Is President Obama too cautious?

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama meets with Hill leaders on Islamic State
  • New poll shows Americans questioning the president’s leadership
  • It’s the last primary day before Election Day
  • Ferguson is back in the spotlight — on Capitol Hill and locally

Obama to sell strategy to Hill leaders: President Barack Obama will huddle with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday afternoon as he seeks “buy-in” from lawmakers for his strategy to confront the threat posed by Islamic State militants. The 3:15 p.m. ET meeting in the Oval Office will include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The president has already said he believes he has the authorization he needs to take action, so the aim is more to explain and build support for the plan. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday the president was “committed to intensive consultations between the administration and Congress.” The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reports that the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, is nonetheless planning to offer legislation Tuesday that would give the president approval “to use to use all necessary and appropriate force in order to defend the national security of the United States against the threat posed by the organization called the Islamic State.” For many lawmakers, though, a vote on authorizing military force less than two months before Election Day is something they would prefer to avoid.

New poll shows support for strikes, not Obama: As the president prepares to address the country Wednesday, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds the American people largely supportive of airstrikes in Iraq (71 percent) and Syria (65 percent). In a sign of how public views have shifted, just 45 percent of Americans backed strikes in Iraq in June. But when it comes to the president’s job performance, only 43 percent of respondents describe him as a strong leader, and 53 percent say he is too cautious in his handling of international affairs. The New York Times’ Peter Baker writes that part of the challenge for the president in outlining his strategy on Wednesday will be overcoming previously stated “assessments of the world that in the harsh glare of hindsight look out of kilter with the changed reality he now confronts.”

Republicans consult with Cheney: As lawmakers prepare to weigh in on the president’s strategy, House Republicans will hear Wednesday morning from one of the architects of the Iraq War — former Vice President Dick Cheney. The 9 a.m. ET meeting is taking place at the Republican National Committee headquarters. The former vice president has been a loud critic of the president’s handling of foreign policy, including the threat posed by Islamic State extremists. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in June Cheney and his daughter, Liz, wrote: “Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America’s enemies are not ‘decimated.’ They are emboldened and on the march.” Some Republicans have called for a more hawkish approach by the president, and it appears he’s moving somewhat in that direction. But even if Republicans agree with the policy, getting them to express support for HIM is another thing altogether.

Last primary before Election Day: It’s the last primary day before Election Day, Nov. 4, and the voting takes place in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. It’s the rare day, as Politico points out, with lots of contentious Democratic primaries. Not a single Democratic incumbent has lost this cycle, and that COULD happen today in Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District, a district Republicans are targeting as they’re expected to expand their majority this fall. Rep. John Tierney is facing stiff opposition from fellow Democrat Seth Moulton, an Iraq vet and Ivy League graduate. The winner will face off with better-funded Republican Richard Tisei, who is openly gay. Tisei lost to Tierney in 2012. Today’s voting will also set up the governor’s race in Massachusetts, where Republicans hope this time will be the charm for Charlie Baker, the likely GOP nominee, going against Martha Coakley, who’s likely to win on the Democratic side today and who lost to Scott Brown for the Senate after Ted Kennedy died. New Yorkers are seeing a fight between liberals and more moderate factions in the lieutenant governor’s race; Brown is being tested in his bid to become a senator from New Hampshire (will he get close to 50 percent); and Rhode Island has a three-way fight for governor on the Democratic side and includes a bid by Clay Pell, the grandson of legendary Sen. Claiborne Pell (of Pell Grant fame) and the husband of ice skater Michelle Kwan. He is not favored today.

Vaya con Dios’? As far as where things are headed on election night, Stu Rothenberg goes out on a limb a bit, getting ahead of his ratings and predicting a Republican majority with a gain of at least seven seats. (The GOP needs to net at least six to wrest control of the Senate.) “I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain,” Rothenberg writes in his column for Roll Call. He adds, “ I’ve witnessed 17 general elections from my perch in D.C., including eight midterms, and I sometimes develop a sense of where the cycle is going before survey data lead me there. Since my expectations constitute little more than an informed guess, I generally keep them to myself. This year is different. I am sharing them with you.” This post-Labor Day period is a volatile time in campaigns and polling. There is a lot of shifting going on. The summer was clearly a GOP advantage and moving TOWARD the possibility a Republican majority, albeit a slim one. Of course, Kansas is the wild card throwing a wrench into Republican plans. A Survey USA poll — which is an automated poll, but one of the better ones — shows independent Greg Orman and incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts essentially tied, with Orman holding a slight 37 percent to 36 percent edge. Democrat Chad Taylor, who dropped out of the race but will remain on the ballot, pulls in 10 percent and the libertarian candidate gets 6 percent. It’s also not clear how the unpopularity of Congress will play. A new Gallup poll finds Congress’ approval at 14 percent, the lowest approval in the fall before any election since the Watergate scandal led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Of course, the president’s party lost 48 House seats and five Senate seats that year. And in 2010, Congress’ approval was just 18 percent (when Democrats were in control of the House), and Republicans gained 63 seats in the House (a post-World War Two record) and six in the Senate.

