Five Post-Thanksgiving Fiscal Cliffhangers (The Note)

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


  • REPORTERS, COMEDIANS SHOULD GIVE THANKS FOR 2012: In the latest installment of "Top Line," ABC's Amy Walter reviews all that political reporters and late-night comments should be thankful for about 2012: From Mitt Romney's surreptitiously recorded 47-percent comments to Todd Akin's magic uterus, campaign season brought a cornucopia of gifts for all. WATCH:
  • 2016 LIKE IT'S TODAY: WILL RAND RUN? In the latest installment of "Spinners and Winners," ABC's Jonathan Karl interviews Sen. Rand Paul, who says the GOP's path to competitiveness could wind through decriminalized marijuana and immigration reform. And he won't rule out a 2016 presidential run: "I'm not going to deny that I'm interested," Paul tells Karl. WATCH:
  • POLL: PETRAEUS'S IMAGE TAKES A HIT, SPLIT VIEWS ON FBI APPROACH: ABC's Greg Holyk reports on the latest ABC/Washington Post poll: David Petraeus' popularity has dropped since the scandal that's forced him from directorship of the CIA, but still more Americans see him favorably than unfavorably-a better rating than the FBI's for its handling of the investigation that unearthed his marital infidelity. Forty-five percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll see Petraeus favorably overall, down 10 points from March 2011 and 16 points from his peak in September 2007, both in Gallup surveys. Thirty-two percent see him unfavorably, a new high. Yet uncovering Petraeus' behavior-in an investigation that's prompted discussions about privacy in the digital age - hasn't won fans for the FBI. Americans divide evenly, 40-39 percent, on the agency's handling of the matter.
  • HAPPY THANKSGIVING: The Note will be taking a brief Thanksgiving hiatus on Thursday and Friday. We wish you a happy holiday and will see you on Monday Nov. 27.


Make no mistake: This sleepy, turkey and stuffing-fueled week will give way to a frenetic pace during the month of December.

The big question: Will the post-election bi-partisan glow fade once the negotiations to avert the fiscal cliff go from theoretical to the real deal?

The quartet of Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi sounded notes of optimism last week after their meeting with President Obama at the White House, but there are also signs of bumps in the road.

As Politico's Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Carrie Budoff Brown reported last night: "The opening round of negotiations this week between White House and senior GOP congressional staffers left both sides pessimistic about their ability to reach a quick deal on averting the fiscal cliff, according to sources familiar with the talks. Hill Democrats say Republicans aren't serious about crafting a deal that President Barack Obama can accept. The GOP's opening offer, the sources said, would freeze the Bush-era tax rates, change the inflation calculator for entitlement programs, keep the estate tax at 2012 levels and authorize a major overhaul of the tax code - although they did not provide a revenue target."

We're likely to see another meeting between the Congressional leaders and the president at the White House before long, and here are The Note's five things to watch for when lawmakers return to Washington after Thanksgiving:

THE OUTSIDERS: We've heard little to nothing from the outside groups that bankrolled much of the 2012 election. We would suspect that the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and other such groups are soon going to make their voiced heard on any potential fiscal cliff deal. Tim Phillips, the Americans for Prosperity head, recently took a hard-line on tax increases in an Op-Ed for "Raising taxes is not only bad for Americans and the economy; it also fails to address the government spending crisis. We must balance our budget by reducing spending. Congress has already made the tough choices by determining to cut $109 billion from the budget, now it just has to stay the course and make sure the cuts happen."

NOT THEIR CUP OF TEA? As we've noted before, the fact that the Tea Party class of 2010 has been so quiet is rather surprising. Will they remain as compliant once the outlines of a deal come to light?

THE BULLY PULPIT: Will Obama play a more hands on role? Will we see him more active behind the scenes or will he retreat to his familiar stance of allowing Congressional leadership do the heavy lifting? Last week, The New York Times also reported that the president might "occasionally" make campaign-like stops around the country to sell a deal to the American people.

RYAN'S ROLE: And speaking of key players, erstwhile vice presidential hopeful Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is also expected to play an important role in the negotiations. As the Washington Post notes, Ryan, along with Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton were tapped by Speaker Boehner to be on the GOP's core team of fiscal cliff managers. "Republicans want their best players on the field during the fiscal cliff conversation," veteran GOP strategist Ron Bonjean told The Post. "If Paul Ryan decided not to participate, it would squander his political capital rather than enhance it."

WITHER GROVER? Can long-time anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist hold his coalition together or will the lame-duck negotiations signal his waning influence? Hundreds of Republican members have signed the Americans for Tax Freedom's chief's pledge not to raise taxes, but as The Los Angeles' Times Doyle McManus notes today: "an increasing number of Republicans are sidling away from Norquist's pledge and reassessing their resistance to any kind of tax increase."

