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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: Escalation
“President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad,” the New York Times reports .
The Washington Post reports : “Ukraine said Tuesday its forces detained a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev warned of a possible “Russian-directed counteroffensive” by pro-Moscow separatists, raising tensions between the two countries ahead of a planned meeting between their presidents at a regional summit.”
The Post also explores the complex relationship between Qatar following the weekend release of an American journalist. The White House said that the U.S. asked the Qataris not to pay ransom.
The president will travel to Charlotte today to announce new executive actions to improve the mental wellness of veterans, the AP writes. The AP also notes the political implications of the trip: “The state's Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, is in a difficult re-election race and Obama is not popular in the state. Hagan was scheduled to speak to the American Legion too, but her spokeswoman declined to say whether she would appear on stage with the president.”
And House Republicans announced Monday that law firm BakerHostetler will represent them in their impending lawsuit against the president, NBC’s Frank Thorp V reports . It could cost the House up to $350,000.
OFF TO THE RACES: Next-to-last primary day
Voters in four states, including Florida, head to the polls today to cast ballots in primary and runoff elections. The AP notes one of tonight’s big storylines: “Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is set to find out how much momentum he has for a political comeback, as Democratic primary voters decide whether to nominate the former Republican for a chance to reclaim his old job.”
And The Hill rounds up some of the other House races to watch tonight.
In midterm news, the future of the Export-Import Bank is turning out to be a key issue in some of the country’s most hotly contested Senate races, the Times reports.
And on the 2016 front, Politico uncovers a series of closed-door fundraisers Joe Biden has been holding that have been left off his schedule.
And Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the few potential presidential candidates believed to be weighing a primary challenge to Hillary Clinton, announced he will be traveling to both New Hampshire and Iowa in the coming weeks, The Hill reports.
ARIZONA: “Multiple polls show [Gubernatorial candidate Doug] Ducey as the favorite, but nobody's likely to be calling this one until the last primary vote is counted. Pop some popcorn and get comfortable, it could be a long night,”the Arizona Republic writes .
FLORIDA: A lack of any real electoral drama is expected to keep turnout light in today’s primary, the Miami Herald notes.
IOWA: The role Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst played in a sex assault case while she was in the National Guard is coming into question, Politico reports.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce officially endorses Ernst.
Meanwhile, Bruce Braley has this new web video saying he’ll protect Social Security and Medicare – and contrasting that with Ernst’s record.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Washington Post notes the delicate balance Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan will need to strike today when an unpopular president visits her state.
TEXAS: Lawyers for Rick Perry on Monday motioned for a judge to dismiss the case against him.
PROGRAMMING NOTES.
*** Tuesday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Today Tamron talks to MSNBC.com National Reporter Trymaine Lee, one day after Michael Brown was laid to rest. She will also talk to The Weather Channel’s Carl Parker about Hurricane Cristobal, and get the highlights from the Emmy’s with Variety’s Brent Lang.
*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Kristen Welker fills in for Andrea and will interview Sen. Robert Casey, UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory Director Richard Allen, msnbc.com’s Trymaine Lee, AP’s Julie Pace, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, msnbc Counterterrorism Expert Michael Leiter and we will carry President Obama’s address to vets at the American Legion Convention in Charlotte.