* Down to the wire for New York’s gay marriage bill: With gay marriage proponents still a single vote short of passage in the state senate, an undecided GOP senator says an agreement is now within reach that he could support, meaning today could be a historic day for equality.
* Was Obama’s Afghanistan speech persusasive? One of the key political challenges Obama faced last night was to persuade the public that he’s winding down the war fast enough at a time when its costs are skyrocketing even as we face chronic unemployment and a fiscal mess at home. Hence his claims that “the tide of war is receeding” and that it’s time for “time for nation building here at home.”
The deliberate choice of the latter phrase seemed designed to persuade Americans that the Bush-initiated post-9/11 war era is slowly but inevitably coming to an end, in order to buy some political space to continue the mission at levels that are (not quite) acceptable to the military commanders and won’t draw sustained attacks from Republicans.
As today’s Post editorial puts it: “By announcing these pullouts, Mr. Obama may ease some of the political pressure while still allowing his commanders enough forces to complete the 2014 transition plan.”
The Times, however, says Obama failed to make the case for continuing the mission on the level he wants “He will need to do a lot more to explain why it is in this country’s strategic interest to stick things out for another three-plus years,” The Times concluded. “Mr. Obama acknowledged Americans’ deep anxiety about this war. But one speech isn’t going to calm their fears.”
* Congressional Dems unhappy, Republicans muted: Judging by the reactions of Congressional Dems, who continue to call for a more rapid drawdown, it’s unclear how much political space he’s bought himself. At the same time, it’s also clear that he made it very tough for Congressional Republicans to attack him.
* Obama sided with Gates over Petraeus: An inside look at how Robert Gates won the argument with David Petraeus about the way forward in Afghanistan.
As Ben Smith notes, Petraeus’s apparently waning influence will only underscore a sense that the War on Terror era is slowly coming to end, though it’s hardly ending quickly enough for many Democrats.
* GOP’s hawkish orthodoxy crumbling? Unlike Tim Pawlenty, some of the 2012 GOP hopefuls opted for something approaching nuance over crass chest-beating, which I suppose we can take as a hopeful sign of sorts.
* Congress will confront Obama over Libya: In a very interesting development, House Republicans have set up two votes for Friday — one on the Kerry/McCain resolution giving Obama licence to continue without Congressional authorization, and the other on restricting funding for the war if he doesn’t seek it.
The House is expected to vote down the former, with Republicans and liberals opposing it. Even if some Republicans are operating from partisan motives here, this would still represent a very clear rebuke to the notion that Presidents should be free to wage wars at their convenience, free of any pesky checks and balances.
* Crunch time in deficit talks: Neither GOP intransigence on tax hikes nor Dem opposition to Medicare benefits cuts appear to be softening, making a deal look increasingly difficult.
* Dems decisively won the argument over Medicare: In case you doubt that Dems now know that giving ground on Medicare would be a serious mistake, check out these striking numbers from Bloomberg. Fifty-seven percent of Americans think they’d be worse off under the Paul Ryan Medicare plan, including 58 percent of independents. Even 46 percent of Republicans think they’d be worse off, versus 47 percent who say they’d be better off.
Respondents trust Dems over Republicans on Medicare by 43-34.
* No mandate for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act: Meanwhile, Bloomberg also finds that 51 percent think that while Obama’s health law might need changing, it shouldn’t be repealed.
Taken together, these findings suggest the possibility that Ryan’s overreach has enabled Dems to make progress (though there’s still a long way to go) in the broader argument over health care.
* T-Paw struggling in the money game: The news that some of Pawlenty’s top advisers are working for little or no pay suggests he’s havng a tough time marshalling the resources necessary to compete with front runner Mitt Romney. But it also suggests that T-Paw has a very loyal team to rely on.
* Libs make preemptive strike against Blue Dogs: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s first endorsement of the season: Eric Griego, an unabashed liberal who’s running for an open House seat in New Mexico. Lefties who want to elect better Dems are hoping to get an early start before several conservative Blue Dog Dems jump in. Definitely a race to watch.
* And yet another right wing health care argument crashes and burns: The ubiquitous claim that Obamacare and Ryancare are similiar because both provide something akin to vouchers or subsidies really is absurd on its face.
What else is happening?