CNN’s POLITICAL GUT CHECK | for May 12, 2014 | 5 p.m.
— n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
BREAKING … CLAY AIKEN PRIMARY OPPONENT DIES ... Keith Crisco, who was locked in a primary runoff for a Democratic congressional seat in North Carolina with Clay Aiken, has died, according to the company he co-founded and a Democratic source. Details of his death were not immediately clear. He was running a very close second in the primary battle in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, around 300 votes behind Aiken. Final results of the race had been expected this week along with a decision on whether Crisco would ask for a recount if the situation hadn't changed.
BOEHNER WON’T COMMIT TO SERVING OUT ANOTHER FULL TERM AS SPEAKER … House Speaker John Boehner said Monday he expects to be re-elected Speaker after the midterm elections, but he wouldn't commit to serving out another full two-year term in the top post. Speaking at an event hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Boehner said, "I am running for re-election. I expect to be speaker." But when pressed if he would remain in the post for another term, Boehner dodged the question saying, "Listen, I can’t predict what is going to happen. I am going to be 65 years old in November. I never thought I’d live to be 60 so I am living on borrowed time." – Deirdre Walsh
BOEHNER ALSO SAYS DEMOCRATS PROBABLY FUNDRAISING OFF BENGHAZI, TOO …While neither condemning nor supporting the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recent fundraising efforts which capitalize on the ongoing Benghazi controversy, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans aren’t alone in their efforts. “I have got to believe that the Democrats are probably fundraising off of Benghazi just like we are,” Boehner said. “Do you think when we had Katrina they weren’t fundraising over this?” he asked.
The Ohio Republican also said that if Democrats chose not to be involved with the House select committee, “it will not impede the investigation,” but rather it will cause Republicans to have to adhere to a higher standard.
PRO-RUSSIAN SEPARATISTS CLAIM WIN IN UKRAINE VOTE … A separatist leader declared Monday that eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region was not only independent, but also would ask to join Russia - a day after referendum organizers claim voters in the region chose to break away from Kiev. Denis Pushilin, self-declared leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, told a crowd that no further referendum was needed to ask Russia to annex it. – Radina Gigova, Lena Kashkarova and Victoria Butenko
BUT THAT’S NOT GOING TO FLY, SAYS THE STATE DEPARTMENT. … State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the U.S. does not recognize the “illegal” referendums that took place Sunday in Eastern Ukraine. At a press briefing Monday Psaki called the separatist’s referendums illegal under Ukrainian law and said the methodology was suspect. She reaffirmed that the U.S. focus remains on the May 25th elections in Ukraine. – Shirley Henry
INSIDE POLITICS: RUBIO RETURNS … He lost a fair amount of buzz after the bipartisan and sweeping immigration reform bill he helped usher through the Senate. But the young GOP senator from Florida apparently still sees himself as a potential presidential contender. Rubio was candid when asked by ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Sunday’s “This Week” whether he thinks he’s ready to be president. “I do,” he said. “I think that’s true for multiple other people that would want to run.” If he decides to seek the 2016 GOP nomination, Rubio told ABC’s Karl he wouldn’t run for Senate too, arguing that a presidential campaign is an all-or-nothing proposition. – Z. Byron Wolf
RUBIO DISPUTES SCIENTISTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE: On climate change, for instance, Rubio said that despite what scientists say, he doesn’t think human activities are changing the climate, and he doesn’t think we can do anything to stop the changing of the climate. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” he said.
AND GIVES CLINTON AN “F” … The Florida Senator also told ABC he would give Democrat Hillary Clinton an “F” for her tenure as secretary of state. “I don’t think she has a passing grade,” Rubio said. “If she’s going to run on her record as secretary of state, she’s also going to have to answer to its dramatic failures.”
