Republican Committee Begins Midterm Election Cycle in the Black

The Republican National Committee, which started the 2012 campaign cycle in deep financial distress, will begin the current period without any debt and with $4.7 million in cash on hand.

“We have important work to do, guided by the upcoming recommendations of the Growth and Opportunity Project, as we take our message of economic opportunity to every state and community,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement to be released Thursday evening. “With the continued support of our donors and sound financial stewardship, we will move swiftly to renew our party and grow our ranks so that we can win more elections — in 2013, 2014 and beyond.”

The party committee raised about $2.3 million in December, following the presidential election. The R.N.C. raised a total of $378 million during the presidential campaign cycle, from 2010 to 2012, officials will report.

Republicans started the last campaign season in 2011 in a $24 million hole after financial difficultis under Michael S. Steele, the previous chairman. The intensity of the presidential campaign helped the committee erase the debt.

That financial position will help in the coming two years, as Republicans battle during the midterm elections for a majority in the Senate and to retain control of the House.

It will also help provide Republicans some of the resources they will need to confront what the leadership has said are deficiencies in the party’s ground operation and turnout efforts.

President Obama’s campaign proved to be far more effective at identifying voters and getting them to the polls, using sophisticated technology that Republicans have admitted they do not have. Building that infrastructure ahead of the 2016 campaign will be critical — and costly.

The Democratic National Committee has not yet reported its fund-raising for the end of last year. In the future, some of the Democratic donors may choose to contribute to a new, nonpro! fit grass-roots organization called Organizing for Action, set up by Mr. Obama’s former campaign advisers.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

In Massachusetts, House Democrats Vie to Replace Kerry in Senate

BOSTON — Representative Stephen Lynch began his first day as a candidate for the Senate on Thursday by casting himself as a workingman of humble origins who could connect with average voters better than his fellow Democrat, Representative Edward J. Markey, whom he will face in a primary in April.

A new 60-second campaign video introduces Mr. Lynch, 57, a former ironworker from South Boston, to voters as someone who pulled himself up by the bootstraps.

“He has never forgotten where he came from,” the narrator says, noting that Mr. Lynch voted against the Wall Street bailout. The video ends with this tag line: “He’ll go to Washington to stand up, not fit in.”

In advace of a three-city announcement tour Thursday, Mr. Lynch indicated in a radio interview with WBUR that the workingman image was a central part of his campaign strategy.

He said he was running because he could bring that perspective to the exclusive Senate club. He described himself as having “slapped on a pair of work boots” and growing up in housing projects.

“I’ve struggled with a lot of the things that average people struggle with,” Mr. Lynch said, suggesting that Mr. Markey, 66, had not.

Mr. Lynch, who started in Congress in 2001, suggested that Mr. Markey’s 38 years in Washington had distanced him from average people.

“I’m not sure he’s ever had a connection with the private sector or worked at a job that most people relate to, and I think there’s something missing,” Mr. Lynch said of Mr. Markey. “I don’t think electing someone who’s been in! Washington for 38 years is going to provide that connection to average people.”

Mr. Markey has about $3 million saved up for the race as well as the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Mr. Lynch enters the race with about $750,000 on hand and no major endorsements.

Mr. Lynch indicated that he would try to use Mr. Markey’s “advantages” against him.

“I’m not going to try to purchase the election,” he said, “I’m going to try to earn it.”

As for Mr. Markey’s backing by the national Democrats, Mr. Lynch said he thought the people of Massachusetts would want to pick their own senator rather than have the Washington establishment pick it for them.

“Shame on us to allow someone to clear the field, box out all the other candidates and buy the election,” Mr. Lynch said in Springfield on Thursday morning as he began his announcement tour.

Mr. Lynch is the most conservative member of he state’s Congressional delegation and has a record of voting against abortion rights. Aware that most voters in deep-blue Massachusetts support abortion rights, Mr. Lynch suggested he would not try to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. “I’ve never viewed attacking Roe v. Wade as part of any solution, and I certainly wouldn’t do that in the United States Senate,” he said. He said he supported the use of birth control.

Mr. Markey released a statement in the afternoon, saying, “I welcome Stephen Lynch into the race for U.S. Senate.” He said he hoped Mr. Lynch would join him in a ! pledge to! discourage outside special interests from running expensive ads in the campaign.

He also indicated that his strategy against Mr. Lynch would be to emphasize his own more liberal voting record, which he believes is more in line with the state’s Democratic tradition.

