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The Obamacare Wars Continue


THE NUMBERS GAME: The Obama administration has promised to release this week the first official totals for enrollments in state and federal health insurance exchanges created under Obamacare. That announcement could come as soon as soon as today, according to one administration official, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER reports. The released figures will cover October — the rocky first month of the online exchanges. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has publicly acknowledged that the cumulative total enrollments will be “very low.” Other top admin officials have been aggressively downplaying expectations, citing the technical troubles. ABC News reported on Nov. 6 that the likely first-month federal enrollment is below 50,000 people — that estimate based on our analysis of 175 pages of internal administration memos. Last night, the Wall Street Journal, citing “two people familiar with the matter,” reported that the federal tally is between 40,000 to 50,000 enrollees. HHS declined to confirm the Journal’s report.

MARCO RUBIO ON OBAMACARE ‘FRAUD’: In a Miami Herald Op-Ed, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., writes: “As Obamacare’s website failures push more people toward non-web enrollment options, the same kind of con artists who have been defrauding Medicare, Medicaid and immigrants will be inclined to do the same through Obamacare’s navigator network. And as time goes on, we will inevitably see more cases of people fraudulently posing as navigators, collecting personal information and then exploiting innocent victims. And while some states like Florida have taken proactive steps to raise standards for aspiring navigators and toughen consumer protection safeguards, many states have not. It is unacceptable that President Obama is forcing the American people to blindly trust the federal government’s website security and its network of navigators to help them comply with Obamacare. As consumers are being pushed to shop for insurance through Obamacare, navigators and other non-online options, they proceed with great care and caution against fraudsters intending to do them harm. Congress should also act, which is why I have introduced common-sense legislation to protect Americans from Obamacare-related identity theft committed by fraudulent navigators, crack down on fraudsters and raise background-check standards for people applying to be navigators.” http://hrld.us/19XXFuU


ABC’s RICK KLEIN: This might be the most critical week in the Obamacare rollout yet. Midway through the make-or-break month for the Website, it’s still looking broken. The administration is mostly not confirming enrollment numbers that are abysmal by any objective measure. Votes are teed up – in the House for now, but maybe the Senate soon too – to make formal lawmakers’ considerable concerns about the law’s implementation. Remarkably, the stock response remains to not respond – to reporters or lawmakers. Perceptions of the law are gelling more quickly than enrollment figures.

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: On the health care front, there are two sets of figures coming today: The number of people who have enrolled during the first phase of implementation is in the ballpark of 50,000. And a fundraising tally is being unveiled as well: Enroll America will announce that it has raised $27 million this year to sell the plan and to help people sign up, ABC News has learned. The fundraising drive, which includes contributions from some of the Democratic Party’s marquee donors and insurance companies, has been far more successful than the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. But even $27 million isn’t enough to fix all the trouble surrounding President Obama’s health care law.

ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP: If you’re not watching the Virginia Attorney General race yet you should probably tune in. Late yesterday, new votes were counted that gave Democrat Mark Herring a fresh 117-vote lead over Republican Mark Obenshain. Just Monday, Obenshain has started the day with his own razor thin 17-vote lead. And this race could flip yet again. The key thing to remember here is that Virginia is undergoing a process of validating votes and correcting mistakes that happens after every election. Precinct workers tirelessly recount every ballot, and in the end, the total number of votes inevitably shifts. This time however, with the two candidates separated by fewer than 150 votes, so every adjustment has the potential to change the outcome of the race. And even after all the votes are counted, whoever is on the bottom has the right to ask for a recount. If this election is decided by fewer than 100 votes after more than 2.2 million ballots were cast, it could make it one of the closest in history. The outcome is also critical to the balance of power in this swing state: Democrats will either have a full sweep of statewide offices, or Republicans will be able to hold on to one final lever of power at the state level. So stay tuned, there’s more to come. http://abcn.ws/1cfTOIs

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: It’s been a week since Gov. Chris Christie won overwhelmingly in New Jersey so now it’s time for the presidential polling, right? A survey out today from Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics shows that 59 percent said they believe Christie will run for the top office, while 19 percent said they thought he would not, and 22 percent were not sure. The poll was done before last Tuesday’s election and 45 percent of voters thought Christie will resign from office to run, while 33 percent expected him to finish his term. And it doesn’t seem like Christie’s possible presidential aspirations had anything to do with whether New Jersey voters would support him last week. Eight percent said his presidential prospects made them more likely to vote for him, while 13 percent said it made them less likely to vote for him. In a statement David Redlawsk, the director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll said this was “the most direct evidence yet” that Christie’s opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono’s “attack on Christie’s apparent presidential ambitions was misguided.” The poll also found that a little more than half of Republican poll respondents said their governor’s “tough talk” would be embraced nationally, with 1/3 of those polled disagreeing that his style would go over well nationally. As for Democrats, 62 percent said the country would not accept Christie’s style.


