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• Team Obama tells Dems to attack, not apologize
• Every Democrat for himself
• Clinton Library readies docu-dump
• His message is simple: Vote for Pedro
• Polly beaks the case
TEAM OBAMA TELLS DEMS TO ATTACK, NOT APOLOGIZE
Vice President Joe Biden’s message about ObamaCare to anxious Democrats gathered for the party’s winter meeting in Washington: “My central message to you is look: I think we should not apologize for a single thing.” Nothing? Not even a crashed Web site? Millions of cancelled policies? The “lie of the year” award? Skyrocketing premiums? Nope. On the contrary, Biden said Democrats should instead be heralding their accomplishments, chief among which is the health law that polls show dragging the party down in midterm elections and opening wide the door for Republicans to take over the Senate. “We are too shy,” Biden improbably said. “We are not talking about it enough, in my opinion.” This is part of a new motif from Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Whether they believe it themselves or not, the message is that problems with the law are not real. Biden, Reid, et al are telling Democrats to blow off deepening ObamaCare concerns, including the horror stories of actual Americans, and talk about the good things.
Problems? What problems? - Democrats may be better at controlling the media narrative than Republicans, but not even their usual home-field advantage with the press will let them do so this time. As Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., recently learned, the party is in desperate need of an answer to the question of how to fix what’s wrong with ObamaCare. Hillary Clinton sent up a flare this week, tacitly urging her fellows to start talking about repairing the law. Team Obama, though, is focused on staying chipper and attacking the GOP. It’s understandable that the president and his men would want to protect his legacy, but that’s not going to feed the bulldog in red states and swing states.
[Noonan: “Imagine that – you have real problems caused by a bad law, and Mr. Reid tells you that what you are experiencing in your own life is a lie made up by propagandists. He sounded like Lenin. There is no cholera in the new Russia.”]
Obama to urge Dems to play base notes - According to White House talking points provided to Politico, President Obama’s remarks to the Democratic National Committee this afternoon will encourage embattled members of the blue team to attack income inequality and cast Republicans as tools of the rich and powerful. (**Koch brothers, cough, cough**) Politico says the remarks will also remind worried Democrats of the Obama organization’s remaining power with the party’s activist core: “Leveraging the President’s grassroots network that made him the first person since President Eisenhower to get 51 percent of the vote twice - all of the data and technology will be available to 2014 candidates. ... Turnout - midterms are about getting the base out and no one is better at that than President Obama.”
[Ed note: Why would a Democrat running for re-election in a state the president lost by, let’s say 24 points, believe that the boss had anything to offer but trouble? Not a lot of OFA volunteers in Arkadelphia. This sounds like self-serving rhetoric for a national audience by the president, not an offer of practical assistance.]
ObamaCare hikes could cost seniors $900 a year - The Hill: “The health insurance industry fighting proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage payments argued they will raise seniors' out-of-pocket costs next year. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group, blasted the reductions with a report Thursday finding that beneficiaries could pay as much as $900 more in 2015 if the cuts take effect.”
Insurers dig for data on enrollees - WSJ: “…Insurers still generally have only early signals, including age and gender, on the four million people who federal regulators say have signed up so far for marketplace coverage. Those details don't paint a full picture of the insurers' potential risk and may even be misleading. That's partly because the young people who sign up for health coverage may be those more likely to have serious medical needs, insurance-industry officials say. To fill in the blanks, insurers are calling, emailing and writing letters to new enrollees, urging them to divulge information about their conditions, prescriptions and even personal habits, often through online forms called health-risk assessments that have long been used in employer-sponsored wellness programs.”
A side order of ObamaCare - WTVT: “…The Gators Dockside restaurant in Lakeland [Fla.], along with eight others in the chain, posted signs on the front doors and the restrooms. The servers carry laminated signs to the tables. And when people call in, servers have a phone script: ‘We’ve implemented a one-percent surcharge on all food and beverage purchases due to the substantial costs of Obamacare’… the surcharge is covering extra accounting and HR work needed in advance. The benefits will cost much more … benefits for 250 full-time workers to cost around $500,000, far more than the $150,000 the surcharge is expected to bring in.”
EVERY DEMOCRAT FOR HIMSELF
The Hill: “Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, plans to co-sponsor legislation raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, according to her office… Other vulnerable Democrats, however, have held back from co-sponsoring the bill, which Republicans say would cost jobs. Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) have not co-sponsored it. Pryor has told reporters he opposes it. Sen. Mark Begich (D), who faces a tough race in Alaska, co-sponsored the measure in May.”
NEED TO KNOW: EXPLAINING THE UKRAINE CONFLICT
Author Michael Burleigh puts the current crisis in Ukraine into perspective for The Telegraph: “In the past 48 hours, the Crimean peninsula has become a flashpoint in the wider struggle between Russia and the West over the future fate of Ukraine. That is no coincidence. Its history is scarred by invasion and war – and it has resulted in a population that is deeply divided on the question of nationhood. No Western politician seems to have taken this on board.”
