Here are some of what we like to call “shiny metal objects," some of the most distracting moments of 2010. Thoughts? Did we miss any? Vote for the shiniest of shiny metal objects in our live poll at right.
- Christine O’Donnell wins/loses, FBI opens criminal probe - Sarah Palin’s endorsements/Sarah Palin’s Twitter/Facebook postings - Shirley Sherrod “controversy” - Sharron Angle - Carl Paladino - Sue Lowden: Chickens to the doctor - Kirsten Gillibrand “challenger” - Obama-Clinton 2012 ticket - The mosque controversy - TSA pat downs - James O’Keefe takes New Orleans - Obama’s “$200 million a day” India trip - The “public option” - Bill Halter - Eric Massa - Liz Cheney criticisms - Criticism of START (wound up passing overwhelmingly) - Alan Grayson - Anthony Weiner - Jerry Brown's 'whore' comment - Meg Whitman's housekeeper
Below is a look back at some of the things that happened in 2010 (in somewhat chronological order). What did we miss? And take our live poll at right on what you think was the most significant moment of 2010. Check out our next post of "Shiny Metal Objects of the year."
- Scott Brown elected - Guantanamo remains open - Baby killer shouted during health care debate - Health care reform passed, signed - Financial regulation passed, signed - BP oil spill - Greece riots - Afghanistan casualties rise - Bob Bennett loses - Sestak beats Specter, loses to Toomey - Blanche Lincoln wins, then loses - Elena Kagan sworn in - Iraq drawdown - Glenn Beck rally/Jon Stewart/Colbert rally - Tea Party outrage/Republicans take back the House; Boehner to be speaker - Harry Reid wins - Charlie Rangel censured - Rahm Emanuel leaves White House to run for Chicago mayor - Wiki, wiki, wiki-leaks of diplomatic cables - Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed - Joe Miller wins primary, then loses - Lisa Murkowski, loses primary, then wins first write-in campaign for Senate since 1954
As the 111th Congress came to a close, departing senators took to the floor to deliver their last remarks. Some spoke to an empty chamber and C-Span viewers; some before a packed house of colleagues, friends and family. Regardless of the audience, most reflected on their proudest moments, emphasized the need for compromise, and gave their advice to those who will take their place in the Senate.
The New York Times today examines the variety of inaugural celebrations planned by the country's 26 new governors, ranging from lavish to "conspicuous frugality." Particularly representative of the extremes: Florida governor-elect Rick Scott's seven-city "appreciation" tour and California governor-elect Jerry Brown's uber-thrifty party.
Scott's "multiday, multicity inauguration has become known wryly in political circles here as the 'coronation.' Preparations began shortly after Election Day with a prodigious fund-raising drive.
"For the main event on Tuesday, [Scott] will lead a parade featuring 26 marching bands, followed by a black-tie dinner for 2,100 people, with oysters Rockefeller and fried calamari served in mini-martini glasses."
Jerry Brown of California has issued guidelines: no paid entertainment (a school choir will sing) and a rent-free evening reception (in a state-owned building). To highlight his thrift, Mr. Brown, a Democrat, plans to stop at a cookout after he takes the oath to snack on hot dogs and chips.
The extremes seem to reflect the uncertain economic times: shoppers may have returned to their prerecession ways during the holidays, but state budget deficits are ballooning, and there are persistent mutterings about the deep repair work that is needed to fix the economy.
The New York Times takes a look back at some of the top 10 moments of the year politically. No. 1 for its readers was the passage of health-care reform. (Look for a quick First Read look back at 2010 today, with a list of some of the big events with a live poll for you to be able to vote.)
The Washington Post notes that, medical ethicists are "concerned" about Haley Barbour's release of both Mississippi sisters being contingent on one sister donating a kidney to the other "even if the donation is voluntary." "If the sister belongs in prison, then she should be allowed to donate and return to prison, and if she doesn't belong in prison, then she should have her sentence commuted whether or not she is a donor," Michael Shapiro, chief of organ transplantation at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey and chair of the United Network for Organ Sharing's ethics committee, told the Post.
The Times also looks at how EPA regulations which kick in Sunday could impact both the White House and Republicans.
