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First Thoughts: What do Republicans do next?

What do Republicans do next in the battle over health care’s implementation?... House GOP says it will continue to highlight individual stories… Obama’s latest health-care event: Urging attendees of the White House Youth Summit to spread the word to get insured… Obama to also talk about the economy at 11:15 am ET… Boehner hires high-profile immigration staffer… Dick Cheney says he was “surprised” by daughter Mary’s Facebook attack on daughter Liz… Crist’s top aide departs the campaign (this soon!)…. And on Rick Perry’s speech last night in the Palmetto State.

*** What do Republicans do next? The last month and a half amounted to an early Christmas (or Hanukkah) gift for the Republican Party. After losing the last two presidential contests, after the damaging government shutdown, and the midst of a still-ongoing ideological battle inside the party, Republicans clearly have the political advantage when it comes to health care. They scored points on the federal website’s woes; they bruised President Obama over those private-market cancellation notices; they’ve highlighted the security concerns; and they’ve played the card that Americans might not be able to keep their doctors. But are they beginning to run out of ammunition? Today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is taking a page out of the 2010/2012 playbook hitting Senate Democrats on the well-worn $700-billion-in-Medicare-cuts charge (when House Republicans have adopted those very cuts -- to providers, not beneficiaries -- in their own budget); the NRSC says the hit is in response to the Democrats’ own well-worn Medicare attacks. But the fact they are playing this card says a lot. What’s more, as we mentioned yesterday, Republican leaders are no longer talking about repeal, which is now harder to pull off after Americans are purchasing their new health insurance. Per NBC’s Natalie Cucchiara, not a single Republican lawmaker used the word “repeal” on a Sunday show in the last two weeks. That’s not an accident. “Repeal” does not play well with swing voters.

Evan Vucci / AP file photo

Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, listens to a question during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington.

*** House GOP says it will continue to highlight individual stories: House Republicans tell us that their plan is to continue to highlight individual stories about canceled plans and higher costs. “As they continue to lose their plans, find that every available replacement costs more, and lose access to their doctor, we will continue to highlight those issues,” House Speaker Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says. “There will be other issues along the way (security and privacy issues on the website, for example, or the limited options available under Medicaid), but hammering on the broken promises that people see every day will continue to be at the heart of it.” Fellow Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck adds that the NRSC’s Medicare hit “is a tried and true campaign hit, so it shouldn’t be surprising they are continuing to talk about it, but don’t let that give you any idea that we feel anything less than in the drivers’ seat with plenty to talk about.” In addition, several House committees -- including Oversight and Government Reform, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means -- are holding hearings on the health-care law and its rollout. But it does seem as we’ve entered a new stage in the health-care battle, with Democrats regrouping (and dare we say unified), and with Republicans running out of new attacks. It’s almost as if we’ve returned to 2012…

*** Obama’s latest health-care event: Meanwhile, continuing on their plan to hold a health care event-a-day thru Dec. 23, President Obama today will be hold another event himself. At 2:05 pm ET, he’ll deliver remarks at the White House Youth Summit, encouraging the attendees to spread the word to other young Americans to enroll in health-insurance plans. And tomorrow, Obama sits down with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at American University.

*** “Which side of the barricade are you on?” Also today at 11:15 am ET, Obama will speak on the economy, discussing economic inequality and shrinking economic mobility. Aides tell us it’s fair to view this speech as a preview of a theme the president is testing out for January’s State of the Union address. But more importantly, it addresses an important point that Democratic strategist and longtime Bill Clinton political confidante Doug Sosnik made about the current political climate. “At the core of Americans’ anger and alienation is the belief that the American Dream is no longer attainable,” he wrote. “Previous generations held fast to the promise that anyone who worked hard and played by the rules could get ahead, regardless of their circumstances. But increasingly, Americans have concluded that the rules aren’t fair and that the system has been rigged to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a privileged few at the expense of the many. And now the government is simply not working for anyone.” More from the memo: “Americans’ long-brewing discontent shows clear signs of reaching a boiling point. And when it happens, the country will judge its politicians through a new filter—one that asks, ‘Which side of the barricade are you on? Is it the side of the out-of-touch political class that clings to the status quo by protecting those at the top and their own political agendas, or is it the side that is fighting for the kind of change that will make the government work for the people…?’”

*** And how do you get on the right side of it? The president’s political team has been very good at getting on the right side -- rhetorically -- of this growing concern. The 2012 election is case in point (“fair shot” etc). But as a governing entity, the president has been unsuccessful at addressing this growing problem, with the big exception of eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the well-off. Sosnik, in his tour de force of a political memo, is essentially warning both parties that they’re on their way of being divided internally between the elites and the populists and it could crack them both in half in a big way. It’s this economic disparity that has fueled the rise of the Tea Party and folks like Rand Paul. On the left, it’s how Bill de Blasio brought liberalism back to New York City and why Elizabeth Warren is such a growing force herself.

*** Boehner hires high-profile immigration staffer: Your First Read authors don’t belong to the club believing that immigration reform is dead for the 113th Congress -- some sort of deal is still possible next year. And MSNBC.com’s Benjy Sarlin provides one reason why: “House Speaker John Boehner has hired a high-profile immigration adviser, his office announced Tuesday, a surprising move that pro-reform and anti-reform advocates alike interpreted as a step toward reform. Becky Tallent, an immigration policy wonk, is a well-known figure among immigration advocates, having helped spearhead Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform under President George W. Bush.”

*** Dick Cheney says he was “surprised” daughter Mary attacked daughter Liz on Facebook: In the latest news regarding the Liz Cheney-vs.-Mary Cheney family feud, father Dick Cheney said he was surprised that Mary and her wife attacked Liz -- who’s running for the Senate in Wyoming -- over Facebook. “We were surprised that there was an attack launched against Liz on Facebook, and wished it hadn’t happened,” the former vice president said yesterday at the National Press Club. “It’s always been dealt with within the context of the family and frankly that’s our preference.”

*** Crist’s top aide exits the campaign: This isn’t good news for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial bid in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times: “In a bad sign for Charlie Crist's fledgling gubernatorial bid, his hotshot new campaign manager has left the team. Bill Hyers, fresh off his big New York City win managing the campaign of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, was slated any day now to start working full time for the former Florida governor and had already been introduced to donors. ‘It's early. Our campaign structure is still coming together. Bill wanted to stay in New York because it was good for him,’ Crist said in a brief email.”

*** On Perry’s speech last night in the Palmetto State: Per NBC’s Ali Weinberg, Texas Gov. Rick Perry served up the conservative red meat at a South Carolina GOP dinner last night, in which he slammed the Obama administration for exploiting "tragedies" to advance its gun control agenda and putting the fate of American health care into bureaucratic hands. But Perry, Weinberg adds, also laid out his vision for the future of the Republican Party, saying the GOP must not only be the "anti-Obama" party but also "the party of free markets and personal liberty." Perry's speech contained many hallmarks of his 2012 campaign stump, including talking about his humble beginnings in Paint Creek, Texas, where he never met a Republican until his late 20's. 

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