By Tracey Webb
Your daily scoop of what State of the Union is watching today, February 27, 2014.
1. Russia's war games. As tensions grow in Ukraine's Crimea region, Russia is conducting military exercises on the Ukrainian border. The United States is expressing concern about Russia's moves. "I expect Russia to be transparent about these activities, and I urge them not to take any steps that could be misinterpreted, or lead to miscalculation during a very delicate time - a time of great tension," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Is the Cold War on again?
2. Happy Birthday Tea Party. The Tea Party movement is five years old today, and its members are marking the event with a conference in Washington to size up its accomplishments and goals for the future. The birth of the Tea Party is traced back to the stimulus, along with the Wall Street and auto bailouts. The movement is also credited with helping Republicans win control of the House in 2010. But the failure of the GOP to recapture the Senate in 2010, and again in 2012, was partially blamed on Republican candidates with Tea Party support that were considered too controversial or conservative for the general election electorate.
3. Anti-gay bills. A bill that would have allowed Arizona's retailers to deny service to gays and lesbians for religious reasons has been vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, but similar measures in other states remain very much alive. Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon and South Dakota all have "religious freedom" bills on the docket. In announcing her decision, Brewer, a conservative Republican, said the Arizona measure didn't specifically address dangers to religious freedom. "It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine," she said.
4. GOP's midterm edge. Despite dismal overall approval numbers and deep divisions within the party about its direction, the GOP so far appears to have the edge in this year's midterms. According to a CBS News/New York Times poll, 42% of those surveyed said they plan to vote for Republicans in November, while 39% said they'll back Democrats. Though the difference is within the poll's margin of error, the boost to Republicans comes from independents who disapprove of President Obama's job performance.
5. Does the Veep know something the rest of us don't? The polls show Hillary Clinton as the Democratic frontrunner should she make a White House bid, but some members of Vice President Joe Biden's inner circle think a Hillary run is far from a done deal. In a lengthy profile of Biden, Politico's Glenn Thrush, said folks close to Biden "predicted there was a 'significant' chance Clinton would take a pass, due to illness or a reluctance to endure the personal trials of another presidential run. The others at the Biden retreat also came away feeling that Clinton would ultimately decide not to run."
6. Obama gets personal. President Obama unveiled his initiative to help improve the lives of young men of color. The "My Brother's Keeper" project was inspired by the President's visit with a group of young African-American boys in his hometown of Chicago last year. "I could see myself in these young men, the only difference was, I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving," Obama told a White House gathering. "This is an issue of national importance." The President has received criticism from some African Americans for not specifically addressing problems affecting blacks. White House aides have indicated the "My Brother's Keeper" project will be a major focus for Obama after his presidency.