POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/14

Democrats Declare Checkmate in Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

National Journal: “In the ongoing fiscal cliff chess match playing out on Capitol Hill, Democrats have a message for Republicans: checkmate.”

“Democrats look at the political landscape and see a win whether a deal gets cut now or after the country goes over the cliff. Worst-case scenario, they say, the House will approve legislation the Senate passed in July extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone but the rich, an idea that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has flatly rejected.”

“If Boehner refuses to pass the Senate bill before the end of the year, Democrats say their hand only gets stronger in the new year when the Senate will have 55 Democrats and at least five Republicans who have signaled they could vote to extend the middle-class tax cuts.”

National Memo: 5 reasons Republicans are getting clobbered on the fiscal cliff.

Rice Drops Bid for Secretary of State

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told NBC News she is dropping out of the running to be the next secretary of state after months of criticism over her Benghazi comments.

Said Rice: “If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities.”

The Week: Why Susan Rice dropped her bid.

Hagel on Short List for Defense Secretary

Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has emerged as the leading candidate to become President Obama’s next Secretary of Defense and may be nominated as soon as this month, Bloomberg reports.

“Hagel, who served as an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam, has passed the vetting process at the White House Counsel’s office… The former Nebraska senator has told associates that he is awaiting final word from the president.”

Top 10 Media Disasters of the Year

Brad Phillips lists the 10 worst media disasters for 2012 and eight are about politics.

Meanwhile, Stu Rothenberg has the best and worst of the 2012 campaigns.

Throwing the Bums In

Despite record low approval rates for Congress, Bloomberg finds that 90% of House members and 91% of U.S. Senators who sought re-election in 2012 were successful.

These re-election rates exceeded those of 2010, when 85% of House members and 84% of senators seeking re-election were successful.

Boehner Not Concerned About Losing Gavel

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he’s “not concerned about his job as Speaker as he seeks a deficit deal with President Obama that could face opposition from conservative members of his conference,” The Hill reports.

Said Boehner: “I’m not concerned about my job as Speaker. What I’m concerned about is doing the right thing for our kids and grandkids. And if we don’t fix this spending problem, their future is going to be rather bleak.”

There’s been speculation in recent days that Boehner won’t cut a deal until after he wins re-election as Speaker in early January.

Is It Even Possible for Hillary Clinton to Rest?

Walter Shapiro: “Sure, Clinton may take two months or so off, interspersed with such restful tasks as house-hunting (the Clintons are said to be tempted by the Hamptons), hiring a staff, talking to a lecture agent, contemplating a book and presumably chatting with the most persistent political callers. If she does manage to sneak off on a vacation (Iowa is always lovely in March), rest assured that the paparazzi and the political press will be close behind.”

“Try as she might, Clinton will find it difficult, if not impossible, to avoid being entangled in a web of obligation. Legions of friends (and, unlike the norm in politics, her longstanding friendships appear genuine) will ask her for time-consuming favors that cannot all be rejected. The do-gooder side of her nature will propel her into too many events and trips for worthy causes. And, as a Clinton, she knows all too well how easily political supporters bristle when their egos are not being stroked.”

Christie Says He Didn’t Help Obama Win

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) insisted to ABC News that his praise for President Obama’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy didn’t hurt Mitt Romney’s chances in the final days of the campaign.

Said Christie: “First of all, I didn’t help him win. I was doing my job… The fact of the matter is President Obama won the election pretty comfortably. I was doing my job as I saw fit to do it. And I told the truth, like I always do. The president did step up and help tremendously in New Jersey.”

In Defense of Backroom Deals

Todd Purdum: “You hear a lot about openness and transparency — and the disinfecting power of sunlight – -as keys to effective government. But let’s summon at least two cheers for the occasional usefulness of the backroom deal.”

Democrats Have Public Opinion On Their Side

A new Pew Research poll finds that when it comes to the reaching an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, 55% say President Obama is making a serious effort to work with Republicans. But just 32% say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to work with Obama on a deficit deal.

Also interesting: Obama’s first post-reelection job approval rating has risen to 55%, up five points since July and 11 points since the start of the year. His job rating is markedly higher than President George W. Bush’s first job measure (48%) after he won reelection in 2004.

In contrast, just 25% approve of the way Republican leaders in Congress are doing their jobs, while 40% approve of Democratic leaders’ job performance.

Majority Supports Same-Sex Marriage

First Read: “For the first time ever in the NBC/WSJ poll, a majority of respondents — 51% — support same-sex marriage. That percentage in support is up from 30% in 2004, 41% in 2009 and 49% in March 2012, demonstrating how quickly public opinion on this issue has changed in just eight years.”

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