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Dems divided on Benghazi

FILE: July 11, 2013: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

FILE: July 11, 2013: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Dems divided on Benghazi
• VA scandal deepens
• Power Play: Tar Heel tea leaves
• Does Charlie Crist have a primary problem?
• Florida woman goes all in on spring cleaning

Send five? send none? send one?  With House Speaker John Boehner expected to announce the Republican members of the newly established Benghazi Select Committee today, House Democrats are fretting over a politically crucial call on whether to boycott the panel’s investigation or participate on some level. The turmoil among Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team who meet with rank and file members today roiled-on after the House voted 232 – 186 Thursday to establish the committee charged with launching a comprehensive investigation aimed at answering lingering questions about what happened before, during and after the terror attack that killed four Americans in 2012.

[Immediately after the vote, Pelosi accused Republicans of “unending eagerness to exploit” the Benghazi attack, adding, “our nation deserves better than yet another deeply partisan and political review.” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who will head the panel, said, “This resolution equips the select committee with the scope and tools necessary for the seriousness of this investigation. We are charged with a clear mission: uncover all the facts and provide answers to the American public.”]

If they stay away, who’ll protect Hillary? - WaPo: “Democrats are split over whether to boycott the select committee, which will have a 7-5 Republican edge in membership. They are concerned that their participation would grant legitimacy to what they believe will be a partisan forum. But they also worry that if they avoid it they won’t have the chance to counter GOP claims and defend potential witnesses.” Read that: who’s got then-Secretary of State and current 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s back? Another option, being floated by top Pelosi ally Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is to empanel a single Democrat. Whatever choice Pelosi and company make will be a strategic gamble as the politically charged hearings pick up this summer, into the midterms, and beyond.

Risky for GOP too - Charles Krauthammer points out the risks for Republicans in the hearings. “…[T]hese hearings are a big political risk for Republicans. Going into the 2014 election, they stand to benefit from the major issues — Obamacare, the economy, chronic unemployment — from which Benghazi hearings can only distract. Worse, if botched like previous hearings on the matter, these hearings could backfire against the GOP, as did the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings. On purely partisan considerations, the hearings are not worth the political risk. But the country deserves the truth. They’ll get it if the GOP can keep the proceedings clean, factual and dispassionate. No speeches. No grandstanding. Gowdy has got to be a tough disciplinarian — especially toward his own side of the aisle.”

Fox News Sunday - HostChris Wallace will discuss the current situation in Nigeria with John Campbell, former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif, will discuss the Benghazi investigation “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will head to the hill next week to testify in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee the claim that a Phoenix VA hospital had a “secret waiting list” for sick veterans. The supposed list contained around 1,500 veterans being forced to wait for appointments at the hospital that resulted in more than 40 deaths. Fox News: “The vote [to subpoena Shinseki] on the House Veterans Affairs Committee comes as Shinseki begins to face calls -- from Congress and beyond -- for his resignation. In an interview with CBS News, Shinseki brushed aside those calls, while acknowledging that the Phoenix controversy ‘makes me angry.’ Shinseki has placed top Phoenix officials on leave as the department tries to get to the bottom of what happened.” The committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told the WaPo, “It is unfortunate that we have to come to this decision, but we did not do so without substantial justification…The last few weeks have been a model of VA stonewalling, which precipitated the need for a subpoena.”

Too little too late – Arizona Republic: “On Wednesday, [Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.,] requested nationwide audits of VA scheduling to establish whether the system is infected with ‘inaccurate reporting practices.’ Shinseki responded in less than 24 hours, ordering reviews at all clinics ‘to ensure a full understanding of VA’s policy and continued integrity in managing patient access to care.’”

New in Fox Opinion: Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a 21-year veteran of the Army and Marine Corps, who now leads the House oversight panel with jurisdiction over the Department of Veterans Affairs, calls for Shinseki’s resignation: “If the VA was a military organization run by the same standards that General Shinseki demanded of his subordinates leaders during his service in the U.S. Army, he would have been relieved of his command a long time ago for his failure to effectively provide leadership.”

Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting billionaire Democratic donor George Soros for the State Department’s upcoming Open Forum. According to a department email, Kerry will introduce the deep-pocketed businessman at the May 13 forum on “strengthening civil society, democracy and the world economy.”

You’re cool, Shel - Daily Beast: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid takes regular swipes at multibillionaire brothers [David Koch] and Charles Koch, but Nevada’s top political figure hasn’t mustered a whisper of protest for a Republican mega-donor standing in his own front yard: outspoken casino king Sheldon Adelson. It turns out the two are friends-at least that’s how Adelson described their relationship Monday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas during an hourlong chat as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration's ‘Conversations on Being Successful’ series.  With approximately 1,000 students and others filling Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, Adelson held forth on his business philosophy and rise to power as a casino titan. When the topic briefly turned to partisan politics, staunch Republican Adelson raised eyebrows when he expressed affection and respect for Reid.”

The Hill: “A leading healthcare analysis group said Thursday that insurance premiums in some states might see double digit increases this year under ObamaCare, but not because of age discrepancies. ‘Despite initial concerns about the age mix of exchange enrollees, the current age distribution appears to be close enough to plan projections to avoid driving major premium increases,’ said Avalere Health in a new analysis. However, the group said increasing cost of medical care, use of services and new technology will mean exchange plans will need to increase their premiums, and the hikes will vary state by state…. Last month, the younger demographic was crucial in tipping enrollment numbers over 8 million. However, Avalere said young enrollment numbers are not uniform throughout the country, and success of the new healthcare law will depend on making sure they continue to enroll.”

Are you sick and tired of that red bar on your phone warning you that your battery is about to give out? Has your 500th game of “Super Hexagon” left you unable to open the giant attachment from your boss? Tech site recombu offers hope to the battery impaired with a look at soon-to-go-mainstream innovations that mean “battery life will soon be measured in weeks, not hours.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44 percent//Disapprove – 52.1 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.9 percent//Wrong Track – 63 percent 
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43 percent// Republicans 43.6 percent

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has made no secret of his potential presidential aspirations, but the last few weeks have seen the freshman Floridian kick his outreach into high gear – cutting campaign ads for Senate hopefuls, burnishing his foreign policy reputation and spending money from his own political action committee. Why the shift? Is it the more aggressive presidential flirtations from former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla.? Maybe, but whatever is driving Rubio to hit the campaign trail harder takes him to a key proving ground today. Rubio will head to New Hampshire today to fundraise and campaign for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. Rubio will be the highlighted guest at the Republican State Committee luncheon hosted by former Sen. Judd Gregg outside of Manchester. To round out the day, Rubio, joined by Ayotte, will deliver remarks at the Rockingham County Republican Committee’s annual fundraising dinner in New Hampshire.

Paul pops in for RNC debate day - Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will join the Republican National Committee annual spring meeting in Memphis, Tenn., today.  The three day meeting highlighted the RNC’s efforts to help candidates win this fall. Thursday the committee’s rules committee passed new rules to regulate the number of presidential primary debates. Roll Call: “the RNC approved creating a committee to decide which debates candidates can participate in and which media organizations will be involved, including involving more conservative journalists in the process.  Candidates who violate the rules and participate in other debates will be barred from future ones, a major disincentive.”

[Watch Fox: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will be appear in the 9 a.m. ET hour]

Kasich gets boost on economy - The RGA launched its first Ohio TV ad Thursday touting the state’s economic comeback under Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio. “Four years ago, Ohio was in freefall,” says the narrator. “Then, John Kasich stepped in and went to work…Governor Kasich is building Ohio’s future.” Kasich faces Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in November, but leads widely in early polling.

“He is leaving the option open, but he will make his assessment later in the year. He hasn’t indicated one way or the other. I think he is assessing it seriously George P. Bush, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s son, discussing whether his father will seek the 2016 GOP nomination. The younger Bush appeared Thursday on “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”

Host Howard Kurtz will talk with special guest James Carville about Hillary's rocky relationship with the press affecting her decision on 2016, plus what the re-emergence of Monica Lewinsky means. Panelists on the buzz: Mary Katharine Ham, Keli Goff, Lauren Ashburn and Joe Concha. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

First Lady Battle - WSJ: “Americans may say they’re ready for presidential candidates named something other than Bush or Clinton, but Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton remain the most admired first ladies of the last 25 years, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Clinton were each selected by 27% of those polled by the Journal and NBC as their favorite first lady. Michelle Obama was picked by 24% and Laura Bush – Barbara Bush’s daughter-in-law – carried 17%.”

Democratic Internet impresario Joe Trippi and Republican strategist Ron Bonjean join host Chris Stirewalt to discuss the North Carolina Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. What’s the outlook for this race and what does it say about other primary contests?  Watch the newest edition of Political Pros here.

[The National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a two and a half minute bio video explaining  Tillis’ family values and how that transcends into this public work.]