“We need a senator who continues to stand up for the progressive values that John Kerry and Massachusetts believe in and who’s focused on creating the jobs our economy needs,” Mr. Markey said in his statement. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”

The primary is set for April 30. So far, no Republican candidate has announced for the Senate seat, which was vacated this week by John Kerry upon his confirmation as secretary of state. Former Senator Scott P. Brown could be the Republican candidate for the special election, set for June 25, but he has not indicated his intentions.

Biden Presses Senate Democrats to Support Gun Safety Agenda

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. visited with Senate Democrats on Thursday to encourage them to support President Obama’s agenda to curb gun violence, and insisted that the administration would continue to push renewal of an assault weapons ban even though such a measure faces considerable odds on Capitol Hill.

A day after the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine what, if any, measures could receive enough votes to pass both chambers of Congress, Mr. Biden said that the point of view on guns had been indelibly altered by themass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month.

“There are things that we can do — demonstrably can do — that have virtually zero impact on your Second Amendment right to own a weapon for both self-defense and recreation that can save some lives,” Mr. Biden told reporters after a lunchtime meeting with Senate Democrats.

Mr. Biden said that he had met with scores of interest groups, from churches to gun rights organizations to law enforcement officials, and that he had seen a perceptible change in favor of some gun regulations. “The visual image of those 20 children being riddled with bullets” had traumatized the nation, he said.

On Immigration, a Glimpse of the Devilish Details

The devil is in the details, goes the cliché that has been trotted out repeatedly ever since a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled on Monday a general set of principles for an overhaul of the immigration system.

And in a news conference Thursday afternoon, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the group, offered a glimpse of one of the more vexing details that still needs to be worked out. With Republicans insisting that a pathway to citizenship be contingent on a securing of the nation’s borders, who will decide when the borders are secure, and what metrics will used

Mr. Schumer first referred to the group’s bipartisan blueprint, which calls for “a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendatio regarding when the bill’s security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.”

“The purpose of that committee,” he said, “is to get input from them, to have them be part of the process, for them to understand we’re not trying to roll over them but get a great deal of input. But, as Senator McCain points out, it would be unconstitutional to delegate things to that committee, and what we’ve proposed is that the D.H.S. secretary, whomever it is, will have final say on whatever metrics we propose.”

Mr. Schumer continued, “Now we think those metrics will be quite objective.” He added: “There will be objectives so there’s not that much leeway. But what we envision is that, because they’d be objective, the committee, the advisory committee and D.H.S. will in all likelihood be agreed.”

Follow Ashley Parker on Twitter at @AshleyRParker.

White House Discontinues Jobs Council

President Obama has said creating jobs remains his No. 1 priority as he begins his second term. But on Thursday, the White House shut down an outside panel of corporate chieftains who advised Mr. Obama on ways to reinvigorate the job market.

The panel, known as the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, had a two-year mandate, which expired Thursday. The administration chose not to renew it, saying that the president would find new ways to reach out to business executives.

“The work of the job council was very valuable,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, at his daily briefing. “While the president didn’t agree with all of itsrecommendations, he agreed with many of them and acted on a number of them.”

Mr. Carney said the White House has spoken directly to business executives about the need to reach a fiscal deal, as well as about the campaign to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. Mr. Obama will hold more calls on those matters next week, Mr. Carney said.

Critics, however, said the White House never made use of the council. It met only four times in two years, the last time more than a year ago. They also noted that the White House was discontinuing it even though the nation’s jobless rate remained at 7.8 percent and the economy contracted slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the presid! ent’s disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said in a statement. “Whether ignoring the group or rejecting its recommendations, the president treated his jobs council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation.”

Mr. Carney disputed that characterization, noting that the administration had acted on proposals by the council to retrofit government buildings for commercial purposes. The council, he said, also set in motion a plan to give businesspeople streamlined access to information about how to obtain financing from the Small Business Administration.

The chairman of the council was Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. Its members included Steve Case, the media investor; Kenneth I. Chenault, the chairman of American Express; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; and Penny Pritzker, a Chicago philanthropist who was a major fundraiser for Mr. Obama’s campaign and whose name has recently surfaced as a possible candidate for commerce secretary.

White House Discontinues Jobs Council

President Obama has said creating jobs remains his No. 1 priority as he begins his second term. But on Thursday, the White House shut down an outside panel of corporate chieftains who advised Mr. Obama on ways to reinvigorate the job market.

