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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: The latest in Iraq

From the AP, the latest in Iraq, where insurgents are taking ground once controlled by U.S. forces. " The al-Qaida-inspired group that led the charge in capturing two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq this week vowed on Thursday to march on to Baghdad, raising fears about the Shiite-led government's ability to slow the assault following the insurgents' lightning gains."

The Washington Post: "The stunning speed with which the rout has unfolded in northern Iraq has raised deep doubts about the capacity of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, and it has also kindled fears about the government’s grip on the capital."

The drama has clearly caught the White House off guard, writes the Wall Street Journal. (Elsewhere in the paper, the editorial page's Dan Henninger writes that "Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate."

The New York Times reports that the U.S. has rejected Iraq's appeals for military aid in response to the offensive. "As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials. But Iraq’s appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011."

Some Democrats relished Cantor's loss, but as the AP notes, there was little joy at the White House, where accomplishing substantial legislative movement has just gotten even harder.

CONGRESS : Wrapping yesterday’s drama

Here's our Hill team's wrap of Cantor's resignation speech yesterday.

The Washington Post looks back at some of the warning signs that Cantor's support was crumbling underneath him.

The New York Times offers this assessment of what Cantor's loss means for policymaking. "That fury will ensure a gridlocked capital for at least the rest of this year and perhaps for the remainder of Mr. Obama’s presidency. It also raises new doubts about Washington’s ability to conduct the most basic functions of government, suggesting the possibility of another round, or rounds, of brinkmanship on funding the government and measures to keep the country from defaulting on its debt."

OFF TO THE RACES: Tea Party challengers try to capitalize on Cantor

One of us(!) writes that other Tea Party challengers are hoping to use Cantor's defeat as momentum in their own races. (How many "XXXXX is the next Eric Cantor" plugs did we see yesterday?)

2016 Watch, Perry-compares-homosexuality-to-alcoholism edition: Via the San Francisco Chronicle: "Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that," Perry said. "I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way."

VIRGINIA: In Cantor's hometown, Republicans described Cantor as "a man who had succumbed to Washington and forgotten where he came from," writes the New York Times.

Cantor v. Brat, by the numbers: Sure, there was that eye-catching stat about the money Cantor’s campaign spent at steak joints in D.C. But it illustrates a bigger point: Cantor’s campaign was simply way bigger, and Brat wasn’t aided by the outside groups that have been pumping cash into other insurgents’ efforts. Case in point: Our friends at CMAG note that Cantor aired a total of 1,037 ads in the district, compared to just 65 for Brat. And while Cantor hauled in $2.1 million from PACs, Brat got no cash at all from them. Here’s more on the numbers gap, from one of us(!)

MISSISSIPPI: The weird locked-in-the-courthouse incident with McDaniel supporters is a symptom of a larger divide between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel, writes the New York Times from Jackson, Miss; one supporter of the latter calls it the difference between "country club" Republicans and "deer camp" Republicans.

OREGON: Monica Wehby's pollster says she’s down just 39-41 to Jeff Merkley.

TEXAS: More bad news for Wendy Davis: Her nationally respected campaign manager, Karin Johanson, is out, the Statesman reports.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews Washington Post’s Robert Costa, The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, Fmr. Amb. John Negroponte, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Scott Rigell

*** Thursday’s “Jansing & Co.” line-up: Chris Jansing interviews Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof, The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Former Governor Ed Rendell, and Founder of Fifteen Minutes Public Relations Howard Bragman.

*** Thursday's "News Nation with Tamron Hall" line-up: Tamron Hall interviews NYTimes reporter Suadad Al-Salhy in Baghdad, TIME’s Bobby Ghosh & Terrorism analys Evan Kohlmann on the Iraqi cities taken over by militants; Larry Sabato, Director of UVA Center for Politics, and GOP Strategist & radio talk show host Alice Stewart on Rep. Cantor stepping down; Nicole Rittenmeyer, Executive Producer of new ID film “OJ: Trial of the Century” ; and Amar’e Stoudemire part-owner of the Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem and cookbook author

*** Thursday's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" line-up: Andrea will interview Sen. Jack Reed, Republican strategist Vin Weber, NBC Terror Analyst Michael Leiter, USA Today’s Susan Page, the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Eugene Robinson.

*** Thursday's The Reid Report line-up: MSNBC’s Joy Reid interviews James Jeffrey - Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Lisa Bloom – attorney & legal analyst for NBC News & Avvo.com, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler and The Huffington Post’s Sabrina Siddiqui.