Today's Power Play: GOP Sweetens its Offer to Manchin

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Early Intel -- GOP Sweetens its Offer to Manchin

Republicans are making some big promises to try to lure West Virginia Senator-elect Joe Manchin to cross the aisle.

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects - a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.

It's one of Manchin's pet projects and could mean big money for the state's coal producers.

"Republicans believe in an ‘all of the above' approach to energy," one top Senate aide told Power Play. "And coal-to-diesel could certainly be part of that."

Manchin's switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel.

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

If Manchin, Nelson and Lieberman switched, it would leave the Senate in a 50-50 deadlock.

But Team Manchin, so far, is sticking with the campaign line that the two-term conservative governor is heading to Washington to change the way his party operates and to look for chances to work on bipartisan projects.

"He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on," said one Manchin advisor. "Now, if that doesn't work and Democrats aren't receptive, I don't know what possibilities that leaves open."

The first indication of where Manchin will stand likely comes next week in the lame duck session.

Labor groups who backed Manchin over Republican John Raese are pushing hard for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill, already passed by the House, would require employers who have multiple facilities in the same counties to pay all their employees the same wage.

It would be a coup for unions, because it would allow unions to limit the competitive advantage of non-union operations. Since labor provided key votes and support for Manchin, they likely will be counting on his vote.

Manchin, though, was also backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which vehemently opposes the bill.

Thanks to today's Power Play Crew: Kimberly Schwandt, Gretchen Gailey, Lee Ross and Paige Dukeman.

The Day in Quotes

"If Democratic members in the House elect Nancy Pelosi as their leader, it's almost as if they just didn't get the message from the voters this election."

-- House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) on "Fox News Sunday."

"I am perfectly satisfied with Nancy Pelosi's leadership"

-- Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), locked in a race for minority whip with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), on "Face the Nation."

"It seems that the American people have asked for a change."

-- Indian student to President Obama at a town hall in Mumbai.

"[The election] requires me to make some midcourse corrections and adjustments."

-- Obama in response.

"There doesn't seem to be anybody in the White House who's got any idea what it's like to lie awake at night worried about money and worried about things slipping away. They're all intellectually smart. They've got their numbers. But they don't feel any of it, and I think people sense that."

-- Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN) to the Washington Post.

"I think he's a good salesman. I think his problem was not his sales job. It was the product."

-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on "Face the Nation."

"I plan on joining, I'm not gonna ask for permission or whatever, I'm gonna find out when they meet and I will be a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and I think I meet all of the criteria."

-- Congressman-elect Allen West (R-FL) on his plans to join the all-Democrat organization in an interview with WOR radio.

"You can't fully repeal and replace this law until you have a new president and a better Senate. And that's probably in 2013, but that's before the law fully kicks in in 2014. In the meantime, we really -- this bill is such a fiscal and economic train wreck for our country and for the health-care system itself -- we're going to do everything we can to try and repeal and replace this thing. And ultimately, I think 2013 is when it will be done the right way."

-- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on "Fox News Sunday."

"But it's not so much that people re-embraced Republicans. It said they didn't like the direction President Obama and Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress was taking the nation, and now they're at least opening the door to reconsidering supporting Republicans, and now we have to govern and lead and produce results. And if we don't, we'll be thrown out in two years."

-- Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) on CNN's State of the Union."That is a very silly thing to say, David. The Tea Party are responsible for just about every Republican who was elected around the country."

-- Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) on "Meet the Press" when asked if Tea Party candidates like Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle cost Republicans control of the Senate.

"Look, on Tuesday this was a lot bigger than Nancy Pelosi. We lost over 607 state legislators. Nineteen state legislative bodies switched control from Democrats to Republicans. We lost a lot of governorships. What this was all about, and understandably so, was a referendum on 9.5 percent unemployment and a feeling that we had not made enough progress."

-- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on "State of the Union."

"I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I'd probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let's get them more in line, and let's find savings. Let's hire no new federal workers."

-- Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) on "This Week."

