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Dick Cheney’s Foreign Policy Advice Is ‘Terrifying,’ Harry Reid Says

Dick Cheney’s Foreign Policy Advice Is ‘Terrifying,’ Harry Reid Says

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney’s views on foreign policy, describing his advice to House Republicans as “terrifying.”

“Taking advice from Dick Cheney on foreign policy? That’s a terrifying prospect. We should be learning from our past mistakes, not repeating them,” Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“They’ve got to be really careful with advice they take from Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney is more responsible than anyone else for the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country — the invasion of Iraq,” Reid said.

Cheney, one of the architects of the Iraq war, met privately with House Republicans Tuesday and discussed the threat that the Islamic militant group ISIS poses to the international community.

According to sources who attended the meeting, Cheney said the president lacks a clear strategy to combat terrorism in the Middle East, a criticism he repeated Wednesday in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“There’s a connection between a disengaged president and the very volatile situation abroad,” Cheney said Wednesday, adding that the president has a “distrust of U.S. power as a force for good.”

Cheney shared his own vision of a U.S. response to ISIS ahead of the president’s speech Wednesday night: a sustained campaign in both Iraq and Syria, including U.S. airstrikes, military trainers and special operations forces.

“Our president must understand that we are at war, and must do what it takes as long as it takes to win,” Cheney said.

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Rep. John Dingell Tweets from Hospital

Rep. John Dingell Tweets from Hospital

US Congress(DETROIT) — When Rep. John Dingell, 88, was hospitalized earlier this week, some feared the worst for the longest-serving member of Congress. But his tweets from the hospital are proving that the Democrat from Michigan is very much alive.

Most lawmakers his age might welcome a break from the House floor, but Dingell insisted on bringing work to his hospital bed after being admitted to the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit Monday for abdominal pain. 

Yelling at hospital TV as House debates YET ANOTHER bill to gut the Clean Water Act. Nice of the nurses to check in on me though. I’m fine.

— John Dingell (@john_dingell) September 9, 2014

It looks like Dingell has also been staying up to date on both sports and news while being nursed back to health.

A day of @lions & @tigers and.. needles? Thanks for kind words/prayers. Catching up w @mitchellreports & @LukeRussert pic.twitter.com/UW8NOn7FL9

— John Dingell (@john_dingell) September 8, 2014

Along with what’s been happening on the Senate floor:

…and @SenTedCruz, apparently. pic.twitter.com/9gnauPmeVo

— John Dingell (@john_dingell) September 8, 2014

And he’s keeping up with the press, too. When New York Times correspondent Mark Leibovich tweeted about his discontent with a rental car, Dingell advised him to look on the bright side, reminding him to take pride in the American car.

That’s a nice-looking @Ford, Mark. Pride of Dearborn. RT @MarkLeibovich: Somebody at Avis at Logan Airport hates me! pic.twitter.com/AtVwS4fnG0

— John Dingell (@john_dingell) September 9, 2014

Dingell is expected back in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16 after Congress returns from a four-day weekend.

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US Conference of Catholic Bishops Urge Jeh Johnson to Act on Immigration

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Urge Jeh Johnson to Act on Immigration

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A letter sent by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday urged Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to, “use [his] authority to protect undocumented individuals and families as soon as possible.”

The USCCB specifically asked Johnson to authorize deferred action for select groups of immigrants, including those with strong community ties in the U.S. who have lived in the country for 10 years or longer, those who are parents of U.S. citizens, parents of recipients of deferred action for childhood arrivals, and individuals residing in the U.S. with approved family and employment petitions.

“With immigration reform stalled in Congress,” the USCCB wrote, “our nation can no longer wait to end the suffering of family separation caused by our broken immigration system.”

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Obama to Seek UN Security Council Resolution to Crack Down on Foreign Fighters

Obama to Seek UN Security Council Resolution to Crack Down on Foreign Fighters

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama plans to seek a United Nations Security Council resolution requiring a crackdown on foreign fighters joining terror groups like ISIS.

A National Security Council official told ABC News on Tuesday that Obama hopes the U.N. Security Council could require countries to clamp down on foreign fighters’ travel through means including seizing passports. Additionally, he would like those foreign nations to share information with Interpol.

The National Security Council official says that any violation of such a resolution could then be enforceable under chapter seven of the U.N. Charter, entitled “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of Peace and Acts of Aggression.”

Obama will chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on Sept. 24 in New York, the first time a U.S. President will do so since 2009. He is expected to seek the resolution during that meeting.

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Sen. McCaskill Leads Senate Hearing on Militarization of Local Police

Sen. McCaskill Leads Senate Hearing on Militarization of Local Police

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the Pentagon’s Congressionally-mandated program providing local police departments with access to surplus military gear, an issue that arose after the tense standoffs between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri last month.

Since 1990, when Congress allowed the transfers as a means of helping police forces thwart drug dealers, $5.1 billion in property has been provided to local police departments. Among the equipment given to local police over the life of the program are 44,000 night vision devices, 5,200 Humvees, 617 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles and 92,000 small arms.

During the course of the hearing, many Congressional leaders questioned whether the program was doing more harm than good. “Those lawful, peaceful protesters on that Wednesday afternoon in Ferguson, Missouri, did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-S.C. argued that the program had “gotten out of control,” while noting that bayonets are available under the program.

