The Washington Post

What to watch for at President Obama’s press conference

President Obama will field questions from reporters today at 3 pm, the first time he has held a formal press conference since April 30.

President Obama.

Given that we've waited 101 days -- but who's counting?! -- for Obama to take more than a handful of questions from reporters, it's worth doing a bit of handicapping as to what to watch for in the proceedings today.

* Obama's opening remarks: One of the lost elements of a presidential press conference is what Obama chooses to focus on in his, usually, 5 minutes or so of opening remarks. You can assume that whatever Obama chooses is the key message that the White House wants to leave the public with as he heads out on vacation. Our guess? The NSA leak controversy and Edward Snowden. And on that subject President Obama has to walk a fine line; he need to convince civil libertarians -- particularly those who want to support him within the Democratic party -- that he understand their concerns and is making sufficient changes to address them.

* How hard does he go at Congressional Republicans?: The relationship (or lack thereof) between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner is at a low ebb. Obama has spent significant rhetorical fire castigating congressional Republicans for what he describes as their unwillingness to consider a good deal on budgetary measures. But, with Mitch McConnell not a likely dealmaker thanks to his primary challenge in Kentucky, Obama has to find someone within the congressional GOP that he can cut a deal with later this fall. Boehner is the obvious choice although the past between the two men may be too much to overcome.  Arizona Sen. John McCain has been a deal-cutter of late but does he carry enough weight with House Republicans to make something happen?  We doubt it.

* The "scandals": IRS and Benghazi: When the news that some IRS officials had singled out tea party groups for extra scrutiny broke this spring, it seemed like the sort of story that might consume much of the Obama Administration's time and energy for months and years to come. It has turned out -- amid reporting that showed the scandal never touched the White House -- to be less than advertised. The attacks in Benghazi last fall continue to be a hot button issue for Republicans but haven't spidered out to the general public. Does Obama get asked about one or both issues? And, how measured (or not measured) is he in his response?

* Legacy watch!: By this time of his second term, President Obama would have hoped to have a gun control measure and some sort of immigration reform measure to point to as legislative accomplishments. He has neither. How much does Obama talk about the first seven months of his second term in the context of what he hopes will be his broader legacy in his final four years? The most memorable moment of these first seven months, to our mind, was his speech on Trayvon Martin. Does he revisit that at all? And, if so, how?

* The 6th-ish question: We know what the first few questions asked by the wire services and the major television networks will be. NSA, Snowden, Putin, Middle East piece talks, debt ceiling/budget showdown. But, once we get beyond those questions, who does Obama call on and what do they ask? Steroids in baseball? Hillary and 2016? Something else entirely? Often it's this second flight of questions that makes news coming out of these press conferences.

We'll be live blogging the presser on Post Politics. Enjoy. It's first rate political theater.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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