No buzzer beater for ObamaCare

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Buzz Cut:
• No buzzer beater for ObamaCare
• Crimea costs: Obama says Putin will pay
• Planet Hillary gears up Granite State ground game
• Campaign Carl: Home team hurting in Obama’s home state
• Goin’ green

With the clock ticking loudly, today marks two weeks until the most pivotal moment yet for ObamaCare. The March 31 enrollment deadline that ends open enrollment and sets off penalties for those who haven’t signed-up for the new entitlement program is crucial milestone for President Obama’s already troubled health care law. Almost six months after a botched Web site rollout, policy cancellations and premium sticker shock, the projected goal of 7 million looks like an impossible buzzer beater for team Obama. While the president said last week that the just over 4 million enrolled are enough to make ObamaCare viable, the number who have paid their first month’s premiums and are actually covered still hasn’t been released. Add in industry estimates of the number of young people critical to the program’s success at fewer than 25 percent of total enrollment and there’s little wonder the White House is rolling out celebrities and a frenetic “March Madness” hoop-themed pitch to entice last minute sign ups.

Bracketing for support - Washington Examiner: “The White House on Monday will release a ‘16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered’ bracket, hoping to use March Madness to promote Obamacare two weeks before the deadline for Americans to obtain health insurance. According to a White House official, two top college basketball coaches Monday will make an Obamacare sales pitch in a web video aimed at fans of the sport.”

Coach has a plan? - Coming off of Rep. David Jolly’s, R-Fla., win in Florida’s special congressional election last week, where ObamaCare was central to the campaign, the administration is scrambling to recover from how deeply unpopular the health law is and the drag the president’s low approval rating is putting on vulnerable midterm Democrats. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senior White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer admitted, “There’s no question that everyone in Washington, the president included, took a big hit from the double whammy of a shutdown and” Seeking to calm the palatable fear on the blue team, Pfeiffer added, “This president wrote the book on running and winning modern campaigns. We’re going to help Democrats up and down the ballots… We’re going to set the terms of the debate and provide our organizational ability to help them.” Cheery words from the coaching staff, but with the odds already stacked against Democrats when it comes to turnout in midterm elections and Republicans hammering them on ObamaCare’s failings, the road to re-election, and most importantly retaining control of the Senate looks almost impassable.

“With 14 seats in play on the Democratic side and a couple of seats in play potentially on the Republican side, I think it's highly likely that Republicans pick up the majority… we have a very good cast of characters that are running.”—Former Adviser to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace

Team Obama alum sings blues over midterms - While White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer sought to down play Democrats’ bleak midterm prospects Sunday, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs shot a little straighter. Asked on “Meet the Press” if Democrats were in danger of losing the Senate, Gibbs said, “Definitely…Absolutely.” Pressed further for details as to why Pfeiffer didn’t share his outlook, Gibbs explained, “Because I did the same thing a few years ago on your show and I still have tire tracks from [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] ... Honestly, you can only go so far in Washington when you’re employed. As a consultant, I can say all these things now. But there’s no doubt and if you look at – They’ve got to pick up 6 seats, which is not a small number. But what gives them a huge advantage, obviously, is the states that they're in ... Louisiana and in North Carolina and Montana -- places that the president didn’t do well.”

[MoDo: “Democrats in Congress are looking over at the White House and realizing that the president is not only incapable of saving them, but he looks like a big anchor tied around their necks…The state of relations between congressional Democrats and the administration has been deteriorating every week, but now it’s hitting a new bottom…governing through executive order isn't a sign of strength. It’s a sign of weakness. And it’s that weakness that has Democrats scared to death.”]

[Watch Fox: Bret Baier explores the roots of health care reform in America, tracking it from FDR , President Truman, Hillary Clinton and President Obama, including the evolution of ObamaCare during “Special Report” in the 6 p.m. ET hour]

After a vote in Crimea, Ukraine that election officials say resulted in over 95 percent of ballots favoring annexation with Russia, President Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin he was “prepared to impose additional costs on Russia.” In a phone call, Obama told Putin the referendum “held under threats of violence and intimidation” would “never” be recognized by the international community and that the United States and its European allies would join him in imposing those costs. Putin reportedly told Obama that he considered the referendum “fully conformed to the norms of international law.” With Russian troops on the border of Ukraine and in control in the province, Crimea’s parliament voted to declare independence. Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, calling on him to return Russian troops in Crimea to their bases.