A Pentagon acquisition official responded to Paul, confirming that bayonets are available under the program, but said he was unable to explain why local police forces would need bayonets. “I can give you an answer,” Paul responded: “None.”

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Obama, Biden Commemorate 20th Anniversary of Violence Against Women Act

Obama, Biden Commemorate 20th Anniversary of Violence Against Women Act

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson/Official White House Photo by David Lienemann(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden commemorated the passage of the Violence Against Women Act as the legislation’s 20th anniversary approaches, and on the heels of the release of a disturbing video featuring National Football League star Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée.

Biden introduced the law when he was a senator, and it passed on September 13, 1994. The president issued a proclamation on Tuesday, urging the nation to “rededicate ourselves to strengthening the protections it first codified,” and to “reaffirm the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.”

Obama reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act last year and extended its protections. “Too many women continue to live in fear in their own homes, too many victims still know the pain of abuse, and too many families have had to mourn the loss of their loved ones,” Obama said in his proclamation. “It has to end — because even one is too many.”

“On the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, we continue to work toward a more perfect society, where the dreams of our mothers and daughters are not limited by fear and where every person can feel safe,” the president concluded.

Later on Tuesday, Biden spoke at the National Archives, announcing a summit on civil legal recourse for domestic violence. Biden said he hopes to “bring together the leading legal scholars, prosecutors in the Department of Justice to revisit the civil rights remedy in violence against women.”

The Violence Against Women Act granted domestic violence victims, among other things, the ability to sue their attackers in civil court, a power that was later struck down by the Supreme Court.

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President Obama to Propose Immediate Effort to Train Syrian Opposition

President Obama to Propose Immediate Effort to Train Syrian Opposition

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — During a meeting with congressional leaders, President Obama said he wants to immediately begin a program to provide military training to the moderate opposition in Syria, the Free Syrian Army, a senior White House official said.

Unlike already established, secret CIA programs to support the Syrian rebels, this would be an overt program to train the rebels at camps that would be set up in countries in the region that have now agreed to allow the training to take part on their territory, according to the official.

The official would not specify where in the region the training would take place, but pointed to a trip over the weekend by White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The president told congressional leaders he needs authority from Congress to begin this training program, the official said. It will require a vote of Congress.  The White House was adamant that the vote must come immediately, the source said.

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Obama Tells Congress He Has Authority to Take Action Against ISIS

Obama Tells Congress He Has Authority to Take Action Against ISIS

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama speaks to the nation Wednesday night about his strategy to go after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And after his meeting with congressional leadership Tuesday, the White House says the president has no intention of asking Congress to approve the mission.

Despite the pleadings of Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Obama told senior members of Congress that “he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night,” according to the White House’s readout of the meeting.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kaine took to the Senate floor to implore Obama to seek congressional authorization for further strikes on ISIS.

“I don’t believe that the president has the authority to ‘go on offense’ and wage an open-ended war on ISIL without congressional approval,” Kaine said.

“If we take the Constitution seriously, as we pledge to do when we take our oaths, we must follow the command that the president must come to Congress to initiate major military action,” he added.

There were also suggestions that McConnell would be telling Obama in the Oval Office that he ought to seek congressional approval for any further strikes.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Obama told congressional leaders “he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL,” the readout says.

But, the White House insists, the president does not need Congress’ permission.

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Boehner Silent on Ground Troops, Calls on Obama to ‘Destroy’ ISIS

Boehner Silent on Ground Troops, Calls on Obama to ‘Destroy’ ISIS

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As lawmakers question whether ground forces should be an aspect of the U.S. strategy to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, House Speaker John Boehner refused to enter the growing debate.

Instead, he punted to President Obama ahead of a highly anticipated meeting with congressional leadership at the White House Tuesday afternoon.

“What I’m hoping to hear from the president today is a strategy that goes after ISIS and destroys them,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

“I’ve been calling for a strategy to deal with the growing terrorist threat since January, when ISIS came across the border in Western Iraq,” he stressed. “We have a very serious problem and what we need is a strategy, and until there is a strategy, there is no reason to talk about any of the specifics because I don’t know how they fit into the broader strategy.”

On Jan. 9, Boehner first pressed the White House for a renewed counterterrorism strategy in Iraq, publicly complaining that the United States’ national security gains there were “threatened” and “reversed.”

“The United States has and will continue to have a vital national interest in Iraq,” Boehner said at the time. “We must maintain a long-term commitment to a successful outcome there, and it’s time that the president recognized this and get engaged.”

Obama is expected to detail his strategy during an address to the nation on Wednesday night.

Asked whether Congress should exercise its constitutional prerogative to debate the president’s war powers, Boehner questioned whether the violence in Iraq and Syria even qualifies as a war.

“Is that what we’re talking about?” Boehner wondered aloud. “Until the president…[explains] what his strategy is to deal with this growing terrorist threat and the strategy to defeat it…all we’re doing is speculating.”

On Tuesday, Boehner emphasized he still hopes to hear Obama “outline his strategy for how we’re going to deal with” ISIS.

“We need to be going after the terrorist threat wherever it is,” Boehner said. “Anyone that thinks this is just an Iraq-Syria issue is not paying much attention to what’s happening around the world.”

