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John Celock   |   December 17, 2012    5:55 PM ET

The chairman of the Arizona Republican Party and two other Arizona members of the Electoral College on Monday questioned President Barack Obama's birth certificate during the formal casting of the state's electoral votes.

Arizona GOP Chairman Tom Morrissey said during the state's Electoral College meeting that Obama did not produce a "legitimate" birth certificate, KNAU reports. Morrissey's comments came as presidential electors nationwide formally elected Obama over Republican Mitt Romney.

"I'm not satisfied with what I've seen," Morrissey said during the meeting. "I think for somebody in the president's position to not have produced a document that looks more legitimate, I have a problem with that."

Morrissey was joined in doubting Obama's citizenship by two other Arizona electors, Gila County Republican Party Chairman Don Ascoli and former Graham County Republican Chairman John D. Rhodes, the Associated Press reports. Ascoli questioned whether Obama had been"properly vetted as a legitimate candidate for president."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who has vetoed bills to require presidential candidates to show a birth certificate to Arizona's secretary of state, said she disagreed with the trio's stance. Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), the presiding officer of the Arizona Electoral College, also said he disagreed with what the three said. In May, Bennett had threatened to block Obama from appearing on the Arizona ballot unless he produced a birth certificate that met Bennett's satisfaction. Bennett later said he would not not place Obama on the state's presidential ballot.

The comments of the Arizona Republicans comes a week after birther queen Orly Taitz filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona against Vice President Joe Biden and Congress to block Biden from counting the electoral vote. Taitz, who has filed a series of lawsuits questioning Obama's eligibility, seeks to prevent Biden from performing his constitutional duty of opening the envelopes containing the electoral votes from each state and the District of Columbia before a joint session of Congress in January.

Taitz also wants to block California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) from signing California's Electoral College paperwork and mailing it to Biden and a federal judge. Taitz is joined in her lawsuit by federal prison inmate Keith Judd, who received 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the May Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia. Taitz contends that Judd would have been the Democratic presidential nominee if Obama had been ruled ineligible. In her court filing, Taitz claimed that Obama was a citizen of Indonesia and that he produced falsified documents to run for president.

John Celock   |   December 14, 2012    6:39 PM ET

The former chairwoman of the New Jersey Democratic Party on Friday called on a Democratic candidate for mayor of the state's second-largest city to return donations from a fundraiser co-hosted by a top Republican strategist.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing Township) issued a statement asking Jersey City mayoral candidate Steve Fulop (D) to return any "Republican money" from the Thursday fundraiser, co-hosted by Brian Nelson, a former executive director of the New Jersey Republican Party. In the statement, released by the campaign of Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy (D), Watson Coleman questioned Fulop's Democratic ties to explain why she was involving herself in a race an hour's drive from her base in the Trenton suburbs.

“Normally, I wouldn’t get involved in a race far from home, but this is a troubling and unique case," Watson Coleman said. "If a candidate to lead one of New Jersey’s largest cities is willing to embrace such a notable Republican to fund his campaign, what does that say about Steve Fulop’s willingness to embrace regressive right-wing policies in the community he seeks to serve?"

Nelson sent an email Dec. 5 promoting the fundraiser at a restaurant in Rumson and identifying himself as co-host. Fulop spokesman Bruno Tedeschi said at the time that Nelson was not a co-host and was attending as a "decade-old friend."

Healy has previously attacked Fulop for the fundraiser. Nelson was treasurer for state Sen. Joe Kyrillos' unsuccessful GOP campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D) this year and has been named by Gov. Chris Christie (R) to the state Economic Development Authority. Nelson also worked for 2005 GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Forrester.

Fulop and Healy are locked in a bitter campaign in a May nonpartisan election to lead Jersey City. Fulop, a 35-year-old councilman for the city's waterfront, has staked out a reformist position in city government and in the campaign against the two-term incumbent.

Watson Coleman said she wanted to know if Fulop's fundraiser was proof of an ideological connection.

“At the very least, it is confusing, and at worst frightening, to think of the implications this would have upon the safety, health care and education of such an important urban area of our state," Watson Coleman said. "Steve Fulop claims to be a Democrat, and if that’s the case he should immediately return this money -– which clearly comes with ideological Republican strings attached.”

