For Kansas Republicans, most notably Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the last several weeks have been devoted to a specific goal: creating a multi-candidate U.S. Senate race to help improve Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) odds. As of yesterday, those efforts have run their course.
A few weeks ago, when Democrat Chad Taylor announced the termination of his campaign, creating a head-to-head match-up pitting Roberts and Greg Orman (I), Kobach and his party tried to force Taylor to keep his name on the statewide ballot. The ensuing controversy went to the Kansas Supreme Court, while ruled that Taylor's name must be removed.
And while that seemingly ended the legal fight, Kobach had other ideas: he then demanded that Kansas Democrats pick a replacement candidate. This, too, led to a court fight, and as Dave Helling reported, the Republican litigation again came up short.
A three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race.
The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman's campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
The obvious question is, "Won't Kobach and the GOP just appeal this and keep the fight going?" He might try, but with Election Day now just 33 days away, there are some practical and logistical problems: Kansas has to send its ballots to be printed. Indeed, the deadline for completing the ballot was supposed to be yesterday. There was reportedly some chatter that Kobach's office might push it to today, but in either case, there simply isn't time for more pointless legal wrangling and emergency appeals.
Which suggests the process has run its course; Pat Roberts (R) will face Greg Orman (I). This obviously makes Republicans nervous from Wichita to Washington, and new evidence suggests those fears are well grounded.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, talks with Steve Kornacki about how a long string of sexual scandals and security failures have eroded confidence in the competence of the Secret Service. watch
Kasie Hunt, MSNBC political correspondent, talks with Steve Kornacki about apparent good news for Democrats in Kansas, while Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley struggles to overcome an image problem with rural voters. watch
Steve Kornacki reports on diminished Republican emphasis on Obamacare as a campaign issue as the statistics repeatedly show the health care program succeeding both in terms of coverage and cost savings. watch
Steve Kornacki shares the excitement of long-suffering fans of Kansas City sports, who are enjoying the success of their football, soccer, and, as of the wee hours of the morning, baseball team, the Royals. watch
Dr. Seema Yasmin, public health professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, talks with Steve Kornacki about the steps being taken to monitor any spread of Ebola in people exposed to Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. watch
* Kobach loses again in Kansas: "A three-judge panel in Topeka ruled Wednesday that Kansas Democrats need not nominate a candidate for the 2014 Senate race. The ruling is expected to help independent Senate candidate Greg Orman's campaign against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts."
* A hospital's misstep: "The man in Texas who tested positive for Ebola told hospital officials he had traveled from West Africa when he sought treatment on Friday, but that information was not relayed to everyone treating him at that time, authorities said Wednesday. As a result, the man was diagnosed with a 'low-grade, common viral disease' and sent home that day."
* More on the Ebola case: "A man who flew to Dallas and was later found to have the Ebola virus was identified by senior Liberian government officials on Wednesday as Thomas Eric Duncan, a resident of Monrovia in his mid-40s."
* Hong Kong: "As thousands of protesters continued Wednesday to paralyze large parts of Hong Kong, leaders on both sides of the conflict have begun strategizing with an eye toward the end game."
* I don't think Boehner agrees with this: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said lawmakers should be ready to debate and vote on a measure laying out the U.S. military's authority to wage war against Islamic State when they return to Washington after November's midterm elections."
* Florida: "Michael Dunn, the man who shot and killed African-American teen Jordan Davis, was found guilty of first-degree murder in a retrial on Wednesday. The Florida man made national headlines in November 2012 after he approached a vehicle outside a convenience store that was playing loud rap music."
* Latin America: "President Obama has approved a plan to allow several thousand young children from Central American countries to apply for refugee status in the United States, providing a legal path for some of them to join family members already living in America, White House officials said Tuesday."
* Israel: "President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House on Wednesday, against the backdrop of a radically altered landscape in the Middle East that Mr. Netanyahu said he believed could help revive the moribund peace process with the Palestinians."
