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Putin defies Obama in power play

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Buzz Cut:
• Putin defies Obama in power play
• Still missing: Devilish details overshadow ObamaCare enrollment
• Regulator in chief
• Illinois decision day
• Belated honors

DEVELOPING:  Reuters: “President Vladimir Putin and two Crimean leaders signed a treaty on Tuesday on making the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula a part of Russia.”

PUTIN DEFIES OBAMA, PUSHES AHEAD WITH POWER PLAY
Russian President Vladimir Putin opened an address to the Russian parliament on the annexation of Crimea today with the words “a round of applause” for Crimea. Doesn’t sound like those 11 of Vlad’s Russian and Ukrainian “cronies” that President Obama slapped with sanctions on Monday are putting much pressure on Putin to de-escalate the growing tensions over Crimea’s breakaway vote to separate from Ukraine and join Mother Russia. In fact, just hours after Obama announced the sanctions freezing the U.S. assets of his confidants, Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a “sovereign and independent state.”

Railing against the ‘chosen ones’ - That move set the stage for the Russian president to formally propose the Ukrainian province’s annexation before Russia’s parliament. While Putin claimed Russia would never seek to start a confrontation with the West, his ramped up rhetoric suggests he holds his American counterpart and U.S. allies in contempt over the Ukraine crisis. “Our Western partners headed by the United States prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun,” Putin said. “They have come to believe in their exceptionalism and their sense of being the chosen ones. That they can decide the destinies of the world, that it is only them who can be right.”

Weak-handed? - As tensions over Crimea and eastern Ukraine simmer, Obama’s sanctions and those of his European counterparts were met with derision and mockery among officials in Moscow, and with concern by Republican lawmakers who see the moves as inadequate.  “The crisis in Ukraine calls for a far more significant response from the United States…sanctioning only seven Russian officials is wholly inadequate at this stage,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement. 

[WSJ: “The sanctions Mr. Obama announced are worse than useless because their main impact will be to make America look weak.”]

Ukraine tensions threaten Iran deal - NYT: “Tensions between the West and Russia over events in Ukraine have cast a shadow over the second round of talks set to begin on Tuesday in Vienna on a permanent nuclear agreement with Iran. Although the talks have no direct connection to Ukraine, their success hinges on solidarity among the so-called P5-plus-one countries — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which include Russia, plus Germany — in favor of a tough agreement with Iran to drastically scale back its nuclear program. If Russia signals that its cooperation with the West has weakened, that will reduce pressure on Iran to make concessions, said experts knowledgeable about the talks, which began last month with three days of meetings involving senior diplomats from each of the governments involved.”

STILL MISSING: DEVILISH DETAILS OVERSHADOW OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT
An ObamaCare update once again left out data critical to how viable and costly the president’s entitlement program is as open enrollment nears an end. In a blog post Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service director Marilyn Tavenner boasted sign ups have risen to 5 million. The post featured stories of those so thrilled to be enrolled in ObamaCare that they wept, but team Obama is still not disclosing who has actually paid for coverage or how many young people, critical to making insurance risk pools workable and keeping premiums from spiking further have enrolled. As the Daily Caller reports studies of insurance industry data shows only 77 to 80 percent of those the White House claims are enrolled will actually follow through and purchase insurance. By those estimates, current enrollment is just below 4 million.

What was the point? - While the 5 million enrollment figure may be seen as good news coming from the White House, the devilish details in Monday’s post were also lacking on the main object of the president’s overhaul of health care system: insuring the uninsured. A new survey from the financial Web site bankrate.com finds 1/3 of those who lack health insurance do not plan to enroll in ObamaCare because they feel it is too expensive. Couple that with the relatively low young invincible sign ups and you have a costly health law, causing multiple cancellations, that isn’t achieving its primary goal.

New ObamaCare rule gives Dems cover - To provide cover for vulnerable Democrats, Team Obama is seeking to stave off further cancellations ahead of November’s midterms with its latest rule allowing insurers to modify plans that are not compliant with ObamaCare without actually canceling them. Washington Examiner has the deets.

Dems dilemma - Former speech writer for George W. Bush, Marc Theissen, considers The Democrats’ Obama Trap: “The problem is Democrats can’t run from Obama or Obamacare. Yes, the president is electoral kryptonite in 2014. But Democrats are caught in the Obama trap — unable to either embrace or repudiate their unpopular president and his unpopular health law. This is precisely the position vulnerable Republicans were in during the 2006 midterm elections, when Democrats retook control of Congress thanks to George W. Bush’s sinking poll numbers. Like vulnerable Democrats today, many vulnerable Republicans wanted to run from Bush in 2006. But they couldn’t, because no matter how low the president dropped in the polls, a solid 25 percent of the electorate stayed intensely loyal to him. Republicans needed that pro-Bush base to turn out in big numbers to avert disaster in the fall.”

