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Obama’s embrace of ‘theater’ on ISIS helps struggling Dems

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger on how Congress wants to address threat


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Buzz Cut:
• Obama’s embrace of ‘theater’ on ISIS helps struggling Dems
• Baier Tracks: Long week
• First in Fox News First: NRCC ramps up with six new spots
• Joe Biden and a busload of nuns
• Of hogs and serenity

President Obama
and Democrats hit the panic button two weeks ago as voters expressed deepening despair over Obama’s foreign policy and the makings of a terrible tide in November were taking shape. The president acknowledged having failed at “the theater” of presidential leadership and, after a fashion, turned to new, more dramatic language about his incremental escalation of the effort to contain Islamist militants who keep beheading Westerners in their captivity. While White House officials briefing reporters on Monday said they wouldn’t be running on the ISIS war, per se, they expressed satisfaction that the president’s new more resolute persona had stabilized things with voters. The briefers laid out the events of weeks to come designed to highlight the president’s new part. As lawmakers gnaw on a proposal to provide more arms to rival rebel factions in Syria, the president is getting ready to take his show on the road, with stops in Atlanta to show engagement on the expanding threat of the Ebola virus and in Florida where he will visit military commanders.

[What will 100 grand buy you? - President Obama was the guest of honor Monday night at a Democratic Senate fundraiser with the amazing price of $100,000 per attendee at the posh Jefferson Hotel]

On the home front - But while the president has altered his playbill to indicate attentiveness to national security issues, he and his party also have been deploying new measures against Republicans as the midterm season heats up. And it seems to be working. Democrats are seeing returns on a strategy to use superior financial resources to attack Republicans for trying to buy elections. As today’s fundraising totals show, well-heeled Democrats are dumping far more money into keeping the Senate than Republicans and their allies are putting into trying to win it. Having spent so heavily in the early going to blunt the bucks of conservatives, the president and his team are carefully turning toward rallying the Democratic base. Obama’s campaign schedule is taking shape and the president has cut his first ads of the general election season, radio spots aimed at black voters and single women.

Seven weeks - How’s it going? Despite abysmal polls for the president and deep frustrations with Democratic polices, the party seems to be staving off catastrophe. Are Republicans counting Senate chickens before they’re hatched and not donating and mobilizing? Will a late surge in spending by pro-GOP groups change the landscape? There are just seven weeks to find out.

New Normal: Dem incumbents benefitting from national gloom - American Enterprise Institute data mavens Karlyn Bowman and Jennifer Marsico explain how voters can be so deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country and its governance but still not storming to the polls to boot out incumbents: As in the 2012 election, a new normal of lowered expectations and resignation “to a less bright future at home and abroad.” Their forecast is for GOP gains, but tempered by a defeatist spirit about the future. “A lot can change between now and the November 4 elections. But it seems to us that right now that passive dissatisfaction is the order of the day, rather than an active, energized one that brings many voters to the polls,” the pair wrote. “That may be why the polls in so many hot Senate contests this fall aren’t moving much.”

Say anything - The impeccably sourced David Drucker explains one reason why Democrats are doing better – they’re staying focused: “Outside liberal groups are running more effective ads in key Senate races by sticking to the script, while conservative groups focus too much on their own agendas, Republican strategists say. While many conservative groups focus on their traditional messages, left-leaning super PACs and nonprofits are working together and tailoring their ads to the themes Democrats are campaigning on, allowing them to reinforce the candidates' messages — and the party's overall arguments about the election. ‘When it comes to aligning their message and coordinating activities, the left gets it better than anyone,’ a senior GOP strategist confided to the Washington Examiner. ‘Labor groups will run ads about contraception if that will help them win. It’s not just how much you spend but how you spend it. Our groups rarely get outside their comfort zone.’”

“It’s only Tuesday and the bad foreign policy news seems to be piling up. The ISIS coalition looks shaky at best, President Obama’s push to get the Defense Department to fight Ebola suggests a bigger threat than first appreciated, Iran seems emboldened in the current environment, China is increasingly willing to push back against U.S. interests and North Korea is starting to act out again. Needless to say, the U.S. does not need any more headaches abroad. But Afghanistan is essentially falling apart, both politically and militarily. The June 14 Afghan election is still unresolved and now, the Afghan military may start splitting up and choosing sides between the two rival candidates. The infighting has allowed the Taliban to – as crazy as it sounds – take the political high ground. A deteriorating Afghanistan as US troops start to leave there would join a deteriorating Iraq and an Islamist army trying to set up a caliphate. And it's only Tuesday.” – Bret Baier

Roll Call: “The latest television spot from [Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate] Alison Lundergan Grimes shows her skeet shooting on a farm as part of the Senate nominee’s attempt to create distance with an unpopular president in the midterms… In the spot, after firing a few rounds at clay pigeons, Grimes looks at the camera and says ‘I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.’ The ad, which according to the campaign is backed by a significant buy in the six-figure range.”

