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Klain: A political fixer for a political problem

Ron Klain to lead US Ebola response


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Buzz Cut:
• Klain: A political fixer for a political problem
• Braley looks to recalibrate on late-term abortion
• Crist has a fan in M.O.
• Power Play: Midterms reveal depth of Obama-Clinton feud
• Bat Boy lives on

We learned an awful lot today about how the Obama White House views the threat from Ebola with the appointment of Ron Klain as “czar” for dealing with response to the disease. Since Klain, who rose to fame as the chief Democratic lawyer in the 2000 Florida recount, is a political fixer and not an expert in epidemiology or public safety, we can assume that President Obama sees a political problem that needs to be fixed. The White House says that it is possible and perhaps “likely” that more Americans will be diagnosed with the virus, which we can assume means that more cases are almost certainly out there. But we are told that because the government has learned from its mistakes is now being aggressive with quarantines (or not), everything will be okay. The effort to get Americans to calm down and relax about the disease that dissolves human organs and carries a 70 percent mortality rate has somehow not worked out. So now, in response to all the alarm, the administration is trying to match the public tone. And as was the case two months ago on Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, the only circumstance that seems to be different is public opinion.

[“A CBS News Poll has found that positive assessment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declined dramatically, with only 37 percent of respondents saying the CDC is doing an excellent or good job -- down from 60 percent in a May 2013 Gallup poll.”]

Czared or Shinsekied? – The selection of Klain as “Ebola czar” (aside from squandering what might have been the best alt-rock band name ever) is in part to get a handle on the bureaucracy in the person of a party loyalist, but mostly window dressing. The government already has someone whom might be called an Ebola czar. It has, in fact, no shortage of people who are in positions to take the lead role. The real problem here is political: A lack of confidence in the existing team. The appointment of a “czar” is a way to put a new face on outreach, and an acknowledgement of the missteps by the administration. It spares a symbolic sacking of the frustrated and mistrusted Centers for Disease Control boss Dr. Thomas Frieden. Better to be czared than Shinsekied, one supposes.

[Weekly Standard: “North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ‘giving us great guidance’ on how to deal with Ebola virus infections here in the United States.]

A plan based on a ban - But the big issue is, of course, the travel ban. The calls for a ban on travel to the U.S. by those from West African nations in the hot zone predates the arrival of the first infected visitor, but accelerated after his death and the subsequent infections and travels of his caregivers. Both the president and Frieden were defensive Thursday about a travel ban, and you could certainly see cracks in the façade. The rationale subtly shifted from the previously stated claim that a ban would do harm because of isolating and destabilizing the affected nations. The president claimed Thursday that a ban wouldn’t work because people would sneak through by breaking up their travel, going first to non-afflicted regions and then heading to the U.S. Maybe, but ask Steve Hayes how aggressive our travel ban systems are. Also telling is that Obama claimed he was opposed to those who favor a ban “instead of the protocols that we've put in place now.” The calls actually are for a travel ban, plus screenings, plus anything else anyone can think of. This straw man suggests Obama is preparing to offer his own “compromise” position.

[The Hill lists the lawmakers who are calling for a travel ban.]

Crawfishing again - So we start to get a pretty clear sense of where the president is going. Obama has a habit of taking audaciously inactive positions, like not bombing ISIS, only to crawfish backwards when public outrage intensifies. A travel ban of some kind is on its way, just as a war of some kind is now underway against ISIS. A president who prides himself on defying his critics has, this midterm year, turned into a public opinion appeaser. But positions obtained through backpedaling, particularly on national security, are unlikely to reassure. Having opted for another crawfish maneuver, Obama will struggle to stay ahead of the public panic that is driving his actions.

Paying ransom for hostages, media blackouts and insurance take center stage in Outside Magazine’s riveting story of Michael Scott Moore, a journalist released last month after being held hostage for two years by Somali pirates: “Moore’s release has cast fresh scrutiny on the media blackouts that often follow the kidnapping of high-profile Western hostages—most of the press remained silent about Moore throughout his captivity…. [O]ver the past ten years, kidnapping has turned into a big business, with ransom, not political statements, now the primary goal of terrorist groups and criminal gangs. …One of the first things that kidnappers do after seizing a hostage…is to ‘troll for all the links and connections of the prisoner,’ to determine his market value. [Kidnap and Ransom] insurers typically provide about $1 million in coverage for travel in Somalia. This…can actually raise an insured prisoner’s perceived value—and drag out negotiations.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 42 percent//Disapprove – 52.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.9 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43 percent// Republicans – 46.4 percent

