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PBS NewsHour

Morning Line’s mid-September top 10 Senate races

         by Stephen B. Thornton/For the Washington Post

Most polling now shows Republican challenger Tom Cotton ahead of Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton/For the Washington Post

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Republicans on the doorstep of Senate control
  • The Kansas independent wildcard
  • Republican Syria funding plan takes shape
  • U.S. to take lead on Ebola epidemic

Senate state of play — post-Labor Day polls tipping scales toward GOP: Here come the likely voter models. Poll after poll finds Republicans more interested and engaged in this election than Democrats, and that means those post-Labor Day polls, using narrower screens of who’s most likely to vote, are giving the GOP an even bigger boost than they were already seeing. It’s part of why President Obama is now lending his voice to a $1 million ad campaign to target Democratic base voters who traditionally are less likely to turn out in midterms. The latest PBS NewsHour Morning Line Top 10 shows just one Republican-held seat now on the list, and that’s Kansas — not Georgia or Kentucky. And in Kansas, it’s not a Democrat but an independent with the chance at winning. (It’s still not clear which party independent Greg Orman would caucus with, but Republicans are treating him as a Democrat.)

‘The Marks’ look more vulnerable; does the Democratic firewall hold? Republicans need to net six seats for a majority, and are still favored to win at least three. Nos. 4 on down are all tight and toss ups, but perhaps the most troubling news for Democrats is that compared to before the summer, the GOP is now more strongly challenging the Marks (Pryor In Arkansas, which is up two spots to No. 4, and Begich in Alaska, up four spots to No. 6). Democratic operatives feel confident Begich will pull out the victory in Alaska and that their firewall of MUST-WIN states to hold the majority are Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado. But even if Democrats win all three, they could still lose the majority if Begich goes down. That’s entirely possible in a state Mitt Romney carried by 14 points in the 2012 presidential election. But imagine this scenario: Republicans pick up those six seats, but Orman pulls off the Kansas upset. That would suddenly make Orman a VERY important person on Capitol Hill.

To the Top 10 (in order of most likely to change parties):

  1. Montana (Open-D): The plagiarism scandal here puts this one at the top. Democrats are left with a novice candidate. (Previous: 3)
  2. West Virginia (Open-D): President Obama’s approval here is among the worst in the country. It will be hard for Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to overperform him by THAT much, especially against moderate Republican Shelley Moore Capito, who has voiced support for government programs that help the state and raised a good deal of money. (Previous: 2)
  3. South Dakota (Open-Democratic controlled): This moving to No. 3 doesn’t reflect that it’s less likely to go Republican, only that Montana and West Virginia have gotten even more likely GOP. (Previous: 1)
  4. Arkansas (Pryor-D): Back in May, Pryor looked like he was holding up well. But the tide has turned. Most polling now shows Republican challenger Tom Cotton ahead. What changed? The demographics favor Republicans, and immigration attacks may have moved the numbers even more than in other states. (Previous: 6)
  5. Louisiana (Landrieu-D): She’s done it before, but if incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu doesn’t get 50 percent on Election Day, it’s tougher to see how she gets there in the Dec. 6 runoff. (Previous: 4)
  6. Alaska (Begich-D): Begich was running one of the best campaigns of the cycle until his campaign’s Willie Horton-like TV ad opened a chink in the armor. It’s a tough state to poll, but any small missteps can be a big problem for Democrats, and GOP challenger Dan Sullivan has gotten a post-primary bounce. (Previous: 10)
  7. North Carolina (Hagan-D): Democrat Kay Hagan appears — so far — to be holding up best of the red-state Democrats. An Elon poll out Monday put her up 45-41 percent, but that’s still well below 50 percent and her job disapproval was at 51 percent. But an even bigger majority — 54 percent — disapproved of the job the North Carolina General Assembly is doing. Republican challenger Thom Tillis is the state House speaker. (Previous: 7)
  8. Iowa (Open-D): Privately, even Democrats are less than impressed with Bruce Braley as a candidate, but they are hoping paid advertising and the state’s more populist demographics can put him over the top against Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst. (Previous: 5)
  9. Kansas (Roberts-R): This one came out of nowhere, but Democrat Chad Taylor’s decision to drop out has shaken up the race. Orman leads Roberts in some polls — even with Taylor still on the ballot. The state Supreme Court is taking up the fight next week over whether Taylor has to remain on the ballot. There are lots of judges on it appointed by former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, by the way. Republicans are taking this race very seriously, especially because Orman, a venture capitalist, could loan himself a lot of money in this low-dollar advertising state. (Previous: Unranked)
  10. Colorado (Udall-D): Democratic incumbent Mark Udall is up low-to-mid single digits, and Democrats are spending millions to support him. It’s also the one state where Latinos matter, and President Obama’s approval among the group has dropped significantly given his lack of executive action. But this race is all about women, and there’s still a big gender gap Udall is exploiting. (Previous: 9)

