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Dems stake 2014 survival on class strife

Harry Reid_AP_660.jpg

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, seen with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.(AP)

Buzz Cut:
• Dems stake 2014 survival on class strife
• Study: ObamaCare will boost, not reduce emergency room visits
• Weed Wars: All about the green
• Aiken for a House seat?
• Did you remember to get diapers?

DEMS STAKE 2104 SURVIVAL ON CLASS STRIFE - ObamaCare is going to cost Democrats dearly in this year’s midterm elections. And if early warnings about higher costs, less access to care and disrupted coverage for the 85 percent of Americans who were covered before the law prove true, there may be little anyone can do to avoid another landslide defeat for the blue team. But while Republicans are readying themselves for majority status, Democrats know that the only number that matters is five. If Democrats can limit Republican gains in the Senate to five or less, nothing changes in Washington. So while the GOP is thinking big, Democrats are thinking small, small, small. While Republicans are hoping to ride a national tide, Democrats are hoping to just protect half of the 10 most vulnerable seats on their side of the aisle. Their strategy: to focus on an issue that has animated the activist base of the party for generations: The gap between rich and poor. It may not be nearly as important as ObamaCare, but President Obama and Harry Reid don’t need it to be. They just need to squeeze out enough base voters to preserve a Senate majority.

[Peter Beinart - Democrats in 2014: The Party of John Edwards “The North Carolinian laid the groundwork for Bill de Blasio’s mayoral run and Barack Obama’s 2014 agenda, but don’t expect his name to come up.”]

Limiting losses - There may be no saving red state Democrats like Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. or Mark Begich, D-Alaska. But a relentless attack on income inequality might offer something for Democrats in states with large urban centers or with strong populist or union sentiments: Michigan, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina and even South Dakota come to mind. So while Republicans are girding for what may be the most brutal rounds of primary fighting yet, Democrats are building their bases and uniting the party around “eat the rich” politics. It worked for Obama in 2012, and if it just works a little bit in 2014 it might be enough to save the day. If Democrats do it right, a few thousand votes in a few races could mean preserving the president’s agenda and keeping the health law lurching forward.

Combo platter: Welfare and wages - Republicans who dismiss this thinking will do so at their own peril. Senate majority leader Harry Reid will start the barrage on Monday with a call to restore federal benefits to those who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance. And soon thereafter, expect a strong push on raising the federal minimum wage, a popular policy offering. Republicans decried “class warfare” in 2012, but ended up getting clobbered anyway. The midterm electorate will be different, but just a few races on the bubble could change the arc of history this year. Reid will not be shy about discovering his inner Bill de Blasio. And for Obama, who has made income redistribution the chief aim of his presidency, this is exactly where he wants to be. The Democratic dream scenario: House Republicans split on welfare and wage issues amid the added pressures of the debt-limit fight set to begin one month hence. Even if Democrats can’t squeeze out a government shutdown, they can get weeks of talking points, especially from an establishment press that is quite keen on the subject. 

STUDY: OBAMACARE WILL BOOST, NOT REDUCE EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS  - While the Obama administration claims ObamaCare would reduce expensive emergency room visits, a new study has found otherwise. Using Oregon’s 2008 Medicaid expansion as a test case, researchers discovered a 40 percent increase in ER visits by new beneficiaries of the welfare program. Many of the visits were for primary care services President Obama said the expansion would cut down on. Daily Caller has the details.

[Breitbart: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that in 2013 it improperly spent about $65 billion in taxpayer funds through waste, errors, and fraud, a figure that was primarily fueled by an estimated $60 billion in overpayments to Medicare and Medicaid.”]

Should have known - Bloomberg’s Megan McArdle considers: “Oregon suggests that insurance status isn’t the main reason that people are using the ER for less severe conditions. And if you think about your own life, is that such a surprise? I have resorted to the emergency room more than once for something that I theoretically could have gotten treated by a primary care physician, and insurance was never the driving factor; I went to the ER because I was traveling far from home, because it was outside of normal business hours and I didn’t have a regular doctor I could call, or because I tried to nurse along an infection that turned severe. The cure for this was not to change my insurance; it was the myriad urgent care options that are flowering across the U.S. This is true of most of the middle-class people I know. Why did we assume that the poor were any different?”

[Healthcare.gov’s latest tech problem has resulted in a failure to send complete records for 18,000 W.Va., residents who have applied for Medicaid. Daily Caller has the story.]

