POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 3/8

Obama Picks Locke for Ambassador to China

ABC News has learned that President Obama intends to nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as his next Ambassador to China, replacing Jon Hunstman who will leave his post next month.

Gingrich Admits He Flubbed Announcement

Newt Gingrich acknowledged to the Des Moines Register that his team “bobbled the news” last week before announcing he planned to begin raising money to explore a presidential bid.

Said Gingrich: “It led to unfortunate confusion. I wish we had been a little more structured last week. But I don’t take it as a very serious problem. We do many, many things, and most of them reasonably well.”

He added: “We live in an age of 24-7 constant surveillance of really smart people, and every once in a while something ragged will happen to every single campaign. And I think the real trick is to relax, live it out and keep moving.”

Advice for the Mistress-Turned-Political Wife

Slate notes the challenge for Callista Gingrich and other political mistresses who become political wives:

“Being a successful political wife is hard enough, but the mistress who becomes the wife in full view of voters will never be as good as the one she replaced, if only because popular culture tends to elevate wronged women to sainthood. Pundits and press accounts will inevitably deride the newest wife as a liability, reminding readers exactly how she got there (‘adultery,’ notes a piece in today’s Washington Post on Gingrich’s announcement yesterday that he is considering a run; ‘an extramarital affair,’ explained Sunday’s New York Times). But she still has to show up and clap and smile.”

Did Trump Violate Campaign Finance Laws?

Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Donald Trump, told reporters that his trip to Iowa today — on the Trump corporate jet — had been financed by a business supporter.

Ben Smith: “The trip poses a serious campaign finance issue for Trump, experts say: If the trip was — as Cohen explicitly suggested — aimed at testing the waters for a presidential bid, it falls under a strict set of fundraising requirements that appear already to have been violated.”

But while Cohen conceded he was “testing the waters,” he denied that he was doing it on his boss’s behalf saying, “I’m not testing the waters for his campaign. I’m testing the waters to see and to gauge the interest that iowa would have seeing someone like Donald Trump run.”

Brown Gushes to Billionaire Supporter

In a secretly-made video, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) effusively thanks conservative billionaire David Koch for supporting his election in 2010 and made a plea for help in his re-election campaign next year.

See more…

Bonus Quote of the Day

“Anyone who takes seriously the idea that the debt limit could not be extended and there could be a default even for a nanosecond on U.S. debt is a child with a match in a dynamite storeroom.”

— Former White House economic adviser Larry Summers, in a Newsweek interview, on whether Republicans overhype the dangers of government debt.

What If Huckabee and Palin Don’t Run?

TPM: “After months of polling showing Romney, Huckabee, and Palin each drawing the largest chunks of national Republicans, any dropouts would have strong implications for the second tier of possible candidates who do not have previous experience from 2008, such as Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and Rick Santorum. Huckabee or Palin’s absence would free up a large chunk of socially conservative and evangelical voters, who are a key demographic in Iowa and who Romney struggled to court in 2008. If doubts from the previous election linger in 2012, these voters could prove a force by consolidating behind one of the less established candidates, elevating one of them into a two-man race with Rommey.”

Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times notes there is a growing effort by Republicans to find the “anti-Romney” candidate for 2012.

Defending John Edwards

Mickey Kaus: “Here is the problem I have with indicting John Edwards: Apparently the prosecutors’ idea is that if Edwards used money from ‘Bunny’ Mellon and others to keep his mistress stashed away and quiet, this was really a campaign expense and should have been paid for out of campaign funds. But suppose Edwards had paid for it with campaign funds. Don’t you think prosecutors would now be thinking of indicting him for an improper use of campaign funds?”

Q&A with Jon Ralston on Nevada Politics

A few questions for Nevada political guru Jon Ralston:

Can Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) learn any lessons from Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) comeback re-election, or is he just doomed in a primary?

Apples and oranges. Ensign will have a primary, does not control the state GOP, will not have the machine Reid had as his campaign and will not have a target-rich opponent as Reid did. I think he is doomed — if he indeed still runs.

Did Reid’s victory deflate the Nevada Tea Party?

Hard to tell yet. We’ll know more in the fall. There really is no Tea Party, per se, but a lot of smaller groups. They had buyer’s remorse over Angle, but could get re-engaged in the U.S. Senate primary and the congressional races.

Does Sharron Angle (R) have a political future in Nevada?

Not in a statewide race. But if she runs for Dean Heller’s congressional seat, I think she is the frontrunner.

See more…

Trump Keeps the Buzz Alive

Donald Trump’s plane was spotted on the tarmac at the Des Moines airport. However, it’s not Trump who is visiting.

Radio Iowa reports Trump sent an aide to Iowa “to discuss Trump’s chances as a Republican candidate in Iowa’s Caucus.” And he got the photo he wanted.

Walker Approval Slides in Wisconsin

A new Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll shows President Obama’s and Gov. Scott Walker’s approval ratings heading in opposite directions.

Obama’s approval rating sits at a comfortable 53% to 42%, a nine-point improvement from last November. By contrast, Walker’s approval rating is upside down — with 43% approving and 53% disapproving, an 18 point increase in his negative rating over the same period.

First Read: “Over the weekend, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore said the fight in Wisconsin has ‘aroused a sleeping giant’ for union rights across the country. But the fight may have aroused a different ‘sleeping giant’ — the activist Wisconsin electorate, which was dormant in the 2010 midterms.”

