From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** 43 meets 44: At 2:00 pm ET, the current president and first lady welcome the incoming president and first lady at the White House. Then, minutes later, Bush and Obama will meet together. The fact is, Obama owes much of his success to Bush. Without the president's low approval ratings and his damage to the Republican Party's brand, it's doubtful that the nation would have taken a chance on someone named Barack Obama who was just four years removed from the Illinois state Senate. And it's equally doubtful that Obama's constant message of change would have resonated with the electorate. Keep in mind that presidents from opposing parties sometimes have better personal relationships than presidents from the same party: See Bush 41-Reagan, Carter-Clinton and Clinton-Bush 43. There's something about dealing with a president from the opposing party that's sometimes liberating for presidents. As far as today's meeting goes, it's the fly-on-the-wall stuff that we all want to know -- for instance, will Bush make a case for keeping Gates at the Pentagon?
*** Obama at 365? The AP wrote over the weekend that the single electoral vote tied to Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District will likely go to Obama. Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps "says Obama currently holds an 8,430-vote lead in Douglas County. Phipps still has about 5,300 provisional ballots to count. Based on historical trends, he expects about half of those to count. Uncounted ballots in Sarpy County leave some uncertainty, but Phipps said he believed only a few hundred remained." Note: NBC News has not yet called that electoral vote, but is monitoring the situation. And as soon as we're satisfied with the vote count, we'll call it officially. But the bigger challenge for networks is how to present the red-blue map. Do we now have a blue dot where Omaha is? A blue circle?
*** Palin watch: Beginning on Friday, Palin began holding interviews with the media, in which she began to defend herself from some of the damaging leaks about the shopping spree and her knowledge of world affairs, as well as simple geography. Yet it's possible that geography -- being thousands of miles away in Alaska -- could be her biggest impediment in defending herself against Republicans who want to blame her for the McCain ticket's shortcomings. It takes hours for her to catch up to a news cycle out East, and sometimes the damage is done before she even wakes up in Alaska. Of course, Palin could eliminate that geographic problem if Stevens ends up winning re-election and she runs for his seat…
*** The first Web president: What FDR was to radio and JFK was to TV, Obama could be to the internet? The Washington Post has a great piece this morning about the Obama Administration's attempts to harness the internet for their governing purposes. The incoming administration has a real chance of turning the blogosphere into the 5th Estate, which can both be a good thing if the administration needs amplifying of a policy init -- but it could end up being a bad thing if Obama ends up on the wrong end of a policy disagreement with the liberal blogosphere. But whatever the eventual effects on Obama, the bottom line is that Obama's will be the first Web presidency, and that will create a media paradigm shift that we can't necessarily foresee right now other than to note it's something that's coming.
*** So the McCain folks were right -- turnout was 130 million: Turnout expert Mike McDonald at George Mason University has revised down his turnout estimate to 130.4 million. That would represent a 61.2% turnout rate, which is 1.1 points higher than 2004, but short of the 62.5% of 1968.
*** Blaming Republicans, not Democrats: Not only did Democrats win the White House and pick up additional House and Senate seats, they also accomplished this feat: For a second-straight cycle, not a SINGLE incumbent Democratic senator lost. In fact, the Cook Political Report's Jennifer Duffy points out that this is the first time since at least 1908 (before the direct election of senators) that a party has gone through two consecutive cycles without losing a seat. What's more, after zero Democratic House members lost re-election in 2006, just four lost last Tuesday. And all four incumbents -- Nancy Boyda, Don Cazayoux, Tim Mahoney, and Nick Lampson -- were incredibly endangered. At a time when just some 10% approve of Congress' job, voters clearly blamed Republicans and the GOP, even though Democrats have controlled Congress for the past two years.
*** Just askin': Is it surprising to anyone that the first sitting US senator to be elected president since 1960 served only four years in the Senate?
*** Tracking the transition: Below, we are keeping a list of all the different names that have been floated for possible cabinet jobs in an Obama Administration. And we'll update it daily (even hourly) as soon as we hear new names.
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 59 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 71 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.