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Kasich climbs into top 10 of GOP 2016 field

The super PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich raised more than $11 million between April 20 and June 30, according to Politico.
Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich arrives on stage to formally announce his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Columbus, Ohio July 21, 2015. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
Republican U.S. presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich arrives on stage to formally announce his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Columbus, Ohio July 21, 2015.

The Last Obama War? Conway vs. Bevin in Kentucky… The true test for the GOP-controlled Congress will come in September … Kasich now cracks the Top 10 after latest Quinnipiac poll … Comparing Hillary’s fav/unfav with Biden’s … And battling over Cuba.

Kasich now cracks the top 10: A new Quinnipiac poll -- which has Donald Trump in the national GOP lead -- also has Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 5%, which puts him in the Top 10 average of the last five national polls. And it knocks out Rick Perry, who falls to #11. Our numbers (using Quinnipiac, CNN, WaPo/ABC, Fox, USA Today/Suffolk):

  1. Trump: 19.4%
  2. Bush: 13%
  3. Walker: 11.8%
  4. Rubio: 6.2%
  5. Paul 6%
  6. Huckabee 5.4%
  7. Cruz: 5.2%
  8. Carson 5.2%
  9. Christie 3.2%
  10. Kasich 2.8%
  11. Perry 2.2%
  12. Santorum 1.4%
  13. Jindal 1.4%
  14. Fiorina 0.8%
  15. Pataki 0.6%
  16. Graham 0.4%
  17. Gilmore 0.0%

The Last Obama War? Outside of the presidential contest, the best political race worth watching THIS YEAR is the gubernatorial showdown in Kentucky between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin. The reason: It could very well be the last Obama War. Indeed, the Republican Governors Association this month has released two TV ads -- one linking Conway with Obama’s energy policies (see: coal), and the other hitting Conway on the health-care law. Both of the TV ads conclude, “Jack Conway: Putting Obama first and Kentucky last.”

Of course, this is the same playbook that the GOP and Mitch McConnell used to sink Democrat Alison Grimes in last year’s Senate race in the Bluegrass State. The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy tells First Read that the race could largely come down to what is the bigger drag -- Obama or Bevin not being the GOP’s ideal candidate? (Remember Bevin attending that rally in support of legal cockfighting in the state? Perhaps Conway’s most potent weapon will be re-airing all of McConnell’s own attacks on Bevin.) That said, gubernatorial races typically aren’t as nationalized as Senate/House contests, and Conway can point to popular term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear. But as the Lexington-Herald’s Sam Youngman recently wrote, state Democrats find themselves in a pickle in Kentucky: If they run away from Obama -- like Grimes did in ’14 -- they end up alienating Democratic voters in Louisville and Lexington.

What a Bevin/Conway win would mean in November: And it seems like Conway is following the Grimes playbook. He is up with an ad bragging that he was the only Democratic attorney general to sue the Obama admin over coal issues. Bottom line: If Bevin wins, it largely will be due to Obama’s unpopularity in the state (plus Conway’s handling of it) and it could mean it won't spell the end of the Obama wars, at least in the red states. But a Conway win could very well signal the end. That’s what’s at stake in November.

The true test for the GOP-controlled Congress will come in September: Kentucky’s gubernatorial race MIGHT be the last Obama war -- a statewide/downballot race that Republicans try to make all about the sitting president -- but it won’t be the last political battle involving Obama. Just look at what Congress (and the president) will have to deal with when Congress returns in September from its August recess. There’s the Iran deal, the Highway Trust Fund and, oh, a possible government shutdown over Planned Parenthood.

Politico: “On Wednesday afternoon, 18 House Republicans told leadership that they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution … that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.” Meanwhile, GOP social conservatives like Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama said they’d consider supporting an effort to attach a spending rider that would eliminate Planned Parenthood’s $528 million in annual government funding to must-pass spending legislation this fall.” This a real test for the GOP-led Congress, which has racked up some minor bipartisan victories (trade authority, Medicare doc-fix). Given that they know control both the House and Senate, Republicans won’t have Harry Reid to blame anymore.

It ain’t gonna be pretty: Folks, this is a slow-moving train wreck about to happen. Can anyone recall House Speaker Boehner calling any Harry Reid legislation a "piece of s***", as he called Mitch McConnell’s Senate highway bill? He said a lot of bad things about some Senate Dem legis but that harsh? Folks, this ain't gonna be pretty. And with a handful of 2016ers in the senate needing to show spark, it will be a political September to remember. 

Comparing Hillary’s fav/unfav with Biden’s: The same Quinnipiac poll also shows Vice President Joe Biden with his best fav/unfav score in the last seven years of the survey (49%-39%), while Clinton has her worst fav/unfav ever in that poll (40%-51%).

Watching the economy: GDP estimate at 2.3% in second quarter: The U.S. economy is growing, but it’s still a bit sluggish. CNBC: “U.S. economic growth accelerated in the second quarter as a pick up in consumer spending offset the drag from soft business spending on equipment, suggesting a steady momentum that could bring the Federal Reserve closer to hiking interest rates this year. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.3 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. First-quarter GDP, previously reported to have shrunk at a 0.2 percent pace, was revised up to show it rising at a 0.6 percent rate.”

