CNN's GUT CHECK for March 14, 2013
March 14th, 2013
05:16 PM ET
11 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 14, 2013

CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 13, 2013 | 5 p.m.
n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

OBAMA ON THE HILL – DAY THREE: President Barack Obama went to Capitol Hill for the third straight day on Thursday, where he met with both Senate Republicans and House Democrats. The meeting with Republicans was “surprisingly positive,” a source told CNN’s Dana Bash, because the president heard Republicans out on things like entitlements and tax reform and then gave thoughtful and candid responses.

“It was a great conversation,” Obama told reporters walking out of the meeting with Senate Republicans. “Always good to be back in the Senate.”

GUNS: WEAPONS BAN HEADS TO SENATE A ban on semiautomatic firearms modeled after military assault weapons won approval Thursday from a Senate committee, sending the legislation to the full Senate for consideration as part of a package of gun measures being studied after the Connecticut school shootings last December that killed 20 first-graders. – Tom Cohen

DRONE WAR: Iranian military aircraft targeted a U.S. Predator drone over the Persian Gulf this week, administration officials tell CNN. It was the latest in Iran's efforts to thwart the U.S. military's airborne intelligence collections efforts in the region. – Barbara Starr

MARKET WATCH: Dow rises for 10th straight day, longest streak since 1996, closing at record 14,537. S&P ends 2 points shy of all-time high.

TRAIL TRIVIA
(Answer below)
Forty years ago today, Sen. John McCain was released from prison in Hanoi, Vietnam. Over what body of water was McCain’s plane shot down that led to his capture by the Viet Cong?

MARK (@PrestonCNN) & DAN (@DanMericaCNN)
What caught our eye today in politics

Two leaders, one conference: big differences.

In a matter of 30 minutes, the highly touted Conservative Political Action Conference put two drastically distinct visions for the Republican Party on display – Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.

After the 2012 election, one in which the Republican nominee Mitt Romney failed to capitalize on a president beleaguered by high unemployment and a sluggish economy, the GOP is looking for the candidate that can win the White House in 2016.

What CPAC has signaled, however, is that many high-profile Republicans have high-profile differences.

Thursday’s two most talked about speakers – Rubio and Paul – are anything but similar, a fact evidenced by their well-received speeches.

Rubio spoke, at length, about the right to life, college loan debt and defining “marriage in a traditional way.”

“Just because I believe states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,” Rubio told the audience of more than 3,500 conference attendees. “Just because we believe life – all life – is worthy of protection at every stage of its development does not make you a chauvinist.”

Paul, on the other hand, spoke about drones, foreign aid and how the old Republican Party is “stale and moss-covered.”

“Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom,” Paul said. “The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere.”

Like most years, the 2013 conservative conference had a palpable campaign feel.

The eager crowd served as a testing ground for presidential stump speeches and one-liners. The hallways outside the dimly lit ballroom filled with smartly produced style signs, “Stand with Rand” t-shirts and buttons emblazoned with “Rubio” in block letters.

The differences between Rubio, Paul and a handful of other top GOP contenders for 2016 will continue to grow in the years leading up to the election. But even three years out, with the eyes of the Republican hierarchy up on them, it is clear that the GOP has a number of drastically different paths in front of them.

the LEDE
Did you miss it?

Leading CNNPolitics: Big CPAC surprise: Jeb Bush not on ballot
There are 23 names on the Conservative Political Action Conference's much watched 2016 GOP presidential nomination straw poll. And there's one glaring omission: Jeb Bush. "He requested not to be put on the poll this year," an official with the American Conservative Union, the group that puts on CPAC, told CNN. The official asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely. – Paul Steinhauser

Leading Drudge: WH plans new cuts to Medicare
The Obama administration is planning new cuts to Medicare, a federal regulatory filing reveals, cuts that could mean higher premiums or seniors losing their coverage altogether. The new cuts come in the form of a planned reduction in the reimbursement rates the government pays to insurance companies that operate Medicare Advantage plans, which are services administered by private for-profit or non-profit providers that offer additional services than can be found in traditional Medicare. – Matt Cover

Leading HuffPo: ‘Hocus Pocus’
Senate Democrats are mocking House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan as "hocus pocus," charging it will actually either explode the deficit or heavily tax the middle class. The policy paper - released Thursday and decorated with Ryan in a magician's suit - relies heavily on the analysis done by the Tax Policy Center on the proposals of Mitt Romney and Ryan in the presidential race. The analysis found that cutting top rates from 36 percent to 25 percent would add $4.5 trillion more to the deficit. – Michael McAuliff

Leading Politico: President Obama: I'm no Dick Cheney on drones
President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheney was worse. That’s part of what two senators in the room recounted of Obama’s response when, near the outset of his closed-door session with the Senate Democratic conference on Tuesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad. – Josh Gerstein and Manu Raju

