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Obama's jobs plan has little margin for error

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Ron Edmonds/AP

(Read caption) Vice President Joe Biden (left) presented President Obama Monday with the administration's "Roadmap to Recovery," a plan to accelerate the federal stimulus in the next 100 days.

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In his first 100 days since signing the stimulus package into law, President Obama was ahead of the curve in dealing with the economy. He outsprinted his political opponents, pushed forward recovery programs while investors were still shellshocked, and eventually found a way to project a sober optimism at a time when consumers were heading for the hills.

But at the start of his second 100 days, the president is not so far in front anymore. Recessionary forces have moderated, the market's back up, and consumer sentiment is improving.

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Yet the administration is still in rescue mode. On Monday, it formally announced its plan to step up its recovery efforts and create 600,000 jobs, including 125,000 summer jobs for youth.

This may be a good thing. A recession that's moderating is still a recession. People are still losing their jobs at a faster rate than they're finding new ones. Supporters of continued stimulus are those who see no recovery this year – or such a weak one that it will still feel like recession.

But the economy moves so fast – and government stimulus moves so slowly – that the administration risks falling behind the curve.

Some conservative commentators like Lawrence Kudlow – never enamored with big federal deficits to begin with – say its high time for the administration to pull back its stimulus.

It's a tough call, even for the experts. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the economy needs help for the time being.

This much is clear: The political maneuvering room provided by the economy's plunge in early 2009 now is narrowing. So Obama's second 100 days of economic recovery will probably look different than his first 100.

Or they should, if he wants to keep leading the parade.

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