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Second beheading dares U.S. to act

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Obama under pressure to respond to Islamic State
  • Potential cease-fire in Ukraine
  • Republicans poised to expand majority in House

Pressure to respond: The reported beheading of another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, by the Islamic State group is almost daring President Obama and the United States’ European allies to act. President Obama responded Wednesday morning from Estonia, where he is on an overseas trip. “We will not be intimidated,” he said. “Our reach is long and justice will be served.” He added that an operation may “take some time but it is going to get done. … We will degrade and destroy [the Islamic State], so that it is no longer a threat to Iraq, the region and United States.” That element of time is something some experts are calling for. “This execution is, of course, going to raise the pressure on the president enormously to do something in the near term,” said Daniel Benjamin, former U.S. ambassador-at-large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the State Department during Obama’s first term, on Tuesday’s NewsHour. “But I think that a rush to action, at this point, would be unwise until we can make sure that action is really effective.” That sentiment was echoed by Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, the former director for Iraq at the National Security Council during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. “In the military, we talk about tactical patience,” he said. “You have to wait until the conditions are right to perform the right military action and get the best effects.” But in the political machine, where decisiveness is rewarded, the president is sure to have his vocal critics, especially with Congress back on Monday.

Ukraine cease-fire?: The other news Wednesday morning is out of Ukraine, where a potential cease-fire has reportedly been called off for now. Earlier, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s administration said Ukraine and Russia had agreed on a “lasting cease-fire” after a discussion between Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. “The result of the conversation was the agreement on the cease-fire in the Donbas,” read a statement on the Ukrainian president’s website. “Mutual understanding was reached regarding the steps that will contribute to the establishment of peace.” Poroshenko’s office later retracted the statement saying it had gone too far in describing the call between the Ukrainian leader and Putin. That came after the carefully parsed Kremlin response, so as to not agree with the premise that the Russian state is actually fighting in Ukraine. “Putin and Poroshenko did indeed discuss steps which could facilitate a cease-fire between the militias and the Ukrainian military,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, Putin’s press secretary. “Russia cannot physically agree on a cease-fire, as it is not a side in the conflict.” Speaking in Estonia, the president said “it’s too early to tell” if the cease-fire is legitimate, but he said a settlement would require Russia to stop aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine.

All up in the House: Back to elections in this country … In one of the more closely watched House races this cycle, Republicans finally have their candidate in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. A week after the primary, state House Speaker Andy Tobin emerges as the winner by just 359 votes after fellow Republican Gary Kiehne conceded Tuesday. Tobin will take on Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, a top Republican target. Kirkpatrick was first elected in 2008, then lost in 2010 and won back the seat in 2012. She won in both 2008 and 2012 despite Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney winning the district.

Republicans expected to expand House majority: Much of the focus this cycle has been on the Senate because of Republicans’ chances of wresting control of the Upper Chamber. But they are also expected to expand their majority in the House by anywhere from three to 11 seats, but probably closer to five to eight, according to operatives on both sides. Overall, the playing field is significantly smaller in the House than in past years, largely because of redistricting. The three cycles before redistricting, for example — 2006, 2008 and 2010 — were so volatile that they were three-straight wave elections, when more than 20 seats change hands. Post-redistricting, though, after the 2010 Democratic bloodletting when Republicans netted a whopping 63 seats, the field has significantly narrowed. In 2012, Democrats picked up eight seats. This cycle, like in the Senate, it’s a case of Democrats on the defensive in more districts. There are about 20 solid Republican targets and 11 or so Democratic ones. Both sides may declare some measure of victory on Election Night, no matter what the outcome. Democrats will take some solace in the fact that losing eight seats, say, would be far below the average of 29 losses for a president’s party in a president’s second midterm since 1912. Republicans, on the other hand, will note that after their massive gains in 2010, there aren’t many targets left and expanding their majority at all is an accomplishment. We’ll have more on specific House races in the next few weeks, as we highlight some candidates with intriguing bios, something the House is always good for. Did you know, for example, there are two openly gay Republicans running, one who could be the first blind member in a long time, and a female former fighter pilot? For Democrats, there’s a guy who manages 1,000 beehives, a former Army general who served at Guantanamo, the wealthy husband of Facebook’s co-founder and, of course, Clay Aiken.

Vital statistics: One of the political religious books, along with the “Almanac of American Politics,” is Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann’s “Vital Statistics on Congress.” It’s no longer a book, though, it’s an interactive website. It is still a must-use resource. And if you want a hard copy, you can print out the 177-page pdf.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1952, future President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned white Southerners during a campaign stop that they could lose their rights by not protecting the rights of blacks. How many southern states did Eisenhower win in the 1952 election? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to rbourke ‏(@rbourke) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: What rank did Bush achieve in the U.S. Navy? The answer was: Lieutenant.


  • The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas reports Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is prepared to seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 even if presumptive front-runner Hillary Clinton enters the race.

  • The Chicago Sun Times reports that Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner disclosed Tuesday that he belongs to a an “exclusive wine club that cost upward of $100,000 to join.”

  • Speaking on a Boston talk radio show last week, New Hampshire GOP Senate candidate Scott Brown encouraged out-of-state voters to “come on over” and vote for him. A spokesman for Brown told Boston.com that the candidate was “clearly joking.”

  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will stump for New Hampshire State Rep. Marilinda Garcia in Nashua next weekend before the state’s GOP primary.

  • Senate candidate Ed Gillespie is focusing on the long term benefits of running against Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

  • Crossroads GPS is putting Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor back on the defensive about his support for the Affordable Care Act. Their ad, which puts a name to the “health care law” Pryor helped pass, is part of a $2.5 million media campaign in the state.

  • Researchers have found that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision increased the likelihood Republicans would win state legislative elections by six percentage points.

  • With Eric Cantor’s departure from the House, oil and gas interests are taking over from Wall Street as one of the most well represented industries on the Hill.

  • The Center for Public Integrity finds that more than 428,000 television ads have aired so far in the 2014 battle for the Senate, with two-thirds of them running in nine key races.

  • Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is pulling an ad from last week that attacks former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan for the release of a sex offender.

  • Roll Call previews Oregon GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby’s latest television ad, which focuses on her support for small business.

  • The judge in former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s public corruption trial instructed the jury on Tuesday, their first day of deliberations, not to think in terms of the narrow case the defense argued had to be proven for McDonnell and his wife to be convicted. The jury will deliberate Wednesday.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was dismissed in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, is working for Republicans again — this time for the Washington, D.C.-based GOPAC.

  • National Review Online’s editorial board hits Republicans for their “passive count-on-a-wave strategy.”

  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s latest re-election ad touts the arrival of jobs in the state, although it was recently reported that the Peach State has the second highest rate of joblessness, which Democratic State Sen. Jason Carter has picked up in his own attacks.

  • A Democratic candidate running against Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., compared the actions of Republicans in Congress to ISIL in a tweet.

  • Former President Bill Clinton will attend a fundraiser for Sen. Mary Landrieu in New Orleans on Saturday.

  • The League of Conservation Voters is up with a $400,000 ad buy in Michigan hitting Republican Terri Lynn Land on climate change policies and for support from the Koch Brothers.

  • BuzzFeed’s Kate Nocera takes a closer look at Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s cross-country travels.

  • A Georgia poll has Democrat Michelle Nunn leading Republican David Perdue 45 percent to 43 percent in the race for the Senate.

  • Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn is attempting to depict his daughter as the heir apparent to his moderate Democrat legacy.

  • Democrat Tom Wolf leads incumbent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett 56 percent to 25 percent in a Robert Morris University poll.

  • The Boston Globe profiles Don Berwick’s attempt to jump from health care “rock star” to credible gubernatorial candidate.

  • According to a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, West Virginia ranks as the worst for employment and earnings for women, and right next door, the nation’s capital is the best.

  • “Vapid granolas” need not apply for Texas Rep. Steve Stockman’s unpaid internship this fall.

  • 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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