Rolling The Dice On Diplomacy

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • KERRY TO MEET WITH RUSSIA FOREIGN MINISTER ON CRISIS: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled to meet in Paris today to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Kerry met earlier today with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. While that meeting was not directly related to the Ukraine situation, it reaffirmed Ukraine's sovereignty. The men are in Paris for a global conference. The proposed meeting between Kerry and Lavrov comes one day after Russia test-launched a missile over the Caspian Sea. U.S. officials say the missile test had been planned well before the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, calling it "a previously notified and routine test launch of an ICBM."
  • MCCAIN'S ADVICE TO OBAMA: Sen. John McCain blasted President Obama yesterday for his handling of Russia, saying the crisis in Ukraine should serve as a wake-up call for the president about the Russian president's intentions, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. "It's time we woke up about Vladimir Putin. It's time this administration got real," McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor. "We are on the verge of possibly of seeing a move to re-assert the old Russian empire, which is Mr. Putin's lifelong ambition."
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama travels to Connecticut today to pitch his plan to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in remarks at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "The President will be joined by Governors from the states of Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to discuss the importance of raising the minimum wage and giving hardworking Americans the raise they deserve," according to the White House. Later, the president travels to Boston for two DNC events.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Texas is big enough to fit in a whole bunch of storylines. And the 2014 primaries in the Lone Star State produced a constellation of options for the direction of both parties. For the Democrats, there's the launch of Wendy Davis, probably a few election cycles before she can hope to be competitive (and the Democratic turnout numbers tell part of that story). For Republicans, a few paths emerge out of the election results. First, the establishment isn't dead yet: Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions survived their challenges. Second, while the tea party had a disappointing night, Ted Cruz remains the largest force in the largest red state in the nation. Cornyn had to cozy up to Cruz to survive, and the man Cruz beat for his Senate seat in 2012 - David Dewhurst - is now the underdog in the runoff to keep his job as lieutenant governor. And down ballot, the biggest story is the beginning of the political career of George P. Bush. His campaign from here will define an alternate path for the GOP - updating a dynasty for a new demographic future.

ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions avoided upsets in Tuesday's Texas primaries as the Tea Party was unable to recruit challengers to overcome the long-time Texas politicos. But the primaries weren't a complete wash for the Tea Party. With the popularity of Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Cornyn was forced to run more to the right as he faced the thought of a potential strong challenger entering the race. And down-ballot, Tea Party enthusiasm showed up strong with Tea Party candidates in the Lieutenant Governor's and Attorney General's race forcing establishment-backed candidates into a May 27th run-off and potentially out of their seats.

ABC's ALI WEINBERG: Longtime Hillary Clinton colleague and friend Melanne Verveer dismissed the notion that the former Secretary of State's work on the so-called "reset" with Russia will tarnish her record should she run for president in 2016, in light of recent developments in Ukraine. "I think to judge that today is really an incomplete picture," Verveer, the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues at the Clinton State Department, said. "I think we try to make these judgments based on overnight conditions and I think we need a little perspective, but I don't think that what this says is in and of itself, that was a mistake," she told ABC after speaking at an event honoring the State Department's Women of Courage honorees on Tuesday night.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will head to address CPAC this week, just last year he was left off the guest list, and all eyes will be on the reception he gets there. Is he shunned because of still raw feeling over the Obama hug or embraced by a group who sees Christie getting pummeled by Democrats over the Bridgegate scandal? Will he yet again give off 2016 hints or as he has told donors is he just focused on his state right now? Yesterday at his 112th town hall he spoke of his love for his job and perhaps gave off a hint about his future plans saying, "There's no job in the world that I'd rather have than this one." Christie added that he and his wife "love this place" and sent his "condolences" earlier to one attendee who said they were going to Washington, DC. "It doesn't mean there aren't challenges," Christie told the audience. "Believe me, I've seen it and felt it. There are tough times that you have to go through when you're governor of New Jersey. But what I want all of you to know is never once have I thought to myself that, you know, I don't want to do this. You've given me an extraordinary honor and privilege to have this job and to be able to have the opportunity to try to improve the state where I was born and raised and where I intend to spend the rest of my life."


