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• Survey says ObamaCare rate shocks accelerating
• Boehner opens door to more criminal charges for IRS
• White House mansplains misleading gender pay stats
• Koch-backed group flips script on Dems
• Is he the coolest dad or what?
SURVEY SAYS OBAMACARE RATE SHOCKS ACCELERATING
Senate Democrats were starting to feel a little better about midterms. It was partly because of the White House publicity push claiming to have met enrollment standards for ObamaCare last week. But it was mostly because of a twofold strategy now on display: appeal to centrist voters by embracing some modest mitigations of the law while leaving President Obama to petrify Democratic base voters with targeted threats about what a Republican Senate might do. Let Obama, already unpopular with independents, play the heel while Senate Democrats get to adopt poses of concern and independence. Take that Nate Silver! But that happy thought bubble just got popped. Health-insurance premiums are accelerating at the fastest pace ever measured in a survey conducted by market analysts at Morgan Stanley. The forecast rise, largely attributable to ObamaCare, comes from a survey of insurance brokers around the country. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Scott Gottlieb explains for Forbes, the numbers are crushingly high (this chart highlights the spike).
[Among the states seeing the sharpest increases are several with competitive Senate races including: New Hampshire (forecast to suffer a 90-percent rate increase for individual plans), Colorado, Michigan, Georgia and Kentucky.]
Dems pay for premiums - Whatever any ads claim or however many talking points seep out of the White House, the most effective communications of the midterm cycle will be in the form of rate notices and cancellations from insurers. Just as flickering Republican hopes in 2008 were snuffed by the arrival in mailboxes of retirement account statements that revealed the magnitude of the damage caused by that year’s financial panic, health insurance rate cards will do the greatest damage to Democratic hopes of retaining the Senate. While Obama Democrats claim that success or failure of the law is reflected in how many people signed up for free or subsidized insurance, the real measure will be in how the law affects the insurance policies of the 85 percent of Americans who had coverage before the ObamaCare experiment began. If this forecast holds true and voters see insurance premium increases of the kind outlined in the survey, there’s no spin or strategy that can save a Senate majority.
BOEHNER OPENS DOOR TO MORE CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR IRS
House Speaker John Boehner left the door open to potential contempt charges against other IRS officials even as he confirmed to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that lawmakers plan to press the Justice Department to consider a criminal case against ex-IRS official Lois Lerner for ‘misleading the Congress.’ Boehner also said if Lerner does not cooperate soon by providing information on the IRS targeting scandal, the House would hold her in contempt. “Somebody at the IRS violated the law,” Boehner said on “The Kelly File.” “Whether it was Lois Lerner or not, we’ll find out.” Pressed by Kelly on whether IRS chief John Koskinen could also face contempt charges because he suggested documents demanded by Congress wouldn’t be available for years, Boehner said “I think it's a little premature to go that far.” Watch Boehner’s interview on “the Kelly File.”
IRS officials said no liberal groups were targeted - Daily Caller: “IRS agents testified before Congress that the agency’s political targeting did not apply to [liberal] groups as Democrats and the media have claimed, according to a bombshell new staff report prepared by the House Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa.”
WHITE HOUSE MANSPLAINS MISLEADING GENDER PAY STATS
The Obama administration’s effort to trim midterm losses for Democrats by attacking Republican resistance to gender pay equity legislation went awry Monday. Even as President Obama continues to push the agenda (he’ll sign two executive orders today) a top administration economist was forced to walk back the White House’s talking points. Washington Examiner: “Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said very defiantly that despite women contributing 44 percent of their household incomes, they continue to make less than men… [A]s soon as Stevenson was actually questioned about the statistic by McClatchy reporter Lindsay Wise, the White House adviser crumbled, admitting her earlier comments were inaccurate. ‘If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,’ Stevenson said… ‘Seventy-seven cents captures the annual earnings of full-time, full-year women divided by the annual earnings of full-time, full-year men,’ Stevenson clarified. ‘There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure, there are a lot of things that contribute and no one’s trying to say that it’s all about discrimination.’’’
[Watch Fox: Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., appears in the 1 p.m. ET hour]
Carney: It’s complicated - NYT: “Even as [President Obama] seeks to make an issue of the gender gap in compensation across the country, however, his own hiring is facing some scrutiny… [A] recent study, by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, showed that the median annual salary for women in the White House last year was $65,000, while the median annual salary for men was $73,729. The study was based on White House salary data…Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary…said that the 88-cent statistic was misleading because it aggregates the salaries of White House staff members at all levels, including the lowest levels, where women outnumber men.”
[Emily Miller notes that as Senate Democratic leaders celebrate “Equal Pay Day” with a symbolic vote and floor speeches attacking Republicans for sexism, the same leaders all have male chiefs of staff and communications directors.]
