As it has slid, the state's citizens have begun to focus on its core dysfunctions.
Recent moves to possibly test a long-range missile may be aimed at grabbing US attention.
Amid the state's budget woes, a bipartisan initiative looks for structural solutions.
But defenders of Panetta say he could bring valuable management skills to the job.
The president-elect also pushes for a $25 billion bailout of the auto industry before he takes office.
But they fall short of the 60 Senate seats needed to overcome filibusters and end gridlock.