First Read Flash: Obama’s Mea Culpa

NBC’s Chuck Todd: “President Obama said Thursday that he is ‘sorry’ that some Americans are losing their current health insurance plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act, despite his promise that no one would have to give up a health plan they liked. ‘I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,’ he told NBC News in an exclusive interview at the White House. ‘We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.’”

Roll Call: “Sen. Joe Manchin III has followed through on introducing legislation to delay the individual mandate penalty under Obamacare for a year. The West Virginia Democrat teamed up with his friend Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., on the measure, which they announced late Thursday.”

Politico: “At the pleading of senior White House officials, Senate  Democrats are holding off on demands to delay major aspects of the health care  law until the Obama administration has the opportunity to fix the website  problems that are thwarting enrollment in the program. Democratic senators facing reelection have a green light to bash the White  House and call for certain legislative fixes. But they’ve been urged by senior  administration officials not to insist on delaying the controversial law’s core:  The mandate for individuals to purchase insurance coverage or face  penalties.”

Los Angeles Times: “ A bill to extend historic new protections to gays in the workplace won easy Senate approval Thursday, bolstered by rare bipartisan support that illustrated the dramatic shift in the politics around gay rights amid growing public acceptance for same-sex marriage.”

Politico: “The legislation now heads to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)  opposes the measure. GOP aides argue that the protections contained in the Employment  Non-Discrimination Act — which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of  gender identity and sexual orientation — are already enjoyed by American  workers.”

New York Times: “At nearly every critical juncture, the Senate bill that passed Thursday banning workplace discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation has had an unconventional and powerful ally. Mormons, reflecting shifting attitudes inside their church, have stepped in to provide the political muscle, the additional momentum or the decisive vote. And more often than not, they were not just Mormons, but Republicans.”

National Journal: “If you think Tuesday’s elections convinced Republicans that abortion is a losing issue, think again. Sure, anti-abortion crusader Ken Cuccinelli fell short in the Virginia governor’s race while the pragmatic governor of New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie, won re-election in a landslide. But just two days later, anti-abortion leaders rallied around Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as he introduced a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. By tapping into widespread discomfort with late abortions, the bill aims to flip the political script and frame Democrats as outside the mainstream.”

New York TImes: “After years of fruitless negotiations, Western and Iranian diplomats are on the verge of an agreement that would freeze Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for an easing of some economic sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel here on Friday at the invitation of Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, in an effort “to help narrow differences,” a senior State Department official said. If that goes well, the pact could be announced later in the day, Iranian officials said.”

“Texan Rick Perry, governor of the nation’s second most-populous state, is back in Iowa, auditioning for a second chance in presidential politics. And he thinks the best chance for Republicans to retake the White House is by working together and ‘finding our middle ground,’ he told The Des Moines Register in a 20-minute interview on Thursday.”

NBC’s Alex Moe: “Perry  returned to the state that was the beginning of the end of his initial presidential endeavor, reintroducing himself to Iowans and vowing to do things differently if he were to run again. ’If I was making a plan for 2016, coming to Iowa early and often would be part of it. But as I shared, that is a bit premature,’ Perry told reporters following a luncheon with Americans for Prosperity members. ”

Politico: “Perry echoed a Republican Party message of praising state governors but the  former presidential candidate and possible 2016 hopeful left out some of his  potential challengers, including newly reelected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.”

Los Angeles Times: “Weight has tortured the ample Christie for years, by his own admission, and since he vaulted to the top of the Republican heap as governor and prospective presidential candidate, it has tormented his political career as well.”

Los Angeles Times: “Hillary Rodham Clinton returns to California on Friday for a round of speeches and events that underscore the state’s significance to her family’s political fortunes and the potential presidential campaign she is pondering.”

Charlie Cook looks at the lessons from Tuesday’s elections: “Outside of a special kind of year like 2010, swing voters don’t go for the tea-party agenda in swing states and districts. But this war will go on; Alabama 1 didn’t settle anything. Republicans have to figure out who they are and who they want to be. The struggle between the Republicans who go to Sunday school on the Sabbath and the ones who head for the golf courses and tennis courts isn’t over.”

Roll Call’s Emily Cahn writes in Roll Call that in the Alabama special election, “the numbers and circumstances around the race give both sides fuel going into 2014  Business can claim victory in Round 1, but tea party groups have proof that even with a lackluster candidate, their grass-roots network is strong.”

FLORIDA: The Hill: “The widow of the late Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) says her husband asked on his deathbed for David Jolly to run for his seat.”

KENTUCKY: Sen. Mitch McConnell sits down with Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan to discuss his re-election and the growing war within the GOP. “But [McConnell] says he isn’t worried about his own race: ‘I don’t wanna be overly cocky, but I’m gonna be the Republican nominee next year.’ Are members of the tea party on the ground being fooled by operators, profit makers and cynics? “Yes,” he said, followed by a brief silence. He declined to say more, but emphasized again that “I make a distinction between the leaders and the followers. I mean, I think a lot of well-meaning people are sending money to organizations having no idea they’re gonna spend all that money against Republicans. Because they’re being misled.’”

MONTANA: Washington Post; “Former Montana lieutenant governor John Bohlinger (D) officially announced his bid for the Senate Wednesday, comparing the tea party’s recent actions to the Taliban and the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.”

NEBRASKA: Omaha World Herald: “Another big endorsement for Republican Ben Sasse. Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax organization, has endorsed Sasse’s bid for U.S. Senate in Nebraska.”

NORTH CAROLINA: NBC’s Jessica Taylor: “Longtime Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) will retire in 2014 after 15 terms in the House, he announced at a press conference Thursday in his Greensboro district. Coble, 82, had been plagued by health problems in recent years, and his decision not to run hardly comes as a surprise….Once a swing area, the 5th District is now reliably Republican after redistricting. A crowded GOP primary will likely pick the next congressman”

VIRGINIA: Washington Post: “The Fairfax County Electoral Board is investigating a possible irregularity in the number of absentee ballots cast in Virginia’s largest jurisdiction that Democrats say could shift votes in the still-unresolved race for Virginia attorney general.”

First Read Flash: Obama's Mea Culpa