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She’s ‘baack’ — Hillary Clinton returns to Iowa

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Hillary Clinton back in Iowa for the first time since 2008 loss
  • Republicans pressure Obama to do more
  • The politics of war
  • What does Congress do?

She’s ‘baaack’: Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa for the first time Sunday since her third-place finish in the 2008 caucuses behind Barack Obama. “Hello Iowa. I’m baack,” Clinton exclaimed, arms out wide, at the Harkin Steak Fry, the fundraiser hosted by retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Clinton made just a fleeting reference to 2016, calling it “that other thing.” “Well, it is true, I am thinking about it,” she said. “But for today, that is not why I’m here. I’m here for the steak.” She added, “It’s really great to be back … Let’s not let another seven years go by.” She’s expected to announce whether she will run for president early next year. Former President Bill Clinton also spoke, but was careful not to “overshadow” his wife, Maggie Haberman notes. The Clintons mainly paid tribute to the retiring senator and made the case for Democrats in 2014 across the board, per PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Terence Burlij and Rachel Wellford, who were on the ground at the Steak Fry.

Will Iowa doves back the more hawkish Clinton? Going back to Iowa is no small thing for Clinton. It was the first round in 2008, and it delivered the first major blow to her campaign, knocking her off course to the nomination. Iowa is a traditionally anti-war liberal base. It’s how the caucuses started, as reaction to the Vietnam War. Clinton’s support for the Iraq War was one wedge Barack Obama was able to use in the Hawkeye State to upend Clinton. How the war against the Islamic State group winds up factoring into the Democratic primary in 2015/2016 is also something to watch. Does Clinton support more American combat troops on the ground? She’s going to get asked about it. The conventional wisdom is that she won’t get a serious primary challenge. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he might run, even if Clinton does. And Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, was in Iowa this weekend. He drew some 250 people to church basement in Des Moines and was well received. The Des Moines Register: “Though the sampling was small and the audience obviously partisan toward progressives, Sanders’ message inspired roaring applause during his hourlong speech.” The most problematic candidate from Clinton’s left would be Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But so far she has indicated she won’t challenge Clinton.

Send in the troops? The talk of the Sunday shows was whether the U.S. could realistically defeat the Islamic State militant group and promise to send in no American ground troops. The Obama administration believes it is possible, but did not explicitly rule out potentially sending in Americans at some point. Republicans, like hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called the administration’s plan “delusional.” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that military advisers, and even the president himself, don’t believe the militant group can be defeated from the air alone. “That’s correct,” McDonough said, when asked if it’s true that “not a single military adviser that has come to you guys and said, ‘You can defeat [IS] without some combat troops.’” McDonough pointed to Congress and the need to pass funding to pay for training of Syrian rebels (more on where that stands below). Asked if he “pledges” that no American ground troops will ever be sent in, McDonough could not do so. “We need ground troops,” he said, “that’s why we want this program to train the opposition, that’s currently pending in Congress. And that’s why we want to make sure that this coalition bring Sunnis to the fight.” And on whether the U.S. has asked for ground troops from allies, McDonough said, “We’re not looking for that right now.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo trying to rally regional Arab powers. UN Security Council members meet in Paris today. Kerry will testify Tuesday on Capitol Hill on the effort to fight the Islamic State group. President Obama meets with Gen. John Allen, in charge of the war against the militants. By Friday, the administration was, in fact, using the term “war.”

Republicans pressure to do more: In addition to Graham’s criticism, James Baker, former Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, said on “Meet the Press,” “I’m not suggesting we need to get into another ground war in the Middle East. I’m just saying we cannot do this without having some forces on the ground that can help our air campaign. You have to have that.” Gen. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director under George W. Bush said he believed the U.S. would wind up with special forces in the region (which already seemed to be understood to be happening from President Obama’s call for covert operations). Hayden also said he believed the operation would last three to five years and that more Americans on the ground were likely and necessary. “The airpower thing is good,” he said, “but I don’t think anyone believes … that airpower alone will be sufficient to achieve what the president has set out with regard to our objectives.”

