By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- INTRODUCING ’14 FOR 14′: This week marks the launch of the ABC News political team’s “14 For 14″ project, which will document 14 races that matter between now and November. It will be a dynamic list of the campaigns — limited to 14 at any given time — that individually and collectively provide the big picture of where the country stands, and where we are headed. With a colorful and ambitious cast of candidates, they offer a wild ride of colliding ambitions — with control of the national agenda on the line. All 435 House seats will be filled this year. So will 36 Senate slots, and 36 governors are scheduled to be elected, too. Here is the slate of races chosen by the ABC News Political Unit to kick off the “14 for 14″ project: http://abcn.ws/1ffGNlS
- ABC IS INVITING EVERYONE TO GET INVOLVED: We’ve left the 14th spot open for our audience to decide. Between now and Friday, Jan. 31 at noon ET, we are inviting everyone to vote for the race they want included. We will announce the winner after voting has ended. Stay tuned! VOTE: http://abcn.ws/1ffGNlS
- POLITICAL DIRECTOR RICK KLEIN ON WHY WE CHOSE THESE RACES: There are new faces, old faces, and familiar names. The powerful Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, faces generational and ideological challenges from two directions in Kentucky. He’s got a tea partier on his right, and a 35-year-old female statewide office-holder on his left. The grandsons of two former presidents — a Bush in Texas, and a Carter in Georgia — are making bids to continue family legacies into a new generation. Bill and Hillary Clinton will try to save an old family friend back in Arkansas — and keep the Senate in Democratic hands in the process. In Texas, a mom whose pink tennis shoes carried her to national prominence will take on a conservative stalwart who’s been paralyzed from the waist down since he was in his 20s. Presidential ambitions are in play as well — and not just Hillary Clinton’s. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hopes to make history with a third statewide win inside of four years, after already becoming the first governor ever to make it through a recall bid. MORE: http://abcn.ws/1izULlT
JEFF ZELENY KICKS OFF ABC’S “14 FOR 14″ COVERAGE: ‘IS ARKANSAS, HOME OF THE CLINTONS, LOSING ITS DEMOCRATIC WAY?’ The front line in the fight for control of the Senate is here in Arkansas. Sen. Mark Pryor has a golden name in Democratic politics. For 16 years, he’s been on a statewide ballot, rising from attorney general to the U.S. Senate. When he ran for re-election to a second term in 2008, he received 80 percent of the vote. Republicans didn’t field a challenger. Not so this year. “I don’t want to be cocky about it,” Pryor told “This Week.” “I know I have a hard race on my hands and I completely understand what I’m up against here.” He’s up against Rep. Tom Cotton, elected in 2012. Republicans see him as a rising conservative star and a leading prospect to take down a sitting Democratic senator. “I would say I’m in a hurry,” Cotton told “This Week,” speaking about his fast rise. “I’ve been in Washington for a year now and I’ve seen a lot of problems that need to be fixed. And someone should be in a hurry to fix them because we’re $17 trillion in debt.” Republicans are planting high hopes in Arkansas. The party needs only six seats to win control of the Senate. As he seeks a third term in the Senate, Pryor is dogged by President Obama’s health care law. He has sharply criticized the execution of the Affordable Care Act, but stands by his vote for it. “I think the administration did a terrible job rolling it out,” Pryor said.” “I mean they’ve admitted that. It was awful. I was stunned at how bad it was.” http://abcn.ws/KXWD8X
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Generically speaking, this is a problem for Democrats: The bleak outlook for President Obama’s party in the midterm elections is laid bare by the “generic ballot” question for House races in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll. It’s a virtual tie, with Republicans enjoying a numeric edge of 46-45 – on a question that Democrats need to dominate if they have a chance of catching any sort of national wave. For comparison’s sake, Democrats’ advantage was in the double digits and teens through much of 2006, the year they swept Congress. Even in 2010, the year the GOP took back the House, Democrats had a generic-ballot edge of 4 and 5 points in polls taken in the weeks before Election Day. Because of the very real chance that – given how districts are drawn – Democrats will win more votes in congressional races yet lose more seats, this is a major problem for the party. It means, as the president addresses the nation at the start of the midterm year, he has to grasp the reality that the current political split in Washington is overwhelmingly likely to continue for the final three years of his time in office. FULL POLL: http://abcn.ws/1epoDu2
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: As the finishing touches are being placed on the State of the Union address today, there’s an unspoken question at the White House: Is America still listening to President Obama? It’s a challenge facing every president, particularly at the dawning of the sixth year in office. The economy is starting to blossom, but that seems to have little effect on how Americans are viewing the president. One troubling worry in the West Wing is amplified in a weekend ABC News/Washington Post poll: More than six in 10 Americans say they do not have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country. That’s a staggering change in fortunes, making it even more important for the president to get people’s attention tomorrow night and change minds in this critical mid-term election year.