The Hill: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) posts her lowest level of support yet in a new poll of her tough reelection fight. The survey, from Louisiana-based bipartisan pollster Southern Media & Opinion Research, gives Landrieu just 36 percent support among likely voters to 35 percent support for Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). Retired Air Force [Col.] Rob Maness (R) takes 7 percent and state Rep. Paul Hollis (R) has 4 percent support. Seventeen percent are undecided. …The SMOR poll also shows her deeply underwater, nearing President Obama-levels of disapproval. Fifty-eight percent disapprove of her job performance, while 64 percent disapprove of the president’s. Only 39 percent of respondents view the incumbent positively.”

[In a new SMOR poll, 63 percent of Louisiana voters said they were against ObamaCare, including 79 percent of undecided voters.]

Swamp thing - Republican Senate hopeful Rob Maness is standing up to big Washington in a not so conventional way: wrestling an alligator. In the first TV ad of his campaign, Maness tussles with the reptile saying, “Here in Louisiana you learn to be tough. One moment of weakness and the alligators eat you alive.” He continues, “Louisiana needs a senator who will stand up to career politicians—and the alligators.” If no candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote in the all-party November 4 primary, the top two finishers will face off in a December runoff.

[New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Underdog Louisiana Senate candidate Rob Maness picked up the endorsement Thursday of Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate.”]

It’s the last weekend before Nebraska's Tuesday primary, and the nasty contest to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., will turn to immigration. The top two Senate hopefuls are GOP Establishment backed former state Treasurer Shane Osborn and Tea Party supported Midland University President Ben Sasse. Osborn accepted the backing of the key author of Arizona’s immigration law, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Thursday. Osborn appears to be taking a similar approach to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who used immigration as a weapon against conservative foes in 2012. However, banker Sid Dinsdale, who is in third place in the polls, stayed on the sidelines of the back and forth battle between Sasse and Osborn. Thursday, the Sasse-backing Club for Growth launched an ad attacking Dinsdale as “too liberal."

The Detroit News: “Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land is unveiling two new Internet ads that criticize her rival [Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich] for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and tying him to a billionaire. …Her ads cite media reports that Peters attended a Feb. 19 event with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and former Vice President Al Gore at the San Francisco home of Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who has vowed to spend tens of millions in favor of candidates who oppose the pipeline. ‘Gary Peters — working for billionaires not Michigan,’ say the two ads from Land. ‘Steyer could make millions by killing the pipeline by investments in Keystone’s competitor.’”

The status quo in Washington and President Obama’s second-term agenda depend largely on Democrats preventing Republicans from gaining six seats, and thereby a majority, in the Senate. Fox News First wants to know which six Democratic seats are most vulnerable. FNF readers’ consensus: 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.

Sunshine State News columnist Nancy Smith says that former President Bill Clinton snubbed Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist at a fundraiser at the home of the owner of Lumber Liquidators on Palm Island. The event was billed as a Democratic Governors Association event and Crist has the national party’s implicit support in his bid to unseat Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., but Smith reports that “the event had turned into a shindig principally for Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross.” Crist reportedly wasn’t present, which Smith attributes to the fact that Crist’s rival for the Democratic nomination, former state Sen. Nan Rich, called in a favor from longtime friend Hillary Clinton. Crist seemed to indicate that he would attend. Crist has so far refused to debate Rich, a South Florida liberal who is calling attention to Crist’s myriad changes of position. From Smith’s column: “When I asked Thursday if the Clintons were supporting her, Nan was guarded. ‘I doubt President Clinton would endorse anybody in the primary, but I really believe he and Hillary know where I stand, what I can do and are on my side.’” The primary is set for Aug. 26.

[Reuters: “Florida Democrat Charlie Crist is exploring a possible trip to Cuba this summer as part of his campaign to win the state’s governorship, in a move his supporters call bold but detractors say would be a betrayal of Miami's large Cuban exile population.]

Florida Times-Union: “When a 62-year-old St. Johns County woman decided she didn’t like the sort of people who had been living next door, a bulldozer solved the problem. … The woman told a heavy equipment operator she owned the trailer on Dusty Road and wanted it and its septic tank destroyed… The arrest report said Moreta Folch had the trailer bulldozed because people who had lived there were unsavory and she suspected they had broken into her car. She said she considered it a favor to her neighborhood. Damage was estimated at $25,000.”

“Every time you want to cut, Democrats are saying orphans are going to end up out in the snow, the border will be open, we’re not going to be able to put – it’s ridiculous. Everybody understands billions are wasted absolutely stupidly every year. And if you could start with that, you could have enormous reductions in spending but the way to do it is to mandate the reductions in advance and then you say you do it… And they will do it if they have to, if that is the law.” 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 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.