Time to get tough - Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle took to the Sunday talk shows with calls for the administration to take a tougher stance against Russia. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., criticized what he called “an air of permissiveness” on the part of the administration adding, “we have to show more resolve. It’s not helpful. It shows wishy-washiness.” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., also told Wallace President Obama needs to be more firm with President Putin adding he, “started a game or Russian roulette … and he will see how far he can go.” Today, foreign ministers from the European Union will consider measures to impose an assets freeze against Russia along with possible visa sanctions. More.

[Watch Fox: Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, gives his reaction to the Crimea vote in the 9 a.m. ET hour]

A question of force - “Clearly, economic forces can be effective — clearly, they can also be ineffective, We’ve had, since 1960, an embargo against Cuba and it has not had any discernible effect on changing the regime.” George Will, on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”

[WSJ: “Left in shambles are the illusions of Mr. Obama and his fellow liberal internationalists. They arrived at the White House proclaiming that the days of U.S. leadership had to yield to a new collective security enforced by “the international community.” The U.N. would be the vanguard of this new 21st-century order, and ‘international law’ and arms-control treaties would define its rules. Thus Mr. Obama’s initial response to Mr. Putin’s Crimean invasion was to declare, like Mr. Kerry, that it is ‘illegal’ because it violates ‘the Ukrainian constitution and international law.’ As if Mr. Putin cares… Mr. Obama first needs to understand that America’s adversaries reject his fanciful 21st-century rules.]

News anchor goes nuclear - Dmitry Kiselyov, an anchor on Russia’s state run television, warned that President Obama is “living in fear” during a newscast as the first exit-polls of the Crimean vote were published. Standing behind the image of giant mushroom cloud Kiselyove declared, “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash,” adding, “Americans themselves consider Putin to be a stronger leader than Obama.” AFP has more.

New on Fox News Opinion, Juan Williams examines how New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign against charter schools is generating a fire in the belly of proponents of education reform and the school choice movement. “The only way to understand De Blasio trashing charters school is that he does not care about the damage being done to students. His sole concern is paying back the powerful New York City public school teachers’ unions for their political support. The unions hate charter schools because they provide parents with an option to remove their children from the bad public schools that are staffed by their members.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve –  42.9 percent//Disapprove – 52.6 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 28.6 percent//Wrong Track – 62.7 percent 
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.4 percent// Republicans 40.8 percent

After orbiting Iowa, the Clintonista backed group Ready for Hillary, is setting its sights on New Hampshire. AP reports the group will be hosting events Tuesday and Wednesday with Granite State Democrats. Staffers with the group will be meeting with Democratic lawmakers for a private luncheon Tuesday in Concord and will attend house parties across the state with party leaders, the group will continue to press the flesh with influential Democrats with more house parties planned for Wednesday. Historically, New Hampshire has been a favorable environment for the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, offering her a win in 2008 against President Obama. It was the Granite State that gave President Bill Clinton the nickname “comeback kid” after a strong second place finish in the 1992 presidential election.

[WaPo’s Chris Cilliza considers what the Democratic field could look like if Hillary passes on a 2016 run.]

The latest CNN/ORC poll finds Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., leading the pack of likely 2016 GOP contenders.  This comes in addition to Paul’s first place finishes in this weekend's North East Republican Leadership Conference’s straw poll, in the early primary state of New Hampshire, and the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual straw poll earlier this month.

Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who all but officially announced he will run against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is wasting no time in firing the first shots in what is likely to be a fiery campaign. On Saturday Shaheen called on Brown to sign onto a pledge, similar to the “people’s pact” he signed during the 2012 campaign with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that limited contributions from outside groups. Brown blasted the incumbent Democrat’s “Washington-style game” charging her with hypocrisy in a statement saying, “Jeanne Shaheen’s allies in Washington were running negative ads against me for months. And right now, while I’m meeting with the people of New Hampshire, she is on the West Coast raising money so third-party groups in D.C. will have money to run even more outside negative ads against me, It’s hard to view Jeanne Shaheen’s actions as anything other than hypocritical and self-serving.” The Boston Herald has more.

