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First Read Flash: Bully pulpit the right prescription?

Obama works to rebut mounting criticism that he's oversold the health care law's benefits as Republicans seize on those who have lost their insurance coverage.

Wall Street Journal: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday said Americans who are losing insurance under the health law would find better coverage, rebutting a rising chorus of complaints that he had oversold the law's benefits, With Republican criticism in Congress intensifying over canceled policies and the new online insurance marketplaces malfunctioning, Mr. Obama used a speech in Boston to tell Americans that they could obtain improved insurance if they shopped around. This comes after the president has long said that people who like their health plans would be able to keep them after the new law takes effect next year."

Washington Post's Karen Tumulty writes that "The damage comes not just from the fact that" keeping your health care plans "does not happen to be true, which hundreds of thousands who had bought coverage on the individual market are learning as they receive notices of cancellation from their insurers.The deeper problem with that promise is that it attempted to gloss over the fact that choices and trade-offs were part of the effort to reform the nation’s sprawling, troubled health-care system."

Los Angeles Times: "In her first appearance before Congresssince the botched debut of the federal healthcare website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday apologized for the 'debacle,' accepted responsibility and promised the technical problems could be fixed. Sebelius acknowledged that enrolling in insurance plans through the federal government’s online marketplace was a 'miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans' — an observation Republicans repeatedly underscored by pointing to a screen that showed in real time that the website,, was displaying an error message."

Politico: "For years, the media turned a blind eye to conservatives’ insistent warnings, often taking the president’s promise for granted. But this week, as health insurance cancellation letters started showing up in Americans’ mailboxes and the website roll-out flopped, the GOP message finally broke into the mainstream."

Washington Post: "Lawmakers opened formal negotiations over the budget Wednesday by pledging to work across party lines to fund federal agencies, avoid another government shutdown and adopt lasting changes to rein in the rising national debt. But the sudden outbreak of bipartisan bonhomie masked a lingering dispute over the issue of taxes, which looms once again as the biggest roadblock on the path to compromise."

Washington Post: "The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot."

USA Today: "As criticism of the National Security Agency mounts, the U.S. intelligence community is bracing for an overhaul of how it does business on a level not seen since Sen. Frank Church held hearings into intelligence abuses nearly four decades ago...Today's revelations are not nearly as dramatic, but the regular drip of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is reaching critical mass in Washington, where lawmakers of both parties are beginning to rally around the idea of reining in what they see as NSA overreaching."

New York Times: "Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said Wednesday that he would vote for a nondiscrimination bill that protects gay men, lesbians and transgender people, putting the measure within one vote of gaining the support it needs to overcome a filibuster. Mr. Manchin was the only Democrat who had not signaled how he would vote. His support means that all 55 members of the Democratic majority are expected to get behind the bill, known as the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which has languished in various forms in Congress for nearly 40 years."

Politico: "With the Senate poised to consider perhaps the most significant gay rights measure since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a handful of Republican senators will help determine its fate." 

National Journal's Beth Reinhard: "Sen. Marco Rubio once spearheaded comprehensive immigration reform. Now he's advocating a piecemeal approach because 'if we stick to the position of all or nothing, we're going to end up with nothing'....Rubio's changing tactics reflect strenuous efforts to keep a foot in each of the warring camps of his party as he weighs a presidential bid. Is he an Obamacare-bashing tea-party hero who won't budge from conservative principles, like his possible 2016 rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas? Or is he the pragmatic Republican legislator open to compromise with Democrats to chart public policy, a la New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? His supporters say it may be possible for the son of Cuban immigrants who frequently invokes the American Dream to find a middle ground."

Politico: "Extending an olive branch to GOP senators," Cruz "is privately making it clear he won’t engage in the Senate Conservatives Fund’s hardball tactics to defeat his colleagues in their primary races. At a closed-door lunch meeting of Senate Republicans Wednesday, the freshman conservative told his colleagues that he would not intervene in their 2014 primary fights or fundraise for the controversial outside group. Cruz added that the SCF’s decision to try to defeat sitting GOP senators in their primaries was its alone, according to several people familiar with the session."

FLORIDA: Tampa Bay Times: "Gov. Rick Scott's office agreed Wednesday on dates for a special election in Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District to elect a successor to the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. The primary will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, and the general election will be held Tuesday, March 11, 2014."

Roll Call's Abby Livingston reports that with former Democratic gubernatorial Alex Sink's entrance into the race, "EMILY’s List has removed attorney Jessica Ehrlich from its online page of favored candidates — an ominous sign for the Democrat running in the highly competitive special election for Florida’s 13th District....A DCCC source clarified that the committee is fully behind Sink in this primary."

GEORGIA: Bloomberg looks at the crossover Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn is getting from traditonally GOP donors: "Signs of the Republican Party rift between business and the Tea Party are showing up where Democrats most want to see them: in the campaign account of Michelle Nunn, daughter of four-term Georgia Senator Sam Nunn.

NEBRASKA: Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn has a heavy lead in the GOP primary for the state's open Senate seat, according to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted for his campaign, provided first to NBC News. In an Oct. 27-28 poll of 400 likely voters, Osborn tops a four-way field with 39% of the vote, while the other three candidates don't break out of single digits. Midland University President Ben Sasse, who was endorsed by Senate Conservatives Fund last week, only registers 7%, tied with banker Sid Dinsdale. Eighty-three percent of GOP primary voters have heard of Osborn, while 55% have a favorable impression. POS pollster Neil Newhouse writes in the memo: "Former Nebraska State Treasurer Shane Osborn is well-positioned in this GOP primary battle for US Senate; he’s well-known, well-liked, and has a significant early advantage over his opponents. Further, he pulls support from demographic groups critical to winning GOP primaries – Seniors, very conservatives, Tea Party supporters and strong Republicans."

NEW JERSEY: AP: "Cory Booker has come to Washington. The former Newark mayor will be sworn in as a U.S. senator at noon Thursday. Vice President Joe Biden will swear in the 44-year-old former Newark mayor in the Old Senate Chamber."

VIRGINIA: Washington Post: "Throughout Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, has cast Cuccinelli as a tea party extremist, incapable of forging the centrist consensus necessary to manage the commonwealth. The portrait has stuck, according to recent polls; McAuliffe appears to be ahead in the race — and Cuccinelli’s conservatism is a leading reason. For years, he articulated that conservatism in the Cuccinelli Compass, honing a combative political persona and providing opponents with material that has now driven up his negative poll ratings and lifted McAuliffe. At the same time, Cuccinelli has accused Democrats of turning him into a caricature, seeking to scare off voters by distorting and lying about his record as a state senator and Virginia’s attorney general."

Richmond Times Dispatch: "Mark Obenshain, the Republican nominee for attorney general, reported $1.3 million in donations between Thursday and Monday, as Ken Cuccinelli, the party’s candidate for governor, reported $147,000 in contributions, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. It marked the first time that a down-ticket candidate had outraised the party’s candidate for governor in the first five days of pre-election reporting, according to VPAP, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics."

Norfolk Virginian Pilot: "Although Virginia's disclosure laws make decoding Terry McAuliffe's finances as difficult as grabbing water, this much is clear: His vast investments would require serious shifting if he becomes governor. Leveraged as McAuliffe is in municipal bonds, securities and business holdings - some with state connections - his campaign says they won't be a conflict if he's elected because the investments would go into a blind trust."