By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It's the primary, stupid. Those may be the most important four words at the dawn of the midterm election cycle. Gone are the days when Republicans are dancing around the idea of getting their hands dirty in primary fights. Remember the controversy Steven Law stirred in February when he unveiled the Conservative Victory Project? His comment to us back then, "We want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win," has become a well-established principle, setting the tone for 2014. The New Jersey and Virginia results have been over-analyzed, but the fight inside the GOP remains deeply unsettled. That much was clear when we caught up with Sen. Ted Cruz yesterday, who praised Chris Christie for being "brash" and "outspoken," but took a big breath before going on to say: "We need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle."
ABC's RICK KLEIN: That was silly. First President Obama chose not to place a congratulatory phone call to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday night - calling only the three Democrats who won big races this Election Day. Then the White House spent much of the next day not saying why, and not saying if the president would try to reach the governor Wednesday instead. (Four years ago, the president called Christie the day after he knocked off the incumbent Democratic governor.) That made a mini-story out of not very much. It even gave Christie a chance to take a shot: "Maybe he was being the head of his party last night," he said. By the time the call was made yesterday, what was accomplished exactly? Let's assume that there's an important and longstanding precedent in presidents calling only those of his party to congratulate them on Election Night. Why? And why wouldn't a president who says he wants to reach across the aisle start by doing that with a blue-state moderate who famously embraced his leadership on the eve of last year's election? You could even argue (easily) it would have been in the president's interest to place the call Tuesday; the post-election Christie won't be as interested in a bromance.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The will he or won't he run speculation around Chris Christie has been around since before the last presidential run, but after his decisive victory Tuesday night where he was able to woo traditional Democratic constituencies that speculation will just continue to roar. Wednesday, when ABC News asked Christie if the constant speculation about his possible White House ambitions is annoying or flattering and what is his personal reaction to it is, Christie said without hesitation that he's not bugged by it and people who find it burdensome should get out of the business of politics. "It's flattering, I love people who pretend that it would be annoying or a burden," Christie said, adding if someone is asked about presidential ambitions and their answer is "stop annoying me," they are "lying." "It's an indication for at least the person who asks the question that they think you are doing a good enough job that you might be worthy for consideration for the most important leadership job in the country, if you are burdened by that get out of the business."
EXCLUSIVE: MARCO RUBIO TO INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO COMBAT OBAMACARE FRAUD: Sen. Marco Rubio is introducing legislation today designed to fight fraud and protect consumers when signing up for insurance under Obamacare, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. The legislation is aimed at Navigators, those workers across the country who are tasked with trying to explain and sign people up for the Affordable Care Act. The bill seeks to impose criminal penalties for anyone who discloses confidential information and for those who falsely claim to be Navigators. It also requires training and background checks for people working as Navigators. The proposal comes on the heels of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' testimony this week that no background checks are required for Navigators. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have signed onto Rubio's bill that will be unveiled today. "This is a common sense effort to ensure that the federal government is not needlessly endangering the private information of millions of Americans," Rubio said, "or exposing them to additional risk of fraud."
RAND PAUL TAKES A SWIPE AT CHRIS CHRISTIE FOR SANDY ADS. He didn't name any names, but it's clear Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., still has a bone to pick with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and his "mug" that was all over TV after superstorm Sandy, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. During a Senate committee hearing yesterday on post-Sandy recovery efforts, Paul asked Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan whether it was appropriate to use federal relief funds for television ads, a clear jab at the New Jersey Republican who starred in ads touting the Jersey Shore. "Some of these ads, people running for office put their their mug all over these ads while they're in the middle of a political campaign," Paul said at Senate Homeland Security hearing on recovery from superstorm Sandy. "In New Jersey, $25 million was spent on ads that included somebody running for political office. Do ya think there might be a conflict of interest there?" "That's a real problem. And that's why when people who are trying to do good and trying to use taxpayers' money wisely, they're offended to see our money spent on political ads," Paul continued. "That's just offensive. In New York, you actually have a rule. They're not allowed to do it. So New York did the same thing, which I still object, but at least they didn't put someone's face on the ads and their family, and it looks like a bio ad." VIDEO: http://abcn.ws/HKnqnL
-BACKSTORY: Christie and his family starred in a television ad campaign called "Stronger Than the Storm" last May encouraging tourists to visit the Jersey Shore in the aftermath of Sandy. The ads ran in states beyond New Jersey, and the campaign used money from the $60 billion in federal emergency disaster funding allocated to states affected by Sandy. At the time, the ad campaign drew criticism from Democrats who complained they were funded by taxpayer dollars.
