Whether or not a majority of Americans -- or Members of Congress -- believe that President Obama's victory amounted to a mandate, it's clear that the incumbent's hand has been significantly strengthened by what happened on Nov. 6.

In the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, President Obama is at 54 percent approval -- the highest he has been in almost two years. (Obama was briefly at 56 percent approval in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden.) And Obama's approval rating when it comes to handling the economy is at 50 percent for the first time since June 2010.

As importantly, Obama's victory has strongly consolidated Democrats behind him while the defeat of Mitt Romney has left Republicans without any obvious foil, leaving the job of countering Obama to the decidedly unpopular congressional wing of the party.

In the Post-ABC poll, 90 percent of Democrats approve of the job Obama is doing while just 45 percent of Republicans feel the same way about GOPers in Congress. (Somewhat amazingly, a majority -- 51 percent -- of self-identified Republicans disapprove of the job their congressional leaders are doing.)

Those numbers bear out just how hard House Speaker John Boehner's job actually is.  Not only does he have to try to combat a president who has clearly benefited in the eyes of the public from winning the election, but he also must cope with the fact that there are a large number of Republicans who simply don't like what he (or any GOP members of Congress) are doing.

We continue to believe that this political dynamic makes a deal on the fiscal cliff likely, due to the fact that to not make a deal would throw Republicans into a PR fight that they have no reasonable hope of winning. Of course, we have also heard it argued that a deal seen as an abandonment of conservative principles could cost the party a portion of its base and would, therefore, not be worth doing.

Rock, meet hard place. Winning a presidential election has its benefits for a party -- most notably that you have a recently-validated leader of your side even as your opponents are scrambling to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it without any clear sense of who's in charge.

Or, put more bluntly: To the winner goes the political spoils.

Report on Benghazi points to State Department leaders: A new independent report on the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, blames "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department" for a lack of security at the mission in Benghazi, according to the Washington Post's Anne Gearan.

The report specifically highlights the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Near East Affairs. It did not recommend punishment for any leaders.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was set to testify Thursday in front of a House committee but has withdrawn after suffering a concussion.

Republicans cool to Boehner's Plan B: Republicans and Democrats finally agree on something -- that they don't like Boehner's so-called "Plan B."

Boehner's plan to hold a vote on allowing the Bush tax cuts for income over $1 million to expire and renewing the rest was quickly dismissed by Democrats and also some Republicans.

"I just continue to believe that our number one priority should be to grow our economy as rapidly possible," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said. "It really is the only way to get out of the real fiscal cliff which is that faces our country. And I continue to know that raising taxes on anybody is not a good way to generate economic growth.”

Added Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Group: "But I still keep coming back to the fact that if we actually vote and say some taxes are going to go up on some Americans, I think that’s problematic. We are the party that says you should not raise taxes.”

Boehner's proposal is aimed at preventing people's taxes from going up if a "fiscal cliff" deal can't be reached by the end of the year.

It may seem like a more conservative-friendly alternative to Obama's offer, which has moved the threshold on allowing tax cuts to expire from $250,000 to now $400,000. But to a lot of Republicans, it would still be voting for an increase in tax rates, which just about all of them have sworn not to do.


Obama on Wednesday will name Vice President Biden as head of the administration's working group on gun violence.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) says school districts should have the right to arm their teachers.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) wants better flow of information when it comes to background checks on gun buyers.

Jewish leaders are raising concerns about potential Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel's comments about Israel. And the Post's editorial board says he shouldn't be nominated.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who already replaced Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) as Senate President Pro Tempore, will also get his gavel as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has very bad numbers, and a majority of Republicans want him to face a challenge in the primary.

good point from Shira Toeplitz: Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) may be the likely appointee for Inouye's seat and the senator's hand-picked successor, but her seat is also a potential pickup for the GOP, which held it for a short time in 2010 after another special election.


"Eric Cantor plays loyal lieutenant to Boehner" -- Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

"Out of Office, Republicans Turn to Bush for Inspiration" -- Beth Reinhard, National Journal

"A rough 24 hours for the White House" -- Ezra Klein, Washington Post