Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama hug after his victory rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center January 26, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina. Sen. Obama is the winner of the South Carolina Democratic primary, a critical one for him, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton with former Sen. John Edwards coming in third.
USA Today: President Obama says he’s older and wiser than he was during the heady 2008 campaign, and he has a more complicated message urging voters to stick with him as the country slowly digs out of “a very deep hole” on the economy.
So is the election less fun, the second time around?
“Well, I’ll tell you, it’s different,” he says with a slightly pained expression on his face, then offers: “But the plane is a lot nicer.”
At this moment, Obama is perched on the edge of a swivel chair in his office on that nicer plane, also known as Air Force One, his shirt sleeves rolled up. On the first leg of four days of travel that will take him to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, he talked with USA TODAY about his Thursday acceptance speech, his policy priorities for a second term and the lessons he’s learned about the need to take his case to the American people over the heads of a polarized Congress.
The Atlantic: The president of the United States reflects on what Abraham Lincoln means to him, and to America.
By Barack Obama
Lincoln is a president I turn to often. From time to time, I’ll walk over to the Lincoln Bedroom and reread the handwritten Gettysburg Address encased in glass, or reflect on the Emancipation Proclamation, which hangs in the Oval Office, or pull a volume of his writings from the library in search of lessons to draw.
Always thoughtful, always eloquent, Lincoln’s writings speak to me as they speak to so many Americans, reminding us what is best about ourselves and the Union he saved: that though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed.
Charles Pierce: By now, everybody’s seen the America’s At Halftime commercial, featuring Clint Eastwood…. The general feeling is that the ad itself was a kind of endorsement of the president’s re-election bid, what with its emphasis on the recovery of the auto industry, which Willard Romney opposed in favor of letting the major automakers go bankrupt.
… The president can’t run on “It’s Morning In America.” He’d look foolish. He can, however, credibly run on the notion that the sky is getting a little brighter in the east. By contrast, more than a few people have noted that the Republicans in general, and Willard in particular, seem interested in running on “It’s Apocalypse In America,” gloomily drooping around the country as the people to whom they’re talking try desperately to feel optimistic again…..
National Journal: President Obama’s ad-makers may have to pay royalties to Clint Eastwood after a remarkable two-minute Chrysler commercial that aired on the biggest of all stages – the Super Bowl – and gave a pretty good preview of what the president’s reelection commercials might look like. At the very least, the ad and Eastwood’s powerful narration make it much, much more difficult for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney to keep pushing his line that Washington should have let the automakers go into bankruptcy.
And don’t think that Team Obama wasn’t watching the Super Bowl along with millions of other Americans and immediately grasped the boost they could get from the commercial. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer quickly tweeted “Saving the America auto industry: something Eminem and Clint Eastwood can agree on.” Senior strategist David Axelrod tweeted “Powerful spot. Did Clint shoot that, or just narrate it?” Former White House aide Bill Burton tweeted, “Clinton Eastwood #winning.”
ABC: ….. Fifty percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since spring. Fifty percent say he deserves re-election, better than Bill Clinton at the start of his re-election year and as good as George W. Bush a month before he won a second term. And Obama now leads Romney among registered voters by a slight 51-45 percent, the first time either has cracked 50 percent in a series of matchups since spring.
Two chief factors are at play. One is the economy’s gradual but unmistakable improvement, marked by the newly reported January unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, the lowest since a month after Obama took office. The president’s approval rating on handling the economy, while just 44 percent, is its best in 13 months.
Monday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Tuesday: PBO will host the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. At the fair, the President will view exhibits of student work, ranging from breakthrough research to new inventions, followed by remarks to an audience of students, science educators and business leaders on the importance of STEM education to the country’s economic future.
Wednesday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Thursday: PBO will host Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy at the White House.
Friday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Michael Tomasky (Daily Beast): It was somewhere between hilarious and pathetic to watch Republicans respond to the positive jobs report last Friday. Some friends and I were counting the minutes until some Republican started casting aspersions on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles and releases the data. Sure enough, by early Friday afternoon, Tea Party Congressman Allen West was saying (on the basis of no evidence of course) that “Americans need truth, not these number games.” West’s comment suggests a desperation that will spread if future reports are as good as last week’s, which raises the question of what the Republicans will do next to try to wreck the economy.
