Good morning on this wintry Wednesday in the nation's capital.
First things first: the actual news. As of last night, NPR (along with pretty much every other news organizaton) officially projects a victory for Democrat Mark Begich in the Alaska Senate race. Begich, the mayor of Anchorage, defeats Ted Stevens, who has held the seat since 1968. Stevens, whose appropriations largesse made him extremely popular among Alaskans, saw his reputation tarnished by a seven-count felony conviction last month for failing to disclose about $250,000 in gifts and services. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Stevens has not yet called Begich to concede the race. There is still a chance he'll call for a recount, though it would have to be on his own dime; the state sponsors a recount if the margin is less than 0.5%, but Begich currently leads by just over 1% (3,724 votes) with about 2,500 overseas ballots still to be counted. Begich will be the first Democrat to serve Alaska in the Senate since Mike Gravel was voted out in 1980.
The Begich victory brings the Democrats to a total of 58 caucus members (including two Independents: foreign policy hawk Joe Lieberman, whose possible defection to the GOP caucus was averted yesterday when he was allowed to retain his Homeland Security chairmanship despite his vocal support for John McCain; and Vermont's Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as an "Independent Democratic Socialist").
The new total keeps the Dems two votes short of a filibuster-proof majority, with two Senate races still to be decided. Minnesota's contest between incumbent Republican Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken is in the midst of a recount after the original tally gave Coleman a .07% advantage. And the Georgia race between incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin goes to a December 2nd runoff after Chambliss won a comfortable plurality but fell just shy of the majority required for victory by Georgia state law.
And now on to the speculation.
Oh, the speculation. Well, after days of media blitz about how Bill Clinton's post-presidential fund-raising from anonymous donors and lucrative international speaking engagements could harm Hillary Clinton's chances at a Secretary of State nod, the Hillary forces have planted a few response seeds. Politico and the New York Times now say Clinton is not so sure she'd even take the State gig if it were offered.
Politico's Glenn Thrush:
Clinton, [an insider] said, remains deeply "torn" between the possibility of serving in Obama's cabinet and remaining in the Senate to "help pass health care and work on a broad range of domestic issues."
The NYT's source has a similar take:
"If you are secretary of state you work for the president," the adviser said in an e-mail response to questions from The New York Times. "If you are a senator, you work for yourself and the people that elected you."
But N. very B.
"She thinks Obama has been great to ask, and she has been well-treated during the process," the adviser to Mrs. Clinton said. "But she's unsure."
Oh, there's nothing quite like the smell of journalists being used as pawns in a message-sending game among politicians in autumn, is there?
Marc Ambinder lays out a few key pros and cons as HRC weighs her options:
Clinton's every utterance would have to be prescreened; she would not be able to pick and choose her battles; she might be delimited by the State Department's bureaucratic imperatives. On the other hand, it is conceivable that President Obama would hand Sen. Clinton a ticket with the words "Middle East Peace" printed on it, and say: "Go," giving Clinton the flexibility and transitive authority to secure her place in history.
There is also some pushback on the reports that the Clintons have been stonewalling the vetting process and frustrating the Obama transition team. The Crypt reports that Bill Clinton has retained three lawyers to help manage the huge information disclosure that will go into his wife's vetting process. And according to Ambinder, the former President is "more than willing" to give up his foundation activities for the duration of his wife's potential Cabinet term, and submit his globe-trotting speech schedule to the State Department for pre-approval. (After all, he would have had to make similar sacrifices if Hillary had been elected President...)
The WSJ reports:
"Bill Clinton will not be the obstacle to whether Hillary gets this job or not," said one Democrat familiar with the situation. Another person added: "He's willing to be as transparent as the Obama world wants."
And finally, I cannot adequately describe this segment from last night's Daily Show, in which John Oliver attempts to find out the truth behind John King's giant touch-screen, aka his "journalistic superweapon". Just watch it.