Lanny Davis is in some hot water. The Times says he withdrew from his get this $100,000 a month contract (!!!) with Ivory Coast. The Times says he's been labeled "a kind of front man for the dark side."
Lisa Murkowski was finally certified yesterday, and we'll hear what Joe Miller decides to do today at around 6 ET.
And, Maine is asking for an exemption to a rule in the health care law that "insurers must devote at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect to medical claims or other activities that improve customers' health - leaving no more than 20 percent for the insurer's administrative costs or profits," the Washington Post notes. "Companies that do not spend enough on the right purposes will have to refund the difference to their customers in 2012."
The Post notes that even though concerns have been expressed by a dozen states, "Maine is the only state to have asked the Obama administration for an exemption."
When evaluating President Obama’s -- or a Republican challenger’s -- chances in 2012 relative to the jobless rate, history is instructive.
No American president since WWII has been reelected with unemployment as high as it is today. In fact, no presidential election has taken place since WWII with unemployment as high as it is today.
The highest unemployment rate in November of a presidential year was in 1976, when it was 7.8%. Jimmy Carter was elected then, but lost reelection four years later when unemployment remained at similar rate of 7.5%. Unemployment during Carter’s presidency dropped to as low as 5.6% in May 1979, but it ballooned more than two points in a year and a half.
Unemployment so far under President Obama tracks more closely the presidency of Ronald Reagan. The jobless rate continued to climb to half a century highs during the first two years of Reagan’s presidency. In November and December 1982, right after the midterm elections in which Republicans saw double-digit losses, unemployment hit a record high of 10.8%. But it began to consistently drop beginning in January 1983, something Obama and his supporters hope will also happen in 2011. Today, unemployment is 9.8%, the highest since June 1983.
By December 1983, unemployment dropped two-and-a-half percentage points from that 10.8% high to 8.3%. By November 1984, it was 7.2%, and Reagan won in a landslide. The jobless rate continued to drop during Reagan’s second term to as low as 5.3% before again rising to as high as 7.8% in June 1992, five months before Bill Clinton -- whose campaign famously used the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” -- was elected.
Currently President Obama's approval rating is actually higher than Reagan's was at the same time, but unemployment is likely going to have to come down for the president to follow in Reagan's footsteps.
From NBC's Political Unit Passage of health care reform, financial reform, START, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Watch the final segment of Inside the Boiler Room for 2010 as Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss how the 111th Congress accomplished more, legislatively, than any other Congress since the 1960s.
A special thanks to JonboGreen for submitting the question via First Read. Happy New Year!
Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor mulling a 2012 Republican presidential run, will issue the early release of two sisters serving life sentences in his state for armed robbery.
The move came after the NAACP mounted a national campaign to free the women, who are black. About $11 was stolen off the man robbed, according to the Washington Post and the women have served 16 years each of those life sentences so far. Three men also involved served just three years of an eight-year sentence, Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP, told MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports this afternoon.
The Washington Post noted: “Barbour, who is weighing a run for president, announced his decision a week after he ran afoul of civil rights advocates. Last week, Barbour backtracked on comments he made about the civil rights era in Mississippi.”
So was his move politically motivated? That’s not necessarily the case. Barbour and his administration have been considering the commutation for months -- something Jealous, who praised Barbour for his handling of the cases, confirmed on air as well.
Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so.
“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”
Barbour, however, later responded to the magazine this way:
“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the "Citizens Council," is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”
Race is always a tinderbox in American politics. And you can bet it would be a closely covered subject in a campaign pitting the first black president against, as Barbour said himself, a Southern white conservative.
When asked about controversies surrounding Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele -- and whether he’s judged differently because he’s African American -- Barbour said on CNN, "When you're a fat redneck like me and got an accent like mine you can say, 'Well they're gonna hold me to a higher standard.”
Whether or not the timing of the commutations is related to politics, it’s never a bad thing for a potential candidate to have the NAACP saying good things about them, when they were being branded by political opponents a week earlier as racist.
On NBC’s Today show this morning, Christine O’Donnell (R), who lost her bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, denied allegations that she misused campaign funds for personal expenses – rent and paying her mother as a consultant, for example. She blamed it on the “establishment,” but stopped short of wanting to use the word “conspiracy.”
