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• Endangered Dem tries costly caveat to ‘if you like it’
• GOP debt-limit choice: Big on ObamaCare or small on Keystone
• Team Obama: Hillary could maybe win with our help
• N.J. Dem to resign under ethics cloud
• You gotta start somewhere
ENDANGERED DEM TRIES COSTLY CAVEAT TO ‘IF YOU LIKE IT’
How will vulnerable Democrats deal with the past promises of continued coverage under ObamaCare? Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., tried a riff that could prove costly to her re-election bid. The freshman senator told radio station WKXL that constituents who lost policies or access to their preferred providers under the president’s health law could just pay more to keep what they liked. “At least for people who are willing to pay more, that they have that option of going to their doctor and hospital no matter what their insurer does.” Shaheen also dodged when asked if she would still vote for ObamaCare knowing what she knows now about the troubled health law. This condition on President Obama’s “If you like it…” pledge was first floated by ObamaCare architect Ezekial Emanuel. The latest poll in her race puts Shaheen 10 points ahead of still-undeclared Republican, Scott Brown.
[Pulling a Putin - Washington Examiner: “Scott Brown isn't running for Senate yet -- but he looked every bit a candidate on the front page of a New Hampshire newspaper on Monday, photographed shirtless at a local Penguin Plunge charity event in Hampton Beach, N.H.”]
S.O.S. - What Democrats need is a good answer to the question about why people are losing coverage and access to care. A good answer could make the difference in control of the Senate. Shaheen’s stumble suggests that her party is still a long way from a finding a solid stance. And remember, the next waves of cancellations, rate hikes and “doc shock” is just getting started.
Look, a puppy! - With the chips down on ObamaCare, where can Democrats turn? Fluffy kitties and puppies. From USA Today: “A multimillion-dollar [ObamaCare] advertising campaign launches today targeting young women, who are more likely to enroll in health insurance… Enroll America President Anne Filipic says the cats, dogs, birds and other pets featured in the ads ‘help break through the clutter’ and are sure to resonate with the public. She cites statistics showing more than 60% of homes have a pet and more than half of female pet owners would risk their lives for their pets.”
Brookings study says ObamaCare will cost 80 percent of Americans - Washington Examiner’s Byron York considers: “A new study finds that Obamacare's redistribution will be stunningly lopsided. Scholars at the liberal Brookings Institution have discovered that Obamacare will increase the income of Americans in the lowest 20 percent of the income scale, and especially in the lowest ten percent. But all other income groups -- even people who make very modest incomes in the $25,000 to $30,000 range, as well as all income brackets above that -- will experience a decline in income because of Obamacare.”
Major surgery - President Obama’s pick to be the next surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, who founded Doctors for Obama, has his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Study says first lady’s costly health initiative failing - National Journal: “With the obesity epidemic in full swing and millions of American living in neighborhoods where fruits and vegetables are hard to come by, the Obama administration thought it saw a solution: fund stores that will stock fresh, affordable produce in these deprived areas. But now, three years and $500 million into the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, there's a problem: A study suggests it’s not working…. It's too early into the… program to see results, an official at USDA said, but White House representatives will meet Tuesday with representatives from six healthy food access projects across the country to discuss their progress.”
OBAMA TO O’REILLY: IT’S YOUR FAULT
“We’ve just run through an interview in which you asked about health, uh, health care not working, IRS where-where we, uh, wholly corrupt, Benghazi… they’re defined by you guys in a certain way… I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, uh, it has, uh, it has made FOX News very successful… what are you gonna do when I’m gone?” – President Obama in an interview with Bill O’Reilly. Watch the full interview here.
GOP CHOICE: GO BIG ON OBAMACARE BAILOUT OR SMALL ON KEYSTONE
“Several House members told The Washington Post on Monday that Republican leaders have narrowed their list of possible debt-limit strategies to two options: trading a one-year extension for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or trading a one-year extension for repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s risk corridors… A clean debt-limit extension is not yet on the GOP’s radar, though [House Speaker John Boehner] has said he would avoid default.”