Notes: Georgia and Kentucky drop off the list. Georgia right now is closer than Kentucky, where Republican Mitch McConnell appears to have extended his lead. … There’s also been some tightening in New Hampshire, but incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen still appears to have the edge over Republican former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, although a new CNN/ORC poll out Tuesday shows them tied 48-48 percent among likely voters and Shaheen up 51-44 among registered voters. As always, our analysis is based on reporting, public and private polling shared with Morning Line, and conversations with campaigns, committees and operatives on both sides of the aisle.

The undecided factor: One thing to watch on Election Night is how undecideds break. After last week’s House primaries, the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman warned that while there hasn’t been an anti-incumbent fire yet, the warm embers are there for it to happen. “One common thread this year has been that just about every voter who has woken up undecided on election day has voted for the ‘change’ candidate,” he wrote Friday.

Congress: Republican war funding plan in place: A Republican-controlled Congress would mean lots of coordination between House Speaker John Boehner and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who would be majority leader. And the two lawmakers’ teams are getting a test run, as they coordinate strategy for the continuing resolution, which could pass as early as late Tuesday, with Syria funding attached as an amendment. “[T]he leaders have agreed on a plan that is expected to result in the House authorizing Obama’s strategy by adding it to a short-term spending bill slated for consideration this week,” the Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe report. “The spending bill will expire in mid-December, giving Congress until just before the holidays to debate and approve a new blanket authorization for military force in the Middle East. Boehner and McConnell agreed that beginning a broader debate over war in the lame-duck period is preferred, aides said.” Democrats, for the most part, seem to be OK with the plan. Putting the Syria funding as an amendment “will enable conservative hawks who oppose the spending bill to separately back the military plan, and some Republicans and Democrats to support the spending bill. Either way, both proposals pass with a handful of dissenting Republican voices.”

U.S. to step forward on Ebola outbreak: The Ebola crisis in Africa is in the spotlight Tuesday with President Obama expected to announce at 4:45 p.m. EDT from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta a surge of U.S. support to West Africa to take “command and control” of the epidemic, according to a senior White House official, NewsHour’s Sarah McHaney reports. The president will be committing 3,000 military personnel and about $500 million to the effort. The Defense Department has budgeted so far for a six-month mission that will include building 17 new Ebola clinics, training 500 local health care staff a week, and distributing sanitary kits to 400,000 homes. Members of Congress were briefed on the mission Monday, and President Obama has asked for an additional $88 million in aid to fight the epidemic to be added to a continuing resolution currently in the House. That’s in addition to the White House’s request for Syria rebel funding to be added to the CR. Next Friday, President Obama will address the Global Health Security Summit on some of the shortcomings of the international community’s response and how to fortify the global health security infrastructure. The Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 2,400 lives so far. The president had promised on “Meet the Press” Sept. 7 that the U.S. was “as usual” going to have to take the lead on Ebola. He called it a “national security priority” and that Americans don’t need to be concerned in the “short term.” “If we don’t make that effort now,” the president warned, “and this spreads not just through Africa, but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates, it becomes more easily transmittable, and then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1974, President Gerald Ford announced a conditional amnesty program for draft dodgers and deserters during the Vietnam War. What did the draft dodgers have to do in exchange for amnesty? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Friday’s trivia: Where was President Clinton when a small plane crashed on the White House lawn? The answer was: the Blair House (the presidential guest house), due to White House renovations.