The politics of war: But the politics aren’t as simple. Three polls from last week — ABC/Washington Post, CNN/ORC, and NBC/WSJ — found Americans are more supportive of airstrikes against the Islamic State group, following the beheadings of two American journalists. (A British national was beheaded by the group over the weekend.) But, they were less supportive of sending in ground troops. The CNN poll, for example, found 75 percent in favor airstrikes, but just 38 percent supporting sending in ground troops. In the NBC/WSJ poll, 74 percent were in favor of some action, but just 34 percent were in favor of ground troops and airstrikes. Despite President Obama announcing a plan that appears to align with polling, an NBC/WSJ/Annenburg poll taken before the beheading of the British national but released over the weekend found 68 percent lack confidence in that plan. “The bottom line: The president has made his case to the American public, and like other presidents who faced war and peace issues, support usually follows,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helped conduct the survey, told NBC. “The difference in this military encounter is that, right out of the box, Americans are skeptical if this will work.” It speaks a lot to how our political environment has changed over the past generation. In the 1980s after the Beirut embassy and truck bombings, the country rallied for President Ronald Reagan to avenge the never-before-seen attack. It was the same immediately following 9/11, when President George W. Bush benefited from big polling boosts. (Of course, he would have his critics in the years to follow). Today, it seems, it’s blame first.

Congress to vote this week on funding for Syrian rebels: Among the most vocal critics of the president’s policy, accusing him of not going far enough, are House Republicans. Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona, for example, said this morning on MSNBC the president shouldn’t “candy coat” war. The GOP conference is debating how to bring up funding for Syrian rebels, and is expected to do so this week. The White House wants the funding attached to a continuing resolution, a measure that would temporarily fund the government and avoid a government shutdown. Funding runs out at the end of this month, and there are only five D.C. working days left before the members head home to their districts. But the smart money is on the Syria funding being considered separately somehow — either as a stand-alone resolution or as an amendment to the CR. Expect to hear something today or Tuesday on how House Republicans will proceed. Part of the politics here is twofold: 1) Republicans think the president should go further and want to put pressure on him to do so, and 2) Democrats don’t want to be put in a position of taking a “war vote.” Republicans are aware of this and wouldn’t mind forcing them to do just that.

Let the voting begin! There are now just 50 days until Election Day, and voting has already begun in North Carolina. There are 379 votes in in the Tarheel State. “More states join in this week,” the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson reports. “Somewhere in Minnesota this Friday, a voter will cast the first ballot of that state’s midterm election. The following day, voters in Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont will be able to go to local elections offices and do their civic duty, too. Before the month is out, voters in Iowa and Wyoming will start casting their ballots, too.”

What to watch for the rest of the week: The president will travel to Atlanta Tuesday to outline the U.S. plan for involvement in mitigating the Ebola outbreak in Africa. … Secretaries Kerry and Chuck Hagel (Defense) will testify Tuesday before Congress on the administration’s Islamic State group strategy. … And NATO is holding joint exercises with Ukraine Tuesday as well. … It’s all about interest rates Wednesday when Fed Chair Janet Yellen announces whether the Fed will increase those historically low rates. … Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress Wednesday on threats to the homeland. … President Obama meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Thursday before Poroshenko addresses Congress. … And Scots vote Thursday on whether they want to become independent from the United Kingdom.

LINE ITEMS

  • Peter Baker of the New York Times has the details on how President Obama made his decision to go about announcing military action against the Islamic State group.
  • President Obama will award the Medals of Honor at 1:50 p.m. EDT today to two Vietnam veterans and one from Gettysburg.
  • Uncertainty remains about the threat the Islamic State group presents, the Washington Post reports.
  • Mark Sanford’s engagement to his mistress is off, he announced on Facebook. His fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur, told the New York Times, “I’ve already been five years waiting and two years since the engagement,” she said, adding that the couple had just had a “honeymoon-like” trip to Paris, but Sanford wanted to wait another two years to get married. The announcement, she said, caught her off guard. “I think that I was not useful to him anymore,” she added.
  • Marco Rubio waded right into 2016 politics, linking Hillary Clinton to Obama’s foreign policy. “Five and a half years of the Obama/Clinton worldview has given Americans a graphic and often horrific view of the chaos that is unleashed in the world when America walks away from its traditional role as the guarantor of global security,” Rubio writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
  • It’s more women shooting guns in the latest Alison Lundergan Grimes ad in the Kentucky Senate race. As she skeet shoots, Grimes says she’s not Mitch McConnell, but also, “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA, and Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun.” That last bit was said over an image of McConnell holding up a rifle.
  • Chris Christie will be in South Carolina, that all-important early primary state, Tuesday. He was in Florida Sunday campaigning for incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. “Boy do you have a clear choice,” Christie said. “While you have honesty and integrity with Rick Scott, you don’t in Charlie Crist. See, here’s the thing, you can’t count on anything that Charlie says. And see, you don’t need to take my word for it, you’ve lived it.”
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will speak before the Heritage Foundation Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT.
  • 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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