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Dems still don't have an ObamaCare answer for midterms

March 12, 2014: President Obama in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington.

March 12, 2014: President Obama in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington.  (Reuters)

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Buzz Cut:
• Dems still don’t have an ObamaCare answer for midterms
• Web site not to blame for signup shortfall
• Utah ready to jump 2016 line
• Hillary ally behind ‘ban bossy’ campaign
• Imagine what he’d do for a boat!

What are Democrats going to say about ObamaCare? It seems a little late to be asking that about a law passed four years ago this month, but that’s the central question of the midterm contests now underway. The tardy talking points are in part a result of a strategy to delay the unpopular parts of the law until after President Obama had been safely re-elected. But it also reflects a major miscalculation among Democrats on the staying power of the law as an issue. Conservatives and liberals alike are right in saying the election is about more than just ObamaCare. But the troubled law is the major motif of the election, much in the same way that 2006 wasn’t only about the Iraq war, but the conflict was the backdrop for the rest of the conversation. Representative-elect David Jolly, R-Fla., who will be sworn in this afternoon, played it right. He talked about ObamaCare, but mostly as evidence that the left’s approach to governance was not working. Badly outspent and dealing with intra-party divisions, Jolly won in a district that hadn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. He did it by using ObamaCare to prove his point, not as the point itself.

[Hi-five - Washington Examiner’s David Drucker checks in on how the much-vaunted GOP technology reboot played in the Florida special election.]

Trende sees trend - RCP’s Sean Trende says don’t overdo it with interpreting the results, but has noticed a worrisome pattern for Democrats: “…Alex Sink ran a little less than four points behind Barack Obama’s showing in the district. This is something we’ve seen time and again since the 2012 election. If this sort of drop-off is replicated in the average congressional or Senate seat in November, it will be a very, very long night for Democrats.”

Romney redux - White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that ObamaCare “was not a negative or a positive” in the Florida race, but even he surely knows that’s bunkum. There is, however, a message from the White House: Do to Republicans in 2014 what they did to Mitt Romney in 2012. The Team Obama playbook is to first trash the reputation of your opponent, driving down turnout with negative campaigning, and then mobilize your political base with promises of liberal action and organizational advantages. As tempting as it would be for Democrats to believe it would work and that they would be able to escape the ObamaCare snare, that’s wishful thinking. Not only are the urban voters on whom Democrats rely for quadrennial wins notoriously hard to mobilize in midterm elections, it will be hard to turn a dozen Republican Senate candidates into mini-Mitts. Telling voters that the Koch brothers are evil won’t do the trick. An additional danger in the Obama strategy is that if Democrats succeed in shrinking the voter pool, they might actually have the effect of making the GOP wave larger by proportion. The Republican base is not likely to be dissuaded, with their 2012 defeat still tasting of ashes.

[On the run - Politico: “Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) – one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents – twice waved off a reporter’s questions. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who will likely face GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in November, said he would prefer to answer a reporter’s question by phone to offer a ‘coherent’ response. But his aides did not later make him available for an interview.”]

The Hill: “Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), first elected in 1976, is a top target of Republicans in a state where Obama has long been deeply unpopular. He is facing a state senator, Evan Jenkins, who switched to the GOP to challenge him… Rahall acknowledged that Obama was deeply unpopular in his district, and he quickly ticked off a half dozen policies where the two have disagreed: coal, trade, immigration, abortion, gun control and the conduct of Attorney General Eric Holder, who Rahall voted to hold in contempt. ‘That’s just off the top of my head,’ he said… Asked if Obama had been good for West Virginia overall, he replied, ‘Probably not.’ ‘I probably have supported George Bush more than I have Barack Obama,’ Rahall said. ‘Am I going to switch parties because of that? No. I’m a Democrat, born a Democrat, am a Democrat and will die a Democrat.’’’

[Rahall was one of five House Democrats who joined Republicans in passing a largely-symbolic bill challenging President Obama’s use of executive powers to rewrite existing laws.]

Fawning in fashion - What happens when GQ has a former White House spokesman interview the White House chief of staff? Aside from an unpaid ad for ObamaCare compliance and plenty of power nuzzling, you also get no pushback to answers like this one about midterms: “There’s no question that these are obviously going to be tough fights, but we’re ready to have them, and I feel really good about it.”