-- 18 days until Nov. 4 --

Sioux-City [Iowa] Journal: “U.S. Senate candidates [Republican] Joni Ernst and [Democrat] Bruce Braley in a debate Thursday each said they don't like the slew of negative campaign ads being broadcast this election cycle but disagreed on whether changes should be pursued…Braley and Ernst sparred over abortion rights during the debate, their final before the Nov. 4 election. Ernst repeatedly said that life begins at conception and is in support of a constitutional amendment that would bestow rights of persons on fetuses. Braley said he opposed late-term abortions beyond those to save the life of the mother, but declined to say when such a procedure would be too late…”

[The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has released an ad assailing Republican Joni Ernst’s pro-life views.]

Romney returns to Chamber ads in Iowa and N.H. - WaPo: “[The U.S. Chamber of Commerce] is going back on the air with [Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney] ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, Chamber strategists told The Washington Post on Thursday. The ads, which first aired in May and September respectively, will hit the airwaves on broadcast and cable networks once again starting [today] and run through Election Day.

Crossroads: Braley no bridge builder

American Crossroads tags Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, “too partisan to fix Washington” in this ad, part of a $4.3 million buy the group has been running in the Iowa Senate contest

[Always election day: early voting begins Saturday in New Mexico and Nevada. On Monday, early voting begins in the key Senate battleground states of Alaska, Arkansas and Colorado]

Fox News: “A tightening Senate race in New Hampshire is bringing with it an onslaught of negative ads and campaign-trail recriminations, as Republican Scott Brown closes the gap against incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Brown, who had been trailing in the polls by roughly 10 points over the summer, has narrowed the Democrat’s lead to single digits -- the Republican nominee even led by a hair in one recent survey.”

[Watch Fox: Fox News Correspondent Molly Line has the latest on the Brown-Shaheen battle from Manchester, N.H.]

Argus [S.D.] Leader: “On the same day that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin campaigns with Democratic candidate Rick Weiland, Republican Mike Rounds is getting several key pieces of support. Former presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will campaign with Rounds on Friday in Sioux Falls.”

Outside cash pours in for S.D. Dem – The left-leaning group MayDay is upping its efforts for Democrat Rick Weiland, putting $1.25 million behind an ad  praising Weiland for not being beholden to “special interests.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be in Kansas today to campaign with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

AJC: “…Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is headed to Atlanta [today] to raise money for the party and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn. The two also will appear at a community service-themed event.”

[Watch Fox: Senior National Correspondent John Roberts reports on how potential runoffs in the Georgia and Louisiana races may determine who controls the Senate]

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, appears in a new ad for Alaska Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan. In the ad Rice praises Sullivan’s resume saying his “extensive national security experience will make our country better.”

#mediabuzz: Owning the airwaves -  Howard Kurtz welcomes Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio and The Hill’s Bob Cusack as they continue to track the media coverage of midterms. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

While it once looked like a sure shot for Republicans, Democratic digital maestro Joe Trippi and Republican strategist Doug Heye, agree the South Dakota Senate race is wide open. Could GOP gains in Iowa and Colorado makeup for a loss in the Rushmore State? And why isn’t the red team more bullish on their prospects in Alaska? Find out what the political pros think by watching them Pick Six on “Power Play with Chris Stirewalthere.

[Do you know what’s likely to happen with the seemingly scattered world of pre-election polling? Sean Trende does.]

Trending red in the Tar Heel State - Which blue seats are the most likely for Republicans to pick up on their path to the six additional Senate seats needed to win control of the Senate? Here are the top picks among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.8%), Montana (13.2%), West Virginia (12.4%), South Dakota (12%), Louisiana (11.8%), and Alaska (8.8%). Reader Evelyn Poole-Kober of Hillsborough, N.C. sees a growing Republican tide in her state working to Republican Thom Tillis’ advantage.  Poole-Kober writes, “The people of North Carolina elected a super majority in the General Assembly, a Republican Governor, and a Republican Lt. Governor. For the first time in more than 100 years, North Carolinian had a conservative government.”

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

Climate changes
Upshot has a 71 percent likelihood of Republicans winning the Senate

WaPo’s Election Lab forecasts a net Republican gain of eight Senate seats with a 96 percent chance they win the upper chamber.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning the Senate.

