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Pres-by-CD: We received results from Monroe County, NY, which allows us to finish NY-25, where incumbent Dem Louise Slaughter ended up defeating her highly vaunted challenger, County Executive Maggie Brooks, by a greater-than-expected 15 point margin. Obama led the way here, taking 59 percent to Romney's 39. Funnily enough, Obama's 58.8 percent is exactly the same percentage he got here in 2008 (though in absolute terms he received 13,000 fewer votes), and Romney dropped 0.5 percent from McCain's haul. (jeffmd)

9:26 AM PT: MA-Sen: An ex-congressman for only a day, Democrat Barney Frank now says he's interested in another stint down on Capitol Hill:

"A month ago, or a few weeks ago, I said I wasn't interested," Frank said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "It was kind of like you're about to graduate, and they said: 'You gotta go to summer school.' But [the fiscal cliff deal] now means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial history."

He added, "I've told the governor I would now like, frankly, to do that [serve as interim senator]."

Frank previously said that he'd have no interest in running to replace Sen. John Kerry (who's likely to be confirmed as the next secretary of state), but before that special election takes place, Gov. Deval Patrick has to appoint placeholder to serve during that four-month interregnum. Last month, Frank said he wasn't saying "no" to the notion; now he's upgraded to "please enroll me in summer school, pa!"

But this is Barney Frank we're talking about, and you know he has no intention of sitting quietly in the back of the classroom. Nah, his bad self wants to wreck shop, naturally:

"I think there are progressive ways to work on Social Security and Medicare. I think making the case against them (Tea Party Republicans) on the debt limit is important," he added. "A split emerged in the Republican Party over the fiscal cliff, with mainstream Republicans splitting with the radical right. I think it's important for us to continue to exploit that. We need to reach out to conservative Republicans who nonetheless are willing to compromise, and find a way to reach a deal."
Patrick has been mum about who he might pick as interim senator—Frank said he was "noncommittal" after he expressed interest to him—and has also insisted he won't name anyone until Kerry is formally confirmed and resigns his Senate seat. The governor obviously has a lot of options, but Frank brings at least two things to the table: experience and combativeness. Maybe the better way to view the temporary post is to think of it like a substitute teacher: Do you want a pushover, or do you want a hardass? Barney Frank clearly gives you the latter, and Massachusetts could certainly do worse.

10:11 AM PT: PA-Gov: Does anyone else find this as disgusting as I do? Republican Gov. Tom Corbett just filed a lawsuit against the NCAA alleging that their punishment of Penn State over the university's malevolent mishandling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case was too harsh. Seriously? Really? Wow. Corbett wants the courts to throw out every last sanction against Penn State ("including a $60 million fine, the vacating of a decade’s worth of victories, and a four-year ban on postseason play"), even though the school itself accepted the penalties last year.

There's just so much wrong with this I can hardly begin. For one, Corbett barely acknowledged Sandusky's victims in launching the case—and there's a reason that sonofabitch received a 30-to-60-year sentence. For another, Corbett's received a great deal of criticism for his own management of the Penn State investigation when he was attorney general; critics accused him of slow-walking the case because he didn't want to alienate alumni during his 2010 gubernatorial bid. So now Corbett's doubling down, and for such a horrid cause. And on top of all that, most experts say the suit itself is weak as far as the legal merits are concerned.

But I'm also interested in the political merits. Corbett's approval ratings have been mediocre ever since he took office and have only grown worse. Does he think that acting as the standard-bearer for Penn State's response to the Sandusky scandal offers a path to popularity? Did he poll this and find it would boost his standing? I certainly hope not. I hope he's absolutely delusional and I hope this huge, expensive mistake winds up biting him—hard—when he goes before voters again in two years' time.