WEB SITE NOT TO BLAME FOR OBAMACARE SHORTFALL  Washington Examiner: “… in four out of five months since the exchanges launched Oct. 1, signups have trailed original enrollment projections, which were made in an HHS memo written weeks before the exchanges opened. Though the trend was broken in January, when reported signups exceeded projections for the month by 86,171 individuals, things reversed in February. HHS reported Tuesday that the pace of signups slowed in February and they were 329,047 (or 26 percent) off of projections for the month…HHS still hasn’t released data that takes into account those who have paid, but insurance industry sources have estimated that the number of non-payers is in the 20 percent to 25 percent range.”

“People are buying a product in the private market. As soon as we have accurate information, we will give it to you. But we do not currently have information about how many people have paid.” – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday.

Au contraire, Madame Secretary - Politico: “‘They have a lot more information than they’re letting on,’ one industry source said of the Obama administration. ‘They have real hard data about the percent that have paid … If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.’”

Cheaper than your cell phone? -Daily Caller: “One of President Obama’s favorite new Obamacare sign-up pitches is that young enrollees… can get health insurance for the price of a monthly cellphone bill … Both Sprint and T-Mobile offer the same plans with unlimited monthly data for $80.… [ObamaCare’s] …cheapest middle-of-the-road equivalent silver plan is $181.01 per month.”

Not ‘N Sync - 1990s boy-band heartthrob Lance Bass visited the White House Wednesday to encourage Americans to obey ObamaCare’s mandate before penalties kick in on March 31. But when he delivered the tweet for the administration, he directed his followers to the wrong Web site.

Fox News: “The Obama administration is throwing another Band-Aid at the millions of people wounded by the Affordable Care Act when they were booted from their existing health coverage.  The latest change, quietly announced last week, allows many of them to skirt the law’s ‘individual mandate’ through 2016.  – Watch Fox: Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle considers how the latest change to ObamaCare could allow most to skirt the law’s tax penalties through 2017 with little effort.

USA Today: “Business groups and corporate lawyers assailed a White House plan to expand overtime eligibility to millions more workers, saying the move could hurt job growth, worker productivity and the economy… President Obama on Thursday plans to order the Labor Department to revamp rules that allow businesses to avoid paying overtime to fast-food and retail managers, among others, administration officials said. Currently, such salaried workers are exempt from the time-and-a-half overtime pay mandate if they earn more than $455 a week and are classified as executive, administrative or professional employees… ‘We are concerned that, at the levels being discussed, this would have a severe impact on employment and the economy,’ says Mike Aitken, vice president of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management… Richard Alfred, chairman of Seyfarth Shaw’s national wage-and-hour practice, which represents employers in lawsuits, is equally concerned but predicts the opposite effect. Most employers, he says, will respond to the new directive by limiting the hours of existing workers to avoid paying costly overtime.

[Daily Caller: “[Environmental Protection Agency] employees used federal charge cards to buy gym memberships, gift cards, hotel space and items at dance halls and music venues, according to an inspector general report released Wednesday.”]

McClatchy DC: “The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege… The dispute indicates that the White House is more involved than it has acknowledged in the unprecedented power struggle between the committee and the CIA, which has triggered charges that the agency searched the panel’s computers without authorization and has led to requests to the Justice Department for criminal investigations of CIA personnel and Senate aides… In question are some 9,400 documents that came to the committee’s attention in 2009, McClatchy has learned. It’s unclear whether the CIA first gave the committee staff access to the materials before the White House withheld them.”

Wouldn’t be prudent. Not gonna do it - “…That’s not something that is an appropriate role for me and the White House to wade into at this point.” – President Obama ducking a reporter’s question on CIA Senate spying during a White House photo opportunity offered to highlight a meeting with female lawmakers.

The Judge’s ruling: Real entitlements - Judge Andrew Napolitano examines A Rivalry of Government Hackers for Fox News Opinion. “Under the Constitution, a free people are always entitled to know what the government is doing, and we are entitled to a government that obeys the laws it enforces against the rest of us so we can replace the government when it fails to protect our freedoms.”

