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• Prime time to dump Sebelius?
• Fade to Gray: Dem scandals on display in DC vote
• De Blasio booed in Opening Day debut
• We knew Defense cuts were steep, but…
• The town that’s wild as a mink but sweet as soda pop
PRIME TIME TO DUMP SEBELIUS?
The White House is declaring victory on ObamaCare’s first open enrollment period, but you already knew that would happen. The rationale for the celebration is that government sources estimate 7 million people signed up for President Obama’s new entitlement program before fines (kinda) kick in. The tout remains mostly meaningless until the government starts saying who those 7 million are. Success or failure will be determined by how many healthy, previously uninsured, paying customers have come aboard. Given the fact that the law caused millions to lose their coverage and empowers the IRS to punish people who fail to comply, getting 7 million people to at least start the process of enrollment is hardly miraculous, no matter how bad the Obamanauts are at the Internet. The main question from critics – How many of the enrollees were uninsured before? – and other icky items that will likely cause dramatic downward revisions to the number can wait a few weeks. There are many Friday afternoons this summer that look just perfect for some turkey drops. Today, though, it’s time for the members of Team Obama to celebrate, that is unless you’re Kathleen Sebelius.
[“I think everyone is going to be really surprised and pleased how well this has turned out.” –Vice President Joe Biden, during an ObamaCare pitch Monday on the “Rachel Ray Show”]
Kansas is lovely in springtime - How is Sebelius, widely blamed and lampooned for her role in the disastrous rollout of the law, holding up? Her vacant stare when an Oklahoma news anchor pointed out Monday that ObamaCare was perhaps the only thing less popular than tornadoes in the Sooner State suggests that the secretary is more than a little worse for wear. (Not that she’s ever been a great spokeswoman.) Perhaps now is the moment, during this temporary, contrived victory celebration, to let her finally get some rest. The new federal contractor starts today for the Web site that Sebelius will always be remembered for wrecking. The replacement team begins working on the “back end” of the site (the part that actually connects payees to policies) and those maestros of mayhem from CGI are gone. Democrats are ready to forget a very unhappy six months from horrid launch to splashdown. This is also the moment when Sebelius could be tossed overboard with the minimum drama and maximum benefit. Remember, the president has been cagey on her culpability and prospects for continued service in his administration. When Bill O’Reilly asked her boss about firing her, Obamas only said “I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable, but when we are midstream, Bill, we want to make sure we our main focus is how do we make this thing work so people are able to sign up and that is what we have done.” Well, we’re through fording one stream, is it time for a fresh horse, Mr. President? You can do it now or ride it out until after Election Day.
RUBIO AIMS TO MAKE OBAMA KEEP BAILOUT PROMISE
ObamaCare’s next big battlefield will be over bailouts provided to insurers if enrollment trends continue to favor older and sicker patients rather than younger healthier ones. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will again introduce legislation today aimed at dismantling the “risk corridor” provision in the health care law that would keep the funds from flowing to insurers facing a death spiral. While the administration recently issued a new rule saying they would operate the “risk corridors” in a “budget neutral manner,” Rubio’s legislation seeks to hold Team Obama’s feet to the fire over the pledge. “This provision holds the Administration to its word and takes a common sense approach to guaranteeing taxpayers are protected from further paying for a reckless and irresponsible law that should never have been passed in the first place,” said Rubio.
MARYLAND OBAMACARE BOTCH TO COST $125 MILLION
It’s decision day in Maryland where state officials will rule on whether to ditch a $125 million ObamaCare enrollment system and start over with new technology. The heavily-Democratic state, which is home to millions of potential ObamaCare beneficiaries, has only enrolled about 50,000 in ObamaCare programs that require individuals to pay part of their own costs. Maryland's Web site crashed on its first day, and after hundreds of fixes, the site still will not work for many users. – Watch Fox: Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen is following the developments on Maryland’s failed exchange.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Michelle Healy examines new research that questions conventional notions on bullying for USA Today: “… [A]s students become more popular and climb the social hierarchy of middle and high school, they are at increased risk for gossip, harassment and even physical attacks from rivals competing for status. And the adverse consequences of that bullying — including increased depression, anxiety and anger, and decreased school attachment — are magnified the more popular the victim, according to the paper published in April's American Sociological Review… An analysis showed that among both boys and girls, if a student was is in the middle of the school social hierarchy — the 50th percentile — and moved up the social ladder to the 95th percentile, the likelihood that he or she would be victimized by his or her peers increased by more than 25%.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.4 percent//Disapprove – 52.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent//Wrong Track – 61.6 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 41.7 percent// Republicans 40.5 percent
FADE TO GRAY: DEM SCANDALS ON DISPLAY IN DC VOTE
It’s primary day in the heavily Democratic District of Columbia, where the once bright re-election prospects of incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, D-D.C., are clouded by scandal. In early March, mega-donor and Washington businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty to pumping more than $660,000 in illegal donations into Gray’s 2010 campaign. More significant for Americans beyond the Potomac: Thompson also admitted to running an illicit shadow campaign for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, a candidate who was subsequently identified as Hillary Clinton. The D.C. mayor’s travails come amidst a recent spate of scandals involving Democrats in California, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Gray, who has so far not been charged in the ongoing investigation into Thompson’s slush funding is trying to keep voter focus on his stewardship of a growing D.C. economy. His top challenger in today’s crowded primary is Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, who is pressing hard on hizzoner’s woes. A recent Washington Post poll has the two locked in a dead heat. The winner of today’s primary is all but certain to be elected in November.
[Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law, former Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, D-Penn., reportedly enriched herself from a taxpayer-funded charity. A longtime Clintonite, Margolies is looking to regain her seat in Congress. Breitbart has the deets.]
CHRISTIE TRIES GOP BRIDGE BUILDING
Megyn Kelly asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie which three fellow Republicans were his top picks for president if he doesn’t run. The answer was revealing: “The ones I think are very good: [Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush] would be an outstanding candidate for president. I think [Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker] would be a really good candidate for president. I think [Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan], would be a really good candidate for president.” Then Megyn asked about Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of Christie’s most outspoken critics on the right: “I think he would be a credible candidate for president,” Christie said, quickly adding, “I think Florida Sen. Marco Rubio] would be a good candidate for president.”
[Billionaire circuit - Jeb Bush was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s dinner guest Monday, the Tampa Bay Times reports.]
No matter what - Christie told Megyn that he intends to campaign for whomever the GOP nominates, even Paul. “Whatever differences I may have with any one of those people that I just named –- because there were differences – it would be minor compared to the differences I would have with whoever the Democratic nominee is.”
[Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will focus on how conservatives can more effectively communicate to Spanish-television viewers during a symposium hosted today the Media Research Center and the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership.]
BRALEY KNEW HE WAS BEING TAPED WHEN HE BELITTLED FARMERS
Des Moines Register: “…campaign strategists [for Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley] say the candidate knew he was being videotaped at the private fundraiser when he made the remark that has the political world buzzing, describing Chuck Grassley as "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school." …When videocamera-carrying trackers have managed to catch up with him, his aides have kicked them out on at least 27 occasions, according to a list provided to the Register by trackers with Priorities for Iowa and America Rising. ‘Of all the Senate races in the country that we have been tracking, Braley has been the most secretive and most averse to cameras,’ said Tim Miller, a co-founder of America Rising, the conservative group that discovered the video of Braley's Jan. 23 remarks and released it widely…”
CONSERVATIVE GROUP GIVES NUNN TAX THRASHING
The conservative group Ending Spending has released a new ad scorching Georgia Democratic Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn over her support of ObamaCare and higher taxes. From the ad: “As you prepare your tax return, remember, Michelle Nunn wants to be your senator.”
BRUTAL OBAMACARE BARRAGE CONTINUES AGAINST PRYOR
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity has spent $1.8 million thus far in ads targeting Sen. Mark Pryor’s, D-Ark., support of ObamaCare. The latest ad tells the story of “Jerry,” a trucking company owner unsure of the status of his insurance coverage due to changes in health care law. “Jerry” says in the ad: “It’s like living in a haze. You don’t know whether you’re going to have insurance or whether you’re going to be able to afford your insurance. It was taken away from us, or it was given back to us, or it was taken – we don’t know what it’s been now… Mark Pryor voted for this law. He hasn’t been that responsive to the issue now. Do you think he’ll be responsive four years from now, or two years from now? There’s just this silence.”
TURNABOUT ON BILLIONAIRE BACKERS
As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and liberal groups continue to blast the Koch brothers’ support of Republican candidates, the conservative group American Commitment is hitting back in a new ad. The ad rips Reid and Democrats for support they are receiving from billionaire environmentalist brothers Tom and Jim Steyer, claiming the pair opposes construction of the Keystone Pipeline XL for personal gain. From the ad: “Now Steyer wants Harry Reid’s help to kill the Keystone Pipeline and impose huge new energy taxes to kill our economy. That’s why Tom Steyer and his brother Jim are spending millions to finance campaigns that support liberals who will keep Harry Reid in charge of the Senate.”
FISHY VOTE FOR LANDRIEU?
Washington Examiner: “Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the upper chamber, voted last week to confirm [Rhea Sun Suh] as assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks in the Department of the Interior. Republicans looking to oust her hope to make that vote a liability…Suh has drawn criticism for her comments about natural gas development.
PICK SIX: PRIMARY PICTURE
To take control of the Senate, Republicans need a net gain of six seats. Fox News First wants to know which six you think present the most likely path for the GOP. The current consensus: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. But reader David Black cautions, “There have been numerous retiring Republicans and numerous Republican wannabes running against incumbents. Most of these do not have the clout to beat their Democratic opponents.”
Pick your bracket buster - Until the end of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Fox News First wants you to pick your midterm bracket busters. Choose a candidate who looks like an easy out on paper but who you just know isn’t a sure lock. Tweet your long shot selections to @cstirewalt and we’ll share the best ones here.
