POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 1/6

The More Things Change

The Wall Street Journal examines the 112th Congress and finds that while the party makeup has obviously changed a lot, “the demographics haven’t changed much.”

“Though there are some true outsiders, many freshmen have followed the tried and true paths to the Capitol: They worked on city councils and got elected to state legislatures.”

The numbers of black, Hispanic, Asian, female, non-college-educated and attorney lawmakers are essentially unchanged. The new Congress is about one year younger on average, however, and the number of veterans has declined from 119 to 113.

Pence Still Mulling Presidential Bid?

Despite previous reports that Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) had scheduled a series of events in Indiana and was most likely eying a run for governor in 2012, Politico notes that Pence will be the keynote speaker at an invitation-only conservative Awakening Conference in South Carolina this weekend, a hint that he may still be mulling a run for president.

Rick Scott Still Unknown

Despite spending more than $60 million on TV ads in his winning campaign for Florida governor, Rick Scott (R) is still a mystery to Floridians, says the St. Petersburg Times.

“We don’t know whether Scott cares about consensus or worries about combativeness. We don’t know if he’s ready to work with — or stand up to — a strong-willed Legislature… His delivery of his inaugural speech could prove to be a metaphor: Scott knew exactly what he wanted to say and ordered up a well-crafted speech, but then stumbled repeatedly while trying to give it.”

Boehner’s Party

Matt Taibbi: “John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. The biographer who somewhere down the line tackles the question of Boehner’s legacy will do well to simply throw out any references to party affiliation, because the thing that has made Boehner who he is — the thing that has finally lifted him to the apex of legislative power in America — has almost nothing to do with his being a Republican.”

Trump Pegs Decision to Reality Show Finale

Donald Trump tells Forbes that his decision about his running for president might have to wait until the last episode of his reality television show.

Said Trump: “The Celebrity Apprentice goes on March 6. You can’t make a decision until that’s off, otherwise other people will have to be given two hours of prime time television. Season 11 ends in June. Right around that time would the time when I’d be thinking about making an announcement and making a decision. And maybe even using the season finale as a forum.”

Edwards Investigation Continues

The widow of Fred Baron, the finance chairman of John Edwards’ presidential campaigns, appeared before a grand jury investigating Edwards’ campaign spending, WRAL-TV reports.

Democrats Drop, Independents Rise

Gallup finds that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats in 2010, down five points from just two years ago and tied for the lowest annual average in the last 22 years.

Meanwhile, while Democrats still outnumber Republicans by two points, the percentage identifying as independents increased to 38%, on the high end of what Gallup has measured in the last two decades.

No Media at Kasich Swearing In

When Ohio swears in its new governor next week, no representative of the public is slated to be there to witness it, the AP reports.

Gov.-elect John Kasich (R) has closed the event to the news media, “an act unprecedented in modern state history. He cites security concerns for his family at his personal residence, where he is to be sworn in by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. A ceremonial inauguration is scheduled in downtown Columbus later that day.”

How the Recession Changed Us

The Atlantic has an outstanding compilation of charts showing the impact of the economic downturn on our lives and politics.

Ten to Watch in the 112th Congress

The Fix breaks down the ten members of the 112th Congress to keep an eye on. The list is roughly evenly split between freshmen that are seen as rising stars and incumbents that will wield new power or face tough reelection bids.

Topping the list: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) “is a man in the middle. His strong fiscal conservatism gives him credibility among the tea party crowd but he’s spent time in the House and has cordial relationships with the party establishment too. How does Toomey navigate between the two camps?”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“The problem is going to be the grassroots movement out in the countryside. They have no sense of the limits on a party that controls only one of the three seats of power. Managing that relationship is going to be difficult.”

— Republicans strategist Vin Weber, quoted by the New York Times, on House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) big challenge in dealing with Tea Party activists.

Repeating History?

As First Read notes, “Outside the emerging presidential contest, the battle between the Democratic White House and the GOP House will be Washington’s best political story. And, of course, it’s a battle we saw in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton tangled with Newt Gingrich.”

If you want to get an idea of what that was like, pick up a copy of Elizabeth Drew’s excellent book, Showdown: The Struggle between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White House.

Santorum Staffs Up in New Hampshire

John DiStaso reports that former Sen. Rick Santorum has hired conservative political strategist Mike Biundo in what he calls “the first pre-presidential primary staffer by a likely soon-to-be candidate.”

Santorum will make his eighth visit to the state in the last year next week.

Cheney May Need Heart Transplant

The New York Times confirms what many of his political opponents always assumed: Dick Cheney has no pulse.