[Sheila Jackson Lee; BA, Yale ‘72; J.D., UVa.’75 - “Maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman and others, for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years operating under a Constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.”]

George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley considers press freedom:  “Fifty years ago this week, the Supreme Court handed down one of its most celebrated defenses of the free press in The New York Times v. Sullivan. In its unanimous decision, the court referred to growing threats against the news media and the need to limit liability to allow them to perform their unique constitutional function. The threats in 1964, however, now seem almost quaint in comparison with those faced in 2014… Ironically, we are living through one of the most inspiring periods for journalism. Neither the courts nor Congress revealed abuses ranging from torture programs to warrantless surveillance to secret prisons. The only moving part fully functioning in this system is the free press. The question is whether in another 50 years, citizens will even recognize the type of journalism protected by New York Times v. Sullivan.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  43.4 percent//Disapprove – 52.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.4 percent//Wrong Track – 63.4 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.4 percent// Republicans 40.8 percent

Salt Lake Tribune: “Utah could offer the nation’s first presidential primary in 2016. The House voted 58-14 Monday to pass HB410, sending it to the Senate. The bill would allow Utah to hold a presidential primary a week before any other state — conducted solely by online voting. However, the early date could bring punishment from national political parties, which have rules to protect New Hampshire as the country’s first primary and Iowa as the first caucus. For example, the Republican Party would cut Utah’s current delegation of 40 to just nine if it elects to go first. The Democratic Party has not adopted rules yet, but is expected to follow suit…”

[Ed note: For those who believe the swirling rumors that Mitt Romney and his team are wondering if the third time will be the charm, this would certainly be a strong argument in favor.]

If his fellow Ohioan William T. Sherman, set the standard for refusing to run for president, the Buckeye State’s current chief executive left the door wide open. WBNS: “Eight months before he faces voters in his reelection bid, Ohio [Republican] Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday attempted to squash rumors that he’s considering a White House bid in 2016. ‘I’m flattered that people are thinking that I should run for president, but I’m not interested,’ said Kasich. ‘I’m sorry - I’m just not interested in it.’ Kasich’s denial comes after his Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald last month challenged him to sign a pledge vowing to serve a full term if reelected this November. ‘I tried to run for president back at the end of the ‘90s and 2000 and no one was interested,’ Kasich told 10TVs Kristyn Hartman. ‘And, I really was trying.  Now, I’m not interested and everyone puts your name up.  So I don’t know what that says about life.’’’

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is launching a second round of ads today calling out Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., for his support of ObamaCare. The $700,000 ad buy brings the Koch-backed group’s investment to $1.4 million, as Pryor faces a strong challenger in Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. A woman named “Wanda” appears in the ad saying, “We received a letter from our insurance company as of December of 2014 that we would no longer be covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield,  Well, now, when somebody tells you, ‘If you like it, you can keep it,’ you believe them. But that’s not so in this case.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC is on the airwaves calling Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., “another politician bought and paid for.” The group’s latest ad targets the Koch brothers’ support of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s, D-La, opponent saying, “Cassidy’s billionaire dollar backers, they’ve got a plan for him. It’s not good for Louisiana.”

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, threw her support behind Ben Sasse in the GOP primary race for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. Palin said the Midland University president is a proven problem solver and praised his “cornhusker common sense.” A Brietbart survey out this week shows the frontrunner in the race, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, leading Sasse by 11 points but with 30 percent of potential GOP primary  voters undecided.

Sarah likes Shannon for Oklahoma Senate - The Hill: “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has endorsed Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) in his Senate primary against Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), giving him a potential boost with the conservative grassroots.”

Club swings for Sullivan in Alaska - The conservative Club for Growth is backing former Alaska attorney general Dan Sullivan in the Republican race to unseat vulnerable Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. The frontrunner in the 3-way primary field, Sullivan has outraised Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, R-Alaska and 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller.