A point of context: All of these allegations were known during the campaign. What’s new here is that there’s now a federal investigation under way that will tell us if, in fact, she violated campaign-finance law.
Here’s O’Donnell’s statement from last night, per Campaign Manager Matt Moran:
"We have heard absolutely nothing other than the same unsubstantiated allegations and rumors that have been circulating in the press for months. If anything does materialize from this rumor, we will continue to fully cooperate as we have made every attempt to ensure we are in compliance with all rules and regulations. The politically motivated charge was all started by false accusations by Christine's political opponents, and ratcheted up by former Biden staffer Melanie Sloan and CREW with their false claims. Let us be clear: there was no impermissible use of campaign funds. Period. This is just an ongoing effort by the George Soros-funded CREW and other liberal groups and individuals to intimidate and threaten Christine, even after the election."
Christine O'Donnell continued, "Since anonymous sources are being taken seriously, please allow me to share some tips I've received and keep the tipsters' identities anonymous. We've been warned by multiple high-ranking Democrat insiders that the Delaware Democrat and Republican political establishment is jointly planning to pull out all the stops to ensure I would never again upset the apple cart. Specifically they told me the plan was to crush me with investigations, lawsuits and false accusations so that my political reputation would become so toxic no one would ever get behind me. I was warned by numerous sources that the DE political establishment is going to use every resource available to them.
So given that the King of the Delaware Political Establishment just so happens to be the Vice President of the most liberal Presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table. And further connecting the dots, do you think it is just a coincidence that Melanie Sloan was a senior Biden staffer just before she joined CREW and filed her complaint against me?!
"I have faith that our supporters and the general public will see right through these thug tactics. This is simply an Establishment trick to stop the anti-establishment Tea Party movement in its tracks. Heck, the Presidency is at stake in 2012."
Murkowski to be certified today: Alaska’s long statewide nightmare is over. Lisa Murkowski (R) will be certified officially today as the winner of the Alaska Senate race, the first time since 1954 that someone has won a write-in bid for the U.S. Senate. The governor and lieutenant governor will sign her certification today and then it will be hand-delivered to Washington, so she can be sworn in by Wednesday when the new Congress convenes. Because of the four-hour time delay, they’re going to have to get started early.
Or is it? NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports that Joe Miller (R) is holding a press conference at 6 pm ET on his plans. He has said he might keep up the legal fight despite the fact that he’s unlikely to win future appeals and the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up the case.
‘Tea Party-ization of Congress’: The Washington Post reports, “When Republicans take over the House next week, they will do something that apparently has never been done before in the chamber's 221-year history: They will read the Constitution aloud. And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the lawmaker who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation. Call it the tea party-ization of Congress.”
“As promised in the Pledge, members will not be able to introduce a bill or joint resolution without a ‘statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact’ it. This will serve to refocus members of Congress, with every bill they introduce, on the Constitution that they take an oath to support and defend.”
2012 Watch: After the NAACP mounted a national campaign to free two black Mississippi sisters serving an unusually long sentence for armed robbery, Gov. Haley Barbour says he’ll issue them an early release. They have served 16 years of their sentence. The men were robbed of $11. One of the sisters is in poor health; she requires regular dialysis. The Washington Post notes: “Barbour, who is weighing a run for president, announced his decision a week after he ran afoul of civil rights advocates. Last week, Barbour backtracked on comments he made about the civil rights era in Mississippi.”
In Recess: President Obama made six recess appointments, bypassing Congress where his appointments had been held up by Republicans. One of the appointments is the first American ambassador to Syria in five years. And the deputy attorney general James Cole is particularly controversial, because he equated the 9/11 attacks to criminal acts.
Vacation, all I ever wanted: President Obama’s vacation will be extended by a day. "After the extended lame duck and five-day delay of his trip here, he's just trying to squeeze in more time with his family before returning to Washington,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
Speaking of vacations: The lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, who was out of state at the same time New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on vacation at Disney World was actually in Mexico to be with her ailing father, suffering from Stage IV cancer, the South Jersey Courier-Post reported. (Hat tip: Political Wire).
