OBAMA AGENDA: Helping the Syrian rebels
The Wall Street Journal reports: "The U.S. has decided to provide pickup trucks equipped with machine guns and radios for calling in U.S. airstrikes to some moderate Syrian rebels, defense officials said. But the scope of any bombing hasn’t been worked out—a reflection of the complexities of the battlefield in Syria."
"ISIS launched several waves of attacks in northern Iraq late Tuesday, engaging in close-quarters combat with Kurdish forces before being repelled by reinforcements and airstrikes, Kurdish and Iraqi security sources told NBC News. The jihadis attacked from several directions near the towns of Gewr and Makhmour, southwest of Erbil, the sources said."
The latest in Ukraine, from the New York Times: "President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from the embattled town of Debaltseve, a strategically important transportation hub where intense fighting has raged in recent days despite a cease-fire agreement signed last week. Mr. Poroshenko sought to cast the retreat in a positive light, but it was clearly a devastating defeat at the hands of Russian-backed separatists."
NBC News: "More than 11 million people signed up or renewed for health insurance on the state and federal exchanges this year, the White House announced Tuesday."
Per a release: “The Trade Benefits America Coalition has launched a digital and radio advertising campaign in select markets across the country, making the case for the benefits of trade and Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) to key audiences while members of Congress have returned home for the district work period.”
OFF TO THE RACES: Jeb’s advisers are familiar names from his brother’s administration
BUSH: Reuters reports on the team that will be providing advice to Bush in the coming months: "The list includes people representing a wide spectrum of ideological views in the Republican Party, from the pragmatic to the hawkish. It includes James Baker, known for his pragmatism in key roles during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies, and former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, a hawk as deputy defense secretary who was an architect of George W. Bush's Iraq policy. Among others are two former secretaries of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and a deputy national security adviser, Meghan O'Sullivan, as well as two former CIA directors, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden."
Msnbc.com's Steve Kornacki writes on the parallels between Jeb Bush’s current strategy and the one his brother used when he grabbed control of the GOP 16 years ago – and how George W. Bush’s presidency transformed the Republican Party in a way that could now make the Bush game plan unworkable.
POLITICO looks inside Bush's building of a "shock and awe" launch.
CLINTON: From POLITICO: "Despite widespread assumptions that Clinton has assembled a campaign juggernaut ready to be unveiled as soon as she makes her White House run official, the reality is that she has little more than a budding operation that’s far from set—either in how the jobs will be structured or who will be in them."
"The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency," writes the New York Times.
PAUL: The New York Times reports that Rand Paul is considering an April 7 launch for his presidential bid. "Only his family’s doubts could change his mind at this point, said associates of the senator, who insisted on anonymity because Mr. Paul’s plans had not yet taken final shape."
MSNBC’s Anthony Terrell confirms the April 7 date.
RUBIO: The Hill finds that he's getting handily beaten by Bush in the endorsement game. "The former Florida governor has rounded up the firm backing of five members of the Florida GOP congressional delegation, and others are leaning in his direction. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is also mulling a 2016 presidential run, only has one clear backer from the Sunshine State."
WALKER: NHJournal reports that Scott Walker has hired former two-time state Republican Party executive director Andy Leach and former Michigan Republican party political director Michael Bir.
The governor wants a 17 percent pay hike for state troopers.
And around the country...
FLORIDA: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is considering a Senate bid, POLITICO reports.
ILLINOIS: Rahm Emanuel's campaign is worried about how well he will do with black voters in his reelection campaign.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: John Bolton will meet with Scott Brown this week, reports NH1.com's Paul Steinhauser.
NEW YORK: The New York Times reports on how Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to mend his relationship with city police.
Dan Freedman looks at Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “In Albany and statewide, it's a bleak winter for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And nationally, the picture isn't much brighter. At home, Cuomo has been buffeted by the recent corruption arrest of now ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and continued criticism from his controversial decision to scrap his Moreland Commission panel investigating public corruption.”
OREGON: Kate Brown will become the new governor of Oregon Wednesday after the resignation of John Kitzhaber.
*** Wednesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall speaks with NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin about the latest on ISIS, legal analyst Lisa Green about the American Sniper trial, Attorney and NBCnews.com contributor Raul Reyes about the Immigration ruling, and NBC meteorologist Domenica Davis about the frigid temps across the country.
*** Wednesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Rep. Adam Schiff, NBC’s Keir Simmons, Anne Thompson and Charles Hadlock, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Karen DeYoung, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball and Financial Times U.S. Managing Editor Gillian Tett.