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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: Putin ups the ante

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emphasized on Thursday that the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament had authorized him to use military force if necessary in eastern Ukraine, and also stressed Russia’s historical claim to the territory, repeatedly referring to it as “new Russia” and saying that only “God knows” why it became part of Ukraine," the New York Times writes.

Reuters: “Separatists attacked a base of the Ukrainian national guard overnight and Kiev said three separatists were killed, the worst bloodshed yet in a 10-day pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine, overshadowing crisis talks to resolve the conflict.”

In an interview with CBS News yesterday, Obama: “What I've said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps, that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences."

The Russian conflict isn't just overshadowing Obama's domestic agenda; it's scrambling Obama's overall foreign policy strategy, writes the Wall Street Journal.

More from the Washington Post in advance of Obama's upcoming trip to Asia: "President Obama’s bid to focus U.S. attention on Asia has failed to meet the lofty expectations he set three years ago in a grand pronouncement that the new emphasis would become a pillar of his foreign policy."

Immigration advocates have been putting heavy pressure on Obama to halt what they call a staggering number of deportations, but new numbers show that the pace of those deportations has been declining. The New York Times: "New deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in the nation’s immigration courts have been declining steadily since 2009, and judges have increasingly ruled against deportations, leading to a 43 percent drop in the number of deportations through the courts in the last five years, according to Justice Department statistics released on Wednesday."

Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the president spoke by phone about immigration reform Wednesday, we report, but Cantor and the White House had two very different readouts of the call. Cantor blasted Obama for chiding the GOP on the issue and said that "after five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done." A White House official described the call as "pleasant," saying that it was initiated by the president to convey well wishes for Passover.

Youth vote in 2016? Vice President Joe Biden joined photo-sharing service Instagram yesterday, touting his famed aviator sunglasses and posting his first "selfie" with President Obama.

OFF TO THE RACES: Oops (again)

Hillary Clinton's record as secretary of state could suggest a problem as she gears up for the 2016 race, the New York Times notes: "Much of what she labored over so conscientiously is either unfinished business or has gone awry in his second term."

Gov. Rick Perry's legal woes at home get a treatment in the New York Times, which writes that the potential 2016 candidate is "mired in the past" amid a criminal investigation over his administration’s handling of a district attorney's drunk driving arrest.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is also in the headlines after the liberal magazine Mother Jones penned a profile - complete with leaked audio recordings -- portraying her as "petty” and "vindictive.” In an email to supporters, Martinez blasted the "false, personal attacks" by "one of the most radically liberal publications in the country."

U.S. News: “‘Any time Mother Jones attacks, Republicans will rally around the ‘victim.’ It's hard to imagine a more reviled outlet than Mother Jones,” says Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. “Tell me the worst thing she said – not her aides, but her.”

The midterm argument is still about Obamacare for Republicans, writes the Wall Street Journal. "Leaders of the congressional wing of the party say opposition to the Affordable Care Act will resonate with the voters most likely to go to the polls, and they are encouraging House members, currently at home for a two-week recess, to keep up their attacks."

Female candidates were big winners in first-quarter Democratic fundraising, writes the Washington Post. "By the end of Tuesday’s deadline for congressional candidates to submit first-quarter fundraising totals, Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Georgia’s Michelle Nunn and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes were three of the biggest standouts. They each outraised their Republican competition and brought in totals exceeding $2 million."

GEORGIA: Roll Call follows Rep. Paul Broun on the stump in Georgia and sees no "hint of the rhetoric that has some party insiders concerned his nomination would put in jeopardy a seat the party must hold for any hope of winning the Senate majority."

IOWA: The Des Moines Register reports that Sarah Palin will stump for Senate candidate Joni Ernst (of hog castration ad fame).

KANSAS: Yesterday's floating of former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a Democratic Senate candidate in Kansas gets some treatment from skeptical observers.

Stu Rothenberg: "She spent the past six years inside the Washington Beltway, promoting and defending the agenda of Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the national Democratic Party. (One way to take Roberts’ residency issue off the table is for Democrats to run a candidate who spent the past few years in D.C. too.) As Dorothy might say: I’m still in Kansas, but this isn’t the same Kathleen Sebelius anymore."

The Washington Post's blunt headline: "Sebelius for Senate? It makes no sense."

FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten doesn't see it, either. "The type of Democrat who could win in Kansas would be one who could separate themselves from the national party, especially on big issues. Sebelius is not that Democrat."

(But here’s a counter argument: If Milton Wolf defeats Roberts in the GOP primary, name us a Kansas Democrat who would make the general election competitive than Sebelius? Remember, it’s possible that Roberts doesn’t win the primary.)

OKLAHOMA: Sen. Ted Cruz has endorsed Senate candidate T.W. Shannon, who’s running in the contested GOP primary for Oklahoma's open seat.

NEVADA: Gov. Brian Sandoval - a Republican - is pushing the GOP-led House to take up the Senate unemployment extension bill, Roll Call reports.

Most GOP presidential candidates are steering clear of the showdown between a Nevada rancher and the federal government, writes The Hill.

WISCONSIN: Noted: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who's eyeing a 2016 run, won't commit to serving a full four-year term if re-elected.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Luke Russert interviews The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin, NBC’s Jim Maceda, The Wall Street Journal’s Russell Gold, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, NBC’s Carrie Dann, The Grio’s Perry Bacon Jr. and Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples.

Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Global Post reporter Geoff Cain on the South Korea ship sinking; Sport’s Illustrated’s Kostya Kennedy on NCAA unlimited meals; Rwanda First Lady Jeanette Kaygame & Grace Hightower DeNiro on the effort to help the women’s movement there; University of California, Berkeley Law School professor Barry Krisberg on parolees accused of raping and murdering women while wearing GPS ankle monitors; and Audra McDonald on her new role on Broadway playing Billie Holiday.

Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Ambassador Nicholas Burns, NBC’s Jim Maceda and Kate Snow, the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, author Katherine Schwarzenegger and Hilary Hayden-Moryl, a nurse near the Boston Marathon finish line when last year’s bombs went off.

Thursday’s “The Reid Report” line-up: MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviews Stuart Holliday- the former Ambassador to the U.N. for Special Political Affairs, Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press and Gary Bledsoe from NAACP.