  • A new report from the Government Accountability Office found there are numerous cases in which insurers violated strict rules regarding abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Insurers are required to collect separate payments from their customers for abortion coverage (except in cases of rape or incest) so that taxpayer money does not cover abortions.
  • The Paycheck Fairness Act, which aimed to equalize pay between men and women, failed to even get past a procedural vote in the Senate Monday.
  • The House passed a bill Monday that gives low-income families assistance to pay for childcare. The bill is now expected to become law by year’s end.
  • Less than two days after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the Harkin Steak Fry, Vice President Joe Biden heads to Des Moines, Iowa, to kick off a “Nuns on the Bus” tour that will encourage voter registration.
  • Braley is getting hit on his attendance record in Congress again, this time by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia may tout her work at former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, but she’s not getting any love from her former employer. Bush officially endorsed Republican David Perdue in the Senate race.
  • In Iowa, Ernst continues to paint herself as an independent leader in a new ad promoting her commitment to protecting Social Security.
  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised its Republican counterpart by more than $1 million in August.
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is expected to secure more than $500,000 in campaign donations for House Republican candidates Tuesday, during an American Trucking Association event.
  • Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ group, released an emotional ad criticizing Republican candidate Martha McSally for her stance on gun control.
  • The House Ethics Committee is looking into alleged misconduct of former Senate candidate and current Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.
  • Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., makes the case in a New York Times op-ed that President Obama has to get congressional authorization in the fight against the Islamic State group.
  • Even though Virginia Sen. Mark Warner is in a good position to win re-election this fall, the Democrat continues to push his bipartisan record and efforts to cut spending during his stump speeches.
  • In places like Virginia, Democrats, not Republicans, have pivoted to attacking their opponents on cultural issues.
  • Despite being the leader of a solidly red state, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback continues to face an uphill battle to re-election this year.
  • If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie runs for president in 2016, he might have a hard time in South Carolina. A new radio ad and billboard out in the Palmetto State attack the Republican governor for being too liberal, especially regarding his judicial nominations.
  • Christie is also headed to the other Carolina to help the Republican candidate for Senate. The governor is scheduled to hold a meet and greet Tuesday with North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is getting a jumpstart on a potential 2016 presidential platform with a speech at the Heritage Foundation Tuesday that will lay out a “comprehensive energy plan”.
  • Politico notes that, despite being the “bad boys of Congress”, Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., all have good chances of winning re-election.
  • If Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, fails to win re-election, she always has her promising restaurant business to fall back on.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.



For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter:


The post Morning Line’s mid-September top 10 Senate races appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Federal appeals court considers Texas abortion clinic law HB2

Protesters gathered at the Texas state capitol in Austin to show support for reproductive rights in July of 2013, as
         the legislature considered HB2. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Protesters gathered at the Texas state capitol in Austin to show support for reproductive rights in July of 2013, as the legislature considered HB2. Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court in New Orleans is reviewing whether 11 clinics that provide abortion in Texas must immediately close their doors because they don’t comply with a state law requiring that they meet all the standards of an outpatient surgical center.

A three-judge panel heard arguments this morning for more than 90 minutes, first from the Texas solicitor general and then from a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing many of the Texas clinics. The questions from the judges centered mainly on what constitutes an “undue burden” when a woman is trying to get an abortion, and what fraction of Texas women would be affected.

Advocates say that about 20 abortion clinics in Texas have already closed in advance of the law; if the court rules in Texas’s favor, fewer than 10 clinics that provide abortion would remain in a state with a population of 26 million.

Advocates say that about 20 abortion clinics in Texas have already closed in advance of the law; if the court rules in Texas’s favor, fewer than 10 clinics that provide abortion would remain in a state with a population of 26 million.Both sides agreed that if the 11 clinics close, women in the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel more than 200 miles to San Antonio to get an abortion under the new law. But Jonathan Mitchell, the Texas solicitor general, said there was no good evidence that women weren’t figuring out how to deal with that and no evidence that if the abortion rate in Texas had fallen, that it was related to the law.

“An abortion law cannot be enjoined based on conjecture,” Mitchell said. Judge Jennifer Elrod questioned him about a clinic’s survey of 20 patients presented at the trial in August. An expert testifying for the clinics said one patient surveyed said she did not get an abortion after the law, known as HB2, went into effect.

“He did not report she was unable to get it, he did not report she encountered an undue burden,” Mitchell answered. “She could simply have changed her mind.”

Furthermore, patients in El Paso, where another clinic might close because it is not an ambulatory surgical center, could just travel to New Mexico for an abortion, Mitchell added.

Stephanie Toti with the Center for Reproductive Rights argued on behalf of affected clinics such as Whole Woman’s Health. She says lots of evidence was presented at the trial last month that women were facing numerous burdens exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. For example, a San Antonio clinic had offered women in the Rio Grande Valley who were seeking abortions free bus passes to help them travel north. But the patients told the clinic it wasn’t just the distance and money, but the problems with child care, time off work, and explaining to family why they were going so far.