[On the floor today - Senate expected to approve a $1 trillion agriculture spending bill. Read more from Washington Examiner]
FEDS GET FAILING GRADE ON PREVENTING CYBERATTACKS
A report to be released today by the Republican staff of the Senate Homeland Security committee says Federal agencies are ill-prepared to defend against even modestly skilled hackers. WaPo reports. “The report draws on previous work by agency inspectors general and the Government Accountability Office to paint a broader picture of chronic dysfunction, citing repeated failures by federal officials to perform the unglamorous work of information security. That includes installing security patches, updating anti-virus software, communicating on secure networks and requiring strong passwords. A common password on federal systems, the report found, is ‘password.’”
[Target CFO John Mulligan will appear before a Senate panel today to discuss the data breach that left millions of customers’ personal information vulnerable in December.]
WAR DRUMS: SENATORS SAY ADMINISTRATION MULLING SYRIA ESCALATION
With the administration’s efforts at stopping the civil war in Syria at standstill, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., say Secretary of State John Kerry told then a more aggressive U.S. policy may be in the works, Breitbart reports. “‘[Kerry] acknowledged that the chemical weapons [destruction plan] is being slow-rolled, the Russians continue to supply arms, [and] we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy,’ Graham said…State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki rejected McCain and Graham’s account, saying ‘at no point during the meeting did Secretary Kerry raise lethal assistance for the opposition.” Kerry reportedly added that Al-Qaida’s presence [in Syria] is creating a threat that is growing “out of hand.”
Team Obama says al Qaeda threat growing - Syria’s evolution into a pre-911 Afghanistan-like haven for al Qaeda terrorists bent on attacking the U.S. will be at the top of the list as top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.
RICE: ISRAELI CRITICISM OF KERRY ‘UNACCEPTABLE’
Breitbart: “National Security Advisor and former UN Ambassador Susan Rice took to Twitter on Monday night to blast Israel for recent widespread criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry by Israeli government officials. The torrent of tweets… spoke in defense of both Kerry and President Barack Obama, calling recent Israeli criticism of them ‘totally unfounded and unacceptable.’ Kerry has been criticized by Israeli leaders over recent remarks in Munich suggesting Israel could face international boycotts if it failed to reach peace with the Palestinians.”
Habibi! - The White House announced that President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia in March. The move comes amid reports of a deepening rift with the former key U.S. partner in the region over Obama’s conciliatory moves with longtime enemy Iran.
RECRUITING SCANDAL ROCKS ARMY
USA Today :“More than 800 soldiers are under criminal investigation for gaming a National Guard program that paid hundreds of millions in bonuses to soldiers who persuaded friends to sign up during the darkest years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… Fraudulent payments total in the ‘tens of millions,’ with one soldier allegedly pocketing $275,000 in illegal kickbacks…At least four others made more than $100,000 each…” A Senate panel hears testimony from top Army officials today.
Senate seeks to repeal military pension cuts - The Hill: “The Senate is gearing up to vote on a bill as early as next week that would repeal the $6 billion cut to military pensions as part of a larger veterans package, according to Senate aides.”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Slate’s Tanner Colby takes a deep dive on the perceived lack of diversity in American schools in The Massive Liberal Failure on Race: “In the left’s narrative, the culprit for this backsliding is always the same: conservative, Republican-appointed justices like William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, who gutted the legal foundation for Brown [vs. the Board of Education] and rolled back busing and other integration initiatives in order to protect the white, suburban majority. But that’s only half true, a fact illustrated by the very word liberal academics have coined to describe the phenomenon: resegregation… The truth is that the left has crafted a narrative about the death of Brown v. Board, a convenient one that serves its own ends. The reality is much more grim, and it starts in the place where Democrats drove the school bus into the ditch: Detroit…”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.3 percent//Disapprove – 51.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.5 percent//Wrong Track – 63.0 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 40.5 percent// Republicans 42.0 percent
TEAM OBAMA: HILLARY COULD MAYBE WIN WITH OUR HELP
As 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton makes ready for an appearance at the United Nations today on women’s issues, some top Obama aides are offering a cutting critique of her juggernautic early efforts. Guess it’s time to update the old enemies spreadsheet… From BuzzFeed: “Top advisers and former aides to Barack Obama say Hillary Clinton is repeating the mistakes she made in 2008, building a machine in lieu of a message and lumbering toward the Democratic nomination with the same deep vulnerabilities that cost her the nomination eight years earlier… ‘I just don’t see any strategic value in stories positioning her as inevitable or the pre-emptive nominee, and I don’t think people who are out there talking about this help her, and I think she should make that clear,’ said Joel Benenson, Obama’s chief campaign pollster and now the top White House pollster. ‘She doesn’t need this. If she decides to run for president, everybody knows she’s going to be able to raise money, everybody knows she’s going to be extremely formidable, that she’s going to have a significant network of supporters around the country — so what’s the value of all this in 2014?’…Some Clinton aides agree, quietly telling colleagues that they fear that jockeying for position, rather than Clinton’s own interest, has spurred the early build-out. And others with front row seats in 2008 see a similar pattern…Indeed, Obama’s former aides hasten to add that Clinton is in a far stronger position than she was in 2007. She has a record as a loyal and respected member of President Obama’s cabinet, one that erases long-ago worries about her national security experience. The war in Iraq is no longer a top issue for Democrats. And no talented young African-American progressive is headed for Iowa.”
