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Politics Today: Finding the Votes for Health Care

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

** Corzine takes the lead after spending millions on his reelection campaign...

** Protecting population centers in Afghanistan...

** The Senate takes on climate change...

(CBS)
PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: This morning, President Obama will speak at a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in honor of former Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., at the U.S. Capitol.

Later, Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden will have lunch at the White House before meeting with the co-chairmen of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board and the senior leadership of the intelligence community.

This afternoon, the president signs the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 in the Rose Garden. During his remarks, he'll talk about cutting wasteful government spending.

"As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do whatever it takes to defend the American people... But I have always rejected the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars to keep this nation secure," he'll say according to excerpts released by the White House. "In fact, wasting these dollars makes us less secure. And that's why we have passed a defense bill that eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in our defense process – reforms that will better protect our nation, better protect our troops, and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

"This bill isn't perfect," he continues. "There is still more waste we need to cut. There are still more fights we need to win. And Secretary Gates and I will continue waging those battles in the months and years ahead. But today we have proved that change is possible. It may not come quickly or all at once, but if you push hard enough, it does come."

Tonight, Mr. Obama will attend a commemorative tree planting on the North Portico of the White House. The president also will host a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Also, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden head to the Bronx where they and members of the New York Yankees will visit patients at a VA Medical Center there. Tonight, the two will attend game one of the Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies World Series.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
HEALTH CARE: "U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid doesn't have the 60 votes he needs to win approval of a government-run health-insurance program," report Bloomberg News' Kristin Jensen and Brian Faler.

"Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who organizes with the Democrats, said he will oppose the so-called public option. At least four Senate Democrats criticized the idea and won't commit to backing their party, and the two Republicans who have signaled a willingness to support health- care legislation said they won't vote for the program.

"'The last thing that we want to do now is create another Washington-run health-insurance company,' Lieberman told reporters yesterday, saying the first priority should be protecting the Medicare insurance program for the elderly."

"The centrists, a loose-knit group of as many as 12 Democratic senators, are crucial to the success of any health care bill, because it takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to shut off a filibuster -- an extended debate to prevent a decisive vote -- and Democrats control 60 seats," add McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman and Margaret Talev.

"After Democrats met privately for about an hour Tuesday, the moderates were largely unenthusiastic about Monday's proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to include a public option in the pending health care overhaul legislation, while allowing states to opt out of it.

"While the Democrats, including Lieberman, are expected to vote with their party leadership at least to allow debate to begin, there are serious questions about whether they'll provide the votes needed to end debate over specific parts of the bill or, in the end, to approve the legislation.

"Reid said he was unconcerned, calling Lieberman 'the least of Harry Reid's problems.'

"Moderate Democratic senators long have voiced reservations about the public option, the cost of overhauling the health care system and other issues. Their informal roster includes Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, Virginia's Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Montana's Jon Tester, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, Indiana's Evan Bayh, North Dakota's Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Delaware's Thomas Carper."

"[L]awmakers said that if moderates' concerns do not prevent the Senate bill from advancing next month, the opt-out provision could be ditched on the floor," write the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery. "Some moderate Democrats are more comfortable with the 'trigger' approach that Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) has advocated, saying that a variant of a public plan is more likely to win 60 votes. Under Snowe's approach, a public plan would be available only in states where private companies do not offer policies at broadly affordable rates."

On the House side, "Democratic leaders are planning to include a public option in their bill," report the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, Patrick Yoest and Greg Hitt. "They said Tuesday that Mr. Reid's move buoyed support among moderate House Democrats. House moderates worried they would have to vote for a public plan, only to see the idea die in the Senate. But now the Senate is moving closer to the House position.

"House leaders are hoping to unveil a revised bill to bring to the floor in the next several days. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled she may try to rebrand the public option, which has become one of the most contentious aspects of the legislation intended to expand health-insurance coverage and lower medical costs. 'It's not really a public option,' she said Tuesday. 'It's a consumer option.'"

(CBS/AP)
2009 RACES: New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine leads Republican challenger Christopher Christie for the first time in their five-month slugfest, on top 43 – 38 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent candidate Christopher Daggett has 13 percent, with 5 percent undecided.

This compares to a 41 – 40 percent Christie lead, with 14 percent for Daggett, in an October 14 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

"You could see it coming. Gov. Jon Corzine's numbers crept steadily up and Christopher Christie's steadily shrank and now, for the first time, we have Corzine ahead," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"But don't be in a hurry to mark this election as over. Christopher Daggett changed it from 'ABC' – Anybody But Corzine – to a real three-way scrap. But a lot of Daggett's voters say they might change their minds by Election Day. Where will they go?"

"Gov. Corzine has spent about $23 million - most of it his own money - in his fight for reelection, more than the combined total of his two main competitors, according to campaign finance documents released yesterday," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer's Cynthia Burton.

"After spending $60 million on his U.S. Senate race in 2000 and $40 million on his first governor's race in 2005, the former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs & Co. is poised to spend as much as $30 million in this race. ...

"Daggett and Christie are participating in the state finance program, which limits their spending. They are unable to match the power of Corzine's wallet to buy campaign advertising in a state split between two of the nation's most expensive media markets.

"Of the millions Corzine has spent, all but about $1 million has come from his personal fortune."

(AP)
In Virginia, "[Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Creigh Deeds is hoping the kind of energy President Barack Obama generated among a crowd of 5,700 on Tuesday is contagious enough to overcome polls suggesting he trails Republican Bob McDonnell and needs long presidential coattails to drag him to victory Nov. 3," write the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot's Bill Bartel and Julian Walker.

