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- In CO SEN, Rep. Cory Gardner (R) "intends to drop his re-election bid to run for the ... seat held by" Sen. Mark Udall (D), "lobbing a bombshell that alters Colorado's political landscape for the November elections. Shortly after The Denver Post first reported Gardner's plans, the GOP front-runner in the Senate race," 2010 nominee Ken Buck (R) "revealed he was going to run for Gardner's seat in" CO-04. (Denver Post)
- In GA SEN, Rep. Jack Kingston (R) launched his first TV ad, which is a biographical spot highlighting his conservative values. The ad will air statewide on broadcast and cable. (release)
- In MI SEN, Senate Majority PAC (D) launched a new TV ad attacking former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) "for helping the powerful at our expense." The ad, which features an image of the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, "comes as a response to a slew of heavy advertising from Americans for Prosperity" against Rep. Gary Peters (D). (The Hill)
- In the FL-13 Special, "state election records showed that 83,000 residents had already voted by absentee ballot" as of Tuesday. "Of those who have voted in this election, nearly 80 percent are age 55 and up. And though voters over the age of 65 make up about a third of the district's electorate, they account for more than half of the people who have sent in mail ballots thus far." (Tampa Bay Times)
- In NY-13, 2012 candidate/state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D) will announce his plans to challenge" Rep. Charles Rangel (D) "for the second time" on Thursday. "Espaillat, who hopes to become the first Dominican-born congressman in U.S. history, came within 1,000 votes of ... Rangel in a bitter Democratic primary two years ago." (New York Observer)
- In PA GOV, the Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC endorsed Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D). (PoliticsPA.com)
- In NY GOV, the Westchester County Democratic Committee began airing TV ads on a local cable-news station Wednesday morning, "accusing" Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R) "of spending too much time on the road talking about New York's top job." Astorino "has said that he will announce whether he will run ... by next week." (News 12 Westchester)
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) "spoke Wednesday at the University of Miami, touching on the chaos in Venezuela, climate change, and the traps of partisanship. One topic she conspicuously avoided: Whether she'll run for president in 2016." (Miami Herald)
- According to a new CBS News/New York Times poll of national RVs, conducted Feb. 19-23, Republicans lead the generic ballot, 42-39%. (release)
- The poll also shows that 41% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 51% disapprove. In January, 46% approved, and 47% disapproved. (release)
Hotline editors weigh in on the stories that drive the day
• Cory Gardner's decision to run for the Senate in Colorado -- after previously resisting entreaties to run for higher office -- shows how confident Republicans are that Obama's health care woes are creating an unusually fruitful environment for the GOP. The new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Republicans with a three-point edge on the generic ballot -- with a surprisingly high 43 percent supporting outright repeal and 64 percent saying health care is a litmus test issue -- also confirm health care is a driving force behind a potential wave. -- Josh Kraushaar
• Early ballot returns may be skewing toward older voters in the FL-13 special election, but they're not skewing toward Republicans. The GOP's two-point edge in early ballot returns is less than their registration edge in the district, and though some Republican strategists think they can make up ground as time goes on, others are worried by the trend. -- Scott Bland
• Low turnout among women handed the GOP victories across the board in the 2010 midterms and it'll be tough to avoid a repeat in 2014, but Planned Parenthood is going to try. The group revealed they will spend an estimated $18 million this cycle mobilizing women voters in top-targeted gubernatorial and Senate races. The Voter Participation Center, however, predicts 10.5 million fewer unmarried women, and 8.4 million fewer married women nationwide will vote in the 2014 midterm elections than did in 2012, demonstrating the challenge at hand for Democrats. -- Karyn Bruggeman
HAIR OF THE DOG
FRESH BREWED BUZZ
- "A federal judge in San Antonio on Wednesday declared Texas' ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The Lone Star state's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages is also unconstitutional, he ruled. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, however, also issued a stay, meaning the bans remain in effect for the time being." TX GOV candidate/Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) "issued a statement Wednesday confirming that his office plans to appeal the ruling." (San Antonio Express-News)