Ferguson under the microscope: Congress is back and so are the committees. Post-Ferguson, the Senate Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing at 10:30 a.m. ET on “equipping state and local law enforcement agencies.” Various government and police officials as well as an NAACP representative are expected to attend. And tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the Ferguson City Council meets for the first time since the police shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. The council is expected to “make changes designed to reduce court fine revenue, reform court procedures and start a Citizen Review Board that will help keep an eye on and guide the police department,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. But those announcements won’t likely dominate the meeting, as a large crowd is expected and “protesters have been demanding the ouster of both Mayor James Knowles III and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson,” Reuters notes. To accommodate the large crowd, the meeting is being held in a local church. The city council canceled its previously scheduled meeting in August.

Quote of the day: “He’s a phony from New Hampshire that just happened to live in Massachusetts for a little while. He’s more New Hampshire than most people we have in New Hampshire.” — Chris Sununu, son of former Gov. John Sununu, quoting “someone” who told him that about meeting Scott Brown. Sununu was trying to compliment Brown in an introduction, but proved loquaciousness runs in the family.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1893, President Grover Cleveland’s daughter Esther was born in the White House. How many children of presidents were born at the White House? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Monday’s trivia: What did critics call the pardon of President Nixon? The answer was: the corrupt bargain.


  • A former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is going public with allegations that Rodgers used congressional staff in her campaign to become conference chairwoman.

  • Congress is back, and that means the House Select Committee on Benghazi will hold their first hearing.

  • Senate Republicans want to debate Democrats’ proposed constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform, even though they could have killed the measure outright Monday.

  • Statehood advocates for the District of Columbia are finally getting their day in the sun, or at least in front of a Senate committee.

  • There are more than 220 political appointees for the administration awaiting Senate confirmation, and some of those long-term vacancies are making it a lot harder for Mr. Obama to get things done.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will hold three town hall meetings in Iowa next weekend.

  • The latest Loras College poll puts Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, at 45 percent and Joni Ernst at 41 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

  • Some critics have accused North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis of being sexist and condescending during last week’s debate with Sen. Kay Hagan; Tillis does not agree.

  • Can the GOP’s Brad Pitt look-alike defeat Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District?

  • You wouldn’t necessarily know it from listening to DC banter, but immigration reform just isn’t as hot a topic outside the Beltway as it is inside, with strategists from around the country of both parties saying it’s an issue they’d rather avoid.

  • The new head of Veterans Affairs says the department needs to hire “tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, new clinicians” to handle the demand.

  • Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter pledges to protect the state’s education budget in his latest positive spot in the gubernatorial race.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama told Georgia Democrats Monday that if Democratic registration and turnout this fall increased by just 3 percent, Carter and Michelle Nunn could win the state.

  • With Republicans now controlling both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has lowered his expectations for expanding Medicaid to about 25,000 uninsured Virginians instead of the 400,000 he had said would be eligible.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enjoys a 46 percent approval rating with registered voters in his state, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University/PublicMind poll released Tuesday. That’s a slight improvement from March, when more registered voters disapproved than approved of him. In a hypothetical presidential matchup, Christie would trail Hillary Clinton 42 percent to 45 percent in his own state — within the poll’s margin of error.

  • With 2016 dreams in mind, Texas Gov. Rick Perry cannot afford to have his indictment drag on too long.

  • A Democratic “human” is challenging an incumbent state legislator in New Hampshire’s Tuesday primary.

  • Former President George W. Bush gives former President Bill Clinton a little advice on being a grandfather.

  • Former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s best friend in Washington was a golden retriever named Bravo.

  • 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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