11:01 AM PT (David Jarman): CA-St. Sen.: Did you know that a California state Senator has more constituents than a U.S. Representative? And yet, whenever someone has the chance, they'll always jump up to U.S. Rep. in a heartbeat (must be that whole term limits thing). Two Dem Senators just made the leap -- Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas -- which means upcoming special elections (the dates don't seem to have been set yet). In Vargas's San Diego-based SD-40, it sounds like Dem Assemblyman Ben Hueso has a lock on the promotion, but there'll be a big proxy fight in the San Bernardino's SD-32, between San Bernardino auditor Larry Walker (backed by Negrete McLeod) and Assemblywoman Norma Torres (backed by ex-Rep. Joe Baca, who, of course, was defeated by Negrete McLeod).

11:01 AM PT: ID-Sen: It sure feels like there's a lot we're still missing with this whole Mike Crapo drunk driving story. The Republican senator from Idaho pleaded guilty to the charges in Virginia on Friday, earning a one-year suspension of his driver's license and a suspended 180-day jail term as long as he remains on good behavior. Crapo's statement after his sentencing, though, leaves plenty of holes:

Speaking to reporters, Crapo expressed contrition for his actions and apologized to his constituents. Reading a prepared statement, he said he had occasionally had alcoholic drinks in his Washington apartment in recent months as a way of relieving stress, even though his religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, strictly prohibits alcohol consumption.

Crapo acknowledged that he had consumed vodka mixed with tonic water, but disputed reports that said he had taken vodka shots. He also said it was the first time he had gotten behind the wheel after drinking.

"It was a poor choice to use alcohol to relieve stress, and was at odds with my personally held and religious beliefs, " Crapo said outside the Alexandria General District Court. "However, on the night of Saturday, Dec. 22, I made an even worse decision: to go out for a drive and get out of my apartment and try to wind down."

Uh, "reports" that he'd been shooting vodka? That wasn't some rumor on some random blog—that was straight from the police report written up the night of Crapo's arrest:
"The driver indicated that he consumed several shots of vodka hours earlier and did not consume any more alcoholic beverages since," the officer wrote in the report.
So Crapo's saying that he lied to the cops? Or that the police misunderstood him? What's more, we still don't know why Crapo remained in Washington, DC even though Congress had gone into recess for the holiday break. Was he planning on not returning home to his wife and family for Christmas? And was he really just sipping vodka tonics at home? An editorial in the Idaho Statesman on Dec. 25 stated the below as plain fact:
What happened to Mike Crapo in the early morning of Dec. 23 can happen to a lot of people, especially during the holiday season. He attended a social gathering in Alexandria, Va., had a few drinks and drove home. Maybe he didn't realize he had too much to drink when he left the social event.
Is Crapo claiming this is false, too? It's not clear whether he ever directly addressed the Statesman's version of events, but by insisting he was home alone, Crapo directly contradicts their reporting. It's starting to sound like one giant conspiracy—a giant conspiracy that is, of course, impossible to believe. The question is whether we'll ever learn more, or whether Crapo's contradictory tale will remain unchallenged.

11:28 AM PT (David Jarman): Votes: We've already had our first big vote in the House of the cycle—the temporary increase in FEMA's borrowing ability (aka the first $9 billion installment of Sandy spending, though the future larger installment will get another vote)—and that means we've already gotten a good look at how the fissures are going to form within the Republican caucus. The vote passed 354-67, but that's with Dems 193-0 and the GOP 161-67. The bulk of the "no" votes were from the south, because, of course, they never have hurricanes of their own down there (Steve Palazzo of MS-04, I'm talking about you in particular), though I did manage to find a total of 2 "no" votes from Northeast states, though they're from decidedly inland districts in Pennsylvania (frosh Keith Rothfus and Scott Perry). The NYT has another interactive map of the results; hopefully this'll become a regular feature from them.

Much has been made already of how the new crop of GOP freshmen were disproportionately opposed to the bill (the frosh went 16-19, while the rest went 145-48). But I've noticed an even more pronounced split: of those 67 'no' votes, only 3 were women (Marsha Blackburn, Lynn Jenkins, and... surprise surprise... Virginia Foxx). It's enough of a basic empathy situation that even the Michele Bachmanns and Vicki Hartzlers of the world couldn't bring themselves to vote 'no.'