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Harry Reid Demands Apology from GOP Candidate

Harry Reid Demands Apology from GOP Candidate

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for Senate as a Republican in Louisiana, owes him a “big time” apology, after Cassidy accused him of running the Senate “like a plantation.”

“With all the things going on in America today, that’s fairly insensitive. That’s really insensitive, very insensitive and if there were ever a statement that deserved an apology, this is it, big time,” Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “I mean, has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling? Where did he get this?”

Cassidy, the Republican front-runner challenging Democratic three-term incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu in this year’s midterm election, was quoted comparing Reid to a plantation owner in an article published Tuesday morning by Environment & Energy News.

“So instead of the world’s greatest deliberative body, it is his personal, sort of, ‘It goes if I say it does, if not it stops,’” Cassidy said of Reid.

Though Cassidy is hardly the first Republican to speak critically of the majority leader, who has become a lightning rod for Republican discontent with the Democratic-controlled Senate, the racial implications behind Cassidy’s comment escalated the rhetoric to a new level.

But Cassidy stood by his accusation against Reid, saying that offense should instead be taken from Reid’s leadership of the Senate.

“I wish there was as much offense taken by Harry Reid running the Senate dictatorially, not allowing any votes which he does not personally approve of and the result of which he does not endorse,” Cassidy told ABC News in a statement. “Any other interpretation of my remarks is a false controversy designed to distract attention from policies which are demonstrably crushing jobs and taking our country in the wrong direction.”

Tea Party candidate Rob Maness, also running against Landrieu and Cassidy in Louisiana’s “jungle primary” this November, called on Cassidy to apologize and called Cassidy’s comment “ignorant.”

“Congressman Cassidy may not realize this but the language he used included a term that is incredibly offensive to many Americans and he should immediately apologize,” Maness said in a statement emailed to reporters. “It’s this type of over-the-top, out-of-bounds ignorance that drives so many people away from the Republican Party. We need to be better than that.”

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Oregon GOP Senate Candidate Unveils Pro-Gay Marriage Ad

Oregon GOP Senate Candidate Unveils Pro-Gay Marriage Ad

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon is bucking the GOP by embracing gay marriage in a new campaign ad.

The ad from the campaign of Dr. Monica Wehby, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, prominently features a gay couple — Ben West, of Portland, who filed a lawsuit in 2013 with partner Paul Rummell to overturn Oregon’s same sex-marriage ban that went into effect in 2004.

Their case was combined with other Oregon couples who also sought the right to marry after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012. Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban was later ruled unconstitutional.

Wehby’s ad features photos and videos of West and Rummell on their wedding day and cheering after winning their court case. It closes with a photo of West and Wehby smiling together, where West says Wehby will “fight for every Oregon family, including mine.”

The majority of the Republican Party has opposed gay marriage, making Wehby a maverick in her party.

Along with the ad, West and Rummell also endorsed Wehby in a statement: “Monica is the leader our state needs to create better paying jobs, a stronger economy, and a future that delivers on the promise of building better opportunities for the next generation.”

In her own statement Wehby, who is aiming to broaden her appeal to pro-gay marriage voters in the solid blue state, said that she is “proud and humbled to have the support and Ben and Paul. Their courage to stand up for their family and against inequality is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon’s next Senator.”

Wehby is currently the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. She has also served as a Republican Precinct Committee Person, as president for both the Oregon Medical Association and Portland Medical Society and on the board of directors of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

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Ray Rice Video Points Congress to ‘Forceful Initiative’ on Domestic Violence

Ray Rice Video Points Congress to ‘Forceful Initiative’ on Domestic Violence

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — The Ray Rice episode is spurring members of Congress to develop new ways to force sports leagues to more aggressively punish domestic violence cases, with rumblings of bipartisan efforts to make sure leagues and franchises don’t minimize such allegations in the future.

In the latest episode of the ESPN-ABC News podcast “Capital Games,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the fact that only “gruesome, gripping footage” of the alleged assault led the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely suggests that pro sports entities still don’t get the gravity of domestic violence.

Blumenthal, who led the charge in Congress calling for a harsher penalty when the Rice incident first surfaced earlier this year, said he’s planning to huddle with both Democratic and Republican colleagues to react to the fallout. The reaction may include legislation on Capitol Hill, though no plans have been put forward yet, he said.

“I am going to be talking to my colleagues while I’m here, literally, these next days and weeks, in trying to put together a more forceful initiative and more aggressive encouragement, whether it’s in legislation or some other way — so that the NFL and other major sports leagues address this problem more effectively,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said the NFL finally reached the “right result” with the indefinite suspension of Rice and the Baltimore Ravens’ move to terminate his contract. But even the NFL’s new, stiffer penalties for domestic violence aren’t adequate, he said, and the senator added that he hopes the league realizes that before Congress would force further action.

“The NFL should stiffen its penalty [regime],” he said. “Perhaps Congress should intervene and act. But my hope is that the NFL will take the leadership and send the message that this kind of assault and violence is intolerable.”

Blumenthal said he’s also troubled by the way the Ravens were involved “stage-managing” the apology issued by Rice’s wife, who was his fiancée at the time of the alleged assault in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino in February.

