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A Truly Special Election in South Carolina
If only for entertainment, the most compelling contest this year is South Carolina’s special election, which could pit former Gov. Mark Sanford against the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. If Sanford wins a runoff Tuesday against conservative activist Curtis Bostic—hardly a foregone conclusion—he would face Elizabeth Colbert-Busch on May 7.
Conventional wisdom suggests Sanford would start as a front-runner in a Republican district that gave Mitt Romney 58 percent of the vote. But scandal-plagued candidates are uniquely vulnerable, even in the most favorable districts. Even though he may win a runoff against an underfunded Republican, Sanford’s approval ratings are weak and he remains vulnerable against a credible Democrat.
It’s an open question whether Colbert-Busch fits that bill. One Democratic automated poll showed the race deadlocked, but privately Democrats are taking a wait-and-see approach. And Democratic strategists are keeping a close eye on the contest, knowing that an upset in South Carolina could perpetuate the narrative of ongoing GOP woes.
ALASKA REPUBLICAN DOESN’T QUITE APOLOGIZE FOR ‘WETBACKS’ COMMENT. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, issued a statement Thursday saying he “meant no disrespect” when he referred to Mexican farmworkers as “wetbacks” on Tuesday, but did not go so far as to apologize, The Anchorage Daily News reports. In a Tuesday interview with an Alaska radio station, Young said, “My father had a ranch; we used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.” House Speaker John Boehner called on Young to apologize immediately, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus condemned the comment strongly. Read more
- The Washington Post rounds up some other interesting things Don Young has said and done, including an incident in 1994 in which Young brandished a piece of walrus anatomy at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Mollie Beattie.
NORTH KOREA ORDERS MISSILES READY TO STRIKE U.S. Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered the North Korean military to prepare its missiles to strike the U.S. and South Korea, The New York Times reports. Tensions have been rising in the region, and the U.S. this week took the unusual step of running a practice bombing run with stealth bombers over South Korea, the apparent provocation for this latest escalation. China has called for calm, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov predicted the chest-thumping “will descend into the spiral of a vicious cycle.” Read more
- North Korean state media released a photo today of Kim backed by military advisers in a war room with a chart in the background prominently labeled “Strategic force’s plan to hit the mainland of the U.S.” The Associated Press has said the photo may be doctored. (Washington Post)
OBAMA CALLS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT IN FLORIDA. President Obama pressed his infrastructure agenda in a speech at the Port of Miami today, calling for a $10 billion national infrastructure bank, subsidies for state and municipal bonds, and tax breaks for foreign investors in U.S. infrastructure, NBC News reports. “There’s work to be done,” Obama said. “There are workers who are ready to do it. Let’s prove to the world there’s no better place to do business than right here in the United States of America, and let’s get started rebuilding America.” Read more
TURNING TO EXECUTIVE ACTION ON GUN CONTROL. President Obama has been advocating for a legislative solution to gun-control, beseeching lawmakers even this Thursday to remember the deaths of the children and teachers killed in Connecticut last December. But as legislation stalls and the momentum for more stringent measures peters out, Obama is turning more and more to executive power to move gun control forward, The Hill reports. He has already bolstered the nation's background system, pushed for government-funded research on the causes of gun control, and launched a million-dollar ad campaign promoting safe gun ownership. Read more
- Congress is expected to vote on several gun-control measures of its own when it returns from recess, but Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced Thursday he was joining a group of Republican senators who plan to filibuster the bill, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas. Read more
FBI ARRESTS SENIOR SAC CAPITAL MANAGER. The ongoing federal crackdown on insider trading at Connecticut hedge fund SAC Capital continued today with the early-morning arrest of a portfolio manager, The New York Times reports. Michael Steinberg is the most senior employee of the fund to be arrested to date, and a longtime confidante of the fund’s billionaire founder, Steve Cohen, who is reported to be the ultimate target of the years-long investigation. The hedge fund recently reached a $602 million civil settlement for insider trading with the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a federal judge indicated Thursday he might reject it because it allows SAC to avoid admitting wrongdoing. Read more
- To take his mind off his woes, billionaire Cohen last week agreed to pay $60 million for a house in the Hamptons and bought a Picasso for $155 million. (NYT)
CRAFT BEER BOOM DESCENDS ON WASHINGTON, PUSHING FOR TAX BREAKS. Craft beer brewers converged this week for the industry’s first conference, The New York Times reports. And with it came much glad-handing with Congressional staffers as brewery workers pushed for tax cuts they say will enable them to brew more beer and hire more workers. “For every 31 gallons that we brew, $7 goes to Uncle Sam,” said Jeff Hancock, a cofounder of DC Brau, one of five craft breweries to open in the D.C. area in the past two years. Read more
- Home-brewing is legal in every state with one exception: Alabama. NJ’s Ben Terris reports on whether this holdout will finally join the party.