Tedeschi declined to comment on Watson Coleman's statement. Earlier this month, when Healy asked that the fundraiser be canceled, Tedeschi told PolitickerNJ.com that Healy has himself received GOP backing and once employed a Republican as his chief of staff.

"Steven has always been a Democrat. He is happy to have bi-partisan support in a non-partisan election in a city that has all types of people," Tedeschi told PolitickerNJ.com. "This is just more hypocrisy from a candidate at the helm of a sinking ship. In 2009, Healy sent out a letter from the chairman of the Republican Party endorsing him for re-election."

Arthur Delaney   |   December 14, 2012    8:25 AM ET

President Barack Obama said prosecuting pot users in states that have legalized the drug won't be a top priority for his administration.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters. "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."

Last month, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot use for adults, though marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The Obama administration suggested last week that it was considering plans to undermine the voter initiatives. In his interview with Walters, Obama did not say whether his administration would go after producers and suppliers of marijuana in those states. The administration has cracked down extensively on the medical marijuana industry in California, despite its legality under state law there.

A slim majority of Americans want the Department of Justice to leave pot smokers alone in the states where the drug has been legalized, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.

Obama himself smoked pot as a youngster in Hawaii, where he and his high school pals called themselves the Choom Gang.

"There are a bunch of things I did that I regret when I was a kid," he told Walters. "My attitude is, substance abuse generally is not good for our kids, not good for our society."

John Celock   |   December 13, 2012   12:10 PM ET

Birther queen Orly Taitz has teamed up with a convicted felon who challenged President Barack Obama in the West Virginia Democratic primary to sue Vice President Joe Biden and Congress, in an effort to block the Electoral College vote.

Taitz announced on her website Wednesday evening that she had filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of federal prison inmate Keith Judd, along with two minor presidential candidates and Republican and Libertarian candidates for members of the electoral college. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Monday, is an attempt to prevent Congress from counting the Electoral College vote for Obama. Taitz did not announce the suit until Wednesday.

Taitz, an attorney and dentist based in Santa Monica, Calif., used the court papers to reiterate claims that Obama is a citizen of Indonesia and was not born in the United States. She alleges that Obama has used forged documents, including a fake birth certificate, Selective Service card and Social Security number from Connecticut, to run for president. Taitz has filed numerous state and federal court cases nationally seeking to have Obama thrown off the ballot.

Judd received 41-percent of the vote against Obama in May's West Virginia primary, the most of any candidate against the president. In her court filing, Taitz claims that Judd would be the Democratic Party nominee if Obama was removed from the ballot and could not be voted on by the Electoral College next week. Taitz also filed on behalf of Edward Noonan, who won the American Independent Party presidential primary in California; Thomas Gregory MacLeran, who filed to run as a Republican for president; and Republican James Grinols and Libertarian Robert Odden, who both ran for elector in Minnesota.

Taitz's suit seeks to block Biden from performing his constitutional duty as president of the U.S. Senate, opening envelopes containing individual state Electoral College votes in front of a joint session of Congress in January. The Electoral College is scheduled to convene Monday. Taitz also seeks to prevent California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) from signing documents regarding California's vote count that will be sent to Biden.

According to the National Archives and Records Administration's website, states are required to mail the documents to Biden and U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, along with a federal judge, by Dec. 26.

In her filing and exhibits, Taitz cited what she says is evidence of Obama's forged documentation and citizenship, including information she said was compiled by Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's (R) "cold case posse" when they investigated Obama's birth records in Hawaii.

Taitz's court filing can be viewed here and the exhibits viewed here.

Taitz's filing also said that 1.5 million California voters were fraudulently registered via an online registration process. She said a CD of voter registrations sent to her by Bowen showed that the registered voters did not have records proving citizenship or residency. Taitz said she had the information analyzed by two experts.

John Celock   |   December 12, 2012    1:05 PM ET

Birther queen Orly Taitz issued a plea Wednesday on her website for help finding a court reporter who transcribed a California hearing and for money so she can hire an assistant.

Taitz, a California dentist and attorney best known for challenging President Barack Obama's birthplace, claimed in two posts that she was told by California court officials that a transcript was not available from Oct. 29 and Nov. 1 court hearings during her attempt to get Obama disqualified. She wanted help finding the court reporter, noting that it would help her prove that Obama was ineligible for reelection and that 1.5 million California voters are fraudulently registered.

