The first year of a president’s second term is supposed to be a time of continuity, but 2013 gave politicians, pundits, and the public plenty of fresh -- and often chaotic -- drama.
By the end of the year, President Barack Obama, the Republican Party, and the U.S. Congress as a whole have all managed to put themselves into all-time lows in the national polls.
Bottom line: It wasn't a pretty year in politics.
To almost no one's surprise, our top 2 stories are the government shutdown and the bungled rollout of the federal health-care website (read to the bottom to find out which one finished as the No. 1 political story of the year).
Here’s the complete list from the NBC News Political Unit of the top 10 political stories of 2013, in descending order:
IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner addresses a House committee during a hearing on the agency's targeting of political groups.
10. The IRS and Benghazi controversies: No two issues generated more stories in the early summer than these two controversies for the Obama administration. And no two issues appeared to fizzle more – in both coverage and impact – by the end of the year. The reason: Neither story went all the way to the top to President Obama. Still, they were both a reminder how the opposition party holding subpoena power in the House can create a political nightmare for the White House, especially when there isn’t much competing news. And they did some damage to Obama and his team, especially when you consider what came after. In many ways, these ginned-up controversies by Darrell Issa & Co. helped create the first cracks the president’s political foundation for 2013, making NSA, Syria, and health care more problematic.
9. Gun-control legislation gets blocked in the Senate: Four months after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the U.S. Senate considered the most sweeping gun-control legislation in nearly two decades, which included background checks for all gun purchases. But Senate Republicans – plus a handful of Democrats – blocked the legislation, denying it the 60 votes it needed to pass. And with that move, the gun-control effort essentially ended in the 113th Congress. One of the challenges in passing sweeping gun control: According to a Dec. 2013 NBC/WSJ poll, 76% of Democrats support stricter laws governing gun sales, versus just 28% of Republicans who do. And despite all the P.R. efforts at the start of the year, it appears the public hasn’t moved one iota.
Eduardo Munoz / REUTERS
New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio (C) speaks to the media next to Lilliam Barrios-Paoli (R), newly appointed Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, and Anthony Shorris, First Deputy Mayor, during a news conference in New York, December 12, 2013.
8. De Blasio wins in New York: The winner to succeed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was neither City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (viewed as the early front-runner) nor Anthony Weiner (whose campaign took off and then crashed and burned after a new revelation of lewd online behavior). Instead, the winner was NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D), who decried the income inequality during the Bloomberg years, as well as the Bloomberg administration’s controversial stop-and-frisk policing. This TV ad – featuring de Blasio’s son, Dante – is considered the top advertisement of the 2013 campaign season. De Blasio may very well have caught lightning in a bottle, but was his victory a sign of where the Democratic Party is headed nationally?
7. Christie cruises to re-election: Another big Election Night 2013 winner was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who cruised to re-election with a 60%-to-38% victory over challenger Barbara Buono (D) in this Democratic-leaning state. Giving him some strong talking points if he decides to run for president in 2016, Christie won female voters (57%-41%), Latinos (50%-46%), and even got 21% of the African-American vote. Immediately after his re-election victory, he appeared almost everywhere – on the morning shows and Sunday news programs. More than two years until the first 2016 primary contests, Christie is a favorite among establishment Republicans, and he successfully used his re-election to launch his pre-campaign.
6. McAuliffe wins in Virginia: It was the clash of two very flawed candidates in the marquee contest of 2013 – Democrat Terry McAuliffe vs. Republican Ken Cuccinelli. And as it turns out, Cuccinelli was more flawed: McAuliffe beat him, 48%-45%, in a race impacted by the government shutdown, an ethics scandal involving incumbent Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), and the early rollout of the health-care law. McAuliffe also made history, becoming the first winner from the party in control of the White House since 1973. More importantly, the Democratic sweep of the statewide offices (assuming the Dems hang on with the AG recount) is nothing to sneeze at. It forces the state GOP to do some real soul-searching.