LET THE LIBERAL PRESSURE BEGIN: UNION ADS TARGET DEMOCRATS ON FISCAL CLIFF. Three major unions have joined forces to air ads pressuring Democrats to reject GOP demands as party leaders negotiate a way to sidestep the dreaded "fiscal cliff." With negotiations in their early phases, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME); the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); and the National Education Association (NEA) have teamed up to air TV and radio ads pressuring moderate Senate Democrats to reject spending cuts and focus more heavily on tax hikes. According to AFSCME, the ads are supported by a "sizable, six-figure ad buy." Ads are airing in Colorado, Missouri and Virginia. The ads target Michael Bennet and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Jim Webb and Mark Warner (D-Va.). All five are considered moderates. WATCH:


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)

EGYPT'S ROLE IN BROKERING A CEASE-FIRE. ABC's Reena Ninan asks Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes at a briefing in Cambodia, where the president traveled yesterday, how effective Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has been in helping to negotiate a truce in Gaza. Rhodes's response: "The president and the secretary believe that the Egyptians have been quite constructive in the conversations we've had with them, that they've expressed a sincere commitment to support a de-escalation here. What's important now, again, is to continue to pursue that course, to use the influence that they have over the situation, to encourage that course. To date, we're encouraged by the cooperation and the consultation we've had with the Egyptian leadership."

U.S. OFFICIALS STRESS DE-ESCALATION IN GAZA. As They're not using the term "cease-fire," ABC's Luis Martinez reports: Before her meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton too avoided using the term "cease-fire." After describing America's commitment to Israel's security as "rock-solid and unwavering," Clinton said, "That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza." Clinton said that the rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza "must end and a broader calm restored." She added that the focus was on "a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

A NEW APPROACH FOR OBAMA? The Washington Post's Anne Gearan says so: "President Obama's decision to send his top diplomat on an emergency Middle East peacemaking mission Tuesday marked an administration shift to a more activist role in the region's affairs and offered clues to how he may use the political elbow room afforded by a second term. … 'Sometimes there's no substitution for showing up,' State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. 'The president and she obviously thought that her going and actually sitting down with leaders-with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas and with President Morsi-could help de-escalate the situation. So it was obviously important to leave no stone unturned.'"

MARK WARNER WON'T RUN FOR GOVERNOR. Despite speculation that Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner would leave the Senate to seek another term as governor, the Virginian-Pilot's Julian Walker reports: "U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has given [Democratic candidate] Terry McAuliffe reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving: The former governor won't pursue the gubernatorial bid in 2013, effectively clearing the Democratic field for McAuliffe. … 'I loved being governor, but I have a different job now-and it's here, in the United States Senate,' added Warner, who also released a video explaining his decision."

NOTED: ABC News Political Director Amy Walter: "Mark Warner, one of a handful of self-appointed bi-partisan deal makers in the Senate, has made no secret of his frustration with the pace and the partisanship of Congress. But, the fact that he has decided to forgo a slam-dunk election for Governor in order to stick it out in Washington suggests that he believes that Congress CAN actually get some real work done next year. "

IN CAMBODIA, OBAMA CALLS CHINA RELATIONSHIP 'COOPERATIVE.' ABC's Mary Bruce reports from Phnom Penh: President Obama today said the United States and China have taken a "cooperative and constructive approach" to their relationship, as he came face-to-face with the rising economic power that his administration is trying to counter-balance in the region. Meeting with outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Obama reiterated his commitment to working with China, despite the tenuous relationship between the two economic superpowers. "It's important that our two countries cooperate to build a more secure and prosperous future for the Asia Pacific region and for the world," he said. "As the two largest economies in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead the way in ensuring sustained and balanced growth, not only here in Asia but globally."

LISA JACKSON EMAIL KERFUFFLE: PAGING 'RICHARD WINDSOR.' The Los Angeles Times' Neela Banerjee reports: House Republican leaders and a watchdog group have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to respond to allegations that Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has been using a secret private email account to do official business, purportedly to shield correspondence from the reach of the Freedom of Information Act. On Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan good-government group, sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. requesting an investigation into a government email account Jackson has under the name Richard Windsor. The request follows a Nov. 15 letter from the House Science Committee to Jackson expressing concern about the account and suggesting it may violate the Federal Records Act and other laws and demanding that the EPA turn over the Richard Windsor emails.

CORY BOOKER'S FOOD-STAMP CHALLENGE. Concluding a Twitter back-and-forth over the role of government, Newark Mayor Cory Booker challenged one tweeter to live on food stamps along with him, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: Booker said [nutrition] was a shared responsibility, to which @MWadeNC asserted that food stamps should be enough to enable a family to afford breakfast. "Lets you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?" Booker tweeted at @MWadeNC. "sure, Mayor, I'm game," she replied. … The mayor's office has not confirmed that he will make good on the challenge, but in another tweet, he asked the University of Bridgeport to send him the rules for their SNAP Food Challenge and to referee his competition.

