By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: President Obama breathed a sigh of relief after his re-election last year, comfortable with the fact that he had waged his last political race. Yet one of his most daunting campaign is still to come: selling the national health care law. His legacy - and the next chapter of the Democratic Party - will rise or fall over its success. The president is putting on his salesman-in-chief hat again today, trying to make the case once again that the plan will save Americans money. The White House lost its first communications battle on health care. How the president and his team fare on the next phase of the health care fight - a topic that will once again be at the heart of midterm election campaigns - is critical and highly uncertain.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Yes, the shiny-new-penny luster is gone from Sen. Marco Rubio as we grind through an immigration debate that was never going to go quickly or easily. But it's premature to go from there to where Politico's Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei go today in declaring Rubio "wobbly, even a little weak" in advance of 2016. For starters, we don't know where the immigration issue will be in 2016 when we don't even know where it will be in the fall of 2013. Rubio's positions on immigration are now as mainstream as they come, as demonstrated in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll out today showing majority support for both a path to citizenship and additional border security. That's the Senate bill, in essence, and Rubio's the main reason it passed with two-thirds support. That doesn't make his the majority Republican view on immigration, of course, and there was always going to be a candidate - if not several - who run to Rubio's right on the issue. Rubio very well may not be the GOP nominee in 2016. But the chance that stems from lumps he takes from legislating in 2013? Let's see how the year ends first.
ABC's GARY LANGER: A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and stricter border control, combined in a Senate bill on immigration reform, have distinct support profiles in today's latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. A path to citizenship gets markedly higher support from Hispanics, nonwhites overall, young adults, liberals and Democrats, compared with others. Stricter border control, for its part, is more popular among Republicans and conservatives. Support for a path to citizenship peaks at about three-quarters (77 percent) among Hispanics and liberals alike, compared with 49 percent of whites and 36 percent of "very" conservatives. It also reaches nearly three-quarters among 18- to 29-year-olds, vs. 54 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds and only 47 percent of those 50 or older. This poll was conducted by landline and cell phone July 10-14, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,004 adults. http://abcn.ws/12XllsW
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: At Liz Cheney's inaugural campaign event Wednesday she repeated a few familiar phrases as reasons why she is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., saying it is "time that we stand up and fight. That we can't go along to get along. We can't sort of say that we are going to accept business as usual." The lines sound right out of Sarah Palin's songbook. So will Palin end up backing Cheney over Enzi? It would seem to make sense and the two know each other. When they first met they bonded over both being the mothers of five children and Cheney has praised Palin in the past, but there may be a sticking point. Palin hasn't always gotten along with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. When he told ABC News' Jon Karl in July, 2012 it was a "mistake" for John McCain to choose Palin, she fired back on Fox News saying, "Seeing as how Dick - excuse me, Vice President Cheney - never misfires, then evidently he's quite convinced that what he had evidently read about me by the lamestream media, having been written, what I believe is a false narrative over the last four years, evidently Dick Cheney believed that stuff and that's a shame."
LIZ CHENEY SAYS SENATE OPPONENT MIKE ENZI IS 'CONFUSED'. Liz Cheney said Wednesday that Sen. Mike Enzi, her rival in the suddenly contentious Republican Senate race in Wyoming, was "just confused" when he told reporters Tuesday that he was unaware she was considering running against him next year, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and JEFF ZELENY report. "It's not true," Cheney told reporters in Casper as she formally announced her candidacy. "I did not tell Senator Enzi I wouldn't run if he did." "I think Senator Enzi may be confused," Cheney said, speaking at a press conference when she outlined her reasons for challenging the three-term incumbent. "What happened is, I called Senator Enzi to tell him that I was considering a run, and I have always believed that that decision should be made irrespective of whoever else is in the race." Decisions to run, she added, should be "based on what you think you bring to the cause based on the issues and the policies that matter." On Tuesday after Cheney, 46, had announced her intentions to challenge Enzi for the U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming, Enzi told reporters, "She said that if I ran, she wasn't going to run, but obviously that wasn't correct." He added, "I thought we were friends." http://abcn.ws/12xoFev
ENZI WEIGHS IN: On CNN Wednesday, Sen. Enzi stressed that he is "absolutely not too old to be senator. I'm the median age." "I'm only surprised in that she said if I ran, she wouldn't. She announced 30 minutes after I more specifically stated my intention," he told CNN.