With an eye towards Tuesday’s primary in Illinois, Campaign Carl Cameron wants to know if it is possible that Democratic Senate hopeful, incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill.,will shy away from asking the president for some help before November, for fear that even in Illinois, the president’s home state it could hurt. Quinn has hired New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio's campaign strategist, Bill Hyers, for the general election and has all but ignored a nominal challenge in the Democratic primary.  On the GOP side businessman Bruce Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and state senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard have all topped Quinn in head to head polling matchups. Quinn is in deep trouble and needs all the help he can get. But even in his home state President Obama has seen his popularity fall.

[The Chicago Tribune has the latest on the race and what is at stake in Tuesday’s Illinois primary.]

In today’s “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” we hear from T.W. Shannon, the former Oklahoma house speaker vying for the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.  Shannon is looking to overtake frontrunner Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., and was recently endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. T.W. lays out his conservative creds in the solidly red state where Republicans have held both Senate seats since 1994.  Watch the interview.

WaPo: “Americans for Prosperity will launch a new three-week ad attack on Monday against Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, making him the latest vulnerable Democratic incumbent to be targeted by the group. The ad will point to Udall’s support of the Affordable Care Act and will run across the state on cable, network and digital platforms. The troubled rollout of the president’s signature health-care law has been damaging to Udall, weakening his poll numbers in the swing state. The $970,000 buy is the first the group has made statewide in Colorado this cycle and comes just weeks after Rep. Cory Gardener (R-Colo.) announced his challenge to Udall, clearing the Republican field and setting up a hotly contested race in 2014.”

Pick Six - Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The consensus so far among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia.

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

Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, was in Kentucky Saturday to offer his support to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Speaking before the West Kentucky Lincoln-Reagan dinner Perry told the gathering: “Leaders like Mitch McConnell… have the courage to stand up for conservative principals, even when it means standing up to the leader of the free world,” the campaign said in a statement.

[AP’s Bill Barrow explains why the South is at the heart of Democrats fight to maintain control of the Senate.]

Alaska Attorney General and Republican Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan has launched a new Web ad featuring his wife Julie Fate Sullivan. In the ad she shares how the two met working for the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, saying, “he fell hard for me and Alaska,” adding, “he’s accomplished a lot, but more than anything Dan’s got a big heart and a strong commitment to making things better in Alaska.”

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is launching an online display ad today blasting former Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land for her support of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and receiving support from the Koch brothers. The ad reads: “Cars not Kochs.”

The Department of Commerce announced Friday the United States would surrender its control over the group that manages the framework of the World Wide Web. ICANN, the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the non-profit company contracted by the Commerce Department that oversees domain names and other important internet operations. ICANN applauded the decision as it seeks to open up to a “global internet community.” But critics of the decision have little faith in the global community's ability to govern a free and fair internet. Fearful of nefarious foreign governments, these critics charge that the administration's decision disregard internet security.—Watch Fox: Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen breaks down the complex issues and considers how justified the concerns of critics are.

AP: “The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press… The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history. In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government's efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office… five years after Obama directed agencies to less frequently invoke a ‘deliberative process’ exception to withhold materials describing decision-making behind the scenes, the government did it anyway, a record 81,752 times.”

In what parishioners are calling a miracle, a Bible pulled from the rubble of a church destroyed in a deadly East Harlem explosion last Wednesday has emerged unburned. New York Firefighters uncovered the Bible Friday, finding blackened edges and pages covered in ash but every word was still legible.  The Bible is the original used by founders of the church which has served the neighborhood's Spanish community for 80 years.  Five of the church's 60 parishioners died in the explosion. News of the recovered text gave the church’s pastor Rev. Thomas Perez heart palpitations and he was taken to the hospital as a precaution.  Public Advocate Letitia James told the New York Daily News, “Through all of the rubble, through all of the destruction, his Book survived.”

While St. Patrick’s Day in America is typically marked with parades, revelry, and libations the holiday is meant to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint who is credited with bringing Christianity to the once Pagan nation. Why so much green today?  Once Ireland’s national color was blue, the choice of the order of St. Patrick, an Anglo-Irish chivalric organization. It was not until 1790 that green became associated with Irish nationalism when the United Irishman adopted that color. What about shamrocks? It is believed St. Patrick used them to explain the concept of the trinity to the Pagan Irish.

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