ObamaCare’s bracket booster fouls out - Another faulty Web site is plaguing the Obama administration’s efforts to attract young people to sign up for the president’s signature entitlement program. Visitors to Team Obama’s “March Madness” themed Web site, that features videos of sports stars promoting ObamaCare, were met with an error message Monday that read, “Error 503 — Backend is unhealthy.”

Baier tracks:  A check-up on ObamaCare…
Monday night started off a five-part series on the status of President Obama’s healthcare law: “Obamacare Check-Up” on “Special Report with Bret Baier”.  We began with a timeline of where we’ve been. (Watch)

Some of the things we found: There have been 34 Obamacare delays and administrative fixes since 2012. Some of the delays were due to the administration having trouble meeting the law's own deadlines. Others have been to appease the critics of Obamacare and those who began receiving cancellation notices.

Tonight we’ll look at what the goal was for Obamacare when it came to coverage:  How many people would be covered?   How many would remain uninsured?  And where do we stand now?  You don’t want to miss our check-up. Tune in at 6pm ET for “Special Report.” - Bret Baier

[Fox News Factoid:  4 years ago, on March 17th, Bret Baier interviewed President Obama about the healthcare bill that the House would vote on and pass just a few days later.]

REGULATOR IN CHIEF
Washington Examiner: “President Obama’s administration has added a whopping 17,522 pages of new regulations, expanding the ‘Code of Federal Regulations’ by 11 percent with still three more years in office, a report from Competitive Enterprise Institute says. According to a new report from Clyde Wayne Crews, CEI’s vice president for policy, Obama has averaged adding 3,504 pages annually to the Code. By comparison, former President George W. Bush added 2,584 annually over his final four years and 2,490 annually over his full eight years in office. What’s more: The new numbers include Obama’s pre-election slowdown of regulation issuances of just 939 pages between 2012 and 2013, said Crews.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Charles Cooke
considers the implications of the United States relinquishing governance of the internet for National Review. From “Handing Over the Keys to the Internet”: “For its operation, sustenance, and energy, the Web could rely wholly on private enterprise, deregulated markets, and civil society; for its essential freedom and the integrity of its operation, it was beholden to a small amount of governance. Without it, there would be anarchy... Yesterday, the United States found itself in an advantageous and virtuous position: the benign steward of an astonishing network that it developed, refined, and then gave to the world without caveat. Today, provoked and shamed into action by actors who have neither the moral nor legal claim to its work, it is on the cusp of giving up control. An unforced error. For shame.”

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve –  42.8 percent//Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.6 percent//Wrong Track – 62.7 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.2 percent// Republicans 40.8 percent

GOP SETS COURSE TO CAPTURE GOV PRIZE IN ILLINOIS
Voters in President Obama’s home state of Illinois head to the polls today to shape November’s ballot as the Republicans seeks to regain the governor’s mansion after over a decade of Democrat control. Polling indicates Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is favored in a primary field that includes state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and state senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard. Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill., who was elected in 2010, a year after he took over from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., was removed from office for soliciting bribes, faces a lesser known primary challenger. In head-to-head matchups, Rauner leads Quinn, who is reeling from the president’s continually falling approval in the Land of Lincoln. In making his final pitch, Rauner told supporters Monday, “We are going to sweep Pat Quinn into the dustbin of history in Illinois.” AP has more.

CRUZ HITS THE HAWKEYE STATE
Likely 2016 GOP contender Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is getting some grass roots face time in Iowa today. Cruz will address a home schooling event in Des Moines alongside Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and influential conservative leaders including Bob Vander Plaats, who recently turned down a U.S. Senate bid. Cruz will also address a gathering of local Republican leaders this evening in Mason City. The Texas Senator has been no stranger to the Hawkeye State of late, making several appearances last fall, the Des Moines Register reports.

OSBORN MAKES ON-AIR DEBUT
Nebraska Republican Senate candidate Shane Osborn will make his on-air debut with a new ad today. In the ad, the former state treasurer touts his naval experience which includes landing a crippled spy plane in China where he and his crew were held and questioned for 12 days. Osborn appears in the ad saying: “Every candidate says the right things. Then, under pressure, they fold and they fail… I won’t let you down.” 

GRAHAM HAWKS FOREIGN POLICY CREDS IN LATEST AD
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is hitting the airwaves with a six-figure ad buy to hail his conservative foreign policy bona fides and opposition to President Obama’s policies on Benghazi, Russia, and Iran. From the ad: “In a dangerous world where the only guarantee of peace is strength, Lindsey Graham stands strong.” The ad concludes calling Graham, “a conservative leader who gets things done.”

