Can Obama Recapture the Magic in 2012? (and Other Questions of the Day)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Obama in the Treaty Room office of the White House, March 16, 2011.
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Can Obama recapture the magic for 2012?
The president officially kicked off his reelection bid this morning. What are his chances? Going for him: an improving economy, fundraising prowess (his campaign's expected to raise a record $1 billion), a weak Republican field, the advantages of incumbency (including being on TV all the time looking "presidential"), game-changing eloquence. Going against him: among other things, a slow economic recovery; disillusion among once-hardcore supporters, an uncertain outcome in Libya/Middle East. [AP]

Will BP get to drill again in the Gulf?
Nearly a year to the day since an explosion at its Macondo well caused the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP is close to getting Washington's blessing to resume drilling in the very same waters, according to widespread reports. The British oil giant could back back in business in the Gulf as early as July. Might this be a bad idea? Maybe, but the U.S. needs oil and BP holds most of the deepwater oil fields in the area, so it will probably happen. [Marketplace]

Are we headed for a government shutdown?
Democrats and Republicans have till Friday to agree on a spending bill for the rest of the year. If they can't come to terms, money to keep the government running will run out and the whole dysfunctional (yet essential!) machine will grind to a halt. The big question: whether the Republican leadership will swallow hard and make a deal with Democrats for about $30 billion in cuts, or keep faith with the Tea Partying ranks and hold out for about twice that amount. [UPI]

Is Michelle Bachmann the new Sarah Palin?
The far-right Minnesota congresswoman has been muscling in on Sarah's government-hating, Christian values-touting, Obama-is-a-Kenyan-Marxist territory, while Palin stays on the sidelines and her approval numbers plummet. People are asking whether the gaffe-prone, conspiracy-minded Bachmann is ready for the big stage. (Some have their doubts!) Tell me we don't live in a world where Michelle Bachmann can win the Republican nomination and have a shot at the presidency. Right? [NYT]

Is this the end for Qaddafi?
The brutal Libyan leader reportedly sent his foreign minister to Athens (where he may remain!) to find a way to end the fighting. At the same time, at least two of Qaddafi's seven sons have proposed a transition to a constitutional democracy with one of them at its head. (Not clear if the father is on board with that.) That kind of arrangement probably doesn't go far enough for the rebels fighting to sweep away the old order, but the proposal is a sign that Qaddafi's "feeling the pressure" from two weeks of allied air strikes. [NYT]