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The Cash for Clunkers program "has been an unqualified success," and the stimulus is working, Vice President Biden said today.

He spoke to reporters after a meeting with several of the administration's economic officials, including Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget; Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council and Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President Jared Bernstein. He took no questions.

Here's the full transcript:

We've just finished a briefing with the economic team about the impact and role of the Recovery Act in the more optimistic projections that are being -- that we're seeing. Six months ago we gathered here in the White House, worrying about the U.S. economy and whether or not it was falling off a cliff. And today, analysts are trying to determine if -- if an official recovery is already underway, or to quote my good friend Larry Summers, he said, "Six months ago we were talking about whether or not this recession was going to turn into a depression. And now today, we're sitting here talking about whether or not -- not when, not if, but when the recession will turn into a recovery."



So it's a significant change in the last six months. And that's because we are -- we're starting to see some signs of stabilization in key parts of the economy. In the final quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year, the loss rate of GDP was around 6 percent. And in the most recent quarter, GDP fell a much lower rate at 1 percent. And many economists, many economists -- left, right, and center -- have attributed this in large part to the Recovery Act, one piece of the three-pronged approach that the administration has put together to get this economy moving again.



The Recovery Act was designed to do three things. It's been mischaracterized, intentionally and unintentionally, by a lot of people. It really has three pieces to it. First is rescue, the second is recovery, and the third is reinvestment.



Now, you know, there's now evidence that it's accomplished the goals it set out to do, or on the way of accomplishing those goals. After falling the prior six months, state and local spending has increased 2.4 percent last quarter -- and a very unexpected reversal -- that links directly to the fiscal relief we have provided to the states. Household income has gotten a much needed boost in the last quarter, growing at a yearly rate of almost 5 percent following declines in the previous nine months. And business investment contracted less than expected as confidence is slowly -- slowly returning to the economy.



Americans are now confident enough that with certain incentives they're willing to start to go out and spend again. For example, the tax credit for new home buyers has helped stabilize sales and prices of new and existing homes, giving it a boost to, an incentive to -- over 250,000 families have gone out there and purchased a new home without reliance on unsound credit practices of the past.



And the Cash for Clunkers program has been an unqualified success. It has boosted demand for cars and spurred consumer spending. And our critics say they don't think this program is helping. Well, all the economic indicia point to the opposite direction -- it is helping. I think it would be hard to tell the young family who just bought their first home because of the tax credit or the thousands of people who have just traded in gas guzzlers for more efficient cars that this is having no impact.



Now, don't get me wrong -- we still have a long way to go. "Less bad" is not the same as "good." We know that growth in GDP is necessary but not sufficient. It's not a sufficient marker of recovery. For one thing, it's not going to occur until there are jobs. My grandpop used to have the expression, he said, when the guy up the line is out of work, it's an economic slowdown; when you're brother-in-law is out of work, it's a recession; when you're out of work, it's a depression. Well, it's still a serious problem for millions of unemployed Americans. Too many people are out of work. Too many families are in pain. And when that's no longer the case, that's when we will have recovery.



But I can tell you today without reservation: The Recovery Act is working. And when we do recover, when we finish rebuilding, when we finish rescuing the thousands of people -- tens of thousands of people who have fallen into a black hole without our help with unemployment insurance and COBRA and FMAP and the like, when we finish this process we also will have been in the process of having, through the Recovery Act, begun to lay the platform for a much stronger, more stable economy in the investments that we're making through this Recovery Act.



So let me conclude by saying that I think -- and it's a fairly widespread and widely held view -- that the Recovery Act is working, it was necessary, it continues to be necessary, and we're going to see to it we execute the remaining portion of the act with the same kind of fidelity (inaudible).



Thank you very much.

Yesterday, I reported that the anti-health care reform group Conservatives for Patients Rights was enlisting tea party protesters to attend and disrupt health care town halls hosted by members of Congress in their regions.

Today, CPR--which is headed by disgraced hospital executive Rick Scott, and has enlisted the message men behind the Swift Boat campaign--has acknowledged their behind-the-scenes role in the outbursts.

Spokesman Brian Burgess tells Greg Sargent that CPR is distributing "town hall alert" flyers to people on its mailing lists and is reaching out to third party groups via online list serv.

Perhaps the most significant of these discussion groups is the called Tea Party Patriots, which is managed by Tom Gaitens, a field organizer for the industry-funded lobbying organization FreedomWorks. Members of this list serve were not only supplied with list of town hall forums, but with a strategy document outlining the same disruptive techniques we're seeing play out at health care public forums around the country.

