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The pessimistic public (and what it means)

1. Americans may have put Republicans back in charge of the House and strengthened the party's hand in the Senate in the 2010 elections, but there is little excitement about the results or optimism for the future, according to a new Pew poll.

Less than half -- 48 percent -- described themselves as "happy" that Republicans took over the House, while 34 percent said they were "unhappy" about the power change. Those numbers compare very unfavorably to how people felt when Democrats took over the House in 2006 (60 percent happy/24 percent unhappy) and when Republicans reclaimed the House majority in 1994 (57 percent happy/ 31 percent unhappy).

That lack of genuine excitement about the election is paired with an uncertainty about Republican policies for the future. Forty-one percent approved of the GOP's plans while 37 percent disapproved -- far below the 50 percent approve/21 percent disapprove for Democratic plans when they took over in the 2006 election.

And, there's similar pessimism about the prospects for bipartisanship in the poll; just one in five (22 percent) said they expect that relations between Republicans and Democrats will improve while 28 percent said they would get worse and 48 percent said they would stay about the same.

The downcast data -- a Gallup survey showed just 17 percent approve of the job Congress is doing -- is in keeping with polling done in the run-up to the 2010 election in which both the Democratic and Republican parties were viewed far more unfavorably than favorably by voters.

The Republicans' victory then is best understood as a rejection of Democratic policies by voters rather than a warm embrace of the policies put forward by the GOP.

The election changed little in the overall outlook of most Americans who continue to struggle in their relationship with government -- what it should do, when and how much.

That lack of certitude leads to anxiety which leads to volatility. And that means more surprises on the electoral front between now and 2012.

2. The counting of write-in ballots in the Alaska Senate race continued on Thursday, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) maintaining her lead over attorney Joe Miller (R).

With 140 of 438 precincts counted as of Thursday afternoon Alaska Time, 30,023 write-in ballots had been tabulated. Of them, 26,822 (about 89 percent) were counted for Murkowski without challenge; 2,506 ballots (8.4 percent) were counted for Murkowski but challenged by Miller's camp; and 460 (1.5 percent) were successfully challenged by Miller. The count is expected to last into the weekend and perhaps beyond.

Murkowski's camp said it was pleased with the way the ballot count was progressing. But a Murkowski spokesperson also accused the Miller team of trying to inflate the challenged-ballot count, potentially in an effort to cast doubt over who the winner of the election was. "It's clear that they are trying to inflate the challenged ballot count," the spokesperson told the Alaska Dispatch.

Meanwhile, a judge who had recused himself from deciding on Miller's lawsuit regarding the ballot count explained on Thursday that he did so because he had a "negative opinion" of Miller. It turns out that the judge was the chief judge under whom Miller had worked as a part-time government attorney.

Miller's fate almost certainly hangs on an expected ruling next week on whether write-in ballots in which Murkowski's name was spelled incorrectly should be allowed to count for her. If Miller loses that challenge, it's hard to see him making up the ground he needs to win.

3. Outgoing Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R) will take a six-month sabbatical before deciding whether to challenge Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) in 2012, she told the Associated Press.

Lingle's last day in office, after two terms, is Dec. 6, and there have long been questions about what her political future holds.

"I've been in public life for 30 years," Lingle said. "I think it's important for anyone who has lived this kind of a public life and intense life where they are making decisions every day, to have time for reflection, more time for reading, more time to create a context for Hawaii's future."

Still relatively young at 57 years old and having raised $6 million for her most recent reelection campaign in 2006, Lingle is Republicans' best prospect to run against Akaka, Outgoing Rep. Charles Djou (R) is a other option.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the 86-year-old Akaka doesn't seek another term, in which case Lingle would almost certainly be more likely to run.

Making Lingle's task more difficult might be the fact that she would be running on the same ballot as President Obama, who carried his home state with 72 percent of the vote in 2008.

4. Defeated U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias (D) is considering a run for mayor of Chicago -- a candidacy that if it happens could pit him against former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

The Chicago Sun-Times's Lynn Sweet reports that Giannoulias will meet with a group of Chicago aldermen on Friday as the aldermen seek a viable alternative to Emanuel in the mayor's race - the primary for which will be held in less than three months.

Organized labor is also encouraging Giannoulias to think about the race, according to an informed Chicago source. It remains to be seen how serious Giannoulias is about the race.

"I have received a lot of calls from aldermen and donors that I was absolutely not expecting," Giannoulias told Chicago Business, confirming that a poll funded by labor and shared with him was encouraging.

Others in the running for mayor are Rep. Danny Davis , attorney Gery Chico, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and state Sen. James Meeks. All are Democrats.

Giannoulias fell to Sen.-elect Mark Kirk (R) by less than two percent last week in a race that left neither candidate looking good. But Giannoulias performed well in the Chicago area and could have a nice base of support to work with.

Emanuel is set to make his candidacy official on Sunday.

5. If it's Friday, it's time for the "Live Fix" chat -- an hour's worth of questions and answers on politics, music, sports, food, coffee and anything else you can think of.

You can submit questions in advance or just follow along in real time starting at 11 a.m. See you there!

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | November 12, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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