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The issue that could roil the midterms

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 28, 2014 at 9:03 AM EDT
Immigration reform groups march outside the White House calling on President Obama for immigration reform and to stop deportations on July 16. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Immigration reform groups march outside the White House calling on President Obama for immigration reform and to stop deportations on July 16. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Executive action on immigration could shake up midterms
  • Both parties eyeing Obama’s decision for impact
  • Rand Paul takes aim at Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy
  • The GOP’s trouble winning over women voters

Both sides on edge over Obama immigration action: Could President Barack Obama’s impending decision on executive steps to address the country’s immigration system bring a “September surprise”? The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa report lawmakers in both parties are openly fretting what the action might mean for the November election, with Democrats in red states worried the president will overreach in terms of policy, and Republican leaders concerned rank-and-file members might go too far in how they respond. The most likely scenario, which Democrats worry about, is short-term gain for Republicans. Republicans are already seeing an advantage in terms of engagement in the election. And nothing fires up the conservative base quite like “amnesty.” This cycle, and control of the Senate, after all, is playing out in mostly Republican-leaning states with few Latino voters.

GOP aims to steer clear of impeachment, shutdown talk: For the GOP though, Tumulty and Costa write that “any move toward impeachment hearings against Obama or another government shutdown would cause serious problems for Republicans in key Senate races.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest brushed aside any suggestion that the threat of a government shutdown over immigration might dissuade the president from moving forward. “The president is determined to take the kind of common-sense steps that are required to address the worst problems of our broken immigration system,” he said, adding, “it would be a real shame if Republicans were to engage in an effort to shut down the government over a common-sense solution like that.” The Republican Party’s brand suffered serious damage following the government shutdown over funding for the health care law in October 2013. A repeat of that episode on immigration policy could put a halt to the momentum the party has been seeing when it comes to its prospects for taking back control of the Senate in November.

What will Obama do?: That is still the million-dollar question here. USA Today’s Alan Gomez looks at five areas the president could address with his upcoming decision. The moves include expanding the pool of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action program unveiled in 2012 and bolstering the authority of law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of individuals arrested for other offenses. Then, of course, there is also what to do about the recent surge of child migrants who’ve come from Central America. Congress left for the five-week August recess without acting on the president’s $3.7 billion funding proposal to deal with the crisis. The GOP-controlled House approved a smaller measure, while Democrats in the Senate failed to advance their own measure — also smaller than the president’s request.

Paul’s 2016 foreign-policy positioning: While the rise of the Islamic State is making President Obama inch closer to more intervention in Syria and Iraq, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tries to lay blame for the rise of the group on interventionist U.S. policy — and he takes direct aim at Hillary Clinton. “To interventionists like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we would caution that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria created a haven for the Islamic State,” Paul writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn’t get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS.” Clinton and some others might argue that ignoring the Islamic State — and not arming more moderate groups — was the mistake Obama made. Either way, Paul is showing why he might be the most interesting candidate of 2016, challenging conventional wisdom and trying to win the argument, even when it doesn’t seem politically palatable.

Republicans try to figure out what women want: A group of Republicans are acknowledging problems with another block key to the election — women. Politico: “A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups — including one backed by Karl Rove — paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as ‘intolerant,’ ‘lacking in compassion’ and ‘stuck in the past.’” We noted back in April how key women are, particularly to Democrats’ hopes. Obama won women by double-digits in both 2008 and 2012, but when Republicans took back the House in 2010, they narrowly won them. Republicans have a long-term problem with women in national elections, but Democrats are vulnerable in midterms because the key group to their chances — unmarried women — have showed up in disproportionately lower numbers in non-presidential years.

Ukraine latest: The conflict in Ukraine shows signs of heating up again as “Russia reinforced what Western and Ukrainian officials described as a stealth invasion on Wednesday, sending armored troops across the border as it expanded the conflict to a new section of Ukrainian territory,” the New York Times reports. It adds: “Russia, which has denied it is helping the insurgents, did not acknowledge the military movements. But the Russians have signaled that they would not countenance a defeat of an insurgency in the heavily Russian eastern part of Ukraine, which would amount to a significant domestic political setback for President Vladimir V. Putin.” There is still a divided response from the West that Putin is able to take advantage of. The U.S. has shown a willingness to take a harder line with the Kremlin than its European counterparts, which have stronger business ties to Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned Putin Wednesday wanting an explanation, but does frustration turn into action against Russia for Europe?

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1981, John Hinckley, Jr. pled innocent to the charge of attempting to kill President Ronald Reagan. What reason did Hinckley give for shooting the president? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Kathy Benson ‏(@KathyBenson2) and Sharita ‏(@Shugruberg) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: What was LBJ’s first job, before becoming a politician? The answer was: LBJ was a teacher.

LINE ITEMS

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the audience at a private Koch brothers’ event this June that should the Republicans win control of the Senate, he’d use the budget process to chip away at Mr. Obama’s legislative accomplishments. A liberal-leaning YouTube channel also leaked audio of Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Iowa’s Joni Ernst praising the Koch brothers.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is “talking tougher than ever” on immigration, saying he wouldn’t support the immigration bill he helped draft last year if it came up for a vote today. Rubio suggested that his party could prevent Mr. Obama from taking executive action by removing funding for it from the annual budget.

  • In a year when most Democrats duck questions about issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., is embracing climate change as a central theme of his campaign for Senate.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has a book coming out early next month, and in it, she writes about male senators commenting on her weight. One colleague told her, “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.”

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is suing the U.S. Department of Education over Common Core standards.

  • An internal poll from Crossroads GPS and American Action Network found that women voters believe the Republican Party is “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion” and “stuck in the past.”

  • A longtime aide to Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., admitted to lying in order to cover up a $1 million campaign loan during Fattah’s 2007 run for mayor of Philadelphia.

  • A former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty to accepting money from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in exchange for switching his support from Rep. Michele Bachmann to Congressman Paul.

  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., thinks that police departments should not get federal funding unless they agree to wear body cameras.

  • Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has nominated what would be the only black member of his cabinet to serve as the state’s top law enforcement official. If confirmed as the head of the Department of Public Safety, former St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom III would oversee the Highway Patrol, which has been in charge of policing Ferguson.

  • National Democrats are hitting North Carolina State House Speaker Thom Tillis on education — again. The second in a $9.1 million buy from the DSCC, the ad features a mother saying that public schools are not a luxury where funding can be cut.

  • A new Marquette Law School poll found Gov. Scott Walker running ahead of Democrat Mary Burke by four points among registered voters. Burke, however, leads the incumbent by two points among likely voters.

  • Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst are running neck and neck in the Iowa Senate race, according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll.

  • Is Medicare not the budget buster once projected to be? The Congressional Budget Office dropped its long-term cost estimate again on how much the program will cost. It’s the sixth year in a row it has done so.

  • Despite wins in the lower courts, plaintiffs in three cases that successfully challenged their state’s gay marriage bans are now asking the Supreme Court to review the cases.

  • Rep. Tom Marino’s press secretary, who was arrested in July for bringing a handgun into the Cannon House Office Building, refused to take a plea deal Wednesday.

  • Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., “has made himself a stranger to the national press” in Washington, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar writes, and he’s doing much the same at home, Kraushaar found out on a recent trip seeking out the senator in Minnesota.

  • There’s a Kennedy running for the lowest level of District of Columbia government.

  • Buzzfeed’s John Templon analyzed the past 21 years of White House press briefings and how the various press secretaries have ducked questions.

  • 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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