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START Ratification Could Be 'Defining Moment For Obama'

As the New START arms treaty with Russia heads for a ratification vote in the Senate later today or tomorrow, NPR's Ari Shapiro says that if the White House is right and there are at least 67 "yes" votes (the minimum needed for ratification if all senators are present) "it would be a political win for this White House":

The Los Angeles Times comes to a similar conclusion, and writes that the vote "may turn out to be a defining moment for the Obama administration's foreign policy." The Timesadds that:

"If he wins the support of at least two-thirds of the Senate for the New START agreement in a vote that may come as early as Tuesday, President Obama could build on the victory as he turns to a long list of foreign policy challenges -- including Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and his broader plans to limit nuclear weapons."

Chris Stirewalt at FoxNews.com's Power Play blog says the treaty:

"Is also an important part of President Obama's apparent strategy to use the lame-duck session as a re-branding phase. If the measure is approved this week, the White House will be able to point to a tax-rate compromise, passage of a law to allow gay military members to express their sexualities and a major foreign policy initiative."

The latest news on the vote count: Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said today that he'll vote "aye." Six Republicans have now said they will vote for the treaty. At least nine GOP votes will be needed to get it passed, the AP says.

Update at 11:38 p.m. ET:According to the AP, "nine Republicans say they will back U.S.-Russia arms treaty, virtually assuring ratification."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.