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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2011

OBAMARAMA

Brace for impact. Here come the "Obama-Biden 2012" bumper stickers, destined for every Prius in the nation. Here come the marketing blitz, the videos and the mawkish, fawning media. As Republican presidential hopefuls dither, President Obama has declared he'll run for re-election, trading in the old grandiose hopey-changey campaign for tea party-style grass-roots appeal and the cozy catchphrase "It begins with us."

It also begins with money, a fact keenly felt by Republicans who are daunted by rumors of Mr. Obama's potential billion-dollar campaign. There is good reason to pause. Fundraising apparatus is in motion. A trio of monumental "Obama Victory Fund 2012 Kick-Off with the President" events are scheduled April 14-20 at the Grand Ballroom of the Navy Pier in Chicago, the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco and Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. Admission prices are as high as $2,500.

And while Mr. Obama and his strategists may posture like true denizens of the heartland, these fundraisers portend a vigorous, aggressive campaign with all the trimmings. Consider that the big finale fundraiser at Sony Pictures Studios exclusively features the fancy fare of chef Wolfgang Puck; the site advises its clients, "Immerse your guests in Hollywood glitz and glamour." Uh-huh. And we can only imagine the guest list. And this is just the beginning.

THE COURIC DERBY

Handicapping the replacement: It's a favorite parlor game among the restless and overconnected. And naturally, the guessing game as to who will succeed "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric is in full swing. There's talk that CBS' "60 Minutes" point man Scott Pelley is a leading contender. The names of Fox News' Shepard Smith, CNN's Anderson Cooper, NBC's David Gregory and even deposed MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann have also been bandied about.

The more imaginative wonder is what would happen if a politician turned pundit took the chair, or if Comedy Central's fake newsman Jon Stewart decided to get serious. Then there's Gawker.com editor Hamilton Nolan, who gives ABC's morning host George Stephanopoulos 10-to-1 odds as Mrs. Couric's replacement.

"The smug little politico who's been masquerading as a journalist for the past several years would certainly like a newsier job than 'Good Morning America.' His total lack of gravitas means he would be a horrible choice for CBS. Don't count him out," Mr. Nolan observes.

HILLARY WATCH

Observers are monitoring "Operation Pantsuit," the waggish name that has come to symbolize Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's potential bid for the White House. Pantsuiters routinely monitor her favorability polls. They parse Mrs. Clinton's speeches and global appearances, watching for signs that the former senator and first lady is ready for bigger things, and sweet revenge, perhaps, for herself and former President Bill Clinton.

"While it's true the Clintons are ambitious people, they've never been known to go on suicide missions," observes KABC talk radio host and Los Angeles Times contributor John Phillips. "Despite her contemporary denials, Hillary would only throw her hat in the ring if she thought she had a better than even chance at moving back into the White House. President Obama is looking weak, but not weak enough to justify a primary challenge - yet."

Mr. Phillips continues, "If Libya turns into a full blown disaster, resulting in billions of dollars wasted, boots on the ground and abysmal public opinion numbers, my money is on Hillary resigning her post as Secretary of State and jumping in the 2012 primary. She can even rerun the '3 A.M. Phone Call' ad, with the tagline 'See? I told you so.' "

ARIGATO

"To all U.S. military members, on behalf of the people of Japan, I sincerely express my deep appreciation for the tremendous support provided by the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people at a time of unprecedented crisis in Japan."

A message from Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to sailors and service members aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, delivered in person by Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa on Monday.

"The entire Japanese people are deeply moved and encouraged by scenes of U.S. military members working hard in support of relief efforts. Those in Japan and the United States are true 'tomodachi' [friends]. ... They share basic values such as democracy and respect for human rights," Mr. Kitazawa told the Reagan crew.

JESSE TOLERATES SARAH

Jesse Ventura did not mask his annoyance with Fox News when he recently spoke with Inside the Beltway, complaining that the network would not deign to put him on the air. But CNN has no problem with the former Minnesota governor. Mr. Ventura appeared on CNN on Piers Morgan's talkfest Monday night where the pair argued over politics; the former wrestler reconfirmed that he hates both Republican and Democratic parties, but when pressed to pick a presidential candidate, he allowed that he would bet on Sarah Palin.

"She's the type of person that certainly will be controlled by the status quo and the power structure," Mr. Ventura told Mr. Morgan. "So she'd make a perfect candidate for them. She'll do what she's told."

POLL DU JOUR

• 43 percent of likely U.S. voters approve of President Obama's job performance.

• 52 percent give him a good rating on Japan disaster relief.

• 42 percent approve of the president's domestic security policy; 38 percent favor his "war on terrorism."

• 36 percent favor Mr. Obama's health care policy; 35 percent approve of his economic policy.

• 34 percent give a good rating to his response to the Libya conflict; 30 percent approve of his response to the war in Afghanistan.

• 28 percent approve of Mr. Obama's take on financial regulations; 27 percent approve of his response to immigration issues.

Source: A Zogby Interactive survey of 2,126 likely voters conducted April 1-4.

Campaigns, hue and cry, hissy fits to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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