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With Alaska results, stage is set for fall elections

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  August 20, 2014 at 9:01 AM EST
Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty

With the Alaska results, the stage is now set for the fall’s most hotly contested races that will decide control of the Senate. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The Alaska GOP Senate primary results
  • More pockets of violence in Ferguson
  • Purported video of U.S. journalist beheading in Iraq underscores American concerns
  • The latest on the McDonnell trial

It’s Sullivan vs. Begich: Former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan held off Sarah Palin-backed and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller, 40 percent to 32 percent, in the Alaska Republican Senate primary, earning the right to take on Democratic incumbent Mark Begich this fall. Miller, who had been polling in third place, made a late surge in this key Senate race, but it was not enough to catch Sullivan, the establishment favorite with the backing of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the Club for Growth. With the Alaska results, the stage is now set for the fall’s most hotly contested races that will decide control of the Senate. Over the last couple of months, Democrats have seen the ground shift below their feet. Both sides agree Begich has run a good race, but with the primary over, he is likely to face an onslaught of negative advertising in this state that Republican Mitt Romney won by 14 points in the 2012 presidential election. Begich has his name on his side. He’s a political scion in the state — his father represented the state, and he has tried to capitalize on that. Increasingly, though, Begich winning looks more like a necessity for Democrats to hold the Senate than something of a firewall. Republicans are going to try and tie him to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as someone who toes the party line. Democrats, in turn, will look to cast Sullivan as an outsider, as an Ohio native who moved to the state in the 90s. They’ll also target Sullivan’s time as attorney general when Sarah Palin was governor. By the way, Republicans also point out that if Begich loses, it might be good for Alaska in another way — GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski would likely become chairwoman of the energy committee.

Holder heads to Ferguson: There were outbursts of violence again Tuesday night in Ferguson with 47 people arrested, but it was more subdued than previous nights. Police, in another middle-of-the-night press conference, said they recovered three loaded handguns and that “agitators” threw items at police from behind the media. One man arrested was from Austin, Texas, the third time the man had been arrested for his role in Ferguson. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder heads to Ferguson, a move welcomed by civil rights groups. He has an op-ed in St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning, making a direct appeal to the community in Ferguson, asking for calm, “cooperation and patience” during the investigations into the shooting of Michael Brown. “We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson,” he writes. “In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice.” A grand jury is set to begin hearing evidence in the case Wednesday. Gov. Jay Nixon is resisting calls for the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCullough, to step aside. Some want a special prosecutor, because McCullough is from a police family, and his father was killed in the line of duty by an African-American.

Public support for airstrikes in Iraq: While Americans are concerned about getting too involved in Iraq, there does appear to be public support for the use of air strikes to target Islamic militants there. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday found that 54 percent of Americans back air strikes against the Sunni insurgents, compared with 39 percent who oppose the action. The president’s decision to launch strikes received greater support from Republicans (61 percent) than with members of his own party (54 percent) or independents (49 percent). Despite the overall approval of the decision, that did not transfer to how Americans view the president’s handling of the situation in Iraq, with 42 percent giving him positive marks and 51 percent expressing disapproval. After nearly decade of military involvement in Iraq, Americans are also wary of becoming entangled once again in the country. A survey from the Pew Research Center released Monday found that 51 percent of Americans said their biggest concern with Iraq was that the U.S. would go too far in getting involved in the situation. Still, 44 percent of Americans said the U.S. has a responsibility to help stop the violence in Iraq, compared with 41 percent who said it does not. Whether public perception will shift at all following the release of an Islamic State group video that appears to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley is unclear. At the very least, the gruesome episode is likely to add to the apprehension of increased American involvement in Iraq. The White House said Tuesday the president had been briefed on the video and would continue to get updates.

McDonnell trial latest: In the latest effort by former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s defense team to play up divisions between the former governor and his wife, McDonnell’s sister, who shares a name with his wife, took to the stand Tuesday, testifying, as the Washington Post writes, that “his marriage was more strained than his finances.” The defense, which began Monday, is arguing that the McDonnells’ relationship was too fraught to be behind an organized public corruption scheme, and that the governor was duped by the former first lady Maureen McDonnell and businessman Jonnie Williams, whose gifts to the couple, and to Maureen particularly, were lavish. Still to come is the likely testimony from McDonnell himself, expected toward the end of the defense, as soon as this week. First though, a forensic accountant will be back in court Wednesday in an attempt to allay accusations that the McDonnells accepted gifts out of financial desperation.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1833, future President Benjamin Henry Harrison was born. Harrison lost the popular vote, but won the election; how many presidents have done that? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Lee Clausen ‏(@LeeClausen) and Ray Caliendo ‏(@rjcaliendo) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: What was Bill Clinton’s name at birth? The answer was: William Jefferson Blythe, III.

LINE ITEMS

  • President Obama told advisers this week that the situation in Iraq would not affect his deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

  • Eleven people living in the United States illegally plan to ask Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson for deportation deferrals on Wednesday, in an attempt to pressure the administration to reduce deportations for millions of immigrants.

  • Because of different experiences and personal backgrounds, Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are approaching Ferguson and underlying racial issues differently.

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry has assembled a high-powered legal team, but it’s not yet clear how much of the legal bill taxpayers will be footing. After Perry was booked by authorities last night in Travis County, Texas, the governor treated himself to some ice cream.

  • New Hampshire Republicans credit the indictment with inspiring more interest in Perry’s visit to the Granite State this Friday. It will be his first time in the state since the 2012 campaign, on which he’s more focused helping voters forget.

  • In an interview with Politico, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out a legislative strategy to curtail Mr. Obama’s power, namely attaching policy riders to spending bills, and if the president doesn’t accept them, risking another government shutdown.

  • Roll Call’s Emily Kahn looks at the potential drag Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn could have this fall on Democratic congressional candidates in his state.

  • One of the men running against South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is not your typical southern, red-state Democrat, and that’s one reason State Sen. Brad Hutto thinks he has a shot.

  • Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn’s campaign released a David Perdue attack ad that looks suspiciously similar to a Mitt Romney attack ad from 2012. That’s because Nunn hired the same political consulting firm used by Priorities USA, the Democratic PAC, during the last presidential election.

  • The National Rifle Association is launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign to discredit former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ahead of the midterm elections.

  • According to data from the Pew Charitable Trust, there are no states where the rate of employment has gone up since the 2009 recession.

  • Comity on the Hill has gone the way of the Senate dining room, which is used less frequently by a polarized Congress.

  • David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager and White House adviser, is heading to Uber as a senior vice president.

  • Vice President Biden is coming to the rescue of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy Wednesday. While in the Nutmeg State, he’ll also attend fundraisers for the Democratic Governors Association and the state Democratic party.

  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee charges Arkansas Sen. Mark Pyror with voting “to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants” in a new independent expenditure ad. In North Carolina, the NRSC is launching a coordinated ad campaign with State House Speaker Thom Tillis.

  • Environmentalists are split about whether biofeuls are better or worse than gasoline, but billionaire activist Tom Steyer has chosen a side, attacking Iowa GOP nominee Joni Ernst in an ad Tuesday for taking money from big oil and not defending the biofuel mandate.

  • Half the Senate is urging the postal service to hold off on further cutbacks, at least until lawmakers are able to hammer out a comprehensive reform for the U.S.P.S.’s finances.

  • A WPRI/Providence Journal poll released Wednesday shows a tight Democratic field for the state’s gubernatorial primary, with General Treasurer Gina Raimondo overtaking Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.

  • 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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