OBAMA AGENDA: Rock chalk, Jayhawk
The AP on Obama's red-state visits: "President Barack Obama likes to say there are no red states or blue states, just the United States of America. Yet his first two stops on the traditional sell-the-speech tour after giving the annual State of the Union address were in ... Republican "red" states. The White House says the president's travel itinerary was not a coincidence."
The president is in Kansas today after his stop in Idaho yesterday.
The New York Times notes something we've also written about recently: Obama's new push for "middle-class economics" will "help make the politics of rich and poor a central issue in the campaign to succeed him."
NBC's Andrew Rafferty on Obama's Boise speech: "Obama on Wednesday delivered a speech rife with sports metaphors at Boise State University, citing the college football team's thrilling late-game victory over Oklahoma in 2007 as an example of why he will continue to push his priorities even as his time in office dwindles and cooperation from Congress seems unlikely."
A Washington Post op-ed from foreign ministers from France, Britain, Germany and the EU: "Maintaining pressure on Iran through our existing sanctions is essential. But introducing new hurdles at this critical stage of the negotiations, including through additional nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran, would jeopardize our efforts at a critical juncture."
CONGRESS: House GOP pulls anti-abortion bill
From NBC's Frank Thorp and Alex Moe: "House Republicans are scrapping their plans to consider a controversial anti-abortion bill Thursday after a group within the GOP conference raised objections. Senior GOP leadership aide tells NBC they were ‘not quite ready’ to go forward with the Pain-Capable Abortion bill after both men and women pushed back on the bill. ‘Our conference needs a little more time,’ the aide said, noting they intend to bring the bill back up later this year.’”
Writes the Washington Post of Boehner's Netanyahu play: "The Israeli prime minister’s unusual visit may offer a model of how Republicans plan to use their majorities in the House and Senate to pressure the president to take stronger action, not just in Iran but also in places such as Iraq and Syria, where Islamic State militants have taken control over several major cities."
Some maneuverings on climate last night in the Senate: "United States senators are now on the record on the question of whether climate change is "a hoax." But a majority of the Senate, including 15 Republicans, are also on record stating that human activity contributes to climate change."
OFF TO THE RACES: Jeb and Mitt to break bread
Today's top intrigue, from Jonathan Martin: "Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are scheduled to meet privately this week in Utah, raising the possibility that the two former governors will find a way to avoid competing presidential campaigns that would split the Republican establishment next year, two prominent party members said Wednesday night. The meeting was planned before Mr. Romney’s surprise announcement two weeks ago to donors in New York that he was considering a third run for the White House."
CARSON: The Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston reports on Ben Carson advisor Terry Giles' rise to fame -- which began when comedian Richard Pryor set himself on fire.
CLINTON: Yesterday in Canada, Clinton backed Obama on additional Iran sanctions, saying more clampdown from Congress would be a "serious strategic error."
The Washington Post notes Clinton's message on how smaller businesses are still struggling to feel the effects of the recovery.
The Hill reports that Clinton is planning an "astounding" fundraising push as soon as she announces a second run for the White House, the Hill reports.
CHRISTIE: Headlines that won't help Christie's flagging approval at home, via the Asbury Park Press: "Gov. Chris Christie’s planned trip to the United Kingdom next month will come at an approximate cost of $40,000 to taxpayers so state troopers can accompany his travel delegation, based on what it cost for a Christie trip to the Middle East in 2012."
JINDAL: He's doubling down on his comments about 'no-go zones' : "Appearing on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” the Louisiana governor, who is eyeing a run for the presidency, reiterated recent comments he’d made in London and to CNN about supposed areas, where “women don’t feel comfortable going in without veils” and “where police are less likely to go in.”
SANTORUM: Rick Santorum met yesterday with top advisors to discuss "lessons learned" about his last campaign and create a roadmap for a likely next one, ABC reports.
And around the country...
GEORGIA: The missing governor of Georgia turned up -- on a trade mission in the U.K. "The reason for all the secrecy? The governor’s office sends official releases about his trade missions and makes details of his shorter trips available. But this time, they said, they worried the publicity could jeopardize the state’s recruiting efforts."
NEW YORK: "New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to face federal corruption charges as early as Thursday, a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation tells NBC 4 New York. Officials familiar with the investigation would not disclose what specific charges Silver would be facing. One official said the investigation in part has been looking into whether Silver (D- Manhattan) failed to report income he received from an outside law firm as required."
OHIO: Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld announced his U.S. Senate candidacy today.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Gov. Nikki Haley surprised observers by proposing a 10 cent per gallon gas-tax increase – if the bill also included a 30 percent income tax cut.
*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Frances Rivera sits in for Tamron Hall. She speaks with former NY Giant kicker and two time Superbowl Champion Lawrence Tynes about allegations that the New England Patriots deflated footballs in the NFL AFC championship game, Criminal defense attorney John Burris about a report that says the US DOJ will not press civil rights charges against officer Darren Wilson after he fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson MO last year, and NBC Chief pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski about a Navy Captain stationed at Guantanamo Bay prison who was fired in connection with an alleged affair with a woman and subsequent death of her husband.
*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell anchors a special edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports live from Havana, Cuba. She’ll interview Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Julia Sweig, Center for Democracy in the Americas Executive Director Sarah Stephens, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, Bloomberg Deputy Managing Editor Jeanne Cummings and NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez and Stephanie Gosk.