RUBIO ISN’T ALONE … BIDEN KNOCKS CLINTONS FOR ECONOMIC CRISIS … One attack Hillary Clinton probably wasn’t expecting this week came from someone in her own party, Vice President Joe Biden. Speaking at a closed-door fundraiser in South Carolina Friday, Biden said the fraying of middle-class economic security did not begin during President George W. Bush’s administration, but earlier, in the “later years of the Clinton administration,” three sources there told CNN. Biden, of course, could face off against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016 if they both decide to run.– Peter Hamby
THE BUZZ: WASHINGTON MONUMENT REOPENS AFTER QUAKE REPAIRS … Fresh off a $15 million, nearly three-year repair job, the Washington Monument reopened Monday. One of Washington's most popular sites, the 555-foot obelisk had been closed since a magnitude-5.8 earthquake in August 2011 caused more than 150 cracks in the structure. The National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall hosted a reopening ceremony Monday morning. – Katia Hetter
MARKET WATCH:Dow and S&P 500 close at record highs. NASDAQ surges 1.8% on tech stock recovery.
Members of which political party once stole the Vatican's commemorative "Pope Stone" inside the Washington Monument?
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Poll: Democrats competitive in key southern showdowns
New polls in three southern states with crucial Senate contests this year indicate that Democrats remain very competitive as they try to keep control of the chamber. According to NBC News/Marist polls released Monday, the Democratic incumbent in Arkansas currently enjoys a double-digit lead over his GOP challenger, while Democratic candidates in Georgia and Kentucky are tied up with the GOP as they try to turn red seats blue. Those two states are, as of now, the only places where Democrats hope to go on offense in the battle for the Senate. – Paul Steinhauser
Leading San Jose Mercury News Opinion: Mercury News editorial: Ro Khanna should replace Mike Honda in Congress
Ro Khanna's time has come … We recommend Khanna, a Democrat, for the 17th Congressional District seat - even though the incumbent is the venerable Mike Honda, whose personal graciousness and alignment with Democratic and labor causes have endeared him to many. – Mercury News Editorial Board
Leading Drudge: MERS Case Number 2
Health officials have confirmed a second U.S. case of a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East. The virus is MRS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.
Leading Politico: $474M for 4 failed ACA exchanges
Nearly half a billion dollars in federal money has been spent developing four state Obamacare exchanges that are now in shambles — and the final price tag for salvaging them may go sharply higher. Each of the states — Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland — embraced Obamacare, and each underperformed. All have come under scathing criticism and now face months of uncertainty as they rush to rebuild their systems or transition to the federal exchange. – Jennifer Haberkorn
Leading New York Times: Legal Alliance Gains Host of Court Victories for Conservative Christian Movement
With its $40 million annual budget, 40-plus staff lawyers and hundreds of affiliated lawyers, Alliance Defending Freedom has emerged as the largest legal force of the religious right, arguing hundreds of pro bono cases across the country. – Erik Eckholm
The political bites of the day
– Bloomberg defends Clinton on Benghazi: What’d you expect her to do? –
FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG TO CNN POLITICAL ANALYST MAGGIE HABERMAN FOR POLITICO: “Hillary, you know, I’ve worked with [when she was a] senator and just as a friend, that sort of thing. I think most of the criticisms of Hillary are totally unfounded — you can maybe disagree with her policies, but what’d you expect her to do in Benghazi? I mean, it’s that kind of cheap politics which I don’t like. She’s very competent.
– URUGUAY PRESIDENT JOSE “PEPE” MUJICA SPEAKING TO PRESIDENT OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE: –
Uruguay President Jose “Pepe” Mujica speaking to President Obama at the White House: “In the world per year eight million people are dying through smoking. That is more than World War I, World War II. It’s murder! We are in an arduous fight, very arduous. And we must fight against very strong interests. Governments must not be involved in private litigation but here we are fighting for life. And nobody must be distracted from this fight for life because out of all values the most important one is life itself.”
Gut Check Full Service: President Mujica was referring to a lawsuit filed by Philip Morris against the country of Uruguay through the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes to combat a 2009 Uruguayan anti-tobacco law.
– Hagel: Military's transgender policy 'continually should be reviewed' –
DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL TO ABC SUNDAY: “I do think it continually should be reviewed … I'm open to those assessments, because again, I go back to the bottom line: Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
– HRC praises Hagel for his comments –
HRC GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS DIRECTOR DAVID STACY IN A STATEMENT: “It makes no sense to exclude qualified transgender service members, and we are pleased Secretary Hagel endorses a review. HRC looks forward to additional details about the next steps and to working with the Department of Defense and coalition partners to ensure changes to these harmful regulations.”
