First Read Flash: Need to know

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“President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website – despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run – until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ”admitted that there is concern in her department and the White House over the technical debacle surrounding the website rollout, saying ‘no one could be more frustrated than I am and the president.’”

New York Times: Sebelius, “the former Kansas governor who is the public face of Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul, is facing a barrage of criticism over the problem-plagued rollout of its online insurance exchange. For Republicans, still reeling from their failed “defund Obamacare” strategy and government shutdown, she has proved an easy target. Republicans insist the buck stops with the secretary. But although Ms. Sebelius runs the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency directly responsible for the health care law, there are questions about how deeply she was involved in the development of the troubled Web site.”

Politico: “Sebelius may be irreplaceable — in that she cannot be replaced. Not because President Barack Obama wouldn’t be able to find someone else to do the job, or that anyone’s too pleased with the launch of the Obamacare website. But the White House and Democrats on the Hill know a potential confirmation fight would be so torturous and difficult that they’re better off sticking with the Health and Human Services secretary they’ve got, despite all that’s gone wrong on her watch.”

Los Angeles Times: “A familiar troubleshooter has been enlisted to try to fix the government’s health insurance website, administration officials said Tuesday, as political pressure piled up over the centerpiece of President Obama’shealthcare lawJeffrey Zients, a former acting director at the Office of Management and Budget, will assist the Department of Health and Human Services with “short-term advice, assessments and recommendations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Zients has served as the chief performance officer at OMB, a job aimed at improving government technology and efficiency.”

Politico: “If the Obamacare enrollment website seems like a tangled mess, just wait for the lawsuits. The potential for a morass of litigation over who’s responsible for the problems that have plagued the rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is significant, government procurement experts say.” 

Washington Post: “While the debut of the Affordable Care Act this month has been marred by widespread computer problems, the difficulties the co-ops face have been less obvious to consumers. One co-op, however, has closed, another is struggling, and at least nine more have been projected to have financial problems, according to internal government reviews and a federal audit. Their failure would leave taxpayers potentially on the hook for nearly $1 billion in defaulted loans and rob the marketplace of the kind of competition they were supposed to create. And if they become insolvent, policyholders in at least half the states where the co-ops operate could be stuck with medical bills.” 

“[A]s the House and Senate begin a budget conference next week for the first time in four years, what kind of negotiator will” Paul Ryan be, National Journal asks. “The answer may lie in what Ryan, whose political future appears both bright and clouded, wants to do next. A Ryan interested in serving as speaker, after a short stint perhaps as Ways and Means Committee chairman, may handle negotiations differently than one who plans to run for president in 2016. Either way, the negotiations and their outcome could have an impact on the Wisconsin congressman’s future, presenting both opportunities and risks.

The Daily Beast: “A White House national security official was fired last week after being caught as the mystery Tweeter who has been tormenting the foreign policy community with insulting comments and revealing internal Obama administration information for over two years. Jofi Joseph, a director in the non-proliferation section of the National Security Staff at the White House, has been surreptitiously tweeting under the moniker @natsecwonk, a Twitter feed famous inside Washington policy circles since it began in February, 2011 until it was shut down last week.”

AP:This fall’s races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey offer a revealing window into the fight for the future of the Republican Party. Virginia’s illustrates the challenges facing the tea party movement and the fallout from the government shutdown while testing how well the GOP’s conservative wing can compete in a presidential swing-voting state. New Jersey’s highlights how a pragmatic Republican advocating for an inclusive GOP can dominate in Democratic territory.”

Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad looks at the seven Republican senators most vulnerable to a primary challenge.

ARIZONA: USA Today: “Arizona Sen. John McCain is ‘seriously’ considering running for another term in 2016 and says he’s getting encouragement from business leaders upset by the government shutdown, McCain, a Republican who will be 80 years old when he’s up for re-election, shared his thoughts with a man named Kyle on KFYI-AM, who called in while the senator was speaking to the Phoenix talk-radio station.”

ARKANSAS: AP: “Former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays said Tuesday he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, citing the budget standoff in Washington that shut down the federal government for 16 days as his motivation to run….Hays criticized the 2010 health care law as too expensive and vague, even as he criticized House Republicans’ push to defund the law, which prompted the government funding standoff. Hays said he wouldn’t have voted for the law if he were in Congress, and wouldn’t rule out supporting efforts to repeal the overhaul or delay part of its implementation.”

FLORIDA: Roll Call’s Abby Livingston: “A special election in Florida” to replace the late GOP Rep. Bill Young “will present House Democrats with their best test case yet this cycle to see if they can put a dent in the GOP’s majority — or perhaps even take the speaker’s gavel….As the first truly competitive special election of the cycle, the 13th District presents an ideal stage for the national parties to test messaging and strategy before 2014.”

HAWAII: Honolulu Civil Beat: “Incumbent Brian Schatz has a 2 percentage point lead over challenger Colleen Hanabusa, 38 percent to 36 percent, in the race to be Hawaii’s next U.S. senator. But more than one-fourth of likely Democratic primary voters (26 percent) still aren’t sure which Democrat they will back in the Aug. 9, 2014, primary.”

NEBRASKA: Omaha World Herald: “Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse got a big boost Tuesday from a conservative group with strong Tea Party ties and a history of pouring cash into targeted races. The Senate Conservatives Fund is backing Sasse, calling him a ‘strong conservative’ who will help repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law.’”

NEW YORK: New York Times: “His mayoral ambitions slipping away, Joseph J. Lhota shed his sleepy style to unleash a ferocious attack against Bill de Blasio on Tuesday night in an acrid debate that descended into a free-for-all of interruptions, name-calling and indignant lecturing. Mr. Lhota, a Republican, held nothing back, warning that Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, would ‘annihilate’ charter schools, commit a “civil wrong” by raising taxes and take a ‘reckless’ approach to policing. With a jab of his thumb, Mr. Lhota said that Mr. de Blasio’s policies ‘will push us back to where we were’ in New York City’s grimier days of runaway crime.’”

UTAH: Washinton Post’s Phillip Rucker in Salt Lake City : When Mike Lee toppled longtime Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett here in 2010, it was the tea party’s first big triumph. But now, after a 16-day government shutdown, it’s Lee who faces a revolt within his own party….As a result, Lee’s approval ratings in Utah have cratered, and prominent Republicans and local business executives are openly discussing the possibility of mounting a primary challenge against him. Top Republicans are also maneuvering to redesign the party’s nomination system in a way that would likely make it more difficult for Lee to win reelection in 2016.”

The Wall Street Journal also writes that Lee “has found a cold shoulder since returning to one of the reddest states in the country. Critics in the Republican Party, including former governors and sitting legislative leaders, openly blame Mr. Lee for helping chart a course they say weakened the party’s standing nationally and dented a state economy reliant on tourists drawn to its national parks.”

VIRGINIA: Richmond Times Dispatch: “Democrat Terry McAuliffe leads Republican Ken Cuccinelli 46 percent to 39 percent among likely Virginia voters while 10 percent back third-party candidate Robert C. Sarvis, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. Though 47 percent of the voters say the federal government shutdown hurt the defense-heavy state ‘a great deal,’ the poll’s analysis shows that it did not appear to impact the governor’s race, as an Oct. 10 survey showed McAuliffe up by 8 percentage points and Sarvis with 8 percent.”

Washington Post: Cuccinelli “sought to make up lost ground in his campaign on Tuesday by again spotlighting the bug-filled launch of Obamacare and teaming with a nationally known conservative. This time it was Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who shared a telephone press conference with Cuccinelli to bash the Affordable Care Act and warn that Terry McAuliffe (D) has bet his agenda on expanding Medicaid in Virginia under the federal health-care law.”

Norfolk Virginian Pilot:Political posters with risque puns urging students at Norfolk State University and other Virginia colleges to vote against Ken Cuccinelli for governor are coming down amid blowback on their sponsor, the Democratic Party of Virginia. Two versions of the posters approved last week for campus distribution by school officials invoke Cuccinelli’s failed defense as attorney general of Virginia’s law prohibiting oral and anal sex as a means to prosecute those who prey on children.”

The Washington Post’s Ben Pershing heads to Southwest Virginia and finds that “antipathy toward Democrats and what’s known in this region as their “war on coal” is stronger than just about anywhere else in the country.That has translated naturally into broad opposition to” McAuliffe “for governor this year. But across the coal fields of far-southwest Virginia, something unusual is also happening: Voters don’t like” Cuccinelli “much better.”

WYOMING: Politico: “Liz Cheney tried to raise money Tuesday by calling John McCain a “liberal Republican” who’s backing her opponent in the Wyoming Republican Senate primary, Republican Sen. Mike Enzi. ‘Liberal Republican Senators like John McCain and Olympia Snowe have endorsed my opponent,’ the daughter of the former vice president wrote, before asking for cash. ‘We must be doing something right if these folks are fighting so hard to preserve the status quo.’”

First Read Flash: Need to know

Updated