Palm Beach Post: “In his ongoing quest to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Scott by reassembling the Obama coalition that made Florida a blue state in the last two presidential elections, Charlie Crist is turning today to [first lady] Michelle Obama for help. The first lady is scheduled to appear with Crist at get-out-the-vote rallies this afternoon at recreation centers in Orlando and Miami Gardens. She’s also appearing at a fundraiser for Crist near Orlando at the home of former NBA star Grant Hill.”

Can CNN enforce the fan ban? - After debate organizers apologized for not enforcing the rule that forbade Crist from bringing a portable fan to cool him during a debate on Wednesday night, the team at CNN is vowing to ban the fan for a Tuesday debate the network is scheduled to host. But as Molly Ball points out, Crist’s relationship with his fans has lasted longer than any other bond in his career. He is unlikely to give up his companion easily. “Perhaps it served a greater purpose than simply keeping the trim, tanned, never-a-hair-out-of-place politician from perspiring in the Florida heat,” Ball wrote. “Perhaps it gave him a psychological edge—the familiar, friendly buzz, the caressing breeze.”

Host Chris Wallace welcomes the head of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to forecast how their parties are faring heading into the midterm elections in their first joint appearance of the 2014 election cycle. . “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.

With Democratic candidates like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes embracing the mantle of “Clinton Democrat” as she seeks to distance herself from an unpopular president, the question is, just how deep are the divides among the blue team? Find out who Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and Republican strategist Doug Heye think is the real center of power for Dems and how that factors into the midterms by watching “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt.”

Hillary tries out Romney attack in Michigan - WaPo: “[2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton] on Thursday took an apparent swipe at Mitt Romney over his opposition to the federal government's bailout of the auto industry. Campaigning in Michigan on Thursday, Clinton referenced Romney's now-infamous 2008 New York Times op-ed titled, ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,’ although she did not mention the 2012 Republican presidential nominee by name. Clinton said that Reps. Gary Peters and Mark Schauer, the Democratic nominees for U.S. Senate and governor respectively, defended the auto bailout in Washington. ‘Now, they could take the safe way, they could line up with those saying 'Let Detroit go bankrupt,' 'let manufacturing just wither away,’ Clinton said.”

Clinton-era State Department didn’t follow up on prostitution charge - Washington Examiner: “State Department officials interviewed only one of multiple available witnesses and failed to collect other important evidence concerning allegations that a U.S. Ambassador solicited a prostitute. The unnamed ambassador was suspected in May 2011 by embassy security staff of having ‘solicited a prostitute in a public park near the embassy,’ according to a report by the State Department inspector general. The ambassador was recalled to Washington and confronted with the allegation. He denied the allegation and was allowed to return to his post at the U.S. embassy.”

Air Bubba adds stops - Former President Bill Clinton returns to Arkansas this weekend for a three-day campaign swing to stump for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and other parts of his in-state political network. On Monday, the former president heads south to Louisiana for a campaign stop with embattled Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

[Maybe that’s why he’s on the road so much - “I’m really quite comfortable being here to campaign for women and taking orders. It’s like being at home.” – Former President Bill Clinton campaigning for New Hampshire Democrats Thursday. WaPo hasmore.]

With headlines like “Alien in the slammer after fistfight with Bill…over Hillary,” the over-the-top tabloid Weekly World News caught the attention of grocery store customers until 2007. Now, a Web site keeps readers abreast of the latest on Hillary Clinton’s adoptive alien baby. Perhaps one of the publications more memorable exposés was on a half-human half-bat like creature. “Bat Boy was discovered in a cave in southern West Virginia,” Editor in Chief Neil McGinness tells the Atlantic. “If you’ve never been there it’s a beautiful part of the country. Strange to think it harbored that dark subterranean secret as long as it did.” This November fans, can relive Bat Boy, Clinton’s alien baby, and what Elvis ordered when he was spotted by a Kalamazoo, Mich., housewife at a Burger King, in a forthcoming retrospective.

“We just heard the head of the CDC [Dr. Tom Frieden] say that we track all the visitors coming in. We couldn’t even track a nurse who treated [Eric Duncan] all the way to Cleveland and we’re going to be assured that a Guyana coming in here is going to be tracked? This is absurd.” – 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

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.