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Snowed in: De Blasio, Obama stay focused on wealth gap

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Jan. 3, 2014: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference in Queens.AP

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Buzz Cut:
• Snowed in: De Blasio, Obama stay focused on wealth gap
• Study says ObamaCare resistance not futile
• RNC looks ready to roll the dice on 2016 plan
• Clintons too cozy with PAC?
• Hey, Judea

SNOWED IN: DE BLASIO, OBAMA STAY FOCUSED ON WEALTH GAP
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in chilly Washington today to address the Conference of Mayors, can escape for a while from the frosty furor back home over snowplow inequality. (The city is grumbling that de Blasio’s hipster-heavy neighborhood saw swift attention during his first winter storm as mayor while the residents of tonier neighborhoods on the Upper West Side were left to dig themselves out. De Blasio has copped to botching the snow removal.) Lionized on the left for his focus on hiking taxes and spending to battle income inequality, de Blasio isn't partaking of a White House reception for the group this afternoon, but his fellow mayors can expect to hear a great deal on the subject from President Obama. Obama is warming up for next week’s State of the Union address, which is expected to focus on the same theme. In the universe of heavily-Democratic, very liberal, big-city mayors, the message about income inequality is a sure-fire winner. But what about the rest of the country?

Yadda, yadda, yadda - A new Fox News poll reveals that Americans aren’t exactly up in arms over the president’s preferred topic in this midterm election cycle. Only 13 percent said the government should act to promote economic fairness. Sixty-two percent said income disparities exist “because that’s just how the economy works.” While the president and some Democrats like to charge the rich are getting richer on the backs of the poor, 84 percent of those polled say that’s not so. Only 12 percent said inequality is the top economic issue facing the country. In the lead: Creating new jobs, the top concern of 40 percent of respondents. Seventy-four percent said they thought the country was still in a recession.

[Obama’s overall job approval hovered at 42 percent. Approval of his performance on the economy was just 38 percent. His lowest marks came on addressing the federal deficit. Only 28 percent said he was doing a good job on overspending.]

Split decision - Fifty-five percent of respondents in the new poll said extending long-term jobless benefits could discourage the unemployed from looking for work. Sixty-six percent said benefits should last one year or less. Respondents do agree with the president’s calls to raise the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage. Fifty-six percent share Obama’s view while 25 percent do not.

COUNTDOWN BEGINS TO NEXT FISCAL CLIFF
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday that the federal government could reach its borrowing limit within the next 16 days. Boehner, campaigning and fundraising for House candidates in California, told reporters that lawmakers are in what he called a “tight box” and that a GOP strategy on moving forward will be discussed in the days ahead. Reuters has more.

WALKER READIES HUGE TAX CUT
Via Breitbart:“[Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., proposed] $800 million in tax cuts Wednesday evening, representing most of the state’s $912 million revenue surplus. Half of the cuts will be achieved through property tax reductions, and the other half will consist of lower payroll taxes, as well as lower income tax rates for the lowest state bracket. ‘What do you do with a surplus?  Give it back to the people who earned it.  It's your money,’ Walker [said] in his annual State of the State address, according to an excerpt released to the press. The tax cuts will be a core part of Walker’s new budget for the state, entitled the ‘Blueprint for Prosperity.’”

STUDY: OBAMACARE RESISTANCE NOT FUTILE
A survey from the conservative American Action Forum could explain the low numbers of young adults who are voluntarily enrolling in ObamaCare ahead of looming penalties under the law. The group found it is cheaper for 86 percent of young people to pay federal fines than enroll in the troubled entitlement program. “Even after the mandate penalty is fully implemented, a majority of young adult households will find that it is financially advantageous for them to forgo health insurance, pay the mandate penalty, and personally cover their own health care expenses,” the report says. The study predicts that when the punishment for those who refuse to comply with ObamaCare increases in 2016, it will still be financially advantageous for 62 percent of young people to defy the law.

[“Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they're double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program? Those questions can't be answered until we see the population we have today. And we really don't have a good view on that.”—Mark Bertolini, CEO of health-insurance giant, speaking to CNBC Wednesday]

You have a seat on the panel: ObamaCare dumps on workers - ObamaCare was designed to encourage employers to kick people off employer-based insurance policies. That was the shared sentiment among viewers who weighed in via Bing Pulse during the All Star Panel on Wednesday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.” There was wide agreement among voting viewers with Charles Krauthammer that “The purpose of Obamacare was to destroy the relationship between the employer and the employee in getting health care, and that’s exactly why millions of people are being tossed off [insurance plans] and millions more will be as the larger employers start tossing people off later in the year.”

Discussion of flaws in ObamaCare’s Web site drew increased participation from audience panelists. Viewer votes spiked to 22,000 per minute when Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes said Democratic lawmakers, misled by the administration about the viability of the system before its October crash launching, will be rattled by the revelation of a new hidden warning about potential catastrophic failure. “Now, these same Democratic officials, Senate candidates in red states and others, are going to be looking at this memo and saying, ‘Wait a second, they have been telling me all along that things are fine. But when they have to put it down on paper in order to get this no-bid contract, they're actually giving an honest assessment that is the direct  opposite of what they have been saying publicly now for month.’” Bing Pulse tracked 146,000 total votes during the panel discussion. Take a deeper data dive and view the full results here. Make your voice heard and take your seat on the panel.

