By RICK KLEIN ( @rickklein )
In the virtual waiting room, they don't serve political patience. Drones don't help deliveries there, either.
A deadline has come and gone, and a mixed bag is what we get: You can choose your version of success, or at least hit refresh while you're deciding.
HealthCare.gov's problems, though, have moved from the front end to the back end. It's harder to fix what you can't see - and harder to know what needs fixing if nothing seems amiss to those signing up for coverage.
(To update and renew - if you liked your plan, you could probably keep it. If you want a new plan, you can almost surely sign up for it now. And if you sign up for it, you're likely to actually get it?)
The insurance companies aren't sold on the fixes, and they sort of matter because they're the ones providing the coverage people assume they've been buying. But a wheezing Website is better than a crashing one, and so the White House has bought some time to make a new case that may sound like an old one, whether or not it's still called "Obamacare."
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING - POWER PLAYERS
More "TOP LINE" with AL FROM, the former Clinton hand and author of the new book, "The New Democrats and the Return to Power." On a Hillary Clinton run in 2016: "I would hope that if she decides to run, and I don't know whether she's going to run or not, that she would take the core principles … and offer solutions, new ideas, that deal with the problems and the challenges that we have in 2016 and beyond." http://yhoo.it/1eKUJm9
What's new is old: "There is a center in the country, and it's out in the country. You see it in governorships and really in both parties, and so it's possible to tap that," From said. "I really don't believe that we moved the country to the right or to the center. What I believed is we modernized what I would call liberal government."
CHRISTIE DENIES FLIP-FLOP. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie denied Monday that he flip-flopped on his position on an important immigration issue in his home state. The New Jersey Star-Ledger hit Christie in a scathing op-ed for pulling support for a bill that would grant in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. But Christie said he hasn't changed his position, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. "I said the legislature should move in the lame duck session towards tuition equality in New Jersey. Period," Christie said at a news conference. "That's what I said. I didn't support any particular piece of legislation. And I still support tuition equality." http://abcn.ws/1be4Tar
ABOUT THAT EDITORIAL: "If Gov. Chris Christie thinks voters won't notice if he promises one thing when he's running for governor, then another when he's running for president, he's dreaming," writes the STAR-LEDGER EDITORIAL BOARD. "Now that he's been re-elected with 51 percent of the Hispanic vote, he's backpedaling. http://bit.ly/1hvenGU
FOLLOW THIS? Christie is not supporting a non-candidate he didn't say definitely wasn't running for governor of New York. The new Republican Governors Association chairman said he was "stunned" to read reports that said he was ready to support Westchester County executive Rob Astorino for governor. "He has not said he's running for governor," Christie said of Astorino. "He didn't indicate to me that night that he was running for governor." More, per SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: "When Gov. Cuomo called me, to discuss other matters, and brought that issue up, I told him exactly what he related, which was, Rob Astorino never asked me for support, didn't say he was running for governor, nor did I pledge any support," Christie said. http://abcn.ws/1baB9zF
BIDEN, ABROAD, on a mission: "Vice President Joe Biden urged Japan and China to establish for the first time basic measures to manage crises and build confidence as he kicked off a weeklong tour of East Asia with the mission of helping calm territorial tensions between the two Asian powers," YUKA HAYASHI reports for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Biden, to a print daily in Japan: "I believe this latest incident underscores the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis-management and confidence-building measures to lower tensions." http://on.wsj.com/1ciTXwV
PANDA DIPLOMACY. As the US and China struggle to see eye to eye on the airspace regulation of the South China Sea, the countries' first ladies took to YouTube to address a subject that both counties can easily support: welcoming the National Zoo's newly named panda cub, Bao Bao. ABC's CHRIS GOOD notes that Panda Diplomacy - goodwill gifts of China's most prized animals - dates back to the Tang Dynasty. A little more recently, China presented President Nixon with Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, America's first celebrity panda couple, in 1972. Michelle Obama gushed panda praise, noting the presence of pandas in the National Zoo as "a symbol of the growing connections between our two countries." Her Chinese counterpart, First Lady Peng Liyuan hailed the young panda as a "testament to the closeness the Chinese and Americans feel at heart," according to subtitles. http://abcn.ws/1ba24vy
ABOUT SMITH. Welcome back to a race in New Hampshire, Bob Smith, who wants his old Senate seat back (after running in Florida - inspiration for Scott Brown?). "He was rejected and thrown out of office … and I see very few folks who will rally to his tattered banner this time either," veteran New Hampshire hand Dave Carney tells ABC'S ALEX LAZAR, about Smith. "He is a craven free-media seeker and he will provide some comic relief but in the serious business of fielding credible candidates he does not fit into that equation." Said Fergus Cullen, a former state party chair: "His presidential candidacy in 1999 and his quitting of the party in a huff gave permission to establishment Republicans to abandon him, and they did." http://abcn.ws/1c7yp2U
WHAT WE'RE READING
DO NOTHING, GO HOME. "Congress' unfinished business threatens to leave millions of Americans - including the unemployed, Pentagon contractors and even supermarket shoppers - in the lurch this holiday season," the LOS ANGELES TIMES' LISA MASCARO reports . "An estimated 1.3 million Americans will lose federal emergency unemployment benefits after Christmas if the program is not renewed. … Without action, milk prices are set to skyrocket in the new year because the legislation plays a role in how some commodities are priced." http://lat.ms/1c8Rbqy
NOT QUITE NOTHING - MEET THE LEAST CONSEQUENTIAL NEW LAWS OF 2013. There's a section of IRS code named for a retired senator, more parking at a national historic site in North Dakota, and the "bean field property" in Mississippi, ABC'S NICKI ROSSOLL and JOAN E. GREVE report. Plus a law "To specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins." http://abcn.ws/19evzYT
@TheRickWilson: Biden is in Asia. Cue your weird uncle doing the Chinese imitation only he finds funny and muttering about the Yellow Peril.