Dems take hard left turn after losses

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Dems take hard left turn after losses
• Boehner taps Turley for Obama lawsuit
• GOP governors show off ahead of 2016 stakes
• McConnell lays groundwork for super PAC
• Don’t mess with mom

It would have cost Senate Democrats little to have given Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a win on the Keystone Pipeline. After all, the president could have blown off the vote with an insurmountable veto, citing the need to protect executive prerogatives. So it seemed odd when the White House got coy ahead of the vote about the president’s veto threat. When the time came, though, we saw why: Team Obama had successfully whipped against the Landrieu bill. There was little chance that Landrieu was going to win her Dec. 6 runoff whatever the outcome, but with the Hail Mary turning into a Fail Mary, the seat is signed, sealed and delivered for the GOP. Democrats, led by the White House, ate one of their own rather than defy the orthodoxy of the party’s liberal base. That’s strong evidence that Democrats currently care more about ideological purity than electoral expediency. And that is always a dangerous thing.

“The president sure has changed his mind about what he can do and what he can do now. I’m just basing it on what I’ve seen other presidents in the past do.” – Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, on “The Kelly File.” Watch here.

Failing forward - Nowhere was this clearer than in the fact that despite having lost at least 65 seats since 2010 to reach their smallest minority since the 1920s, House Democrats gave Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a seventh term as their leader. It has oft been mentioned that Pelosi is now second only to Sam Rayburn for her longevity as a party leader in the House. Less mentioned is that while Rayburn spent only four of his 21 years in the minority, Pelosi will have spent only four of her 14 years in the majority. Yes, this is partly about a dearth of young talent among Democrats, but it is more about liberal orthodoxy. Pelosi has been an uncharacteristically ideological party leader – consider her forcing Democrats to walk the plank on global warming fees in 2010 – and her members like it that way. Asked by Politico why she stayed, Pelosi chalked it up to ObamaCare: “I’m honestly here to protect the Affordable Care Act.” Gulp. Not exactly a cheery sentiment for Democrats looking to run as centrist reformers in 2016.

[White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Senate Democrats are scheduled to meet Thursday about a variety of issues, immigration key among them.]

‘Big’ loser - But the juice this week is really about immigration and the president’s preparation for the most audacious use of pen power yet. The White House disseminated talking points to immigration activists on Tuesday as part of some expectations setting, but mainly to get every Democrat to repeat, in unison, that previous presidents have exempted specific groups from deportation in the past. This move is different in scope and in nature, since the group reportedly will be defined by its status in the U.S. – parents of children here legally – as compared to prior exemptions, mostly for groups of refugees or immigrants from specific nations or regions. Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who, like Pelosi, breezed back into his leadership spot despite a hideous election performance has got his pom-poms ready. . “I believe that whatever the president decides to do on his executive order, he should go big — as big as he can …” Reid enthused.

[In a WSJ Op-Ed, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., says President Obama is turning a deaf ear to the people with his planned unilateral edict on immigration and Congress will use all of its constitutional powers to stop him.]

Vanishing point - An audacious, confrontational approach to the midterm defeat is very much in vogue among Democrats, especially liberal firebrands who believe that a more concentrated version of the party’s ideology would have given more reason for inert coalition members to get to the polls. What the president heard from the two thirds of adults who did not vote was that they wanted more, more, more of his agenda. He started with global warming last week, but in the coming days will turn to immigration. As recent polling has shown, that won’t go over very well. Democrats may blame their inability to motivate their base for a painful midterm cycle, but anything seen as “big” could be very dangerous for a party that is approaching the vanishing point with the blue-collar white voters that once formed its core.

[Roll Call: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) doesn’t know if his effort to push off the debate on funding the government into next year will prove successful, but the Texas Republican is sure making an effort…“I think a long-term omnibus or CR makes no sense. It hands over the decision-making authority of Congress to the president.”]

Ewoks for Warren - Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton winds down her proxy campaign and prepares to power up the Death Star, the Ewoks down on Endor are not giving up without a fight. The Ready for Warren Super PAC will soon be dumping 100,000 letters, postcards and petition signatures on the desk of their heroine, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. They have also released their first official video which hopes to build momentum for a presidential run, saying in part, “We think it’s time to elect a leader who is fearless, honest, and progressive.” That is, they mean to say, not the former first lady of Arkansas. Clinton’s massive money and huge organization seems impossible to beat, especially since Warren shows little stomach for a fight. But the rebels are out there, hoping against hope that Obama’s presidency really did move the party to the left and wasn’t just a fast-vanishing Clinton interregnum.

[Erica Sagrans, campaign manager for Ready for Warren, explains to the WaPo why Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is already influencing Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.]

The coming conflict - Hillary, meanwhile is selling something very different: Moderation and an appeal to voters in states written off by Democrats since 2000. Mitch Stewart, who is a strategist for the Clintons’ still-unofficial campaign, explained to Talking Points Memo that with her ability to reach out to “white, working-class voters,” lost to Obama and the party for more than a decade, Hillary can put states like Indiana, Georgia and Arkansas in play. How to do that? As the failings of Clinton-core candidates in 2014 demonstrated, proximity to husband Bill is not enough to bring back the 1992 coalition. So how would Hillary bring them home? By being moderate in the mold of the Big Dog himself. And guess what doesn’t fit with that: Aggressive global warming action, a nuclear deal with Iran, a last-man-standing defense of ObamaCare and, maybe most of all, large-scale, temporary amnesty by presidential fiat. Hillary is almost certain to eventually win control of the party that spurned her in 2008. What we don’t know is how much of it will be left by the time she can grab the reins.