“She was put on stage, apologized for her role — in effect aggravating this syndrome of blaming the victim. And so that is really exactly the opposite of the kind of message that advocates and experts on domestic violence want to see shown,” Blumenthal said.

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The Final Primary Elections: NH, Mass., Del., RI and NY

The Final Primary Elections: NH, Mass., Del., RI and NY

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — After weeks of primaries and now just 56 days remaining until Election Day, it’s time for the final primer for the last primary day of the season.

The final states to vote before November are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island, with a gubernatorial primary in New York, even though their congressional primaries were earlier in the season.

One former Massachusetts senator is likely to defeat a former New Hampshire senator to be that state’s GOP nominee, there’s a Democratic gubernatorial brawl in Rhode Island, and one on the other side of the aisle in New Hampshire. There’s also a gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts with a familiar name, an 81-year old running for the Senate in Delaware, two openly gay Republicans on ballots in two states, and much more.

Here are ten races to watch this primary day:

NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

The race between former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has been playing out as a general election face-off for months since Brown moved to the state late last year, but Brown actually has to win his primary on Tuesday first.

WHY IT MATTERS

He’s up against former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith and former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Rubens. Brown is heavily favored and now that we are hours away, the expectations game is playing out in this general election battle that could determine control of the Senate. New Hampshire’s Union-Leader reported Monday that Brown’s campaign believes he can beat Shaheen in November even if he only wins today with a plurality of the vote. The New Hampshire Democratic Party put out its own release, saying that it is expecting Brown to win by a “massive margin” and calling “anything short of an overwhelming win … an embarrassment.”

Brown’s primary lead and endorsements from Granite State Sen. Kelly Ayotte, and even Mitt Romney has made him the focus since he entered the race.  But that hasn’t deterred Smith, who has a 30-year political resume, with several non-traditional stops along the way. Smith served in both the House and Senate, and waged an unsuccessful presidential bid that included leaving the party for a short time. He moved to Florida soon after his 2002 Senate re-election loss and mounted two bids for the GOP Senate nomination from the Sunshine State in 2004 and 2010, both unsuccessfully.

Now that he’s back in New Hampshire, Smith is running as the “true conservative” in the race, but it’s not only the fact that he left the GOP that has undermined his claim to that title: In 2004, just before Election Day, he endorsed John Kerry over George W. Bush. Either way, he said this is the likely end to his 30-year political resume. Rubens has also positioned himself to the right of Brown, but in their final debate last week he said unequivocally that he believes global warming exists and is caused by man, a belief he says makes him the only Republican Senate candidate in the country willing to openly share that view.

NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY

The only Democratic female governor is in New Hampshire, and Maggie Hassan only faces token opposition today.  However, the Republican fight to take her on is an interesting one. Walt Havenstein, a former Marine and president of BAE Systems, has vastly outspent his 32-year-old opponent Andrew Hemingway, a tea partier and former aide to Newt Gingrich in 2012, overseeing his efforts in the Granite State.

WHY IT MATTERS

Despite how tight the race remains, Havenstein, 64, has not only outspent his young challenger, spending $1.5 million of his own money, but he also has the backing of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,  who’s also the chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association. It was a rare foray for Christie into a primary, one that got a lot of attention and speculation this was more about 2016 than 2014.

The race remains tight between the Havenstein and Hemingway and they are appealing to different parts of the party. Hemingway to the more conservative electorate and Havenstein, who is pro-abortion rights, is running more of a moderate campaign trying to paint himself as the only candidate who can beat Hassan. State polls show Hassan leading both possible challengers.

MASSACHUSETTS GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY

With incumbent Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick opting against seeking a third term, this is an open race with high-profile candidates on both sides of the aisle, which, despite blue Massachusetts, could lead to a competitive general election.

WHY IT MATTERS
On the Democratic side, the Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, backed by Emily’s List, has come in first against her two opponents in state polls. She famously lost in 2010 to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race in the seat that opened up after Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death. Brown then lost to Elizabeth Warren in 2012 and now is running for the Senate again in New Hampshire. (See above.)

Coakley faces off against Donald Berwick, a former Obama administration health care official, and Steve Grossman, the Massachusetts state treasurer, who was endorsed by the state party, as well as the Boston Globe. He has been touting the endorsements as the primary approached.

On the Republican side, Charlie Baker, who won the Republican nomination in 2010, is the former state Secretary of Finance and Administration and the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. He’s up against Mark Fisher, a businessman aligned with the Tea Party. Baker is favored, but Fisher is trying to awaken the more conservative members of the party in the Bay State that he believes may be upset at the more moderate GOP in the state. Baker has a more moderate approach, trying to appeal to voters in both parties ahead of the November election. The Democratic and Republican winners will be up against three independent candidates in November.

RHODE ISLAND GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY

Gov. Lincoln Chafee is not seeking a second term, so there’s an open race for Rhode Island’s top office.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Democratic primary for Rhode Island’s governor is a tight battle pitting state general treasurer Gina Raimondo against Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, the 32-year-old grandson of Claiborne Pell, the late senator who represented Rhode Island for 36 years and for whom the Pell Grant is named.