Plugging the Leaks

Politico reports that the Obama administration has taken “an unexpectedly aggressive legal offensive against federal workers who leak secret information to expose wrongdoing, highlight national security threats or pursue a personal agenda.”

“In just over two years since President Barack Obama took office, prosecutors have filed criminal charges in five separate cases involving unauthorized distribution of classified national security information to the media… That’s a sharp break from recent history, when the U.S. government brought such cases on three occasions in roughly 40 years.”

Schweitzer Shows Off ‘VETO’ Branding Iron

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) “has long been known for his showmanship and creative stunts” and now added “another prop to his arsenal of political gimmicks — a branding iron bearing the word VETO,” the Great Falls Tribune reports.

“Last month, the governor registered the VETO brand with the Montana Department of Livestock, for which he paid $100. The official brand certificate sits in a frame on a table in Schweitzer’s office — right next to the ornamental steel branding iron.”

Kaine Could Announce This Week

A “plugged-in Democratic source” tells First Read that DNC Chairman Tim Kaine “will likely announce his decision this week (or next) whether he’ll run for Jim Webb’s Senate seat. Will he get in? The source puts the odds at 50%-50%. Remember this: Kaine has missed a few self-imposed deadlines to announce he would NOT run, which is why there is heavy speculation and assumption that party stalwarts talked him into running. If he were NOT running, he’d already have said so.”

Meanwhile, Mike Allen reports Kaine “is INCREASINGLY likely to run for U.S. Senate from Virginia, taking on George Allen to succeed the retiring Jim Webb. Kaine, a former Old Dominion governor, is finishing up a week-long vacation that included conversation about the race with family and adviser. Kaine is expected to make his plans known this week or next. If he runs, he’ll leave the DNC. If he doesn’t run, former Rep. Tom Perriello, who lost an epic Charlottesville-area House race in November, is likely to saddle up.”

Hill Staffers Received Extra Bonus

Under the header “Big Payday for Some Hill Staffers,” the Wall Street Journal reports departing House members “awarded millions of dollars in extra pay to aides as they closed down their offices.”

House members have discretion over unused funds for running their offices and frequently award their staffs year end bonuses. Any unused funds are forfeited at the end of the year.

The “big pay days” ranged “from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more.”

Cattle Call in Iowa

Five Republicans likely to run for the Republican presidential nomination — Herman Cain, Buddy Roemer, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich — spoke at a forum organized by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Hatch Tries to Fix His Tea Party Problem

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) “is well aware that he has a tea party problem, and one of the ways his campaign is trying to solve it is by hiring some of the movement’s organizers,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Hatch’s re-election campaign acknowledged they are offering organizers $2,500 per month but insists “the goal is to identify and support Hatch’s backers in the convention, not buy off opponents.”

Wisconsin Lawmakers Face Massive Recall Campaign

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports Wisconsin “is about to embark on another wild ride into the political unknown — a series of legislative recall campaigns on a scale the nation has rarely, if ever, seen.”

“Formal recall campaigns have now been launched against 16 state senators — eight Republicans and eight Democrats. That’s everyone in the 33-member Wisconsin Senate who is legally eligible to be recalled this year. Even though state law is designed to make recalls difficult and rare, some political insiders expect the petition drives now under way to succeed in forcing multiple lawmakers to face recall elections this summer.”

Kindness as a Strategy

If Jon Huntsman (R) decides to run against President Obama, the Salt Lake Tribune notes “it’s becoming increasingly clear how Team Obama will respond: Kill his campaign with kindness.”

Huntsman “has yet to say whether he will make a presidential bid, but when he leaves April 30, it appears the ambassador will be welcomed home with praise from the Obama administration — something that likely won’t play terribly well in a Republican primary.”

Said White House chief of staff Bill Daley: “His support of the Obama administration, his support of the president, the things he did on behalf of this administration and the closeness in which he worked with the president is most appreciated. And I’m sure he’ll talk about that in the primaries.”

Are We Really Broke?

Bloomberg notes that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) routinely offers this diagnosis of the U.S.’s fiscal condition: “We’re broke; Broke going on bankrupt.”

“Boehner’s assessment dominates a debate over the federal budget that could lead to a government shutdown. It is a widely shared view with just one flaw: It’s wrong.”

“A person, company or nation would be defined as ‘broke’ if it couldn’t pay its bills, and that is not the case with the U.S. Despite an annual budget deficit expected to reach $1.6 trillion this year, the government continues to meet its financial obligations, and investors say there is little concern that will change.”

Christie Rates as the Hottest Politician

The latest Quinnipiac thermometer poll finds New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is the “hottest politician” when American voters rate their feelings about politicians and other national figures, topping President Obama who is in fourth place.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gets the coolest rating from voters, followed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sarah Palin.

Could Glenn Beck’s Days Be Numbered?

The New York Times reports that while Fox News host Glenn Beck continues to post “numbers that just about any cable news host would envy,” a recent erosion in his viewership has some Fox News officials “looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.”

“What had been a fast and loose assault on all things liberal has grown darker and less entertaining, especially with the growing revolution in the Middle East, a phenomenon Mr. Beck sees as something of a beginning to some kind of end… Mr. Beck remains firm in his belief that something is going terribly wrong and it may be time to stock up on canned goods and head to the basement. The problem with predicting doomsday is that if you’re wrong, you have to figure out what to say the next day. And if you’re right … well, the ratings will be terrific, for what that’s worth.”

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