READ IN: Friday, April 18, 2014: ObamaCare hits 8 million, Transpo bill funding discussions begin, the Mitt Romney book club, LCV drops $1 mil in Colorado

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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- President Obama said Thursday that more than 8 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, after administration officials gave extra time to those who had already begun the sign-up process when open enrollment ended. Obama said Democrats seeking re-election "should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people … we're helping because of something we did." (Washington Post)

-- The U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the E.U. reached an agreement Thursday calling for armed bands of pro-Russian separatists to give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine and to ratchet down tensions that have spiked this week. It's the first agreement between Russia and Ukraine since Russian troops took over the Crimean Peninsula. (New York Times)

-- Obama strategist David Axelrod has signed up as a strategic advisor to U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband in advance of parliamentary elections in May. That pits Axelrod against fellow Obama alum Jim Messina, who has been advising Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party since August. Polls show Labor leading, but nowhere close to a majority; the centrist Liberal Democrats and right-wing U.K. Independence Party are also earning significant shares of the vote. (Washington Post)

-- Worried about the national atmosphere, House Democrats are planning a triage strategy aimed at saving vulnerable incumbents, meaning only the most promising challengers can count on party resources this fall. House Majority PAC will begin placing its initial ad buys today in 24 districts -- 18 of them currently held by Democrats, including Reps. John Tierney (D-Mass.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). (Politico)

-- Transportation Bill: Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Democrats leading negotiations on the bill, have reached out to Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to begin discussions on how to fund the bill. There's some urgency to the matter: Highway Trust Fund managers will have to start using some creative accounting methods by the end of July, when money starts drying up.

-- Mitt Romney is emerging back into public life after his 2012 loss aiming to be the "anti-Jim DeMint," according to one friend. He's backed establishment candidates like Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Nevada lieutenant governor candidate Mark Hutchison, and raised money for Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie. He's not an asset everywhere, though: While willing to help Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) overcome primary challenges, Romney hasn't been asked. (Washington Post)

-- The Mitt Romney book club: Costa and Rucker add Romney sends his former aides book recommendations. Lately he's been into "The Goldfinch," Donna Tarrt's Pulitzer-winning novel, and "The Boys in the Boat," the story of the 1936 U.S. Olympic crew team.

-- Front Pages: WaPo, WSJ and USA Today all lead with negotiations on Ukraine. NYT leads with new concerns over medical costs and fronts a two-column obit of writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. LA Times leads with ObamaCare enrollment numbers.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- Delaware: Attorney General Beau Biden said Thursday he won't seek a third term this year in order to focus on running for governor in 2016. Biden has been out of the public eye since August, when he underwent a procedure to remove a small lesion from his brain. Gov. Jack Markell (D) is term-limited; Lt. Gov. Matt Denn (D) and Rep. John Carney (D) are also considering their own bids for his office. (Wilmington News-Journal)

-- West Virginia: Rep. Nick Rahall (D) is the first member of Congress seeking re-election to run a general election advertisement this year (Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., ran ads last summer, but then she dropped her re-election bid). Rahall's campaign will debut a spot this week featuring Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers Association, attacking the Koch brothers. (Charleston Gazette) Reid's Take: House Majority PAC has already spent close to $250,000 defending Rahall, but this race feels more and more like a Republican pickup. Senate candidates can afford to be on the air from now through Election Day; House candidates who advertise this early are throwing Hail Marys.

-- Maine: A new survey shows Gov. Paul LePage (R) running neck and neck with Rep. Mike Michaud (D), with independent candidate Eliot Cutler bringing up the rear. LePage leads Michaud by a 39 percent to 37 percent margin, well within the 4.9 percent margin of error in the Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll of 400 Mainers. Cutler takes 20 percent of the vote. (Portland Press-Herald)

-- Florida: Charlie Crist just can't hang on to staff. The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat has lost his new spokesman after less than a week on the job, a few months after his new campaign manager quit before he actually started his job. Marc Caputo's take: Crist relies on his own talents, and he doesn't like being coached. (Miami Herald) Is there a political parallel to the old proverb that the man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client?

