By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: The Benghazi story entered a new phase this week, one that's destined to keep the investigation and the accusations alive for a while longer - maybe a long while. Questioning on Wednesday, and new revelations about the editing of the now-infamous talking points, put scrutiny on Hillary Rodham Clinton's leadership at the State Department. American Crossroads and America Rising, two GOP-aligned SuperPACs, have new Web videos putting spotlights on Clinton, not President Obama. Republicans now see Benghazi as way to get at the 2016 frontrunner, someone with a history of being targeted by political enemies. Clinton's defiant testimony in January - "what difference at this point does it make?" - rather clearly won't be the last word now.
ABC's JONATHAN KARL: It was the Benghazi attack ad the Republican National Committee created but never aired. The ad, obtained by ABC News, begins with a replay of Hillary Clinton's famous "3 a.m. phone call" commercial from the 2008 campaign and then cuts to video of the burning U.S. consulate in Benghazi Libya. Over the images of the attack-in which four Americans were killed-words appear on the screen: "The Call Came … On September 12, 2012." As the screen goes black, the words continue: "Security Requests Denied. Four Americans Dead. And an Administration whose story is still changing. The Call Came." A source familiar with the creation of the ad says the RNC leadership approved the ad, but it was scrapped at the last minute because of objections from the Romney campaign, which was concerned the ad would distract from Romney's efforts to focus on the economy. http://abcn.ws/10ww5Ss
ABC's DANA HUGHES: Secretary of State John Kerry briefly addressed this week's Congressional testimony about Benghazi by State Department employees in Rome on Thursday, saying "the State Department will leave no stone unturned." He told reporters that he would not get into any details about the Benghazi hearings because he had "been literally in 24-hour meetings, flying from Moscow," so had only seen headlines from the testimony, but will deal with the situation when he returns to Washington. Once back he'll receive a staff briefing on the hearings. Kerry reiterated that he's put his chief of staff David Wade in charge of being the liaison with the relevant committee chairs in the House and Senate to answer any lingering questions. "I am absolutely determined that this issue will be answered, will be put to bed, and if there's any culpability in any area that is appropriate to be handled in some way with some discipline, it will be appropriately handled." http://abcn.ws/15vBhJi
U.S. AMBASSADOR SECRETLY ENTERS SYRIA. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford briefly crossed into northern Syria on Thursday to meet with Syrian opposition leaders, ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ reports. It was Ford's first visit back to Syria since he left in February, 2012, when the U.S. embassy suspended operations in Damascus as the opposition effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad developed into a full-blown civil war. Since then, Ford has become the Obama administration's point man on Syria and point of contact with the Syrian opposition. A U.S. official confirmed Ford's secret visit, which occurred along the Turkey-Syria border. He briefly crossed into Syria to meet with opposition leaders before returning to Turkey. "It was literally just across the border," the official said. "Obviously, this a dangerous area so we don't want to get into the movement of diplomatic personnel." http://abcn.ws/ZSFrqp
HERITAGE IMMIGRATION STUDY AUTHOR UNDER FIRE. The Heritage Foundation is distancing itself from the co-author of its report that slapped a $6.3 trillion price tag on immigration reform and drew criticism from other think tanks, ABC's SARAH PARNASS reports. Jason Richwine, one of the controversial report's two authors, has come under fire because of arguments about race he made in the last decade. So now, Heritage is disowning some of Richwine's work as the Senate Judiciary Committee considers the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform proposal. Richwine argued both in his dissertation for Harvard in 2009 and in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute in 2008 that Hispanics and blacks are intellectually inferior to whites and have trouble assimilating because of a supposed genetic predisposition to lower IQ. He said that this made current-day Hispanic immigrants less equipped to adapt to life in America than the largely European immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "We have blacks, we have American Indians and even early Mexican Americans who have been living in the country for a long time and have not assimilated to the cultural mainstream as typified by white Americans," Richwine told the panel in 2008, four months before the first African-American president was elected. And there's more where that came from: http://abcn.ws/12iBTNY
A PRINCE IN THE DISTRICT. Prince Harry arrived in Washington on Thursday, opening an eight-day tour of the United States with a visit to the White House and Capitol Hill, where a large crowd of adoring fans were on hand to greet him, ABC's JEFF ZELENY, SUNLEN MILLER and ARLETTE SAENZ note. At the Russell Senate Office Building, he spent about 30 minutes touring a landmine exhibit with Senator John McCain. He later made a surprise stop just down Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House. "Well surprise!" First Lady Michelle Obama said, speaking at a "Joining Forces" event honoring military mothers in the East Room of the White House. This is the first trip to the United States for Prince Harry since his headline-enduing visit to Las Vegas last August. His weeklong trip, which will also take him to Colorado, New York and Connecticut, is focusing on promoting the rehabilitation of wounded American and British troops. He caused a stir the moment his motorcade reached Capitol Hill, where hundreds of young women were waiting with their iPhone cameras for the arrival of the 28-year-old who is the third in line to the British throne. http://abcn.ws/12hAib9
OBAMA DECLARES ECONOMY 'POISED FOR PROGRESS'. President Obama yesterday said today the innovation and persistence of the American people has fostered an economy that is "poised for progress," ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "A lot of sectors of our economy are doing better," Obama told students and teachers at Manor New Tech High School near Austin, Texas. "The American auto industry is thriving, American energy is booming, American ingenuity in our tech sector continues to be the best in the world and has the potential to change almost everything that we do. And thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, we've cleared the way, the rubble of the worst economic crisis in our lifetime. So we're poised for progress." The president was in Texas to begin his "middle class jobs and opportunity tours," a new series he is beginning as he looks outside Washington, D.C., for models of job creation and innovation. Yesterday, the White House also announced two executive orders aimed at bolstering the nation's manufacturing sector. The first launched competitions for three "manufacturing innovation institutes" and pushed Congress to dedicate $1 billion to the creation of 15 such centers. The second required new government data be made available in "open, machine-readable formats" to help technology entrepreneurs and researchers. http://abcn.ws/11WmdOt
HAPPENING TODAY: A White House official previews the president's day: "With Mother's Day approaching, the President will deliver remarks … on the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the health, lives and pocketbooks of women and their families. He will be joined on stage by women and families who are feeling the benefits of the Affordable Care Act."