Dr. K’s Prescription: Apply pressure - In his column, Charles Krauthammer considers how the U.S. should lead on international affairs in Putin’s Ukraine gambit “[Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] mission is restoration. First, restore traditional Russian despotism by dismantling its nascent democracy. And then, having created iron-fisted ‘stability,’ march… The point is for the United States, leading Europe, to counter Russian pressure and make up for its blandishments/punishments until Ukraine is on firm financial footing… The question is, can this administration muster the counterpressure to give Ukraine a chance to breathe?”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Mario Polèse explores “Why (Some) Downtowns Are Back” for City Journal. Polèse’s reasons are many, but at the root is his answer to why the trend that caused America’s cities to wither in the first place ended: “Starting in the 1990s, incomes rose less rapidly than in the past, slowing the demand for housing space. Automobile ownership stopped rising, stabilizing at about 800 cars per 1,000 people, according to the World Bank. Single-person and childless households accounted for an increasing share of the American population. The suburbs kept growing, but the great era of rapid suburban expansion seemed to have ended.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.0 percent//Disapprove – 52.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent//Wrong Track – 63.2 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 42.0 percent// Republicans 42.3 percent
CLINTON LIBRARY READIES DOCU-DUMP
From AP’s Ken Thomas on the Hillary docu-dump set for 1:30 p.m. ET: “The Clinton Presidential Library is making available about 5,000 pages of previously unreleased documents involving former President Bill Clinton’s administration. The documents being made public Friday, part of a larger set of records being prepared for release by the National Archives, are expected to include confidential communications between the former president and his advisers along with records related to Clinton’s federal appointments. The records could also include communications involving former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign… In total, about 33,000 pages of previously confidential records from Clinton's administration could be made public in the coming weeks.” The Clinton Library’s page is here. –Watch Fox: Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen (who knows a thing or two about spelunking in presidential archives) has the latest on the release.
ROMNEY RISES ABOVE OLD CHRISTIE SLIGHTS
While Mitt Romney would have every excuse for kicking Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., while he is down, Romney instead lent the embattled New Jerseyan a hand. Christie famously shafted Romney at the end of the 2012 election cycle, lavishing praise on president Obama but waving off the Republican nominee. A gossipy campaign book later revealed the mutual disdain between members of the Romney and Christie organizations and Christie’s unhelpful approach to campaign surrogacy. But Romney pitched in Thursday, helping Christie raise $1 million for the Republican Governors Association at a Boston fundraiser. It’s a crucial moment as Christie aims to show he can still make it rain as RGA chairman despite being under white-hot media scrutiny. Boston Globe has more.
[Politico is touting the release this morning by pro-Democratic group American Bridge of 911 calls made during the days when Christie’s underlings had closed lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge as punishment for a mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year.]
RUBIO SEEKS KEMP’S MANTLE
Washington Examiner: “With his eyes on 2016, [Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.] next week …will begin putting meat on the bones of his campaign when he addresses the Jack Kemp Foundation about economic policy [Monday]. There he is expected to talk about his jobs agenda and plan to give states a much broader spending role in fighting poverty…Google’s Washington HQ is hosting the event, giving the 42-year-old Rubio a little extra cache with the tech crowd.”
#mediabuzz: Beat the press, presidential politics edition
Host Howard Kurtz will be joined by WaPo’s Dana Milbank to discuss the coverage of presidential politics. Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie and Mediaite’s Joe Concha will discuss what ended Piers Morgan’s show and WaPo’s Jackie Kucinich will take on why Congress is so divided. The Blaze’s Amy Holmes and Fox News Contributor Lauren Ashburn will also join the fray. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.
Why don’t you just have the whole daggone election there? - Washington Examiner: “Eight cities are officially in the running to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, the party announced Thursday -- including Las Vegas and Dallas, which have been talked about as frontrunners. Ohio has a strong showing among potential host cities, with Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus all placing bids. Denver, Kansas City and Phoenix are also being considered. The cities will present their bids to the selection committee in Washington on Monday. Meanwhile, the selection process for the 2016 Democratic National Convention is in its early stages. Columbus will begin to gauge support from Democrats later this week over cocktails with a group of the state’s major political figures, including Sen. Sherrod Brown.”
PICK SIX: OREGON’S OBAMACARE MESS MUDDLES RACE
Republicans are hoping to change the status quo in Washington and they need to gain an additional six Senate seats this November to do it. Which Democrat-held seats are the most vulnerable? Based on Fox News First reader Tweets and e-mails the current consensus: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and Alaska. But reader Randy Miller says ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout in Oregon could put the state in play. Miller writes, “Hard to believe, but liberal Oregon could well elect a Republican Senator…[Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.] a supporter of Obamacare, which has been an enormous failure in Oregon, has spent the last six years in an empty suit.”
[Ed. note: Republicans certainly seem to think that their top recruit to run against Merkley, Dr. Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon who has raised big bucks for the run on her own, is a strong candidate.]
