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• Big risks, big rewards as Bubba hits the trail
• Jeb Bush wants same treatment as Hillary
• Small business workers get shellacking under ObamaCare
• Rotten rollout for Hagan
• It’s not just the Bushmills, lads
BIG RISKS, BIG REWARDS AS BUBBA HITS THE TRAIL
America’s favorite Democrat will test his clout on the campaign trail today, and how it goes will have a lot to say about the results of this year’s elections and the arc of the party heading into 2016. In a textbook Bill Clinton play, the former president rolls into Kentucky to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the daughter of one of his former campaign financiers. Grimes is hoping to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this fall in one of only two potential Senate bright spots for a party facing a very dark midterm forecast. It’s a perfectly Clintonian moment: high stakes, big egos, sex scandals, retail politics, old cronies, his wife’s ambitions and the long-simmering tensions with President Obama. With control of the Senate at stake and his wife no doubt eager to show the family’s continuing clout in states that disdain Obama, Clinton’s arrival is welcome news. But it comes at a cost.
[In India, certain elective offices are reserved for women only. Political families there have found a workaround, according to the WSJ: “It is an open secret that, in any political body here, many male politicians field their wives or other female members of the family in seats reserved for women, while they hold the real power in the area.”]
Wherever he goes, there he is - As Clinton arrives, Grimes is in a tight race and the junior senator from the commonwealth, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has made no secret that he believes Clinton’s past as a “sexual predator” should be germane to voters and candidates who accept his help. Clinton has a famously short fuse when it comes to any reminder of the scandal that led to his impeachment and disbarment. So that’s hurdle number one: For the former president to not pop off in Kentucky if confronted with Paul’s comments. As Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., can attest, Clinton’s bad temper can hurt the candidates the former president wants to help. But assuming that he behaves himself while he’s back on the trail, there are other considerations.
[Next stop: Arkansas - AP: “Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is facing a serious challenge from GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. James Lee Witt, Clinton's head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is running for Cotton's House seat and will join Clinton at an event in Hot Springs, Ark., on April 5. And Pat Hays, a former North Little Rock mayor who supported Clinton's 1992 campaign, is running for another congressional seat.”]
Moderation is the thing - Clinton Democrats credit the 42nd president for saving Obama’s bacon in 2012, pointing to Bubba’s Democratic National Convention speech as the moment that helped turn the tide in favor of a beleaguered incumbent. Maybe so. But Clinton has also done plenty of damage to the sitting president, most recently when he said that Congress ought to pass a law forcing Obama to keep his “if you like it” promise. For border-state Democrats like Grimes to make the cut this year, they will need lots of distance from an unpopular Obama. If Clinton quietly helps reinforce that message, great for Obama. The president just needs to keep the Senate, whatever folks like Grimes have to say about him in public to get elected. But if Clinton gets carried away with his critiques it could encourage a cascade of Obama bashing by Democrats. A little independence is good for candidates and, by extension, Democratic hopes. Open rebellion, however, would be bad for the whole party.
[Wait. What? - Daily Caller: “…Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was asked [on MSNBC] whether she would want Obama to campaign with her. ‘This race is one about putting the people of this state first, and I speak for myself and don’t need any other surrogate to do that,’ Grimes responded, after contorting her face to show that Obama’s presence would be less-than-welcome on the campaign trail.]
‘It’s my speech’ - Today, though, is really all about Hillary. Clintonistas make little secret of the blame they place on the former president and his political team for her stunning 2008 defeat. A favorable account from journalists allowed to explore the surface of Planet Hillary made sure to include the autonomy the former first lady exhibited from her husband as she prepared to formally endorse Obama in 2008. The writers recount Hillary storming off the rehearsal stage to tell Bill that his edits to her 2008 convention speech were unwelcome. Bill used to brag that electing him was a “two for one” deal that included his wife too. Is Hillary ready to do the same? Her chances might depend on it, but it would require her to be able to control her usually uncontrollable husband.
