The Note: Not Just a Slogan

Blame game? "A Democratic Congress, unwilling or unable to approve a $25 billion bailout for Detroit's Big Three, appears ready to punt the automakers' fate to a lame-duck Republican president," the AP's Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports. "Caught in the middle of a who-blinks-first standoff are legions of manufacturing firms and auto dealers -- and millions of Americans' jobs -- after Senate Democrats canceled a showdown vote that had been expected Thursday. President George W. Bush has 'no appetite' to act on his own."

For John Kerry, not a bad backup plan: "More than three decades after he first appeared before the panel as a 27-year-old Vietnam veteran-turned-antiwar protester, Senator John F. Kerry will be named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving him enormous influence over President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy," The Boston Globe's Bryan Bender reports. "Aides to Kerry said he is already laying out a broad agenda for the committee, beginning with new legislation to strengthen the United States' hand against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan; provide oversight of efforts to end the war in Iraq; and seize what he sees as a new opportunity to curtail the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons."

He knows something about what this guy is going through: "He quietly enters the office a few minutes after 8 a.m. on this Wednesday, tightly smiles at a receptionist and, without a word to anyone, makes a hard left through a suite of his aides' offices that leads to his own. He is alone," The Washington Post's Michael Leahy writes in a page-one piece on Sen. John McCain. "He walks now without so much as a single bodyguard, the Secret Service having disappeared when his dream of winning the presidency did, 15 days ago. It is a jarring reminder of just how much a defeated candidate's station changes in about two weeks."

Says Steve Schmidt: "I think past is prologue for McCain. . . . He is determined to advance the national interest in the ways he sees regardless of party and partisanship. It's still McCain, and he will continue to be a leader for the party for that reason. . . . He is going nowhere."

Another bellwether cracks: "Barack Obama is touring his new home on Pennsylvania Avenue. John McCain is preparing his return to the Senate. And Missouri -- after the nation has long since moved on -- finally has a presidential vote tally. The state's winner: McCain," Jake Wagman writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"The result, of course, is academic. But it does carry this postscript: Missouri has been stripped of its bellwether crown," Wagman writes. "It's the first time since 1956 -- when Show-Me voters backed Adlai Stevenson over Dwight Eisenhower -- and only the second time in 100 years that Missouri's electoral votes were in the loser's column."

Your final electoral count: 365-173.

Meanwhile, on the Hill . . . which party won last week -- the one that's close to toppling a chairman, or the one that just reelected a leader?

In the great battle of Henry Waxman vs. John Dingell, Waxman took Round One Wednesday.

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