PICK SIX: EAST TO WEST
Republicans need to flip an additional six Senate seats from blue to red to gain control of the upper chamber.  Fox News First wants to know which Democrat-held seats you think are most vulnerable. Based on your feedback the consensus is: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Judy Carlos says, “I like your list but I’d add Colorado and New Hampshire.”

[Ed Note: A solid observation given former Sen. Scott Brown’s, R-Mass., foray into the Granite State and Mark Udall, D-Colo., scrambling under the unpopularity of ObamaCare in Rocky Mountain territory.]

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

HE’S BACK: EDWARDS LAUNCHES LOUISANA CONGRESSIONAL BID
Three years ago he was in the big house, now former Gov. Edwin Edwards, D-La., wants to take a run at the U.S. House in Louisiana’s 6th District. New Orleans Times Picayune: “The 86-year-old Silver Fox, known for his memorable, often shocking quotes and the nearly nine years spent behind bars on extortion, fraud and racketeering charges, made the announcement at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday (March 17). ‘I acknowledge there are good reasons I should not run. But there are better reasons why I should,’ said the Democrat, who served an unprecedented four terms as governor. He also put to rest questions over whether his status as an ex-con would keep him from being a qualified Congressional candidate: "Once and for all I'm positive I can run and I'm confident I can win.’’’

CAMPAIGN CARL: A TALE OF TWO PARTIES
Campaign Carl Cameron is eyeing today’s dueling appearances by Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus at the Christian Science “Monitor Breakfast” and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., ‎at the National Press Club on the anniversary of the GOP’s “progress and opportunity project.” The project has been referred to as the RNC’s “autopsy” on Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat.  Today Priebus will tout the GOP’s momentum heading toward the November elections, the widely held view that the Republican majority in the House is safe and that Republicans could well reclaim control of the Senate. Wasserman Schultz will offer a retort. Campaign Carl wants to know how Democrats can undercut the GOP momentum given President Obama’s poor approval ratings and the fact that Democratic incumbents are under fire for supporting ObamaCare and the president’s unpopular agenda. 

[“We have ‘the tale of two parties’ that we’re contending with. We’ve got a midterm party that can’t lose, and we’ve got a presidential party that’s having a hard time winning. So we have to mind the store for 2014, and we’re doing that … but we’re focused on making sure we continue to grow into 2016.” –RNC head Reince Priebus in an interview with Politico.]

RNC SPENDS BIG DOUGH TO DREAM
The Republican National Committee is targeting 14 states in a six-figure ad campaign that highlights voters of various ages and races discussing the issues that matter most to them.  “The Create Your American Dream Campaign” includes placement on networks that cater to women, along with youth oriented-ads on popular Web streaming services, plus advertisements in Spanish and Korean.

TEAM OBAMA ‘RECALIBRATES’ AFTER NOMINEE SHOT DOWN
Washington Examiner: “White House press secretary Jay Carney said administration officials are ‘recalibrating’ their approach to President Obama’s nominee for surgeon general after the National Rifle Association's strong opposition siphoned off key Democratic support. Carney predicted Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a Harvard and Yale-educated former emergency room doctor, would eventually be confirmed as surgeon general but said the White House is reassessing its approach to the nomination after several pro-gun Democrats indicated they would oppose it”—Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream considers how some Democrats rejected President Obama’s controversial Justice Department nominee and why other vulnerable Democrats are rejecting his Surgeon General pick.

BELATED HONORS
President Obama
is presenting two dozen veterans with the Medal of Honor today. The White House ceremony will honor soldiers who were previously overlooked for recognition or received lesser awards because they were members of minority groups. Recipients include Jewish, Hispanic and African-American Army veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Among those being awarded is the late Demensio Rivera of Portsmouth, Va.  The Puerto Rico born Rivera joined the army in 1950, and is receiving the distinction for heroic actions during a firefight in the Korean War. From the U.S. Army citation: “When the outpost area occupied by his platoon was assaulted during the night, Rivera, an automatic rifleman, held his forward position tenaciously, although exposed to very heavy fire. When his rifle became inoperative, Rivera employed his pistol and grenades, and eventually fought the enemy hand-to-hand and forced them back.”  Rivera’s granddaughter, Sgt. Ashley Randall, back from deployment in Afghanistan, will accept the medal in his honor.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“[President Obama] is being ridiculed, by Russians especially, because the statement and the policy are ridiculous. He doesn’t have a lot of cards, but he has some cards. If he thinks that sanctioning seven Russians of a population of about 150 million is a sanction, he’s living in a different world…if you are going to do something, do it, otherwise, say nothing. But this really is a humiliating response by a president who can’t even get the Europeans to join him in effective sanctions, which we could do.”—Charles Krauthammer, on “Special Report with Bret Baier

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