By Tracey Webb [twitter-follow screen_name='WebbWriterguru']
Get your daily scoop of what State of the Union is watching today, February 5, 2014.
1. House GOP softening debt limit stance. After indicating they would demand conditions in return for raising the nation's debt ceiling, House Republican leaders are now abandoning two of their leading ideas. They won't be requiring the approval of the Keystone pipeline, or the repeal of an Obamacare provision that would reimburse insurance companies for certain high risk plans. Apparently neither proposal has majority support in the GOP caucus, even though many Republicans are opposed to raising the debt limit on principle. President Obama and Democrats are demanding a "clean" debt bill and say they won't negotiate raising the limit. "I don't advocate some sort of scorched earth process, but I do advocate that let's come up with some common sense structural reforms, said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "A clean debt ceiling I think is capitulation."
2. Americans to Uncle Sam: Narrow that gap. A majority of Americans want the government to reduce the wage gap between the country's wealthy and poor. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, more than six in 10 Americans surveyed strongly or somewhat agree that government action is needed to tighten that gap, while 30% do not. The poll also found that nearly seven in 10 believe Republican policies favor the rich compared to 30% who said Democratic policies benefit the wealthy. "That sentiment may put Republicans in a difficult position," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
3. From Idol to Congress? He didn't win "American Idol," but the show's former runner-up Clay Aiken is setting his sights on another contest. He's launching a bid for the House in North Carolina's second congressional district. Aiken joins two other Democrats who are trying to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. Aiken told CNN his decision to run was based on his frustration with "the dysfunction in Washington," "The representative who now serves me... I do believe that she went to Washington because she wanted to do good for people. When she got there in my opinion, she started listening to leaders in her party instead of the people at home," Aiken said. Ellmers, who won 56% of the vote in her 2012 re-election, said Aiken's run indicated he was "very bored." Apparently his performing career is not going so well," Ellmers said. Despite his celebrity status, Aiken is likely to face an uphill climb in his solidly red district, where Mitt Romney defeated President Obama 58% to 41%.
4. CVS breaks the habit. If you want a pack a smokes, don't look to your neighborhood CVS. The pharmacy/retail chain says it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1. CVS Caremark CEO Larry Merlo called the move "the right thing to do," for customers and the company. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose," Merlo said in a statement. President Obama praised CVS' decision as a "import, bold public health decision." Will other drug stores follow suit?
5. And just for laughs.... As the Jay Leno era comes to an end on late night TV, a new study finds that the NBC "Tonight Show" host's top political joke target over the past 20 years was Bill Clinton. The report by George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs said Bill Clinton was the subject of one out of every 10 jokes in Leno's opening monologues. "Leno's monologues focused on power and scandal, and Bill Clinton was the top twofer," said center director and GMU professor Dr. Robert Lichter. And what about Leno's replacement Jimmy Fallon? It turns out President Obama was his top political target. He was the butt of 575 out of 3,970 jokes on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."