5. Immigration bill passes the Senate, stalls in the House: After President Obama won Latino voters by a 71%-27% margin in the 2012 presidential race, congressional Democrats – and also a handful of Republicans – made immigration reform the top legislative priority for the 113th Congress. A bipartisan group of senators, known as the “Gang of Eight,” crafted a framework that further strengthened border security and provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In June, the legislation passed the Senate by a bipartisan 68-32 vote, with 14 Republicans in support (though that was a smaller number than many folks thought it would be when the process began). And without that BROAD Senate support, it made it easier for the Republican-controlled House to not take up the measure, insisting instead on a piecemeal approach to immigration reform. One of the top questions of 2014 is whether the House acts on immigration – even by a piecemeal approach.
4. Showdown over Syria’s chemical weapons: It began as a foreign-policy fiasco for the Obama administration. In August, the Assad regime was accused of launching a chemical-weapons attack on its own people, killing more than a thousand people. That attack violated the “red line” that President Obama had set for intervention in that country’s civil war. Hours before the U.S. military was set to launch a limited military strike to retaliate – as well as days after Britain’s parliament voted not to intervene – Obama reversed course and asked Congress to approve a resolution authorizing force. But as Congress was on the verge of voting down the resolution, the administration caught a break. Russia said it supported Secretary of State John Kerry’s seeming off-the-cuff proposal to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons. In late October, the Joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, reported that the Syrian regime “completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants.”
3. Snowden’s NSA leaks: On June 5, Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian newspaper reported that the U.S. government has collected American’s phone records and other meta-data, and the government later revealed it was part of a National Security Agency program dating back to 2006. That information came from an NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, who left the United States to Hong Kong and then to Russia. The leaks from Snowden didn't stop -- newspapers from around the world reported information that embarrassed the U.S. government, including the allegation that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On Dec. 16, a federal judge ruled that the NSA program collecting meta-data likely violates the U.S. Constitution. No story hurt the president more politically in the first eight months of the year than this one. It did real damage to his brand, particularly with his younger supporters.
Michael Reynolds / EPA file
Park Ranger Richard Trott holds a sign that reads 'This site is closed do not enter', while walking past the Mural Wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial to collect and dispose of 'closed' signs after the memorial was reopened to the public, in Washington DC, USA, 17 October 2013.
2. The government shutdown: If not for the No. 1 story below, this would have been the most impactful political story ahead of next year's midterms. Led by conservative groups and Tea Party-affiliated members, House Republicans vowed they wouldn’t support any legislation funding the government after Sept. 30 unless it repealed or delayed President Obama’s health-care law. Democrats didn’t budge, and federal government shut down on Oct. 1, leading to furloughed workers, stopped paychecks, and the closure of federal parks and national monuments. The Republican Party took it on the chin: A mid-October NBC/WSJ poll found the GOP’s fav/unfav rating at an all-time low, the health-care law’s popularity increased, and Democrats held an 8-point advantage (47%-39%) in congressional preference. For the first time, political analysts believed Democrats had a chance to win back control of the House in 2014. The government shutdown ended on Oct. 16.
President Barack Obama talks about a hit to his approval rating amid issues with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
1. The botched health-care rollout: Then attention turned to the rollout of the federal health-care website, which also began on Oct. 1. And it became a technical and PR disaster for the administration: The site was riddled with code errors, it could handle just a small number of simultaneous users, and some of the back-end information to insurance companies was wrong. Then came another hit: News organizations focused on Americans who had their bare-bones insurance plans canceled because they didn’t meet the health-care law’s new standards – which was contrary to the president’s often-repeated promise, “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.” For two whole months, it was bad story after bad story for the administration. Since then, the federal website has substantially improved, and so has the number of Americans who have selected health plans in the state and federal exchanges. But the two months took a toll on Obama and Democrats: A December NBC/WSJ poll found the president’s disapproval rating (54%) at its highest level. And the Democrats’ 8-point edge in congressional preference turned into a 2-point advantage for Republicans (44%-42%).
Note: If our Top 10 list could go to 11 -- to borrow a phrase from "This is Spinal Tap" -- we'd add Pope Francis and his potential impact on American politics. As Time magazine and others have noted, his emphasis on economic issues (and de-emphasis on social ones) is a big, big story. The question is whether this has an impact on American politics and the Catholic Church inside the U.S.
