By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • VOTERS ARE VOTING! Today more Americans are able to vote than any other day this primary season. That means more who are eligible to vote than at any other time until November. Eight states are holding primary elections including Mississippi, Iowa, California, New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, Alabama, and New Mexico. Here are a few things to watch for, courtesy of ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE:
  • WHO'S ON THE BALLOT? Today's marquee race - the battle for the GOP Senate nomination in Mississippi - is another Tea Party (Chris McDaniel) vs. establishment (incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran) battle that could mean the end of the six-term senator. Or not. The Iowa U.S. Senate race features a gun toting, hog-castrating candidate, Joni Ernst, who is trying to beat four of her fellow Republican opponents and avoid a nominating convention. California is trying out what is called a "jungle primary" for the first time in a statewide election. And there's even a spiritual guru with the backing of Kim Kardashian on the ballot in that state. That's just a sample of the many candidates voters have in the eight states voting today.

Get real-time election results and news about all the races you care about delivered right to your phone from now until November. To start, just "star" this story in ABC News' phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here.


IN POLAND OBAMA DEFENDS DEAL FOR BERGDAHL'S RELEASE. For the first time since his Saturday speech in the Rose Garden, President Obama defended the administration's decision to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, despite questions about his capture. "Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. True. Full stop," President Obama said at a news conference at the Belweder Palace in Warsaw, Poland this morning, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. "We don't condition that. That's what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into war theater should expect from not just their commander in chief but the United States of America."


HILLARY CLINTON DEFENDS BOWE BERGDAHL PRISONER SWAP. While speaking in Denver last night, Hillary Clinton weighed in on the release of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ reports. Clinton defended the Obama administration's decision to swap the five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bergdahl, noting that many of America's allies make similar deals and saying it's an example of the "noble" American tradition to care for its citizens and soldiers. "This young man, whatever the circumstances, was an American citizen - is an American citizen - was serving in our military," Clinton said, according to the Associated Press. "The idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one."


ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New EPA regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions were just announced by the White House yesterday, but they are already being used by both sides of the aisle in advertising campaigns. In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell's Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes immediately reacted in coal rich Kentucky launching what they are calling an "aggressive multi-medium push." First up: an ad in local newspapers that makes her position clear: "President Obama and Washington Don't Get it…Alison Grimes Does." The ad features a miner holding a piece of coal and Grimes promises if she gets to the Senate she "will work across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats to save coal jobs and fiercely oppose anyone who works against the Kentucky's coal industry." And today the National Republican Senatorial Committee is launching robocalls in Virginia, Louisiana, Colorado, and Alaska targeting Sen. Warner, Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Udall and Sen. Begich. In the robocalls the narrator calls the new regulations "all part" of the president's "radical energy plan." The calls end by asking the listener to tell their senator the new regulations "just don't make sense" for their state. LISTEN:


OBAMA SLIPPING ON INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS. Barack Obama's approval rating on handling international affairs has dropped under water for the first time in his presidency in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, a further challenge as he seeks to regain his footing in his second term, according to ABC's GARY LANGER. At 41 percent, Obama's approval rating for handling international affairs is down slightly, by 6 points, from early March, and down further, by 13 points, since his re-election, to a career low. Fifty percent disapprove, a new high, with those who strongly disapprove outnumbering strong approvers by 2-1. In further criticism on the international front, 58 percent say the Obama administration has tried to cover up the facts about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, essentially the same as sentiment on the issue a year ago. Fewer, but still half - 51 percent - favor a fresh round of congressional hearings. Some respite may be in the offing: While Obama gets an even 45-45 percent rating on handling one central element of U.S. foreign policy, the situation in Afghanistan, that blossoms to 77 percent support - including 57 percent "strong" support - specifically for his plan, announced last week, to remove most U.S. forces there. Even among Republicans and strong conservatives, hardly Obama fans, six in 10 support the drawdown.

-THE TAKEAWAY: The shift is a blow particularly since it directly follows an attempt by Obama to redefine his foreign policy, including a major address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point last week, LANGER notes. He's faced criticism on fronts ranging from Russia's annexation of Crimea to newfound assertiveness by China, continued civil war in Syria and the challenges of Afghanistan's future.

-SOME RESPITE MAY BE IN THE OFFING: While Obama gets an even 45-45 percent rating on handling one central element of U.S. foreign policy, the situation in Afghanistan, that blossoms to 77 percent support - including 57 percent "strong" support - specifically for his plan, announced last week, to remove most U.S. forces there. Even among Republicans and strong conservatives, hardly Obama fans, six in 10 support the drawdown.

4 DAYS, 3 COUNTRIES, 5 THINGS TO WATCH FOR ON OBAMA'S EURO-TRIP. President Obama is off and running on his second whirlwind trip to Europe this year, visiting three countries in four days. The president arrived this morning in Warsaw, Poland where he will help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the solidarity movement. He then heads to Brussels for a G7 summit on Wednesday. He'll dine privately with French President François Hollande in Paris on Thursday and commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy on Friday - all while Russian President Vladimir Putin is nearby. Here are five things to watch on President Obama's four day, three country tour of Europe, courtesy of ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ:

1. ALL EYES ON UKRAINE: The crisis in Ukraine will dominate President Obama's time in Europe one week after the country held successful national elections. President Obama will seek to offer reassurances to eastern European countries that the U.S. is committed to maintaining the region's security. He'll look to do so in his first stop in Warsaw, a western neighbor to Ukraine. The president is slated to meet there with central and eastern European leaders, including Ukraine's newly elected President Petro Poroshenko.

