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Watch for this shift in Obama's stimulus wording tonight and beyond

February 9, 2009 |  3:56 pm

The 61-36 vote procedural Senate balloting a short time ago indicates President Obama will get his controversial economic stimulus-OMG-look-at-all-that spending bill through the Senate tomorrow.

You could see in his remarks in Elkhart, Ind., today (See video below by scrolling down or clicking on the "Read more" line) a change in strategy. And you'll hear even more about it during his news conference coming up here shortly. And the rest of this week. He's great on the stump. It's much easier than governing.

Yes, sure he still talks scary about how awful things are economically. No one in their right mind would open their wallet if they read all of Obama's recent texts. And Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over in the Senate.

Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist

But today in a tacit acknowledgment that he'd lost control of the earlier debate talking from the White house bunker, Obama started being more specific about what's in the bill. $100 more a month for 450,000 Indianans on unemployment insurance right here in River City. And specifics on tax relief for individuals and families.

In today's political debates of sound bites, $200 million for condoms sticks in the mind better than get this money down to Main Street. Subsidies for bees sticks more than get this economy moving again.

It may not be right, accurate or even valid. But the Republicans, whose job it is to be the Opposition until it crosses that ill-defined line of Obstructionism, won the early stimulus/spending skirmishes. And the overburdened House bill played to their strength. They lost last year after supporting Bush's ample spending. What's the base lesson any politician would draw from that, facing House balloting in 21 months with primaries before then? Zero Republicans voted for the House version, that's the answer.

Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas may be right or wrong about much of this spending not really occurring for 10 years. But it hasn't been countered by Democratic specifics. Yes, sure in a bill this size you're bound to have billions here and there go to waste, they argue. But that only adds to the doubts over this measure among many Americans faced with stretching $90 over two $75 bills. They hear a trillion last year. Nearly a trillion this year. Maybe more next year.

There's a long way to go in this first word war of the new administration and Congress. Tomorrow's Senate vote. Then the conference committee haggling. And then the re-votes.

Onama should have been out in Elkhart a week ago explaining what NBC's brilliant Chuck Todd calls "the blah-blah-blah Washington word" stimulus. But in the meantime look for more localized specifics of the economic stimulus plan from Obama in tonight's nationally-televised news conference. And tomorrow's trip to Florida, where he'll be introduced by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, a political coup that caused the White House today to reissue a news release emphasizing that development. And beyond.

See video below.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Associated Press