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A Reporter’s Thanksgiving Thanks

Even reporters who cover politics and Washington have something to be thankful for at this time of year. Not buying that? Here’s a short list; let me know if you think of others:

  • Candidates in VERY tight elections who graciously concede before Thanksgiving: Representative Dan Maffei, a first-term Democrat from Syracuse, N.Y., gave up his bid to fend off Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle. Only 567 votes divided the two candidates. Instead of asking for a hand recount, Maffei noted that the electorate who turned out to vote may have changed from two years ago, but said that he had kept his pledge to the people who elected him and added that he was proud of his votes for the economic stimulus package and health care reform. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, in Fresno, Calif., Republican cherry farmer Andy Vidak abandoned his effort to unseat three-term Democrat Jim Costa after three weeks of counting, with just a few thousand votes separating the two. Costa told reporters, “it’s time to…set aside partisan differences to get our economy going again.” Vidak was still weighing whether to announce a re-run in 2012.

  • Pollsters who don’t take a break: Since the midterm elections, there have been at least ten national polls asking Americans whether they approve of President Obama’s performance in office. In case we didn’t get the message on November 2, these polls show that the president suffers an average three-point disadvantage, with more voters disapproving of his performance than giving it a thumbs up. The USA Today/Gallup poll shows a whopping 12-point negative margin. To add insult to injury, the newest McClatchy/Marist poll indicates that 45 percent of self-identified Democrats say they believe the president should face a challenger in the 2012 primaries. Ouch.

  • Politicians who gear up early for the next election: Former Alaska governor and former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin not only stars in a new TV reality show, she also has a new book out, “America by Heart,” and more than 312,000 followers on Twitter. Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence doesn’t have a book or a reality show, but he asked not to be reappointed to his House leadership post, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, touching off speculation he’s taking a serious look at the White House. This fall, Pence came out on top in a straw poll at the Value Voters Summit, a gathering organized by the political arm of the conservative lobbying group the Family Research Council. Palin, Pence and the others give us names to chew over when we’re asked who will run and how.

  • The Tea Party: As I learned this year from Tom Gaitens in central Florida, Nina Mourning in Sacramento, and Rick Crain in Mesquite, Nev., there is a broad and deep-seated anger at Washington. It’s not a caricature, it’s the voices of millions of Americans who don’t like what they’ve seen over the past few years. Whether or not you agree with the premise of their criticisms, you can’t deny they’ve become a powerful and unpredictable force in American politics, almost overnight — a force that both Democrats and Republicans will be reckoning with for months, maybe years, to come. They occupy their own place in the ideological landscape.

  • Family and friends outside of Washington: It’s easy to get caught up in the wisdom of the moment here in D.C. After more than three decades and six presidents, I have to fight the impulse to think I’ve seen it all, and sometimes even know better than the nation’s capital’s finest. Fortunately, I have aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and close friends in Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado, Alaska and Georgia, among other places, to keep me grounded — to remind me in phone calls, emails and other messages that there’s a great big world out there, that the world doesn’t end at the Potomac River and that it’s often better to listen than to speak.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

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