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* United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to become the next secretary of state. "If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities,” Rice wrote in a letter to President Obama. She had come under criticism from congressional Republicans over her response to the Sept. 11 attack in Libya that claimed the lives of four Americans. Obama said Rice will continue to serve as U.N. ambassador and as a “key member” of his national security team.

* Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) isn't ruling out challenging the state constitution to run for another term in office. Brewer was elected in 2010 after serving the last two years of now-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's term. “I haven’t ruled anything out,” Brewer said.

* Sen Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said he thinks Obama will get his way when it comes to the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. “He’s going to get his wish,” DeMint said in a Thursday interview. “I believe we’re going to be raising taxes and not just on the top earners.” DeMint will resign from the Senate in January to head the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation.

* Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) announced the names of several members who will serve in key leadership capacities at the committee during the 2014 cycle. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will be national chair for candidate services, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) will be national finance chair, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.)  will be D.C. finance chair, and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) will be national mobilization chair. In addition, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) will chair the "Frontline Program," the committee's incumbent protection program; Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) will chair the recruiting committee and Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will serve as vice chair; and Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) will be vice chairs of finance and head the committee's Business Council. "We need 17 seats to pick up the House. So we begin with an early universe of 30 districts where the incumbent [won by] less than 10 percent and an additional 18 districts that we think can perform better in an off year than an on year," Israel said on Thursday.


* Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has received his first Democratic challenger: Contractor/homebuilder Ed Marksberry. In 2010, Marksberry lost to Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) by 35 points.

* South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Shaheen (D) circulated an email on Thursday touting a recent poll that showed him with a slight lead over Gov. Nikki Haley (R). Shaheen lost to Haley by four points in 2010. While he isn't an official candidate for 2014 yet, he sure sounds interested. Haley's polling numbers suggest she could be vulnerable in two years.

* Haley hasn't yet named a successor to DeMint, but she had some fun on Facebook with Stephen Colbert, who's been faux-jockeying for the appointment. She also stirred some speculation when she tweeted out the lyrics to Adele’s “Rumour Has It." But her office said it had nothing to do with the Senate appointment.

* Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli III (R) are running about even in the 2013 Virginia governor's race, according to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). McAuliffe attracted the support of 43 percent of likely Virginia voters, while Cuccinelli got 42 percent support. The two are regarded as the clear frontrunners to get their party's nomination next year.



With Aaron Blake