Leading The New York Times: Boehner Says Election Losses Won’t Deter Push for Smaller Government
Speaker John A. Boehner suggested that candidates and personalities – not Republican proposals on Medicare and spending cuts – contributed to party losses in November. – Jonathan Weisman

TRAIL MOMENTS
The political bites of the day

– Thanks for visiting, let’s talk spending –
REPUBLICAN HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER IN A PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITOL HILL: “It’s nice that the president reached out. We were glad to have him but there are big differences and the president’s idea of compromise is just do it my way and that’s just not going to work. He got his tax hikes that he campaigned on, on January first. Now it’s time to cut spending.”

– Zeroing out budget ‘is not in and of itself good’ –
PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY AT THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING: “You and I could sit down and, with a few pieces of paper, and balance our budget. We could balance it next year. We could eliminate our defense spending. We could eliminate every deduction that the middle class gets. We could, we could eliminate most of the federal government and get to zero on the balance sheet. And it would be catastrophic to the American people and to the economy. So getting to zero at the end of your budget document - even if you do it in a real way as opposed to a fanciful way - is not in and of itself good. It is only good if you do it in a way that is good for the economy, good for the American people.”

Allen West sees Republican survival… after Obama
FORMER REPUBLICAN REP. ALLEN WEST IN A SPEECH TO CPAC: “When British tyranny besieged our colonies, we survived. When flames danced from the White House windows in 1812, we endured. When the union split itself into two almost perishing from this earth, we rebuilt. When the soup lines of the Depression stretched down shuttered city blocks, we recovered. When an unstoppable Nazi regime and war machine threatened to extinguish the light of free nations, we triumphed. And, ladies and gentlemen, when Barack Obama packs his bags and beats a hasty retreat back to Chicago, we will persevere.”

The politics of Medicaid reform in South Carolina
REP. KRIS CRAWFORD OF FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA, IN A QUOTE TO THE CHARLESTON REGIONAL BUSINESS JOURNAL: “The politics are going to overwhelm the policy. It is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party.”

– Boehner won’t go to Rome with Biden –
REPUBLICAN HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER IN A WRITTEN PRESS RELEASE: “I am grateful for the invitation to attend the papal investiture in Rome with Vice President Biden, and would like to be able to join the trip. Unfortunately, my duties in the House next week – including hosting President Obama and the Prime Minister of Ireland at the Capitol on Tuesday, and the debate on the budget – make that impossible. I wish the Vice President all the best in his journey, and hope he communicates the prayers and warm regards of every American, especially Catholics, to the first pope from the Americas.”

TOP TWEETS
What stopped us in 140 characters or less

Dave Weigel (@daveweigel)
I'm at CPAC all weekend, so don't be surprised if my tweets start being more pro-America and pro-freedom.

Mark Leibovich (@MarkLeibovich)
My latest In NYT Mag: "We all live our lives resisting what our parents want us to become,” Ted Kennedy Jr. said. http://nyti.ms/16rjAsh

Pete Cashmore (@mashable)
CERN: We've Got the 'God Particle' http://on.mash.to/150XAkp

Margo Howard (@Margoandhow)
A new Pope one day, the God particle the next. Can't wait for tomorrow! http://xfin.tv/Xz1AuO

Josh Levs (@joshlevscnn)
Again?! Passengers say power outages, overflowing toilets on #Carnival Dream. Coast Guard notified of generator problems...

James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ)
A Jesuit Pope: What it means for one of my brothers to become pope: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/14/my-take-what-it-means-for-one-of-my-brothers-to-become-pope/

TRIVIA ANSWER from @DanMericaCNN

In 1967, John McCain was flying a mission over Hanoi, Vietnam when he was shot down over Truc Bach Lake.

For the next five years McCain was tortured by the Viet Cong in what came to be known as the Hanoi Hilton, a massive prison that housed many of America’s POWs during the Vietnam War.

On the Senate floor today, McCain’s colleagues remembered his service and marked his release from prison.

“It is one thing to talk about attributes like courage and bravery in the abstract,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said. “It is quite another to demonstrate those qualities in the most trying of circumstances. It reminds me of an old saying – the superior man in his modest in his speech but exceeds in his action. That kind of man, well, that’s just who John McCain is.”

McCain, who was on the floor for the tribute, thanked his colleagues.

“On this anniversary day I still think that the greatest honor of my life was the privilege of serving in the company of heroes who inspired all of us to things that we may otherwise have not been capable of,” McCain said.

In 2012, McCain visited Vietnam and spent time at the former prison.

GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)

Congrats to Einfal Group (@einfal) and Sean Evins (@Evins) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check Trivia question. Nice work.

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