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Boots on the Ground, But Whose? U.S. Builds ISIS Coalition

The challenge the United States faces: If we’re not committing ground forces, how do you persuade other countries and entities to do it?
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The good news for the Obama administration is that the international coalition against ISIS is -- slowly but surely -- coming together. “France’s president said there was ‘no time to lose’ in the fight against ISIS, as Secretary of State John Kerry joined leaders from more than 20 nations at a crisis meeting in Paris on Monday to come up with a strategy to defeat the militant group in Iraq,” NBC News reports. “French aircraft were due to begin their first reconnaissance flights over Iraq, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. The U.K. also has been flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq.” The bad news: The White House can’t officially announce any countries who have pledged ground troops. “Well, you will hear from Secretary Kerry on this over the coming days. And what he has said is that others have suggested that they're willing to do that. But we're not looking for that right now,” Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. More from McDonough: “We're trying to put together the specifics of what we expect from each of the members.”

How do you persuade others to provide ground forces if you’re not doing it?

McDonough admitted that ground troops ARE necessary to degrade and destroy ISIS, but he repeated that they won’t be coming from the United States. “We need ground troops, that's why we want this program to train the [Syrian] opposition, that's currently pending in Congress. And that's why we want to make sure that this coalition bring Sunnis to the fight.” Later on “Meet,” Republican Party elder James Baker, added, “The biggest [problem], of course, is who are our, quote, ‘partners on the ground’ that the president referred to in his speech. And I don't know where they come from.” The challenge the United States faces: If we’re not committing ground forces, how do you persuade other countries and entities (outside the Iraqis, Kurds, and Syrians) to do it?

Public supports Obama but lacks confidence that U.S. will achieve goals against ISIS

Here’s new polling we released yesterday: Nearly 70% of Americans say they lack confidence that the U.S. will achieve its goals in fighting the terrorist group ISIS, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll. Still, 62% of voters say they support Obama’s decision to take action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while 22% oppose it. “The bottom line: The president has made his case to the American public, and like other presidents who faced war and peace issues, support usually follows,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helped conduct the survey. “The difference in this military encounter is that, right out of the box, Americans are skeptical if this will work.” Our take: 13 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the American public is thinking about this pretty rationally -- they want to support the president, but they also know the threat isn’t going away easily, or at all. The silver lining here for the Obama White House is that maybe it has a more patient public than we all think.

“I’m baaaacckkk,” Hillary tells Iowa Democrats

Hillary Clinton’s appearance in Iowa yesterday was dominated by 2016 talk, and she did nothing to quiet it at Tom Harkin’s annual (and final) steak-fry event. “Hello, Iowa, I’m baaaacckkk," Clinton told the crowd of more than 5,000, per NBC’s Perry Bacon. “It’s true, I’m thinking about it,” she added, referring to 2016. “But for today, that’s not why I’m here.” And don’t miss NBC’s Andrea Mitchell working the rope line, where she asked Hillary if it feels great to be back out in Iowa. Her answer: “It’s great. It was a great day. Couldn’t have been better.” Then there was Mitchell’s exchange with former President Bill Clinton:

Mitchell: “If she wants to, could she do it this time?”

Bill Clinton: [Laughs.] “I have nothing to say. It’s not my decision.”

Mitchell: “I think I know which way you would vote.

Bill Clinton: “No, you don’t. I don’t yet know which way I would vote.”

Meet Bernie Sanders

Meanwhile, a potential Democratic challenger to Clinton if she runs -- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) -- appeared on “Meet the Press” yesterday. He seemed to be leaning toward running as a Democrat (instead of his current status as an independent), but it’s worth asking if that will fly with Democratic voters in a Democratic primary. “I am thinking about running for president and the issue of whether you run as an independent with the necessity of setting up the 50-state infrastructure… running as a Democrat—that’s something that I’m looking at right now,” he said. “Look, the truth is, profound anger at both political parties, more and more people are becoming independent, the negative is, how do you set up a 50-state infrastructure as an independent?” (So he would tell Democratic primary voters that the only thing stopping his from running as an independent is that it’s too hard and costly?) Also in the interview, Sanders appeared reluctant to take on Hillary Clinton. “The issue is not Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for many years. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. The question is: At a time when so many people have seen a decline in their standard of living, when the wealthiest people and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, the American people want change. They want Congress, they want candidates, to stand up to the big money interests.”

Today’s polls that matter

In North Carolina, an Elon College poll shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D) up four points over Thom Tillis among likely voters, 45%-41%. And in New Hampshire, a CNN poll has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Scott Brown (R) tied at 48% each. (After that poll came out, Democrats were kick to release an internal poll showing Shaheen up, 51%-43%.) Nationally, the polls couldn’t look worse for Democrats, as our NBC/WSJ showed last week. But if you go state by state, you still see how Democrats could narrowly hold on to their majority. Then again, they can’t afford to lose New Hampshire.

Today’s TV ad to watch: Alison, Get Your Gun

As Alison Lundergan Grimes works to distance herself from a president who’s deeply unpopular in her home state, she’s doing what Democrats often do in some situations -- pack heat. In her newest ad, Grimes goes skeet shooting, aiming up into the sky as she narrates some of her biggest disagreements with Obama. “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA,” she says. But the kicker comes with a dig at Mitch McConnell’s own efforts to prove his 2nd Amendment cred by holding a rifle aloft during an appearance at CPAC earlier this year. “And Mitch,” she says at the end of the 30-second ad, “That’s not how you hold a gun.”

Don’t miss this ad from late last week

Sullivan talks about combating domestic violence: In Alaska’s Senate contest, Dan Sullivan (R) released a TV ad on Friday highlighting his efforts to combat domestic violence. Talk about seizing on a VERY big story as of late.

First Read’s Race of the Day: FL GOV: Scott vs. Crist

The contest in Florida between incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist (D) is the nation’s most expensive and arguably most competitive race. The polls show that it’s a pure toss-up, and they also show that both Scott and Crist have upside-down fav/unfavs.

Countdown to Election Day: 50 days

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