Obama Taps Biden To Go After Guns

From USA Today:

President Obama appointed Vice President Biden on Wednesday to lead an effort to develop new policies to combat gun violence.

"We have a deep obligation -- all of us -- to try" and end gun violence, Obama said at the White House. "This time, the words need to lead to action."

Obama added: "It won't be easy, but that can't be an excuse not to try."

The president said this is not your "typical Washington commission." Obama said Biden will complete his work in a month, and that the horror of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting should remain vivid in so short a time.

Obama said he picked Biden because of his experience in the Senate, including a major role in the 1994 crime bill that included an assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.

The president said he believes in the Second Amendment, and he is betting that hunters and gun enthusiasts will support common sense restrictions. "An unbalanced man should not be able to get a military-style assault weapon," he said.

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Poll: Following Newtown Shooting, 86% Want More Action to Identify And Treat Mental Illness

From Rasmussen Reports:

Americans want something done following the horrific news from Sandy Hook Elementary School last week, and a plurality believes a greater emphasis on mental health issues will be the most effective way to prevent such tragedies.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Americans believe more action to treat mental health issues will do the most to prevent incidents like last Friday’s school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-seven percent (27%) think stricter gun control laws will do the most to prevent such shootings, while 15% put the emphasis on limits on violent movies and video games. Ten percent (10%) are undecided.

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U.S. Democrats Must Tread Lightly In Coming Push For More Gun Control: Experts

U.S. Democrats must avoid appearing too heavy-handed in what will likely be a push for more gun control when Congress reconvenes in January after Friday' s grizzly school shooting spree, experts said.

On Monday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney reiterated President Barack Obama' s statements that in the coming weeks he would engage "lawmakers, law enforcement, mental health experts, educators and others in an effort to try to prevent these kinds of terrible tragedies from happening in the future," but added that Obama has not yet espoused an official agenda.

But for any serious discussion on gun control to be successful, anything seen as a naked power grab on guns is likely to fail, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Moreover, those advocating greater gun control will have to tackle every issue associated with what happened on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, from mental health issues to questions on what some see as a U.S. culture of violence, O'Connell said.

But the two lawmakers rank high on a recent National Journal list of the most liberal senators, based on last year' s voting records. O'Connell said for any gun legislation to pass it would have to involve more moderate voices, such as West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. 

Read more at Xinhua

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A More Proportional Electoral College?

From Reid Wilson at The NationalJournal:

Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party's path to the Oval Office.

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party's majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.

Tweaks of electoral-vote rules are hardly unprecedented, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University. State legislatures routinely changed Electoral College allocation rules in the early years of the Republic; the political fallout then can inform present-day lawmakers considering the changes.

In the long run, Republican operatives say they would like to pursue similar Electoral College reform in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Obama won all three states, but Romney won a majority of the congressional districts in each state.

Any changes to the allocation of Electoral College votes would have a major impact on each party's path to the White House. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have given Democrats their collective 246 electoral votes in each of the last six elections. That virtually forces Republicans to run the swing-state table.

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Poll: McAuliffe Leads Cuccinelli In 2013 Virginia Governor's Race

From Julian Walker at PilotOnline.com:

Virginia's marquee race next year is the gubernatorial race which, according to the poll, is a statistical dead heat with Democratic businessman Terry McAuliffe narrowly ahead of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 43 percent to 42 percent.

The [Public Opinion Strategies] survey found 15 percent of likely voters in that contest are undecided.

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Obama's True Fiscal Cliff Motivation: To Break Republicans

From Karl Rove at Rove.com:

As the country waits to see if Washington avoids plummeting over the "fiscal cliff," let's consider what President Obama's demands reveal about his motivations.

Mr. Obama wants more revenues, lots more. He's asking for $1.6 trillion over the coming decade, twice as much as he had tentatively agreed to with House Speaker John Boehner this summer (until the president blew up the deal by demanding more).

So why ask for these things? Part of the explanation is ideological. The president does want to expand government's size, cost and reach in order to, in his words, "transform" America.

