* Official Washington’s obsession with the deficit over the economy: Today’s New York Times poll brings some of the clearest evidence yet that official Washington’s prioritization of the deficit over jobs is completely out of sync with public opinion.

The poll finds that economic pessimism is at its highest level yet, with the level of those who think the economy is getting worse jumping 13 points in the last month — and 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s economic performance.

At the same time, buried in the internals is a number that shows that the public doesn’t buy the argument that reining in the deficit will do anything to create jobs:

What effect do you think a major reduction in the annual federal budget deficit would have on the number of jobs in the U.S. -- would it create jobs, would it cost jobs, or would it have no effect on job creation in the U.S.?

Create more jobs 29

Cost jobs 29

No effect 27

In other words, barely more than a quarter of Americans think reducing the deficit will do anything at all to fix the number one concern of voters, i.e. jobs and the economy — yet for months and months, deficit reduction has been far and way the dominant topic in the Beltway conversation. There you have it.

* The public’s views about government: The Times poll also finds that 55 percent would rather have a smaller government with fewer services — lending solace to Republicans — but it also finds that about three quarters of Americans think the federal government has a responsibility to provide the elderly with health care. A majority says the same about the poor.

It’s another sign that people favor cutting government in the abstract, which does give Republicans some advantages in the spending wars, but like government once you start to talk specifics.

* Obama finding his voice? Says 2012 campaign will be about our “values”: The President’s remarks at a DNC fundraiser last night, per the White House transcript, are noteworthy: He told his audience that the current battle over government spending and Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal will be the template for the 2012 campaign.

“These budget debates that we’re having now crystallize the debate that we’re going to be having in this country over the next 18 months about who we are, what we care about, what our values are, what our commitments are to each other,” Obama said.

He added that America should be “a country that is generous and compassionate, that is looking after our children and making sure they’ve got a shot at the American Dream, that is making sure our seniors have dignity and security in their old age, that looks after families who’ve got a disabled child.”

The comments reflect a sense in the White House — first on display with Obama’s speech last week — that the Ryan vision can be used to establish the paramaters of the political debate on terms that are favorable to Obama. White House advisers are betting that Obama can win the argument by establishing credibility on spending and the deficit, while simultaneously making an expansive moral case for a more balanced vision of the proper role and size of government and casting it as a truer expression of American values and identity.

* Dems to open new front in debt ceiling war: What to watch for today: Chuck Schumer and Dems are going to try to go on the offensive today by highlighting what I reported here yesterday: That Paul Ryan’s budget plan — passed by the House last week — raises the debt ceiling.

* Is a debate on taxes now a political winner for Dems? Chris Cillizza has been doing some nice work lately pointing out that the public opinion landscape has shifted to a point where Obama now has an opening to make gains by engaging in a sustained fight over tax hikes for the rich.

* Nobody is talking about the only responsible budget in town: Mike Tomasky’s turn: What if the only fiscally responsible budget plan on the table is the one that nobody is talking about, i.e., the House progressives’ plan?

* Town hall anger now directed at Republicans: Jason Linkins has the rundown and the details on all the House GOPers who are taking heat at home from constituents who don’t want them to end Medicare as we know it — an echo of the long hot health care summer of 2009.

* Is recalling Scott Walker a possibility? Taegan Goddard flags a new poll finding that Wisconsin voters are roughly split on recalling Walker, 47-48.

* Flip-flop of the cycle: The right-wing 60 Plus Association, which purports to represent the interests of seniors and ran anti-health reform ads trafficking in some of the most reprehensible Medicare-related demagoguery we’ve ever seen, is now running ads touting Paul Ryan’s plan.

* Snark of the day: Steve Benen, on John Ensign’s claim that he’s retiring to spare his family from hardship:

Yes, if there’s one thing John Ensign worries about, it’s putting his family through a difficult ordeal.

* Anti-health reform overreach of the day:I’m late to this, but check out Ian Millhiser on how Idaho governor Butch Otter’s push to forbid state agencies from implementing the health reform law could end up opting his entire state out of Medicaid.

* 2012 GOP hopefuls with actual credentials get no love: Josh Green identifies an interesting dynamic: Despite having aactual credentials and experience in the public sector, Tim Pawlenty is getting nowhere near the media attention lavished on huckster/showman Donald Trump’s birther tour, a sign of the conservative electorate’s “appetite for bombast over competence and professionalism.”

* And Donald Trump’s 2012 hucksterism is a ratings bust: Donald Trump’s newly-minted birtherism and feigned presidential ambitions are getting lots of media attention, but they are failing to budge the ratings on Trump’s reality show. Oh, well. It was worth a try.

What else is happening?