But assailed over amnesty - The conservative group Kentucky Opportunity Coalition is attacking Allison Lundergan Grimes in a new ad seeking to tie her to President Obama’s immigration agenda saying, “Allison Grimes, proud supporter of Obama’s amnesty plan…their plan citizenship for millions who broke the law, illegal immigrants would become eligible for taxpayer funded benefits.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., goes first person in his attack on challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., over Gardner’s pro-life stance suggesting he is stuck in the past in a new ad. Udall appears in the ad saying, “How is it that we are still debating a woman’s access to abortion or birth control. For most of us, those debates got settled by the last generation.”

Crossroads hits Udall on pandering - Washington Examiner: “One of the leading pro-Republican outside groups will try to chip away at Sen. Mark Udall’s support among women with a new ad launching Tuesday. Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of the Karl Rove-backed group American Crossroads, will debut a television advertisement throughout Colorado urging women voters to ‘vote ‘no’ on Mark Udall.’ … The ad, ‘Talk,’ features four women chatting around a kitchen island about the upcoming election. ‘We aren’t single-issue voters,’ one woman says. ‘We care about good jobs that support our families.’ ‘Shouldn’t Mark Udall talk about the issues?’ another offers....The ad marks the opening salvo in a $6 million blitz Crossroads GPS has planned for Colorado through the end of October.”

AJC: “[Former president] George H.W. Bush endorsed Republican David Perdue in [Georgia’s Senate race]… Democrat Michelle Nunn has invoked her ties to the elder Bush in ads and campaign rhetoric.”

[The latest WSB-TV survey continues to show a close race with Democrat Michelle Nunn leading Republican David Perdue 46 percent to 43 percent.]

Alaska Republican Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan is releasing a new ad in conjunction with the launch of, attacking Mark Begich’s flip flopping record saying, “In Alaska, Begich claims he’s a ‘thorn in Obama’s side,’ but in Washington, he votes with Obama 97 percent of the time…Mark Begich isn’t true Alaska, he's pure Washington.”

Republicans need six more Senate seats to take control of the upper chamber. Which blue seats are the most vulnerable in this year’s midterms? Here are the top picks among Fox News First readers: Arkansas (13.7%), Montana (13.0%), West Virginia (12.1%), Louisiana (11.7%), South Dakota (9.9%) and North Carolina (9.6%). Reader Ken Dargis of Wilmington, Delaware, is a Democrat who thinks that his deep blue home state will be a real indicator of problems for his party this fall and wouldn’t be surprised if the GOP took 12 seats.

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Fox News: “An ObamaCare provision that requires individuals to pay separately for abortion coverage to ensure abortions are not funded by taxpayers is being widely ignored by insurance providers, according to a government watchdog report released Monday… ‘The GAO has found ObamaCare massively funds abortion on demand,’ Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said Monday...In its report, the GAO found that 23 states restrict how insurance plans offered in the ObamaCare exchanges may include abortion as a benefit, and 28 do not. The GAO then surveyed 18 insurance providers within the 28 states that do not restrict abortion coverage to determine how the coverage is being handled. According to the GAO, 17 of the 18 providers surveyed said they were not billing policyholders separately for the abortion coverage.”

What is the world’s most famous Christian band? Hint: Their latest album was automatically downloaded to your iTunes account last week. New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman digs into theology and complicated cultural role of U2, led by devout Christians who often sing their faith, but seek to stay relevant in a secular audience. But there are reasons beyond just branding and marketing. Rothman writes: “Much of the confusion around U2’s faith stems from the fact that they’ve never been an ‘officially’ Christian rock band. The ambiguity goes back to the band’s origins, in the Dublin of the late seventies, during the Troubles. In a country divided along sectarian lines, little about organized religion was attractive.” As the great Danish author Hans Christian Anderson once said, “Where words fall, music speaks.”

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.3 percent//Disapprove – 54.2 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.4 percent//Wrong Track – 65.1 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.7 percent// Republicans – 45.7 percent

-- 49 days until Nov. 4 --

New today: The National Republican Campaign Committee is launching ads in six races today, on the attack in five Democrat-held districts and on defense in one GOP-controlled district. Plus, the committee has booked another $613,225 against embattled Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas.

- Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and retiring Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, team up in “Endorse” for David Young, who fought his way through a tough GOP primary for Latham’s seat. He is facing Democrat Staci Appel.

- In the ad titled “Rancher,” Rep. Ron Barber, D-A.Z., is hit with Washington’s failure to address border security. Barber faces Republican nominee Martha McSally.

- Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., gets smacked for spending and GOP nominee Carl DeMaio gets praise for fiscal “Cash.”

- In a rare move, the GOP goes on offense over abortion against Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., for his pro-choice stances with a first-person spot from a young mother in his district policies in “Rachel.” Barrow faces Republican nominee Rick Allen.

- Democrat Aaron Woolf, who is trying to defend an open, Democrat-held seat in upstate New York against Republican nominee Elise Stafanik, gets mocked as “Brooklyn’s upstate congressman” in “The Get Together.”

- Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., has seen it before, but he’s going to see it many times more in his coal-rich, socially conservative district: President Obama publicly praising the congressman, one of his earliest and most vocal supporters in the Mountain State. The NRCC calls the spot, not surprisingly, “Obama.” Rahall faces Republican Evan Jenkins.

