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• Baier Tracks: Obama’s three dog night
• Don’t blame redistricting
• He went there: Paul knocks Bubba for intern sex
• Iowa social conservative leader readying Senate run
• The law is toothless
BAIER TRACKS: OBAMA’S THREE DOG NIGHT
“‘One is the loneliest number...’ is how the song goes. Tuesday night, a president frustrated with his stalled agenda in Congress will tell Americans in his State of the Union Address that he’s ready to go it alone. Here's how the WSJ writes it: ‘[President Obama] will seek to shift the public's souring view of his leadership, a challenge the White House sees as critical to shaping the nation's policy direction over the next three years. Mr. Obama will emphasize his intention to use unilateral presidential authority -- bypassing Congress when necessary -- to an extent not seen in his previous State of the Union speeches, White House officials said.’”
To make the most substantive changes though, the president will need Congress to sign on. He’ll likely tout the budget compromise reached by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as evidence things CAN happen. But, to hammer Republicans for inaction and being obstructionist and then ask them to help move big legislation seems like it may be a delicate, if not futile, rhetorical dance – especially in an election year.
This is the president’s last pressure point in what looks like a diminishing ability to get any legislative ball across the goal line. What was left of the president’s ‘juice’ on Capitol Hill – the ability to influence – disappears more and more the closer we get to November 2014.” – Bret Baier.
[Fox News is partnering with Bing Pulse to track your opinions live during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Learn how you can participate here.]
No soup for you - When “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace cited some troubling recent economic trends, White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer said “it’s important to remember this president inherited the worst economic situation through the Great Depression…” Pfeiffer then touted a host of favorable-sounding statistics about Obamanomical programs. Pfeiffer chose the wrong venue for those well-traveled talking points. Take it away, Mr. Sunday: “But you talk about restoring opportunity. Median household income is down. Labor force participation is down. Food stamps are up. Poverty rate is up. If things are so great, how come they are so lousy?” More.
[From AP: “In a first, working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps - a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients.”]
Welfare trims to be scaled back, slowed own - “Capitol Hill negotiators were working Sunday on a plan to complete the contentious [food stamp bill] in the House, with a final chamber vote as early as Wednesday, Fox News has learned.” Fox News has more.
[Watch Fox: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, discusses tomorrow’s State of the Union address in the 2 p.m. ET hour]
“This president, it seems to me, after the 2010 election when the American public issued a … ‘restraining order’, the president has sort of hung out on the left and tried to get what he wants through the bureaucracy…”-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace”
A pen, a phone and also a plane - Washington Examiner: “Obama plans to hammer the message home in the days following the speech with travel to Maryland, Pittsburgh, Pa., Milwaukee, Wis., and Nashville, Tenn.”
[Watch Fox: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., discusses the GOP’s jobs plans in the 9 a.m. ET hour]
…not as we do - From the Daily Caller: “Just because lawmakers want businesses to pay more for entry-level workers, doesn’t mean they are willing to do so themselves. According to a new study by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), only four percent of the 210 lawmakers who pledged their allegiance to a bill raising the minimum wage pay their interns.”
THE IMMIGRATION BILL IS ALIVE! NO, WAIT…
The Hill is ramping up the speculation that House Republicans talking about immigration at their policy retreat this weekend will lead to a broad package to emerge this summer: “The immigration reform debate in the House could boil down to a handful of influential Tea Party conservatives. Proponents and opponents of creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and other reforms have zeroed in on “peer leaders” in the House GOP. These conservatives include Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Justin Amash (Mich.), Renee Ellmers (N.C.) and Steve Scalise (La.)… Both sides are battling for 117 Republican votes because Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will only move legislation that has the support of a majority of the 233-member GOP conference.”
[“The choice is clear. Either the GOP can help the White House deliver a crushing hammer blow to the middle class – or it can stand alone as the one party defending the legitimate interests of American workers.”—Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in USA Today OpEd]
Never mind - Washington Examiner’s Byron York: Are House Republicans planning to pull a fast one on immigration? "But no, it does not appear that the GOP leadership is planning to do it or is even pushing the idea -- and besides, there is no guarantee at all that Republicans will agree to do anything on immigration, anyway."