PANEL TO CALL FOR END TO NSA PHONE SNOOPING
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent executive-branch panel established at the urging of the 9/11 Commission, is set to release a report today calling for an end to the National Security Agency’s harvesting of Americans’ telephone data. Fox News has more.

Glad to know - In a new Fox News poll, 68 percent of respondents were glad to now know that the federal government is collecting their phone records and monitoring emails of everyday Americans – a secret made known by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The response marks a contrast to a July 2013 poll that found 60 percent of respondents disapproved of Snowden leaking the details of the program.

[Edward Snowden will take questions during a Webcast this afternoon.]

The Judge’s ruling: Placebo effect - New at Fox News Opinion: Judge Andrew Napolitano says President Obama’s proposed reforms to the National Security Agency are empty gestures. From Presidential Placebo: “Instead of addressing the massive violations of the natural and constitutionally protected right to privacy, instead of acknowledging that but for the personal courage of Edward Snowden his administration would still be pulling the wool over our eyes, instead of reestablishing the serious constitutional and civil liberties bona fides he established for himself as a U.S. senator, the president defended his massive spying as a necessary tool in the fight to maintain national security and offered only a placebo to its critics…”

Shifting winds on spying - In another shift, 50 percent of respondents in the new Fox News poll believe the NSA’s surveillance program does more to help catch terrorists, while 44 percent say the spying hurts law-abiding Americans by misusing their private information. Six months ago 47 percent said the program did more to harm Americans, 41 percent said it did more to track down terrorist threats.

No trust - Sixty-one percent of respondents said they did not trust the federal government to keep their private information confidential. Another 67 percent felt the same way about a third party.

[Watch Fox: Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., appears in the 1 p.m. ET hour to discuss his invitation to President Obama to come and see how Colorado is implementing a new law permitting the sale of marijuana for recreational use.]

ACTION HERO
What would a conservative judiciary really look like? George Will considers the notion in his column An Active Judiciary - “Conservatives clamoring for judicial restraint, meaning deference to legislatures, are waving a banner unfurled a century ago by progressives eager to emancipate government, freeing it to pursue whatever collective endeavors it fancies, sacrificing individual rights to a spurious majoritarian ethic… Conservatism’s task, politically hazardous but constitutionally essential, is to urge courts to throw as many flags as there are infractions.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
From Vanity Fair: The Accidental Activist - “She appeared to be the perfect plaintiff in a case that changed America’s political landscape: Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court 40 years ago this month. But Norma McCorvey, now 65, was never what she seemed: neither as the pregnant Texas woman who won fame as abortion-rights icon “Jane Roe,” nor as the pro-life activist she would become. Retracing her life through family, friends, and advisers, Joshua Prager investigates.”

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

POLL CHECK

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.8 percent//Disapprove – 51.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.3 percent//Wrong Track – 63.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.3 percent// Republicans 41.9 percent 

RNC LOOKS READY TO ROLL THE DICE ON 2016 PRIMARY PLAN
The Republican National Committee, meeting in Washington this week, is talking a lot about beefing up its ground game for midterm elections. What’s really driving the discussion among committee members, though, are proposed changes to the party’s presidential nominating process. Casting an eye back to the grueling primary process of 2012, committee member seem inclined to shorten the nomination process for 2016 – with a nominee and running mate emerging from a convention in June rather than September. Getting Republicans to coalesce around a frontrunner sooner would have likely helped 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, but the strategy holds its risks for the next cycle.

Advantage - Cutting down the calendar and the number of debates means less infighting and enables a nominee to preserve resources for a general-election fight. If the nomination has been locked up as early as March, that’s much more time for Republicans to turn their fire to the Democratic frontrunner.

Disadvantage - That’s a long time for a GOP nominee (and running mate) to sit on the shelf to be scrutinized by the press and Democrats. The status quo puts the ticket out on the trail for a six-week mad dash to Election Day. This would mean three months of microscope gazing. And while the goal is to make it harder for flash-in-the-pan candidates since a shorter process means a greater need for big money and national organization at the outset of the primary race, a rapid-fire primary could also work to the advantage of a surge candidate. Romney was able to weather multiple surges from the likes of Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. A well-timed burst in a quick process might have made either of them the GOP nominee last time.

Making it stick - As the National Journal reports, whatever the RNC decides, it comes down to enforcement. Are committee members ready to heavily punish states that jump the line on early primaries or on candidates who participate in non-sanction debates? The final vote won’t be until this summer, but the proposed rules will sink or swim depending on how receptive committee members are during this week’s gathering.

COTTON OUTRAISES PRYOR
According to newly released fundraising figures, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., outraised Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark, for the high-stakes Senate matchup in the Razorback State. Cotton brought in $1.24 million compared to Pryor’s $1.1 million in the final three months of 2013. Politico reports that Pryor, with $4.4 million in the bank, still has twice as much cash on hand, but Cotton’s haul means that cash is unlikely to be a deciding factor in the contest.

