By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- SINK HAS SUNK: What had been a tight, toss-up election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District came to its conclusion last night when Republican David Jolly bested Democrat Alex Sink. With almost all the votes counted, Jolly defeated Sink, 48.5 percent to 46.7 percent. Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby garnered about 4.8 percent of the vote, according to ABC’s ALISA WIERSEMA. Former “Price is Right” host Bob Barker, who was an early supporter of Jolly, introduced the Congressman-elect as he took the stage to deliver his acceptance speech last night. Jolly said the race had “been very personal” and “very partisan.” Alluding to the numerous ads that flew back and forth, Jolly joked that the “good news” of the night was that there would be “no more commercials.” The Republican also gave a nod to the man whose shoes he will fill in Congress — his former boss, the late Rep. Bill Young, saying that he will “not replace Bill Young, but follow Bill Young.” In her concession speech, Sink acknowledged that “these were not the results any of us wanted” but that she would “continue to serve her community.”
- ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: The question to consider, in unspinning the post-game analyses on yesterday’s special election in Florida, is who needed to win this race more? On that measure, it’s not even as close as the 3,400 votes that separated David Jolly from Alex Sink. Republicans had, by all accounts, a quirky, sometimes off-message candidate who had “former lobbyist” in his bio. Democrats had an experienced, well-funded candidate – in a district that twice voted for President Obama, and supported that same candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race. With all appropriate caveats about the demographics of the voters and the limits of using any special election to predict future results, Democrats need to be able to win races like this in years like this. Open seats in winnable parts of the country will look easy compared to red-and-getting-redder states with Senate races. Republicans can’t use the identical playbook, of course. But theirs clearly needs less work going forward.
- A BRIGHT SPOT FOR THE GOP IN THE SUNSHINE STATE: The Republican National Committee is touting Jolly’s win noting the RNC “worked hand in hand with the NRCC, Jolly campaign, and the Republican Party of Florida” to provide financial resources, according to ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. They also say they debuted a “new political model” they will use across the country in 2014. So what is it? They say it is a “new precinct organizing structure and a new suite of data driven tools that helped identify and message voters” as well as an aggressive field staff and a new “canvassing app to gather data,” a “new voter scoring tool to find the right voters,” social media and e-mail ads, among other tools.
CIA DIRECTOR DENIES CLAIMS OF SENATE COMPUTER HACKING
–HE SAID: CIA Director John Brennan challenged allegations made yesterday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA hacked into computers used by staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee, calling the notion “beyond the scope of reason,” according to ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ. “Nothing could be further from the truth” Brennan said as he spoke before a gathering of the Council of Foreign Relation in Washington. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean that’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.” http://abcn.ws/1nHqdhN
–SHE SAID: Earlier in the day, Sen. Feinstein, chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took to the Senate floor to express “grave concerns” that the CIA had conducted an unauthorized search of a standalone computer network used by the committee to gain access to classified CIA documents about the agency’s controversial rendition program. In January, the CIA contacted the committee with information that it believed staffers may have gained access to documents that should not have been on that network. Senators on the committee believe the CIA was able to determine that only by violating an agreement that the CIA would not have access to the computer network. In a lengthy and blistering speech, Feinstein said she believed the CIA may have acted illegally in conducting a search that also “may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.” http://abcn.ws/1nHqdhN
–ANALYSIS — ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The most turbulent fight in Washington right now is not a routine spat between Democrats and Republicans, but a highly-unusual battle between Sen. Dianne Feinstein and CIA Director John Brennan. The long-simmering tensions are now boiling in a very public way. The consequences could be deeply significant. After Feinstein’s rare and blistering rebuke of the CIA, in which she pointedly accused the agency of breaking federal law, President Obama dispatched his chief of staff to Capitol Hill to try and smooth the rift — or, at the very least, to turn down the volume. That’s not likely because a private fight is now an open war. Feinstein has long been a staunch defender of the CIA, often called out by her fellow Democrats of being too slow to criticize the agency. But now, so much has changed. When asked whether an independent review (think Church committee) was needed to determine the facts, Feinstein told us matter-of-factly yesterday: “The facts just did come out.”