Toti said a promontora, a health outreach worker, testified at the trial that women were experiencing obstacles due to the clinics closing in Rio Grande Valley. “She says she personally observed women turning to illegal means to get an abortion,” Toti told the judges.

In a rebuttal, Mitchell called that testimony “vague” and says the promontora couldn’t give specific numbers of women doing that and couldn’t provide evidence that those choices were related to the effects of HB2.

The three judges did not indicate when they would decide, but if the decision goes for state of Texas, the clinics would probably close immediately. The judges could also decide that some of the most isolated clinics could remain open, while others must close.

Federal district Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in August that the surgery center regulation had no health benefit and would place numerous burdens on women seeking care, especially if they lived in the Rio Grande Valley and west Texas. Yeakel allowed the non-complying clinics to remain open, but the state asked for an emergency motion to overrule that and close them. The three judges did not indicate when they would decide.

Mitchell told the panel the state of Texas has a compelling interest in closing clinics that it deems unsafe, and that’s why the state sought an emergency motion to stay Yeakel’s decision.

“If there is a Kermit Gosnell-type clinic in a state, and that’s the last clinic in the state, I think everyone could agree that clinic could be shut down,” Mitchell said, referring to a notorious abortion doctor convicted of murder in Philadelphia.

Outside the hearing, reproductive rights protesters carried signs.

Bethany van Kampen, a lawyer and board member of the New Orleans Abortion Fund, attended the hearing. She said it seemed that the judges were asking very hard questions of Toti.

“It’s a bit discouraging,” she said. “It felt very targeted. I felt our line of questioning was harder and more difficult, and I think we tried to do our best.”

Sandy Jones, an activist with Stop Patriarchy, traveled from Houston to attend. She said it seemed the judges had too narrow of a focus.

“These are forces that are determined to criminalize every abortion, every woman and make it inaccessible to every woman,” Jones said. “And birth control as we know is not far behind. This is a war on women; this is a state of emergency.”

Abortion opponents had also traveled from Austin and Fort Worth to listen.

“It’s hard to say how this will go,” said Emily Horne, a legislative associate for Texas Right to Life.

She said there was a need for Texas to seek this emergency hearing to shut down the non-complying clinics right away. “It is a direct safety measure for the health and safety of Texas women, so we think that sooner is better to implement that,” Horne said.

Horne said it was exciting to be there, and important for all states, not just Texas.

“Texas is definitely setting some precedents as far as what states are being allowed to pass, so there is a lot that does hinge on this,” she added.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Houston Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

The post Federal appeals court considers Texas abortion clinic law HB2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

She’s ‘baack’ — Hillary Clinton returns to Iowa

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a large gathering at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sunday in Indianola,
         Iowa. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a large gathering at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sunday in Indianola, Iowa. Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Hillary Clinton back in Iowa for the first time since 2008 loss
  • Republicans pressure Obama to do more
  • The politics of war
  • What does Congress do?

She’s ‘baaack’: Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time Sunday since her third-place finish in the 2008 caucuses behind Barack Obama. “Hello Iowa. I’m baack,” Clinton exclaimed, arms out wide, at the Harkin Steak Fry, the fundraiser hosted by retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Clinton made just a fleeting reference to 2016, calling it “that other thing.” “Well, it is true, I am thinking about it,” she said. “But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.” She added, “It’s really great to be back … Let’s not let another seven years go by.” She’s expected to announce whether she will run for president early next year. Former President Bill Clinton also spoke, but was careful not to “overshadow” his wife, Maggie Haberman notes. The Clintons mainly paid tribute to the retiring senator and made the case for Democrats in 2014 across the board, per PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Terence Burlij and Rachel Wellford, who were on the ground at the Steak Fry.

Will Iowa doves back the more hawkish Clinton? Going back to Iowa is no small thing for Clinton. It was the first round in 2008, and it delivered the first major blow to her campaign, knocking her off course to the nomination. Iowa is a traditionally anti-war liberal base. It’s how the caucuses started, as reaction to the Vietnam War. Clinton’s support for the Iraq War was one wedge Barack Obama was able to use in the Hawkeye State to upend Clinton. How the war against the Islamic State group winds up factoring into the Democratic primary in 2015/2016 is also something to watch. Does Clinton support more American combat troops on the ground? She’s going to get asked about it. The conventional wisdom is that she won’t get a serious primary challenge. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he might run, even if Clinton does. And Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, was in Iowa this weekend. He drew some 250 people to church basement in Des Moines and was well received. The Des Moines Register: “Though the sampling was small and the audience obviously partisan toward progressives, Sanders’ message inspired roaring applause during his hourlong speech.” The most problematic candidate from Clinton’s left would be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But so far she has indicated she won’t challenge Clinton.

