By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants the White House to stop "scaring" Americans with tales of how sequestration will affect their daily lives. But at this point the real debate will occur after the deadline passes. The real question will be if the scaled-in reduction of federal spending by $85 billion will leave a mark and if it engages the American people, who, to date, don't seem particularly scared or alarmed.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: What exactly happened with the Chuck Hagel nomination that we went from filibuster votes and pressure on the White House to withdraw him two weeks ago, to an all-but certain confirmation today? Well … nothing. The case was made against him, quite aggressively, and the confirmation hearings didn't ease any paths. They may have gone a touch too far in painting Hagel as a friend of the Iranians, prompting some sympathy from those not necessarily inclined to defend him. But mostly President Obama called the GOP's bluff on this one - Republican senators just don't have the appetite to look like obstructionists in blocking a former Republican senator from a post at the Pentagon.
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: That "pivot" back to job creation sure didn't last long. Today, two weeks after his State of the Union, President Obama hits the road to talk about saving jobs rather than his plans to create new ones. It's all thanks to that pesky Sequester set to take effect in three days. Meanwhile, a group of the nation's leading CEOs says Obama will have a chance to redeem himself on jobs very soon: by approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and its Canada-to-Texas construction plan that will put tens of thousands to work. The State Department is expected to release its environmental impact statement in the next few weeks, marking the last hurdle before Obama gets to make the final call. TransCanada, which is pitching the plan, tells ABC News it expects the deal to get approved, despite Obama's inaugural rhetoric on climate change and spirited protests from green groups. If the pipeline isn't built, the company says, some of the Alberta oil already promised Gulf refineries would be moved by rail instead - a process they say would triple the greenhouse gas emissions to get it there.
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Can Democrats turn a red state blue? Maybe, maybe not. But when it comes to Texas, a new group is poised to try to re-make the Republican stronghold into a swing state. The group, called "Battleground Texas," is billing itself as a grassroots movement that is "dedicated to making the Lone Star State competitive in both local and national politics." And the team behind the effort includes several prominent Obama campaign veterans, including Jeremy Bird, the former National Field Director of Obama for America; Jenn Brown, who served as Ohio field director for the campaign; and Christina Gomez, formerly a digital strategist for the Democratic National Committee. Mitt Romney won Texas by a decisive 57 to 41 percent margin last November, picking up its stash of 38 electoral votes. But the leaders of "Battleground Texas" say such a Republican margin is not inevitable. "With its size and diversity, Texas ought to be a place where local races are hotly-contested and anyone who wants to be President has to compete," Bird says. "We're bringing some of the best talent and strategies in politics to the Lone Star State to help expand the electorate by registering more voters and by mobilizing Texans who are already registered but haven't been making their voices heard."
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will give his budget address this afternoon and their office is out this morning with a video teasing some of the issues the governor will focus on. Named "Saving Lives Lasts Forever" it has video of Christie's state of the state address last month, as well as the governor who is up for re-election this year greeting constituents in diners, schools, hospitals and other locales. Over the video, Christie is heard saying "When you are governor they often ask you if you are worried about legacy. If you are worried about legacy you are probably focusing on the wrong thing, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't be conscious of it." It's a softer Christie than the tough talking governor we often see. The video shows the possible 2016 presidential contender that's more like the man in the days after superstorm Sandy slammed into New Jersey when he was hugging those affected and helping the most vulnerable than the one known to tell New Jerseyans and Republicans alike to "shut up." WATCH: http://youtu.be/HkMKGJ_N8JQ
VIDEO OF THE DAY: BOBBY JINDAL: OBAMA "TRYING TO SCARE THE AMERICAN PUBLIC." Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R - La.) accused President Obama of playing "political theater" by warning that looming across-the-board spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday will have a devastating impact on the government's ability to function and provide for the nation's most vulnerable, saying the cuts can be made in ways that are less damaging. "The reality is that this is just part of political theater, part of the campaign," Jindal told ABC's Jonathan Karl, host of the ABC/Yahoo Power Players series, "Politics Confidential" following a luncheon at the White House for the National Governors Association. "He's trying to scare the American people. He's trying to distort the impact." The White House released a report Sunday night detailing the state-by-state impact of the cuts known as 'the sequester'; the report says that just in Jindal's state of Louisina, 1,730 fewer children will receive vaccines, while $488,000 will be cut from a nutrition assistance programs that provides meals to seniors, among other cuts. But Jindal says the president could cut the $85 billion required by sequestration without impacting programs like these. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/13OYAaN
