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First Thoughts: Unemployment rate drops

Unemployment rate drops to 9.4%, as economy added 103,000 jobs last month… Obama to speak on the economy at 11:35 am ET, and to unveil Gene Sperling as his new top economic adviser… The House GOP’s lost second day in power… More from the Boehner-Williams interview… The biggest short-term impact of the Daley hire: highlighting the emerging truce between the White House and business… Two other points about Daley: 1) Republicans are happy with the pick, and 2) Daley, as a former Commerce secretary, will probably be effective in utilizing the Obama cabinet… And more on the new Daley-Plouffe regime.

*** Unemployment rate drops: As we wrote at the beginning of the week, the most important political story -- at least as it relates to 2012 -- isn’t which party controls Congress or who serves as the White House’s chief of staff. Rather, it’s the strength of the U.S. economy and labor market. And the verdict from today’s December jobs report? Here’s the AP: “Unemployment rate falls to 9.4 percent, lowest since May 2009, as businesses boost hiring.” That’s the good news. The slightly disappointing news was that the economy added 103,000 jobs last month, which was a bit below expectations (though October’s and November’s numbers were revised upward). Yet the unemployment rate is what has the psychological and political effect on the American public. President Obama will deliver remarks on the economy in Landover, MD at 11:35 am ET, and it will be there where he’ll announce Clinton administration veteran (and current Treasury adviser) Gene Sperling is replacing Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council.

*** House Republicans’ lost day: Wednesday was a triumphant day for House Republicans, as they formally took control of the chamber. Thursday? Well, not so much. The day began with the news of the independent Congressional Budget Office declaring that the House GOP effort to repeal the health-care law would add $230 billion to the deficit over 10 years. (House Speaker John Boehner’s response: “CBO is entitled to their opinion.”) Then came a birther’s highly publicized disruption of their reading of the U.S. Constitution, as well as complaints that the reading omitted some of the document’s controversial past like its three-fifths clause for blacks. And then we found out that two Republicans -- including the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Pete Sessions -- skipped their swearing in, which temporarily threw a wrench into the GOP’s timeline for bringing the health-care repeal to the floor. It was a lost second day for the House GOP; they still had everyone’s attention and stumbled. (UPDATE: By the way, the Democratic National Committee is out with a Web video entitled, "Broken Promises," hitting the House GOP.)

*** An additional gaffe: The Hill reports also the reading of the Constitution got muffed: “The U.S. Constitution has still never been read in its entirety and in order on the House floor. During Thursday morning’s ‘historic reading,’ one member apparently skipped Article 4 Section 4 and part of Article 5 Section 1 when he or she inadvertently turned two pages at once.” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who was in charge of the reading, “returned to the House floor at 2:23 p.m., more than two hours after the error occurred, read the missing sections, and placed them officially in the congressional record.”

*** More from the Boehner-Williams interview: Here’s more from Speaker Boehner’s interview yesterday with NBC’s Brian Williams. On being an emotional guy: “Listen, it's who I am. You know, there are some things I feel very strongly about. And you probably heard that I don't take myself very seriously. But I take what I do very seriously. And when it comes to kids. When it comes to my own family. Soldiers. You know, I get, I feel very strongly that I want America to be the country that I grew up in.” On what he does for strength: “I pray. I pray from the moment I wake up… I get strength every day just going to my Facebook site.” On what he meant by the “scar tissue” between Democrats and Republicans: “Partisanship. Inability of members to work across the aisle. The heated rhetoric from each side of the aisle.” On his smoking habit: “Well, it just is what it is. That's my take on it. You know, it's a bad habit. I wish I didn't have it. But I have it.”

*** Boehner on Obama and the BP spill: Here’s Boehner on Obama: “Well, I have a good relationship with the president. We get along fine. I wouldn't say we're particularly close. But I want to have a good relationship with the president. As I said yesterday, I do believe there are ways to disagree without being disagreeable to each other. And I would hope that we would be able to find common ground.” And Boehner on the BP spill: “We've got the Minerals Management Service that was charged with hundreds of laws when it comes to offshore drilling. Not only did BP fail, but the federal government failed as well. There has to be a better way of protecting our environment without driving up and having excessive cost.”

*** The Obama-business truce: The biggest short-term impact the Bill Daley hire is having so far is highlighting the emerging truce between the Obama White House and business. In fact, the Wall Street Journal notes that the détente began with the South Korean free-trade agreement. "The administration took some positive steps recently, striking a bipartisan agreement to extend current tax rates, moving the ball forward on the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, and reaching out to the business community," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue told the Journal. "We're not going to agree on everything, but there's a lot we can get done for the American people." This budding truce probably is beneficial for both Team Obama (because it realizes that it can’t win re-election with the perception that it’s anti-business) and the Chamber (because not all of its members were 100% behind its scorched-earth campaign in ’10).

*** Two more points on Daley: A couple of additional points on the Daley hire. One, Republicans are over-the-moon happy with the selection. Here was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, per NBC’s Ken Strickland: “There's nobody down at the White House who'd ever even run a lemonade stand. There all college professors and former elected officials. This is a guy who's actually been out in the private sector, been a part of business. Frankly, my first reaction is that sounds like a good idea." Two, as a former cabinet official, Daley will probably know how to utilize the Obama cabinet better than it’s been utilized over the past two years. As former Clinton CoS John Podesta told NBC News: “I think the choice of a former cabinet secretary himself actually is an important one, and one that represents the thinking of the administration that they have a lot of ability and capacity to move the country -- and it’s not just a congressional Hill game anymore.” Daley will be more of an outside player, not just being responsive to business -- but responsive to mayors, governors, and all of the aspects the executive branch needs to do if they want to get their re-election efforts up to snuff.

*** New Order: Bottom line on the new White House staff shuffle: It’s Daley and David Plouffe -- and then everyone else. Indeed, it will be much more top-down than the previous regime. By the way, it’s Plouffe -- and not Daley -- who will lead the search for a new White House press secretary; Daley will have input, but the communications aspect of the White House falls under Plouffe and he'll have the biggest say.

Countdown to the RNC chair election: 7 days
Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 46 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 305 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 395 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

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