“Mr. Cheney’s heart will never beat at full strength again, doctors say. His new mechanical pump, a partial artificial heart known as a ventricular assist device, leaves patients without a pulse because it pushes blood continuously instead of mimicking the heart’s own beat. Most pulse-less patients feel nothing unusual, but the devices do pose significant risks of infection. They are implanted as a last resort either for permanent use or as a bridge to transplant until a donor heart can be found. Mr. Cheney, who has participated in some of the nation’s toughest decisions for decades, now faces a crucial one of his own: whether to seek a full heart transplant.”

No House

For those fed up with Congress, enjoy the final few hours. As the New York Times notes, there has technically been no House of Representatives since all member terms expired two days ago.

“The issue may be highly technical and largely academic but not entirely. For instance, given that her term expired on Sunday, was Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, still the Speaker of the House and the second in line of succession to the presidency on Monday and Tuesday?”

The House returned Wednesday afternoon when members were once again sworn in.

Dean Praises White House Shake Up

Howard Dean “took broad swipes at what he called the ‘contempt’ of some senior, departing White House advisers while, curiously, praising the possibility of former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley taking over as chief of staff,” the Huffington Post reports.

Said Dean: “The core issue is the contempt, which not just the progressives were treated by but lots of people were treated by, by senior advisers around the president who have been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing. That is a fundamental flaw in any kind of administration. As they say, ‘Don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out.'”

Dean was denied a job in the Obama administration by former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Gibbs Will Leave White House Next Month

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told the New York Times “that he will step down and become an outside political adviser to the president and his re-election campaign.”

“Gibbs said that he intends to leave the podium in early February… He said he has no intention of establishing a political consulting or lobbying business, but he intends to work from the same downtown Washington office where David Plouffe has spent the last two years. Mr. Plouffe, who was Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, will move to the White House and work as a senior adviser to the president.”

Tea Partiers Not Swayed by Lugar

“Hoping to head off a primary challenge from the right, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) sat down with Tea Party leaders last month but did little to persuade them of his conservative credentials,” CNN reports.

Said one activist who attended the two hour meeting: “We weren’t swayed. We equated it to going out on a football field, shaking hands, flipping the coins, and game on. He wants to win, and we want to win.”

Not Much Changes in the Senate

Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “will enjoy more leverage in his dealings” with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in the 112th Congress, The Hill notes that “the fundamental relationship between the two men hasn’t changed.”

Said one Democratic aide: “They are as close as two people with limited social skills can be.”

Bush Won’t Rule Out White House Bid in 2016

Jeb Bush tells the AP he isn’t ruling out a possible presidential run in 2016.

“Bush repeated his stance that he’s positively not running for president in 2012. When asked about 2016, Bush said he would never say never, but reiterated that 2012 is out.”

Mark Your Calendars

It’s not official until Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) can make the invitation, but President Obama’s State of the Union address is scheduled for January 25.

Bachmann Weighing Run for President

ABC News has learned that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is seriously weighing whether to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

“A source close to the three-term congresswoman said Bachmann will travel to Iowa this month for multiple meetings to seek advice from political forces there and party elders close to the caucus process before coming to a final decision regarding a potential presidential run.”

Quote of the Day

“I believe the American experiment is in mortal peril because of the debt we have coming… This is more frightening than even the Soviet nuclear threat, which would have been more horrible. If we go broke, we’ll still be alive, but the probability was so small. In this case, the damage, the catastrophe, will be very, very severe, and the probability — I mean, and it’s inexorable.”

— Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, in an interview with the New York Times.

Republicans Set to Take Power

“Republicans lay claim to a broad — if partial — governing mandate at exactly noon on Wednesday, ushering into Washington scores of new conservative lawmakers who promise to challenge President Obama’s vision for America’s economic future,” the New York Times reports.

Almost as soon as they took control of the House of Representatives, the Washington Post notes Republicans “will embark on a 20-day plan aimed at undoing major aspects of President Obama’s agenda as they seek to take advantage of the weeks before the Senate’s return and the president’s State of the Union address.”

“Recognizing the limits of their power, Republican leaders said they will follow their initial aggressive stance with efforts to force Obama into what they consider principled compromises.”

Baldwin Suggests (Again) He May Run for Office

Alec Baldwin told CNN he is “very, very interested” in running for office but to leave acting would be “extremely painful.”

Said Baldwin: “I have sometimes thought I could move to New Jersey or Connecticut and run. I’d love to run against Joe Lieberman. I have no use for him. But it’s all fantasy.”

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