First Read's Morning Clips

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OBAMA AGENDA: The Enforcer.

Don’t miss Noam Scheiber’s profile of Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s enforcer in the White House.

A silver lining for the president after last Tuesday? The AP: "White House officials say Obama's optimism reflects a president who feels liberated by even the limited prospects for striking deals with a Republican Congress and relieved about shedding the narrow Democratic majority that would have guaranteed Washington stayed locked in a stalemate. Aides also have concluded that the political landscape leaves Obama with little ability to help Democrats regain Senate control in 2016, freeing the president to concentrate on finding areas of compromise with the GOP rather than on stacking his agenda with items his party can run on in the next election."

From the Associated Press, dateline Beijing: "Putting a bright face on the future of U.S. ties to China, President Barack Obama announced Monday that the two countries would start granting visas to each other's citizens valid for up to a decade. Yet thorny issues like human rights and trade lurked just under the surface, reflecting the tough road ahead for the two economic powers as Obama began a weeklong trip to the region."

The Washington Post: "With the next time to buy health plans under the Affordable Care Act starting in less than a week, the Obama administration is expressing confidence that is no longer the rickety online insurance marketplace that exasperated consumers a year ago. Behind the scenes, however, federal health officials and government contractors are scrambling, according to confidential documents and federal and outside experts familiar with this work. They have been making contingency plans in case the information technology or other aspects prove less sturdy than the administration predicts. And some preparations are coming down to the wire."

"Iran sent signals that it was open to overtures in a recent letter from U.S. President Barack Obama as talks kicked off here on Sunday, but tensions in both nations’ capitals are complicating attempts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program as a diplomatic deadline approaches," writes the Wall Street Journal.

Two billionaire donors are speaking out against Obama's foreign policy, writes the Washington Post. "Adelson, 81, and Saban, 70, have gained enormous political power in the new era of super PACs and unlimited contributions, and both made it clear during a rare joint appearance Sunday before an audience of several hundred Israeli Americans that they intend to assert that power during the next presidential campaign and beyond with policy demands for their candidates. In particular, they vowed to press both sides for a more hawkish approach to the Middle East."

The Wall Street Journal writes of Republicans' first test of how to wield its new majority: must-pass spending measures to keep the government open.

OFF TO THE RACES: A Plausible Path

The New York Times writes of Republicans: "After five of six presidential elections in which the Republicans have lost the popular vote, this year’s midterm elections point toward a plausible Republican path to winning the White House. The Democratic losses were not simply because of low turnout. Republicans often made significant gains among rural, white voters. Some candidates made inroads among young and Hispanic voters, as well, according to exit polls and county and precinct-level results."

USA Today interviews George W. Bush about his father -- and his brother Jeb. "I think he'd be a superb president and I think he'd be a very good candidate and I think he could heal wounds," Bush told USA TODAY in an interview Friday about 41: A Portrait of My Father, being published Tuesday by Crown Publishers. "Dad very much wants him to run," though he acknowledges, "Mother, of course, has had a different point of view.""

The Washington Post writes of Democrats' efforts to make the Koch brothers a campaign issue: "The difficulty they encountered in transforming the public’s disgust with rich donors into political action speaks to how hard it is to move voters who view both parties as captives of wealthy patrons."

CALIFORNIA: Republican Carl DeMaio has conceded in his San Diego-area congressional race. DeMaio, who is openly gay, faced claims that he sexually harassed a former staffer.

IOWA: Analysis from over the weekend, from the Des Moines Register: "Democratic and Republican strategists have said the 2014 U.S. Senate race hinged on likability. The lesson: The candidates who do best in Iowa are candid and relatable, yet not undisciplined, strategists said." The lesson? That could create a tough environment for Hillary Clinton.

Grassley has decided to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee, the newspaper also reports.

KANSAS:Writes the Kansas City Star: "Kansans will feel the effects of the red election wave"

LOUISIANA: In a new ad, Mary Landrieu is hitting Bill Cassidy for a Republican Leadership Conference speech "that was nearly incoherent."

Here's the Baton Rouge Advocate on the bleak Democratic future in the South.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Kelly Ayotte talks to and confirms that she'll run for re-election.

NORTH CAROLINA: McClatchy writes on the rise of North Carolina lawmaker Rep. Patrick McHenry.

TEXAS: The number of white Democrats isn't just decreasing in the southeast. The Texas Tribune looks at how they're dwindling in the state legislature as well.


*** Monday's "News Nation with Tamron Hall" line-up: Tamron Hall interviews IAVA’s Legislative Director Alex Nicholson on the VA Chief’s restructuring announcement; The Detroit Free Press’s Brent Snavely on GM’s ignition switch order, reportedly before the recall; and Legacy’s Robin Koval on the Massachusetts town that wants to ban sales of all tobacco products.

*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Andrea will interview NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on her interview with Fmr. Pres. George W. Bush, Fmr. White House National Security Council Director for Asian Affairs Victor Cha, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Film Director Sebastian Junger, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Ruth Marcus, NBC’s Kristen Welker and Richard Engel and the Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.