President Obama says no to ground troops — again

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama reiterates there will be no U.S. ground troops fighting Islamic State group
  • Poroshenko makes the rounds in D.C.
  • Biden veers off course on Iowa trip
  • House approves plan to arm Syrian opposition; Senate vote expected Thursday
  • 2014 roundup of new polls and latest Grimes ad

To be clear: President Obama reaffirmed Wednesday that the U.S. will not be sending ground troops in to fight the Islamic State militant group. “I want to be clear,” the president said at an Air Force base in Tampa, near CENTCOM. “The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.” He added, “I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.” Vice President Joe Biden, though, in Iowa seemed to echo Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey from a day earlier. When asked about Dempsey’s remarks, Biden said that Dempsey’s “conclusion is that it is not needed now.” And he then seemed to leave the door open for troops being sent in eventually. “We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes.” Don’t miss this Wall Street Journal story about how the president is keeping strict controls on airstrikes in Syria, “going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory.”

From one international crisis to another: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is in Washington Thursday, and has a full agenda. He meets with Secretary of State John Kerry at 8 a.m. EDT at the State Department before addressing a joint session of Congress at 9:45 a.m. EDT. He and President Obama then meet at 2 p.m. EDT at the White House. (Expect Poroshenko to take questions from the White House some time around 3:30 p.m. EDT.) He then speaks before the Atlantic Council at 6 p.m. EDT after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 4 p.m. EDT. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Russia praised a Ukrainian law granting self-governance powers to separatist-held areas of Ukraine, a measure that faces a challenge from some politicians in Kiev who call it a giveaway to Moscow.” The law was passed during a ceasefire with Russian separatists. Despite the ceasefire, two more were killed yesterday. An estimated 3,000 have been killed since fighting began.

Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels heads to Senate: House lawmakers voted 273 to 156 Wednesday to support the president’s strategy for confronting the Islamic State. The proposal fractured both parties, with 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats backing the training and equipping of Syrian rebels. Still, that was a majority of both parties with 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans opposing the legislation. The House also approved a measure to fund the government through Dec. 11 on a 319 to 108 vote, which included the amendment dealing with Syria. The president welcomed House passage, calling it “an important step forward” in dealing with the Islamic State. He urged the Senate to act on the plan “without delay.” A vote in the upper chamber is expected Thursday, with debate scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EDT that could stretch into the late afternoon or early evening. Some of that time could be given back, especially with lawmakers preparing to leave town for the remainder of the campaign season. On the House side Thursday, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear from Secretary of State John Kerry on the administration’s strategy for dealing with Islamic State militants, while Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will testify Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee.

Say it ain’t so, Joe: Vice President Joe Biden had a bit of a rough time in Iowa on Wednesday, committing a trio of gaffes that overshadowed his visit to the First in the Nation caucus state. Biden kicked the day off by apologizing for comments he made in a speech Tuesday referring to those who made bad loans to members of the military as “shylocks,” considered an anti-Semitic slur. After drawing a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, the vice president called it a “poor choice of words.” Speaking Wednesday in Des Moines at a rally in support of the “Nuns on the Bus” voter turnout bus tour, Biden recounted a meeting he had with the former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, whom he referred to as “the wisest man in the Orient.” The Republican National Committee blasted the comments as “offensive to Asian-Americans and our Asian allies.” Then, to complete the hat trick, Biden, as noted above, seemed to leave open the door for sending combat troops back to Iraq, a point the president and others in the administration have repeatedly dismissed. Biden visit to the Hawkeye State comes just a few days after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s final Steak Fry, telling the crowd she was “thinking” about a potential 2016 bid. The vice president has not ruled out a potential run of his own. If he decides to get in there will certainly be more trips to Iowa, and hope they go a lot better than his visit Wednesday.

