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Primary guide: Hot in Mississippi, cool in Iowa

miss_senate_split.jpg

Show here are Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, left, and primary challenger Chris McDaniel. (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Primary guide: Hot in Mississippi, Cool in Iowa
• Unions break with Obama over EPA regs
• Hillary touts Bin Laden kill, but ducks on Taliban deal
• Bret puts his heart into helping
• #YesAllHurricanes

PRIMARY GUIDE: HOT IN MISSISSIPPI, COOL IN IOWA
The power of conservative groups in Washington depends on being able to make Republican incumbents pay a price for liberal votes. Today’s Mississippi Republican Senate primary will have a lot to say about how much clout the leaders of outside groups have in the future. If any incumbent Senate Republican is a good target for a primary defeat, it’s Mississippi’s Thad Cochran. Cochran, who rode Richard Nixon’s coattails to Washington in 1972, didn’t even look like he was running for a seventh Senate term. At 76, Cochran had seen diminishing support in a state that had moved away from the socially conservative but fiscally liberal ideology of the previous generation to reject the porky politics for which Cochran is famous. Cochran, who has struggled on the campaign trail, has emphasized that he was drafted into the race. The reason is that Senate leaders knew that without him, Mississippi would almost certainly send a rebel to Washington. And with Democrats unlikely to win a general election in the deep-red state, arguments about candidate viability would prove no check on voters’ impulses.

[Watch the Fox News Channel for the latest coverage of tonight’s key primary contests, and track the races online at FoxNews.com]

Hot tea - However weak Cochran is as a candidate, though, his challenger is far from flawless. While the successful or nearly successful primary challengers of recent cycles have tended to be serious-seeming, like Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel is flamboyant. A trial lawyer and a former talk radio host, McDaniel is something of a showman on the stump and favors the kind of flourishes that may make listeners tune in, but might make the party faithful cringe. Establishment Republicans have argued that McDaniel’s radio commentaries on Mexican “mamacitas,” gay rights and other topics will prove fodder for Democrats in other races. The argument was that Mississippi Republicans had to think of the whole Senate, not just their members. Even so, polls showed McDaniel gaining and poised to overtake Cochran, who has resorted to encouraging Democrats to cross over and support him in the GOP primary today. But McDaniel’s momentum stalled with the revelation that four of his supporters had been charged in connection with photographing Cochran’s bedridden wife in a nursing home for an online attack on the incumbent. While the scandal does highlight Cochran’s advanced age, the ruthlessness of such a move and the affront to decorum in the tradition-bound state seems to have badly damaged McDaniel’s chances. Will that be enough for Cochran to win a term that would stretch into a sixth decade in Washington? Primary polls are notoriously difficult to conduct, but the consensus seems to be that Cochran is leading, but by a far too narrow a margin. He needs bigger than usual turnout, especially in Jackson the establishment-friendly precincts south of Interstate 20. If Hattiesburg and Biloxi come in big, they can save Cochran. If those folks stay home, McDaniel’s loyal supporters upstate, especially in fast-growing DeSoto County on the outskirts of Memphis, can pull off what may be the only primary coup of 2014.

[Polls in Mississippi close at 8:00 PM ET. For Results: Mississippi Secretary of State]

The stakes – To consider what’s at stake in Mississippi, first consider the national picture.The number of conservatives in the Senate will almost certainly grow with the likely addition of Ben Sasse from Nebraska and other contenders still vying for open and Democrat-held seats around the nation. So, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., will have reinforcements in their efforts to push the party establishment rightward. Their help for insurgent candidates in open seats will pay dividends for their efforts in years to come, even if Sasse and others aren’t always on board for every legislative gambit. But as for the groups that make up the conservative-industrial complex of Washington, like those in former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s network, Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund, it is by beating incumbents that they can they most quickly and directly increase their clout. DeMint’s Heritage Action was a main driver of the move to defund ObamaCare that resulted in the partial government shutdown of 2013. House members anxious about potential primary challenges froze up and refused to vote for any budget bills not backed by Heritage, including proposals to delay key provisions of the law. The result was that members kept pristine voting records, but Democrats made gains on policy. But would lawmakers be so willing to defer to outside groups in the future if none of the incumbents on the hit list are actually defeated? Unlikely.