MICHELLE OBAMA SEES 'MOVEMENT' IN IMPROVING CHILDHOOD OBESITY. As she celebrates the third anniversary of her Let's Move! initiative, first lady Michelle Obama told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts that the country is seeing real "movement" on the issue of childhood obesity. "We've really changed the conversation in this country. When we started, there were a lot of people in this country who would have never thought that childhood obesity was a health crisis. But now we're starting to see some movement on this issue," the first lady told Roberts. "Our kids are eating better at school. They're moving more. And we're starting…to see a change in the trends. We're starting to see rates of obesity coming down like never before." "What we're seeing is that there's hope, and when a nation comes together, and everyone is thinking about this issue and trying to figure out what role they can play, then we can see changes," she said. http://abcn.ws/YUR23f
NOTED: While President Obama is pushing for new gun legislation, working to reform the immigration system, and dealing with looming across the board budgets cuts set to take effect next month, Mrs. Obama said he's also learning to cope with his daughters - Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11 - growing up as teenagers in the White House, reports ABC's Arlette Saenz. "There's nothing like the look on his face when Malia dresses up for a party, and she's heading out…she walks past him, and you can see his face sort of just drop a little bit. It's like, 'Who was that?'" she said. "It remains to be seen how he's gonna handle his daughters growing up, but he's doing fine. So far so good," the first lady said. "He's a little gray…people think the gray is from his job. It's from his children." http://abcn.ws/YUR23f
LOCAL COLOR: HOW THE SEQUESTER COULD AFFECT YOU. Cities and towns across the country are battening down the hatches, preparing for austerity measures that the budget cuts in sequestration would require if it goes into effect Friday. The White House previewed what some of those effects might be at the National Governors' Association winter meeting on Sunday and Monday. President Obama called on governors to help him devise a deal with Congress to avert implementation of the sequester. The automatic budget cuts would deplete states' capacity in several areas, including education, defense and transportation. Here is a roundup of what ABC affiliates are reporting on the sequester, courtesy of ABC's Sarah Parnass: http://abcn.ws/XXYN7U
BOEHNER NOT BLINKING. With sequestration set to strike on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner returned to the Capitol after a nine-day recess with no apparent change in his political posture: If the $85 billion cuts are going to be averted, Boehner insists, it's up to the Senate to act, notes ABC's John R. Parkinson. Some lawmakers had returned to Washington yesterday hoping for a "hail Mary" attempt to avert the looming sequestration cuts. "Time is running out," Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said on the House floor shortly after legislative business resumed. "The president should be working with House Republicans by engaging in the legislative process." But considering Boehner's firm resistance to a Democratic proposal to offset half of the cuts with new taxes, the sequester seems certain to take effect untouched. "The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester," Boehner R-Ohio, told reporters outside his office suite today. "Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It's time to cut spending here in Washington." http://abcn.ws/Zw3fOc
WHITE HOUSE PUSHES BACK ON MONEY FOR ACCESS REPORTS. The White House yesterday pushed back against reports that President Obama's nonprofit advocacy group, Organizing for Action, is offering wealthy donors access to the president, reports ABC's Marcy Bruce. "No," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters when asked if access to Obama is for sale. The New York Times reported last week that donors who contribute at least $500,000 to the advocacy group are guaranteed a seat at quarterly meetings with the president. It was formerly known as Organizing for America, the president's campaign operation. Carney declined to comment directly on the quarterly meetings or say whether donating that much money would guarantee access to the president. "The president is engaged in an effort to pass items on his agenda," he said. "And outside organizations that support the agenda, like organizations that are environmental in nature and support aspects of the president's environmental agenda, or organizations that support his manufacturing agenda… administration officials can meet with them, including the president." http://abcn.ws/VJh0cw
CHRIS CHRISTIE: UNINVITED. There are almost 40 featured speakers at next month's Conservative Political Action Conference, but one of the most popular Republican governors in the country has yet to receive an invite, notes ABC's Shushannah Walshe. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is "not being invited" to CPAC, according to a source close to the event who was not authorized to speak publicly. The source would not answer why Christie, who is widely thought to be interested in the 2016 presidential race, would not be invited to the confab of conservative activists. The tough talking governor hasn't been afraid to take on his own party in the past. Last month he blasted the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, specifically Speaker John Boehner, for adjourning without approving a $60 billion relief package for the victims of superstorm Sandy. (The money has since been approved). Christie also angered some members of the Romney team, and other Republicans, when just one week before the presidential election he praised President Obama's handling of the storm, which slammed into his state on Oct. 29. Officially, CPAC says the schedule is still being finalized. http://abcn.ws/YtMGS2
@mselesky: This sequester shenanigan is a bipartisan example of the mind-boggling incompetence of everyone in DC.
@GOP: Chariman @Reince Priebus met with Colorado Latinos in Denver yesterday. Read about the listening session here: http://kdvr.com/2013/02/25/rnc-chairman-meets-with-colorado-latinos-in-denver/ … #gop
@johndickerson: We pick our presidents based on how they campaign and then wonder why they are constantly in campaign mode. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/features/2012/how_to_measure_a_president_/what_qualities_should_we_look_for_in_our_presidents_.html …
@rubycramer: Hillary Clinton PAC makes a big hire, and gets the ball rolling on 2016: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rubycramer/hillary-clinton-pac-staffs-up …