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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political stories of the day.

OBAMA AGENDA: Command and control

The Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said." MORE: "The requirements for strikes in Syria against the extremist group Islamic State will be far more stringent than those targeting it in Iraq, at least at first. U.S. officials say it is an attempt to limit the threat the U.S. could be dragged more deeply into the Syrian civil war."

A new New York Times/CBS News poll finds that more Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of terrorism than approve of it. "With midterm elections approaching, Americans’ fears about a terrorist attack on United States soil are on the rise, and the public is questioning Mr. Obama’s strategy for combating the militant organization calling itself the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Most respondents say the president has no clear plan for confronting the group, and that he has not been tough enough in dealing with it."

"Militants connected with radical group Islamic State were planning to behead a member of the public in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Thursday, after hundreds of police raided homes in a sweeping counter-terrorism operation," Reuters writes.

The front page of the Times of London: "Tens of thousands of Scots cast their ballots early today in a historic referendum that could end a 307-year-old union with England and create a new Scotland ready to brave it alone as an independent nation.

Lines formed outside polling stations around the country even before voting began at 7am. By 10pm this evening, when the polls close, some four million people are expected to have cast their ballots after an unprecedented registration of new voters from the age of 16 upwards."

And from The Scotsman: “The number of ballot papers in each box will be counted by a 5,767-strong counting team and the total will be reported to the chief counting officer (CCO) who will authorise the local counting officer to announce the turnout. The papers will be sorted into Yes, No and those deemed ‘doubtful’. These will need to be judged and possibly rejected as spoiled. The result is expected to be announced at around 6am tomorrow at the Royal Highland Hall at Ingliston.”

CONGRESS: Senate to take up Syrian-rebel measure

From NBC's Frank Thorp (with one of us!): The House approved the president's plan to arm moderate Syrian rebels in a 273-156 vote Wednesday night. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure today.

The Wall Street Journal writes that the vote shows that Boehner's back on top. "[T]he easy passage of the funding plan underscored Mr. Boehner's newly enhanced strength among the House GOP. Republicans held back from staging any of the revolts that had derailed other GOP bills, and few criticized the strategy, unlike earlier fights that had prompted some conservatives to question Mr. Boehner's future as speaker."

OFF TO THE RACES: Walker takes the lead in Wisconsin

The AP sums up how major Senate candidates are responding to the president's request to arm the Syrian rebels.

The Des Moines Register gives Biden the front page treatment. "INCOMES 'OUT OF WHACK'"

The New York Times offers this perspective on Biden's visit: "[W]hile political reporters focused on Mr. Biden’s appearance as his first foray back into a presidential campaign season, the outing also put the nation’s first Roman Catholic vice president in the middle of a protracted political fight between the pope he admires and the American nuns he reveres."

The AP on Marco Rubio's defense speech yesterday: "Sen. Marco Rubio called Wednesday for increased U.S. defense spending and greater intervention abroad, positioning himself as the leading foreign policy hawk among Republicans considering runs for the White House."

POLITICO writes that Democrats are turning on Debbie Wasserman Schultz as insiders say they have “lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.”

ALASKA: The latest dispute in the Alaska Senate race: Whether Mark Begich really rode a snowmobile in a political ad.

Republicans are launching a legal challenge to the "unity" ticket that joined the independent and Democratic candidates’ campaigns together in the race against incumbent Gov. Parnell.

COLORADO: After a poll Wednesday morning showed Hickenlooper down badly, a new USA Today/ Suffolk survey gave him a two-point edge on Bob Beauprez.

FLORIDA: From the Miami Herald: "Gov. Rick Scott slightly backed away Wednesday from one of his most-widely run attack ads that links Democrat Charlie Crist to a convicted Ponzi-schemer’s crime. Scott suggested his ad wasn’t really saying that Crist was an active participant in the fraud — but it’s “absolutely true” that Crist, due to his political flip-floppery, “swindled” the narrator in the ad who’s also a victim of Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme.

GEORGIA: Neil Bush, a son of George H.W. Bush, is slamming David Perdue's ad claiming that the Michelle Nunn-headed Points of Light Foundation "gave money to organizations linked to terrorists."

KANSAS: A FOX News poll shows Greg Orman only two points down on Pat Roberts when Democrat Chad Taylor is in the mix; with Taylor off the ballot, Orman leads 48-42.

KENTUCKY: Alison Lundergan Grimes is up with another ad featuring grandparents (this after both grandmothers appeared in a 2011 ad for her during her Secretary of State campaign). In this one, her grandmother describes their financial woes after her husband suffered a stroke. "Senator McConnell has voted over and over to raise seniors' Medicare costs," Grimes says in the ad. "I'll never do that."

OREGON: More trouble for Republican Monica Wehby in Oregon. “Monica Wehby's campaign on Wednesday acknowledged problems with plagiarism in some of her issue documents and removed them from her website.” MORE: “The Wehby campaign scrubbed the issue papers from its website shortly after BuzzFeed reported that chunks of her economic plan closely followed wording from a report by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Some portions also used the same wording as a plan by a 2012 GOP congressional candidate from California.”

WISCONSIN: The latest Marquette University Law School poll shows Scott Walker and Mary Burke tied among registered voters, with Walker slightly leading among likely voters, 49-46 percent.