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Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 29, 2012    9:23 AM ET


The indignities of losing a presidential race don't stop on election night.

Since Nov. 6, Mitt Romney has seen his Facebook followers dwindle, and his merchandise land in the discount bin. Now, a professional wrestler with a Romney/Ryan logo facial tattoo is planning to remove it, calling Romney's post-campaign performance "pretty shameful."

Eric Hartsburg told Politico the final straw came when the former GOP presidential candidate attributed his loss to President Barack Obama's "gifts" to minorities.

“It stands not only for a losing campaign, but for a sore loser,” Hartsburg said. “He’s pretty shameful as far as I’m concerned, man. There’s no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying off people. I can’t get behind that or stay behind that.”

Hartsburg, who said he hoped the 5-by-2-inch tattoo would make politics more fun, had initially resigned himself to keeping the mark.

“I’m the guy who has egg all over his face, but instead of egg, it’s a big Romney/Ryan tattoo. It’s there for life,” he told Politico after the election, saying he was a man of his word.

But the 30-year-old is now planning to fly to Los Angeles to have the tattoo removed, a year-long process. He hasn't ruled out getting another tattoo, maybe in 2016 when the "R" could do double duty for a potential Marco Rubio candidacy. Or, maybe, he said, he'll just get a yard sign next time.

Elise Foley   |   November 29, 2012    9:12 AM ET

Mitt Romney adviser Stuart Stevens defended the failed GOP presidential candidate and himself on Thursday, repeating an argument from his Wednesday Washington Post op-ed that the candidate carried the day, but still didn't win.

That op-ed was met with widespread criticism, in part because of Stevens' insistence that since Romney won voters who made more than $50,000 per year and won the white vote, he was, in a way, successful.

He told CBS' "This Morning" that he was "not at all" saying the race was divided into support from the haves and the have-nots. He also defended Romney's claims post-election that Obama won because of "gifts" to base constituencies, such as women and Latinos.

"I don't think that's what he was saying," he said when asked why Romney essentially said Obama paid off those voters. "I think he was saying there was an effort that the incumbent used, as many other incumbents have used, to reach out to constituents. That's something we've seen in politics going back for a long time. They did it effectively."

Obama won women, Latino and black voters by wide margins, and in the op-ed Stevens argues that such a win cannot be repeated by Democrats -- even though the Latino population, in particular, will only grow as a percentage of the vote.

Stevens acknowledged to "This Morning" that the Romney campaign failed in its outreach to women and Latinos, saying that its message was good, but the outreach wasn't.

His other reasons for Obama's win: good messaging, taking on what he called smaller issues, and Hurricane Sandy. "I think the images of the president in the storm were very helpful to him," Stevens said. "It reminded them of what they liked about the president."

Overall, he stuck with the argument that it wasn't about Romney or his policies. "I certainly don't think it was the ideas. I think the ideas carried the day for us," he said.

Arthur Delaney   |   November 29, 2012    9:01 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) defended his heretical position on tax cuts for the wealthy Wednesday evening on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," but he also said he backed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and acknowledged that he is not, in fact, king of the universe.

"I'm one voice. I'm not king of the universe, and I support my speaker," Cole said. "I recognize he's the speaker. I support my conference."

Still, Cole did not back off his previous statements that Republicans ought to cut a deal with Democrats that would hike taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. "If we agree that taxes shouldn't go up on 98 percent of the people," Cole said on CNN, "shouldn't we take that now and get that set aside and make sure that they know their taxes aren't going up?"

But Boehner has not budged from his opposition to higher rates for the wealthy. Boehner and other top Republicans are currently negotiating with President Barack Obama on a grand bargain-type deal to avert a budget crisis.

If Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, a plethora of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes will take effect in what is known as the "fiscal cliff." The precipice includes defense spending cuts and the expiration of unemployment insurance and a payroll tax holiday, but its biggest component is arguably the expiration of income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003.

Democrats want to keep the lower rates, but only for household incomes below $250,000. Republicans have insisted that lower rates should remain even for higher incomes, though a handful of GOP members of Congress, including Cole and several senators, have suggested they'd be more flexible.

