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First Thoughts: Cabinet census

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Cabinet census: Obama has tapped retiring GOP Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) to be his Transportation secretary -- to be named Friday with likely his Labor secretary as well (maybe one of two Congresswomen -- Hilda Solis, of California or Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut), First Read has learned. Given that Obama's cabinet team is almost all but complete, now's as good a time as any to break down the cabinet by the numbers. Note: We include the offices that Obama gives cabinet rank (EPA administrator, OMB chief, and UN ambassador). Today, Obama holds a press conference at 10:45 am ET to announce Mary Schapiro the chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the head of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and an open Federal Reserve Board seat (Georgetown professor Daniel Tarullo), none of which hold cabinet rank. But in the wake of Madoff, the P.R. timing of these announcements couldn't be better for Team Obama.

Video: President-elect Barack Obama introduced veteran regulator Mary Schapiro to head the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday and had some strong words regarding the recent allegations involving Wall St. figure Bernard Madoff.

Here are the numbers:

- 7 Ivy Leaguers (Clinton, Duncan, Geithner, Holder, Donovan, Orszag, Jackson)
- 6 State Schoolers (Daschle, Vilsack, Chu, Napolitano, Salazar, Gates)
- 6 Raised in the Midwest (Clinton, Daschle, Vilsack, Gates, Duncan, LaHood) Note: This doesn't include Chu, who was born in Missouri but grew up in New York)
- 4 Women (Clinton, Napolitano, Rice, Jackson)
- 4 Raised in New York (Holder, Donovan, Geithner, Chu – who grew up on Long Island; does not include Napolitano who was born in NYC or Clinton who currently lives there)
- 3 African Americans (Holder, Rice, Jackson)
- 3 Westerners (Salazar, Richardson, Napolitano -- who was born in NYC but raised in Albuquerque)
- 3 Basketball Players (Duncan, Rice, Holder -- does not include NSA appointee Gen. James Jones)
- 2 Hispanics (Salazar, Richardson)
- 2 Asian Americans (Shinseki, Chu)
- 2 Republicans (Gates, Lahood)
- 2 Sitting Senators (Clinton, Salazar)
- 2 Sitting Governors (Napolitano, Richardson)
- 1 Raised in the South (Jackson, who was born in Philadelphia, but adopted a few weeks later and grew up in New Orleans' Ninth Ward)

*** When liberals attack: Axelrod and Gibbs have to be smiling this morning with the news that gay-rights groups are angry that Obama has announced that conservative evangelical Rick Warren will give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Why are they smiling? Because it never hurts -- at least when it comes to governing or running for re-election -- when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party's interest groups (in this case, People for the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign). Just asking, but is anyone but People for the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign surprised that Rick Warren is going to give a prayer at the inauguration? Where was this outrage when Obama appeared at Warren's Saddleback forum back in August? The difference may be that the forum came before Proposition 8 passed in California. As for the pure politics of this, when you look at the exit polls and see the large numbers of white evangelicals in swing states like North Carolina, Florida and Missouri, as well as emerging battlegrounds like Georgia and Texas, you'll understand what Obama's up to. 

*** Big bucks, big buck, no whammies: Something worth pointing out if Caroline Kennedy is appointed to the Senate -- she is going to have to fill out a Senate disclosure form. Will we find out how big the Onassis fortune actually is? The point of this nugget is to remind folks that if Caroline were truly worried about her privacy, she wouldn't want this appointment because she has to do something most Americans hate doing, open up her finances. Clearly, she's crossed a threshold in her own mind to go public. There is an upside to all of this criticism she's receiving this morning over her reaction to local press inquiries: she's got low expectations for press access so any access will look like a lot at this point. It's not unlike the expectations that were built around Hillary when she began her listening tour. By the way, has she cleared another hurdle in getting the appointment by saying she would "absolutely" pursue the seat in 2010 -- even if Paterson doesn't appoint her, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Video: Caroline Kennedy gets a chilly reception from some high-placed politicians in New York, as she makes it official that she's interested in Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

*** Bush legacy watch: Buried by yesterday's other news -- Caroline's trip Upstate, the question Obama received at his press conference about transparency, and the latest in the Blagojevich scandal -- was the speech President Bush delivered Wednesday on national security and terrorism. "While there's room for honest and healthy debate about the decisions I've made -- and there's plenty of debate -- there can be no debate about the results in keeping America safe," he said. This morning, at a speech sponsored by the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, Bush will turn his attention to domestic issues. The title of the speech is: "Building on a Foundation for the Future." It could very well be his last opportunity to talk about what Republican governance looks like.

*** Mad(off) Money: Bernard Madoff, the New York investor who has admitted to swindling some $50 billion in a Ponzi scheme, contributed more than $183,000 to federal political candidates (mostly Democrats) over the past 15 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Earlier this week, the National Republican Congressional Committee blasted out a press release noting that embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel received $2,000 from Madoff (a Rangel spokesman tells First Read that he has since cut a check in that amount to the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem). Other notable recipients: $100,000 to the DSCC (the committee say it's reviewing whether to give the money back); $6,000 to Chuck Schumer (who has said he's giving that amount to charity); $5,000 to Sen. Ron Wyden (who donated the money to an Oregon food bank); $7,000 to Rep. Ed Markey (who's trying to identify a Massachusetts charity where he can send that money); $3,600 to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (who will be dumping that money and whose charities were invested with Madoff!!!); and $1,000 to Hillary Clinton (spokesman Philippe Reines tells First Read, "It was made for the '00 campaign, which doesn't exist anymore, has no funds, completely closed out in FEC parlance"). Of course, it's worth asking: Who should get this Madoff money -- charities or the people who lost their money? … By the way, you think John McCain is sitting around somewhere, saying, "See. I told ya so" over saying SEC Chair Chris Cox should be fired. Give McCain credit. Some cynics might view his call as a ruse, that he's fundamentally a deregulator and was pandering to what he thought was the visceral populist notion in the country. But was he wrong?

Video: Madoff has been released from jail and placed under partial house arrest.  CNBC's David Faber reports.

*** The never-ending recount: It's Day 3 of the Minnesota canvassing board's ruling on the challenged ballots in the Coleman-Franken race, and the Star Tribune's count has Norm Coleman up by 358 votes. So far, the board has decided on 420 ballots disputed by the Franken camp, and as the Star Tribune writes: "Typically, most challenges lose. On Tuesday and Wednesday, most of the Franken challenges were resolved in favor of Coleman, adding votes to the incumbent's column and increasing his margin, if only temporarily. By the same logic, Franken is expected to gain votes when the board takes up Coleman's ballot challenges." Also on today's agenda: The canvassing will take up the Coleman camp charge that as many as 150 ballots have been double counted.

Countdown to Electoral Vote Count In Congress: 21 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 33 days
Countdown to VA Dem primary: 173 days
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 320 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 684 days

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