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Obama Raises the Volume on Rhetoric Against ISIS

Image: Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at his and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves's news conference at the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. Wednesday's statement came as U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Estonia in a show of solidarity with NATO allies who fear they could be the next target of Russia's aggression. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis) Mindaugas Kulbis / AP

One day after a second American was shown to be executed by ISIS militants, President Obama raised the volume of his rhetoric, especially since last week’s White House news conference. “Whatever these murderers think they'll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven [Sotloff], they have already failed,” Obama said in his remarks from Estonia today. “They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated… And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.” Later during his press conference, Obama added, “So the bottom line is this: Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.” That “degrade and destroy” language is VERY similar to the “disrupt, destroy, dismantle” language he used years ago against Al Qaeda. And while Obama’s word don’t reflect a change in policy yet, seeking to degrade and destroy means going wherever you can to find the terrorists -- and in this case, that would mean going into Syria. So the amped-up rhetoric sure appears to be a precursor to some expansion of what is now a war on ISIS.

GOP not winning the Senate could turn into nightmare for party

Turning to the midterms, one of us has a piece noting the biggest development this primary season, which concludes next week: The GOP got all of its desired candidates in the top Senate races -- meaning there isn’t a flawed Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin, or Sharron Angle. But here is something to chew on: What if Republicans still fall short this midterm season, despite getting the right candidates and despite all of President Obama’s political troubles? Then you can’t simply blame the Christie O’Donnells and Todd Akins anymore. Republicans not winning back the Senate and not picking up double-digit House seats could be a nightmare for the party. For one thing, it will hurt recruiting in 2016 (which expects to be a tougher year map- and electorate-wise). It could spark leadership fights. And it would rekindle the central ideological debate inside the party -- should it be more conservative or more pragmatic? (Conservatives will argue if the party comes up short, that the compromise candidates didn't fire up the base; the establishment wing will argue that the brand damage done by the conservative wing was to blame.) Currently, there are two schools of thought among Republicans. One school (those focused on the Senate races) is that winning back the Senate is the end-all, be all. But the other school of thought (especially those with an eye on 2016) is that they’d prefer coming JUST short of Senate control, because a GOP in charge of both the House and Senate could potentially help Hillary Clinton. But don’t underestimate the negative consequences of a Republican Party coming up short with THIS MAP and in THIS POLITICAL CLIMATE.

Democrats’ “shutdown” message vs. GOP’s “hodgepodge” message

Over the last several days, we’ve noticed that Democrats have increasingly played the “government shutdown” card against GOP candidates, especially in races featuring a House Republican running for the Senate. Such a move shouldn’t be surprising, since the shutdown represented the Democrats two best weeks, politically, since Obama won re-election in 2012. By contrast, the Republican message -- outside of its links to Obama -- is a bit more hodgepodge. We’re seeing immigration in some places (especially in the Northeast); we’re seeing coal in Kentucky and West Virginia; and we’re increasingly seeing references to the global instability. But what is significant here is how health care isn’t the unified GOP message we all thought it would be six months ago. Yes, health care continues to be a reference in Republican ads. But it certainly isn’t the unifying message it was before. As for the Democrats and shutdown, what is interesting about this gambit is that it is an attempt to nationalize some of these campaigns, something six months ago many Democrats said their candidates would NOT do. Instead, those red state Dems were going to try and localize.

Begich camp pulls controversial TV ad

Yesterday, we wrote about that controversial TV ad in Alaska, in which Mark Begich’s (D) campaign alleged that opponent Dan Sullivan (R) was state attorney general at a time when a convict received a plea deal for a lighter sentence and later went on to commit grisly crimes. Sullivan argues that the error resulting in the shortened sentence occurred before he became attorney general. Well, Begich has since pulled the TV ad, MSNBC.com’s Benjy Sarlin writes. The reason: The attorney representing the victims’ families of that grisly crime wanted it off the air. This is really the first big mistake by the Begich camp, which up until this point has been running a superb re-election campaign in a tough state for Democrats. Is a fatal mistake? No. But is it a mistake? You bet.

That must be some good wine!

This kind of story is exactly what Democrats have been hoping to exploit against wealthy Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner in Illinois. NBC Chicago: “As Governor Pat Quinn begins what many are calling a campaign stunt – living on minimum wage for a week – his opponent, Republican Bruce Rauner, admits he is a member of a wine club that costs $140,000 to join. A picture in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune showing Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel together in Montana four years ago shows Emanuel holding a bottle of wine from the Napa Valley Reserve, a private winery that Rauner refused to confirm to the Tribune that he was a member. However NBC 5 asked Rauner today if he belongs to the wine club to which he said, ‘I have many investments, I’m a member of many clubs.’ When asked if that's a yes, he confirmed, ‘Ah, yes.’”

Revolt against the two parties?

Going back to Alaska, don’t miss the story that Democrats are now backing an independent Republican for governor, with the previous Democratic nominee now running for lieutenant governor under an “Alaska First Unity ticket.” The Alaska Dispatch News: “The vote to support the fusion ticket was contingent on [Bill] Walker dropping his Republican Party affiliation. [Byron] Mallott will quit as the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor, as will his running mate, state Sen. Hollis French. But Mallott will remain a Democrat, executive director Kay Brown said after the vote.” More: “But the unity ticket is still a ways from being settled. Tuesday is the deadline for changes to the Nov. 4 ballot, and there’s nothing in law that provides for succession when a candidate for lieutenant governor resigns from a ticket put on the ballot by petition.” When you combine this story with what’s happening in that Kansas Senate race, we’re seeing the first signs of revolt against the two parties. And it’s happening in one-party states like Alaska and Kansas, because it’s easier for the out-the-power party (Democrats in these cases) to align with independents or more moderate wings of the Republican Party. Could this be a blueprint of what's to come? Keep an eye on both races. If both succeed, we could see this trend grow.

First Read’s Race of the Day: CA-52: Peters vs. DeMaio

Republicans use the phrase “rising star” A LOT to describe Carl DeMaio, their best shot at defeating Democratic incumbent Scott Peters. DeMaio, who was raised by Jesuits after his young mother’s death, is one of a handful of openly gay Republicans running for federal office. He narrowly lost the 2012 San Diego mayoral contest to the now-disgraced Bob Filner, boosting his name recognition and giving Republicans hope that he can rack up even better numbers this time around. Peters, whose wife is the CEO of a private equity company, will benefit from his status as one of the House’s top self-funders.

Countdown to Election Day: 62 days

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