First Read Flash: Tech help wanted

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Los Angeles Times: “President Obama conceded Monday that technical ‘kinks’ had bedeviled the rollout of the federal healthcare website, but said the administration had launched a ‘tech surge’ to fix it and emphasized that the law would give uninsured Americans access to reasonably priced, quality insurance. ‘Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,t Obama told supporters in the Rose Garden. But he insisted: ‘The product, the health insurance, is good. The prices are good. It is a good deal. People don’t just want it; they’re showing up to buy it.’”

Washington Post: “Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously. Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead. When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.”

The Post editoralizes that “This is the kind of annoying sideshow for which Mr. Obama ought to demand accountability. How is it that the Department of Health and Human Services launched the president’s signature domestic program with a computer system that could not handle the anticipated load? We share Mr. Obama’s frustrations with efforts by House Republicans and GOP governors to sabotage Obamacare. But the computer snafu was self-inflicted incompetence.”

And the New York Times’ editorial board writes that “Unless the problems can be fixed soon, they threaten to undermine the ability of the health care exchanges to help enroll some seven million uninsured Americans in 2014.”

Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes “Not since the Ginsu knife cut through an aluminum can and still sliced a tomato has America seen a pitch quite like the one President Obama delivered in the Rose Garden on Monday….Obama has played pitchman before, when he bailed out the auto industry (“starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty”) and stabilized home mortgages (“If you are having problems with your mortgage, and even if you’re not and you just want to save some money, you can go to MakingHomeAffordable.gov”). But the stakes could be even higher this time, because if Obamacare fails, so will this president and his party.”

The Hill: “Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify before Congress next week about the botched rollout of ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges after rejecting GOP demands to appear this week. The House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed Monday night that Sebelius would meet with the committee next Wednesday. The notice capped a day of wrangling between Sebelius and congressional Republicans who repeatedly attacked her for rejecting calls to testify at a Thursday hearing.”

NBC’s Andrew Rafferty: “Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, returned home to a heroes welcome on Monday, pledging to a crowd of excited supporters that he would continue his crusade against President Barack Obama’s health care law despite criticism from some members of his own party.”

Houston Chronicle: “Cruz also took a swipe at the computer problems that have plagued people attempting to sign up online through the insurance exchanges that were created by the law to provide coverage. ‘You may have noticed that all the Nigerian email scammers have become a lot less active lately,’ he said. ‘They all have been hired to run the Obamacare website.’ Cruz said the shutdown tactic was not a total loss, insisting the effort helped ‘elevate the debate’ over the law. Stopping it for good, he said, would hinge on a grass-roots effort to win the debate.”

Dallas Morning News:The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful groups in Washington, depicted Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday as an arrogant upstart with a lot to learn about getting things done in Washington — as opposed to merely stirring trouble and commanding attention.”

MSNBC’s Jessica Taylor & Suzy Khimm look at how “establishment conservatives are in an uproar, too, since they watched Sen. Ted Cruz drive Republicans through budget negotiations that ended in a 16-day government shutdown and left the party tanking in the polls.The Chamber of Commerce has had enough of Cruz’s antics and so has a big money group linked to Karl Rove, American Crossroads–and they’re both gearing up to play in Republican primary races across the country.”

USA Today: “Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who helped chart a way out of the government shutdown last week, says the bipartisan group of senators who got together to work on that impasse may try to tackle other fiscal issues in hopes of easing the Capitol’s sharp partisanship. ‘We desperately need an overhaul of our tax code to make it simpler, fairer, more pro-growth; perhaps we could work on that issue,’ Collins said in an interview on USA TODAY’s weekly newsmaker series, Capital Download. ‘If the Budget Committee cannot come up with a long-term fiscal plan, I think our committee could try to tackle that issue.’”

Charlie Cook: “Those who already are saying that the House of Representatives is now ‘in play’ are getting a little ahead of their skis—forgetting a few key factors. At the same time, however, it’s no longer fair to say that there is virtually zero or at most a minimal chance that Republicans will lose their majority. Recent actions and behavior during the shutdown make that an equally risky argument to make. While it is still not likely, a discussion of what specifically would have to happen to make a Democratic majority a reality is in order.”

