The race remains a stalemate:
Priebus - 58
Cino - 29
Steele - 28
Wagner - 28
Anuzis - 24
There was one write in for an ineligible candidate.
The race remains a stalemate:
Priebus - 58
Cino - 29
Steele - 28
Wagner - 28
Anuzis - 24
There was one write in for an ineligible candidate.
Michael Steele unintentionally said it best himself at a debate for chairman of the Republican National Committee: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," he said, incorrectly attributing the line to "War and Peace," which he called his favorite book. (It's from "A Tale of Two Cities.")
Today, at a sprawling resort just outside Washington, Steele delivering a speech -- in his capacity as RNC chairman -- was essentially his last pitch to members before today's vote of the 168 committee members who, will determine his fate this afternoon.
"You shocked the world," he told the assembled members, as he delivered the chairman's report on the past two years.
Steele was deferential, crediting members with wins in 2009 in Virginia and New Jersey as well as touting the committee's efforts to take back the House and place John Boehner as speaker.
Of course, Steele once said, "I won" the Virginia and New Jersey races. Today, he said, "You won." And he once said the GOP wouldn't take back the House. "Not this year," he said.
But Steele is looking to be re-hired for this job, so he made sure to shower the members with praise.
"It does not get done without you, our state chairmen and our national committeemen and women," Steele said. He added, "You did not shrink from the challenge. You did not walk away from the opportunity. The effort of our party speaks for itself."
Sounding a bit like failed Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell (R), he said, "For the first time in a generation, we saw us. ... We drew in America. They responded to your voice; they responded to your efforts.
He touted the GOP's electoral successes in 2009 and 2010, calling the RNC "one of the best committees in a long time."
He lauded get-out-the-vote efforts, more offices in states, the RNC's new Web site, and winning even mayoral races in places like Albuquerque, NM, county offices in Upstate NY, and even in Guam.
Yes, today Guam votes, too.
"I want to thank you so much," Steele said, "so much for the chance to serve at a time when our party was changing. ... We stand proud."
Regardless of the outcome of today's vote, Steele told the RNC to "appreciate what you have done" to "establish a Republican renaissance."
In concluding his remarks, Steele exhorted the audience "to give the Democrats Hell over the next two years."
Get ready for a new RNC chairman… The five candidates in today’s race: Michael Steele (who unlikely will keep his job), Reince Priebus (who’s considered the front-runner and is backed by Team Barbour), Saul Anuzis (who ran for the job two years ago and has the social network caucus), Ann Wagner (who’s viewed as being closest to the Bush world), and Maria Cino (backed by Boehner and Cheney)…. What to watch: If Priebus is in the high 60s on the first vote, he’ll probably win. If not, it’s anybody’s game… Winner is the first to get to 85 votes out of 168... Obama to deliver remarks at Richard Holbrooke’s funeral… Jeb Bush and other Republicans court the Hispanic vote in Florida…T-Paw’s good week… Gingrich and Barbour speak at House GOP retreat in Baltimore… “Meet” lineup: Gillibrand, Schumer, Coburn… And the 2012 cycle’s first retirement: Kay Bailey Hutchison.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Steele’s last day? Unless the shocking happens -- on par with Hillary beating Obama in New Hampshire, or Jesse Ventura winning the race for Minnesota governor -- the Republican National Committee will elect someone other than Michael Steele to be the party’s next chairman at the RNC’s winter meeting today. We have two questions. One, just who will that person be? And two, will that person be able to turn around the RNC’s finances (its debt is $20 million) and make the committee relevant again as we head into 2012? There are five candidates: 1) Steele, who surprised almost everyone in deciding to run for re-election after a rocky first term; 2) Wisconsin state party chairman Reince Priebus, who’s viewed as the front-runner; 3) Michigan committeeman Saul Anuzis, who ran for chair two years ago; 4) former Missouri party chair Ann Wagner; and 5) former Bush administration official Maria Cino.
*** Meet the challengers: National Journal’s Reid Wilson has noted that the four Republicans challenging Steele have their different backers. “Priebus … is seen as the candidate backed by the Republican Governors Association and, by extension, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour… Cino is getting help behind the scenes from House Speaker John Boehner… She’s also receiving aid from former Vice President Dick Cheney and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie… [Wagner] has scored endorsements from such conservative luminaries as John Bolton and John Ashcroft, and she is seen as the candidate closest to former President Bush’s team… Anuzis has tried to set himself up as the outsider candidate… He has close ties to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, although Gingrich is neutral in the race.”
*** What to watch: According to Hotline’s count, Priebus has public commitments from 43 of the RNC’s 168 members, Steele has 17, Wagner 15, Anuzis 14, and Cino 12. The winner is the first to obtain a majority of the RNC members (so 85 votes), and it’s likely that it will take several rounds of voting to get there. (The 2009 vote that elected Steele went six rounds.) Today’s voting begins around 12:30 pm ET, and here’s how the process works: The 168 members write down their votes on a piece of paper, walk up and put their ballots in boxes, and those votes are tallied by an independent accounting firm. If no candidate gets the necessary 85 votes, there will be a 20-minute break before another round of voting. What to watch: “I am looking to see Priebus’ first-ballot number, and then the movement after the second ballot,” a GOP strategist emails First Read. “If Reince posts 67 or 68, it could be quick. Under 60, and ballot No. 3 becomes ‘Let’s make a deal.’ That’s when it gets fun.” Bottom line: The more ballots this thing goes, the tougher it will be for Priebus.
*** Obama today: At 11:15 am ET, President Obama meets at the White House with President Zardari of Pakistan. And at 3:00 pm, Obama -- along with Vice President Biden -- attends Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s funeral in DC, where the president will deliver remarks. This has to have been an emotionally exhausting week for the Obama White House with the tragedy in Tucson, Holbrooke’s funeral, and the death of a top aide’s wife.
*** Courting the Hispanic vote: The Republican Party’s struggles with Hispanic voters have been well documented. In 2004, Bush won approximately 40% of the Latino vote, but that percentage shrank to 30% in 2006 and 31% in 2008. Last November, it headed back up to 38% -- though still below the 40%-plus threshold that many GOP strategists say is needed to win in a presidential contest and the GOP’s performance was subpar in the West. Well, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has helped organize the inaugural Hispanic Leadership Network conference in Coral Gables, FL, which seeks to strengthen the GOP’s bonds with the Hispanic community. Yet there’s this hitch: Only one potential GOP presidential candidate is addressing the group, Tim Pawlenty (who speaks today at 12:10 pm ET). Those who are attending include Jeb Bush (who delivers opening remarks at 9:20 am), former Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez (9:55 am), Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (9:55 am), and Sen. John Cornyn (11:10 am). Politico reports that Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, will address the confab via video.
*** T-Paw’s good week: Speaking of Pawlenty, while we thought this week’s events would overshadow the beginning of the former governor’s book tour, it turns out he had a nice week -- getting plenty of coverage at the National Press Club and pick up with his TV interviews. There’s a long way to go, and he’ll be an underdog in a GOP presidential field if he runs, but T-Paw has to be feeling good right now.
*** Barbour, Gingrich to address House GOP retreat: While just one potential GOP presidential candidate is speaking at the Hispanic Leadership Network in Florida, two will be addressing today the House GOP retreat in Baltimore: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Politico: "Much of what will go on in Charm City is a reflection of where the Republican Party is in 2011. It’s looking to decentralize more power to the states, and has invited Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Rick Perry of Texas and Bob McDonnell of Virginia to talk about 'Solutions for the States.' House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, whose group will run the retreat, invited [Phil] Gramm, his political mentor and former boss, to speak on a breakfast panel with Gingrich." http://politi.co/fVxRvI
*** Meet the Press lineup: On Sunday, “Meet the Press” will interview New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) to get an update on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) condition. The show also will have Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Tom Coburn (R), and a roundtable consisting of Al Sharpton, Tim Shriver, Peggy Noonan, and David Brooks.
*** 2012’s first retirement: Finally, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) became the first retirement of the 2012 cycle, with her announcement yesterday that she won’t run for another term in 2012. Two things: 1) While many Republicans want her seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the 800-pound gorilla. "If Dewhurst gets in, I think he clears the field," the Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy tells First Read. 2) Despite their rhetoric, Democrats don’t have a good shot at picking up this seat. Texas has gotten harder for Democrats in the last 10 years, not easier -- which is counter to the C.W. Dems like to sell about the state.
Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 39 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 298 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 388 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
Paul Krugman’s New York Times column: “[T]he truth is that we are a deeply divided nation and are likely to remain one for a long time. By all means, let’s listen to each other more carefully; but what we’ll discover, I fear, is how far apart we are. For the great divide in our politics isn’t really about pragmatic issues, about which policies work best; it’s about differences in those very moral imaginations Mr. Obama urges us to expand, about divergent beliefs over what constitutes justice.”
David Brooks’: "President Obama gave a wonderful speech in Tucson on Wednesday night. He didn’t try to explain the rampage that occurred there. Instead, he used the occasion as a national Sabbath — as a chance to step out of the torrent of events and reflect... Of course, even a great speech won’t usher in a period of civility. Speeches about civility will be taken to heart most by those people whose good character renders them unnecessary. Meanwhile, those who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness will temporarily resolve to do better but then slip back to old habits the next time their pride feels threatened."
National Journal’s Brownstein: “[W]hen political arguments are routinely framed as threats to America’s fundamental character, the odds rise that the most disturbed among us will be tempted to resist the governing agenda by any means necessary.”
"An ultimate fighter wishes he could take back the fighting words he flung at the President. In the aftermath of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings that left six dead and 14 injured, Jacob Volkmann said he regrets saying he would like to fight President Obama and 'knock some sense into that idiot.' 'I would never make that comment if that shooting happened first,' the 30-year-old UFC lightweight told the Huffington Post."
"President Bill Clinton will appear at a campaign rally with Rahm Emanuel in Chicago next week," Roll Call reports, adding, " The event will be held at the Chicago Cultural Center at 11 a.m. Tuesday."
"The House will begin debating the health care repeal bill next week, following a week when legislative action was halted after the Tucson shooting tragedy," the Boston Globe writes. " House majority leader Eric Cantor’s office said yesterday that debate on the bill, which passed a procedural hurdle last Friday, is expected to begin when the House convenes on Tuesday. A vote is expected on Wednesday."
The Washington Post adds, “[N]o one quite knows what normal will look like, following a wrenching week in which members confronted concerns about their own safety and whether their heated rhetoric played any role in last Saturday's shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 18 others.”
The New York Times: “In a statement, Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the office of the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, said, ‘It is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week.’”
National Journal's Charlie Cook: "Much of the speculation about the implications of the tragic Tucson shooting has centered on whether it will lead to any meaningful change in the incendiary rhetoric that has been on the rise in American political campaigns and on Internet sites, cable television, and talk radio. A more productive line of thought is to look at whether the tragedy will change the strategy and tactics of the new Republican majority in the House and, more broadly, the 100 GOP freshmen in the House and Senate."
He adds, "The Tucson rampage is unlikely to change Republicans’ political philosophies or positions. It may serve, however, as a strong signal that they should approach things more cautiously and think before saying anything that a typical swing voter might find extreme. Members from safe districts are pretty insulated from blowback if they use extreme language, but in the world of the Internet and 24/7 cable TV, a particularly strident statement can hurt their colleagues who may not have the luxury of representing a ruby-red district."
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer likes the idea of commingled bipartisan seating at the State of the Union. The idea was pitched by centrist group Third Way and also endorsed by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). Also endorsing the idea is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ).
Politico's headline: "Zero hour for Michael Steele at RNC."
From the story: "While each of the four party insiders seeking to oust Chairman Michael Steele– who took office less than two years ago with a pledge to give the RNC 'something completely different' – brings a unique set of skills, none have the national stature to compete with Steele’s TV-ready style. Still, the former Maryland lieutenant governor enters Friday’s voting in a dire position, with a majority of RNC members less inclined to praise Steele than to replace him." And there's this reminder: "Early vote tallies, of course, can be deceptive in a race that will be decided over the course of several secret ballots, with plenty of lobbying and deal-making in between."
The Hill: "Republicans will decide Friday whether Michael Steele deserves some credit for the party’s historic victory in last year’s midterm elections or whether he should be replaced ahead of the presidential campaign cycle for being a gaffe-prone liability."
