Post-Thanksgiving Fiscal Cliffhangers

THE LAST STRAW (POLL). Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in 2011, briefly putting her into conversation as a favorite to win her party's presidential nomination. And we all know how that turned out. Now, Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad say's it's time to end it, The Wall Street Journal's Neil King reports: "I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Mr. Branstad said of the 33-year-old GOP ritual. "It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over." ... "Gov. Branstad is wrong, and this is not a decision he will make anyway," said a peeved A.J. Spiker, chairman of the state GOP. "It is a decision the party and the candidates will make." In an interview, Gov. Branstad pointed to Ms. Bachmann's rapid rise and fall in 2011 as Exhibit A for why the straw poll no longer makes sense.

MESSINA SPEAKS. The man who ran President Obama's campaign spoke publicly for the first time since Election Day, declaring that he probably won't return to Obama's White House, where he worked for two years before the 2012 race began. "I'm gonna go to Italy and hang out," Messina told Politico's Mike Allen onstage at a breakfast event hosted by Politico in downtown Washington, D.C., divulging plans for a month-long vacation. "The one thing I know is that I want to be involved in some way helping this president move his agenda forward, and that's what I'll do, but here's the truth. I've been going at this now for five years," Messina said. "I've taken one week vacation in five years, and so it is time to restore my energy. the president and I were joking recently about how bad I look, and it is time to take a vacation." What has he been doing, after re-engineering the epic 2008 Obama machine, and what's next? "Drinking beer," for one thing, he said. Since the election, he's been in Montana-the state he served in Congress as chief of staff to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. "I actually did this amazing thing called sleeping," Messina said.

PETA TO OBAMA: SKIP THE TURKEY PARDONING. With President Obama set to pardon two Thanksgiving turkeys in keeping with the long-held presidential tradition, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says the turkey pardon has got to go. "It makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States' president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry," Newkirk wrote in a letter sent to President Obama today. "Turkeys do not need to be 'pardoned' -- they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals."

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