Obama campaigned for reelection on raising the top rates, and polls have consistently shown the American public favors higher taxes on incomes above $250,000.

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 28, 2012    4:30 PM ET

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he didn't feel bound to Grover Norquist's anti-tax increase pledge -- and he suggested that Norquist's head might not stay bound to his neck, either.

King, who has feuded with Norquist over the upcoming budget negotiations, was offended that Norquist had mentioned his wife during a TV appearance.

“I don’t think he’s ever met me, certainly he’s never met my wife. And he better hope he doesn’t. She’ll knock his head off," King told Politico.

King earlier attracted Norquist's ire when said that his pledge never to raise taxes didn't apply for the duration of his career, and that all fiscal options should be on the table in debt talks.

Norquist hit back, telling CNN's Piers Morgan, "I hope his wife understands the commitments last a little longer than two years or something."

"That was a bit below the belt, Grover," Morgan objected.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has spent much of the week on the defensive against Republicans who have backed away from his pledge, predicting that some wouldn't follow through or didn't mean for their comments to go public. He had said that those open to tax hikes have "sugar plum dancing fairies in their head."

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 28, 2012   12:13 PM ET

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, warned Wednesday that Republicans should keep their distance from any tax increases during negotiations over the impending, so-called fiscal cliff. Republicans shouldn't "have their fingerprints on the murder weapon" of a tax hike, Norquist told Politico's Mike Allen.

Any compromise on taxes could blur the lines between the parties and hurt the GOP in coming elections, he said, urging Republicans to extend all the Bush tax cuts instead and to focus on cutting spending.

Norquist has become a lightning rod for criticism over his unyielding approach toward tax increases. Democrats are targeting him with a DCCC petition to "ditch Grover."

Some Republicans have also wavered, including Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who've expressed openness to breaking with Norquist's pledge not to raise any taxes. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) urged fellow lawmakers on Tuesday to go along with President Barack Obama's tax plan for the time being, although he said he didn't see it as a rejection of Norquist's tax pledge.

Norquist, who earlier threatened to unseat Republicans who break their pledge, said some people were "having impure thoughts," but that he wasn't worried about defections from the party line.

"I'm not planning on losing the tax debate we're having right now. But the tax issue will be more powerful in 2014 and '16 than today," he said at a breakfast hosted by Politico, predicting that even a loss could favor the GOP in the future if they remained steadfast against tax increases. "If the Republicans lose in such a way that they have their fingerprints on the murder weapon, then you have a problem."

Polls show that most Americans would like to see the two parties compromise equally on fiscal cliff discussions, although the poll indicated that Americans are more likely to blame Republicans if an agreement isn't reached. Sixty percent support raising taxes on annual incomes above $250,000.

John Celock   |   November 28, 2012   12:00 PM ET

A group of four Democratic state senators in New York plan to form a coalition to give control of the state Senate to Republicans, just weeks after Democrats appeared to have won control of the chamber.

State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) told The New York Times that the Independent Democratic Conference he leads is planning to negotiate a power sharing agreement with Senate Republicans. The move comes after election results showed Democrats with 32 seats in the 63-member Senate, with one race still outstanding.

Sen.-elect Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) announced earlier this month that he would caucus with Republicans senators, giving the GOP a 31-member conference.

Klein told the Times that the IDC, which was formed in 2011 and has maintained close ties with Senate Republicans, would remain its own entity, and the four Democratic senators would not be joining the GOP conference like Felder.

The Times reports:

“We can’t go back to the days of dysfunction,” Mr. Klein said. “We can’t go back to the days of relying on every single Democrat to get things done, ignoring the other side completely, jamming through a legislative agenda which doesn’t have bipartisan support.”

Mr. Klein formed his Independent Democratic Conference in January 2011 with three others: David Carlucci of Rockland County, who at 31 is the youngest member of the Senate; Diane J. Savino, a former labor activist who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn; and David J. Valesky of the Syracuse area.

Mr. Klein outlined a system in which the leaders of the Republican caucus and the Independent Democratic Conference would work together to run the Senate, with joint control over committee agendas, the bills that are taken up on the floor and state budget negotiations.

