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First Thoughts: GOP rivals begin dishing on Christie

GOP rivals begin dishing on Chris Christie… Christie embraces being the front-runner -- and the risks that come with it… Damage control: Troubled Obamacare rollout remains in the news… Don’t overlook the most important reasons why Cuccinelli lost in Virginia: abortion and birth control… And “All in the Family”: Jimmy Carter’s grandson becomes the latest political scion to run for office in 2014.

*** GOP rivals begin dishing on Christie: So this is what happens the day after you win a 22-point re-election victory and after the national media anoint you as the GOP establishment front-runner for a presidential race that’s still three years (!!!) away: Potential Republican rivals begin taking not-so-subtle shots at you. That’s exactly what happened to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) yesterday. "Clearly [Christie] was able to speak to the hopes and aspirations of people within New Jersey,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told CNN. “That's important. We want to win everywhere and Gov. Christie has certainly shown he has a way of winning in New Jersey, in states like New Jersey... so I congratulate him on that." In other words, as TPM put it, Rubio was saying, “Try replicating this outside of New Jersey.” Here was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): "I think the Republican Party is a big party, and we need moderates like Chris Christie who can win in New Jersey in our party.” Hear that? Christie is a “moderate,” per Paul, who also knocked the Hurricane Sandy TV ads Christie ran in his re-election effort. And here was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): “I think it is terrific that he is brash, that he is outspoken, and that he won his race,” Cruz told ABC. “But I think we need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle. And in particular, Obamacare is not working.” It was a pretty obvious reference to Christie’s decision to expand Medicaid in his state.

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses his supporters at his election night party in Asbury Park, New Jersey, November 5, 2013. Mike Segar / REUTERS

*** Embracing being the front-runner -- and the risks that come with it: If Christie does run for president, this is exactly the line of attack his Republican rivals will pursue: This guy is not one of us. He’s from New Jersey. His state has legalized gay marriage. He’s expanded Medicaid. And he’s expressed some gun-control and pro-immigration-reform views. But so far, Christie has embraced being the GOP establishment front-runner. As NBC’s Carrie Dann and Mike O’Brien wrote about his LONG post-election news conference yesterday, Christie drank all the 2016 chatter. “It’s complimentary. It’s flattering and I have no problem with it,” he said. “But I want to be really clear about this: I have a job to do. I got re-elected to do a job last night, and that’s the job I’m going to do.” Like John McCain and Bill Clinton, Christie seems to love the press and press conferences, at least after a 22-point re-election win. But embracing being front-runner -- three years out, mind you -- has its own risks. After all, at this point in the 2008 cycle, neither of the front-runners (Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani) won their party’s nomination. And the early presidential birds (think John Edwards, Tim Pawlenty) usually don’t get the worm. Just something to chew on.

*** Troubled Obamacare rollout remains in the news: Turning to the current occupant of the White House, the troubled health-care rollout remains in the news -- and it won’t go away until there’s proof the website is up and running by Nov. 30. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was grilled by both Republican and Democratic senators yesterday. “Right off the bat, this is unacceptable. It has been disappointing to hear members of the administration say they didn't see the problems coming,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said, per NBC’s Ali Weinberg. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was more critical hitting President Obama over his past pledge that Americans could keep their health-care plans if they liked them (which we’ve found out isn’t true for those who get their insurance on the private market). “We know that lying to Congress is a crime, but unfortunately, lying to the American people is not,” he said at the Sebelius hearing. And then we learned that Obama met with Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014 to discuss the troubled health-care rollout. That allowed these Dems to vent their frustrations – to Obama and in press releases. “It is simply unacceptable for Alaskans to bear the brunt of the administration’s mismanagement of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and that is the message,” Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-AK) office blasted to reporters yesterday, according to Roll Call. Many of the other Democratic incumbent senators seeking re-election in 2014 put out similar statements. The White House is in political damage control mode this week and the meeting with the Senate Dems up in 2014 was about assuaging their fears but also giving them a forum to show their constituents back home that they are standing up to the president.

*** Don’t overlook the most important reasons why Cuccinelli lost -- abortion and birth control: So much has been said about the role that the health-care law and government shutdown played in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. But here’s what might be the most-overlooked issue of the race -- abortion and the female vote. Ask yourself: How did Ken Cuccinelli (R) win on the pocketbook issue of the economy (49%-43%) and health care (49%-45%), but lose the race? Ask any political consultant worth his/her salt and that person would tell you, if you win on the economy, you win. That didn’t happen. Cuccinelli lost. And he lost on the issue of abortion by a whopping 59%-34% margin. What’s more, not only did Terry McAuliffe win female voters by nine points (51%-42%), he also won non-married women by 42 points (67%-25%). There’s also this: While just 46% said they supported the health-care law, only 34% said abortion should be ILLEGAL in all or most cases. And Republican pollster Byron Allen said the GOP shortcoming in Virginia wasn’t abortion; it was birth control. “While I’m convinced by data and experience that pro-life candidates can win in swing states, it’s becoming equally clear that we have handed Democrats an issue on a silver platter by arguing over birth-control, whether it’s government funding or mandates in Obamacare.” You can argue if the Obamacare issue tightened the race. But we know why Cuccinelli lost in purple Virginia: abortion and birth control.

*** All in the family: Former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter (D), is going to run for Georgia governor next year, and so he might be on a Democratic ticket that also has former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA)’s daughter on it -- Michelle Nunn, who’s running for the Senate. Indeed, here’s a reminder of all the other famous names and relatives who are going to be running in 2014 or who are up for re-election:

-- Liz Cheney (daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney)

-- George P. Bush (son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush)

-- Gwen Graham (daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL).

-- Shelley Moore Capito (daughter of former WV Gov. Arch Moore).

-- Mark Begich (son of the late Rep. Nick Begich, D-AK)

-- Mary Landrieu (daughter of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and brother to current Mayor Mitch Landrieu

-- Mark Pryor (son of former Arkansas Gov. and Sen. David Pryor).

-- Andrew Cuomo (son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo)

-- Jerry Brown (son of former California Gov. Pat Brown)

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