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First Thoughts: Previewing the president's presser

Previewing the president’s 1:30 pm ET news conference… Obama’s two promises to the left: 1) $1.6 trillion starting position on revenue, 2) decoupling the Bush tax cuts… The GOP’s red line: It doesn’t want tax RATES to go up… Decision Day on Capitol Hill for Pelosi, King, and McMorris Rodgers vs. Tom Price… Getting the message on immigration… and Autopsy 2012: the marriage gap. 

NBC's Mark Murray discusses President Obama's first press conference since his re-election. Plus, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and incoming Maine Senator Angus King make important announcements.

*** Previewing the president’s presser: At 1:30 pm ET from the White House, President Obama will hold a news conference. This will be his first press conference since winning re-election last week. It also will be his first public statements about the Petraeus-Allen-Broadwell-Kelley story. (About the only good news for the White House today on this story -- we don’t have a new “name” to add to a hyphen!) Here is something to chew on: Had Obama held this press conference immediately after his victory last week, he wouldn’t have had to answer questions about Petraeus or Allen. Now? We bet questions about this sex scandal make up about half the news conference. But your First Read team will be paying more attention to what the president has to say about the upcoming fiscal cliff negotiations. How willing is he to let all the Bush tax cuts expire if there isn’t a deal? Is he willing to bargain on entitlements? And what lessons did he learn from the debt-ceiling standoff a year ago?   

*** Obama’s two promises to the left: We can report that Obama made two promises to the labor and progressive leaders he met with yesterday. One, his starting position is extracting $1.6 trillion in additional revenue, and the Wall Street Journal picks up on that figure today. This is a clear sign to the left that Obama has stopped beginning his negotiations from the middle -- something Democrats have often complained about. (Obviously, the White House knows it won’t get $1.6 trillion but they would like $1 trillion or $1.2 trillion to be an option, and isn’t it interesting how $1.2 trillion is exactly halfway between Boehner’s July 2011 $800 billion offer and the president’s $1.6 trillion?) Two, Obama said it was his goal to decouple the Bush tax cuts: keep the lower rates for those making less than $250,000 but eliminate them for those making more than that and get that into law for 2013 while the larger tax reform legislation is negotiated. Notably, it appears that the left is willing to give Obama some space when it comes to entitlement reforms on Medicare and Social Security, if the president sticks to his guns on the Bush tax rates. At 2:45 pm ET today, after the news conference, Obama and Vice President Biden meet with business leaders to discuss the upcoming fiscal cliff negotiations.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

President Barack Obama makes Veterans Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2012.

*** The GOP’s red line: Meanwhile, in speaking with Republicans, the GOP’s red line is this: They’re willing to give up additional REVENUES; they just don’t want to see tax RATES go up. The two sides actually aren’t that far apart. The question is whether they can agree on a revenue target for tax reform. That’s Step 1; Step 2 is how the temporary agreement is forged regarding the tax rates for 2013, sequestration, payroll tax, etc. The White House’s view: If you let the Bush tax rates expire for the Top 2%, it makes negotiating the issues surrounding sequestration (even the farm bill!) a lot easier. But the hurdle is big: getting the votes in the House. No Republican wants to vote for a tax RATE hike; it’s likely a primary suicide mission. And while one could argue the big picture for the GOP that says, “Let Obama own the tax rate hike,” that doesn’t mean individual GOP House members won’t have to walk the plank to get to 218 votes. Ironically, the GOP may end up giving the president and Democrats MORE cover on taxes by agreeing to a revenue goal within tax reform, essentially, covering up tax hikes while the politicians can claim they’ve lowered tax RATES. Ah, the politics of the now vs. the politics of the long term. It’s the GOP’s challenge in managing its own base right now. 

*** Decision Day on Capitol Hill: Also on this Wednesday, we’ll find out decisions to three separate stories on Capitol Hill. First, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would be holding a 10:00 am ET news conference, apparently to answer questions about her political future. (Will she stay on as leader? Will she run for re-election in 2014?) In addition, Sen.-elect Angus King (I-ME) is expected to decide as soon as today which party he’ll caucus with. (It will be a HUGE surprise if it isn’t the Democrats, especially given all the outside GOP money spent against him in Maine, and King hasn’t had a one-on-one meeting with either McConnell or Cornyn to discuss joining the GOP side.) And finally, per the New York Times, House Republicans will choose between Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Tom Price (R-GA) to be chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 position in House GOP leadership. Conservatives like Paul Ryan, outgoing Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling, and Gov.-elect Mike Pence are backing Price, the Times says, while Fred Upton, Peter King, and Darrell Issa are supporting McMorris Rodgers.   

In the latest turn in the scandal involving two top US generals, the FBI said they have uncovered "flirtatious" emails between General John Allen and socialite Jill Kelley but have found no wrongdoing.

*** West isn’t giving up: Meanwhile, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that Rep. Allen West (R-FL) is continuing the fight to hold onto his Florida congressional seat, even though his opponent has already declared victory (and spoke at his first Capitol Hill press conference yesterday). West, who is trailing Democrat Patrick Murphy by .58 percent of the vote, has not conceded, even though the race is not tight enough to require an automatic recount (.50 or less needed). "We have to maintain the honor and integrity of the electoral process," West told NBC News, "You cannot sit up and say to the voters in Congressional District 18, to the American people, that when there are issues that are there, an incredible 4,400 vote swing in a 30-35 minute period at one o'clock in the morning, and no one is explaining that to them." West has filed a complaint in Florida state court asking for a recount of the early ballots, which he says could bring him within the threshold to trigger an automatic recount. "No one is explaining to me how you can go from being up by 1,800 to being down by 2,400 in a 30-to-35 minute period," West said, "The people deserve better."

*** Getting the message on immigration: How losing Latinos by more than 40 points will suddenly change a party’s tune… “Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), three key Republican players on immigration, told The Hill they're ready to start working on broad-based reforms next year that could include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. All three are expected to be key players on any immigration-reform negotiations, which are expected to move first in the Senate.” A path to citizenship is supported by a 57-39% majority, a Washington Post/ABC poll finds. 

*** Autopsy 2012: The marriage gap: In the latest installment of our look at the presidential exit poll, we examine the marriage gap. Yes, there was a significant gender gap -- Obama won women by 11 points (55%-44%), while Romney won men by 7 points (52%-45%). But an even wider gap existed when it came to marriage. Sixty percent of the electorate identified themselves as being married, and Romney won that segment by 14 points, 56%-42%. But Obama won the 40% who aren’t married by nearly 30 points, 62%-35%. In fact, Obama won non-married women by a whopping 36 points, 67%-31%. What’s more, Romney won people married with children by 9 points, 54%-45%. To quote Beyonce, “All the single ladies, now put your hands up.” 

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