[Ed. note: With top Obama political advisor Jim Messina aggressively consolidating power on the Democratic side, smack talk like this from members of the president’s team suggests they’re feeling pretty cocky that they’ve got the upper hand in the old struggle with the Clintons.]
Me too! - Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., told reporters Monday he is considering a 2016 presidential bid. Speaking at a Baltimore event on raising the minimum wage, O’Malley stated, “I have been preparing in terms of the tough work, the policy work, the groundwork necessary to offer a better direction for our country.” This comes on the heels of a recent WaPo interview in which the Maryland Governor said he would not wait for 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton to launch a campaign.
CHRISTIE: ‘I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT. I DIDN'T PLAN IT. I DIDN'T AUTHORIZE IT.’
“I'll be damned if I let anything get in the way of me going my job,” said Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., on “Ask the Governor,” a radio call-in show. When a listener wanted to know why Christie didn’t make inquiries about the traffic backups on the George Washington Bridge when they were occurring last fall, Christie said he didn't know about the problem initially and when he did inquire, was told by staffers it was a traffic study. Christie said he didn’t learn there were “some political overtones to this” until emails came out Jan. 8. “I still don’t know if there was a traffic study ... that morphed into some political shenanigans or if it started as political shenanigans that morphed into a traffic study,” he said. Christie added “I can’t wait for them to be finished so I can get the full story here.” In response to claims from a former appointee that he knew about the lane closures, Christie was absolute: “Before these lanes were closed, I didn't know anything about it. I didn't plan it. I didn't authorize it.” UPI has more.
Fired Christie aide pleads fifth - A former aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination after receiving a subpoena from a legislative committee investigating dirty tricks in Christie’s 2013 re-election bid. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly’s lawyer sent a letter Monday to the committee’s lawyer saying she would not comply because the information demanded “directly overlaps with a parallel federal grand jury investigation.” Fox News has more.
But can she? - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano points out: “The courts have consistently held in the post WWII era that the Fifth Amendment only pertains to spoken testimony and not to tangible things.”
TIME TO GO: NEW JERSEY DEM TO RESIGN AMID ETHICS ALLEGATIONS
Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J.,will resign from Congress later this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Andrews was busted last year in a “60 Minutes” investigation that found the congressman had taken his family on a trip to Scotland financed by donors. Andrews is also under investigation for campaign finance violations. From the Inquirer: “Andrews, a Democrat in his 24th year in the House, will resign around President's Day weekend… One key name to watch as Democrats seek a replacement will be state Sen. Donald Norcross, a labor leader and brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross.”
LAWSUIT HAMPERS N.C. GOP SENATE INSURGENT
North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the GOP frontrunner to take on embattled Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., can breathe a little easier since a federal judge has given the go ahead to a major fraud lawsuit against one of his top rivals in the six-way race. From WRAL: “Republican U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon is scheduled to defend himself in a civil court case next week against allegations he misled a pair of investors in a technology start-up, according to court documents… Filing for the U.S. Senate campaign opens on Feb. 10, the same day the Mirascape case is scheduled for trial.” Brannon has gotten some approving nods from national conservatives. If no candidate gets more than 40 percent of the vote in the May primary, Republicans will face a runoff election before turning their attention to Hagan.
OBAMA, REID, BENNET HUDDLE AHEAD OF MIDTERMS
Obama met Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was joined by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director. The president is expected to hold separate meetings this week with House and Senate Democrats. More.
Air war - President Obama’s permanent campaign apparatus, Organizing for Action, is launching a television ad campaign to promote Obama’s calls to hike the minimum wage.
