Four Years Out, A Sneak-Peek At 2016 (The Note)

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • OBAMA TO TACKLE DEBT CEILING: In remarks at the Business Roundtable today, President Obama for the first time will highlight the need to raise the debt ceiling as part of a fiscal cliff deal, ABC's Mary Bruce reports. "The President will highlight why it would hurt our economy and our nation's businesses if we do not find a solution to avoid another debt ceiling crisis, and will ask the business leaders for their help in supporting an approach that resolves the debt limit without drama or delay," according to a White House official. The White House Tuesday made clear that raising the nation's debt limit should be part of a deal to avert the looming fiscal cliff. "It should be part of the deal. It should be done. And it should be done without drama," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. The President will deliver remarks and take questions from business leaders at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable this morning.
  • WILL THE MEDICARE AGE GO UP? ABC Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper reported on "World News" that while President Obama and Republicans remain split on tax rates for the wealthy, raising the Medicare eligibility age might be an area ripe for compromise. Raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67 could save the government almost $6 billion a year, but it would cost those newly non-eligible seniors an average $700 more in out-of-pocket medical costs, plus $4.5 billion to employers. WATCH:
  • HILLARY 2016? Hillary Clinton, who is expected to step down soon from her post as Secretary of State, will end her time as the nation's top diplomat with a new high in personal popularity and broad approval of her work over the last four years, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today. In addition, Clinton closes out her diplomatic career with majority support as a candidate for president in 2016. According to ABC News pollster Gary Langer, 57 percent in the latest poll say they'd back a run by Clinton to succeed Barack Obama vs. 37 percent who are opposed. That includes a broad gender gap - 66 percent support for Clinton among women, dropping to 49 percent among men.
  • FISCAL CLIFF - THE OPENING SALVO OF 2016: As we note today, it's never too early to talk about the next presidential election. In the latest installment of "Top Line," ABC's Amy Walter and Rick Klein talk fiscal-cliff implications for possible 2016 candidates. For House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the talks present risks and opportunities. Find out why… WATCH:


Hardly a month has passed since the end of campaign 2012, but last night campaign 2016 seemed almost in sight.

Two leading lights of the Republican Party - Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman and former vice presidential nominee, and Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator who was a frequent presence on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney this year - unveiled post-election messages, perhaps with an eye toward their future political ambitions.

In his first major speech since the Nov. 6 election, Ryan appeared to distance himself from Romney's controversial "47 percent" remarks and his post-election assessment that President Obama managed to win by offering "gifts" to certain groups, particularly minorities.

"Both parties tend to divide Americans into 'our voters' and 'their voters,'" Ryan said at a dinner sponsored by the Jack Kemp Foundation in Washington, DC. "Republicans must steer far clear of that trap." He added that Kemp, a former cabinet secretary, member of Congress and the 1996 GOP vice presidential nominee, "hated the idea that any part of America could be written off."

Rubio, who notably did not mention Romney once in his speech, expressed a similar sentiment.

"Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government," Rubio said. "But I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had a chance. A real chance to earn a good living, and provide even better opportunities for their children.

In fact, both lawmakers, who have already drawn attention as likely Republican contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, delivered many lines that would be hard to imagine ever coming out of Romney's mouth.

Both men sought to demonstrate an awareness of the changing demographics of the electorate - one of the most painful lessons the GOP learned on Nov. 6.

"In the kitchens of our hotels. In the landscaping crews that work in our neighborhoods. In the late night janitorial shifts that clean our offices. There you will find the dreams America was built on. There you will find the promise of tomorrow," Rubio said near the end of his remarks.

But if either of them seek the Republican nomination - and win - they are likely to face one of several formidable Democratic opponents. Notably, their speeches coincided with a new ABC News-Washington Post poll showing that 57 percent of Americans said they'd support a run by Hillary Clinton to succeed President Obama compared to 37 percent who are opposed.

An although Clinton, the outgoing Secretary of State, is one of a handful of top Democrats who might jump into the 2016 race, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter points out that she would be well-positioned. Today's poll found that Clinton enjoys her highest strongly-favorable ratings (35 percent) and nearly her lowest strongly-unfavorable ratings (14 percent) in any ABC News-Washington Post poll.

ABC's Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.

RUBIO AND RYAN ON THE FISCAL CLIFF. In their speeches at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner last night at Washington, DC's Mayflower Hotel, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan made only passing references to the fight brewing in the nation's Capitol over how to handle how the impending fiscal cliff, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. Rubio cited his opposition to President Obama's desire to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans while Ryan stressed that a debt crisis is coming unless action is taken soon. "Our complicated and uncertain tax code is also hindering the creation of middle class jobs. You can't open or grow a business if your taxes are too high or too uncertain. And that's why I personally oppose the President's plan to raise taxes," Rubio said. "This isn't about a pledge. It isn't about protecting millionaires and billionaires. For me, it's about the fact that the tax increases he wants would fail to make even a small dent in the debt but it would hurt middle class businesses and the people who work for them." And Ryan issued the following warning: "Look at the road we're on - with trillion-dollar deficits every year. Even worse is the prospect of a debt crisis - which will come unless we do something very soon. When government's finances collapse, it's the most vulnerable that are the first victims, as we're seeing right now in Europe."

