ObamaCare referendum in Florida today

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Buzz Cut:
• ObamaCare referendum in Florida today
• Cringing for coverage
• Clinton money man pleads guilty
• Steyer-o-foam: Reid rails on Kochs during climate talk-fest
• Outlaw kitty

Voters in Pinellas County, Fla., a swing county in a swing state, are at the polls today to vote on who will serve out the remaining months of the term of the late Rep. Bill Young, the Republican who had represented the district since Richard Nixon’s first term. It’s not such a big deal when it comes to one seat in the House, but as it relates to the November elections the contest has the attention of every political pro in the country. National Democrats recruited 2010 gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a well-heeled moderate with a famous name, to run in this district that twice went for President Obama and was the only congressional district Sink carried in 2010. Republicans had a weaker draw with their nominee, former Young aide turned lobbyist David Jolly, who had to fight his way through a crowded primary field. But as the race unfolded, the issue of ObamaCare proved to be a leveling agent, knocking down Sink’s support. While Republican strategists admitted to Fox News First that misgivings about being complicit on a likely loss kept them from pitching in during the early weeks, the national GOP has swung in to match the blue team million for million in what has turned out to be a hugely expensive race. After all this attention and all this cash the race is a nail-biter.

[St. Petersburg Tribune: “Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and House Majority PAC bought airtime and digital ad space – more than $9 million in all.]

High stakes - Nearly 125,000 voters cast early ballots in the race, that’s about a quarter of all of the eligible voters in the district. The big questions include how Sink will perform with moderate Republicans, a strong point for Obama in 2012 and 2008, and how much support Libertarian Lucas Overby will siphon from Jolly. The race is closer and more expensive that Democrats had hoped, but if Sink can pull out even a narrow victory, national Democrats can use it to buck up dispirited candidates who want to bolt from President Obama and his ObamaCare curse. If Jolly pulls off an upset, Republicans will stay at ramming speed on ObamaCare as Dems take flight.

AP: “The Obama administration says it’s pulling the plug on proposed changes to the Medicare prescription program that ran into strong opposition on Capitol Hill. Among other changes, the regulation proposed to remove three classes of drugs from a special protected list that guarantees seniors access to a wide selection of critical medications.  The three classes of drugs facing removal were antidepressants, antipsychotics and drugs that suppress the immune system to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.  The administration hoped to save a total of $729 million by 2019 with the change. But patient groups including the National Kidney Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness pushed back hard.  Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner said Monday in a letter to Congress that the administration will not move forward with the changes.”

[WSJ: “Medicare administrator Marilyn Tavenner reserved the right Monday to make ‘some or all of the changes in future years,’ which suggests her climb-down is another temporary gambit to limit political damage ahead of the election. Watch out if Democrats keep the Senate.”]

Comedian Zach Galifianakis did his bit to help the Obama administration with its final push to sell younger consumers on ObamaCare. Galifianakis hosted the president on the Web series “Between the Ferns,” a show that parodies Hollywood celebrity interviews. Galifianakis and Co. call their site “Funny or Die,” which all involved can be glad is not literal.

[But Mom, those one-piece pajamas are just so darn comfy! - “We’re calling on moms to reach out to their adult children, get them off the couch and on the computer to enroll, and make sure that they have quality, affordable health insurance.” – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, during Monday’s press briefing.]

Who said anything about 7 million? - “The goal is really the outreach to as many people as possible. We have published regular updates and reports, but what we know is we are not likely to reach all of the uninsured this year. This is a program that will grow over time.” – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a promotional event for ObamaCare in Georgia Monday.

Washington Examiner: “Planned Parenthood is going to bat for the White House, hosting more than 500 events in 18 cities to get Americans into the health insurance system. In eight states, officials from the women’s health and abortion provider will go to grocery stories and even indoor soccer fields to enroll people. It also plans to dispatch 500 canvassers to knock on 20,000 doors.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., called a new ObamCare carve out for labor groups “outrageous.” Appearing on “The Kelly File,” Thune said President Obama’s move to  waive some new taxes for some union plans was “cronyism at its worst.”  Exempting the union from the tax, designed to cover the costs of insuring those with pre-existing conditions, means “other employers, charities, faith-based organizations end up paying a higher tax.” Thune told Megyn Kelly, “What they have done is they have shifted this so everybody else is out in the cold. They’ve left everybody out holding the bag while a lot of unions have made out like bandits.” Watch via “The Kelly File.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kicked off an all-night series of Senate floor speeches on global warming – an effort widely seen as a nod to the billionaire green-energy tycoon, Tom Steyer, who has pledged $100 million to help Democrats this year – with an attack on conservative donors. The irony-deficient remarks were aimed at “deniers,” individuals that some liberals and those in the green-energy industry say should be excluded from scientific discussions. “It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis – the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress – have a valid point of view. But despite overwhelming scientific evidence and overwhelming public opinion, climate change deniers still exist. They exist in this country and in this Congress.” More from The Hill

