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Sarah Palin leans forward on 2012 bid

1. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gave her strongest indication to date that she is seriously considering a run for president in an interview with the New York Times, a move that could freeze an already slow-starting race.

"I'm engaged in the internal deliberations candidly, and having that discussion with my family, because my family is the most important consideration here," Palin said in an hour-long(!) interview with reporter Robert Draper. Later, Palin said: "I've never shied away from a battle....I'll put principle before politics."

Palin acknowledged that if she did decide to run she would need to "bring in more people" to build a national organization and that she would have to spend time "proving my record" to voters.

Palin's willingness to speak openly about her interest and honestly assess her strengths and weaknesses is rightly read as a bit of message-sending to the other potential candidates that she is very serious about the race.

(As Draper notes in his piece, Palin, as a former journalist and a current media phenomenon, is highly attuned to the impact her words/tweets/Facebook messages have. It's hard to imagine then that Palin's decision to discuss her interest in the race was an accident.)

Palin's statements to Draper -- as well as her sit-down with ABC's Barbara Walters -- are in keeping with other recent signals she has sent that a 2012 bid is very much a possibility. (Go back and watch her speech to the Iowa Republican party in September -- it's been clear from that address forward that she might actually run.)

Every other potential candidate in the race is watching Palin's public pronouncements with interest. As we wrote in our first 2012 presidential Line last week, Palin is a -- if not the -- prime mover in the contest. She acts, others react.

Why? Because although Palin has a skeletal -- at best -- organization and a penchant for operating out of personal pique rather than political calculation, she is the only genuine star in the Republican field.

That means that if Palin runs, she will dominate the media coverage of the race -- blotting out the sun for lesser known candidates. And, even now as she considers the contest, all of the coverage her deliberations are sure to receive make it more difficult for other candidates to step into the limelight.

Whether or not she runs -- or whether or not she can win -- Palin will almost certainly have an outsized influence in determining the identity of the party's nominee in 2012. More and more lately it appears as though she wants to be that nominee.

2. Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller may still pursue a recount, despite the Associated Press calling the race for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) on Wednesday.

Appearing on Fox News Channel shortly after the race was called by the AP, Miller continued to cast doubt on the vote-counting process and said he will wait for all military votes to be counted before deciding how to proceed.

"The voters in the state of Alaska expect there to be integrity in the process; we are going to pursue that," Miller said.

Miller has suggested that Murkowski was favored because the write-in ballots were counted by hand while his votes were counted by machine.

"The machine count historically has had inaccuracies involved in it," he said. "We want to make sure going forward that the state of Alaska imposes the statutory standard, that we don't end up having the same sort of thing this race, with an unelected bureaucrat making the call."

The state does not provide for a hand recount - only one conducted by optical scan. Also, Miller would have to pay for it since he is currently well outside the threshold for an automatic recount.

Murkowski, meanwhile, declared victory late Wednesday, telling a crowd in Anchorage that it made history.

She would be only the second Senate candidate to win a a write-in campaign, joining South Carolina's Strom Thurmond, who did it in 1954.

"Against all odds, we as Alaskans, together, made history," Murkowski said.

3. Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb may still be weighing whether to run for reelection, but if he does take the plunge, he'll start out with a lead, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling.

The poll showed Webb leading by four points in a rematch with former Sen. George Allen (R), who widely expected to run. Webb was at 49 percent to Allen's 45 percent.

Webb's lead grows even bigger if Allen doesn't jump in the race. The incumbent leads two statewide elected Republicans - Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli - by double digits.

Should Webb opt not to run for reelection, the poll suggests Democrats have a good alternative in Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine. Kaine would lead Allen 50 percent to 44 percent and would hold even larger leads over Bolling and Cuccinelli.

The poll also tested outgoing Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who trailed Allen by five points and was within the margin of error against Bolling and Cuccinelli.

Previously released results from the poll showed President Obama holds an edge in the 2012 GOP presidential race in the state, despite its voters having cast out three of its six Democratic congressmen this month and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) winning the state's top job in an open seat race last year.

4. West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who over the summer considered but ultimately decided against running in the special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), now says that she's not closing the door on a potential 2012 challenge against the Democrat who won the seat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

"I'm not ruling it out by any stretch," Capito told The Hill newspaper of a potential 2012 run against Manchin. "But I have given no thought to it."

Capito also didn't rule out a bid for the governor's mansion. Former state Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin (D) was sworn in as governor on Monday, succeeding Manchin, who stepped down from the governorship late last week. A special election will be held for the governorship, but it's currently unclear whether that election will take place in 2011 or 2012. Capito said that she would not run if the race is held in 2011.

Manchin, who was sworn in as a senator on Monday, has already come under fire from Republicans, a sign that he'll likely have a tough re-election bid in a state where President Obama and national Democrats remain deeply unpopular.

"Less than 24 hours after taking the oath of office, Joe Manchin broke his promise to West Virginians by throwing his full support behind Harry Reid and President Obama's job-killing anti-coal agenda in Washington," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brian Walsh said in a statement.

Manchin on Tuesday told reporters on a conference call that he had been assured by Reid that cap-and-trade legislation will not be on the table during the next Congress, and reiterated his commitment to fighting federal environmental regulations.

5. Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who announced earlier this week that he is running for re-election despite rumors to the contrary, released a poll on Wednesday showing that his job approval ratings top those of any other politician statewide.

The poll, which was conducted by American Viewpoint for Lugar's campaign, showed the senator with a job approval rating of 66 percent among likely voters, the highest among a group of 16 Indiana and national political figures tested. Mitch Daniels, the state's popular Republican governor and potential 2012 presidential contender, had an approval rating of 59 percent.

The survey also showed two of Lugar's potential GOP primary challengers clocking in with dismal approval ratings. State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) had an approval rating of 14 percent and state Sen. Mike Delph's (R) approval rating was only seven percent. Both Mourdock and Delph are rumored to be eying bids against Lugar, who is seeking his seventh term. No primary match-ups were released in the poll.

Lugar has come under criticism from potential challengers and grassroots conservatives for working across the aisle and casting votes in favor of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Some had speculated that Lugar might not seek another term in light of the tough challenge he faces, but the fact that his office sought quickly put those rumors to rest is a sign that the six-term incumbent is serious about his re-election bid.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | November 18, 2010; 7:02 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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