Social issues resurgent in midterms

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Buzz Cut:
• Social issues resurgent in midterms
• Davis hid husband’s help
• Oklahoma shootout over Coburn seat?
• Mandate, schmandate: ObamaCare lacks carrots and sticks
• This time, Bob wasn’t playing

'Bud' Bowl, Indeed
Next month’s Super Bowl will be played by the NFL teams from the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, Washington and Colorado. Accordingly, the Internet is preparing a long toke on goofy stories and click-bait headlines. (Pro tip: Fox News First likes the symmetry of “Bowl Bowl,” but for those looking for a more direct route, “Kind Bud Bowl” or “Real Bud Bowl” both have obvious merit.) But beneath the endless pot jokes, there is something happening around social issues in this election cycle. For Democrats, pot legalization is fast becoming a litmus-test question for candidates. By the time we get to 2016, Hillary Clinton have to drop by a Boulder smoke shop rather than just lifting beers in bars as she did in 2008. And what will Senate candidates this year have to say about the moves toward pot de-criminalization? Certainly, Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will lose some votes over the state’s reimagining of “Rocky Mountain High.”

Obama: Pot is like cigarettes - In an interview with New York Magazine, President Obama said: “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Obama said that pot use was less dangerous than booze “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” More.

Abortion still central - While the pot story is beguiling, especially for Baby Boomers who helped bring cannabis into the mainstream, it is a relatively new arrival to the culture wars. The central issue for a decade among liberals was gay marriage. But shifting public opinion on the issue as well as a spate of court decisions have sapped much of the charge from the topic. The most important social issue among Republicans, though, has been and will continue to be abortion. And this week will highlight what remains American’s most contentious social issue.

[Democrats have cheered Pope Francis’ laments about income inequality and capitalism, and President Obama is said to be lining up a meeting. But will liberals be so keen on the new pontiff as they are reminded of his stance on abortion and gay marriage? Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream looks at the perils of using religious figures for political aims.]

March on - This week, hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists will descend on Washington for Wednesday’s National March for Life. Still ringing in their ears will be comments from Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying the “extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay” have “no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” Cuomo, a popular incumbent up for re-election this year, may be insulated from the blowback because of the heavily liberal lean of his state. But the remarks highlight the deepening divide between red America and blue America on the issue. Not only will abortion animate general-election voters, but will be a litmus test in an increasing number of Republican primaries. The proliferation of state-level, late-term abortion bans and abortion clinic regulations in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell case will make sure of that.

[Nebraska Republican Senate hopeful Ben Sasse released a video Sunday marking this week’s 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision featuring his two-year-old son, Breck. But it’s not kids’ stuff: “As of January 1st, Uncle Sam is now in the abortion business,” Sasse says of the implementation of ObamaCare.]

Davis hid husband’s help - Texas Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Wendy Davis has long emphasized her rise from teenaged single mother living in a trailer to Harvard Law School to a successful legal career to the state Senate. It was there that she became a heroine to American liberals for her arduous, though ultimately unsuccessful, fight to preserve legal access to late-term, elective abortions in the state. But The Dallas Morning News reports that Davis’ story of hardship and self-reliance omits a key figure: her second husband. “Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter. A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston.” Davis even carried the claim of being a teenaged single mother into testimony in a federal lawsuit. She apologized, telling the paper: “My language should be tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” Her ex-husband bears no apparent ill will, saying she would be a “good governor.” But Jeff Davis counseled against sob stories, “She got a break. Good things happen, opportunities open up. You take them; you get lucky. That’s a better narrative than what they’re trying to paint.”

Get back Honky Cat: Putin celebrates Elton John despite gayness - Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed criticism of his “gay propaganda” law during an interview with Russian and foreign news anchors Friday. “Read the law carefully,” Putin said, “and see what it’s called. The law’s called ‘On banning the promotion of pedophilia and homosexuality.’’’ The Russian president defended the law because he feels it combats Russia’s demographic decline. In a separate interview with BBC, Putin said he has gay friends [lucky them!], further stating, “If [gay people] achieve great things, like, for example, Elton John does, he’s a brilliant man, a brilliant musician, and millions of people sincerely love him, despite his [sexual] orientation, it doesn’t have any significance as regards him, especially as a brilliant musician. I think that that very entirely democratic approach to people with non-traditional sexual orientation, with measures to defend our children and our future demographic growth are optimal.”

[“There’s no doubt that theres some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.” –President Obama talking to The New Yorker.]

