Polarized country awaits Obama's second term. Herbert: Chill out on guns. Lee, Chaffetz support women in combat.
Happy Friday. As President Barack Obama enters his second term, he greets a country that hasn't been this polarized since President George W. Bush led the nation in 2004, according to Gallup polling. In the history of the Gallup poll, there hasn't been another time outside of those where Americans were so set on opposite sides. Obama finds himself with 86 percent approval by Democrats but only 10 percent approval by Republicans. [Gallup]
-> Meanwhile, the Virginia Legislature hinted at a possible Republican strategy for returning to White House control: district-based Electoral College results. Had the presidential election been decided by congressional district, not winner-take-all, we'd have President Mitt Romney right now. [HuffPost]
Topping the news: Gun owners and gun control advocates need to pause and take a deep breath, according Governor Gary Herbert, who says that both sides in the roaring gun debate are prone to exaggeration. [Trib] [DNews]
-> Herbert also said that he, too, supports ethics reforms in the wake of Attorney General John Swallow's brouhaha. [Trib]
-> Dangerous levels of pollution appear to be sticking around in Utah for the foreseeable future. [Trib]
-> Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Mike Lee came out in support of scrapping a ban on women in combat positions, and Rep. Jim Matheson also signaled his support, though he wants more details first. [Trib]
Happy birthday: Today to Diane Hill and on Sunday to lobbyist Spencer Stokes and WVC Mayor Mike Winder.
In other news: Sen. Orrin Hatch came under criticism, along with Sen. Max Baucus, for putting last-minute language in the fiscal cliff deal to give kidney-dialysis drugs, specifically a pill manufactured by drugmaker Amgen, a two-year reprieve on government price controls. Amgen was Hatch's ninth largest campaign contributor. [Trib]
-> Hatch called for fixing programs like Medicare and Medicaid as a solution to the deficit issues, saying that addressing these issues should be part of a budget debate. [Hill]
-> The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a case by two Utah counties suing over the withdrawal of those famous Bush-era oil and gas leases. [Trib]
-> Pat Bagley offers his take on women in combat. [Trib]
-> Paul Rolly says the Sutherland Institute has a history of selective outrage. [Trib]
-> Last year, then-Senate President Michael Waddoups was the highest paid state lawmaker, raking in $29,292, including benefits. Check out the other best-paid lawmakers here, from Utah's Right to Know. [Trib]
-> Bob Bernick looks at the various tax matters that are slated for this year's legislative session. [UtahPolicy]
-> Health industry officials say they want to keep Utah's insurance exchange on the state level, as they see it as more efficient for taxpayers and for consumers than a federal version. [Trib]
-> The Trib's Thomas Burr talks with KCPW's Jessica Gail about Utahns' response to the president's inaugural address. [KCPW]
-> The Pentagon's announcement that they're lifting a ban on women in combat is "way past due" according to some Utah women veterans. [Trib]
-> A polygamist-turned-author says he and his three wives plan on meeting with state lawmakers to persuade them with copies of their book that bigamy laws are harmful. [Trib]
-> Brigham City's mayor is dead set on staying in office despite an extra-marital affair, a move partly because he wants to see a controversial development project to completion. [Trib]
-> An education council gave Utah a 'D' grade, saying that teachers aren't prepared enough for the classroom, especially in elementary and special education. [Trib]
Nationally: Secretary of State nominee Sen. John Kerry followed a hard line on Iran at his Senate confirmation hearing, while also saying that getting fiscal issues straightened out strengthens foreign policy. [NYTimes] [APviaTrib]
-> President Barack Obama announced two more nominees: Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and a re-nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. [NYTimes] [ABC]
Where are they?