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As GOP unites, focus shifts back to Dems

Alison Lundergan Grimes_AP_660.jpg

U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes at her primary election night celebration at the Carrick House in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (AP2014)

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Buzz Cut:
• As GOP unites, focus shifts back to Dems
• Power Play: Mississippi mud
• Obama pushed into action on VA scandal
• ObamaCare delivers big bailouts for big insurance
• He’s bound by a wild desire

AS GOP UNITES, FOCUS SHIFTS BACK TO DEMS
Talk to any Democratic operative six months ago and they’d have probably told you that Republican hopes for capturing the Senate would be upended by nasty primaries in Georgia and Kentucky where party infighting put red seats in play. Well, that didn't happen. In fact, Republicans have emerged in those races and in all the contests so far with strong candidates. There are some potential pitfalls ahead – Mississippi and Alaska come to mind – but so far Republicans are getting what they want. Democrats have embraced a new talking point: The primaries don’t matter because all Republicans are Tea Party Republicans now. But voters know better because, after all, the Democratic narrative pushed in the establishment press for more than a year has emphasized the GOP divide. The Emily Litella approach won’t work.

[GOP renegades quickly made peace after setbacks in Georgia and Kentucky, just as party elders immediately laid down their arms after a loss two weeks ago in Nebraska. For complete coverage of Tuesday’s results, count on Fox News.]

Back to you, Democrats - With quality candidates improving Republican chances to defend its current seats and unity candidates like Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton coasting to primary victories in states where the GOP is trying to snatch seats from Democrats, the focus inevitably turns to the Democrats and their crop of Senate hopefuls. Republicans are eager for the chance. The pro-Republican group America Rising launched a Web site today targeting Georgia Democratic Senate nominee Michelle Nunn. Featured prominently is Nunn’s non-answer to the question of how she would have voted on ObamaCare. In Kentucky, Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes swatted at President Obama in her acceptance speech, saying she opposed the administration’s “war on coal” and bragging that she “won't answer to the president, no matter who he or she might be.” But as the Lexington Herald-Leader reports outside groups supporting McConnell have already reserved $5.2 million in air time, including a $575,000 ad buy blasting Grime’s support from Hollywood’s liberal elite.

[As part of its multi-state million dollar ad-buy, Crossroads GPS is hitting Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., over her support of ObamaCare in a new ad. The ad features Hagan repeating President Obama’s lie of the year and links her to numerous insurance cancellations in the Tar Heel State.]

Now what? - The danger with constructing a narrative as tightly as the Democrats did with their “GOP civil war” talking points is that if it doesn’t bear out, it’s awfully hard to pivot. The underlying realities of this election, ObamaCare and attendant economic worries, are still very present. There’s a reason that “don’t start believing your own spin” is the first rule of successful politicians.

POWER PLAY: MISSISSIPPI MUD
While Republicans seem to be reaching amicable outcomes in key Senate primaries, the June 3 Mississippi Senate contest could drive the party apart. In the latest installment of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt,” Chris breaks down the dynamics in the nasty contest between Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and state Sen. Chris McDaniel in just 90 seconds. Watch

WEHBY FIGHTS BACK ON PERSONAL ATTACKS
Fox News: “Dr. Monica Wehby emerged victorious in the Oregon GOP Senate primary Tuesday to take on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in November in a race Republicans hope could help them take back the Senate.… She was hit with back-to-back reports in recent days about former companions calling police as their relationships deteriorated. Wehby says the reports have nothing to do with her campaign and are being used as a ‘political weapon.’’’

[“I am a working mom...I try my best, but in life we all make mistakes. And when I do I'm no different than the rest of you, I pick myself back up and I try to make things better. I promise you I'll do that as your senator…But I do have a message for those national Democrats who were willing to shred my family for their own political gain: People are tired of your dirty tricks.” – Monica Wehby addressing supporters following her primary win Tuesday]

Dems dredged the dirt - The Oregonian: “An employee of the Democratic Party of Oregon was the first person to request the April 2013 police report of timber baron Andrew Miller accusing Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby of ‘stalking’ him after a break-up. Jon Friedman, who listed a Northeast Portland address, requested the report from Portland police on April 17, 2014, documents obtained by The Oregonian through a public records request show. …Friedman works as a research assistant for the Democratic Party of Oregon, said Jamal Raad, party spokesman. Raad declined to comment further.”

Speaking of investigations… - AP: “Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed state records for a grand jury investigation of the troubled [Oregon ObamaCare program], the governor's office said Tuesday…[Prosecutors are seeking] records of communications between state officials involved in developing the website, five of whom have resigned. They also demand communications with the federal government about the status or functionality of the website and communications about federal funding reviews and lists of people attending them.”

