Today's Power Play: Bloomberg Bid Would Help Obama

One Similarity Between Bubba and Obama

Power Play finds little reason to believe that President Obama will soon tack to the center a la Bill Clinton in 1994. First, the ground is not so fertile. Clinton took a whupping in his first midterm for attempting to pass a national health care law. Obama actually got it passed. As a result, Obama’s Democratic minority is much smaller and much more liberal than the pack of Blue Dogs with whom Clinton had to work in 1995. And having been so thoroughly steamrolled by Democrats for two years, Republicans are in no mood to entertain the president’s newfound rediscovery of the need for bipartisanship.

Also, there is the question of personality. While Clinton is a man who wants to be adored, Obama seems to be a man who wants to be correct. Those different motivations will produce different outcomes.

Consider that on Tuesday, Obama and the Republicans fell out over a summit between the president and GOP congressional leaders. The White House said Thursday and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell said “We’ll get back to you.” When even the date of a meeting between Obama and his Republican adversaries becomes a matter of brinksmanship, one tends to be less optimistic about budget reform.

But one area where today’s Obama and 1994’s Clinton are alike is in their hope for a third-party candidate to come along. Bill Clinton had good reason to believe that billionaire Ross Perot would run again. Perot had taken 19 percent of the vote in 1992, allowing Clinton to slide past incumbent George H.W. Bush. And Perot would deliver on Clinton’s hopes in 1996. While Perot only took in 8 percent of the vote, it was crucial to Clinton’s cause. Perot got more than 10 percent of the vote in swing states like Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin. Perot’s message of fiscal conservatism badly hurt Republican nominee Bob Dole. Remember, Clinton did not get a majority in either of his elections, but won with pluralities in three way races.

Obama’s team must be cheered today to learn from Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman that another billionaire is getting serious about a presidential run. Fineman reports that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and MSNBC morning show host Joe Scarborough may be working up an independent 2012 run. And since Fineman also works for MSNBC, one suspects he has reason to know. This would be the best possible news for the president’s reelection team. Since Bloomberg and Scarborough are both former Republicans, they would draw heavily from the right side of the center.

Huge spending and a change motto could deliver double-digit results in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia, effectively denying Republicans a shot at the White House. There’s no reason to think that Bloomberg and Scarborough could succeed, likely falling down the Charlie Crist-shaped chute that awaits most centrist or fusion candidates. People may like vanilla ice cream, but they prefer their political candidates with an identifiable flavor. But Bloomberg and Scarborough could certainly do for Obama what Perot did for Clinton.

Thanks to today’s Power Play crew: Kimberly Schwandt, April Girouard, Heidi Noonan, Varuna Bhatia, Whitney Ksiazek, and Paige Dukeman.

The Day in Quotes

"Let me tell you that ever since the Magna Carta… a person should have right to counsel if they are accused of anything and in addition have the opportunity to prepare."

-- Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to FOX News Producer Chad Pergram rejecting the 11-count conviction against him on ethics charges on the grounds that he could no longer pay his legal fees after two years.

"If the President supports this, I'd like to see him send a message to the democrats in the senate saying all of you vote for a moratorium for 2 years on earmarks. Let's have him put his money where his mouth is."

-- Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to reporters on proposed earmark ban in the Senate.

"This is not a black position. This is not, like, the director of black people."

-- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) talking to reporters about the new position created to keep Rep. Jim Clyburn in leadership.

"I have no skills to be the secretary of the Treasury"

-- New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg to Marketwatch dismissing rumors that he could replace Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

"I'm going to let Harry Reid talk today"

-- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) declining to comment on whether she will again become Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman.

"We know that Obama wasn't vetted through the campaign, and now, you know, some things are coming home to roost, if you will, which is inexperience, his associations, and that ultimately harms our republic when a candidate isn't - isn't vetted by the media, that cornerstone of our democracy."

-- Sarah Palin on radio station KWHL in Anchorage.

"This is not personal. This is about changing how the party works."

-- Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) talking to the Wall Street Journal about the proposal from him and Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) that would strip the power to appoint a campaign team and make committee assignments.

“This may be the only shovel-ready project in America.”

-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney at the groundbreaking of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University.

“Sadly, if left on its current path, the RNC will not be a productive force in the 2012 campaign to deny President Obama a second term, retain our House majority and elect a Senate majority.”

-- Letter of resignation from Republican National Committee Political Director Gentry Collins ripping Chairman Michael Steele’s management.

“The problem is not that the document is bad. We are confronting the fact that Republicans refuse to ratify the treaty.”

-- Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, echoing the Obama administration’s complaints about Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) putting the kibosh on passing a new nuclear treaty during the lame-duck session.

“There are many things about the Senate that we should all be proud of. But there’s some really nutty stuff that has traditionally been done around here that makes no sense whatsoever.”

-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) talking to the New York Times about her push with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to ban earmarks in the Senate.

"We haven't discussed it directly. Have people discussed it in his sphere and in my sphere? I think so."

-- MSNBC host Joe Scarborough to the Huffington Post on the possibility that he an New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would run as an independent ticket for president and vice president in 2012.

And Now, A Word From Charles

"Out of all this, an American hero emerges, a guy refusing the pat down and scanning by saying, "Don't touch my junk." That is the banner of the year 2010. It doesn't have the elegance of ‘Don't tread on me,’ but that was the age of the musket. This is the age of Twitter. It has a directness that I really like.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Wednesday’s Agenda – Afghan Cram Session; Are Dems using Haiti Orphans to sell DREAM Act?; Union Test Vote

Bound for the NATO summit in Lisbon on Thursday, President Obama today will huddle on Afghanistan with his national security team, including a three-way meeting with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The administration is facing not just the pressure of dealing with restive allies but also the President’s self-imposed midway evaluation of his Afghan surge strategy is due next month. We have already seen the soft rollout of the new 2014 timetable for the Afghan war, but that number will likely be a non-starter with America’s NATO allies.

Europe is in the midst of a deep austerity movement. Only Britain provides any significant military support, but the other nations supply training forces, police and support to the allied mission in Afghanistan. With students rioting over tuition cuts in London and the continent always seemingly on the cusp of a general strike, the idea of keeping NATO support for the unpopular Afghan nation-building effort at current levels is off the table. In fact, for most Euro pols, there would be considerable advantages in being seen publicly deploring Obama’s plea for more money and more time.

So that leaves the president in need of two messages. He must convince the Euros to push through the expensive months to come with a promise that the end is nigh. But he must also convince Republicans, on whose support his war agenda rests, that the U.S. will stay until the job is done.

The trap is that if Obama can’t convince the Euros to stay, costs will jump and pressure from his own party to get out of Afghanistan will intensify.

Leadership Elections: Tears and Joy

A whole lot of unhappy Democrats will meet today to vote on their leadership for the 112th Congress. There will likely be no surprises, as the Democratic leadership – Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn – will remain unchanged even following the party’s worst defeat in four generations.

Rep. Heath Shuler will make his doomed bid for minority leader, but its more about showing the residents of Western North Carolina that he’s his own man.

Pelosi allowed the defeated and remaining moderates her caucus to vent their anger in a Tuesday night meeting. Today will just be about counting up the votes.

On the Republican side, sailing should be smoother, as jubilant Republicans confirm their leaders – Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy – and whoop it up with votes to ban earmarks and other transparency measures in the Pledge to America.

Haiti Adoption Complicates DREAM Act Push

Meanwhile, the administration will be defending the president’s call to include the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session, presumably tacked on to some piece of emergency legislation. The president came out in support of the bill, which would give amnesty to illegal immigrants who go to college or serve in the armed forces, after meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. With scant hope for a border fix or a “pathway to citizenship” in the next two years and his own reelection bid looming, Obama needs to show his support for some kind of amnesty program.

Republicans, though, are expected to raise a ruckus over the Help Haiti Act, a measure to ease adoptions from the devastated nation. Democrats yanked the bill from the calendar and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) has sent a letter expressing concern about rumors that the popular measure will be used to aid the passage of the DREAM Act. One could be amended to the other or both could be added to another bill for a sweet and sour effect.

From Fortenberry’s letter to the Democratic leadership: “My office has heard reports that this critical legislative fix, which would clear legal obstacles to U.S. citizenship for as many as 1200 Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted before the January 12 earthquake, may be used as a vehicle for a controversial immigration measure. Please know that while these vulnerable orphans’ status remains in limbo, they have fewer legal protections, may not be eligible for critical resources, and risk being forced to return to Haiti.”

Unions Look for Some Love

Another bit of Democratic base satisfaction on the agenda in Washington today is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill, already passed by the House, is much sought by unions because it would impose a federal law that says employers would have to pay similar wages to all its employees within the same county. This would limit the ability of companies to set up non-union operations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is delivering for the unions who delivered for him on Election Day.

But the success or failure of the measure will also reflect on Obama, whose reelection prospects will hang on enthusiastic support from big labor.

The vote to watch on the measure is new Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the only Senate candidate in 2010 to be endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.