ADMINISTRATION RESPONSE DUE TODAY ON BIRTH CONTROL CASE  - Justice Sonia Sotomayor has given the Obama administration until 10 a.m. today to respond to claims that ObamaCare’s requirement that employers provide insurance plans that cover contraception is an infringement of religious liberty. On New Year’s Eve, Sotomayor temporarily halted the imposition of the new rule at the request of an order of nuns. – Watch Fox: Senior White House and Foreign Affairs Correspondent Wendel Goler is following the administration’s response

GOP: NO SLACK ON OBAMACARE HACK ATTACK - House Republicans are warning that a recent security breech at Target should concern consumers about the security of information they’ve provided to the problem ridden healthare.gov. According to a memo obtained by Fox News, Republican leaders plan to take up legislation next week to tighten security requirements. Some of the proposals already under consideration would require the federal government to notify individuals if their information has been compromised by the embattled health care Web site. Fox News has more.

OREGON OBAMACARE DIRECTOR CALLS IT QUITS - With only 38,000 enrolled and a Web site that hasn’t even launched, the head of Oregon’s beleaguered health exchange is calling it quits. Rocky King is the second official connected to the Beaver State’s ObamaCare program to resign. The state had to hire 500 people to process applications by hand and is still trying to get its Web site off the ground. Fox News has more.

Baby blues - AP reports ObamaCare’s online home lacks a mechanism for consumers to easily update their policies for the birth of a child and other common life changes such as a job change, divorce, or change of address.

Thumbs down - Gallup’s latest survey shows 59 percent of respondents had a negative experience with ObamaCare’s exchanges in December.

WORLD OF CONFUSION - From the Daily Mail: “Hospital staff in Northern Virginia are turning away sick people on a frigid… morning because they can’t determine whether their Obamacare insurance plans are in effect… ‘The people in there told me that since I didn't have an insurance card, I would be billed for the whole cost of the x-ray,’ [Maria Galvez] said… ‘It's not fair – you know, I signed up last week like I was supposed to…’ A similar situation frustrated Mary, an African-American woman small businesswoman who asked MailOnline not to publish her last name… ‘I had chest pains last night, and they took me in the emergency room,’ Mary said. ‘They told me they were going to admit me, but when I told them I hadn't heard from my insurance company since I signed up, they changed their tune.’’’

ATTORNEYS GENERAL FIGHTING OBAMACARE ALTERATIONS - Eleven Republican attorneys general are blasting President Obama for bypassing Congress for his changes to ObamaCare. In a letter to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the attorneys general criticized the president’s decision to temporarily rescind rules banning millions of insurance policies after insurance companies had already sent out cancellation notices. The group called the executive maneuvers “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The letter was written by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and signed by his counterparts in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, Fox News has more.

FOX NEWS SUNDAY: ROMNEY ON OBAMACARE, OLYMPICS - Host Chris Wallace discusses the rollout of ObamaCare with former Massachusetts’s governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Plus, amid mounting security concerns for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Romney will also share his experience in leading the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, Utah in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

DR. K’S PRESCRIPTION: NO BAILOUTS FOR INSURERS - Columnist Charles Krauthammer argues in favor of a Republican measure to prevent bailouts for insurance companies in Stop the bailout — now. “Do you really think vulnerable Democrats up for reelection will vote for a bailout? And who better to slay Obamacare than a Democratic Senate — liberalism repudiating its most important creation of the last 50 years. Want to be even bolder? Attach the anti-bailout bill to the debt ceiling. That and nothing else. Dare the president to stand up and say: ‘I’m willing to let the country default in order to preserve a massive bailout for insurance companies.’’’

NSA’S SUPER SLEUTHING COMPUTER - The National Security Agency is developing a computer powerful enough to penetrate most encryption types, according to documents obtained by WaPo from leaker Edward Snowden. The documents reveal the quantum computer project is part of a $79.7 million research program titled “Penetrating Hard Targets.” Such a system would enable the agency to crack some of the strongest security measures, granting access to encrypted e-mails and secure financial transactions. Fox News has more

ISLAMISTS DEADLY SURGE IN IRAQ - Reports of another deadly car bombing north of Baghdad reveal a resurgence of al-Qaeda aligned fighters in Iraq. Violence levels soared in 2013, with death tolls double than what it has been in recent years. –Watch Fox: Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge examines the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq and how violence is increasing to levels not seen before the U.S. troop surge in 2007.    