CHELSEA CLINTON IS ‘OBSESSED WITH DIARRHEA’ (AND OTHER THINGS SHE REVEALED AT SXSW). Things got a little awkward during Chelsea Clinton’s speech at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, yesterday, when she proudly told a full house of tech and digital enthusiasts: “I’m obsessed with diarrhea.” An unexpected statement, but true, according to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ. Clinton kicked off a Q&A by asking the moderator if she could talk about diarrhea: “I’m obsessed” with it, she said. The crowd took it as a joke, but Clinton noted that the audience wouldn’t be laughing when she finished, saying, “It’s actually very serious.” “I find the fact that more than 750,000 children still die every year around the world because of severe dehydration due to diarrhea unacceptable,” she said, explaining that the reason this “no longer happens here in the United States is because we have clean water, largely.” http://abcn.ws/N4AmHI
CHELSEA’S MOST REVEALING SPEECH EVER? Here are a few other things we learned about the former — and potentially future — first daughter during her SXSW speech. http://abcn.ws/N4AmHI
–SHE TAUGHT HER PARENTS HOW TO TEXT: When asked if there was anything she ever taught her parents, Clinton responded: “I definitely taught my parents how to text. How to charge their phones,” adding it was a “very mysterious thing for them at the beginning.”
–SHE MAY RUN FOR OFFICE: While all eyes are on her mother and a possible 2016 run for the White House, the audience took time to ask the younger Clinton about her own political aspirations. So will she get into politics? “I don’t know,” she said, adding that while “for a long time my answer to that question was ‘no,’” she’s not discounting the possibility in the future.
–SHE HELD ‘MOCK’ DEBATES WITH HER PARENTS AS A KID: Clinton was asked about lessons she learned from her parents. She told the audience that her parents always wanted her to have an opinion and even made her do mock debates with them as a young child: “My parents expected me to have views and opinions,” she said. “When I was 6 years old I would debate against a parent and the other would be the moderator.”
–SHE LIKES HER BREAKFAST TACOS SPICY: It wouldn’t be a Texas forum without a little talk about tacos. A Twitter user curious about her taste in southern food asked what three ingredients she must have in a breakfast taco. Much to the delight of the audience, Clinton said she “loves” breakfast tacos and concluded she’d have to have eggs, jalapeños, and peppers.
OBAMA TWEETS INSIDE JOKE TO ZACH GALIFIANAKIS AFTER ‘BETWEEN TWO FERNS VIDEO. President Obama’s “Funny or Die” video interview with Zach Galifianakis did more for the Obama administration than making people laugh, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK notes. According to White House Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness, the “Funny or Die” website drove its viral video watchers straight to the healthcare.gov site. In fact, it was number one referral website to the healthcare exchange yesterday. Even President Obama reached out to say thanks to Galifianakis for the web traffic spike, signing the tweet -bo, meaning that the President himself sent the tweet. “Hey @galifianakisz, thanks for sending so many folks to #GetCoveredNow at http://Healthcare.gov. And good luck with those spider bites. -bo”
–BACKSTORY: “The President’s interview with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns was designed to reach Americans where they live,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. “They watch this show in huge numbers.” Carney said that it’s all part of the administration’s effort to reach an audience that doesn’t read newspapers or watch the evening news. “I think what it says is that gone are the days when your broadcast, or yours, or yours, can reach everybody that we need to reach,” Carney said. http://abcn.ws/1oK3NLl
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS — OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT STILL MISSING CRITICAL MILLENNIALS. Less than three weeks remain in the open enrollment period for the healthcare insurance marketplace commonly known as Obamacare, but according to new statistics from the administration, a critical age group still isn’t turning out in needed numbers, reports ABC’s MATTHEW LAROTONDA. As of March 1 over 4.2 million have found insurance coverage through the online state and federal exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s a 22 percent increase over January’s 3.3 million and within possible striking distance of the 6 million estimated by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to enroll before the March 31 deadline. But persons aged 18-34 represent only a quarter of the enrolled, down two points from a month ago. It is a crucial missing demographic for the law, which banks on the young and healthy Millennial generation to bring down costs. The White House has previously asserted that if enrollment reached 7 million, Millennials would need to make up 40 percent to keep insurance prices from rising. http://abcn.ws/1oJWjYO
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
–THAT TIME PRESIDENT OBAMA STOPPED AT THE GAP. Apparently even President Obama knows that New York City is a great place to shop, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. During a trip to the Big Apple yesterday, the president made a surprise stop at the Gap. Obama checked out some khakis and sweatshirts. A cheery saleswoman talked him through a few options, including a V-neck pink sweater. He ultimately settled on a light pink crewneck for Sasha and a bright pink one for Malia. The president greeted a woman behind the counter, who told him he was better looking in person. “You hear that?” The president said to reporters. “I think the ladies will be impressed with my style sense,” the president said as his items were rung up. A White House official explained the president’s impromptu stop: “In his State of the Union address, the President called for businesses to raise workers’ wages, and today the President will visit a Gap store to show his support for Gap Inc.’s decision to increase wages for their US based employees.” http://abcn.ws/1i3UTYb
