President Obama shakes hands with a supporter after speaking about energy and energy independence at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire
Charles Pierce: NASHUA, N.H. …. After several months of watching the Republican primary process, I can’t tell you what a cool breeze it was to watch a politician who looks at a crowd and doesn’t see a group of potential marks (Romney), a collection of your fellow Elect marching with you through the dystopic Sinai that is America (Santorum), a gaggle of goldbugs (Paul), or the class of half-bright sophomores that N. Leroy Gingrich sees every time he looks anywhere but into the mirror.
Barack Obama is not stiff. He is not bristling with unbridled id. He grins. He kids people, even the people who faint at the beginning of his speeches …. He is relaxed about the job of politics. He is the only president of the United States – real or prospective – that I’ve seen in months.
…. He talks about the challenges Americans face, but he doesn’t do it in the gloom-ridden, stalactite-festooned, minor-key funeral mass context that the Republicans talk about them. He talks in terms of “boundless ingenuity” and “unbridled optimism.”….
Bloomberg: The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a level matching a four-year low, more evidence the labor market is healing.
Applications for unemployment insurance decreased 2,000 in the week ended Feb. 25 to 351,000, Labor Department figures showed today…..
Firing is on a downward trend as employers gain confidence in the outlook for economic growth. A smaller number of job reductions also puts those companies in place to hire additional employees as demand picks up.
Steve Benen: …. here’s the chart, showing weekly, initial unemployment claims going back to the beginning of 2007:
PPP: There might not be any state that better represents Barack Obama’s improved fortunes in the opening months of 2012 than Wisconsin. When we polled there in late October Obama’s approval was a 44/51 spread and he led Mitt Romney by only 3 points at 46-43, representing a much closer race than the state had in 2008. Now those numbers have shifted significantly, with Obama’s approval basically flipping to 52/44. And he now leads Romney 53-39, a 14 point margin that matches what he won against John McCain there.
Obama’s 14 point lead in Wisconsin matches a trend we’re seeing in both our national and state polling across the country right now: Obama/Romney is starting to look more and more like Obama/McCain, or even something more friendly to the President.
Jerusalem Post: Poll finds vast majority of Israelis against unilateral military strike on Iran, Israeli Jews prefer Obama over all republican rivals …. The survey also polled Jewish Israelis’ feelings on the US presidential race, with respondents preferring President Barack Obama to all his Republican rivals.
Ruy Teixeira (TNR): Judging from recent headlines, things are looking up for President Obama. The Republican presidential nominees have been serially embarrassing themselves; the White House communications department has successfully focused its messaging on jobs and economic fairness; and consumers are feeling ever more confident about the economy.
But it’s not just anecdotal evidence that suggests Obama’s re-election chances have improved – most of the polling data suggests the same. Obama has been running consistently ahead of his most likely challenger, Mitt Romney, in national polls – by an average of 4 points according to the Pollster.com website. Indeed, the closer you look at the numbers, the more reassuring the news: Obama, it seems, is well on his way to reconstructing the very coalition that elected him in 2008.
National Memo: In this Citizens United era of unregulated campaign cash, gay activists and donors are finding innovative ways to reward Barack Obama, who despite his equivocation on marriage equality is often lauded as the greatest friend to the LGBT community of any president in American history.
The reemergence of social issues on the presidential campaign trail, coupled with the reversal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, has helped Obama improve his standing with this key segment of the liberal base, a vital source of campaign funds for any Democrat running a presidential campaign.
“This kind of Republican campaign has mobilized the community like I haven’t seen since 1992,” said David Mixner, a veteran progressive strategist Newsweek once called the most powerful gay man in America. “There’s a lot at stake. I have no doubt people will be involved in some way in Super PACs. You can count on the major donors of this community doing whatever they have to do to assist in the re-election of this president.”
First lady Michelle Obama is joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the future site of a Northgate Market in Inglewood, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012. Michelle Obama says the proposed new supermarket in the middle of a blue-collar Hispanic neighborhood in Southern California is an example of how the effort to bring healthy foods to low-income communities is paying off.
AP: First lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday said the campaign to bring healthy food to all Americans is happening neighborhood by neighborhood.
Standing in a vacant Southern California store set to be refurbished and reopened this summer, Obama lauded efforts to bring large grocery retailers to inner-city areas that traditional supermarket chains spurn.
…. Obama, who is on the second day of her two-day visit to the Los Angeles area, made the stop in the blue-collar, largely Hispanic neighborhood as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to boost healthy food and fitness.
Part of the campaign includes promoting initiatives such as the $264 million California FreshWorks Fund, which finances grocery businesses willing to open in urban areas.
…. After the Inglewood event, Obama was scheduled to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and to deliver a luncheon speech at the Democratic National Committee.
Washington Post: U.S. factories grew in January at the fastest pace in seven months, boosted by a rise in new orders. And builders ended a poor year for construction by spending more on homes and projects for the fifth straight month.
The reports bolster other data showing the U.S. economy started the year strong.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its manufacturing index rose last month to 54.1 from 53.1 in December. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
Consumers are buying more cars and trucks, while businesses ordered more machinery and other equipment. That has driven manufacturing, which expanded for the 30th straight month.