Taitz wrote:

I remember seeing a court reporter in Judge Marginis’s courtroom. I remember he is a male reporter, not tall, partially bald. I remember seeing him at least at one of these hearings on October 29th or November 1st, but I can’t say now if he was at both hearings. When I asked [for] a transcript, I was told by the clerk that there was a reporte [sic] on October 25th, but not on October 29th and not on November 1st. So much is going on, it is hard to remember and say 100%. Can someone find this court reporter? So, I need my supporters, who were in the courtroom to state, if they remember seeing him on October 29th and November 1st. How could it happen that in a case, where plaintiffs bring evidence of one and a half million invalid voter registrations, forgeries in IDs of the sitting president, there is no court reporter? Something is very wrong with [the] absence of [a] court reporter, absense [sic] of transcripts and absence of audio tapes and the judges [sic] trying one bogus excuse, it did not work, so he came up with another bogus excuse to dismiss the case and cover up Obama’s forged IDs.

Taitz also challenged the judge's questioning of her voter registration claims. Taitz wrote that the judge said claims about fraudulent voter registration were only Internet rumors, but Taitz said she obtained the material from a CD sent to her by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D). She said two experts reviewed the material provided by Bowen.

In a response to about the court reporter, a Taitz supporter named "LD" reminded the birther queen of a need to document the court process and suggested she hire an assistant. Taitz responded by asking if LD would pay for the assistant.

Taitz has regularly used her website in recent weeks to call for help. Last month, she issued a plea for volunteers to help her find the names and addresses of the nation's secretaries of state and state attorneys general in order to remove Obama from the ballot following the election.

In September, Taitz asked supporters to send her money to finance trips to Kansas as she protested Obama's name being on the ballot in his mother's home state.

Amanda Terkel   |   December 12, 2012   12:07 PM ET

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has announced he will not end same-day voter registration in the state, after a report concluded it would cost $5.2 million to do so.

"There is no way I'm signing a bill that costs that kind of money," Walker told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The announcement is a sharp reversal for Walker. In a Nov. 16 speech, he called for the repeal of the state's same-day registration law, which has been in place since 1976 and is often credited with boosting voter turnout.

"States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13-hour days and who in most cases are retirees," he said at the time. "It's difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It'd be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It'd be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done."

But poll workers and county clerks disputed Walker's assessment. Opponents of ending same-day registration said doing so would amount to voter suppression.

By early December, after facing criticism for his stance, Walker was calling the whole issue "ridiculous" and saying it created a distraction from job creation. Reports also surfaced that Walker's son registered at the polls on the day of the most recent election -- accompanied by the governor.

The report released on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Board, which oversees Wisconsin's elections, found that not only would eliminating same-day registration be costly, but it wouldn't reduce the workload of clerks, as Walker claimed.

Walker told reporters on Wednesday that he was not flip-flopping on same-day registration, but he was cognizant of the strong passions surrounding the issue and wanted to avoid more divisiveness in the state.

"I don't want anything out there that creates uncertainty," he said. "To me another battle like this creates that kind of uncertainty."

UPDATE: 12/13, 12:00 p.m. -- State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) told the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday that Walker hasn't completely "shut the door" on ending same-day registration, questioning whether the governor would support repeal if it was less expensive than the GAB estimate. He called on him to promise to veto any such bill.

Walker, however, said such an announcement would be premature.

"The Legislature hasn't event started. I'm not issuing vetoes on anything yet," Walker said. "I'm pointing out I'm not supporting a bill that would spend millions of dollars on something like that. I'm trying to save money, not spend money."

Arthur Delaney   |   December 12, 2012    8:09 AM ET

Voters are not impressed by House Speaker John Boehner's handling of "fiscal cliff" negotiations, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Just 25 percent of voters approve of the Ohio Republican's handling of budget negotiations, compared with 49 percent who approve of President Barack Obama's. And while Obama gets 79 percent approval from Democratic voters, Boehner garners only 39 percent approval from Republicans. He gets lower marks from moderates than from "very conservative" Republicans.