THE LAST STRAW (POLL). Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in 2011, briefly putting her into conversation as a favorite to win her party's presidential nomination. And we all know how that turned out. Now, Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad say's it's time to end it, The Wall Street Journal's Neil King reports: "I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Mr. Branstad said of the 33-year-old GOP ritual. "It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over." … "Gov. Branstad is wrong, and this is not a decision he will make anyway," said a peeved A.J. Spiker, chairman of the state GOP. "It is a decision the party and the candidates will make." In an interview, Gov. Branstad pointed to Ms. Bachmann's rapid rise and fall in 2011 as Exhibit A for why the straw poll no longer makes sense.

MESSINA SPEAKS. The man who ran President Obama's campaign spoke publicly for the first time since Election Day, declaring that he probably won't return to Obama's White House, where he worked for two years before the 2012 race began. "I'm gonna go to Italy and hang out," Messina told Politico's Mike Allen onstage at a breakfast event hosted by Politico in downtown Washington, D.C., divulging plans for a month-long vacation. "The one thing I know is that I want to be involved in some way helping this president move his agenda forward, and that's what I'll do, but here's the truth. I've been going at this now for five years," Messina said. "I've taken one week vacation in five years, and so it is time to restore my energy. the president and I were joking recently about how bad I look, and it is time to take a vacation." What has he been doing, after re-engineering the epic 2008 Obama machine, and what's next? "Drinking beer," for one thing, he said. Since the election, he's been in Montana-the state he served in Congress as chief of staff to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. "I actually did this amazing thing called sleeping," Messina said.

PETA TO OBAMA: SKIP THE TURKEY PARDONING. With President Obama set to pardon two Thanksgiving turkeys in keeping with the long-held presidential tradition, ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says the turkey pardon has got to go. "It makes light of the mass slaughter of some 46 million gentle, intelligent birds and portrays the United States' president as being in some sort of business partnership with the turkey-killing industry," Newkirk wrote in a letter sent to President Obama today. "Turkeys do not need to be 'pardoned' - they are not guilty of anything other than being born into a world of prejudice. They are innocents who should be respected for who they are: good mothers, smart birds, and interesting animals."

DON'T MISS THIS: SUNDAY ON THIS WEEK: BRAD WOODHOUSE, SEAN SPICER TO SHAVE EACH OTHER'S HEADS. You read that right. ABC's Julie Percha reports: Before the presidential election, Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse made a bet with his Republican counterpart, Sean Spicer, at the Republican National Committee. The deal: Whoever's candidate won the election would shave the loser's head, on national television. But rather than let Spicer go bald alone, the pair decided to team up to support the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a national group that raises money for childhood cancer research grants by shaving the heads of volunteers. They've both agreed to lose their locks for charity, and-with a little razor help from ABC's Jon Karl-you can catch their hair-raising transformation Nov. 25 on "This Week."

RIHANNA TOUR DEBACLE VS. THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. This past week, dozens of music journalists found out as they set out on a 7 day, 7 country, 7 concert tour with the pop superstar Rihanna. The tour wraps up tonight in New York, and reports so far have included words like "disaster," "chaos" and "anarchy," ABC's Amber Porter writes. So how does that stack up to spending 16 months on the road with Mitt Romney? Some comparisons here:

MITT ROMNEY AT DISNEYLAND? That's where he was yesterday, according to this unverified photo tweeted by @CleatChaser_15:


-WORTH A CLICK: SEASON ONE OF 'MOVING NUMBERS'. Just when you thought the 2012 election season was over, one more U.S. Senate race has yet to be decided - albeit a fictional one. Long-time GOP strategist John Brabender and producer Leslie Baker came up with the nine-part webisode series, "Moving Numbers," which chronicles the U.S. Senate campaign of their character, Bob Sanders. Sanders is a sitting Republican Pennsylvania Congressman who decides to make a run for the Senate in a largely Democratic state. The series features a variety of real-life political figures will also appear in the episodes including pollster Frank Luntz, Democratic Strategist Robert Shrum and journalist Josh Green. "The wide-ranging topics make for shows that are sometimes hilarious, sometimes irreverent, but always entertaining," Brabender said. "And yes, some of these incidents are from any professional experiences - but I'm never going to reveal which ones." You can check out all nine episodes of season one of "Moving Numbers" at

-ASK ME ABOUT MY GIGANTIC LEFTOVER CAMPAIGN INFRASTRUCTURE. As Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said at Tuesday's Politico breakfast, Obama for America will solicit ideas from its supporters on what the campaign should become, post election. That process has already begun, as the campaign emailed supporters Tuesday evening directing them toward a survey: "This Sunday, we sent you a short survey, and according to our records, it looks like you haven't taken it yet. We'd love to have your feedback on your campaign experience and what happens in the future. Our work didn't end on Election Day. With your help, this movement will keep growing and evolving, and will play a big role in fighting for the causes we care about in President Obama's second term."