In a still undecided Senate race outside of Albany, Republican Assemblyman George Amedore leads Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk by 110 votes with 1,000 votes left to count. An Amedore win would give Republicans control without the IDC, while a Tkaczyk win would give Democrats control if Klein and his allies change their minds.

Republicans have controlled the New York Senate continuously since the 1960s with the exception of Democratic control in 2009 and 2010. Democratic control was marked by the 2009 Senate coup which briefly gave control back to Republicans who joined with several renegade Democrats.

The apparent Democratic victory on Election Day was touted nationally as part of Democratic state legislative gains. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has come under fire from progressive activists in recent days over the fate of the Senate, with progressives saying that Cuomo did not do enough to elect Democrats. Cuomo endorsed several GOP senators who backed the same sex marriage bill in the state.

Klein and his allies formed the IDC after Republicans grabbed control in the 2010 election, citing Democratic Senate "mismanagement" and a desire for both parties to work together. The IDC members all received committee chairmanships from the Senate Republicans at the time. Klein did not indicate if he and the other IDC would receive leadership positions in the proposed coalition.

Amanda Terkel   |   November 27, 2012    6:05 PM ET

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a skeptic of man-made global warming, is set to take over the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the 113th Congress.

On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that the Republican Steering Committee had recommended Smith as the new chairman. The full House GOP caucus will vote on all chairmanships Wednesday and is expected to ratify the steering panel's choices.

Smith, like many of his Republican colleagues, has expressed doubt that global warming is caused by human behavior. In 2009, he criticized the media for not airing enough "dissenting opinions" about climate change.

"The [ABC, NBC and CBS television] networks have shown a steady pattern of bias on climate change," Smith said in a statement at the time. "During a six-month period, four out of five network news reports failed to acknowledge any dissenting opinions about global warming, according to a Business and Media Institute study. The networks should tell Americans the truth, rather than hide the facts."

He also referred to environmentalists and others who warn about the seriousness of the issue as "global warming alarmists."

Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones magazine notes that Smith's congressional website acknowledges that the climate is changing, but does not admit that human activity is a major factor.

As chairman of the House science panel, Smith will be replacing Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), who is also a skeptic. In 2011, Hall accused climate scientists of conspiring to concoct evidence of a warming planet.

"I'm really more fearful of freezing," Hall said. "And I don't have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they're not basing it [global warming] on real scientific facts."

There is, however, an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that the planet is warming in large part because of human activity.

Smith recently told Science Insider that as chairman of the committee that, among other tasks, oversees funding for NASA, he would like to see the space agency pursue a "unifying mission."

"Even though it has been almost 40 years since man last set foot on the moon, we should continue to shoot for the stars," Smith said. "And we can help future generations get there by encouraging kids to study in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). If America is going to remain competitive in today's global economy, we need to remain innovative and focused on exploring science and expanding new technologies."

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   November 27, 2012    9:12 AM ET

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) popularity remains aloft after Hurricane Sandy, giving him a record approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. He's supported by nearly three quarters of New Jersey voters, the highest ever marks for a Garden State governor, according to the organization.

Seventy-two percent of voters, including 52 percent of Democrats, approved of Christie's work as governor, while just 21 percent disapproved.

"Gov. Christopher Christie never looked more like a 'Jersey Guy' than when he stood on the Seaside boardwalk after Sandy, and, just about unanimously, his New Jersey neighbors - Republicans, Democrats, Independents - applauded," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said.

A near-unanimous 95 percent said Christie did a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Sandy. Despite some griping in the Republican Party about his praise for President Barack Obama shortly before the election, two thirds of GOP voters in his state approved of the show of bipartisanship.

The newly warm perceptions of Christie could help him in his 2013 campaign for reelection. The governor announced Monday that he would run for a second term, saying he wanted to continue to lead New Jersey's recovery effort.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll, also released Tuesday, found that 59 percent of voters want him reelected, up from 44 percent before Sandy hit.

