By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Better now than … ? So Dr. Milton Wolf is now known for something other than being President Obama's second cousin, courtesy of a bizarre story in the Topeka newspaper revealing the macabre Facebook postings of X-ray images that Wolf removed before running for Senate. But not before, evidently, opposition researchers found a way to archive them - and to drop them into the middle of the Republican primary battle between Wolf and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. This signals real GOP primary hardball, early enough to make a difference in a race before the party is locked in with its candidate for the year. And the vicious attack by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on outside groups that are backing Wolf, particularly the Senate Conservatives Fund, suggests lessons learned and applied. It could be that Republican senators survive all their primary challenges this year; if that happens, it's because the party establishment remembers 2010 and 2012 well.
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It may be the most bizarre story of the election cycle: A radiologist and candidate for the U.S. Senate is suddenly explaining why he made gory and gruesome jokes on Facebook about X-ray images of his patients who were gunshot victims. There's one more thing: He's also a distant cousin of President Obama. While it sounds like a plot line from House of Cards, it's actually a real drama unfolding in Kansas with a doctor named Milton Wolf, who is trying to knock off fellow Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in a primary. This is why it matters: If the Tea Party-inspired Senate Conservatives Fund succeeds in defeating Roberts, this is the candidate who will be headed toward a general election. Even in Kansas, that could spell trouble for Republicans. But at the very least, it's the latest episode in the most interesting political reality show of the year: GOP infighting, 2014 edition.
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: After being feted by the president Sunday evening, Republican governors will be returning to the White House today and an RGA aide tells ABC News they are hoping to talk to President Obama about "using his executive power to jumpstart the economy." "In recent weeks, President Obama has emphasized his willingness to go it alone and use his executive power to achieve his policy aims," Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, also the RGA vice-chair, said in a statement previewing the meeting. "This White House has never been shy about wielding such power, but now the president apparently intends to escalate the use of the phone and the pen to make his agenda a reality. … With the power of the pen and the phone, he can roll back policies which are creating barriers for innovation, implement policies which encourage investment, and build toward the future with reforms that will help prepare Americans for the challenge of tomorrow's economy. So if President Obama is determined to use his executive power to the fullest, we ask at least that he will use the power of the phone and pen to free the American people from the yoke of excess regulation, to open up new avenues for investment and education, and to give the economy the jumpstart it needs." Jindal will appear with Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Rick Perry of Texas, and Bill Haslam of Tennessee for an afternoon press conference. It's there we will find out how delivery of the message went.
MITCH MCCONNELL'S GOP CHALLENGER COMES OUT SWINGING IN NEW ATTACK AD . Sen. Mitch McConnell's primary opponent, Matt Bevin, is out with a new television ad today and it's one anyone watching the race could have seen coming, hitting the senate minority leader for his vote to move forward the bill to pass a yearlong debt ceiling extension earlier this month, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. ABC News got a sneak peak of the commercial, which has $30,000 behind it and will run on statewide cable in Kentucky. The ad begins with Bevin on camera before a narrator alleges, "Mitch McConnell betrayed conservatives to give Obama a blank check" over a photograph of McConnell and the president together. The 15-second ad - one of the Bevin campaign's first - then shows Bevin again with the narrator saying, "Matt Bevin opposes raising the national debt. Period. The choice is clear. Conservative Republican Matt Bevin for U.S. Senate." Earlier this month, McConnell was forced to vote in favor of advancing the bill when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, required a 60-vote threshold in order for the legislation to move forward. That move forced McConnell and other Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas - who also has a primary opponent - to vote to advance the bill. http://abcn.ws/NqQRy9
ARIZONA GOV. JAN BREWER: 'I'VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME' TO DECIDE ON ANTI-GAY BILL. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer deflected questions over the weekend about whether she would sign or veto a controversial anti-gay law that passed her state's legislature this week, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. "You know, the bill is in transmittal and I don't have to make a decision until next Friday so I've got plenty of time," she said at the National Governor's Association meeting when asked by reporters. The bill would allow Arizona businesses to refuse service to gay customers if they believe doing so would violate their religious beliefs. It was approved in the State's Republican controlled House and Senate this week. Gay rights groups and some Arizona businesses are urging Brewer to veto the bill. The governor, however, would not comment on the legislation at all. "I need to explore it," said Brewer, a Republican. http://abcn.ws/1ehqsJ4
EL CHAPO'S CAPTURE A 'GREAT VICTORY', SAYS REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL. Sunday morning on "This Week," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) called the capture of Mexican cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman a "great victory" for the United States and Mexico, and called for his extradition to the U.S. to face charges, according to ABC's BEN BELL. Guzman was the head of the infamous Sinaloa cartel, which authorities say is the single largest supplier of illegal drugs to the United States and responsible for an estimated 25 percent of the illegal drugs that cross our southern border. Yesterday morning, Mexican authorities, working in part off of information provided by U.S. immigration and drug enforcement officials, arrested Guzman in a beach town 600 miles from Mexico City. "This is the world's most notorious drug lord that got taken down," said McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "He's really the godfather, if you will, of the cartels, that has brought - smuggled - so many drugs into the United States, [and] killed so many people in Mexico and around the world." McCaul thanked ICE, DEA and Mexican agents for their cooperation in making the arrest. "To bring him to justice finally, after so many decades, is a great victory," he said. http://abcn.ws/1gu37GG
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH FIGHTS TO TAKE 'D' OUT OF PTSD. President Bush is front and center in the news this week, a position he hasn't frequently occupied since leaving office five years ago, stepping back into the spotlight to shine a spotlight of his own on post-9/11 veterans and his fight to take the "Disorder" out of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, notes ABC's FREDA KAHEN-KASHI. "We're getting rid of the D," he said. "PTS is an injury; it's not a disorder. The problem is when you call it a disorder, [veterans] don't think they can be treated. "An employer says, 'I don't want to hire somebody with a disorder.' And so our mission tomorrow is to begin to change the dialogue in the United States," he said. "And we've got a lot of good support." According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which still uses the designation "PTSD," roughly 30 percent of post 9/11 veterans suffer from the malady, which hinders their reintegration into civilian society. Bush said he is determined to ensure each and every veteran has a fighting chance. "I have a duty," Bush told ABC's MARTHA RADDATZ, sitting down during a summit organized by the George W. Bush Institute as part of its Military Service Initiative, at which Raddatz moderated the panels. "Obviously I get slightly emotional talking about our vets because I have an emotional…" The former president trailed off. "I'm in there with them," he concluded. http://abcn.ws/1e6FFRV
?@brianjameswalsh: Topeka Capital-Journal leads the front page for a second day w/ Milton Wolf's bizarre Facebook activity. http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/hr.asp?fpVname=KS_TCJ&ref_pge=lst …
@PhilipRucker: Bill Clinton's deep ties in Kentucky, friendship with Jerry Lundergan & role in daughter Alison's Senate race: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-kentucky-senate-race-bill-clinton-plays-a-starring-role/2014/02/23/8b831f5a-9b15-11e3-ad71-e03637a299c0_story.html?hpid=z2 …
@stuartpstevens: The perspective Salena Zito brings to Americans in today's economy is like a war correspondent from the front lines: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/02/23/giving_up_on_washington_121688.html …