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Team Obama warned on vets scandal in 2008

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May 12, 2014: President Obama speaking during a press availability in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.AP

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Buzz Cut:
• Team Obama warned on Vets scandal in 2008
• Prevent defense on display in GOP primaries
• Power Play: Moran looks to expand the map for NRSC
• McDaniel missteps over supporter’s misconduct
• Somebody please say that was a mushroom

TEAM OBAMA WARNED ON VETS SCANDAL IN 2008
WashTimes: “The Obama administration received clear notice more than five years ago that VA medical facilities were reporting inaccurate waiting times and experiencing scheduling failures that threatened to deny veterans timely health care — problems that have turned into a growing scandal. Veterans Affairs officials warned the Obama-Biden transition team in the weeks after the 2008 presidential election that the department shouldn't trust the wait times that its facilities were reporting. ‘This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying — and potentially denying — deserving veterans timely care,’ the officials wrote. The briefing materials, obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act, make clear that the problems existed well before Mr. Obama took office, dating back at least to the Bush administration.”

[“This report and prior reports indicate that the problems and causes associated with scheduling, waiting times and wait lists are systemic throughout the VHA.” – transition briefing memo for the incoming Obama administration.]

VA AND IRS SCANDAL RESPONSES MORE THAN A SMIDGEN ALIKE
Feel like you’ve seen this movie before? We are told that the president is angry and White House officials are touting a high-level firing – but the firing isn’t a firing and the anger doesn’t seem to translate into action. The Obama administration scandal maintenance playbook might need an update for the growing outrage over mistreatment of veterans at government hospitals, but so far the approach seems nearly identical to the White House strategy a year ago in combating the revelation that the IRS had targeted the president’s political enemies. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CBS News that his boss was “madder than hell. In May 2013, President Obama said “Americans are right to be angry about [IRS targeting], and I am angry about it.” In the same speech the president announced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller. It turned out, though, that Miller was planning to leave his post the next month anyway. Now, the administration is talking tough about the “resignation” of Dr. Robert Petzel as the VA’s second in command was announced. Guess what? Petzel was already slated to retire. It took only nine months for the president to go from surprised anger to laughing assurances that there wasn’t “even a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS. While the president’s rage was abating over the abuse of his political detractors, his team was working hard to knock down and muddy the story. This time, good luck with that. When the victims are veterans rather than conservative activists, it will be much harder to convince Democrats to blow off evidence of corruption.

[A whistleblowing doctor tells the Daily Beast that an Albuquerque veterans hospital kept a secret waiting list to hide delays. According to the doctor, veterans suffering from serious heart conditions, gangrene, and even brain tumors waited months to receive treatment.]

PREVENT DEFENSE ON DISPLAY IN GOP TUESDAY PRIMARIES
WSJ: “Tuesday’s [Republican] primary… Kentucky, along with others in Georgia, Idaho and Oregon, represents the most important moment on the 2014 calendar to date in the tug of war between GOP leaders and conservative activists. From the beginning,[Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell] has highlighted his conservative stances, but never at the expense of his main message—that his perch as a party leader gives Kentucky more clout in Congress… Last year, a stampede of conservatives declared their intent to challenge dozens of Republicans in Congress. But at this point, many of those campaigns have fizzled, as incumbents responded in various ways. … In campaign stops over the weekend, Mr. McConnell, 72 years old, spoke frequently about how his stature allows him to deliver power and prestige to Kentucky. Of his extended tenure, Mr. McConnell told one crowd: ‘People look at that I guess one of two ways: They either conclude you've been there too long, or you're indispensable. And obviously, I’m hoping for the latter’… In Georgia, GOP leaders and their allies in the business community appear on track for their goal of preventing either Rep. Paul Broun or Rep. Phil Gingrey, among the most conservative candidates in the race, from advancing to a runoff to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss. That race has become a contest among three Republicans who are viewed as candidates with broader appeal—businessman David Perdue, who leads most polls, followed by former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and Rep. Jack Kingston.”

[The Savannah Georgia Morning News examines how geography and voter loyalties will determine the outcome of Tuesday’s primary.]