POLL: MORE THAN HALF BACK CITIZENSHIP AND BORDER SECURITY PLANS ALIKE. More than half of Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and stricter border control alike - but with views on border enforcement significantly tempered by the multibillion-dollar price tag, ABC's GARY LANGER notes. When the cost isn't mentioned, 64 percent in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll support adding 20,000 border control agents and 700 miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. Given the $46 billion price tag, however, support declines to 53 percent. Fifty-five percent, in the meantime, support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now living in the United States, similar to what it's been in a series of ABC/Post polls that have asked the question since last fall. (Support peaked at 62 percent, in a poll in April, which specified that applicants would need to pay a fine and meet other conditions.) http://abcn.ws/12XllsW
SENATE GROUP REACHES TENTATIVE DEAL ON STUDENT LOANS. A bipartisan coalition of senators has reached a tentative deal over student loans, Senate aides told ABC's JEFF ZELENY and ARLETTE SAENZ, a move that could avert a major rate increase when students start classes next month. The deal tentatively reached Wednesday night with Senate negotiators would keep student loan rates steady through the 2015 academic year. But rates, which will be tied to financial markets, would climb in following years. The proposal awaits final approval, pending a review of its cost by the Congressional Budget Office. But aides said the plan would be cost-effective for the loans, which are overseen by the government and will affect more than seven million students. Democrats won a guarantee, aides told ABC News, that rates would never climb higher than 8.25 percent for undergraduate students. Graduate students would not see their rates exceed 9.5 percent, and parents' rates would cap at 10.5 percent. http://abcn.ws/12WzM0r
UN AMBASSADOR NOMINEE: SYRIA 'A DISGRACE HISTORY WILL JUDGE HARSHLY'. Samantha Power, President Obama's nominee to be the next United States ambassador to the U.N., spoke bluntly about Syria at her Senate confirmation hearing, ABC's DANA HUGHES reports. Power called the ongoing conflict, which the U.N. estimates has killed more than 90,000 people and produced 1.8 million refugees, "one of the most devastating cases of mass atrocity" she has ever seen. "I don't know that I can recall a leader who has, in a way, written a new playbook for brutality in terms of the range of grotesque tactics that the Assad regime has employed in response to a democratic uprising," she told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Power wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "A Problem from Hell," a comprehensive look at the role the United States and the United Nations has played in the world's biggest genocides. Her journalism and international activism have included travels to Bosnia and Sudan. In her testimony, she pointed to what has largely been seen as inaction by the U.N. Security Council on Syria as a symbol of the organization's dysfunction. "We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria - a disgrace that history will judge harshly," she said. http://abcn.ws/15Is8bM
LAWMAKERS WORK TO RESTORE THE 'HEART AND SOUL' OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT. Less than a month after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, the Senate Judiciary Committee met yesterday to begin a series of hearings designed to rebuild what Rep. John Lewis called "the heart and soul" of the legislation, ABC's FREDA KAHEN-KASHI writes. Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led the congressional charge to update the Voting Rights Act, calling on Congress, in Leahy's words, to "work together as a body - not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans - to ensure that we protect against racial discrimination in voting." In June, the Supreme Court struck down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that the formula used to determine which states must obtain federal permission before changing any voting laws is unconstitutional and outdated, meaning more than a dozen states no longer need permission to change voting laws. "The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart; it made me want to cry," said Lewis, a civil rights icon who testified before the Senate c0mmittee. "I felt like saying, "Come, come and walk in the shoes of people who tried to register, tried to vote, but did not live to see the passage of the Voting Rights Act.'" http://abcn.ws/14ZUSy9