More highlights from Rubio and Ryan's speeches:


-TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE TO PROPOSE SHORT-TERM FISCAL CLIFF SOLUTION. The independent watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, plans to hold a conference call at 11:30am today to unveil their "Common Sense Proposal to Rappel the Fiscal Cliff," which will be delivered to the president and Congressional leadership. The proposal lays out a short-term approach to delay the sequestration and tax hikes that compose the so-called fiscal cliff. "Revenue, entitlements, discretionary spending - they're all in there," Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said in a statement. "Even in the short term, the only way to move this package forward was to to make everyone give on something. Then require the new Congress to come up with fundamental tax, spending, and entitlement reform. We can't afford anything less." (To join the call: 1.800.434.1335; Conference Code: 155269#)


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

CROSSROADS GPS LAUNCHES AD ATTACKING OBAMA ON FISCAL CLIFF. After spending over $300 million in the 2012 elections, the Karl-Rove-backed group, Crossroads GPS, is airing a new television ad attacking President Obama on his approach to the fiscal-cliff talks. The group will spend $500,000 airing it on cable nationwide (a fairly small buy). in it, a narrator says, "So far, a huge tax increase is his solution. No real spending reforms. Instead, more taxes." WATCH:

POLL: AMERICANS SPLIT ON GAY MARRIAGE, BACK LEGAL POT. After a string of state ballot measures approved both legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage on Election Day, Quinnipiac announces new polling numbers: "American voters favor the legalization of marijuana, 51 - 44 percent, with a substantial gender and age gap, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Voters today are divided 48 - 46 percent on the issue of same-sex marriage, reversing the 55 - 36 percent opposition to same-sex marriage in a July, 2008, survey by the independent Quinnipiac University. White Catholics support it 49 - 43 percent. Climate change did not cause Superstorm Sandy, voters say 53 - 37 percent."

HOW TO SAVE: TAXES AND ENTITLEMENTS. Smaller spending cuts like prison reforms and airline fees could save the government a few billion dollars, ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports, but bigger changes will be needed for a serious deal: Those big savings, experts point out, are found in entitlements and taxes. "The high-end Bush tax cuts generate a trillion dollars over 10 years. That's a quarter of the task of stabilizing the debt…That's achievable," said Chuck Marre, director of Federal Tax Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "If they just pass the tax cuts for 98 percent of the people only, by default that (revenue) happens and that's significant. Then you need to figure out where does the rest of the money come from?"

BILL TO END RAPE-KIT BACKLOG INTRODUCED. Washington is mired in partisan conflict over taxes and spending, but a bipartisan bill has made its way to Congress: the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act. ABC's Mary Hathaway reports: "Democrats and Republicans identified a serious problem and they have come together to have a common sense solution," said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., one of four legislators - two from each part - who co-sponsored the bill and spoke about it after its introduction today. There are an estimated 400,000 kits currently backlogged in the United States and one major reason is a lack of funding for local police. This bill will allow local law enforcement to apply for the funds they say are needed to test every rape kit. "Those are 400,000 victims of criminal conduct," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. "That is a number. But each one represents a real person."

BOB COSTAS: U.S. NEEDS 'MORE COMPREHENSIVE' GUN-CONTROL LAWS. ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: Sportscaster Bob Costas says some people "misunderstood" his comments about Kansas City Chiefs Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide during "Sunday Night Football" this weekend, but he stands by his stance that gun laws need to change. Speaking on "The Last Word" in his first television interview since the comments, Costas told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell he was talking about a "gun culture" that he believes is a problem in the United States during the halftime show Sunday. "I never mentioned the second amendment. I never used the words 'gun control.' People inferred that," Costas said. "Now do I believe we need more comprehensive and more sensible gun control legislation? Yes, I do. That doesn't mean repeal the second amendment. That doesn't mean a prohibition on somebody having a gun to protect their home and their family."

SENATE PASSES DEFENSE-SPENDING BILL. From the Associated Press's Donna Cassata: "The Senate overwhelmingly approved a sweeping, $631 billion defense bill Tuesday that sends a clear signal to President Barack Obama to move quickly to get U.S. combat troops out of Afghanistan, tightens sanctions on Iran and limits the president's authority in handling terror suspects. Ignoring a veto threat, the Senate voted 98-0 for the legislation that authorizes money for weapons, aircraft and ships and provides a 1.7 percent pay raise for military personnel. After a decade of increasing Pentagon budgets, the vote came against the backdrop of significant reductions in projected military spending and the threat of deeper cuts from the looming "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases."

