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Posted at 08:53 AM ET, 04/19/2011

The Morning Plum

* It’s the economy, not the deficit: There’s a clear message in today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll: At a time when official Washington is preoccupied with the deficit and spending cuts, Obama’s reelection team should be worried about the economy above all else. The poll finds that 47 percent approve of Obama’s performance, down seven points since January -- a period during which the discussion over the deficit has been front and center, and Obama and Dems reached an agreement on spending cuts that sucked up all the Beltway oxygen.

If the President’s “only adult in the room” deficit strategy is all about winning back independents, it may not be working: 55 percent of them disapprove of his performance. The numbers all appear to be driven by economic pessimism: 44 percent say the economy is getting worse, the highest in two years, and 57 percent overall disapprove of his performance on the economy.

Two bright spots for Obama: Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had similarly low numbers at the same point in their respective first terms, and the GOP field is held in particularly low regard, even by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Obama is leading all but two of the potential GOP 2012 hopefuls by double digits.

* Obama to go on the road to sell deficit plan: The President embarks today on a three-day swing through Virginia, Nevada and California, and since deficit reduction will continue to be the central topic, the key thing to watch is whether he continues speaking in the voice he found in last week’s speech.

* Dems unleash ad offensive on Paul Ryan plan: Mike Allen reports that the DCCC is going on the offensive with new ads and robocalls against 25 House GOPers who voted for Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it, an effort to quickly tag Republicans with the vote as they return home for recess. The script of the radio ad targeting Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack:

“Did you know Congressman Chip Cravaack voted to end Medicare, forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage? Tell Cravaack to keep his hands off our Medicare.”

As DCCC chair Steve Israel told me the other day, Dems intend to use this message even in marginal and conservative districts in hopes of maintaining a united national messaging front, which is crucial in drawing a sharp contrast between the parties.

* Gang of Six looking for “middle ground” between Ryan and Obama: Dick Durbin gives us a preview of the “Gang of Six’s” forthcoming deficit reduction proposal. Still no policy details, aside from a general hint that Social Security needs to be changed somehow, but here’s the key nugget: Durbin claims it will represent an approximate midpoint between the Ryan and Obama poles of the debate:

“You have the House Republican budget from Congressman Paul Ryan, who I know and like, which is going to be placed somewhere on the right side of the spectrum. You have the president’s suggestion, which will be on the other side of the spectrum. And if and when we reach an agreement, it will be in the middle, a bipartisan effort, which I think has a chance to succeed.”

This will confirm the worst fears of liberal critics: That Obama’s plan, which is not really that liberal to start with, only represents the starting point of a process that will end up in the “center” of a spectrum on which the Obama and Ryan plans are viewed as ideologically equivalent outer boundaries.

* Obama still playing on GOP turf: Relatedly, while it’s true that Obama delivered a great speech last week, Eric Alterman reminds us that the President is still playing on GOP turf in policy terms.

* Breaking: Another poll finds strong support for tax hikes on the rich: A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that 64 percent overall, and 63 percent of independents, support tackling the deficit with tax hikes on those over $250,000. Meanwhile, 80 percent oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. This mirrors what virtually every other poll has told us about the public’s preferred means of deficit reduction.

But: 69 percent oppose raising the debt ceiling.

* Why Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling: Charlie Cook explains it:

Polling that shows Americans overwhelmingly opposed to raising the debt limit is a sign that people are interpreting the debt limit as a brake on government spending.

Which, Cook explains, it isn’t: These numbers reflect general hostility to the idea of government spending.

* House Dems demand “clean” debt ceiling vote: A group of House Dems is seizing on the Standard and Poor’s downgrade to argue that this strengthenths the case for a “clean” vote on the debt ceiling. The problem is that it remains unclear how committed the White House is to a clean vote.

* Was the Dems’ Senate candidate in Texas responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib? With Dems coalescing behind retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez for Senate in Texas, despite presiding over the Abu Ghraib scandal, Adam Serwer has a key part of the backstory, and it’s eyebrow-raising.

* Every 2012 GOP hopeful is seriously flawed: USA Today on how literally everyone in the 2012 GOP field has a serious vulnerability to overcome among GOP primary voters — which means you can’t rule out any one of them (yikes!) becoming the nominee.

* And the Donald Trump joke is on you: As Justin Elliott notes, you shouldn’t take Trump’s presidential chatter seriously until he reveals his net worth, something he can actually keep under wraps for quite some time while still suckering us all into talking about whether he will run.

What else is happening?

By  |  08:53 AM ET, 04/19/2011

 
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