Obama: ISIL is Learning Americans Do Not Give in to Fear

“Today, the United States continues to build a broad international coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL,” President Obama stated Thursday night shortly after Congress voted to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIL. 

“As part of the air campaign, France will join in strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.”

Obama confirmed that more than 40 countries have offered assistance for the coalition, including support for Iraqi forces, strengthening the Iraqi government, and offering humanitarian aide to civilians.

America will now move forward with providing training and equipment to the Syrian opposition forces so they may attack ISIL members in Syria.

“This program will be held outside of Syria in partnership with Arab countries and it will be matched by our increasing support for the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in Iraq.”

Obama stressed that American forces deployed to Iraq “will and do not” have a combat mission. Rather, they will advice and assist America’s partners on the ground.

“We can join with allies and partners to destroy ISIL, without American troops fighting another ground war in the Middle East.”

Rather than be intimidated by ISIL, Obama stated that Congress’ bipartisan consent of the training effort showed the world that Americans are united in the cause to confront ISIL.

“With their barbaric murder of two Americans these terrorists thought they could frighten us, or intimidate us, or cause us to shrink from the world. But today they are learning the same hard lessons of petty tyrants and terrorists who have gone before: as Americans we do not give in to fear. And when you harm our citizens or you threaten the United States, or you threaten our allies, it doesn’t divide us, it unites us. “

NC SEN: Tillis Faces Obstacles In New Poll

Faced with attacks from the Koch brothers and the Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Kay Hagan is obviously asking for money. “Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and everyone on the other side knows what we know -- this race is a toss-up,” read one of her fundraising emails. “They’re investing $23 million to tip the scales in their favor. After all, that’s how the Kochs usually get what they want -- they buy it. That’s not going to work here. To get this seat, the Kochs will have to go through us.”

Yet, she’s be given a significant buffer by a group connected to Sen. Harry Reid that is circling the wagons around Senate Democrats as polls continue to bestow good fortune on GOP hopes of retaking the Senate come November. Oh, and this group had to step in because the state-based super PACs aimed at protecting folks like Sens. Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan were never able to get the “big checks” (via WaPo):

If Democrats cling to their Senate majority this fall, it will be in large part because of a well-funded group connected to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid that has helped build a formidable firewall around vulnerable incumbents.

The Senate Majority PAC, fueled by billionaires and labor unions, has been the biggest-spending super PAC of the 2014 midterm contests. Together with an allied tax-exempt group, Patriot Majority, the pro-Democratic effort has poured at least $36 million into ads and voter outreach, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization.

In North Carolina, the Senate Majority PAC and Patriot Majority have spent millions defending Sen. Kay Hagan, who is locked in a tight race with Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. In Michigan, the groups have helped erode the standing of GOP candidate Terri Lynn Land, with ads that accuse her of answering to billionaires backing her campaign, “not to us.” In Alaska, the Senate Majority PAC has provided most of the funding for Put Alaska First, a super PAC backing Sen. Mark Begich that has spent more than $5 million.

The expansive presence of the Reid-linked groups has come at the expense of smaller, state-based efforts to protect Senate Democrats. A series of individual super PACs set up to support Hagan, Pryor and Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) withered when big checks did not materialize, said people involved in the projects.

The one thing that Sen. Hagan is right about is that the race will be a close one. On average, Real Clear Politics has Hagan with a four-point lead. Yet, if you look at polling conducted since January, you’ll see that Hagan has led Tillis in most polls.

This image courtesy of RCP

Tillis has fired off fundraising emails of his own citing the Senate Majority PAC as the reason why Hagan might win re-election if his supporters don’t donate.

Yet, Tillis has other issues to address besides keeping his war chest at healthy levels. The Civitas Institute, a North Carolina-based conservative think tank, conducted a poll with unaffiliated voters, which make up 27 percent of the electorate on who they would vote for in the 2014 Senate race. It did not deliver good results for Tillis, but there’s room to maneuver.

While both candidates have approval ratings that are underwater, Tillis is viewed considerably more unfavorably. Seventeen percent view him favorably, 43 percent unfavorably, 24 percent have no opinion, and 16 percent haven’t heard of him. Meanwhile, Sen. Kay Hagan favorable and unfavorable numbers split evenly at 43 percent, with 12 percent having no opinion either way.

President Obama’s approval rating in the Tar Heel State rests at 48 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. As I’ve mentioned before, this means that the Hagan=Obama attacks are limited.

If the election were held today, Hagan would win 39 percent of the vote, followed by Tillis’ 27 percent, and Sean Haugh, the libertarian, with 8 percent. Yet, 12 percent were still undecided.

If the contest were just Tillis and Hagan, Hagan would win again with 41 percent to Tillis’ 33 percent.

With 12 percent of unaffiliated voters undecided and 24 percent having no opinion of Mr. Tillis, there’s definitely room to grow as we enter the fall campaign. But Tillis may have to tweak his messaging a bit.

Tillis has aggressively tried to tie Sen. Kay Hagan to Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Hagan has tried to tie Tillis, who’s the Speaker for the North Carolina House of Representatives, to the “sins of Raleigh” in the state legislature, especially the $500 million in cuts to education; a talking point that’s a half-truth.

The Civitas poll also shows that national and state issues, including education, split–29/28–evenly when it comes to motivating North Carolina voters to show up at the polls. Thirty-nine percent said both sets of issues equally motivate them to vote.

As for the direction of North Carolina, 68 percent said the state was on the wrong track, while 19 percent said it was heading in the right direction. This is a point of attack for Tillis, right? Well, not really.

Of those who said the state was on the right track, when asked what issue the state was handling well; 16 percent said teacher pay, while 13 percent said it was education.

For those who said the state was on the wrong track, the one issue they felt the state was getting wrong was education at 35 percent, while 18 percent said teacher’s pay and 13 percent citing health care.

If some of you were wondering why Hagan was so aggressive in going after Tillis over education, there’s your answer.

In these races, it comes down to turnout, which is a department that Democrats will have trouble in as Election Day draws nearer. But also which stinks more Raleigh or Washington D.C.?

