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• First in Fox News First: Poll says voters reject Taliban trade
• Hillary tries to thread needle on Afghan swap
• Power Play: Sullivan makes his case for Alaska
• Crist’s Cuban support crumbling
• Star Spangled protest
FIRST IN FOX NEWS FIRST: POLL SAYS VOTERS REJECT TALIBAN TRADE
A Fox News poll that was in the field just as news broke about President Obama’s decision to circumvent Congress to release five Afghan Islamist militant commanders in exchange for one U.S. soldier found voters worried about the consequences for the future but generally split on whether they agreed with the choice. But we haven’t seen much, if any, polling to indicate how voters feel now that details have emerged about the deal, especially allegations of desertion and even collaboration against the soldier ransomed by the president. Today, we get our first snapshot of what voters think and it’s not pretty.
Out of balance - According to results provided to Fox News First of a survey taken Wednesday and Thursday on behalf of conservative group Crossraods GPS, Vox Populi Polling found 52 percent of respondents say the administration should not have made the swap, compared to 31 percent who supported the deal. Ominously for Democrats, 49 percent said the exchange insults the efforts of soldiers who were killed. Another 50 percent said the trade will make America weaker as a country. While this is just one partisan poll, Vox Populi does seem committed to offering credible results even when they are unhappy for the red team. Pollsters will be asking these questions thousands of times today and in the days to come. If this snapshot proves accurate, coming as it does on the heels of the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs, this may prove another tipping point for the president and his party.
[A word about methodology - Vox Populli screens for what it calls “active voters” by asking respondents if they are registered and if they have voted in the past four years as well as those who have registered in the past two years. The 1,052-voter nation sample includes a mix of landlines and cell phones.]
Walkback to get back on track? - Howard Kurtz: “Perhaps the administration’s view is that giving an inch would embolden the critics and amount to an admission of failure (as we saw in the stubborn defense of both Kathleen Sebelius and Eric Shinseki). Yet the president would appear more in touch with the legitimate criticism surrounding this case in general and Bergdahl in particular. But that would amount to a walkback, and this president avoids those at all costs.”
KERRY: TALIBAN RELEASE OKAY BECAUSE U.S. COMBAT IN AFGHANISTAN ‘OVER’
Fox News: “Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the Taliban detainees released in a prison swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could indeed return to terrorism but largely dismissed the argument that the deal will put U.S. troops further at risk. Kerry told CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ the argument that troops in Afghanistan would be more at risk was ‘baloney’ now that the Taliban commanders have been released, particularly because the United States is winding down its military presence in that country. ‘Our combat role in Afghanistan is over’, Kerry said. ‘We’re going to have very few people in that kind of position.’… Cheryl Brandes, the mother of Army Pfc. Matthew Martinek, purportedly killed while searching for platoon mate Bergdahl, suggested on ‘Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace’ that the detainee release, combined with troops leaving Afghanistan, is a ‘massacre waiting to happen’ for the U.S. military personnel who will remain in the region.”
HILLARY TRIES TO THREAD NEEDLE ON AFGHAN SWAP
The 2016 Democratic frontrunner needs some distance from the embattled current resident of the White House, but how far will Hillary Clinton go in criticizing her erstwhile foe, President Obama, as her campaign rollout continues? Obama’s unpopular decision to release five high-ranking Islamist militants in exchange for an alleged Army deserter is one which Clinton is widely reported to have opposed, just as she opposed Obama’s gradual zeroing out of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But neither can Clinton appear to be dissing the president, especially as liberals increasingly argue that Obama did the right thing. Clinton has to be very careful to sound centrist but supportive all at once. She is kicking off a huge media blitz this week, including the first of her “town-hall style” campaign events. How will she play it?
Substantive difference - WSJ looks at how a candidate who is probably at the high-water mark of her campaign will deal : “In her Denver appearance, she took a cautious stance on the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan who was swapped for five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay. Lawmakers in both parties have criticized the Obama administration for failing to notify Congress of the deal. Mrs. Clinton offered few insights into the Bergdahl case, a matter she dealt with when she was Secretary of State, beyond saying a U.S. ‘tradition’ is to not leave ‘any of our soldiers on the field.’ She may be called upon to reveal more, testing her loyalty to President Barack Obama at a time when she wants to showcase a productive partnership. ‘Given what we know, there is increasing pressure on her to offer a substantive response,’ said Doug Schoen, a former adviser to Mr. Clinton. ‘And that will be a real challenge because right-thinking people say this just doesn't make a lot of sense.’”
She’s just not that into you, okay - As her campaign intensifies, Hillary Clinton is adopting a warmer tone with the press – dishing to supportive reporters about her television watching habits and fashion choices – but Politico reports that it’s not for real: “When asked why Clinton hasn’t done more to reach out to reporters over the years, one Clinton campaign veteran began to spin several theories. She was too busy, she was too prone to speaking her mind and the like – then abruptly cut to the chase ‘Look, she hates you. Period. That’s never going to change.”
NYT reports that President Obama will today offer a new election-year pitch with an announcement that he is unilaterally capping the amount of student loan payments for an estimated 5 million borrowers, basing their payments on their income rather than their debt. The catch: the pre-election announcement won’t actually kick in for more than 18 months. Obama will also voice his support for a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to increase taxes on top earners to subsidize lower interest rates.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
At least his name wasn’t Hal… In 1950, Alan Turing invented a test to measure a computer’s ability to think for itself. Since then, no form of artificial intelligence has been able to pass the test. Until now. The Wire shares how a computer convinced a panel of expert judges it was actually a 13-year old Ukrainian boy.