FUGGEDABOUTIT: SHARPTON SAYS MOB MOLE ROLE NOT NEWS
MSNBC host Al Sharpton says the revelation from The Smoking Gun that federal agents “flipped” him during a mid-1980s drug probe to obtain his cooperation in an undercover operation against organized crime figures is not news. Sharpton told Fox News’ Joe Weber: “I don’t see this as news, This has been brought up three or four times now. I don’t understand. It’s crazy.” Sharpton is still pretty cool with a cozy relationship with the federal government. He will host President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder at a community organizing event this week.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
Melissa Healy examines the effect of chronic poverty on children for LAT: “By the time they have reached the fourth grade, African American boys who have run a childhood gantlet of poverty, shifting family structure, harsh parenting and a mother’s low mood and educational attainment will have signs of premature genetic aging that can deepen their vulnerability to mental and physical illness, says a new study… The latest research underscores that poverty exacts its wages on a person's health early and at the most profound levels… The study, published Monday in the journal PNAS, also offers insight into the range of environmental factors linked to poverty that corrode a child's health.”
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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43 percent//Disapprove – 52.8 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30.0 percent//Wrong Track – 61.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 41.3 percent// Republicans 39.7 percent
KOCH-BACKED GROUP FLIPS SCRIPT ON DEMS
Conservative group Freedom Partners has a new line of attack that could change the discussion in at least two Senate races, painting Democrats’ votes for ObamaCare as special-interest handouts to the insurance industry. The ads come after Democrats have settled on a midterm strategy of depicting Republican hopefuls as the handmaidens of industry because of the activities of groups like Freedom Partners. The organization is out today with two ads, backed by more than $1 million, against Iowa Senate frontrunner Rep. Bruce Braley and against Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. Here’s the script from the Braley spot: “The government spent millions of taxpayer dollars to promote it. Now, health insurance companies stand to make billions, and Bruce Braley, he takes tens of thousands from his friends in the health insurance industries. For Iowans, it’s cancelled policies and higher costs. That’s not right.”
SCHUMER TOOK KOCH MONEY
Here’s what Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told MSNBC on Monday in defense of his party’s 2014 strategy of attacking conservative patrons Charles and David Koch: “The Koch brothers aren’t just sitting there innocently on the side. They’re spending $40, $50 million in ads that are not focused on their real agenda, which is just eliminating all regulation on corporations, cutting taxes to virtually nothing. And so that demands a response. So I don’t feel sorry for them.”
But here’s what Schumer said about the Kochs’ political activities in 2010: “Again, I can’t thank you enough. All of my best to you and yours and I look forward to working with you throughout this election.”
The difference, according to the letter posted by PowerLine’s John Hinderaker, is that in 2010 Schumer was the beneficiary, receiving a “generous” contribution from KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch Industries.
[Washington Free Beacon: “According to campaign finance records, former Koch Industries lobbyist Robert P. Hall III donated $500 to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s] campaign in 2003.”]
UGLY AIR WAR IN MISSISSIPPI PRIMARY
Two outside conservative groups have expanded their air campaigns in support of Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel’s effort to oust fellow Republican six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran The political action committee associated with the Senate Conservatives fund is out with a positive McDaniel ad which features the candidate denouncing compromise on constitutional principles while The Club for Growth goes negative saying of Cochran, “five decades in Washington is enough. But as Washington Examiner reports, Cochran's campaign is ramping up its attacks with an ad hitting McDaniel for waffling on whether he would have supported Hurricane Katrina relief funds. The race represents what may be the best hope for the outside groups to unseat an incumbent moderate this cycle.
[WaPo details how the Obama administration is using its executive powers to help embattled Senate Democrats.]
PICK SIX: HE’S GOOD ENOUGH, HE’S SMART ENOUGH…
Which six Democrat-held Senate seats present the most likely path for the GOP to win control of the upper chamber? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Jonny Angel says, “Add Minnesota! Comedian [Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.,] on way out !!”
[Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sent a dire e-mail warning to supporters that former Gov. Sarah Palin’s recent endorsement of state senator Julianne Ortman and recent polling showing his vulnerability could spell trouble ahead. Breitbart has more.]
Colorado: Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., raised $2 million and has more than $5.9 cash on hand. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., had $800,000 in his campaign account at the beginning of the year that he can use for his Senate run.
Georgia - Weekly Standard: “Karen Handel, the former secretary of state of Georgia, has raised $200,000 in the past two weeks for her campaign for Senate, according to a spokesman. …Helping boost Handel in her five-way GOP primary is former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who recently endorsed Handel and traveled to Georgia on Friday for a public appearance. About half of the campaign's two-week haul has come after Palin's appearance.”
Louisiana - Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is boasting that she raised $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2014, nearly $600,000 more than Republican frontrunner Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who announced his total Monday. Landrieu claimed $7.5 million cash on hand, compared to Cassidy’s $5 million.