Just a reminder: The ASPCA sent the following statement to First Read on President Obama’s phone call to the Philadelphia Eagles’ owner on giving Michael Vick a second chance:
“The ASPCA would like to remind the public that Michael Vick pled guilty to helping torture and kill dogs because they didn't perform well in his dogfighting ring. While we do believe in second chances, we also support the conditions of Michael Vick’s probation, which prohibit him from owning, buying or selling dogs for three years from the date of his July 2009 release from federal prison. Mr. Vick’s performance on the gridiron may continue to attract attention and accolades, but we believe the final measure of his newly found compassion toward animals can only be borne out over time."
In non-U.S. political news: Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, 65, was convicted of rape and could face four to 16 years in prison.
AP reports that "federal authorities have opened a criminal probe of Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses."
This became an issue in her 2010 U.S. Senate bid. A complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission, because "O'Donnell used more than $20,000 in campaign funds to pay her rent and other personal expenses, according to a complaint filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission," the AP reported Sept. 21st. It added, "The complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group, is the latest in a series of allegations of financial irregularities involving O'Donnell, a conservative Christian activist and frequent candidate who has not had a steady job in years."
O'Donnell said at the time, "I am confident that we have been ethical. We have not, I personally have not, misused the campaign funds. We have our FEC lawyer, a great attorney, answering those charges if it ever goes anywhere."
AP today added, "The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been sent to a grand jury. O'Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has been dogged by questions about her finances. Her former campaign manager did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions."
Sarah Palin (R) remains a divisive figure. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that measured her favorability ratings showed the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee about as polarizing as Nancy Pelosi.
A CNN poll out yesterday showed her numbers dropping among Republicans. One reason: Republicans are trying to figure out who can win, and her high negatives, particularly among independents, don't help. Why do you think it's happening, and what does it mean for the 2012 Republican field?
Take our poll at right and let us know who you think will be the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee.
I was on with MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell this morning on The Daily Rundown, talking about a CNN poll out that shows Democrats widely supportive of the president -- 78% say they want President Obama to seek reelection, the highest number this year. That is more than 20 points higher than those that said so for former President Bill Clinton after the 1994 midterm elections.
President Obama, though, certainly has his challenges, notably the continuing high unemployment. Take our poll at the right and let us know if you think President Obama will be reelected in 2012 or not.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) are facing bubbling anger among New Jersey and New York residents upset with their handling of the snow. Lots of roads are still unplowed. And people were again waiting on planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport last night for hours.
The New York Times, in its headline, wrote that the snow “chastens Bloomberg” and the (Newark) Star-Ledger called it, “A Failure of Leadership,” a day after writing that it was “absent-minded” for both Christie and his lieutenant governor being out of state on vacation at the same time when forecasters were warning of this storm for days.
Murkowski to be certified tomorrow:Pete Williams reported on First Read last night that a federal judge in Alaska lifted the stay on Lisa Murkowski’s (R) certification. Alaska officials say she’ll be certified tomorrow.
Warning shot: Congressman Danny Davis, running for mayor of Chicago, is warning former President Bill Clinton to stay out of the mayoral race. Clinton had indicated he would campaign for former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Davis, who is black, said in a press release yesterday that if Clinton campaigns with Emanuel his relationship with the African-American community “may be fractured and perhaps even broken.” Speaking of vacations, Emanuel is vacationing in Thailand.
The Replacement: AP speculates on who could replace White House economic adviser Larry Summers, set to depart by the end of the week. A replacement is expected to be named early next year. Head of the president’s economic council is key job with unemployment, which sits at 9.8%, the top issue for voters. AP: “Will [President Obama] tap the business world with a figure such as Roger Altman, an investment banker and Clinton administration alumnus who might carry too much baggage from his association with Wall Street? Will he turn to academia instead, calling on a scholar such Yale President Richard Levin? Or will he go with deeply experienced insiders such as deficit hawk Gene Sperling at the Treasury Department or Jason Furman, the council's deputy director?”
On high alert: The president’s vacations haven’t been so event-free. Remember, last Christmas was the so-called underwear bomber on a plane to Detroit. This one, however, has been very quiet. The Times, however, reports that President Obama was “peeved” last year when he couldn’t get in touch with his top national security adviser John Brennan. But this year, he’s gotten a “communications upgrade,” the Times writes, adding, “Mr. Obama and his advisers, still smarting over the criticism they received for the seemingly flat-footed response, have gone into overdrive to prepare for what counterterrorism experts say is a heightened threat this holiday season.”