IVANKA TRUMP SWITCHES TEAMS FOR CORY BOOKER. Newark mayor and Senate hopeful Cory Booker (D. - NJ) is going bi-coastal in his star-studded hunt for campaign cash, ABC's ALISA WIERSEMA notes. A Booker campaign aide confirmed to ABC News that the mayor plans to tackle a slew of major fundraisers in Washington, D.C., before moving on to a high-profile event in New York City hosted by Ivanka Trump and her husband, businessman Jared Kushner. According to RollCall.com, Trump and Kushner have bundled contributions totaling more than $40,000 for Booker's campaign as he takes on Rep. Frank Pallone and Rep. Rush Holt to be the Democratic nominee in an October special election for the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at age 89 . Trump's involvement with a Democratic campaign is a sharp contrast to her family's tendency to side with Republican candidates in the past. In 2012, she and real estate mogul father Donald Trump praised Mitt Romney's business sense and endorsed him in the presidential election against Barack Obama. http://abcn.ws/14fr96o
JIMMY CARTER OPINES ON GEORGE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT. Jimmy Carter says the jury made the right call in finding George Zimmerman not guilty, ABC's CHRIS GOOD writes. "I think the jury made the right decision based on the evidence presented, because the prosecution inadvertently set the standard so high that the jury had to be convinced that it was a deliberate act by Zimmerman, that he was not at all defending himself," Carter told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV. On Saturday, Zimmerman was found innocent by a jury in Florida. He shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012, Zimmerman maintains in self defense. "It's not a moral question, it was a legal question, and the American law requires that the jury listen to the evidence presented," Carter said. "The action that was taken in the courtroom was not to bring in the race issue at all. The prosecution avoided that subject quite clearly." http://abcn.ws/1aQQLu1
WHAT WE'RE READING
- "REPUBLICANS, WHITE HOUSE IN TALKS TOWARD BIG FISCAL DEAL," by the National Journal's Chris Frates. "At least a dozen Republican senators are regularly meeting with President Obama's top aides in an attempt to plot a way forward on the looming fiscal challenges facing leaders this fall, senators involved in the meetings tell National Journal. The meetings, which began after Obama hosted GOP senators for dinner earlier this year, are the first sign that Democrats and Republicans are in talks to strike a deal that would reduce the deficit and reform entitlements and taxes. 'Everybody's trying to assess whether we can accomplish something that would be big,' said Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who has attended the meetings. 'Big is reforming entitlements and it's impossible to see a path where you get additional revenue without tax reform being part of it.' This fall, the country will hit its debt limit and be unable to pay its bills unless Congress authorizes additional borrowing. Republicans plan to use the debate over raising the debt limit to force Democrats to cut spending - a negotiation Obama has said he won't engage in. But these meetings demonstrate that the president is in fact engaging Republicans in a broader discussion about debt and spending." http://bit.ly/12LXXO7
-"AMERICA'S GLOBAL IMAGE REMAINS MORE POSITIVE THAN CHINA'S," according to a major Pew Research Center report. "Publics around the world believe the global balance of power is shifting. China's economic power is on the rise, and many think it will eventually supplant the United States as the world's dominant superpower, according to a new 39-country survey from the Pew Research Center. However, China's increasing power has not led to a more positive public rating than for the United States. Overall, the U.S. enjoys a stronger global image than China. Across the nations surveyed, a median of 63% express a favorable opinion of the U.S., compared with 50% for China. People are more likely to consider the U.S. a partner with their country than to see China in this way, although relatively few think of either nation as an enemy. America is also seen as somewhat more willing than China to consider other countries' interests when making foreign policy. Still, both of these world powers are widely viewed as acting unilaterally in international affairs." http://bit.ly/1atHzrN
@PhilipRucker: Amazing quotes about Biden in GQ, including this, from Mayor Bloomberg: "He's got a set of balls." http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201308/joe-biden-presidential-campaign-2016-2013#ixzz2ZOoaQ4wk …
@politicalwire: Paternity test shows Rep. Steve Cohen is not the father of the woman he thought was his daughter http://politicalwire.com/archives/2013/07/18/paternity_test_shows_lawmaker_not_father_of_woman.html …