By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's ARIANE DE VOGUE: Should lethal injection be replaced by firing squad? One federal judge thinks so. Before Joseph Wood's controversial execution Wednesday, one federal judge reviewing the case earlier in the week opined that states should consider abandoning lethal injection executions in favor of a return to "more primitive" and "foolproof" methods such as the firing squad. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote an opinion on Monday expressing his belief that Arizona would ultimately prevail in its attempt to execute Wood who was convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989. But Kozinski said that using drugs to carry out executions is a "misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful." His words seem almost eerily prescient after conflicting reports emerged regarding whether Woods died peacefully, as one witness said, or gasping for air as another witness suggested. In the provocative opinion, Kozinski wrote: "Sure, firing squads can be messy," he wrote, "but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn't be carrying out executions at all."
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Yesterday we looked at the numbers in the Florida governor's race. Today let's take a very early look at the Sunshine State's 2016 numbers. Hillary Clinton is on top, even beating former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in a possible match up, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. In a head to head she comes in with 49 percent to Bush's 42 percent. Up against another Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio, Clinton has 53 percent to 39 percent. In a possible GOP presidential primary, Bush gets 21 percent of the vote in his home state, followed by Rubio with 18 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz is next with ten percent, followed by Sen. Rand Paul with 8 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 7 percent and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with only 6 percent. Clinton also tops a hypothetical Democratic primary, getting 67 percent compared to Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both with 8 percent. As for the president's job approval ratings , Florida voters give the president a negative 44 to 52 percent, similar to May when he had a negative 46 to 50 percent rating. Again, the 2016 numbers at this early stage are heavily weighted by name recognition, something to keep in mind with any early presidential polls.
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
SOLDIERS REUNITE WITH DOGS THEY SERVED WITH IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN. They're the four-legged veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - military war dogs, doing everything from sniffing out explosive devices on the battlefield to providing companionship to soldiers during wartime. Three of these dogs traveled to Washington, D.C., Wednesday with the same service members they served with on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, raising awareness about the need to reunite military war dogs with their handlers, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. "This is my best friend. This is my partner. This is my battle buddy," Army Staff Sgt. Jason Bos told ABC News of his dog Cila. The two partners reunited in April after serving together on nearly 100 missions in Iraq. Organizations like the American Humane Association and Mission K9 Rescue are working to reunite many of these service dogs with their battlemates once their service is complete. http://abcn.ws/1kcRL18 WATCH Jon Karl's "World News" report: http://abcn.ws/1nW2Eip
BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT, AT LEAST ON BASEBALL AND HOT DOGS. At least Congress can decide on two things: baseball and hot dogs, notes ABC's JAKE LEFFERMAN As partisan tensions mount and the August recess fast approaches, Washington lawmakers and their staffers took a break from politics to celebrate National Hot Dog Day. Sure, the border crisis remains unsolved, the House leadership still plans to sue the president and the health plans of millions of American's may be in jeopardy. But hey, a lawmaker's got to eat, right? National Hot Dog Day, the pinnacle of National Hot Dog Month, is a self-designated holiday by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. While most Americans won't be getting the day off, it was a chance for lawmakers to sample the fare of hot dog vendors from around the country. And because nothing pairs better with a hot dog than the nation's pastime, baseball Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Ken Griffey Sr. and Cecil Cooper were there to meet fans and sign autographs. http://abcn.ws/1nhBreK
