Virginia squeaker sends shivers through Dems

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Buzz Cut:
• Virginia squeaker sends shivers through Dems
• Christie speculation to hit fever pitch today
• NRSC readies primary plays
• The case of the Craigslist cattle rustler

VIRGINIA SQUEAKER SENDS SHIVERS THROUGH DEMS - Vulnerable Democrats must have watched in dismay as Democrat Terry McAuliffe barely clung to victory on Tuesday. Having spent three times more money than his rival and with the backing of his popular patrons, Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAulliffe was breezing to victory just three weeks ago. But his once-stout lead in the polls over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli nearly vanished as voter outrage over the crash landing of ObamaCare nearly wrecked the race. A double-digit lead turned into a three-point scrape. Exit polls showed intense opposition to ObamaCare that helped Cuccinelli, who was written off by the national GOP and who had to lug along the scandal-plagued administration of Republican incumbent Gov. Bob McDonnell.  

[Watch Fox: Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, previews Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ Senate hearing in the 9 a.m. ET hour]

Exit strategy - It looks like if Cuccinelli had another week to tag McAuliffe for his unflinching support of President Obama’s unpopular new entitlement, the race might have ended differently. What if he would have had another year? That’s the reality facing vulnerable Democrats on the 2014 election cycle. As Republican candidates without Cuccinelli’s structural problems contemplate months and months of public frustrations with administrative failures, cancelled policies and premium spikes, the path to a Senate majority starts to look a little clearer as the fortunes of Democrats in red states and swing states continues to dim.

“Democrats had to come up with plan. They couldn’t possibly stand by because of the administration’s inability to produce functioning Web site.” – Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on “Fox and Friends.”

Brickbats - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies again today about the botched launch of ObamaCare.  Following a contentious House hearing last week, Sebelius might have hoped for a friendlier reception by the Democratic led Senate. Not going to happen, Madam Secretary. The furor over President Obama’s post-facto promise revision of his pledge to allow Americans to keep their insurance policies – more than 3.5 million of which are being cancelled – have raised the stakes dramatically. Add in McAuliffe’s near collapse and you have a recipe for intraparty fighting. The administration can only weather this storm if most Democrats stick together. But the string of stumbles from team Obama will make even some loyalists wonder if they can survive the backlash.

[A ‘crisis of confidence’ - Washington Examiner: “Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman [Democrat] Barbara Mikulski delivered a hefty dose of criticism to Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, who came to testify before a Senate panel about the health care law rollout. ‘I believe that there's been a crisis of confidence created in the dysfunctional nature of the Web site, the canceling of policies and sticker shock from some people.’”]

Baier Tracks: Eye of the needle…“A win is a win. And clearly the Terry McAuliffe win is big for the Democratic Party and a particular friend who used to be Secretary of State and who may run for president. That said, the internals of the exit polls are a little scary for Democrats.

Despite all of the money McAuliffe spent painting Ken Cuccinelli as an extremist, independents split their vote three ways: 47 percent for Cuccinelli, 38 percent for McAuliffe and 15 percent for third-party candidate Robert Sarvis.

But scariest of all: It appears ObamaCare narrowed the gap in this race in the final days.

While 46 percent of Virginia voters support ObamaCare, a 53-percent majority oppose it.  That includes 41 percent who said they strongly oppose the law.  Cuccinelli tried to make the race a referendum on the health law and President Obama, who campaigned with McAuliffe over the weekend. That wasn’t ultimately successful, despite a 53-percent majority disapproving of the job Obama’s doing.

