POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES -1/8

A GOP Civil War Looks Possible

Nate Cohn: “The Republicans could nominate a unifying candidate in the 2016 primaries–you never know–but a contested primary would probably break along geographic lines. In retrospect, the 2012 primary might have been a sneak preview. Even though Romney possessed vastly superior resources and acceded to every substantive demand of the right, the GOP primary electorate divided neatly between north and south. Southerners concerned with nominating an authentic conservative never embraced Romney: Despite the help of a divided field, Romney only broke 31 percent of the vote in one southern state, Florida. Geographic polarization ensured that the 2012 Republican presidential primary lasted until April. The fiscal cliff vote shows that such polarization is becoming the rule rather than the exception. If a blue-state Republican secures the GOP presidential nomination thanks to winner-take-all contests in blue states like New Jersey and California, Krauthammer might actually get his civil war.”

Obama Seen as Clear Winner in Fiscal Cliff Fight

A new Pew Research survey finds President Obama is viewed as the clear political winner in the fiscal cliff negotiations, 57% to 20%, “but the legislation itself gets only a lukewarm reception from the public: As many disapprove as approve of the new tax legislation, and more say it will have a negative than positive impact on the federal budget deficit, the national economy and people like themselves.”

Can Rick Perry Repair His Image?

The Houston Chronicle reports the legislative session that opens tomorrow will give Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) “a chance to burnish his credentials if he chooses to make another run for president in 2016.”

“But some are hard-pressed to imagine a session — or anything else — good enough to make voters forget his disastrous White House race that limped to an end just about a year ago… Perry turned into a punch line after a series of campaign missteps punctuated by his inability to remember all the federal departments he wanted to shut down, a debate lapse that entered the big leagues of embarrassing moments when he gave up with an ‘oops.'”

Selling Chuck Hagel

“The plan, according to administration officials, is to cast Hagel as a war veteran, a Republican who still shares ideals with a party that has largely shunned him, and — above all else — someone who won’t set official U.S. policy,” BuzzFeed reports.

“The White House’s strategy seeks to sell Hagel as a technocrat with an impeccable record of military service whose only sin against the GOP in the Senate was his opposition to the Iraq war — a conflict that is now immensely unpopular. Once that image is articulated to the public, an administration official said, Obama will dare Republicans to vote against him.”

Mark Halperin: “The two most important senators in this nomination right now are McConnell and McCain. If Hagel has their support, he should be home free. If he loses one or both of them, and even a single Democrat, the dynamics become more challenging for the White House.”

Supreme Court to Hear Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court has set aside two days in late March to hear oral argument on the same-sex marriage cases, NBC News reports.

On March 26, the court will take up the fight over California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. The next day, it will hear the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in the states where they’re legal.

How Much Does Barney Frank Want to be a Senator?

The Boston Globe reports former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) “is dialing back his opposition to the pending nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, saying he is willing to look past the Nebraska Republican’s comments about gays because it is more important that his views prevail on drawing down the war in Afghanistan and reducing wasteful defense spending.”

Frank is angling for the appointment to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) seat should he resign to become secretary of state. The confirmation of Hagel could be one of the first votes for the new interim senator.

Why the Hagel Nomination is a Big Deal

Peter Beinhart: “What makes Hagel so important, and so threatening to the Republican foreign-policy elite, is that he is one of the few prominent Republican-aligned politicians and commentators (George Will and Francis Fukuyama are others, but such voices are rare) who was intellectually changed by Iraq. And Hagel was changed, in large measure, because he bore within him intellectual (and physical) scar tissue from Vietnam…. the Iraq War sparked something visceral in Hagel, as the former Vietnam rifleman realized that, once again, detached and self-interested elites were sending working-class kids like himself to die in a war they couldn’t honestly defend.”

Andrew Sullivan: “To my mind, this is his core qualification. Unlike so many of the lemmings and partisans of Washington DC, Hagel actually called out the catastrophe of the Iraq War as it happened. The neocons cannot forgive him for exposing what they wrought on the nation and the world.”

Wonk Wire: Hagel would give Obama policy cover.

Lawmaker Who Voted Against Hurricane Relief Once Sought It

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy last week,TPM reports, “despite representing coastal Mississippi, one of the regions hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina and a top beneficiary of Katrina disaster aid.”

In fact, Palazzo “was deeply involved in pressing for federal dollars in the fall of 2005. Then acting in his role as a local government official, Palazzo repeatedly appealed for federal funding to help rebuild his battered coastal Mississippi community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.”

Could the Voting Rights Act be Struck Down?

Jeffrey Toobin writes that “after the 2010 midterm elections, nineteen states passed laws that put up barriers to voting, including new photo-I.D. and proof-of-citizenship requirements, and restrictions on early and absentee voting. In most of those states, Republicans controlled the governorship and the legislature. The purported justification for the changes was to limit in-person voter fraud, but that claim was fraudulent itself, since voter fraud is essentially nonexistent.”

“It is against this backdrop that, next month, the Supreme Court will take up a challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the most effective law of its kind in the history of the United States. A century after the Civil War, the act, in abolishing many forms of discrimination employed by the Southern states, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, finally turned the legal right for African-Americans in those states to vote into an actual right to vote. Bipartisan congressional majorities have reauthorized the law four times, most recently in 2006. (It passed the House overwhelmingly and the Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by George W. Bush.) The question now is whether the Supreme Court will strike down the Voting Rights Act as a violation of states’ rights.”

Team of Mentors

National Journal: “During the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama spoke of his admiration for President Lincoln’s Team of Rivals approach to picking his Cabinet, referring to the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Obama later selected his No. 1 Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as his secretary of State. But what Obama is now assembling is more of a Team of Mentors, a group of old lions of the Senate who, along with Biden, helped to shape Obama’s worldview during his brief stint as a freshman senator before he ran for president.”

Battle Lines Drawn Over Taxes Again

“Republicans won’t accept further tax increases in coming budget and debt negotiations, the party’s Senate leader said Sunday, putting GOP lawmakers on a collision course with Democrats over raising the government’s borrowing limit,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Democrats are signalling they want “to raise as much as $1 trillion in new revenues through tax reform later this year to balance Republican demands to slash mandatory spending,”The HIll reports.

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