…. There are decent and honorable individual Republicans. Probably many of them. I even know some. But as a collective entity – as a party and a movement that includes the media wing and the base that boos a gay soldier at a debate and cheers executions – they are toxic destroyers, their minds infected by the idea that any cooperation with the president for the sake of the country is the moral equivalent of Munich (yes, with all that analogy implies). They will do anything. Nothing could be more just than to see a surprisingly low unemployment rate come November, with Republicans still insisting that black is white and that governance equals capitulation, and the public rewarding them accordingly.
USA Today: With U.S. forces still fighting in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has chosen to mark the end of the Iraq War with something more modest than a ticker-tape parade – a state-dinner-like event at the White House later this month feting a select group of combat veterans and their spouses or guests.
The core theme is the common fighting man or woman, said Douglas Wilson, Pentagon public affairs chief. The intent is for those invited – with guests, numbering more than 200 – to represent the 1.5 million who fought in a nine-year-war that left nearly 4,500 dead and 32,000 wounded, he said.
“The dining room that night will look like the America that served in Iraq,” Wilson said. “State dinners honor heads of state and I think the feeling was that this type of dinner is an appropriate way to honor men and women who … merit the same degree of respect as a head of state,” he said. The black-tie White House event to be called “A Nation’s Gratitude” may be unprecedented, Wilson said.
1:45: PBO attends a campaign event at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.
5:30: PBO and Michelle Obama host the Tuskegee Airmen, along with cast and crew members of the movie “Red Tails,” for a screening at the White House.
* Michelle Obama this morning joins the cast of Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” at a special screening of “iMeet The First Lady” in Alexandria, Va.
Washington Post: President Obama will ask Congress on Friday for the power to shrink the federal government, proposing a first step of combining several trade and commerce agencies under a plan that the White House said could eliminate more than 1,000 jobs and save $3 billion over 10 years.
A senior administration official cast the announcement, which Obama will make during an 11:20 a.m. White House appearance, as follow-through on the president’s promise during last year’s State of the Union address to create a leaner, more efficient bureaucracy.
CBS Philly: Vice President Joe Biden is coming to the Philadelphia area Friday morning to speak to high school students in Bucks County about the cost of college and what the Obama Administration is doing to make it more affordable.
Biden and Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller will speak to students at Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown. Even though students have finals next week, class schedules are being adjusted to give students a chance to take part in what could be a chance of a lifetime.
CBS: On the eve of a Texas meeting of prominent social conservatives and evangelical Christians to discuss the state of the Republican presidential race, one invitee is worrying that a Mitt Romney nomination would be “John McCain all over again.”
Dick Bott, founder and chairman of Christian Radio’s Bott Radio Network, says he would vote for the former Massachusetts governor against President Obama, but that “people just won’t care.”
“Why on earth give other things [like volunteering time or donations] for someone you think is a bit of sham?” says Bott, who would not confirm he will be attending this weekend’s summit. “All of a sudden there’s a conservative movement that is being spoon-fed by Republican establishment leaders.”
Steve Benen: ….. I don’t think we need any special insights to see the line Gingrich is pushing here. The disgraced former House Speaker, in advance of the South Carolina primary, wants Republican voters to think there’s something wrong with being bilingual, especially if the other language is French.
I have no idea if this will work, but the fact that “he speaks French” is considered a potentially potent attack in Republican politics in the 21st century is just sad.
LA Times: As Mitt Romney defends his record running a private equity firm, he frequently points to a fast-growing Indiana steel company, financed in part by Bain Capital, that now employs 6,000 workers.
What Romney doesn’t mention is that Steel Dynamics also received generous tax breaks and other subsidies provided by the state of Indiana and the residents of DeKalb County, where the company’s first mill was built.
The story of Bain and Steel Dynamics illustrates how Romney, during his business career, made avid use of public-private partnerships, something that many conservatives consider to be “corporate welfare.” It is a commitment that carried over into his term as governor of Massachusetts, when he offered similar incentives to lure businesses to his state.
Yet as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination, he emphasizes government’s adverse effects on economic growth