POLITICAL HEADLINES – 12/17

Obama’s Team of Rivals

The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Apparently, President-elect Obama took Doris Kearns Goodwin’sTeam of Rivals very seriously. Of the eight Democrats who ran against him for president, four have now agreed to join his administration: Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Gov. Bill Richardson and Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Those left out: Sen. Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Obama Continues to Get High Marks

A new Marist Poll finds a “considerable majority” of registered voters give President-elect Obama high marks for the job he’s doing during his transition. 

Key findings: 63% say they approve of his performance while just 10% of voters disapprove and 27% are on the fence.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“It’s hard to tell, hard to imagine what it’s like to go from 100 miles an hour to 5. I’m going to want to build a policy institute at Southern Methodist, probably write a book. And beyond that, I’m open for suggestions.”

— President Bush, in the upcoming People magazine, on what he’s going to do after leaving the White House.

Obama Considers GOP Congressman for Transportation

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) is in discussions with President-elect Obama to take a Cabinet-level post — most likely secretary of the Department of Transportation, according to The Hill.

A GOP source said the Obama transition team would like to make an announcement about it on Friday. 

The New York Times: “One of the tasks awaiting the transportation secretary is helping to implement the vast public works projects that Mr. Obama has proposed to jumpstart the economy. A member of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. LaHood has experience overseeing – and spending money on – such projects.”

Blago Will Speak Soon

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will likely hold a press conference toward the end of this week, ABC News has learned.

“The embattled governor, arrested last Tuesday, has yet to respond to charges that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Instead, the reclusive lawmaker has stayed silent, only saying that he looks forward to speaking at the appropriate time.”

Said Blagojevich: “I can’t wait to begin to tell my side of the story and to address you guys and most importantly the people of Illinois, that’s who I’m dying to talk to… That day will soon be here and you might know more about that today and no later than tomorrow.”

Almost Done

For those counting at home, after today’s announcements by President-elect Obama there are just two Cabinet posts that remain open: Transportation and Labor.

Although in some previous administrations, the position of U.S. Trade Representative — still unfilled — was also made a Cabinet-level post.

The Power of Rahm

Despite his dealings with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich over the vacant Senate seat and yesterday’s reported slap down by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Marc Ambinder wisely notes that  Rahm Emanuel’s public standing “is as weak right now as it’s ever going to get.”

Once he “becomes the chief of staff, he’ll be one of the strongest in recent memory — probably stronger than Don Regan or H.R. Haldeman. Like Haldeman was to Richard Nixon, Emanuel will be first among equals to Obama. He’ll be scary again, and no one will be able to dish about him without facing consequences.”

Emanuel Pushed Jarrett for Senate

The Chicago Sun Times reports that Rahm Emanuel was pushing for Obama’s successor in the U.S. Senate just days after the Nov. 4 election.

Emanuel privately urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration “to appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, and the Sun-Times learned Tuesday that he also pressed that it be done by a certain deadline.”

Nonetheless, Emanuel’s discussions “do not indicate he was involved in dealmaking with the governor.”

Lieberman Approval Hits New Low

The latest Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut finds the state’s U.S. Senators get their lowest approval ratings ever: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has a 38% approval rating while Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is at a lackluster 47%.

Becerra May Not Take Job

A Democratic source tells Ben Smith that Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) — who had been offered the job of U.S. trade representative — is leaning against taking it.

UpdateThe Crypt confirms Becerra will not take the post.

Quote of the Day

The campaign is over. It’s never going to be the same. I think everyone is wistful.”

— Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, quoted in the upcoming New York Times Magazine.

Vilsack Nomination a Surprise

According to various reports, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) will be at today’s press conference with President-elect Obama — as his nominee for secretary of agriculture. 

The move is a bit of a surprise, given that Vilsack said last month he had not been interviewed and would not be nominated.

Person of the Year

No real surprise here: Barack Obama is Time magazine‘s Person of the Year for 2008.

The magazine has a good interview with Obama in which he explains why voters elected him: “I do think we received a strong mandate for change … It means a government that is not ideologically driven. It means a government that is competent. It means a government, most importantly, that is focused day in, day out on the needs and struggles, the hopes and dreams, of ordinary people. And I think there is a strong mandate for Washington as a whole to be responsive to ordinary Americans in a way that it has not been for quite some time.”

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