From NBC's Pete Williams A federal judge has lifted a stay that blocked the state from certifying the winner of the state's disputed U.S. Senate election. The state is now free to certify Lisa Murkowski as the winner, and she can join other senators in taking the oath of office Jan. 5th in Washington.
Federal Judge Ralph Beistline also dismissed Republican candidate's Joe Miller's lawsuit, rejecting Miller’s claims that the state's method for tabulating write-in votes violated the federal Constitution. Miller argued that state law required voters to write in a candidate's name precisely, with no abbreviations or misspellings. He challenged the state's interpretation of the law, which allowed votes to be counted despite minor misspellings.
Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the state, holding that the key to interpreting election law is preventing votes from being tossed out if a voter's intent can be determined. The state court said the law doesn't require perfection in how a candidate's name is written.
In his ruling Tuesday dismissing Miller's lawsuit, Judge Beistline called the Alaska law "poorly drafted," and added that, "Wisdom would suggest that the Alaska legislature act to clarify it to avoid similar disputes in the future." Nonetheless, he said the Alaska Supreme Court is the final authority on the meaning of the state's laws.
"This court declines to second-guess the highest court of the state," he said.
From NBC's Political Unit 2010 was a busy year in politics - health care reform, START, taxes, and much more. What's next? Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro give their take on what may be ahead for the political world in 2011.
Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will participate in the Jan. 3rd debate for RNC chair, the Web site The Daily Caller reports. (The Daily Caller is co-sponsoring the debate with fiscal conservative Grover Norquist's group Americans for Tax Reform and the anti-abortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List.)
VIDEO: NBC's Domenico Montanaro reports on the RNC Chair race and that Chairman Steele will participate:
Steele suprised the political world when he announced he would seek reelection. And he lost a key backer yesterday, when California committeeman Shawn Steel defected.
Steele is also facing an Anybody but Steele campaign. Committee members are pushing a "No Deal with Steele Pledge," hoping to force the other candidates not to cut a deal with Steele that could keep him in the job.
Few believe Steele will be able to corral the 85 votes of the 168 committee members to win reelection.
Five others are running for the post, including Wisconsin GOP chair and former RNC general counsel Reince Priebus, a former staunch Steele ally; Saul Anuzis, a Michigan committeeman; former RNC political director Gentry Collins, who penned a damning letter which many think severely damaged Steele's chances at reelection; Maria Cino, a former Bush administration official; and Ann Wagner, a former Missouri party chairwoman.
Steele's participation means the forum at the National Press Club will be quite the spectacle, exactly what party committee members hoped to avoid.
This morning, I was on with MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell on The Daily Rundown, and we talked about the RNC Chair race. What do you think are Michael Steele's chances, and who do you think will be the next chairman? Take our poll at right.
From NBC's Pete Williams Election officials in Alaska are asking a federal judge to act today, so that Lisa Murkowski can be sworn in with other U.S. senators on Jan. 5th.
"The logistics of the certification process require a quick decision," the state says in newly filed court documents. Senate rules require the certification to be delivered to the Senate before noon on Jan. 3rd -- this coming Monday. What's more, the state says, the certification document must be signed by both Alaska's governor and lieutenant governor, who live in different cities. A state employee is standing by to fly to Washington and deliver the certification, but the judge must lift a stay he put in place November 19th if the process is to be completed in time, election officials claim.
The state also urges the judge to reject Republican Joe Miller's latest request to keep alive his lawsuit challenging the state's method for counting write-in votes.
As a footnote, the Constitution requires members of Congress to meet every Jan. 3rd, "unless they shall by law appoint a different day." In late November, Congress did appoint a different day, specifying that in 2011 it would meet on Jan. 5th. Even so, Alaskan officials say in their court filings, "the Secretary of the Senate will not represent to the state that the deadline to deliver the certification is any later than January 3."