Threading the needle for Democrats – distancing themselves from ObamaCare while embracing the president and their party – will likely get increasingly tougher into 2014.” – Bret Baier

TOPTWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning: WSJ’s National Politics Editor Aaron Zinter,@aaronzitner7h ‘We were on our own,' Cuccinelli strategist complains -- says GOP abandoned its nominee.
[Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]

BAD TIMING FOR A RED STATE SWING - President Obama is in Dallas today to raise money for congressional Democrats and plump for his embattled law. On Thursday, Obama is scheduled to give a speech in New Orleans, the home town of one of the most vulnerable Democrats next year Sen. Mary Landrieu. Fox News First wonders whether she will be very busy with legislative business that day. What she’s working on is pushing a bill that would be a huge public embarrassment to the president if it comes to a vote: legislation that would codify Obama’s original “if you like it” promise. Having voted against Republican efforts to temper the law’s disruptive effects, Landrieu needs some cover. Quickly.

[The National Republican Senatorial Committee takes President Obama to task today for attending nine fundraisers aimed at erasing Democratic Party debt, while taking little or no action to reduce the nation’s debt in a new campaign called “November Priorities.” They point out that the NRSC holds zero debt while its Democratic counterpart is $7.5 million in the red. ]

How long? - The White House strategy is to wait out the outrage and keep Democrats united in the face of sharpening public anger. But with concrete evidence that law is shaping up to be an even greater political liability than it was in 2010, it’s a tough sell. The fact that the test case came in Virginia, a state Obama won twice, makes it even tougher. If ObamaCare is an anchor in purple America, it’s a torpedo in red states.

[Back to the base: Obama reverts to form with “if you like it” scandal. From the “Kelly File.”]

What’s the opposite of “Montani sepmper liberi?”- West Virginia University will require its students to have health insurance starting next year, and suggest students enroll in ObamaCare’s exchanges. The Daily Caller has more.

OBAMA = BUSH - The latest survey from Gallup finds President Obama holds a nearly identical approval rating to former President George W. Bush at this point in his presidency. The firm’s tracking poll shows Obama with a 39 percent approval rating compared to Bush’s 40 percent in the fall of his fifth year in office.

Presidential bubble wrap - WaPo’s Dana Milbank compares President Obama’s health insurance quagmire to the woes that best President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. “In both cases insular administrations, staffed by loyalists and obsessed with secrecy, participated in group-think and let the president hear only what they thought he wanted to hear.”

CHRISTIE SPECULATION TO HIT FEVER PITCH TODAY - Campaign Carl Cameron has learned that a well-timed announcement this morning by newly re-elected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s nascent 2016 political shop will set off a brushfire of speculation in New Hampshire and other early primary and caucus states where the 2016 ‎race is already underway.

Baby, he was born to run - Christie’s commanding win in deep-blue New Jersey is being heralded by the GOP establishment as evidence of the pugnacious Republican’s 2016 clout. Christie spoke of his widespread bi-partisan support during his victory speech Tuesday saying, “If we can do this in Trenton maybe people in Washington should tune in see how it’s done.” According to Fox News exit polling, 32 percent of Garden State Democrats supported Christie. In addition, 51 percent of those polled said Christie would make a good president with 44 percent disagreeing.

But… - In a head-to-head matchup with Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Christie came up short in his own state. The governor lost out in the prospective 2016 matchup 48 percent to 44 percent.  Fox News has more.

Media mash notes for Christie: New Jersey Star-Ledger “With big win, Christie set to wield power on national stage”// WSJ : “Christie Sets Himself Up for Run in 2016”//NYT: “With N.J. Re-election, Christie Vaults to Front Ranks of G.O.P. for 2016

Buono bitter - In her concession Tuesday night, Democratic State Sen. Barabra Buono offered a blistering condemnation of fellow Democrats for her loss, “…The party was cannibalizing itself and so I took one for the team. The only problem, I realized too late there was no team.”

[Dems retake Gracie Mansion after long wait - New York City elected its first Democratic mayor since David Dinkins won in 1989. Bill de Blasio, who has pledged tax increases on top earners to fund universal preschool won a resounding victory. Fox News has more.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...John Stossell looks at the digital divide between the public and private sectors for Fox News Opinion in Let's privatize everything: “Government offers guarantees on paper and promises in speeches. But government rarely delivers. Private companies did brilliant Internet work for President Obama’s election campaign. But when it came to his health insurance Web site, the president put government in charge. We saw the result.”

