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First thoughts: Obama's coattails

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann 
*** Examining Obama's coattails: How much did Obama's name on the ballot benefit Jim Martin (D) a month ago? Consider that during the general election, he trailed Saxby Chambliss (R) by just three percentage points, 49.8%-46.8%, with a third-party candidate garnering more than 3%. But in yesterday's run-off, with 97% of precincts reporting, Chambliss won by 14 points, 57%-43%, preventing Democrats from obtaining a filibuster-proof 60 seats. How many House or Senate Democrats who believe they won because of Obama coattails -- especially in states like Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia -- saw the run-off result and said, "Uh, oh. 2010 is going to be tough"?  

Video: NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray offers his first read on how rough confirmation might be for Bill Richardson as commerce secretary and looks at other cabinet possibilities.

*** Bill Richardson's day: At 11:40 am ET today, Obama will hold yet another press conference, where he will announce Bill Richardson as his Commerce secretary. Although Richardson didn't get the coveted job at State, Commerce could end up being a good fit for the New Mexico governor. While message discipline isn't one of Richardson's strong suits -- remember when he initially said at a gay-rights forum during the Democratic primary season that he thought being gay was a choice? -- he has proven to be a talented negotiator, and business was a fan of his tenure as New Mexico governor. The Commerce position can be seen as a business cheerleading post, and Richardson is certainly an optimistic cheerleading guy. Also, the next Commerce secretary, especially given the nation's economic woes, is going to have to work with foreign governments to smooth out trade deals and disputes. But there is some baggage. Take this Politico article, which reports that "Richardson traded on the prominence and expertise he accrued as Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations and as energy secretary to land more than 20 paying gigs, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of directors' fees and stock options -- much of which came from entities dealing in areas directly related to his work in the administration."

*** Cornyn's challenge: Yesterday, we mentioned that candidate recruitment matters in politics. Well, so do retirements. Florida GOP Sen. Mel Martinez's announcement on Tuesday that he won't seek a second term in 2010 not only increases Democrats' chances of winning that open Senate seat, but it also serves as a reminder that incoming NRSC Chair John Cornyn will have to convince several of his colleagues not to follow in Martinez's footsteps. Possible GOP retirements include Sam Brownback (Kansas), Jim Bunning (Kentucky), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), George Voinovich (Ohio), David Vitter of Louisiana (he may WANT to retire), and even John McCain (who has said he intends to run for another term in 2010). As we've said before, it's only natural for members of the minority party to consider retirement. But if they end up leaving, it makes it more difficult for the minority to later win back the majority. This job is doubly tough for NRCC Chair Pete Sessions. If Cornyn and Sessions can limit retirements, then they both can play more offense in 2010. One other thing about Martinez's upcoming departure: It marks the loss the GOP's most well-known minority elected official.

*** Jeb to jump back in? The Atlantic and Politico are reporting that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the current president's younger brother, is considering a bid for Martinez's Senate seat. Jeb himself responds to the Politico by email, and confirms he's considering it. "A source close to Bush said he'll be thoughtful and methodical about the decision-making process. He will consider the impact a race would have on his family and his business and whether or not the U.S. Senate is the best forum from which to continue his advocacy for the issues on which he's focused, such as education, immigration, and GOP solutions to health care reform." If Jeb jumps in, it would be very similar to Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate bid, and would propel the Florida Senate contest to the premiere race of 2010. A Bush hasn't served in the Senate since Prescott's tenure in Connecticut. Jeb's father failed to win bids for Texas Senate.

Video: President-elect Barack Obama promises federal economic relief for the states at the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia. NBC's Savannah Guthrie reports.

*** Obama loves the govs? Obama won plenty of praise yesterday from the nation's governors -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- for his commitment to make the states full partners in trying to solve the country's economic troubles. In fact, some Democratic governors who spoke with First Read yesterday said that it was a noticeable break from the way in which the Bush Administration has dealt with the states. "I felt there were a lot of situations where we were not being listened to," Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) said of the Bush team. Some notable examples: No Child Left Behind, funding for state health insurance programs for children, and a lack of direct aid to the states during the past economic slowdown. What's ironic here is that Bush was the two-term governor of Texas before becoming president. Obama isn't a former governor, although he did serve in the state legislature prior to winning his US Senate seat. 

Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 36 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 48 days

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