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Can the West show unity in response to Russia, Islamic State?

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  September 4, 2014 at 8:52 AM EDT
(From L-R) French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine at the Celtic Manor Resort during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on September 4. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

(From L-R) French President Francois Hollande, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine at the Celtic Manor Resort during the 2014 NATO Summit, in Newport, Wales, on September 4. Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama, U.K.’s Cameron try strike tough tone on crises
  • DOJ to open investigation into Ferguson PD
  • Hagan-Tillis debate in N.C.
  • Independents Day in Kansas
  • McConnell reaches key mark in new poll

‘Moment of testing’ on Ukraine; searching for unity from the West on Islamic State: President Barack Obama continues his trip abroad for the NATO meeting in Wales. On Wednesday afternoon in Estonia, he addressed the situation in Ukraine, calling it a “moment of testing” for the West. What’s more, the AP reports, “At the same time, the Pentagon announced that 200 U.S. soldiers would participate in an exercise in western Ukraine starting next week. Though largely a symbolic move, distant from the conflict with Russian-backed separatists, it would mark the first presence of American ground troops in Ukraine since the crisis began.” Ukraine and Afghanistan are high on the agenda, but so is the Islamic State, as the president continues his meetings Thursday. He’s already met with English Prime Minister Cameron, and the duo have a joint op-ed in The Times of London calling for unity against the Islamic State and hitting Russia for having “ripped up the rulebook” on Ukraine and sovereignty. There’s another meeting regarding Ukraine at 11:45 a.m. ET before the working dinner at Cardiff Castle at 3:40 p.m. ET.

Holder’s DOJ investigating entire Ferguson police department: The Department of Justice is expected to announce Thursday that it is taking the step of investigating the entire Ferguson, Mo., police department following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. This DOJ under Eric Holder has launched double the number of civil rights investigations of police departments (20) than under any past attorney general. There are 34 other police departments currently under investigation for possible civil rights violations. The Justice Department has had the authority to launch these investigations this since a 1994 law went into effect in the aftermath of the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles.

Let’s debate: What better way to kick off the post-Labor Day sprint to Election Day than with a debate? And where better than North Carolina, a purple state with a key Senate race? Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis clashed over President Obama’s record, the health care law, the VA, immigration, education and more. Tillis tried to tie Hagan to President Obama, calling her a “rubber stamp.” Hagan tried to distance herself from Obama in spots, noting, “I have demanded better from the president” on the VA, for example. But Hagan, who has been pummeled with advertising about her support of the health care law, defended the law. She charged that Tillis “would take us back to a broken system.” Tillis shot back that Hagan had “broke a promise” to North Carolina, citing the “If you like your health care, you can keep it” attack. Tillis said he backed allowing birth control pills to be sold over the counter, trying to blunt Democrats’ attack and appeal to women. But it was striking that in a state Obama won in 2008 and Mitt Romney won by just 2 points in 2012, how much Tillis stuck to conservative talking points otherwise — be it on health care (“like your plan,” “best health care the world can deliver”), foreign policy (“JV,” “We don’t have a strategy” on Islamic State) and the minimum wage (“job-killing consequences”). The next debate in North Carolina is Oct. 7. It’ll be interesting to see how polls shift between now and then. As has been the case in a lot of states, there haven’t been a lot of good polls here, but the race is tight and neither candidate is approaching 50 percent yet. By the way, for you debate junkies, there’s a California governor’s race debate tonight.

Sunflower state surprise: The U.S. Senate race in Kansas got a whole lot more interesting Wednesday with the announcement from Democrat Chad Taylor that he had decided to withdraw as a candidate in the November election. The move could boost the prospects of independent candidate Greg Orman, co-founder of a capital and management services firm, against veteran Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Libertarian Randall Batson is also running for the seat. Roberts survived a hard-fought primary contest last month from a tea party-backed challenger and has been dogged by residency questions, which fueled suggestions he has lost touch with his home state. Roberts’ campaign cried foul play on Wednesday, charging the Orman camp and national Democrats with striking a “corrupt bargain.” A KSN-TV poll conducted by Survey USA last month found Roberts leading in a three-way race with 37 percent, followed by Taylor at 32 percent and Orman at 20 percent. The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found a similar breakdown among the three candidates, but showed Orman with a 43 percent to 33 percent advantage over Roberts in a head-to-head matchup. Since the 1930s Kansas voters have been sending Republicans to the U.S. Senate, and it would seem that given the state’s conservative tilt that Roberts would still be the favorite. But factor in the incumbent’s long time in office and the anti-Washington mood of voters, as well as Wednesday’s unexpected development, and it’s clear to see why Orman’s independent bid might have a shot this fall.

