Super Tuesday Lite

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • AND THEN THERE WERE SIX: Six states are holding primaries today - Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Today's key race features the Senate minority leader going up against a tea party challenger in Kentucky, setting up perhaps the marquee matchup of 2014. A pediatric neurosurgeon is trying to get the GOP nomination in Oregon after days of late-breaking stories about her personal life. Children and grandchildren of politicians are trying to send another generation to elected office. And a Clinton in-law is eager to get her old House seat back in Pennsylvania. Here's a rundown of today's top primary races and nine reasons why they matter from ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, ARLETTE SAENZ, BETSY KLEIN and CHRIS GOOD:
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ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Four words best describe the Republican approach to the midterm elections: GOP establishment fights back. It was a strategy put into motion more than a year ago, with party leaders deciding to fight - early and often - to keep Tea Party challengers from catching fire. There's no better example than Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell and his allies took seriously the challenge from Matt Bevin and squeezed off the oxygen to his campaign. While the outcome of the Georgia primary is in doubt, the party seems poised to send two credible finalists to a run-off election, rather than nominating a candidate who has little chance of winning in the fall. What we're seeing today is the biggest shift in how the Republican Party has dealt with its often difficult cousin, the Tea Party: Lay down the law early and don't allow trouble to fester. It doesn't guarantee that Republicans will pick up six seats and win control of the Senate, but it puts them in a far stronger position as their countdown to November takes shape.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: People still like their members of Congress. Or even if they don't, they like their alternatives less - at least so far. That's a big lesson of primary season to date, with today's flurry of voting likely to keep incumbents undefeated thus far in 2014. Holding an office continues to matter, something that's helped Republicans hold off tea partiers and other would-be giant killers this year. But extend that lesson forward, and it's Democrats who will have the advantage of incumbency in the races that will provide the drama of this midterm year. For all the angst and anger among voters, familiar names still count for something.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Today is the Super Tuesday of Primary Season and six states will be voting. Here are eight questions that are important to answer and examine tonight and in the race to the November: 1. How big will Mitch McConnell's margin be in Kentucky? 2. Who makes it to a run-off in Georgia? 3. Out of those two who will be stronger against Michelle Nunn? 4. In Pennsylvania, does Marjorie Margolies lose to Brendan Boyle and what's the margin there? 5. Does the self-funding businessman beat a sitting congresswoman in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Pennsylvania? 6. Do the Clintons have coattails this time around? 7. Do the series of revelations about Monica Wehby's personal life impact the primary in Oregon, a vote by mail state? 8. In the two races we are watching in Idaho: the GOP gubernatorial primary and the second congressional district primary does the establishment buck the challenge from the right? Most, if not all, will be answered tonight and will likely impact how each side views each race in the general election.



WHITE HOUSE DISTORTS AMERICAN LEGION POSITION ON VETERANS CONTROVERSY. At the White House briefing yesterday, Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly suggested the American Legion had praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for the resignation Friday of top VA health official Dr. Robert Petzel, ABC's JONATHAN KARL reports. It turns out, however, the American legion had issued a statement dismissing the resignation as "business as usual." Here's what Carney said at the White House briefing: "The American Legion said that the group looks at Petzel's resignation as a, quote, step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA. So I think that undercuts the assertion that that is not a meaningful development." Carney went on to cite the American Legion nine times during the briefing.

-BUT THE AMERICAN LEGION PUT OUT A STATEMENT ON FRIDAY about Dr. Petzel's resignation saying almost exactly the opposite of what Carney suggested. "This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual," American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement. "Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won't make that much of a difference." When asked about the discrepancy, the White House pointed ABC News to articles in the Washington Times and USA Today that posted on Friday and quoted American Legion officials calling the resignation a "step towards addressing the leadership problem at the VA." The official quoted, spokesman John Raughter, acknowledged saying it was a step forward but not much of a step. "It was a small a step," Raughter told ABC News. "It was going to happen anyway. So, I suppose it was better than if he had stayed on the job."

SENIOR U.S. DILPOMAT SENT TO LIBYA AMID POLITICAL TURMOIL. In the midst of a hostile takeover of the Libyan parliament over the weekend, the U.S. is sending a high-level official to help the political process there, a State Department official told ABC News, according to ABC's ALI WEINBERG. Ambassador David Satterfield, who also directs the international monitoring force in the Sinai Peninsula, will keep that role even as he goes to Libya. "Secretary of State Kerry requested that Ambassador David Satterfield travel to Libya to offer to help build political consensus at this challenging time in Libya's transition. He will continue to fulfill his duties as Director General of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)," the official said. It appeared that Satterfield was to get this additional assignment before the events of this weekend, in which forces loyal to retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter stormed the parliament building in Tripoli. Kerry alluded to the new role during a press conference last Thursday when he spoke about the US, UK and Arab League's efforts to help the political transition in Libya.

JOE BIDEN GETS INVITED TO PROM BY 17-YEAR-OLD-GIRL. Ask a teenage girl who her dream date to prom would be, and you would expect to get an answer such as Justin Bieber or Harry Styles, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. But for one Connecticut teen, that dream date was 71-year-old Joe Biden. At the age of 17, Talia Maselli of Newington, Conn., invited the vice president to attend her high school prom, calling him "the most delightful man in America," The Courant reported yesterday. "I am inviting you so far in advance because I'm sure many 17-year-old girls send you prom invitations, and I had to beat them to it," Maselli said in her letter to the vice president.

OBAMA MAKES SURPRISE STOP AT LITTLE LEAGUE GAME. On his way to a fundraiser last night, President Obama made a surprise stop at a D.C. Little League game to chat with the players and drop off one girl's dad in time for the first pitch, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. "Oh my God, it's the president!" a young player shouted as Obama strutted onto the field at Friendship Park Recreation Center, according to the traveling press pool. One of the players on the team just so happens to be Della Carney, the daughter of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "Had to bring your dad to the game or he was going to be late," the president reportedly explained, as he approached the team. Della, one of just a few girls on the team, is the pitcher. According to the pool, Carney's wife, ABC's CLAIRE SHIPMAN, and son Hugo were also in attendance and seemed just as surprised to see the president there.


WENDY DAVIS TO PROPOSE 'UNPRECEDENTED DEBATE SCHEDULE'. According to a press release from the Democratic Texas gubernatorial hopeful: "Wendy Davis today in Dallas will propose an unprecedented debate schedule that will give Texans in communities across the state the opportunity to hear the clear choice they have for their next governor."


@GeraldFSeib: Why Republicans should take seriously Rick Santorum's book on connecting with blue-collar conservatives. My latest::

@ShaneGoldmacher: Mitch McConnell may win his primary big. But the process has shown why he's no longer the king of KY. My latest:

@joearnoldreport: Bevin: "My job is to beat him… & if we don't, I don't know how he wins in Nov. when he's divided his own party as much as he has" #KySen

@igorbobic: Former Merkley staffer first to file FOIA on Wehby police report …

@KevinMaddenDC: Fascinating compilation of what everyday Americans have to say about NYT/Jill Abramson issue: