POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/3

Franken Claims Lead in Senate Recount

Al Franken’s (D) campaign said that the comedian has taken the lead in his race against Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), according to The Hill.

Franken “has been pressing for the media to focus on the campaign’s internal vote totals of the recount, which as of Wednesday showed Franken opening a lead of 22 votes.” 

“To drive home its point, the campaign will withdraw hundreds of challenges that it determines have no merit in the state’s ongoing recount.”

Update: The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports elections officials in Minneapolis “discovered that one precinct came up 133 ballots short of election day totals, resulting in a net loss for Democratic challenger Al Franken of 44 votes.”

While the various official and unofficial counts are confusing, that would erase the lead Franken’s camp was claiming.

Chambliss Credits Palin for Victory

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) was a key to his victory over Jim Martin (D) in yesterday’s Georgia Senate run off, according to Fox News.

Said Chambliss: “I can’t overstate the impact she had down here. We had John McCain and Mike Huckabee and Gov. Romney and Rudy Giuliani, but Sarah Palin came in on the last day, did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite,” Chambliss said. “We packed the houses everywhere we went. And it really did allow us to peak and get our base fired up.”

Richardson Still Owes Obama a Favor

Commerce Secretary-designate Bill Richardson tells Esquire how his new boss saved him during a Democratic primary debate:

“As I’m chatting with Obama, the moderator says, ‘Governor Richardson, what do you think of that?’ And I look at him like a deer in the headlights. I was about to say that I hadn’t heard, when Obama puts his hand over his mouth and says, ‘Katrina.’ So I gave my four-point plan on Katrina. When I was done and the debate moved on, I looked over and said, ‘Thanks, you’re okay.’ He said, ‘Nothing to it, brother.'”

A Secretive Congress

CQ Politics: “For all its apparent openness, its televised debates and public hearings, Congress is more secretive than its reputation suggests. Closed or restricted access to legislative meetings and records may not be the rule, but such behavior is hardly viewed as an exception anymore.”

Obama’s Grandfather Was Tortured

The Times of London has learned that Barack Obama’s grandfather “was imprisoned and brutally tortured by the British during the violent struggle for Kenyan independence, according to the Kenyan family of the US President-elect.”

“The alleged torture was said to have left Mr. Onyango permanently scarred, and bitterly anti-British.”

Obama “refers briefly to his grandfather’s imprisonment in his best-selling memoir,Dreams from My Father, but states that his grandfather was ‘found innocent’ and held only for “more than six months'”

Quote of the Day

“For a bunch of small-government Republicans, these guys built a hell of an empire.”

— An Obama transition team member who worked in the Clinton White House, quoted by the New York Times, “who has now stepped back inside for the first time in eight years.”

Clinton “Shocked” to Learn She Was Under Consideration

In an interview on CNN, Bill Clinton says his wife was shocked by President-elect Obama’s offer to become Secretary of State. He said “she first read about it in the newspaper, as speculation.”

Blagojevich On Picking Obama Successor

Illinois Gov. Blagojevich (D), “in the most detailed interview to date on how he will fill the Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama,” told Lynn Sweethis replacement “does not have to be an African American and he is open to selecting someone who would serve only the two years left in the term.”

However, the governor is aiming to replace Obama “before the new Senate is sworn in next month to give the new senator a leg up on seniority.”

On Rep. Jesse Jackson’s (D-IL) overt campaign to get the appointment, Blagojevich said, “He’s got a right to do it, and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him.”

Matthews Still Talking Up Senate Run

Despite denials, talk show host Chris Matthews is still investigating a possible challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in 2010, according to Politics PA

“Knowledgeable sources have confirmed that Matthews has discussed a possible run for U.S. Senate with Congressman and Philadelphia Democratic City Committee Chair Bob Brady; Treasurer-elect Rob McCord; Allegheny County Democratic Chair Jim Burn; and Neil Oxman, Pennsylvania’s premier political consultant.”

How Big Were Obama’s Coattails?

Last night’s results in Georgia’s U.S Senate run off were striking in that Sen Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) beat Jim Martin (D) by 14 points, 57% to 43%, when he only led by three points on Election Day, 49% to 46% 

The big question: How much did Barack Obama’s name on the ballot help Martin last month?

The Hill notes Chambliss’s margin of victory “looks to exceed almost all runoff polling on the race, suggesting that the turnout models used in the polling overshot Democratic turnout without President-elect Obama on the ballot.”

Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling explains why they underestimated the size of Chambliss’s win: “The Georgia electorate is easily the most racially polarized of any state we polled regularly during the 2008 election cycle. Since we had Chambliss winning by 43 points with whites and Martin winning by 77 points with blacks it essentially meant that every point we over or underestimated the African American share of the electorate by was worth 1.2% on the margin. We don’t have an exit poll and I haven’t seen any hard data from the Board of Elections yet but my guess is that black voters accounted for only 22-23% of those who turned out for the runoff, consistent with their share of early voting numbers. There was no rush to the polls yesterday as we had anticipated.”

Obama Secret Meeting Revealed

Finally, we know who was in the secret meeting with President-elect Obama after he visited with President Bush at the White House several weeks ago. According to theHuffington Post, it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Said Gates: “We did meet the day he came to Washington to meet with the President. We met when he went back to the airport. We actually met in the fire station at National Airport and they pulled the trucks out so that our cars could go in.”

Chambliss Wins Run Off

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) defeated challenger Jim Martin (D) in Tuesday’s runoff to win re-election, according to the Associated Press.

The Hotline: “Sorry Jim Martin, but Al Franken might be the biggest loser tonight. How likely is it that Democratic senators will push for Franken — or vote not to seat Sen. Norm Coleman should the MN race remain tight after a recount — now that the filibuster-proof advantage has eluded the party? Such a move is a rare happening, but tonight’s GA results seems to make an aggressive move on Franken’s behalf less likely.”

Holbrooke Eyed for Key Diplomatic Role

President-elect Obama “is seriously considering giving former ambassador Richard Holbrooke a key role in handling diplomacy in south Asia,” the Washington Postreports.

It’s “a move that would put one of America’s most prominent international troubleshooters in the middle of trying to resolve the thorny and interrelated problems surrounding India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Jeb Bush Considers Senate Bid

Marc Ambinder says two sources close to Jeb Bush, “including one who has spoken to the former Florida governor within the past few hours, say he is seriously considering a run for Senate now that incumbent Republican Mel Martinez has retired.”

“If he decides to run, Republicans expect the field to clear for him.  Maybe. Gov. Charlie Crist, with whom Bush has not had the warmest of relations, is said to be interested in moving to the Senate.”

Pelosi Tightens Her Grip

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) moves since the November elections “have shaken up some of her colleagues, with some looking over their shoulders and others worried about how the Speaker will lead her expanded majority in 2009,” according to The Hill.

Pelosi is “the unquestioned leader in the House whose enormous power seems to grow by the day…”

Example: “Few members clash publicly with Pelosi. Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Jane Harman (D-CA), who were at odds with Pelosi over the last few years, were stripped of their top committee posts.”

Obama Gets High Marks for Transition

President-elect Obama “is riding a wave of good feeling toward him and his key Cabinet appointments, a USA Today/Gallup Poll finds — positive attitudes that may give him some breathing room for tough decisions ahead.”

“Soaring ratings for the way he has handled the presidential transition so far — more than three of four Americans express approval — contrast with a downbeat national mood over the economy.”

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