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Buzz Cut:
• Pander bear: Hillary gets press pass on flip flops
• GOP gathers in S.C. this weekend
• Power Play: PAC man fever
• Budget vote hot seat for blue state GOP
• The getaway plan was lacking

PANDER BEAR: HILLARY GETS PRESS PASS ON FLIP FLOPS
If a candidate reverses a long-held position is it a “flip-flop” or someone who is “not afraid to run as her own woman?” That seems to depend on who’s doing the flopping. In the three weeks since the official launch of her second presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton, has been moving left in a hurry. In response to riots in Baltimore, the presumptive Democratic nominee came forward to disown tough-on-drugs policies she had previously touted. While conditions have certainly changed since the end of the crack wars those policies were enacted to stop, so too have the politics. In 2008, Clinton was upended by a little-known African-American candidate. And since then, the issue of those Clinton-era drug laws has become enormous for black Democrats. It’s the same story for the trade policies that Clinton three years ago called “the gold standard” but today, with a wary eye on her left flank, says are worrisome.

When a politician suddenly reverses themselves to a more politically advantageous position we call it “flip-flopping” or “caving” or even “pandering.” When Mitt Romney reversed himself on abortion and global warming, he was widely seen as either bowing to pressure from his base or being morally flexible in pursuit of power. There was not so much talk about how times had changed. Quite the opposite. Other than John Kerry, who once managed to complete a full flip-flop in a single sentence – “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” – Democrats are given a far wider berth for policy switches.

The reason perhaps is that people are more inclined to forgive politicians who change directions in ways with which they agree, and the press slants… well, you know which way the press slants. It would be hard not to see President Obama as having pandered to his base with a reversal on same-sex marriage ahead of the 2012 election. But he “evolved” on a social issue while Romney “pandered.”

So will Clinton get a pass? For now, probably yes. Clinton and her husband have a decades-long track record of ideological flexibility and a penchant for political expediency. And so long as she is moving leftward, her party and the press will mostly cheer. Gender plays a role here, too. Commentators who see Clinton repudiating the policies of her husband and the current Democratic president see something of the feminist mystique – a woman unencumbered by the men who previously controlled her. She is now free to be herself. And if that happens to coincide with what the pollsters and the focus groups say, well, you can’t blame a gal for being lucky… The danger for Clinton is later. Her reversals and legalese will make plenty of good fodder for Republican ads next year. The gang at America Rising is probably already making the Hillary super-cut of all super-cuts. But for now, she can be happy in the embrace of a party and press that wants to believe that she’s finally living her best (and most liberal) life.

If Hillary is the Democrats’ Romney, is Bernie her Ron Paul? - John Dickerson explains why Hillary Clinton is just ducky with having Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as a sparring partner: “When pressed about donations to the Clinton foundation, Sanders said it concerned him before quickly changing the subject to the Koch brothers and how much worse their influence is in politics. That is what Clinton allies do. If this continues to be the Vermont senator's approach, Sanders will be more of a help to Clinton's presidential chances than he will be to his own. … In 2012 Rep. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney had a symbiotic relationship in the Republican campaign. Paul elevated his own profile and gave his voters an outlet, but he never pointed out the yawning gaps between what he claimed to believe so deeply and the positions of the man who was on his way to being the party's inevitable nominee.”

[Sanders will be in New Hampshire this weekend for an AFL-CIO rally in North Conway.]

Gowdy: Hillary could stop email probe - USA Today: “‘If she were, under some theory, able to say, ‘yes, I can promise you under penalty of perjury you have every single document you're entitled to,’ that would probably shut off that line of inquiry,’ he told Capital Download. ‘If she can, then it will be a short conversation.’”

Power Play: In Hillary we trust? - Hillary Clinton says she’s running to restore trust in government – a novel approach for a candidate ensnared in a scandal. Can she pull it off? WashEx’s David Drucker and National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar join Chris Stirewalt to test that theorem. WATCH HERE.

O’Malley denies blame - In an interview with the NYT, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley defends himself against accusations that his policies as mayor of Baltimore contributed to the city’s current plight.

#mediabuzz - Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash,” will talk about his much-debated book and how he’s been treated by the media. National Journal’s Ron Fournier will look at the reporting on the Hillary Clinton campaign and the newest candidate, Bernie Sanders. #mediabuzz airs Sunday at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.

“This is not the fault of a vast right-wing conspiracy, sexism, or unfair media coverage. It's the result of actions taken by an experienced and important public servant whose better angels are often outrun by [Hillary Clinton’s] demons—paranoia, greed, entitlement, and an ends-justify-the-means sense of righteousness.” – Ron Fournier in his column.

