By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- POST-SOTU ROAD TRIP — DAY 2: President Obama is on day two of his post-State of the Union tour with stops in Waukesha, Wis. and Nashville, Tenn., ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. The president will speak at General Electric’s Gas Engine Facility in Waukesha, Wis., where he will sign another memorandum directing a full scale review of federal job training programs, which will be led by Vice President Joe Biden. The president will also announce he is asking Biden, the White House policy councils, the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Secretaries of Labor, Commerce, and Education to consult with stakeholders to ensure the training systems adhere to the needs of employers. The president will also launch a competition for the final $500 million of a community college training fund. The president then flies to Nashville, Tenn. where he will speak at McGavock High School.
- LOOK AT CHRISTIE NOW: Chris Christie’s popularity has been badly dented and Republican preferences for president look like a six-car pileup in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, according to ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER. Just 35 percent of Americans see Christie favorably overall, dropping from 52 percent in a Gallup poll in June, while his unfavorable score has doubled to 40 percent. He’s gone from a 32-point net positive rating last summer to a 5-point net negative now – never a comfortable place for a public figure. And he’s notably weak among strong conservatives, a core Republican group. http://abcn.ws/1b9VmTw
- THE 2016 ON-RAMP (IT’S CROWDED): The Republican 2016 contest looks like… well, like a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, LANGER notes. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 18 percent of registered voters in this survey back Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, and the same share like Jeb Bush, he of the presidential family and two terms as governor of Florida. Christie gets 14 percent; among the rest of those tested, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio come in with 10 to 12 percent. http://abcn.ws/1b9VmTw
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Let’s make this official: There is no Republican frontrunner in 2016. (And that’s not a bad thing – not necessarily – for the Republican Party.) The toll of Chris Christie’s very bad January is evident in two new polls, one national and one in a critical early-voting state. The new ABC News/Washington Post national poll places Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush atop the GOP field, with 18 percent of voters each. Christie is back at 14, with the troika of senators – Paul, Rubio, Cruz – rounding out the top six. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Rand Paul tops the field in the new WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll, at just 16, with a favorite daughter and a favorite (maybe) son, Kelly Ayotte and Scott Brown, in the next two slots. Christie, Ryan, and Rubio barely top Donald Trump, with Bush and Cruz placing even lower. Contrast this with the Democrats, where – it almost goes without saying – it’s Hillary Clinton and nobody else, both nationally and in key states. It means, for Republicans, a focus on who will break out – successes, not just failures – in the two years before Iowa and New Hampshire. Traffic jams can be worth it, depending on what’s on the other side of the bridge.
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: There won’t be any white smoke signals rising, but the path forward on immigration might start coming into sharper focus today when House Republicans gather for a policy retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Speaker John Boehner is renewing his commitment to pull off what has seemed to be the impossible task: building a consensus among Republicans to repair the nation’s broken immigration system. He and Majority Leader Eric Cantor will try persuading their rank-and-file to get on board. A path to citizenship remains a goal, but a lofty one. For now at least, the White House will stay on the sidelines to avoid making Boehner’s job rounding up Republican support even more difficult.