Before the blizzard that walloped the Northeast, New Jersey's controversial Gov. Chris Christie went to Disney World. He didn't fly back when he heard of the news. And compounding the issue, his No. 2, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, was (and still is) on vacation in Mexico with her family, leaving the state Senate president in charge.
Christie, who has seen a slight decline in his popularity recently, is facing criticism for that from state Senate Democrats and the state's largest paper's editorial board. The lieutenant governor position is a new one, created after disgraced Democratic former Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned. McGreevey’s resignation left a leadership void that installed then-state Sen. President Richard Codey as acting governor for 14 months.
Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella dismissed the criticism, telling Politico's Ben Smith, "Snow in the northeast happens often which is why the response was handled expeditiously between the acting governor, secretary of transportation, state police and governor's staff with all the appropriate and necessary coordination. And like every other day, the Governor was and continues to be in regular contact with his staff and cabinet officers."
But this wasn't just a regular snow fall; Elizabeth, N.J., for example, saw a record 30 inches come down. The New York Times notes that the reputations of other elected officials -- former Chicago Mayor Michael A. Bilandic, DC Mayor Marion Barry, and Denver Mayor William H. McNichols Jr., for example -- were badly damaged because of their handling of snow emergencies.
The (Newark) Star-Ledger’s editorial board called the move of both the governor and lieutenant governor being on vacation at the same time “absent-minded.” It notes Guadagno pulls a salary of $141,000. “Maybe next year,” the paper wrote, “the state’s two top executives will plan their vacations better so someone from the team is in charge. That’s how this was supposed to work.”
For the dogs: The Washington Post’s Perry Bacon notes that President Obama’s call to the Philadelphia Eagles owner praising them for giving Michael Vick a second chance, shows again that he’s willing to take on divisive social issues, citing the Skip Gates controversy, Kanye West, and that his views on gay marriage are “evolving.”
PBS’s David Chalian noted on Twitter, “So if 2012 is Romney v. Obama, dog lovers have no candidate.”
Remember that Romney faced criticism in 2007 from animal-rights groups after it was revealed that he had strapped his dog to the roof of the family car on a 12-hour drive to Canada. “PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air,” Romney said at the time.
Huckabee leads ’12 field; Palin fades: By the way, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows Mike Huckabee leading the field of potential 2012 candidates -- 67% of Republicans said they would be likely to support him if he runs; Romney was second – with 59%; Newt Gingrich was third with 54%; and Sarah Palin saw a significant decline -- just 49% said they would support the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential nominee with 51% saying they would not. That’s down 18 points from the first week of December, when 67% said they were likely to support her.
Chicago, Obama's kind of town: As most of us expected, the Obama reelection campaign will be headquartered in Chicago. It’s long been known that adviser David Axelrod would head to Chicago early next year to work on the reelection effort. The move appears unprecedented, however, in modern history. “George W. Bush's 2004 campaign, Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign, George H.W. Bush's 1992 campaign, Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign, Jimmy Carter's 1980 campaign, Gerald Ford's 1976 campaign and, of course, Richard Nixon's infamous Committee to Reelect the President were all based in suburban Virginia or Washington,” Politico writes.
Budget Valentine: The White House will unveil its 2012 budget on Feb. 14, a week later than scheduled, because OMB Director Jacob Lew’s nomination was held up in Congress, National Journal reports.
'Cut As You Go': National Journal adds that Republicans want to implement a “cut-as-you-go” policy that would require cutting spending dollar for dollar for new spending, though that would not include tax cuts. The bipartisan Committee for Responsible Federal Budget says the plan likely would lead to higher deficits.
Going Greene: Oddball candidate Alvin Greene is running again. This time for a state House seat in South Carolina, The State reports. Greene badly lost his 2010 bid for U.S. Senate against Sen. Jim DeMint (R).
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was surprised to hear the president's voice on the phone. Barack Obama had two things to discuss with Lurie: the redemption of Michael Vick and the alternative-energy plans Lurie unveiled this fall for Lincoln Financial Field. I talked about the Vick story on NBC last night.
"The president wanted to talk about two things, but the first was Michael,'' Lurie told me. "He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance. He was ... passionate about it. He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''
Lurie said Obama and he talked football. "He's a real football fan,'' Lurie said. "He loves his Bears. He really follows it. He knew how Michael was doing. It was really interesting to hear.''