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney looks at the effort by Sen. Chuck Schumer to divide Republicans by pushing populism. Carney suggests it is Democrats, though, who may have greater vulnerability: “Democrats would hate trimming corporate welfare for their clients. Schumer and friends would suddenly find themselves choosing between helping the unemployed, and sticking by their party’s donors. Republicans could beat Schumer at his divide-and-conquer populist game —if Republicans are willing to actually battle corporate welfare themselves.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.7 percent//Disapprove – 51.7 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.0 percent//Wrong Track – 62.9 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 41.0 percent// Republicans 40.5 percent
[Poll Watch: New Fox News polls on the national interest in the State of the Union will be released during “Special Report with “Bret Baier” in the 6 p.m. ET hour]
DON’T BLAME REDISTRICTING
NYT’s Jowei Chen and Johnathan Rodden fillet the long-standing conventional wisdom on why Republicans control the House by a wide margin even as Democrats won the past two presidential elections. The meme since 2010 has been that shady GOP tactics on the state level as delayed the inevitable demographic destruction of the red team. But the pair found that randomly drawn congressional maps produced a nearly identical result. From Don’t Blame the Maps. “The problem for Democrats is that they have overwhelming majorities not only in the dense, poor urban centers, but also in isolated, far-flung college towns, historical mining areas and 19th-century manufacturing towns that are surrounded by and ultimately overwhelmed by rural Republicans… the Democrats’ geography problem is bigger than their gerrymandering problem.”
[Ed. note: This is a pretty big deal. The claim of Republican illegitimacy proffered by President Obama and his supporters rests heavily on the old thesis that the GOP’s House majority is the function of a corrupt system of redistricting.]
HILLARY’S PAC READY FOR IOWA
WaPo reports: “Hillary Rodham Clinton is not officially running for anything. But here in the first-in-the-nation caucus state that bedeviled her in 2008, Democrats are busy laying the groundwork for what they see as Clinton’s near-certain 2016 presidential campaign…Over a marathon day of strategy sessions, the Democratic Party’s patchwork coalition was fully represented: labor leaders, elected officials, statewide and local candidates, liberal activists, women, gays, seniors and 20-somethings. State party chairman Scott Brannen was here, too, as were strategists and foot soldiers who helped President Obama’s 2008 Iowa triumph. Ready for Hillary, an independent super PAC trying to organize grass-roots supporters behind Clinton, hosted five separate roundtable sessions Saturday that were attended by a total of well over 100 Democratic leaders and activists. The group recently organized in New Hampshire and is planning visits to South Carolina and Nevada — all early states on the presidential calendar.
Eggs, meet basket - Natty and knowledgeable David Drucker sez: “As the Republican Party plots what it hopes is a successful 2016 strategy, GOP officials are increasingly preoccupied by one question: How do we beat Hillary?”
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: BENGHAZI WILL HAUNT HILLARY
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won’t skate on the security failures and subsequently doctored talking points on the deadly attack by Islamist militants in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. That was the consensus opinion of viewer voters during Friday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” All-Star Panel as measured by Bing Pulse. Charles Krauthammer drew agreement across the board with the following: “[Benghazi] is a problem. I'm not sure how great it will be, but it is a problem –particularly when you add to that the fact that the rest of [Clinton’s] stewardship as Secretary of State was so unbelievably undistinguished and that there wasn't a single achievement in the four years. All she has on the plate, on the record is Benghazi.”
HE WENT THERE: PAUL KNOCKS BUBBA FOR INTERN SEX
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stood up for his wife, Kelley, and rebutted questions about what Democrats and NBC News have deemed a “War on Women” by Republican politicians. Having mostly failed in an effort to get Paul to directly defend or rebut comments about birth control subsidies by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee last week, host David Gregory tried a different tack: asking Paul to defend remarks his wife made in a magazine interview last year, in which she said that former President Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with a White House intern were “predatory and offensive to women.” The Kentucky senator didn’t shy away: “Well, you know, I mean, the Democrats, one of their big issues is they have concocted and said Republicans are committing a war on women. One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn't prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior, and it should be something we shouldn't want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office. This isn't having an affair. I mean, this isn't me saying, ‘Oh, he's had an affair, we shouldn't talk to him.’ Someone who takes advantage of a young girl in their office? I mean, really. And then they have the gall to stand up and say, ‘Republicans are having a war on women?’ So, yes, I think it's a factor.” More.
The difference between Ron and Rand - NYT’s Sam Tanehaus and Jim Rutenberg consider Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance. “…[I]f Mr. Paul reaps the benefits of his father’s name and history, he also must contend with the burdens of that patrimony. And as he has become a politician in his own right and now tours the circuit of early primary states, Mr. Paul has been calibrating how fully he embraces some libertarian precepts… [Republican] Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told donors in New York that in a national campaign Mr. Paul could not escape Ron Paul’s ideological history. Mr. Paul is not the first political son encumbered by a father’s legacy, but his mantle is unusually heavy. He has been his father’s apprentice, aide, surrogate and, finally, successor.”
