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Big Jobs Number Could Shake Up Political Storyline Again

Image: National Unemployment Rate Drops To 5.8 Percent

SAN RAFAEL, CA - NOVEMBER 07: Pedestrians walk by a now hiring sign posted in the window of a business on November 7, 2014 in San Rafael, California. According to a U.S. labor department report, employers added 214,000 jobs in October, lowering the national unemployment rate to 5.8 percent. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In the biggest number since early 2012, the latest data from the Labor Department shows a surge in job creation, with a way-bigger-than-expected 321,000 new positions. From NBCNews.com: “Job creation surged in November, with the U.S. economy adding a dazzling 321,000 positions, though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. Economists were expecting 230,000 new nonfarm payrolls jobs for November. The dramatic move was well above the previous average of 222,000 a month over the past year.” What’s more, per Bloomberg, the average hourly earnings are up too – a good data point as both parties grapple over how to address the electorate’s concern about wages. With the caveat we always offer – that these monthly numbers don’t move public opinion nearly as much as real savings in real wallets (like falling gas prices) – this could potentially be a big deal in the country’s economic storyline.

The White House seizes the moment on policing reform

President Barack Obama’s 2008 election as the first black president was hailed at the time as offering an unambiguous message on race in America: That it scrubbed, once and for all, the perception that the sky somehow wasn’t the limit for young African-Americans. But in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, the renewed notion that there are systematic hurdles to success for young black people, particularly young black men, is in danger of re-sowing the kind of cynicism that Obama wanted his legacy to disprove. That’s particularly true in the wake of the Eric Garner case, which has been remarkable for the united and reasoned bipartisan outcry for investigation and reform it’s prompted. (Check out, for example, this thoughtful piece from John Podhoretz on how the “broken-windows” philosophy of crime prevention may have to be revisited.) What’s motivating Obama and his administration’s response right now (see: Eric Holder’s strong remarks yesterday on “excessive force” in by police in Cleveland) is trying to quash that cynicism and distrust before it metastasizes into hopelessness.

This is far from an Acela corridor story

Plenty of political storiesget think-tank musings and policy prescriptions that barely register with the general public, but the current debate over policing reforms ain’t one of them. This story is playing out in its own way in communities around the country. Case in point: Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, announced plans for body cameras on all police as well as taped interrogations. Body camera legislation is being mulled in Florida, North Carolina and Mississippi, and pilot programs are gaining traction in Boston, New York City and Chicago. This is a local story as well as a national debate, which creates even more motivation for the D.C. crowd to get the response right. One thing worth noting here: Boehner’s openness to congressional hearings into the Brown and Garner deaths. “I think the American people want to understand more of what the facts were. There are a lot of unanswered questions that Americans have and, frankly, I have,” he said yesterday.

Did Obama win Round One of the immigration action fight?

Two weeks after announcing a sweeping executive order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, the White House has significant reasons to feel pretty good about how it’s played out so far. Per Gallup, the president’s approval rating among Latinos got a turbocharge, jumping 14 points since the announcement to a year-high of 68 percent. Another poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while the overall public is divided about the way Obama implemented the changes, seven in ten Americans support the underlying policy. And after the midterm walloping, Obama still managed to maintain his relevance in domestic affairs – though it’s unclear whether how much steam he’ll have behind him after the new Congress comes in. And so far, he’s only gotten a slap on the wrist from congressional Republicans in return for the executive action (more on that later). With the current trajectory on the Hill – and the just-launched 17-state lawsuit challenging the policy – this fight is sure to stretch well into next year. With both sides firing up their base, that seems to suit Republicans and Democrats alike just fine.

Conservatives get their immigration vote …

NBC’s Luke Russert reports that the House leadership plan to keep the government funded gained steam last night after the House passed a resolution by Tea Party conservative Ted Yoho (R-FL) called the "Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014." The protest vote – which received an unsurprising veto threat from the White House yesterday and won’t be taken up by the Senate before the new Congress – let conservatives voice some ire about the president’s executive actions on immigration before next week’s expected spending votes. The vote on the Yoho resolution was 291-197, with seven Republicans (mostly immigration moderates from districts with high Latino populations) voting no and three Tea Party backers voting present. Here’s the full breakdown, via NBC’s Alex Moe.

REPUBLICANS who voted AGAINST bill:

  • Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
  • Valadao (CA)
  • Diaz-Balart (FL)
  • Denham (CA)
  • Coffman (CO)
  • Gohmert (TX)
  • Stutzman (IN)

REPUBLICANS who voted PRESENT:

  • King (IA)
  • Gosar (AZ)
  • Labrador (ID)

DEMOCRATS who voted FOR the bill:

  • Barrow (GA)
  • Peterson (MN)
  • McIntyre (NC)

Worth noting: Colorado’s Cory Gardner, who’s headed for the United States Senate next year after defeating Democrat Mark Udall, voted FOR the Yoho bill. Gardner’s win in the state, which has a large Latino population, had been partly attributed to his moderation of some of his immigration positions during his campaign.

… And a spending deal looks promising

Per Russert, the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill, which passes 11 of 12 appropriations bills, is likely to get enough Democratic support to push it over the finish line, even if House Speaker John Boehner loses votes on his right flank. Despite some complaints from Dems who don’t like the short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security, this is a pretty good deal for the party: Democrats get to put their imprint on government funding through the rest of the fiscal year despite the big midterm loss, and the vast majority of the appropriators’ work actually sees the light of day. Of course, this is Congress and there’s always a chance of a monkey wrench (especially with the conservative radio crowd still calling for opponents to “melt the phones”). But most lawmakers are also eager not to extend a lame-duck fight into the holiday season, especially when both sides get to start the next round fresh in January.

Ashton Carter is Obama’s pick for Secretary of Defense

The president will announce today what’s been known in D.C. for days – that former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is his nominee to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel. Carter, who has served under 11 SecDefs and has won plenty of praise from both sides of the aisle, looks right now to be facing a smooth-sailing path to confirmation. Some big GOP names have endorsed him as a steady, competent leader (look for backing from one of his Republican predecessors today, too). The challenge is steep for Carter; he’s walking into a situation where two of three predecessors have put their gripes about the Obama administration IN PRINT, and the third – Hagel – was pretty unceremoniously ousted. But the White House is playing up the idea that he’s going to be unafraid to be confrontational with the national security team. More on Carter’s background –from one of us(!) is here, by the way.

Republicans on verge of getting to 54 Senate seats

Tomorrow is the Senate runoff in Louisiana between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and GOP challenger Bill Cassidy. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball sets the scene. “Mary Landrieu is dead, and everyone knows it but Mary Landrieu.” But we repeat our question from earlier this week: Did national Democrats abandoning her create a self-fulfilling prophecy here? Consider this from the Center for Public Integrity: Dems groups aired just 100 TV ads after the Nov. 4 primary, while GOP groups ran about 6,000. Another way to look at this, per the AP: “In all, 97 cents of every dollar not spent directly by the two campaigns since Nov. 5 has been to help Cassidy.” Wow. Then again, national Democrats probably made the calculation that if they spent millions on Landrieu -- in a race that she probably wasn’t going to win -- that would be millions they couldn’t spend on the next cycle in places like Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin.

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