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ThinkFast: January 4, 2007

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"ThinkFast: January 4, 2007"

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A “wide-open race in both parties sparked a record turnout” in last night’s Iowa caucuses. Turnout for Democrats exceeded 220,000, compared to 124,000 who participated in 2004. On the Republican side, there were approximately 114,000 people, compared to the last contested Republican caucuses in 2000, which drew 87,666.

A new Labor Department report out this morning finds that employers added fewer jobs than expected in December while the unemployment rate shot up to a two-year high. The economic statistics were “much weaker” than Wall Street expectations.

Bloomberg writes that the halting progress of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R-CA) $14 billion-a-year plan to provide health insurance to everyone is showing the power of interest groups to resist change. “Businesses are fighting a new payroll tax to fund coverage.”

“The Bush administration is imposing restrictions on the ability of states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, in an effort to prevent them from offering coverage to families of modest incomes who, the administration argues, may have access to private health insurance.” The White House has placed similar restrictions on states for SCHIP.

Attorney General Mike Mukasey announced yesterday “that he’s appointing Chicago federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to the Attorney General’s advisory committee of U.S. attorneys.” As attorney general, Alberto Gonzales “did not re-appoint Fitzgerald to the advisory panel,” which counsels on law enforcement issues.

Yesterday was the last day on the job for Fran Townsend, Bush’s top homeland security advisor. “The White House has not announced any replacement, raising questions about the future of the position.” There is speculation that the office will be folded into the National Security Council.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq yesterday, making them the first American casualties of the new year. These latest deaths “bring the total number of American soldiers killed since the 2003 US-led invasion to 3,905.”

President Bush told Reuters yesterday that he is “considering whether to propose” a economic stimulus package, “the clearest indication yet of a growing concern inside the White House over rising oil prices, the subprime mortgage crisis and the possibility of recession.”

Pakistan President Pervez “defended his police force and investigators” yesterday, “saying that Ms. Bhutto had defied the government’s warnings when she decided to go ahead with the rally in Rawalpindi.” Musharraf also “denied that he was unpopular in the country.”

And finally: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Vice President Cheney aren’t the only well-known politicos who are distantly related. The Washington Post reveals that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is also ninth cousins with President Bush, and the 10th cousin once removed to his rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.

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