The Eagles announced last month they would run the first self-sufficient alternative-energy sports stadium in the country. They'll install 80 spiral wind turbines to the stadium and mount 2,500 solar panels. Together, those devices will power about 30 percent of the stadium's energy needs. In addition, a biodiesel plant will be built nearby and that alternative energy source will help power (along with natural gas) the remaining 70 percent of the stadium's power needs. In addition, the project to install all the devices will employ 200 people for a year in, obviously, a down economy.
Over the course of the stadium's life, the team believes it can save $60 million in energy costs. That was big to Lurie, who's aggressively conservation-minded. He told Obama he was happy to put a plan like this in place, but he wouldn't have done it unless it made some financial sense. "It's good business for us, which is the point,'' Lurie said. "We talked about policy and what he hopes can happen with alternative energy, and he raved about us being the first to put a plan like this in place.''
From NBC's Pete Williams Alaska Republican Joe Miller is asking a federal judge to lift an order that blocked the state from certifying Lisa Murkowski as the winner of the state's U.S. Senate election. But, at the same time, Miller urges the judge to let him continue challenging the method that was used to count write-in ballots.
A federal judge had set a deadline of 9 am Monday, Alaska time, for filing legal papers to keep the lawsuit alive. "With the election results certified, and Alaska's full congressional delegation representing the interests of Alaska's citizens in Congress, it will not be necessary to dispose of this case in an extremely expedited manner," Miller's lawyers said in court documents filed shortly before the deadline.
They asked the judge to suspend the deadline for Miller to seek a recount or to challenge the manner in which the votes were tallied.
Miller originally went to federal court a week after the general election, claiming the state was improperly counting write-in votes for Murkowski. The federal lawsuit was on hold while Miller and elections officials battled in state court over the meaning of a provision of Alaska election law. It specifies that a write-in vote must be counted if the name of the candidate is written as it appears on the candidate's declaration to run.
Miller argued that the law requires voters to write a candidate's name precisely, with no abbreviations or misspellings. He challenged the state's interpretation of the law, which allowed votes to be counted despite minor misspellings.
Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the state, holding that the key to interpreting election law is preventing votes from being tossed out if a voter's intent can be determined. The court said the law doesn't require perfection in how a candidate's name is written.
From NBC's Alexandra Moe President Obama overwhelmingly remains the most admired man in America for the third year in a row. And, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to be viewed as the most admired woman for the ninth consecutive year.
These findings come for the new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll in which President Obama received 22 percent of the vote with former President George W. Bush coming in second place with just 5 percent, but he’s top with Republicans.
According to Gallup, sitting presidents have dominated the most admired man poll over the years. Since Gallup began asking the question in 1946, the president has achieved No. 1 status 52 out of 64 times.
Hillary Clinton continues to top the list of most admired women, making this her 15th No. 1 ranking since she first appeared in 1992. Sarah Palin was ranked second overall (one point ahead of Oprah Winfrey). And she was first with Republicans. First Lady Michelle Obama came in fourth overall. Interestingly enough, the order of the top six women this year is identical to those from the 2009 poll.
A few other notes from the most admired polls: -Glenn Beck ties for sixth place with two religious leaders: Pope Benedict XVI and Billy Graham (in addition to Jimmy Carter) -Three Bushes, two Obamas, and two Clintons made it in the Top 10 -Neither list contains an athlete or a current member of Congress -Evangelist Billy Graham has continued to make the top 10 every year since 1955
HERE ARE THE COMPLETE 10 MOST ADMIRED LISTS
Most admired man 1. Barack Obama 2. George W. Bush 3. Bill Clinton 4. Nelson Mandela 5. Bill Gates 6. (tied) Pope Benedict XVI 6. (tied) Billy Graham 8. (tied) Jimmy Carter 8. (tied) Glenn Beck 10. The Dalai Lama
Most admired woman 1. Hillary Clinton 2. Sarah Palin 3. Oprah Winfrey 4. Michelle Obama 5. Condoleezza Rice 6. Queen Elizabeth 7. Angelina Jolie 8. Margaret Thatcher 9. (tied) Aung San Suu Kyi 9. (tied) Laura Bush 9. (tied) Barbara Bush
Source: USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,019 adults taken Dec. 10-12, 2010.