"Fiscal cliff" is the nickname for the moment at the end of the year when big automatic spending cuts are scheduled to take effect and Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress fails to make the spending cuts and tax hikes less severe, it could cause a recession.

President Obama has long insisted that the tax cuts should be allowed to expire on household incomes above $250,000, while Boehner has been adamant that no tax rates should increase. Popular opinion has long been on Obama's side, as polls have consistently shown that the public favors higher taxes on higher incomes. An earlier Washington Post-Pew poll showed that most Americans would blame Republicans if fiscal cliff talks fail.

A handful of Republicans in the House, most notably Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), have broken ranks to urge Boehner to give in to Obama on the top marginal tax rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Boehner hasn't been getting much help from other top Republicans in the House.

"Boehner's having trouble finding help from his leadership as to what they're to do," Reid said. "The speaker has to make an important decision -- whether he's going to save his speakership or the country."

John Celock   |   December 11, 2012    4:54 PM ET

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) defended his decision to limit early voting in the state, saying that voting places needed time to set up for the Nov. 6 election.

Speaking on Monday to a forum on voting sponsored by the Pew Center on the States in Washington, Husted said that he and other election officials needed time to make sure those who voted early were not included in poll books sent to voting locations on Election Day, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports. Husted said he likely did not need the three days given to him by the state legislature, but was bound to follow the law.

Before the November 2012 presidential election, Husted closed early voting three days earlier than in past years under new legislation adopted by Ohio lawmakers. He has been sued eight times in federal court, accused of trying to limit access to voting. But Husted said Monday that it is hard to achieve balance between maximum participation in voting and maintaining the integrity of the election.

Politics stands in the way of a balance, he said.

“If you want to find that balance, don’t become a secretary of state in a swing state,” cincinnati.com reported Husted as saying. “It is politics that stand s in the way of achieving that balance, not policy.”

On Monday, Husted came face-to-face with Jeremy Bird, an Obama campaign official who helped sue Husted. The Plain-Dealer reported that Bird said he believed Husted's answers about following the law and expanding voting access were "disingenuous" and that Husted should be trying expand voting access.

Husted, a former state House speaker, also used the forum to say that he would like the federal government to fund new voting machines for Ohio, cincinnati.com reported. Husted explained that the electronic voting machines the state purchased with a $3 billion federal grant in 2004 are reaching the end of their lifespan. With the Help America Vote Act mandating the machines, he said he believed the federal government should fund replacements in Ohio.

Husted's comments come days after he indicated that he is likely to seek a second term as secretary of state in 2014. Husted was first elected in 2010, unseating then Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D).

How Republicans Can Win Black Votes: Step One

Theodore Johnson   |   December 11, 2012   12:53 PM ET

Author's note: While many around the country are arguing that the future of the Republican Party lies in its ability to attract the Hispanic vote, it is the party's inability to attract black voters that is its true hindrance. Hispanics certainly help election math, but blacks assist in the more difficult calculus of perfecting the message.

This opinion piece is the hypothetical text of a Republican's speech given at an African-American church shortly after President Obama is sworn in for a second term. Recognizing that the party cannot survive with the country's changing demographics without diversifying its constituents, this speech is the first step in a concerted effort to attract the African-American vote.

Thank you Reverend for that kind introduction. And thanks to all of you for welcoming me into your place of worship. The Bible says we should show hospitality to strangers. And, unfortunately, that is how I stand before you today: as a member of a party that has been a stranger to you.

It's no secret; the Republican Party has failed to attract African-Americans. There are number of explanations as to why this is the case, but I believe it is primarily so for two simple reasons. First, the party has done a poor job of communicating its core values. And second, it has not prioritized inclusion, particularly of Africans-Americans. I am here today to take a step to fix this.

It is said that the Republican Party has ignored the nation's changing demographics and values. Our policies are portrayed as favoring the rich at the expense of minorities and the poor. And though the party is proud to have many African-Americans amongst our ranks today -- Mitt Romney garnered more black votes in 2012 than John McCain did in 2008 -- we have not done enough to attract more.

This is our fault, and it is unacceptable. Let me put this bluntly: if the Republican Party is not attractive to African-American voters, it will cease to exist. America cannot exist without you, and neither can the Republican Party.

Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, knew this. He knew that until the country addressed the horror of slavery, it would never be true to its founding principles. So the Civil War occurred because the Republican Party believed African-Americans had an inalienable, God-given right to be free.

The first African-American electorates voted Republican for generations -- your parents or grandparents were probably Teddy Roosevelt Republicans. The first African-American officials elected to Congress were Republicans. The grants that made Historically Black Colleges and Universities possible were written and signed into law by Republicans.

All these rights -- voting, higher education, and more equitable treatment -- became more real for African-Americans because of three things: the Good Lord above, the incredible perseverance of African-Americans, and compassionate Republicans who did the right thing, even when it was not easy. Because of this, the American Dream is more possible for everyone.

But somewhere along the way, the party forgot part of its roots. So let us look ahead, and I believe you will see that we are not so far apart after all.

Let me tell you plainly what the Republican Party believes. We believe in strong defense -- not so we can pick fights, but so that when others threaten us or start them, we can finish them. We believe in the strong families and their importance to our communities and to the country. And we do not want the government telling our churches to do things we do not believe in. We believe in parents having more choice in their children's schools and education. We believe that the country needs to do the same thing our families do when we spend too much -- tighten our belts. We believe that the way to increase revenue to pay our bills is to get more people employed, not raise taxes on those that are working. And we believe by using the energy resources that the Lord above has given us, we can reduce unemployment, increase our security, and become more self-reliant.

In others words, we believe in God, strong communities, hard work, and a fair environment for everyone to pursue their dreams, just like you do.

It is not our ideas and goals that are wrong; it was our expression and execution. We believe we have the best solutions to all of our country's challenges, but we need you. Without your voice, our approach will always be tone deaf.

African-Americans have voted Democrat over 90 percent of the time for decades. Let me tell you the results of that. Nationally, we have near eight percent unemployment. But for African-Americans, it is fifteen percent! When the housing bubble burst, twice as many African-Americans lost their homes as white Americans. The average net worth for African-Americans households is less than $5,000. For white households, it is about $110,000. African-Americans are paid less, dropping out more, and incarcerated more. A monolithic African-American voting bloc is not good for the country or for you. When politicians have to work to earn your vote, your community's issues are a higher priority and our country will be stronger for it.

Our histories are intertwined. When African-Americans and Republicans worked together, our country made the most enormous strides since its founding. Likewise, our futures must be intertwined if America is to remain the divinely blessed nation that God has ordained.

So, we can be strangers no more. We must be friends, for as the Good Book tells us, as iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

May God bless you, and our United States of America.

Theodore R. Johnson is a registered Independent, a naval officer and a 2011-2012 White House Fellow. The views expressed in this article are his own.

John Celock   |   December 11, 2012    8:36 AM ET

The first woman to serve as majority leader of the New Jersey state Senate is planning to announce her candidacy against Gov. Chris Christie (R) in the 2013 governor's race Tuesday.

State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) is set to become the first Democrat to enter the governor's race, informing Democratic Party officials statewide Monday evening of her decision, PolitickerNJ.com reports. Buono's announcement comes as Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), who is viewed as the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, is still mulling entering the governor's race. Booker told CBS's "Face The Nation" on Sunday that he'll decide within two weeks whether he'll run for governor or enter the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Buono's move comes as polls show Christie with a 72 percent approval rating following his handling of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Jersey Shore and left much of the state without power for two weeks. A poll shows Christie receiving 53 percent of the vote in a head-to-head race with Booker.

Buono has been setting the stage for a gubernatorial campaign in recent weeks, including commissioning a statewide poll of her chances against Booker in a primary, advertising for a campaign manager and attending last month's meeting of the Democratic Governors Association. Buono was ousted as majority leader in 2011 due to her clashes with state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) over a series of issues, including pension and benefits reform, which was pushed by Christie. Sweeney told The Huffington Post last week that he is considering entering the 2013 gubernatorial race.

Buono was elected to a Middlesex County Senate seat in 2001 following seven years as a state assemblywoman. In addition to the majority leader's post, she is the first woman to chair the Senate Budget and Appropriatins Committee. She has also chaired the Senate Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee and the Legislative Oversight Committee. Prior to joining the state legislature, she was a councilwoman and police commissioner in Metuchen, N.J.

