By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Date night is so 2012. The news that Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., has been lobbying his colleagues to give tickets to victims of gun violence means this will be the third straight State of the Union where the optics will in some way be adjusted to respond to a tragic shooting. The message in 2011 and 2012 was more about bipartisanship than gun control, though we know the outcome (or lack thereof) when it comes to substantive gun legislation in the last Congress, after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. For this moment to be different, it will take a commitment by those pushing new and stricter laws to keep it prominent on the national agenda; a State of the Union is a good start.
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Once again, Hillary Clinton is coming out on top. Exactly a week after she officially departed as Secretary of State, the former top diplomat is getting high marks in a new Quinnipiac University national poll released today. She enjoys a 61 percent favorability rating among registered voters, according to the survey - that's 10 points higher than President Obama and 15 points above Vice President Joe Biden, who like Clinton, might run for president in 2016. Three points from today's poll stick out: First, Clinton appears to have weathered the inquiry over her role in the Benghazi terrorist attacks virtually unscathed. Second, as Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown notes, Clinton has shown an "ability to win thumbs up from many more independent voters and Republicans" even than President Obama. And finally, 45 percent of voters who had a favorable opinion of Clinton cited this reason for their view: "job performance, experience and competence."
ABC-UNIVISION'S JORDAN FABIAN: A reading of Time Magazine's Michael Grunwald's cover story on Marco Rubio revealed some good nuggets, including the anecdote about Rubio's mother, who left a voicemail on her son's phone (in Spanish) bluntly advising him, "Don't mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don't mess with them." Also I thought this line from Grunwald was prescient: "This shrewd political operator will have to decide how far he's willing to bend to get a deal done with Obama or whether he's content just to get credit for trying." It was also interesting that things seem to be getting a little chilly between Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - both of whom are potential 2016 GOP presidential contenders: "Their friends assume Rubio would defer in that case, though it was curious that when I asked him whether he had discussed his immigration work with Bush, who has a book coming out on the subject, he said he sent a text message," Grunwald wrote. Bottom Line: It does really seem like the world is Rubio's right now. We'll have to see if it lasts.
WHAT WE'RE READING
-"WHY UNDERSTANDING THE GUN CONTROL DEBATE MEANS UNDERSTANDING DEMOGRAPHICS," by the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter. "According to a recent Gallup study, the highest rate of gun ownership was among white, southern, married men at 64 percent. Fifty percent of white men say they own a gun. More than one-third of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have a gun in the home. The lowest rate of gun ownership was among non-married women at 13 percent. Just 21 percent of African Americans, 18 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of 18-29 year olds say they own a gun. In other words, the political profile of a gun owner looks a whole lot like the profile of a traditional Republican voter, while that of a non-gun owner looks a lot like a Democratic voter. What's more, those gun owners/Republicans don't trust the federal government when it comes to the issue of gun ownership. …The Senate may be controlled by Democrats, but there are more Democrats who represent red states than there are Republicans who represent blue ones. … So, while the President and his former campaign arm, renamed Organizing for Action from Obama for America may be using campaign-style events to pursue his agenda, rallying the "middle" is not particularly effective tool for passing legislation. In an era where partisanship drives policy, nothing can pass the GOP-led House or a Senate with plenty of red-state Democrats unless it has the support of Republican voters."
-"IS A FRANKEN-BACHMANN SHOWDOWN ON THE HORIZON?" by Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy. "Politically, 2012 was not exactly a banner year for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. In January, the Tea Party-backed Republican finished a distant sixth in the Iowa presidential caucuses … Bachmann ended her White House bid the next day and set to work on winning a fourth term in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. … Though widely expected to win comfortably in her state's most conservative district, Bachmann instead eked out a less-than-5,000-vote victory over Democratic businessman Jim Graves, who had made it close in part by raising doubts about his opponent's commitment to her district. But despite that presidential fade-out and close call back home, Bachmann is again being mentioned as a candidate for higher office - this time as a potential challenger to first-term Democratic Sen. Al Franken in 2014. Bachmann has not signaled publicly her interest in such a race, but her advisers do not deny that she might consider it down the road. . And no one doubts that she could again raise enormous sums of money in a personality-driven general election battle that would draw tremendous attention outside the state." http://bit.ly/125ksOc
GEORGE H.W. BUSH GETS HACKED. Former president George H.W. Bush was the victim of a computer hacker who gained access to confidential emails and other electronic correspondence between members of the Bush family and friends, the U.S. Secret Service confirmed to ABC News' Jonathan Karl. Authorities have begun an investigation into the incident, a spokesman for Bush told ABC News. The spokesman could not confirm the content of the emails that were hacked. "The Secret Service is investigating this matter," said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. The unidentified hacker claims to have gained access to three years of personal emails dating back to 2009. The hacker has posted several of the personal photos online, including one of the elder Bush in the hospital. The hacked material also includes telephone numbers, home addresses for dozens of Bush family members, including both former presidents. It also includes the security code for George W. Bush's home in Dallas. This story was first reported by the website The Smoking Gun. http://abcn.ws/V3xZpA
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama honors Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this afternoon. Just before 4 p.m., the president he delivers remarks at an Armed Forces farewell tribute for the outgoing Secretary at Joint Base Myer-Henderson. But ABC's Mary Bruce notes that despite the formal ceremony, Panetta isn't leaving just yet since the vote on former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel's confirmation to succeed Panetta has been postponed.