Joe Miller (R-AK) says he won't hold up Lisa Murkowski's (R-ite-in-AK) certification as senator from Alaska. But he's keeping up his legal fight for the people of Alaska, who, he says deserve a better recount system.
- We have a frontrunner: In the RNC Chair race, all signs are pointing to the front runner being Reince Priebus, the Wisconsin GOP chairman/RNC lawyer/former Michael Steele ally. As is par for the RNC Chair race course, most members are undecided, though Priebus leads in the Hotline's latest whip count.
- Et tu, Steel? By the way, a key Steele supporter has defected, California committeeman Shawn Steel (no e). Without Steel's support, RNC members think it would be tough for Steele (with an e) to get the 85 votes of 168 needed to win reelection. Chris Cillizza over the weekend awarded Steele the "Worst Year in Washington" winner.
- Stemming the 'Birther' tide: The new Hawaii governor, Neil Abercrombie -- a former congressman, who was friends with President Obama's parents -- says he's going to push to change state law to release more information on Obama's birth in the state in an effort to stop (or at least reduce) the persistent birthers. “It’s an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father; they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that,” he told the New York Times Thursday. “It’s an emotional insult. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office.”
- The Zombie Phrase: The 2009 Politifact Lie of the Year, "Death Panels," may be making a comeback. The New York Times reported yesterday, "Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. ... The new rule says Medicare will cover 'voluntary advance care planning,' to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit." The Obama administration is firing back, saying this is a continuation of Bush policies. The Wall Street Journal: "The White House on Sunday said the new Medicare directive, reported Sunday by the New York Times, doesn't constitute a resurrection of the original health-care-bill language. It said the George W. Bush administration had already put in place guidelines allowing for Medicare to pay for end-of-life consultations."
- 2012 Watch: With lots of candidates waiting to see how the field shakes out, it looks like some potential top-tier candidates are going to feel the scrutiny, even without announcing yet. First, it was Haley Barbour's comments on race from the 1980s. Now Politico writes of his use of private jets, which it frames as a continuation of his days as a lobbyist with this headline: "In tough economic times, Barbour still flies high." And this key line: "The trips, according to a POLITICO review of the Cessna’s flight manifest since 2007, have mixed state business with both pleasure and national politics." Mitt Romney, who has been running for 2012 seemingly since 2008, is already feeling the scrutiny with tough AP and Boston Globe pieces looking at the former Massachusetts governor's positions on health care, START, and the tax cuts deal.
- Let's not debate: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is one who's waiting to announce and he's turning down debates for now.
- All the political world's a stage... Juan Williams said on FOX that Sarah Palin commands the stage like no other 2012 GOPer but added that she's not on the same "intellectual stage" as Obama. Palin has yet to respond on FOX, where she, too, is a paid contributor, on Facebook or Twitter, where she's been "silent" since Christmas Eve.
- Long December: And maybe the threat of another long, cold Winter was just too much for Bristol Palin. She's headed to the mainland, plunking down $172,000 for a 3,900-square foot brown stucco home in Maricopa, AZ. The property in what's described as a modest development, had been foreclosed on. Hollywood gossip site TMZ says she's moving to attend college, possibly at Arizona State University.
From NBC's John Yang Earlier this morning, the hearing officer -- a Republican -- examining the residency challenges into Rahm Emanuel's bid for Chicago mayor recommended that Emanuel be placed on the ballot.
The hearing officer concluded that Emanuel did not abandon his residency rights when he moved to Washington to be President Obama's chief of staff, and that Illinois law expressly protects the voting and residency rights of those absent "on business of the United States, or of this state."
Today, the three-member Chicago Board of Elections is meeting to consider the challenges to Emanuel's residency eligibility to be Chicago mayor. It's not certain when a vote will be held -- as each of the nearly 30 objectors, Emanuel, or their lawyers has the right to address the board before they vote.
Whatever the outcome, the vote will not be the last word. The decision is virtually certain to be appealed, so the issue will ultimately be decided by the courts.
The board is made up of two Democrats and one Republican. Members are appointed by the Cook County circuit court's chief judge.