What's Team Obama up to at Caribou Coffee?

REID VS. OBAMA ON GROUND ZERO MOSQUE: Just days after President Obama spoke in support of the building of an Islamic Center at the Ground Zero site in New York, a number of his fellow Democrats are breaking with him on the issue—and in no uncertain terms. The most senior Democrat to split with the President over what is becoming known as the “mosque issue” is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Locked in a tight battle for re-election in Nevada, Reid had been pressed by Republican opponent Sharron Angle to “stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama.” It didn’t take Reid very long to say where he stood. “The 1st Amendment protects freedom of religion,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley told reporters. “Sen. Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.” Bolstered by strong polling data, other Republican candidates for the House and Senate are expected to make Obama’s stand on building the mosque a campaign issue. Along with Reid, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee (who is now an independent but caucuses with Democrats), questioned the wisdom of building the mosque on the site of the 9/11 attack.

SHOOTING THE LAME DUCK: As the House of Representatives adjourned for summer recess, Republicans began an assault on a possible “lame duck” session of Congress. With the midterm elections increasingly portending major Republican gains, the odds are strong Democrats will try to call Congress back into session after the November elections but before the new members are sworn into office in January. Without fear of voter recrimination, the reasoning goes, the still-Democrat-controlled House and Senate would likely pass controversial measures such as “card check” or “cap and trade” that have so far been thwarted by lack of support from many Democrats nervous about the election year. House Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) offered a resolution to prevent a “lame duck” session, but it was voted down 163-236. Only six Democrats voted for it (Bright, McIntyre, McMahon, Melancon, Minnick and Nye), and Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) was the lone Republican to oppose the resolution.

WHAT’S TEAM OBAMA UP TO AT CARIBOU COFFEE? That’s what the White House Press corps has begun to wonder, following a recent New York Times report that at “White House officials have had hundreds of meetings at the Caribou Coffee on Pennsylvania Avenue over the last 18 months with prominent K Street lobbyists—the very crowd that President Obama has derided for what he calls its ‘outsized influence’ in the capital.” Had the meetings been held at the White House there would be an official public record of who attended. Obama himself has also made numerous departures from his own official schedule, ducked the press, and slipped into private, high-dollar Democratic fund-raisers—“contradicting his pledge to run the most transparent administration in history,” according to Politico. USA Today’s David Jackson, president of the White House Correspondents Association, said, “We object to any closed events where the President is speaking. We want a pool with the President, wherever he goes.”

WHY NO TOWN MEETINGS BY DEMS? As of last week, 65 of the 75 House Democrats targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee had yet to schedule any town hall meetings during the summer recess. Compiled from research by the NRCC, this figure includes several freshman Democrats who rode Barack Obama’s coattails to win narrowly in ’08, such as Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) and Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio). Also listed are Pennsylvania Representatives Jason Altmire and Chris Carney and other Democratic sophomores who first won in ’06 on the national tide of anger at the Bush Administration and the supposedly aloof GOP-run Congress.

GOP’S BIG FOUR FOR 2012: A just-completed Public Policy Polling survey among registered Republican voters nationwide shows a four-way tie for the Republican nomination for President in 2012. According to PPP, Mike Huckabee is favored by 23% of GOP voters, Mitt Romney 22%, and Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin 21% each. The same survey found Ron Paul favored by 4%. However, when Republicans were asked whether they want any one of the five to be the eventual nominee against Barack Obama, 24% said they would like it be someone else and 54% said they were happy with the present choices.

NO TAX DOLLARS FOR ACORN, SAYS COURT: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit last week overturned a lower court ruling barring Congress from withholding tax dollars from ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). Following widespread revelations of voter registration fraud and partisan politics activity, Congress voted to cut off ACORN’s federal funding. The community-organizing colossus came back with a lawsuit charging Congress with abusing its power and a U.S. District judge in Brooklyn found Congress had violated the group’s rights by what he claimed was punishing it without trial. The appellate court found otherwise and cited a study showing ACORN received only 10% of its funding from federal sources.

IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID: The latest survey by the nonprofit advocacy group Republic shows that, in 12 states with Senate races now considered toss-ups, voters resoundingly prefer Congress to make spending cuts rather than raising taxes. Conducted by veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayers, the survey found that by 73% to 24%, likely voters said that the federal deficit is a spending problem rather than a revenue problem, and that it should be resolved by making “the difficult but necessary decisions to get spending under control” rather than by raising taxes. Ayers found that independents in the tossup states agree with this position by 75% to 21% and even Democrats agreed 55% to 41% that the deficit is driven by spending.