Nothing to crow about for Bevin - WSJ: “In Kentucky, the latest poll sponsored by local media outlets shows Mr. McConnell leading [challenger Matt Bevin] 55% to 35%, even as the survey showed Kentucky voters overall hold a dim view of Mr. McConnell. Fifty-six percent of the roughly 1,700 registered voters who were interviewed disapproved of the job Mr. McConnell is doing in the Senate, while 49% had an unfavorable opinion of him, versus the 29% who viewed him favorably. Early general-election polls show Mr. McConnell in a statistical dead heat with the expected Democratic nominee, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes…”

GOPortlandia? -  USA Today: “Republicans are also watching the lower-profile Oregon GOP primary, where Monica Wehby, a surgeon, is a favorite of the party establishment – Mitt Romney endorsed her – and viewed as a potential dark horse in the race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley. Republicans see political vulnerability for Oregon Democrats in large part over the state's disastrous state-run health care exchange that was scrapped after costing over $300 million.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
NYT’s Sunday Review offers Always Hungry? Here’s Why: “…[W]hat if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?... The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter… . Addressing the underlying biological drive to overeat may make for a far more practical and effective solution to obesity than counting calories.”

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve –  43.9 percent//Disapprove – 51.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28  percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.2 percent// Republicans 43 percent

POWER PLAY: MORAN LOOKS TO EXPAND THE MAP FOR NRSC
As Republicans continue to try to navigate the tricky shoals of primary season, NRSC Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is piloting the boat for the GOP Senate leadership. In the latest edition of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt,” Moran talks about his efforts to expand the map for the red team and shares his own dark-horse pick for November. Watch it here.

POLL: DEMS IN DANGER
Politico: “President Barack Obama’s job approval slump and voters’ entrenched wariness of his health care law are dogging Democrats ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, and Republicans have captured a lead in the areas home to the year’s most competitive races, according to a new POLITICO poll. In the congressional districts and states where the 2014 elections will actually be decided, likely voters said they would prefer to vote for a Republican over a Democrat by 7 points, 41 percent to 34 percent. A quarter of voters said they were unsure of their preference. Among these critical voters, Obama’s job approval is a perilous 40 percent, and nearly half say they favor outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sixty percent say they believe the debate over the law is not over, compared with 39 percent who echo the president’s position and say the ACA debate has effectively concluded. Both Obama’s job approval and the partisan ballot matchup are markedly more negative for Democrats in this poll than other national surveys — a reflection of the political reality that the midterm campaign is being fought on turf that is more challenging for Democrats than the nation as a whole…Forty-eight percent of respondents endorsed repeal [of ObamaCare], versus 35 percent who wanted to modify the law without repealing it and just 16 percent who said it should be left unchanged…The midterm electorate, however, is expected to be whiter and more conservative than the country as a whole, and many of the year’s highest-stakes Senate races are in Southern states such as Arkansas, North Carolina and Louisiana. So even if the law has gained some legitimacy with the broader public, it remains ominous for Democrats that repeal is the plurality position of likely voters.”

McDANIEL MISSTEPS OVER SUPPORTER’S MISCONDUCT
An online activist posted photos from the nursing-home room of the incapacitated wife of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., images which the blogger apparently believed would help Cochran’s primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, unseat the five-term incumbent in the state’s June 3 primary. Instead, the quickly deleted shots are giving Cochran backers ammunition for their allegations that McDaniel and his supporters are dodgy and dangerous. The blogger, Clayton Kelly, admitted through his lawyer to having taken the pictures through an open door at the nursing home and then briefly posting the images online. The post appeared to be in support of an effort by McDaniel’s backers outside the state to suggest that Cochran had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer. The McDaniel campaign has adamantly insisted that it has no connection with Kelly and strenuously denounced the conduct. But, as the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger reported: “A representative of the Madison [Miss.] Police Department said there are other individuals in the case that they'd like to talk to ‘who might have been part of a conspiracy.’” Whatever happens with the investigation, though, the McDaniel campaign has already erred in its handling of the case. The candidate and campaign on Saturday expressed surprise about Kelly’s arrest and the charges, but a voice mail left with the Cochran campaign earlier that day seems to contradict that claim.

ERNST WINS RARE REGISTER PRIMARY ENDORSEMENT
Joni Ernst
has won the endorsement of the Des Moines Register for the Hawkeye State’s Republican Senate primary. The paper notes : “Endorsing candidates in a party primary is unusual but not unique for the Register… we believe this primary is worth our expressing an opinion, and we have spent more than five hours in meetings with all of the candidates individually, looked at their positions and watched their campaigns.” In its endorsement of Ernst the Register editorial board writes: “…unlike candidates who cannot go beyond campaign talking points, Ernst exhibits a nuanced grasp of the details… Ernst is a smart, well-prepared candidate who can wrestle with the details of public policy from a conservative perspective without seeming inflexible. She would be a formidable opponent to Democratic candidate Bruce Braley in a contest that would give Iowans a clear choice in November.”