[Politico explains why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is working so hard to boost Nevada Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores. Reid is hoping to prevent Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., from making a Senate run when Reid’s term ends in 2016.]

Liberals outraged over charitable donation to hospital - Washington Free Beacon: “…[T]he New York State Nurses’ Association, the NAACP New York State Conference, and SEIU Local 1199, among others… marched on the soon-to-be-built David H. Koch Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital …”

Vulnerable Dems pass on climate talk-fest - AP: “Democrats took to the Senate floor Monday night to talk about global warming and planned not to let up until morning. Leading off the dusk-to-dawn talkathon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called climate change ‘a question of our own survival’ and said the United States and other countries have a responsibility to act ‘before it is too late.’ At least 28 senators were expected to participate.  But several Democrats who face tough re-election fights in the fall opted to skip the session. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska were among them.”

Christina Hoff Sommers
of the American Enterprise Institute considers a milestone moment for the children of the Baby Boom generation: the 40th anniversary of the of the television special “Free to Be… You and Me” from Marlo Thomas, which celebrates the idea of gender-neutral children. Sommers argues that well-intentioned Baby Boomers who tried to push dolls on boys and dump trucks on girls were fighting a losing and potentially damaging battle. “‘Free to Be’ purports to be an anthem to freedom; but to ‘liberate’ children from their gender will require unrelenting adult policing, monitoring, correcting, and shaming. Enlightened opinion tells us not to do that with gender non-conforming children; but surely it is just as misguided to do it with kids who conform to the conventions of their sex.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.1 percent//Disapprove – 52.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29 percent//Wrong Track – 63.9 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42 percent// Republicans 41.6 percent

USA Today : “A Washington businessman pleaded guilty Monday to funding shadow campaign activity for several candidates, including Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and the 2010 election of Washington’s current mayor. Jeffrey Thompson, 58, pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges tied to allegations that he secretly funneled more than $3.3 million in illegal donations to political candidates and their campaigns.”

[Whip count - Included on the list of Dems whose campaigns received illicit donations: Harry Reid, Jesse Jackson Jr., Charlie Rangel,James Clyburn and Robert Casey Jr.]

More jeers for Obama’s donor diplomats - WaPo: “Fifteen former presidents of the State Department employees union (AFSA) called on the Senate on Monday to reject the nominations of three Obama mega-bundlers for ambassadorships, saying the trio represents ‘a continuation of an increasingly unsavory and unwise practice by both parties.’ In an unusual and pointed letter, the former heads of the American Foreign Service Association said the three nominees — George Tsunis (for Norway); Colleen Bell (Hungary) and Noah Mamet (Argentina) — have been ‘subjected to widespread public ridicule, not only in the U.S. but also abroad,’ after their Senate committee hearings, where they showed limited knowledge of the countries to which they’d been nominated…”

Dems to tightwad members: pay up - In another sign of a difficult election year for Democrats, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has resorted to embarrassing House members who are not ponying up their required contributions. Via BuzzFeed: “…The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent a full spreadsheet to every caucus member, forwarded to BuzzFeed by a source, detailing the amount of money — or dues — the committee expects each member to pay and how much they have actually paid… According to the spreadsheet, 58 members have given less than $5,000 to the committee — 20 members have given nothing at all this cycle. Every vulnerable member of the caucus, identified by the committee as ‘frontline members’ has given $2,000 or less.”

[Washington Free Beacon: “U.S.-based Muslim Brotherhood allies Akram Elzend and Sameh Elhennawy will co-host a fundraiser for [Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.,] later this month at the Fairfax residence of Mohamed Mohamed, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.”]