Right now, it seems like the stench of what’s going on in Raleigh is overpowering what Washington D.C. is dishing out.

So, was Hagan’s handshake with Obama the kiss of death? It doesn’t seem to be the case.

Today's the Day: Scots to Vote For Whether or Not to Secede From the United Kingdom

Today, residents of Scotland are voting about whether or not to end the over 300-year union with England and become an independent nation. Polls close at 10 p.m. GMT, and opinion polling has seen a surge of the "yes" camp in recent weeks. Some are predicting that the vote could be as close as the narrowly-defeated 1995 referrendum for Quebec independence.

The vote has come with significant controversy, as Scotland has changed voting laws to permit 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, and forbade Scots living outside of Scotland from voting.

Slightly confused American? The Guardian put together a handy video for non-Brits to explain what is happening:

Results are expected to be in at 7 a.m. GMT, or 2 a.m. EDT.

Inspector General: Maybe VA Fraud in Phoenix Did Result in Deaths After All

Remember the VA scandal? You might be forgiven for letting it slip your mind, given that (a) its series of disgraceful revelations was several crises ago, and (b) that Congress has passed decent (but not permanent) legislation to "fix" the system. But there's a reason why the CNN correspondent who's covered this story most closely bluntly questioned the feasibility of righting the VA ship without "throwing out" vast numbers of its managers: An endemic culture of corruption and accountability-dodging.  Drew Griffin's skepticism was no doubt reinforced when the department's Inspector General released its findings in late August, concluding that it could not definitively link the VA's pervasive and deliberate manipulation of wait times and care lists to any deaths. Critics immediately questioned the methodology behind that verdict, complaining that the IG's standards of proof made were "virtually impossible" to meet.  Whistleblowers had previously alleged that VA corruption had resulted in at least 40 deaths in the Phoenix area alone.  Sources told CBS News that agency officials successfully pressured the IG to "water down" its findings:

Two of the doctors who first blew the whistle on the veterans' deaths in Phoenix say the inspector general botched the investigation and went too easy on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). One says the IG engaged in a whitewash of what happened there, bowing to pressure from inside the agency, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews. The issue surrounds the investigation into whether more than 40 veterans at the Phoenix VA died while waiting to see the doctor. The IG's final report in August concluded that it "[could not] conclusively assert" that long wait times "caused the deaths of these veterans." According to one whistleblower who spoke to CBS News, however, that crucial assertion was not in the original draft of the report. He told CBS News that the Inspector General added the line about how wait times did not cause the deaths at the last minute. Our source, who works at VA headquarters and who spoke exclusively to CBS News, said officials inside the agency asked for a revision of the first draft. That's standard practice, but in this case the source said it amounted to pressure on Inspector General Richard Griffin to add a line to water down the report. "The organization was worried that the report was going to damn the organization," the whistle-blower said. "And therefore it was important for them to introduce language that softened that blow."

The purpose of these inquiries is to expose the whole truth, not to "soften blows" on behalf of the entities under investigation.  The IG's office denied the allegation of VA tampering, but the controversial exculpatory line was added to the report prior to publication.  At a Wednesday hearing described as "heated" and "contentious," the Inspector General appeared to reverse himself on the link between delays and veteran deaths:

A senior official from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ watchdog agency acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that delays in care had contributed to the deaths of patients at the department’s medical center in Phoenix. The disclosure by an official from the department’s inspector general’s office, coming after more than two hours of tough, sometimes confrontational exchanges with members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was a significant development in what has become a heated dispute over the quality of care at the Phoenix hospital, where revelations of secret waiting lists and other schemes to disguise long delays in care turned into a national scandal. Republicans characterized the acknowledgment as an about-face, and expressed frustration and some anger that a report on the Phoenix hospital issued by the inspector general last month contained language widely viewed as playing down concerns about a link between the medical-care delays and veterans’ deaths.

Here's a VA whistleblower blasting the widely-criticized report as "at best a whitewash" at the same hearing:

If the department can't honestly grapple with the scope and consequences its own egregious failures, how can it be expected to aggressively implement and comply with needed reforms?  By the way, it took CBS until the final paragraph of its story to mention this seemingly significant statistic: "Newly released figures show that 293 veterans died -- not 40 -- while on those secret wait lists. That does not mean the veterans died from lack of care, but families are already asking if the Phoenix investigation should be reopened."  Again, this in just one location.  Delayed care, and the cover-up thereof, was a contributing factor in at least some of these hundreds of deaths.  How many?  We still don't know.  The DC 'do something' crowd may consider this issue to be "over" and dealt with, but that's clearly not the case.  Fox Business Network's The Independents covered these latest "more of the same" developments last night:

Remember that six-to-ten month waits for treatment related to combat wounds were still commonplace at the Phoenix VA system as of this spring.  Meanwhile, those bonus checks still cashed, and Democrats were still quietly ignoring the kisses they blew at the VA system during the Obamacare debate.  The president ran on reforming veterans' healthcare in 2008, then his administration ignoredseries of warning signs that the problem was getting considerably worse.  Wait lists (not including the secret ones, presumably) stretched ever longer, even as VA funding increased dramatically.  Does anyone have a high degree of confidence that lessons have been learned and that behavior will shift accordingly?

MI GOV: Tight Race Leads To Snyder Launching Town Hall Tour

The Michigan gubernatorial race is going to come down to the wire as a new USA Today/Suffolk poll shows that incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder is trailing his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, by two points. On average, Real Clear Politics has Snyder ahead by one point.

This image courtesy of RCP

Like in 2010, Snyder was able to grab the endorsement of former Republican Michigan Governor William Milliken, who associates with the more moderate wing of the GOP; he endorsed Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for U.S. Senate. While Milliken’s 2010 endorsement was able to curry favor with moderate Michigan voters, it may be more of an uphill battle this time around as Schauer has a better approval rating with this bloc of voters, though many are unsure what they think about him (via MLive):

Milliken endorsed Snyder in 2010, helping him woo moderates in his contested Republican primary that saw other candidates winning support from the likes of Michelle Bachmann and Mike Huckabee.