McConnell hits 50 percent mark: Speaking of polls in key races, a CNN/ORC poll is the first to put Republican Mitch McConnell at 50 percent in Kentucky. That’s a significant mark for incumbents, especially ones with such poor favorability numbers as McConnell. Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is in striking distance, still pulling in 46 percent. The numbers are among likely voters, and those models have proven difficult to perfect. Of course, the Grimes campaign stressed the registered voter number that is within a point, 47 percent to 46 percent, for McConnell. But in reality in midterms, especially in a conservative state and one where President Obama’s approval is at just 33 percent, more Republicans are going to be engaged. Grimes and Democrats are trying whatever they can, including picking up on McConnell’s campaign manager’s resignation because of his ties to a Rand Paul presidential campaign Iowa scandal and hitting McConnell for blocking VA funding. The poll speaks to what a difficult climate this is for Democrats, given that this is one of just two states Democrats are targeting.

Quote of the day: “Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality.” — Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz criticizing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s record on women’s issues during an event in Milwaukee on Wednesday. In response, Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch called the comments “absolutely hideous.” A spokesperson for Democrat Mary Burke’s gubernatorial campaign said it “was not the type of language” Burke would use to point out differences between the candidates.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1957, Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus ordered the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. How did President Eisenhower respond to the incident? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Wednesday’s trivia: How many southern states did Eisenhower win in the 1952 election? The answer was: 7 — TX, OK, TN, VA, FL, MD and DE (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau).

LINE ITEMS

  • Immigration activists want the president to lean into executive action. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., for example, said, “We may lose seats in the House, we may lose seats in the Senate. Then they will simply say, ‘Oh, there they go, protecting those immigrants afterwards why didn’t they do it before? Because they were afraid.’ Let’s not be afraid of standing for our values, of standing for what we believe in as Democrats.” Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner is teasing that “there’s a possibility that Congress could take this issue up next year.”

  • Vice President Joe Biden toured the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Wednesday, flanked by members of Maine and New Hampshire’s Democratic delegation, where he spoke about a strong defense and middle class jobs. He said he would follow the Islamic State “to the gates of hell.”

  • Hillary Clinton will be the keynote speaker at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s annual energy conference in Las Vegas Thursday.

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will head to New Hampshire on September 12 for a GOP unity breakfast, as part of his multi-day tour of the Granite State.

  • With less than a week left until members return to Washington, Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans it will be a “brief but busy” September.

  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is returning as head of Bloomberg L.P.

  • John Harwood, writing in the New York Times, looks at how early voting restrictions could affect the midterms in key states.

  • A legal challenge to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s residency will be heard in a Baton Rouge court on Friday.

  • Alaska Sen. Mark Begich’s attack ad against former Attorney General Dan Sullivan about a sex offender released earlier than he should have been is still causing controversy in the state, with the victim’s family threatening to leave Alaska if both candidates don’t remove all references to the incident from their campaigns.

  • In addition to its hit on McConnell, Vote Vets is targeting Sullivan.

  • An LGBT Facebook group is going after Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn for her undefined stance on gay marriage. “Please help us tell Ms. Nunn that ‘states’ rights’ is no more acceptable for LGBT equality than it was for racial equality,” the group implores. Nunn’s campaign responded that she had voted against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

  • California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters picked up the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. Peters is locked in a tough re-election fight with Republican challenger Carl DeMaio. The Washington Post notes Peters is just the fourth Democratic congressional candidate to get the Chamber’s endorsement this cycle.

  • Arizona Sen. John McCain called for veterans to support Virginia’s Republican nominee for Senate Ed Gillespie during a trip to Norfolk, home to the world’s largest naval base.

  • Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, released an ad this week, and it’s very powerful.

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is trying to convince voters that the Democratic candidate they saw in 2010’s Senate race wasn’t the real Martha Coakley.

  • Virginia Republican Ed Gillespie says he’ll be a check on Mr. Obama, not a “blank check for him” like Sen. Mark Warner.

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn touts his record cutting state spending — and the grass — in his new ad.

  • Washington has changed Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, the NRSC charges.

  • Oregon Republican Monica Wehby touts her commitment to small business in a new ad.

  • Nick Troiano, the 25-year-old Independent running against Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., is out with his first ad, in which he calls Washington a zoo.

  • Generation Opportunity is out with an ad series calling Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, Kay Hagan and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu cronies for supporting “Obamacare.”

  • The Republican Governors Association seizes on comments from the father of a murdered Colorado girl who called Gov. Hickenlooper “a coward” for his uncertain position on the killer’s future. The RGA also released an ad accusing Maine Rep. Mike Michaud of supporting benefits for illegal immigrants, which, the RGA says, would make Maine a popular destination for them.

  • A federal judge in Louisiana upheld the state’s gay marriage ban Wednesday. The decision marks the first time since the Supreme Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act that a federal court has not overturned a state’s same-sex marriage ban.

  • Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland already served 10 months in prison for selling his office. This week he is on trial for a second time for allegedly violating federal election laws.

  • A proposal to raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $6.25/hour to $8.50/hour by 2017 will appear on the ballot in November.

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has now paid back $14,000 to the city for travel expenses incurred while he was courting donors.

  • 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.

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

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