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First Thoughts: 12 days to go

White House has 12 days to go to get the website fixed… Medicaid expansion a winner in Louisiana race (it also was a winner in the VA GOV race)… Family Ties: Cheney family spat is today’s most intriguing political story… Walker, Branstad, and Kevin McCarthy (!!!) all say they want a governor as the GOP’s nominee in 2016… And today is a national day of protest regarding the Common Core curriculum standards.

President Barack Obama speaks about Affordable Health Care to volunteers at the Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas, November 6, 2013. Larry Downing / Reuters

*** Twelve days to go: Health care isn’t today’s most intriguing political story of the day (that honor goes to spat inside the Cheney family), but it remains the most important political story -- given all the stakes for President Obama and congressional Democrats up in 2014. When the going gets tough in politics, the first human instinct is to flee. And that’s particularly true for the always-antsy Democrats (just see 1994 and 2010). But the problem when politicians start jumping ship from their party and president, they only make things worse. Strikingly for Democrats, Friday’s House vote on the Upton bill could have been MUCH WORSE. While 39 Democrats broke ranks and supported the GOP bill, that was a far smaller number than the White House had been bracing for. More than anything else, that party unity -- as fragile as it might be -- bought the White House additional time to get to that self-imposed Nov. 30deadline to fix the website. But as we’ve said a million times these last few weeks, it all comes down to that website. In fact, going forward, there’s little point in covering the bits and pieces regarding the health-care law until Nov. 30. Everything right now comes down to meeting that deadline. Fail to meet that deadline and the survival-of-the-fittest instinct that every politician feels when they run for office will kick in, even if it’s bad national politics.

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*** Medicaid expansion a winner in Louisiana race: So that’s one health-care story we’re watching. The other story played over the weekend with Republican businessman Vance McAllister upset over favored GOP state Sen. Neil Riser in Louisiana’s special congressional election. What’s noteworthy politically about the result is that McAllister supported expanding Medicaid under the health-care law -- something the state’s leaders, including Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), have opposed. And Riser attacked him for it. So perhaps not surprisingly, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) took to Twitter to praise the Republican McAllister’s victory: “Look forward to working w/ Mr McAllister in coming weeks & months. His emphasize [sic] on finding solutions, common ground = good for 5th district.” If the website gets fixed, what ultimately might help the Democrats in the health-care wars is that Americans favor a bigger safety net for struggling Americans (just look at the poll numbers for Medicare, Medicaid, a higher minimum wage). The country is pro-safety net; always has been. That’s the fine line between an over-expanding government and the expectation of what government should be there for if the bottom falls out for Americans personally. While some Republicans in blue and purple states realize this and have expanded Medicaid, there are parts of the GOP right now who are embracing the makers-vs.-takers mindset (and remember Obama exploited this during the 2012 campaign). By the way, back to Louisiana, and one other thing helped McAllister in the Louisiana race: The folks from the popular “Duck Dynasty” TV show backed him in TV ads. 

*** Family Ties: Family spats are commonplace; almost everyone has them. But where they often aren’t all that common are in high-profile political campaigns, especially involving one of the nation’s most prominent political families. After Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, appeared on FOX NewsSunday to again state her opposition to gay marriage, her lesbian sister Mary fired back on Facebook, per the New York Times. “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.” And wife Heather Poe threw in this jab, referring to Liz Cheney’s move from Northern Virginia to Wyoming: “I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other,” she said. “Yes, Liz, in 15 states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.” 

*** Not doing your homework: What’s particularly surprising here is that Liz Cheney, who otherwise has been so careful about her Wyoming Senate bid, was unable to get her sister and sister-in-law on board or apparently talk to them in advance about her position on this issue. How did Liz Cheney blindside her own sister, or get blindsided by her sister? Did they really not talk about this issue in advance? Did Liz not give Mary a heads up? And remember, no conservative has ever held Dick Cheney’s support for gay rights against him -- either in 2004 or now. But here’s one reason why Liz might have felt pressure to oppose gay marriage in this race: The conservative group American Principles Fund has been hammering in in TV ads for supporting gay rights. So maybe that’s the motivation. Nevertheless, this family spat makes it seem like Liz Cheney was unprepared. As the Times puts it, “It is not the substance of the issue that could hurt Liz Cheney in Wyoming — her opponent also opposes same-sex marriage. But the ugly family drama and questions about what Liz Cheney truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity in a place where many voters have met their politicians in person and are already skeptical of an outsider like Ms. Cheney.”

*** Searching for a Washington outsider: In 2016 news, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) made this declaration on ABC about the ideal GOP presidential nominee: “I think it’s got to be an outsider. I think both the presidential and the vice presidential nominee should either be a former or current governor, people who have done successful things in their states, who have taken on big reforms, who are ready to move America forward.” He isn’t the only Republican who has said something like this. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who just so happened to be hosting Rep. Paul Ryan at his birthday-bash fundraiser on Saturday night, said in a later interview that the GOP should look to having a governor as its nominee in 2016, the Washington Post noted. And it’s not even the governors. OnMSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” last week, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said, “I’m a firm believer that I don’t think anyone should become president if they haven’t been a governor first.” While the past month has been good news for Republicans, it appears that Walker, Branstad, and McCarthy believe Washington Republican-ism is a potential problem in 2016 for the GOP. It’s one thing for governors to say this; it’s yet another for McCarthy to say it.

*** Protesting Common Core: Lastly, today happens to be a day of protest (“Don’t Send Your Child To School Day”) regarding the Common Core curriculum. As the organizers’ press release puts it, “We recommend that you keep your children out of school on November 18th and help us send a message to the federal government. We the people want evidence-based curriculum that is locally controlled and which does not require data mining our children. Instead of sending your children to school on November 18th, get your children out in public and raise awareness by educating others on the dangers of the Common Core State Standards!!!” Of course, Common Core is not a federal government initiative, but one that was created by governors. Yet that hasn’t stopped this scare campaign among some on the right. To us, it’s amazing how Common Core standards have become a hot political potato. In many respects, it’s the Tea Party meets education reform.

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