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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political stories of the day.

OBAMA AGENDA: Grim numbers

A new poll from ABC News/Washington Postshows grim numbers for Obama heading into the midterms: "Obama’s approval rating fell to 41 percent, down from 46 percent through the first three months of the year and the lowest of his presidency in Post-ABC News polls. Just 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy, 37 percent approve of how he is handling the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and 34 percent approve of his handling of the situation involving Ukraine and Russia."

The president on Monday disputed the idea that his foreign policy strategy has been mostly small ball, using this analogy: "You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”

"On a day in which he announced new sanctions against Russia for its continued threats to Ukraine, Mr. Obama said his foreign policy was based on a workmanlike tending to American priorities that might lack the high drama of a wartime presidency but also avoided ruinous mistakes," writes the New York Times.

After being pilloried by Jewish groups and Republican pols, Secretary of State John Kerry walked back his remark that Israel risks becoming an "apartheid state" if Middle East peace talks fail to produce a two-state solution with Palestinians. Per NBC's Catherine Chomiak, Kerry said he wishes he had "chosen a different word" to describe his support for a two-state solution. And, he added: "I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don't believe."

The lede quote from the Wall Street Journal's interview with Kerry on Putin and Ukraine: "You almost feel that he's creating his own reality, and his own sort of world, divorced from a lot of what's real on the ground for all those people, including people in his own country." Kerry also said the United States is "inches away" from imposing broad sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy.

Despite meticulous planning, Obama's Asia trip ended with a disappointing "glass-half-full/glass-half-empty dynamic," writes Reuters.

USA Today: "The Obama administration on Monday announced a series of steps it plans to take to try to reduce the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, including pushing colleges and universities to become more transparent in their reporting of incidents."

CONGRESS: Racing to confirm judges

Democrats are stepping up their efforts to confirm federal judicial nominees amid concerns that their window to win confirmation is closing, the New York Times writes.

Via NBC's Frank Thorp, embattled Rep. Vance McAllister told reporters that stepping down before the end of his term is "not what's right for the people." He won't run again in the fall, though, in order for "focus on my family."

OFF TO THE RACES: Warren to headline Netroots Nation

The Washington Post's Phil Rucker reports that Elizabeth Warren will headline this year's progressive Netroots Nation conference, while Hillary Clinton declined the invitation. The liberal confab will take place in July.

The House and even the Senate may look grim for Democrats, but they're optimistic about their efforts to oust GOP governors,writes the Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times Upshot looks at political dynasties and notes "12 percent of all House races without an incumbent candidate between 1994 and 2006 had a member of a political dynasty as a candidate, according toan article in Legislative Studies Quarterly by Brian Feinstein."

IOWA: NBC's Kasie Hunt and Ben Mayercheck in on Iowa's feisty Senate contest.

NEW YORK: As Rep. Michael Grimm pledges to fight for re-election despite a federal indictment, Rothenberg Political Report/ Roll Call call the race "Democrats’ best opportunity to defeat a Republican incumbent this cycle."

TEXAS: Gov. Rick Perry was baptized last month in the same creek as Sam Houston, writes Jay Root of the Texas Tribune.

VIRGINIA: Former Gov. Bob McDonnell, facing a corruption trial later this summer, haslanded a job as a visiting professor at Liberty University.

WISCONSIN: The Wall Street Journal notes that gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke is steering clear of the debate over unions in her fight against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker. "As Democrats see it, there is no realistic path to victory over Mr. Walker in November by building a campaign around restoring Wisconsin's public-employee unions to their former status. That fight has been fought—and lost, many Democrats said. Mr. Walker won a recall election in 2012 that was largely a referendum on his tussles with the unions."


*** Tuesday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Chris Jansing interviews Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Author of "Debating Race" Michael Eric Dyson, Former NBA player Etan Thomas, Editor in Chief to Michael Skolnik, Chairman of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations Howard Bragman, Democratic Strategist Doug Thornell, Republican Strategist Katie Packer Gage, the Washington Post’s Jackie Kucinich, and the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel.

*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews former NBA player and coach John Lucas, USA Today NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt, and publicist Marvet Britto with the latest on the Donald Sterling controversy including Clippers damage control and sponsors pulling out; Michelle Faul, chief Africa correspondent for AP, on the kidnapped Nigerian girls; and actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Fmr. NBA player and Suns announcer Eddie Johnson, NBC’s Rehema Ellis, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and USA Today’s Susan Page.