12:01 PM PT: MN-Sen: In the previous Digest, we mentioned a new interview GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen conducted with Minnesota Public Radio, which originally led MPR to conclude that Paulsen had said the notion of a Senate bid was "ridiculous." But Paulsen claimed he'd been taken out of context, and if you listen to the audio MPR subsequently posted, you can see why he has a case—sort of. Paulsen's "no, that's ridiculous" remark is almost certainly in response to reporter Brett Neely asking whether his vote against the fiscal cliff deal was a sign that he's positioning himself for a run against Al Franken. However, Neely then followed up by directly asking, "So, no Senate run?" to which Paulsen responded, "No."

So Neely's original conclusion was certainly correct, despite Paulsen's lawyerly objections. But now Paulsen is being a true pain in the ass, because he subsequently told The Hill that he hasn't "ruled anything out" as far as a run for higher office is concerned. Truly, this kind of shticking around is just so irritating. I mean, one day it's "no," the next day it's "maybe"? What a clown.


1:37 PM PT: KS-01: Hah! A great find unearthed by Politico. Sophomore Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas was one of ten Republicans to vote for someone other than John Boehner as speaker—the Moran Minyan that attempted to pull off an utterly inept leadership coup. Instead, Huelskamp voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chair of the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee who crossed Boehner in 2011 by trying to whip votes against the debt ceiling compromise. Even Jordan had the sense to vote for Boehner, though, but not Huelskamp, who recently was booted from his committee assignments for, in the words of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, scoring way too high on the "asshole factor."

Ah, but it turns out that history is merely repeating itself, in hilarious fashion. In 2010, when Huelskamp was first running for Congress, he ran television ads claiming he'd lost his assignment on an important committee in the state Senate because leaders were tired of him "bucking the establishment and fighting wasteful spending." Of course, that wasn't true at all. Well, Huelskamp did lose his committee assignment, but not because of clashes over spending. Instead, it was because, well, he was an asshole—something not at all hard to see between the lines in the various quotes given in the linked article. ("He wouldn't assist the leadership. He couldn't be depended upon," "He has no hesitation about embellishing or saying things that don't jive with reality," etc.) I have to wonder if this guy will get a serious primary challenge next year. He should.

2:28 PM PT: MA-Gov, -Sen: U.S. Attorney Carmen Oritz had been talked up for some time as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2014 (she first surfaced in the Digest last March), and more recently, as a Senate hopeful as well. As the state's first female and first Hispanic USA, she'd have cut an interesting profile in a statewide race, and even Gov. Deval Patrick reportedly talked up Ortiz as a potential successor. But now she's saying "no" to either possibility, adding that she's "thrilled" with her current job.

2:31 PM PT: SC-01: Gawd, don't do this to me! Republican state Rep. Chip Limehouse is... announcing that he's going to announce a bid in the SC-01 special election. Come on, seriously? Either announce or don't announce, none of this hovering halfway nonsense. (And yes, I plan to beat this hobby horse of mine to absolute death this cycle.)

2:45 PM PT: AR-Gov: I guess former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson is in: He's quoted in a new interview saying "I will be a candidate in 2014" for governor. Those of you with long memories will remember Hutchinson as one of the House's impeachment managers during Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings, so for that reason alone I'd want to see him kept from public office ever again. But then there's also this:

    He said the plan was to announce in early January, but his decision to help the National Rifle Association study the possibility of armed guards in public schools somewhat changed the plan. Hutchinson appeared Dec. 21 at a NRA press conference saying he will lead an initiative to study putting armed guards in schools.

"I do have a very important initiative on school safety that I'm committed to," Hutchinson said, adding that it will require "intense work" for the next two months. "I want to make sure I do it right."

School safety, huh? I'm skeptical that even voters in Arkansas found the NRA's plan to put armed guards in every school appealing, given how widely the idea was panned. Is this going to be the centerpiece of Hutchinson's putative campaign? I'd love to see some state-specific polling on the topic.

2:52 PM PT: AZ-Gov: Republican state party chair Robert Graham says he won't run for governor in 2014.

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