Snyder, who is running neck-and-neck in recent polls with Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, may have a tougher time winning over moderates this year.

Recent numbers from Public Policy Polling suggest that Schauer has a better favorability rating with self-described moderates, although many still weren't sure what they thought of the Democrat.

But not all is lost. The poll also found that 51 percent of Michigan voters feel that the economy is improving. Additionally, the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, which marks the lowest point since 2008. While still higher than the national average, Gov. Snyder can easily market a narrative that things are improving in the Mitten State. After all, the unemployment rate for Michigan was at 11 percent when Snyder took office in January of 2011.

Recently, Gov. Snyder announced that he’s planning to host a series of town hall meetings across the state. Like in 2010, Snyder is reaching out to Michigan voters to discuss the issues that matter most to them, lay out what will be achieved, and rehash what’s been accomplished since his 2010 gubernatorial victory.

The Road To Recovery: The Next Four Years town hall tour begins later this month on September 29th in Kalamazoo. Snyder's campaign will then head to Sterling Heights on October 2 and Detroit on October 4th.

Rep. Ann Kuster's Constituents Are Waiting For Their Town Hall Meeting

In New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District, the campaign has gone negative. Democratic incumbent Rep. Anne Kuster has come out swinging by trying to tie her Republican opponent, New Hampshire House Representative Marilinda Garcia, as a Tea Party extremist.

Kuster spokesperson Rosie Hilmer said, “From wanting to completely abolish the Department of Education, to opposing the Violence Against Women Act and a woman’s right to choose, to voting to privatize Social Security, her [Garcia’s] policies would be devastating for hardworking Granite State families across the board. Students, women, seniors, and their families deserve to know the truth this election season about how Garcia’s extreme Tea Party positions would affect them.”

Yet, Kenny Cunningham, communications director for Garcia’s congressional campaign, issued the following statement about Kuster’s ad:

“It is extremely disappointing that Ann Kuster is already relying on negative attack ads in her race for re-election. Ann Kuster clearly has no record to run on from her time in Congress, and she is trying to distract from her unwavering support for President Obama and Obamacare.

Obamacare has drastically burdened our hardworking retirees with its severe cuts to the Medicare advantage system and has reduced choices for patients, as the majority of New Hampshire health care providers are now out of network. No state has been harder hit by the Obama-Kuster agenda, so it is no surprise that Kuster is using negative, dishonest ads to distract from her record and paint Marilinda Garcia as someone she is not.”

Elected in 2012, Kuster has yet to hold a town hall meeting with her constituents. She did attend one outside her district in Manchester back in November of 2013, but it was a disaster; she had a painfully awkward response to a question that asked her opinion on the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi terror attacks.

Nonetheless, some of her constituents are getting restless. In a letter to the editor featured in the Laconia Daily Sun, Ryan Smith asked Rep. Kuster why she is “unwilling to participate in this tradition” of hosting a town hall. In another letter to the editor for the Eagle-Tribune, Noel Lyons-Baker wrote, “If Annie Kuster doesn't have time to meet with me in the span of four years [alluding to her 2010 run as well],[sic] she certainly doesn't deserve to represent me in Washington.”

So, while Kuster may rail against Garcia and the Tea Party, she should probably focus on organizing some town halls. Then again, it’s kind of hard for Democrats to defend the president’s policies right now. So, don’t expect Kuster planning any such meetings in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, State Rep. Garcia's ad really isn't all that negative.  It talks about the string of scandals that has eroded the public trust in government and how we need a "new generation of conservative leaders to challenge the status quo."  Garcia says she's done that in New Hampshire and will carry that tradition to Washington D.C. 

Lt. Col. Oliver North: Someone Needs to Tell The Truth, Obama's ISIS Strategy is Mission Impossible

Fox News military analyst Lt. Col. Oliver North made an appearance on The Kelly File last night to assess President Obama's latest strategy against ISIS. His message is a discouraging one, saying what President Obama is asking the military do is mission impossible and that it's time someone step up and be honest about it. 

"In my military mind what you have is Operation Enduring Confusion. You have a President who cannot make up his mind about what he wants," North said. "Megyn, I've spent my whole life hanging around the U.S. military. I've been on plenty of times with you from Iraq and other places. I've spent my life with these young guys. I'm waiting for the general or admiral who will stand up on his hind feet and say this is mission impossible. Given the constraints that you've [Obama] given we cannot accomplish the objective you have set. It is impossible to do."

"Somebody has to tell the truth," he continued. "Some general or admiral at the Pentagon or somewhere else in Central Command has got to stand up and say, 'The mission we've been given we can do but we can't with the constraints you've places upon us.'"

This isn't the first time Obama has been at odds with U.S. Generals and based on history, those who speak out against him have a high chance of being fired.

Rocky Mountain Momentum: GOP's Gardner Surges Ahead in Colorado Senate Race

Democrats and left-wing groups have spent the last six months tearing down Colorado Republicans' Senate nominee, Rep. Cory Gardner, dropping millions of dollars on negative advertising. The idea has been to exploit their hefty financial advantage to define Gardner as a terrifying right-wing gargoyle in voters' minds before he had the resources and platforms chance to introduce himself on his own terms. Two new public polls indicate that their costly efforts haven't gotten the job done. Yesterday we told you about a new Suffolk/USA Today survey showing Gardner pulling into a very slim lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Udall (43/42). We also highlighted a Quinnipiac poll that put Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez ten points ahead of incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper. Quinnipiac hadn't released its Senate numbers yesterday, but I speculated that they'd almost certainly show Gardner in the lead:

Lo and behold, those results have now dropped:

Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall trails U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, his Republican challenger, 48 - 40 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent candidate Steve Shogan gets 8 percent. With Shogan out of the race, Rep. Gardner leads 52 - 42 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters. In the three-way matchup, Gardner leads Udall among men 53 - 34 percent, with 9 percent for Shogan. Women go 46 percent for Udall, 43 percent for Gardner and 7 percent for Shogan. Independent voters go 42 percent for Gardner, 40 percent for Udall and 15 percent for Shogan. Republicans back Gardner over Udall 88 - 5 percent with 5 percent for Shogan. Democrats back Udall over Gardner 90 - 3 percent, with 2 percent for Shogan.