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.7 percent/Disapprove – 51.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent/Wrong Track – 62.7 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 42.8 percent/Republicans 42.3 percent
POWER PLAY: SULLIVAN MAKES HIS CASE FOR ALASKA
Republicans are hoping to unseat freshman Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, as one of the six seats their party need to take control of the Senate, but the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, former Attorney General Dan Sullivan is trying to keep his focus on the incumbent while enduring one of the longest primary seasons of any state. Sullivan explains his strategy in the latest installment of “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt.” Can Sullivan keep fighting battles on his left and right? Can Republicans unite after their August primary? Watch here to find out.
Pick Six: Can Alaska make a comeback? - Republicans are hoping to pick up six seats to gain control of the Senate this November. Which Democrat-held seats are the most vulnerable? Based on your tweets and e-mails, the current consensus among Fox News First readers is: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Reader Ladis Amatulli does not see Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska., withstanding a Republican wave and feels the Frontier State should make a return to the list. Do you agree? Let us know!
Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.
POLL: ERNST GRABS EARLY IOWA LEAD
A new poll from Republican pollsters Vox Populi shows GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst with the advantage over Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, in their battle to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The poll finds Ernst leading Braley 37 percent to 33 percent. A Loras College poll out Friday showed Ernst up by 6 points.
[Branstad’s coattails capacious? - The same poll has Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, besting Democrat Jack Hatch, 51 percent to 40 percent.]
PROSECUTOR PROBES MCDANIEL STAFFER BALLOT ACCESS
Clarion-Ledger: “The Hinds [Miss.] County District Attorney's office will investigate how a staffer for state Sen. Chris McDaniel's U.S. Senate campaign and two other McDaniel supporters ended up locked inside the county courthouse hours after everyone had left on Tuesday's primary election night…[Democratic Hinds Country District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith] said the investigation would begin immediately and he hopes to have it completed over the next several days…”
If you wanna be his senator - USA Today: “Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said he won’t retreat from the fight to keep the state’s six-term Sen. Thad Cochran in office and has harsh words for his rival, Chris McDaniel, and the Tea Party groups backing him in state’s GOP runoff. ‘I couldn’t pick one of them out of a lineup with the Spice Girls,’ he said of the leaders of national conservative groups advancing McDaniel’s bid. “They couldn’t care less about what’s in the best interest of Mississippi.’ ‘They are trying to get Cochran as a trophy scalp so they won’t go out of business for the next (election) cycle because they lost every race they’ve gotten into.’ … Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller called Barbour ‘desperate.” ‘Haley Barbour is supposed to be all-powerful, but he’s losing a race in his own backyard and his influence business in Washington will take a big hit when he no longer has a Mississippi senator in his back pocket,’ Keller said in a statement.”
GRAHAM POISED FOR SUPER TUESDAY
National Journal: “At the beginning of last year, Sen. Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] looked like a prime example of the type of GOP incumbent getting challenged in primaries these days. Since then, he's turned into a prime example of the type of Republican who escapes such a fate somewhat comfortably. Graham's moderate stances on climate change, immigration, and several more issues damaged his standing with parts of South Carolina's famously factional Republican Party in the last six years. But Graham's aggressive campaigning and fundraising—he raised nearly $6.5 million in the past year and a half and spent even more than that over the same period—kept that specter of intra-party threat from growing into anything more real. Graham was not only in a comfortable first place in his primary in the most recent Palmetto poll from Clemson University, he was at 49 percent support, on the cusp of the majority he'd need to avoid a runoff and win the nomination outright. More than a third of the electorate said they were undecided, while the closest Republican to Graham was still languishing in single-digits.”
ISSA LAUDS LANKFORD
Rep. Darell Issa, R-Calif., is lending support to Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. “During my time as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I have had two strong partners when it comes to fighting for oversight and accountability: Tom Coburn and James Lankford,” Issa wrote in statement. “There is no better candidate to continue the oversight work of Dr. Coburn in the Senate than James Lankford.”
CRIST’S CUBAN SUPPORT CRUMBLING
Miami Herald: “ [Florida Democratic gubernatorial hopeful] Charlie Crist has a Cuba problem and a Cuban voter problem, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll of Miami-Dade’s electorate shows. Crist’s headline-grabbing announcement last month that he wants to travel to Cuba has hurt his standing more than it helped in Florida’s most-populous county, with only 5 percent of voters saying they’d be more likely to support him over the issue, while 24 percent say the opposite… Crist is the first major candidate for governor who has called for ending the Cuba travel ban and lifting the embargo, saying it hasn’t worked. Overall, Crist leads Scott 47-35 percent [in Miami-Dade county]. But that’s tepid support for Crist in the Democratic bastion.”
STAR SPANGLED PROTEST
Reuters: “A Florida man who feels he is being unfairly treated by local code enforcement officials has mounted an unusual protest - he painted his house like the American flag...[Brent Greer] is upset that city code enforcement officers inspected his home in February after an anonymous complaint that a 15-foot-tall Christmas tree on his front porch had fallen over, he said… The officer went on to cite Greer for a list of violations including lack of screens on some windows, peeling house paint, yard debris, and some rotted and loose wood, according to a copy of the complaint provided by Greer… A code enforcement hearing is set for June 17 at which Greer said he could be fined $250 a day… Greer said his wife Catherine, who holds an art degree, and their seven children repainted the house in red, white and blue, complete with stars. He said the family has received an outpouring of support, particularly among veterans. He said they intend to further decorate the house with a painted plywood Liberty Bell which they will place where the Christmas tree had stood. ‘It's in compliance,’ Greer said.”
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.