OBAMA, WITHOUT CONGRESS, STARTS MYRA RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLAN. Making good on one of his promises for 2014, President Obama exercised his executive authority with the stroke of a pen Wednesday to create a starter retirement savings program for American workers whose workplaces do not provide traditional 401(k)s, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. “What I’m hoping is that working Americans will take a look because I want more people to have the chance to save for retirement through their hard work,” the president said at the U.S. Steel Irvin Plant in Pennsylvania. “Wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families, regardless of what Congress does, that’s what I’m going to do because I am determined to work with all of you and citizens all across this country on the defining project of our generation, and that is to restore opportunity for every single person who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility in this country,” he said. The president signed the memorandum creating the new retirement savings plan in front of the crowd at the steel plant before handing it over to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The new program, called MyRA, will allow Americans to contribute as little as $5 from each of their paychecks to a retirement account. The plan is aimed at households making up to $191,000 a year. http://abcn.ws/1bz2cll
NOTED: WHY $20.89 EXPLAINS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LOVE FOR COSTCO. President Obama’s love for Costco runs deep. If he had his way, he probably might have grabbed a box of 500 golf balls, an 80-inch TV, and a $4.99 bag of organic tortillas chips for his Super Bowl party during a stop in the Lanham, Md., store yesterday, according to ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP. But Obama didn’t really come for the goodies. He came for this reason: $20.89 That’s how much Costco says the average worker in its stores makes per hour, before overtime and benefits. Full-time, that’s nearly $44,000 a year. With Obama pushing a post-State of the Union focus on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, Costco is his poster child. The company’s employees are happy, Obama says. They make, relatively speaking, a lot of money in the retail sector. And Costco has been wildly profitable despite its generosity to its workers. It is second only to Wal-Mart, as the second largest retailer in the country. http://abcn.ws/1a1RgkW
WHO IN THE WORLD KEPT AIR FORCE ONE WAITING FOR 22 MINUTES? A funny thing happened to President Obama on the way to Pittsburgh yesterday — some guy made him wait 22 minutes in Air Force One on a freezing tarmac. That guy was Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who was hitching a ride on the president’s plane, ABC’s ANN COMPTON and ARLETTE SAENZ note. Casey was seen sprinting across the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews more than 22 minutes after President Obama boarded for his short flight to Pennsylvania. A spokeswoman for Casey said the senator was checking on the status of “some important votes” and then hit a snag. “Senator Casey had to double check on the timing of some important votes this afternoon so was delayed slightly and then hit some traffic,” April Mellody, a spokeswoman for Casey, said in an e-mail to ABC News. http://abcn.ws/1nl6YeA
GOP CANDIDATE QUICK TO NAME-DROP COUSIN OBAMA, ALSO QUICK TO DIS HIM. Dr. Milton Wolf wants you to know two things about him — he is President Obama’s cousin and he wants to be Obama’s arch nemesis, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. Wolf, a radiologist and a long-shot candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas, has never been shy about touting his distant familial ties to the president. And he’s even more outspoken about wanting to foil Obama’s every move. Fittingly, his response to Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was titled: “Family’s Response to the State of the Union.” In the YouTube video, Milton seems to relish the fun of it all. “You cannot choose your family, but you can choose to rise up and stop your family from destroying America,” he says. “You want to drive Barack Obama crazy? Send his fearless conservative cousin to the United States Senate.” http://abcn.ws/1ff9UoT
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
GOING, GOING, GONE? A SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT’S BATTLE FOR ELECTORAL SURVIVAL. Are Democrats on the verge of extinction in the South? As the party tries to hold their Senate majority in the 2014 midterm elections, perhaps no Democratic seat is at greater risk than that of Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. But Pryor rejected the notion that he’s part of a dying breed of Southern Democrats during an interview on the campaign trail with “The Fine Print’s” JEFF ZELENY. “I would argue against that,” said Pryor, who believes that Democrats are poised to win several local and national races. “I think we’ll win the Senate race. I mean, I don’t want to be cocky about it. I know I have a hard race on my hands, and I completely understand what I’m up against here.” As he seeks a third Senate term, Pryor describes bipartisanship as his “hallmark” in the Senate. He said he’s confident the voters of his state are comfortable with his brand of politics. http://yhoo.it/1npgPjr
WHAT WE’RE READING
“HOUSE DEMOCRATS RAISED $76 MILLION IN 2013,” by the Associated Press. “The campaign committee for House Democrats raised $5.6 million in December, bringing its fundraising total for 2013 to nearly $76 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has about $30 million in the bank heading into the election year. After picking up eight seats in 2012, Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats in November to capture control of the House. The National Republican Congressional Committee hasn’t yet released its December totals. But at the end of November, Democrats had $8 million more on hand than Republicans and were poised to outraise them for the year. Both committees were debt-free. Democrats raised $18 million more in 2013 than they did in 2011. Both parties stockpile cash in odd years to spend during even years when House elections are held.” http://abcn.ws/Mz7tE6
@posglen: Good look at 2014 turnout impacts on polls by @HotlineSteve. It’s not just a smart column because it quotes me! http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/it-s-time-to-unskew-the-2014-election-polls-20140129 …
@JenniferJJacobs: Some of Obama’s ideas sound like @TerryBranstad‘s, @kobradovich says. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140130/OPINION05/301300036 … #iapolitics
@SerenaMarsh: Super Bowl Is Largest Weekend in US Prostitution, Advocates Say http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/01/super-bowl-is-largest-weekend-in-us-prostitution-advocates-say/#.UupQ6pZSjAk.twitter … via @abc