What we learned at the RGA meeting: 1) The GOP is more than invigorated after its midterm victories… 2) There’s no love lost between Haley Barbour’s RGA and Michael Steele’s RNC… 3) The governors who are eyeing 2012 are in no hurry to get in the race… Obama arrives in Lisbon… Lew -- finally -- gets confirmed… And Miller Time isn’t over, as Joe Miller has asked for an injunction to stop officials from certifying the results in Alaska.
SAN DIEGO, Calif./LISBON, Portugal -- We learned at least three things at the annual Republican Governors Association meeting that concluded here yesterday. First, Republicans are invigorated after their midterm victories earlier this month, no surprise. In consecutive days, the RGA showcased their rising and diverse stars (Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, and Brian Sandoval of Nevada), and their victorious candidates from Midwest battleground states (Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin). As outgoing Minnesota Gov. -- and possible presidential contender -- Tim Pawlenty said of these governors-elect, "I think the country is going to look at them and say, 'Wow.'" If the Republicans did anything in 2010 for their future even if 2012 doesn't go as planned for them, it was deepening their bench for 2016 and beyond.
*** RGA gets in its digs at Steele and the RNC: Second, we learned that there is no love lost between Haley Barbour's RGA and Michael Steele's RNC. Throughout the two-day conference, Barbour and his allies got in their digs at Steele and made it clear that they want Steele out. Barbour said yesterday that, in 2012, it is “absolutely essential that the RNC operate at maximum capacity,” adding that the RNC didn’t do that in 2010. Remember, the RGA can't fill the gap for the RNC in 2012 since there are just a handful of GOV races (11) with only 4 (and we're being generous) in potential presidential battleground states (MO, IN, NC and NH). RGA folks made clear to First Read that they could have won some of the close races they ended up losing -- like Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, or Vermont -- if there had been a better-financed RNC with the kind of ground game it has provided in previous years. By the way, Republican Saul Anuzis, who already has announced his bid for RNC chair, was working the halls at the meeting. The rhetoric from the governors seems to hint that there is a desire to unite behind one major anti-Steele candidate in the RNC chair race.
*** Slow ride, take it easy: And third, the governors who are eyeing the 2012 presidential race are planning to take their time before making up their minds. Barbour said he wouldn't announce a decision until after his state's legislative ends in April or May. Is he thinking about running? "I am," he said, adding: "I've begun to talk about it." As for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, he said that he would spend the next five or six months on "another round of reforms" in the state. "That takes you into April," saying that any decision wouldn’t come before then. And Pawlenty told reporters that he is "a few months" away from making a decision. Mitt Romney appears to be in no hurry, either. Politico writes, “Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008. ‘People are exhausted from the 2010 election, and they’re not anxious to begin right away with the next campaign,’” Romney told donors, per Politico.
*** Obama arrives in Lisbon… : Thousands of miles away from San Diego, President Obama touched down earlier this morning in Lisbon, Portugal for a NATO summit. This may be a short overseas trip, but the issues involved couldn't be more important to the president -- from getting continued NATO buy-in on the U.S. plan in Afghanistan, to massaging relations with Russia as the president struggles to get the START treaty ratified in the lame-duck Senate. On Afghanistan, this is the beginning of the re-framing of the withdrawal timeline way from July 2011 to the end of 2014. As the administration will argue, 2011 was never an END to Afghanistan but rather the target date to BEGIN the end of the war. And that's how this is being pitched to NATO leaders this weekend; the idea is that as Afghan troops stand up, NATO and U.S. troops stand down. It's a phrase that became familiar to the American public during the height of the Iraq war. Of course, the hard political sell for the White House is to make sure the short-attention span, ADD media doesn't shorthand all of this as "U.S. isn't getting out of Afghanistan until 2014" instead of "U.S. begins withdrawal in 2011, but the withdrawal could take as long as three years." Why 2014? Why not 2012, 2013, or now? Is there really that much confidence the Afghan Army's capability to provide their own security is going to be leaps and bounds better three years from now? That's the question facing the president.
*** … And pens op-ed: Meanwhile, Obama has penned this op-ed in the International Herald-Tribune: “Our shared effort [in Afghanistan] is essential to denying terrorists a safe haven, just as it is necessary to improve the lives of the Afghan people. With the arrival of additional coalition forces over the last two years, we finally have the strategy and resources to break the Taliban's momentum, deprive insurgents of their strongholds, train more Afghan security forces, and assist the Afghan people. In Lisbon, we will align our approach so that we can begin a transition to Afghan responsibility early next year, and adopt President Hamid Karzai's goal of Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
*** Who START-ed This Fight: As for the president's struggle to get START passed by the lame-duck senate, look for the administration to begin making a more substantive argument for it, rather than simply the political argument you've been hearing (tradition dictates bipartisan majorities have passed treaties like this before). The substantive arguments include: the fact so many European leaders want this treaty ratified and enacted out of their own safety concerns; Russian cooperation on dealing with Iran could be hampered if it dies; Eastern European countries (like Poland) do support this treaty; and the worry by some Russian experts that the failure of this treaty to be ratified could weaken Medvedev domestically in his partnership with Putin.
*** Lew gets confirmed -- finally: You know it has been a rough last couple of weeks for the White House when the good news includes getting its OMB pick finally confirmed. The Senate last night confirmed Jacob Lew as the president’s new budget director after Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu lifted her hold on the nomination. Per Roll Call, Landrieu held up the nomination to protest the administration’s deepwater-drilling moratorium. “The moratorium was lifted last month, and Landrieu said at the time that the move was a ‘good start’ but that she would monitor the administration’s handling of drilling permits before deciding whether to let Lew’s nomination go forward. “In a floor speech after the vote Thursday, Landrieu said she was lifting her hold ‘because notable progress has been made, permits have been issued.’”
*** Strategery? Why did the House Democrats push to pass unemployment benefits, even though they knew they didn’t have the votes? Sure, they got the GOP on record, but what about the ultimate goal of getting these benefits? Will Dems use this as a negotiating tool with Republicans over the Bush tax cuts? And what is the strategy on this issue? Is there one?
*** Censure recommended for Rangel: If he could do it over again, do you think Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) would have run for re-election? Or at least tried a different strategy? The New York Times: "The House ethics committee on Thursday recommended that Representative Charles B. Rangel be formally censured for ethical misconduct, the most serious punishment the House can mete out to a member short of expulsion... Censure requires approval by the full House, which plans to take up the matter after its Thanksgiving recess." More: "If, as expected, censure is approved, Mr. Rangel will be the first member to receive such punishment since 1983, when two congressmen were rebuked for sexual misconduct with House pages. Mr. Rangel would be required to stand in the well of the House while the speaker reads a resolution rebuking him."
*** Miller Time (isn’t over): Even though opponent Lisa Murkowski has been declared the apparent winner in Alaska’s Senate race, Joe Miller isn’t giving up. As the Anchorage Daily News writes, “The Republican candidate in the Alaska U.S. Senate race asked a federal judge Thursday for a preliminary injunction stopping officials from certifying the election. An attorney for Joe Miller sought the injunction as part of a previous lawsuit challenging write-in ballots for Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator.”
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