Buono's candidacy comes as New Hampshire Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan is set to become the only Democratic woman governor in the country next year. Republican Christie Whitman, who left office in 2001, is the only woman to serve as New Jersey governor and to be a major party nominee for the office. Former Princeton Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund is the last Democratic woman to seek the New Jersey governorship in her 1989 primary run.

In addition to Buono, Sweeney and Booker, state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage (D) are considered potential gubernatorial candidates. Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) announced he would not run for governor on Monday.

John Celock   |   December 10, 2012    8:49 PM ET

Two Democratic Washington state senators have decided to caucus with the opposition party, handing control of the state Senate to Republicans -- the second state Senate to flip to GOP control in less than a week.

State Sens. Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potiatich) announced Monday that they would caucus with Senate Republicans, flipping the chamber's 26-23 Democratic majority to a 25-24 Republican coalition majority, The Seattle Times reports. Tom will become majority leader in the new coalition-led Senate, with committee chairmanships being split between both parties. Last week, five Democratic state senators in New York, who belong to the Independent Democratic Conference, formed a coalition with state Senate Republicans.

Tom and Sheldon told The Seattle Times they believed the new coalition would allow more effective governing.

"This is not about power. This is not about control," Tom told the newspaper. "This is about governing in a collaborative manner."

Tom's comments were similar to those by New York state Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) on why his group joined Republicans. Under the New York plan, Klein and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) will rotate the office of temporary president of the Senate every two weeks and will have equal say in setting the Senate agenda and making patronage appointments. In addition to the coalition, New York state Sen.-elect Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) said he would join the GOP caucus.

A Washington state Senate press release said Republicans would chair committees overseeing the budget, health care, education, government operations and elections, tribal relations, commerce, labor and the judiciary. Democrats will helm committees overseeing natural resources, parks, agriculture, trade, economic development, banking and insurance, higher education, the environment and water. Co-chairs will be named to committees overseeing corrections, human services, transportation and energy.

In New York, committee chairmanships have not been announced. For the past several years, New York's Senate has had several bipartisan committee chairs, with the Independent Democratic Conference members chairing four committees over the last two years. In 2010, under a Democratic majority, Republicans chaired the energy and mental health committees.

While New York saw the state Senate go from Republican to Democratic in the election before the flip, Democrats had retained the Washington state Senate in the election. The Washington House of Representatives remains Democratic, along with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee (D).

John Celock   |   December 10, 2012   12:53 PM ET

Orly Taitz, the California dentist and attorney best known for challenging President Barack Obama's citizenship, is asking the 80,000 people who have watched her YouTube video to join her for a protest in Washington.

Taitz posted on her website on Monday that a 2011 YouTube video of her speaking to the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission now had 80,000 views. She said that amount of people protesting would make a difference in her bid to challenge Obama's presidential eligibility based on her belief that Obama was not born in the United States. As of late Monday morning, over 81,400 views were listed on the video.

Taitz wrote on her website in her trademark all-caps style:

A MILESTONE: NOW OVER 80,000 PEOPLE WATCHED THIS VIDEO CLIP OF ME TESTIFYING TO NH ELECTIONS COMMISSION. 80,000 PEOPLE DEMONSTRATING BEFORE THE WHITE HOUSE OR A CAPITOL BUILDING OR FEDERAL BUILDING CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

Taitz's New Hampshire appearance, in which she asked the commission to remove Obama from the state's presidential primary ballot, featured shouting matches between several then-members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Commission. Former state Rep. Harry Accornero (R-Laconia) called Obama a "treasonous liar" during the hearing, while former state Rep. Sue DeLemus (R-Rochester), a Tea Party leader, demanded that Assistant State Attorney General Matthew Mavrogeorge respond to her requests regarding constitutional information. Mavrogeorge and Assistant Secretary of State Karen Ladd locked themselves in an office and called police following the outbursts

Accornero and DeLemus were both defeated for reelection last month.

Taitz has been using her website to continue her challenge to Obama's eligibility. The site highlights pending lawsuits Taitz has in several states that seek to have Obama removed from the ballot, including lawsuits in Mississippi, New York and Florida, along with a case she hopes to bring before the U.S. Supreme Court. The birther queen claims that a Supreme Court clerk is likely to dismiss the case. Taitz used the website last month to ask for volunteers to help her find the names and addresses of secretaries of state and attorneys general. In September, she issued a plea for supporters to finance a trip for her to Kansas to push a case to remove Obama from the ballot in his mother's home state.

