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OBAMA AGENDA: Breaking the siege

Defense Department officials say U.S. airstrikes and the Kurdish offensive have broken the ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar. The New York Times: "Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters Wednesday night at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., said it was “far less likely now” that the United States would undertake a rescue mission because the assessment team reported far fewer Yazidis on the mountain than expected, and that those still there were in relatively good condition."

The big picture, from the AP: "The Obama administration is grappling with how to bridge the gap between its increasingly dire assessment of the threat posed by the Islamic State group and the limited, defensive air campaign it has so far undertaken, which military officials acknowledge will not blunt the group's momentum."

U.S. influence on Israeli policy under Prime Minister Netanyahu is on the wane, and both sides know it, writes the Wall Street Journal.

"A Russian aid convoy destined for rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine resumed its southward journey on Thursday, in apparent defiance of demands by the government in Kiev that the shipment be stopped," writes the New York Times.

The New York Times writes of the awkward dance playing out on Martha's Vineyard as the Clintons and the Obama move in the same orbit: "Mr. Obama is fast becoming the past, not the future, for donors, activists and Democratic strategists. Party leaders are increasingly turning toward Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as Democrats face difficult races this fall in states where the president is especially unpopular, and her aides are making plain that she has no intention of running for “Obama’s third term.”"

POLITICO reports that congressional Democrats are treading lightly on urging specific White House action on immigration, fearing a midterm backlash for broad execution action from the president.

OFF TO THE RACES: DSCC drops $9 million ad buy in N.C.

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ALASKA: Senate frontrunner Dan Sullivan skipped a debate last night between rivals Joe Miller and Mead Treadwell. (But a spokesman points out that he's already appeared at 12 debates or forums and that he's scheduled to appear at another debate on Thursday.)

CALIFORNIA:The LA Times: "California lawmakers approved a ballot measure for a $7.5 billion water bond Wednesday evening, following an eleventh-hour scramble to secure bipartisan support by increasing funding for new reservoirs."

COLORADO: Mike Coffman and Andrew Romanoff - fierce rivals in one of the most contested House races this cycle -- will kick off the first of a half-dozen debates Thursday, writes the Denver Post.

IOWA: The latest ad salvo in the race between Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley is over each candidate's devotion to the U.S. military, writes the Des Moines Register.

MICHIGAN: Flooding in Detroit has seeped as a political issue into the gubernatorial race, the Free Press reports.

MISSISSIPPI: Chris McDaniel says he has a "rock-solid actionable case" in his challenge to the state's June primary election.

NORTH CAROLINA: The Washington Post reports on how Kay Hagan is trying to capitalize on voters' "visceral reaction" to state House Speaker Thom Tillis. "While Tillis has tried to link Hagan to a dysfunctional Congress and an unpopular Democratic president, Hagan has devoted much of her time to presenting Tillis as a key player in a state government out of step with most North Carolinians. In effect, the Senate race here is shaping up as a battle over which is worse, Washington or Raleigh, and whether President Obama or the Republican-led state legislature is more guilty of overreach."

The DSCC is launching a $9 million ad buy to attack Tillis.

VIRGINIA: The latest in the McDonnell trial, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "In January 2010, when Bob McDonnell took office as Virginia’s 71st governor, he and his wife, Maureen, owed nearly $75,000 on seven credit cards, an FBI agent testified Wednesday."

From the Washington Post: "A federal appeals court panel refused Wednesday to delay its decision striking Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, which means it will soon be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether gay marriages can begin in the commonwealth next week."

WEST VIRGINIA: Mitt Romney will campaign for Shelley Moore Capito and GOP House hopefuls next week.


*** Monday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Alex Witt interviews the Mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles on the police shooting of Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest; Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs with the latest on Iraq; National Guardswoman Jasmine Jacobs on the military’s relaxation of hairstyle rules subsequent to her petition to the White House; and Lida Citroen, author of Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition.

*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: Andrea Mitchell interviews USA Today’s Yamiche Alcindor and Susan Page, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Capehart, Fmr. State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin and NBC’s Ron Allen and Duncan Golestani.