USA Today: “The impasse that shut down much of the federal government for 16 days has left Americans in the sort of throw-the-bums-out mood that presaged two recent tumultuous elections in which control of the House of Representatives shifted from one party to the other.In a nationwide USA TODAY/Princeton Survey Research Poll, just 4% of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — say Congress would be changed for the worse if nearly every member was replaced next year. Nearly half say it would work better. About four in 10 say a wholesale overhaul wouldn’t make much difference.”

Stu Rothenberg: “The single most important election in the country next year won’t take place in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina or Alaska. And it won’t occur next November, when voters across the country pick the next Congress. It will take place in Kentucky on May 20. While the general election in the commonwealth — and in other states — could decide which party controls the Senate for President Barack Obama’s final two years in office, the GOP primary will go a long way in determining whether the Republican Party continues its evolution toward uncompromising utopian purity and, eventually, possible irrelevance.”

Politico: “2012 was a banner year for women in Congress, ushering in a record-high number of women to the House and Senate. Next year may be an equally good year for female governors.”

Washington Post: “Democratic party committees swept the fundraising battle in August, with the party’s national, House and Senate committees all outraising their GOP counterparts. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had the best month of all, outraising the National Republican Congressional Committee by more than $3 million, $8.4 million to $5.3 million.”

 

ARKANSAS: NBC’s Jessica Taylor: “In a surprising political move, Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., announced Monday morning he was retiring after just two congressional terms, opening up a potentially competitive seat for Democrats in the Razorback State…. According to a Democratic source, former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays will announce his candidacy Tuesday. …Early Republican names include Delta Trust CEO French Hill, a wealthy businessman and formerGeorge H.W. Bush White House aide who could self-fund a bid and could quickly emerge as the GOP’s favored candidate” 

FLORIDA: Tampa Bay Times: “If U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s retirement announcement upended Tampa Bay’s political landscape, his death Friday makes it unrecognizable….Now his death turns Pinellas County into the ultimate bellwether of the national mood heading into the 2014 midterms. A handful of congressional districts nationwide are as politically competitive as Young’s. Seeing such a seat open up with no incumbent favored to win is rare, which is why so many local politicians and would-be politicians started gearing up as soon as Young announced his retirement less than two weeks ago.”

More from the Times: “A host of dignitaries from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee to Tampa Bay will be on hand to honor” Young “at his memorial service Thursday. But one particularly prominent politician won’t be welcome at First Baptist Indian Rocks: Charlie Crist. Young’s widow, Beverly Young, emailed the former Republican governor and likely future Democratic gubernatorial nominee, instructing him to stay away.”

MISSISSIPPI: Roll Call: “The Club for Growth will hit the Mississippi television airwaves Tuesday to boost a GOP primary challenger to Sen. Thad Cochran. The conservative group’s ad — which comes from its political action arm — declines to mention Cochran, who has not yet announced whether he is seeking re-election. Instead, it introduces his challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, to the state and sells him as ‘the new strong, conservative leader Mississippi needs in the U.S. Senate.’”

NEW JERSEY: Los Angeles Times:New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed away from a court fight over same-sex marriage Monday, a move that further staked his place near the political middle ground at a time the country seems irretrievably divided into warring camps of right and left. The Republican governor’s decision not to appeal a state Supreme Court judgment represents a gamble for his expected presidential effort: that in 2016 — after successive losing campaigns and a politically disastrous government shutdown — a majority of Republican primary voters will be willing to forsake ideological purity for a more pragmatic (and, some suggest, winning) approach.”

Newark Star Ledger: “While Democrats in New Jersey rejoiced over” Monday’s “decision by the governor to drop the state’s legal opposition to same sex marriage, some national social conservative leaders lashed out at the governor.”

VIRGINIA: NBC’s Ali Weinberg & Domenico Montanaro: “AKen Cuccinelli tried to shore up his conservative base – with red-state attorneys general touting that he ‘led the fight’ against President Barack Obama’s health-care law – the Republican gubernatorial nominee could not say whether he would have voted to re-open the government if he were in Congress. ‘I don’t know whether I would have voted for it,’ Cuccinelli said when asked if he would have voted for the continuing resolution that ended the government shutdown.”

Politico: “Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun-control super PAC will drop $1.1 million on ads for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final two weeks of the Virginia governor’s race. The billionaire New York City mayor’s money will be siphoned through Independence USA PAC into broadcast television commercials in the D.C. market, according to two sources tracking the air war.”

First Read Flash: Tech help wanted

Updated