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There are more Islamic State group fighters than U.S. thought

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

War, by any other name: The number of militants fighting with the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria is two to three times more than previously estimated, according to a CIA analysis. There are believed to now be 20,000 to 31,500 IS fighters across Iraq and Syria. As we pointed out earlier this week, the New York Times finds that Americans, though more in favor of action in Iraq and Syria than before the beheadings of two American journalists, are still skeptical of war. The administration understands this. That could be one reason Secretary John Kerry was reluctant yesterday to call the action against the Islamic State group “war.” “What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation, and it’s going to go on for some period of time,” Kerry said in an interview with CNN. “If somebody wants to think about it as being at war with [IS] they can do so, but the fact is it is a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts.” Retired Gen. John Allen, the former top commander in Afghanistan, will coordinate the international coalition against IS.

White House promising immigration action by end of the year? White House officials met Thursday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in an effort to calm the fury of Latino lawmakers following President Barack Obama’s decision to delay executive action on immigration reform until after the November midterm elections. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and domestic policy director Cecilia Munoz were among the Obama administration officials at the session. One of the attendees told the Washington Post that the White House team said the president would go “as far as he can under the law” to revamp the country’s immigration system after the elections. The Post’s Ed O’Keefe also reports that lawmakers pressed McDonough on whether the president would still act if Republicans gained control of the Senate and added to the party’s majority in the House. McDonough said the president would still act, according to one attendee. The president has already dismissed suggestions the shift was made to help preserve a Democratic majority in the Senate, but taking executive action on immigration before November would have run the risk of further energizing conservative voters with Republicans already benefiting from an enthusiasm advantage this cycle.

House Democrats, Latinos frustrated with Obama: House Democrats signaled little sympathy though for the political prospects of their Senate colleagues. “I don’t care what senator is dangling in the wind; I don’t care what Republican proposal is being put forward; I don’t care what happens. We are moving forward,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a vocal critic of the president’s decision to postpone action. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this week showed the president’s approval dropping with Latinos sharply. The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported Thursday that the Obama administration is “on pace this year to deport the fewest number of immigrants since at least 2007.” The main factors the AP cites are the administration’s decision to focus on deporting criminal immigrants and the surge of people crossing the border from Central America, whose cases take longer to process.

Congress – just eight days left: House Speaker John Boehner tried to show a united front with the president over fighting IS. “Frankly, we ought to give the president what he’s asking for,” Boehner said. But he made no commitment to a day when the House would vote for funding to train and equip Syrian rebels to take on IS. The White House would like it tacked onto a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. But there’s some disagreement among Republicans on whether to do it that way or make it a separate vote. Some in Boehner’s conference also believe the president isn’t going far enough. That’s something House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon noted on NewsHour last night. Arguing for the need for ground troops, McKeon said airstrikes “can drive [IS] back. They can make life miserable for them, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to hold and take the ground.” Boehner seemed to agree, but made clear, “We only have one commander-in-chief.” The current funding for the government runs out at the end of this month. Boehner hopes there’s a vote next week, because the House is out of town all of the following week. By the way, there are now just six days left with Congress in town before funding runs out and just eight TOTAL congressional DC work days left until Election Day. Congress is out the entire month of October (except Oct. 1 and 2) to go home for their final election pushes.

Presidents join efforts on 20th anniversary of Americorps: It’s the 20th anniversary of Americorps, and President Obama will make remarks on the South Lawn to commemorate it at 11:20 a.m. ET. Obama will be joined by former President Bill Clinton, who signed the original bill into law. Tune into NewsHour tonight, as Judy Woodruff is scheduled to sit down with former President Clinton. Former President George W. Bush will appear in a video that will be shown at multiple pledge ceremonies across the country today, and former President George H.W. Bush is holding a pledge ceremony at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Quote of the day: “I really wanted it to be Beyoncé.” — 6th grader in Washington, D.C., to President Obama, expressing her disappointment that the first couple had shown up to her school for a service event instead of the music superstar. The president told her he understood and that his daughters would feel the same way. The girl backtracked, later telling him, “But then I realized it was going to be you and that’s even better.” The president let her off the hook. “I appreciate you saying that in front of the press,” he said. “I know it’s not really true.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1994, Frank Corder was killed when he crashed a stolen, single-engine Cessna on the South Lawn of the White House. Where was President Clinton at the time of the crash? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to nicandro iannacci ‏(@niannacci) and roy wait ‏(@ind22rxw) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Who is the current secretary of the treasury? The answer was: Jacob Lew.

LINE ITEMS

  • Gwen Ifill gives her own four-point strategy on how to interpret the efforts by the White House and Congress to combat the Islamic State group.
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., continues to fight Internet rumors that he helped invent the Islamic State and knows its leader.
  • An effort by Senate Democrats to rein in the campaign spending of corporations was blocked Thursday, after a week of heated debate on the floor.
  • Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said Thursday he will consider a presidential bid, but only after the midterms are over.
  • Newly unsealed court records reveal the lengths federal officials went to in order to get tech companies to hand over user information for the National Security Agency’s PRISM program. That included threatening Yahoo with a $250,000 a day fine for not complying with a request the company thought was unconstitutional.
  • President Obama’s approval among two key demographics — women and Hispanics — is lower than usual, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
  • In Colorado’s Senate race, Sen. Mark Udall leads Rep. Cory Gardner 46 percent to 42 percent in a SurveyUSA poll of registered voters conducted for the Denver Post.
  • Vice President Joe Biden heads to Iowa next week for an official White House event — just three days after Hillary Clinton returns to the state for the first time since 2008 to attend Sen. Tom Harkin’s final steak fry.
  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seems to be paying more attention to New Hampshire earlier than any other prospective 2016 GOP contender. On whether that means he’s running, Paul told the Boston Globe, “I would only want to become involved if I had a real shot at winning.”
  • National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher takes a closer look at the “unfriendly rivalry” between Paul and Kentucky GOP Rep. Hal Rogers.
  • Amy Walter observes the return of the “security moms,” for whom physical security and safety is most important.
  • Democrats are having a tough time making a campaign issue out of corporate tax inversions.
  • A former employee is alleging that West Virginia coal boss Robert Murray fired her when she refused to give money to his favorite political candidates.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott is getting a hand from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the campaign trail Friday.
  • Missouri has passed the second most stringent abortion waiting time — 72 hours, with no exceptions in the case of rape or incest.
  • Led Zeppelin has always been my favorite band,” Rep. Paul Ryan tells the New York Times Magazine.
  • The comedian who “uses arrogance as a form of renewable energy,” Bill Maher reveals the winner of his “Flip a District” segment Friday.
  • Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich will star in a reality TV special, called “Rival Survival.” The premise of the show is that the two senators must help each other survive for a week on an island in the South Pacific.
  • Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had ex-wife Maria Shriver erased from his official portrait — and it left a smudge.
  • Flashback interview of the day: Aaron Blake digs up the Most…Awkward…Candidate…Interview…Ever.
  • 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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