The recent rift between Sens. Ted Cruz., R-Texas and Rand Paul, R-Ky., over foreign policy appear to be headed for a diplomatic solution, but the truce between the two potential 2016 candidates isn’t coming easily. Cruz, whose position hews more closely to that of the party establishment than Paul’s libertarian view, issued a statement Monday to WaPo, saying “We do not agree on everything, especially regarding foreign policy, but we have agreed on the vast majority of issues, and I am sure we will continue to do so.’’ Cruz was walking back public comments he made over the weekend that were critical of Paul’s anti-interventionist stance vis-à-vis Ukraine. Paul seemingly rebuked Cruz in a Breitbart opinion piece Monday, saying “… some politicians have used this time to beat their chest.” In an interview on “Hannity” Monday night, Paul did not seem completely ready to bury the hatchet. Though he didn’t discuss Cruz’s WaPo statement, Paul said “I’m not real excited about him mischaracterizing my view…what’s inappropriate is for people – particularly other Republicans – to mischaracterize, or attempt to characterize my foreign policy as something it isn’t.” Watch the Paul interview here.

[We have to exact the maximum amount of consequences for what [Vladimir Putin has] done, isolate Russia internationally for what it has done.” –Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on “Fox & Friends”]

Paul beefs up Iowa team - Daily Caller: “Iowa Republican Party chairman A.J. Spiker shocked fellow Republicans in the Hawkeye State by announcing over the weekend that he would be stepping down from his leadership post to join Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s political organization. As Paul gears up for a likely 2016 presidential campaign, Spiker – who co-chaired the Ron Paul presidential campaign efforts in Iowa during the 2012 primary – will serve as a political adviser to RAND PAC. Spiker’s hiring demonstrates that Paul, who says he won’t officially decide on a White House run until later this year, is actively preparing for a presidential campaign.”

AP: “Lawyers for a New Jersey legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal say a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie [R-N.J.] has shown no valid legal purpose for refusing to comply with a subpoena. Monday’s response was to a court filing on behalf of former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, who is seeking to quash the subpoena. The legislators want Kelly to turn over emails, text messages and other documents that involve a plot to block traffic near the George Washington Bridge for political retribution against a Democratic mayor whose town experienced the gridlock…Two-time Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien is also fighting to have his subpoena withdrawn. Oral arguments are set for Tuesday.”

West Virginia lawmakers passed a late-term abortion ban Monday, setting up a painful disagreement between its pro-life Democratic senator and the pro-choice candidate who hopes to join him in Washington. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has the backing of EMILY’s List, a pro-choice interest group hoping to add her vote to the Senate. Her husband, Democratic state Sen. Erik Wells spoke passionately against the bill prior to its passage, talking about his wife’s shared view. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a long-time pro-life campaigner and a supporter of a similar federal ban on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. So is Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., the frontrunner in the race to replace retiring pro-choice Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

[Tea Party Express is backing  Republican Alex Mooney in the wide-open primary to replace Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is looking to move up to the Senate this year. The race presents a rare chance for a Democrat pick-up this cycle as the party looks certain to nominate former state Chairman Nick Casey, a key member of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s political team.]

Republicans vying to replace retiring Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., will hold their second debate tonight. Frontrunner Shane Osborn, the former state treasurer, will have a helpful talking point: His campaign announced today the backing of the conservative group Family-Pac Federal. Midland University President Ben Sasse, goes into the event with the backing of Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Banker Sid Dinsdale and attorney Bart McLeay will round out the field in Omaha tonight.

Pick six - Republicans need to gain six seats to take control of the Senate. Which six Democrat-held seats are the likeliest GOP pickups? The current consensus 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.

Here’s a status update on the citizens of the “home of the brave”: A mom and dad in Portland, Ore. called the cops on their cat. Barricaded in a bedroom with their infant son and dog [a dog!], the couple called 911 after Rex, their 22-pound Himalayan, pounced on their 7-month-old son and then corned the family in the bedroom. The dad described the cat as “very, very, very, very hostile” and said the animal had a “history of violence.” After determining the child didn’t need medical attention, dispatchers sent police to the apartment where they stuffed the cat into a pet carrier and freed the family. The couple apparently wanted to keep the animal, so cops left Rex in the cage and in the custody of his former hostages. You can hear the 911 call and the father’s pleas courtesy of KPTV. Mom Tersea Barker thus defended the summoning of armed officers to detain the house cat: “When this happens to you, I assure you, you will do the same thing.”

“I don’t want to be lectured by a traitor who speaks from a land that doesn’t have a constitution, or had one and it was entirely eviscerated by a thug who has just invaded another land.” – 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 here.