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Morning Roundup: 'Absent-minded'

Before the blizzard that walloped the Northeast, New Jersey's controversial Gov. Chris Christie went to Disney World. He didn't fly back when he heard of the news. And compounding the issue, his No. 2, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, was (and still is) on vacation in Mexico with her family, leaving the state Senate president in charge.

Christie, who has seen a slight decline in his popularity recently, is facing criticism for that from state Senate Democrats and the state's largest paper's editorial board. The lieutenant governor position is a new one, created after disgraced Democratic former Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned. McGreevey’s resignation left a leadership void that installed then-state Sen. President Richard Codey as acting governor for 14 months.

Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella dismissed the criticism, telling Politico's Ben Smith, "Snow in the northeast happens often which is why the response was handled expeditiously between the acting governor, secretary of transportation, state police and governor's staff with all the appropriate and necessary coordination. And like every other day, the Governor was and continues to be in regular contact with his staff and cabinet officers."

But this wasn't just a regular snow fall; Elizabeth, N.J., for example, saw a record 30 inches come down. The New York Times notes that the reputations of other elected officials -- former Chicago Mayor Michael A. Bilandic, DC Mayor Marion Barry, and Denver Mayor William H. McNichols Jr., for example -- were badly damaged because of their handling of snow emergencies.

The (Newark) Star-Ledger’s editorial board called the move of both the governor and lieutenant governor being on vacation at the same time “absent-minded.” It notes Guadagno pulls a salary of $141,000. “Maybe next year,” the paper wrote, “the state’s two top executives will plan their vacations better so someone from the team is in charge. That’s how this was supposed to work.”

For the dogs: The Washington Post’s Perry Bacon notes that President Obama’s call to the Philadelphia Eagles owner praising them for giving Michael Vick a second chance, shows again that he’s willing to take on divisive social issues, citing the Skip Gates controversy, Kanye West, and that his views on gay marriage are “evolving.”

PBS’s David Chalian noted on Twitter, “So if 2012 is Romney v. Obama, dog lovers have no candidate.”

Remember that Romney faced criticism in 2007 from animal-rights groups after it was revealed that he had strapped his dog to the roof of the family car on a 12-hour drive to Canada. “PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air,” Romney said at the time.

Huckabee leads ’12 field; Palin fades: By the way, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Mike Huckabee leading the field of potential 2012 candidates -- 67% of Republicans said they would be likely to support him if he runs; Romney was second – with 59%; Newt Gingrich was third with 54%; and Sarah Palin saw a significant decline -- just 49% said they would support the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee with 51% saying they would not. That’s down 18 points from the first week of December, when 67% said they were likely to support her.

Chicago, Obama's kind of town: As most of us expected, the Obama reelection campaign will be headquartered in Chicago. It’s long been known that adviser David Axelrod would head to Chicago early next year to work on the reelection effort. The move appears unprecedented, however, in modern history. “George W. Bush's 2004 campaign, Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign, George H.W. Bush's 1992 campaign, Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign, Jimmy Carter's 1980 campaign, Gerald Ford's 1976 campaign and, of course, Richard Nixon's infamous Committee to Reelect the President were all based in suburban Virginia or Washington,” Politico writes.

Budget Valentine: The White House will unveil its 2012 budget on Feb. 14, a week later than scheduled, because OMB Director Jacob Lew’s nomination was held up in Congress, National Journal reports.

'Cut As You Go': National Journal adds that Republicans want to implement a “cut-as-you-go” policy that would require cutting spending dollar for dollar for new spending, though that would not include tax cuts. The bipartisan Committee for Responsible Federal Budget says the plan likely would lead to higher deficits.

Going Greene: Oddball candidate Alvin Greene is running again. This time for a state House seat in South Carolina, The State reports. Greene badly lost his 2010 bid for U.S. Senate against Sen. Jim DeMint (R).