Taitz also challenged Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R) to file a criminal complaint based on his "cold case posse's" investigation into Obama's Hawaii birth certificate. Taitz said Arpaio should return donations he's received if he does not file a complaint.

John Celock   |   December 10, 2012    8:49 AM ET

The chairman of the New Jersey Democratic Party has decided not to challenge Gov. Chris Christie (R) in next year's gubernatorial race.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) told The Star-Ledger Sunday that he does not believe that it is the "right time" to run for governor, and that he prefers to focus on his private law practice and political responsibilities. Wisniewski's decision came the same day that Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, said on CBS' "Face The Nation" that he would make a decision "within the next two weeks" about entering the gubernatorial race. Booker is also considering a 2014 race for the U.S. Senate.

Several Democrats have been considering the race against Christie, who is enjoying a 72 percent approval rating in the wake of his handling of Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the Garden State. New Jersey Senate president Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), a potential candidate, told The Huffington Post last week that Christie's approval rating had been as low as 47 percent prior to the hurricane, and noted that a head-to-head match-up between Christie and Booker had the Republican at 53 percent.

In addition to Booker and Sweeney, state Sens. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) and Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage (D) are considering becoming gubernatorial candidates. Buono is a former Senate majority leader, while Codey served 14 months as governor following the 2004 resignation of former Gov. Jim McGreevey (D). Sweeney is also considering a 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Wisniewski's decision not to enter the race comes after he has been increasingly critical of Christie's national GOP role over the course of 2012, along with his handling of Hurricane Sandy. Last month, he told PolitickerNJ that he believes that he "could do a better job" handling the hurricane.

Wisniewski's criticism of Christie's out-of-state travel on behalf of Republican candidates was slammed as "absurd" by state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), who said that state legislative Democrats did not convene the legislature the entire summer. Wisniewski, a nine-term assemblyman, said he would seek reelection in his Middlesex County district. Wisniewski was elected state Democratic chairman in 2009.

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   December 7, 2012    4:24 PM ET

Optimism about the country's direction has grown slightly, but Americans remain worried about the economy and sharply divided over how to fix it, according to a Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll released Friday.

The highest percentage of Americans since 2009 -- 41 percent -- say the country is generally headed in the right direction, and half think the economy will improve by the end of President Obama's second term. Expectations are down, however, for a speedy improvement. Forty-four percent of those polled expected the economy to improve over the next year, down 13 points since September.

Americans see job creation as the nation's most pressing economic issue, followed by government spending and the budget deficit. Just 9 percent cited the fiscal cliff as the biggest concern, and just 6 percent chose taxes.

Partisan and racial differences loomed large in which issues people wanted elected officials to address, as the National Journal notes:

For whites, dealing with the deficit ranks as the clear first priority, followed by Social Security and Medicare, and then the availability of good jobs. For minorities, the top priority is the education system (which ranked only sixth among whites), followed by the entitlement programs, jobs, and the cost of health care.

Similarly, poll respondents who said they voted for Romney identify reducing the deficit, by far, as their highest priority, followed by national defense and the war on terrorism. Among Obama voters, debt ranked fifth and terrorism was 12th. Their top priorities are education, jobs, health care costs, and the entitlement programs.

Romney's supporters were more likely to advocate cutting taxes or lowering the deficit as the best long-term economic strategies, while Obama's supporters focused on investments in areas including education, research and infrastructure.

Opinion is also split on Obama's economic performance to date. Nearly equal numbers either blamed him for job losses and the deficit, or credited him for preventing a broader crisis -- numbers that have barely changed over the last three years, including during the 2012 campaign.

As in other recent polling, Obama's job approval rating is at its strongest in years, hitting 54 percent.

Americans trusted the president over Congressional Republicans by 16 points to solve the country's economic challenges. While a majority called on both sides to compromise for the sake of productivity, more than half of Americans wanted the president to take a "visionary," long-term approach to governing rather than a "practical" one.

The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll surveyed 1,000 adults by phone between Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, with a 3.1 percent margin of error.