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First Thoughts: Daley Rundown


*** Daley Rundown: The news that the White House is considering tapping Bill Daley to be chief of staff is fitting in this respect -- President Obama would be replacing one man who’s running for Chicago mayor with another man who’s the brother of the outgoing Chicago mayor. Daley offers several strengths: He’s a strong manager (former Commerce secretary, Gore campaign manager); he has a business background (currently an executive at JPMorgan); and everyone, frankly, just seems to like him. He’s also an effective communicator on TV. The downside: The left is unlikely to embrace him, given his JPMorgan work and the fact that he comes from the Democratic Party’s moderate wing. (“Either we plot a more moderate, centrist course or risk electoral disaster not just in the upcoming midterms but in many elections to come,” he wrote in the Washington Post in Dec. ’09.) We can report that no job offer has been made to Daley, and current interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse is also being considered to keep the post permanently. But if it’s going to be Daley, we get the feeling any announcement would come quickly; many West Wing staffers who are on pins and needles regarding the reorganization plan are hopeful the president makes a decision quickly, perhaps even this week.

*** Obama returns to DC: Later this morning, the president is expected to return from his nearly two-week vacation in Hawaii. And aboard Air Force One last night, Obama made a surprise visit to the press cabin and was asked if he’s expecting a rude welcome back to DC -- with Republicans set to take control of the House tomorrow, and with the House GOP vote (now set for Jan. 12) to repeal health care. His answer: “I think that there’s gonna be politics, that’s what happens in Washington. They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time. But I’m pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people… And so my expectation, my hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012. And that our job this year is to make sure that we build on recovery.”

*** Profiling McConnell: While tomorrow’s attention will be showered on the man who’s set to become the next speaker -- John Boehner -- the Atlantic Monthly profiles the Republican who will determine what legislation clears Congress and actually makes it to the president's desk: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “John Boehner and the Republican House will be free to pass all sorts of bills designed to bedevil the White House,” the Atlantic’s Josh Green writes. “But how effective that strategy is will ultimately depend on what happens to the bills in the Senate. However, things play out on television, McConnell will still be the key man.” Don’t miss this quote from outgoing Sen. Bob Bennett: “When I came to the Senate, Bob Dole was the leader, and he was superb… It’s a very different Senate today, very different political atmosphere. Dole would be deeply frustrated. McConnell is the right guy for this atmosphere.”

*** The on-message man: In his piece on McConnell, Green makes two additional points. One, McConnell is always on message -- contrasting him with Boehner’s slip last fall (which he later corrected) that he’d be open to extending the middle-class tax cuts, if that’s all he could get. McConnell “knows exactly what he wants to say, repeats it with emphasis, then stops. He will not be drawn out, and has no compunction about refusing questions. He would never make Boehner’s mistake, because he won’t entertain hypotheticals.” Two, it was McConnell who came up with two widely discussed pejoratives Republicans used to criticize the deals in writing the health-care legislation. “If you got upset when you heard about the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ or the ‘Louisiana Purchase’ … that was McConnell. He coined the terms to cast sinister aspersions on what were actually typical instances of political horse-trading, in this case over health care.”

*** The purity test: In retrospect, yesterday’s RNC chair debate wasn’t notable for the subtle digs at Michael Steele’s tenure (though there were plenty of them). Nor was it striking that Steele defended his record (“I'm a glass-half-full guy," he said. "I don't see crisis where some see it”). Rather, the most fascinating part of the debate was how ideologically homogenous all the candidates were. As the Washington Post Dana Milbank writes, “Abortion? All opposed. Lower taxes? All in favor. Gay marriage? All opposed. Cutting spending? All in favor.” Reince Priebus, who appears right now to be the front-runner to be the next RNC chair, perhaps summed it up best: "If you are pro-abortion, pro-stimulus, pro-GM bailout … you probably aren't a Republican." (Of course, that would exclude Republicans like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and new Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.) In fact, it was Steele yesterday who called for more ideological diversity in the party. "We cannot be a party that sits back with a litmus test and excludes."

*** Roberts to swear in … Boehner’s aides: Question for Chief Justice John Roberts: Is he engaging in what appears to be a somewhat partisan event in swearing in John Boehner’s staff? Politico writes, “At Boehner’s request, Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the staff ceremony, which may be a first in congressional history. Aides in Boehner’s Washington and district offices are expected to take the oath in the Capitol in a private, low-key event with no press coverage, a Boehner aide said.” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck emails First Read, Boehner takes the responsibility of his new office seriously, and obviously expects the staff to do the same… Boehner thought this would be a good way to set the tone for his speakership, remind us all why we’re here.”

*** Issa to K Street -- tell me what to regulate: Darrell Issa has positioned himself to be the watchdog on Capitol Hill when it comes to the Obama administration. But can you be both a watchdog and seemingly in bed with K Street and the business community? “Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants the oil industry, drug manufacturers and other trade groups and companies to tell him which Obama administration regulations to target this year,” Politico reports. “The incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - in letters sent to more than 150 trade associations, companies and think tanks last month - requested a list of existing and proposed regulations that would harm job growth.” Of course, some in the business community believe Democrats spent more time placating their own interest groups at the expense of the business community. Still, considering the rise in anti-big anything populism (anti-big gov't, anti-Wall street etc.), it's tricky politics.

*** Redistricting and the 2012 calendar: Finally, the Columbus Dispatch reminds us how redistricting in 2011 could impact the 2012 calendar. “Ohio's 2012 presidential primary election might have to be moved to later in the year if state lawmakers are slow to draw new congressional districts this year, incoming Secretary of State Jon Husted said yesterday. Husted, a Republican, said some officials of county election boards have expressed concern that they might not have enough time to prepare for the scheduled March 6, 2012, primary if legislators drag their feet on paring Ohio's 18 congressional districts to 16, as required by new census data.”

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