DAYBREAK DAILY: Bob McDonnell exits office with uncertain legacy

ABC7 WEATHER: Partly sunny with highs near 30.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Suspected murder-suicide in Loudoun County; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

FAREWELL: With an elephant in the room, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Gov. Bob McDonnell's valedictory speech tonight is a chance to reflect on an eventful tenure and say farewell to those he's governed the past four years, as well as to legislators he's served with during two-plus decades in office. His departing State of the Commonwealth address, if precedent is a guide, will invoke major accomplishments from a term beset by economic struggles, bookended by transportation policy actions and highlighted with reforms to education, the state pension system and economic development efforts.

“And were it not for an unresolved gift scandal that's marred his final year in office, even McDonnell detractors would have conceded the Republican was leaving office with an enviable resume and a bright political future. Instead, the outgoing governor's legacy is in limbo - seriously tarnished but too substantial to be dismissed.”

MEANWHILE: In the balance, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Get ready for another recount, with control of the state Senate in the balance. With all precincts reporting, Del. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack on Tuesday night led Republican Wayne Coleman by just 22 votes out of 20,379 cast in a special election for the Norfolk state Senate seat of Lt. Governor-elect Ralph S. Northam.

“The state Senate is now split with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. The lieutenant governor has the tie-breaking vote on most issues. If Democrats retain Northam’s Senate seat and win a Jan. 21 special election for the Loudoun state Senate seat of Attorney General-elect Mark Herring, the chamber will remain split. The new lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote will then tip the balance to the Democrats. But if Republicans win either special election they will have 21 votes, an outright majority in the Senate.”

MERRY MARYLAND: All in the spirit of giving, per the Washington Post, “They arrived not long after sunrise — those whose connections could help steer the course of legislation in Maryland and those who wish they could — and descended upon historic inns, bars and a union shop for breakfast. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, at least eight political fundraisers already had been held within steps of the State House in Annapolis, and the collection of money was to continue through the night and into Wednesday morning.

“When the 2014 General Assembly session begins at noon Wednesday, so too will a ban on collecting campaign donations for legislators and officials elected statewide. The intent of the prohibition is to prevent politicians from being unduly swayed while debating and deciding the laws of the land. Although each January is marked by a last-minute cash grab, this year is different: All statewide seats and all 188 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot in November, and the primary election has been moved up to June from September, shortening the fundraising window and intensifying the pleas.”

BUSTED: Or something like that, per the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland's four casinos brought in about $65 million in December, their lowest monthly revenue since the Rocky Gap Casino Resort opened in May. Still the total was well above revenues seen at the end of 2012, riding a nearly 50 percent year-over-year revenue increase at Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

“Excluding Rocky Gap, which opened in May and generated the least revenue in December, the state's three other casinos — Maryland Live, Hollywood Casino Perryville and Casino at Ocean Downs — brought in about 38 percent more revenue last month than in December 2012. However, all three saw a dip in revenues in December compared to recent months.”

GOOD NEWS: Or is it?, per the New York Times, “Only moments after the Senate advanced an emergency extension of unemployment insurance benefits on Tuesday, President Obama stood on an East Room stage full of people without jobs and defied the traditional logic of White House strategy that normally emphasizes good news over bad.

“The president, who sought to dramatize the need for Congress to extend the benefits, delivered what amounts to his broader economic message for 2014: Despite an improving economy, too many people are being left behind. The tableau demonstrated the challenge for Mr. Obama as he seeks to advertise the financial recovery while arguing for action to help a still-besieged middle class.”

BOB GATES: Tell me a story, per The Hill, “President Obama doubted his own troop-surge strategy in Afghanistan would work; Vice President Biden got nearly every security issue wrong for 40 years; and Hillary Clinton opposed President Bush's Iraq surge to help her presidential bid. These are among the blockbuster allegations detonated Tuesday by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Writing in a memoir due out next week, Gates says that Obama was “skeptical if not outright convinced" his Afghan surge would fail.

“Gates also contends that Biden was wrong on "nearly every" major national security and foreign policy issue over the past four decades.He says former Secretary of State Clinton opposed the surge in Iraq launched by President George W. Bush for political reasons, because it would have been difficult to support during a presidential primary battle in 2008 with then-Sen. Obama. The president himself "vaguely" conceded that his own opposition to the Iraq surge was based in politics, which Gates said he found both surprising and dismaying.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Here’s the challenge the White House faces in telling Obamacare success stories: Try to picture a headline that says, “Obamacare does what it’s supposed to do.” Somehow, the Obama administration and its allies will have to convince news outlets to run those kinds of stories — and to give the happy, newly insured the same kind of attention as the outraged complainers whose health plans were canceled because of the law.

“That’s a complicated task. Loud and angry usually trumps contented and grateful when it comes to sound bites, and news organizations will have a high bar for anecdotes that reflect well on the new law given the prevailing narrative surrounding its disastrous debut. And yet, the success stories do exist. For all the problems with the health care rollout and the disruptions the Affordable Care Act has caused, from canceled plans to “sticker shock” from people who are disappointed with their choices, there are also people who are getting exactly what they’re supposed to get: better prices and more stable coverage of their pre-existing conditions.”

DEADLY SLOPE: Just the facts, per the Denver Post, “A grandson of Vail's co-founder died Tuesday in an avalanche while he was skiing near the resort in an area notorious for deadly slides. Tony Seibert, 24, a grandson of Peter Seibert Sr., was killed, and three others were injured in the out-of-bounds avalanche, the Eagle County Coroner's Office announced Tuesday evening.

“Friends and family of Seibert's expressed sorrow and condolences throughout the afternoon and evening on social media. Seibert was in a group with three others when the avalanche hit. The others, who were not identified, were rescued and treated for minor injuries.”

TRADE: And progress, per Gazette.Net, “Montgomery County is expected to move forward with a land swap that will net 42 small apartments for the homeless in a new building in Silver Spring. The swap is part of the Progress Place Project, which will have the current property on Colonial Lane developed into a high-rise residential building.

“According to county officials, the County Council will issue an executive order of declaration of surplus, which allows officials to dispose public property at a market value disposition, at a council session on Jan. 14. During a Silver Spring Advisory meeting on Dec. 9, Greg Ossont, deputy director of the county’s Department of General Services, said the county is moving forward with the project. “It is an exciting project. It creates a lot of opportunities for the Ripley district in between railroad tracks and Georgia Avenue ... just south of the transit center,” Ossont said.”

GROUNDBREAKING: Or not, per ARLnow, “Greg Greeley is not your typical suburban School Board candidate. A single gay man, a father of two adopted boys, and an Air Force veteran, Greeley breaks the mold in more ways than one. This might be big news elsewhere in the country. In Arlington, however, Greeley is just running to succeed another mold-breaker.

“Greeley, a Douglas Park resident, filed to run to replace Sally Baird on the School Board earlier this month. If elected, Greeley would be Arlington’s first openly gay male School Board member, replacing Baird, Virginia’s first openly lesbian elected official. (Like Greeley, Baird also has two sons.)”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards beat Charlotte 97-83.

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NEWSTALK: Among today’s topics (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) -- Live coverage from Annapolis of the opening day of the Maryland legislature’s 2014 session. Our guests: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert & Prince George’s), Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s) and Del. Kathy Afzali (R-Frederick).

--Skip Wood