Fox News First

Can Hillary duck Taliban deal on campaign trail?

May 14, 2014: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington.

May 14, 2014: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Can Hillary duck Taliban deal on campaign trail?
• The Dem hardest hit by Obama global warming regs
• There’s ugly, and then there’s the Mississippi primary
• Power Play: Kingston makes his case
• That one isn’t going on the fridge

President Obama
skirted the law and broke precedent to swap a captured American soldier for five “high risk” Islamist militants in U.S. custody. The deal with enemy forces in Afghanistan is a continuation of Obama’s effort to get all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan within two years. This is part of a new, more limited foreign policy approach that Team Obama refers to as “Don’t do stupid sh*t.” But some people think this sh*t is pretty stupid. The move is highly controversial, even aside from the legal questions of Obama again circumventing Congress. Former comrades of the freed American believe that he deserted the Army amid a difficult forward deployment, adding additional danger to their mission as they were dispatched to search for him. The soldier’s father further complicated things with his remarks with the president in the Rose Garden Saturday, in which he praised Allah and spoke Pashto, the language of the Taliban. So what does the person most likely to succeed Obama as president think about all of this?

[WSJ provides details about the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay who were released, while Reuters reports that Afghan officials have said the freed Islamist militants will definitely go back to the fight.]

Privileged conversations - Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton is campaigning today in Colorado, a swing state where she is struggling with voters. (The Clinton campaign commitment to Colorado will also extend to a three-day Denver event at the end of this month paid for by the corporate backers of her family’s foundation and featuring big names like NBC News’ David Gregory.) The Denver Post reports that today’s events will include stops to tout worker training programs at a plastics factory, meetings with local power brokers and a big speech in suburban Broomfield. Clinton scrubbed an event hosted by a chemical industry trade group amid protests from liberals about the group’s involvement in fracking, but she will still be spending a lot of time today campaigning in a key state. Will reporters find a way to press her on her view of the Taliban prisoner deal? Or the unraveling of Libya? Or new global warming regulations from the Obama Administration? Or fracking? Or anything? The big speech tonight is being co-sponsored by The Denver Post, so perhaps its reporters could find a way to get substantive answers. But one suspects that the Clinton strategy of using the trappings of celebrity to insulate the candidate from normal scrutiny will continue to be in force.

[Pro-GOP group America Rising is releasing “Failed Choices” to rebut the claims Hillary makes in her forthcoming book “Hard Choices.”]

Warren not denying a possible bid to block Clinton’s path - Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., gives a blushing, non-denial when asked by HuffPo about a possible presidential run, but did denounce “concentrated money and power,” seemingly a swipe at the Clintons.

Can Obama show muscles in Brussels? - Today, President Obama begins a four-day European trip that includes efforts to reassure nervous allies that the U.S. remains opposed to further territorial advances by Russia. Obama will also have trade negotiations with the leaders of other countries with large economies and pay his respects Friday at Normandy, France for the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of occupied Europe.

President Obama
is set to announce new global warming regulations on power plants today that would cut allowable emissions of carbon dioxide by nearly a third in the years to come. If the rules go fully into effect, the use of coal, which produces more than 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, would be severely limited. The expected replacement, natural gas, is likely to prove more expensive for consumers and is far less labor intensive, meaning higher costs and fewer jobs. While the move is exciting many in the president’s political base and helping to polish Obama’s legacy as a foe of carbon emissions, the consequences will be harsh for several of his fellow Democrats, especially those in red states and those with high energy costs already. But for one Democratic Senate hopeful, Obama’s decision to crack down on coal may burn away any hope of a victory.

Kentucky woman - Previously, President Obama argued that his environmental policies did not constitute a “war on coal,” but the new emissions targets out today make it clear that not only is Obama at war with the coal industry, but that’s he’s winning. That’s very bad news for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state who was once favored to defeat incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Coal is important to Kentucky’s economy and has an even more important role in the state’s identity. Plus, the counties outside of Louisville traditionally most hospitable to Democrats are the coal-producing counties of Eastern Kentucky. The transparency of this move against coal makes Grimes’ argument that she can be a better advocate for the industry as a Democrat moot.

RNC offers greatest hits from Obama’s coal war - The Republican National Committee released a web video highlighting Democrats’ war on coal. “Against Coal, Against Jobs” features clips of President Obama saying, “If they want to build coal-fired plant they can it’s just that it will bankrupt them,” and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s “coal makes us sick,” contrasted with West Virginia Senate GOP  candidate Shelley Moore Capito’s, R-W. Va., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s calls for an all of the above policy that includes coal.

But Tom Steyer will be pleased -  WaPo: “The regulations… will shine a spotlight on a growing division within the Democratic Party: On one side are major donors, who take a particular interest in environmental causes and are becoming increasingly important to the party. On the other are the candidates whose fates will decide control of the Senate and who hail from energy-producing states, where regulations on coal-fired power plants could have the most detrimental effects.”