Both new orders and order backlogs rose to nine-month highs. Increasing order backlogs suggest manufacturers are lacking the capacity to meet demand. That could mean more growth in production and employment in the near future, economists said.
Export orders also rose, a sign that U.S. manufacturers haven’t yet been affected by Europe’s slowing economy.
“This is a very encouraging report on manufacturing activity that shows particular strength in leading indicators,” said John Ryding, an economist at RDQ Economics.
Steve Benen: For campaign watchers, Florida’s Republican presidential primary was the big draw yesterday, but there was another noteworthy race on the other side of the country: a U.S. House special election in Oregon’s 1st congressional district.
Just two weeks ago, the National Republican Congressional Committee took an interest in the race, airing attack ads against Democratic candidate Suzanne Bonamici. The GOP candidate, Rob Cornilles, even released an internal poll showing him trailing by only four points.
Yesterday, however, it became clear Republicans were chasing a mirage.
Democrat Suzanne Bonamici swept to victory Tuesday in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District, continuing her party’s nearly four-decade-long hold on the seat covering the northwestern corner of the state. With the bulk of ballots counted, Bonamici was defeating Republican Rob Cornilles by about 15 percentage points…..
TPM: The Obama administration announced Wednesday that the Medicare Advantage program, which allows seniors to receive health coverage through a private insurer, is enjoying lower costs and more customers as a result of the health care reform law.
Yahoo: If you watched President Obama’s Google+ hangout Monday night, you saw two interesting exchanges between the president and Jennifer Wedel, a 29-year-old Texas mother of two.
It turns out that Wedel’s digital meeting convinced her to vote for Obama in this year’s presidential election – despite her support for the GOP.
…. Afterwards, Wedel, who described herself as a “good Republican,” is now planning to vote for Obama in this year’s presidential election.
“I didn’t vote for him four years ago. But I have been so disappointed with the presidential race. I haven’t seen anybody who would have been a good replacement. I know how Obama is now. I know how he rolls. So I’d probably vote him back in,” said Wedel in an interview with The Atlantic. “I (feel) like I know him a little more,” Wedel said. “There was a connection. He should definitely do this with more people…..”
….. for those who watched the event, a slightly odd moment near the end might have jumped out. During that personal question round, Wedel asked Obama if he would do a little jig. Obama demurred. What was that about? It’s a YouTube meme thing, explained Wedel. An extremely popular video on the site is a minute-and-a-half clip of then-candidate Obama shaking it on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” back in 2007; one version has 12 million hits and counting.
“It’s so funny,” said Wedel. “You’ve got to watch it.”
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama (C) and their daughter Malia (2nd-L)
President Obama playfully shushes himself as he greets the librarian
A paper-collage of first lady Michelle Obama hangs on a wall at the Browne Education Campus
President Obama participates in a community service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Browne Education Campus in Washington
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., FEDERAL HOLIDAY, 2012
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On a hot summer day nearly half a century ago, an African American preacher with no official title or rank gave voice to our Nation’s deepest aspirations, sharing his dream of an America that ensured the true equality of all our people. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a movement that would push our country toward a more perfect Union.
At a time when our Nation was sharply divided, Dr. King called on a generation of Americans to be “voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion.” His example stirred men and women of all backgrounds to become foot soldiers for justice, and his leadership gave them the courage to refuse the limitations of the day and fight for the prospect of tomorrow. Because these individuals showed the resilience to stand firm in the face of the fiercest resistance, we are the benefactors of an extraordinary legacy of progress.
Here’s a world exclusive preview of what Mark Landler will (probably) write in the New York Times tomorrow:
“It was a demoralizing day for President Obama on his bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia, some of his lowest points, captured by our photographers, demonstrating just how much distance there now is between him and the people who once supported him.
From the moment he took to the stage in the morning to speak at the Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, it was evident how jaded and down he is, no spring in his step, no sign of the energy that he once displayed at these events:
Grim-faced and unsmiling….
….. his speech was so uninspiring it even prompted one member of the audience to start reading the book he’d brought with him just in case he was bored:
After the speech, the President displayed yet more of his professorial aloofness, failing to connect with his audience or show any human warmth:
It got worse later in the day when the President visited Bluestone High School in Skipwith, a group of teenagers (Jon Huntsman supporters, according to Mark Halperin) giving him an angry and hostile reception when he arrived:
There was a particularly ugly exchange with a student in pink:
…. which resulted in Secret Service having to step in:
On to Reidsville, N.C. and Brodnax, Virginia, where the President was confronted by several enraged women, two of them actually attempting to strangle him:
Stunned, the President ran for shelter in a Reidsville restaurant, where he hoped to find a warm and fuzzy reception, but there was to be no respite from the hostility, two enraged seniors confronting him, rather venomously:
The President, by now a broken man, left for Emporia, Virginia, where he gave another speech to a half-empty hall of largely unenthusiastic one-time supporters at Greensville County High School:
Once again, he ignored the issue that is, clearly, the most important to Americans – unemployment:
…. which might have explained the ugly incident that completed his day, when a young black man – possibly a Tavis Smiley and Cornel West fan – attempted to assault him by hitting his hand really hard:
Frankly, it’s hard to know how the President can recover from such a demoralizing day (#VoteMitt).”