PERRY CALLS FOR COMPROMISE WITHIN GOP: ‘IF YOU CAN’T WIN ELECTIONS, YOU CAN’T GOVERN’. Gov. Rick Perry has a prescription for the GOP: stop fighting and start winning. In his first trip back to Iowa since his failed presidential bid in 2012, the Texas Republican told “The Fine Print’” JEFF ZELENY that the tea party and establishment wings of the Republican Party need to come together in the interest of winning elections. “If you can’t win elections, you can’t govern,” he said. “Stand up for what you believe in, but at the end of the day, electing individuals who are going to implement good economic and social policies in this country is the goal.” Perry pointed to the government shutdown as a distraction that contributed to Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli losing the Virginia governor’s race last week. “In hindsight, I would have a whole lot rather the candidate in Virginia been able to talk about Obamacare and the impact of that rather than the government shutdown,” Perry said. “It would have been wiser for us to have laid the wood to the president, so to speak … let it become an issue of ‘Mr. President, you own this.’” http://yhoo.it/1fytITr


U.S. ALLOCATES $20 MILLION TYPHOON ASSISTANCE. The U.S. will provide $20 million in assistance to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced yesterday, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD reports. “The U.S. Government is providing $20 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to benefit typhoon-affected populations, including the provision of emergency shelter, food assistance, relief commodities, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) support,” the agency said. The statement said $10 million will go to food assistance, and another $10 million will go to other emergency supplies. Food assistance will include 55 metric tons of food including “highly nutritious bars and pastes,” a spokeswoman for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance told ABC News. Soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies will help prevent water-borne diseases, the spokeswoman said. http://abcn.ws/1dZjdYU

JOHN KERRY DECLINES TO ELABORATE ON JFK CONSPIRACY COMMENTS. After making headlines last week for wading into the never-ending John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory debate, Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to put a lid on his comments over the weekend, ABC’s ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES notes. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host David Gregory asked Kerry to elaborate on comments he made to NBC’s Tom Brokaw during a 50th anniversary special of Kennedy’s death. In the special, which aired last week, Kerry said that “to this day” he had “serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.” Kerry added that he believed Oswald was “inspired somewhere by something.” “I’m not sure if anybody else was involved, I don’t go down that road with respect to the grassy knoll theory and all of that,” he continued. “But I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald’s time and influence from Cuba and Russia.” But by Sunday, Kerry was refusing to comment further when asked by Gregory. “I just have a point of view. And I’m not going to get into that,” Kerry said. “It’s not something that I think needs to be commented on, and certainly not at this time.” http://abcn.ws/17PRQle

FAMILY TIES: FAMOUS POLITICAL NAMES RUNNING IN 2014. Former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, has announced his plans to run for Georgia governor in 2014. Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. Carter won’t be the only Democrat on the 2014 Georgia ballot with a famous political family tree. Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, also a Democrat, is running for office. Nunn, the Points of Light foundation CEO, announced in July that she will run as a Democratic candidate for the Senate in 2014. The list of famous political descendants running for election next year includes more than just Nunn and Carter in Georgia. Here’s a look at relatives of some of the more famous names who are running to get into or stay in the family business in 2014, courtesy of ABC’s NICKI ROSSOLL: http://abcn.ws/1dYtLaW

OBAMA HONORS OLDEST LIVING WWII VETERAN. President Obama yesterday paid special tribute to an American treasure: the oldest known surviving veteran of World War II, Richard Overton. At a mid-morning Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Obama singled out the 107-year-old Overton – who was in attendance – as a remarkable example of national service and sacrifice, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER report. “He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God,’” Obama told a crowd of 4,000 veterans and guests gathered in the Memorial Amphitheater. Obama recounted how the African-American Texas native, who volunteered for the Army in his 30s, returned home from war to a “nation bitterly divided by race” and one that did not always afford the support and respect that has now become a norm. “He carried on and lived his life with honor and dignity. He built his wife a house with his own two hands,” Obama said. Seventy years later, Overton is still living in the same house, although his wife passed two decades ago. He told USA Today in an interview that he enjoys “a tablespoon” of whiskey in his coffee each morning and smokes a dozen cigars a day. He also has an 89-year-old “lady friend.” http://abcn.ws/17qNsZb


“A NEW FIRM SETS OUT TO SECURE WOMEN’S VOTES FOR A VULNERABLE G.O.P.,” by The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “After months of deliberating over how to better appeal to Hispanic and other minority voters, some Republicans believe their party is overlooking another dire demographic challenge: women. … One year after President Obama carried female voters by an 11 percentage point margin in his re-election, Republican officials are again grappling with another competitive race lost in large part because of women…. ”There were something like 53 million unmarried women eligible to vote in 2012, but on campaigns you don’t hear a specific strategy discussed of ‘How are we going to reach unmarried women?’ ” said Katie Packer Gage, who served as deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012. … Ms. Gage and two other consultants are starting a political strategy firm to help the party’s candidates better tailor their messages to women. Ms. Gage, Ashley O’Connor and Christine Matthews this week are opening what appears to be the first Republican firm aimed specially at wooing female voters. They are calling it Burning Glass Consulting — a reference to what they see as the need for a focus on appealing to women that is so laserlike that it can burn glass. … The three strategists will undertake public opinion research, TV ads and general consulting for Republican candidates about how to better reach that majority.


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