The former Coast Guard attorney is married to former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, also a draw on the campaign trail. Raimondo has led in the most recent polls, but has remained tight with Taveras through most of the primary, with many undecided voters. If Raimondo — backed by Emily’s List — wins today and goes on to win in November, she would be Rhode Island’s first female governor. Public-sector unions aren’t supportive of Raimondo since she reformed the state’s pension plan, cutting benefits, but unions have split their support between Taveras and Pell.

Spending between the three has been sky high, with spending in the Democratic primary alone topping $10 million. Taveras, who has appealed to Latino and middle-class voters, has hit Raimondo for her support from Wall Street donors. The unions supporting Pell and Taveras could help with their get-out-the-vote operations, while Raimondo has been appealing to more independents and moderates who could boost her today. Pell has trailed in polls despite spending $3.4 million of his own money, but may be able to get support from voters who remember his grandfather. His opponents have portrayed him as a wealthy rookie unable to hold down a job.

The winner will face either Cranston Mayor Allan Fung or businessman Ken Block, who are facing off for the Republican nomination. Fung has been endorsed by Mitt Romney, while Block has been endorsed by John Robitaille, the 2010 Republican nominee for governor. Fung and Block have spent considerably less than their Democratic rivals. Fung has questioned Block’s conservative credentials, since Block voted for the president twice. Fung ran into some trouble in August when it was revealed he shot a campaign ad touting Rhode Island’s as “open for business,” but from an Ohio diner. The lack of polling makes this a complete toss-up. Rhode Island is a blue state and a Democrat is favored to win, but Rhode Island hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1992.

NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL AND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR PRIMARY

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a Democratic challenge from liberal Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout. Teachout claims Cuomo is too far to the right for New York, despite victories like the legalization of same-sex marriage and the passing of one of the strictest gun control bills in the country, achievements to which Cuomo has pointed.

WHY IT MATTERS

There has been no polling, but Cuomo is heavily favored to win. The race that has gotten more attention is actually the second name on both tickets: the race for lieutenant governor, where there’s more of a possibility for an upset. Cuomo’s pick is Kathy Hochul, a former one-term congresswoman from a conservative district outside Buffalo who is up against Teachout’s choice, Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor.

Hillary Clinton released a robo-call last week backing the ticket, but in the call she primarily focused boosting the little-known Hochul. Hochul has been stressing her progressive stances, but Wu has hit her for her own gun control and environmental records. Hochul is most well-known for winning a special election in one of the state’s most conservative districts in 2011, but she lost her re-election one year later.

The biggest controversy hanging over the race is the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel Cuomo dissolved after it began looking at organizations close to the governor. It prompted a federal investigation after it was revealed in the New York Times. The winning ticket will face Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in November.

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR MASSACHUSETTS’ SIXTH DISTRICT

Incumbent nine-term Democratic Rep. John Tierney, 62, has a competitive primary today and if he is victorious he will also have a tight general election on his hands. His Democratic opponents include Harvard-educated former Marine Seth Moulton, 35, who was also a top aide to General David Petraeus.

WHY IT MATTERS

Moulton is considered Tierney’s strongest opponent and while the incumbent has tried to look past him to focus on the general election, Moulton has run an aggressive campaign focusing on voter discontent with Congress. Tierney has tried to paint Moulton as too conservative, running an ad tying him to the National Rifle Association, something Moulton called absurd, according to the New York Times. Moulton has raised almost as much as Tierney, with the incumbent bringing in $1.9 million to Moulton’s $1.6 million. Moulton has been backed by both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, two editorial boards that usually do not agree.

Tierney has the backing of the Democratic establishment, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Marisa DeFranco, a Middleton immigration lawyer, is also running in the Democratic primary. The winner will face the man Tierney beat by just one percentage point in 2012, Republican Richard Tisei. The 2012 race was dominated by a gambling scandal involving Tierney’s wife. Tisei is openly gay and moderate and the possible re-match between Tierney and Tisei is considered a toss-up, even in this blue state. Moulton is thought to have an advantage against Tisei if he is the victor, but with no primary or general election polling this race is impossible to predict, even though there hasn’t been a successful primary against a House incumbent in the Bay State in over 20 years.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE’S FIRST DISTRICT

Four Republicans are vying to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, in a race considered a November toss-up.

WHY IT MATTERS

Former Rep. Frank Guinta is favored in the race against Dan Innis, a dean at the University of New Hampshire, and former selectman Brendan Kelly.  There’s also a fourth lesser-known candidate: Everett Jabour. Shea-Porter was elected in 2006 and 2008, but Guinta beat Shea-Porter in 2010 only to then be ousted in 2012. Guinta is running for the fifth time in nine years and Innis has called Guinta a career politician, but he has much higher name recognition than his opponents. Innis is one of three openly gay Republican candidates running this cycle and is much more moderate.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE’S SECOND DISTRICT
Marilinda Garcia, named one of the RNC’s rising stars, is attempting to become one of the youngest members of Congress. She’s up against former Marine and state Sen. Gary Lambert and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster.

WHY IT MATTERS

With no primary polling, it’s unclear if the 31-year-old Garcia, Lambert, or Lawrence will pull off the primary. Garcia is seen as the more conservative choice and Sen. Ted Cruz hit the campaign trail for her this weekend. The race has gotten nasty with Lambert running ads accusing Garcia of supporting Obamacare and “amnesty.” After their final debate, she declined to shake his hand.