PICK SIX: EYES ON IOWA
Republicans need to gain six seats to take control of the Senate. Which six Democrat-held seats are the most vulnerable? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Loren Reit of Spencer, Iowa adds, “Keep an eye on Iowa…once the GOP Candidate is selected.  Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, has bigger problems ‘on the ground’ than what is being openly discussed. He voted for ObamaCare and he trashed Senior [Republican] Senator Chuck Grassley…who has respect and support among conservative Democrats.  This race is not a given for Braley and his House Seat may go GOP.” Did Tuesday’s primary results change your thoughts on any of the races? Let us know.

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

OBAMA PUSHED INTO ACTION ON VA SCANDAL
It looks like the president is preparing to wade into the Veterans Affairs scandal that has engulfed his administration just ahead of Memorial Day. The delay has been excruciating for Democrats looking for him to take the lead on the issue that is adding to their woes this year, but evidently more excruciating for the White House communications team struggling to limit the damage from the allegations. President Obama didn’t know about corruption at the VA and learned about it from news reports. Er, wait. President Obama knew about the problems all along, but he just wasn’t able to fix them. Er, wait. President Obama knew about the larger issues, but not the specific instances and couldn’t address the underlying problems because Republicans wouldn’t give him the money. That’s it! Obama likes to say that government is the name for things that “we do better together” and that the government “is us.” When it comes to addressing scandals in the federal government, however, his administration’s talking points sound awfully conservative when it comes to the bloat and inefficacy of bureaucracy.

Schedule change - The White House added a closed door meeting to the President Obama’s schedule this morning where Obama will get an “update on the situation” from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Rob Nabors, the president’s point man ordered last week to run an internal review of VA practices.

[Watch Fox: Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., discusses the VA scandal in the 2 p.m. ET hour]

The Hill: “President Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, met frustrated Democrats on Capitol Hill [Tuesday] who are outraged by reports of secret waiting lists used by the Department of Veterans Affairs. McDonough’s deputy, Rob Nabors… met for talks with six veterans advocacy groups, including the American Legion, which has called for the ouster of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. On Wednesday, Nabors will head to Phoenix, where up to 40 veterans died allegedly due to treatment delays.”

Penalty phase - New evidence that the administration knew about, but didn’t act on problems at VA hospitals seems to have forced Obama’s hand. Reports show that the president’s transition team was informed of shady practices at the agency in 2008. Now we know that the VA was well aware that health clinics were faking patient wait times in 2010 to hide intolerable backlogs. Even if we grant the White House its argument that somehow the president was insulated from the details of the issue his spokespeople say he cared so passionately about, these revelations necessitate stern action. Secretary Eric Shinseki and other members of the president’s senior staff are now beyond the point of pleading either ignorance or incapacity. Since the victims of this scandal are not the president’s political enemies or some other narrow group, the chances for this administration to somehow outlast this debacle look slim. Democrats might be shamed or enticed into backing the president on IRS targeting or doctored Benghazi talking points or even harassing reporters, but not on denying care to veterans. Shinseki will have to go, or this scandal will deepen the already dire condition of the party in November.

[WaPo shares how the backlog at the VA personally affected Army Staff Sgt. Sam Shockley’s treatment for injuries suffered during his tenure in Afghanistan.]

OBAMA DELIVERS ON BIG BAILOUTS FOR BIG INSURANCE
LAT: “The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through [ObamaCare] lose money…. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall's congressional elections…. Insurers around the country have started to file proposed 2015 premiums, just as the midterm campaigns are heating up….Proposed increases in a few states where insurers have already filed 2015 rates have been relatively low, with several major carriers seeking just single-digit hikes. But insurers in closely watched states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arkansas, are still preparing their filings….  In a series of White House meetings over the last several months, Obama and other senior administration officials have sought to persuade insurance company CEOs to nonetheless hold rates in check, arguing that the marketplaces would stabilize over time. But with proposed 2015 rates beginning to come in, the administration acceded to industry demands for a clear guarantee that more money would be available to cover potential losses.”

More federal contractors paid not to work - Daily Caller: “Employees of an Obamacare contractor in a fourth state have now stepped up to admit that they’re doing no work while being paid taxpayer dollars, according to Missouri’s KOLR. Now Serco offices in Arkansas are being added to the list of states where Obamacare contractors are being paid to do nothing, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.”

BAIER TRACKS: TIRED TALKING POINTS…
“The ‘decimated core Al Qaeda’ line used by the Obama administration is getting tired. The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee says Al Qaeda has “metastasized” around the world; US intelligence officials say dozens of Americans, alongside hundreds of Europeans, have been trained by hardcore terrorists to join the jihad in Syria (and all could return home to launch operations); Boko Haram is a full-fledged terrorist organization that may be behind not only the kidnapping of the 300 Nigerian girls, but also sophisticated twin car bombs yesterday that killed at least 120; and there is increasing evidence from sources that “core Al Qaeda” was communicating and sometimes directing some of its offshoots in the thousands of documents that have not yet been released from the bin laden compound. So, when the administration uses the line ‘core Al Qaeda has been decimated,’ it’s, well, tired... and increasingly irrelevant.” – Bret Baier    

PAUL TO FILIBUSTER ON TARGETED KILLINGS OF AMERICANS
Business Insider: “On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, will filibuster President Barack Obama's nomination of David Barron to fill a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Paul first threatened to filibuster Barron last week.  According to his office, Paul will take to the Senate floor Wednesday morning to begin an old-fashioned, talking filibuster of Barron's nomination. Paul opposes Barron because of his concerns about legal opinions Barron wrote in support of the use of drones against U.S. citizens.” – Watch Fox Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel is following the latest developments in Barron’s nomination.

