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Posted at 08:47 AM ET, 02/07/2012

The Morning Plum: Dems will play by GOP rules

The big news of the morning: In a signal to donors that they should now give big money to outside groups, the Obama campaign has declared its support for the Dem Super PAC Priorities USA, while insisting that he will continue to battle against the pernicious influence of big money in politics.

The announcement amounts to an acknowledgment that Republicans appear to be succeeding at using Super PACs to blunt the advantages an incumbent president has at his disposal — and are likely to overtake those advantages. According to one recent analysis, the combined total in cash on hand collected by Obama and Dem outside groups is around $98 million; meanwhile the GOP outside groups have totaled up nearly the same amount — $94 million. There’s no telling how much more outside conservative groups will raise.

The current state of affairs is partly driven by the fact that Priorities USA has struggled to match the outside fundraising of groups like the Rove-founded Crossroads GPS and the pro-Romney Restore Our Future. Predictably, Crossroads is crying hypocrisy.

Outside money of this nature is bad for democracy, no matter who is spending it. But here are the plain facts of the matter. Obama and Democrats tried to pass legislation that would have limited outside money and ended non-disclosure; Republicans opposed it. Democrats would close down their Super PACs tomorrow if Republicans agreed to do the same.

So Dems have a choice: Either they can lead by example — which is to say, by setting an example that Republicans will never agree to — and give the GOP a lopsided advantage in outside spending and the tsunami of ads it will finance. Or they can play by the rules as Republicans have defined them, and continue to work to change those rules.

* Obama favors constitutional amendment on Citizens United: Perhaps the most important news in Obama campaign manager Jim Messina’s announcement about Super PACs is this:

The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action — by constitutional amendment, if necessary — to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

As I reported here recently, this is the step that campaign finance advocates had hoped Obama would support. The question is how forcefully the President will now push for it, if at all.

There’s an argument to be made that a strong case for it would dovetail neatly with the Obama campaign strategy of painting Mitt Romney — who favors doing away with all limits on campaign contributions — as emblematic of all the ways the current system is rigged for the rich and corporations and against average Americans.

* GOP rerunning old playbook on payroll tax cut? A brutal New York Times editorial castigates House Republicans, arguing that they are again playing games on the payroll tax cut extension because conservatives can’t bear to give Obama a victory on anything.

The politics of this battle were widely seen even by Republicans as a disaster for the GOP last time, and the question is whether things will be any different this time around.

* Again, it comes down to taxes on the rich: The primary sticking point on the payroll tax cut extension, again, is that Republicans want it paid for with a pay freeze on federal workers, while Democrats want it at least partly paid for with some kind of tax on the wealthy or by ending tax loopholes for corporations.

* GOP won’t alter message on the economy: Russel Berman reports on the dilemma Republicans face as the recovery shows signs of strengthening, and wryly notes that “there are few signs that Republicans plan to significantly alter their message in the face of economic improvement.”

Also note this important quote from John Boehner:

“What I’m suggesting to you today is that we can do better,” Boehner said. “The American people are still asking a question: Where are the jobs? And while the unemployment rate is down slightly and a few more Americans are at work, we still have millions of Americans that are looking for work.”

This comes after over 250,000 jobs were added last month; keep an eye on this dynamic; it will be key.

* Romney still can’t close deal with conservatives: The robo-firm Public Policy Polling finds that Rick Santorum is on track to win two of the three GOP primaries today — he leads in Minnesota and Missouri, while Romney leads in Colorado — but this is the key finding:

There are three groups Santorum’s winning in all three of these states: Tea Partiers, Evangelicals, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ Those were groups that had previously been in Gingrich’s column, but it appears right leaning Republican voters are shifting toward Santorum as their primary alternative to Romney

* Takedown of the day: David Firestone does a demolition job on Karl Rove’s deeply absurd claim to have been “offended” by the Chrysler ad that touted the turnaround of the auto industry.

Of course, what really offends Rove is that on the core ideological question of whether government should step in and rescue an entire industry, Dems were proven right, and Republicans were proven wrong.

* White House will sign FAA bill that unions derided as sellout: Despite loud objections from unions, Senate Dems last night passed the FAA reauthorization compromise, and a White House official emails that Obama will sign it:

“While it is unfortunate that Republicans in Congress have injected extraneous ideological measures into this important legislation that will create jobs and improve air traffic safety, the provision referenced in our veto threat has been removed and the President will sign the compromise bill.”

It’s true that the provision the House GOP sought to weaken unions has been removed, but some labor officials think the new version will also make organizing harder for railway and airline workers, and they’d hoped the White House wouldn’t go along.

* How Romney resembles “amoral” Nixon: Ed Kilgore on the Selling of the President, 2012:

There really is a plausible connection between the campaigns of Tricky Dick and Flip-Flopping Mitt. Both candidacies exemplify the art of self-reinvention, the science of strategic pandering, the attractiveness of flawed but shrewd pols to a party desperate for victory, and the power of an essentially amoral campaign apparatus designed to reveal or disguise the Next President of the United States as circumstances demand.

* And Scott Brown still struggles to persuade voters that Elizabeth Warren is “elitist”: In perhaps the most ridiculous installment of this tale yet, a dumb Tweet from a Massachusetts Dem staffer has been magically coverted by the Brown campaign into proof that “Professor Warren” is looking “down” on the people of Western Massachusetts.

Why academic credentials are seen as a negative by the Brown campaign remains a mystery, but fortunately, there’s no evidence that many Massachusetts voters are buying it.

What else?

By  |  08:47 AM ET, 02/07/2012

 
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