By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- VOTERS ARE VOTING: The primary season continues, and today is one of the biggest days left on the calendar. Voters in eight states are going to the polls: It’s primary day in New York, Maryland, Oklahoma, Colorado and Utah. But, as ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes, the one we’re all watching is the run-off in Mississippi where Incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran is in the fight of his life against tea party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi GOP Senate primary. This has been called the nastiest primary this year. The two first faced off on June 3, but since neither crossed the 50 percent threshold, they will meet again today. The first time around was a nail biter of a race with McDaniel on top with 49.5 percent of the vote to Cochran’s 49 percent. Less than 1,400 votes separated the two. http://abcn.ws/1qGADCi
- FIVETHIRTYEIGHT’S TAKE: For the first time, our friends at FiveThirtyEight.com have joined us to explain the importance of today’s big races. Senior Political Writer HARRY ENTEN weighs in on the Cochran vs. McDaniel contest: “In the first round, Cochran ran up the score in four types of counties. He did best in his home county of Lafayette in the north; the counties with large African-American populations along the Mississippi Delta in the northwest; Hinds and Madison counties around the highly populated city of Jackson in the center of the state; Harrison County on the Gulf of Mexico and Lauderdale County in the east, which are anchored by military bases. McDaniel did best in two places. SWING COUNTY: Rankin is right near Jackson, but African-Americans make up a much smaller percentage of the population than in Hinds or Madison. Cochran won the county by two points in the first round. IS COCHRAN’S STRATEGY OF COURTING BLACK VOTERS WORKING? Claiborne and Jefferson counties in the southwest should tell the story. African-Americans make up about 85 percent of the population in both counties. Cochran won only 161 and 121 votes respectively in Claiborne and Jefferson in the first round. If he has expanded the electorate, Cochran will be doubling if not tripling those totals in the runoff.” http://abcn.ws/1qGADCi
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: Have they stayed too long? Together, Charlie Rangel and Thad Cochran have logged 84 years since first being elected to Congress. But that could all end tonight in New York and Mississippi. For Rangel, the makeup of his district has changed. For Cochran, the Republican politics of his state have evolved. But beyond those distinct differences, these two men from different parties are seeing that the power of incumbency has diminished. The question tonight: If Chris McDaniel topples Cochran in the Mississippi run-off, will that embolden Tea Party candidates elsewhere? The first place to look will be Tennessee, where Sen. Lamar Alexander has been raising money and bracing for a tough primary fight, which so far hasn’t materialized. But a Cochran defeat will make the next seven weeks more nerve-wracking and challenging for Alexander and entire the Republican establishment.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Part of what’s remarkable about the Cochran-McDaniel primary is how little it’s been about either Thad Cochran or Chris McDaniel. One of those men will be the GOP Senate nominee in Mississippi after tonight, and he’ll have a range of outside groups that have set up shop in the state to thank/blame. We’re witnessing a professionalization of primaries, particularly on the Republican side, where the maybe half a dozen organizations – tea partiers, and business and establishment types – move their road show like a Globetrotters tour. They fight it out and then shift to new ground, leaving legacies that Washington has to cope with somewhat more permanently.
POLL FINDS CRITICISM OF OBAMA ON IRAQ — DESPITE AGREEMENT ON GROUND FORCES. More Americans disapprove than approve of Barack Obama’s response to the situation in Iraq, even while the public broadly agrees with his decision not to send U.S. combat forces there, according to ABC’s GARY LANGER. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll marks the difficulties Obama faces in crafting a popular response to the deepening crisis. Two-thirds oppose sending ground troops to fight the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, a step the president himself ruled out last week. Regardless, just 42 percent approve of the way he’s handling the situation, while 52 percent disapprove. The public divides evenly on another potential option, the use of air strikes. Highlighting a disconnect between policy preferences and presidential approval, “strong” disapprovers of the way Obama is handling the situation outnumber strong approvers by a 2-1 margin, yet strong opposition to sending troops exceeds strong support by 3-1. A variety of related views may inform these attitudes. Steadily since late 2004, majorities of Americans have said that, given its costs vs. its benefits, the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. And when Obama moved to withdraw all U.S. forces in 2011, he enjoyed 78 percent support. Clearly it’s a conflict the public is reluctant to revisit. http://abcn.ws/1pIwlbG
with ABC’s SCOTT WILSON
OBAMA LINING UP ISIS TARGETS AND KEEPS ‘PREROGATIVE’ TO STRIKE. President Obama is lining up ISIS targets in Iraq and may launch an attack on the militant Islamic militia that is threatening Baghdad even if he does not get an agreement with the Iraqi regime, Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday. Speaking in Baghdad after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other political leaders, Kerry said Obama is “each day” gaining more certainty of the targets he would strike if the United States decided on its own to take military action, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG reports. “He has reserved the right to himself, as he should, to make a decision at any point in time if he deems it necessary strategically,” Kerry said. Obama has said he would not provide Iraq more military support unless it forms a government more accepting of religious minorities, but Kerry stressed that Obama wouldn’t hesitate to have the U.S. conduct its own military operations if necessary. “The president has moved the assets into place and has been gaining each day the assurances he needs with respect to potential targeting,” Kerry said. http://abcn.ws/1izUa4O
