Today in the Morning Line:
- Democrats meet for their retreat
- Their numbers and message problem
- Romney leads in South Carolina
- Obama AG nominee Lynch defends immigration executive orders
House Democrats huddle: House Democrats begin their annual issues retreat Thursday in Philadelphia. President Obama speaks at 7:10 p.m. EST. With all the focus on Republicans, their newfound governing majorities in Congress, and the divisions within their ranks between establishment and tea party members, it’s worth pointing out that Democrats are dealing with their own simmering issues. As Politico noted Sunday, “Nancy Pelosi has big problems in her ranks. The California lawmaker is facing some of the most serious unrest she’s ever seen in her dozen years as the leader of the House Democrats: Members complain that the party has no message and no clear plan to retake the majority, despite good news on the economy that should have brought rewards at the polls.”
No path back to the majority in sight for Democrats: It’s easy for Democrats to paper over some of their midterm electoral issues, given that they control the White House, they feel they have a presidential demographic and electoral advantage, and that Hillary Clinton leads in the 2016 polls. But unless the party can figure out how to appeal to voters in right-leaning districts, drawn in many cases by Republicans, they are going to be out of power in the House until at least 2022, after the next round of redistricting. And there’s no indication they will be able to control the maps after next Census, given that Republicans expanded their majority of governors in 2014 to 31, and they now fully control 30 state legislatures. Democrats fully control just 11, while eight chambers are split.
More than numbers, it’s message: The numbers and structures are what they are. But what do they do about it? As one Democrat said in the above-mentioned piece about trying to make Democrats appeal to the suburbs: “[T]he economic message for the suburbs has to be broader than unemployment insurance and minimum wage, although both are important. They don’t resonate in the suburbs.” Nothing crystallized that more than the White House misstep on trying to do away with 529 plans, the college-savings tax credit plan. After swift blowback from leaders in both parties, the White House pulled the proposal. While better-off families benefit most from the savings plan, given they have enough money to set aside, where do those families live? They dominate the suburbs of America.
In addition to all of this, the kindling is there for a major Democratic internal fire. The only reason it’s not full blown at this point is because they have the White House. But imagine a scenario in which Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, can’t run, or she loses. Crazier things have happened. When voters are looking for “change,” is she the best one to embody that? There’s so much focus on the tea party-establishment rift within the GOP, but if Republicans win the White House in 2016, a version of the Warren Wing Populist-Democratic Realist split will become very real.
Daily Presidential Trivia:
On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush branded the term “axis of evil” during his first State of the Union address. What countries were included in the “axis of evil”? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Joni Johnson (@celeste1958) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: How many current Supreme Court justices are Jewish? The answer: 3- Justices Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg.
- Everyone slow down. Hillary may wait a few more months before officially launching her campaign, reports Politico’s Mike Allen.
- Mitt Romney hit the deep South Wednesday with a stop at Mississippi State University. During a campaign-style speech, Romney acknowledged some of his shortcomings in 2012 and took the opportunity to criticize the Republican Party for failing to reach out to working class Americans.
- Romney, and his wife Ann, will join Chelsea Clinton and husband Marc Mezvinsky for lunch in Manhattan Friday — days after Romney called Hillary Clinton “clueless” in Mississippi.
- In the latest Townhall/Gravis poll, Romney is in the lead among South Carolina voters, and just 4 percentage points ahead of Jeb Bush.
-The New Hampshire Republican Party will host a presidential forum April 16 and 17, Paul Steinhauser reports.
- Mike Huckabee is headed down to the Carolinas Thursday and Friday to promote his book: “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”
- Is the right regretting Sarah Palin? Especially after her speech in Iowa last weekend, Karen Tumulty reports that conservative pundits are repenting “their own role in stoking the Palin phenomenon.” Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, thinks she’d “do great” if she were to run in 2016.
- Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s choice to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearing Wednesday. Throughout the day-long hearing, Republicans made clear they would not vote to confirm Lynch, if she plans to run the Justice Department in the same manner Holder has.
- The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday. Supporters in the Senate do not have enough votes to override Mr. Obama’s veto.
- There are 34 senators up for re-election in 2016. Of that group, only one — Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. — has announced she will retire. This could mean that 2016 will have the fewest number of open Senate seats in a decade.
- But it’s never too early for tea party challengers to start running House Republicans to the right.
- The White House is not happy with Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, who administration officials say prioritized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interests when working with Republicans to orchestrate his upcoming speech to Congress.
- Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s invitation from the GOP is bringing Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats closer together, with some leading Dems now agreeing to delay voting on Iran sanctions.
- Potential presidential candidates for 2016 have started to court donors — and vice versa. Charles and David Koch, the influential libertarian billionaires, plan to spend nearly a billion dollars over the next two years on political campaigns and other non-political ventures. Matea Gold of The Washington Post spoke with NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill to discuss the Koch brothers and their prominent role in American politics.
- The new Congress has the fewest military veterans since World War II, but recent veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are on the rise. NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff talked to Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former Air Force colonel and pilot, and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a retired Marine captain.
- The Supreme Court may be taking up same-sex marriage later this year, but that’s not stopping state legislators from trying to stop state and local officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — even in states whose same-sex marriage bans have already been ruled unconstitutional.
- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is distancing himself from the “Just IN” media service his communications staff planned.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
East coast blizzard pic.twitter.com/uzLls6hBe1
— Terry W. Virts (@AstroTerry) January 28, 2015
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) January 28, 2015
Marijuana Dept: When DOJ Civil Rights chief Vanita Gupta meets new boss Loretta Lynch, this’ll be awk http://t.co/3ILcazOkHF
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) January 29, 2015
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