Christie was the clear favorite in a series of head-to-head matchups against of potential Democratic candidates for governor, including Newark mayor Cory Booker, whom he defeated, 53 percent to 34 percent. Booker has not yet decided whether he will run.

The challenge for Christie will come in maintaining that popularity as his campaign comes into full swing.

“With a long time until Election Day, Sandy will become somewhat less of a factor,” said the Rutgers-Eagleton poll's director, David Redlawsk. “The realities of governing – including the budget and a host of other contentious issues – are likely to cool the governor’s red-hot numbers over time. But Christie’s leadership has given him a great deal of political capital to use over the next year.”

The Rutgers-Eagleton poll surveyed 1,108 New Jersey voters by phone between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, with a 2.9 percent margin of error. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,664 voters by phone between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25, with a 2.4 percent margin of error.

Amanda Terkel   |   November 21, 2012    1:40 PM ET

Karen Handel, the former Susan G. Komen for the Cure executive who drove the charity's attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, is considering running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, according to one of her former aides.

She’s considering it,” Rob Simms, a Republican campaign consultant who worked on Handel’s unsuccessful run for governor in 2010, told the Weekly Standard.

If she ran, she would be going up against Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), whom Roll Call reported may be vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right, given his "willingness to reach across the aisle and his comfort with the idea of compromise."

According to the Weekly Standard, Kay Godwin, the co-chairman of Georgia Conservatives in Action, also said she is hearing that Handel may challenge Chambliss in a primary.

As a top executive at Susan G. Komen, the largest breast cancer charity in the country, Handel spearheaded the effort to stop sending breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood. After a public uproar, Komen reversed its decision and Handel resigned.

In her recently released book, Handel lashed out at Planned Parenthood for her downfall, calling members of the organization "a bunch of schoolyard thugs."

Before joining Komen in April 2011, Handel ran for governor of Georgia on an aggressively anti-abortion platform. She wrote in her campaign blog that she "do[es] not support the mission of Planned Parenthood." Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Handel because of her opposition to reproductive choice.

In July, the Republican Study Committee tapped Handel to co-chair its "Right Women, Right Now" initiative, which aimed to support GOP women running for office.

Nick Wing   |   November 21, 2012   11:09 AM ET

Jim Graves, the Minnesota businessman who mounted an unsuccessful bid this year to unseat Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), said this week there could be another effort against the conservative firebrand in his future.

"I'll always keep an open mind," Graves told the St. Cloud Times of the prospect of challenging Bachmann again.

Graves added, however, that he hoped a different Bachmann would be on display during her fourth term.

"If she comes out and really changes her modus operandi and starts serving the people," Graves said. "Maybe one of the byproducts is Michele will become a better congressperson and more responsive. And if so, I'd be happy."

Bachmann defeated Graves by fewer than 5,000 votes out of more than 350,000 ballots cast. The race was her closest despite Bachmann's prolific fundraising, which allowed her to outspend Graves by a 12-to-1 margin.

The win came after a whirlwind third term that included a rapid rise to the top of the GOP presidential primary pack, followed by an equally rapid descent down and eventually out of the contest. Her congressional input was no less lively, though her highly criticized decision to accuse top officials in President Barack Obama's administration of working for the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood without any evidence became another mark on a career that has frequently been highlighted by controversy.

Luke Johnson   |   November 20, 2012    4:20 PM ET

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced Tuesday that he would not run for Virginia governor in 2013, a spot he held from 2002 to 2006.

"I loved being Governor, but I have a different job now -- and it’s here, in the United States Senate,” he said in a statement. "I hope my value add in Congress is to continue working hard every day to not simply blame the other side, but to actually try to find common ground so we can get stuff done."

"At times, it's been frustrating, but I believe this work is important for Virginia and for our country, and I intend to see it through," he said. Warner is up for reelection in 2014.

That leaves former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe as the only announced nominee on the Democratic side. He lost to Creigh Deeds in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2009. Deeds ended up losing to current Gov. Bob McDonnell by 17 points.

