The Edge: McConnell Has a Fight On His Hands

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The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

McConnell Has a Fight On His Hands

Leading the charge against President Obama’s health care reform, a law that is deeply unpopular among Republicans, will likely burnish Sen. Mitch McConnell’s conservative credentials.

Creating a platform to campaign against Obamacare as it comes online, and people start to feel its effects, is smart politics, too—especially in deeply conservative Kentucky.

But it also underscores how hard McConnell is working to defend his seat. 

Despite the aura of inevitability his campaign is trying to create – including a huge campaign war chest and the assimilation of leading Tea Partiers into his camp -- McConnell is vulnerable.

A recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll showed that 34 percent plan to vote against McConnell while just 17 percent are supporting him.

So then it’s no surprise that McConnell and his team are aggressively working almost two years before the election to tell their story through ads, the media and grassroots messaging. After all, as Obamacare shows, McConnell’s never been known to shy away from a good political fight.

Chris Frates


BLOOMBERG GROUP FEATURES NEWTOWN FAMILIES IN ADS. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded by New York City’s Michael Bloomberg, is out with new ads featuring the families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, The Washington Post reports. The ads will run in Connecticut while the Legislature takes up gun-control legislation. “Don’t let the memory of Newtown fade without doing something real,” says the mother of Lauren Rousseau, a teacher who died in the December shooting. Meanwhile, President Obama today said “shame on us,” if America has forgotten about Newtown’s victims. Organizing for Action, the Obama campaign group, is holding a petition drive on gun control tonight. Read more

  • Two top Democratic donors have come forward to say they’ll never contribute to any Democrats who don’t support expanded background checks. (Washington Post)

BOEHNER HAILS ‘TACTICAL PLAN’ AGAINST OBAMA. In a memo he put out to his caucus today, House Speaker John Boehner said the GOP has enjoyed success in Obama’s second term, The Hill reported. He said the “new tactical plan” to battle Democrats on spending had, in general, worked. “Republicans may be the minority party in Washington—but because we forged a plan together and have stuck to it, our actions as a team over the past couple of months have made a difference for all Americans,” Boehner wrote. As an example he cited a maneuver that forced Democrats in the Senate to produce a budget for the first time in four years. Read more

OBAMA TO DELIVER BUDGET ON APRIL 10. Better late than never. The White House will release its budget, which was due in early February, on April 10, Politico reports. Read more

DEFENSE REDUCES CIVILIAN FURLOUGHS. The Defense Department has reduced the number of days its 700,000 civilian workers will be furloughed between now and the end of September from 22 to 14, The Washington Post reports. The reduction is permitted by the recently passed continuing resolution, which gives the Pentagon more flexibility in making sequester cuts. Read more

CANTOR: IMMIGRATION REFORM POSSIBLE, BUT A ‘TALL ORDER.’ House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox News today that immigration reform is possible, but will be a “tall order,” Politico reports. There was one area in which Cantor was more optimistic about getting a deal done: “We’ve got an opportunity to come together on one point, and that is the kids,” he said. “If a kid was brought here by his parents or her parents, unbeknownst to them, and knows no other place … than America as home, why wouldn’t we want to give them a path to citizenship? And I think we should.” Read more

BOSTON MAYOR WILL NOT SEEK SIXTH TERM. Longtime Boston Mayor Thomas Menino will not seek reelection for a sixth term, The Boston Globe reported. Menino, who was first elected in 1993, had suffered a series of health setbacks in recent months. “I know I could win but not on my terms,” Menino told tearful staffers, while reassuring them that the move would be “good for Boston.” Read more

U.S. SENDS STEALTH BOMBERS OVER SOUTH KOREA. As the rhetoric from North Korea grows more bellicose, the U.S. Air Force has sent two B-2 stealth bombers on a practice bombing run over South Korea, The New York Times reports. The bombers flew nonstop from Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base in a move that signals the continuing U.S. commitment to protecting South Korea. Read more

MARION BARRY SORRY FOR 'MOFO' TWEET AIMED AT PARK SERVICE. Councilman and former D.C. MayorMarion Barry said a staff member with access to his Twitter account wrote that the National Park Service should be a nominee for “DC Mofo of the Month,” The Washington Post reports. Barry has been critical of the National Park Service for a plan to kill deer that overpopulate Rock Creek Park, calling for a more humane solution. Barry reportedly told the staffer that the language used was inappropriate. Read more

  • “The thrust of it was right, the thing that went too far was the MoFo.” —Marion Barry, explaining the tweet.


OBAMA TO VISIT MIAMI TO TALK ECONOMY. Obama will be at the Port of Miami on Friday to talk up the economy, but the visit is giving Republican Gov. Rick Scott an opening to blast the president and the federal government for not providing funding for ports. “We could not wait for the federal government to come to the table with their share of the project,” Scott said today in a conference call with reporters, according to The Palm Beach Post. Read more


“There's two kinds of marriage, there's full marriage and then there's sort of skim-milk marriage” —Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during Wednesday's oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (Huffington Post).


FORMER KING OF RWANDA LIVES ON FOOD STAMPS IN D.C. BURBS. The last king of Rwanda lives on food stamps in a low-income Virginia housing complex outside the nation’s capital. It was in 1961 that a coup pushed out Kigeli V Ndahindurwa. “Back then, the fate of an entire country and the future of a centuries-old dynasty hung in the balance,” writes Ariel Sabar in Washingtonian magazine. Five decades of exile later, Kigeli V (as in the Fifth) “gets by on food stamps, a Section 8 housing subsidy, Medicaid, and private donations of cash and clothing, as well as the occasional sale of Rwandan knighthoods to jet-set strangers in search of novelty status symbols.” The children in his apartment complex see him as the friendly, 7-foot-2 “King of Africa,” who hands out candy on their birthdays. But Kigeli V still sees himself as the once and future king of Rwanda. Read more


THE MANY VIEWS OF MARRIAGE. Marriage and relationships was a theme for comedians Wednesday evening. In a California speech this week, David Petraeus apologized for his extramarital affairs that ended his time as CIA Director, and NBC late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno had jokes about his troubles. In Washington, the Supreme Court listened to arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Conan O’Brien found low-hanging fruit in Bill Clinton’s recent comments on the subject, while Leno hit Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Jimmy Kimmel wants to see gay divorce court on TV. Fallon also had some news about George W. Bush’s presidential library and Obama’s appointment of Julia Pierson to head the Secret Service. Watch it here


HOUSE GOP SILENT ON MARRIAGE LAW THEY PAY TO DEFEND. As attorney Paul Clement took to the Supreme Court to defend the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of House Republicans, the lawmakers who hired him to do so stood by silently. It was the right thing to do, many Republican strategists say, to avoid distracting from the GOP’s core economic message. But some members of the House Republican Conference thought their leaders should have done more to publicly stand behind an effort that is important to social conservatives, National Journal’s Rebecca Kaplan reports. Read more


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