TPM News

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had a contentious press conference yesterday at the RNC's winter meeting in Hawaii, with the topic of his sometimes heated relationship with party members dominating the discussion according to Politico.

"My style is not something you get used to very easily, I know that," said Steele. Nevertheless, he held up the party's recent successes in fundraising and the elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts as evidence that he is doing his job well.

"At the end of the day the members of the party - and this is what they reinforced to me - charged me to do two things: raise money and win elections," Steele said. "On these two fronts, I think we're doing okay."

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Since the Supreme Court struck down limits last week on corporate-funded independent expenditure campaigns, Democrats and good-government advocates have been quick to warn of a flood of new corporate money entering American politics. But with campaigns already awash in corporate cash, some Democratic political pros doubt we'll notice much difference.

In a typical response, Fred Wertheimer, the dean of Washington's campaign-finance reform community, called the ruling "a disaster for the American people and a dark day for the Supreme Court," predicting that the decision will unleash massive new corporate spending into the electoral arena. And even President Obama warned in Wednesday's State of the Union speech that the decision could open the door to foreign corporations influencing our elections -- a concern we've raised ourselves.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) raised $1.28 million from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 last year, his Freedom First political action committee will report to the Federal Election Commission.

The money came from 2,750 donors. Pawlenty, who is eyeing a 2012 presidential bid, donated to the campaigns of Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-MA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Doug Hoffman (I-NY), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and the Minnesota Congressional delegation.

The PAC spent $395,831 in the fourth quarter.

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Bernanke May Have Harder Fight To Defend Fed Bloomberg reports that the 30-vote opposition to Federal Research Chairman Ben Bernanke's re-confirmation is a sign of growing political opposition to the bank itself, which Bernanke will have to defend against in his second term. "The opposition to Bernanke isn't about the guy," said Vincent Reinhart, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a former Fed official. "It shows the public distrust of the institution."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden are meeting with the Cabinet at 8:40 a.m. ET. Obama will depart the White House at 10:15 a.m. ET, en route to Baltimore, Maryland. He will tour a local small business in Baltimore at 11 a.m. ET, and deliver remarks at 11:25 a.m. ET on a jobs tax credit. He will then deliver remarks at 12:10 p.m. ET, at the House Republican retreat. He will arrive back at the White House at 1:55 p.m. ET. He will meet at 4:45 p.m. ET with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner.

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has told the New York Times that health care will have to wait until after legislation aimed at creating jobs and regulating banks.

Emanuel said he hopes Congress will take up a jobs bill next week and then turn to President Obama's plan to tax banks to help pay for the TARP program. Then, after looking at an overhaul of financial regulations, they'll turn to health care.

"All these things start and lead to one place: J-O-B-S," he said.

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White House political adviser David Axelrod said Democrats "haven't shined a bright enough light" on Republican obstructionism, but said it's time for the GOP to step forward and be accountable.

It's a new message the White House has telegraphed this week first from Vice President Joe Biden to a Democratic party gathering, then President Obama during his State of the Union address. It's also a combative tone that the Democratic National Committee pushed even before Obama stopped speaking Wednesday night.

As Obama prepares to speak to the House Republicans during their annual retreat tomorrow in Baltimore, Axelrod spoke to reporters and opinion makers at the White House detailing a newly aggressive Democratic strategy.

He noted that House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) called for a jobs bill a few months ago and wondered if Republicans will continue support one now.

"It's time to put up or shut up," Axelrod said. "We will put the other party to the test and they will have to explain why they are standing in the way."

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President Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod said that despite saying jobs is his No. 1 priority and offering no deadline for getting health care passed, the president remains intent on getting a plan passed so Democrats can get on with campaigning on its merits.

Axelrod said today during a briefing with reporters and opinion-makers he would not entertain "what happens if it doesn't work," because it would be "a great political mistake to walk away from this issue."

"There were plenty of people who said before the speech last night, just stand up there and say 'It's over.' Say 'We tried,' and move on because it's too politically difficult," Axelrod said. "And that's not what he did and we are working closely with folks on the Hill to develop the way forward and get this done and that's all we're focused on, on health care, is getting it done."

Axelrod, who has worked with Obama for years, said the president wants to allow Democrats time to process the new political reality of 59 Senate seats but he wants them to "go back at it soon."

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) spoke to a group of health care reform activists today, and called upon the House of Representatives to pass the Senate bill. He also discussed the political disadvantages that reform advocates face.

"The opponents of reform have found their bumper sticker, their slogan, their rallying cry, it's one word: No. You can read that on a bumper," said Franken. "Our bumper sticker has -- it's just way too many words. And it says, 'Continued on next bumper sticker.'"

Franken also sought to calm liberals' objections to the Senate bill: "We have to stop letting perfect be the enemy of the merely very good. And I believe that the bill we passed in the Senate is a very good foundation on which to build."

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