Three House retirements, three seats now in play… Does Latham’s retirement have an impact on Boehner remaining speaker after 2014?... On 2016 and the Latham/Wolf seats… On Obama’s meeting yesterday with tech executives… Senate to hold final vote on budget deal later this afternoon (and it’s expected to pass)… Obama to meet with a group of mothers at 2:05 pm ET to encourage obtaining health-care coverage… Could Jerry Brown run in 2016?… Our Top 10 political stories of 2013… And our list could have gone to 11.
U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) speaks with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) (obscured) during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 18, 2011.
*** Three retirements, three seats now in play: It’s not every day that three members of Congress announce they won’t be seeking election next year. And it’s also not every day when all three retirements put seats in play for the opposing political party. But that’s exactly what happened yesterday, when Reps. Tom Latham (R-IA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Frank Wolf (R-VA) all said they wouldn’t be running in 2014. The Latham and Wolf retirements certainly open the door for Democrats: Obama won Latham’s district both in 2008 (52%-46%) and in 2012 (51%-47%), and he won Wolf’s district in ’08 (51%-48%) and narrowly lost it last year (50%-49%). Meanwhile, Matheson’s retirement gives the GOP a slam-dunk pickup opportunity: Matheson barely beat GOP opponent Mia Love in 2012, and Romney won the district, 68%-30%. Remember when we said that the December holiday season would probably bring us several retirements? Well, there’s a good chance we’re not done. Oh, and one final thing about yesterday’s retirement: All three are from the relative center -- or as close to the center as one can get in today’s polarized Congress. That’s NOT a good sign if you are of the mindset that the Congress needs more moderates, not fewer ones, in order to get things done.
*** Latham’s impact on Boehner? Here’s one overlooked development over the past year: It’s highly unlikely that House Speaker Boehner gets chased out of his job. He has a tighter grip over his speakership than at any other time. But now two of Boehner’s closest friends in Congress -- Latham and Sen. Saxby Chambliss -- are retiring after 2014. If Boehner decides not to be speaker in 2015, no one is going to know until next November (there would be no incentive for him to announce until then). But if that does happen -- and we stress the word “IF” -- we will be able to look back on Tuesday’s news and see a big clue.
*** On 2016 and the Latham/Wolf seats: There’s an additional point to make about Latham: Don’t be surprised if some Republicans in the crowded GOP Senate field in Iowa decide to run for Latham’s House seat. (That’s something national Republicans will be relieved about if only because it’ll mean a better chance that the GOP avoids Iowa’s odd convention runoff rule if no candidate gets over 35% in the primary.) As for the Democrats who could run, we’re hearing some big names -- former Gov. Chet Culver as well as Christie Vilsack are both taking a look. And there’s a 2016 angle to the Latham and Wolf seats: Since both are competitive and are in swing states, the results come Nov. 2014 will give us a good idea about the strength of the two parties heading into the next presidential contest. These are swing seats in swing states; it doesn’t get any better than that for political handicappers.
*** The nine retirements (so far) for 2014: Per NBC’s Frank Thorp, here are the nine retirements so far in the 113th Congress (i.e., those who aren’t running for re-election): Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), John Campbell (R-CA), Howard Coble (R-NC), Tim Griffin (R-AR), Tom Latham (R-IA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), and Frank Wolf (R-VA). This list does NOT count folks who have resigned or died in office.
*** On Obama’s meeting with the tech executives: As the president decides how to reform the NSA in an attempt to restore some trust with a public that is growing increasingly skeptical of government surveillance, America's leading technology companies, including familiar names like Apple, Facebook and Google, met yesterday at the White House to air their concerns directly to the president. Their primary beef: too much forced secrecy by the government when it comes to how and why a technology finds itself forced to turn over someone's email communications to the government. From our reporting, the discussion was cordial and productive. And there was also this: Obama admitted that this issue -- balancing privacy with security -- has been his greatest intellectual challenge as president, and that he is struggling to find this balance. As for the big asks by the tech companies, they want a stricter subpoena standard (perhaps something closer to the standards for search warrants); they’d like the ability to publicly disclose what they do give to the government; and they want some public clarity if simply to erase the notion that they are in cahoots with the U.S. government. Because one thing many of the CEOs brought up to the president was that the NSA leaks have hurt their bottom line when it comes to international business.
