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- "The economy grew at a slower pace in the fourth quarter of 2013 than first thought, weighed down by disappointing retail sales, inventory adjustments and a less robust trade balance. The Commerce Department said Friday it now estimates the economy grew by 2.4 percent in October, November and December, down from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent released on Jan. 30." (New York Times)
- In the FL-13 Special, former state CFO Alex Sink (D) raised $1.3 million and spent $1.5 million during the pre-general reporting period (Jan. 1-Feb. 19), leaving her with $972,000 cash on hand and no debt. Former lobbyist David Jolly (R) raised $639,000 (including a $100,000 committee transfer) and spent $529,000 during the same period, leaving him with $182,000 cash on hand and $162,000 in debt. (Hotline reporting)
- Also in FL-13, the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and the Sierra Club Political Committee "launched a $350,000 campaign accusing ... Jolly of being out of step on climate change. The spot begins airing this week across the district and will run through Election Day on March 11th." (Tampa Bay Times)
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also released a new TV ad attacking Sink "as a 'rubber stamp' for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi." The spot will air through Election Day, and "is the final one being aired by the Chamber as part of a more than $700,000 ad buy stretched over several weeks." (Politico)
- In CO SEN, state Rep. Amy Stephens (R) "is dropping her bid ... and throwing her support to" Rep. Cory Gardner (R). (Denver Post)
- In KS SEN, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) "plans to formally announce Friday his entrance into the" race. "He would be the presumptive Democratic nominee." (Topeka Capital-Journal)
- Also in KS SEN, the Tea Party Express endorsed physician Milton Wolf (R). (Topeka Capital-Journal)
- In KY SEN, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) launched a new TV ad vowing "to lead the opposition to any federal efforts that would hurt the coal sector. ... The McConnell campaign says the ad will air during University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball games for the rest of the season." (AP)
- In AZ-07, Rep. Ed Pastor (D) "the first Hispanic from Arizona elected to Congress and the senior member of the state's House delegation, announced Thursday that he will retire after completing 23 years in Washington. The race for his safe Democratic seat is expected to become a free-for-all, drawing a host of candidates who have been preparing for his retirement for years." (Arizona Republic)
- In ID-02, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "will start airing a new TV ad Friday that begins by criticizing" attorney Bryan Smith (R) "as a 'trial lawyer' who opposed efforts to curtail frivolous lawsuits. The spot then pivots to" Rep. Mike Simpson (R), "who the Chamber calls 'Idaho Strong' and, three times in 15 seconds, 'conservative." (Hotline reporting)
- In WA-01, retired Microsoft software engineer Pedro Celis (R) is challenging Rep. Suzan DelBene (D), "a fellow ex-Microsoft employee. ... The swing district is the state's most evenly divided between Republican- and Democratic-leaning voters." (Seattle Times)
- In CA GOV, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) "finally made it official Thursday -- he's running for reelection. Brown filed paperwork ... to seek an unprecedented fourth and final term. ... He had been widely expected to make the move, but had remained coy about his official plans as recently as Wednesday." (Los Angeles Times)
- In IL GOV, "the four Republican candidates ... intensified their attacks against each other during a Thursday night debate as they tried to convince primary voters of their electability come the fall with the primary election less than three weeks away. The target of many of the barbs was front runner" businessman Bruce Rauner (R). "Rivals accused Rauner of practicing 'pay to play' politics, of being naïve in how state government works and likened him to" President Obama "for threatening to run Illinois by 'dictating by executive order.'" (Chicago Tribune)
- In SC GOV, the RGA "plans to spend about $200,000 to air ... its first TV ad" in the race, "providing air reinforcements for potentially vulnerable Gov. Nikki Haley (R)." (Washington Post)
- Vice President Biden issued a warning to his party Thursday: Don't overlook the midterms. Biden, addressing a group of state Democratic chairs at the DNC's winter meeting in Washington: "I know everyone wants to talk about 2016. That's lifetimes away. ... Think what happens ... if we do not succeed in 2014. Just think of what is at stake for all that brought us into this process to begin with." (Hotline reporting)
Hotline editors weigh in on the stories that drive the day
• Our latest edition of Hotline's Senate-Race Rankings is best thought of in tiers: South Dakota and West Virginia are very likely GOP pickups. Republicans are favored in Montana and Arkansas. Seats 5-7 are the majority-makers: We've bumped North Carolina up because of the attacks on Kay Hagan, while GOP establishment pick Dan Sullivan still has to navigate a complex primary in Alaska, which slides down. Races 8-12 are also hyper-competitive; Colorado joins this group given the reported change-of-heart from Rep. Cory Gardner (R). Ten of the top 12 seats are Democratic-held, and Republicans need to net 6. Democrats are favored to retain seats 13-15 -- including Virginia's debut on the list -- but Republicans don't need those to win back the chamber. -- Steven Shepard
• In terms of outside spending, the FL-13 special is already one of the most expensive House races in history, with nearly $7 million spent already and over a week to go. That lays out the stakes in Pinellas County pretty nicely, as both parties battle over a rare winnable swing seat. --Scott Bland
