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No mercy as ObamaCare deadline looms

 

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Buzz Cut:
• No mercy as ObamaCare deadline looms
• Obama says U.S. and Russia ‘united’ on Iran
• Romney stays in spotlight
• Pick your bracket buster
• Bears? What bears? Oh, you mean the 22 bears in my car!

NO MERCY AS OBAMACARE DEADLINE LOOMS
We’re one week from the biggest ObamaCare deadline yet. After March 31, every American will be required by law to have health insurance or pay a hefty fine. President Obama has maintained all along that despite giving carve outs and exemptions to his allies in big business and big labor, he really will let the hammer fall on ordinary Americans who do not obey. We’ll see, but Fox News First bets that stories from uninsured citizens, like these collected by the Associated Press, will continue to pump up the election-year pressure on the president and his party to delay or defang the central provision of his long-suffering law.

[Hapsburg style - President Obama is in Holland today, but his ObamaCare outreach is in Spanish. The president recorded a radio interview with Democrat-allied, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. In it, the president encourages Latinos to enroll in his program even if others in their households are in the United States illegally. Recent polling found a significant drop in Hispanic support for the troubled health care law.]

Refuseniks - ObamaCare turned four on Sunday, and it’s anything but precocious. Slow to start and unsteady on its feet, the law is viewed with skepticism by most Americans, including those it was ostensibly designed to help: the uninsured. Check out AP’s interviews with a sampling of the millions of uninsured Americans who are opting to disobey the law: “In Thomaston, Ga., it took Alan Thacker two weeks to get his answer online. It wasn’t the one he wanted. ‘I don’t know how many expletives I hurled at the computer - Why are they doing it this way? Morons!’ and other choice words,’ he recalled/ Thacker, 43, works for $7.55 an hour at Burger King, not enough to qualify for a discount plan for himself and his wife through the federal marketplace…Rebecca Carlson…A single mother in Asheville, N.C…earns $11.50 an hour, around $23,000 a year…Covering Carlson and her 14-year-old son under her workplace plan would cost close to $5,000 per year… Carlson said… ‘I have other responsibilities. I can’t tell the power company that I can’t pay the bill’… ‘I love paying taxes,” declares Justin Thompson of Provo, Utah. ‘I think it’s the most patriotic thing I can do’… ‘It is an injustice that our president can tell us to do something like this,’ Thompson said. ‘It’s everything our Founding Fathers fought against.’ Thompson thinks going uninsured is a reasonable risk for him. After all, he says, he’s 28 years old, healthy and financially secure, making about $250,000 selling home automation and security systems last year.” Read it all here.

Costly coverage - Washington Free Beacon: “…the American Action Forum released a report finding that the law’s regulatory burdens are twice as great as its benefits…the law has generated just $2.6 billion in annualized benefits, compared to $6.8 billion in annualized costs.”

WAIT. WHAT? OBAMA SAYS U.S. AND RUSSIA ‘UNITED’ ON IRAN
Russia may be mopping up its land grab in Crimea and has troops bulging on the Ukraine border, but President Obama told a Dutch newspaper that Moscow remains a U.S. partner in world affairs. Obama said Russia remained “united” with the U.S. and other countries trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Obama is in Holland today in a bid to tout what he says is the continuing relevance of the transatlantic alliance between the U.S. and Europe, which looks more than a little balky in the face of recent Russian advances and fraying agreement on the purpose of the Cold War-era pact. Obama told the paper that the NATO alliance remains the “strongest and most effective” in human history. But there’s reason to wonder about that given Russian ruler Vladimir Putin’s growing power in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as evidenced by his strategic victories in Crimea and Syria. More.

[Reuters explains why European leaders may shy away from Obama’s tough talk - “[President Obama] has threatened U.S. sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy. European allies have far closer economic ties to Russia than the United States and their still-fragile economies could face a backlash by getting tough with Moscow. Russia provides almost a third of the EU’s gas needs and some 40 percent of the gas is shipped through Ukraine.”]

BAIER TRACKS: AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK INSIDE THE NSA…
“We will have an exclusive interview on Special Report with the Director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander on Tuesday. We’ll take you inside the NSA’s high-security facility in Maryland and share my in-depth interview with Alexander on a host of topics including the role of the NSA, Edward Snowden’s leaks and changes in the agency. For the rest of the week, we’ll bring you more from that interview and our exclusive look behind the veil at the NSA. We have a one-hour special on the agency and Alexander already in the works. Stay tuned.” – Bret Baier

Check your snail mail - Fox News: “Former President Jimmy Carter on Sunday criticized the Obama administration’s surveillance efforts, saying the country’s use of drones has been ‘abused’ and that he communicates by mail with foreign leaders for fear his electronic correspondences are being watched. ‘I have felt that my own communications are probably monitored,’ the former Democratic president told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it, because I believe if I send an email, it will be monitored’…The former president said he thinks the reason is that he and Obama have differing points of view on the Israel-Palestinian situation.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Daily Beast’s Brian Castner on How a Thumb-Sized Gauge Is Revolutionizing Traumatic Brain Injuries: “Explosive blasts have caused 75% of the injuries and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to a 2008 RAND Corporation study… 20% of combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have come home with some level of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) from these events… the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA…infamous perhaps, for funding gonzo futuristic projects, everything from plant eating robots… to flying cars…to training bees to find landmines…In the mid-2000’s… began studying the just-emerging TBI epidemic plaguing the US military...The research may have led to a breakthrough: A blast gauge. The gauge is a device small enough to be worn by a soldier in the field, and in the event of an explosion, it can register the effects of a blast event and provide critical early warning signs of injury.”