Obama winning war on coal - Daily Caller: “[T]he Government Accountability Office…found that power companies have already or plan to retire 13 percent of the country’s coal-fired power capacity through 2025 due to federal environmental rules — above the GAO’s 2012 prediction that only between 2 and 12 percent of the country’s coal capacity would retire through 2025. …[R]etirements ‘from 2012 through 2020 could reach…about 16 percent of net summer generating capacity available at the end of 2012.’”

Bring a helmet - Democratic Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W. Va., dons a miner’s hard hat to attack his GOP challenger Evan Jenkins in a new ad claiming Jenkins wants to take away benefits for retired coal miners.

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head… - What’s a day in the life of House Speaker John Boehner like? Take a look at the “organized chaos” of the first 12 hours of the speaker’s day, starting with his first cup of coffee. Lots of coffee.

With Iowa Democrats finishing off 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s steak fry leftovers, potential rival Vice President Joe Biden rides into Des Moines Wednesday to join Sister Simone Campbell and the Nuns on the Bus to kick off the group’s 2014 tour in support of federal campaign spending regulations. The 10 state “We the People, We the Voters” bus tour, organized by the liberal activists, plans to engage voters at 75 events in 36 cities along the 5,252-mile route. Biden is billing taxpayers for the trip since it is deemed an “official visit.” Biden, who just a year ago delivered a red meat speech that teased 2016 intentions as the star of the Harkin steak fry, has taken a back seat this year in Hawkeye State. The vice president’s recent travel itinerary has a 2016 air about it, he was in New Hampshire earlier this month stumping for vulnerable Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

[Watch Fox: Campaign Carl Cameron is on the road in Iowa to see what’s driving voters in this year’s Senate race.]

Joe’s in back of the bus New Hampshire - Hillary Clinton continues to lead potential Democratic 2016 contenders, according to a Granite State survey. 60 percent of respondents to the latest CNN/ORC poll favor the former first lady. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is second with 11 percent, followed by Vice President Joe Biden brings up the rear with 8 percent.]

Potential 2016 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., didn’t disagree with an activist who compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Holocaust, the Weekly Standard reports. At an event Monday, a questioner is heard saying she was “extremely concerned that Jews don’t do to another people what was done to them” in the Holocaust. Warren’s response: “I think that’s fair.” The comments may undermine Warren’s recent outreach to Jewish voters and verbal support of Israel.

Conservative group Judicial Crisis Network continues to pursue Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., on the campaign trail, this time as he forays today into early-primary state of South Carolina. The group’s radio ad is focused on Christie’s appointments to New Jersey’s high court, including a Democrat as chief justice. The group is also offering a poll which shows Christie struggling in the conservative southern state.

The Hill: “Former Arkansas Gov. [and Fox host] Mike Huckabee (R) is taking the necessary steps to run for president again in 2016, vowing he wouldn’t make the same mistakes he made last time, if he pulls the trigger. The Republican told a group of reporters on Monday over coffee at a restaurant just outside of D.C. that he learned from his failed 2008 bid that he can’t take money and fundraising for granted, even though he is leading in GOP early primary state polls… Huckabee said he’s in talks with donors, and, ‘with a lot of people, it’s [going] pretty good.’ He pointed to the nonprofit, America Takes Action, which he recently set up that, he says, has already raised seven figures.  ‘Not a single person I’ve asked [to contribute to the group] has said no,’ he told reporters. A new CNN/ORC poll out Monday gave Huckabee 21 percent support among GOP voters in Iowa — almost twice as much as the next-strongest contender, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), with 12 percent support — and his supporters argue a Huckabee presidential candidacy is looking more viable than it has in the past.”

[Washington Examiner’s Byron York considers how Mike Huckabee may be gearing up a 2016 run.]

New in Fox News Opinion - Potential 2016 GOP contender Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., outlines his jobs plan to address America’s needs. Jindal’s solution: “Let’s develop our untapped energy resources.”

Fox News: “More than four decades after Jimmy Carter served as governor, his grandson is making a play to restore the family at the helm of the Georgia state capital -- in no small part by distancing himself from his controversial granddad.”

Constant barking is one of many reasons why dogs are returned to pounds and shelters, a difficult problem to solve. But just a spritz of “pig perfume” will do the trick, according to a recent study. John McGlone, a Texas Tech scientist created the scent while looking for a way to train his dog out of non-stop barking. “We sprayed it in their nose or toward their head while they were barking…barking and jumping, running back and forth,” he said. “This whole behavior stopped. You could almost see them thinking, ‘What was that?’” McGlone hopes it is used as training method rather than a circus trick. He is continuing to test scents released by other animals to see if there is any benefit in the commercial marketplace.

“This is called a coalition of the unwilling… [President Obama] telegraphed it in his speech, everybody understands: He’s ambivalent. They’ve all looked at what he did in Afghanistan and in Libya, and they say, ‘If the leader of this coalition is ambivalent and reluctant, why should we join?”’ – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier

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

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.