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Three Good Weeks Ahead for White House on Budget

This yearís almost three-week period between tonight when President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address and Feb. 13 when the presidentís fiscal 2013 budget is expected to be released will give the White House an enormous advantage in getting positive media coverage for what it proposes. It will also put Congressional Republicans on the defensive right from the start of this session of Congress.

The typical one-week interval that usually occurs between the SOTU and the release of the presidentís proposal almost always provides the White House with an extraordinary opportunity to get out its budget messages and set the tone for what is ahead.

With its large national television audience and blanket coverage, the address typically dominates the news for 24 to 48 hours.

It also generally is the start of a series of formal and informal communications by the White House about what the president is going to propose that culminates in the submission of the budget the following Monday.

Depending on the day of the week when the SOTU occurs, the White House usually has five to seven days when, with a combination of carefully choreographed announcements and leaks, the positive aspects of its budget dominate the headlines.

But the Florida Republican presidential primary on Jan. 31, a week after the address is delivered and two weeks before the Obama fiscal 2013 budget is sent to Congress, may mean that this yearís three weeks between the SOTU and the submission of the budget more than triples the White Houseís usual advantage.

Whatever happens in Florida definitely will pull column inches, airtime and pixels away from the administrationís announcements and leaks about what the Obama budget will include.

But it will also eliminate the ability of Congressional Republicans ó the ones whose reactions to what the White House says will be most newsworthy ó to get much attention.

The White House will have yet another advantage because the Florida primary will be old news by the time the talk shows air the following two Sundays.

Thereís no doubt the results will still be a hot topic. But the days that elapse between the primary and the following Sundays will make it hard for these shows and the rest of the weekend coverage to focus just on that story. That will leave a big opening for the impending news of the fiscal 2013 budget that the administration will be releasing.

This especially will be the case if the White House makes senior officials available to the shows to talk about its budget. A full-court press from the administration that includes the Treasury secretary, the Office of Management and Budget director, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and perhaps even the vice president will make it much more likely that the administrationís message will get prominent attention and overwhelm any responses.

Just-named White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, who as OMB director was responsible for putting the fiscal 2013 proposal together, will be especially hard for talk-show producers to ignore.

The administration already has a series of events on the schedule that indicate itís indeed planning to take advantage of this three-week period.

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