A GOP Mess In Massachusetts
PHOTO: William "Mo" Cowan smiles during a news conference where he was named interim U.S. Senator for the seat vacated by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at the Statehouse in Boston on Jan. 30, 2013.

William "Mo" Cowan smiles during a news conference where he was named interim U.S. Senator for the seat vacated by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at the Statehouse in Boston on Jan. 30, 2013. Charles Krupa/AP Photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • ON THE PRESIDENT'S AGENDA - IMMIGRATION AND THE DEFICIT: President Obama meets separately at the White House today with top labor and business leaders today to discuss "immigration reform and how it fits into his broader economic agenda, and his efforts to achieve balanced deficit reduction." ABC's Mary Bruce notes that just days after dissolving his Jobs Council, the president has invited several of its former members back to the White House. Progressive and labor leaders invited to the table include the AFL-CIO, SEIU, NAACP and la Raza. CEOs including Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein, Muhtar Kent from Coca Cola and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer are among those attending the second meeting.
  • TODAY ON THE HILL: This morning, the House Judiciary committee holds a hearing on immigration reform. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the DNC keynote speaker, is among the witnesses.
  • THE QUOTABLE CANTOR: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor appears at the American Enterprise Institute this afternoon to deliver what is being billed as a major policy address outlining the agenda of House Republicans for the 113th Congress. According to excerpts of his speech, Cantor plans to say: "We will advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, health care, innovation, and job growth. Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self reliance, faith in the individual, trust in the family, and accountability in government. Our goal - to ensure every American has a fair shot at earning their success and achieving their dreams. … Lately, it has become all too common in our country to hear parents fear whether their children will indeed have it better than they. And for all of us parents, that is a scary thought. Our goal should be to eliminate the doubt gripping our nation's families, and to restore their hope and confidence in being able to protect tomorrow for their children."


ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Scott Brown? No. Former State Sen. Richard Tisei? No. Former Gov. Bill Weld? No. Tagg Romney? No. Former Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey? No. So, who exactly is left to run for the GOP in the special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts? The seat - now available because of John Kerry's departure to the State Department - may have no credible Republican to run for it after all the big names have said "no." The burden of needing 10,000 signatures in less than four weeks and having to run again in 2014 plus the surprise when Brown decided against jumping in, leaves the state GOP scrambling to find someone to get in the race. The only person still being talked about is former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, who is meeting with national Republicans this week. The run would be good for his name I.D, if nothing else. We should find out soon because the clock is ticking.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: They'd take a Karl Rove problem about now. The parade of prominent Republicans taking a pass on the special Senate election in Massachusetts highlights a broader set of concerns facing the GOP than any involving grassroots vs. establishment primary warfare. This is a special election for an open Senate seat, in a state that very famously bucked Democratic tradition to send a message to President Obama early in his first term. The fact that not a single prominent/credible Republican wants a shot at one of the incumbent House members vying for the Democratic bid is nothing short of embarrassing for a party that's benefited from quirks of timing and circumstance in the past. Democrats will take the easy win, but Republicans should be a little worried about why they weren't able to field a team.

