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What We Learned: Under The Bus What We Learned: Under The Bus

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What We Learned: Under The Bus

November 17, 2012

What we at The Hotline learned this week:

-- It didn't take long for Republicans to start throwing Mitt Romney under the bus, once their own 2016 prospects come into focus. At the RGA meeting this week in Las Vegas, where party leaders woo big donors, Romney came in for a tongue-lashing from just about anyone who might hope to succeed him as the GOP nominee. Don't expect Romney to earn a speaking slot at the 2016 convention.

-- Republican governors are going to play a big role over the next four years, both in driving a new agenda and presenting a local face for an unpopular national party. And while Beltway Republicans will blame President Obama for slow economic growth, governors will be happy to claim credit as their individual states troop down the road to recovery.

-- Republican governors and other party leaders might want the party to work on immigration reform and other policies to appeal to Hispanic voters, but it's hard to see how the House Republican conference would be anything but a barrier to such change. The party's caucus is more Southern than ever and it's almost entirely based in GOP-leaning and very white congressional districts, the places where the Republican brand as it currently stands has never been stronger. Those members didn't see their election results as a mandate for (their own) change; they mostly got a resounding endorsement of what they've been doing. The back benches command major clout in the GOP conference and aren't itching for change, no matter what the governors have to say about the Republican Party's direction.

-- Even if the Republicans did not pick off a single Democratic incumbent or win any open seats previously held by a Democrat, the balance of power in the House still would not have changed after the election. Assuming the handful of outstanding races go for the Democrats as it appears they will, Democrats will have picked off 18 Republican-held seats - 7 less than their target of 25. What helped the GOP was the party's focus on staying on offense -- particularly in the South -- as they won four Democratic-held open seats and defeated six Dem incumbents outright. That comes as House Democrats are set to inaugurate at least 49 new members overall next year.

The Democratic casualty list includes the open seats of AR-04 (Mike Ross), NC-11 (Heath Shuler), NC-13 (Brad Miller) and OK-02 (Dan Boren) and incumbent knock-outs in IA-03 (Leonard Boswell), KY-06 (Ben Chandler), NC-08 (Larry Kissell), NY-27 (Kathy Hochul), OH-16 (Betty Sutton) and PA-12 (Mark Critz).

-- New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn became the first 2013 mayoral contender to make substantive policy proposals in the wake of superstorm Sandy this week, calling for at least $20 billion in new infrastructure in a speech on Tuesday. The move, as Chris Smith wrote for New York magazine this week, positions her to compete in the outer boroughs, as her chief competitors for the Democratic nomination are of the bridge-and-tunnel variety; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was rumored this week to be dropping out and running for comptroller.

Then there is Adolfo Carrión, Jr., the former Obama admin. official and Bronx Beep taking a look at the GOP nomination. The Big Apple hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since David Dinkins in 1989, but Quinn would have far more establishment support than Ruth Messinger, Mark Green, Freddy Ferrer and Bill Thompson combined.

-- Terry McAuliffe is the early front-runner for the Democratic nod in next year's Virginia governor's race. Why? Well, he's the only Democrat who's announced. But in New Jersey, the other state with a governorship up in 2013, the race seems to be essentially on hold while Cory Booker makes up his mind on a run. The Newark mayor certainly looks like Democrats' strongest candidate to take on Gov. Chris Christie, and said this week that Hurricane Sandy has pushed his decision timeline back. It may have also made Christie a tougher candidate to beat.

-- It was a near-certainty that Angus King would boost Democrats' Senate majority this week, but the freshman, whose importance to the caucus diminished after their definitive victory last week, made the long-expected announcement with the grandeur of a king, and privately made the audacious request for a Finance Committee slot -- an achievement, Majority Leader Harry Reid reminded him, that took Sen. John Kerry 14 years to earn. As much as King's campaign mantra was about bridging the parties, his first week in Washington showed he's interested in maximum influence for him and his state, not ruling out the possibility of caucusing with the GOP if they had reclaimed the majority, or if they do so in the future.

-- Members who survived hard-hitting or scandal-plagued campaigns can breathe a sigh of relief -- but not for long. For a few of these survivors, the most immediate challenge may come from within their own party. In Tennessee, Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais looks all but certain to get a primary challenge as details continue to surface about improprieties in the socially conservative congressman's personal life.

Rep. Brad Sherman, who emerged from the smoking crater of his brutal Democrat-on-Democrat race with Rep. Howard Berman, is taking heat from fellow California Democrats for a Super PAC mailer that sought to negatively tie Berman to the more liberal members of the party. The fallout may cost him ranking member status on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

And Rep.-elect Kerry Bentivolio, who benefited from former Rep. Thad McCotter's sudden flameout, is likely to face a stiffer primary challenge in 2014 than the hastily assembled write-in campaign this cycle from GOP leaders who found him unpalatable. After grabbing his share of negative and bizarre headlines throughout the campaign, Bentivolio will likely have to fend off a well-prepared and establishment-groomed Republican if he wants to be more than a one-term congressman.

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