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Obama agenda: Obama up, GOP down

Pew: “After a series of fiscal crises over the past few years, the public is not expressing a particular sense of urgency over the pending March 1 sequester deadline. With little more than a week to go, barely a quarter have heard a lot about the scheduled cuts, while about as many have heard nothing at all.” Here’s the full poll.

Susan Page: “President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent — cutting the budget deficit — even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama's approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts. The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party's message in the wake of disappointing losses last November for the White House and in the Senate. Now just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.”

Bloomberg: “Obama Rated at 3-Year High in Poll, Republicans at Bottom.” Obama’s approval is at 55%. Republicans’ favorable rating is at 35%.

Obama in one of his affiliate interviews acknowledged the restraints of a second-term presidency and the necessity for policy urgency, per NBC’s Shawna Thomas: “I’d like to get as much stuff done as quickly as possible.  Even though I’m just starting my second term.  I know that once we get through this year, then people start looking at the midterms.  After that they start thinking about presidential elections. The American people don’t want us to spend all our time thinking about elections.  They want us to do some work.  Now’s a good time for us to get some things done.”

“The next stage of Obamacare is shaping up into a fight between two camps of Republican governors sure to duke it out in the 2016 presidential primary — ideologues versus pragmatists,” Politico writes. “The ideological purists are big-name Southern governors — like Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Bob McDonnell and Rick Perry — who have all said “hell no” to major pieces of the law, even turning down free federal cash to expand Medicaid in their states. The more pragmatic governors are rising Republican stars in the rest of the country — like Chris Christie, John Kasich and Susana Martinez — who’ve embraced pieces of the law or left the door open to doing so if there seems to be a political upside in their state.”

Obama to a Univision San Antonio affiliate on the immigration leak, per Jordan Fabian: "It certainly did not jeopardize the entire process. The negotiations are still moving forward. Information floats out of Washington all the time; that shouldn't prevent anybody from moving forward."

Obama added, "I've said repeatedly that I want Congress to go ahead and negotiate and get a bill done. But what I've also said is we're preparing a bill so that if Congress doesn't do its job, we're going to go ahead and put a bill on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Ron Fournier: “Your federal government is almost certain to blow past the March 1 deadline for averting $1.2 trillion in haphazard budget cuts that could cost 700,000 jobs. Don’t worry. We know whom to blame. President Obama makes a credible case that he has reached farther toward compromise than House Republicans. But knowing who’s at fault doesn’t fix the problem. To loosely quote Billy Joel: You may be right, Mr. President, but this is crazy.”

Ironically the rest of that Billy Joel song goes like this… “You may be right. I may be crazy. Hey! But it just might be a lunatic you're looking for.”

“Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak Thursday at a gun violence conference a few miles from the scene of last year’s Newtown school shooting massacre,” the AP writes. “The conference, in Danbury, is to push President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals. It was organized by members of the state’s congressional delegation including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who said the proximity to Newtown was of ‘symbolic significance.’”

“The Obama administration is quietly considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage, a step that would mark a political victory for advocates of same-sex unions and a deepening commitment by President Barack Obama to rights for gay couples,” the AP says, adding, “An administration brief alone is unlikely to sway the Justices but the federal government’s opinion does carry weight with the court. A final decision on whether to file a brief has not been made, a senior administration official said. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is consulting with the White House on the matter, said the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to address the private deliberations publicly.”

“Secretary of State John F. Kerry will depart Sunday on a nine-nation tour of Europe and the Middle East, where he plans to meet with members of the Syrian opposition and huddle with foreign leaders on a series of other thorny issues from the civil war in Mali to continued instability in Egypt,” the Boston Globe writes. “The maiden overseas voyage for the new secretary of state, from February 24 to March 6, will offer Kerry the opportunity to reacquaint himself with foreign leaders, including some of the closest US allies. It will take him to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, the State Department said Tuesday.”

Gwen Ifill interviews Sonia Sotomayor.