DELAWARE SENATE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Delaware voters will choose today which Republican will go up against incumbent Democratic Sen. Chris Coons in November. Carl Smink, an 81-year-old retired engineer and Air Force veteran, is up against businessman Kevin Wade, who ran an unsuccessful Senate campaign in 2012, and founded his own engineering business when he was 29.

Wade, 62, has visited Israel during his campaign on a trip he called a fact-finding mission to research the Middle East conflict. He also visited the Mexican border to understand the border crisis, according to Delaware’s The News Journal, which also reports both trips abroad were funded by his campaign. Smink, appealing to a more conservative electorate, has said one of his biggest concerns is the implementation of Sharia Law in this country. The winner will face Coons in the general election and he is widely favored to beat either opponent.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR MASSACHUSETTS’ NINTH DISTRICT

Four Republicans are vying to go up against Democratic incumbent Rep. William Keating. The favorite is former Romney administration official John Chapman, who has the backing of Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, and is on the National Republican Campaign Committee “Young Guns” list.  He’s up against Mark Alliegro, a scientist and researcher aligned with the tea party, Daniel Shores, a lawyer, and Vincent Cogliano Jr., a former selectman who operates a family Christmas tree farm. Romney recorded a robo-call on behalf of Chapman and said he will “cut spending, repeal Obamacare, and get rid of the red tape holding back the economy.”

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Obama Approval Hits a New Low for Leadership; Criticism on ISIS & Immigration Alike

Obama Approval Hits a New Low for Leadership; Criticism on ISIS & Immigration Alike

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) — Barack Obama’s rating for strong leadership has dropped to a new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, hammered by criticism of his work on international crises and a stalled agenda at home. With the midterm elections looming, Americans by a 10-point margin, 52-42 percent, see his presidency more as a failure than a success.

Just 38 percent now approve of Obama’s handling of international affairs, down 8 percentage points since July to a career low; 56 percent disapprove, a majority for the first time. Fifty-two percent say he’s been too cautious in dealing with Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria. And the public is ahead of Obama in support for a military response to that crisis, with 65 percent in favor of extending U.S. air strikes to Syria.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

With the president set to address the nation on the issue Wednesday, concern is at a peak. A vast 91 percent of those polled, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, see the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as a serious threat to U.S. vital interests. After its execution of two American journalists, support for air strikes against ISIS in Iraq has swelled from 45 percent in June to 71 percent now. Support for arming their Kurdish opponents is up by 13 points, to 58 percent, in just the past month.

At home, with Obama holding off his promised executive action on immigration reform, a new low of just 31 percent approve of his handling of immigration. Fifty-nine percent disapprove, up by a broad 18 points from spring 2013, when progress on the issue seemed imminent.

In general assessments, moreover, Americans by a 17-point margin say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, a rating worse than George W. Bush’s early in his poorly rated second term — and one that’s deteriorated among Obama’s supporters as well as among his critics. Just 43 percent call Obama a strong leader, down 11 points in the past year to the fewest of his presidency. And his overall job approval rating, at 42 percent, is a point from its all-time low this spring.

NOVEMBER – The risks to Obama’s party in the November elections are great — but they’re mitigated, all the same, by the Republican Party’s concurrent problems. While Americans by 55-38 percent say Obama has done more to divide than to unite the country, that expands to a 63-27 percent negative view of the Republicans in Congress on the same question. And just 21 percent approve of the way congressional Republicans are handling their jobs, a point from their low in polling dating back 20 years.

Voter preferences for November are closely matched; registered voters divide by 46-44 percent between the Democrat and the Republican in their congressional district. Among those who say they’re certain to vote, that goes to a 47-44 percent Republican-Democratic race, underscoring the GOP’s customary advantage in midterm turnout. As a rough guide, when the Democrats lack a double-digit lead among registered voters in the generic matchup, they’re at some risk.

Indeed, independents side substantially more with GOP candidates — by 47-35 percent among registered voters. That puts all the more pressure on Democrats to boost their turnout, or suffer.

At the same time, even with Obama’s problems, Democratic voters in this survey are a bit more energized than their Republican counterparts. Among those who intend to back the Democrat in their district, 71 percent say they’re enthusiastic about doing so. Among those who favor the GOP candidate, fewer, 63 percent, are enthusiastic about it.

The extent of Obama’s impact on the election remains to be seen, but — given his ratings — he’s not helping his party. Registered voters are more likely to say they’ll be casting their midterm ballot to show opposition to Obama than support for him, by 27 percent vs. 19 percent — not an overwhelming gap, but one similar to the result on Bush in 2006, a sweep year for the out-party. Further, Democrats win broad support from voters who see Obama as a strong leader and approve of his performance on a range of issues, international affairs and immigration among them. To the extent that these ratings continue to suffer, his party could feel the pain.

The economy and jobs prevail by a substantial margin as the issue of top concern in the election; while views of the economy are their least negative since the start of the Great Recession, 69 percent still say it’s in bad shape, and just 42 percent approve of how Obama’s handling it. It follows that 65 percent say the country is “seriously off on the wrong track,” twice as many as say it’s headed in the right direction. And even more, three-quarters, are dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working.

