Obama Leaves on a High Note - Yet with Tepid Career Ratings

Boosted by an improving economy, Barack Obama leaves office with his highest levels of job approval and personal popularity since the early days of his presidency. Yet his career-average ratings are in the lower tier. Sixty percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama's job performance, the most since June 2009, five months after he took office. Sixty-one percent approve of his handling of the economy, a career high. And as many express a favorable opinion of him personally, the most since November 2009. Yet Obama's ratings in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, reflect a turnaround for him, not his norm. His average job approval rating across his presidency, 50 percent, is in the lower tier, alongside George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Harry Truman and Carter. ABC's GARY LANGER has more: http://abcn.ws/2jZdsCL


Analysis - ABC's RICK KLEIN

He'll be gone, but not really. And he won't be forgotten any time soon. President Obama appears at his final news conference in office on Wednesday riding a 60 percent approval rating – numbers he didn't see since the months where they were still picking up litter from the National Mall after his first inauguration set a record. When he's back from his post-election family vacation in Palm Springs, Obama will be staying close – and maybe vocal. Ditto Vice President Joe Biden, who referenced 2020 in an interview with Jonathan Alter, semi-joking, "I'll run...if I can walk." It all sets up an administration in exile, with an array of powerful voices – will Michelle Obama Tweet from time to time? – primed to make influential noise. Forty-four and 45 have said relatively nice things about each other so far; what starts to get said Jan. 21?


On GMA - Kellyanne Conway: Trump Hopes House Dems Will 'Reconsider' Inauguration Snub

Donald Trump hopes that the dozens of congressional Democrats who are planning to boycott Friday's inauguration will change their minds, his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said today, ABC's MORGAN WINSOR reports. "He recognizes that to move forward we need to come together," Conway said of the president-elect. "We hope that the Democrats who said they're not coming to the inauguration can reconsider," she added. "They certainly are invited, because that's the way that you show America that we're coming together to solve some really significant problems." http://abcn.ws/2k3UX4a


Obama Commutes Bulk of Chelsea Manning's 35-Year Sentence

President Obama granted a commutation to Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier who was convicted of Espionage Act violations and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 and she will now be released in May, according to her lawyer. The documents that were leaked, about the U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, sparked a firestorm, ABC's MEGHAN KENEALLY and LUIS MARTINEZ write. Manning was one of 209 individuals granted commutations and 64 individuals who were given pardons by Obama Tuesday. http://abcn.ws/2jlpAyR


Senate Dems to Grill Trump’s EPA Pick Over Energy Donations

Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to face tough questions during the first hours of his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday about allegations he has, essentially, been bought and paid for by the nation's oil, gas and coal companies. They are allegations Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has denied. Records reviewed by ABC News show Pruitt has repeatedly accepted donations from companies within days of taking official actions that support those companies. ABC's BRIAN ROSS, MATTHEW MOSK and CHO PARK have more: http://abcn.ws/2k3ZmUL


'King of Bankruptcy' Wilbur Ross Set for Confirmation Hearing

Wilbur Ross, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Commerce Secretary, is set to testify at his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. On Nov. 30, Trump announced his intent to nominate Ross, a billionaire Wall Street investor who amassed a fortune restructuring failed companies primarily in the manufacturing and steel industries, earning him the moniker, the "King of Bankruptcy." http://abcn.ws/2jwFDML

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