Former Clinton Chief of Staff Returning to White House

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_b4a2f0a51c.jpgChip Somodevilla/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, is returning to the White House, ABC News has learned. A senior White House official confirms Podesta will serve as counselor to President Obama. This is the second big hire for a White House that is seeking to get back on track after the troubled health care rollout helped send Obama's approval ratings to record lows.

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Ex-RNC Chair Ed Gillespie May Run in Virginia

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_6f3fc6c904.jpgMatthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- Former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie has become the latest Republican to float a challenge to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia next year. But the two lesser-known Republican candidates say they aren’t worried about being big footed. “I am the Republican front-runner in this race for the nomination and I intend to stay that way,” said Howie Lind, who announced his candidacy for Warner’s seat in June.

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Obama Hosts Kennedy Center Honorees

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_1551a19d28.jpgSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images (WASHINGTON) -- Several of of the country’s biggest figures from film and music were recognized at the White House Sunday for their mark on the performing arts. Actress Shirley MacLaine, along with musicians Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock and opera soprano Martina Arroyo each received achievement awards at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala Sunday night. But first, President Obama welcomed them to the nation’s capital with a smaller reception in the executive residence.

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Mandela a 'Ruthless' and 'Disciplined' Politician

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_950f31115c.jpgABC News (NEW YORK) -- When asked if Nelson Mandela was a ruthless politician, his former pollster and campaign strategist Stan Greenberg said, “Absolutely.” “He had clear goals. And one of the things that ran through was the desire to make sure there was racially inclusive politics,” said Greenberg, who served as a pollster and strategist for Mandela’s 1994 campaign for president of South Africa.

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Key Senator 'Hopeful' on Budget Deal By End of Week

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_b93eeca2cd.jpgABC News (NEW YORK) -- As Congress heads into its final week before it adjourns for the holidays, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he is “hopeful” a short-term budget deal will be reached to avoid the threat of a potential government shutdown in January. “I’m hopeful that even by the end of this week we’ll be able to come together and achieve that,” Portman told George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday.

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