The panel, known as the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, had a two-year mandate, which expired Thursday. The administration chose not to renew it, saying that the president would find new ways to reach out to business executives.

“The work of the job council was very valuable,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, at his daily briefing. “While the president didn’t agree with all of itsrecommendations, he agreed with many of them and acted on a number of them.”

Mr. Carney said the White House has spoken directly to business executives about the need to reach a fiscal deal, as well as about the campaign to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. Mr. Obama will hold more calls on those matters next week, Mr. Carney said.

Critics, however, said the White House never made use of the council. It met only four times in two years, the last time more than a year ago. They also noted that the White House was discontinuing it even though the nation’s jobless rate remained at 7.8 percent and the economy contracted slightly in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“To understand the abysmal nature of our economic recovery, look no further than the presid! ent’s disinterest in learning lessons from actual job creators,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said in a statement. “Whether ignoring the group or rejecting its recommendations, the president treated his jobs council as more of a nuisance than a vehicle to spur job creation.”

Mr. Carney disputed that characterization, noting that the administration had acted on proposals by the council to retrofit government buildings for commercial purposes. The council, he said, also set in motion a plan to give businesspeople streamlined access to information about how to obtain financing from the Small Business Administration.

The chairman of the council was Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. Its members included Steve Case, the media investor; Kenneth I. Chenault, the chairman of American Express; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; and Penny Pritzker, a Chicago philanthropist who was a major fundraiser for Mr. Obama’s campaign and whose name has recently surfaced as a possible candidate for commerce secretary.

In Virginia, Cuccinelli Makes a Conservative Case for Governor

One way to think of the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia is as Son of Santorum.

Ken Cuccinelli, the Commonwealth’s attorney general and presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee, holds views on social issues and the malign effect of federal programs like Medicare that echo those of Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who was the last conservative standing in the way of Mitt Romney’s Republican presidential nomination last year.

In a forthcoming book, Mr. Cuccinelli portrays popular programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid as reducing people to government dependents, a ploy that politicians use to amass power. He refers to citizens who receive benefits as “the ones getting the goodies,’’ an echo of Mr. Romney’s notorious “47 percent” comment.

But another way to view Mr. Cuccinelli, who is in a dead heat in polls with his Democratic rival nine months before the election, is as an insurgent challenger to the leaders of the Republican Prty.

Many party leaders have disavowed Mr. Romney’s secretly recorded remark – about Americans so dependent on government they would not vote for him – as divisive and a factor in his defeat by President Obama. At recent party conclaves and in Congress, many Republicans have expressed an inclination to compromise on immigration and tax increases and to seek an inclusive tone on issues of concern to women and gay Americans, in hopes of minimizing future electoral losses.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s old-time religion is either a reminder of last year’s road to ruin or a call to return to grass-roots basics.

He has never hidden his brand of conservatism. He brought an early state lawsuit against Mr. Obama’s health care law, supported a Constitutional amendment to rescind the citizenship of children born to illegal immigrants and told Virginia’s public universities they could not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The appeal of such view! s in a post-Romney world will be tested in a battleground state this year that twice elected Mr. Obama – although turnout in an off-year likely will be much different.

Mr. Cuccinelli’s views are laid out in a new book he co-wrote, “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty,’’ to be published on Feb. 12. Excerpts appeared on Thursday in news accounts, including Mr. Cuccinelli accusing George W. Bush of using taxpayer dollars “to buy seniors’ votes” in his 2004 re-election by expanding Medicare benefits.

“Sometimes bad politicians set out to grow government in order to increase their own power and influence,’’ Mr. Cuccinelli writes, according to an excerpt quoted by The Washington Post. “This phenomenon doesn’t just happen in Washington; it happens at all levels of government. Th amazing this is that they often grow government without protest from citizens, and sometimes they even get buy-in from citizens — at least from the ones getting the goodies.’’

In a Quinnipiac University poll in mid-January, Mr. Cucinelli was supported by 39 percent of registered Virginia voters, compared with 40 percent for his expected Democratic rival, Terry McAuliffe, a longtime fund-raiser and adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The poll found that neither candidate is well known to voters yet.

Follow Trip Gabriel on Twitter at @tripgabriel.

Introducing Hagel, Nunn and Warner Raise Specter of Tower Hearings

John Tower testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee in 1989.John Duricka/Associated Press John Tower testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee in 1989.

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since the Southern drawls of Senators Sam Nunn and John W. Warner echoed through a Senate hearing room as an embattled defense secretary nominee fought for his job.

