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First Read's Morning Clips: Obama enters 2018 fray

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 46th annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner
President Barack Obama addresses the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 46th annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, Sept. 17, 2016.Yuri Gripas / Reuters file

MIDTERM MADNESS: Obama enters 2018 fray

Democrats, especially those in red parts of the country, are taking a page from Trump’s 2016 campaign and bashing the high price of pharmaceutical drugs, The Hill reports.

Politico Magazine: “In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.”

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump is “keeping his promise” to kickstart the economy while rallying Minnesota Republicans in Minneapolis Wednesday.

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s impeachment crusade could lay the groundwork for his own presidential run, the Daily Beast reports.

CA-22: The Wall Street Journal profiles Devin Nunes, the California Republican at the center of the House investigation into Russia.

HI-1: “A year after formally leaving the Republican Party, Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto announced late Wednesday night she will run for U.S. Congress,” NBC’s Charles Lam and Traci Lee report.

IL-12: Brendan Kelly, who won his Democratic primary last week, said in an interview he would not support House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

IN-Sen: Republican Senate hopeful Mike Braun is out with a new ad poking some fun at his opponents similarities ...both ideologically and physically.

MO-Sen: Former President Barack Obama will dip his toe back into campaign politics in May when he appears at a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

MS-Sen: Cindy Hyde-Smith, appointed to fill outgoing Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat, met with White House officials on Wednesday following reports that Trump had no plans to endorse her.

NY-Gov: A Quinnipiac poll found New York City Democrats prefer Gov. Andrew Cuomo over primary challenger Cynthia Nixon by a 43-point margin.

OH-Sen: The AP reports that GOP Senate candidate Jim Renacci failed to disclose nearly $50,000 in donations he raised while working as a lobbyist.

TRUMP AGENDA: Meet ‘Dr. Ronny,’ Trump’s appointee to head the VA

“President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin Wednesday, announcing his intent to nominate the White House physician, Admiral Ronny Jackson, to fill the post and ending weeks of speculation about when the embattled cabinet official would leave the administration,” NBC’s Jonathan Allen and Ali Vitali write.

“Dr. Ronny” and the president have formed a close bond from frequent travel together, the AP reports.

Shulkin said his ouster was the result of “the ambitions of people who want to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector” in a New York Times op-ed.

USA Today with five things to know about VA nominee Ronny Jackson.

From NBC’s Tom WInter: “The FBI says that during the 2016 campaign Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were in touch with a Manafort associate who had an ongoing relationship with Russian intelligence, according to court documents filed late Tuesday by prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”

The New York Times reports: “A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.”

Despite the controversies, polling out this week shows the president’s approval numbers are on the rise, The Hill reports.

From the Wall Street Journal: “President Donald Trump’s shake-up of his national-security team is likely to reshape the role played by Jared Kushner.”

The Trump administration remains “cautiously optimistic” that a summit with North Korea will take place, though key details have yet to be determined. Meanwhile, South Korean officials announced they will meet with Kim Jong Un at a border village on April 27.

And the president called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on the reboot of her sitcom.