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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: The latest in Iraq

The latest in Iraq, from the Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration is signaling that it wants a new government in Iraq without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, convinced the Shiite leader is unable to reconcile with the nation's Sunni minority and stabilize a volatile political landscape."

Meanwhile, the government in Baghdad wants U.S. airstrikes to "break the morale" of insurgents there.

Iraq is complicating U.S. efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, the New York Times notes. "The Iranian leadership had a message for Washington on Wednesday: If President Obama really wants some cooperation on stabilizing Iraq, he might first think about speeding forward with a permanent deal over Iran’s nuclear capability."

One of us(!) wrote yesterday that Bush-era architects of the Iraq War are reemerging to criticize the Obama administration. And here's another to add to the chorus: John Bolton. "Mr. Bolton is unique among Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and the others in that he has two political action committees and is flirting with an all-but-hopeless campaign for president, which seems to be fueling him in what amounts to a homecoming week for the Bush administration, minus the tailgating."

The Washington Post profiles "standoffish oddball" Ahmed Abu Khattala.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins' trademark, upping the tensions between lawmakers and the hometown team.

Per NBC’s Perry Bacon: “A group of 1000 women of color, including Angela Davis, Rosario Dawson, Anita Hill and Alice Walker, are circulating a letter to the White House criticizing the ‘My Brother's Keeper’ program, which Obama announced with great fanfare a few months ago, for leaving out women of color. The letter is here.

CONGRESS: The REAL leadership battle doesn’t take place today

The New York Times writes that the real battle for House leadership isn't today's elections, but the contest months or even years away to become the heir apparent to John Boehner.

"The three-way whip race — which pits well-connected Republican Study Committee chairman Steve Scalise (La.) against current chief deputy whip Rep. Peter Roskam (Ill.) and youthful Indiana conservative Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman — seems increasingly likely to require multiple votes, a possibility that adds an element of unpredictability to a contest in which Scalise seems to have in recent days built a sizable advantage," writes the Washington Post in a preview of the leadership elections.

The Post's Paul Kane gets to the root of the House wrangling: "An aggrieved bloc of Southern House Republicans is flexing its political muscle, trying to stake a regional claim to increased congressional power after nearly four years of feeling neglected."

The Hill points out: Where are Rand Paul and Ted Cruz on Iraq? The two GOP contenders are treading carefully around the contentious and unpredictable issue.

OFF TO THE RACES: “Quietly pushing back”

Team Obama is "quietly pushing back" against Hillary Clinton's claim that she was asked to attack Sarah Palin because of her gender, POLITICO reports.

Rupert Murdoch pushes immigration reform in the Wall Street Journal: "If we are serious about advancing our economic future and about creating job growth here in America, then we must realize that it is suicidal to suggest closing our doors to the world's entrepreneurs, or worse, to continue with large-scale deportations."

A new NPR poll: “In the key battleground states that will decide control of the Senate this November, President Obama's approval numbers are lower than they are nationally – but not much lower. That's the key finding in a new poll, conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic, that sampled likely voters for NPR. In the 12 states with competitive Senate races this fall, only 38 percent of likely voters said they approved of the way the president is handling his job.”

Um. From the National Journal: Brian Schweitzer on Eric Cantor: “How do I say this … men in the South, they are a little effeminate…. They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I'm fine with gay people, that's all right—but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he's not, I think, so I don't know. Again, I couldn't care less. I'm accepting."

ARKANSAS: At a House hearing on the Bergdahl swap, candidate Tom Cotton chastised White House staff giving blind quotes to "shut up."

Cotton’s campaign has released a new internal poll that shows him leading Pryor 47%-40.%

COLORADO: Following on that big turnaround from Gov. John Hickenlooper on new gun regulations signed into law, from the Denver Post: "Gov. John Hickenlooper told county sheriffs at a recent gathering he felt conflicted about supporting a bill that limited ammunition magazines, but because one of his "staff made a commitment," he felt compelled to sign it into law. "To be honest, no one in our office thought it would get through the legislature," Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in an unedited video recorded by the conservative group Revealing Politics. "There were several Democrats who said without question they weren't going to vote for it.""

GEORGIA: The governor's race between Nathan Deal and Jason Carter is getting nasty over education issues.

KENTUCKY: The Courier-Journal writes that Alison Grimes is trying to "change the subject" from EPA regulations to low wages.

LOUISIANA: Here's the Times-Picayune on Bobby Jindal's Common Core flip: "The Louisiana Legislature, the state school board and almost all other high-ranking state education officials have indicated they want to stick with Common Core. Still, Jindal called on them to come up with "Louisiana standards and a Louisiana test" to replace current academic standards."

MORE: "Gov. Bobby Jindal's long-awaited announcement of his plans to scuttle the Common Core academic standards in Louisiana set off a political scramble and procedural tug-of-war Wednesday. It left the state's public education system in confusion, with no active contract to buy standardized tests for the school year that starts in August."

A Koch-affiliated group geared towards young adults is on the air attacking Mary Landrieu on spending.

Here is the TV ad.

MISSISSIPPI: Thad Cochran’s newest TV endorser? Brett Favre. "I've learned through football that strong leadership can be the difference between winning and losing," Favre says a new ad. "Mississippi can win, and win big, with Thad Cochran as our strong voice in Washington."

TENNESSEE: Hoping to capitalize on Dave Brat's success, Lamar Alexander opponent Joe Carr is challenging the incumbent to sign a "no amnesty" pledge.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews NBC’s Richard Engel, Sen. Jack Reed, WaPo’s Robert Costa, NBC’s Luke Russert, Col. Jack Jacobs, NPR’s Don Marsh

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and TIME’s Jay Newton-Small on Iraq; Washington Post reporter Cindy Boren on the Redskins trademark cancelation; Jason Hanna, a Texas father who was denied parental rights to his twin sons because he is gay, and Family Equality Council Executive Director, Gabriel Blau; NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer on his flex time proposal.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Andrea will interview NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Richard Engel and Luke Russert, Fmr. Ambassador Christopher Hill, Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes and Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards Honoree Suaad Allami.

*** Thursday’s “Ronan Farrow Daily” line-up: British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Iraq, Iran and sexual violence in war, David Boies on the anniversary of the repeal of Prop 8 and his book with Ted Olson, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, and actress Rosie Perez on arts in schools.

*** Thursday’s “The Reid Report” line-up: The program will be covering two live events at 2:00 pm ET: President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter. Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Medal of Honor recipient, and Goldie Taylor, a former U.S. Marine. We will also have live coverage of the House GOP Leadership elections on capitol hill as republicans choose a new Majority Leader.