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INSIDE POLITICS

The Washington Times' political blog.

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GOP gains 2 more House seats

House Republicans picked up two additional seats this week, winning in New York and Texas to give the party a net gain of 63 seats with two races still undecided. The GOP won in New York when Democratic-incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei conceded to Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle in their race for the District 25 seat. They were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday regarding 200 contested ballots, but Mr. Maffei, a first-time incumbent, conceded Tuesday when Ms. Buerkle's lead exceeded 550 ballots.

Huckabee not ceding the spotlight to Palin

With Sarah Palin flogging a new book and a new TV show, it's tough for other would-be 2012 Republican presidential candidates to squeeze their way into the picture -- but Mike Huckabee is trying. The former-governor-of-Arkansas-turned-FOX-News-talk-show-host was in Iowa over the weekend, talking to a gathering of evangelicals, doing interviews with the local press and connecting with GOP leaders. Then, on Monday, he made an appearance on "The View," where Joy Behar called him her "favorite Republican."

Virginia's Webb has lead in 2012 polling

Virginia Sen. Jim Web, Democrat, has an early lead in an potential rematch against former GOP Sen. George Allen and two other possible Republican candidates should Mr. Webb run for reelection, according to a new poll. The poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling also found that former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also would be a frontrunner in the 2012 race should he run. Mr. Webb, who defeated Mr. Allen in 2006 by less than 1 percent of the voe, would begin a campaign with a 49-to-45 lead.

Steny Hoyer makes light of new status

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, still smarting from the thumping Democrats took in the Nov. 2 congressional elections, showed off some well-received gallows humor during his weekly briefing with reporters. Mr. Hoyer, who come January will be forced out of his post when Republicans seize control of the House, pleaded with reporters not to ignore him during House Democrats exile to the minority party. "The test is going to be how many of you will be at the pen and pad (reporters briefing) that I have on January 5," joked the Maryland Democrat at the beginning of Thursday's media briefing. "I want to see all the loyalists here.

Sarah Palin says she can beat Obama

On a day of big political drama in Washington -- with Nancy Pelosi reasserting her leadership of the House Democrats and Republicans Mitch McConnell and House Speaker-designate John Boehner rebuffing the president -- Sarah Palin still manages to steal the spotlight. The former governor of Alaska, in a sit-down interview with Barbara Walters of ABC News, said she's still mulling over whether she will run for the presidency in 2012, but when asked if she could beat President Obama, she said "I believe so." ABC News posted an excerpt from the interview, which will run in full as part of Walters' Dec. 9 "10 Most Fascinating People" show. Speculation about Palin's presidential aspirations had been goosed earlier Wednesday when the New York Times posted online its big weekend magazine interview/profile of Palin, which offered a glimpse of the former governor's inner circle.

Sarah Palin sure sounds like she's running

The New York Times has posted online a huge Sarah Palin interview/profile coming out this weekend in the Sunday Magazine, and the former governor of Alaska talks openly about running for the presidency in 2012. The piece, by Bush biographer Robert Draper, offers a glimpse into Palin's life, her effort to rebound and reposition herself for 2012 and the tightly controlled circle of advisers helping her navigate the process.

Illinois Democrat concedes to tea partier

Illinois Democratic incumbent Rep. Melissa Bean has conceded to Republican challenger and "tea party" candidate Joe Walsh in the state's 8th district. Ms. Bean made the announcement Tuesday night and has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday. Mr. Walsh unofficially becomes the 84th freshman Republican in the House in January.

'Slurpee' summit postponed

The White House meeting scheduled for Thursday between President Obama and top congressional Democratic and Republican leaders has been postponed until November 30, according to the Obama administration. The administration said Tuesday night the meeting was rescheduled at the request of GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner due to scheduling conflicts in organizing their caucuses. The president wants to hold the bipartisan meeting to discuss national issues following the midterm elections, including such economic issues as the possible extension of 2001 and 2003 tax cuts set to expire January 1.

Reid taps Schumer to head new Dem post

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has tasked Sen. Charles E. Schumer to head a streamlined effort by Senate Democrats to develop policies and tout their accomplishments in the upcoming 112th Congress.

Palin's 'Alaska': Political misstep? Or masterstroke?

One writer at the "Boston Herald" had this response: "Embarrassing? You betcha!" In "Newsweek," though, author Shelley Ross called Sarah Palin's new reality show "a flash of political brilliance." The first episode of "Alaska," like all things Palin, has detractors and supporter talking different languages.

Democratic shake-up looks less likely

In the almost two weeks since the Nov. 2 elections, there's been a lot of speculation about how Washington Democrats would respond: Would the party move to the right by following the advice of Blue Dogs who want a more centrist leader than Rep. Nancy Pelosi? Would it tack to the left by voting down moderate Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, in his bid for a leadership position? With just a few days before the caucus votes on those leadership decisions, the answer is starting look like the Democrats will stand pat.

Tea party politicizing Dancing With the Stars?

Bristol Palin is one of the four finalists on "Dancing With the Stars," the No. 1 rated show in the country, a fact that has bedeviled some fans and critics. The 20-year-old daughter of the former governor of Alaska has consistently earned low scores from the show's on-camera judges, but those scores are combined, a la "American Idol," with the contestant's call-in vote, where Miss Palin is a juggernaut. The show's producers think tea party voters who back Sarah Palin have turned "Dancing With the Stars" into a referendum on the power of grass roots political muscle.

Tea party setback? Bachmann drops leadership bid

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, has ended her bid to become chairman of the Republican House Conference and now supports Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, who will likely get the post. "Jeb Hensarling has my enthusiastic support for his candidacy," Ms. Bachmann said Wednesday night. "Jeb has demonstrated his commitment to limited government, reduced spending and lower taxes and he will be a strong voice for the tea party’s call for these values." Mr. Hensarling has been the likely favorite for the job -- the fourth highest-ranking post for House Republicans -- since the party took control of the chamber in last week's elections.

Bush: Comfortable with 64

Well, he is in his sixth decade. And he is retired. Sort of. Former President George W. Bush, now 64, is the cover story on the upcoming issue of AARP Magazine, and he comes off as a reasonable but still spirited man who insists that he has no use for the limelight. Mr. Bush does not seem to fear aging, and his memory of eight years in office is still very fresh.