IOWA SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE LEADER READYING SENATE RUN
Republicans hoping to pick up the Iowa Senate seat being left vacant by the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin haven’t found a big-name candidate to take on likely Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley. But neither have they seen the kind of costly red-on-red violence that has broken out in places like Georgia, Kentucky and Nebraska. Both of those things may be about to change. Bob Vander Plaats, president of the conservative Christian group the Family Leader, told the Des Moines Register he is “seriously assessing” a Senate bid and will make a decision by Feb. 15. From the DMR: “He is probably best known in Iowa for successfully campaigning for the ouster of three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010, a historic upset fueled by the court’s 2009 decision that let same-sex couples marry.” Vander Plaats, a key Iowa booster of Rick Santorum’s 2012 candidacy, would have huge advantages in a crowded, factious primary field that includes former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and state Sen. Jodi Ernst.
HAGAN’S LIKELY FOE GETS THE DOUGH
The Charlotte News and Observer reports: “Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis says he raised more than $700,000 during the last three months of 2013. The amount announced Friday by his campaign is less than what Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan collected in the same period, but it should keep the current state House speaker in a good financial position for the crowded Republican primary. Tillis' campaign says he has raised more than $1.7 million since joining the race. A campaign spokesman says Tillis had nearly $1.3 million in cash as of Dec. 31.”
Missing Congressman: I was with Putin - “Rep. Steve Stockman [R-Texas] told Breitbart News he traveled to Russia, Egypt, Israel and England as part of an official congressional delegation and ripped the media for what he described as a made-up story about his absence from Congress and his Texas district.”
PICK SIX: DRILLING DOWN ON ALASKA
The status quo in Washington and President Obama’s second-term agenda depend largely on Democrats preventing Republicans from gaining six seats, and thereby a majority, in the Senate. Fox News First wants to know which six Democratic seats are most vulnerable. Based on FNF reader e-mails and tweets, the consensus is (in order of times selected): Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. But wait! Reader Barbara Granger wants to add Alaska to that list. Granger writes, “As an Alaskan since 1967 and lived through the growing up of now senator Mark Begich [D-Alaska] … I can say he is a prime candidate for early retirement.”
MAYBE TIME FOR ANOTHER PARTY SWITCH?
From Sunshine State News: “With [Democrat] Charlie Crist’s 12-point lead over Florida [Republican] Gov. Rick Scott whittled down to 2, don't necessarily look at recent poll numbers as a victory for Scott. Look at them as a growing problem for Crist, victimized by national trends, but especially President Barack Obama's unpopular and ineffective health-care baggage…The poll finds Floridians think the roll-out of the health care law was handled poorly with 42 percent saying it was very unsuccessful and 20 percent thinking it was somewhat unsuccessful.”
SINK SLAMS JOLLY’S PAST JOB
Florida Democratic congressional frontrunner Alex Sink is echoing a recent ad by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slamming Republican David Jolly over his past as a lobbyist. In the ad, Sink speaks directly to the camera saying, “If you want to go to Washington to fix what's wrong with Washington, being a lobbyist is not the way to do it.”
DESPITE INDICTMENT, D’SOUZA PRESSES ON
From the Hollywood Reporter: “The filmmakers behind Dinesh D'Souza's upcoming doc have vowed to press on while their star defends himself after his indictment on federal charges that he violated campaign finance laws in 2012. On Sunday, they released a trailer for the movie, America, that is set for release on July 4… In America, D'Souza -- who wrote and produced the film -- makes the claim that 1960s radical leftism is more or less indistinguishable from current mainstream liberalism, a doctrine that he says preaches the United States is the product of ‘stealing and plunder’ from Native Americans, Mexicans and African-American slaves.”
Plus, also - “HAVANA (AP) — Leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean began arriving in Cuba on Sunday to talk about poverty and inequality at a summit of a fledgling regional bloc formed as a force for integration and a counterbalance to the U.S. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC for its initials in Spanish, was formed in 2011 and comprises every nation in the Western Hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada.”
SURE IT WILL…
From WaPo: “Postage rates on first-class letters and most other mail will rise Monday by 3 cents to help the financially ailing U.S. Postal Service recoup millions of dollars it lost during the economic downturn. But the largest rate increase in 11 years will be in effect only for about 24 months, the time postal regulators determined it would take the Postal Service to recover recession-related losses.”
THE LAW IS TOOTHLESS
A Winnipeg woman surrendered a DNA sample to Canadian authorities after her conviction for a recent, unspecified crime. Her genetic markers drew an immediate connection with a cold case. From CBC: “The robbery happened in October 2007, when a woman confronted staff at a convenience store in the 800 block of Arlington Street. She threatened them with a knife and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash, police said. But while running off, she dropped her partial plate of false teeth and left them behind. The teeth were taken by police who sent them off for a DNA sample.”
[Ed. note: Grody, eh?]
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.