[As Washington Examiner’s David Drucker points out, the Republican shift away from “repeal and replace” rhetoric, does not necessarily bode well for ObamaCare.]  

IOWA GOP LOOKS TO UNITE BEHIND PISTOL PACKING MAMA
How do you win the endorsements of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tea Party Express? It doesn’t hurt to pack heat, but the key to success for surging Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst has been to be bold on a few core issues, but otherwise keep a disciplined message. Ernst, a state senator and Iraq veteran, started out way behind moderate businessman Mark Jacobs in the race for the GOP nod to replace retiring liberal icon Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. When Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, looked a shoe-in for Harkin’s seat, Republican party elders said that the self-funded centrist Republican Jacobs was the right choice for November. But Ernst’s creative campaign ads and straightforward approach won admirers in the state and beyond its borders. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla former Govs. Mitt Romney, R-Mass, and Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, and others have joined the parade of her supporters. Ernst must clear a 35 percent threshold in the five-way race to avoid a July runoff, and polls show her poised to do just that.

[Polls in Iowa close at 10:00 PM ET. For Results: Des Moines Register]

Monday’s Suffolk University poll looked at three key counties, Black Hawk, Boone and Washington, and found Ernst leading in all three above the threshold for avoiding a runoff. But Iowa’s divided nature – a more conservative west versus a more moderate, Midwestern eastern half will still be a considerable factor. Ernst will be looking to run up the score in her native Montgomery County and nearby Woodbury County (Sioux City) while Jacobs will be looking to use his wealth to mobilize moderate voters in Polk County (Des Moines) and Story County (Ames and Iowa State University). The best county to watch is Dallas County in the Des Moines suburbs, where Ernst’s message as a down-to-earth mom looks tailor made to the electorate. Jacobs has been trying to knock down Ernst with aggressive direct mail attacks. Keep an eye out there to see if Jacobs has done enough damage to force a runoff.

Spoiler alert - The biggest problem for Jacobs’ effort has been state Sen. Matt Whitaker, a former federal prosecutor and University of Iowa football star. His campaign has been underfunded, but his resume and the support of his legislative constituents has denied Jacobs the chance to unite the more moderate eastern part of the state. Whitaker hails from Cedar Rapid in Linn County, a necessary addition to any Des Moines-based electoral strategy in Iowa. If Whittaker is running well, especially if Ernst is running second, it will be a short night for Iowa poll watchers.

OTHER PRIMARIES TODAY
Montana:
Walsh, Daines get set for Senate match-up - Facing his first test in keeping the seat he was appointed to four months ago, Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., is widely favored over former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger in the Democratic primary. Walsh’s November opponent is expected to be Republican frontrunner, Rep. Steve Daines, who faces distant primary challenges from state Rep. Champ Edmunds and political newcomer Susan Cundiff.

[Polls in Montana close at 10:00 PM ET. For Results: Montana Secretary of State. ]

South Dakota: Rounds looks to carve out Rushmore State for GOP - AP: “Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is favored to exceed 35 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff with any of four other candidates for the GOP Senate nomination to replace retiring Democrat Tim Johnson, [D-S.D]. Republicans nationally see the South Dakota race as one of their strongest chances to pick up a Democratic seat in 2014… The GOP primary winner will face unopposed Democratic business owner Rick Weiland.”

[Polls in South Dakota close at 9:00 PM ET. For Results” South Dakota Secretary of State.]