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) "silenced the vitriolic outcry over Senate Bill 1062 with a veto early Wednesday evening, eliciting relief from opponents who said it would lead to discrimination and hurt the state's economy and reputation, and disappointment from supporters who maintained the bill's intent had been distorted. ... SB 1062 would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses facing discrimination lawsuits if they proved they had acted on a 'sincerely held religious belief.' Opponents argued it would legalize discrimination, in particular, allowing businesses to refuse to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. ... The veto came two days after the bill reached her desk and amid a growing criticism, locally and nationally, of the legislation. Similar bills have been proposed in other states, including Idaho and Kansas, but not advanced." (Arizona Republic)
- "The political arm of Planned Parenthood is preparing to launch its largest campaign offensive ever, targeting more than a dozen states and some of the cycle's top Senate and gubernatorial races to raise the alarm about the stakes of the 2014 midterm elections for women's health care and abortion rights. The cost of the midterm campaign is expected to cross the $18 million mark, including $2.4 million the group spent in 2013 for" VA GOV. "That investment would make the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes — the national federation's political entities — two of the heaviest outside spenders on the Democratic side, and certainly among the top independent expenditure campaigns focused on reaching women." (Politico)
- "Nonprofits spend money on campaigns despite benefactors' warnings" (Center for Public Integrity)
- "For the first time, a convicted congressional candidate has stated in federal records that" former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) "was a part of the conspiracy to funnel illegal contributions to his campaign." 2012 FL-26 candidate Justin Lamar Sternad (D) "said in three recent Federal Election Commission filings that a total of $81,486.15 in illegal campaign contributions were coordinated or tied to 'Ana Alliegro and/or David Rivera.' The revelations about the two come nearly a year after Sternad's March 15 guilty plea on counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy and making a false statement on an FEC report." (Miami Herald)
- "The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday -- pollsters and weathermen." -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), at a town hall event on Wednesday (CNN)
- "Joe Biden in Winter" (Politico Magazine)
- "I think what people -- not just Kentucky, but the nation -- are seeing is that [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, kind of like heating a biscuit twice, never tastes good the second time, no matter how much jam or jelly you put on it." -- KY SEN candidate/Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) (Washinton Post)
- "Obama's Trauma Team: How an unlikely group of high-tech wizards revived Obama's troubled HealthCare.gov website" (Time)
- "It's not like we're talking about Arlen Specter here. Sen. McConnell has a longstanding conservative record and for an opponent to beat him, they'll have to prove somehow that he's not a conservative." -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (Washington Post)
PLAY OF THE DAY!
- Today's weather, from the National Weather Service: Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 30s. Southwest winds 10-15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, becoming west 15-20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph this afternoon.
- The Tea Party Patriots host a five-year anniversary celebration in Washington. Participants include Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Paul. (Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, 8:30 a.m.)
- The Senate is back at 9:30 a.m., while the House returns at 10 a.m.
- Vice President Biden addresses the Association of State Democratic Chairs at the DNC Winter Meeting in Washington (Capital Hilton, 11:30 a.m.)
- Obama delivers remarks to unveil the "My Brother's Keeper" initiative. (White House, 3:25 p.m.)
- The Capitals return from Olympic break to take on the Panthers. (Comcast SportsNet, 7:30 p.m.)
- Have an event for us to highlight? Email us!
- Shirley Temple lost to Pete McCloskey in a 1967 special Republican primary election in CA-11.
- The winner is Betsy Hawkings, and here's her Swizzle Challenge: "What former senator was sworn into the Senate at the age of 29?" The 3rd correct e-mailer gets to submit the next question.
NJ'S EARLY BIRD SPECIALS
- Gardner's Run Shows GOP Expects a Promising Year
- What Jan Brewer's Gay Bill Veto Means for Arizona — and the Country
- Congressional Problem Solvers Head for the Exits
- Obama's Former Budget Ace Fights to Hide His Finances
- Koch Money Flows Into the Obamacare Medicaid Fight
"MARRIAGE= ONE MAN & ONE MAN. Enough of these activist judges. FAVORITE if you agree. I know the silent majority out there is with us!" -- TX LG candidate Dan Patrick (R) on Twitter, who quickly deleted and reposted an edited tweet and joked about his "#twittertypo." (Slate)
"Ugh." -- Patrick digital strategist Vincent Harris, in a tweet roughly 30 minutes later
Adam Wollner, Editor
Steven Shepard, Editor-in-Chief
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