JOE BIDEN SAYS HE IS “THE POOREST MAN IN CONGRESS” Vice President Joe Biden says he understands the financial struggles of working parents with young children because he is “the poorest man in Congress,” reports ABC’s DEVIN DWYER. Biden, who earns a $230,700 annual salary, made the remarks before attendees at the first-ever White House summit on working families in Washington, D.C. The VP’s attempt to highlight his modest upbringing and comparative poverty among high-profile politicians stirred speculation that he may have been deliberately drawing a contrast with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has spoken publicly of her wealth, or lack thereof. Biden said people may look at him and say he has “a mildly expensive suit on” and that “he’s vice president of the United States of America,” but nevertheless, “this is the poorest man in Congress,” Biden told the crowd. “I don’t own a single stock or bond…. I have no savings accounts, but I got a great pension and I got a good salary.” http://abcn.ws/1lLRXDW
UPDATE: CLINTONS ARE NO LONGER “DEAD BROKE”—JUST “NOT TRULY WELL OFF” Hillary Clinton’s latest attempt to explain away her comment that she and Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House has prompted her to possibly stumble into another verbal thicket, saying that they are not “truly well off,” according to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ. In an interview with the Guardian published Sunday, Hillary Clinton made a third attempt to tamp down the “dead broke” comment, made earlier this month to ABC’s Diane Sawyer. While defending the millions of dollars she and the ex-president have earned giving paid speeches and writing books, she insisted they are not “truly well off” like other wealthy people they know, fueling criticism that the potential presidential candidate does not relate to ordinary people. KREUTZ details Hillary’s recent attempts to justify her claim to poverty. http://abcn.ws/1uYqIWp
PRESIDENT OBAMA DISCUSSES WORKING FAMILIES (AND CHEERIOS). President Obama delivered a spirited, and at times politically charged, stump speech for working families today, drawing on his own experience as a father of two teenage daughters to call for greater flexibility in the workplace, according to ABC’s DEVIN DWYER “I am lucky that my daughters were a bit older by the time I became president, so I never had to meet a world leader with Cheerios stuck to my pants. That has not happened,” Obama joked in his address at the White House Summit on Working Families. Obama praised companies that offer employees the flexibility to work from home, or leave work early to tend to a sick child, or take an afternoon off to see their children in a school play or a sports game. He also praised businesses that support generous family medical leave and maternity leave programs and child care. “Family leave, child care, workplace flexibility, a decent wage — these are not frills; they are basic needs,” he said. “They shouldn’t be bonuses; they should be part of our bottom line as a society.” http://abcn.ws/1q26Nbb
MICHELLE OBAMA ON WORK-FAMILY STRUGGLES At Monday’s White House Summit on Working Families, first lady Michelle Obama admitted to a few of her own struggles as a working mother while making the case for flexible workplace policies for families, ABC’s ALISA WIERSEMA reports. “The first thing I tried to do, which was a mistake, was that I tried the part-time thing…I realized I was getting gypped on that front,” she told ABC’s Robin Roberts at the event, which aimed to bring attention to strengthening the nation’s workforce by addressing various workplace difficulties. “What happened was I got a part-time salary but worked full time.” “The first thing the president can do is lead by example,” the first lady said, but also mentioned that the “policy front requires elected officials who care.”Mrs. Obama also noted that the public should care about the direction in which women’s education is headed by urging girls to pursue jobs in STEM fields “early on.” By getting involved in math and science subject areas, she argued that girls would be less likely to doubt themselves in the future. http://abcn.ws/UCoxNh
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
9 QUESTIONS FOR ZACH DASHER: DUCK DYNASTY BACKED CANDIDATE Zach Dasher, a nephew of “Duck Dynasty” TV star Phil Robertson, has announced he’s running for Congress in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY notes. Dasher, a conservative Republican who unapologetically emphasizes religion over politics, may end up running against incumbent Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., whose recent dalliance with a married staffer has earned him the nickname the “kissing congressman.” Until the scandal, members of the Dynasty family were high-profile McAllister supporters. Indeed, Dasher’s cousin Willie Robertson was McAllister’s guest of honor at the president’s State of the Union address earlier this year. It’s unclear whether McAllister will run for re-election against Dasher, a sales specialist who’s on sabbatical from a biotech company. Regardless, Dasher, 36, says, the “Dynasty” family is “110 percent” behind his campaign. ABC News recently spoke to Dasher, a married father of four, about his family’s controversial personalities, their relationship with McAllister and his vision for the nation. FULL INTERVIEW: http://abcn.ws/1nwNcLx
WHAT WE’RE READING
“FUNDRAISING ASSISTS BOEHNER’S GRIP ON HOUSE GOP,” by USA Today’s Susan Davis. “Speaker John Boehner is donating more than $1 million to the House Republican campaign fund this week, a total that suggests he is consolidating power in the House, not planning for retirement. On Tuesday, the Ohio Republican will announce at a closed-door meeting that he is transferring $1.5 million from his campaign war chests to the party’s House campaign committee, bringing his total contribution to $17 million so far for the 2014 elections, more than any of his House colleagues. All told, Boehner has helped raise $88 million for Republicans for the 2014 campaign. The tally includes contributions from his three fundraising committees as well as direct mail, online solicitations, headlining member fundraising events, and coordinated fundraisers with the Republican National Committee and state parties. The breadth and pace of Boehner’s fundraising runs counter to speculation in recent months that he is mulling retirement.” http://usat.ly/1wqfY5H
@PhilipRucker: Today, Hillary Clinton has good opportunity to gain control of wealth narrative with income inequality remarks & youth jobs program at CGI.
@AaronBlakeWP: Years in Congress for avg senator: 10.2 Years in Congress for avg senator who lost primary: 22 http://wapo.st/TrAX9Z
@HuffPostMedia: Journalists around the world protest Egypt’s verdict against Al Jazeera journalists http://huff.to/1lMFazK