If Republicans are able to gain a total of six Senate seats this fall, the GOP can take control of the upper chamber for the first time in eight years. Which six seats are likely to move from the blue to red column? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader John Christensen of Woodburn, Ore., says Oregon Republican Senate hopeful Dr. Monica Wehby could be a formidable foe to Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in the fall. Christensen writes, “On the 15th of March, Senator Dr. Tom Coburn [R-Okla.] will attend several fund raisers for Dr. Wehby.  She seems to be getting her name out there more and more and she won the straw vote at the recent Dorchester Conference (Oregon’s annual Republican gathering).  Do not discount the possibility of Oregon going purple in November.”

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

The House Republican Conference is hosting a Millennial Madness Meetup today to allow young voters to voice their concerns on jobs and the economy. Reps. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Ore., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., will participate in a roundtable discussion with representatives from The Can Kicks Back, Students for Life of America, Concerned Women for America, College Republicans, Young Republicans, Conservative Action Project, Facebook, Young Jewish Conservatives, Network Red and Libre initiative focusing on jobs, millennial unemployment, student loan debt, ObamaCare, and the national debt. The gathering is part of the conference’s broader engagement efforts to reach out to minorities and younger voters.

[“You don’t get a Ronald Reagan without a Jimmy Carter. I think President Obama is the Jimmy Carter for this generation.”—Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., on “Fox and Friends”]

Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow examines the new campaign encouraging people to ban the word “bossy.”: “On Sunday, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg launched a new campaign, known as ‘Ban Bossy’…Sandberg is an ally of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Sandberg worked as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers’ chief of staff under President Bill Clinton during his second term and maxed out in personal campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2007 and 2008. She also donates almost exclusively to female Democratic candidates… why focus the campaign on the word “bossy”? The answer to that may have something to do with Clinton being called “bossy” during the 2008 campaign by Australian feminist Germaine Greer. Bossy is also more tame than some of the other words Clinton has been called.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to be the special guest at an April fundraiser for [Democrat Marjorie Margolies’] effort to reclaim the U.S. House seat she lost two decades ago…In the summer of 1993, Margolies cast the decisive vote for Clinton’s economic policy, which included unpopular tax increases. Voters in the 13th District turned her out of office during the Republican surge of 1994.” Margolies’ son Mark Mezvinsky is married to Chelsea Clinton.

The first foray into local politics by Ready for Hillary, the shadow campaign for 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, did not spell success for Democratic New Hampshire Executive Council candidate Mike Cryans. Cryans conceded the race to Republican Joe Kenney Wednesday. According to reports, the Pro-Hillary PAC dispatched 20 volunteers to boost Democrat support in Tuesday’s special election, focusing its efforts on Dartmouth college students.  National Journal has more.

Respondents in Quinnipiac’s latest survey gave President Obama a 39 percent approval rating in Iowa. But 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton now leads New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie 48 percent to 35 percent in a potential presidential matchup. She trailed by 5 points in December. The former Secretary of State also holds a sizable lead over all other potential Republican opponents.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer’s announcement that she won’t seek a third term is set to release 12 years of pent-up aspirations and a crowded field in the race to replace her as Arizona’s next chief executive in November. Buzzfeed: “Entering the void is a slate of Republicans of varying backgrounds and just one Democrat.”

BuzzFeed: “The New York Times published an editorial on Sunday praising New York University and Columbia for moving away from unpaid internships… as they ‘mostly functioned as a fig leaf for employers, who could pretend that the credit somehow justified not paying for a student’s work.’ … it was a little striking then to see the Times’ March 3 job listing for an unpaid spring semester video intern.  The ideal candidate will work between 10 and 20 hours a week ‘for school credit’ and must be ‘enrolled in a greater NYC-area college pursuing a full-time degree in a related creative field,’…”

Stan Syring
must have had a real hankering to get out on the water this spring. The 37 year-old Clarence, Iowa resident allegedly put an ad on Craigslist offering sex in exchange for a boat trailer. WQAD reports Syring got a response and later met up with the prospective boat john where the two agreed to an undisclosed sex act in exchange for the trailer. Turns out the ad’s taker, an undercover Marion, Iowa police officer, wasn’t interested in the condition of the trailer’s bunks or ball hitch. Syring was arrested and charged with one count of prostitution.

“It is clear that if you are a candidate who doesn’t have a voting record in Congress on [ObamaCare], you should just say you are against it.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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 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 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.