ALLEN WEST CONCEDES, PATRICK MURPHY WINS. After over two weeks of questioning the results in his House race, Rep. Allen West and his campaign have thrown in the towel to Democratic newcomer Patrick Murphy, ABC's John Parkinson reports: The Associated Press today called the race for Murphy. West conceded in a statement, while saying "there are certainly still inaccuracies in the results. "For two weeks since Election Day, we have been working to ensure every vote is counted accurately and fairly," West said. "While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election." The race was decided by fewer than 2,000 votes, with Murphy topping West 166,233 to 164,316, according to the latest tally from the AP. The state of Florida must still certify the result.

LAST HOUSE RACE STANDING: REP. MIKE MCINTYRE FACES RECOUNT. And then there was one: With GOP Rep. Allen West's concession on Tuesday, only one House race remains outstanding. (Well, two if you count the all-GOP runoff in Louisiana's 3rd District, which will choose between incumbent Reps. Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany.) In North Carolina's 7th District, Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre declared victory on Friday over GOP state Sen. David Rouzer after the final vote tally showed him leading by 655 votes. McIntyre has clung to a slim lead for weeks, but Rouzer requested a recount on Tuesday. The race is well within North Carolina's one-percent recount margin, and the recount will begin the Monday after Thanks giving and is expected to be completed by Wednesday, The Hill's Mario Trujillo reports.

HOUSE OUTLOOK: DEMS GAIN 7 SEATS, COULD GAIN 8. Allen West's concession gives Democrats a net gain of seven House seats in 2012, and if McIntyre holds on in North Carolina, they will gain eight. Democrats have fallen well short of the majority-next year, Republicans will hold 33 or 34 more seats, depending on how McInty're race shakes out-but they scored some feather-in-cap victories: Dems knocked off West and a few other GOP incumbents (California's Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lungren, and Brian Bilbray; Illinois's Joe Walsh and Bobby Schilling); they gave Rep. Michele Bachmann a scare as she narrowly won reelection 51 percent to 49 percent; they secured victory for notable Democrats in Arizona Rep. Ron Barber, who retained Gabrielle Giffords's seat for the party, and Illinois's Tammy Duckworth, a multiple-amputee veteran and former assistant secretary of Veterans' Affairs, who defeated the loathed (by Democrats) Rep. Joe Walsh; and they staved off challenges to vulnerable moderates as Rep. John Barrow won re-election in Georgia and Rep. Jim Matheson fended off GOP star-candidate Mia Love in Utah, both with some help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Coming off the massive losses of 2010, this was more of a feel-good year for Democrats-even if their gains fell within the range of pre-election expectations. As Republicans have argued, their candidates ran on the House GOP agenda and won despite attacks on the Paul Ryan budget-meaning that while Democrats made some gains and prevented the upset losses that can demoralize a party, the House GOP returns with what Republicans are calling a mandate for fiscal conservatism.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: WHERE THINGS STOOD, WHERE THEY STAND. Depending on how you count it up, Democrats technically gained more than seven seats. They entered the 2012 elections holding 190 House seats, and next year they'll hold 200 or 201. But due to three vacancies in Democrat-held seats, the party is currently counting its wins at eight seats (including Rep. Mike McIntyre, who has declared victory in North Carolina and will face a recount). Thanks to a quirky election in Michigan, where the 11th District split its party vote in its regular election and a special election to fill former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's seat, Democrat Dave Curson will hold the seat until the end of the year, when it's taken over by Republican Kerry Bentivolio when the 113th Congress is sworn in. That seat could be meaningful, as the Democrat Curson, not the Republican Bentivolio, would vote on any fiscal-cliff deal put forth in Congress's lame-duck session. Next year, the House figures to have 200 or 201 Democrats and 234 Republicans. More on the quirky results in Michigan from the Detroit Free Press:


@GlennThrush: Nobody does this better than @jestei. Buh-bye KBH "purse boy" …

@TheFix: Chris Christie approval is at 77% in new polling conducted for New Jersey GOP. Dizamn.

@Ari_Shapiro: This is Washington DC at its absolute best. EMPTY.

?@BenSherwoodABC: Happy Birthday to Sarah Lang at @ABC2020 and @abc politics whiz leader @rickklein!

@rickklein: all I know is @johnsberman is approximately 5 years older than me. So do the math as you please.