READ IN: Monday, May 5, 2014: Keystone’s last stand, GOP +4 on generic ballot, primary season begins, New Jersey debt downgraded – again

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

-- President Obama will highlight a national climate assessment on Tuesday, part of a renewed focus on climate change that will include a series of interviews with local and national meteorologists. Obama was startled, aides said, by satellite images showing the barren California snowpack this winter; he brings up climate change both with world leaders and in his own personal life. (Washington Post)

-- The Senate this week will debate an energy bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that could become the legislative vehicle for the Keystone XL pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week offered Republicans a clean vote on the pipeline, but negotiations continue over the lineup of Republican-backed amendments the Senate will consider. (Washington Post)

-- Liberal donors who make up the Democracy Alliance, the left's answer to the Koch brothers network, are considering a long-term strategy of investing in down-ballot races, after Republicans took advantage of their 2010 electoral landslide to redraw political boundaries. The group, which has funded left-leaning organizations ranging from the Center for American Progress to Catalist and Media Matters, met last week in Chicago; new president Gara LaMarche is pushing donors to consider smaller state-level investments. (Washington Post)

-- A new USA Today/Pew Research Center poll finds Republicans leading the generic Congressional ballot by a 47 percent to 43 percent margin. Almost two-thirds say they want a president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration has, and just 41 percent approve of the Affordable Care Act. (USA Today) Perspective: The generic ballot was tied in 2010, when Republicans picked up 63 seats. Democrats held a 2-point advantage in 1994, when Republicans picked up 54 seats.

-- Of Primary Concern: Three states hold primary contests tomorrow, kicking off election season in earnest. In North Carolina, all eyes are on state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), who needs to break 40 percent to avoid a runoff in his bid for U.S. Senate. If he can't hit that mark, despite the millions he and his allies have already spent on TV, the runoff would be held July 15. House Speaker John Boehner has spent more than $300,000 on his own TV ads; he's likely to cruise to renomination in Ohio tomorrow. The most interesting race in Indiana is the Republican primary for state Treasurer, where Richard Mourdock (R) is term-limited.

-- Experts from Malaysia, Australia and China met in Sydney this weekend and decided to reexamine all data gathered in the two-month hunt for Mayalsia Airlines Flight 370, to make sure they're looking in the right place. Crews have scoured more than 1.8 million square miles of the Indian Ocean without turning up a single piece of debris. (Associated Press)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with liberal donors plotting strategy. NYT reports on Ukraine's struggle to break its dependence on Russian natural gas. WSJ highlights a rebounding stock market, and USA Today takes a look at health care costs that spiked almost 10 percent in the first quarter. Then there's this bizarre headline, from the Inland Valley (Calif.) Daily Bulletin: "Confirm or deny Holocaust." Story, with a much tamer headline, here.

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) brought Rupert Murdoch to the Kentucky Derby this weekend, where the two chatted over kettle corn. The meeting was more congenial than the editorials on foreign policy that have criticized Paul in Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, "even as the two Republicans stepped precariously through a tunnel that smelled heavily of manure." (New York Times)

-- New Jersey: Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Garden State's debt rating after the Christie administration disclosed an $807 million budget gap late last week. It's the fifth time since Christie took office that a ratings agency has downgraded the state's debt. S&P cut ratings last month, and Moody's suggested they're about to follow suit. (Newark Star-Ledger) Who wants to bet we see that statistic in an Iowa or New Hampshire attack ad?

-- Oklahoma: Former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R) will be a national GOP celebrity if he wins the Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R). But not everyone is comfortable with a member of the Chickasaw Nation serving in the Senate. The racial tensions in a state where Native Americans are more integrated into the general population than almost any other are just one of the fascinating subtexts of a very interesting race. (New York Times) Come for the history lesson, stay for Sarah Palin playing identity politics and Ted Cruz getting uncomfortable.

-- New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez isn't sweating after a Mother Jones story dubbing her the next Sarah Palin. A poll taken for Martinez's campaign by Public Opinion Strategies and shared with The Washington Post showed her job approval rating at 62 percent, and her favorable rating at 63 percent. Democrats aren't investing in any of her opponents.

-- West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said Sunday on CNN he's keeping his options open on a possible gubernatorial bid in 2016. He'll make a decision after the midterms; Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin won't be able to seek a third term in 2016. (Associated Press) The AP also takes a look at embattled Rep. Nick Rahall (D); the last Republican to hold Rahall's seat was born in 1875.

-- New Hampshire: Former Sen. Scott Brown (R) is placing more emphasis on retail events as he seeks to introduce himself to voters. And he seems to be running a lot; on Sunday, Brown ran a 5k in Bedford, where he hobnobbed with voters, Dos Equis in hand. (Boston Globe)

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

-- President Obama hosts Djibouti President Omar Guelleh at the White House today. Later, the White House hosts a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden. Vice President Biden starts his day with a Cinco de Mayo breakfast at the Naval Observatory, then travels to New York City, where he will attend a DCCC fundraiser and address the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

-- The Senate meets today for morning business at 2 p.m. This evening, the Senate will vote on Tenth Circuit Court nominee Nancy Moritz and on Peter Selfridge, nominated as the State Department's Chief of Protocol.

