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White House budget cuts, primaries, more -- Post Politics Hour

Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2010; 11:30 AM

Federal Eye blogger Ed O'Keefe takes your questions about who is up and who is down in the world of politics and the latest news out of Washington.

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Ed O'Keefe: Welcome to an abbreviated version of Tuesday's Post Politics Hour. It's a busy day in Washington and across the country -- President Obama is addressing deficit concerns and implementation of his health-care reform plan, while Democrats and Republicans are participating in dozens of primaries nationwide. Let's get to it!

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Newton Co., Ark.: Maybe I wasn't paying as much attention, but I remember state primaries being as big story as they are today.

I kind of think it's not so much that they are more newsworthy, but cable news noticed that their ratings go up and political bloggers noticed their traffic goes up during elections so they just keep trying to recreate that.

Ed O'Keefe: Arkansas, I think you mean to say that primaries were NOT as big a story in the past?

I think you're right -- cable networks and news Web sites saw the huge ratings and readership spikes during the 2008 campaign and are trying to feed that interest this time 'round too.

Plus -- you have several interesting candidates, tight races and an historic and obvious anti-incumbent environment that could spell the end of several storied political careers.

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Ithaca, N.Y.: I'm not a fan of this "Show More Emotion" narrative stuff from the talking heads.

But I think one that would hurt the President is that he seems to get more upset with talking heads then he ever got at BP and the rest of the oil industry. I mean he wanted to be reasonable after the leak happen and that's good, but him seeming so upset about his negative coverage is another thing.

Ed O'Keefe: Ithaca, we don't get to see the reported anger at BP and oil industry officials on camera -- only the anger he shares on camera when he's asked by reporters.

I will say that this morning's fantastic "Today Show" interview did seem to have the president focused a bit too much on the process questions of his anger and how his administration has reacted. Instead of feeding that narrative he should have shifted focus back to the Gulf, pointing out the deaths of 11, the untold economic impact to millions more and make it clear he's not concerned about process questions and much more concerned about cleaning up the mess and the communities impacted.

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Arlington, Va.: As more paperwork comes out about Elena Kagen, do you think she has baggage to carry into the judicial hearings? Between the military recruitment and the federal campaign issue, do you think they justify a NO vote on the Republican side? Compared to the 22 votes against John Roberts, including Obama, do you think 22 or more Republican "no's" would set the stage for a more judicious choice if there is another vacant seat on the Supreme Court in the next 2 years?

Ed O'Keefe: Now if that isn't a loaded question, I don't know what is.

I'll say this: Nothing released thus far has raised enough anger/outrage/concern on either side of the political spectrum as to force her confirmation back onto the front pages. Remember that Kagan was already thoroughly vetted by both sides when she was under consideration last year for the Supreme Court seat and when she was nominated and confirmed for solicitor general.

Certainly fringe special interest groups will try to make light of something in her previous statements and writings, but as of now, it's probably not enough to derail the nomination.

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Campaign Music: Why can't GOP candidates get permission from the artists before using music in their campaigns? George Bush, John McCain, and now Rand Paul have all used music without permission and have had the owners of the copyright either sue them or send cease and desist letters to stop it. Seems those who campaign on property rights should be a bit more careful to respect property rights. Seems to me an enterprising reporter might look into this and give us a report . . . no, they're all Republicans, can't work in that equivalency argument so you can show you're fair and balanced.

Ed O'Keefe: All I know Campaign Music is that I witnessed a fantastic, free Brooks and Dunn rehearsal and then performance on the floor of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. As a country music fan, it was awesome.

I also know that B&D sat in the VIP box with George H.W. and Barbara Bush. So some musicians certainly allow the use of their music, while others do not.

Playing a song at a public, free campaign event is a tough thing. Certainly if an artist steps in and says "don't play my music," a campaign is compelled to stop doing so, if only for the bad PR.

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Minneapolis: Hi Ed -- Thanks for taking questions today. I read somewhere (probably in your paper!) that if a president's approval rating is 50% or above, that is likely to limit the losses that president's party will have in that president's first mid-term election (I don't know if I have that quite right, but it's something like that). Given the extreme anger and anti- government sentiment that your new poll shows, however, is that "rule" likely to hold true this time around?

Ed O'Keefe: Minneapolis, at this point, with four solid months to go before election day, Obama is hovering just south of 50 percent approval in most polls. In my view, it's still too early to tell if those numbers would have any impact on the final results.

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Supertown, USA: What is the official title of today, since "Super Tuesday" was already used for this season.

"The Next Super Tuesday?"

"Duper Tuesday"

"June Jamboree"

"Politicspalooza"

Ed O'Keefe: I've seen Super Duper Tuesday, but I LOVE June Jamboree.

We could regionalize and call some of them the "South Carolina Smackdown," the "Las Vegas Showdown" or the "Little Rock Rumble."

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East Lansing, Mich.: The massive amount of cash donated and spent during elections. It's one story that's under-the-radar that I'm betting will be a major story in November when the hoopla surrounding the midterms fades out.

I'm wondering if anybody in the White House or Capital Hill is planning ahead to when this story is major part of the national conversation?