Among Republicans, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli are vying for the nomination, which will be decided at the state party convention in May 2013. By law, McDonnell (R) is limited to one term, ending in early 2014.

  |   November 20, 2012   11:41 AM ET

Days after losing the election to President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is back to pumping his own gas. A photo surfaced on Reddit showing the "tired and washed up" Republican challenger at an undisclosed gas station. It's a particularly humbling image of a candidate who was known to have trouble connecting with average people.

Luke Johnson   |   November 20, 2012   11:00 AM ET

Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Monday that he would not run for Senate if Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is appointed to a position in President Barack Obama's cabinet.

"If I wanted to stay in Congress, why wouldn’t I prefer being a senior member of the House rather than the most junior member of the Senate?" he said in an interview with The Boston Globe.

Frank announced his retirement last year, saying he didn't want to neglect his constituents while running in a reconfigured district, so it's hard to imagine him turning around to run statewide. Frank made preparations to run for Kerry's seat in 2004, when Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee, but he lost and the chance never presented itself.

Kerry is viewed as a top contender for the role of secretary of state in Obama's second term, but senior administration officials told the Washington Post that the nomination will "almost certainly" go to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. Kerry is also seen as a contender for defense secretary, though it's unclear if he would leave the Senate to take the job.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren earlier this month, has said that Kerry would be an "excellent" secretary of state, but he has declined to say whether he'd run for Senate if Kerry were nominated, saying there's no vacancy yet. One of Brown's top aides, Jerry McDermott, posted on Facebook, "Team Scott Brown. Hope you had some much needed rest. Looks to be a busy 2013 and 2014."

The potential for Kerry's Senate seat to turn Republican probably hurts his chances of being nominated to a cabinet position, given that Brown is a popular figure statewide who ran a close race. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly told the White House that he would be "furious" if Democrats lose the Kerry seat. Publicly, Reid said he's "comfortable" about the seat's prospects.

Under Massachusetts law, when a senate seat opens up, a special election is held within 145 to 160 days to find a permanent replacement. The governor appoints a temporary senator to serve in the interim.

Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) said that he would consider a run for the seat should it open up. Capuano lost the Democratic primary for the 2010 special election to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who went on to lose to Brown in the general.

John Celock   |   November 19, 2012    4:45 PM ET

Birther activist Orly Taitz has posted a call on her website for volunteers to help compile a list of state officials with whom she plans to file objections regarding President Barack Obama's reelection.

Taitz made the call twice on her website over the weekend, saying that she needs volunteers to put together a list of contact information for state secretaries of state and attorneys general. In her latest effort to block Obama's reelection, Taitz plans to send a written objection to the seating of presidential electors for Obama in advance of the formal Dec. 17 Electoral College vote.

Taitz wrote:

In order to serve all electors who will vote for Obama on December 12, I need the addresses of the Secretaries of State and Attorney Generals of the states who voted for Obama. I remember that the difference was 1-2%, but I don’t remember how many states exactly voted for Obama. I need to figure the exact number of the states and serve them through the Attorney Generals of those states, as they became the state elected officials, which means they will have to be served through the Attorney Generals. I believe I need to serve the AGs only of the states that went to Obama, but just to be on the safe side I need the list of R AGs as well

I anticipate that it will be a mess and a half, but someone has to do it, as our spineless GOP leaders are only good at asking for money and doing nothing.

Prior to this post, Taitz wrote another post listing the states that Obama won and where she is asking for assistance gathering names of officials in those states.

In her post, Taitz' reference to "state elected officials" is likely referring to the chief elections officer of a state, which is a duty of the secretary of state in 36 states. Most states vest the authority under the secretary of state, lieutenant governor or a state elections agency, according to a list compiled by the U.S. Department of State. None of the states are listed as having the state attorney general perform the duties.

Taitz also used the post to outline her belief that she can have Obama removed as the Democratic presidential nominee in Mississippi, a state he lost to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Taitz is currently engaged in a court battle regarding Obama's eligibility in Mississippi.

Last week, Taitz described her work on the birther movement as "superhuman" and said she has worked "24/7" for the past four years.

Taitz also wrote that she fears courts not investigating her claims about Obama could lead to a "popular revolt" and states seceding.