Mitch says bring it on, Bubba - Ahead of former President Bill Clinton’s foray to Louisville, Ky., in hopes of helping Democratic Senate hopeful Allison Lundergan Grimes, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was pointing to the scoreboard. Under the banner “Not Bill Clinton’s First Trip to Kentucky” Team Mitch delivers a laundry list of examples where Clinton or his chosen candidate’s vote totals have been “crushed,” by McConnell. “Democrats have brought Bill Clinton to Kentucky for nearly every election since he was President. And every time Bill Clinton has come to Kentucky, whether it was to campaign for himself or another candidate, he’s left with Mitch McConnell receiving nearly 100,000 votes more than him or his chosen candidate.”
Planet Hillary reacts to Obamaland midterm blame - Following David Axelrod last week publicly blaming expected midterm losses by Democrats on an undue focus on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, the biggest Clinton money machine is telling donors to hold off. WaPo: “In a memo sent to top contributors Monday, Priorities USA Executive Director Buffy Wicks declared: ‘No one should sit out the 2014 midterm elections, period.’ ‘The first battleground of the 2016 presidential campaign is the 2014 mid-term elections,’ Wicks wrote in a letter obtained by The Washington Post. She urged Priorities donors to give to House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, the two super PACs providing air cover for congressional Democrats… The missive sought to dispel confusion about the role that Priorities will play in the coming year. The super PAC, which has recently configured itself as the big money vehicle that will support Hillary Rodham Clinton if she makes another run for the White House, is not going to actively solicit donations this year. ‘We have strongly encouraged donors to support midterm efforts and won’t aggressively raise for 2016 until after the midterm cycle,’ Wicks wrote.”
JEB BUSH WANTS SAME TREATMENT AS HILLARY
USA Today: “Jeb Bush concedes his last name could be a problem if he decides to run for president. The former [Republican] Florida governor, who is weighing whether to seek the White House in 2016, told the Long Island Association that he understands being a Bush is ‘an issue for sure’…The last-name issue is one Hillary Rodham Clinton will also have to face if she runs for president again, Bush says… ‘I get the point’…“It’s something that, if I run, I would have to overcome that. And so will Hillary, by the way. Let’s keep the same standards for everybody.”’
[They misunderestimated van Gogh too - Dallas Morning News has the details on President George W. Bush’s first art show, featuring two dozen of never-before-exhibited canvases from the 43rd president.]
WHAT’S ON THE AGENDA? OBAMA, BOEHNER TO MEET TODAY
Washington Examiner: “President Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday morning, the White House announced…The president and speaker will discuss a ‘broad set of topics,’ according to Boehner's office.”
SMALL BUSINESS WORKERS GET SHELLACKING UNDER OBAMACARE
Fox News: “Republicans renewed their fight against ObamaCare on Monday in response to a new report in which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services concludes that 11 million small business employees will see their premiums rise under the law. The report… says the higher rates are partly due to the health law’s requirement that premiums can no longer be based on a person’s age. That has sent premiums higher for younger workers, and lower for older ones. The report found that 65 percent of small businesses would see a spike in insurance premiums and about 35 percent of small businesses would see lower rates for plans covering six million people, The Wall Street Journal reported…’’
[Watch Fox: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., discusses Medicare in the noon ET hour]
Top administration official warned of ObamaCare rollout disaster - Washington Examiner: “A senior Health and Human Services official was so frustrated last May over the White House’s ‘disarray’ on health care before the launch of Obamacare insurance exchanges that he warned of needing a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ with his counterparts. The comment from Anton Gunn, then-HHS director of external affairs, came in an email exchange with Anne Filipic, the president of the outside group Enroll America, a nonprofit with close ties to the White House that was formed to promote the fall Obamacare rollout and boost enrollment — an effort the two were working on closely…”
[National Review details how the digital back-up for Healthcare.gov has grown to $60 million, five times more than its original estimate.]
Like a ruler to the knuckles - AP: “Colorado nuns who persuaded the Supreme Court to temporarily block the national health care law's birth control rules spelled out their objections in detail Monday, filing a 74-page appeal in a Denver federal court.”
[Making Whoopi - Vice President Joe Biden appears today with the ladies of ABC’s “The View” at 11 a.m. ET to hawk ObamaCare enrollment.]
OBAMA TO TOSS PIPELINE LIFELINE TO VULNERABLE DEMS
President Obama told governors at a White House meeting Monday he expects to decide on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada in the next couple of months, two Republican governors told Fox News. The timing of the decision could be crucial for embattled red-state Democrats looking for a way to show that they can get results from a president who constantly touts his ability to circumnavigate Congress.