*** Final passage of budget deal to take place this afternoon: The final Senate vote on the bipartisan budget deal is expected to take place later this afternoon, per NBC’s Kasie Hunt. And it’s expected to pass.
*** Moms and the health-care law: At 2:05 pm ET, President Obama and the first lady hold a health-care event with a group of mothers. According to the White House, they “will discuss the critical role that moms are playing in helping their families and communities access quality, affordable health care by encouraging their adult children, family members and peers to sign up for coverage.” Yesterday, the administration announced that Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will replace Jeffrey Zients to oversee HealthCare.Gov. Delbene’s wife is Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
*** Jerry Brown and 2016: In 2016 news, don’t miss this L.A. Times piece on California Gov. Jerry Brown. “Now, some are pushing Brown to consider another try for the White House, even if it means taking on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the prohibitive, if still undeclared, Democratic favorite. ‘I think Jerry is precisely what America needs,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, the leader of a national nurses union and a strong political ally of Brown. “He has the courage of his convictions, which we haven’t seen in a very long while.’” More: “The famously Delphic governor often leaves people guessing about his motivation and intentions, which leaves plenty of leeway ahead of 2016. Absent a clear-cut statement of disinterest from Brown — who sought the White House in 1976, 1980 and 1992 — some see familiar signs of a presidential-candidate-in-waiting.” And also don’t miss this Quinnipiac poll finding on Vice President Joe Biden: Just 29% of Iowans said he would make a good president (versus 53% who said that about Hillary Clinton and 46% who said that about Chris Christie. That’s not a good poll for Biden.
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower
*** Wednesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) joins Chuck to discuss what comes next once the budget deal is signed… Chuck will also be joined by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus for a discussion on the Republican party’s progress in light of their self-review this past year, and to talk about the party’s focus heading into 2014… Also, Chuck is joined by a millennial serving in the Mississippi legislature, Mississippi state representative Jeramey Anderson, to discuss the next generation of political leaders.
*** Wednesday’s “Jansing & Co” line-up: MSNBC’s Chris Jansing interviews Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), MSNBC.com’s Irin Carmon, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg, Dem strategist Steve Elmendorf, and GOP strategist Kristen Soltis Anderson.
*** Wednesday’s “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: MSNBC’sThomas Roberts interviews Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), lawyer Paul Henderson on the “affluenza defense”, The Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater kicks off our look at 2014 Senate Showdowns in Texas, Shawn Gaylord from Human Rights First talks about the U.S. Olympic delegation to Russia, and today’s Agenda panel includes The Root’s Corey Dade, The Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui, and The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky.
*** Wednesday’s “NOW with Alex Wagner” line-up: Alex Wagner’s guests include Mother Jones’ David Corn, Demos’ Heather McGhee, Politico’s Maggie Haberman, New York magazine’s Jon Chait, and economist Justin Wolfers.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Roger Wicker, the Center for Public Integrity’s Dave Levinthal, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: MSNBC’s Tamron Hall interviews Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Chris Coons, Reuters columnist Zachary Karabell, attorney Lisa Bloom and Sirius XM's Michael Smerconish.
Not that he’s running for anything again, but President Obama’s approval in Iowa dropped to a new low of 38% in a Quinnipiac poll in the state that famously boosted his presidential aspirations.
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes how polling has been very consistent on the health-care law – from 2009 until now. He writes, “Seriously, go look at the trends over time. The current split is roughly where opinion was in August of 2009 (45-50), when the Post first polled on this. It’s marginally better now for the law than it was after the 2010 midterm drubbing to Dems (43-52). It’s almost exactly where it was in the summer of 2012, before Obama won reelection decisively (47-47). Then it dropped, and now it’s back to where it was before the rollout.”
The Hill: “The presidential delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi will include tennis champion and gay rights activist Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow, the White House announced Tuesday, in a move that appears to be a symbolic rebuke against Russia's anti-gay laws.”