–FIRED CHRIS CHRISTIE AIDE FIGHTS SUBPOENA IN NEW JERSEY COURT. The aide to Gov. Chris Christie at the center of a massive scandal now threatening Christie’s political future stepped out of the shadows yesterday as her attorney fought to keep her emails and phone records out of reach of the committee investigating last September’s controversial closures of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Bridget Anne Kelly, who was Christie’s deputy chief of staff, sat quietly in a Trenton courtroom and her attorney, Michael Critchley, seemed to suggest the former aide wanted immunity so she could testify about what happened at the bridge and whether it was a move to punish a local politician who wouldn’t back Christie. Kelly and Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien, who were both fired by Christie when the scandal broke, are citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to not comply with the subpoena. Stepien did not appear in court, but his attorney Kevin Marino appeared on his behalf. http://abcn.ws/1i3uolK
DO YOU LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM? POLITICIANS DO! Would you, could you quote the man? Would you, could you on C-SPAN? Forget Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi. For some reason, politicians seem drawn to another purveyor of political wisdom — the redoubtable Dr. Seuss. In fact, ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY notes, a number of prominent pols have even taken to reading his rhyming classics aloud. During this week’s 14-hour climate change talk-a-thon, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., quoted Seuss’ “The Lorax,” a story with a none-too-subtle conservationist message. “‘But now,’ says the Once-ler, ‘Now that you’re here The word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear: UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’” Markey’s colleagues from the other side of the aisle have also invoked Seuss. Last September, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, briefly paused his 21-hour diatribe against Obamacare to read “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters before bed. And just last weekend, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin delivered her own rendition of the Seuss classic — parodying it during her keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as the largest annual gatherings of conservatives in the country. “I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam.” VIDEO by ABC’s ALI DUKAKIS: http://abcn.ws/1iwpZGU
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
MEET THE MAN WHO GOT CONGRESS BOOZE DURING PROHIBITION. During the days of Prohibition, there was perhaps no one with easier access to alcohol in the nation’s capital than the very people responsible for ratifying the constitutional amendment that banned the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol: members of Congress. It was all thanks to Congress’ favorite bootlegger: George Cassiday, who was more commonly known on Capitol Hill as “the man in the green hat.” For 10 years, he ran a bootlegging operation for Congress out of the House and Senate office buildings. “He kept them wet, even though they all voted dry,” Garrett Peck, author of the book “Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t,” told ABC’s DAVID KERLEY in an interview in the Prohibition-era wine cellar that belonged to President Woodrow Wilson. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1lAlVHx
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
–DEBATING RUSSIAN POWER. Intelligence Squared U.S. is hosting a debate tonight in New York City moderated by ABC’s JOHN DONVAN. The question: Is Russia a Marginal Power? Debaters include Robert Blackwill (Deputy National Security Adviser under Bush), Ian Bremmer (Founder and President of Eurasia Group), Edward Lucas (Senior Editor at The Economist), Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday writer). “Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and has the power of veto on the U.N. Security Council, but it remains an authoritarian state, rife with corruption and economic struggles. Is our toxic relationship something to worry about, or is Putin’s Russia fading in importance?” The debate starts at 6:45 p.m. at the Kaufman Center in New York. More information, including an embeddable livestream: http://bit.ly/1ib14KQ
–WITH THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HOLDING HEARING TODAY determining the future of online sales tax solutions, Texas State Rep. Allen Fletcher writes today in the Daily Caller that while conservatives are largely split on the issue, most grassroots conservatives in the states oppose the so called, “origin tax,” which would require online shoppers to pay taxes in the sellers state, not the buyers. http://bit.ly/O00nJj
@marcorubio: In Miami today called to #juryduty. First time ever.
@erikkaknuti: I say Abraham Lincoln would have done “Between Two Ferns” to reach younger audiences if it were around during the civil war.
@jmartNYT: WSJ/NBC mirrors NYT/CBS poll from late last month: Obama down to 41pct approval
@kasie: News: Dem Sen. Mark Udall has a hold on Caroline Krass, Obama admin pick to be the CIA’s general counsel.