COCAINE CONGRESSMAN, TREY RADEL, TO RESIGN. Radel’s chief of staff and senior GOP leadership sources confirm to ABC News that he will resign today in a letter to the speaker, ABC’s STEVEN PORTNOY, JOHN PARKINSON and JEFF ZELENY report. Radel left rehab earlier this month, following his arrest last fall for cocaine possession in Washington, DC.
JAY CARNEY: OBAMACARE WORTH IT, EVEN IF DEMOCRATS LOSE THE SENATE. Days before President Obama is set to deliver the annual State of the Union during, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told ABC News that passing and implementing the president’s signature health care law is worth any political consequences, including losing the Democratically-controlled Senate to the Republicans, ABC’s BEN BELL notes. “This is not about politics. So the answer is, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what happens politically,” Carney said when asked about the possibility of losing the Senate during an interview at the White House for “This Week.” “I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this if they decide to run on it, because they’ve got to explain what repeal means,” he added. Carney, asked by ABC’s JONATHAN KARL how the president could be an effective leader when the ABC News/Washington Post poll showed only 37 percent of the country thinks the president has the ability to make the right decisions for the country, acknowledged the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov, but also placed blame on the GOP for shutting down the government last fall. http://abcn.ws/19VKb5A
STATE OF THE UNION ‘DESIGNATED SURVIVOR’ DEMYSTIFIED. As President Obama’s cabinet files into the House chamber for his State of the Union address tomorrow, an annual mystery will unravel before our eyes. One member of Obama’s inner circle will be conspicuously missing, an absence anticipated but unannounced for the sake of security, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. Squirreled away far from the Capitol dome, that person will be tasked with a job select few Americans have held: the job of designated survivor. For one night only, during Obama’s speech, the survivor abides with the macabre knowledge that he or she could become president in the event of the unthinkable, a catastrophe that wiped out the nation’s senior leaders and the entire line of succession. http://abcn.ws/1b0mi83
–BACKSTORY: The mission and preparations for it have long been shrouded in secrecy since the practice began during the Cold War. But in interviews with ABC News, more than half a dozen former “survivors” from the past 30 years shed new light on the mind-boggling responsibility they bore. “You think about the cataclysm that would have to occur for you to be president and the situation in the country that would ensue,” said Jim Nicholson, former secretary of Veterans Affairs who was the designated survivor during President George W. Bush’s 2006 address. “To become the president at that moment would be a really difficult, surreal experience.” “It’s not anything that is taken lightly or cavalierly,” said President Obama’s former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who sat out the 2011 State of the Union. “There are serious preparations and serious consideration of different scenarios.” The contingency training, much of it classified, begins immediately after the survivor is selected several weeks ahead of the president’s speech, according to the accounts. The White House chief of staff makes the pick in private, swearing the candidate to secrecy. The nod sets into motion hours of logistical and legal briefings on continuity of government. http://abcn.ws/1b0mi83
WHITE HOUSE PREVIEWS STATE OF THE UNION GUESTS. The White House has partially unveiled the list of guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama in her box at the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. Six names have been revealed thus far, including two survivors of the April terror attack on the Boston marathon and the first male athlete in a major American sport to come out as openly gay. An administration preview website suggests 22 individuals are expected to join Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in the Capitol that night. Since the Ronald Reagan White House, presidents have made a tradition of bringing guests to sit with the first lady in the House chamber. The president often mentions their names in the speech to represent human faces on the policies he wishes to pursue in the next year. But while science, education, and a focus on the gay community have long been tropes of Obama, White House officials say this year’s speech will also carry the theme of circumventing a gridlocked Congress. ABC’s MATTHEW LAROTONDA has the preliminary list: http://abcn.ws/L1hg45