“A Republican group that includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday kicks off its efforts to improve the party's outreach to Hispanic voters, many of whom have criticized Republicans for using harsh rhetoric to attack illegal immigration,” the AP writes. “The new Hispanic Action Network convenes for a two-day policy conference starting Thursday evening that will feature several high-ranking Republicans and focus on issues such as trade, immigration, media outreach and education.”
CAIN: “Pizza magnate and potential presidential aspirant Herman Cain says President Barack Obama has done at least one thing well,” the Wall Street Journal writes. ““He has awakened the sleeping giant called ‘we the people,’ Mr. Cain said, talking from his hotel room in Phoenix… Mr. Cain got a jump on other potential GOP 2012 candidates Wednesday when he formed a presidential exploratory committee, which allows him to raise money for a possible White House run.”
DANIELS: “In another sign that Mitch Daniels is looking for a broader stage and eyeing a presidential run, the Indiana governor has accepted an invitation to be the Republican speaker at this year’s Gridiron Club dinner,” National Journal writes. “The annual journalism dinner has been used in the past by potential presidential candidates to break out of the pack and shine before an audience that includes the president, members of Congress, and leading publishers and editors.”
GINGRICH: Per the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the former House speaker spoke at a dinner hosted by the lobbying group Grand Strand Business Association in Myrtle Beach. “’The midterm win wasn't enough and Republicans need to aim for winning 40 more House seats and 12 or 13 more Senate seats in the next election,’ Gingrich said to a crowd.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Newt Gingrich will speak at Hawaii’s state GOP Lincoln Day dinner and fundraiser on February 18th.
PALIN: She'll be on Hannity on FOX Monday, her first TV interview since the Arizona shooting.
PAWLENTY: MinnPost.com’s takeaway from the former governor’s speech yesterday at the National Press Club: “He stood on the stage a business evangelist, preaching the gospel of small government to a room full of Republican politicos who ate it up and prominent national journalists who took it all down. Here at the National Press Club, where Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy each kicked off a presidential campaign, Tim Pawlenty didn’t. But he sounded for all the world like someone who will in just a few months’ time.”
ROMNEY: He spoke about democracy with young Afghans, saying it also sometimes opens the door for bad people, but to look for the "good leaders." The Boston Globe: "Far from the sometimes-boiling partisan atmosphere back home, Romney sought to present a more nuanced side of himself during what his staff described as an important listening and learning tour — one that is bound to be seen as another step in his preparation for a likely second run for the presidency. Yesterday, Romney had breakfast with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he is scheduled to meet today with Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayad. He is seeking advice on foreign policy matters, asking questions of foreign and US military leaders."
“Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has secured both a pollster and a political director for his near-certain presidential bid this coming cycle,” Real Clear Politics reports. “Rich Beeson, a Republican operative who has worked as a political director at the Republican National Committee and was most recently a partner at the voter contact firm FLS Connect, will be Romney's political director… And for polling, Romney is bringing on Neil Newhouse, a partner at the polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.”
TEXAS: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) released this statement after Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced she would not seek another term: "I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate," he said. "And should I run, I will run with the intention of winning." Writes thehttp://bit.ly/gdL6wz: It was one of many rapid-fire signals Thursday as candidates and potential candidates – many who've been biding their time for Hutchison to step down – began the scramble for a rare Senate opening."
The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) won't run for re-election in 2012. Kay Bailey Hutchison will not run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.
In a letter to supporters, Hutchison said she enjoyed serving Texas.
"I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election in 2012," she wrote to supporters. "That should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be."
Hutchison challenged incumbent Rick Perry in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, but she lost. It was thought at time that she would depart the U.S. Senate then, but she held on to her seat.
GOP aides tell NBC News that floor debate, on Tuesday, will resume on the House Republican efforts to repeal the health-care law.
Aides add the official detailed schedule will be released tomorrow.
“As the White House noted, it is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill next week," said a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "Americans have legitimate concerns about the cost of the new health care law and its effect on the ability to grow jobs in our country. It is our expectation that the debate will continue to focus on those substantive policy differences surrounding the new law.”
Obama recaptures his 2004 voice…. He addressed the civility debate head-on… The Incredibly Shrinking Palin… Boehner’s statesman-like speech, then his unforced error… And Pawlenty’s big day.
*** Obama recaptures his 2004 voice: The past two years have made the 2004 convention speech that helped launch Barack Obama’s national profile -- “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America” -- seem like an eternity ago. Health care. “You lie.” The 2010 midterm campaign. And most recently, the partisan back-and-forth over Saturday’s shooting in Arizona. But in an address that was the Obama he sold himself as during the '08 campaign (hopeful, uplifting, focused on Americans’ better angels), the president last night recaptured that 2004 voice as he honored the dead, the wounded, and the heroes in Saturday’s shooting. “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized … it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” Obama said. He later added, “If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.”
*** Addressing civility head-on: Indeed, the most surprising part of last night’s speech -- beyond breaking the news that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) eyes had opened -- was that Obama addressed the civility debate head-on, but with a twist. In the hours leading up to his address, we were convinced he was going to duck that debate, opting instead to eulogize the fallen and celebrate the heroes. But he must have realized that he couldn’t avoid it, especially after all the attention from Sarah Palin’s “blood libel” Web video. At the end of his remarks, he focused on the 9-year-old girl who died in Saturday’s shooting, Christina Taylor Green. (Being a father of young girls, that was something in Obama’s wheelhouse.) “I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. “I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.” Atlantic Monthly writer (and former Carter speechwriter) Jim Fallows ranked Obama's speech last night in Obama's top-three addresses, joining the 2004 Dem convention and the 2008 Philly race speeches. It's hard to disagree.
*** The Incredibly Shrinking Palin? The president’s speech made Palin’s response look very small by comparison. While Obama tried to uplift, Palin tried to settle scores. While the president called for more civility, the former Alaska governor talked about duels and “blood libel.” And while Obama’s message was, well, presidential, Palin’s was not. We’ll say this: If Palin has ambitions for the White House -- and we’re still not sure she does -- then her tone, message, and timing from her eight-minute video was a serious miscalculation. Is this what happens when you live in a bubble? Is this what happens when you don't have advisers you trust that live outside her bubble? Palin's speech struck as a natural response only if she spent the last three days reading every nasty email and Tweet she received, and didn't extract herself from the story.
*** Boehner’s unforced error: While Obama was in the spotlight in Arizona, newly minted Speaker John Boehner was in the spotlight back on Capitol Hill. And he delivered, with what is now becoming a trademark emotion, in his address honoring Giffords and the other victims of Saturday’s shooting. Roll Call writes, “Instead of playing the role of a partisan, Boehner found himself practicing the art of a statesman. ‘Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not,’ Boehner said Wednesday in floor remarks on the tragedy. ‘This is a time for the House to lock arms, in prayer for those fallen and wounded, and in resolve to carry on the dialogue of democracy.’” A strong moment. Yet Boehner committed an unforced error a few hours later when the news came out -- also from Roll Call -- that he hosted an RNC cocktail party last night at the same time as the Tucson memorial. As one Boehner fan put it to us: it was a bit "tone deaf."
*** Pawlenty’s big day: Because of what happened in Arizona, this might not have turned out to be the best week to grab the 2012 spotlight. But former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has been able to make some news surrounding the release of his new book, “Courage to Stand.” First, he took a subtle jab at Palin’s crosshair/target map. Last night, he was on the “Daily Show,” where he addressed the civility debate. “We got to be really careful here because if you start saying, ‘You can say this, you can’t say that; You can use that tone, you can’t use that tone,’ then pretty soon you know you start to discourage, maybe chill, intimidate.” Today, Pawlenty gives a speech at 12:30 pm ET at the National Press Club. He also attends a book signing in DC and meets with College Republicans at George Washington University. Pawlenty's had a hard time breaking out recently, but is it possible that his less combative personality actually helps him stand out? Something to ponder.
Countdown to the RNC chair election: 1 day
Countdown Chicago’s mayoral election: 40 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 299 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 389 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
The Washington Post writes, “President Obama comforted a community suffused with grief and summoned the nation to recommit to a more civil public discourse as he delivered a eulogy Wednesday evening urging Americans to talk with each other ‘in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.’”