Ed O'Keefe: No idea how the White House and Congress will react -- probably with some shrugging of shoulders.

But you should read the recent work of my colleague and deskmate R. Jeffrey Smith, who's already written extensively about the campaign spending underway -- and I know there's much, much, much more to come on this topic from us:

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/staff/articles/r.+jeffrey+smith/

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Alexandria VA: I was surprised to read in this morning's story that Pres. Obama has not met with the head of BP, and apparently has no plans to do so. I thought gov't and BP were supposedly working together to solve this thing. It's been nearly two months; isn't it about time to have that meeting??

Also, coming from an old fuddy-duddy, I really don't like the President saying on national TV that he's looking for "some ass to kick" or whatever it was. Not language I want to hear from someone I would prefer to respect.

Ed O'Keefe: Haha -- after weeks of getting criticized for not being mad enough, a Fuddy Duddy weighs in and says they don't want to hear the president use the word "ass."

More proof that you have to have thick skin in politics.

I encourage you watch Obama's answer to Matt Lauer in full from this morning -- Lauer made reference to the president kicking butt, and Obama stepped it up a notch.

But he also told Lauer that he doesn't want to meet with Tony Heyward because he knows that the CEO will just give him lip service and that he prefers to see action. Seems like a bit of a throwaway answer, but that's the justification he gave.

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San Diego CA: Regarding the possible match-up of Carly Fiorina vs Barbara Boxer, does the fact Carly is able to spend millions to get her message out to the voters make her stronger as a candidate? Do you know how many of her own millions Barbara Boxer will be willing to use in her Senate race? Thank you.

Ed O'Keefe: With an assistant from "Deputy Fix" Felicia Sonmez, we know that Boxer had $9.7 million cash-on-hand as of May 19, according to her FEC filing.

She had a fundraiser with Obama in May that netted about $600,000, according to her campaign (But most of that isn't included in her latest fundraising report).

An earlier Obama fundraiser for Boxer in Los Angeles netted her $500,000. So it's probably safe to say Obama has helped her raise more than a million dollars with two events since April 1.

Boxer will likely raise much more through the summer and likely will become a DNC priority if she's facing the fabulously wealthy Fiorina. It's amazing what printers can earn you, ain't it?

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Miami Fla: If Carly Fiorina and other Republican women endorsed by former governor Sarah Palin do get elected to the House and the Senate, does the power of Palin increase her value to run for president or would she be seen as more of a powerhouse in helping candidates win pushing her to remain out of the 2012 race for the White House?

Ed O'Keefe: That is one of the five or so key questions of this election cycle, isn't it?

You gotta believe that if Palin's endorsement record averages above .500 she'll have to seriously consider a run -- or at least the chattering classes will keep the storyline alive.

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Rochester, N.Y.: I know the Beltway press is going on and on about how the White House political operation didn't stop primaries in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

But I have to give them credit for getting both Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney from running against probably a very weak candidate in Kristen Gilliband. And I'm guessing a primary in New York would far more costly and get much more national attention then one in Pennsylvania or Colorado.

Ed O'Keefe: A very good point, and one that I had thought of myself. As far as we can tell, neither Israel nor Maloney were given job offers, but Israel was enticed by Democratic leadership a bit to stick around and take on a larger role.

And yes -- a primary there would be prohibitively expensive. Remember that's the chief reason Israel and Maloney gave for not running against the incredibly well-funded Gillibrand, who at this point appears headed to a very easy election.

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Harrisburg, PA: Ed, How soon will a GOP challenger make an ad of Obama giving cupcakes to Helen Thomas (cue the scary music)?

How much of the President's domestic agenda will be pushed off due to the BP crisis? Like you mentioned earlier, Kagan hasn't been front-page news, and DADT, which seemed to be going great guns, is now stalled. Plus, with more and more Dem seats facing challenges in November, it seems like Obama is really playing defense.

Ed O'Keefe: Anyone who runs an ad of President Obama giving cupcakes to Helen Thomas has a terribly selective memory: There are shots of Thomas with every president since at least Jimmy Carter, all of them smiley and friendly.

DADT isn't stalled -- it just awaits a final Congressional vote and then the Pentagon will take the issue up later this year or early next. Gay rights groups and advocates are aware of and generally endorse the current timetable.

But otherwise, yes, the BP spill is dominating the domestic agenda. Other things are happening, but not garnering as much attention.

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Is heavy campaign spending good for the eceonomy?: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina win their Republican primarires in California, how much more of their personal fortunes will they be pumping into California's economy? And how much will this heavy spending help certain aspects of the state's economy (e.g., broadcast and print media)?

Ed O'Keefe: Oh someone will definitely write a story about how well broadcasters, web sites and print media make out in the California race. The senate and gubernatorial contests will probably cost more than the GDP of half of Africa when it's all said and done.

So if you're in the market for profits, find a radio or TV station in Cali that needs an owner...

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Ed O'Keefe: Folks, that's it for today's Post Politics Hour. Make sure to visit PostPolitics.com throughout the day for campaign updates and full results of the June Jamboree, Super Duper Tuesday, South Carolina Smackdown... whatever you want to call it.

And check out my blog, The Federal Eye for updates on news across the federal government.

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