Battling the bully pulpit

at 06:30 AM ET, 07/11/2011


President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, meet with Congressional leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sunday, July 10, 2011, in Washington, to discuss the debt. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Obama’s decision to hold a press conference Monday morning — his second in the last two weeks — shows that he is using every advantage of the bully pulpit to win the political fight on the debt ceiling with Republicans.

The White House announced the press conference — and, yes, we will be live-blogging it — soon after Obama and congressional leaders met for 75 minutes on Sunday night to discuss the how of passing a debt limit increase before Aug. 2. It also came roughly 24 hours after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had declared that a grand bargain was off the table.

By calling another press conference, Obama is making clear he won’t take “no” for an answer — at least not publicly. He will “continue to make the case that we should seize this opportunity to do something very real about our deficit,” said one senior White House aide. “He is willing to make the tough choices, if Congress will join him.”

Obama — and his senior political aides — know that Boehner’s pronouncement on Saturday amounted to the end of any real prospect of a $4 trillion deal that involved revenue increases as well as cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. If there is a deal now, it’s likely to be a smaller-bore effort to extend the debt ceiling through 2012.

But while the policy scrap may be over (or coming to an end), the political fight remains. And Obama’s very public push for a “big” deal, is aimed at winning that battle.

Obama’s heightened public profile is a reminder of the power of the presidency. Obama knows that when he holds a press conference, every cable network will carry it live in its entirety — and then spend the remainder of the day poring over every pronouncement.

That level of coverage ensures that Obama can drive whatever message he likes into the public consciousness. Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and even the Republicans running for president in 2012 can’t hope to match that sort of presidential bully pulpit.

(Don’t forget how President Bill Clinton used the bully pulpit to score a political win over then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich during the government shutdown of 1995/1996.)

With Obama driving the go-big-or-go-home message — and polling suggesting that the public would blame congressional Republicans more than the administration for a failure to raise the debt ceiling — the GOP leadership must decide how it can win the battle for public opinion as the Aug. 2 deadline approaches.

Obama is using every tool at his disposal, putting the pressure on Republicans to fight back.This week will be a telling indication of how they plan to do just that.

Pawlenty knocks Bachmann: Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who usually takes a pass on criticizing his fellow Minnesota Republican, Michele Bachmann, appears to be shifting gears and taking aim at his emerging GOP presidential rival.

Asked Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about Bachmann, Pawlenty said Bachmann’s record as a member of Congress doesn’t stack up to what he did as governor.

“I like Congresswoman Bachmann, I’ve campaigned for her, I respect her,” Pawlenty said. “But her record of accomplishment in Congress is non-existent. It’s non-existent. And so we’re not looking for folks who, you know, just have speech capabilities. We’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to a conclusion. I’ve done that; she hasn’t.”

Bachmann, in a statement released late Sunday by her campaign, took the high road, describing areas where she feels she has had an impact on Capitol Hill.

She did not address Pawlenty directly.

“Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments,” Bachmann said.

Pawlenty becomes the first major presidential candidate to take aim at the upwardly mobile Bachmann. By the same token, he was the first Republican to really go after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty needs to stir the pot a little if he’s going to assert himself in the presidential race.

He acknowledged during his appearance that he’s got about 60 days to show “significant process.” The Iowa straw poll will be held in about a month’s time.

Wisconsin GOP releases map: Republicans in Wisconsin have released their proposed map for the state’s new congressional districts, and many of the changes are geared toward shoring up freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.).

In the proposed map (which is similar to a map that leaked out a month ago), Duffy’s northwestern 7th district picks up some Republicans from Democratic Rep. Ron Kind’s southwestern 3rd district. Therefore, shoring up Duffy has the dual effect of also shoring of Kind in what otherwise could be a winnable district for Republicans.

Republicans did not, however, draw Duffy’s opponent, former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D), out of the new district.

The map also appears to move Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) district a little more towards Republicans. Democrats have signaled a desire to target Ryan this cycle, given his authorship of the controversial Republican budget proposal. His district leans slightly red.

Republicans in the state control the redistricting process, so absent an intra-party squabble, the proposed map should be close to the final version.

N.Y. GOP picks Turner for Weiner special: New York Republicans have selected businessman Bob Turner, the 2010 nominee against Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), to run for Weiner’s now-vacant seat in a special election.

Turner took 40 percent of the vote against Weiner last year, but he brings significant personal wealth to he race and is expected to self-fund at least some of his campaign.

He will face state Assemblyman David Weprin, whom New York Demcocrats picked last week. The race is set to be held Sept. 13.

The winner of the special election is expected to enjoy a short tenure in Congress, with Weiner’s old district likely on the chopping block in the coming round of redistricting (New York is losing two seats).

Fixbits:

It looks like California’s citizens redistricting commission will not release a second proposal this week, as had been expected — a move that will throw the state’s many concerned incumbents for a loop.

Family Leader, the author of the “Marriage Vow” pledge signed by both Bachmann and former senator Rick Santorum, is removing some language from the pledge that refers to slavery.

Pawlenty declined to take a position on whether homosexuality is a choice.

Don’t expect Palin to back Bachmann.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) says Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is playing the role of “Chicken Little” in the debt ceiling debate, and that the country won’t defeault.

Must-reads:

Flake a case study in Hill survival” — Michael Leahy, Washington Post

Signs of tight finish comes as surprise in California special election” — AP

Casey looking tough to beat, with 16 months to go” — AP

Boehner’s decision means an opportunity lost” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

Palin plots her next move” — Peter J. Boyer, Newsweek

 
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