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How low can he go? Bad numbers could doom ObamaCare

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Carter Center on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Atlanta.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Carter Center on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Atlanta.  ((AP))

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Buzz Cut:
• How low can he go? Bad numbers could doom ObamaCare
• Fudge factor
• Warren warming up?
• Dem donors reap green grant windfall
• Snoozers are losers

HOW LOW CAN HE GO? BAD NUMBERS COULD DOOM OBAMACARE - Experts said the White House was lowballing when it set its initial threshold for ObamaCare success: A half-million enrollees in October, the launch month for the troubled entitlement program. How about a tenth of that? That’s what we expect to see this week when the administration coughs up its official numbers. Fox News Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle reports that only about 50,000 Americans will have signed up for the partially subsidized insurance program. With the administration setting a minimum threshold of 7 million partially paying customers by the end of March to keep the new entitlement afloat (and prevent a “death spiral” for private insurance) numbers this bad mean substantial changes are ahead for President Obama’s signature achievement  –  and he may not have the political clout to stave them off.

Obama job approval: worst gap yet - The gap between President Obama’s approval and disapproval – the most reliable indicator of public dissatisfaction with the chief executive – has hit its worst point ever. The latest RCP average shows the largest spread of his presidency, 11.2 points. The largest previous gap, 10.2 points, came in August 2011 amid a souring economy and a debt-ceiling debacle.  

[Watch Fox: Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, reacts to reports of ObamaCare’s enrollment numbers in the 9 a.m. ET hour]

Fudge factor - An administration official told WaPo that the White House plans to count people who have not purchased ObamaCare but have placed policies in their online shopping carts. Details.

Degrees of difficulty - Democrats are now expecting, at a minimum, a further extension of the ObamaCare enrollment period and some delay in the penalties for not signing up. But a number so measly as 50,000 would increase the chances that Congress would act to delay the entire law for another year. An extension won’t work if insurance companies are forced to cover those high-risk, formerly uninsured customers who skew risk pools. The White House might spin a number above 50,000 as an unexpected success, but if the Web site is still on the fritz, spin won’t matter. Remember, with millions tossed off their plans because of ObamaCare, no one doubts that there is huge demand for insurance these days.

Desperate measures - As problems continue to mount for ObamaCare’s Web site, administration officials may be considering pleas from insurers to bypass the site and enroll customers directly. With just a month to go before millions who got cancellation notices because of the law face deadlines to gain coverage for next year, desperation is growing. The president’s decision to mislead voters on his “if you like it” pledge could go from a major embarrassment for him to a national catastrophe, so the White House is no doubt listening. But insurers don’t have access to the IRS data needed to verify federal subsidy levels. The industry proposal has insurers estimating subsidies and taxpayers making good later on. NYT has the details.

Costly subsidies goof - Nearly 8,000 Washington state residents will soon find out they will be paying more for ObamaCare. The Seattle Times reports the state’s ObamaCare Web site miscalculated subsidies. 

Look busy! - Sen.Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is collecting signatures for a letter she intends to send to the Government Accountability Office and Health and Human Services Inspector General asking for a, “complete, thorough investigation to determine the causes of the design and implementation failures of,” calling the continued problems, “unacceptable.” The North Carolina Democrat is backing legislation that allows individuals to keep their insurance under the new health law. Hagan’s support of ObamaCare is coming under fire as she faces re-election in 2014. The Greensboro News Observer has more.

WHITE HOUSE WON’T LET OBAMACARE TECH BOSS TESTIFY - The White House has refused to allow Chief Technology Officer Todd Park to appear at a Wednesday hearing on systemic problems with the online home of ObamaCare, including crashes, data insecurity and corrupted information. The stated reason from Team Obama is that Park is too busy fixing the crash to explain how it happened. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a letter to the White House tech boss that it was unacceptable for Park to find time for press interviews but not for the hearing. Oversight’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and a group of three technical experts are denouncing Issa’s call for Park to explain himself to Congress. HuffPo has details.

