Fox News Ratings Plummet

Fox News “had its worst ratings since 2001 in January,” Politico reports.

“The network had a 12-year low in the coveted 25-54 demographic in primetime and fell to its lowest total day ratings since 2008.”

Why Republicans Should Ignore Obama

Ramesh Ponnuru: “Republicans can and should continue to stand for their principles on the many occasions when they conflict with Obama’s. What they shouldn’t do is conceive of their near-term political task as winning a series of confrontations with the president. Because they’re unlikely to win very often. Obama has inherent advantages in political debates with more than 200 House Republicans, and his re-election will only strengthen his hand, at least for now. The Republicans are better off sidelining Obama to the extent they can and fighting congressional Democrats — or, better yet, getting congressional Democrats to fight one another.”

Should We Make Voting Constitutional?

American Prospect: “Unlike citizens in every other advanced democracy–and many other developing ones–Americans don’t have a right to vote. Popular perception notwithstanding, the Constitution provides no explicit guarantee of voting rights. Instead, it outlines a few broad parameters.”

Menendez Denies Using Prostitutes

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) “denied any wrongdoing in the wake of allegations that a major campaign donor now under investigation by the FBI provided him with prostitutes and plane flights to the Dominican Republic,” the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

Said a spokesman: “Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false.”

Brown Holds Early Lead in Special Election

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Massachusetts finds Scott Brown (R) edging Ed Markey (D) in a possible special election match up to fill the seat of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), 48% to 45%.

Caveat: “69% of the voters currently undecided voted for Elizabeth Warren in November, while only 17% of them voted for Brown. If those folks ended up voting for the same party that they did in November, Markey would lead Brown by a point. Brown may be starting out at 48%, but it’s a very hard path to 50 for him given who the undecideds are.”

GOP Electoral Vote Changes Hit Roadblocks

“Republican proposals in swing states to change how electoral votes are allocated have set off alarms that the party is trying to rig future presidential elections. But the plans are going nowhere fast,” Politico reports.

“In the majority of states where such measures are being considered – Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Michigan, all states that voted for President Obama in 2012 but have Republican-controlled legislatures – proposals to split Electoral College votes proportionally have either been defeated or are strongly opposed by officials in those states.”

Rick Hasen: “Think about it: The last thing Republican legislators want is national Democratic campaigns scrounging for every vote in conservative-leaning districts. Fewer Republicans will win legislative and Congressional seats because Republican districts will become more competitive by design. Why would Republican legislators vote for a plan that will make it harder for them to keep their jobs?”

The Week: The long past and perilous future of gaming the Electoral College.

Pritzker for Commerce Secretary?

“Chicago hotel and real estate heiress and Obama mega-bundler Penny Pritzker, is said to be in the mix once more — in fact, there’s chatter here that she’s already the pick — to be Secretary of Commerce,” the Washington Post reports.

Clinton Freezes the Field

Chris Cillizza notes the race for president in 2016 won’t start until Hillary Clinton “makes clear what she’s doing.”

“Clinton knows that she is currently freezing the field with the-door-remains-slightly-open statements like ‘I have no intention’ to run for president. Having no intention to run is not even close to the same thing as ruling out the race. Words matter in politics and no one understands just how much better than Clinton.”

“She also knows that her ability to keep the race frozen in place has a shelf life and if she waits too long to decide she will lose a fair amount of the political goodwill she has built up in the party.”

Lawmaker Seeks Corporal Punishment Bill

Montana state Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R) has introduced a bill that would allow criminal defendants to bargain with a judge for corporal punishment in lieu of time behind bars, theGreat Falls Tribune reports.

“The measure is already raising eyebrows and is sure to catch the attention of those on the lookout for ‘bat crap crazy‘ legislation this session. Republican leadership has been doing its best to tamp down any potential bills the other side might use to embarrass the GOP as they work to craft a budget. This one apparently didn’t get tamped.”

Corzine Seeking Rehabilitation of His Image

The New York Times reports that former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) “was close to cooperating with Richard Ben Cramer, an author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, on a biography. Mr. Corzine’s lawyers were in the final stages of negotiating with Mr. Cramer this month when the author died from complications of lung cancer.”

Cowan Picked as Interim Senator

William “Mo” Cowan, a senior adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), will be named by the governor to serve as the interim U.S. senator until a successor to John Kerry is chosen by the voters, the Boston Globe reports.

U.S. Economy Shrank in 4th Quarter

Wall Street Journal: “U.S. economic momentum screeched to a halt in the final months of 2012, as businesses pared back inventories and government spending fell sharply, while lawmakers struggled to reach a deal on tax increases and budget cuts. The nation’s gross domestic product shrank for the first time in three and a half years during the fourth quarter, declining at an annual rate of 0.1% between October and December.”

Brown Leaning Towards Senate Bid

Republicans officials close to former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) tell the AP that he’s ”leaning strongly toward running” in the special election to replace Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

“They report that Brown is likely to enter the race early next week. The officials spoke Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to share internal discussions.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reports Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is expected to announce his temporary replacement for Sen. John Kerry at 11:00 am ET this morning.