[“What I worry about is that this president and the White House seem to be waving the white flag of surrender after more than five years now under this administration. The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy. I think we can do better than that. I think America can do better than that. And so I think there are things he can do through executive action. The Keystone Pipeline is just one example of that.” –Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., on “Special Report with Bret Baier”]
A ‘ROYAL’ MESS AT EPA
WaPo’s Dana Milbank looks at the Supreme Court fight over the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s re-writing of air-pollution laws to fit the president’s agenda on global warming: “If the court declares some of the agency’s actions unconstitutional, it would inevitably renew the howls from the right about imperial presidency, dictatorship and monarchy. And it would highlight the inherent flaw inPresident Obama’s ‘pen and phone’ strategy of unilateral action by the executive. For all the complaints of abuse of power, this or any other president can go only so far without congressional approval.”
[No confidence - The latest Fox News poll finds 61 percent of respondents lack confidence in Congress, 58 percent lack confidence in the media and only 52 percent have confidence in the presidency.]
KELLY FILE: OBAMA DONOR PROSECUTES ANTI-OBAMA FILMMAKER
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, an Obama appointee and donor, is heading up the prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza, the filmmaker behind the anti-Obama picture “2016: Obama’s America.” D’Souza is accused of making an improper 2012 campaign donation. Bharara maintains that the contribution was uncovered during a routine review, but D’Souza’s lawyers say they doubt the $20,000 stood out amid all of the cycle’s contributions and that the conservative filmmaker was targeted. Judge Andrew Napolitano told Megyn Kelly, “[The government] cannot commence a criminal investigation by throwing darts on a board and go after wherever the darts land,” Napolitano said. “There has to be a reason why they’re going after someone, unless they were told to go after him.” Watch the segment on “The Kelly File.”
[Watch Fox: Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., appears in the noon ET hour]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Victor Davis Hanson examines When Failure is Success: “ [President Obama] will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents… there can be no scandals, or even good or bad news, just what Obama represents — an exemption from normal protocols of public and media scrutiny on his actual record. And so he has established two legacies. He will probably never win back a majority of inductive Americans again, and he will rarely lose his deductive base.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44.4 percent//Disapprove – 52 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.3 percent//Wrong Track – 63.4 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 42.6 percent// Republicans 42.4 percent
ROTTEN ROLLOUT FOR HAGAN
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., officially announced her candidacy for re-election at a press conference Monday. Apparently, though, she had not thought to have an answer for the number-one issue of this political cycle: ObamaCare. Hagen repeatedly dodged questions about her support of the troubled health law. As the [Raleigh] News & Observer details, “Pressed on the question two more times as reporters followed her outside to the parking lot, Hagan did not answer. She offered this explanation without further details: ‘it wasn’t clear that insurance companies were selling substandard policies.’” The conservative group America Rising posted clips of the chase and Hagan’s eventual response to reporters.
PICK SIX: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS
The status quo will change dramatically in Washington if Republicans are able to gain an additional six Senate seats. Which Democrat-held seats are the most likely GOP pickups? The current consensus among Fox News First readers is: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska. Reader Don McIver, of Salem, S.C., contends that West Virginia is more deserving of a slot in the top six than North Carolina: “NC may still be a toss-up, but not WV.”
‘CLUB’ SCORES COULD SHAPE SENATE RACES
The Hill: “The conservative Club for Growth on Monday released its annual scorecard for 2013. Just two senators received 100 percent ratings: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah)… Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who faces a Tea Party primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin and a strong Democratic opponent in Alison Lundergan Grimes, increases his Club rating from 74 percent to 87 percent this year. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, also increased his rating from 48 percent to 56 percent.”
Sowell: Cruz is doing it wrong - Breitbart: “On Monday’s broadcast of ‘Hannity,’ conservative columnist and Hoover Institute fellow Thomas Sowell reiterated his criticism of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) from a column earlier this month suggesting the junior Texas senator should do a better job of picking his battles. “There would not be a United States today if George Washington had followed the policies Ted Cruz is following,’ Sowell said. ‘George Washington did not have the forces to confront the British army on the battlefield day in and day out. His forces fled all the way from Long Island across the Hudson into New Jersey, all the way down the whole length of New Jersey and then camped in Valley Forge for the winter because he didn’t have the forces. When he saw the opportunity to launch a battle he could win, he launched it and he won it and it was a dramatic turnaround. You don’t fight every battle.’’’