But the president is now less interested in raising revenues than in raising marginal tax rates on top earners. He apparently believes that Republicans, in a weakened state and defending an unpopular position, might buckle on a central GOP tenet, opposition to any increase in marginal rates. That might kick off a Republican civil war, resulting in divisive party primaries in 2014 that leave the president's opposition even more weakened and produce more subpar candidates like this year's Republican Senate candidates in Indiana and Missouri.

This brings us to Mr. Obama's real goal: having Democrats recapture the House in 2014 and once again stave off losses in the Senate.

Moreover, it is likely that the GOP will retain and even grow its House majority in 2014. Since 1938, the incumbent president's party has lost an average of 33 House seats and seven Senate seats in the midterm following a re-election.

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Is Susan Rice Right To Step Aside?

Embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s decision to withdraw her name from consideration for secretary of state was in the best interest of the Obama administration.

Right now, the president has public opinion on his side, and for President Obama to push for her confirmation, he would have to expend a lot of political capital that is best used elsewhere.

The American public may not be following the terrorist attack that unfolded in Benghazi all that closely, but it is important to keep in mind that we have four dead Americans and no answers.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Blind Embrace of Democrats Cost Unions In Michigan

Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. says Michigan’s passage of a right-to-work law on Tuesday “basically betray[s] democracy.” Actually, it portrays democracy — and reasonably accurately. 

For decades, Hoffa, his father, who also led the Teamsters, and almost all leaders of major unions have unabashedly and unashamedly aligned themselves with the Democratic Party. They provided foot soldiers for campaigns and money when necessary to pave the way for Democrats to win public office. 

Those officeholders, in turn, rewarded them with union-friendly laws, expanded social services, high salaries and generous benefits for union members in the public and private sectors, as well as fostered a climate that enhanced — rather than challenged — the power of the leaders themselves.

A perfect storm had to come together to topple union power in what can be considered the birthplace of the big-time American labor movement. And it did. Unions overreached this fall and had a ballot initiative to enshrine union rights in the state constitution. It fell 57-42.

That was the signal Rick Snyder, the state’s Republican governor, and the Legislature needed that Michigan residents had tired of blind government support for unions and would consider alternatives.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at The Hill's Pundits Blog

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Searching For The Next Right-To-Work State

From The Washington Post:

The conservative groups that supported Michigan’s new “right to work” law — winning a stunning victory over unions, even in the heart of American labor — vowed Wednesday to replicate that success elsewhere.

But the search for the next Michigan could be difficult.

“If Michigan can do it, then I think everybody ought to think about it,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. He said he thinks at least one more state will adopt such a law before the end of 2013, and listed Alaska, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania among the top contenders. “Very confident. It will happen. [But] I can’t tell you where the next one is.”

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DeMint Could Be A Force Backing Candidates In 2014 Election

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) might be leaving the upper chamber, but the conservative favorite is likely to remain a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 cycle.

DeMint has not publicly discussed how active he plans to remain in Senate primaries, one of his major focuses during his last few years in Congress. 

If he decides to focus more on policy and not get involved in the actual contests, that could leave a void on the right and let the National Republican Senatorial Committee become more involved in recruiting and aiding primary candidates. 

DeMint also pressured the NRSC and its outgoing chairman, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), not to endorse any candidates in 2012. While the organization was involved in some candidate recruitment, it did not get publicly involved in any primaries.

The NRSC faces a tricky situation. The ever-expanding influence of outside groups and rowdy grass roots quick to react against any perceived meddling has both weakened their ability to influence primaries and heightened the risk that any efforts for a candidate will backfire.

“There are some very big opportunities in 2014. The question is whether or not the NRSC delivers in the primaries, whether or not they step in,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who has been involved in a number of Senate races (and contributes to The Hill’s Pundits Blog). “You saw the grief that Cornyn got in 2010 — there was always grumbling if they entered too much, or not enough. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Right now we have six relatively toss-up races and they have to clean the slate if they want to be back in power or come close to it.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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