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First Read Flash: Shutdown showdown

NBC's Kasie Hunt & Frank Thorp: "Whether the government shuts down likely depends on the outcome of a civil war in the Republican Party over health care, a

NBC's Kasie Hunt & Frank Thorp: "Whether the government shuts down likely depends on the outcome of a civil war in the Republican Party over health care, a tussle on full display Wednesday as House Republicans openly fought with their GOP counterparts in the Senate. It's left President Obama and Democrats in Congress to watch from the sidelines as it all plays out. The GOP internecine brawl spilled into the open after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, publicly admitted that the Senate can't pass the government funding resolution that the House plans to vote on Friday because it would strip funding for the president's health care law -- despite his public support for that approach."

Washington Post: "Rather than rallying Republicans to a less-confrontational plan to keep the government running past Sept. 30, Boehner threw in with the boisterous, rebellious wing of the House GOP: He set, for Friday, a vote that would simultaneously provide funding to keep the government open, while stripping away money to implement portions of Obama’s health-care law. This approach has proved divisive, prompting finger-pointing Wednesday among House and Senate conservatives."

In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove writes that "any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn't. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it."

New York Times: "Despite deep divisions that have kept Congress from passing new gun safety laws for almost two decades, there is one aspect of gun control on which many Democrats, Republicans and even the National Rifle Association agree: the need to give mental health providers better resources to treat dangerous people and prevent them from buying weapons. Yet efforts to improve the country’s fraying mental health system to help prevent mass shootings have stalled on Capitol Hill, tied up in the broader fight over expanded background checks and limits on weapons sales."

Washington Post: "Defense Department officials on Wednesday ordered a broad review of the procedures used to grant security clearances to ­employees and contractors, acknowledging that years of escalating warning signs about Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis went unheeded. Top intelligence and military officials concede that issuing millions of people security clearances for up to 10 years without regular reviews is a serious safety risk."

Roll Call runs down the special election calendar for the rest of the year, including this Tuesday's GOP primary in Alabama's 1st District.

COLORADO: Roll Call: "Last week’s legislative recalls in Colorado, which boosted the spirits of Republicans across the state, are unlikely to alter the competitiveness of next year’s Senate race. After a disappointing Senate loss in 2010 — and the gaffes that partly led to it — Ken Buck’s early position as the leading Republican in the primary field isn’t exactly striking fear in the hearts of Democrats. At this point, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall is heavily favored for re-election."

Denver Post: "The ability to break the status quo and defeat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's 'good ol' boy network' will be a difficult task, but Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Tuesday he's the most qualified Republican for the job. 'What I offer is a great track record of achievement,' said Gessler in the moments after his campaign announcement that drew several dozen American flag-waving supporters to the Cable Center Auditorium at the University of Denver. 'We've been incredibly innovative and dynamic in the secretary of state office.'"

GEORGIA:  National Review reports on a controversial comment from Senate candidate and Rep. Phil Gingrey during a closed-door GOP conference meeting, where lawmakers were debating a health care law provision that requires congressional staffers purchase their insurance in the exchange markets. Gingrey, whose net worth is an estimated $3 million, said staffers “'may be 33 years old now and not making a lot of money. But in a few years they can just go to K Street...and make 500,000 a year. Meanwhile I’m stuck here making $172,000 a year.' The comment incensed some of the GOP aides in the room, two of whom relayed Gingrey’s comments to me. One person noted that many lower-rung congressional aides make relatively low wages and have no real expectation of a future cash-out."

And Politico takes a look at the campaign of Rep. Paul Broun (R), who to many Republicans, "is 2014’s Todd Akin: a far-right candidate who may win a crowded GOP primary but will blow the party’s chances at holding a critical Senate seat. But campaigning across Georgia, Broun is modeling himself as the next Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand and member of the Senate’s 'hell no' caucus — and someone who will constantly give fits to GOP leaders if they even think about compromising."

MASSACHUSETTS: EMILY'S List announced today they're endorsing Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley for governor. EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock in a statement: "Martha Coakley is a trailblazer who has shown unwavering commitment to serving her community and Massachusetts as astrong advocate and problem solver for nearly three decades."

We had more earlier this week on Coakley's re-emergence onto the political scene -- and why she's now the frontrunner in the gubernatorial contest even after her 2010 special election loss to Scott Brown.

And how much more seriously is Coakley taking her new campaign? The Boston Globe notes she was shaking hands outside Fenway Park last night,

Politico: "Gabriel Gomez, who lost the Massachusetts Senate special election in June by 10 points, is at the Capitol Wednesday for informal discussions with several senators about challenging Democrat Ed Markey to a rematch next year. The Republican has not made a final decision, but sources said he is thinking about running again. His boosters note that he was a first-time candidate who only found his sea legs in the final month of the race."

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Concord Monitor: "Republican Jim Rubens jumped into the race for the U.S. Senate yesterday and took some hard swings at the Democratic incumbent, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen," becoming "the first major Republican to enter New Hampshire’s 2014 Senate race."

But the newly-minted candidate had some problems out of the gate. Buzzfeed unearthed a "2009 post on his website that connects the rise of working women with what he says is a rise in mass shootings and other violence perpetrated by men."

VIRGINIA: Washington Post: "Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that he knew nothing about a failed effort by his supporters to wrest an important business endorsement from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, his Republican rival in the governor’s race. McAuliffe also dismissed accounts that he had flubbed his interview for that endorsement by touting his ability to schmooze. And he backed off a campaign pledge that Republicans said amounted to a threat to shut down the government over Medicaid."