A separate question asks Shogan voters, who are far more likely to say that they may change their vote before election day, whom they'd pick as their second choice in the race. That result: 52-42 for Gardner. Other polling has shown Gardner trailing among independents (a rarity for a Republican this cycle), and losing women pretty badly. This survey suggests he's closing those gaps. He's now (+10) on personal favorability -- extraordinary, given the relentless character assassination ads -- while Udall is (-8) on the same measure. Sure enough, Udall's individual character ratings are ugly: He's underwater on "honest and trustworthy" and "cares about people like you," while Gardner is soaring on both fronts. Of those respondents who say their vote will reflect their feelings on President Obama, they break against the president by nearly a three-to-one margin. Polls have consistently shown Obama's overall approval rating upside-down in the Rocky Mountain State for months, with Obamacare acting as another major drag.  The Udall campaign has rushed out internal polling to reassure nervous supporters:

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar notes that even Udall's own figures show him several points shy of 50.  He also points out that the Q-poll's sample was pretty heavily Republican, which explains the big leads for Gardner and Beauprez.  Both margins look like outliers, at least for now.  But there's a common denominatior between Q's data and the less-outlierish USA Today poll: Udall is polling in the low 40's -- a big time danger zone for an incumbent.  I'm skeptical that Gardner is actually up by eight in this race, but the red flags for Udall and the GOP's momentum look to be real. Stuck in a dead heat or trailing, Udall is taking the unprecedented step of avoiding televised debates in Colorado, perhaps because his first un-televised meeting with Gardner didn't go well for him. At all.  Instead, he's going to continue bombarding the airwaves with attack ads as his primary means of interacting with voters.  Denver's local CBS affiliate fact-checked one demagogic spot he's running against Gardner, declaring it misleading and "politics at its worst:"

It's a bit weird seeing excellent, fair, down-the-middle reporting, isn't it?  I'll leave you with this link to a Hot Air piece I wrote last week about Planned Parenthood's surreal attack on Cory Gardner over his proposal to...expand women's access to birth control.  The ends always justify the means, even if you have to tie yourself into embarrassing pretzels to get there.

Townhall Magazine's October Issue Preview: Obamacare's Illegal Insurance Company Bailout

Townhall Magazine's October issue is hitting subscriber mailboxes now! If you want to get the latest original content from Townhall's conservative talent weeks before it goes online, subscribe here now!

Below is an excerpt from October's story, "Obamacare's Illegal Insurance Company Bailout."

Americans hate insurance companies. They also hate bailouts. And they especially hate it when insurance companies get bailouts.

But that is exactly what is going to hap- pen next summer unless Republicans in Congress stand up and fight against President Obama’s illegal health insur- ance company bailout.

A Sweetheart Deal
Our story begins just days after Obama’s landslide victory over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008. Sensing an opportunity to increase profits at taxpayer expense, Karen Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (the trade association that represents the health insurance industry in Washington), quickly signaled that she was ready to do business with the new occupant of the White House.

“No one should fall through the cracks of our health care system,” Ignagni’s November 11, 2008 statement read. “Universal coverage is within reach and can be achieved by building on the current system.” 

That last phrase, “and can be achieved by building on the current system” was the health insurance industry’s top priority in the beginning of the Obama administration. And they spent furiously to make sure Obama would protect them. Despite the worst recession since World War II, businesses spent more than $1 billion lobbying on health reform in 2009, a sharp increase from 2008.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield led the league in lobbyist spending, shelling out $15.13 million in 2009, up more than 25 percent from 2008. AHIP shelled out another $8.85 million, while United Health Group added $4.86 million, and Aetna Inc. spent $2.84 million.

These millions turned out to be very wise investments. Health industry lobbyists secured dozens of meetings in the White House throughout 2009 and 2010. They not only met with Obama’s top advisers, but also Obama himself.

These meetings had a very clear impact on the policy that Obama would eventually produce. During a June 24, 2009 ABC News town hall meeting on health care, Obama assured the CEO of Aetna: “Aetna is a well-managed company and I am confident that your shareholders are going to do well.”

And Aetna has done more than “well” under Obamacare. Its stock price has more than doubled, and almost tripled, since Obama publicly promised the company it would “do well” under Obamacare.

And when you look at the basic outline of Obamacare, you can see exactly why. The program forces every American to buy the health insurance industry’s products and also subsidizes those purchases to the tune of more than $1 trillion over just the next decade alone. No wonder health insurance industry stocks are booming.

An Ongoing Relationship
But the relationship between the health insurance industry and the Obama administration did not end on March 23, 2010, the day Obamacare was signed into law. If anything, it was just beginning.

Obamacare’s 2,700-plus pages of legislative text contains literally hundreds of directions for the executive branch to create new regulations. So far the Obama administration has produced more than...

You can read the rest of "Obamacare's Illegal Insurance Company Bailout" in Townhall Magazine's October issue.  

Homeland Secretary Shows Little Concern Over Open Border Terror Threat

Former Obama campaign bundler and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified in front of the House Homeland Security yesterday and was peppered with questions from lawmakers about the terrorism threat presented by a lack of border enforcement and security. As usual, Johnson gave unconcerned, non-detailed answers. 

First off, what you didn't see in the clip above was Johnson's attempt yesterday to shill for illegal immigration reform  as Americans raise more concerns about a lack of border security. During an answer to another lawmaker about how to prevent terrorists from going undetected inside the United States, Johnson made the absurd argument that a "legal process" for citizenship would prevent terror infiltration and encourage terrorists to come forward and turn themselves in. That suggestion is not only unhelpful but politically motivated garbage. Second, if Johnson got out of his cushy D.C. office once in awhile to actually talk to Border Patrol agents on the ground, he would know that radical Islamists crossing the southern border into the United States from Mexico is nothing new. Unfortunately, a lack of enforcement from Homeland Security to stop those crossings isn't new either. What is new in this scenario is a threat from ISIS and intelligence agencies have picked up chatter in the past few weeks showing the terror army is looking at the southern border as a possible way to gain access to the United States. Homeland Security officials have also confirmed this possibility in testimony to Congress. 

