CNN's GUT CHECK | for April 23, 2014 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
NEW POLLS SHOW TIGHT SENATE RACES IN NC, KY… New polls in four southern states that could determine whether the Democrats keep control of the Senate in this November's midterm elections indicate close contests. According to the New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation surveys, North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is all tied up with GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis. Hagan's two-point 42%-40% margin is within the survey's sampling error. In Kentucky – one of only two states right now where the Democrats hope to go on offense – Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell appears basically deadlocked with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. According to the poll, 44% of registered voters in Kentucky say they'd back McConnell, compared to 43% for Grimes.
AND WIDER MARGINS IN AR, LA … In Arkansas, the survey shows Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor leading GOP Rep. Tom Cotton by 10 points, 46%-36%. In Louisiana, 42% of voters back Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu while 18% back GOP front-runner Rep. Bill Cassidy. (If no one cracks 50% of the vote in Louisiana, the top two finishers compete in a runoff in December.)
New polls show strong numbers for Democrats http://nyti.ms/1fpYE7l #arsen #ncsen #lasen #kysen
RNC STATEMENT: “Desperate after losing Nate Silver, the New York Times published a poll taken from people they found outside the DSCC who confidently predicted they’d keep the Senate.”
ON THE LEFT … BILL CLINTON RAISES $$$ FOR GIFFORDS’ GROUP: Former President Bill Clinton will headline a fundraiser in Manhattan on Wednesday evening for the gun control group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, a source familiar with the event confirmed to CNN. Approximately 50 people will attend the fundraiser for the group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, at a private home. – Dana Bash and Kevin Bohn
ON THE RIGHT … FIRST ON CNN: ROMNEY TAKES SIDES IN GOP PRIMARY: Mitt Romney is weighing in on a competitive Republican primary for a GOP-held House seat in California - the latest sign that the 2012 Republican presidential nominee plans to play an influential role in helping to shape the future of his party. CNN has learned that Romney will endorse Tony Strickland for Congress in California's 25th district, to succeed longtime GOP Rep. Buck McKeon. – Paul Steinhauser
OBAMA KICKS OFF ASIA TOUR IN JAPAN … President Barack Obama arrived in Japan on Wednesday for the first part of his Asia trip that started with reassuring Tokyo of U.S. support in its bitter territorial dispute with China. Obama made his first stop in Tokyo on a weeklong tour that will also take him to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. – Jethro Mullen and Kevin Liptak
LAVROV: ‘IF WE ARE ATTACKED, WE WOULD CERTAINLY RESPOND’ … Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that if Russians are attacked in Ukraine, his country would “certainly respond.” Lavrov said in an interview with Russia Today that if “our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly…I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law.” Lavrov warned that “Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation.”
STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN JEN PSAKI RESPONDS: “I think many of the claims (Lavrov) made in his interview are ludicrous, and they're not based in fact of what is happening on the ground.”
THE BUZZ: CHRISTIE WON’T MISS LETTERMAN’S FAT JOKES… New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took a shot Wednesday on Twitter at David Letterman over the retiring comedian's jokes about the governor's weight. "Oh @Letterman, I'm really gonna miss your fat jokes. Wait, no I'm not. #ColbertNation," he tweeted. – Sara Fischer
MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks snap 6-day winning streak. Dow, NASDAQ and S&P all lose less than 1%.
Which country has President Obama made the most official visits to while in office?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics.com: First on CNN: Scarborough making another New Hampshire appearance
Joe Scarborough, the morning show pundit, author and presidential buzz-stirrer, will speak to the New Hampshire Republican Party’s annual meeting next month, a GOP source told CNN on Wednesday. The MSNBC host will attend the May 3 meeting in Concord to discuss his new book about the future of the Republican Party and take questions from members of the state party. – Peter Hamby
Leading CNNMoney: Delinquent IRS employees paid bonuses by the agency
The IRS is in damage control mode after an audit revealed that it paid bonuses to employees who were in trouble over tax issues themselves. More than $2.8 million, plus thousands of hours of paid time-off, were doled out over two years to employees who had recently been disciplined for various types of misconduct, according to an audit report. About $1 million of that money was given as bonuses to 1,100 employees who were in trouble over tax related issues. – Katie Lobosco
Leading Drudge: Brit Jets Chase Off Russian Spy Planes
Two Russian surveillance planes which flew close to UK airspace have been chased away by an RAF jet fighter. The aircraft, believed to be Tupolev 95s, were spotted off the coast of northeast Scotland.