KING GETS PARTISAN TO HELP SAVE SHAHEEN
Sen. Angus King of Maine ran for office as an independent, but he has mostly been a loyal Democrat since arriving in Washington. Despite King’s suggestion that he might switch to the GOP if Republicans take control of the Senate this fall, he’s cementing his partisan affinity by pitching in for a vulnerable Democrat. King issued a fundraising email for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. In the e-mail to Shaheen supporters Sunday King writes, “When it comes to spotting independent voices: It takes one to know one. And trust me, Jeanne Shaheen understands just how important it is to put politics aside to do what is best for our small businesses and our states. As a political independent, I don’t endorse just anyone, but I’m behind Jeanne in her campaign for reelection.”

Granite State GOP gets help from Zelt - Republican efforts to flip the New Hampshire Senate seat are getting a boost this week. NH Journal: “The [New Hampshire] Republican Party has a new communications advisor and [spokeswoman]. Lauren Zelt is vice president of media affairs for the GOP public affairs, advertising, grassroots and media relations firm FP1 Strategies. During the 2012 election cycle, Zelt [served] as director of media affairs at Mitt Romney for President. She also previously served as Deputy Press Secretary for Television at the Republican National Committee. Before entering politics, Zelt worked as a guest segment producer at the Fox News Channel.”

PICK SIX
The status quo will change dramatically in Washington if Republicans are able to gain an additional six Senate seats. Which six Democrat-held seats are the most likely GOP pickups? The current consensus among 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.

PAUL’S MINORITY OUTREACH PAYING OFF
National Review: “In a hypothetical matchup between Kentucky senator Rand Paul and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Republican senator is besting Clinton in three states: Colorado, Kentucky, and New Hampshire. The Kentucky poll, sponsored jointly by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and two local television stations, has Paul leading Clinton by four points, 48 to 44 percent…One of the poll’s significant findings was that 29 percent of the African Americans surveyed said they would back the tea-party senator. Paul carried 13 percent of the African-American vote when he defeated Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway in his Senate race in 2010. John McCain carried just 4 percent of the African-American vote in 2008; Mitt Romney performed little better in that demographic, winning 6 percent of the black vote in 2012. This suggests that some of Paul’s outreach to the minority community — speeches at Howard University and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a push to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders, among other things — is having an impact…In New Hampshire, the latest poll, conducted by Dartmouth College’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, shows Paul leading Clinton by a similarly narrow margin of 2.5 points, 38.5 to 36 percent…And in Colorado, a Quinnipiac University poll released in late April had Paul besting Clinton by five points, 48 to 43 percent.”

[“I don't want to tell someone I don't like him and then they turn out not to run. That would be a wasted unlike, wouldn't it?” –Gov. Chris Christie on whom he does not like in the GOP field when asked to name names by “Face the Nation” host Bob Scheiffer. Whomever does Christie mean? ]

Pence sells his ObamaCare alternative - Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., will push his plan for a conservative alternative to ObamaCare’s expansion of welfare programs for low-income families in an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington today. Pence is also pushing the plan in a WSJ op-ed.

Another dose from Jindal - New Today at Fox News Opinion, Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., explains how ObamaCare can still be repealed if Republicans will embrace his policy prescription: “The Congressional Budget Office previously analyzed many of the policies included in our plan, and concluded they could reduce premiums by thousands of dollars compared to ObamaCare’s surging costs.”

PATRICK SAYS HILLARY INEVITABILITY IS ‘OFF-PUTTING’
Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., expressed his concerns about a potential Hillary Clinton presidential bid Sunday telling CNN, “I guess I worry a little bit”  when asked about the attitude of “inevitability” surrounding her run. Patrick added the prevailing opinion that Clinton has a clear course to the White House is, “off-putting to the average voter,” warning.

SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME THAT WAS A MUSHROOM
Ready for a freaky food fight? This may be the place for you. At Beijing’s Whale Belly Dark Restaurant, diners eat in pitch-black darkness. When on Earth details how “waiters in military-grade night vision goggles greet you at the door and lead you through dark corridors into pitch-black dining halls where scents, sounds, textures, and tastes are accentuated to an extraordinary mealtime experience… Not only do guests enjoy a heightened sense of flavor, but also lowered social inhibitions. Practical jokes are sometimes committed by more daring diners. If you’re one of them, just act fast enough not to attract any of those watchful waiters’ attention, else you could get detained by flinging a spoonful of shiitake mushrooms.”

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.