* Who is winning the argument over budget cuts? The Post has some interesting new polling out this morning suggesting that in the arena of public opinon, at least, Obama and Dems may have an edge in the budget wars — but not a big one. Crucially, the poll finds that more Americans agree with the Obama/Dem argument about budget cuts than the GOP one, with 45 percent saying big cuts are more apt to result in job losses (the Dem argument) while 41 percent say cuts will spur job growth (the GOP argument).

But the public is almost exactly divided (43 percent with the president, 42 percent with the GOP) over which side has the right balance between slashing government and preserving vital programs.

What’s more, the poll finds that Obama has a sizable advantage over Congressional Republicans on who is more trusted on the economy, the economic problems people face, and on the deficit. And twice as many would hold the GOP responsible for a government shutdown.

But majorities — including of independents — disapprove of Obama’s performance on the economy and deficit. And more see Republicans taking a strong leadership role in Washington, 46-39.

Bottom line: Obama’s decision to leave much of the wrangling to Senate Dems — which has angered some Democrats — has its perils. And given that the public seems receptive to the Dem argument about cuts, it’s unclear why Dems continue to agree to cuts on the magnitude the GOP wants, letting the GOP frame the debate and allowing Republicans to lure Dems deeper and deeper on to their cut-cut-cut rhetorical turf.

* Pressure from conservative base on the House GOP: A key number from the new Post poll: An astonishing 61 percent of those who describe themselves as “very conservative” think a government shutdown would be a positive, while 58 percent of moderate Republicans and GOP-leaning independents think the opposite.

Key takeaway: This will give some fuel to the revolt being staged conservative House Republicans, who are demanding that the leadership not pass another temporary stopgap measure funding the government at cut rates, leaving GOP leaders less room to negotiate and compromise with Dems.

* What the GOP wants: Ezra Klein has been tirelessly pointing out that calling for spending cuts for their own sake is not the same as calling for deficit reduction, since tax increases as a deficit reduction tool are obviously off the table.

* Opposition grows to war in Afghanistan: The Post poll also finds that nearly two-thirds say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, Crucially, the war is unpopular not just with Dems, but also with independents, who Obama is currently trying to win back, and only has support from Republicans.

* Will Congressional Dems pressure Obama to end war? With General Petraeus set to testify on the hill today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will call for a clear plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan, raising the question of whether Democrats in Congress will become a real force pressuring Obama from the left to end the war.

* NRA snubs Obama, showing limits of trying to find “common ground”:The Obama administration is trying to set up a series of meetings to see if stakeholders on all sides can agree to basic gun control measures in the wake of the Arizona massacre, but the National Rifle Association is already refusing to participate in the discussions. As I expected, it doesn’t matter a whit that Obama took great pains to stand up for the gun rights of law abiding Americans and only suggested the most sensible of reforms.

* Dems to Obama: Focus on jobs! Dem Rep. John Conyers, a senior lawmaker from Michigan, castigates the President for not doing enough to fix unemployment, just as Obama’s reelection team is gearing up to make the case for his economic policies to voters in industrial swing states. Also not e Conyers’s scorching assessment of Obama’s poltical situation:

“The only thing that saves him, of course, is that there doesn’t seem to be anybody to run against him next year.”


* More shenanigans from Wisconsin Republicans: The latest:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald wrote this afternoon in an email to his caucus that Senate Dems remain in contempt of the Senate and will not be allowed to vote in committees despite returning from their out-of-state boycott of the budget repair bill vote.

* Dems searching for their Karl Rove? Dems worry that their various efforts to create their own outspending infrastructure to match the groups founded by Rove are certain to fall short. The disparity in outside spending could have a real impact on the 2012 Congressional races, since Rove’s groups are expected to raise $120 million, much of it undisclosed. But wait, labor does it too! And ACORN! And ... SOROS!

* Obama re-elect getting serious about raising big money: The Obama reelection team, well aware of the tsunami of corporate cash that outside groups will raise, is making its first priority to raise as much cash as possible well before the GOP primary gets underway in earnest.

* The Japan nuclear disaster: Don’t miss the Post’s excellent visual step-by-step explainer of Japan’s nuclear emergency.

* The “clarifying” Bradley Manning affair: Glenn Greenwald has a detailed rundown of all the criticism Obama’s handling of the Manning affair is taking from his own supporters, and posits that this may be a clarifying moment as to Obama’s record on government secrecy and treatment of prisonors.

* And the next frontier in the right’s efforts to paint Obama as un-American: The 2012 GOP hopefuls are now sounding the ”alarm” about America’s alleged decline on Obama’s watch. Like the bogus claims that Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, this latest signals that efforts to sow vague anxieties about Obama’s identity and secret intentions will play a key role in the 2012 presidential race.

What else is happening?