By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
THE GOP TO-DO LIST. House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner pledged on Capitol Hill yesterday “to fix the Congress so that the Congress can focus in on Americans' priorities,” adding that “their priorities are pretty straightforward.” But a new poll out today indicates that the public’s priorities may not be quite as “straightforward” as he and his fellow Republicans would like. On the issue of repealing the health care reform law, for example, the American people appear to have mixed feelings. Just 39 percent are behind the GOP’s push to repeal or minimize it, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted after last Tuesday’s elections. Another 58 percent of Americans actually say they prefer more changes to the country’s health care system or would simply like the new law to stay in place as is. “When you look at our plans to reduce spending, to get the economy going again, and to repeal the health care law that, frankly, gets in the way of job creation, you can see that we've got an awful lot of work to do,” Boehner said yesterday. http://bit.ly/aqlBuk
On the other big GOP priority — extending the Bush-era tax cuts across the board — Republicans appear to have more traction. According to the new poll, 53 percent say those income tax cuts should be renewed for all Americans, while 44 percent say the cuts should continue, but only for those making less than $250,000 or that they should expire altogether. Two interesting notes from the Associated Press analysis of the new poll: “The preference for cutting everyone's taxes was a turnabout from September, when most in an AP-GfK poll favored omitting the wealthy from the reductions by 54 percent to 44 percent. In further evidence that last week's decisive GOP win was not an embrace of Republicans, the poll found that the party is no better liked than Democrats. Both got favorable ratings from about half in the survey.” http://yhoo.it/91CHfi
BYE, BYE BACHMANN. The Minnesota Tea Party favorite, Rep. Michele Bachmann, announced last night that she was dropping out of the race for GOP Conference Chair, essentially handing the job to her challenger Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas. “Jeb Hensarling has my enthusiastic support for his candidacy to become Republican House Conference Chair," Bachmann said in a statement. "Jeb has demonstrated his commitment to limited government, reduced spending and lower taxes and he will be a strong voice for the Tea Party’s call for these values.” As ABC’s John R. Parkinson reports, earlier this week “Bachmann told ABC News that the showdown was an uphill climb, but she was working hard to prove to her colleagues that she would be the best candidate represent the sentiments that propelled the GOP into the majority in last week’s congressional midterm elections.” But, in the ends, she failed to muster much backing for her insurgent bid against Hensarling and by bowing out helped Republicans avoid the kind of nasty fight now raging between Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn for the position of minority whip. http://bit.ly/bSHRte
UNDECIDED. No dice for Republican Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller in his legal bid to throw out write-in ballots that misspell a candidate’s name (ahem, particularly the name of his opponent, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski). The AP notes: “U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said Wednesday in his written decision that Miller has demonstrated no potential for irreparable harm.” Not only that but as write-in ballots continue to be counted in the state, it appears that the vast majority of them — 98 percent — are votes for Murkowski. The Anchorage Daily News’ Sean Cockerham reports: “‘So far things look really good for us,’ said Murkowski campaign manager Kevin Sweeney, who is in Juneau watching the write-in ballot count. Elections workers opened the write-in ballots for almost 20 percent of the precincts in Alaska on Wednesday. The count of more than 90,000 write-ins will continue today and is expected to last five days.” http://bit.ly/ahujBk
And in a dispatch from the Division of Elections in Juneau, where ballots continue to be counted, the Washington Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar, writes that the scene is “something like the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, but colder. Dozens of elections workers in denim and fleece pored over ballots, sorting them into piles as lawyers and volunteers looked on, searching for misspelled names and other oddities that could affect the outcome of the race.” http://wapo.st/bHVzAE
AND DECIDED. The outcome of two hotly-contested California House races became clearer overnight. In the state’s 11th Congressional district, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s campaign declared that he “has an insurmountable lead” over Republican David Harmer. Another Democrat, Jim Costa, who is running in the state’s 20th district claimed victory over Republican challenger Andy Vidak. "This has been a hard-fought campaign," Costa said in a statement. "It appears that it is now over. I believe our 1,200 vote margin will not only stand up, but will increase as the remaining few ballots are counted.” So far, neither of the two Republicans have conceded. http://bit.ly/ch7EQn
WHERE’S THE BEEF? ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller, who are traveling with President Obama on his 10-day trip to Asia, report on a disappointment for the White House in South Korea: “President Obama and his trade negotiators failed to convince their South Korean counterparts to expand market access for American automobiles and beef Thursday, sinking hopes that President Obama would leave Seoul with the free trade agreement his administration has pursued so vigorously. President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak acknowledged the bottleneck at a joint press conference. Both leaders tried to spin the impasse. President Lee said that he and President Obama have agreed to give South Korean trade minister Kim Jong-hoon and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk ‘more time so that they can finalize the technical issues. And President Obama and I will continue to work together so that we can have a mutually acceptable agreement at the earliest possible date.’”
NOTED: President Obama also weighed in the report of the co-chairs of his debt commission — a report that Tapper noted on “Good Morning America” today — seems to “have something in it to offend everybody.” http://bit.ly/bFACvM
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein interview Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller about the ongoing ballot counting effort in the state and will get his candid assessment of where he stands in the race with Sen. Murkowski. Also on the program today: Jeff Mason from Reuters. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
GARDEN STATE OF MIND. Outgoing chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, told Roll Call’s David Drucker said that he was not actively seeking a leadership position in the new Congress and, instead, that he was eyeing his own, potentially challenging, re-election campaign. From Drucker’s report: “I certainly would keep the option open if Harry asks me to do something,” Menendez said. “Those are all appointments by the leader, and to the extent that he’d want me to be helpful to him, as I was in the last two years, that’s certainly a possibility. But I’m neither campaigning for [Policy Committee chairman] nor vying for it. “My singular focus is going to be 2012, in terms of my re-election. It will take a good amount of my time and attention,” he added. “While I did a lot in New Jersey [these past two years] by making every moment count, I gave a lot to the DSCC. There is lots of room to make up, both in fundraising and politics back home. That will be a lot of what I do.” http://bit.ly/aRsVXc
2012 WATCH. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, both of whom have new books out and both of whom have been the subject of speculation about a potential 2012 run, will be appearing together on Thursday in Texas for a book signing. Gingrich has a new historical novel out, “Valley Forge,” and Perry is out with “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.”
SHE IS NOT A SENATOR ELECT. Nor is she a witch, but Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell made her “Tonight Show” debut on Wednesday night, acknowledging that she had “ticked off some people in the GOP” with her failed U.S. Senate bid. “I don’t think Karl Rove is going to be buying me a Maserati anytime soon.” Politico’s Karin Tanabe notes: “As for her infamous ‘I’m not a witch’ ad, Leno asked if she regretted running it. O’Donnell replied, ‘Actually, I do, because I feel like the whole message got lost. The purpose of that ad was supposed to put it all behind me.’” http://politi.co/cghKps
@tomperriello: Honoring and thanking veterans today. We must live up to the promises we made them for health, education, jobs.
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