The disclosure makes official what much of the reporting about the disruptions seemed to indicate: that industry funded groups--who stand to benefit if health reform legislation fails--are playing a significant role in organizing, and perhaps ginning up, the outbursts we're seeing at health care public forums around the country.

The Democratic field to go up against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is now shrinking, with 2008 nominee El Tinklenberg announcing that he has dropped out of the race in order to avoid a messy Democratic contest.

This could be a sign of the party circling around state Senate assistant majority leader Tarryl Clark, who got in the race in the past couple weeks. The other remaining Democratic candidate is Maureen Reed, a former University of Minnesota regent and 2006 Independence Party nominee for Lt. Governor, who raised a significant sum of money before Clark got in.

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Fox News is reporting that a "senior U.S. official tells Fox News a deal has essentially been worked out to release the two journalists" being held in North Korea.

Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise trip to North Korea today to negotiate the release of the women, who worked for Current TV. Clinton met with Kim Jong-Il, according to North Korea media.




The White House is now taking a hard line against the Tea-Party organized disruptions of Democrats' town hall meetings, the Washington Times reports, with press secretary Robert Gibbs referring to it this morning as "the Brook Brothers Brigade in Florida in 2000," "Astro Turf" and "manufactured anger."

The first two questions in the following transcript are from a separate reporter, with all successive questions from the Washington Times:

Q: Are you concerned at what appears to be well-orchestrated protesting of health care reform at town halls as derailing your message?

GIBBS: NO, I get asked every day about the myriad of things that could be derailing our message. I would point out that I don't know what all those guys were doing, what were they called, the Brooks Brothers Brigade in Florida in 2000, appear to have rented a similar bus and are appearing together at town hall meetings throughout the country

Q: They seem to be pretty widespread.

GIBBS: I seem to see some commonality in who pops up in some of these things.

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A new Monmouth University poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race finds that Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is in big trouble against his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Christie Christie -- and a very important reason for this is that one side is simply move motivated to vote right now.

The numbers: Among likely voters, Christie has 50% to Corzine's 36%. Among all registered voters, Christie only leads by 43%-39%, due to a tendency for non-likely voters to lean Democratic or undecided. From the pollster's analysis: "But the bottom line is that Christie's supporters are more engaged, which is why the Republican's lead among likely voters has grown."

Another example, from the pollster's analysis, finds that President Obama's recent campaign trip to New Jersey both helped and didn't help Corzine: "The Obama visit seems to have helped Governor Jon Corzine increase his support among some registered voters, but it has not made those voters any more likely to vote on election day."

As a recent round of polling has shown, this same problem is only deeply affecting Democrats in the Virginia gubernatorial race, with GOP voters far more likely than Dems to turn out to the polls compared to the 2008 election.

MSNBC may have agreed to disclose Richard Wolffe's gig with a major corporate P.R. firm -- but that's not good enough for Keith Olbermann.

The Countdown anchor -- for whom Wolffe filled in last week as a guest host -- wrote on Daily Kos yesterday evening that Wolffe would not appear on the show even as a guest "until we can clarify what else he is doing," and suggested that the former Newsweek reporter had not been straight with the network about his duties for the P.R. firm, Public Strategies.

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Bonner and Associates was working on behalf of the coal industry when it sent forged letters -- purporting to come from local Hispanic and black groups -- to a member of Congress, urging him to oppose the recent climate change bill.

Bonner's client was the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a top coal-industry advocacy group, reports Greenwire, the environmental and energy news service. And a total of twelve letters went not just to Rep. Tom Perriello of Virginia, but also to two other Democrats, Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Chris Carney, both of Pennsylvania.

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A new survey of Virginia from Public Policy Polling (D) finds Republican former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell with a big lead over Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds -- with GOPers currently a lot more motivated to be likely voters right now.

The numbers: McDonnell 51%, Deeds 37%. A key number: 52% of respondents voted for John McCain last years, compared to 41% who say they voted for Obama -- even though Obama carried the state by 53%-47%. This is fully consistent with last week's SurveyUSA poll, which put McDonnell ahead by 55%-40% on a sample that McCain carried by 52%-43%. (Numbers on this question never add up to 100, because some respondents won't divulge how they voted.)

From the pollster's analysis: "It's not that voters are changing sides from last fall- the 5% of John McCain's voters planning to vote for Deeds is actually equal to the 5% of Barack Obama's voters planning to vote for McDonnell. But Republicans, on a losing streak in Virginia, appear to be more motivated about heading to the polls at this point three months before the election."

So the big question for Deeds, then, is whether he can energize all those Democratic-leaning people who aren't likely to vote now, and turn them into participants in future polls -- especially that one in November.

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