“Michelle Obama will sit for a trio of interviews with urban radio stations as part of a coordinated White House blitz intended to promote ObamaCare coverage among mothers and minorities,” The Hill writes. “The first lady will be interviewed Wednesday evening by Yolanda Adams, Al Sharpton, and Joe Madison, three of the nation’s most popular African American talk radio hosts.”
Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey told Fox of Edward Snowden: “I think giving him amnesty is idiotic. He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead."
The budget deal is expected to pass the Senate today, but two big things were left out: unemployment benefits and the debt ceiling. And National Journal notes that Senators are already eyeing fixes, including cuts to military benefits.
To the point about the debt ceiling, The Hill and others note the coming fight over the debt ceiling which needs to be raised again by Feb. 7: “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday predicted a springtime fight will erupt over the debt ceiling because the GOP will make demands in exchange for increasing it. ‘I doubt if the House, or for that matter the Senate, is willing to give the president a clean debt-ceiling increase,’ McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said. ‘The debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings everyone together and gets the president’s attention.’”
Just what might be pushing McConnell to feel this way so strongly? For one, his primary opponent told The Hill this: “I do not think we should increase the debt ceiling without significant concessions, and if one of them is the repeal of ObamaCare, then terrific.”
Johnny Drama? “If you like cable-news-style promos with cinematic background tracks, you’re going to love — or at least YouTube ‘favorite’ — Speaker John A. Boehner’s new video defending the House Republican record on jobs, energy, education and health care,” Roll Call writes. “ ‘The American economy, the greatest in the world, is stuck in a new normal: high unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth,’ Boehner begins the video, with images reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 ‘Morning Again in America’ ad. ‘We can do better.’”
By a 66%-31% margin, an ABC/Washington Post poll finds people want to raise the minimum wage.
The Hill looks at the top 10 lobbying victories. Topping the list -- the NRA’s squashing new gun regulations post-Newtown.
Mark Z. Barabak on Jerry Brown and that he’s not ruling out a 2016 bid.
Hillary Clinton tweeted against cuts to jobless benefits and food stamps, just ahead of yesterday’s cloture vote on the budget. “What happens to kids in families cut from unemployment insurance & food stamps? They’re #2SmallToFail, & deserve an equal chance to succeed.”
The Hill: “The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) this year promised corporate donors a chance to meet Hillary Rodham Clinton in return for a $250,000 donation, documents obtained by The Hill show. The meeting never happened, though Clinton spoke at the anniversary gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium that was cited on the solicitation.”
Paul Ryan looks like he’s out for a 2016 presidential run, instead eyeing the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. In fact, Ryan told the Wall Street Journal, per Politico: “That is my plan.”
That committee is currently chaired by Michigan Rep. Dave Camp (R), who, based on GOP rules will be term-limited out of that job in 2015.
ALABAMA: Welcome, Congressman Bradley Byrne. The Mobile Press-Register: “Returning from the nadir of his political career after a stinging loss in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, Bradley Byrne on Tuesday won a landslide victory over Democrat Burton LeFlore in a special election for Congress. Byrne, 58, won about two-thirds of the vote, according to incomplete and unofficial returns. The Associated Press declared him the winner at about 9 p.m. He carried every county in the district.” He will be sworn in next month.
ALASKA: The conservative Judicial Crisis Network hits Sen. Mark Begich (D) in an ad for voting for Obama’s “liberal activist judges, every single one.” It ends with, “Tell Mark Begich he works for Alaska, not Obama.”
FLORIDA: An internal Rick Scott (R) poll shows him trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), 49%-45%, per Politico.
IOWA: Candidates are seemingly coming out of the corn fields now that Tom Latham has announced his retirement in this competitive seat. Roll Call: “A Democratic source familiar with Iowa said additional candidates will take a look at the seat in lieu of Latham’s departure: Earlham Mayor Dusky Terry, Dr. Andrea McGuire, a former candidate for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Janet Peterson, and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. A GOP operative close to Secretary of State Matt Schultz said he would give it serious consideration, noting the Republican lives in the district and is well liked by the state’s conservative base.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Scott Brown may be moving to New Hampshire, but some are growing a little annoyed with his toying with the idea of a Senate bid. “Honestly, it’s baffling what he’s doing. I don’t know what his end game is. I think if he wants to run for the US Senate he should get in the race,” Republican strategist Dave Carney, who lives in New Hampshire, told the Boston Globe. “New Hampshire voters are not interested in begging candidates to run for office.”