WHY EVERYONE IN CONGRESS SHOULD BE FREAKING OUT (OR NOT). Just 22 percent of Americans are inclined to re-elect their representative in Congress, according to a new ABC News-Washington Post poll. That's the fewest since ABC/Post polls started asking the question back in 1989. A whopping 68 percent - the most since 1989 - want to look around for someone new, according to the poll. So does this mean that 68 percent of Congress should start packing their bags? Not even close, ABC's RYAN STRUYK notes. Year after year, incumbents keep on getting elected, even though at least 50 percent of the public has said they want to look for other options in every ABC poll since 2002. Turns out that even though most Americans don't like Congress, many Americans don't have a problem with their own member of Congress. The power of incumbency - strong name recognition, a strong network and the ability to raise lots of money very fast - can't be underestimated. Check out this table, which shows that most Americans end up just voting their own member of Congress back in, despite how they feel:

GOP ESTABLISHMENT SAFE IN TEXAS PRIMARIES AS TEA PARTY FALTERS. Two years after Ted Cruz upset the political establishment in the Lone Star state by winning election to the Senate, Texas voters helped two major Republican establishment candidates in marquee races secure their posts in the state's primaries yesterday, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Sen. John Cornyn, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, crushed his primary opponents with well over the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a run-off May 27. The Associated Press called the race for Cornyn, who is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate, shortly after polls closed tonight. Cornyn's closest challenger was Rep. Steve Stockman, who gave up his House seat to run against the two-term senator. Stockman, a well known tea party firebrand, entered the race on the day of the filing deadline but quickly disappointed many conservative activists hoping to uproot Cornyn from his Senate office.

FATAL ACCIDENT, 'DISGUSTING' IMMIGRATION COMMENT RILE FLORIDA SWING DISTRICT RACE. It may have been one of the shortest races of the 2014 campaign season, but with just one week left until the special election in Florida's 13th Congressional District, voters learned that one candidate killed someone decades ago, the other found herself in hot water over a controversial remark about immigration and both sides added hundreds of thousands more to their campaign war chests. Republican David Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink are nearing the finish line in the race to represent one of the most competitive swing districts in the country. They are vying to replace the late Republican Rep. Bill Young, whose death in October opened up a seat that hasn't been occupied by a Democrat in four decades. In preparation for next week's final battle over the district that includes portions of Tampa, here's ABC's ALISA WIERSEMA's look at the state of the race as both candidates near the finish line:

ALAN GRAYSON DENIES PUSHING ESTRANGED WIFE IN WEEKEND ALTERCATION. After being slapped with a temporary protective injunction barring him from contact with his estranged wife, Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat serving his second term in the House, yesterday denied that he battered her during a spat at the couple's home over the weekend, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. "It simply isn't the way she described it," Grayson told a small group of reporters as he left the House chamber after casting votes. "She hit me and I retreated. That's what happened." Asked whether he looked forward to putting the incident behind him once he appears before a judge March 20, Grayson worked to downplay the altercation, saying, "It's not an incident at all." "There's nothing to put behind," he said. "She's simply lying and I think that our statement makes that clear." Grayson and an aide directed further inquiries to a statement released by his spokeswoman earlier today. "It has come to our attention that Ms. Grayson has filed a completely dishonest complaint against Congressman Alan Grayson regarding personal matters that took place last week," Lauren Doney, communications director for Grayson, wrote in an email Tuesday. "These allegations are absolutely false, completely unfounded, and clearly designed to vilify and harm Congressman Grayson."

HARRY REID: REPUBLICANS ARE 'ADDICTED TO KOCH'. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is leading a crusade against the Koch brothers, whose name is pronounced "coke," blasting them for pouring millions of dollars into campaigns to boost conservative candidates. "Senate Republicans, madam president, are addicted to Koch," Reid said today on the Senate floor. Reid's vocal opposition to the wealthy conservative moneymen kicked off last week, when he took to the Senate floor and accused the Koch brothers of "trying to buy America" and supporting a group running ads that he said are "absolutely false." The Nevada senator continued his string of attacks yesterday. ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. "What is un-American is when shadow billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system and benefit themselves and the wealthiest 1 percent," Reid said. "I'll continue to shine a light on this subversion of democracy," Reid said. "As long as the Koch brothers continue to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections, I'm going to do all I can to expose their intentions."


MICHELE BACHMANN ON WHY JAN BREWER'S VETO OF ARIZONA'S "ANTI-GAY" WAS WRONG. Rep. Michele Bachmann is "sorry" that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill in Arizona that would have allowed businesses to legally refuse service to same-sex couples because of religious objections. "I believe that tolerance is a two-way street, and we need to respect everyone's rights, including the rights of people who have sincerely held religious beliefs," Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican told "The Fine Print's" JEFF ZELENY. For more of the interview with Bachmann, including what she points to as the Tea Party's major accomplishment over the last five years, check out this episode of "The Fine Print."


@PhilipRucker: Hillary Clinton says Putin's actions in Ukraine are like "what Hitler did back in the '30s" …

@TheFix: Don't trust either party? Then you've probably thought about voting Republican in 2014.

@HorwitzGabe: Good overview by @DavidNather on 13 policies in the President's budget & which ones may stick around for a bit.

@rachelweinerwp: Black Va. lawmakers walk out in protest of memorial for segregationist Harry F. Byrd Jr.

?@joshtpm: Media Matters Launches 'Mythopedia' Fact Check Tool Ahead Of CPAC …

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