HAPPENING NEXT WEEK: Congress is poised to take a vote - again - to repeal the nation's new health care law next week, according to ABC's JEFF ZELENY. It will be the 37th time, according to Congressional officials, that such a vote has taken place. It is not only a symbolic effort by House Republicans, it's also a case of political déjà vu. "We've got 70 new members that have not had the opportunity to vote on the president's health care law," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters on Thursday. "Frankly, they've been asking for an opportunity to vote on it and we're going to give it to them." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi mocked the effort by Republicans as a waste of time. "I think it represents the bankruptcy of their agenda," Pelosi said. "They don't really have anything to talk about." The Affordable Care Act has received the blessing of the Supreme Court - and, effectively, a majority of Americans, who had the chance to reject it by denying President Obama a second term last year. But even though the health care law is steadily moving forward, some Democrats have raised stern warnings about the challenges of putting the new rules in place. http://abcn.ws/17OKzh0
WORD FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: The White House on Thursday also sharply criticized the planned health care reform bill repeal vote. "The fact that Republicans have continued to push for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act," press secretary Jay Carney said, "demonstrates how out of touch they are with the American people, who are tired of efforts by Republicans to re-fight the political battles of the past."
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
LIKE MOTHER LIKE SON: PRINCE HARRY CARRIES ON LEGACY OF PRINCESS DIANA. Prince Harry made a visit to Capitol Hill yesterday to tour an exhibit on landmines, a cause dear to the heart of his late mother Princess Diana, and inadvertently won the hearts of flocks of female admirers who followed him to the exhibit. The CEO of the HALO Trust, the charity that organized the Capitol Hill exhibit, told Power Players that Prince Harry "is really carrying on that mantle" of his mother's work by bringing public attention to the cause. "He really understands that and the thing about clearing landmines, once their cleared, that's it, they're finished; it's a finite problem that can be defeated," the HALO Trust's CEO Guy Willoughby told ABC's LAMA HASAN. To learn more about the HALO Trust's demining efforts, check out this episode of Power Players: http://yhoo.it/10yVTNG
WHAT WE'RE READING
" PENNSYLVANIA AS GOP KEYSTONE IN 2016 ," by the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter. "With all the talk of the importance of the Latino vote to the future of the Republican party, it's easy to ignore the fact that there are blue states outside of the Southwest that may be bigger and better targets for the GOP in 2016. Pennsylvania represents the biggest promise-and biggest chunk of electoral votes-for Republicans in 2016. It has a Hispanic population of just under 6 percent and has been trending Republican since 1998. The only question now is whether Republicans can finally find the key to unlock the Keystone state. My colleague David Wasserman has compiled state-by-state Partisan Voting Index data from 1994 to 2014. First introduced in 1997, and compiled especially for the Report by POLIDATA®, the Cook PVI measures how each district performs at the presidential level compared to the nation as a whole. … By the numbers, the PVI numbers that is, Nevada's D+2.07 PVI makes it more Democratic than Iowa (D+1.08), Minnesota (D+1.76), New Hampshire (D+1.02) and Pennsylvania (D+1.15). In fact, if you look at the "Battleground States" of 2012 - Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia-all but Iowa have gotten more Democratic since 1998. The only blue states that have become less blue since 1998 are Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Of the three, Pennsylvania is the biggest prize with 20 Electoral Votes." http://cookpolitical.com/story/5683
@markknoller: WH inviting representatives of women's groups to serve as the audience for Pres Obama's 240pm statement in the East Room.
@jasondhorowitz: Despite GOP hopes, Gabe Gomez snaps that he's not an Hispanic Scott Brown. Dems hope he's right and call him Romney. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/gabriel-gomez-gop-hope-in-massachusetts/2013/05/09/e3132162-b8d9-11e2-aa9e-a02b765ff0ea_story.html …