The Boston Globe’s front page: “Obama’s message is heal, unite, ‘be better.’”
The Wall Street Journal: "The president chose to dwell on the heroes of Saturday, and the victims of the violence -- especially nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green -- as he urged the nation to rise above ugly political debates and see civic life 'through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol' of adults."
"The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to 'sharpen our instincts for empathy,'" the New York Times adds. 'It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans 'to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully’ and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.'"
The New York Times' Nagourney observes that last night's speech presented Obama this challenge that Bill Clinton didn't have with the Oklahoma City bombing or George W. Bush with 9/11: that the Arizona shootings had actually inflamed some political passions. "It was a political reality Mr. Obama seemed to recognize the moment he took the stage. And it was one he seemed determine to address, with language that recalled a central part of Mr. Obama’s appeal as a presidential candidate in 2008."
Politico’s Martin: "In the span of a single news cycle, Republicans got a jarring reminder of two forces that could prevent them from retaking the presidency next year. At sunrise in the east on Wednesday, Sarah Palin demonstrated that she has little interest -- or capacity -- in moving beyond her brand of grievance-based politics. And at sundown in the west, Barack Obama reminded even his critics of his ability to rally disparate Americans around a message of reconciliation."
The New York Daily News’ cover: “Hope amid tears” with a photo of First Lady Michelle Obama holding hands with Congresswoman Giffords’ husband Mike Kelly.
The Hill: “The White House has disappointed gun-control advocates on and off Capitol Hill with its silence on the issue.”
“Americans gave higher marks to President Obama and congressional Republicans after a holiday season of compromise paid dividends for both, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll,” AP reports. “At the start of the divided government era, the survey found 53 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is doing his job, up 6 percentage points from just after the November elections. The rating is his best since the divisive health care vote 10 months ago. Republicans in Congress got a slight bump too, with 36 percent giving them high marks, compared with 29 percent last fall. … But a majority also now view the Democrats favorably, an oddity just two months after voters dealt Obama’s party what he called ‘a shellacking’ in congressional elections. Democrats generally viewed by 53 percent of those polled, with 45 percent holding an unfavorable view.”
“The federal budget deficit narrowed slightly in December compared with a year ago, but the deficit for the entire fiscal year is still on pace to exceed $1 trillion,” AP writes. But, “Private economists expect that the tax-cut package signed into law last month will lead to a much larger deficit while helping to boost economic growth.”
The Atlantic’s Jim Fallows: “The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. Tonight's speech matched those as a demonstration of ‘head of state’ presence, and far exceeded them as oratory -- while being completely different in tone and nature.” More: “[A] performance to remember -- this will be, along with his 2004 Convention speech and his March, 2008 ‘meaning of race’ speech in Philadelphia, one of the speeches he is lastingly known for.”
The New York Times’ Gail Collins: “For me, Obama’s best moment came when he warned that ‘what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.’ In his honor, I am not saying a word about Sarah Palin’s video.”
Conservative John Podhoretz said, “The sentences and paragraphs of President Obama's speech last night were beautiful and moving and powerful. But for the most part they didn't quite transcend the wildly inappropriate setting in which he delivered them.”
Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence: "President Obama's Tucson memorial speech was as much about being a father as it was about being a president. He melded the personal and the political into a call for renewal and a road map to a healthier civic life – all of it powered by memories of the dead, in particular a murdered little girl who expected great things of her country."
Lawrence adds, "Obama did not take the easy way out at the University of Arizona. He could have simply eulogized those lost in the eruption of violence last Saturday, and raised up the heroes. And he did do all that in a moving way. But he also went much further. He confronted the sore points and flash points of the rampage and its aftermath. He urged Americans to take stock of themselves, their relationships and their responsibilities as citizens, and to make sure that we 'align our values with our actions.'"
Here’s conservative Andrea Tantaros’ lead, ripe with criticism of the left, but leaving the president alone: “Despite the pressure from some on the left to capitalize on the Tucson killings for political gain, and amid occasional inappropriate cheering from the audience, President Obama acutely understood our collective need to heal when he addressed the nation on Wednesday night.”