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

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.4  percent//Disapprove – 51.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 22.2 percent//Wrong Track – 70.9 percent

NRSC READIES PRIMARY PLAYS - National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins told reporters Tuesday, “Would we spend money in primaries? Yes, if that’s the right move at the right time.” The move marks a shift in the committee’s hands-off approach to GOP candidates facing a primary challenger. Collins added, “The path to getting a general election candidate who can win is the only thing we care about.”

Enzi gets reinforcements against Cheney attacks - Sen. Mike Enzi’s, R-Wyo., is getting some backup from his colleagues as he tries to battle back against a well-funded primary challenge from Liz Cheney, a leading national security hawk and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. WaPo has more.

[Watch Fox: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., appears in the 1 p.m. ET hour]

“If you like it” scandal hits Kentucky race - The political action committee backing Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell is wasting no time in tying Kentucky Democratic hopeful Allison Lundergan Grimes to President Obama’s now debunked “if you like it” claim. The PAC is blasting Grimes in a new $340,000 ad campaign playing off a recent attack from Grimes about McConnell’s role in the partial government shutdown. The new tagline for Team Mitch: “Grimes and Obama: When liberals don't tell the truth, Kentucky gets burned.”

[The Washington Times announced Tuesday it will no longer feature a weekly column form Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., because of his failure to properly cite sources in published writings. Paul told the NYT that sloppy staffers were to blame and promised more thorough attribution going forward.]

BYRNE WINS ALABAMA RUNOFF - Attorney Bradley Byrne bested Tea-Party Favorite Dean Young in Tuesday’s Republican runoff election for Alabama’s 1st Congressional district. Byrne will face Democratic real estate mogul Burton Leflore in the Dec. 17 general election. The district has favored Republicans since 1964.

HIZZONERS - Former write-in candidate Mike Dugan was elected mayor in Detroit. Boston voters chose Martin Walsh over fellow Democrat John Connolly to replace longtime Mayor Thomas Menino. Democratic Mayor Kasim Reed was re-elected in Atlanta.

REFERNDA ROUNDUP - Voters in Texas struck down a measure to restore the Astrodome. Portland, Maine legalized the recreational use of marijuana, while Colorado residents opted for a 25 percent tax on recreational pot use. Residents in at least six of 11 counties that had measures to secede from the Centennial State voted opted to stay put. New Jersey voters placed a minimum wage indexed to the cost of living in their state constitution. Fox News has more.

SUPREMES TAKE UP PUBLIC PRAYER - Should government bodies be allowed to open sessions with prayer? That’s the question before the Supreme Court today. Atheist groups say it is tacit government endorsement of faith. Defenders say the practice dating back the Founding Fathers establishes no religion but reflects their belief that a citizen’s rights are “endowed by their creator.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who filed a brief in support of prayer, will attend today’s arguments. Correspondent Shannon Bream will have the latest.

MILLIONS OF FRAUDULENT OBAMAPHONES - Following reports of rampant fraud in the federal program to give poor Americans free cell phones – dubbed “Obamaphone” by critics – the Federal Communications Commission is readying its first fines for abuse, citing more that 2 million instances of fraud. According to an FCC ruling four cell phone providers knowingly provided multiple government-funded phones to individual households.

THE CASE OF THE CRAIGSLIST CATTLE RUSTLER - Robert Michael Trytten, 43, of Riverside, Calif., is facing jail time after police caught him allegedly selling cow costumes stolen from a nearby Chick-fil-A. The two seven-foot-tall costumes were stolen from the restaurant’s storage facility in two separate burglaries earlier this year. Cops found the cow suits – valued by the chicken chain at $2,800 apiece – selling on Craigslist for $350 each. An undercover officer arranged the purchase of the suits and made the exchange before cops swooped in and nabbed Trytten. LAT has the details.

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.