By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
If anyone needed a reminder that all politics is, indeed, local — today is your wake up call.
President Obama heads to Cleveland, Ohio this morning to convene a forum on American small businesses; voters in Chicago go to the polls to elect a mayor; Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., will get a GOP primary challenger; Republicans settled on a candidate for the open seat in New York’s 23rd Congressional district; and the plot thickens in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the country.
First, in the Windy City, where polls are already open, the big question is whether mayoral hopeful and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, can capture more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off on April 5. As ABC’s Chris Bury notes, “The latest polls show Emanuel far out in front, trailed by longtime city official Gery Chico” as well as former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and former state legislator Miguel del Valle. http://abcn.ws/eU6tOO
The Chicago Tribune notes today’s election “also marks the first time in 22 years that the name of Richard Daley is not on the mayoral ballot.”
In neighboring Indiana, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock plans to officially launch his primary campaign against long-time Sen. Richard Lugar today. Mourdock, who already has the backing of much of the state’s GOP political establishment, will open his campaign with a six-city tour of the state.
As the Washington Post reports, while Mourdock may be challenging a vulnerable incumbent, he’s not doing so under a Tea Party mantle. “Mr. Lugar will try to paint me that way, because he's speaking very demeaningly about the tea party right now,” Mourdock told the Post. “I think he's doing it that way to set it up and say, ‘Mourdock is some wild-eyed extremist.’” http://wapo.st/i4UwQo
And could Indiana be the next domino to fall in the battle between state governments and labor unions? At the state capitol in Indianapolis yesterday "thousands of union workers" protested a 'right to work' bill — a bill that even Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels “urged his fellow Republicans not to push" this session for fear that it would derail his reform of teachers' collective bargaining rights, according to the Indianapolis Star-Tribune. http://bit.ly/eIwn37
And Bloomberg News’ Mark Niquette notes that Indiana is not alone. “Unions and their allies are planning rallies, vigils and press conferences in at least 27 states this week against what they see as a national attack on government employees that is a seminal moment for organized labor,” Niquette reports. http://bloom.bg/eIB9Tw
The spillover effect is, of course, emanating from Wisconsin where the stalemate between GOP Gov. Scott Walker and labor unions is stretching on. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that “In a move meant to lure boycotting opposition senators back to Wisconsin, the Republican leader of the state Senate threatened Monday to force a vote soon on a bill that is abhorred by Democrats: requiring people to show an ID at the polls.” http://bit.ly/huOGff
So far, we’ve seen two polls — one Rasmussen robo-call survey that says Gov. Walker is winning this tug-of-war and another one conducted by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and the National Education Association that says labor winning. (We'd love to see a non-partisan poll.)
Finally, in New York, Republicans have chosen Jane Corwin to run for the open seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee, who resigned from Congress after sending flirtatious e-mails, including one with a bare-chested photo of himself, to a woman he met on Craigslist. Corwin, a state assemblywoman with strong conservative bona fides, got the nod from county chairmen from across the state’s 26th Congressional district.
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama heads to Cleveland, Ohio today to convene a forum on small business in association with Cleveland State University and northeast Ohio economic development organizations, ABC’s Sunlen Miller notes. Joining the president are Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, CEA Chair Austan Goolsbee and NEC Director Gene Sperling . At the forum, Administrator Mills will announce that over the next several months the administration will hold a series of eight “Startup America: Reducing Barriers” roundtables across the country to hear directly from entrepreneurs. http://abcn.ws/eAgip2
HUCKABEE: WILL HE OR WON’T HE? “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is still on the fence about making another run for the White House, but said any Republican candidate would have a strong case against President Obama's handling of both foreign and domestic issues,” ABC’s Lauren Effron writes. "This is a government that has spent money we don't have; it's borrowed money we can't afford to pay back," Huckabee told ABC News' Terry Moran on Nightline. "Its foreign policy has been inconsistent if not naive, and the result is we're not in as good a place as we were and not in as good a place as we must be." Huckabee, a longtime Christian-conservative voice, is launching a nationwide tour this week to promote his new book, "A Simple Government." He said the book isn't part of a campaign strategy but a plan for applying simple solutions to such problems as the national debt and the budget. http://abcn.ws/hlwQFt
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter sit down with former Congressman Martin Frost, Democrat of Texas. Also on the program, ABC News’ Ariane de Vogue, who will offer a preview of all the action at the Supreme Court (more on that below). Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
VIDEO OF THE DAY: Rep. David Wu Has Regrets: Oregon congressman calls his past behavior "unprofessional" in an interview on “Good Morning America."
ON DECK AT SCOTUS. “The Supreme Court returns to the bench today after its winter recess to begin the second half of a term that has featured lively oral arguments in cases ranging from protests at military funerals to prison overcrowding in California and tough immigration laws in Arizona.” ABC’s Ariane de Vogue takes a look at nine high-profile cases that have been heard but not yet decided. Here’s one: “The Court will decide whether members of the Westboro Baptist Church have a free speech right to protest at the funerals of fallen service members. The case was brought by Albert Snyder who sued the church after its members picketed the funeral of his son, Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder who died in Iraq. The church is composed mostly of members of the Phelps family who travel the country and protest at funerals, in part because they believe that soldiers are dying in part, because homosexuals are allowed to serve in the military. Snyder was not a homosexual. A lower court found that the church members' conduct was protected by the first amendment.” http://abcn.ws/hT50cn
MECHANICS OF A SHUTDOWN. “Neither party says it wants a government shutdown. But the path to a compromise is so tricky, neither party can rule it out,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Carrie Budoff Brown note. “Republicans say any short-term agreement must include spending cuts. Democrats say, no way. House Speaker John Boehner’s dug in, with a freshman class in no mood to back down. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s equally intransigent. President Barack Obama has shown little appetite to play referee publicly — so far anyway. And if there’s any reason to think a shutdown really might occur, it’s this: Both parties think they can win. How can these competing views be reconciled in time to keep the lights on after the government’s money runs out March 4?” The writers look at five reasons the government could close its doors. http://politi.co/fTRbLT
LABOR ON THE AIR. “Upping the stakes in the Wisconsin battle, unions are going up in the air in the state with the first ad on the standoff, hammering Governor Scott Walker for refusing to drop his assault on public employee bargaining rights,” the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports. “The statewide spot, [features] Racine firefighter Mike DeGarmo proclaiming solidarity between firefighters (who, like cops, are exempt from Walker's proposal) and other public employees. He points out that public employees have already agreed to the wage and benefit reductions Walker has demanded, and are simply asking him not to roll back their bargaining rights, which he has refused to do.” http://wapo.st/fQwCuP
TESTING CHRIS CHRISTIE. “In a year as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie has captivated conservatives across the nation, with an in-your-face frankness and nonstop aggressiveness that few have seen from a chief executive,” The New York Times’ Richard Perez-Pena and David M. Halbfinger report. “But while it is clear that Mr. Christie, 48, a Republican, has already upended the status quo, putting powerful interest groups on the defensive, and all but having his way with a Democratic-controlled Legislature, the challenges of the coming year could cinch his reputation as a political superstar — or puncture it. … His biggest tests, indeed, are not likely to come from New Jersey’s public-sector unions, which appear almost cowed compared with their counterparts in Wisconsin, where labor protests have brought government skidding to a halt. Mr. Christie, after all, has invested energy in turning public opinion against those public-sector workers.” http://nyti.ms/ec9Xqh
@RealClearScott: Todd Palin & teammate Eric Quam leading the Iron Dog as Day 3 begins. Long way to go. Race ends Saturday in Fairbanks.
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