[Roll Call details how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may angle to curb debate time in the upper chamber.]

Risky picking for Udall - Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., quickly dropped his opposition to Barron’s nomination when the White House agreed to release some of the memos outlining a legal rationale for the president ordering the killing Americans without trial. His capitulation will come at a cost. Udall is locked in a tight re-election bid in Colorado, one of the most libertarian states, and one where Rand Paul has considerable appeal. Presumptive Republican nominee Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., will no doubt be calling in some air strikes from Paul as Election Day approaches.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
If you think politics are nasty today, remember things could always be worse. Case in point: “On the morning of May 21, 1856 an armed force of as many as 800 men descended upon the newly formed town of Lawrence in the Territory of Kansas and proceeded to systematically destroy it. With this act, the town of Lawrence became the first casualty in America's Civil War that would officially be declared five years later.” Read more about “The Sack of Lawrence Kansas” here.
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve –  44 percent//Disapprove – 51.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28  percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.4 percent// Republicans 42.8 percent

CLINTONS’ RESCUE EFFORT FAILS IN PHILLY
National Journal: “The former congresswoman, who served one term representing the Philadelphia suburbs two decades ago, was betting that voters were having pangs of Clinton nostalgia…At times, her campaign rhetoric even sounded like Hillary Clinton’s, as she talked about the need to elect more women to Congress, the burden of being the early front-runner, and her own post-political career working at a nongovernmental organization (Women’s Campaign International) helping women around the world. But in a sign that voters are focused more on the future than the past—and a sign of the limitations of running on Clinton nostalgia—Brendan Boyle, an upstart 37-year-old state representative backed by labor, came from behind to handily defeat Margolies. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Boyle led Margolies, 41 to 27 percent.”

[Fox News: “Former President [Bill Clinton] headlined an April fundraiser in Philadelphia for Margolies that reportedly raised roughly $200,000. And… former first lady [Hillary Clinton], who is eyeing a potential 2016 presidential run, appeared at a May 15 fundraiser for her in New York.”]

ABC rolls out the red carpet for Hillary - WaPo:“The media blitz surrounding [2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s] forthcoming memoir is coming into view, with ABC News scheduling a one-hour primetime television special featuring Clinton on the eve of her books release.” The campaign blitz will take Clinton across the country in the weeks to come, but the June 9 tag-team interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts should provide just the right kind of plush pad from which to launch.

[Fox News: “Democratic voters hoping to unseat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania chose millionaire businessman Tom Wolf to challenge him in November, in one of five states that held gubernatorial primaries Tuesday…”]

DARLING, I JUST ADORE DEMOCRATS
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour will open up her New York City townhouse for a Democratic Party fundraiser on June 17, Page Six reports. President Obama will headline the event with a ticket price of $32,000.

[New fundraising figures for April show the Democratic National Committee raised $14.3 million in April, nearly $3 million more than its GOP counterpart. The Republican National Committee announced Monday it raised $9.3 million in April and has $13.2 million cash on hand.]

HE’S BOUND BY A WILD DESIRE
Dutch doctors treated a patient named “Mr. B” for obsessive compulsive disorder with deep-brain stimulation, a therapy similar to having pacemaker implanted in the brain. The treatment worked, but there was an unintended side-effect: Mr. B became a passionate Johnny Cash fan. Hearing “Ring of Fire” for the first time sparked something inside the patient, and from then on, hearing Cash’s Tennessee bass-baritone rumble put Mr. B at ease. Now, he can’t get enough. Australia’s News Limited reports: “The researchers noted that once the [stimulation] was turned off, MR B’s previous musical tastes returned and he no longer had a preference for the Man in Black ‘His former musical taste reoccurred immediately when stimulation was interrupted due to battery depletion, suggesting a direct causal link between musical preference and stimulation of the accumbens (in the brain),’ the researchers said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“We have a president always trying to downplay the threat which is out there, and then we're surprised there's no domestic support for robust opposition against terror…. Unfortunately, we live in a world where these people exist and the role of the president is to lead the nation in recognizing the threat – mobilizing support – to oppose it. He's done precisely the opposite. Psychologically he demobilized the country.” –Charles Krauthammer,on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

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.