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Crist, Scott coast to primary wins in Sunshine State

BY Terence Burlij, Domenico Montanaro, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM EST
Charlie Crist hugs his running mate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as they win the Democratic primary for the Florida governor's race Tuesday.  Photo by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

Charlie Crist hugs his running mate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as they win the Democratic primary for the Florida governor’s race Tuesday. Photo by Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Stage set for Scott-Crist battle in Florida
  • A quick Florida history lesson
  • Ducey to face DuVal in race for Arizona governor
  • Obama administration building case for expanded action in Iraq, Syria

Matchup set in race for Florida governor: The results of Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary contests in Florida were never really in doubt, with Republican incumbent Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist having spent much of the past year focused on each other and not on their primary opponents. Crist, a former Republican governor, won his primary by nearly 50 points over former state Sen. Nan Rich, a tally that should quash any lingering questions about his level of support in his new party. Scott also scored a convincing victory, taking 88 percent of the GOP primary vote. The Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo notes that early returns showed Scott “won about 200,000 more votes in his under-the-radar primary than Crist and about 127,000 more Republicans voted statewide than Democrats.” Crist could face trouble in November if that enthusiasm gap persists. For now, most polls show a close race, with a slight edge to Scott.

A little Florida history lesson: If Charlie Crist wins the governorship — for the second time — this fall he would become the first governor in Florida history to ever win as a member of two different parties, NewsHour’s Andrew Troast and Dave Sloan report. Crist would also be only the second Florida governor in 117 years — and only the second since it achieved statehood — to serve two non-consecutive terms. Gov. William Bloxham served as governor from 1881 to 1885 and was later elected again 12 years later. (When Florida was a territory, Richard Keith Call served two non-consecutive terms from 1836 to 1839 and again from 1841 to 1844.) Crist, though, would not be the first party-switcher in state history to serve as governor. Three Florida governors before him actually switched parties before holding office, but none to the Democratic Party. Sidney Catts changed from the Democratic to the Prohibition Party, after a primary dispute in 1916; Claude Kirk Jr. went from Democrat to Republican during Richard Nixon’s first presidential bid in 1960 and was elected as Florida’s first Republican governor in 1966. Bob Martinez also began his career as a Democrat but switched affiliations while serving as the mayor of Tampa before successfully running for governor in 1986. By the way, another fun fact: A Crist win would make him the first Democratic governor in Florida in 15 years.

Elsewhere on Tuesday: In Arizona, state treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery chief executive Doug Ducey won the Republican nomination for governor, besting five other candidates with 37 percent of the vote. Ducey received the support of national GOP figures such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, while second place finisher Scott Smith, the former mayor of Mesa, had the backing of outgoing Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. Ducey will face Democrat Fred DuVal, a past president of the Arizona Board of Regents, who ran unopposed in his primary. Ducey enters the general election contest as the favorite, given the conservative leaning of the state.

Building the case for expanded action in Iraq, Syria: The New York Times reported Tuesday the Obama administration has started “to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq.” That follows previous reports that the president had approved surveillance operations over Syria to gain additional intelligence about Islamic State militants there. “Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” the president said Tuesday in a speech at the American Legion national convention in Charlotte. While the president said the U.S. would “continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland,” he also made clear he did not intend for the country “to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.” The situation underscores the pressures felt by a president who previously declared he was “elected to end wars, not start them.” Beyond determining the next steps in Iraq and Syria, the administration must also contend with political demands at home. On Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said he does “not believe that our expanded military operations against ISIL are covered under existing authorizations from Congress.” For its part, the administration sees things differently, with White House press secretary Josh Earnest telling reporters Tuesday that the “current military action that has been ordered in Iraq is vested in the powers of the commander in chief.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1908, future President Lyndon Baines Johnson was born in central Texas. What was LBJ’s first job, before becoming a politician? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Rich Polanski (‏@ao2666) and Graham H. Morris (@GrahamHMorris) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: Which president beat out Ted Kennedy in the Democratic primary the only time he ran for president? The answer was: Jimmy Carter.

LINE ITEMS

  • The Obama administration is working on a global climate accord that would “name and shame” countries into reducing their carbon emissions. But unlike a treaty, the accord would not have to be ratified by Congress.

  • Speaking at the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr. Obama announced 19 executive actions to improve mental health care for veterans.

  • For his New York York Times Magazine debut, Jonathan Martin looks at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and how he could hold his fate as majority leader in his own hands.

  • Alison Lundergan Grimes’ latest ad claims that Sen. Mitch McConnell wants to shut down the government again.

  • McConnell is responding to the slew of attack ads from Grimes with an ad claiming the Democratic candidate has her facts wrong.

  • Mitt Romney will be heading to Kentucky in October to campaign for McConnell.

  • Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan met Mr. Obama on the tarmac Tuesday, but she had to keep her distance too. The two did not plan to meet at the American Legion convention and Obama was not campaigning for her.

  • In a letter to the White House, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expressed his concerns about Mr. Obama taking executive action on immigration and said the administration should stop accepting applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

  • Attorneys from Indiana and Wisconsin, who are defending their states’ gay marriage bans, faced a tough line of questioning Tuesday from a federal appeals court panel in Chicago.

  • The former head of the Connecticut health insurance marketplace was selected as the new CEO for HealthCare.gov Tuesday.

  • Republicans are paying more attention and expect their party to do better this election than Democrats, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

  • In the New Hampshire Senate race, Sen. Kelly Ayotte is now backing former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Brown’s campaign is promoting her endorsement in a new ad, which makes no mention of Ayotte’s fellow Granite State senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

  • Shaheen is out with her first attack ad against Scott Brown, which features New Hampshirites saying things like “this guy’s not for us” and “I don’t trust Scott Brown for a minute”.

  • Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor uses the threat of ebola to attack Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., saying he voted against “preparing America for pandemics like ebola.”

  • Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cotton continues to hit Pryor on his support for the Affordable Care Act.

  • Republican candidate Dan Sullivan shoots his TV during a new campaign ad, because he wants D.C. spenders to “stay out of Alaska.” Apparently he doesn’t want any help from the Crossroads groups.

  • Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ended his testimony Tuesday, saying he accepted too many gifts from Jonnie Williams, but that he never promised favors in return. Prosecutors drew upon McDonnell’s 2010 inaugural speech, in which he quoted scripture (“To whom much is given, much will be required”), to suggest the former governor knew favors would be owed.

  • The Obama administration’s acting drug czar has his own addiction problem, and he credits his 25 years of sobriety to the kind of policy shift he’s helping oversee — moving from a “war on drugs” that pushes addicts into the criminal justice system to an emphasis on treatment and support programs.

  • Tension between Republicans in the Texas state government and the Democratic district attorney’s office predates the drunken-driving arrest of the Travis County district attorney.

  • Democrats are trying to get more people to turn out to the polls and big businesses are trying to get their way; that is why the big money in 2014 can be found in ballot initiative battles.

  • The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber reports on the state of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, and how it could shape the future of American politics.

  • For anyone wanting to learn more about Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, with his win in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, here’s the seminal piece written about him this campaign by Adam C. Smith and Michael Kruse of the Tampa Bay Times.

  • USA Today’s Susan Page talks to politicians about their best and worst election nights.

  • Vice President Joe Biden got his flirt on with America’s oldest living female veteran, in a video released by the White House this week.

  • A Union Army officer who died during Pickett’s Charge at the battle of Gettysburg has been approved to receive the Medal of Honor.

  • 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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