CAMP TO RETIRE
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, will not seek re-election this year, adding to the growing number Congressmen heading toward the exits. Camp’s decision follows fellow Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers’ announcement last week that he’s leaving at the end of this term. Camp said the decision was “reached after much consideration and discussion with my family.” He did not give a reason. The Detroit Free Press says Republicans needn’t worry about holding the seat though: “The central Lower Peninsula district is reliably Republican, however, and Camp could be a financial asset, with $3.4 million in his campaign fund at the end of 2013.”
[Roll Call provides its casualty list from the 113th Congress]
DEMS SPEND BIG DESPITE DEBT TO MIMIC OBAMA CAMPAIGN
WSJ: “The Democratic National Committee is entering this campaign season with millions of dollars in debt, gambling that money spent now on technology and organizing efforts will outweigh the burdens of red ink… the committee is working to give candidates the kind of data-analysis and voter-outreach tools employed by the Obama campaign, said Michael Czin, national press secretary for the DNC. The party also has launched what it calls a voter-expansion project aimed at fighting laws it views as barriers to voting, such as voter-ID laws. Mr. Czin wouldn't say how much the party is spending on the efforts. Still, some Democrats are troubled. ‘At a time when Republicans are expanding the playing field, the last thing Democrats need is a DNC that's in debt and not able to spend as much money to protect all of the Democrats up for re-election,’ said Jim Manley, a former longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.). ‘I continue to wonder whether or how much OFA has taken away money that should have gone to the DNC.’’’
[AP: “President Obama on Monday threw his support to [Democrat] Sen. Brian Schatz over Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii's Senate race, stepping into a primary that has been divisive for voters in the state where Obama was born.]
Hard habit to break - Despite recently telling NYT it would cut back its fundraising efforts to preserve donations for Democrats facing midterm races, President Obama’s permanent campaign apparatus, Organizing for Action, does not appear to be slowing down. BuzzFeed reports the group made 14 fundraising pitches via email in the last week alone.
[The DNC has raised $2.25 million through online fundraisers in February. It is Democrats largest online cash haul since its previous record was set in September, Politico reports.]
DE BLASIO BOOED IN OPENING DAY DEBUT
Washington Free Beacon: “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was given a hostile reception by Mets fans on Opening Day Monday, receiving a chorus of boos before throwing the first pitch at Citi Field. De Blasio did get the pitch across the plate, but was booed once again as he walked off the field. De Blasio has already faced heavy criticism since his election last November, with New Yorkers increasingly upset with his efforts to close successful charter schools and his inability to plow the city’s streets.” Watch here.
[Party of the one percent AP: “…[I]n Congress, the wealthiest among us are more likely to be represented by a Democrat than a Republican. Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts.”]
CANDIDATE SEEKS GAY DONATIONS FOR KIDNEY STONE STRUGGLE
Bay State Democratic gubernatorial contender Steven Grossman’s latest fundraising appeal uses his struggle to pass a kidney stone during a recent forum hosted by a gay activist group: “Despite suffering extreme pain from a kidney stone attack, Steve showed up to stand strongly in support for LGBT social justice and equality,” Grossman’s campaign recently emailed supporters. The donation plea goes on to say, “Steve won’t let anything keep him from the work that will move our Commonwealth forward, but we can’t do it without you, Will you donate today to help us hit our end of month goal?”
WE KNEW DEFENSE CUTS WERE STEEP, BUT…
The Telegraph: “A British sniper in Afghanistan killed six insurgents with a single bullet after hitting the trigger switch of a suicide bomber whose device then exploded, The Telegraph has learnt. The 20-year-old marksman, a Lance Corporal in the Coldstream Guards, hit his target from 930 yards away, killing the suicide bomber and five others around him caught in the blast. The incident in Kakaran in southern Afghanistan happened in December but has only now been disclosed as Britain moves towards the withdrawal of all combat soldiers by the end of the year. Lt Col Richard Slack, commanding officer of 9/12 Royal Lancers, said the unnamed sharpshooter prevented a major attack by the Taliban, as a second suicide vest packed with [44 lbs.] of explosives was found nearby.”
[Imagine what a second hump would have cost! - BuzzFeed: “The State Department is planning to spend $400,000 in taxpayer funds to buy a sculpture [of a white camel staring at the eye of a giant needle] for the new American embassy being built in Islamabad, Pakistan, according to contracting records…”]
THE TOWN THAT’S WILD AS A MINK BUT SWEET AS SODA POP…
The Tennessean: “The [Tennessee] state House has voted to allow Lake City to change its name to Rocky Top despite ongoing legal efforts by the rights owners of the bluegrass standard to block the move. The chamber on Monday voted 89-0 in favor of the measure … If the Senate goes along with bill, Lake City could vote to make the name change official. ‘Rocky Top’ [is the favorite song of the fans of the] University of Tennessee and is one of several state songs.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The price of this – overturning, uprooting and revolutionizing a sixth of the economy and the ecosystem of medical care – is staggering for a million and a half uninsured. Is that the way it should have been done?” – Charles Krauthammer, on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.
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.