• The RGA will launch a TV ad in the South Carolina governor's race next week in support of Haley, making this the third state where the committee will go on the air this cycle. Haley doesn't look particularly vulnerable in her race against Democrat Vincent Sheheen, whom she beat by four points in 2010. But her reelection holds symbolic value for the party. She's the only female GOP governor who faces a competitive reelection race this year, unless Arizona's Jan Brewer decides to run again, and a loss would put a Democrat at the helm of this important presidential primary state ahead of 2016. -- Karyn Bruggeman
HAIR OF THE DOG
FRESH BREWED BUZZ
- "From the very outset of the 16-day government shutdown last fall, members of Congress recognized its potential for political damage. Many of them, seeking to contain the possible fallout, pledged to give back some of their federal salaries earned while the government was not functioning. At the time, there were questions about the sincerity and political expediency of the pledges and whether it was even possible for lawmakers to decline their pay. Five months later, some answers are beginning to emerge. At least 116 of the 244 lawmakers who pledged to return part of their pay have donated more than $494,500 to charity or back to government accounts to help pay down the federal deficit as of Thursday evening." (Washington Post)
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was in Boston Thursday to raise money for the RGA alongside 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney (R) and MA GOV candidate/2010 nominee Charlie Baker (R). "Organizers had to scramble to change venues" at the last minute, drawing "unwanted attention from reporters." The event "raised about $1 million from about 20 people." (Boston Globe)
- "Newly uncensored records released ... by the legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings show David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, two people at the center of the scandal, joked about causing traffic problems for a prominent New Jersey rabbi." (Newark Star-Ledger)
- "Same-sex marriages performed in other states are legal in Kentucky under a final order issued Thursday by a federal judge in Louisville. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II issued an order early Thursday afternoon that strikes down portions of a 1998 state law and a 2004 state constitutional amendment defining marriage in Kentucky as between one man and one woman, and that prohibited the state from recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states." (Lexington Herald-Leader)
- "Attorney General Eric Holder was hospitalized for several hours Thursday after experiencing faintness and shortness of breath at work. ... He was discharged later in the day and sent home to rest." (AP)
- RNC chairman Reince Priebus announced the finalists to serve as the host city for the 2016 Republican National Convention via Twitter on Thursday: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
- "Dept. of Experiments: Obama's campaign turned politics into a science. But what if there are still some things in politics that money just can't buy?" (Politico Magazine)
- First Lady Michelle Obama sat down for an interview, which aired Friday morning, with the "Today" Show's Jenna Bush Hager, the daughter of George W. Bush, to discuss "the fourth anniversary of her 'Let's Move' initiative" and "the importance of parents and children discussing healthy living together." (NBC News)
- "Local Norwegians annoyed by Obama's pick for ambassador to Norway" (Madison Capital Times)
- "It's boner. Boner." -- House Speaker John Boehner, jokingly correcting a reporter who referred to him as "Mr. Camp" at a press conference on Thursday (The Wire)
PLAY OF THE DAY!
- Today's weather, from the National Weather Service: Sunny. Highs in the upper 20s. Northeast winds around 5 mph.
- The House returns at 9 a.m.
- Obama delivers remarks at the DNC's winter meeting in Washington. (Capital Hilton, 4:50 p.m.)
- No. 12 Virginia hosts No. 4 Syracuse on Saturday. (John Paul Jones Arena, 4 p.m.)
- The Eagles perform at the Verizon Center on Saturday. (8 p.m.)
- The Capitals host the Flyers on Sunday. (Verizon Center, 12:30 p.m.)
- George Washington hosts George Mason on Sunday. (Charles E. Smith Center, 1 p.m.)
- Have an event for us to highlight? Email us!
- Henry Clay was sworn into the Senate at age 29 in 1849, even though the Consitution requires senators to be at least 30 years of age.
- The winner is Mark Bergman, and here's his Swizzle Challenge: "In what year did the Pennsylvania Society, the annual dinner for Pennsylvania politicos, begin? And why does it take place in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria?" The 1st correct e-mailer gets to submit the next question.
NJ'S EARLY BIRD SPECIALS
- The Hotline's Senate Race Rankings: Republicans in Command
- The End of the Pragmatic Governor
- Why Millions Are Being Spent on Florida's Special Election
- Can Minimum Wage Be Democrats' 2014 Turnout Trick?
- Everyone Won the Government Shutdown
"I don't know if you know who I am, chairman. I know you never saw 'Knocked Up', which is a little insulting." -- Actor Seth Rogen
"I want the record to note that this is the first time, I will wager, this is the first time in any congressional hearing in history that the words 'knocked up' have ever been spoken." -- Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee chairman/Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), at a hearing on Wednesday (National Journal)
"That Harkin guy seemed pretty cool. I'd go with him." -- Rogen, when asked in an interview if there was one politician with whom he'd want to smoke pot (ABC News)
Adam Wollner, Editor
Steven Shepard, Editor-in-Chief