ABC's ELIZABETH HARTFIELD: John Kerry has been gone from the Senate for less than a week, but we've already seen five Massachusetts Republicans decline to bid for his seat. Why the cold feet? There are lots of reasons, and they vary from person to person, but one shared reason is timing. The candidate who wins in June will have to run again in 17 months, in November, 2014 (when Kerry would have been up for re-election.) And while for Democrats in the state this may not be a huge concern, for Republicans, it is. There's a strong slate of potential Democrats who could put forth a strong campaign against a Republican incumbent in 2014, including Rep. Joe Kennedy III and current Gov. Deval Patrick, whose term as Gov. will reach its limit then. And, as was the case w/Elizabeth Warren in 2012, these candidate would have strong financial backing from national Dems who would see the seat as a prime target for a pick-up, in addition to the sheer advantage of being Democrats in a blue state. It's this scheduling reality that makes the special election a hard sell for many Republicans.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL ON THE ARTICLE THAT ENDED HIS CAREER. Retired General Stanley McChrystal's military career came to an abrupt end in 2010 after "Rolling Stone" published an article showing the general's close advisers openly criticizing the Obama White House. Now, nearly three years after President Obama accepted his resignation as the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, McChrystal tells ABC's Martha Raddatz on "On the Radar," it's still painful. "It felt surreal, because my whole career I'd thought that I could be fired for incompetence, or I could be killed, or I could have any number of things happen, but I never thought I could be painted with any brush of disrespect or disloyalty, because I didn't see myself that way. And I still don't," says McChrystal, who offers a detailed account of his tensions with the Obama administration in his new book "My Share of the Task: A Memoir." In his memoir, the retired general focuses on the lessons in leadership he learned throughout his military career. And leadership, McChrystal says, is essential as the military. http://yhoo.it/UmH3YW


WHY TAGG ROMNEY SAID 'NO' TO SENATE BID. Ready for another Romney run? Tagg Romney is not. In an e mail to ABC News, Tagg Romney says he is not running for U.S. Senate, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports. "I have been humbled by the outreach I received this weekend encouraging me to become a candidate for the US Senate," but the timing just doesn't work, Romney said. "I love my home state and admit it would be an honor to represent the citizens of our great Commonwealth," Romney said. "However, I am currently committed to my business and to spending as much time as I can with my wife and children. The timing is not right for me." The Boston Herald reported Monday morning that the eldest son of Mitt and Ann Romney is considering a run in the special Senate election in Massachusetts now that former senator Scott Brown decided against a run last week. But, two sources close to both Tagg and his father Mitt told ABC News earlier Monday it wasn't going to happen. Another consideration for Tagg Romney may be that his father lost the Bay State in last year's presidential election by 23 points. http://abcn.ws/XSgPrN

THOUGHT THE TAX FIGHT WAS OVER? THINK AGAIN. After Congress passed and President Obama signed a bill to allow automatic tax hikes on high incomes, Democrats and Republicans are fighting about taxes yet again. In separate interviews over the weekend, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both said they will push for more revenue increases as part of another deal to avoid the looming "sequester" - automatic budget cuts that will take effect March 1, barring agreement on other deficit-reduction measures. Both suggested closing tax "loopholes" as a way to raise more cash for the government. "There's no doubt we need additional revenue, coupled with smart spending reductions in order to bring down our deficit," Obama said in an interview with CBS's Scott Pelley. "Can we close loopholes and deductions that folks who are well connected, and have a lot of accountants and lawyers, can take advantage of, so they end up paying lower rates than say, a bus driver or a cop?" Reid told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "without any question," more revenue needs to be part of a follow-up deal. "The American people are on our side," he said. "The American people don't believe in these austere things. We believe that the rich should contribute. We believe we should fill those tax loopholes - get rid of them, I should say. And that's where we need to go." With Democrats pressing for revenue increases and Republicans pressing for only spending cuts, it appears both sides are where they were before the last agreement was passed and signed. http://abcn.ws/XGHDgp

JOHN KERRY'S FIRST DAY: I HAVE 'BIG HEELS TO FILL' Former Senator John Kerry went to work as Secretary of State for the first time on Monday, greeted by the cheers and applause by hundreds of state department employees. ABC's Dana Hughes notes that a jovial Kerry peppered his remarks with jokes, eliciting laughter from the crowd in a ten minute talk. He used the same spot that outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did to give her emotional farewell on Friday. "Here's the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department?" joked Kerry as his audience cheered. His most recent predecessors include Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. "As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill." Kerry turned very serious when talking about last September's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, resulting in the first death of an American ambassador in over 30 years. Kerry spoke by name of all four of the Americans killed in Libya. "I know everybody here still mourns that loss, and we will," he said. "So I pledge to you this: I will not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics." http://abcn.ws/USvtTg