[The liberal Center for American Progress will host a confab today with left-wing all-stars including, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Democratic donor whale Tom Steyer and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.]

WashEx: “House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has hired prominent constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley to represent the House of Representatives in its lawsuit against President Obama’s unilateral move to delay implementation of an Obamacare provision requiring large firms to offer healthcare to their employees. The first two attorneys whom Boehner tapped quit in succession, backing out after deciding that the issue was too politically charged to handle. Turley, a law professor at George Washington University in D.C., has been an outspoken critic of what he has viewed as executive overreach by both Obama and former President George W. Bush…Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has not ruled out expanding the lawsuit to include a challenge to Obama's promised executive order to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. For now, however, the lawsuit remains focused on Obamacare.”

The first modern state lottery started fifty years ago in New Hampshire. Since then, it has been a daredevil race (to the top or bottom, depending on your view) among states to expand their gambling offerings to allow ever more spending without any icky tax increases. In a legalized-vice arms race, states chased revenues through various incarnations: instant lottery, video lottery, etc. Now, 24 states have casinos and more will surely follow. As the disastrous, expensive effort to save the brainchild of the vice pioneers of Atlantic City have shown, legal gambling just isn’t enough anymore. It’s everywhere. And even if there isn’t a casino in your town, gambling is just a few clicks away on the Internet. At the New Yorker, John Wolfson explains how lawmakers’ love of easy money has left so many states in the hole.

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.9 percent//Disapprove – 53.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27 percent//Wrong Track – 65.8 percent

GOP presidential prospects Govs. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rick Perry, R-Texas, headline the Republican Governors Association’s two-day meeting, starting today in Baca Raton, Fla. The confab of Republican governors and governors-elect will hash over the RGA’s success in the midterms, policy goals and an election strategy to help the party win back the White House in 2016.

[Chief National Correspondent John Roberts reports from South Florida.]

Rand poaches Cruz’s digital guru - The Hill: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is beefing up his campaign team ahead of a likely presidential run by adding Vince Harris, a top GOP digital guru who has previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Harris will join Paul’s inner circle of advisors as the campaign’s chief digital strategist…”

Mitt loosens up about Mormonism - 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered a speech at Brigham Young University where he praised his Mormon background urging students that their religion is not a hardship but rather a blessing, saying, “There may be times in your life when you may feel that it is a bit of a burden being a member of the Church…But I can affirm this: your fellow members of the Church will be a blessing to you that far more than compensates.” This marks quite a shift from his 2007 speech “Faith in America” speech, where in an attempt to make a broad appeal to voters Romney only made brief mentions of his religion and only including the word Mormon once.

CPAC your bags - One of the key appearances for every would-be GOP presidential contenders is the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference, aka CPAC. The 2015 installment will start Feb. 25. The first list of speakers includes potential 2016 candidates Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

[Pro tip for those posturing for presidential runs: It took Abraham Lincoln less than two minutes to deliver the Gettysburg Address on this day 151 years ago. You don’t need 50 minutes to outline ideas far less important.]

David Drucker
reports: “Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is exploring the creation of a super PAC dedicated to supporting Senate Republicans on the 2016 ballot, sources tell [Washington Examiner]. Senate Republicans were at a financial and advertising disadvantage for most of the 2014 cycle, as Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC of outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid, carpet-bombed the airwaves in targeted states on behalf of Democratic candidates. McConnell wants an organization that can do the same for Republicans in 2016, a presidential year, when his barely-minted majority faces a tough Senate map, with incumbents up for re-election in states like Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. McConnell sources confirmed Tuesday that the matter is under discussion, but said there was nothing to announce at this point.”

NYT’s Nate Cohn pushes back on Democratic claims that voter ID laws contributed to Democratic losses in midterm votes: “the so-called margin of disenfranchisement – the number of registered voters who do not appear to have photo identification –grossly overstates the potential electoral consequences of these laws.”

With more announcements expected for Congressional leadership posts today, here’s a list of all the new House committee leaders that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Tuesday: Candice Miller, R-Mich., Administration; Mike Conaway, R-Texas, Agriculture;  Hal Rogers, R-Ky., Appropriations; Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, Armed Services; Tom Price, R-Ga., Budget; John Kline, R-Minn., Education & the Workforce; Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Ethics; Fred Upton, R-Minn., Energy & Commerce; Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Financial Services; Ed Royce, R-Calif., Foreign Affairs; Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Homeland Security; Devin Nunes, R-Calif., Intelligence; Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Judiciary; Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Natural Resources; Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, Oversight & Government Reform; Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Rules; Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Science, Space & Technology; Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Small Business; Bill Shuster, R-Pa., Transportation & Infrastructure; Jeff Miller, R-Fla., Veterans’ Affairs; Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., Ways & Means.

For the Blue Team - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Monday her picks for Democratic leadership positions: Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Policy and Communications; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Steering Co-Chair; Donna Edwards, D-Md., Policy Co-Chair.

Opening his draft notice back in 1972, Ralph Rigby planned to hop the Canadian border near his upstate New York home. But that wasn’t going to cut it with the commander in chief, his mom. Mrs. Rigby was having none of it. “You won’t have to worry about the government coming to get you,” she warned him. “I’ll come get you.” As the WSJ reports, that threat straighten the 19 year-old’s path: “So instead of avoiding the military, he ended up making a life of it. This week, Chief Rigby [now 62] is leaving his last duty station as one of the final remnants of the days when obligatory service and the Vietnam War tore apart the nation’s social fabric….Chief Rigby served six deployments to Korea, including the latest with the 2nd Infantry Division. Initially reluctant to go to war in Vietnam, he ended up fighting in the first Gulf War, then later doing two full combat tours of Afghanistan and serving another in Iraq.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.