Meanwhile, little has been done at the State Department to revoke passports of Americans knowingly fighting with ISIS in Syria or Iraq. 

H/T Ed Morrissey

WATCH LIVE: The ISIS Threat: Weighing the Obama Administration’s Response

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the administration's ISIS (ISIL) strategy. 

Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on the hearing: “The President said his Administration had no strategy against ISIS two weeks ago, despite it long being on the march. The Administration is sending mixed messages now. ISIS is a serious threat to U.S. national security. The Committee needs to hear a comprehensive strategy from Secretary Kerry on how the Administration is going to confront this brutal and sophisticated terrorist group.”

Report: 15 Arrested in Thwarted, ISIS-Inspired Terrorist Plot in Australia

Australian authorities have dismantled a plot which they believe was a coordinated, ISIS-inspired attempt to randomly behead civilians in Brisbane and Sydney. Put briefly, fifteen people were apprehended and a sword was discovered at one of several properties some 800 policemen and women raided early Thursday morning. The Associated Press reports:

Police on Thursday said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by supporters of the radical Islamic State group. They detained 15 people and raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney, though nine of those brought in were freed before the day was over. The raids involving 800 federal and state police officers — the largest in the country's history — came in response to intelligence that an Islamic State group leader in the Middle East was calling on Australian supporters to kill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

Abbott was asked about reports that the detainees were planning to behead a random person in Sydney. "That's the intelligence we received," he told reporters. "The exhortations — quite direct exhortations — were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country."

The Guardian has more details about who this alleged, mastermind terrorist might be:

Two men were charged and nine people released. Under Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, those detained could be held for two weeks without charge.

One man, Omarjan Azari, 22, appeared in Sydney central court on Thursday afternoon to face charges of preparing to commit a terrorist act.

It is alleged he conspired to commit the act with another man, Mohammad Baryalei, a former Sydney bouncer and actor of Afghan origin, reportedly an Islamic State leader.

If anything, this almost-successful massacre in Australia is a serious and much-needed reminder that ISIS’s poisonous ideology is spreading worldwide and not just confined to the Middle East. Australian authorities, meanwhile, now believe that if they didn’t intervene when they did -- thus carrying out the largest and most sophisticated anti-terrorist manhunt since the country was founded -- the plot could very well have succeeded:

Nine of those detained were later released, New South Wales police said. They did not say why, or whether they will face charges later. The raids came just days after the country raised its terrorism threat to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. At the time, Abbott stressed that there was no information suggesting a terror attack was imminent.

Later Thursday, Attorney General George Brandis confirmed that a person born in Afghanistan who had spent time in Australia and is now working with the Islamic State group in the Middle East ordered supporters in Australia to behead people and videotape the killings. "If the ... police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened," Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

For what it's worth, we actually have aerial footage of a police raid as it went down this morning, courtesy of The Washington Post:

Authorities have been tracking terrorist activities in Australia for months now, culminating in Thursday's pre-dawn operation. At the same time, the government also believes "at least 60 Australians" (but probably more) have betrayed their country by joining the terrorist organization ISIS overseas.

Taxpayer-Funded Abortion: Yet Another Broken Obamacare Promise

Earlier in the week Katie wrote up the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study that definitively illustrates the predictable demise of a flimsy 2010 Obamacare "compromise" designed to "guarantee" that tax dollars fund elective abortions under the law.  The issue is worth revisiting because it represents another egregious breach of trust.  In case you missed Katie's post, here are the basics:

There are widespread instances of Obamacare insurance plans violating the rigid rules surrounding whether customers can use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation.  The report, commissioned by House Republican leadership and obtained by POLITICO on Monday night, found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Obamacare plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life) from their Obamacare subsidies. The Affordable Care Act requires that insurers collect separate payments from customers for abortion coverage so that taxpayer money in the form of subsidies do not cover abortions. Adoption of the complex payment scheme — which essentially requires customers to send two separate payments to their insurers — was pivotal to getting the health law through Congress. Anti-abortion Democrats brokered the arrangement shortly before the law passed, threatening to vote against it without the restrictive language.

Good luck getting the Obama administration to enforce this element of the law, which the president's close allies have been grumbling about from the moment it was proposed. The White House is delaying, waiving, and ignoring parts of the law that they actively support, so the likelihood that they'll insist upon scrupulous adherence to provisions they were basically dragged into conceding seems...remote.  You may recall that this language was written into the law, and buttressed by a presidential executive order, because recalcitrant pro-life Democrats were concerned that a vote for Obamacare would be tantamount to violating the longstanding Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer dollars from flowing to subsidize elective abortions.  Nancy Pelosi needed a handful of votes to secure a slim majority to pass the unpopular legislation, so assurances were given, supposedly backed by the force of law. Those requirements, in the large majority of cases, have been ignored, according to GAO.  The accommodation was a fleeting political necessity, nothing more.  Former Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), who led the small pro-life Democratic caucus at the time, has since lambasted the administration for breaking its word on conscience protections (via the coercive birth control mandate).  This marks another overt betrayal.  Let's not forget how Obama positioned this issue with faith leaders during his O-Care sales pitch:

"I know there's been a lot of misinformation in this debate. There are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness...you've heard that this is all going to mean, uh, government funding of abortion.  Not true. These are all fabrications."