THE GOP'S TAX FALLBACK. Could Republicans agree to extending only the middle-class tax rates? The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports: "Senior Republican leadership aides say they are contemplating a fallback position since a standoff over expiring tax rates will be portrayed by Democrats as evidence that the opposition is willing to allow taxes to rise on the middle class to keep taxes from rising on the rich - and their intransigence could mean taxes go up on rich, poor and middle class alike. The leadership officials now say that if no deal can be struck to avert the automatic expiration of all the Bush-era tax cuts and the onset of deep, across-the-board spending cuts, they could foresee taking up and passing legislation this month to extend the tax cuts for the middle class and then resume the bitter fight over spending and taxes as the nation approaches the next hard deadline: its statutory borrowing limit, which could be reached in late January or February."

FOUR REPUBLICANS BOUNCED FROM COMMITTEES. Bloomberg's James Rowley reports: "Four Republicans who opposed Speaker John Boehner on spending and budget issues won't return to the Budget or Financial Services committees when the next session of Congress begins in January, according to a House Republican leadership aide. The Republican Steering Committee removed Walter Jones of North Carolina and David Schweikert of Arizona from the Financial Services Committee, said the aide, who asked not to be named. Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were removed from the House Budget Committee, the aide said. Amash, Schweikert and Huelskamp were elected in 2010 with support of the Tea Party movement. Their reassignments drew a protest from FreedomWorks, an umbrella group for the Tea Party movement."

WHERE'S JAN BREWER? ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is MIA. Sort of. The governor, who is best known for championing the state's controversial immigration law, is currently taking a week-long work trip out-of-state, but her office has refused to disclose where she is going. The mysterious trip, which was first reported by The Associated Press, leaves Secretary of State Ken Bennett as the acting governor, as outlined by the state's constitution. Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts tells ABC News that the secretary's office was notified on Friday that the governor would be gone from Sunday through Saturday, but they were not told where the governor was going. There has been one Brewer sighting so far this week in the Washington, D.C., area. The AP reports that Brewer visited a wounded soldier from Arizona at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Md., on Monday.

WHAT AMERICAN WANTS: LEADERSHIP AND CERTAINTY. Analysis from ABC's Matthew Dowd: I spent a good bit of time this past week in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to investigate what the impending fiscal cliff might mean to real people and real businesses there, what those folks were worried about, and what they wanted from Washington, DC. … In every conversation I had, the bottom-line demand or request was for Washington to show leadership and offer certainty. They don't need to know how their business will do ultimately; they just need solid policies from which they can build plans for the future. It is a sense of certainty they are seeking from the federal government so that they can make judgments and calculate risks in their businesses and careers. They want our leaders to come to a compromise and then stick to it for a while. They need surety to get on with the important decisions in their lives.

OBAMA: NO TAXES ON THE RICH, NO DEAL. President Obama continued to take a firm line on the higher-income Bush tax cuts, ABC's Mary Bruce reports: "If we're going to raise revenues that are sufficient to balance with the very tough cuts that we've already made and the further reforms in entitlements that I'm prepared to make, that we're going to have to see the rates on the top 2 percent go up. And we're not going to be able to get a deal without it," he told Bloomberg News in his first interview since the election. "It's not me being stubborn. It's not me being partisan. It's just a matter of math," he added.

DICK ARMEY'S $8 MILLION EXIT STRATEGY. The Associated Press's Jack Gillum and Stephen Braun report: "Eased out with an $8 million payout provided by an influential Republican fundraiser, former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he has left the conservative tea party group FreedomWorks because of an internal split over the group's future direction. A confidential contract obtained by The Associated Press shows that Armey agreed in September to resign from his role as chairman of Washington-based FreedomWorks in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments. Dated Sept. 24, the contract specifies that Armey would resign his position at both FreedomWorks and its sister organization, the FreedomWorks Foundation, by the end of November. … In an internal Nov. 30 resignation memo published by Mother Jones, Armey told FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe to remove his 'name, image and signature' from all the group's materials and Web operations. Kibbe and other FreedomWorks officials were not immediately available for comment." Xmyu06

VIDEO OF THE DAY: MR. BURNS EXPLAINS THE FISCAL CLIFF. From ABC's Arlette Saenz: "Think of the economy as a car and the rich man is the driver. If you don't give the driver all the money, he will drive you over a cliff. It's just common sense," Mr. Burns explains. "Furthermore, rich people feel things more deeply than the common man." WATCH:

