Take a quick trip Inside Politics and see the stories setting the stage in Washington today:
Obama vs. Romney ... and Putin – A tough question for President Obama on Romney, Russia and Putin. Obama is a master of the long–winded sidestep - guarded, professorial and often dismissive answers to questions from reporters.
So it was fascinating that one question at a news conference in The Netherlands on Tuesday seemed to unpack so much from the President at one go. He dismissed his former political foe, marginalized his current geopolitical adversary and then referred to the specter of a nuclear terrorism, which he said is much greater.
The question, from ABC’s Jonathan Karl, was pointed and direct and recalled that the President - along with the press corps - had been dismissive when Mitt Romney had argued to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in 2012 that Russia is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.”
At the time, Obama had seized on the comments and turned them into a debate zinger.
“The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back - because the Cold War has been over for 20 years,” Obama said to Romney at a foreign policy debate in October 2012.
The President won the election, but now he finds himself amid a protracted standoff with Russia. He’ll give a speech Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, and argue that Russia’s incursion into Crimea, which has been a part of Ukraine, is a test of international law.
Which brings us back to the question at that news conference Tuesday in The Hague.
“In light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America's greatest geopolitical foe; if not Russia, who?”
In his answer, Obama referred to the former Massachusetts governor as “Mr. Romney,” and Russia as a “regional power.”
Here’s the key portion of his longer answer, and the transcript, via the White House website.
Obamacare delay? Not so fast – The headlines Wednesday morning make it look like there will be a delay in the March 31 deadline to either obtain health insurance or pay a fine as part of your 2014 tax bill.
But the delay is a bit more complicated than that. It would apply only to people who had already begun obtaining insurance during the open enrollment period and, for whatever reason, had trouble.
Technical troubles that plagued the rollout of the health insurance exchanges late last year have largely been addressed. The exchanges are a backbone of the law’s provisions.
But there is apparently - and as expected - a last-minute surge in enrollment.
“Open enrollment ends March 31,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment - either online or over the phone.”
Michelle Obama urges rights in China – It was a trip that was supposed to be devoid of politics. But Michelle Obama has now twice referred to the importance of individual freedoms while on her cultural mission to China. Earlier this week, she referred to “universal rights.”
Then on Tuesday, speaking at a school, she referred to the Civil Rights Era of American history and seemed to encourage marches and nonviolent protest to enact change.
“Many decades ago, there were actually laws in America that allowed discrimination against black people like me, who are a minority in the United States,” she said. “But over time, ordinary citizens decided that those laws were unfair. So they held peaceful protests and marches. They called on government officials to change those laws, and they voted to elect new officials who shared their views.”
She said that over time, laws changed, and she tied that movement to a Chinese saying:
“To achieve true happiness, help the next generation,” she said.
‘Farmer’ with no law degree? – Democrats already have a tough road to simply keeping their majority in the Senate. One lynchpin of that strategy is in Iowa, where they think Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley has a good shot at replacing the retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
A new video of Braley berating Iowa’s beloved and plainspoken Sen. Charles Grassley at a fundraiser and posted online by a conservative won’t help Braley’s chances.
Braley said that if he loses, voters can expect “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary (Committee)."
He subsequently apologized in a written statement.
Speaking of farmers, Braley is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. It is a crowded Republican field with no clear front-runner.
But conservative Republican Joni Ernst’s first TV ad in the GOP primary race in Iowa is certainly getting points for cringe-inducing creativity. It starts “I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”
Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky Basketball Flub – Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign team accidentally used a split second of video of Duke’s 2010 national championship team in a campaign video. Sure, the Duke uniforms do resemble the University of Kentucky uniforms. But it is a huge faux pas in a basketball obsessed state where the two top teams – Kentucky and Louisville – have split the last two national championships. Making matters worse, the state is currently split. Kentucky and Louisville meet Friday in the next round of the NCAA tournament. McConnell, for the record, is primarily a Louisville fan and got his undergraduate degree there. But he also attended the University of Kentucky for law school.
McConnell's Democratic opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes, sought to capitalize on the flub on Twitter, although a local reporter pointed out Grimes made a few questionable basketball decisions too. She picked Wichita State to beat Kentucky and Florida to beat Louiville.