The Night Beat: The Big Blimp

Good evening.

A DAY OFF: President Obama begins his summer Recovery Act tour with a stop in Columbus, Ohio tomorrow, the site of the 10,000th American Recovery and Reinvestment Act road project. The White House says the project is expected to create over 300 construction jobs and will contribute to the broader economic development effort underway in the area around Nationwide Children's Hospital. At least for a day, though, a bunch of workers -- the workers building said hospital (which itself is not part of ARRA) -- will be given an unpaid day off. And they aren't happy. It's not clear whether the Secret Service or the White House advance team asked the hospital's construction company, Turner, to clear the work site. Obama is speaking at an outdoor site next to the hospital. It's his fourth visit to Ohio since he assumed office.

BARTON FUNK:  Democrats launched a furious, coordinated assault against Republicans the moment that Rep. Joe Barton, the ranking Republican on the energy committee, decided to apologize to BP for the company's "shake down" by President Obama. They barely had time to incorporate the comments into emails asking for donations before Barton, pressured by his leadership, completely reversed course, saying his morning comments were not, in fact, what he believed. Republicans are making it clear tonight that Barton is on a short leash and that he really could be stripped of his position if he makes another comment of that kind. Meanwhile, Democrats have a second good news cycle off of the BP story and are headed for a third tomorrow. By the way: Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, also accused Obama of perpetuating a "Chicago-style shake down" of BP.

TO PIECES: Here's a new term for you: Clay Pigeon. Sen. Tom Coburn is so determined to block the tax extenders bill that he divided his amendment to pay for the bill into 20 separate pieces. That screeeeeaching sound you heard was the Senate sliding to an immediate halt. Staffers were particularly angry, having wanted to finish the bill before the 10:00 am EST kick-off of the World Cup tomorrow morning. Later, a cloture vote failed on the $55 billion bill. Democrats plan to regroup and figure out if there's anything else they can do. BTW: the two Democrats who voted against cloture were Sen. Joe Lieberman (he caucuses with the Dems) and Sen. Ben Nelson.

VEIL OF IGNORANCE: Vic Rawl's attempt to protest Alvin Greene's election in the South Carolina primary failed; the State Democratic Party upheld Greene's improbable-but-there-you-go victory. Rawl won't appeal. Unless Greene drops out before the primary vote is certified on Aug. 16, he will appear on the ballot against Sen. Jim DeMint. Democrats might -- but probably won't -- try to persuade him to drop out.

NEWT IS SERIOUS: There's been some speculation in Republican circles that Newt Gingrich is not serious about running for President in 2012. That's natural; after all, Gingrich has a history of flirting with the race in order to sell his books. Well, he is writing a new book (and Reagan biographer Craig Shirley is helping him), but Gingrich is also deadly serious about, well, seriously considering a bid. Next Monday he will attend a breakfast in New Hampshire where he'll be hosted by the chairman of the State Republican Party.

HUGE MILITARY CONTRACT WATCH: For the Army, Northrup Grumman is going to build a ginormous, football field-sized airship that will allow its users to coordinate tactical and battlefield activities out of the line-of-sight and up to 2,000 miles away from its target. It's called the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, and it just floats ... for up to three weeks at a time ... 20,000 feet in the air. Apparently, you can't shoot it down. Three such ships will cost the military $517 million.


-- Utah will execute Ronnie Lee Gardner via firing squad tomorrow morning.

-- In the latest National Journal Insiders Poll, 54 percent of Republican insiders believe that high unemployment is more of a political liability for Democrats than government spending. 91 percent of Democrats agree.

-- Dawn Johnsen, the former nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, told a crowd of admirers tonight that she has "no regrets" about her views, which, for some reason, made her unconfirmable to Republicans. Along with a funny keynote address by Al Franken (complete with stare decisis jokes), Johnsen's remarks were the highlight of Day One of the American Constitution Society convention. Tomorrow, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks. On Saturday, I'll be hosting a panel on military commissions and Article III trials.

-- Don't expect a wireless Southern border fence anytime soon.