"I'd be willing to consider it. The problem is it doesn't save any money. It's an argument about discretion. What we really need to do, Bob, is to concentrate on reducing spending and reducing debt. And this debate doesn't save any money, which is why it's, kind of, exasperating to some of us who really want to cut spending and get the federal government's discretionary accounts under control."

-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on "Face the Nation" talking about a proposal to end earmarks.

"[I]t's put up or shut up time for our party."

-- Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) on "Meet the Press."

The "60 Minutes" Interview in 60 Seconds

President Obama and "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft have been doing one-on-one interviews since the Democratic primaries. The mostly softball sessions have become one of Obama's preferred outlets for TV interviews.

The post-election edition, though, seemed different. Neither Kroft nor Obama had the expectant twinkle that had animated past exchanges. Of course, Obama has seemed to be dragging even before the election.

Part of the problem on Sunday seemed to be that Obama hung tough on his line that the election results weren't a referendum on his agenda but instead an expression of generalized economic concern - that the result was unavoidable because his predecessor's policies made the current economic stagnation unavoidable.

The closest Obama came to allowing that Americans may not have liked his ambitious agenda was saying that his national health insurance law proved "a little more costly" politically than the president had expected.

The line avoids directly blaming voters, but suggests that fear and privation caused Americans to act irrationally. It lets Obama and his political team off the hook, suggesting that their nuance and subtlety cannot be appreciated during periods of persistently high unemployment.

Power Play might suggest that it is a political approach of limited value that works only when conditions are good or when they are going very badly for the other party. In fact, almost any politician can succeed under either of those circumstances.

Kroft seemed almost ready to say so himself.

The following exchange is indicative:

Steve Kroft: "Is this defeat a reflection on your leadership?

President Obama: "I think that what happened over the course of two years was that we had to take a series of big emergency steps quickly, and most of them in the first six months of my administration. Each of them had a big price tag. And people looked at that and they said, ‘Boy, this feels as if there's a huge expansion of government.'"

Steve Kroft: "Well, it was a huge expansion of government."

President Obama: "What I didn't effectively, I think, drive home is that we were taking these steps not because of some theory that we wanted to expand government. It was because we had an emergency situation..."

Obama's Day (and Night)

With the 10-and-a-half hour time difference between Washington and New Delhi, President Obama has already had most of his day, which included his private meeting with his Indian host, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The talks apparently included some pointed exchanges about Pakistan, because Singh came out swinging. He told reporters that he and Obama agreed on the need to resolve the conflict between the two countries, including the Kashmir Province. But, Singh also denounced Pakistan's "terror-induced coercion" and said "Pakistan cannot talk with India while the terrorist machinery is still active on its soil."

So he's saying it may be a while...

The two big moments for the day will be Obama's speech to the Indian Parliament and a state dinner in his honor.

Who Will Lead DSCC?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters he is taking a pass on a return engagement at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he led to successes in 2006 and 2008, to devote himself to an effort to get Democrats to "refocus on the middle class."

With Schumer out, Senate Democrats are in a hard way. The 2012 cycle has 21 Democratic-held seats up for election, making the DSCC more important, but finding someone who is a big fundraiser, from a safe seat and not up for election this cycle is proving difficult.

Republicans don't have the same concerns. All signs are that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will be back for another two-year stint as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Contested Results Roundup

Elections officials start counting write-in ballots today in the remaining undecided Senate contest - the intra-party scuffle in Alaska. "Write in" leads Republican Joe Miller by 13,439 votes, but how many of those express a clear intent to vote for Lisa Murkowski will now be in the hands of elections officials and lawyers.

Nine House races remain undecided, with Republicans currently leading in five. That would bring the party's net gain to 65 seats.

Politics on FOX Today

On "America's Newsroom with Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer":

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) in the 9 a.m. hour.

Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller will in the 10 a.m. hour.

On "Your World with Neil Cavuto" in the 4 p.m. hour:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA)

"On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" in the 10 p.m. hour:

Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Rep Greg Walden (R-OR)

(All times Eastern/Guests as scheduled)