By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
- TODAY, IN TENNESSEE: The tea party has its last, best chance to beat an incumbent senator in a race that's a marquee match-up with the GOP establishment. After millions of dollars, the tea party failed to topple incumbent senators in Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, and most recently earlier this week in Kansas. If Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander beats back his tea party challenger state Rep. Joe Carr, this will be the first cycle since 2008 when no incumbent GOP Senator has lost a re-nomination fight, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and CALEB JACKSON report. http://abcn.ws/XGDTSy
- INSIDE THE RACE: Carr has tried to paint Alexander as out of touch with the conservative state, but that argument has already failed in the other states where tea party challengers tried to beat incumbents. Alexander also nabbed endorsements early and has stressed his ability to get things done in Washington by working across the aisle, including on the polarizing issue of immigration reform. Carr is backed by Sarah Palin and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, who helped Dave Brat beat Rep. Eric Cantor in the shocker of the cycle. Alexander raised over $6.6 million to Carr's $1.1 million. http://abcn.ws/XGDTSy
- FIVETHIRTYEIGHT'S TAKE: Alexander should be strongest in the eastern part of the state, as is the pattern with establishment Republicans, according to FiveThirtyEight.com's HARRY ENTEN Alexander performed best there in his competitive 2002 senatorial primary against Ed Bryant. The east is anchored in-and-around Knoxville (Knox County) and also includes Hamilton County (Chattanooga) and the Tri-Cities region (Sullivan and Washington counties) in the northeast. Carr will be looking to run up the score in the central part of the state. He represents part of Rutherford County, which is to the southeast of Nashville. It was one of Rick Santorum's best counties in the 2012 presidential primary. Carr should also do well in next door Wilson County, which was among Romney's worst counties and is home to over 2 percent of the primary vote in 2012. http://abcn.ws/XGDTSy
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Ahh, recess. A time to recharge and relax and break some DC tension, far away from Washington. Unless… Don't miss this quote, from an event outside Chicago earlier this week: "We got a president, listen, it's his birthday," House Speaker John Boehner told a crowd, according to Politico. "I called him today to wish him a happy birthday. Told his staff, 'Tell him I said happy birthday.' And he sends me an email back telling me how good his golf game is. I wanted to reply, but I didn't. I did not reply, I wanted to, because I would've said a few things." Alright - tell us what you really think, Mr. Speaker. Then realize that we have another two-plus years of the Boehner-Obama relationship. Or just think about possible Boehner successors, and think about what they would tell the president, given the opportunity. In other words, enjoy the summer. http://politi.co/1sl28is
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Today is it for the tea party. It's their last opportunity to topple a big prize, a U.S. Senator. If Sen. Lamar Alexander and his 35 year career survives the fight against Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr it will be the first time since 2008 when no incumbent GOP Senator has fallen. They've had some close calls, in Mississippi and even a tighter than expected outcome earlier this week in Kansas, but besides millions of dollars and fights in other states including Kentucky and South Carolina, the long-serving incumbents are standing. The tea party did get one big one when Eric Cantor fell, but national tea party groups didn't even get in that race or spend money. Somewhat ironically, that one just seemed too much of an uphill battle for the ultimately successful Dave Brat. The credit goes to the candidates, of course, but also the NRSC. And even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who survived his own primary fight and told the New York Times in March of insurgent candidates, "I think we are going to crush them everywhere…I don't think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country." That vow looks spot on.
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
OBAMA: AMERICANS 'DON'T WANT ME JUST STANDING AROUND TWIDDLING MY THUMBS'. President Obama vowed once again to "try to make progress" on issues like immigration reform, reducing student debt and ensuring equal pay for women by using his executive authority as long as Congress remains gridlocked, he said at a press conference Wednesday, according to ABC's ERIN DOOLEY. "The American people don't want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done," the president said in response to a question from ABC News' Jonathan Karl. I'm bound by the Constitution," Obama acknowledged. "I'm bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can't do." "But the president said his preference was "to work with Congress, because not only can Congress do more but it's going to be longer lasting." For example, Obama said he would "love to fund" large infrastructure projects that would put Americans to work "but without the cooperation of Congress," there are other options at his disposal. "What I am consistently going to do is wherever I have the legal authorities to make progress," he said. "I'm going to seize those opportunities." http://abcn.ws/1oe8kdN
-HAPPENING TODAY: This morning President Obama delivers remarks and signs H.R. 3230, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act at Fort Belvoir, Va. The bill, a response to the allegations of long wait times and poor care at VA hospitals, is intended to provide the VA "the resources to improve access and quality of care for veterans," the White House notes.
-ABOUT LAST NIGHT: The president and first lady dined out with friends at Fiola Mare, the hot new Italian place in Georgetown.