2014 — New polls and a new Grimes ad: A round of Fox polls finds incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in a tight race in Kansas, essentially tied with independent Greg Orman 40 to 38 percent and Democrat Chad Taylor, who dropped out of the race still pulling 11 percent. Watch Kansas for a decision on whether Taylor can legally be removed from the ballot. Absentee ballots have to be mailed Saturday. If Taylor is off the ballot, Orman leads in the Fox poll, 48 to 42 percent. In Louisiana, Republican challenger Bill Cassidy is up over the critical 50 percent threshold leading incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu by a whopping 13 points, 51 to 38 percent; In Iowa, it’s a tied race with Bruce Braley (D) and Joni Ernst (R) at 41 percent; In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan continues to lead, but with lots of undecideds, 41 to 36 percent. Suffolk found a tied race in Colorado, but Democrats insist incumbent Mark Udall has a high-single digit lead. Everyone should take a deep breath for the next couple of weeks before pronouncing where control of the Senate is headed. This is a period in which we’re going to see A LOT of volatility in polling, as everyone tries to figure out their likely voter models. By the way, it’s always important to remember pollsters’ track records, their methodology and transparency and take them with a grain of salt. In Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell appears to have a lead, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is out with a new ad. It attacks McConnell and is less defensive than her gun-shooting one (in which she separates herself again from President Obama). But the one-minute ad, which is a statewide buy, is odd because it has the candidate deliver a sharp, scripted attack on McConnell over Medicare.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1793, President George Washington laid the actual cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol. Under which president was the Capitol building construction completed? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Brad McRoberts ‏(@bwmcr) and CTBobL (‏@CTBobL) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: What section of the Constitution created the executive branch? The answer was: Article II.


  • They’ll never take our freedom?’ Scots head to the polls today to vote on whether they want to break away from the United Kingdom after 300 years. Polling has it close, but a slight edge to “no.” Economists warn that Scotland breaking away would be bad for the country. A record 80 percent turnout is expected. Polls close at 5 p.m. EDT. Results are expected Friday morning.

  • Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports on Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz under fire from Democrats and the White House.

  • The special Benghazi House Committee held their first hearing Wednesday, in which both Democrats and Republicans signaled a commitment to staying away from partisan politics.

  • The Atlantic’s Molly Ball examines the background of Rep. Tom Cotton, the man challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, and whether his brand of conservatism is what Arkansas voters want.

  • Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is retiring at the end of this year, but he is not letting his last few days in Congress go to waste.

  • A series of random events has lead a vulnerable incumbent congressman to be dubbed the “Cory Booker of California”. On two separate occasions, Rep. Raul Ruiz gave medical assistance to fellow passengers on an airplane.

  • The Democrats answer to big donors like the Koch Brothers and strategists like Karl Rove is House Majority PAC and the woman behind it.

  • With a 17-seat pickup needed to gain control of the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $10 million in August to help achieve that goal, with $54.5 million left in cash on hand.

  • Eric Cantor may have left Capitol Hill, but that doesn’t mean the connection between the House leadership and Wall Street is broken.

  • The NRSC is sticking with its strategy of attacking Rep. Bruce Braley on hearing attendance and missed votes. In their latest spot, the narrator says, “Iowa needs a senator, Bruce, not an empty chair.”

  • Joni Ernst isn’t the only Republican framing herself as an independent candidate. Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown says he’ll “be an independent Senator that votes for New Hampshire first” in his new campaign ad.

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plays the kid card in a new ad targeting California Republican Carl DeMaio.

  • In the race to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., the DCCC is banking on liberal voters in the Northern Virginia district turning out to vote against Barbara Comstock and her “radical views.”

  • House candidate Stewart Mills was caught on camera fixing his hair and the DCCC is now using it in their latest attack ad.

  • Crossroads GPS is going after Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. Mark Begich for their records of “voting with Barack Obama.”

  • NextGen Climate attacks Rep. Cory Gardner on more than just environmental issues. In a new spot, the environmental group criticizes Gardner’s stance on birth control.

  • Charlie Crist’s campaign calls Gov. Rick Scott “just too shady for the Sunshine State,” regarding his cuts to education budget and tax cuts for corporations.

  • David Perdue is out with yet another ad in which he sports a jean jacket and walks through Georgia fields.

  • Perdue’s campaign tries to link Michelle Nunn to terrorism in their new ad.

  • Outgoing congressman Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, violated House rules Wednesday, when he snapped a photo of Rep. Paul Broun on the floor.

  • An X-Games medalist says Sen. Mark Begich has “lame tricks”, in a new ad backing Dan Sullivan.

  • 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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