– Irony revealed during Washington Monument’s reopening ceremony –
SUPERINTENDENT, NATIONAL MALL & MEMORIAL PARKS BOB VOGEL TODAY: “The reopening of the Washington Monument means so much more than that, it reaffirms our very democracy and the ideals of George Washington. The words of Senator Robert Winthrop during the dedication of the monument on February 21st, 1885 couldn't have been more prescient. In describing the monument he said, ‘The lightnings of heaven may scar and blacken it. And earthquakes may shake its foundations, but the character which it commemorates and illustrates is secure.’ He was right about the building and right about what it symbolizes.”
– DC Delegate jokes about the quake –
DC DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON AT THE REOPENING CEREMONY: “I have only one question: Is this thing earthquake-proof?”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
Tucker Reals (@TuckerReals)
Boko Haram leader says he's willing to trade #Nigeria schoolgirls for militant prisoners in video that appears to show many girls alive
Neeti Sharma (@aadvir)
Nigeria rejects the demands of Boko Haram leader in exchange for kidnapped schoolgirls: http://cnn.it/1mRAQ0q pic.twitter.com/SSr8JT27gd
Matthew Hansen (@redcloud_scribe)
A bizarre D.C. proxy war has fueled the Nebraska Senate fight between Ben Sasse, Sid Dinsdale and Shane Osborn. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/13/us/politics/tea-party-activists-see-own-groups-among-washington-adversaries.html?hp&_r=0…
RT @FWForAmerica: In Nebraska? Make sure to go VOTE tomorrow for Ben Sasse. Find your polling location here: http://ow.ly/wKrzb #NEsen
Republican Action (@GOPAction2014)
It's time to send a hero to Washington. It's time to send Shane Osborn. Join the Team at http://ShaneOsborn.com ! #nesen
Frank Rich (@frankrichny)
CNN poll: RIP Obamacare as issue except to get GOP base to turn out in '14. Benghazi end-date also '14. Which leaves? http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/11/cnn-poll-should-obamacare-be-kept-or-repealed/ …
Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone)
WaPo's @GlennKesslerWP: Many of the questions Rep. Gowdy has "posed have already been answered - and fact-checked" http://wapo.st/1jxRT8S
Brendan Buck (@BrendanBuck)
It's true. Today is my last with @SpeakerBoehner. It's been an incredible privilege to serve him and the House. Thanks to everyone here.
AHIP Coverage (@AHIPCoverage)
We are excited to welcome @BrendanBuck to the @AHIPCoverage team as VP of communications
Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360)
#DonaldSterling to @andersoncooper: "I was baited i mean that's not the way i talk” Exclusive intv Monday #AC360 8p on @CNN
Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT)
Glad #MichaelSam got drafted, but outrageous so many teams moved him down draft boards and weren't ashamed of it.
Michael Sam may not have been picked til the 7th round, but his jersey is a best seller: http://cnnmon.ie/1nFoUAd pic.twitter.com/aCsWn3ErmC
TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer
Members of the Know-Nothing political party, also known as the American Party, stole the Vatican’s commemorative stone inside the Washington Monument in 1854. The party, formed in the early 1850’s, was founded on an anti-Catholic, and anti-immigrant platform, and believed the Pope was to blame for the rapidly growing Catholic immigration population in the U.S.
The “Pope’s Stone,” given to the United States on behalf of Pope Pius IX and the Vatican, was one of 189 commemorative stones that was donated to lay inside the Washington Monument. The stones come from donors to the monument from all over the world and the nation, including individual states, countries and Native American tribes. A replacement "Pope’s Stone" was eventually installed on the Monument in 1983, over a hundred years after the Know-Nothings stole the original.
You can click here to see pictures of all the commemorative stones installed inside the Washington Monument or you can visit the obelisk in Washington D.C., which reopens today after nearly three of reconstruction.
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Congrats to Melanie Parker (@parkerml) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check trivia question.
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