HOUSE DEMOCRATS UNVEIL PLAN TO CURB GUN VIOLENCE. House Democrats unveiled its task force's plan to crack down on gun violence yesterday, calling on Congress to enact an assault weapons ban, outlaw high-capacity assault magazines, and put in place universal background checks for every firearm sale, notes ABC's John Parkinson. Fifty-five days after the Newtown elementary school shooting, the 12-member task force devised its package as an unabashed attempt to capitalize on growing frustration over the recurring trend of high-profile gun crimes throughout the country. "Every person who holds public office takes that oath to protect and defend," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "It is our first responsibility." The plan, which consists of 15 proposals, largely mirrors the steps suggested by President Obama and Vice President Biden last month. "We can't relive what just happened in Newtown, we can't relive what happened in Aurora, we can't relive any of the major tragedies, nor can we continue to live in a society where 32 people a day are killed with firearms," Rep. Mike Thompson, the chairman of the task force, added. "We have a responsibility. It's time to act." http://abcn.ws/XTK13E
CORY BOOKER STARTS DIET PROGRAM IN NEWARK (AHEM, CHRIS CHRISTIE). Weight loss, obesity struggles and the state of New Jersey were hot issues this week with Gov. Chris Christie openly discussing his struggle and then blasting a former White House physician who publicly expressed her concern about his weight. But Christie isn't the only one discussing the issue, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. Thursday, it was that other television savvy New Jersey politician: Newark Mayor Cory Booker launched a new initiative with Weight Watchers to combat obesity in his city. The program-already launched in Austin, Boston and Pittsburgh-offers discounted Weight Watchers memberships to more than 3,100 City of Newark employees. They get the first month free and can attend meetings at a discounted rate for up to one year. At 26 percent, Newark has a higher obesity rate than the rest of the state (24 percent). Booker isn't new to the issue. He is constantly tweeting about his vegetarian diet, as well as his own efforts to exercise and lose weight, and is a vice -chair on the First Lady's Partnership for a Healthy America initiative. He even launched a Let's Move! Newark in 2010 to try and cut down on childhood obesity rates. Last year he also embarked on a highly publicized food stamp challenge, eating only what he could buy on a food stamp budget for a week, to bring attention to the necessity of social programs like food stamps. http://abcn.ws/TQMbD5
WILL VIRGINIA START MINTING MONEY? It's an idea worth considering, according to the state's House of Delegates, reports ABC's Chris Good. The lower chamber passed a bill Monday to study the possibility. The legislation, proposed by Manassas Republican Del. Robert Marshall, would create a new joint subcommittee made up of lawmakers, plus two outside experts, to "study the feasibility of a metallic-based monetary unit." The committee could spend up to $17,440 and would present its recommendations before the legislative session starts in 2014. Translation: Ten people would advise Virginia on whether to start making its own currency on a gold or silver standard. It's not the first time Marshall has proposed such legislation. Versions of this bill have been floating around since 2011. Its preamble is rife with damnations of the Federal Reserve and its "unprecedented monetary policy actions" and "activist intervention in banking and credit markets," the point being that Virginia can no longer trust federal fiat money, and might need "a more stable money unit consistent with limited government." The heavily Republican House of Delegates passed it 65 to 32 Monday. http://abcn.ws/V1JAp8
@daveweigel: If you read one thing today, read @Slate's reported profile of the late Aaron Swartz. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/02/aaron_swartz_he_wanted_to_save_the_world_why_couldn_t_he_save_himself.html …
@samsteinhp: George W. Bush's artwork is fascinating http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/bush-family-photos?page=5 …
@CPHeinze: Jonathan Capehart builds his perfect presidential candidate for Prez16. http://www.prez16.com/2013/02/jonathan-capehart-builds-candidate-for.html …
@matthewjdowd: Wonderful day! There is a divine part of each of us that is drawn to other kindred spirits for a higher purpose in this world. Listen to it.