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• Hacker’s delight: ObamaCare data dangers not fixed
• Four million enrolled? Not even close
• Benghazi report clouds Hillary’s 2016 hopes
• Gillespie all in: Senate announcement today
• But other than that, it was delicious…
HACKER’S DELIGHT: OBAMACARE DATA DANGERS NOT FIXED
ObamaCare continues to leave consumer data vulnerable to theft months after security problems were first exposed. In the wake of a Christmas-season punctuated by massive hack attacks, consumers today awoke to find that the beleaguered new federal health insurance entitlement program “remains fundamentally flawed in ways that make it dangerous to people who use it.” That was the characterization of security expert Kevin Johnson, reviewing for Reuters the findings of “white hat” hackers who exposed gaping vulnerabilities in the federal data cache for ObamaCare. One of the friendly hackers will testify before a house panel today. More.
[The White House opposes a House-passed bill that would require the administration to notify Americans if their data had been compromised.]
Google & Co. host six-hour ObamaCare telethon - From Variety: “Funny or Die, Maker Studios and [Google’s] YouTube Studios are partnering with [state ObamaCare programs] for [a six-hour live Web stream] to be held at YouTube Studios [today] in Playa Vista. Organizers say that the ‘Tell a Friend — Get Covered’ event will be a mix of comedy skits and educational segments, including Funny or Die videos featuring Jennifer Hudson, Olivia Wilde and Elizabeth Banks.”
[New Today on Fox News Opinion: It’s award season in Hollywood, and Fox News Contributor Richard Grenell considers how studio executives are taking their cues from political operatives.]
Obama hoops pals try to get ObamaCare off injured reserve list - New taxpayer-funded advertisements featuring NBA all-stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning will begin airing today during NBA games. It’s part of a $52 million ad blitz to rescue the struggling entitlement program. More.
FOUR MILLION ENROLLED? NOT EVEN CLOSE
Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende takes deep dive on Democrats’ claim that ObamaCare added has provided coverage to 4 million Americans through Medicaid. He finds that the number is highly exaggerated. “It’s a virtual certainty that the number of enrollments attributable to Obamacare is an order of magnitude less than the 4 million sign-ups implied, and the number of people [on Medicaid] who would actually lose their insurance if Obamacare were repealed is probably around 200,000 to 300,000.” Read it all and be gobsmacked.
Working poor left out - As the Obama administration struggles to implement the president’s signature health law, lower middle-class families are feeling the pinch. USA Today reports on a much-touted provision in ObamaCare to permit states to provide coverage for those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsides. Several states are eager to enact the program but are unable to because the administration has not released the regulations governing them.
‘What the secretary meant to say…’ - Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Michigan ObamaCare applicants facing coverage gaps, federal fines for noncompliance and deepening frustrations because of massive technical and logistical failures of the program in the state that “There's nothing people can do but kind of get in line.” The Detroit Free Press has the story.
The Judge’s Ruling: Little Sisters of the Poor Get no Mercy - Judge Andrew Napolitano examines the Obama administration’s treatment of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns that provides care for the elderly, for Fox News Opinion. From the Nuns and the President: “Can he [President Obama] give them a break, too? In a word: No. His Department of (political) Justice has vigorously resisted the nuns and even mocked them…If the government can tax you and me and selfless nuns for fidelity to long held religious beliefs while exempting others because of their fleeting political beliefs, then the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment is meaningless. And our rights are in the hands of a congressionally enabled tyrant.”
WARNER: MODERATE DEMS WORKING ON OBAMACARE OVERHAUL
“There's actually a group of us who are starting to work on a series of changes.” – Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., talking to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack about Democratic efforts to fix problems in ObamaCare. Warner said the group was examining the mandatory coverage rules for employers as part of a “whole package” of alterations.
[Ed. note: Gee, wonder why? Oh that’s right, see Gillespie,Edward.]
CLOUDS GATHER: AMERICANS DOWN ON ECONOMY
A Gallup poll finds 42 percent of respondents say they are financially worse off now than they were a year ago, rising from 39 percent in last year’s survey. If Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy, it would undercut the last remaining Democratic narrative for midterms: That with the economy revived, the time is now to raise taxes and spending to help address the income gap between rich and poor.
[Watch Fox: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy,R-Calif., responds to President Obama’s Wednesday remarks on the economy in the 9 a.m. ET hour.]