GARDNER CLEARS FIELD
KDVR: “State Rep. Amy Stephens decided late Tuesday night to end her campaign for U.S. Senate after her friend, Congressman Cory Gardner, decided to jump into the race. Stephens…first heard from Gardner on Monday night that he was considering a late entry into the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who appears increasingly vulnerable to a strong challenge as Obamacare concerns continue to hurt Democrats with voters…” Former Republican frontrunner Ken Buck has already stepped aside and will instead run for Gardner’s House seat.
MCCONNELL TURNS COAL WAR INTO AD WAR
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has released a new ad touting his work in fighting against the Obama administration’s ‘war on coal.’ McConnell’s voice is heard in the ad saying, “I don’t have to tell you there is a war on coal in America. And I tell you that I will be the leader of the forces that take on the war on coal,” and ends with a graphic stating, “Stand for Coal. Stand for Kentucky. Stand with Mitch”
TEA PARTY EXPRESS RALLIES FOR WOLF DESPITE X-RAYS
The Tea Party Express has announced they are backing Sen. Pat Robert’s, R-Kan., primary challenger Dr. Milton Wolf. From the group’s announcement: “We were happy to see Milton Wolf stepping forward and apologizing for posting some X-rays on Facebook several years ago. But this story shows what is wrong with politics today. Political consultants dredge up things from years ago and try to make a big deal out of something minor.”
CRUZ TO STAY ABOVE THE FRAY, FOR NOW…
AP: “Sen. Ted Cruz refused to endorse his fellow GOP Texan in next week’s primary. Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican leader, faces tea party-backed Rep. Steve Stockman in Tuesday’s primary. Cruz declined to tell reporters how he plans to vote. ‘I am not supporting any of the senators from my party, or their opponents’ in this year’s primaries, Cruz told a Washington breakfast gathering. He said he might change his mind later… Cruz said he is no longer writing fundraising letters for anti-establishment groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund.”
[“I have made it clear that I have great respect for the tea party and the energy they brought to the electoral process, My gripe is with some Washington organizations who feel like they've got to go raise money by beating on me and others.” – House Speaker John Boehner talking to reporters.]
U.S. CHAMBER ASSAILS SINK ON OBAMACARE
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released a new ad slamming Florida Democratic Congressional hopeful Alex Sink over ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts. From the ad: “To pay for ObamaCare Washington is forcing seniors to endure deep cuts to Medicare Advantage. Sadly, Alex Sink supports these cuts, sticking with Nancy Pelosi who wants to keep ObamaCare intact…” The spot is part of a $700,000 ad buy that will air until the March 11 primary.
[Tampa Bay Times: “A campaign report filed Thursday indicates…[Republican David Jolly] has raised $538,571 in the most recent reporting period. Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Alex Sink’s campaign said she has raised $1.3 million during the same period.”]
HIS MESSAGE IS SIMPLE: VOTE FOR PEDRO
AP: “First-term Congresswoman Suzan DelBene [D-Wash.] is facing a challenge from a fellow ex-Microsoft employee in her re-election efforts this year. Pedro Celis, who was an engineer at Microsoft, announced Thursday he’s running as a Republican to challenge DelBene for her 1st Congressional District seat. So far, Celis is the only candidate to publically announce a challenge to DelBene. ‘In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the guy with the heavy accent,’ he said in a video announcing his candidacy.’’’
DE BLASIO SWINGS AX AGAINST CHARTER SCHOOLS
Fox News: “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took off the gloves in his battle with education reformers, rescinding an agreement for the city to share space with several public charter schools. The move undercuts educators, parents and some 700 students at four schools, including Harlem Success 4, one of the public charter school movement’s top success stories, and two set to open in the fall. While agreements at those schools were rescinded, expansion of a fourth school was also blocked. The schools were to operate rent-free in city-owned facilities under deals backed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent supporter of charter schools.”
POLLY BEAKS THE CASE
A feathered Inspector Jacques Clouseau helped Indian police to crack open a murder mystery. The International Business Times reports on how police in the city of Agra had been baffled by the killing earlier this month of a 45-year-old woman and her dog. The case seemed to be going cold until the victim’s husband got the sense that the family’s parrot had something to say. Every time the man’s nephew, Ashutosh , turned up, the bird would get agitated. “‘During discussions too, whenever Ashutosh’s name was mentioned, the parrot would start screeching. This raised my suspicion and I informed the police,’ the victim’s husband told the Times of India. Police interrogated Ashutosh and he confessed to the crime, according to the city’s senior superintendent of police Shalabh Mathur.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Here’s what’s happening. [ObamaCare is] hitting Democrats. It’s hitting Independents who are losing their insurance, losing their doctor. So, I think it’s this wide, broad effect. It’s like you are throwing darts at a board. It’s not that people are upset at a policy. If it hits you and your family, it’s going to hurt you. That’s why the bleeding is happening among Independents and also among Democrats.” –Charles Krauthammer, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren”
[Watch Fox: Watch the final live episode of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” online at 11:30 a.m. ET today. We’ll look back at some of the best moments from nearly 700 shows and announce the exciting new midterm election project for the Power Play team. But most of all, we’ll express our thanks to a tremendous band of loyal viewers.]
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up 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.