On the federal holiday commemorating his birth, Martin Luther King’s embrace of Christian values and ideology is still resonant. At this time 50 years ago King was deeply embroiled in politics as he worked with President Lyndon Johnson on passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act. King remains a political figure 85 years after his birth and nearly 46 years after his death. USA Today considers King’s ongoing political relevance. “[T]o a number of conservatives [neglected in celebrations of King are] his firm embrace of Christian values and a desire to see a colorblind America live up to the creed of equality professed by the Founding Fathers.” Former Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., told the paper: “The positive impact he’s had on this nation is immeasurable. The attraction to conservatives is that he voiced a lot of things, such as how our nation should be colorblind, that and honestly, how he put his faith into action. Those are conservative values, Republican values.”

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

Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 42.0 percent//Disapprove – 53.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.0 percent//Wrong Track – 63.2 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.5 percent// Republicans 42.0 percent

The Oklahoman reports that Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., will announce his intention today to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., at the end of this year. Lankford, who was first elected in 2010, quickly ascended into the Republican leadership. He is considered a potent potential fundraiser. This sets up a possible showdown with Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a conservative Republican who ousted five-term Republican incumbent Rep. John Sullivan in 2012. Bridenstine is still mulling his run, but if he opts to get in, it would likely be a donnybrook. Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., has called a special election concurrent with November’s regular vote, to choose a new senator to serve out the final two years of Coburn’s term. The primary is set for June 24 and could prove to be another expensive showdown between the GOP leadership and conservative insurgents.

Out of the running - The announcement by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt that he will not seek Coburn’s seat would leave the right side of the primary field open to Bridenstine if he opts for a run. And with the announcement from Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who holds two key leadership posts in the House that he will not vie for the Senate seat, Lankford is unlikely to have any difficulties from party higher-ups.

The last time there was an open seat in Oklahoma… - Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney recalls how Coburn ended up in the Senate: winning as an upstart in the wake of a retirement despite the opposition of the GOP establishment. “Considering how often Coburn found himself opposing his House GOP elders, especially those on the Appropriations Committee, they were surely happy when he went back to Muskogee to deliver more babies after the 2000 election. But the heartburn returned for the Republican establishment a few years later when Coburn jumped into the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Don Nickles. Among the handful of GOP candidates, the two clear frontrunners were Coburn and Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys. If you wanted to see what Beltway Republicans really thought of Coburn, you could have checked out Humphreys’ campaign coffers…Nickles contributed to Humphreys in the primary, as did Oklahoma's junior senator, Jim Inhofe. Tom Cole was a congressional candidate that year, but he was also the political boss of the Oklahoma GOP, and his campaign contributed to Humphrey in the primary. So did GOP Rep. Wes Watkins of Oklahoma, who had served with Coburn in the House. Coburn’s other Oklahoma colleague in the House, J.C. Watts, endorsed Humphreys. Meanwhile, the entire Senate leadership also backed Humphreys against Coburn. Majority Leader Bill Frist, Majority Whip Mitch McConnell and Republican Policy Committee Chair[man] Jon Kyl all poured money into Humphreys’ campaign.”

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., is hitting back at MSNBC for being “openly hostile” and “almost gleeful” in their attacks against him. Over the weekend the network interviewed Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer who claims Christie’s lieutenant governor and a top community development official blocked Hurricane Sandy Relief funds because she would not approve a real-estate development proposal from one of Christie’s backers. Christie spokesman Colin Reed has refuted the charge saying the administration has helped Hoboken secure Sandy funds and that, “It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here, as Democratic mayors with a political ax to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.” Christie was formerly a frequent guest on the liberal cable network’s morning show. More.

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, (in order of times selected): Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Could the Mountain State’s pro-life, moderate Sen. Joe Manchin also give some hope to the GOP? Reader Jack Lawhorn of Virginia seems to think so. Lawhorn writes, “I still think, based on Dr. Krauthammer's assessment of Sen. Manchin (WV), that the Senator may well go Independent, caucusing with the GOP, or possibly cross the aisle all the way.”

[Ed. note: Don’t count on it. Manchin has had the chance before and stood pat. Watch to see how aggressively he stumps this cycle for Democrats in House races in the state, especially his longtime adviser Nick Casey, who is running to replace Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the leading contender to replace retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.]

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

On news that the Obama administration is delaying another provision of ObamaCare – this time one forbidding employers from offering better coverage to executives than to underlings – James Capretta and Jeffrey Anderson offer their take on the condition of the law’s mandates: “ObamaCare’s authors wanted to use both a carrot and a stick to make the law work, but neither one looks effective. The subsidies for coverage are concentrated on the lowest-income households, not the middle class, and the mandate was watered down. So if ObamaCare is to succeed, it will have to do so based on its attractiveness to consumers. That should make the law’s proponents very worried, indeed.”

