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Well, there's a reason he's president and not Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

Barack Obama handled himself with great aplomb, using his opening statement to lay out the problem and what his answers are. And with each question--and none of the questions were total boners, so score one for the press--the president managed to show a command of the issues and an analytic mind. Wisely, he kept coming back to the point that doing nothing is not really an answer and that tax cuts alone are not enough.

Of course, the contrast with George W. Bush couldn't have been more striking. Obama was comfortable with the long answer and the long question. There was no bristling over the Biden question but a good-natured response that seemed at once to put his Number Two to stop mouthing off so much but also an explanation of how they're trying to get it right.

I thought the tone towards Republicans was probably just right. Some on the left will probably wish he was a little more Republican bashing but that's not his style and he got his jabs in without becoming overly partisan.

For liberals who thought Obama had lost his way, that he'd conceded too much in the name of bipartisanship, that he'd been outflanked by Mitch McConnell, that he'd lost all the momentum, tonight should have been reassuring, a reminder of the power of the presidency to reset the debate and also to the enduring skills of Barack Obama.

Now comes more road show--Peoria, Florida. Those events won't command the audience that tonight's press conference did. But each visit outside of Washington illustrating the plight of the economy and going over the heads of the press and politicians should help Obama guide the debate in this final week.

Beyond that, a week from today, we're likely to be on the verge of passed stimulus package and then we'll be into health care and budget season and, of course, trying to see if any of this is working. Tonight, Obama was able to mention at a couple of junctures that he inherited this mess. True enough. But he'll need to start showing results. Hopefully tomorrow's Treasury program announcement will be soothing to the roiled markets. We'll see.

The national Democrats are keeping up an offensive against Republicans over the stimulus bill, with the DCCC announcing a new round of robocalls against freshman House Republicans who voted against the bill.

It was easy, of course, to pick out the House Republicans who oppose the bill: They all do.

The robocalls are targeting seven freshman: Bill Cassidy (LA), John Fleming (LA), Brett Guthrie (KY), Leonard Lance (NJ), Christopher Lee (NY), Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO), and Tom Rooney (FL).

The text of one of the calls is available after the jump.

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Paging Obama's new environmental team: Fred Barnes has some crucial new information about global warming -- it's not man-made, apparently!

Problem is, Barnes won't tell us how he knows that -- but maybe he'll tell you.

Check out this passage from Barnes' latest column for the Weekly Standard:

Democrats couldn't hide their self-consciousness about the excesses of their own bill. Supporters made few TV appearances to defend it and rarely talked about specific spending items. Obama sounded like Al Gore on global warming. The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe. The more public support his bill loses, the more Obama embraces fear-mongering. (our itals.)


We hadn't heard anything lately about the case for man-made global warming falling apart. In fact, just the opposite. So we called Barnes and asked him what he was referring to.

At first, he cited the fact that it's been cold lately.

Perhaps sensing this was less than convincing, Barnes then asserted that there had been a "cooling spell" in recent years. "Haven't you noticed?" he asked.

Asked for firmer evidence of such cooling, Barnes demurred, telling TPMmuckraker he was too busy to track it down.

We pressed Barnes again: surely he could tell us where he had found this vital new information, which could upend the current debate over how to address global warming.

In response, Barnes said only that he knew where he had found it, but would not tell us, apparently as a matter of principle. "I'm not going to do your research for you," he eventually said, before hurriedly ending the call.

So we came up empty. Let's hope the Obama policy-makers have more luck getting this out of Barnes -- after all, our future could depend on it.

The Senate is poised to approve its $827 billion version of the stimulus bill tomorrow after a procedural test vote tonight, with three GOP senators putting the legislation over the 60-vote mark needed for passage.

Republicans had forced the stimulus vote to be pushed until today in order to examine the $100-billion-plus package of cuts negotiated by a group of centrist senators last week.

The question facing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) now is whether he'll have to work around similar delays from Republicans once stimulus talks with the House are completed -- ideally by Friday. If the GOP wanted to be a thorn in Reid's side, it could delay a final vote on the recovery bill until a week from today, imperiling President Obama's deadline for passage.

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters today that he doesn't expect further delays will happen this week. The timeline for final passage of the stimulus, he said, "depends on how quickly the conference functions and resolves the differences among the majority in the House and the majority in the Senate."

You know about his predilection for the services of the "D.C. Madam," the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey -- but that's the tip of the iceberg for the anti-woman Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). He's also fought to restrict abortion rights for Native Americans, force AIDS prevention money to be spent on unworkable abstinence-only education, and voted against Hillary Clinton's State Department nomination (but it was her husband's fault, according to Vitter).

Vitter would seem to be the perfect candidate for a challenge in 2010, but the lack of a viable Democratic candidate has ensured that his only real political threats next year come from possible conservative challengers.

So what's a good Vitter foe to do? Support Stormy Daniels. As Daniels put it to CNN today, "I might be a porn star" -- but unlike Vitter, "I haven't done anything illegal." We're pulling the interview for you now, but here's why Daniels' candidacy makes sense.

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No matter how many times you tell Norm Coleman's legal team that it's generally illegal to sign somebody else's name on a legal document, they're just not giving up on it.

Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg is going over rejected ballots one by one with Dakota County elections manager Kevin Boyle. And again we've come to the matter of a fake signature on an absentee ballot application -- though at least this time the person signing the name was admitting it up front.

A voter's mother signed his name to the absentee application, writing "mother" right next to it in parentheses. Thus the signature on the ballot envelope itself -- possibly the voter's -- didn't match the one of the application. Friedberg couldn't let it go:

Friedberg: Now, is it your position that if somebody signs the application with the permission of the voter, that does not make it a lawful application, or it does make it a lawful application?

Boyle: In the case of the regular absentee ballot applications, we would need the mark or the signature of the applicant, not the applicant's mother.

Friedberg: Is that because you would need it to compare to the voter's signature on the ballot, on the envelope?

Boyle: That's one of the reasons.


At this point Friedberg quietly moved on to the next ballot in his stack.

It could have been worse. A while ago, Friedberg was declaring that he didn't care about the rules forbidding this.

From Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's appearance today on Fox News:

REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, you know, it wasn't too long ago that you were in the House as a Republican. All of your colleagues last week voted against this. Would you have voted for it?

LAHOOD: Well, look, I'm -- I am not in the House anymore. I didn't get elected to anything last November and I'm a part of the President Obama team.

While we're discussing the devastating effects of the Senate stimulus compromise on state budgets, it's worth pointing out that the centrist negotiators didn't just cut $40 billion in state aid.

The stimulus deal cut over the weekend also restricted states' use of stabilization money, requiring governors to use all of their share on education. Under the original Senate stimulus, states could use 61% of their aid from Washington on education and the remaining 39% on public safety or other pressing needs.

By no means am I suggesting that education isn't a worthy use for that cash. But if the centrists had left aid to the states intact, rather than cutting it in half, perhaps California could avoid furloughing government workers without pay. And maybe North Carolina could avoid shutting down mental hospitals and a major prison.

Ben Smith raised an interesting question this morning: Why did Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), whom President Obama has singled out as a valuable mentor, pass up the chance to ride to Indiana on Air Force One today?

Lugar's absence looked a bit amiss to Mike Tomasky and other wise heads, particularly since Rep. Fred Upton (MI) -- another Republican whose vote on the final stimulus bill is still within reach for the president -- did join Obama on today's trip. But as a Lugar spokesman explained to me, the senator had a pretty good reason to decline the Air Force One invitation.

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