|Michael Falcone||Feb 21, 2014, 9:12 AM|
By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ANALYSIS - ABC's RICK KLEIN: What happens if Chris Christie has a town-hall meeting and nobody talks about bridges? The New Jersey governor's performance Thursday, at his first major event interacting with the public since the longest press conference you're likely to recall, was classic Christie - and not just in its Springsteen references, occasional mild profanity, and tense exchanges with constituents. This was a governor back in his comfort zone, mostly, operating in a new but not unrecognizable normal. And he was re-learning (or teaching?) a lesson about how stories and even big scandals need new oxygen. His quiet strategy of late is working, if the fact that scrutiny is falling on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's emails, and the traffic violations of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's police detail, is any guide. This story is far from over from Christie. But don't forget that Christie became Christie for a reason: He's still got political chops.
OBAMA: MIDTERM ELECTIONS AREN'T 'SEXY'. President Obama rallied Democratic governors in Washington, D.C., Thursday, telling them to focus on the mid-term elections, even though they aren't as "sexy" as a presidential campaign, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "We know how to win national elections. But all too often, it's during these mid-terms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble because, I guess we don't think it's sexy or something," the president said at a Democratic Governors Association Dinner at the St. Regis Hotel Thursday night. "If there's one message that I want to deliver today to every Democrat and every person who's interested in supporting Democratic policies, is that you've got to pay attention to the states," he said. Democrats are at risk of losing the Senate in this year's mid-term election, with incumbent Democrats like Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., facing tough re-elections back home at a time when Obama's approval ratings are low. The president met with the Democratic governors ahead of the National Governors Association meeting in the nation's capital this weekend. Over the weekend, the president will hold a formal dinner for governors and their wives, and he'll speak to the bipartisan group of governors at the White House on Monday. http://abcn.ws/1bPZFsZ
TURKEY SHOULD COME UNDER SCRUTINY FOR DEALINGS WITH IRAN, SAYS THINK TANK. Turkey could become a major problem for the Obama administration if it continues to turn a blind eye to the country's shady financing deals, an influential foreign policy think tank warns in a new report, according to ABC's ALI WEINBERG. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should come under more scrutiny for his country's business deals with Iran as well as several other financial arrangements, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based group, argues. This comes at a time when the U.S. has been reluctant to interfere with a domestic scandal involving bribery and fraud, a scandal in which Erdogan and members of his inner circle, including his son, are involved. "The corruption scandal has been grabbing headlines in Turkey and the U.S. has made it pretty clear that this is seen as a domestic issue," Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the foundation and author of the report, told ABC. "But what we have noted is that a good number of these corruption stories have intersected with terrorism finance concerns." Among the other major problems Schanzer identified in his report, which goes public Friday, are Turkey's funding of some radical Syrian opposition groups; Erdogan's meetings with the Palestinian political group Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization; and the fact that Turkey was almost blacklisted by an international body monitoring terrorism finance, the Financial Action Task Force. http://abcn.ws/1oY104e
BILLIONAIRE TOM STEYER WON'T 'TEA PARTY' DEMS IN 2014. Democrats' favorite wealthy political donor, environmentalist Tom Steyer, is ready to play hardball in the 2014 elections. But an adviser for Steyer's super PAC Next Gen Climate Action, which has committed to spending more than $100 million in a climate change ad campaign this year, said they don't plan to attack Democrats in tough races who disagree with their environmentalist agenda, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. "We're certainly not subscribing to what I would call the tea party theory of politics," said the group's senior adviser Chris Lehane on a conference call with reporters yesterday. "The tea party has spent a considerable amount of time involving themselves in races where they effectively go out and take out a candidate." So Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., you're in luck. That doesn't mean that they'll stay out of races like Landrieu's, where she has been outspoken in her support for the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil sands project that would bring unrefined oil from Canada to the U.S., which the environmental community strongly opposes. Though they haven't committed to doing anything in Landrieu's race yet, Lehane said that ad campaigns may not be negative but they could potentially prod voters to push Democratic candidates toward an anti-Keystone platform. As for all that money, Steyer's commitment of at least $50 million from his own pockets and $50 million from like-minded people (who are also likely to be very wealthy), is a much needed helping hand for Democrats who are facing an uphill battle to hold on to the Senate and stop any hemorrhaging of seats in the House. http://abcn.ws/1bqnO8Z
EX-CON EX-LOUISIANA GOV. EDWARDS EYES POLITICAL COMEBACK. The eight years he spent in federal prison bar Edwin Edwards from running for statewide office for another decade or so, but a felony conviction won't stop Louisiana's longest-serving governor from running for Congress. Edwards, a Democrat, who was found guilty of 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, conspiracy, and fraud in 2000 recently hinted that he may make a bid to represent Louisiana's sixth Congressional district, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY writes. The 86-year-old ex-con reportedly told Bloomberg's Albert Hunt, "I'm just figuring out all the legalities and how to set up a super PAC, and then I'm going." But his wife, Trinia Scott Edwards, insists he hasn't yet made up his mind. "I was there when he was on that call and he did not say that (he had decided to run)," she told The New Orleans Times Picayune. "He had definitely said he had not decided." Despite his past trouble with the law, Edwards seems optimistic about his chances. In the Bloomberg interview, he asserted that private polling shows he would easily qualify for Louisiana's run-off election. http://abcn.ws/NeK36N
@MarquardtA: Opposition in #Ukraine agree to deal. But Maidan square still packed and many said won't leave until president goes. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/shaky-peace-reigns-after-ukraine-rocked-protest …
@markknoller: There's no press coverage of the president's meeting with the Dalai Lama, though a WH photo and readout are expected.
@HotlineJosh: Clip 'n save: the 15 governorships most likely to flip parties, from @HotlineSteve and @HotlineKaryn http://www.nationaljournal.com//magazine/the-15-governorships-most-likely-to-flip-20140220 …
@csmonitor: Income inequality: Among US cities, bigger ones are more unequal http://ow.ly/tQfQU
@FordOConnell: Drawing a line in the sand… @TheHill: Boehner: I'd rather kill myself than raise the minimum wage - http://thehill.com/homenews/house/198856-boehner-id-rather-kill-myself-than-raise-the-minimum-wage#ixzz2txvMCfZX …