Obama, the Least Lame President?

… The lame-duck phenomenon has changed. In our new political marketplace, the decline of powerful party organizations and the rise of hyperpartisan politics mean that presidents have much less political capital even at the height of their terms. At the same time, they have unprecedented capacity for unilateral executive authority. The great constraints on using that authority are re-election and the midterm congressional elections. But once those are over, the new end-of-term president is not a lame duck anymore. He is a new and more muscular animal altogether. CONT.

Ian Ayres & John Fabian Witt (Yale Law School), New York Times

Hillary Clinton *drops* to a 49-point lead for the Democrats’ 2016 nomination

The year 2014 brought a mixed bag for Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes. Her popularity continued to decline, her book tour drew mixed reviews (along with her book), and some in the liberal wing of the part are urging Elizabeth Warren to challenge her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But her status as most prohibitive Democratic front-runner in history has not changed. CONT.

Scott Clement, Washington Post

Jeb Bush Shapes Republicans’ 2016 Matchups

When it comes to products, sports or politics, matchups matter. There’s a premium for quality, but whom you’re selling to or competing against often affects outcomes.

That’s a useful framework for assessing the 2016 Republican presidential contest at this early stage. CONT.

Albert R. Hunt, Bloomberg View

Mokrzycki, former AP polling director, dies at 52

Mike Mokrzycki, a former journalist and election polling specialist at The Associated Press who later started his own survey research business, died of an apparent heart attack, his wife said. He was 52. …

In 1994, Mokrzycki began coordinating exit poll analyses throughout the United States, training reporters and editors nationwide on how to analyze poll data. He went on to become the founding director of the AP’s polling unit. CONT.

AP

For Obama, a good December, but hard choices lie ahead

… Obama’s political team has long believed that the unilateral actions he is taking will reinforce support within the coalition that has twice elected him — a coalition they see as expanding over time due to demographic changes. His actions, they hope, will put Republicans in an uncomfortable position politically.

There are risks to all this. He is still in a weakened position. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, taken before the action on Cuba, puts his overall approval rating at an unimpressive 41 percent, in the range where it’s been stuck for most of 2014. CONT.

Dan Balz, Washington Post

Also Not Playing This Week

Also Now Not Playing This Week — Campaign 2016: The Dark Money Awakens CONT.

Brian McFadden, The Strip, New York Times

Brian McFadden (NYT)

Brian McFadden (NYT)

Cuban-Americans split on Obama’s Cuba policy

Cuban-Americans nationwide are almost evenly divided over support for the embargo and for President Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba, according to a new poll that shows a vast generational divide in reaction to this week’s historic announcement. CONT.

Marc Caputo & Joey Flechas, Miami Herald

Why white evangelicals rule the midterms

… Many outsiders assume that evangelical mobilization is a rather top-down affair: pastors and national elites tell evangelicals to get out and vote for conservatives. But I discovered that a much broader set of volunteer or “lay” religious leaders play a key role in weaving politics into local religious life. The Sunday School teacher who makes off-handed derogatory remarks about “liberals.” The small group host with the portrait of George W. Bush on her fridge. The pro-life friend at church who reminds you to get out and vote this November—and to remember that the Democrats are for abortion, Republicans are for life.

These local opinion leaders translate national conservative messages into the everyday social worlds of evangelical churches. I call them “captains” in the Culture War, because they are embedded in the everyday lives of their followers. CONT.

Lydia Bean (PICO National Network), The Monkey Cage

The decline of the Cuban American hard-liners

President Obama’s announcement Wednesday of steps to reestablish diplomatic relations and liberalize economic ties with Cuba signals the continued decline of a once politically formidable bloc: Cuban American hard-liners. The product of demographic and opinion trends that have been building for over two decades, these policy changes became timely following the results of the recent congressional elections. CONT.

Ben Bishin (UC Riverside), The Monkey Cage

Jeb Bush Might Have A Tea Party Problem In 2016

… What’s the tea party’s problem with Bush? He’s staked out relatively liberal positions on the Common Core education standards and immigration reform, which leaders of the tea party movement deeply despise. More generally, tea party voters prefer outsiders, and Bush is about as insider-y as it gets, with a brother and father having occupied the Oval Office. CONT.

Harry Enten, FiveThirtyEight