Two Pressure Points on Immigration Reform

First Read: “It’s been quite a revealing past 48 hours in the still-evolving debate over immigration, with Monday’s bipartisan Senate framework and Tuesday’s speech by President Obama. So what have we learned? There are two pressure points that either could create enough force to ensure legislation gets through Congress, or that could scuttle any chance for a deal. One, Marco Rubio and Republicans considering any comprehensive immigration reform want a ‘trigger’ to make sure that border enforcement comes before legalization… Two, Obama yesterday vowed to bring his own legislation if Congress doesn’t quickly act. Translation: He’ll blame Republicans for this failure.”

“But here’s something this debate IS NOT about: whether Obama wants to use immigration as a way to club Republicans. It’s not even a question. The idea that anyone outside of political partisans — or those looking for a reason to be against reform (but don’t want to look anti-Hispanic) — believes that Obama doesn’t want to sign historic immigration legislation to fulfill a campaign promise is a bit naïve.”

Torture Likely to Dominate Brennan’s Hearing

Reuters: “John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, had detailed, contemporaneous knowledge of the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on captured terrorism suspects during an earlier stint as a top spy agency official… Those records, the sources said, show that Brennan was a regular recipient of CIA message traffic about controversial aspects of the agency’s counter-terrorism program after September 2001, including the use of waterboarding. How deeply involved Brennan was in the program, and whether he vigorously objected to it at the time, as he has said he did, are likely to be central questions lawmakers raise at his Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing, scheduled for February 7.”

Unions and Hollywood Donors Bankroll New Advocacy Group

“Labor unions and Hollywood donors are open to bankrolling Organizing for Action, the outside group that has been formed in support of President Obama’s second-term agenda,” The Hill reports.

“To the dismay of campaign finance reformers, Organizing for Action will operate as a 501(c)(4), a tax-exempt vehicle that was used during the 2012 campaign to evade donor disclosure while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign ads.”

Obama Approval Spikes Up

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll finds President Obama “has advanced to his highest personal popularity since his first year in office, and Americans who’ve formed an opinion of his second inaugural address last week broadly approve of it.”

Key findings: 60% of Americans now express a favorable opinion of Obama overall, up 10 points since last summer, in the heat of the presidential race.

Ryan Leaves Prison

Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) was released from prison after six years in a federal penitentiary, NBC Chicago reports.

“Ryan, a 78-year-old father and grandfather, must report to a halfway house in Chicago at some point in the day. The former governor, convicted in 2006 of federal corruption charges, was given a strict schedule to get from the prison to the West Side facility about four hours away. There was speculation he left the prison early Tuesday morning to arrive in Chicago by 7 a.m.””

Obama Skeet Shooting Truthers

The Atlantic notes that some conservatives are responding with skepticism about President Obama’s recent claim that he regularly goes skeet shooting at Camp David.

“So why are the ‘truthers’ coming out over the president doing a little face-saving with the gun crowd? Hasn’t he made clear his support of the Second Amendment throughout his push for new proposals on gun violence? Well, there’s the convenient timing, of course, but the gun push is why he was asked the question in the first place. No, conservative skeptics say — this guy doesn’t know anything about guns or the gun initiatives he’s trying to push … It’s just the latest in a narrative that Obama, when it comes right down to it, is afraid of guns. Whether that’s true or not, conservatives sure aren’t afraid to say so.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in an interview with CNN went so far as to challenge Obama to a match: “If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos? Why hasn’t he referenced this at any point in time? … I tell you what I do think. I think he should invite me to Camp David, and I’ll go skeet shooting with him, and I bet I’ll beat him … It’s a great hobby, and I would hope that the president does enjoy it.”

The Week: “So should Obama accept Blackburn’s challenge? It may not be a bad idea, actually.”

Perdue Not Interested in Senate Seat

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) “has declared himself out of a 2014 contest to replace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but placed himself on the side of Republicans who believe the party has become too rigid in its approach,” the Atlanta Journal Constitutionreports.

Bloomberg Praises Biden

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg heaped praise on Vice President Joe Biden in a free-ranging Politico interview which covered the vice president’s “efforts to move the dial on guns, immigration and gay marriage.”

Said Bloomberg: “You know, Joe Biden — you can joke about him all you want, but he’s got a set of balls, and he says what he believes.”

He added: “And he forced the focus [on gay marriage]. I’m sure the president was evolving and was about to do it anyways. But Biden deserves the credit. He should be the hero of the pro-gay marriage community.”

No Deal on Sequester in Sight

“Less than a month after averting one fiscal crisis, Washington began bracing Tuesday for another, as lawmakers in both parties predicted that deep, across-the-board spending cuts would probably hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1,” the Washington Post reports.

“An array of proposals are in the works to delay or replace the cuts. But party leaders say they see no clear path to compromise, particularly given a growing sentiment among Republicans to pocket the cuts and move on to larger battles over health and retirement spending.”

The Wall Street Journal notes Senate Democrats “are considering further short-term deferrals of spending cuts set to be implemented from March 1, but only through a combination of increased tax revenue and cuts elsewhere to the federal budget… Two top GOP Senate leaders were quickly dismissive of the plan, saying that they wouldn’t contemplate any tax increases as part of an effort to avoid the sequester beginning to take effect.”

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