-- Missouri: The Republican-controlled House on Thursday approved a measure providing up to nine days of early voting, including half-days on Saturday but not including any Sundays. Democrats are pushing a ballot initiative that would open polling places for six weeks prior to Election Day, including the last three weekends before an election. (Kansas City Star)

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this morning. Later, he meets with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. This afternoon, Obama presents the Commander-in-Chief trophy to the U.S. Naval Academy's football team, at a ceremony in the Rose Garden. Vice President Biden is on Spring Break, in Miami with no public events planned.

-- The White House has a new party-crasher, a little red fox. The fox settled somewhere on the grounds while groundskeepers were furloughed during the government shutdown and tore up First Lady Michelle Obama's garden, and he's taken to tripping security alarms at night. (Wall Street Journal)

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where

-- Colorado: The League of Conservation Voters likes Sen. Mark Udall (D). A lot. The group plunked down $975,000 for 30-second ads that will run in the Denver market over the next three weeks. Also on the air: Americans for Prosperity, spending mainly in the Colorado Springs market, and Freedom Partners, which is spending $170,000 in the Denver, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction markets between now and April 28. (Washington Post)

-- Michigan: Unions are coming to rescue Rep. Gary Peters (D) from conservative outside groups. SEIU will begin running $320,000 in TV ads in four markets around the state on Monday, while AFSCME chips in $45,000 of their own. So far, Americans for Prosperity has been the dominant voice in the field: The group has dropped almost $2.9 million on ads in Michigan.

-- Massachusetts: Former Sen. Scott Brown (R) has bought a few ads slated to run next week on WMUR, the Manchester-based ABC affiliate. So far, Brown's campaign has only spent $13,000 on the second flight of ads.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- Negative by nature, some super PACs are beginning to air positive ads for their candidates. "The shift is the product of several factors — the renewed hope that positive commercials can break through the advertising clutter; lessons of the 2012 presidential race, when Mitt Romney and outside Republican groups largely failed to offer an alternate message to an onslaught of negative spots; and the increasing prevalence of stock footage made public by campaigns that makes producing positive ads easier."

-- About 29 percent of the ads the Crossroads groups have run this year have been positive, compared with just 1 percent of last cycle's ads, according to CMAG estimates. Americans for Prosperity has a positive spot running on behalf of Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), while Senate Majority PAC has run positive ads for Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). (New York Times)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir of her tenure as Secretary of State will be titled "Hard Choices," publisher Simon & Schuster announced Friday morning. The book will come out June 10; Clinton will sell the book on a national tour this summer. (Washington Post) Clinton reportedly received a mammoth advance for the book, somewhere around $14 million.

-- Markets are closed for the Good Friday holiday.

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- A year after the Boston marathon bombing, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery recalls a long night in Watertown, Mass., as police battled and chased the Tsarnaev brothers. Well worth the read.

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- Let's do the math: If Chelsea Clinton's child is born this calendar year, he or she will turn 35 -- and be eligible to run for president -- in 2049. Read about Chelsea's happy news here. And see photos of Bill and Hillary holding babies here.

-- Peeps! The Washington Post's annual Peeps diorama contest is back. Check out the finalists here. Lots of polar vortices, Oscar selflies, Olympics and Miley Cyrus themes this year.

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said supporters of Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy, who rallied to his cause after BLM rounded up cattle that had been grazing on federal lands, were "nothing more than domestic terrorists." Reid said he spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI, and that there's a task force being set up to deal with the situation. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

-- The general manager of the Gunstock Ski Resort, near Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, said he might close down early for the season to avoid costs associated with the Affordable Care Act. The law requires employers to provide health care to employees on the payroll for 120 consecutive days; general manager Greg Goddard said the ski area might limit its business to the period between Christmas and the middle of March. (New Hampshire Union Leader)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- The Boats 'n Hoes PAC, created by a Republican political consultant in Houston, is shutting down after its name sparked outrage on Twitter. But where will all the Will Farrell and John C. Reilly fans contribute? (Texas Tribune)

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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