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Liberal columnist Reid Cherlin blasts progressive populists for their overuse of allusions to Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” to rail against income inequality. “The main thing that bothers me, apart from one of my favorite books being made into a public enemy, is that the popular usage is a misappropriation of the title’s wording… A Tale of Two Cities, for all of its cartoonishness, is satisfyingly agnostic, even torn, in its treatment of the idea of vengeance on the rich… It would strain credibility to liken the One Percent—a term he [New York Mayor Bill de Blasio] used in his remarks—to the abusive French aristocracy, just as it would strain credibility to liken a tax increase to guillotinings in the public square.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.6 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30.1 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent 

Generic Congressional Ballot:  Dems – 43.3 percent// GOP 43.1 percent 

CHRISTIE’S CHRISTMAS WISHES FOR IOWA - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., made clear Iowa was on his mind this Christmas. BuzzFeed reports the Garden State governor and 2016 GOP frontrunner sent a Christmas greeting to several Iowa Republican officials. At least five officials received the card, paid for by the New Jersey State Republican Committee, which featured a Biblical quotation from the Book of Romans. Republican House Member Jake Highfill thanked Christie for the card on Facebook saying, “I mean it’s only 3 years until the Iowa Caucus. That’s called thinking ahead.”

NORTH CAROLINA SPEAKER HITS HAGAN IN NEW AD - North Carolina Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis has launched his first ad against Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.: “Kay Hagan enabled President Obama's worst ideas, she refuses to clean up his mess, so you and I have to clean up hers.” Tillis is the frontrunner in the Republican primary race for the chance to take on the embattled incumbent. Washington Examiner has more.

PICK SIX: YOUR MIDTERM PREDICTIONS - Fox News First is tracking your top picks for the GOP’s possible path to a Senate majority. Republicans need to flip six seats from blue to red to win, so which are the most likely? Readers continue to overwhelming agree that Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. is headed for the exits, but there’s been a surge in responses about the vulnerability of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. Ann Alexander of Hendersonville, N.C., observes, “With the election of Pat McCrory (R) and a Republican-controlled legislature in '12, this state has absolutely flipped in its focus and the results are dramatic. Hagan is in serious jeopardy, threatened especially by [Greg] Brannon, M.D., the ‘Ted Cruz in waiting.’’’

Your current consensus: Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.

It’s not too late to have your say! Email your six picks – just six if you please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet to @cstirewalt.

RADEL BACK, BUT FOR HOW LONG? - Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., plans to return to Washington next week after a month in rehab. The freshman Congressman entered a guilty plea to charges of cocaine possession in late October and was sentenced to a year’s probation. Fox News has more. Meanwhile, a super PAC backing a potential primary opponent for Radel brought in more than $1 million. Values are Vital PAC, founded by supporters of Republican state lawmaker Paige Kreegel, benefited from two half-million dollar donations in Dec. from Las Vegas attorney Martin Burns and Miami retiree Ronald Firman. WaPo has more.

SINK SOARS IN CASH RACE - Failed 2010 Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former state chief financial officer Alex Sink is sitting on over $1 million in donations as her Republican opponents are just two weeks away from their primary. Lobbyist and former staffer for the late Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., David Jolly, leads the GOP field with $388,450 raised. State Rep. Kathleen Peters raised only $169,000 in what has turned into a contentious primary. Young’s widow backs Jolly while her son supports Peters. Whoever wins the Jan. 14 primary will face Sink in an early March general election to serve out the term Young’s term, who passed away late last fall. The Tampa Bay Times has the details

IOWA SECRETARY OF STATE SIGNALS HOUSE RUN - Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz is showing signs he is moving towards a run for the House seat held by retiring Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa. Schultz, who would be a top draw for the GOP, told his supporters on Facebook Thursday, “Next week, I will be making an important and exciting announcement about this race and my future plans to fight for Iowa.”

IDOL STAR EYEING TAR HEEL HOUSE SEAT - Democratic sources tell the Washington Blade Clay Aiken is actively pursuing a Congressional bid against Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C. The American Idol runner-up, whose political activity has mostly focused on gay issues, has reportedly made calls to gauge support and has been in talks with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Other sources say he has been consulting with pollsters and political operatives with ties to former Gov. Bev Purdue, D-N.C. The deadline for candidates to file for the May 6 primary is Feb. 28.