WASHINGTON COMMUTERS GET AN EYEFUL
Bankrupting America, a group promoting fiscal responsibility, started an ad blitz today at mass transit stops in and around Capitol Hill, slamming lawmakers over wasteful spending and broken promises. The Stop Toying With Us campaign compares Washington promises to Christmas presents that begin to lose their luster. The color-soaked ads, reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, focus on deceptive practices. From one Metro ad: “‘I promise…’*” The asterisk: “Integrity not included.”
WILL: COMMON CORE GOING NUCLEAR
George Will looks into the burgeoning opposition to the Obama administration’s Common Core school standards. “The rise of opposition to the Common Core illustrates three healthy aspects of today's politics. First, new communication skills and technologies enable energized minorities to force new topics onto the political agenda. Second, this uprising of local communities against state capitals, the nation's capital and various muscular organizations …demonstrates that although the public agenda is malleable, a sturdy portion of the public is not. Third, political dishonesty has swift, radiating and condign consequences. Opposition to the Common Core is surging because Washington, hoping to mollify opponents, is saying, in effect: ‘If you like your local control of education, you can keep it. Period.’ To which a burgeoning movement is responding: ‘No. Period.’’
EPA BUSTED FOR COORDINATING WITH GREEN GROUPS
From Lachlan Markay at the Washington Free Beacon: “Internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emails show extensive collaboration between top agency officials and leading environmentalist groups, including overt efforts to coordinate messaging and pressure the fossil fuel industry.” e.g.: “Nancy Grantham, director of public affairs for EPA Region 1, which covers New England, asked an organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Hampshire chapter to share the group’s agenda so EPA could adjust its messaging accordingly in an email dated March 12, 2012. ‘If you could, it would great [sic] if you can send me an email describing what you would like to do in early April in NH–that way I can coordinate messaging with our air offices here and at HQ,’ Grantham wrote.”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Washington Examiner’s micro data maestro Michael Barone considers what the latest Census data says about how government dependency affects demography. “Sluggish population growth is matched by sluggish geographic mobility. The Census Bureau reports that only 4.8 million Americans moved across state lines in 2012 — about half the percentage that did so in the boom years of the 1990s…But not uniformly and not everywhere. Population growth has been accelerating in states that depend heavily on the private sector and declining in states with relatively high dependence on government.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.0 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.3 percent//Wrong Track – 62.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 42.5 percent// Republicans 42.0percent
BENGHAZI REPORT CLOUDS HILLARY’S 2016 HOPES
A Senate Intelligence Committee report finding that the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya was preventable and was, in fact, carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated groups will likely haunt 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The committee report, offered by Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., blames the State Department, then headed by Clinton, for not bolstering security at the compound, despite repeated warnings about imminent attacks. Fox News has more.
“We know there were training camps around that area, and it is something that I think the state department has to really come to grips with.” – Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., talking to CNN.
Rubio holds Hillary accountable - Potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., hit hard against the Democratic frontrunner, saying “At the end of the day, she was responsible for ensuring the safety of all Americans serving in our diplomatic facilities. Her failure to do so clearly made a difference in the lives of the four murdered Americans and their families.”
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: BENGHAZI BLAME GAME
The Senate’s Benghazi report places blame on the State Department but fails to specifically hold President Obama or former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accountable. That was the opinion viewer-panelists shared with columnist Jonah Goldberg during Wednesday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel. As measured by Bing Pulse, men, women, Republicans, Democrats and independents strongly agreed with Goldberg’s charge, “It seems like part of the negotiation that led to this report was a way to avoid casting specific blame on anybody who matters and just have this be a general indictment of the bureaucracy.” As for who was responsible for the attack, there was strong disagreement across the political spectrum with the State Department’s claim that al Qaeda core had no involvement.
Discussion of Obama’s agenda for the year ahead drew heightened viewer engagement. Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes drew agreement from Republicans, Democrats, and independents when he scoffed at the administration’s claim that 2014 would be “a year of action.” Hayes saw a spike, to 24,000 viewer votes per minute, when he stated, “Anybody believe that in Washington, 2014 is going to be a year of action? You have got a president who is as unpopular as he has ever been. Democrats who are running away from him. Republicans who feel emboldened. Issues that -- we have failed to resolve in Washington going back years.” Bing Pulse tracked 186,000 votes from viewer-panelists during the discussion. Take a deeper data dive and see the full results here. Don’t miss out on making your voice heard and be sure to take your seat on the panel.
