Obama's election year plan suddenly scrambled 

Recent events and political realities are narrowing President Obama's election year agenda, a dynamic that puts a greater emphasis on jobs.

In quick succession, the BP oil spill and Times Square car bomb refocused the administration's priorities, as immigration and a climate bill appeared to fall away.

The government on Friday will release its latest jobs report. Job creation and the economy are increasingly driving election year politics, along with a strong anti-incumbent, anti-government spirit among voters.

"We're beginning to see some hopeful signs," Obama told business leaders at a Washington hotel. "Spurring job creation and economic expansion continues to be our number one domestic priority."

Obama had hoped to close several, big-ticket agenda items before November, capitalizing in part on the momentum he picked up in Washington from passing his national health plan.

Since then, his financial regulation package has hit a few snags, and a whipsaw of major news events has reordered the White House to-do list.

Much like he did after the attempted Christmas Day bombing, Obama has had to shift focus to national security, after a crude but potentially deadly car bomb was found in New York's Times Square.

The White House said Tuesday it is looking into how Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the case, was able to board a plane to Dubai on a last-minute ticket despite being on the no-fly list. Mindful of keeping the president out front and engaged on the issue, the White House informed reporters that Obama was briefed on Shahzad's arrest just after midnight.

The BP oil spill also was an unforeseen calamity now claiming the administration's time and resources. Obama on Sunday traveled to Louisiana to view the encroaching crisis in person, and the White House is keeping a tight grip on disaster messaging, to show Obama is on top of the problem.

At the same time, the offshore drilling disaster has most likely killed Obama's hopes for passing a climate bill this year -- a measure that already was facing uncertain prospects in the Senate.

Also expiring are hopes for an immigration bill, after Obama acknowledged last week that Congress probably lacks "an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue."

The administration had hoped to make enough progress on immigration reform to help shore up the Democratic base ahead of November. But without leadership from the White House, the issue goes nowhere.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday laid out a politically lackluster agenda for the next few months, saying he wants to tackle food contamination, appropriations, a modest jobs package and a pending debate over extending tax cuts.

For Obama, much of what's left to grapple with centers on his Supreme Court nominee -- which could come this week, the economy, the federal budget, and whatever else fates throws at him between now and November.

So far, he is pleading for cooperation.

"At a time of such economic anxiety, it's tempting and, frankly, sometimes easier, to turn against one another," Obama said. "I don't believe we can afford that kind of politics anymore."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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