#mediabuzz: SILLY SEASON - Howard Kurtz and guests will be talking about MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry and her swipe at the Romney family, Robin Roberts revealing her sexual preference, and the controversy around the New York Time’s coverage of the 2012 raid on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Plus, what was the silliest story of 2013? Guests include Fox News Contributor Ric Grenell, Daily Beast’s Keli Goff, Mediaite’s Joe Concha and Fox News Contributor Lauren Ashburn. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S SOCIAL MEDIA SPENDING SPLURGE - The Justice Department has spent over $500,000 to increase its online brand awareness. The Washington Free Beacon reports, the DOJ awarded the hefty contract on Christmas Eve to construct an enhanced LinkedIn profile to reach the networking site’s 250 million users through its “Recruiter” service. The DOJ will use the service to post job announcements and seek out potential employees. Fox News has more.

GOLDEN STATE COURT RULING STIRS IMMIGRATION FEUD - A unanimous decision by California's Supreme Court is clearing the way for illegal immigrants to practice law.  The ruling handed down Thursday, in the case of Mexican immigrant Sergio Garcia, upholds a new state law that permits the high court to allow qualified applicants into the state bar, despite their immigration status. The case pitted the Obama administration, who opposed Garcia’s licensure, against state officials who supported him. A 1996 Federal law bars people who are in the U.S. illegally from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public money, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise. Fox News has more.—Watch Fox: Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel considers the implications the case has in the ongoing fight for immigration reform.

CLIP MAKER FLEES COLORADO GUN LAWS - One of the nation’s largest producers of ammunition magazines is closing up shop in Colorado over its strict new gun laws. Magpul Industries is moving its production, distribution and shipping operations from Erie, Colo. to Cheyenne, Wyo. Magpul is eyeing north-central Texas for its headquarters as Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas is welcoming them with open arms, promising no unwarranted government intrusion into the business. The company is making good on its vow to leave the Centennial State after the Democratic controlled legislature passed a measure banning the sale of gun magazines with more than 15 rounds. AP has more.

BROOKS: WEED WORKED OUT FOR ME, BUT BAN IT ANYWAY - Columnist David Brooks used to enjoy blazing up, but then quit smoking pot because it made him feel like a loser. He thinks governments should encourage others to follow his personal progress by keeping weed illegal. “I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned. In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

[“Do those same people argue for freedom of choice when someone says ‘I want to buy a gun, I want to buy an UZI…’ – you know, let’s be consistent with this thing.” –Dr. Ben Carson, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren]

All about the green - The big test for whether legal pot is here to stay will center on profitability. As has been the case with gambling, will states and investors see enough profits from the newly condoned vice to offset the social ills associated with the practice? In Maryland, for example, a woman is facing criminal charges for leaving her 4-year-old daughter in a car on New Year’s Eve for more than eight hours while the mom gambled in a state-chartered casino. But Maryland raked in $290 million last year from casinos, funds on which the cash-strapped state is now utterly dependent. The government encouraging potentially destructive behaviors is not new. The question for proponents of recreational marijuana: Can it make enough money to be deemed worth the costs, real or perceived. Investors seem to think that there’s reason to think there’s hope for dope: Time points out that as markets overall have been on the downbeat, pot-related stocks have been soaring.

DOGS EAT NORTH KOREANS - New details are emerging in the execution of Jang Song Thaek. The Straits Times reports Kim Jong-Un ordered his uncle to be stripped and thrown into a cage with five of his closest aides. “Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called ‘quan jue’, or execution by dogs.”

BECAUSE EATING FOX MEAT WOULD JUST BE GRODY - Wal-Mart is recalling donkey meat being sold at is stores in China, as a result of tests revealing the product contained the DNA of other animals. The retail giant is offering reimburse customers who purchased the bad “Five Spice” donkey meat and is helping authorities investigate its Chinese supplier.  The Shandong Food and Drug Administration claims product contained fox meat. The BBC has more.

DID YOU REMEMBER TO GET DIAPERS? - When an unidentified man entered a Wal-Mart in Melbourne, Fla., he left his wife and three children in the car. Upon his return he found his wife and four children in the car. Police tell Orlando’s News 13 “the man was only in the store a few minutes when he walked outside, saw his children frantically yelling for him to hurry to the car.” Emergency crews arrived after the woman had given birth in the vehicle, but mother and baby were deemed to be doing fine. The family was rewarded by the store with Wal-Mart with gift cards and baby-related items.

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES….“The great irony here is that [President Obama] has decided he's going to dedicate himself and the rest of his time in office to fighting inequality. He has created the greatest inequality because of zero interest rates, because the Fed has put a trillion dollars which had to go into higher assets, meaning the market. It's the rich have gotten richer and it’s left everyone else behind. And that's why you get the mass discontent in the sense of the economy not improving. He is the cause and now he’s going to redeem us from the misery to which he has contributed.”—Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

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 digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.