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First thoughts: So is it done?

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** So is It done? Call us skeptical, but why is it hard to believe that the news that Obama and Clinton have worked everything out and the appointment will take place just after Thanksgiving is something that will hold? There's going to be more pauses and skeptical stories about this happening between now and whenever the State announcement happens. It's the only way, right? Just consider this passage in today's New York Times: "One friend said Mrs. Clinton decided late Wednesday to say no, reasoning that she would have more freedom in the Senate. By midday Thursday, the friend said, she was 'back in the indecisive column again.' By the end of the day, another associate said she could accept by Friday." 

Video: NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray offer his first read on why Hillary Clinton appears ready to leave the Senate for the State Department.

*** Leak soup: Speaking of the Clinton-Obama drama, everyone is now noting all the transition leaks and how frustrating they must be for the usually disciplined Obama folks. Today's Washington Post has a good piece on why they're happening -- and where they're coming from. "'There is nothing they can do about it -- vetting and FBI background checks require a lot of calls, and that leads to leaks,' explained Steve Elmendorf, a longtime aide to former House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and now a lobbyist in Washington. And unlike in a campaign, there is now simply more information to disseminate and more outlets chasing the ever-elusive scoop. 'It's the era of the Internet; what do you expect?' joked a former Clinton White House senior adviser who is not involved in the transition process."

*** Dingell gets buried: Only in Congress' antiquated seniority system is change defined by a member of Congress elected in '74 replacing a member of Congress elected in '55. But that's exactly what happened yesterday when Henry Waxman ousted fellow Democrat John Dingell from chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Of course, the big issue for Dingell may have been the anger at the auto industry, and if that vote had taken place at another point in the year, Dingell might have had a better chance of surviving. But taking place just one day after the auto CEOs disastrous Hill testimony, Dingell had a steeper hill to climb to survive. By the way, the six-year long campaign by Pelosi to unseat Dingell (it began in '02 when she supported Dingell's primary opponent) has finally come to fruition. Let there be no doubt about the power of the speaker.

*** All vacancies: With the likely nominations of Napolitano to Homeland Security and Clinton to State, that means we're going to have some fun replacement appointments to watch in Arizona (GOV) and New York (SEN) -- in addition to the replacements that already have to happen in Illinois (SEN) and Delaware (SEN) for Obama's and Biden's seats. And if Kathleen Sebelius seems headed to either Labor or Energy, as we reported yesterday, then that will mean another appointment in Kansas (GOV). In the next few weeks, in fact, we might have more trouble keeping track of all the new replacements than the new members of the Obama cabinet. Oh, and be sure to keep this in mind: Because Arizona doesn't have a lieutenant governor, that means that the GOP Secretary of State Jan Brewer would replace Napolitano if she takes the job at Homeland.

Video: Bloomberg News' Margaret Carlson talks about the recent additions to Barack Obama's Cabinet as well as speculation that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano is being eyed as Secretary of Homeland Security.

*** Cars and 2010: NBC's Ken Strickland yesterday spotted these three senators at a Senate press conference announcing a bipartisan agreement to help the automotive industry: Kit Bond, Arlen Specter, and George Voinovich. What do they have in common besides hailing from car-producing states? All three are up for re-election in 2010.

*** Dems gaining ground in the South: Yesterday, we once again wrote about how the Republican Party appears to be concentrated in the South, noting that six of the party's 13 incoming House and Senate leaders will now hail from that part of the country. But a House Democratic aide points out to us that they've gained ground there on the Republicans. Per numbers from the National Committee for an Effective Congress, Republicans enjoyed a 100-to-63-seat advantage over Democrats in the South heading into the 2006 midterms. Now, after the election two weeks ago, the GOP's lead there has been reduced to 86-76 (with the LA-4 race still undecided) -- and the South is the only part of the country where the party has an advantage. In the East, Democrats lead Republicans, 68-15; in the Midwest, Dems are up 50-40, and in the West, they're ahead 63-34.

*** The remaining races: In Georgia's Senate run-off, Obama has cut a 60-second radio ad for Jim Martin (D), while Al Gore campaigns for Martin on Sunday… In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that on Day Two of the recount, Norm Coleman's (R) lead over Al Franken (D) dropped to just 136 votes with about 46% of the vote counted… And in Ohio, a judge ruled that the provisional ballots must be counted in the extremely close House race between Mary Jo Kilroy (D) and Steve Stivers (R), which Stivers leads by 149 votes. Counting the provisional ballots would seem to benefit Kilroy.

Countdown to Georgia Senate run-off: 11 days
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 48 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 60 days

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