[Thug life - Howard Kurtz looks at the media maelstrom over President Obama’s use of the word “thugs” to describe rioters in Baltimore.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
Scientists at the University of Arizona and MIT have published a study of the bombardier beetle, which has a defense unique in the natural world – a machine-gun:  “Many beetles secrete foul-smelling or bad-tasting chemicals from their abdomens to ward off predators, but bombardier beetles take it a step further. When threatened, they combine chemicals in an explosive chemical reaction chamber in their abdomen to simultaneously synthesize, heat and propel their defensive load as a boiling hot spray, complete with ‘gun smoke.’… ‘By having a pulsed delivery, these small beetles produce a relatively large amount of defensive spray, which they can aim precisely and with great force and speed,’ [Professor Wendy Moore] said. ‘This is truly one of the most remarkable and elegant defensive mechanisms documented to date.’”

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

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 45.7 percent//Disapprove – 49.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.0 percent//Wrong Track – 61.5 percent

GOP GATHERS IN S.C. THIS WEEKEND
[Charleston] Post and Courier: “Five Republican presidential hopefuls, including early front-runner Jeb Bush, will be in Columbia this weekend for the GOP state convention, providing the largest in-state audience of the year in the race for the White House. In addition to Bush, presidential contenders scheduled to attend all or part of the weekend events include U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas; former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. About 1,500 delegates and other attendees from around the state will take part in party events, which kick off Friday night with the party’s Silver Elephant fundraising dinner.”

Jeb stands by stance on common core, immigration - WSJ: “Mr. Bush also sought to set himself apart from the rest of the Republican field by defending his support for policies largely opposed by the conservative base: the Common Core national academic standards and legal status for undocumented workers. ‘You think I’m wrong on immigration and I think you’re wrong,’ he said. ‘Maybe I’m stubborn.’ The former governor argued that economic growth will be stymied without an overhaul of immigration law. He also pointed to the political ramifications, saying that President Barack Obama flogs Republican immigration hardliners to push Hispanic voters away from the GOP...On Common Core, Mr. Bush said instituting high standards and measuring whether children are meeting them is the best way to improve student achievement and compete in the global economy.”

[Bush praised conservative American Enterprise Institute sociologist Charles Murray, whose book on the causes and consequences of socioeconomic inequality, “Coming Apart,” has taken on Talmudic status on the right. The response in the media to this intellectual discussion was measured and thoughtful. No, wait.]

Rough riders - TMZ caught up with Bush yesterday to ask who he’d most like to take to a baseball game. At first, Bush gave the answer of progressive hero President Theodore Roosevelt, but then added rapper, Pitbull, who is a Floridian.

[Bush will be in North Carolina today for a private meeting at the North Carolina GOP headquarters in Raleigh.]

Power Play: PAC man fever - A move by Jeb Bush to use his cash-flush PAC for traditional campaign tasks is turning the 2016 cycle on its head. WashEx’s David Drucker and National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar join Chris Stirewalt to discuss the risks and potential rewards of the tactic. WATCH HERE.

Jeb nabs Rubio’s former campaign manager - Politico: “Marco Rubio’s longtime friend and 2010 Senate campaign manager is about to be hired as a Hispanic-outreach adviser for the senator’s likely Republican 2016 rival, Jeb Bush, sources familiar with the decision tell POLITICO. Jose Mallea’s hiring by Bush’s Right to Rise political committee is a one-two punch for the former governor: It underscores the depth of loyalty Florida Republicans have for Bush and it shows his intense interest in turning out the Latino vote.”

Graham hits Rubio on Iran deal - WaPo: “The presidential hopeful is at the center of a standoff over a carefully crafted Iran bill, as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) used a procedural tactic Thursday to try to force up-or-down votes on amendments that he and Rubio have been pushing…That didn't sit well with senators trying to shepherd the bill to passage without alterations that could derail it. "I think that's probably made it harder to get more amendments because we can't move forward," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a potential presidential candidate. Graham said that while he agreed with the substance of the Rubio's amendment - requiring Iran to acknowledge Israel’s ‘right to exist’ -- he is not interested in changes that could cause the agreement, which took weeks of wrangling from both parties, to fall apart...Rubio, as he has been running for president, has sought to portray himself as a staunch national security hawk. His alliance with Cotton is the latest sign that he is determined not to get outflanked by his opposition.”