RAND PAUL COURTS IOWA WITH CORNY TIE. URBANDALE, Iowa - Take one look at Sen. Rand Paul's tie and you'd think the Kentucky Republican is already running for president. In homage to the state of Iowa, Paul donned a maroon tie bearing ears of yellow corn this morning as he spoke at the Westside Conservative Club Breakfast here, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ and JEFF ZELENY report. The breakfast was one of the final stops on his three-day, eight-city tour through Iowa that had him crisscrossing the state, going everywhere from Okoboji to Hiawatha, spanning the entire length of the state. "We've done a lot of driving. We've seen a lot of corn," Paul joked as conservative activists ate breakfast at the Machine Shed restaurant, a ritual stop for Republican politicians. Paul is among the flurry of candidates dropping into Iowa this month, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, hoping to leave a lasting impression one year before the presidential race heats up in the state that is traditionally the first stop in the race to the White House. http://abcn.ws/1AVMX5b
NOTED: 7 UNMISTAKABLE SIGNS THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE HAS ALREADY STARTED. The year 2016 might seem pretty far off, but as politicians head home for August recess, a slew of possible presidential hopefuls are making a mad dash for everyone's favorite vacation destination: Iowa. Normally, Iowa is only afforded the standard one governor and two senators, but for a window of time in August, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Gov. Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Gov. Bobby Jindal are all making a pilgrimage to the Hawkeye State. Though none of these prominent politicians has formally announced plans to run in 2016, touring around Iowa can never hurt one's chances. ABC's SCOTT WILSON reads the tea leaves with seven signs that the presidential race has already begun: 1. Destination Iowa 2. Tractor Rides With a Candidate 3. Hoe-Down With a Big Donor 4. Rand Paul Runs Away 5. Rand Paul Attacks 6. Campaigning Like It's 2016 7. Getting on Their Soapbox. http://abcn.ws/1kn6vua
ARE GOP WOMEN WINNING THE WAR AGAINST THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN? Democrats say Republicans are fighting a war on women. Republicans say Democrats are fighting a war on the GOP. But in the war against the war against women, it's conservative women's voices that resonate, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY notes. And when liberals attack conservatives for using women as tokens, they may undermine their own message, Republican strategists say. In the latest battle over "war on women" rhetoric, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader under fire for his alleged "anti-women agenda," drafted his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, to defend his record on women's issues. "Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women, as if every woman agrees with Barack Obama?" Chao says in an ad released Tuesday. "[Democratic challenger] Alison Lundergan Grimes' gender-based attacks are desperate and false. … Alison, supporting the Obama agenda isn't pro-woman, it's anti-Kentucky." WATCH THE ADS HERE: http://abcn.ws/1odGYo8
MICHIGAN CANDIDATE SOUGHT TO GIVE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE A 'VOICE'. Primary election season has presented quite the spread of interesting, and flat out peculiar candidates, but none quite like this. Meet Taras Nykoriak, the unsuccessful candidate for the Michigan state Senate 2nd District seat who said he recently returned from the front lines of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. He raised eyebrows after releasing a campaign ad that features him standing in front of what appears to be a digital backdrop of a cathedral wearing priest-like clothing, according to ABC's CALEB JACKSON. He begins the ad saying, "standing firm with the people of Ukraine - the only protection my breast plate of righteousness, my cross - I was at the front lines of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and I'm ready to stand with the same weapons to protect and defend my constituents in Detroit's 2nd Senate District." Nykoriak, in an interview with ABC News said, "I call Putin, Osama Bin Putin." http://abcn.ws/1pDtK2e
WHAT WE'RE READING
WHEN GOVERNMENT GETS BOGGED DOWN IN VITRIOL. Driving this week along the winding coast of Maine, and taking time to walk the rocky shore as the sun set over the hills and pines, I was struck by the contrast of the beauty of our country and its people, and the ugly and divisive politics that confront us each day out of Washington, D.C., notes ABC's MATTHEW DOWD. Whether you live or are vacationing on either coast or all the beautiful spots in between, it is a contrast that is apparent to the vast majority of folks in these United States of ours. When folks sweetly and readily give you directions if you're lost along the byways, or are happy to tell you of a great spot to get a bite to eat, or step politely out of the way on a path to see a sight, none of them ask if you are a Republican or Democrat. They just do what is in their heart and what needs to be done in their mind. There is a universal set of values embraced by the vast majority of folks in these United States. http://abcn.ws/1AVzESa
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
BOEHNER'S OFFICE ROLLS OUT NEW SITE: SPEAKER.GOV/JOBS. An announcement from House Speaker John Boehner: "It began as a question: are we keeping track of all the jobs bills the House has passed? Soon, the question became a list, and then as the bills piled up, the list became a to-do list for Senate Democrats. Today the to-do list is a website - Speaker.gov/JOBS - which we've re-launched with a clean and clutter-free look to better serve Americans asking 'where are the jobs?'" http://www.speaker.gov/jobs
@McFaul: My latest piece: "To Beat Putin, Support Ukraine" http://nyti.ms/1vcJ77e
@HouseInSession: Why It's So Hard to Move Up From Majority Leader to Speaker http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/why-it-s-so-hard-to-move-up-from-majority-leader-to-speaker-20140807 … via @nationaljournal