[“If the president has time to play golf and Kathleen Sebelius has time to go to cocktail parties, then Todd Park ought to have time to come tell the people he works for, why they got such a poor product after spending over a half a billion dollars in three years.”—Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., on “America’s News Headquarters”]

No one told me! - The top IT guy for the ObamaCare insurance exchanges told House investigators that he found it “disturbing” that he was never told of significant security issues with the online marketplaces before they launched. Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he was never given a Sept. 3, 2013 memo that detailed security problems. Fox News has more.

Sebelius’ brand takes a hit at home - Lawmakers in Kansas say the political fortunes of Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ family have taken a blow in the botched rollout of ObamaCare. Sebelius is the daughter of a former Ohio governor and is married to federal Magistrate Gary Sebelius, son of the late Republican Congressman Keith Sebelius. The Daily Caller has details from Topeka.

THE OBAMACARE CRASH: REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES - Some military families are finding surprise restrictions under ObamaCare. Eddie Grooms told Megyn Kelly that he served in the military for 20 years and is still on military insurance. His daughter turns 21 next year, but cannot stay on his plan because her employer also offers coverage. This is despite President Obama’s oft-touted claim that those under 26 can remain on their parents’ plans. Grooms told Kelly, “It would be nice if [the administration] leveled with everybody and let them know so people can make plans.” Grooms added, “This will hit thousands of retirees over time.” According to, no restrictions are listed for adult children until they are 26. Watch Grooms’ story from “The Kelly File.”

[“Had Americans known that Obamacare would actually raise premiums and cause millions of folks to lose their health policies, it never would have become law.” –Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in a Breitbart OpEd.]

TAX HIKE? - Despite their declining political clout, Democrats are demanding tax hikes as part of budget negotiations. Negotiators have a month to cough up a deal and while Republicans are looking to defend automatic caps on spending known as “sequestration,” Democrats are looking for “revenue.” Democrats have proffered new taxes, including new corporate taxes and eliminating deductions on mortgage payments for second homes. Republicans have a simple answer: No way. –

Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel previews the latest budget showdown.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CASES HIT HIGH COURT - The Supreme Court will consider whether to take a case from New Mexico involving a Christian photography business that was ordered by the states’ high court to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony – Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream forecasts the future showdowns for religious liberty.

[Breitbart reports the high court will decide in the coming weeks on whether to hear a case from faith-based businesses challenging ObamaCare’s contraception mandate.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...For those trying to see around the corner on the ObamaCare crash (or perhaps indulging in some political schadenfreude) Reason’s Peter Suderman considers the worst-case scenarios: “This could still be turned around, perhaps even soon. But it’s time to start considering the worst-case scenarios: that the exchanges continue to malfunction, that plan cancellations go into effect, that insurers see the political winds shifting and stop playing nice with the administration, and that significant numbers of people are left stranded without coverage as a result.”

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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 41.9 percent//Disapprove – 53.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 21.8 percent//Wrong Track – 70.9 percent 

TOPTWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning: LAT’s Mike Memoli:@mikemoli: “#beingbiden makes triumphant return on Veterans Day. SPOILER: includes phrase “Big Biden Hug””

Lauren Ashburnof “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]

WARREN WARMING UP? - Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continues her crusade for financial regulations when she offers the keynote address for the liberal group Americans for Financial Reform. The group is slated to release a report outlining further calls for banking regulations.

[Watch Fox – Campaign Carl Cameron considers how a possible 2016 challenge from Warren could push former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further to the left.] 

GOP HOLDS HOPE IN VA ATTORNEY GENERAL RACE - Virginia’s attorney general race looks headed for a recount. Republican Mark Obenshain, who led in the first tally has seen his advantage shrink to a mere 17 votes over Democrat Mark Herring as provisional ballots trickle in. Vote tallies must be certified today. The Richmond Times Dispatch has more.

PRYOR POUNDED OVER OBAMA JUDICIAL NODS - The conservative group Judicial Crisis Network is hitting the airwaves in Arkansas to slam Sen. Mark Pryor’s, D-Ark., support of President Obama’s judicial nominations. The ad accuses Pryor of packing federal courts with activist judges to push the president’s “job-killing” and “unconstitutional” agenda. Pryor’s campaign shot back, noting he had voted 73 times against Obama nominees and 123 times for the nominees of former President George W. Bush. The Senate will vote today on Cornelia Pillard, the president’s nominee to the D.C. circuit court of appeals.

YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL - Vive la France!: That was the common sentiment among viewers voting on Monday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel, according to Bing Pulse. The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes drew widespread agreement among viewers for his assertion that France had prevented the U.S. from entering into a bad deal on Iran’s nuclear program. So did Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saying, “Thank God for France and thank God for pushback.” Republicans and independents agreed with Hayes conclusion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feels the Jewish nation is on its own. The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard saw agreement across the spectrum when she said the administration’s forcing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks while seeking a nuclear deal with Iran is a mistake.

Discussion of ObamaCare’s flaws and proposed fixes drew the highest levels of viewer engagement. Intensity spiked to 32,000 votes per minute when Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked if  Chief Technology Officer Todd Park was “…the smartest guy in the classroom where has he been in the last three years?” Stoddard found agreement from all ends of the spectrum when she said the Obama administration needs to plan a delay. Take a deeper data dive and see the full results here.

FIRST LADY TO PUSH HIGHER ED FOR LOW-INCOME STUDENTS - First lady Michelle Obama heads to Bell Multicultural High School in Washington today to announce a new initiative that seeks to boost college attendance for children for poor homes. NYT has more. The first lady is under pressure because food stamp outlays for the poor have been diverted to her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity initiative.

PERRY INHOFE, R.I.P. - Dr. Perry Inhofe, the son of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., was killed Sunday when the plane his was piloting crashed outside of Tulsa on a return flight from Salina, Kan. The younger Inhofe had learned to fly as a boy from his pilot father and had reportedly also taught his son. “Dr. Perry Inhofe was a man of great integrity, skilled as a surgeon, and an example for all of us,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said in a statement. Tulsa World hasmore details. Meet Dr. Inhofe by watching his video introduction to patients at his Tulsa medical practice.

DEM DONORS REAP GREEN GRANT WINDFALL - Washington Examiner: “Another round of Department of Energy grants have been awarded with the lion’s share of the tax dollars going to firms that donated heavily to Democrats….Of the 14 recipients, employees of nine of the recipient firms gave $112,312 to Democrats (including $35,512 to President Obama) and left-leaning groups like Emily's List since 2010, according to”

‘SELFIE’ INCRIMINATION - Authorities in Rockland, Calif. nabbed four men accused of a slew of break-ins, thefts and fraud with some help from Instagram. A manger at a Carl’s Jr. remembered a credit card being used for a rather large order and told authorities she believed photos of it were uploaded to Instagram. Sure enough, officers found the photos of the giant order on the Instagram account. That’s when police learned the suspected burglars would return to Rockland Sunday evening. KTXL has the story.

SNOOZERS ARE LOSERS - It’s not news that morning people prosper. As Ben Franklin recorded in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1757, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” (Also, a bit more tartly: “Plough deep while sluggards sleep.”) But science is backing Ben up. Via The Atlantic’s Julie Beck: “Natural morning people definitely have an edge there over those disposed to staying up late—but there might be more advantages to forcing yourself to go to sleep early than just feeling refreshed.” She cites a study on the emotional health and well-being of teens over a seven year span, tacking their performances and senses of well-being. The amount of sleep mattered, but so did bedtimes.

[Ed. note: Wouldn’t early, orderly bedtimes suggest the presence of loving, attentive parenting in those homes? Wouldn’t that be far more determinative than the bedtimes themselves? You know what? Never mind. Anything to make me feel better about getting up in the pitch dark.]    

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…“The one thing [President Obama] did in the interview last week that I think was not picked up on is the fact he compounded it when he said, ‘Well, you know, we’re really sorry about all those people who lost their insurance. It’s because we didn’t craft the law appropriately.’ That’s precisely the opposite of the truth…The crafting was done precisely to throw people off insurance and the president said exactly the opposite. This is one deception after another.” – Charles Krauthammer, on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.