CANDIDATE’S FATAL 1989 CRASH RE-EMERGES AMID CAMPAIGN
WTSP: “For more than two decades, David Jolly has kept silent about a 1989 accident that he said challenged his faith… ‘It was a tragedy that occurred when I was a child,’ Jolly said. ‘I was 16 years old.’ Jolly was driving home with a friend from a movie when he said he hit a man walking in the road. The man, Blair Warren Ropes, died… ‘I don't know who has pushed this story, but I believe it to be a heartless individual who has clearly never lost anyone close to them or experienced such a tragedy,’ he said. Jolly was not cited for the accident, adding he was ‘exonerated of any culpability.’ In fact, Jolly said he stopped after the crash, then rushed to get help and returned to the scene… ‘Honestly ... for someone to bring this up 25 years later in a political campaign dishonors both Blair and (his girlfriend) Sandra and their families and their heartbreak, and it disrespects what ultimately is a human tragedy that no one should ever have to experience.’’’
[Sunshine State News: “Republican David Jolly looked to push back against attacks from Democratic rival former state CFO Alex Sink on Social Security in a new television ad released on Monday. The ad features Jolly’s mother Judith and his aunt Carol Matthews… [Jolly said] ‘Alex Sink seems determined to put her support of Obamacare over the health and security of our seniors, and our voters deserve the chance to see through this smokescreen and get to the truth.’’’]
Smart man - Detroit Free Press: “The Cook Political Report installed U.S. Rep. John Dingell’s wife, Deborah — universally known as Debbie — as the favorite to succeed her husband if she decides to enter the race. And John Dingell, the Dearborn Democrat who announced his retirement Monday after 58 years in Congress, did nothing to discourage that speculation. ‘She hasn’t made any announcement and I will not be telling her what to do,’ he told the crowd at the Southern Wayne County Chamber of Commerce in Southgate, where Dingell made his pending retirement announcement. ‘But if my wife runs, the lovely Deborah, I will vote for her.’”
IT’S NOT JUST THE BUSHMILLS, LADS
Quartz: “It seems rather hard to explain. Irish unemployment has been above 12% for nearly five years. The national debt load is still a huge weight around the economy’s neck. And yet the Irish are in the best mood they’ve been in for years. European measures of consumer sentiment in Ireland have surged in recent months. (Other gauges confirm the improvement.) In other words, the Irish populace is in a better mood now than they were during the peak of the recent housing boom in the mid-2000s. How can that be? Well, it might just be a question of relativity. Perhaps things have been so bad over the last few years, that the small signs of improvement—such as Ireland’s ability to exit its bailout program—have a large impact. Or it could be that there’s something about Irish society that helps folks emotionally weather extreme economic difficulties. For example, large-scale surveys of national well-being show Irish levels of happiness didn’t tumble anywhere near as much as in other countries at the center of the European debt crisis such as Greece and Spain. (Although, the jobs crisis in those countries is much worse than Ireland’s ever was.) In fact, large scale measures of well-being – which encompass elements such as GDP-per-capita, life expectancy, freedom from corruption, and social elements such as ‘having someone to count on’ – show Ireland is about as happy now as it was when the economy was at its peak.”
[Ed. note: There’s little that the Irish enjoy more than a sad, sad song. But this isn’t about being happy when things are bad. This is about the priorities of a people. Placing importance on family, faith and unity works wonders on the human spirit. Plus, compared to the past 500 years, things are going pretty well for the Irish, whatever the ledger sheets say: There’s peace, there’s freedom and there’s that one indispensable element for any successful society: Hope.]
Virtuous victory - Philadelphia Business Journal: “A letter handwritten by George Washington to Philadelphia leaders has been put up for sale. In the letter, dated Dec. 30, 1778, Washington gives a Revolutionary War pep talk of sorts, telling Philadelphia [officials] that the Americans’ “national virtues [have] frustrated the designs of the enemy.’ The Raab Collection, a dealer in historic documents based in Ardmore, Pa., is putting the letter up for sale for $120,000.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch the final week of Chris’ live online daily show at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.
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.