ISIS and LEADERSHIP – Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation this week on his emerging strategy to deal with ISIS, and, aides say, to build support for military action against the group. This poll, though, indicates that he’s trailing rather than leading opinions on the issue.

As noted, substantial majorities now favor U.S. air strikes on ISIS in Iraq (71 percent, up by a remarkable 26 points since June, and 17 points just since mid-August) and extending those strikes to hit ISIS in Syria (65 percent), as well as arming the Kurdish forces that are among those opposing ISIS (58 percent). Moreover, while 52 percent say Obama has been “too cautious” in dealing with ISIS, just 8 percent say he’s been too aggressive. That leaves only 35 percent who say he’s handled it “about right.”

These views extend to international affairs more broadly — 53 percent say Obama has been too cautious in handling them. (Fewer, but 43 percent, also say he’s been too cautious in dealing with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.) Further, the decline in Obama’s approval rating on handling international affairs has included some of his core support groups — down by 20 points since July among young adults and by 16 points among non-whites.

These criticisms — along with those on the immigration issue — likely are contributing to Obama’s career-low rating for strong leadership (which also is notably down among young adults, by 13 points since January). His ratings on two other attributes, by contrast, while not strong, are essentially unchanged: even, 49-48 percent splits both on understanding “the problems of people like you” and being honest and trustworthy.

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CONGRESS and INCUMBENTS – The Congress and its parties return from summer vacation to a Bronx cheer all their own. Just 15 percent approve of the way Congress is doing its job, very near its record low, 12 percent, about a year ago. The Democrats in Congress get a 33 percent approval rating, a dozen points ahead of the Republicans but hardly a bumper-sticker result.

Anti-incumbency remains near its all-time high: Just 23 percent of Americans are inclined to re-elect their representative in Congress; 67 percent are inclined to “look around for someone else.” The record in polling back 25 years, just a point away on each side, was 22-68 percent in March.

Another result, though, shows some respite for incumbents. Americans divide by 45-41 percent on approval or disapproval of their own representative in Congress. While still a weak score by historical standards, that’s a 10-point drop in disapproval from early August – and it’s occurred chiefly among Democrats, a sign of life for the party. (Incumbents are hard to unseat in any event.)

Asked for a bit of punditry, 45 percent of Americans say they expect the Republicans to win the Senate – but almost as many, 40 percent, say otherwise. (Compare to 2012, when 55 percent expected Obama to win.) The public by a 7-point margin, 32-25 percent, also says that change in control would be a good thing – but a plurality says it’d make no difference.

PARTIES and ISSUES – Comparing the parties, there are close (or fairly close) divisions in which side Americans trust more to handle various issues, the Democrats or Republicans. That includes essentially an even split on handling “the main problems the nation faces”; a scant +5 on the economy (45-40 percent) and +4 on immigration (43-39 percent) for Republicans; and +6 on health care for Democrats (46-40 percent).

Notably, neither party gets majority endorsement on any of these. At the same time, there are better-than-usual results for the Republicans: Their result on handling immigration is its best vs. the Democrats in polling back to 2006. Their score on the economy ties its best since late 2002. And their competitiveness in handling the country’s main problems, 40 vs. 39 percent, is unusual – the gap is its best for the GOP since 2003.

The Republicans also are +6 points in having, “better ideas about the right size and role of the federal government.” But that shifts to larger Democratic advantages in being “more concerned with the needs of people like you” (+12) and better understanding the economic problems people are having (+13).

The poll finds some explanation for why Obama backed off the immigration issue this past week; it shows a 46-50 percent division on providing legal status for undocumented immigrants now living and working in the United States – a shift from 51-43 percent support last fall. Moreover, Americans by 36-27 percent say they’re more likely to oppose than to support a candidate for Congress who favors a path to legal status. (At the same time, though, the public by 52-44 percent would like to see Obama act unilaterally on immigration if Congress doesn’t take action, suggesting a general weariness with the lack of progress on the issue.)

There are differences among Hispanics compared with others: Many more support legal status (82 percent, vs. 37 percent among whites). Eight in 10 also back executive action by Obama. And Hispanics, naturally, are far more apt to back like-minded candidates.

Other results also mark the striking disparity of attitudes among racial and ethnic groups. Obama’s overall job approval rating, for example, is 87 percent among blacks, 57 percent among Hispanics — and just 31 percent among whites, a single point from his career low. Differences on whether Obama has united or divided the country are at least as sharp: Seventy-eight percent of blacks see Obama as a uniter rather than a divider; that declines to 53 percent of Hispanics and just 27 percent of whites.

Another issue, health care, shows the public’s disconnect with both Obama and the Republicans alike. As has been the case more often than not, more Americans oppose than support Obamacare, now 52-43 percent. Still, more either support it, or oppose it but are willing to let it go ahead — 57 percent — than prefer to see it repealed, 40 percent.

Finally, despite their many complaints, Americans by 57-39 percent think the country’s best days are still ahead of it. But as in so much else, there’s a strong political and ideological component to that view: It ranges from 74 percent among liberal Democrats to a low of 43 percent among conservative Republicans.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 4-7, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cellphone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 33-23-38 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.