In 1989, the two icons of the Armed Services Committee brawled over the nomination of John G. Twer to lead the Pentagon. Accused of womanizing and excessive drinking, Mr. Tower, himself a former chairman of the committee, was rejected by the full Senate along party lines.

But on Thursday, Mr. Warner, a Republican and former senator from Virginia, and Mr. Nunn, a Democrat and former senator from Georgia, returned to the committee room to urge the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.

Sitting on either side of Mr. Hagel, the two former colleagues hailed his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and a senator for 12 years. They both said the Senate should confirm him swiftly.

“I know that Chuck Hagel has a clear worldview and that it aligns with the mainstream of U.S. foreign and defense policy,” Mr. Nunn said, adding that “No one is perfect. We all know that. But Chuck Hagel comes as close as anyone I know to hav! ing all of these qualities.”

Mr. Warner offered what he called “a few words from the heart” about Mr. Hagel.

“Certain men are asked to take the point, which means to get out and lead in the face of the enemy,” Mr. Warner said. “Chuck Hagel did that as a sergeant in Vietnam. If confirmed, Chuck Hagel will do it again, this time not before a platoon but before every man and woman and the their families in the armed services.”

The return of the two men recalled the only time in more than 50 years that the Senate has formally rejected a president’s cabinet nominee.

President George Bush nominated Mr. Tower, a Texan, to run the Defense Department, but the nomination quickly became controversial amid repeated allegations of what was termed “hard drinking” and “sexual behaviors” that were documente in an F.B.I. investigation report.

During the hearing in February 1989 when the Armed Services Committee recommended that the Senate reject Mr. Tower by a vote of 11 to 9, Mr. Warner called the accusations “a cobweb of fact, fiction and fantasy.” Mr. Nunn, the chairman of the committee, called the allegations “serious” and said “the record of alcohol abuse by the nominee cannot be ignored.”

Another Democratic senator on the panel at the time, Carl Levin of Michigan, voted against Mr. Tower, citing conflict of interest problems and saying that, “I believe that it would be very difficult for Senator Tower to effectively address the serious revolving door and conflict of interest problems at the Department of Defense.”

More than two decades later, Mr. Levin is the chairman of the committee. He opened the hearing on Mr. Hagel’s confirmation by calling him an “old friend” and saying he is a person willing to give “unvarnished advice, a person of integrity and one who has a personal understanding of the consequences of decisions relative to the use of military force.”

In the years since Mr. Tower was rejected by the committee — and later, by the full Senate — defense secretaries have been approved without opposition in all but one occasion: President George W. Bush‘s nomination of Robert M. Gates, who was confirmed by a vote of 95 to 2.

This year is likely to be very different.

Several Republican senators have already pledged to vote against Mr. Hagel. On Thursday, Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, called Mr. Hagel “the wrong person to lead the Pentagon at this perilous and consequential time.”

Mr. Hagel has spent the last several weeks meeting privately with senators in the hopes of swaying a handful of Republicans before the full Senate votes.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Live Video of the Hagel Nomination Hearing

Live Video: Chuck Hagel appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, is appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday morning for what is likely to be a combative confirmation hearing focusing on Iran, Israel and the American military’s role in the world. White House officials say they remain confident about his prospects.

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Tip of the Week: Use Word on the Web

Even if you do not have Microsoft Word installed on your computer, you can edit and collaborate on Word documents others have sent or shared with you just by using your Web browser. One way to do this is with Microsoft’s free SkyDrive cloud service — and its included Office Web Apps versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. To open and edit the document, just log into your SkyDrive account through your Web browser and upload the file; SkyDrive users can also share files through the service.(If you use the SkyDrive desktop program, you can also drag the file into the SkyDrive folder to upload it.

Next, open the document from within the browser and click the Edit Document option in the SkyDrive menu bar. You can choose to edit the file in Microsoft Word (if you have it installed) or edit the document in the Word Web App — which is not as versatile as the full Word program, but can handle basi editing functions. Microsoft has more information on using SkyDrive and Office on its site.

Those using Gmail and Google can collaborate on Word files by using the Google Drive and Google Docs services or by opening Google Docs files in Microsoft Word. If you do not want to convert the Word file to the Google Docs format and only want to read it, you can view the document in its original format with the Google Drive Viewer. Google Drive Viewer can also preview more than 15 different file types, including Apple Pages documents, Ad! obe Illustrator artwork and AutoDesk AutoCAD files.