As a critical week in his presidency opens, President Obama is facing a big struggle not just for support on Syria but for the nation's attention, Politico finds. He'll make his case with interviews on six TV news shows today, where he'll be competing with the opening night of Monday Night Football, and with an address to the nation tomorrow, when the competition includes primary elections in New York City and the new iPhone launch. Officials say that Obama, who dined with a dozen GOP senators at Joe Biden's residence last night, will use tomorrow's prime-time address to argue that not punishing Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons would embolden both the Syrian and the Iranian regimes.
In other developments:
- Obama faces a mammoth task to win over Congress, according to a USA Today poll that finds just 44 lawmakers out of 533—22 senators and 22 House members—willing to say they will support strikes on Syria. That includes 28 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Some 19 senators and 130 House members say they will oppose an attack and the remainder are undecided. A Washington Post poll finds different numbers but the same trend: In the Senate, 23 in favor, 17 opposed, 10 leaning no, and 50 undecided; and the House, 25 in favor, 111 against, 116 leaning no, and 181 undecided.
- As Obama seeks support at home, John Kerry is making the rounds overseas. After a long meeting with nine Arab foreign ministers, the Kerry announced that Saudi Arabia would support a strike on Syria and more Arab countries will soon offer their support, the Boston Globe reports. He rejected Bashar al-Assad's claim that he hadn't used chemical weapons, saying "the evidence speaks for itself."
- Kerry also met with Britain's foreign secretary, who said the US and UK are "closely aligned" on Syria despite Parliament's rejection of the use of force. Kerry told reporters the "special relationship" was intact and the US and UK will remain "close friends" even if the Brits sit this one out, the BBC reports.
- Tomorrow night's speech looks like it could be make-or-break for the president and he may make it from an unusual location: The Oval Office. He has only addressed the nation from his office twice, for 2010 speeches about Iraq and the BP oil spill. "I doubt the White House really believes in this moment that an Oval Office or White House address will be transformative, but they need to use everything in their arsenal, including sheer repetition," one of Bill Clinton's top speechwriters tells Politico.