Sunday at 9AM & NOON ET

April 15th, 2012
04:39 AM ET

Early Bird morning research for Sunday, April 15

Good Sunday morning. We're up early preparing for today's program. Prepare along with us – read what we're reading this morning.

On our radar: A tornado outbreak in the midwest spawns deadly twisters that have left at least five people, including two children, dead in Oklahoma. As the sun rises, we'll get a better idea of the damage that likely spreads across four states. We'll have the very latest live pictures. Then, with an eye on November we talk politics with the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus. And courting female voters with powerful congressional women - Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

Oh, and Bill Cosby on politics, the Trayvon Martin case and plenty more.

Check out what we're reading, and be sure to watch our exclusive interview with chairman Priebus and our other fantastic guests. State of the Union airs today at 9am/12pm ET.

BREAKING...

URGENT – Oklahoma-Storm-Toll

(CNN) - Five people, including two children, died from storm-related injuries early Sunday morning in Woodward, Oklahoma, after a suspected tornado struck the town, said Amy Elliott of the State of Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office.

TORNADOES

Twisters tear through Kansas; more Midwest storms expected

The entire population of one Midwest town was evacuated after a suspected tornado destroyed three out of every four homes, while other communities that survived one round of a powerful storm system that spawned dozens of suspected twisters waited another that was barreling down early Sunday. ...

In southwest Iowa, the entire population - roughly 300 people - of the small town of Thurman was evacuated after a suspected tornado struck Saturday night, damaging or destroying 75% of the homes, said Mike Crecelius, Fremont County's emergency management director. ...

There were more than 88 preliminary tornado reports by late Saturday night, said Pat Slattery, a spokesman for the National Weather Service's Central Region in Kansas City, Missouri. It is possible the number of tornadoes reported are inflated by multiple reports, he said. A dozen more suspected tornadoes were reported by early Sunday as a storm system worked its way across Kansas, though it will be daylight before the National Weather Service can confirm the touchdowns.

POLITICS / 2012

Exclusive interview with Reince Priebus

Not surprisingly, Priebus doesn’t hold back in his criticism of what he sees is an excessively negative campaign by the president: “He has a problem. He ran in such a grand fashion...but we have a catastrophe. He hasn’t fulfilled the promises he made to the American people.” Pointing to the debt commission, the Medicare reform plan offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the lack of an energy policy, he argues that the president “side-stepped a lot of opportunities” to address major issues. In his view, “He promised the world and delivered nothing.”

Hinting at where the RNC messaging will be directed, Priebus reiterates that “if we show the promises he made and the standards he set and where we are and what the truth is,” the president can be defeated. Because Obama’s record is shaky, Priebus contends, “the president is running on fear and division and hatred. It’s all about rich vs. poor, men vs. women and Democrats vs. Republicans.” ...

[H]e explains the nuts and bolts organization he is putting together. ”I’m a big fan of metrics, “ he says. While some past RNC chairmen have been essentially spokesmen for the party, Priebus is focused on measurable results. “You’re either doing it or you’re not. We file a report at the end of every month [showing the RNC’s financial status],” he explains. If the RNC isn’t performing donors, officials and candidates know it. To that end, Priebus says by next week he will have victory chairmen and victory centers specifically focused on Hispanic voterss in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. He says “we are paying people” to deliver results. This may be in counting absentee ballots sent out and voter calls made, for example. With the goal of strengthening get-out-the-vote and absentee ballot distribution to Hispanic voters, Priebus hopes to turn out all the available voters out there.

Lead-up to Labor Day may determine winner of presidential race

The intensity of the initial skirmishes in the campaign between President Obama and Mitt Romney underscores a new reality about presidential politics. What happens in the months before Labor Day and the candidates’ debates in the fall will shape the race and, if history is a guide, determine who wins in November.

The next 60 to 90 days may be among the most important of the general election. Obama and Romney will attempt to frame the issues on terms most favorable to their candidacies. Their campaign teams will try to define their opponent as negatively as possible. Both sides will put in place the money and machinery needed to spread their messages and turn out their voters on Election Day. Mistakes will be costly.

For Romney, stressing business prowess may be risky strategy

As Democrats launch their general election assault on Mitt Romney, their approach has sounded familiar to those who followed the meteoric rise and fall of Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, corporate chieftains who lost their Republican bids for senator and governor in California two years ago. ...

Obama's allusion to Romney's background [as a wealthy businessman] was no accident. At a recent breakfast in Washington, Obama pollster Joel Benenson mentioned the Whitman and Fiorina races when asked whether the Obama team viewed any 2010 contests as models for this year's campaign. In California, Benenson said, "You had two people who ran on their business experience, spent a boatload of money … and lost — in a state that has elected Republicans."

How the plan to tax millionaires more might play out in the election

The White House and congressional Democrats think they have the ideal issue to use against Republicans all year – that the GOP is eager to give tax breaks to the rich.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday hosted a Rose Garden event to promote the tax hike on millionaires, and the White House website features a "Buffett Rule Calculator." ..."How many millionaires paid a lower effective tax rate than you? Find your Buffett Number using the calculator on the right," the White House website says, urging people to plug in their income and find out.

The millionaire tax would produce an estimated $47 billion over 10 years. The Obama administration found that in 2009, some 22,000 households earning more than $1 million paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes.

White House Opens Door to Big Donors, and Lobbyists Slip In

Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits.

More broadly, the review showed that those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others. Among donors who gave $30,000 or less, about 20 percent visited the White House, according to a New York Times analysis that matched names in the visitor logs with donor records. But among those who donated $100,000 or more, the figure rises to about 75 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the president’s top fund-raisers in the 2008 campaign visited the White House at least once, some of them numerous times.

IN OTHER NEWS...

NATO Sees Flaws in Air Campaign

Despite widespread praise in Western capitals for NATO’s leadership of the air campaign in Libya, a confidential NATO assessment paints a sobering portrait of the alliance’s ability to carry out such campaigns without significant support from the United States.

The report concluded that the allies struggled to share crucial target information, lacked specialized planners and analysts, and overly relied on the United States for reconnaissance and refueling aircraft.

Obama Says Legalization Is Not the Answer on Drugs

Leaders at a summit meeting of many of the Western Hemisphere nations on Saturday discussed alternatives to what many consider a failed “war on drugs” that is too reliant on military action and imprisonment. But President Obama said flatly that “legalization is not the answer.”

New North Korean leader Kim speaks publicly for first time

New North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun spoke publicly for the first time Sunday, telling tens of thousands at a parade in Pyongyang that he’d honor the legacy of his father and grandfather and prioritize the country’s military strength.

Speaking from a balcony overlooking a broad public square packed with soldiers and citizens, Kim recited the points emphasized in Pyongyang’s propaganda, and underlined the need for a mighty military prepared for war.

A DIRECT FLIGHT OUT OF WASHINGTON...

Bill Cosby delivers laughs Friday night at State Farm Arena

Dressed in sweats and a black T-shirt with "Howard Theatre" printed on the front, Bill Cosby sat for a spell and told the Rio Grande Valley audience stories for hours.

The esteemed Mr. Cosby wasted no time launching into the show, but the material wasn't routine — the sound wasn't quite loud enough for those of us in the back, so he cracked a few jokes at the expense of the sound guy.

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