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

POLL CHECK

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve –  43.1 percent//Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.0 percent//Wrong Track – 61.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.2 percent// Republicans 40.8 percent

ROMNEY STAYS IN SPOTLIGHT
Mitt Romney
told CBS News on Sunday that he was not thinking about running for president a third time. But… Romney said he was instead “thinking about the people who [he wants] to see running for president, and there’s quite a group.” Romney said that he “wholly anticipate[d] that [he will] be supporting one of them very vigorously.” But he certainly didn’t rule out another try. Romney said he’s not thinking about running because of the unspecified great candidate he looks forward to supporting. If the unidentified candidate or candidates (presumably including Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush) don’t run, the door seems to be pretty well ajar. Also propping open the presidential portal are these kinds of Sunday show appearances, a ski trip for his campaign team this month and a very active fundraising schedule. Up next on Romney’s roster: former campaign adviser and Virginia Republican Senate hopeful Ed Gillespie on Tuesday. With the former frontrunner from the blue-state wing of the GOP, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, caught in political gridlock, and the red-state Republican primary heating up, many former Romnesians must be hoping that their old boss continues to keep his options open.

[Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., in 2010, was the only gubernatorial candidate to advance from the GOP’s weekend nominating convention. Patrick is not seeking another term and the Democratic field to replace him looks to be crowded. The Boston Herald has more.]

CHRISTIE TO BE CLEARED BY OWN INVESTIGATORS
NYT: “With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, [Republican] Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong. Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings… It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.”

[Riding “hi” in the middle - Watch Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” make the case for his policies in the mother of all swing states.]

POWER PLAY: THE SCOOP ON ARIZONA’S GOVERNOR RACE
In the latest installment of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt,” Chris speaks with Arizona State Treasurer Doug Ducey, the leading contender in a crowded field to replace retiring Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. Watch the interview with the former Cold Stone Creamery CEO.

SHAHEEN HAMMERS BROWN OVER OUTSIDE CASH
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is hitting the airwaves today with an ad criticizing likely Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown for not signing a pledge rejecting the help of outside groups. Brown signed a similar pact in 2012 in his losing battle with now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. From the ad: “Just a few weeks ago in New York, he was still boasting about his People’s Pledge. But now Scott Brown’s in New Hampshire and refusing to sign the exact same People’s Pledge…Maybe it’s because big oil and Wall Street want to buy him a Senate seat.” Brown previously said Shaheen’s calls were “hypocritical” as she has attended West Coast fundraisers so, “so third-party groups in D.C. will have money to run even more outside negative ads against me.”

CONDI COMES TO SULLIVAN’S DEFENSE IN ALASKA
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is defending Alaska Republican Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan in a new ad after a group supporting Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, recently called his Alaska residency into question. The pro-Begich super PAC, Put Alaska First, recently ran ads hitting Sullivan over purchasing a non-resident fishing license and benefitting from a Maryland tax credit while voting in Alaska. Rice fires back at the attacks saying, “Dan faces political attacks because he wanted his family by his side. Remember that serving our country required some time in our capital.” American Crossroads has put $170,000 dollars behind the spot.

PICK YOUR BRACKET BUSTER
Until the end of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Fox News First invites you to pick your favorite potential upset of the 2014 election year. Tweet your long shot selections to @cstirewalt and we’ll share the best ones here.

The top seeds: Pick Six - Cinderella stories are great, but the heavy favorites usually win it all. That’s why we’re still tracking your top six picks for the Democrat-held Senate seats most likely to go from blue to red this year. Republicans need six more seats to take control of the upper chamber. The current consensus for top seeds among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia.

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

Silver says - ESPN super statistician Nate Silver says the likelihood of Republicans winning the Senate stands at 60 percent. Silver told ABC’s “This Week” Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina are the most probable GOP pickups. Silver said Republicans have a 45 percent chance of taking Michigan, 35 percent in Colorado and 30 percent in Iowa. Daily Caller has more.

CANTOR GETS READY TO TAKE CONTROL
Breitbart’s Jonathan Strong looks at the jockeying as House Republicans consider what happens if Speaker John Boehner doesn’t seek the gavel again next year. Strong concludes that Boehner’s top lieutenant likely has the votes. “Majority Leader Eric Cantor has turned up the intensity of his outreach to members in preparation for the possibility Boehner retires… If Boehner does decide to leave, it would be extremely difficult for a challenger to keep Cantor from wielding the Speaker’s gavel…”

BEARS? WHAT BEARS? OH, YOU MEAN THE 22 BEARS IN MY CAR!
When Chinese police stopped a man driving with 22 bear cubs loose in his car, the driver at first said the animals were Akita puppies from a breeder. When authorities pointed out that they were like totally bear cubs, the man expressed shock and said he would sue the breeder. Then, perhaps remembering that he lived in an authoritarian police state, the man confessed that he was, in fact, smuggling bears, however poorly. The Daily Mail of London has the story complete with photos of the cubs now safe at a zoo.

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.