California: Battle to take on  Jerry Brown -  While Republicans don’t see a victory likely against Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., many in the GOP are hoping Neel Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official can pull off a win against State Assembly Member Tim Donnelly. Party officials have expressed concerned that Donnelly’s reputation as an outspoken Assemblyman could hurt fellow Republicans on the ballot. Receiving support from former Govs. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., Sarah Palin, R-Alaska and Jeb Bush, R-Fla., has helped Kashkari close a gap in polling over Donnelly.  It’s the first gubernatorial contest under the new all-candidates system in which the top two finishers, regardless of party, will square off in November.

[Polls in California close at 11:00 PM ET. For Results: California Secretary of State.]

New Mexico: Martinez waits in wings for Dem challenger - AP: “New Mexico Democrats choose among five candidates for governor Tuesday in a primary election to decide who will challenge Republican incumbent Susana Martinez, a rising star in GOP circles as the nation’s first Hispanic female governor… Seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination are Attorney General Gary King, Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber, former government administrator Lawrence Rael and state Sens. Howie Morales and Linda Lopez.” Martinez, who has 2016 GOP presidential or vice presidential potential, is unchallenged and sitting on a $4 million war chest.

[Polls in New Mexico close at 9:00 PM ET. For Results: The Albuquerque Journal]

New Jersey: GOP tries to hold the line - National Journal: “Both parties see the race for the New Jersey seat left open by Republican Rep. Jon Runyan as one of the most competitive of the cycle. House Democrats have already backed lawyer Aimee Belgard, while two candidates on the Republican side have fought a nasty race. Randolph Township Mayor Tom MacArthur is the favorite to win the GOP nomination after seeding his campaign with $2 million and earning the coveted endorsements of New Jersey’s powerful county parties. Tea-party favorite Steve Lonegan, the 2013 Senate nominee, started the race better known but couldn’t keep up with MacArthur's spending—to the delight of the Republicans who worried that the outspoken Lonegan would be a liability in a bellwether district in November.”

[Polls in New Jersey close at 8:00 PM ET. For Results: New Jersey Department of State.]

Alabama: Voter ID gets first run with Gov race on tap– AP: “More than 700,000 Alabamians voters are expected at the polls Tuesday for the first election where voters are required to show a photo ID… [In the gubernatorial contest] Incumbent Republican Robert Bentley faces former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George and retired Scottsboro businessman Bob Starkey. On the Democratic ballot, former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith of Huntsville squares off against former minor league baseball player Kevin Bass.”

[Polls in Alabama close at 8:00 PM ET.  For Results: WBRC]

UNIONS BREAK WITH OBAMA OVER EPA REGS
Washington Free Beacon: “Labor unions criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations on carbon emissions from power plants on Monday, highlighting growing tensions between the environmentalist and working class arms of the Democratic Party…United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) president Cecil Roberts blasted the proposal, saying it would leave tens of thousands of the union’s members unemployed…According to a UMWA analysis, Roberts said, the rule will cause 75,000 job losses in the coal sector by 2020, rising to 152,000 by 2035…The regulations also drew fire on Monday from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which warned they ‘focus solely on the environmental aspect of public policy at the expense of balancing our nation’s economic and energy needs.’’’

They have a phone, too: NRSC nails Dems on global warming regs - The National Republican Senatorial Committee is dispatching robocalls targeting vulnerable Democrats, seeking to tie them to the Obama administration’s newly announced rules regulating emissions from power plants. The list includes Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va, Mark Udall, D-Colo., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Sen.Mary Landrieu, D-La. According to the NRSC, Warner, Begich and Udall have supported the administration’s cap and trade agenda while Landrieu has financially backed candidates who support the regulations. From the script  of the anti-Begich call: “A cap-and-trade energy tax could have killed almost 6,000 Alaska jobs, and reduced disposable income for Alaskan households by more than $1,200. Tell Mark Begich that higher electricity costs, less jobs and these new EPA regulations, just don’t make sense for Alaska.”

[Watchdog.org examines how states are pushing back against the new EPA rules.]

