* Could focus on deficit imperil Obama’s reelection? Read of the morning: Ronald Brownstein explains why Obama may actually be undermining his own reelection chances by agreeing that Washington must tighten its belt and ceding the game on more spending to prime the recovery. The groups who will continue to suffer the most amid our ailing economy — blacks, Latinos, and young people — are the ones he needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012.
Also note Brownstein’s reporting on how the White House is betting they’ll turn out anyway, because they’ll be optimistically looking forward, not backward — a pretty big gamble.
* Moderate Dems endorse GOP line on debt ceiling hike: There was never going to be a clean vote on it, even though everyone has already agreed it must happen to avert catastrophe. And now several moderate Dem Senators are actually endorsing the GOP’s call for major spending cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Key takeaway: This is another clear indication of the degree to which Dems are allowing the GOP to drive the government spending debate.
* Getting back to basics on the deficit and the economy: Jonathan Chait has a simple explanation for why Washington elites have prioritized the deficit over the economic crisis: For those elites, the economic crisis is over.
* Dems getting into the secret money game: Bill Burton and Paul Begala are launching a major new initiative to raise $100 million to defend Obama’s reelection against the massive onslaught of outside money from the right — and it will collect some of its money from undisclosed donors.
Undisclosed money harms our democracy, whoever is doing it. And Obama has long railed against it, too. But Burton’s presence represents a clear endorsement of the practice by the President. And Burton argues: “While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars...the days of double standards are over.”
* Fact check of the day: Post fact checker Glenn Kessler takes a wrecking ball to Paul Ryan’s claim that his plan gives ordinary Americans a health plan just like that enjoyed by members of Congress.
Key takeaway: Though this claim “gives a false and misleading impression to ordinary people,” as Kessler puts it, it has been widely repeated by Republicans with remarkable message discipline.
* Getting real about public opinion on Ryan and Medicare: Though many of us have repeatedly asserted that Paul Ryan’s plan is deeply unpopular, polling guru Mark Blumenthal dives a bit deeper and cautions that public opinion on the matter is very malleable and open to persuasion. Don’t assume this one is a slam dunk, Dems!
* Does it all hinge on Pennsylvania? Tom Bevan on how independents in Pennsylvania are turning on the president and how he can’t win reelection without them.
* So much for Mitch Daniels’s social issues “truce”: Conservatives aren’t letting him off the hook: They demand that he step up and support the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Indiana.
* The journalists’ prom night: Interesting piece from Dana Milbank, who commits social suicide by detailing how the White House Corresondents’ Dinner, awash in lobbying and corporate cash, captures everything wrong with Washington journalism.
* What if Obama was (gasp) right about the media? John Dickerson says what must not be said, though he buries it under a bunch of caveats: The President was right to scold the media for elevating Donald Trump’s birther nonsense.
* And the White House keeps pushing back on Trump: Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett sharply dismisses Trump’s claims about Obama’s education as “nonsense,” adding: “He’s almost 50 years old and he’s president of the United States and I don’t think anybody would debate his intelligence.”
What’s amazing about this story is that the White House continues to be expected to respond to Trump’s various allegations, even though they’re deeply absurd and downright disgusting — and to top it all off, the man isn’t even a candidate yet.
What else is happening?