[Watch Fox: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., discusses al Qaeda in the noon ET hour.]
SCHWEITZER SNIFFING AROUND A RUN
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont., didn’t hold back in his criticism of President Obama in a recent interview. Asked by MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin if there is a single thing the president has done he considered a positive achievement, Schweitzer said, “My mother, God rest her soul, told me ‘Brian, if you can’t think of something nice to say about something change the subject.”’ Schweitzer has positioned himself as a potential populist alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and has been critical of the president’s policies. AP has more.
CHRISTIE STILL LEADS GOP PACK
The latest NBC News/Marist University poll shows Gov. Christie, R-N.J., still tops the field of potential GOP contenders despite the fallout from the uproar surrounding his aides ordering the closure of traffic lanes as part of a political vendetta. But the real takeaway from the survey: It’s anybody’s game. Christie leads with 16 percent, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., garners 12 percent, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., 9 percent, Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., 8 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., 7 percent, Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., 4 percent and Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., 3 percent.
Christie builds out donor base - Christie is heading to Florida to meet with more than 100 GOP donors Sunday at the residence of Home Depot co-founder, billionaire Ken Langone. Christie will look to reassure influential supporters from the financial and political communities. Christie will be in Florida in his capacity as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to stump for Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Don’t forget, Florida is also a GOP 2016 early primary state. WaPo has more.
RAND RAISES THE DOUGH
Sen. Rand Paul’s, R-Ky., has a cool $2 million plus in the bank for a potential 2016 presidential run. “After raising over $1 million for his "Rand Paul 2016" Senate campaign fund in the final three months of 2013, Paul has $1.7 million of that re-election fund which can be transferred to a potential 2016 campaign. In addition, his political action committee, RAND PAC, has $500,000 in the bank. Breitbart has the deets.
GILLESPIE ALL IN: SENATE ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie will announce his Senate bid in Virginia today. The former top adviser to President George W. Bush, will challenge Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in November. A source familiar with Gillespie’s campaign tells Fox News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel that today’s announcement will come with little fanfare as Gillespie sets off to crisscross the commonwealth winning over delegates to the Virginia GOP’s June nominating convention.
[Gee, do you think he might be running? - Former Massachusetts’ Sen. Scott Brown has updated his Web site to say “coming soon.” The site also boasts a new slogan: “Scott Brown: Giving Power Back to the People.” Brown is widely expected to mount a challenge to vulnerable freshman Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.]
COON SUPPER DISPATCH
AP reports from Arkansas’ venerable Coon Supper. (Yes, they really eat raccoon. No, nobody likes it.) No matter how much ringtail Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is willing to eat, though, it may not be enough: “I think Pryor is a good advocate for Arkansas,” [said Jammy Turner, 34, a salesman for Monsanto crop products]. “I don't think the Democratic Party, in general, makes decisions for the better good,” he said, citing personal freedom and self-reliance as examples.”
PICK SIX: OBAMACARE BLUES IN OREGON
Republicans need to flip six Senate seats from red to blue to gain control of the upper chamber. News first wants to know which Democrat-held seats you think are most vulnerable. Your current consensus (in order of the number of time picked): Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, West Virginia, South Dakota and North Carolina. But wait! What about Oregon? The state has had arguably the worst ObamaCare launch in the nation and certainly NSA and privacy concerns are a big deal there. Reader Lori Haughton of Dallas thinks Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., could be in trouble. “Dr. Monica Wehby, pediatric neurosurgeon, is the GOP's best hope in this race. An Obamacare critic, Wehby can challenge Merkley as a DC outsider, if Obamacare continues to go south, Merkley will also not be able to wage a War on Women attack!”
BRANSTAD: 20 YEARS AND COUNTING
Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, made official his run for a remarkable sixth term as the Hawkeye State’s chief executive. Branstad was the state’s youngest-ever governor when he took office at age 36 in 1983. He served until 1999. Branstad, now 67, ran and won in 2010 and is now seeking another term, which, if he wins and completes, would give him 24 years in the governor’s mansion. Branstad is heavily favored in his run, a disconcerting sign for Democrats hoping to hold on to the Senate seat being left vacant by the retirement of longtime Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Branstad’s clout in the state with the first 2016 nominating contest will win him lots of help from national Republicans. The Des Moines Register has the story.