Tis the season .. for retirement announcements in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election in 2014 after serving 10 terms in Congress, citing a desire to spend time with his family. He made the announcement on his campaign website this afternoon.
"My professional life has taken me away from home often. In fact, in my 39 years of marriage to Kathy I have spent half of it on the road building a family business and the other half serving in the United States Congress," he wrote. "It is never a perfect time or a right time to step aside. But for me, this is the time."
Latham was the third member of Congress to announce his retirement on Tuesday, following Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Jim Matheson, D-Utah.
Latham's announcement brings the total number of House retirements announced this year to 10, with nine of those being by Republicans.
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) intends to establish residency and register to vote in New Hampshire, a clerk for the oceanside New Hampshire town of Rye confirmed to First Read.
"Scott Brown expressed his intention to establish residency and register to vote here in Rye," Beth Yeaton, town clerk/tax collector for the town of Rye, N.H., told First Read.
Brown, who is thinking about a run for the Senate next year from the Granite State against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, owns a vacation home about a block or so from the ocean in the town of Rye, which is south of Portsmouth and about an hour from Boston.
The blog Red Mass Group first reported that Brown was going to be registering to vote in Rye.
National Republicans think Brown would be able to raise the money necessary to take on Shaheen. On Wednesday, Shaheen was using Brown to raise money, too.
"This morning a Wall Street Super PAC backing Scott Brown went up on air in New Hampshire with $70,000 behind a TV ad attacking me," Shaheen wrote in a fundraising email to supporters. "The right-wing Super PACs are desperate to take back the Senate – and they know that to do that they must win in New Hampshire. It is so important my campaign’s increasing our online goal to $70,000 by Friday – enough to match their spending. We’re halfway there, but I need your help to get the rest of the way. We’ve got $62,803 to go – every day we wait is another day these attacks go unanswered. Can you give now?"
Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a centrist Democrat targeted repeatedly for defeat by Republicans, said Tuesday that he won't seek another term in Congress in 2014.
Matheson announced that he would retire from Congress at the end of this term, setting up a prime opportunity for Republicans to finally claim control of Utah's fourth congressional district.
"It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Utah during my time in the United States House of Representatives, but my time in the House should not be the sum total of my service," Matheson wrote on his Facebook page. "Today, I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives."
Matheson's retirement creates an opportunity not only for the GOP, but for Mia Love -- a rising Republican star who lost to Matheson by just 2,646 votes in 2012. An African American woman, Love's speech at last year's Republican National Convention drew broad acclaim from conservatives.
Love will almost certainly be the odds-on favorite to claim the seat next fall, provided she can secure the nomination. The fourth district encompasses parts of Salt Lake and Provo, Utah.
Democrats need to add 17 seats to their ranks in the House to retake control of the chamber, a tall feat at this juncture. Progressives did get some encouraging news earlier Tuesday, though, when longtime GOP Rep. Frank Wolf of a competitive northern Virginia district said that he, too, would retire at the end of his term.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) has announced he will retire at the end of his term. Wolf is well respected and considered one of the last moderates in the House GOP.
This sets up what will likely be a competitive race in Northern Virginia for a swing seat Democrats hope to flip. The district went for Romney 50%-49% in 2012 and 51%-48% for Obama in 2008.
Democrats need to pick up 17 seats for control of the House, counting tonight's likely win for Republican Bradley Byrne in the special election to replace Republican Jo Bonner in Alabama's first congressional district.
There will be a special election Jan. 14 for the vacancy in the 13th congressional district in Florida to replace the late Republican Bill Young, another 50-50 district Obama won twice.
"As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation, and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves," Wolf said, in part, in a statement announcing his retirement. "I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom - both domestic and international - as well as matters of the culture and the American family. My passion for these issues has been influenced by the examples of President Ronald Reagan, former Congressmen Jack Kemp and Tony Hall, Chuck Colson, and the life of 10th century Member of Parliament William Wilberforce."