NOTED: CLAIMING HE'LL IGNORE TALK OF 2016, CHRISTIE FINDS IT 'FLATTERING'. In his first event since his decisive victory Tuesday night, Chris Christie took questions from reporters and almost all the questions had one thing in common: 2016, 2016, 2016. Will he be distracted by the constant talk in the coming years? No, he said, "I don't get distracted very easily." Can he ignore it? "Sure." Is it flattering or does he find it burdensome? "Flattering," he said without hesitation, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Christie returned to the heavily Democratic, heavily Latino city for a press conference, but it was more like a victory lap after last night's win. He held his last campaign rally in Union City on Monday, urging the mostly Hispanic crowd to vote for him. During an almost constant barrage for close to an hour, Christie deflected every type of possible 2016 question, but he seemed to enjoy the back and forth. When asked if he is planning on making any adjustments to his personal style or will "tone down" his famous brashness, Christie said no, noting that New Jersey seems to like his style. "Right now the only people I have to worry about are the people who live in the confines of this state." http://abcn.ws/1cT8w9e
TED CRUZ PRAISES 'BRASH' CHRISTIE BUT CALLS FOR PRINCIPLED LEADERSHIP. Sen. Ted Cruz pushed back yesterday at N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's suggestion that America is "angry with the dysfunction in Washington," an implicit criticism of the tea party-driven government shutdown. Cruz offered tepid praise for Christie, who cruised to a second term Tuesday night, but suggested that conservatives are craving a leader who will not back down or compromise, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. "I think it is terrific that he is brash, that he is outspoken, and that he won his race," Cruz told ABC News in the Capitol yesterday. "But I think we need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle. And in particular, Obamacare is not working." Asked whether Christie is a true conservative, Cruz walked away. Aides said he didn't have time for more questions. http://abcn.ws/1dOfugX
MOMENTUM BUILDS TO STRIKE SEXUAL ASSAULT FROM MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND. A bipartisan coalition of senators, flanked by victims of sexual assault in the U.S. military, joined together yesterday to tout their ongoing effort to remove sexual assault cases from the military's chain of command, notes ABC's JOHN PARKINSON. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is leading the effort in Congress to create an independent military justice system, said the reforms would give a "fair shot at justice" to survivors of sexual violence. "This is not a Democratic or a Republican idea. It's just the right idea for all the brave men and women that serve in our military," Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said during a news conference at the Capitol yesterday. "Too often these brave men and women are in the fight of their life, and it is not on some far-off foreign soil. It's right within their own ranks, with their commanding officer, as victims of horrific acts of sexual violence." The New York Democrat has won over the support of a broad range of her colleagues in the upper chamber, including conservative firebrand Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who called Gillibrand's effort "a crusade for justice." http://abcn.ws/HymjYk
IT CHIEF OVERSEEING OBAMACARE RETIRES. The Obama administration official perhaps most closely tasked with overseeing technical development of HealthCare.gov will retire from his post at the end of next week, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. Tony Trenkle, chief information officer for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, plans to step down Nov. 15, CMS officials confirmed. His departure comes amid scathing criticism of his agency's handling of the new online federal health insurance portal. A CMS spokeswoman declined to comment on the motivation behind Trenkle's abrupt retirement except to say, "Tony made a decision that he was going to move to the private sector." Trenkle is the first official with ties to the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov to leave the administration. He had overseen CMS' $1 billion annual Information Technology budget for consumer products and services, which includes the new insurance portal under the Affordable Care Act, according to the agency's website. http://abcn.ws/HH3Olm
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
BIDEN CONGRATULATES BOSTON'S NEW MAYOR, BUT CALLS WRONG PERSON. Marty Walsh was sitting at home Tuesday night watching election returns when his phone rang. "You son of a gun, Marty! You did it! Congratulations," a boisterous Joe Biden said, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. The vice president was calling to congratulate the new mayor-elect of Boston, Marty Walsh, but he called the wrong Marty Walsh. The Marty Walsh Biden phoned is president of Gateway Public Solutions in Boston and a former aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy and often gets mixed up with the soon to be mayor. "I said to my wife, 'Wouldn't it be funny if I started getting a couple of calls from people mixing myself up with Mayor-Elect Marty Walsh?'" Walsh told ABC News. Soon after, he received a call from a number with a blocked ID that turned out to be from the White House. "This is the wrong Marty Walsh," Walsh says he told the operator, who likely would have connected him to President Obama. "I'm happy to get you the right number." Ten minutes later, Biden called from the D.C. "Thank you, but this is the wrong Marty Walsh," Walsh told him before giving the vice president the correct number for the mayor-elect. Walsh later got phone calls from the mayor of Minneapolis and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. http://abcn.ws/1794RjN
@SalenaZitoTrib: Dear Beltway if you want to know what Main Street is obsessed with tweet about jobs/poverty/confusion over healthcare not 2016 Love, America