Hagan embraces coal controls - WSJ: “In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan praised the EPA during a speech to local environmental activists last week, saying the agency's ‘ability to responsibly regulate greenhouse gas emissions is key to protecting our environment.’ Her calculus is that voters will welcome an environmental push after coal ash spilled into the state's Dan River in February.”

Brown digs deep on energy - New Hampshire Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown is slamming Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., over rising energy costs as he is touring the state to promote his “Making Energy More Affordable” plan.  Fox News First has a preview of an e-mail being sent to supporters today: “When Senator Sheehan was elected in 2008 she promised to be an independent voice for New Hampshire, but after six years New Hampshire families are paying the price--literally.  Senator Shaheen has proven to be a rubberstamp for President Obama’s failed policies and broken promises, and even supports a national energy tax that will kill thousands of jobs and increase the price of gasoline up to 20 cents per gallon.   Senator Sheehan has watched as energy prices burden New Hampshire families – taking more money out of our pockets and making it difficult to make ends meet.”

Awkward timing for Grimes - Washington Free Beacon: “Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is trying to distance herself from the Obama administration’s new plan to restrict carbon emissions, but her fundraising activities are creating a dilemma for her campaign and ammunition for her opponents…Grimes is… scheduled to attend a fundraiser Thursday in Washington, D.C., with Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who praised Monday’s EPA announcement.”

Reid PAC tries broad spectrum of attacks - After a spring spent mostly focused on attacking Charles and David Koch, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC is trying out new attack lines against Republican candidates. Reid’s PAC is hitting the airwaves in Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and New Hampshire. The group’s ad against Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., criticizes him for supporting raising the retirement age, while the attacks against Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., (watch) and Terri Lynn Land (watch) assail their pro-life positions. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is hit in a separate ad, claiming he slashed education budgets to favor large tax breaks for corporations.

[Politico details how Democrats are pouring big money into the Senate Majority PAC.]

Crossroads’ Arkansas spelling bee - National Journal: “Americans Crossroads is beginning a major ad buy in Arkansas on Tuesday, spending nearly a half-million dollars on a new TV spot that tells viewers Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor votes just like President Obama. And just as the Karl Rove-linked super PAC hits the airwaves, it's also releasing an internal poll of its own showing the GOP nominee, Rep. Tom Cotton, with a comfortable 5-point lead over the two-term Democratic incumbent among likely voters… In the spot, a grade-schooler is asked to spell "Pryor" in a kind of mock spelling bee. The child responds by spelling out ‘O-B-A-M-A,’ and the judges rule that she was ‘close enough’’’

Pick Six: Primary considerations - Republicans need six more seats to gain control of the Senate. Which Democrat-held seats are most vulnerable? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Will the results of today’s primaries change the list? We want you to weigh in. Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
LAT’s Melissa Healy explains how our Brain's limits lead to unconscious choices in what we see and remember: “The human brain is a marvel of power and flexibility, and a pair of new studies out Monday demonstrates that when it runs up against the limits of its capacity to take in and store information, the brain often relies on its agility to fill the gap. In the process, however, information can be lost… new research supports the idea that our brains use different sites in the visual cortex to interpret different categories of visual stimuli -- suggesting that, when confronted with too much of the same thing, those circuits can be overloaded. And it tells us that when we upload such groupings for long-term storage, we leave by the wayside objects that our experience tells us don't really fit into the picture. Although efficient, such selective memory can be wrong.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43.7 percent/Disapprove – 52.3 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.8 percent/Wrong Track – 62.7 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.2 percent/Republicans 41.6 percent

HILLARY TOUTS BIN LADEN KILL, BUT DUCKS ON TALIBAN DEAL 
The Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton was singing her own version of Perry Cuomo’s classic “Accentuate the Positive” in a campaign swing through Denver on Monday. She wasn’t shy about her role in the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. “You know I recommended to the president the he give the order, and he did” Clinton said, adding a bit of dramatic flare, “then really we were all holding our breath, literally in my case, until it was accomplished.” And why not, WaPo reports: [Clinton’]s staunch backing for the raid now has the potential to become one of the most politically rewarding decisions of her tenure, making it little surprise that the episode is expected to be a centerpiece of her forthcoming memoir…” But what about other decisions in the region in which she played a part, like the move by President Obama to free five high-level Islamist militants from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in exchange for the return of one accused Army deserter, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl? Then she was all about “eliminate the negative.”