GOP NY GOVERNOR CANDIDATE TO CONFRONT CHRIS CHRISTIE OVER REMARKS ON VIABILITY. Expect it to be rocky in Aspen. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is planning on confronting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over comments he made earlier in the week about his campaign's viability against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. On Monday while campaigning in Connecticut for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, Christie was asked whether he would hit the campaign trail for Astorino and he answered that he "will spend time in places where we have a chance to win, I said that right from the beginning." "We don't pay for landslides and we don't invest in lost causes," Christie continued. "If the New York race becomes competitive, I'll consider campaigning in the New York race, but right now, by the public polls, there's a lot more competitive races like this one in Connecticut." At a press conference Tuesday, Astorino said, "If Gov. Christie is unable to help a Republican candidate for governor, then maybe he should consider stepping down as chairman of the RGA. That's his job," according to the New York Daily News. http://abcn.ws/1r9Docq
A CONSERVATIVE THRILLER? 'PERSECUTED' DIRECTOR AIMS FOR MAINSTREAM. The next D.C. political suspense movie isn't what you'd expect, ABC's CHIRS GOOD notes. The forthcoming "Persecuted" is a lowbudget affair with some heavy political themes that appeal to conservatives and that its creator hopes will find a broader audience. The thriller explores themes of government censorship, conspiracy theories, free speech, and religious faith in the face of government suppression. It features former Republican presidential candidate, senator, and "Law and Order" star Fred Thompson and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson - -which may give it, at first glance, a conservative flavor. The film follows a fictional evangelical preacher framed for murder for refusing to support a bill concerning religion. It was screened in March at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the D.C. area, where it appealed to the conservative audience. "Persecuted" was reportedly funded by Kansas venture capitalist Jerry Simmons, but that is a detail Lusko would not confirm, declining to discuss the film's backers. Simmons is listed, however, as an executive producer. http://abcn.ws/1kcpYxJ
DESPITE CAMEO, TED CRUZ NOT A 'TRUE BLOOD' FAN. He may have landed a cameo on the hit show, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is apparently not a fan of HBO's "True Blood," note's ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. Following a particularly grizzly episode featuring Republicans murdered at a Ted Cruz fundraiser, the tea party darling blasted the show as "misogynist and profanity-ridden." "Well, I'm sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends," Cruz wrote on Facebook Tuesday. The episode, laced with tasteless (but admittedly creative) nicknames for Republicans, depicts guests cowering behind a Cruz poster dramatically ripped down by flying bullets. Good news for Sen. Cruz: What with all this vampire talk, Cruz has probably picked up the Twilight-obsessed teen girl vote. http://abcn.ws/1nUSVc6
PEOPLE KEEP TRYING TO SNEAK GUNS INTO THE US CAPITOL. A man was arrested yesterday morning attempting to enter the Cannon House Office Building with a loaded firearm concealed inside a bag, U.S. Capitol Police said. "A firearm was recovered as a result of an administrative search at the rotunda door of the Cannon House Office Building," police spokesman Shennell Antrobus confirmed, adding that the incident occurred at about 9:20 a.m. Yesterday;s action follows a similar incident last week when a congressional staffer attempted to enter the same building and was charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Last week's event occurred at the South East Door of the Cannon House Office Building at about the same time in the morning, according to ABC's JOHN PARKINSON. http://abcn.ws/1A6ielt
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
HARDING'S LOVE LETTERS TO MISTRESS MAY ACTUALLY HELP HIS IMAGE, HISTORIANS SAY. The now notorious love letters of former President Warren Harding may ironically be the basis of a belated campaign to improve the image of the man generally considered to be one of the country's worst presidents, notes ABC's NOAH WEILAND. Harding's grandnephew Richard Harding made the case before a packed Library of Congress assembly Tuesday by saying, "It is with some ambivalence, but with a sense of history, that we are present." Richard Harding and a battery of historians and archivists said Tuesday that the salacious letters - some of them 40 pages long - give new insight to the man who has been called America's worst president. "Warren Harding doesn't need protecting. He needs honest and hard-working historians to tell the story like they see it," Richard Harding told the gathering. The roughly thousand pages were written by Harding between 1910 and 1920 to Carrie Phillips, when Harding was lieutenant governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator. http://abcn.ws/1uglEl3
@Noahbierman: Great @mviser story on @BarneyFrank return to Congress (as a visitor) http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2014/07/23/barney-frank-returns-testify-congress-scene-old-friendships-and-few-old-grudges/YSfEnPJzyOLFIFV0Fy0mjN/story.html …
@bethreinhard: Mitt Romney turned down Urban League invite in 2012. Rand Paul asked for one. http://on.wsj.com/1nE5DC6