Republicans Return Romney's Parting Gift (The Note)

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


  • UNMASKED - THE AGENT WHO LAUNCHED THE PETRAEUS PROBE: ABC's Brian Ross reports for "Good Morning America" that the FBI agent who launched the probe was identified overnight. Tampa socialite Jill Kelley went to 47-year-old bureau veteran Fred Humphries, whom she knew personally, to report she had received harassing emails from Paula Broadwell. According to his lawyer, Humphries helped launch the investigation and later approached a member of Congress when he thought there was a cover-up. Additional reporting form ABC's Rhonda Schwartz and Jason Ryan:
  • PETRAEUS TO TESTIFY: Amid the scandal, former CIA Chief David Petraeus will testify on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, ABC's Martha Raddatz reports.
  • OBAMA ADDRESSES THE SCANDAL: President Obama held his first press conference since his re-election and ABC's Jonathan Karl reports for "World News" that Obama said former CIA chief David Petraeus failed to meet his own standards. "I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have made an impact on our national security."
  • TROOPS, FAMILIES FROM JAKE TAPPER'S 'THE OUTPOST' WEIGH IN: The scandal involving Gen. David Petraeus, and now Gen. George Allen, has hit as ABC's Jake Tapper debuted his book about American military courage, "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor," which retells one of the war in Afghanistan's deadliest battles. On Wednesday, some troops and families who appear in the book told Jake what they think of the current scandal: Former Sergeant, Blackfoot Troop, 6-4 Cav: "I think it is a shame how selfish our leaders have become starting at the top. I served in the Army for 6 years and from day one 'integrity' was drilled into everything we do. As a sergeant, I tried to live the best I could hoping others would do the same. Our men and women are putting their lives on the line everyday and deserve to have leaders who uphold our values." … A Gold Star mother whose son, a member of Black Knight Troop, 3-61 Cav, was killed in the October 3, 2009 attack on Combat Outpost Keating: "Disgusted, with all the time they put in to these females, when did they have time for the troops. They are the ones the soldiers are to look up too. lead by example." Xch47q
  • UNION CHIEF - THERE IS NO FISCAL CLIFF: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will deliver a speech in Washington, DC today - his first since meeting with President Obama along with other labor and progressive leaders this week. Here's a preview of what he will say: "There is no fiscal cliff! What we're facing is an obstacle course within a manufactured crisis that was hastily thrown together in response to inflated rhetoric about our federal deficit. Don't misunderstand me. I don't for a moment think that America's deficit is not a long-term problem. It is, but it's not our short term crisis. But all the deficit chatter has distracted us from our real crisis-the immediate crisis of 23 million unemployed or underemployed workers, a crumbling national infrastructure, an under-supported manufacturing sector, all of which require significant federal investments, all of which will allow our economy to grow out of this crisis, instead of digging us further in."


It's been just over a week since his defeat at the hands of President Obama and already a chasm between Mitt Romney and some prominent members of the Republican Party seems to have opened up.

The failed GOP presidential hopeful's candid assessment of why he lost the race, which he offered on conference calls with donors yesterday, instantly drew a sharp rebuke from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal who called Romney's take "absolutely wrong."

Romney told top donors he came up short on Nov. 6 because "what the president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote, and that strategy worked." (Watch ABC's David Muir's "World News" report: )

According to Romney some of the best "gifts," went to Hispanic voters, a group that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama.

"One, he gave them a big gift on immigration with the DREAM Act amnesty program, which was obviously very, very popular with Hispanic voters, and then number two was Obamacare," Romney said on a conference call, audio of which was obtained by ABC News.

Romney added, "It's a proven political strategy, which is, give a bunch of money to a group and, guess what, they'll vote for you."

But speaking at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas, Gov. Jindal dismissed Romney's explanation during a press conference yesterday.

"I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party," Jindal, a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender, said. "If we're going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream."

And Romney's appraisal even sounds discordant when compared to the words of his own campaign spokesman, Kevin Madden, who spoke on a panel at the Atlantic's Washington Ideas Forum yesterday.

"I don't think the Obama campaign gets enough credit for actually changing the electorate," Madden said. "I think their turnout model is extraordinary. They did very well, and they made sure they had the exact model of the electorate that they needed to win."

Back at the gathering of governors in Las Vegas, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour didn't mince words, calling for a "brutally honest assessment of what we did," and recommending a "a very serious proctology exam" for the GOP.

While his Republican counterparts were recommending the political equivalent of a colonoscopy for their party, Romney ended the conference call with donors yesterday on a wistful note.

"We're still having a hard time, just contemplating what could have been versus what is, and it just doesn't seem real, we're still in the stage of denial at my house," Romney said chuckling. "We still think the campaign is going on."


The Note's virtual political roundtable.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: If Mitt Romney really believes he lost the election because President Obama gave key voting blocs "gifts" - or, if he doesn't believe it but continues to tell people that he does - he's doing no favors to the Republican Party, his own role in it, and the healing of divisions after the election. It gives Romney and the GOP an easy out that won't result in a productive internal party conversation; Republicans are not going to out-gift Democrats, at least not this side of a Medicare prescription drug benefit. And of course, it echoes the "47 percent" comment, which is why Gov. Bobby Jindal came out strong in denouncing the sentiment. More immediately, it steers the nation back toward division and confrontation, as the post-election glow of healing fades faster than anticipated.

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROMNEY'S CALL WITH DONORS: Courtesy of ABC's Chris Good, below are some highlights from one of at least two calls Mitt Romney held with donors yesterday, explaining President Obama's election win and blaming it on giveaways to voters in the Obama coalition.

-Romney credits his team and said there was "really no drama in the campaign."

-Romney says president Bill Clinton called him after the election and said he might have won if not for Hurricane Sandy. Romney: "I spoke with president Clinton the day before yesterday, he called and spent thirty minutes chatting with me. He said a week out I thought you were going to win. And he said, but the hurricane happened, and it gave the president a chance to be presidential, and to look bipartisan, and you know he got a little more momentum, and of course he also said that when he was watching Ann speak at the Republican convention, he decided he was tempted to join the Republican Party. So he may have just been effusive with generous comments as he chatted."

-Romney on the "gifts" to Hispanic voters: "For any lower-income Hispanic family, Obamacare was massive, I mean for-the average income for a household in America is fifty thousand dollars a year, that's the median, fifty K per year. For the Hispanic household, my guess is it's lower than that, maybe it's forty thousand a year. For a home earning let's say thirty thousand a year, free health care, which is worth about ten thousand dollars a year, I mean is massive, it's huge. So this-he did two very popular things for the Hispanic community."

-The primary was "nuts." Romney: "We had 20 Republican debates, that was absolutely nuts, it opened us up to gaffes and to material that could be used against us in the general, and we were fighting these debates for a year, and the incumbent president just sat back and laughed." Romney said he wants his group of donors to stay together to pressure Republicans to abbreviate their primary process.

-Criticized networks that hosted debates. Romney's suggestion for the debates next time: "agree that we're gonna do, you know, I dont' know, eight debates, and we're gonna, we're gonna do one a month, and we're gonna pick stations that are reasonable, it's not all gonna be done by CNN and NBC, alright, I mean we're gonna try and guide this process so that it's designed to showcase the best of our people as opposed to showcasing liberals beating the heck out of us."


with Chris Good ( @c_good)

OBAMA'S BUDGET BOTTOM LINE. More from ABC's Jonathan Karl: President Obama drew a hard line on budget talks: that any deal must include tax increases on the wealthy. "More voters agree with me on this issue than voted for me, so we've got a clear majority of the American people," Obama said at the news conference. WATCH:

OBAMA OFFERS AN OLIVE BRANCH. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports on President Obama's news conference yesterday: President Obama today heaped praise on his defeated rival, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, saying the former governor's record and ideas "could be very helpful" in shaping policy over the next four years "My hope is, before the end of the year … that we have a chance to sit down and talk," Obama told reporters in his first post-election press conference.

PETRAEUS CALLED TO THE HILL. ABC's Sunlen Miller reported Wednesday morning that David Petraeus has told Sen. Dianne Feinstein he will appear before her Senate intelligence committee, and ABC's SarahParnass follows up: Republican senators and representatives-and at least one top Democrat-urged the former Afghanistan general to testify, despite his resignation from his post as CIA director. … Petraeus was scheduled to testify at a Senate Intelligence hearing on Benghazi, set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, but because of his resignation in light of the disclosure of his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, Acting CIA Director Mike Morell was scheduled to appear in his place at the closed-door hearing. Senate Intelligence Committee members are likely to meet casually today to discuss what to do next regarding Petraeus, according to an aide to Feinstein, but so far no additional meetings or hearings have been scheduled in regards to Petraeus' extramarital affair, nor Benghazi.

PAULA BROADWELL STRIPPED OF SECRET CLEARANCE. ABC's Pierre Thomas and Martha Raddatz report: aula Broadwell, the author suspected of carrying on an affair with former CIA director David Petraeus, has been stripped of her military security clearance after a federal probe alleged she was storing classified military material at her home. "Appropriate actions with regard to this officer's clearance and access have been taken," said Army spokesman George Wright of Broadwell, an Army reservist and West Point graduate.

KRAUTHAMMER'S CONSPIRACY THEORY. ABC's Sarah Parnass reports: [A] growing number of conservative commentators contend that the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus is more than simple amends made for a personal wrong. Charles Krauthammer, the Fox News and Washington Post commentator, believes the Petraeus' sex scandal is linked to a closed briefing that he gave two days after the attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya. … Krauthammer said on Fox News Tuesday that ties he sees between what Petraeus' told the Congress in September and his fear for his future at the CIA make his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell important to the public.

SENATORS WANT 'WATERGATE-STYLE' HEARINGS ON BENGHAZI. As the Petraeus scandal heats up, so does Republican senators' interest in the Benghazi attack, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Three Republican Senators today called for the establishment of a Watergate-style select congressional committee to investigate the administration's handling of the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. "We believe the complexity and the gravity of this matter warrant the establishment of a temporary select committee that can conduct an integrated review of the many national security issues involved," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said today. The Senator, along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC., called for former CIA director Gen. Petraeus as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify before the committee, if the Senate approves its formation. They intend to probe "all the way up to the President of the United States."

BOEHNER REJECTS MIDDLE-CLASS TAX EXTENSION. Sound familiar? After President Obama called on Congress to extend the Bush tax cuts only for lower incomes, ABC's John Parkinson reports: [House Speaker John] Boehner rejected the president's call earlier Wednesday for House Republicans to quickly pass Senate legislation that would extend middle class tax cuts, and he alternatively called on the Senate to take up House-passed legislation to extend all of the current tax rates for one year. "Instead of the House moving on the Senate bill, the Senate ought to move on the House bill," Boehner said. "We are not going to hurt our economy and make job creation more difficult, which is exactly what that plan would do. It's not the direction that we want to go because it's going to hurt job creators in America."

MCCAIN VOWS TO BLOCK SUSAN RICE… ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Some Republican senators are indicating that they would do "whatever is necessary" - including a filibuster - to stop UN Ambassador Susan Rice from becoming the next secretary of state, if nominated by President Obama. "I don't trust her and the reason I don't trust her is because I think she knew better and if she didn't know better she shouldn't be the voice of America," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said today, "I don't think she deserves to be promoted, there are a lot of qualified people in this country the president could pick but I am dead set on making sure we don't promote anybody who is an essential player in the Benghazi debacle." Rice, along with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., are reportedly being considered among others to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she steps down.

…AND OBAMA BRISTLES. After Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have threatened to block the nomination of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, if President Obama seeks to make her Hillary Clinton's replacement as secretary of State, ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield and Sunlen Miller report: "They should go after me," [Obama] said. "If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me," said Obama [in his news conference Wednesday]. "And I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."

ANGUS KING PICKS A SIDE. ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Maine's newly elected Independent senator-elect, Angus King, announced today that he'll caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, boosting the party's control to 55 seats, compared with 45 held by Republicans in the new Congress. "I have decided to affiliate with the Democratic Caucus because doing so will allow me to take independent positions on issues as they arise and at the same time be an effective representative of the people of Maine," King announced in Congress this morning.

RON PAUL'S FAREWELL SPEECH: 'OUR CONSTITUTION … HAS FAILED.' In a sprawling, 52-minute address-likely his last ever from the House floor-Rep. Ron Paul blasted what he calls an authoritarian government, corporations, politicians, undeclared wars, the federal reserve-in a nutshell, the entire U.S. political system. "Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed," Paul said. "The Founders warned that a free society depends on a virtuous and moral people. The current crisis reflects that their concerns were justified." And yet, Paul also said the answer lies in a return to the Constitution and its restrictions on governmental power. Read about it and WATCH, courtesy of C-SPAN:

ANOTHER GEORGE BUSH CONSIDERS A RUN IN TEXAS. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: Political observers, take note of this name: George Prescott Bush. The son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for office, and is apparently considering a run for land commissioner in the Lone Star State. Bush's filings did not specify the office that interests him, but his father today sent an email to his own supporters asking for donations to George P's exploratory account. In the email, Jeb specified that his son was eyeing the job of land commissioner in 2014.

SECESSION-SIGNATURE STATES TOOK MILLIONS IN FEDERAL MONEY. After a wave of user-submitted petitions has hit, calling on President Obama to let states secede from the Union, ABC'S Sarah Parnass reports: Census records show that six of the seven states that amassed more than 25,000 signatures on their petitions to form independent nations in the past week took more than $10 million in revenue from the federal government that year. The seven states-Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina-took more than 23 percent of all federal revenue allotted to the states that year.

NOTED: UNION FOREVER! ANTI-SECESSION PETITIONS GAIN CLICKS, TOO. The seceders have gathered online "signatures" at a rapid pace, but some snarky anti-secession petitions at the White House site "We the People" have taken aim at them. Among the most bitter and retributive, one asks Obama to strip the citizenship of everyone who's signed a petition to secede. It's also the most popular, having gained 10,652 signatures at the time of this posting. Another asks that Austin, Texas, be allowed to secede from the rest of the state (which leads all states in secession signatures) and take several other towns with it. Another asks that any state be required to pay back its share of the federal debt before seceding.


?@RealClearScott: One overlooked reason why Obama won is that he got more votes than Romney did.

@seanspicer: Good read: @WSJ editorial: President's Tax Math: We're beginning to think he wants to go over the cliff this year

@KLSoltis: The GOP has to get over this idea that "if you're explaining, you're losing." …

@dthornell: The sore losers club … via @Salon

@scottwongDC: So Charlie Crist says he never dated Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, but Marco Rubio did meet her once … @marcorubio

@ZekeJMiller: yikes RT @BloombergNews: BREAKING: U.S. Postal Service lost $15.9 billion in FY2012, had seen $15 billion loss