2. DANCING AROUND PUTIN: President Obama will meet with his G7 partners in Brussels after the leaders cancelled their participation in the G8, which was supposed to be held in Sochi, Russia. The move was a direct snub of Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russian aggression in Ukraine. President Obama and President Putin are scheduled to be in Europe at the same time, raising the question of whether the two will exchange words face-to-face for the first time since the crisis in Ukraine began.

3. REMEMBERING D-DAY: President Obama's trip will culminate with a stop at Normandy to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The president, who participated in the 65th anniversary festivities in 2009, will speak at the American cemetery in Normandy at a celebration honoring "the ultimate manifestation of the allies working together on behalf of freedom."

4. FLEXING FOREIGN POLICY MUSCLE: The president's trip to Europe comes at a time of renewed focus on foreign policy issues. Last week, the president outlined his foreign policy vision for the final two years of his presidency, including a plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by 2016, and stressed that diplomacy, not full scale military operations, should be key in future international efforts.

5. THE BERGDAHL FACTOR: President Obama travels to Europe just after the administration negotiated the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years. The administration sees Bergdahl's release as a major win, but criticism has poured in from Republican lawmakers who see the exchange of five Guantanamo detainees for Bergdahl as a risk to U.S. security. While the president is abroad, lawmakers stateside could continue lobbing these critiques.



OBAMA REBUFFS CRITICS OF EPA: 'SPIN OVERWHELMS SUBSTANCE.' President Obama yesterday pushed back against critics of his plan to dramatically cut U.S. carbon emissions, telling supporters it's a necessary to confront a looming threat to "this beautiful blue ball in the middle of space that we're a part of." "Climate change is real. It has impacts not just in a distant future. It has serious impacts as we speak," the president said during a conference call with public health advocates and other environmental supporters of the new proposed EPA regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, according to ABC's DEVIN DWYER. Opponents of the policy - both Republican and Democrat - have voiced skepticism of a human role in climate change, the costs of such change and concern about harm to the U.S. economy by unilaterally imposing new restrictions on American energy companies. House Speaker John Boehner yesterday called Obama's plan "nuts." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a "dagger in the heart of the middle class."

GORE CALLS OBAMA'S EPA RULES 'REALLY GOOD NEWS.' In his keynote address at Princeton University's class day yesterday, former vice president - and environmental crusader - Al Gore lauded President Obama's proposal for new Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would require the reduction of carbon emissions from coal plants by 30 percent by 2030, ABC'S ALINA KLEINEIDAM reports. "That's really good news. It's particularly important not because of the actual reduction that will come from this country alone," but because it can serve as an effort to "secure a global agreement wherein all nations will agree to take the kinds of steps that our nation agreed to take today," Gore told his audience. He said the proposal "re-establishes the moral authority on the part of the United State of America in leading the world community."

SUPREME COURT WON'T HEAR NY TIMES REPORTER'S PRESS FREEDOM CASE. The Supreme Court declined to take up a major press freedom case concerning New York Times reporter and author James Risen's fight to quash a subpoena for his testimony about confidential sources, according to ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE. The government served a subpoena on Risen in May 2011 seeking his testimony in a case against former CIA Agent Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling has been indicted for divulging classified information in violation of the Espionage Act. The government believes Sterling was a source for a chapter of Risen's 2006 book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." At issue before the court was whether there was a First Amendment or federal common-law privilege that protected Risen from having to testify about the identity of his sources.

COULD A POST 9/11 VETERAN REVOLUTIONIZE THE VA? President Obama should choose a post-9/11 vet, or at least someone "extremely familiar" with the community, to replace Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary, a veterans advocacy group insisted yesterday, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY and SERENA MARSHALL note. "We are the growing need. We are the future," Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO Paul Rieckhoff said. "We're not a problem, we are the solution." A post-9/11 vet with a thorough understanding of technology could "turn the VA from Borders into Amazon," better serving the growing number of vets struggling with complex injuries such as traumatic brain injury, he said. The 200,000-member organization in its 10th year outlined an 8-point plan today to help get the beleaguered VA back on track. In addition to seeking leadership, Rieckhoff said the VA's current IT system - which includes the scandal-plagued scheduling system that left veterans waiting months for appointments - is "woefully outdated."


MICHELLE, MALIA & SASHA OBAMA SPONSOR A SUBMARINE. As First Lady Michelle Obama put it, yesterday "three really solid Chicago girls" became maids of honor for one of the country's newest submarines - the USS Illinois. "I couldn't be more proud that I have my daughters, Malia and Sasha, who join me to serve as maids of honor for this vessel," Mrs. Obama said at the keel laying ceremony for the Illinois in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. It's believed to be the first Navy vessel the Obama daughters have sponsored, though they were not in attendance. "They are not here today because they had tests to take," Mrs. Obama said.


?@WSJPolitics: The NRA is calling a gun-rights group too extreme and "downright weird." (Photo: AP)

@rollcall: Dempsey says Bergdahl 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty' … via @StevenTDennis

@annaedney: More women doctors mean more physicians give campaign contributions to Democrats via @spettypi

@nycjim: Persecution of Jim Risen should just stop.

@sbg1: The Obscure 1970 Compromise That Made Obama's Climate Rules Possible (By Leon Billings, who helped write it) …

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