Campaign Comes Full Circle (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • DAVID PETRAEUS ISSUES MEA CULPA: I SCREWED UP 'ROYALLY': ABC's Martha Raddatz reported on "Good Morning America," today that for the first time since he resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, we're hearing from Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus wrote in a letter to one of his mentors, retired Brigadier General James Shelton, "I screwed up royally, and I paid the price, appropriately." Shelton has been friends with Petreaus for three decades, and he reached out to the former CIA chief when he resigned. Last week, Shelton says, Petraeus wrote him back. In the letter Petraeus writes that his wife Holly is "once again demonstrating how incredibly fortunate I was to marry her." Shelton tells ABC News that while he was disappointed, he thinks Petraeus made a onetime mistake. Neither Paula Broadwell nor Petraeus had any comment to ABC News.
  • TIM GEITHNER HEADS TO THE HILL: Today on Capitol Hill the next round of fiscal cliff meetings are about to take place. ABC News' Sunlen Miller and John Parkinson report that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, tapped by President Obama to have a lead role in the negotiations, and White House legislative chief Rob Nabors will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, and Budget Committee Chairman and former GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
  • AMERICANS VOICE CONCERN OVER 'FISCAL CLIFF' NEGOTIATIONS. ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "World News" last night on calls from Americans to Washington to get to work, and get the job done on the fiscal cliff negotiations. With 34 days left to make a deal, the President continued his public relations push on Wednesday, surrounding himself with supporters who wrote to the White House saying they do not want to see a tax increase on the middle class. It's all part of a move to ratchet up pressure on Republicans to reach a deal before the country goes over the cliff on Dec. 31. President Obama said that expects there will be a framework for a deal in the next couple of weeks and he hopes there will be a deal by Christmas. WATCH:


The private meeting today at the White House between President Obama and Mitt Romney is shaping up to be one of the all-time great fly-on-the-wall moments between a president and his defeated rival.

At 12:30 p.m. today, the president and his former Republican foe will sit down to lunch in the private dining room at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. It will be the first in-person meeting between the two men since the final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla. on Oct. 22.

The White House has not released an agenda for the sit-down, and as ABC's Mary Bruce reports, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama does not have a "specific ask" or assignment for Romney.

"During his news conference two weeks ago, the president said that there are aspects of Governor Romney's record and Governor Romney's ideas that he believes could be very helpful," Carney told reporters yesterday. "The president noted that Governor Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that skill set lends itself to ideas that could make the federal government work better, which is a passion of the president's."

Carney noted that there is a "symbolic element" to the meeting: "We consistently have elections and either pass power on to a new leader of a new party or because the voters chose - continued to invest power and authority and the office in the same party or the same individual without violence."

Meanwhile, representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns as well as top advisers to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups are gathering today at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief.

On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass. fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina) will meet for the first time since the election - and many for the first time ever.

The sessions at Harvard University's Institute of Politics will include a who's who of political bold-faced names from campaign 2012, including senior campaign aides like Romney political director Rich Beeson and pollster Neil Newhouse, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and digital director Teddy Goff, Rick Santorum adviser John Brabender, former Rick Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson and even Mark Block, who ran Herman Cain's short-lived but much-talked-about presidential bid.

Representatives from the outside groups that had so much influence - and spent so much money - on the election will also be on hand, including Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action; Steven Law, head of the pro-Republican group American Crossroads; and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

The conference will culminate tonight with a forum, organized by Harvard's Institute of Politics, featuring Messina, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and senior strategist Stuart Stevens. It will be live-streamed at 6 p.m.:

ABC's Mary Bruce and Devin Dwyer contributed reporting.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: If President Obama and Mitt Romney were both serious - if the former wants his onetime rival's input, and the latter truly wants to be part of the national conversation - there may be no better time to put those promises into action. Negotiations over the fiscal cliff will determine the future not just of the Washington politics but of the nation, and the business community is more than a little bit interested. Enter Romney, maybe, at a moment where he still has some leverage inside the GOP, and can use the credibility he's earned in the business world to help stave off economic calamity. It doesn't have to be a plot twist that would have been rejected by producers of "The West Wing" to provide a task of substance for Romney to fill, and fast.