Send in the troops? The talk of the Sunday shows was whether the U.S. could realistically defeat the Islamic State militant group and promise to send in no American ground troops. The Obama administration believes it is possible, but did not explicitly rule out potentially sending in Americans at some point. Republicans, like hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called the administration’s plan “delusional.” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that military advisers, and even the president himself, don’t believe the militant group can be defeated from the air alone. “That’s correct,” McDonough said, when asked if it’s true that “not a single military adviser that has come to you guys and said, ‘You can defeat [IS] without some combat troops.’” McDonough pointed to Congress and the need to pass funding to pay for training of Syrian rebels (more on where that stands below). Asked if he “pledges” that no American ground troops will ever be sent in, McDonough could not do so. “We need ground troops,” he said, “that’s why we want this program to train the opposition, that’s currently pending in Congress. And that’s why we want to make sure that this coalition bring Sunnis to the fight.” And on whether the U.S. has asked for ground troops from allies, McDonough said, “We’re not looking for that right now.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo trying to rally regional Arab powers. UN Security Council members meet in Paris today. Kerry will testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill on the effort to fight the Islamic State group. President Obama meets with Gen. John Allen, in charge of the war against the militants. By Friday, the administration was, in fact, using the term “war.”

Republicans pressure to do more: In addition to Graham’s criticism, James Baker, former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, said on “Meet the Press,” “I’m not suggesting we need to get into another ground war in the Middle East. I’m just saying we cannot do this without having some forces on the ground that can help our air campaign. You have to have that.” Gen. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director under George W. Bush said he believed the U.S. would wind up with special forces in the region (which already seemed to be understood to be happening from President Obama’s call for covert operations). Hayden also said he believed the operation would last three to five years and that more Americans on the ground were likely and necessary. “The airpower thing is good,” he said, “but I don’t think anyone believes … that airpower alone will be sufficient to achieve what the president has set out with regard to our objectives.”

The politics of war: But the politics aren’t as simple. Three polls from last week — ABC/Washington Post, CNN/ORC, and NBC/WSJ — found Americans are more supportive of airstrikes against the Islamic State group, following the beheadings of two American journalists. (A British national was beheaded by the group over the weekend.) But, they were less supportive of sending in ground troops. The CNN poll, for example, found 75 percent in favor airstrikes, but just 38 percent supporting sending in ground troops. In the NBC/WSJ poll, 74 percent were in favor of some action, but just 34 percent were in favor of ground troops and airstrikes. Despite President Obama announcing a plan that appears to align with polling, an NBC/WSJ/Annenburg poll taken before the beheading of the British national but released over the weekend found 68 percent lack confidence in that plan. “The bottom line: The president has made his case to the American public, and like other presidents who faced war and peace issues, support usually follows,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helped conduct the survey, told NBC. “The difference in this military encounter is that, right out of the box, Americans are skeptical if this will work.” It speaks a lot to how our political environment has changed over the past generation. In the 1980s after the Beirut embassy and truck bombings, the country rallied for President Ronald Reagan to avenge the never-before-seen attack. It was the same immediately following 9/11, when President George W. Bush benefited from big polling boosts. (Of course, he would have his critics in the years to follow). Today, it seems, it’s blame first.

Congress to vote this week on funding for Syrian rebels: Among the most vocal critics of the president’s policy, accusing him of not going far enough, are House Republicans. Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, for example, said this morning on MSNBC the president shouldn’t “candy coat” war. The GOP conference is debating how to bring up funding for Syrian rebels, and is expected to do so this week. The White House wants the funding attached to a continuing resolution, a measure that would temporarily fund the government and avoid a government shutdown. Funding runs out at the end of this month, and there are only five D.C. working days left before the members head home to their districts. But the smart money is on the Syria funding being considered separately somehow — either as a stand-alone resolution or as an amendment to the CR. Expect to hear something today or Tuesday on how House Republicans will proceed. Part of the politics here is twofold: 1) Republicans think the president should go further and want to put pressure on him to do so, and 2) Democrats don’t want to be put in a position of taking a “war vote.” Republicans are aware of this and wouldn’t mind forcing them to do just that.