If you can afford it, that is. Coffee prices have skyrocketed in recent months thanks to a double whammy of a drought in Brazil coupled with the spread of a destructive fungus that afflicts coffee plants in Central America. As AP reports, some Central American farmers have seen their yields fall 95 percent as the fungus, known as “coffee rust” ravages their crops. We know that coffee and its cultivation have shaped world events for a long time, but what will the consequences be of this latest shortage? National Geographic suggests that the unmatched American devotion to coffee may override the growing movement away from genetically modified agricultural products. But even if that works, the lengthy timeframe for such a fix may have permanently changed the economy of coffee. Says NatGeo: “Many experts wonder if the process, unfolding over many seasons – some years without any yield at all – will drive farmers to try to find other work.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.6 percent/Disapprove – 52 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent/Wrong Track – 62.7 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43 percent/Republicans 42.3 percent

RCP’s Caitlin Huey-Burns explains why Tuesday’s matchup between Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and state Sen. Chris McDaniel matters to you: “[T]he election Tuesday could also be shaped by something no one foresaw -- voter response to a blogger scandal that has put the race in flux. With polls showing a neck-and-neck race, a new question now looms: Will this recent development help six-term Sen. Thad Cochran survive the political fight of his life and beat back Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel?... Operatives in the state say the issue could mobilize voters in both camps. Those supportive of McDaniel and outraged by the Cochran team’s attacks may be more energized to turn out on Tuesday. And Cochran backers may now be more tuned in to the race and could mobilize in response to the apparent invasion of privacy he experienced. … Outside groups have spent over $7 million in this race so far, with the majority of it tilted toward McDaniel, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. But the likely outcome remains unclear heading into the primary, which has captured national attention and may provide insight into the state of the GOP in Mississippi and beyond, and whether seniority can trump cries for a fresh face.”

Though far outdistanced in the deep blue state by incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., the race among the GOP candidates seeking to take him on in November has become a dead heat just days before Tuesday’s primary, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.  Brown garnered 50% of the likely voters polled, while GOP establishment favorite Neel Kashkari drew 18% while insurgent hard line conservative Tim Donnelly trailed at 13%. The difference between the two vying for the second slot in the general election was within the poll's margin of error.

[New at Fox News Opinion - Fox News Contributor Ric Grenell goes off on Donnelly: “A Donnelly nomination this week would further denigrate the Golden State’s long-suffering GOP. It’s been difficult enough for California Republicans to offer a compelling alternative to the Democrats’ hyper-liberal government agenda. Tarring their image by nominating an offensive, corrupt and amoral candidate like Donnelly will only make the party’s job harder than it already is.”]

Des Moines Register: “Self-described ‘mother, soldier, conservative’ Joni Ernst is a convincing 18 points ahead of her closest GOP rival, ‘proven business leader’ Mark Jacobs, in the Republican race for U.S. Senate, a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows. Her support from 36 percent of likely GOP primary voters, which doubles Jacobs' 18 percent, would be enough to win Tuesday's five-person primary outright. The victor needs at least 35 percent.”

Rubio rallies for Ernst - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will be in the Hawkeye State to campaign for Joni Ernst ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Rubio’s Leadership PAC has been airing advertisements in support of Ernst.

Democrats are hoping for a contentious Republican runoff election to boost Michelle Nunn’s chances of winning the seat held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. In the latest edition of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt,” Chris talks with Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who is vying with businessman David Perdue in a July 22 runoff to take on Nunn in November. Kingston calls Perdue “a flip-flopping moderate,” but promises that the party can unite to defeat Nunn this fall.  Watch here.

Roll Call: “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure arm has reserved $5.5 million in airtime for Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., according to a source with knowledge of the reservation….The DSCC has reserved airtime in at least four other states with competitive Senate races: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire and Arkansas.  This marks the DSCC’s first airtime reservation in the Tar Heel State.  In North Carolina, the DSCC reserved airtime starting Sept. 16 and running through Election Day. The amount of money spent will increase each week, from $376,000 the week of Sept. 16, to $1.2 million in the final week before the election.”

Republicans are setting their sights on at least six seats to gain control of the Senate. Which Democratic held seats are the most likely GOP pickups? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Edward Jackson doesn’t feel Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, will be able to hold on to his seat, arguing the Frontier State should make a return to the list.

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

Washington Examiner reporter Mark Flatten has been named the 2014 recipient of the American Legion’s Fourth Estate Award for his work investigating alleged abuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Flatten’s February series broke the story wide open and lead to the first ouster of an Obama cabinet member. No reporter deserves more credit on this story than Flatten. And don’t just take our word for it, Slate’s David Weigel points out how Flatten’s early commitment to the story and tenacious coverage helped change the national discussion.

U.K.’s Metro: “A four-year-old boy showed his talents as a budding artist in this nice drawing he did… all over his dad’s passport. The child got busy during a recent family trip to South Korea, where he took to the back page of his dad’s Chinese passport with a black pen and drew some really nice pictures of people, animals, and – obviously – added a bit more hair to his dad’s face. Classic. The only problem is that now his dad is stuck in South Korea because of his unrecognizable documentation, and authorities have warned it is likely he won’t be able to travel home with his son, and the rest of his party. The picture was originally posted on social networking site Weibo by the father, known only as Chen, alongside a plea for help. Sounds like he might be spending the rest of his holiday on the phone to the Chinese embassy. Let’s just hope he invests in a nice color by numbers for his son next time.”

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.