FLASHBACK - OBAMA ON HOW ROMNEY 'COULD BE VERY HELPFUL.' At his post-election press conference on Nov. 14, President Obama said he was looking forward to a meeting with Mitt Romney: "You know, there - there are certain aspects of Governor Romney's record and his ideas that I think could be very helpful. And well, to give you one example, I do think he did a terrific job running the Olympics. And you know, that skill set of trying to figure out how do we make something work better applies to the federal government. There are a lot of ideas that I don't think are partisan ideas but are just smart ideas about how can we make the federal government more customer-friendly? How can we make sure that, you know, we're consolidating programs that are duplicative? You know, how can we eliminate additional waste? He - he presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with. And so it'd be interesting to talk to him about something like that. There may be ideas that he has with respect to jobs and growth that can help middle-class families that I want to hear. So you know, I'm not - I'm not either prejudging what he's interested in doing, nor am I suggesting I've got some specific assignment. But I - what I want to do is to - is to get ideas from him and see if - see if there are some ways that we can potentially work together."

ROMNEY AIDE RE-LIVES THE ELECTION. Romney strategist Stuart Stevens, the eccentric advertising and message guru who was frequently at Romney's side on the campaign trail, looked back on the race in a Washington Post Op-Ed in which he acknowledged that "Romney was never a favorite of D.C.'s Green Room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians." But his column amounts to a fierce defense of Romney the candidate, even arguing that the former Massachusetts governor sparked a "national movement." "When Mitt Romney stood on stage with Barack Obama, it wasn't about television ads or whiz- bang turnout technologies, it was about fundamental Republican ideas versus fundamental Democratic ideas," Stevens wrote. "It was about lower taxes or higher taxes, less government or more government, more freedom or less freedom. And Republican ideals - Mitt Romney - carried the day." Read Stevens' full Op-Ed:

A LOOK BACK AT AWKWARD POST-ELECTION MOMENTS. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the traditional meet-and-greet between presidential rivals "one of the often overlooked but remarkable things about this democracy." As for Carney's characterization, today's reunion is sure to be remarkable, but also awkward, as ABC's Sarah Parnass notes. Here's a look back at awkward moments between presidents and their rivals:


with ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield ( @LizHartfield)

OBAMA DONORS AT 'FISCAL CLIFF' MEETINGS. Government watchdogs today questioned the place of top Obama campaign donors among the elite few invited to the White House over the past two weeks for private presidential consultations on the looming "fiscal cliff." ABC's Devin Dwyer reports, supporters of President Obama who maxed out personal contributions to his campaign or the Democratic National Committee, or helped bundle hundreds of thousands of dollars more, have been seated at the table in every publicly-announced post-election White House meeting with "business leaders," according to lists released by the administration. Among the executives Obama met with on Wednesday were several who gave to the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and State Farm CEO Ed Rust both maxed out to Romney's campaign and the Republican National Committee. Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, also big GOP donors, also attended.

NOTED: PRESIDENT LAUNCHES #My2K 'FISCAL CLIFF' CAMPAIGN. Kicking off a public relations campaign including a Twitter assault on Congress to build support for his plan to avert the looming "fiscal cliff," President Obama Wednesday said he is doing his part and urged Americans to pressure lawmakers to do theirs. With the clock ticking, the president called on lawmakers to act on areas where they do agree and to extend middle-class tax cuts. "I believe that both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks. In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas," he said, flanked by Americans who wrote to the administration explaining how they would impacted if tax cuts are not extended.

OBAMA STAYS FLEXIBLE ON TAX RATES. The Wall Street Journal's Damian Paletta and Carol E. Lee report: "President Barack Obama signaled he wouldn't insist tax rates on upper-income Americans rise to Clinton-era peaks as part of a deficit-reduction deal, showing new flexibility as he tries to accelerate talks with congressional Republicans. The new clarity of the White House position marks a potentially important moment in Washington's effort to figure out how to handle tax rates that are due to snap higher next year, one of the thorniest elements of the so-called fiscal cliff. Some Republicans saw it as a hopeful sign that could lead to a compromise."

SUSAN RICE GAINS LITTLE GROUND WITH SKEPTICAL SENATORS. Day two of Susan Rice's charm offensive on Capitol Hill brought little support for the U.N. ambassador to become the next secretary of state if nominated by President Obama reports ABC's Sunlen Miller and Rosalyn Oshmyansky. Rice has spent the past two days in meetings on Capitol Hill, specifically requested by her with individual senators who have voiced concern about her potential promotion to secretary of state.

NOTED: OBAMA, CLINTON DEFEND RICE.President Obama on Wednesday defended Rice against criticism from Senate Republicans, saying she is "extraordinary" reports ABC's Mary Bruce. Speaking during a brief photo-op with reporters at the start of a Cabinet meeting, the president was asked if Rice is being treated unfairly by lawmakers who say they have lingering questions about her comments following the September terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. "Susan Rice is extraordinary," Obama responded, with Rice just a few seats away at the other end of the table. Rice also got some defense from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, when Clinton spoke to reporters about Benghazi, reports ABC's Dana Hughes. "Let me just say first of all Susan Rice has done a great job as our ambassador to the UN," Clinton said.

KERRY STAYS QUIET AS CABINET SPECULATION SWIRLS. The AP's Julie Pace reports, "Sen. John Kerry is angling to be the nation's top diplomat by being, well, diplomatic. The longtime Democratic lawmaker from Massachusetts has largely stayed quiet while President Barack Obama considers him for the next secretary of state. Kerry has asked his supporters to avoid overt lobbying of the White House on his behalf. And he's defended his chief rival for the post, Susan Rice, amid Republican criticism of her initial explanation of the attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Kerry's strategy reflects what people close to the senator say is his disdain for some aspects of Washington's personnel politics."

U.S. WEIGHS BOLDER EFFORT TO INTERVENE IN SYRIA. The New York Times' David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt report, "The Obama administration, hoping that the conflict in Syria has reached a turning point, is considering deeper intervention to help push President Bashar al-Assad from power, according to government officials involved in the discussions. While no decisions have been made, the administration is considering several alternatives, including directly providing arms to some opposition fighters."


-DEMOCRATS WIN (ALMOST) THE LAST OUTSTANDING HOUSE RACE. Nearly two months after Election Day, all congressional races are finally over - almost. A runoff in Louisiana will keep a GOP-held seat in GOP hands, but Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre has finally won in North Carolina's 7th Congressional District, after a recount. McIntyre maintained a slim lead since Election Day as more ballots were counted, and after counties finished recounting on Wednesday, McIntyre held a lead of 654 votes and Republican David Rouzer conceded the race, the Associated Press's Gary D. Robertson reports.

-FINAL HOUSE COUNT: DEMS GAIN 8 SEATS. The 113th Congress will consist of 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. ABC's Chris Good reports, Democrats actually gained more seats compared to the pre-election House makeup, but due to vacancies in a handful of Democrat-held seats-they entered the 2012 elections holding 190 House seats-but due to vacancies in three Democrat-held districts, the party is counting its gains at eight seats. And thanks to a quirky election in Michigan's 11th district, Democrats will enjoy an extra seat until the end of the year, as voters chose Democrat Dave Curson to replace former GOP congressman Thaddeus McCotter until the next Congress, when Republican Kerry Bentivolio will take over.

- LAST RACE STANDING; LOUISIANA'S RUNOFF. And then there was one. The final race of the 2012 elections won't affect the partisan makeup of the House next year, since it will remain in Republican hands, but Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District is the only one that hasn't yet chosen a representative in the 113th Congress. Coincidentally, a member-on-member battle will cap off the sometimes-wacky redistricting year that saw a handful of sitting members forced to run against each other, usually in primaries. Republican Reps. Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany will face off Dec. 8 in a runoff for the seat. Boustany would seem to hold the edge, having topped Landry 45 percent to 30 percent in the multi-way Nov. 6 election, with Democrat Ron Richard collecting 22 percent.

HOLIDAY DECORATIONS HAVE ARRIVED AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. It took 54 live Christmas trees, 175 pounds of gingerbread and 85 volunteers from across the country to pull it off, but the holidays have finally arrived at the White House reports ABC's Mary Bruce. First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House on Wednesday for the big reveal and to show off this year's theme of "Joy to All." More than 90,000 visitors will tour the decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this holiday season, which now boasts a huge 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir in the Blue Room and a giant topiary of the Obama family dog Bo made out of 20,000 black and white pom-poms.


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