Let the voting begin! There are now just 50 days until Election Day, and voting has already begun in North Carolina. There are 379 votes in in the Tarheel State. “More states join in this week,” the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson reports. “Somewhere in Minnesota this Friday, a voter will cast the first ballot of that state’s midterm election. The following day, voters in Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont will be able to go to local elections offices and do their civic duty, too. Before the month is out, voters in Iowa and Wyoming will start casting their ballots, too.”

What to watch for the rest of the week: The president will travel to Atlanta Tuesday to outline the U.S. plan for involvement in mitigating the Ebola outbreak in Africa. … Secretaries Kerry and Chuck Hagel (Defense) will testify Tuesday before Congress on the administration’s Islamic State group strategy. … And NATO is holding joint exercises with Ukraine Tuesday as well. … It’s all about interest rates Wednesday when Fed Chair Janet Yellen announces whether the Fed will increase those historically low rates. … Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress Wednesday on threats to the homeland. … President Obama meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Thursday before Poroshenko addresses Congress. … And Scots vote Thursday on whether they want to become independent from the United Kingdom.


  • Peter Baker of the New York Times has the details on how President Obama made his decision to go about announcing military action against the Islamic State group.

  • President Obama will award the Medals of Honor at 1:50 p.m. EDT today to two Vietnam veterans and one from Gettysburg.

  • Uncertainty remains about the threat the Islamic State group presents, the Washington Post reports.

  • Mark Sanford’s engagement to his mistress is off, he announced on Facebook. His fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, told the New York Times, “I’ve already been five years waiting and two years since the engagement,” she said, adding that the couple had just had a “honeymoon-like” trip to Paris, but Sanford wanted to wait another two years to get married. The announcement, she said, caught her off guard. “I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she added.

  • Marco Rubio waded right into 2016 politics, linking Hillary Clinton to Obama’s foreign policy. “Five and a half years of the Obama/Clinton worldview has given Americans a graphic and often horrific view of the chaos that is unleashed in the world when America walks away from its traditional role as the guarantor of global security,” Rubio writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

  • It’s more women shooting guns in the latest Alison Lundergan Grimes ad in the Kentucky Senate race. As she skeet shoots, Grimes says she’s not Mitch McConnell, but also, “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA, and Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun.” That last bit was said over an image of McConnell holding up a rifle.

  • Chris Christie will be in South Carolina, that all-important early primary state, Tuesday. He was in Florida Sunday campaigning for incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. “Boy do you have a clear choice,” Christie said. “While you have honesty and integrity with Rick Scott, you don’t in Charlie Crist. See, here’s the thing, you can’t count on anything that Charlie says. And see, you don’t need to take my word for it, you’ve lived it.”

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak before the Heritage Foundation Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org

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The post She’s ‘baack’ — Hillary Clinton returns to Iowa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Hillary Clinton in Iowa stirs 2016 speculation

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her return to Iowa for the first time since the 2008 presidential campaign, implored Democrats on Sunday to choose shared economic opportunity over “the guardians of gridlock” in an high-profile appearance that drove speculation about another White House bid into overdrive.

“Hello Iowa. I’m back!” Clinton declared as she took the podium at retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry fundraiser, a fixture on the political calendar in the home of the nation’s first presidential caucus. Clinton joined her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in a tribute to Harkin that brought them before more than 6,000 party activists who form the backbone of Iowa’s presidential campaigns every four years.

The former New York senator and first lady did not directly address a potential campaign but said she was “thinking about it” and joked that she was “here for the steak.” She later said that “too many people only get excited about presidential campaigns. Look – I get excited about presidential campaigns, too.” But she said the upcoming midterm elections would be pivotal for the state’s voters.

“In just 50 days Iowans have a choice to make – a choice and a chance. A choice between the guardians of gridlock and the champions of shared opportunity and shared prosperity,” she said, urging voters to elect leaders who would “carry on Tom Harkin’s legacy of fighting for families.”

Following a summertime book tour, Clinton was making her biggest campaign splash in 2014 so far, opening a fall of fundraising and campaigning for Democrats who are trying to maintain a Senate majority during President Barack Obama’s final two years. The event also served as a farewell for Harkin, a liberal stalwart and former presidential candidate who is retiring after four decades in Congress.

Obama defeated Clinton in the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses in January 2008 – Clinton finished third behind the future president and then-North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – and the visit marked the former secretary of state’s first appearance in Iowa since the campaign.

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