"Fabrications."  Ironically, a prominent pro-life organization just won a years-long legal battle over a lawsuit filed against them for "falsely" claiming that a vote for Obamacare was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion.  The Susan B. Anthony List prevailed on other grounds before this GAO study vindicated the truth of their message, but this confirmation must be satisfying nonetheless.  But not too satisfying because, well, taxpayer dollars funding elective abortions.  (Incidentally, lest there were any doubt, left-leaning fact-checker Politifact rated statements parroting Obama's obsolete line on this matter as "true."  We won't hold our breath for an updated ruling). We are once again reminded that virtually every major promise on which Obamacare was built has since been undermined or exposed by reality, verifying many conservative critiques that were once attacked and dismissed as "misinformation" and "fabrications."  Obama and his party promised substantially lower premiums for everybody, that people could keep their preferred doctors and health plans "no matter what," and that health spending would decrease as a result of the law.  False, all the way around; some were deliberate lies.  A refresher on the big three:

We were also told that Obamacare wouldn't add to deficits.  Not so, especially as the gimmicks fall apart. (CBO now says this promise is too hard to track due to the law's constant on-the-fly changes).  Seniors were also promised that the law wouldn't negatively impact them, and that it would only add to Medicare's solvency. When Republicans argued otherwise, David Axelrod called it "a lie."  His revisionism wasn't true then, and it's even less true today:

MVP Health Care, an insurer based in Schenectady, New York, is dropping some of its plans tied to Medicare and raising rates for other related coverage under the health care program for elderly peopleDenise Gonick, president and CEO of MVP Health Care, delivered the announcement during a news conference this morning. She also said the Schenectady-based insurer with about 700,000 members in New York is projecting it will run at a deficit in 2015 because of the issue. Gonick said the decision was prompted in part by reduced reimbursement payments tied to Medicare, the federal program generally covering people age 65 and above...At the same time, the cost of medical care continues to spiral upward," Gonick said. "There is a large gap between what we can cover and the actual cost of care. The news comes after Gonick criticized state regulators, saying they had set health insurance rates for 2015 that are insufficient to cover rising medical cost. State regulators set average increases for 2015 at about 6 percent. Insurers had proposed twice that amount, about 13 percent. MVP has been facing declines in revenue during the past two years, which Gonick has attributed to industrywide challenges tied to implementing the federal Affordable Care Act.

Also on the menu across the country amid the "summer of setbacks:" Cancelled plansdouble-digit premium increases, and major insurers pulling out of exchanges.  Another GAO investigation into Obamacare revealed a large majority of decoy "consumers" were able to sign up for coverage and obtain taxpayer subsidies online and over the phone.  The federal government even confirmed the citizenship of several of these fake people, raising questions about fraud and eligibility issues.  The Obama administration recently confirmed that Healthcare.gov was hacked in July.  I'll leave you with this, which is a follow-up to this story:

"Jesus On Trial" Hits #1 On Amazon

Recently, prolific author and Townhall columnist David Limbaugh's book Jesus On Trial hit #1 on the Amazon best-sellers list. It's a remarkable achievement, especially for an unapologetic Christian nonetheless applying legal scrutiny to the Gospels in order to hold the life of Jesus Christ to determine if the words of the Bible are the truth.

Limbaugh discussed his book on Sean Hannity's show recently:

Congratulations to David, who is one of the sharpest conservatives around. Oh, and did you know that you can get Jesus On Trial free with a subscription to Townhall Magazine?

Is DWS Getting Fired?

DNC Spokeswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been under fire for weeks now after comparing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to a domestic abuser. As a reminder:

"Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality...What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back. It is not going to happen on our watch."

Now, it looks like Democrats have had enough of DWS' hyperbolic, dramatic and unhelpful approach to taking on Republicans. Oh, and she's in hot water with the White House too. POLITICO has the exclusive: 

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.

The perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win. This includes using meetings with DNC donors to solicit contributions for her own PAC and campaign committee, traveling to uncompetitive districts to court House colleagues for her potential leadership bid and having DNC-paid staff focus on her personal political agenda.

She’s become a liability to the DNC, and even to her own prospects, critics say.

Don't be surprised if DWS loses her job for making Democrats and President Obama look bad while people like former IRS official Lois Lerner enjoy their cushy taxpayer funded pensions.

It All Makes Sense: Obama Put Biden in Charge of "Day-to-Day" Iraq Management

If you're wondering how Iraq fell apart, the Wall Street Journal has some new insight. According to a new report, President Obama put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of "day-to-day" management of Iraq. 

Mr. Obama had made exiting the prolonged Iraq and Afghan wars a cornerstone of his presidency.

Through tight control over airstrikes in Syria and limits on U.S. action in Iraq, Mr. Obama is closely managing the new war in the Middle East in a way he hasn't done with previous conflicts, such as the troop surge in Afghanistan announced in 2009 or the last years of the Iraq war before the 2011 U.S. pullout.

In Iraq, Mr. Obama had delegated day-to-day management to Vice President Joe Biden.

Explains a lot. Of course the downfall of Iraq isn't all Biden's fault, the majority of the responsibility lies on President Obama's decision to put politics above the advice of generals and pull troops early. 

As a reminder, when Biden was tapped way back in 2008 to serve as Obama's VP much of the reason given for choosing him was based on his "extensive" foreign policy experience. In his memoir, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote, "I think he [Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." That extensive experience and whether it would serve in a useful, positive way was debatable years ago and it's certainly debatable now.

Many Questions Remain After Kerry Senate Hearing

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was grilled in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon.

Yesterday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey remarked that the United States may eventually need to send soldiers in as ground troops for the ISIS (ISIL) campaign.

In Wednesday afternoon’s hearing, Kerry took multiple opportunities to unequivocally state that would not be case. He repeated that U.S. soldiers would not have a combat role and that the troops deployed would serve only in support missions and training capacities.

However, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) pressed Kerry, asking if the president and the administration would change their position should they find out that inserting U.S. ground forces would be the only viable way to defeat ISIS.

Kerry responded that he wouldn’t “entertain a hypothetical,” saying, “If we're failing and failing miserably, who knows what decision they're going to make.” He insisted that there were numerous other possibilities that would take place before reversing the decision to involve American soldiers.

The Secretary also made the case for the president’s authority to act alone in executing airstrikes outside of Congress’ official approval, citing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). He argued that the administration was acting under the pervue of the law, because the language provided for executive authority to combat “Al Qaeda and associated forces” (with ISIS being a direct offshoot of the group). Kerry welcomed the committee’s call for the passage of a new AUMF and said he encouraged cooperation with Congress moving forward.

Others senators used their time to express concern over exactly who was being classified as a “vetted moderate” Syrian, whether the Free Syrian Army would actually fight ISIS as opposed to Assad (who many claim is and even bigger enemy than ISIS to the opposition), and whether or not providing arms would unintentionally empower the terrorist group or the Assad regime.