PICK SIX: TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT
Republicans need a net gain of six seats in this year’s midterm elections to take control of the Senate. So which six Democratic-held seats are the most vulnerable The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska. But reader Frank Hutton says: “Don’t rule out Michigan.” Hutton said GOP Senate hopes are helped by the race at the top of the ticket in Michigan this year. Popular Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., kicked off his re-election bid Monday.
NRA READY FOR BLOOMBERG TO ‘DOUBLE DOWN’
Washington Examiner: “HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Expecting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ‘double down’ on his nationwide anti-gun efforts in the 2014 elections, an invigorated National Rifle Association is planning a massive ground game to win Republican control of the Senate, according to officials. Here to open the NRA’s new Great American Outdoor Show, the nation’s largest of its kind, top officials from the group described winning the Senate a do-or-die goal this year, especially because of the possibility that President Obama could get another chance to appoint a new, liberal Supreme Court justice. ‘We fully expect to win a pro-gun Senate in this cycle,’ said NRA President Jim Porter. ‘It is vital certainly to our issues, but it is vital to the well-being of this country,’…” Meanwhile, Huffington Post touts fundraising numbers from the gun-control political action committee founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot by a deranged constituent in 2011. Her group raised $5.6 million in the second half of last year to use against pro-gun rights candidates.
[Showdown - Kochs issue warning to Reid. Via Breitbart.]
JOLLY, SINK SPAR OVER OBAMACARE IN FIRST DEBATE
Tampa Bay Times: “Three candidates for Congress sculpted more detailed images of themselves on Monday as differences emerged over new topics such as medical marijuana, light rail and a military response in Syria… Republican David Jolly spoke of personal liberty and opposing big government; Democrat Alex Sink called herself a bipartisan problem-solver; and Libertarian Lucas Overby portrayed himself a pragmatist who believes in government reform… Jolly reiterated his opposition to Obamacare and said it's hurting individuals and businesses… He noted that he had worked for years for the late Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, and sought to differ himself from Sink by saying, ‘I believe we must empower families and individuals to make decisions for themselves. She believes government can make decisions for us.’ But Sink said…[ObamaCare] is a program worth fixing and saving… She also said the law was preventing seniors from ‘that horrible doughnut hole,’ the gap in prescription drug coverage.”
[The Conservative American Action Network is launching a $500,000 advertising campaign blasting Sink using a bucket with holes in it being filled up in a sink. From the ad: “Everywhere Alex Sink goes, a mess follows.” In a separate ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., gives his backing to Jolly.]
Crist: But I’m feeling much better now - Florida Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, Charlie Crist, explains in his new book that he didn’t leave the Republican Party because he was getting filleted by Marco Rubio in the party’s 2010 Senate primary, but because party leaders refused to heed his advice about the need for moderation. Crist says he's now “much more comfortable” as a Democrat. Dave Catanese has the details.
CONGRESS BACK ON THE TARMAC
National Journal : “Members of Congress and their aides took more free trips around the world in 2013 than in any year since new restrictions were put in place after the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal. The website LegiStorm, which compiles congressional travel records, said Monday that lawmakers and their staffs took a combined 1,887 free trips last year for a total cost of almost $6 million. That amount is more than double the sum private groups spent on congressional trips in 2008, the first full year that the tightened travel rules of 2007 went into effect. The total number of trips has bounded upward by more than 60 percent since 2008 as well. Last year, lawmakers enjoyed all-expenses-paid journeys to Ireland, Morocco, France, South Africa, Israel, Turkey, and many more destinations, according to House travel records.”
YOU GOTTA START SOMEWHERE
On this day in 1789, George Washington was elected as the first president of the United States, winning the first of his two unanimous Electoral College victories. But when Washington started his political career, the signs were not so propitious. From the team at Washington’s Mt. Vernon: “George Washington served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for fifteen years before the American Revolution. After a failed bid for a seat in December 1755, he won election in 1758 and represented Frederick County until 1761. That year he ran in Fairfax County, winning a seat which he would retain until 1775. During his tenure, Washington was not an outspoken burgess, nor did he introduce expansive or innovative legislation.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES...
“The headline is that [President Obama] knows how to run, but he can’t always hide.” – Charles Krauthammer on “The O'Reilly Factor”
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.