Series of small wins buoys Obama agenda

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Still, when longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas pressed spokesman Robert Gibbs to explain during his Friday briefing “why the other side is gaining so much,” Mr. Gibbs urged reporters to view the week through a wider lens.

“Well, Helen,” he gently protested, “I think the president’s had a pretty good week. I think if you look back - we’ll take this week.”

In part, the administration’s reserve in touting its successes has been driven by a recognition that there are still many in the country who are suffering the effects of the economic downturn.

As Mr. Gibbs put it during his briefing, “We do not have any banners out that say, you know, we only lost a quarter-million jobs.” His choice of words was a not-so-subtle reminder of the perils of overconfidence, represented by former President George W. Bush’s now infamously premature banner declaring “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.

Beyond lingering uncertainty about the economy, the administration also is bracing for escalating tensions in the battle over the president’s signature initiative, his effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

While it is far too soon to celebrate success on that crucial front, Mr. Kaine said, he does sense a certain confidence coming from Mr. Obama. The two were together for much of Thursday evening, as the president visited Virginia to raise money and rally enthusiasm for Democratic candidate R. Creigh Deeds, who is hoping to succeed Mr. Kaine as Virginia governor.

“I think that style - of reaching out and bringing people around the table to solve problems - it may not be as flashy,” Mr. Kaine said. “But that style, with patience, is starting to bear fruit.”

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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