FREEDOM WORKS BACKS BEVIN
The conservative activists at Freedom Works announced their backing of Kentucky Senate Republican challenger Matt Bevin Wednesday, joining Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund in the effort to take down Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary. The Club For Growth has so far stayed out of the race.

PICK SIX: CAN LANDRIEU SURVIVE IN THE JUNGLE?
Republicans need to flip six Senate seats from blue to red to gain control of the upper chamber.  Fox News First wants to know which Democrat-held seats you think are most vulnerable. Based on your feedback the consensus is (in order of times selected): Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. While Sen. Mary Landrieu D-La., is one of the top targets for Republicans and is perhaps one of the most vulnerable Democrats up in November, reader Greg McGiffney notes the state’s jungle primary system could work to her advantage. McGiffney writes, “I still feel the Louisiana run-off will work somehow keep Landrieu in office – she has a name that seems to win there.” Under Louisiana’s system all candidates will appear on the same ballot in November. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held Dec.6.

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

CLINTONS TOO COZY WITH PAC?
A conservative group is asking the Federal Election Commission to start treating 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton as a candidate, enforcing reporting and coordination requirements. The claim is based on coordination between Clinton and the ostensibly independent political action committee raising money and signing up supporters on her behalf, Ready For Hillary. BuzzFeed has the story on the charge from the Stop Hillary PAC that Clinton’s campaign renting its 2008 e-mail list to Ready for Hillary is tantamount to a declaration of candidacy. The claim is bolstered by recent reporting about high-level meetings including top Clinton lieutenants to coordinate the activities of Ready for Hillary and another big-money Democratic group.

[Hillary call your office - Watch Fox: The latest Fox News poll, with results on Benghazi, along with ObamaCare will be released during “Special Report with Bret Baier” in the 6 p.m. ET hour.]

Christie fades - According to the latest Fox News poll: One year ago, 63 percent of Republicans felt Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J. had a strong future. Now, it’s 41 percent.

WARNER WAY OUT IN FRONT
A new survey from Christopher Newport University finds Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., well ahead of Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chairman who entered the race last week. Warner led Gillespie by 20 points in the hypothetical matchup, mirroring a Roanoke College survey released earlier this week.

NRCC SLAMS SINK ON TAXES
The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched a $725,000 ad campaign against Alex Sink, the Democrat seeking the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. The ad hits Sink over her tenure as the Florida’s chief financial officer saying, “Alex Sink supports ObamaCare even though 300,000 Floridians could lose their health insurance plans because of it. Sink has supported higher taxes too. Higher property taxes. Higher sales taxes. More taxes on water and TV.” The Hill reports House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s House Majority PAC is spending $650,000 on a forthcoming ad against Republican David Jolly.

KELLY FILE: MEET MITT
Greg Whiteley
, whose documentary “Mitt” about 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney debuts on Netflix Friday, described to Megyn Kelly the “excruciating” experience of seeing the Romney family watch televised election returns. Whiteley said he was surprised the candidate relied on news organizations for the latest information on results and forecasts. Whiteley also discussed the back-and-forth over the Fox News Decision Desk call giving Ohio’s electoral votes, and thereby the election, to President Obama. Watch the full interview from “The Kelly File” here.

IF ONLY THEY COULD HARNESS THE ANGST!
San Jose’s Mercury News shares a growing problem in conservation-minded Silicon Valley known as “charge rage.” Apparently the increase in electric car use among employees of the nation’s largest tech giants is leading to a shortage of workplace chargers. Peter Graf, the chief sustainability officer of software maker SAP told the paper, “Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that's a problem. Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, ‘I see you're fully charged, can you please move your car?’’’

[NYT: Europe, Facing Economic Pain, May Ease Climate Rules - “High energy costs, declining industrial competitiveness and a recognition that the economy is unlikely to rebound strongly any time soon are leading policy makers to begin easing up in their drive for more aggressive climate regulation.” More]

HEY, JUDEA
From WSJ: “At a formal dinner [with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], arranged by the Jewish National Fund, [Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper] sat in on keyboard as he and a band belted out the Beatles standards: ‘Hey, Jude’ and ‘With a little help from my friends.’ ‘Rockstar,’ declared the Israeli news website Ynet in a caption over a headshot of Mr. Harper on the bandstand. Bemused by Mr. Harper’s impromptu show, a news anchor on Channel 2 called him the “BFF”, or Best Friend Forever, of Israel and … Netanyahu.”

[Ed. Note: Psst, James Rosen, you can watch the performance here.]

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Right now the insurers are guessing at the subsidy, so all of this is on the honor system and it can be wildly off. If they undershoot, the insurers are going to go bust. If they overshoot, the government is going to be stuck with a huge bill, but the fact is no one knows what's going on and when you have a system as complicated as this, [you have] millions of people with millions of defective or non-existent IDs when they show up at the hospital.” – 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 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.