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Americans’ Perception of Federal Workers Improves

Americans’ Perception of Federal Workers Improves

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — It’s been nearly a year since the partial government shutdown that practically everyone now would like to forget, especially the many federal workers who were furloughed during the 16-day standoff.

However, in what could be termed a silver lining in that dark cloud, a George Washington University poll suggests that the shutdown may have actually improved the public perception of people who work for the government.

Prior to the Oct. 1 stoppage, 61 percent of respondents said they either had “some” or a “lot” of confidence in federal civilian workers.

According to the latest figures released Monday, 73 percent now have “some” or a “lot” of confidence in federal workers.

The researchers believe that a greater appreciation for these workers developed when Americans had to go without certain services.

Meanwhile, the survey of 1,000 adults also found that far more Democrats than Republicans valued those who chose careers in federal service.

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Former New Orleans Mayor Nagin Begins Prison Term

Former New Orleans Mayor Nagin Begins Prison Term

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(TEXARKANA, Texas) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who gained national prominence in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina pounded the city, began serving a 10-year prison term Monday.

Nagin, 58, turned himself in to authorities at a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, after saying goodbye to his wife and three children.

He was sentenced in July following his February conviction for receiving more than a half-a-million dollars in bribes in return for city contracts.

Nagin, who served as New Orleans mayor from 2002 to 2010, became a controversial figure when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August 2005.

Critics accused him of failing to properly coordinate rescue efforts of those left stranded by the storm even as he decried the federal government’s response to the catastrophe.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald Outlines Plan to Fix Department

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald Outlines Plan to Fix Department

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald held a press conference on Monday to outline his “Road to Veterans Day” plan to fix the scandal-damaged department.

The three-pronged plan is designed to revamp the Department of Veterans Affairs following months of scandal involving delays in treatment and substandard care. McDonald said that the VA will aim to rebuild trust with veterans and other stakeholders, improve service delivery and set a course for long-term excellence.

The agency has been accused of hiding wait times for veterans seeking care; critics say VA employees’ coverups regarding service led to the deaths of dozens of vets. 

McDonald emphasized the importance of transparency and the need to hold those accountable when things go wrong. The VA, he said, will take action as quickly as due process an the law will allow.

In recent months, the department has worked to get veterans off of wait-lists and into clinics, recruit more staff members and deploy mobile medical units. Still, McDonald said the VA was, “deeply sorry for the problems with access to care, with the timeliness of care, and with the quality of care that occurred in Phoenix.”

“I don’t think any investigation could make us feel any better about that. We feel terrible about that,” he added.

McDonald said that he planned many more media engagements in the coming weeks. “Our mission is clear,” he said, “it’s to serve veterans. There is no higher calling than that mission.”

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Obama to Meet with Congressional Leaders Ahead of Wednesday Speech

Obama to Meet with Congressional Leaders Ahead of Wednesday Speech

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will meet with Congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss on foreign policy.

The meeting comes one day ahead of an anticipated speech about his selected strategy on how to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and days after he was flamed for saying he had “no strategy yet” for battling the Islamic terror group.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

The meeting is expected to take place in the Oval Office at about 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

A senior White House official told ABC News that Obama will use his Wednesday speech to, “speak to the country.” The president is not expected to announce an expansion of U.S. airstrikes into Syria or any other major change from the way the U.S. has been combating ISIS.

He is expected to mention the threat that ISIS poses, provide an update on the ongoing airstrikes in Iraq, and highlight the progress made on the international coalition he has hoped to bring together in the fight against ISIS. Obama may also highlight the importance of the newly formed Iraqi government in the battle against ISIS.

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Kerry Discusses New Iraqi Government Ahead of Middle East Trip

Kerry Discusses New Iraqi Government Ahead of Middle East Trip

Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Monday night about the ongoing situation in Iraq, hailing the formation of a new government.

“Tonight we mark what is unquestionably a major milestone for Iraq, and what President Obama has made clear will be a cornerstone of our efforts against [ISIS],” the secretary of state said. Kerry also noted that, “almost every single country on earth has a role to play in eliminating the [ISIS] threat, and the evil that it represents.”

Still, Kerry was quick to note that the battle to rid the world of ISIS will not be a quick and easy one. “Our global coordinated campaign with a global coordinated coalition will be built not just in a matter of days or weeks,” he said, “but it will be built to endure for the months and perhaps even the years to come.”

Kerry will travel to the Middle East, including stops in both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as he attempts to convince leaders to join the coalition to stop ISIS.

Kerry acknowledged on Monday that a pair of major cabinet positions within the new Iraqi government — Interior and Defense — remain unfilled, insisting “they will” be.

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Obama Responds to Ray Rice Video, Calls Domestic Violence ‘Contemptible’

Obama Responds to Ray Rice Video, Calls Domestic Violence ‘Contemptible’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Following the announcement that the Baltimore Ravens had terminated their contract with running back Ray Rice on Monday, after new video emerged of Rice punching his then-fiancée at an Atlantic City, New Jersey hotel, President Obama said it is the responsibility of “all of us” to end domestic violence.

“The President is the father of two daughters,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. “Like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society.”

“Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that’s true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors,” Earnest said.

Obama went on to say that domestic violence is “bigger than football,” and that all Americans have an obligation to combat it.

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