CENSUS TO BE CONDUCTED ONLINE. The 2020 census will be done on the Internet, The Washington Post reports. The Census Bureau's monthly American Community Survey went online in January, and already more than half its responses have come on the Web. Officials expect far more people will be online by 2020, which will drive down costs. The savings could be huge, according to Frank Vitrano, associate director for the 2020 census. “It reduces the cost of printing, the cost of postage and the cost of data capture off paper forms. And we see it as more convenient for the public," he said. Read more
NPR TO END ‘TALK OF THE NATION.’ The long-running afternoon talk show will be ending in June, The New York Times reports, to be replaced by a “magazine-style” program produced by a Boston member station. But fear not fans of Talk of the Nation: Science Friday: that program will continue to air on NPR. Read more
"I was not surprised to see myself front and center on the promotional material for this climate-change movie, and quite frankly, I'm proud of it,” –Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus about global warming, on being featured in the film "Greedy Lying Bastards." (The Hill)
A VERY PERSONAL IPO: SELLING SHARES IN YOUR LIFE FOR $1 EACH. Sure, we all accept life advice from trusted friends, relatives, and mentors. But what if those figures -- and a few complete strangers -- could weigh in on your life like stockholders weigh in on a company? Wired took a deep dive into the unusually public life of Mike Merrill, a 30-year-old customer-service representative who decided to sell shares in his life on the open market. Figuring that investors would have a financial incentive to make the best decisions for him, he sold 929 of 100,000 shares at $1 each in his initial public offering and promised a return on any profits he made outside of his day job in Portland, Ore. His stockholders decide exactly what he does with his life: They vote on a specialized website on everything from what his next project should be, to who he can date, to whether he can get a vasectomy. Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
NORTH KOREA, GAY MARRIAGE … AND JOE BIDEN ON EASTER. With recent saber-rattling from Kim Jong-un, late-night hosts brought back everyone’s favorite joke construction: the ones involving former basketball star and almost-diplomat Dennis Rodman. Both Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno mentioned the former NBA all-star in their monologue jokes. The preeminent national news of the Supreme Court hearing arguments on the constitutionality of marriage laws took center stage on the Comedy Central shows. Stephen Colbert lingered on the topic, while The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart used his first third of the show to discuss the legality of same-sex marriage. Watch it here
TO HOLD SENATE MAJORITY, DEMS TARGET MOST CONSERVATIVE STATES. When Ashley Judd announced she wasn’t running for the Senate, Republicans greeted the news with glee, sending out a list of 10 other Democratic recruits uninterested in running against Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But privately, leading Democratic officials were also cheering. Most viewed the liberal actress’s decision as good news for their chances in Kentucky, allowing a more-moderate candidate, such as Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, to run instead. The efforts to woo a moderate Democrat to defeat McConnell are part of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s plans to compete in the most inhospitable territory for Democrats: open seats in Georgia, South Dakota, West Virginia, and possibly, even in Kentucky against the powerful and well-funded Senate minority leader. Facing a challenging political landscape in 2014, the party is close to landing credible candidates in all of those states. But will it work? Read more
OBAMA ON SPANISH TV, SENATORS TALK IMMIGRATION. Rep. Don Young’s slur against Latinos is sure to be a topic on the Sunday talk shows, and the timing couldn’t be better. Two members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” working on immigration reform will be on NBC’s Meet the Press and another will be on CNN’s State of the Union. Univision's Al Punto will feature President Obama in a pre-recorded interview, also addressing his immigration-reform efforts. Read more
NBC’s Meet the Press hosts Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
CBS’s Face the Nation hosts Cardinal Timothy Dolan and other religious leaders.
ABC’s This Week hosts Dolan, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
Fox News Sunday hosts retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly and Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
CNN’s State of the Union hosts Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Univision’s Al Punto features Obama.
C-SPAN’s Newsmakers features AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka