The Outside Game Begins

Two years and one very long summer into the Obama presidency, many progressives have gotten tired of watching their would-be hero trying to appease the Republicans. On Thursday night, Obama made it clear he’s tired of it, too. In one what was certainly his most impassioned -- and maybe even his most consequential -- speech since taking office, he proposed something bold and specific, demanded that Congress pass it, and promised to take his case directly to the people. As Greg Sargent noted, "The tone of urgency bordered on overkill — which is a good thing. ...

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Barack Obama’s jobs speech last night was not the speech his critics from the left had been asking for.

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A few weeks ago, when President Obama announced his intention to propose a major jobs bill, I asked a group of respected economists what, in an ideal world, such a bill would contain. They agreed on three basic criteria: Size, speed, and smarts. In other words, it would be big, it would be quick, and it would be self-sustaining in the long run. The American Jobs Act may not be perfect. And, lord knows, it may not pass Congress in any recognizable form.

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Barack Obama gave the best speech of his presidency tonight. It was angry, direct, and entirely appropriate to the occasion—an “economic crisis,” which, as he said, has been made worse by a “political crisis.” He spoke to the Congress, but also over their head to their constituents, and appealed to them to put pressure on their representatives. His proposal to help the economy was not perfect—too much consisted of tax cuts and not spending—but for once the scale of the proposal, $450 billion, fit the crisis, and if enacted, would help and not damage the economy.

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The main purpose of campaign debates is to differentiate among the candidates. And in Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, differentiating between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney was easy.  Romney demonstrated a thorough command of issues, while Perry served up word salad, Palin style, once the questions got complicated. Romney defended Social Security, while Perry reaffirmed his belief that the program was a “ponzi scheme." I won’t pretend to know how their respective performances will affect the campaign, because I’m not a conservative.

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Rick Perry, who has pulled ahead of Mitt Romney in the national polls, had to show whether he could hold his own in last night’s presidential debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California; and he did so. Romney began to develop an avenue of attack against Perry, but I don’t think it is going to be effective.  The main thing in debates is not so much what you say, but how you say it. It’s a matter of attitude. Perry appeared tough, confident, able to deflect criticism, and to fire back when fired upon—whether over jobs in Texas, or his support for vaccination.

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In his inaugural presidential debate, Rick Perry had a choice.

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Richard Cordray, President Obama's choice to head the new consumer financial protection bureau, came to Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearings on Tuesday. And, by all accounts, even Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee were impressed. Via ABC News:  He appeared to be liked personally by [Ranking Minority member Richard] Shelby and Bob Corker of Tennessee, the other Republican at the committee confirmation hearing.

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Concord, New Hampshire—With the choreographed precision of a giant amoeba, the crowd of blue-shirted Mitt Romney supporters stopped listening to the speaker on the stage and squeezed its way toward the Tea Party Express bus.

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A not insignificant portion of the national political establishment—consisting of panicky Democrats and Republicans alike—is hoping that Rick Perry’s commanding lead in recent Republican primary polls will wither under the lights of this month’s multiple presidential debates, beginning with tonight’s event at the Ronald Reagan Library in California.

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