Leading HuffPo: ‘Lashing Out’: Boogeyman, Shady Deals Define Spin For Senate
For months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been pushing an unrelenting string of criticism against Charles and David Koch, the wealthy industrialists who have backed some of the nation's most effective conservative groups. Now, Republican candidates are adjusting their plans and linking Democratic Senate candidates to Reid, painting the 74-year-old leader and his allies as unscrupulous politicians. – Philip Elliot
Leading Politico: How Sarah Palin threw Alaska's Senate race
If Republicans lose the Alaska Senate race, they'll have Sarah Palin to thank … Alaskans have not yet heard from Sarah Palin about Joe Miller’s candidacy this year, which is viable only because she endorsed him in 2010. But Miller, once left for dead on the political battlefield, is back in a big way. Incredible as it may seem, that endorsement is likely to haunt Republicans for years to come. – Forrest A. Nabors
Leading New York Times: Amid Politics, Obama Drifted Away From Kin
Every complicated family is complicated in its own way. The Obamas, in that sense, are ordinary. But the natural drift that has occurred within the family — already separated by oceans and languages — is exacerbated by politics. – Jason Horowitz
The political bites of the day
– Deal signs gun rights bill –
GEORGIA GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL IN A STATEMENT: “This legislation will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License … Our nation’s founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values.”
– Rogers can’t confirm top al Qaeda bomb maker killed in attack –
HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN MIKE ROGERS, R-MICHIGAN, TO CNN’S WOLF BLITZER: “There’s been no confirmation that the bomb maker (Ibrahim al-Asiri) has been killed. (But this) is a truly dangerous human being… (and he) has been a high priority to be taken off the battlefield.”
– McConnell ridicules Bevin’s ‘comedy of errors’ –
NARRATOR IN RADIO AD FOR SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KENTUCKY: “Matt Bevin keeps making national headlines, but not in a good way. Bevin made the national TV comedy shows after he was caught making a speech to a cockfighting rally … This is the same bailout Bevin who campaigns against bailouts but endorses them for his own business … Matt Bevin, a comedy of errors. But don’t let the joke be on you.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Rick Klein (@rickklein)
have to think, despite drag of Obamacare and voter enthusiasm, Dems are happy w/ this round of Senate polling. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/upshot/poll-shows-tight-senate-races-in-four-southern-states.html?_r=1 …
Alex Roarty (@Alex_Roarty)
Just a reminder that the @dscc's own poll had Pryor up only 3 ...
Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler)
Protip: Hagan's not playing for the anti-ACA vote. She's playing for GOP voters to nominate someone other than Tillis http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117487
Daniel Burke (@BurkeCNN)
Pope stirs Communion debate with call to woman – CNN Belief Blog – http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/23/popes-stirs-communion-debate-with-call-to-woman/ …
Paul Steinhauser (@psteinhauserCNN)
New AFP ad buy-by the numbers: $2.5 mllion over next 2 weeks -More than $35 million spent in 2014 cycle to run ads http://cnn.it/1ifXnVZ
The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN)
How'd this book top Amazon's bestseller list? http://cnn.it/1f767x6 pic.twitter.com/TJSPj7tPSv
John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz)
MAZEL tov! John Kerry, you made peace! // BBC News – Hamas-Fatah unity deal announced – http://m.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27128902 …
Tom Murren (@ClwTom)
CD19 – Tea party candidate Curt Clawson wins Republican primary to replace former Rep. Trey Radel http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/tea-party-candidate-curt-clawson-wins-republican-primary-to-replace-former/2176397 …
Curt Clawson (@curtclawson)
For those of you out there who keep talking to me, I am not Curt Clawson the politician. I'm from Michigan.
Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP)
Black voters could decide who controls the Senate in 2015. Here’s how. http://wapo.st/1pqBS8V
James Hohmann (@jameshohmann)
Update: Ark. Sen. John Boozman's emergency heart surgery lasted "several hours" after he was diagnosed with "an acute aortic dissection."
Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram)
Sen Boozman's office says the senator "is awake and responsive, and doctors are pleased with the progress he has made."
Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb)
Strikingly direct Jeb Bush today on White House run: "I'm thinking about running for president," attendee at closed NY event tells us.
Mark Leibovich (@MarkLeibovich)
@mikiebarb @tackettdc Find this approach completely alienating. Makes me suspect he means what he's saying. Clearly out of the game too long
Ana Navarro (@ananavarro)
@MarkLeibovich @mikiebarb Only in #ThisTown would saying what u mean, (and) meaning what u say b called "alienating". Some would call it "honest".
Sophia Phan (@Sophia_Phan)
Colbert turned down an internship w/ Letterman in 1986: "Because you did not pay people. It is an expensive city" http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/video-stephen-colbert-visits-david-698263 …
Brian Stelter (@brianstelter)
With its Amazon deal, HBO draws a bright line between new shows and old. My story for @CNNMoney: cnnmon.ie/1nGsGZk
TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer
During his time in the White House, President Obama has made five official trips to Mexico, the most of any country in the world, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
Obama is currently in the middle of his third trip to Japan. He traveled to Tokyo in November 2009 and Yokohama in November 2010.
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