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FishPoolDC: Our Insider’s Notes from Today’s Press Briefing

Welcome Back, Bill: Sitting and standing room were packed today (disgruntled reporters who didn’t get a question at last night’s presser?), and a few front-row seats were filled by substitutes for the regularly scheduled correspondents (who might still be recovering). CBS veteran Bill Plante was among those making a return to the briefing room. In his classic no-nonsense style, Plante pushed hard on the White House budget and the Hill’s competing drafts. “You’re already looking a little forlorn in my answer,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during his response, to which Plante replied: “I’m looking ahead. I’ve got more.”

Reliving the Glory Days: With an online forum scheduled for tomorrow coupled with reports of door-knocking Obama evangelism last weekend and unique presidential outreach (a la ESPN and Leno), reporters questioned whether these are signs of an ongoing campaign. Gibbs wrote off the implication, noting that enhanced communication is an end goal in itself. Plante challenged the podium with a subtle jab: “What’s Plouffe doing these days?” Gibbs simply said the former campaign manager was writing a book (which, according to plans, will outline the campaign’s success). “Yeah,” Plante smiled.

Fine Print?: Sen. Benjamin Cardin has floated legislation intended to revive a suffering newspaper industry, and CBS News Radio correspondent Peter Maer asked for the administration’s stance on the philosophy behind governmental interference. Gibbs said he’d have to look for additional guidance on official policy, but stated his basic regard for the freedom of speech. (Phew.) “I’ll note that a radio guy asked that question,” Gibbs said, as Maer received a hearty pat on the back from USA Today’s David Jackson.

Hug a Mailman: When NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out that U.S. Postal Service bigwigs took to the Hill today to discuss their financial woes, including that they might not make payroll — Gibbs dryly noted, “I guess the check isn’t in the mail.” No word yet on the White House’s stance on a potential USPS bailout.

Head and Heart: A slightly surprised Ann Compton of ABC Radio earned a question at last night’s briefing, and she used her time to ask how race has affected the president’s first couple months in office. Today, AURN’s April Ryan followed on the query, to which Gibbs gave a lengthy response. During the line of questioning, which touched on how Obama’s race affects his presidential decision-making, Gibbs noted, “You have to use your heart in your policy.”

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