[Hey, buddy - Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican contender from neighboring Wisconsin, was among the first to congratulate Branstad. Walker tweeted, “Congratulations to my friend Gov @TerryBranstad who announced his plans for re-election in Iowa tonight. @IowasTeam.”]
BROWNBACK INVOKES SLAVERY WARS IN ABORTION DEBATE
In his State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., alluded to the state’s unique history with slavery and abortion, saying that Kansas has been called upon in the past “to blaze the trail for America out of the wilderness” on moral issues. Citing the Summer of Mercy anti-abortion protests in Wichita in 1991 and 2001, Brownback compared the demonstrations to the violent Bleeding Kansas struggle between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces in the 1850s, culminating with the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre led by abolitionist John Brown. The Summer of Mercy protests were against late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller, who was gunned down in 2009. “The chains of bondage of our brothers rubbed our skin and our hearts raw until we could stand it no more and erupted into ‘Bleeding Kansas,’ The Summer of Mercy sprung forth in Kansas as we could no longer tolerate the death of innocent children,” Brownback said. AP reports.
STEMS AND SEEDS: SOCIAL ISSUES COMPLICATE COLORADO
Colorado’s swing to the left could pose problems for Democrats down the road. The state has been a hotbed for a whole host of social issues including marijuana, gun control, gay marriage and taxes. With the recall of two state legislators and the once wildly popular Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., now facing tougher re-election prospects, the centennial state could be a barometer of how the issues may play out across the nation. –Watch Fox: Correspondent Alicia Acuna examines how the backlash Colorado’s liberal social agenda could be indicative of how the issues will play out on a national scale.
[The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee is blacklisting the conservative political firm Jamestown Associates for targeting GOP Senate incumbents, National Journal has the scoop.]
MCKEON RETIREMENT PUTS PRESTIGIOUS GAVEL IN PLAY
With sources close to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., saying he is expected to announce his retirement today, a battle for his coveted chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee is likely ensue. The Hill has details. As for McKeon’s House seat, the district is quite Republican by California standards (going narrowly for Mitt Romney in 2012), making this a good year for party-loyal McKeon to make his departure after 22 years.
CHEERS! MCAULIFFE PUTS GOP TURNCOAT ON LIQUOR BOARD
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., has named long-time GOP operative Boyd Marcus to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Boyd, a former staffer to Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Gov. Jim Gilmore, R-Va., surprised party leaders by backing McAuliffe over Republican Ken Cuccinelli last year. Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins offered this caustic response, “Let me be the first to offer my congratulations to Boyd Marcus on his appointment to the Virginia ABC Board. It's nice to know the exchange rate for 30 pieces of silver these days is about $122,000 per year plus benefits.”
BUT OTHER THAN THAT, IT WAS DELICIOUS…
New Yorkers famously disdain Washingtonians’ cultural ambitions, but D.C.’s most celebrated chef, Michel Richard, is recognized in New York and around the world as a culinary force with which to be reckoned. Perhaps that is why NYT food critic Pete Wells took such evident glee in brutalizing Richard’s entry into New York’s restaurant scene. An appetizer: “Think of everything that’s great about fried chicken. Now take it all away. In its place, right between dried-out strands of gray meat and a shell of fried bread crumbs, imagine a gummy white paste about a quarter-inch deep. This unidentifiable paste coats your mouth until you can’t perceive textures or flavors. It is like edible Novocain. … Slithering around the meat was a terrifying sauce the color of jarred turkey gravy mixed with cigar ashes. If soldiers had killed Escoffier’s family in front of him and then forced him to make dinner, this is what he would have cooked.”
FRIEND REQUEST DENIED: TEENS FLEE FACEBOOK
According to a new study, teenagers ages 13 to 17 are bolting from Facebook in droves. A research firm found a nearly 25 percent drop in usage among the age group – nearly 3 million users left the social media platform over the past three years. What could explain the bolt? Maybe seeing their grandparents arrive in droves. It appears while Facebook has become passé for teens it is become a Baby Boomer fave: That demographic has seen an 80 percent rise in Facebook use. Fast Company has more.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., joined the photo sharing platform Snapchat, and used the social networking tool to take a swipe at the National Security Agency Wednesday. Snapchat, which lets users share fast-disappearing images, has seen an explosion in use among younger Americans. Paul sent his followers a picture of the moon saying, “Hey NSA check this out! You’ve been ‘Mooned.’ But its disappearing…better get a screenshot fast.”
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 FoxNews.com. 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.