While many members of the committee expressed their desire to engage in some sort of combative action against ISIS (with the exception of Senator Rand Paul), almost all were uncomfortable with the level of detail they currently have from the administration on the duration of the operations and the extent to which the coalition of other countries have committee to the fight.

Without providing detail in an “unclassified” setting, Secretary Kerry reiterated his confidence in the coalition he has been working to build over the past week, saying the “world will begin to see what all of these countries are prepared to do.”

“If we do this right, this effort could become a future counterterrorism model.”

Confusion still runs rampant as the early stages of this war progress. Both Secretaries Kerry and Hagel will be back on the Hill tomorrow to address the House’s concerns and questions and continue to sell the president’s anti-ISIS agenda.

“ISIL must be defeated. Period. End of Story,” Kerry said. “And collectively we are all going to be measured by how we carry out this mission.”

Is ISIS Trying to Assassinate Pope Francis?

Iraq’s envoy to the Vatican, Habeeb Al Sadr, believes there are “credible" and alarming "reports" that ISIS is hell-bent on assassinating Pope Francis. The Holy See must therefore take extraordinary measures to ensure his safety and security when he travels to Albania in a few days, he argues. The Vatican, however, has categorically dismissed such threats—and will not cancel or alter Pope Francis’ travel schedule.

The Telegraph reports:

Habeeb Al Sadr said there were also indications of a more specific threat against Pope Francis, who recently spoke out in favour of the US and its allies halting the advance of Isil in Syria and Iraq. "What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible," the ambassador told La Nazione, an Italian daily, on Tuesday.

"I believe they could try to kill him during one of his overseas trips or even in Rome. There are members of Isil who are not Arabs but Canadian, American, French, British, also Italians. "Isil could engage any of these to commit a terrorist attack in Europe.

The ambassador said the Pope had made himself a target by speaking out against the human rights abuses committed against Christians in Syria and Iraq, as well as by his approval of attempts by the US to try to roll back Isil.

Certainly, the pontiff’s strong pronouncements against ISIS is one reason why the terror group would want to assassinate him. But that’s not the only reason. As St. Peter’s successor, his assassination would deliver a crippling blow to the Roman Catholic Church (and, by extension, all of Christendom). In other words, ISIS’ brand of nihilism is so grotesque that assassinating a world leader—a world leader who emphasizes compassion, peace, tolerance, and ecumenism—would be a symbolic “victory” for them. This gives one some insight into the scope—and seriousness—of the threat the West now faces from ISIS.

Needless to say, the Vatican must exercise extreme caution and vigilance this weekend. But of course, the Vatican doesn't need me to tell them that.

House Keeps Government Open, Arms Syrian Rebels

The continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11th passed easily in the House of Representatives this evening with a vote of 319-108 and is now headed to the Senate. Per Fox News' Chad Pergram, 53 Republicans and 55 Democrats voted down the measure, which also authorizes the president to train and arm “vetted,” moderate Syrian opposition for the purpose of providing ground troops in the war against ISIS.

While many members, both in the House and Senate, have taken this week to voice their opinions and concerns on the current course of U.S. involvement in a tumultuous Middle East, it seemed likely that the House would find the numbers to support the president’s request that Congress weigh in on immediate action.

Even Speaker Boehner cast his vote on Wednesday - a rare, but meaningful and symbolic, act for Speakers of the House. Boehner said this in a statement released shortly after passage:

"By authorizing the Department of Defense to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIL represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe.

"This year, the House worked methodically to pass seven annual appropriations bills. Senate Democrats didn’t even bother – they passed zero. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of inaction we’ve also seen from them on more than 40 House-passed jobs bills. This bill preserves previous spending reductions and keep the government running at current levels past the end of this month. And importantly, it ensures the ban on internet access taxes does not expire on November 1. I urge the Senate to act on it quickly."

Beginning Tuesday, representatives spent six hours debating the “Train & Equip” amendment, which was introduced earlier this week by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA).

Fellow Californian and newly-elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke briefly on the House Floor this afternoon in support of the provision, saying in part:

“Voting against this request would send a terrible message that America is unwilling to stand with those who are already fighting a common enemy, and confirm the views of many in the region that America is but a paper tiger…Congress must maintain a central role. We must conduct oversight to ensure this program is managed effectively. Under the Leadership of Chairman McKeon, we have taken the President’s original request and have added substantial oversight provisions to ensure this program is properly and carefully managed. Congress must also push the President to craft a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the inescapable reality that ISIL is but a symptom of a broader terrorist threat.

"…A president who has made ending the war on terrorism the central focus of his foreign policy must now change. He must now make winning the war a priority.”

In addition, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) applauded the passage, saying, “We face a great and growing threat from ISIL. Never has a terrorist organization controlled so much territory, cash, or weapons. This measure gives the Syrian opposition what they desperately need – training and equipment – as they continue to risk their lives to combat ISIL terrorists as well as the Assad regime. With greater U.S. training and supplies, they’ll be bolstered. And as an ultimate boost, this force would be supported by U.S. and coalition airpower, without a combat role for U.S. ground forces. This training and equipment would put strong backing into a fighting force – which will be needed to confront and defeat ISIL. If we do not act, the threat will continue to grow.”

Members of the House will continue to investigate the administration’s plan of action for the remainder of the week. Tomorrow, Secretary Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel will testify separately in front of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees.

New Poll Shows Voters Prefer Payroll Tax Cut to Minimum Wage Hike

As Guy Benson reported earlier today, a new poll of likely voters conducted for Townhall by Gravis Marketing found that Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) was statistically tied with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) at 45 percent in the race for Lousiana's U.S. Senate seat.

That result is right in line with both the RealClearPolicits poll average of the race (Cassidy +1.3) and the HuffPost Pollster model (Cassidy +.5).

In addition to the top line result, however, Gravis also included a question, at the request of Townhall, that may provide Republicans a better way to answer Democratic questions about raising the minimum wage on the campaign trail. 