"Obama told thousands of supporters at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center to set aside their cynicism and help put Deeds in office. 'A lot of people are saying polls don't look the way we want them to. Listen. Let me tell you something,' Obama said. 'I don't believe in can't. I don't believe in giving up. I don't believe we would turn our backs on the progress that Tim Kaine has made here in Virginia. I am absolutely confident that we can if you are willing to work in this last week.'

"Tuesday's visit to ODU was the second time Obama stumped on behalf of Deeds during this campaign."

"Last week, White House aides and other national Democrats said Deeds's campaign has failed to fully embrace Obama in a state where he could help motivate black and young voters, as well as the half a million new voters who turned out for him last year," adds the Washington Post's Anita Kumar.

"Although Deeds often praises Obama on the campaign trail, he has also distanced himself from the president and some of the policy proposals touted by the Democrat-controlled Congress.

"Mark Bowles, a Richmond lawyer who is a longtime Democratic activist and a Deeds supporter, said Deeds's actions follow a pattern of successful Democratic statewide candidates who did not fully embrace Washington figures. 'They have always held the tradition of running as Virginia Democrats,' he said.

"But, Bowles said, Deeds needs to embrace Obama to try to energize Democrats and get out the vote Tuesday. 'He's got to try to get some of that Obama energy,' he said."

In the special election in New York's 23rd Congressional District, "A series of moves by potential Republican presidential candidates has turned a special congressional election next month in New York into an early test of conservative bona fides," writes the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

"In the past week, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have weighed in on the race, with Pawlenty and Palin throwing their support to Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman and Gingrich endorsing Republican Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.

"Palin and Pawlenty cast the contest as a fight for the direction of the GOP. Palin said her endorsement would be a message to party leaders of 'no more politics as usual,' and Pawlenty said that 'we cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail but then vote like Democrats in Congress.'

"Gingrich insisted that the special election should not be interpreted as a conservative litmus test and that his endorsement of Scozzafava was entirely about respecting local party leaders."

(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
AFGHANISTAN: New York Times' Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen, "Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

"The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.'s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai's home.

"The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America's war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.

"The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America's increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.'s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban."

Meantime, "Eight American soldiers were killed in two roadside bombings in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the U.S. military said, making October the deadliest month for American troops since the 2001 invasion," the Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov and Siobhan Gorman report.

"The deaths come as the Obama administration is considering whether to send tens of thousands more soldiers to the U.S.-led international force, which now numbers 65,000 American troops and 40,000 allied soldiers, drawn mostly from Europe and Canada. Rising casualties have made the war increasingly unpopular in the U.S. and among its allies."

"President Obama's advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability," add the New York Times' Thom Shanker, Peter Baker and Helene Cooper.

"Mr. Obama has yet to make a decision and has other options available to him, but as officials described it, the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed. The question of how much of the country should fall under the direct protection of American and NATO forces will be central to deciding how many troops will be sent."

Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon, "Clinton Aims to Bolster Ties With Pakistan": " Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will use her first official trip to Pakistan to smooth relations strained by terms of an American aid package for the key South Asian ally. Mrs. Clinton was scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning in Islamabad for a three-day visit in which she will also seek to show solidarity with Pakistan's military operations against Taliban and al Qaeda forces based in the tribal region of South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan."

5397433CLIMATE BILL: "President Obama declared Tuesday that a 'consensus is building' around climate-change legislation and characterized opponents as preoccupied with the past instead of a 'clean-energy future,'" reports the Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons.

"Standing on the edge of a large solar-power plant here, Obama urged the Senate to pass a measure that caps carbon emissions and to set aside arguments that it would harm the economy and cost jobs.

"'The closer we get to this new energy future, the harder the opposition is going to fight, the more we're going to hear from special interests and lobbyists in Washington whose interests are contrary to the interests of the American people,' Obama said.

"As he spoke to Florida Power & Light employees, the sun was glinting off acres of the utility's solar panels behind him. 'It's a debate between looking backwards and looking forward,' the president said."

"The climate change measure, sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, aims to cap emissions of the gases linked to the warming of the planet by setting up a program under which industries can buy and sell emissions permits," reports the New York Times' John M. Broder.

"The measure also provides a variety of incentives for new energy technology, including billions of dollars in subsidies for research on capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

"Republicans on the committee dismissed the bill as an overly complex one that will harm the economy, kill jobs and favor some parts of the country over others. Democrats generally defended it as a market-based approach to a serious environmental problem that will create jobs by spurring energy innovation.

"Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is the second-ranking member of the environment committee and chairman of the Finance Committee, warned his fellow Democrats that the Kerry-Boxer bill went too far and could end up delaying any action on global warming for months or years."

Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin, "Economics of climate change in forefront": "For a decade or more, the political battle over climate change has been fought largely over the validity of the science of global warming. But Tuesday, as the Environment and Public Works Committee opened its first hearing on a Senate climate change bill, those concerns took a rear seat to a different issue: the potential economic impact of climate change. And the scene was set for a battle over best estimates.

"The shift, which has taken place everywhere from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the most liberal environmental groups, has prompted an array of competing studies aimed at predicting what will happen if the United States comes up with a means of charging industries for creating the emissions linked to global warming. The answer to that question is based on complex calculations projecting years into the future -- the interpretation of which is influenced by each side's underlying beliefs. And it promises to define the debate on Capitol Hill for the next several months."

ALSO:

Washington Times' Matthew Mosk, "Democratic donors rewarded with W.H. perks"

Anchorage Daily News' Sean Cockerham and Erika Bolstad, "Palin got $1.25 million retainer for book while in office"

NY Times' Brian Stelter, "Newsman to Speak at Events of Group Opposed to Health Care Plan"

Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet, "Michelle Obama: It's Still Baseball Season, but ... Tennis Anyone?"

Steve Chaggaris

Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.

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