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Inside the Beltway: Obama’s elusive victory

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The Obama administration is not necessarily winning the sequester game, despite blaming Republicans for the nation's economic woes, employing nimble rhetoric and staging melodramatic public events. Many Americans are not buying the buoyant White House talking points: a strong plurality of likely voters believe economic conditions in the U.S. are worsening, and the federal spending cuts will only compound the problem. So says a new poll from The Hill.

Among the findings: 48 percent of the respondents believe the economy is getting worse, a third say it is improving. Naturally, there's a partisan divide: 67 percent of Republicans said the economy is worsening, versus just 26 percent of Democrats. Alternatively, just 15 percent of Republicans said the economy is improving, along with 56 percent of Democrats. A majority of voters, 56 percent, think sequestration will hurt the economy.

Meanwhile, 48 percent say President Obama exaggerated the negative effects of the sequester cuts, while just 31 percent said the White House did not overplay its hand. A "solid" 46 percent say the press is "excessively sympathetic to the president," while 28 percent said the reporting is deliberately crafted to hurt his cause. A mere 17 percent said news organizations offer unbiased coverage.

THE TENACIOUS RUMSFELD

The ever-cheerful Donald Rumsfeld, 80, has revealed the cover image from his newest book "Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life." It will be published by Broadside Books in mid-May, described as ideal reading for "aspiring politicos and industrialists, college graduates, teachers, and business leaders."

And the rules? A sample of the Rumsfeld brand of strategic thinking:

"On serving the boss: learn to say 'I don't know.' If used when appropriate, it will be often. On government, a lesson from Tony Blair: you begin when you're least capable and most popular, and you end when you're least popular and most capable. On serving the president: most advisors can tell a President how to improve what's been proposed or what's gone amiss. Few are able to see what is missing," the author advises.

STAR-MAKING FILIBUSTER

In his post-filibuster glow, Sen. Rand Paul has acknowledged that yes, a White House run is possible, prompting additional dithering about the identity of the Republican Party from newcomers and establishment heavyweights alike.

Pay attention, warns John Fund, national affairs correspondent for the National Review, who points out that the canny Mr. Paul already has forged "a good relationship" with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has in turn allowed his fellow Kentuckian "a great deal of freedom to offer amendments of his choosing on the Senate floor."

But certain ideas are entrenched.

"But for all his efforts, some Republicans -- those who blame the tea party for the GOP's failure to take back the Senate from Democrats in 2012 -- would probably treat a Paul candidacy as an insurgency they need to suppress. They will insist that Paul won't appeal to women, moderates, and people who will be suspicious of his Kentucky drawl," Mr. Fund says.

"Even those who are hostile to Paul should welcome his candidacy. If his star-making filibuster is any indication, his entry in the race will help make the GOP attractive to younger voters and people who are traditionally suspicious of both major parties. For a party that clearly had an 'outreach' problem to those voters in 2008 and 2012, that can only be helpful," he concludes.

BUMPER PATROL

"Driver carries no money. Obama took it all."

(Bumper sticker spotted in Plano, Texas)

PALMETTO POLITICS

Palmetto State politics continue to be complex. Boisterous rivals like Teddy Turner and former Gov. Mark Sanford vie to fill the shoes of Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the former representative appointed to his current office after Jim DeMint left to become president of the Heritage Foundation. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham has an unexpected challenger.

That would be Bruce Carroll, co-founder of GOProud, the gay Republican group barred from the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference at week's end. The 4-year-old organization has allies among those who insist the party needs help against Democrats from all sectors, gay or otherwise.

Mr. Carroll has resigned his post and likely intends to run against Mr. Graham.

"In the spirit of transparency and honesty, I informed my fellow GOProud board members that I could not dedicate the time to the organization while I seriously considered the effort it will take to challenge Sen. Graham in the 2014 primary," he says in an open letter. Mr. Carroll has already changed his Twitter biography to indicate he's the "future junior senator" for South Carolina.

"If I believe I could provide a serious alternative to Senator Graham for the voters of South Carolina, and I can find the financial and moral support to join me in that effort, then I will take those next formal steps needed to do so," he says. "Someone needs to be the conscience of South Carolina's voters."

POLL DU JOUR

• 85 percent of Americans say working at home balances employment and family needs

• 84 percent say an office setting adds to "team camaraderie"; 83 percent say good ideas result from in-person meetings at the office.

• 83 percent say an option to work at home is a "significant job perk."

• 66 percent currently do not work at home; 64 percent say working at home would increase productivity.

• 61 percent say the option to telecommute would influence their decision to take a job, or remain on a job.

• 35 percent say working at home "hurts speed and work quality."

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,219 U.S. adults conduced Feb. 28 to March 4.

• Crabby commentary, shrill observations to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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