Battling over Cuba: Finally, Hillary Clinton on Friday will give a speech on ending Cuba’s trade embargo -- in Florida (the home state of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio) and at Florida International University (where Marco Rubio has been an adjunct professor). Both Rubio and the Bush campaign hit Clinton’s upcoming speech on Friday. But don’t forget this recent Pew poll: 73% of Americans -- including 56% of Republicans -- support the United States re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The same poll found 72% of all Americans -- and 59% of Republicans -- in favor of scrapping the trade embargo with Cuba.

OBAMA AGENDA: Selling the Iran deal

USA Today: “From the golf course to White House receptions to private briefings behind closed doors, Obama and other backers of the deal are busy making the case that it will deny Iran the ability to make nuclear weapons and remove the prospect of military confrontation with Tehran.”

From the Wall Street Journal: "After securing a nuclear deal with Iran, the White House said it was seeking the broadest possible support for the accord. But just two weeks into President Barack Obama‘s campaign to win backing for the deal in Congress, it’s increasingly clear his strategy is more narrowly focused on gaining just enough Democratic support to sustain a presidential veto should lawmakers reject the agreement."

The New York Times compiles the raw videos that are shaping the conversation about race and policing.

CONGRESS: An insurrection of one?

House Republicans are not embracing the Mark Meadows insurgency against John Boehner, writes the Washington Post. "Asked about Meadows's gambit, Republicans across the ideological spectrum reacted coolly Wednesday -- none more so than Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) himself, who dismissed the "motion to vacate the chair" in remarks to reporters."

OFF THE RACES: Koch organization to share voter data with RNC

From the Washington Post: "A data management company financed by a political network backed by Charles and David Koch has struck a new deal to share voter data in the 2016 cycle with a private firm aligned with the Republican National Committee, signaling a tentative truce between the rival data operations."

The Democratic group Correct the Record argues there's a transparency double standard. "When was the last time a Republican official or presidential candidate was asked to meet the transparency standard Hillary Clinton meets on a daily basis? It plays out like clockwork: the moment that Republican operatives find a perceived tidbit which can be spun to hurt Hillary Clinton, the GOP cries foul and flags it for the media. No matter how insignificant or inaccurate, the press engages in a public feeding frenzy, desperate to outdo competing outlets by reporting minute scoops which inevitably result in zero evidence of wrongdoing found. It doesn’t matter to Republicans whether the drama was merited because even if the facts are incorrect, the GOP has already won by tying a new “scandal” to Hillary Clinton."

CHRISTIE: Political movers and shakers in New Hampshire just aren't that into him, writes the New York Times.

CLINTON: The Wall Street Journal delves into the former Secretary of State's involvement with a case involving UBS -- and the bank's donations to the Clinton Foundation. "There is no evidence of any link between Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the case and the bank’s donations to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, or its hiring of Mr. Clinton. But her involvement with UBS is a prime example of how the Clintons’ private and political activities overlap."

A judge is not happy with the State Department for how long it's taking to turn over documents from Hillary Clinton's tenure. "In a court hearing arising from the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon appeared incredulous at times about the amount of time it was taking and suggested the government should be able to move much faster in turning over thousands of pages of documents."

She's the latest 2016 candidate to participate in The Skimm, a morning newsletter directed at young people.

She'll call for lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba in a speech on Friday in Miami.

CRUZ: As Ted Cruz stands by his comments calling the Obama administration "the world's leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism," Mitt Romney chastised him on Twitter, saying "I am opposed to the Iran deal, but @SenTedCruz is way over the line on the Obama terrorism charge. Hurts the cause."

KASICH: The super PAC supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich raised more than $11 million between April 20 and June 30, POLITICO reports.

Top aide John Weaver told Kelly O'Donnell that he's confident that Kasich will make the first debate.

PERRY: The AP reports that he's focusing less on his Christian beliefs. "Rick Perry bragged to an Iowa barbeque crowd about the strong economy back in Texas, drew laughs comparing President Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter and won applause vowing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. But in a state where evangelicals wield political influence, he didn't mention religion until 25 minutes into his address, and only then when asked about it."

RUBIO: The Washington Post looks back at Marco Rubio's first political job as a city commissioner. "In relative obscurity, he experimented with the occasional issue, such as how much residents should have to pay for government services, that would begin to define his ideology. He showed flashes of a thin skin. But, for the most part, he looked bored."

SANDERS: He spoke by video to what his campaign said was more than 100,000 supporters nationwide.

TRUMP: A Bloomberg Politics NH focus group offered a glimpse into what voters like about Donald Trump. “He's like one of us. He may be a millionaire, which separates him from everybody else, but besides the money issue, he's still in tune with what everybody is wanting,” Janet, a former dog breeder, said.

Additional reporting for this article by Carrie Dann.