Oklahoma - Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., brought in $1.2 million and has $1 million cash on hand in his bid to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Oregon - Republican Senate contender Monica Wehby posted $590,000 in the last quarter. The Oregonian reports.
North Carolina - WSJ: “Thom Tillis, one of the Republicans running against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, raised $1.3 million in the first three months of the year, according to a person familiar with his totals.”
THAT’S ONE WAY TO RAISE YOUR QUARTERLY HAUL
Billings Gazette : “HELENA — Long-shot Republican U.S. Senate candidate Champ Edmunds hasn’t raised much campaign cash so far, but on Sunday, he found $12,000 cash in an abandoned backpack, outside his Missoula church. ‘That’s what I thought it was: Somebody left some money for my campaign,’ Edmunds said with a laugh on Monday. ‘And the other deacon (at the church) said, 'Hey, what are you talking about? That money was left for the church!’’ Whatever it was left for, the cash and other contents of the small backpack are now in the hands of the Missoula Police Department, which is searching for the owner.”
IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME
South Dakota Democratic candidate Rick Weiland thought he had staged something of a media coup when he got Republican candidate Stace Nelson to join him for a press conference attacking GOP frontrunner former Gov. Mike Rounds for taking out-of-state contributions. But… From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader: “…things went off the rails almost immediately. The two candidates talked past each other in their opening statements, and things got wilder when the two took questions from the entire audience of more than three dozen citizens and reporters. Instead of the evils of big money, Weiland and Nelson spent much of the 25-minute press conference being asked about medical marijuana and the ‘Red Chinese,’ arguing with questioners, being interrupted by candidates for other offices sitting in the audience…”
DOC CASSIDY PROVIDES MID-AIR AID
New Orleans Times-Picayune: “For a passenger on Southwest Flight 2157 Monday between New Orleans and Baltimore, it might not have been a big deal that a congressman was on board. But the passenger, who lost consciousness as the plane flew towards its destination, was no doubt happy the congressman also happened to be a physician. Rep. Bill Cassidy, [R-La.] a physician by profession, along with another doctor on board, helped treat the passenger.”
WILL KISSING CONGRESSMAN HANG ON?
No word yet on any action to be taken by or against Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., in the wake of his admission to have “fallen short” and “asking for forgiveness” after a video surfaced of him making out with a female staffer. But the New Orleans Times-Picayune has some background on the relationship: “…McAllister has long had ties to [the staffer] and her family. Both [the staffer] and her husband contributed to McAllister's campaign, and the congressman worked and attended the same high school as [her] husband.”
NEW ANTI-CRIST AD DEBUTS AS SCOTT PULLS INTO TIE
Let’s Get to Work, the group backed by Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., has released a new ad hitting Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist over President Obama’s “lie of the year.” The ad shows Obama making his infamous “you can keep it” promise concerning his signature health law with clips of Crist saying, “I won’t shy away from it, I think it’s been great.” A new poll from Sunshine State News shows Scott has erased the lead once held by Crist. Scott and Crist are now statically tied, with Scott leading 45 percent to 44 percent.
Sink still shy about rematch - Democrat Alex Sink, who lost a special election last month to replace the late Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., told the Tampa Bay Times Monday she is considering running against Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., again in November, but only if the political climate is better: “[T]he question is really about November and what the electorate will look like.”
CLOSE RACE IN ARKANSAS
Talk Business Arkansas: “A new Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll shows the race between party front-runners Mike Ross (D) and Asa Hutchinson (R) to be a virtual dead heat, with the Democrat up by one point – 44-43% – over his potential GOP rival.”
IS HE THE COOLEST DAD OR WHAT?
At 61, inventor and technologist Bran Ferren’s life has been filled with adventure, from traveling through Afghan war zones to scouting remote film locations and working at Disney’s Imagineering shop. Ferren, the Cofounder and chief creative officer of Applied Minds, a world-renowned tech and design firm with a customer list that includes General Motors, Intel and the Force, now faces his biggest challenge: being an aging parent and sharing his lust for life and learning about the world with 4-year-old daughter Kira. As part of his legacy for his daughter, Ferren is building “a vehicle that could take Kira nearly anywhere on earth without limitation – a mix of high-powered machinery, bomb-shelter self-sufficiency, and luxe-life accoutrements… a six-wheeled terrestrial spaceship capable of traversing nearly any terrain, from mud-swamped roads to rock-covered pathways to small bodies of water. It will be able to travel up to 2,000 miles without resupply and navigate slopes as steep as 45 degrees—an incline that is difficult to walk up.” Ferren calls it the Kiravan. Wired has the fascinating details.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I mean, that statement [former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush] made about illegal immigrants being an act of love is kind of bizarre. I grant him the complete sincerity and honesty of his view – he’s always had that kind of approach – but that’s leading with your chin.” – Charles Krauthammer on “ Special Report with Bret Baier” Click here to watch.
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.