Christian book’s sales soar after Walker mention - Religion News Service: “Standing before more than 1,000 people at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, the Wisconsin governor used part of his time to read from ‘Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence,’ a Christian devotional written in the first-person voice of Jesus by missionary-turned-author Sarah Young...According to reports, the crowd was ‘rapt.’ In the days after [Walker’s] talk, the book shot to the top of a couple of online retailers’ best-seller lists, including Amazon. Not that the book needed Walker’s help…‘Christian publishing has had a massive hit on its hands ever since ‘Jesus Calling’ was published in 2004’ [said recent religion reviews editor Marcia Nelson].”

Huckabee sets serious tone announcement video - Former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s new announcement video highlights his decades-long battle with the Clinton machine in Arkansas. The dramatic depiction of populist issues show black and white images, while also highlighting Huckabee’s folksy charm. When talking of his leadership skills Huckabee says, “…any drunken redneck can walk into a bar and start a fight. A leader only starts a fight that he’s prepared to finish.” Huckabee is expected to make his officially announcement May 5.

Fiorina PAC name poses a problem - WSJ: “Republican Carly Fiorina’s official campaign committee will be called Carly for President when she launches Monday. Her super PAC is called Carly for America. Its executive director, Steve DeMaura, said the committee’s unambiguous name was picked because Carly for America would function as an auxiliary to the official campaign, not just as a mechanism to air negative TV ads. The [Federal Election Commission] bars super PACs from including the names of declared candidates in their names…[FEC spokesman Christian Hilliand] said Carly for America should expect to receive a letter from the FEC asking that it change its name shortly after Mrs. Fiorina formally launches her presidential campaign Monday.”

Carson sets faith as cornerstone ahead of launch - Detroit News: “In Michigan on Monday, Carson will pray with a group of pastors at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History before officially launching his bid for the Republican presidential nomination before supporters at the Detroit Performing Arts Center. He chose to launch his campaign in his hometown, and his afternoon is booked with events across Iowa. Faith has permeated Carson’s personal, professional and now his public life. His political manifesto contains frequent references to the Ten Commandments and God’s creation. He uses parables to explain policy goals. His 2014 book ‘One Nation’ slams the ‘godless’ government.”

Could Christie still be a contender? - The “Bridgegate” scandal is back in the news today with the expected guilty plea of a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie, R- N.J. But Christie, who went from top-tier contender to the back of the pack of GOP hopefuls, says he has what it takes to win his party’s nomination. But will he make the run? Christie sat down for an in-depth, wide-ranging interview with Bret Baier. Watch “Special Report” tonight at 6 p.m. ET.

Kasich gets ready to take the plunge - Ohio Gov. John Kasich is ready to make some waves in the 2016 GOP presidential race. He joins “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” to talk about his vision and face tough questions about his potential path to the presidency. Also, a special look at the U.S. Military Academy as Mr. Sunday sits down with former West Point superintendents to discuss how the 213-year-old institution has changed through history and the challenges it faces going forward.

[Kasich is in Washington today for a Christian Science Monitor breakfast then participates in the National Review Institute Ideas Summit.]

BUDGET VOTE HOT SEAT FOR BLUE STATE GOP
The Republican budget plan passed Thursday by the House and headed for the Senate next week opens a political dilemma for some GOP members of the upper chamber. Facing the prospect that voters in the blue states they represent might give them the boot in 2016, vulnerable Republican Senators are on the spot. Senators like Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Mike Toomey, R-Pa., will weigh how the budget blueprint – which boosts defense spending, slashes social welfare programs and targets ObamaCare – will play at home. With potential challengers and Democratic opponents ready to exploit incumbent voting records, the politically charged GOP plan is just one of many tests they face over the next 17 months. For those most vulnerable (Kirk tops the list) arm-twisting by Senate leadership will likely fall flat. And while some get-out-of-jail-free passes will allow politically pinched Senators to buck the party, how many and who gets them is up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

THE NEWS IS STILL GOOD, BUT…
An item in Thursday’s Fox News First incorrectly identified the date on which Dana Perino’s book “And the Good News Is…” will crest a wave of excellence atop the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. It will be May 10 when Jasper needs to fetch a few extra copies.

THE GETAWAY PLAN WAS LACKING
WNBC: “A woman flying from Los Angeles to New York after appearing on ‘Judge Judy’ has been arrested on charges she stole a crew member's iPad and a passenger's passport and bank card, the latter of which she allegedly hid in her underwear. A spokesman for Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police said Thursday that 26-year-old Melissa Perez was charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property. Authorities say the Bronx woman was flying American Airlines to John F. Kennedy Airport Wednesday when a crew member noticed her tote pad, which contained an iPad among other items, was missing...Perez was brought in to be questioned by Port Authority officers after the flight landed, and officers found the passenger's bank card and passport in her underwear, authorities said. She also allegedly had a prescription bottle containing about 10 grams of marijuana in her possession, authorities 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.