ObamaCare site directs callers to pottery shop - As Maryland’s ObamaCare Web site continues to sputter, officials have been directing frustrated consumers to a toll-free number for help. But even that hasn’t gone well. The phone number provided by the Web site directed users to call a pottery supply store in Seattle rather than a help desk.  The state’s Republican Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley, told the Baltimore Sun, “You can't make this stuff up, and I guess if it wasn't so serious, it could be funny.” Officials say they were unaware of the problem until the newspaper contacted them. Fox News has the story.

The International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog group reported Monday that Iran had halted its 20 percent uranium enrichment, which is just steps away from bomb-making capability, and begun diluting its stockpile of uranium enriched to that level. Under a six-month agreement reached by Iran, the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China in November, confirmation from the IAEA that Iran has curbed its enrichment would clear the way for the partial suspension of U.S. and E.U. sanctions.  Fox News has more.

President Obama
is ambivalent when it comes to the use of metadata harvested by the National Security Agency. That’s the sentiment viewer voters across the political spectrum shared with WaPo’s Chuck Lane during Friday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier”All-star panel. As measured by Bing Pulse, Democrats agreed more strongly than Republicans and independents when Charles Krauthammer said the president’s remarks on the NSA were, “… 90 percent smoke and mirrors and very little substantive change, which is what we need.”

Discussion of progress, or lack thereof, on the Keystone Pipeline XL drew heightened viewer interaction. “Apart from the fact that the policy is ridiculous there are no serious arguments against it, the delay is insulting our close ally Canada.” That statement from Charles Krauthammer saw a spike in viewer votes.  Krauthammer’s charge, “We're leaving them hanging for half a decade. It's disgraceful,” drew 22,000 viewer votes per minute. Bing Pulse tracked 150,000 audience panelist votes, see the full results and take a deeper data dive here. Don’t miss your opportunity to make your voice heard. Take your seat on tonight’s panel.

Washington Examiner’s Byron York explains why you will not be seeing any photos or social media postings from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Saturday birthday celebration.  York writes, “It's not easy to enforce discipline on successful, wealthy, and famous people used to having their own way. But the White House apparently did not want to see photos of the First Lady's glittery gala circulating around the Internet. So it imposed a strict rule: No cell phones. ‘Guests were told not to bring cellphones with them, and there was a cellphone check-in area for those who did,’ reported the Chicago Tribune. ‘Signs at the party told guests: No cellphones, no social media.’ People magazine added: ‘Guests had been greeted by a 'cell phone check' table where they deposited their camera phones on arrival and it was understood that this was not an occasion for Tweeting party photos or Facebooking details.’ The publications cited sources who insisted on anonymity for fear of White House reprisal…maybe, since the president has announced he is devoting the rest of his time in office to an ‘inequality agenda,’ the White House felt photos of a champagne-soaked, star-studded party would be somewhat off-message. But the Obamas are well-off, accomplished people. They can have a big party if they want (and if they pay for it). Why hide it?”

Why does Peyton Manning shout the name of Nebraska’s largest city every time he is about to change up the Denver Bronco’s offensive scheme? Nobody knows but the Broncos and they sure aren’t saying, at least not before the Super Bowl. But Omahans are making it pay for local charity. As Republican Senate candidate Shane Osborn tweeted , local businesses have pledged $800 to Manning’s Peyback Foundation for at-risk kids every time the future Hall-of-Famer shouts it out. “Omaha” rang out 31 times in Denver on Sunday, for a total of $24,800. What will the Super Bowl be worth in “Omaha” shout-outs? Maybe now that Manning knows about the deal, he’ll be more likely to call audibles.

Sunday marked the 205th anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birth, but the celebration in Baltimore was missing something, or someone. The “Poe Toaster” was a man (or perhaps a series of men) who, starting in 1949, would each year leave three roses and a half-drunk bottle on cognac at Poe’s grave. The mysterious visitor was a highlight for the revelers who gathered at the grave, but after a fifth straight year of no-shows, Poe fans are declaring the tradition as vanished as Poe’s unlucky drunkard, Fortunato. The Wire has the epitaph.

[Ed. note: And here I thought the Poe Toaster was just an unreliable model from Cuisinart that left your bread soggy and smelling like absinthe.]

His career as an educator was of benefit to thousands, and for those who knew Bob, he was a marsupial for the millennium.  But, alas, famous for playing dead, this time it was the real deal for Mississippi’s most famous opossum. And in testament to the goodness of mankind, a Samaritan steeped in to give him a proper send off, including an open casket. WLOX has details, “His viewing was held at A Pet's Memory Funeral Home and Crematory in Gulfport Saturday afternoon. Those who’ve come in contact with Bob over the years paid their respects… Many say they fondly remember hand feeding him bananas. He would also allow students to pet him.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30 a.m. ET, click here.