WHY EARLIER CONVENTIONS WILL MEAN EVEN MORE SECRET ATTACK ADS IN 2016. Now that Republicans have moved their convention forward by up to two months — somewhere from the last week of June to the second week of July 2016 — outside political groups will be able to air attack ads in late summer without disclosing them, as the campaign reaches a fever pitch, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD writes. As has been noted by Time magazine, the move will solve a money problem for the GOP’s presidential candidate, allowing him or her to tap into general-election funds sooner. Loaded up with dollars dedicated to his primary campaign, Mitt Romney ran into this problem in 2012, legally barred from dipping into his general-election funds until after he was nominated in a Republican convention that didn’t start until Aug. 27. The new calendar will solve that. And it will help outside groups get going earlier, by launching the general-election season sooner. With the nominee chosen, groups can get into general-election mode faster. But it will also allow for a glut of undisclosed, late-summer attack ads from the most secretive of outside-spending groups — just as presidential campaigns can crescendo into dizzying blurs of negativity. MORE: http://abcn.ws/M9ehZ0
MARJORIE MARGOLIES GOES M.I.A. AT PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE FORUM. It was a full house at the Pennsylvania 13th District Democratic Forum yesterday, but a key player was missing, ABC’s BETSY KLEIN reports. While three Democratic candidates for Congress were in attendance, front-runner and Clinton-in-law Marjorie Margolies was not present. “Her campaign was contacted three times and asked whether or not she would like to appear. Her campaign declined,” said Beverly Hahn, Montgomery County Democracy for America Chair. “I contacted Marjorie twice personally, she declined another two times, so I think after five times it was pretty clear that she and her campaign were not interested in coming to this forum. But it was not obviously because we didn’t try to get her here.” The Margolies campaign did not return ABC News’ request for comment, but Margolies did appear on MSNBC’s “Disrupt with Karen Finney” later in the afternoon to discuss sexism in elections, where she referred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “Hillary.” Candidates State Rep. Brendan Boyle, State Sen. Daylin Leach, and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh did attend, discussing issues from income inequality to NSA spying to marijuana legalization. http://abcn.ws/1aB17Pm
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
HOW ‘MITT’ WAS MADE: THE STORY BEHIND THE NEW DOCUMENTARY. It all started when Mitt Romney went to see a movie in 2005. The then-governor of Massachusetts went to a theater in Boston to see “New York Doll,” a documentary about recovering alcoholic and rock musician Arthur Kane, who is given the chance to reunite with his band The New York Dolls after 30 years. Soon after that, the film’s director, Greg Whiteley, received an e-mail. “A guy e-mailed me saying, ‘Hey, I loved your film. I looked you up on the Web. You’d be interested to know the governor of Massachusetts was at your movie, just two rows ahead of me,’” Whiteley, the director of “Mitt,” told “On the Radar’s” MARTHA RADDATZ during a walking interview at last week’s Sundance movie festival, where his most recent film about the two-time Republican presidential candidate premiered. A year and a half passed before Whiteley’s path crossed once again with Romney’s. But this time, Whiteley sought him out intentionally. To learn more about the making of “Mitt,” which is now available to stream on Netflix, check out this episode of “On the Radar.” http://yhoo.it/1fnCByz
@KevinMaddenDC: The low confidence/high no confidence numbers for Obama help explain animated nature of 2016/HRC discussion. Public starting 2 move on.
@MarkHalperin: If Twitter existed when Watergate happened, would Nixon have had a better chance to stay in office — or would he have been ousted sooner?
@JesseFFerguson: PREVIEW OF THIS WEEK: GOP Cong resigns for Coke, Obama delivers SOTU about middle class, GOP votes on abortion, GOP goes to sweat lodge