BOB DOLE CAN'T SWAY REPUBLICANS ON U.N. TREATY. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas appeared the Senate floor in a wheelchair today, just six days after he was released from the hospital, to make a last minute appeal for senators to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, but his appearance did not sway enough Republicans to support the treaty. It failed by a vote of 61-38, falling short of the super majority needed for passage. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities would declare that all citizens, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity, safety and equality under the law. If it had been voted through, the United States would have been added as a party to the convention. TE0s4U

SUSAN RICE, THE SENATE, AND ANGRY MOBS. ABC's Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller report: Pop quiz: Who said this about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, shortly after it happened? "The violence in Benghazi coincided with an attack on the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which was also swarmed by an angry mob of protestors on September 11, 2012." Was it U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice? No, it was the United States Senate. The Senate passed a resolution the day after the attack in Benghazi, on Sept. 12, S. Res. 551. The resolution was updated and passed again Sept. 22 to add the names of those who had died. The original resolution and the update were approved by "Unanimous Consent," meaning that all 100 senators were officially listed as sponsors or co-sponsors. YvQp62

ELIZABETH WARREN TO BANKING COMMITTEE? The Boston Globe's Noah Bierman reports: "Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, one of the fiercest critics of big banks, will probably be named to the Senate Banking Committee when she joins Congress next month, according to two Senate aides. The appointment has not been formally announced by Senate leaders and will not be final until an official vote on assignments by the members. The pending appointment was described to the Globe by aides who requested anonymity because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has not made a formal announcement. Warren's office had no immediate comment."


-JAKE TAPPER AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB. ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper will discuss his new book "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor" at 7:00 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. An announcement from the Press Club notes, "'The Outpost' reveals what really happened at Combat Outpost Keating, detailing the history of the camp and the stories of the heroic - and ultimately doomed - soldiers who were at the mercy of often reckless commanders. Complete with unforgettable photographs and useful maps, 'The Outpost' brings the harrowing day-to-day experiences of our overseas troops home, in a way few journalists have managed to do." Tickets are free for NPC members and $5 for all non-members. Space is limited. A book signing will follow the discussion, and the author will only sign copies purchased through the National Press Club.

-HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP HOSTS SUMMIT FEATURING JOHN MCCAIN, JEB BUSH. The international advocacy organization, Human Rights First, is hosting its inaugural summit this week bringing together leading activists from around the world with American thinkers, business leaders, and policy makers of both parties. Day One of this two-day event featured Russia democracy advocate (and chess champion) Gary Kasparov, Pakistani senator Aitzaz Ahsan, veteran activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and a keynote from Harold Koh, the top lawyer at the U.S. State Department. Today's headliners include Senator John McCain, President Obama's human rights advisor Samantha Power, and Dr. Bassma Kodmani, a leading figure in Syria's opposition movement. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will also deliver a video message on immigration. The summit is taking place at the Newseum in Washington, DC. For more information, a complete agenda and link to a live stream:


-DCCC PUSHES FOR MIDDLE-CLASS TAX EXTENSION. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is sending press releases like this for all 40 members of its GOP target list: "Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) claims to side with the middle class but now faces a true test - will he sign on to forcing an extension of middle class tax cuts or let America go off the fiscal cliff? If Congressman Reed doesn't sign on to force a vote, he will be siding with Speaker Boehner and Grover Norquist in protecting tax cuts for millionaires. Today, Congressman Reed has a choice: will Congressman Reed stand up for the middle class and stop a crushing tax hike, or will Congressman Reed simply fall in line with Grover Norquist and the extreme wing of his Republican party."

-COMPUTER SCIENTISTS, VOTER ADVOCATES WARN ABOUT VOTING MACHINES. Members of voting-access groups, political scientists, and computer scientists have penned a letter to President Obama and members of Congress warning that U.S. voting machines and recounts need reform: "The Presidential election results could have been much closer, and there could have been disputes about who rightfully won. Since many swing states still use computerized direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs-typically touch screens) that produce results that cannot be independently verified, recounts would have been impossible. … Voting systems in current use are run by unobservable software that can produce erroneous results, either due to inadvertent errors or malicious attacks. Therefore, after an election it is imperative to check that the software has behaved correctly. That means that election results need to be audited independently of voting system hardware and software to make sure that the software has performed correctly, and it must be possible to recount all the votes in order to confirm the election results."


@TonyFratto: Maybe GOP should just stop negotiating on tax rates. Democrats always insisted all Bush tax rates be temporary, and so they're temporary.

@econjared: Jeez…If the Wizards can beat the Heat, surely the rest of us can resolve the fiscal cliff.

@mattklewis: The speech that Marco Rubio should give via @TheWeek

@nytjim: After courting Hillary Clinton, Mayor @MikeBloomberg tries to make up to @ChrisCQuinn.

@katieharbath: Democrats to Obamaland: Share your data - Lois Romano - : … via @POLITICO

@jaketapper: Happy birthday to American treasure Calvin Trillin -

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