will not happen.”
Gov. Haley is expected to veto the part of the state’s budget plan that would use taxpayer funds to pay for political primaries.
Moore projected the primaries would cost $1.5 million dollars, with about $400,000 of that expected to be covered by filing fees.
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