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Starting Lineup: Countdown To Kickoff

Does Wagner Want In? Former Republican National Committee co-Chair Ann Wagner is sounding more and more like a Missouri Senate contender. Since losing the RNC chair election, Wagner and those close to her have been furiously calling prominent Republicans in Springfield to gauge support, according to people who have received those calls. Wagner, who is also a former chair of the Missouri GOP, is another in what appears to be a growing list of potential Republican candidates in Missouri. As Hotline On Call reported last week, 2010 congressional contender and Tea Party favorite Ed Martin (R) is also seriously looking at joining former Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the GOP field. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) has also said he's considering the race. But everyone appears to be waiting on whether former Sen. Jim Talent (R) runs. The Wagner speculation comes with a bit of behind the scenes drama as well. Veteran -- and influential -- Missouri Republican operative John Hancock appears to be torn between two candidates, according to those familiar with the situation. Hancock ran Wagner's RNC campaign this year, but also worked for Martin during his 2010 congressional bid. Martin has reached out to Hancock again and it is unclear which camp Hancock will join. Tea Party Mo' In N.H. Coming off Tea Party candidate Jack Kimball's surprise win last weekend for New Hampshire GOP chair, it looks like another Tea Party candidate could be well positioned for for a gubernatorial run in 2012: Ovide Lamontagne. New Hampshire elects its governor every two years. Lamontagne, you'll recall, rallied Tea Party support and nearly beat now Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the Senate GOP primary last year. A poll released Monday by the Republican firm Strategic National suggests that Lamontagne would start the 2012 race with a lead over potential contenders. The poll, reported by the New Hampshire Journal, found Lamontagne grabbing 37 percent among Republicans and Republican leaning independents. Last year's nominee, John Stephen, came in second with 14 percent. The poll lends credibility to the rumors that have been floating around since the election: We haven't seen the last of Lamontagne. The attorney also launched a Granite Oath PAC earlier this month. The Starting Five 1. Gallup notes that, historically, presidents don't see an uptick in their approval rating after a State of the Union address. 2. Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R), who is firmly on the retirement watch list, is holding a meeting for his reelection steering committee on Feb. 1 at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a sign that he appears to be learning toward running. 3. Rahm Emanuel has officially appealed Monday's ruling by an appellate court throwing Emanuel off the Chicago mayoral ballot to the Illinois Supreme Court. It is unclear whether the court will take the case and Emanuel is on a very tight time table -- the state begins printing ballots on Monday. 4. Former ambassador and businessman Tom Foley is positioning himself for a rematch with Gov. Dan Malloy in Connecticut in 2014 and is passing on the 2012 Senate race. 5. Former Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater (D) is being approached by Democrats to challenge Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) this year.

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