[Did she know? - The Hill: “President Obama met with his former secretary of State for lunch on Thursday, two days before it was announced that Bowe Bergdahl had been released from captivity in exchange for five high-profile Taliban prisoners.”]

Wait, the song goes on - The former secretary of state defended the Obama decision as “noble” calling it, promotionally enough, one of those “hard choices,”  which just happens to be the title of her upcoming book. “You don’t want to see these five prisoners go back to combat. There’s a lot that you don’t want to have happen,” she said. “On the other hand you also don’t want an American citizen, if you can avoid it, especially a solider, to die in captivity.” Clinton’s views on that point seem to have evolved since she was part of the administration and by law would have had to sign off on any such deal. Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings wrote in 2012:  “Some top-level officials within the administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are very wary about making a swap for Bowe. ‘Panetta and Hillary don’t give a shit about getting him home,’ says one senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations. ‘They want to be able to say they COINed their way out of Afghanistan, or whatever, so it doesn’t look like they are cutting and running.’”

KELLY FILE: NO DOUBT OF DESERTION
Two American soldiers who were assigned to a platoon alongside Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly Monday they believe Bergdahl deliberately walked off base. Gerald Sutton and Cody Full served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan at the time he vanished and was later captured by the Taliban. Full told Kelly there were “telltale signs” that has left him with no doubt that Bergdahl had deserted. “[Berghdal was] talking extensively to the Afghan national police in a way that was not about hearts and minds, there was an agenda there when he spoke to them,” said Full. “I just don’t want to see him hailed as a hero, and I just want him face the consequences of his own actions and possibly face a court martial for desertion,” Sutton added. Watch the full interview here, courtesy of the “Kelly File.”

[Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes, demonstrates his unsurpassed connections inside the intelligence and special ops community, detailing the sentiments against the deal and the dangerous missions to try to rescue the accused deserter beforehand. Says one of his would-be rescuers: “There were times—there are still times—when I turn on the TV and I wish they'd just beheaded him on TV and gotten it over with.”]

Even Obama allows that Bergdahl may have been a deserter - “Regardless of circumstances, Whatever they may be, we’ll still get a soldier back if he’s in captivity. Full stop. We don’t condition that.” President Obama today addressing the controversial deal to release five Taliban Islamist leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

BAIER BOOK SHOWS LOVE FOR CHILDREN’S NATIONAL
Bret Baier
, anchor of “Special Report,” debuts his book “Special Heart” today.  The book is the touching personal story, told through Bret’s eyes as he and wife Amy faced the most daunting challenge of their lives: caring for their critically ill son. All profits from the sale of the book will go to benefit Children’s National Medical Center, the hospital the Baiers credit with saving their son. Read more here.

#YESALLHURRICANES
WaPo: “People don’t take hurricanes as seriously if they have a feminine name and the consequences are deadly, finds a new groundbreaking study. Female-named storms have historically killed more because people neither consider them as risky nor take the same precautions, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes. Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State University examined six decades of hurricane death rates according to gender, spanning 1950 and 2012.  Of the 47 most damaging hurricanes, the female-named hurricanes produced an average of 45 deaths compared to 23 deaths in male-named storms, or almost double the number of fatalities.  (The study excluded Katrina and Audrey, outlier storms that would skew the model). The difference in death rates between genders was even more pronounced when comparing strongly masculine names versus strongly feminine ones.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.