* The search for Eric Frein: "State police searching for a man accused of killing a trooper said Tuesday they found two pipe bombs in the Pennsylvania woods during their manhunt that were capable of causing significant damage. The bombs were not deployed, but they were fully functional and had both trip wires and fuses, Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference."
On "60 Minutes" the other day, Steve Kroft asked President Obama whether it was "a complete surprise" that Islamic State militants were able to take control of "so much territory" in Iraq and Syria. The president replied, "[O]ur head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria."
What Obama said was, of course, true -- Clapper really did recently acknowledge that intelligence agencies underestimated what had been taking place in Syria, as well as Iraqi security forces' capacity to engage ISIS fighters. But Republicans and much of the media was nevertheless annoyed with the president's response.
[B]y pointing to the agencies without mentioning any misjudgments of his own, Mr. Obama left intelligence officials bristling about being made into scapegoats and critics complaining that he was trying to avoid responsibility.
The New York Times quoted one unnamed intelligence official who said, "Some of us were pushing the reporting [on ISIS], but the White House just didn't pay attention to it. They were preoccupied with other crises."
Naturally, White House officials deny this, but the broader significance is that the intelligence community is trying to avoid responsibility, while pushing back against the president's suggestion that agencies underestimated ISIS.
Soon after the NYT piece ran, Foreign Policy published a related item, noting U.S. spies were complaining Monday that the president "thrown us under the bus," as one former official put it.
Given the context, I don't think that's what Obama did, exactly, but it raises the larger question of what U.S. intelligence agencies missed when it comes to Islamic State militants.
The writing was on the wall. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, suggested this morning that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson may need to resign to help restore confidence in the agency. Soon after, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Cummings' concerns.
The beginnings of a political avalanche took shape. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Fox this morning it was time for Pierson's ouster, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) scheduled a press conference for this afternoon in which he would do the same.
Embattled Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday following embarrassing missteps that placed the president and the first family at risk, the Department of Homeland Security announced. [...]
Under Pierson's watch, an armed intruder managed to jump the White House fence and run deep into the building brandishing a knife as ran past a stairwell leading to the first family's private residence... Separately, the president was in an elevator in Atlanta two weeks with an armed security contractor with assault convictions.
According to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Joseph Clancy, a retired special agent and the former head of the Presidential Protective Division, will serve as an interim acting director until Pierson's successor is in place. [Disclosure: Clancy is currently serving as the director of Comcast Corporate Security, and Comcast owns NBC Universal.]
Pierson, who was not in charge for all of the recent controversies -- the 2011 shooting incident, for example, was before her tenure -- took over as director in March 2013.
Of all the states that imposed new voting restrictions since 2010 -- and there have been so many -- no state was quite as ambitious as North Carolina. As we've discussed before, Republican policymakers in the state, led by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), slashed early voting, placed new limitations on voter-registration drives, made it harder for students to vote (and even register to vote), ended same-day registration during the early voting period, and made it easier for vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.
All of these measures, according to the state's own numbers, disproportionately affect African-American voters.
When voting-rights advocates filed suit, trying to block implementation of the new measures, they came up short at the district court. As of this afternoon, however, proponents of voting rights had far more success at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Zach Roth reports this afternoon:
A federal appeals court put a hold Wednesday on two key provisions of North Carolina's sweeping and restrictive voting law, but left other parts in place. [...]
By a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel blocked the law's elimination of same-day voter registration, and its ban on counting out-of-precinct ballots. It green-lighted the law's elimination of a week of early voting, as well as several other provisions, including the elimination of a popular "pre-registration" program for high-school students. Barring a reversal, those planks will be in effect for the state's fall elections, which include a tight U.S. Senate race.
In this 2-1 ruling, the majority included two judges appointed by President Obama.
Ari Berman's report took a closer look at the restrictions that will remain in place, many of which were imposed on North Carolinians for no apparent reason.