-- The House will take up a Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill when they meet Tuesday, before turning to a Fox-friendly agenda that includes holding former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt and creating a new Select Committee on Benghazi.

-- Two notes from The Post's Ed O'Keefe: Lerner's attorney tried to stave off the contempt vote over the weekend, but that looks like it didn't work. And Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who will chair the Benghazi committee, will draw staff from the House Government and Oversight Committee, where he serves as a subcommittee chairman.

-- Didn't get enough of White House Correspondents Dinner Weekend? Still nursing that hangover or trying to remember which party you crashed? The Reliable Source has a complete rundown of the weekend's events, minus any police reports in which you might be involved.

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

-- Montana: Sen. John Walsh (D) has bought about $45,000 in ads running in five markets for a week starting Tuesday. Walsh's campaign has accounted for about 20 percent of the total advertising in Montana so far. And he's not getting a lot of help: No Democratic outside group has advertised in Montana since Walsh became a senator in February. Republican spending accounts for more than three-quarters of total ad buys in the race.

-- More Montana: The race to replace Rep. Steve Daines (R), who's running against Walsh, is coming down to a contest between four current and former state legislators. State Sen. Matt Rosendale (R) has bought more ads than anyone else, about $240,000 so far. Former state Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton (R), last seen running for governor in 2012, and former state Sen. Ryan Zinke (R) have each spent about $100,000 so far. State Sen. Elsie Arntzen (R) has only spent $25,000 in advance of the June 3 primary. The winner is likely to face former Max Baucus aide John Lewis (D) in November.

-- Kentucky: Remember when Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign bought television time last week? Well, they cancelled it pretty quickly. Grimes had purchased ad time on Monday, but by Friday afternoon several Republican sources let us know those buys had been axed. A campaign spokeswoman didn't return emails seeking an explanation.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- A fascinating window into the breakdown of U.S.-led negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: U.S. mediators drew a border outline for the West Bank that put 80 percent of settlers under Israeli control. President Obama prepared to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. But in the end, U.S. negotiators believe the talks broke down because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to save his government. The final straw came when the Israeli Housing and Construction Ministry said it would allow 700 new housing units in a Jerusalem neighborhood; after that, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turned his attentions to negotiations with Hamas. (Ynet News)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Fewer lobbyists are making the move back to Capitol Hill, a slow-down blamed on the lack of action in Congress, ethics rules that cut down on travel and fancy dinners and the bitter partisan mood that's gripped the city. After Republicans took control of Congress in 2011, they tightened budgets, too, meaning less money available for K Streeters returning to the Hill. (Washington Post)

-- Stock markets are lower in premarket trading today. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong and the DAX in Berlin are off by more than 1 percent. (CNN)

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

-- Congress is officially expecting 4,291 written reports this year from 466 federal agencies and nonprofit groups, including reports on imported dog and cat fur, the House's employee hair salon and the state of Little League baseball. But no one is sure just how many of those reports are turned in, and no one much cares for many of the ones that are. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) thinks the reports are locked in the same government warehouse depicted in the final scene of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Washington Post)

-- Two views of President Obama on foreign policy: "Through a combination of a few significant missteps, circumstances beyond his control, unreasonable expectations and his maddeningly bland demeanor, Mr. Obama has opened himself to criticism that he is not articulating a strong, overarching blueprint for the exercise of American power and has not been able to bend authoritarian leaders to his will." (New York Times)

-- "Palestinian statehood must be built on the foundation of working democratic institutions. The Obama administration should place that principle at the center of a new, more pragmatic policy." (Washington Post)

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

-- A massive computer meltdown at Los Angeles Center, the air traffic control hub responsible for airspace over Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas, was caused by a U-2 spy plane flying a Defense Department mission. The spy plane was flying at 60,000 feet, well above the space reserved for commercial airliners; the plane's altitude and route somehow overloaded the computer system. (NBC News) What is this, 1960?

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

-- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Fox News Sunday that Democrats should boycott a select committee tasked with investigating Benghazi. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said a boycott would be "terribly arrogant" and "wrong." (Fox News)

-- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday withdrew from the Rutgers University commencement address after protests from students and faculty. Rice was going to earn $35,000 for her speech, and she'd been unanimously approved by Rutgers' board of governors. In a statement announcing her withdrawal, Rice said her participation had "become a distraction." (Daily Caller)

Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today

-- Justice Antonin Scalia misread his own opinion from 2001 and issued a quiet correction late last week, enraging the left after Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus caught the mistake. The mistake was "unprecedented," according to Talking Points Memo. It "exposes his partisan hackery," The New Republic wrote. What made it worse: Scalia read his opinion from the bench, drawing even more attention to the case, and his own screw-up. (Washington Post)

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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