SPEAKER BOEHNER, GOP PRESSURE OBAMA ON BUDGET. By law, the president is required to submit a budget request to Congress for the upcoming fiscal year by the first Monday of February. The only time Obama met the deadline during his presidency was in 2011. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, delivered remarks on the House floor yesterday, declaring that by ignoring the deadline imposed by the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, Obama "missed a great opportunity" to help the U.S. economy. "This was supposed to be the day that the president submitted his budget to the Congress, but it's not coming. It's gonna be late," Boehner said. "That's too bad. Our economy could use some presidential leadership right now." Explaining the delay, the Office of Management and Budget announced last month that the president's budget would not be released until Feb. 13, "based on the need to finalize decisions and technical details of the document." The president is also scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 12. http://abcn.ws/14Nr3AT

CHRIS CHRISTIE, DAVID LETTERMAN TELL FAT JOKES. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made his first appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" Monday evening and the chat covered Letterman's tendency to poke fun at the tough-talking governor's weight, ABC's Shushannah Walshe notes. Christie tried to give as good as he got from Letterman, taking out a doughnut and starting to eat it just a few minutes into the segment. Christie recited two of the jokes Letterman had made about his weight, but said he still had a "deep and abiding love" for the comedian. Before Letterman responded, Christie took out the doughnut from his suit pocket and started eating it. "I didn't know this was going to be this long," Christie deadpanned. Christie said he thought about "40 percent" of Letterman's jokes about his weight were funny. "And this one I thought, I don't know if it's one of your best ones, but I think it's very topical given what went on yesterday," Christie said, reciting one of Letterman's fat jokes. "A billion dollars will be spent on potato chips for Super Bowl Sunday, and that's just at Gov. Christie's house." Letterman paused then took his own bite out of Christie's doughnut. http://abcn.ws/VFSUle


-BRUCE BABBITT AT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB. In a 12 noon speech at the National Press Club, former Clinton Administration Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will announce his proposal to help translate the current oil and gas boom into sustainable economic growth and the creation of more national parks, wilderness, and monuments, according to a source familiar with the speech: "The speech, which has the backing of former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, will urge the Obama administration and Congress to place energy development 'on equal ground' with the conservation of public lands. Babbitt will argue that no energy plan can be called 'comprehensive,' 'balanced,' or 'all-of-the-above' unless it addresses energy, climate, and the protection of land and water. With all the pressure that expanded drilling and climate change is putting on local communities and wildlife habitat, there needs to be renewed focus on protecting places for people to hunt, fish, and get outdoors." LIVE WEBCAST: http://bit.ly/WMD0R4

-PROGRESSIVE GROUP LAUNCHES ADS AGAINST MITCH MCCONELL. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee unveiled a new television ad aimed at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., featuring a local gun owner shaming McConnell for opposing gun reform while taking money from the gun industry. "As a gun owner and a veteran, I support the plan to ban assault weapons and keep guns out of the wrong hands, because I know these guns," says Rodney Kendrick of Berea, Kentucky in the ad. "I know what they can do. Senator Mitch McConnell has taken thousands of dollars from gun manufacturers, and he opposes common sense reforms. Senator McConnell, whose side are you on?" WATCH: http://bit.ly/11n5dp2


@robertcostaNRO: What to watch when Cantor's full text released: Will immigration remarks, regardless of what he says explicity, increase chances of reform?

@AmbassadorRice: President Obama: "Kenya must reject intimidation and violence & allow a free and fair vote." #KenyaElections

?@jimgeraghty: Headline I did not expect to see in the WashPost today: "Fixation on first lady's posterior has historical antecedents". Style, page C5.

@aterkel: FreedomWorks' response to Rove's new Conservative Victory Project: "The empire is striking back" http://bit.ly/YPcNXU

@BeschlossDC: This day 1858, 50 members House of Reps brawled when SC pro-slavery man tried choke PA abolitionist, stopped when MS Congman's wig torn off.

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