Gravis asked, "Given the choice, would you rather see Congress: 1) raise the minimum wage, 2) cut the payroll tax for all working Americans, or 3) increase tax credits for some low-income Americans." 

The results found a strong preference for cutting the payroll tax. "The majority of those polled; 50% believe that cutting the payroll tax for all working Americans would be a good start, 39% indicated that raising the minimum wage would be their choice, while only 9% believe increased entitlement spending by increasing tax credits for some low-income Americans would be smart. 2% were unsure," Gravis reported.

It is not hard to see why Americans would prefer a payroll tax cut to a minimum wage hike. A payroll tax cut, paid for by eliminating loopholes for the wealthy, would both increase take home pay for all working Americans and create new jobs by lowering the cost of employment

Raising the minimum wage, however, would benefit only 4.3 percent of American workers, and, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and President Obama's choice to un the Federal Reserve, would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs.  

Despite Recommendations, Diplomatic Security Levels Still Not Improved Post-Benghazi

More than two years after the Benghazi terror attack, recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board about how to boost security and protect Americans working around the world at diplomatic posts have been ignored by the State Department. Members of the Benghazi Select Committee, led by Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, raised serious concerns on Capitol Hill Wednesday during testimony given by officials involved in either implementing or recommending new security measures. 

Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Greg Starr testified that although "tremendous progress on the 29 Benghazi ARB recommendations" have been made, the position of Under Secretary for Diplomatic Security has not been created despite being the number one recommendation from the ARB to prevent future security lapses. The same recommendation was made after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya more than a decade ago. 

Former Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection and member of the Independent Panel of Best Practice Todd Keil testified that security recommendations haven't been implemented and reconfirmed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens repeatedly asked for more security leading up to the 9/11 attacks and was denied multiple times.

"Our Panel was committed to identifying best practices from throughout the U.S. government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and international partners which can which can finally establish an effective risk management process in the Department of State, improve the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad and enhance the safety of Department of State and foreign affairs agencies’ personnel not only in high-risk areas, but globally. We identified 40 recommendations to achieve this goal. We continue to stand behind our report in the strongest possible terms, and believe that each of the 40 recommendations and the supporting narratives, which were derived from well - known and established best practices , provide a clear road map for security management enhancements throughout the Department of State," Kiel said. "In meeting earlier this year with Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and Assistant Secretary Starr, we were encouraged by their candor and support for our recommendations and their stated intent
to adhere to the recommendations in our report. In light of the long history of such reports and recommendations to the Department of State, and with a continuing sense of responsibility, we voiced our concerns in a recent letter to Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, both for those recommendations not implemented and those that apparently rely on pre-Benghazi processes and procedures to demonstrate or achieve implementation."

"Clear the smoke and remove the mirrors," Kiel continued. "Now is the time for the Department of State to finally institutionalize some real, meaningful and progressive change. Words and cursory actions by the Department of State ring hollow absent transparency, and verifiable and sustainable actions to fully put into practice the letter and the intent of our recommendations, which will facilitate diplomacy and safeguard the selfless Americans who carry out our national security priorities around the world."

Leading up to the Benghazi attack, the State Department relied on Libyian militias for consul security. According to State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf, relying on local militias or security personnel is standard practice that continues today.

Poll: Republican Beauprez Boasts 10-Point Lead Over CO Democratic Gov. Hickenlooper

Republican frontrunner Bob Beauprez is gaining unexpected ground in Colorado’s gubernatorial race, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. The former U.S. Rep. holds a double-digit lead over Democratic incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper.

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Additionally Beauprez slid into the lead among one key demographic: women. According to Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll:

"Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is behind the challenger on the key qualities voters want in a leader: honesty, caring and leadership. 

"Pundits were predicting that Gov. Hickenlooper faced a close race for reelection. Instead, he's got a mad dash to make up a double-digit deficit. The Democrat does not get the traditional strong support from women to offset Bob Beauprez's army of support from men."

Hickenlooper has raised almost four times the amount of his opponent, according to a recent Associated Press article. While the governor has accumulated around $4.2 million, Beauprez stands at $1 million. 

"We are not going to let this or any other poll distract us from getting the job done and giving Colorado the leadership it deserves," Beauprez said in a press release Wednesday, "We are going to run like we're behind."

Intelligence Officials Admit It's Hard to Track Americans in Syria

“At present, we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland of the United States,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in statement for the House Committee on Homeland Security hearing today. “But that is not, by any means, the end of the story.”

It certainly isn’t. As ISIS continues to strengthen in numbers and resources, the threat posed by them both overseas and at home only worsens.

Foremost among the concerns raised by lawmakers today during the hearing on ‘Worldwide Threats to the Homeland’ was the issue of foreign fighters returning to the U.S. 

National Counterterrorism Director Matthew Olsen said that there are more than 100 Americans that have traveled to Syria, some of whom may have joined the ranks of ISIS, but he acknowledged it’s difficult to determine where foreign fighters go and what they do once they reach the country.

Johnson and Olsen said they’ve been focused on the issue of foreign fighters for months. They assured the committee that there are systems in place to track those who attempt to travel to Syria, but neither downplayed the difficulty of knowing which Americans have gone to the country to join a terrorist organization.

Johnson said that based on the systems in place the agency has “a reasonable degree of confidence" but "not a high degree of confidence” that they know who has attempted to travel to Syria.

Responding to questions about reports that ISIS is trying to enter through the Southern border, Johnson said there’s no specific intelligence or evidence to suggest at present that the group is attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through the Southern border, although we must remain vigilant.

Insane: Rich Los Angeles Neighborhoods Vaccinating Kids at Lower Rates Than Poor African Countries

Herd immunity, that beautiful concept that protects the medically fragile from dying of horrible, preventable diseases like pertussis and measles, is a thing of the past in some upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods. Why? Because parents are refusing to vaccinate their children—and in some areas of the city, vaccination rates are lower than war-torn impoverished African countries.

Parents are able to skip vaccinating their children by filing a "personal belief exemption" (PBE) form. These forms are available for parents who do not want to vaccinate their children for either personal beliefs or religious reasons.

From The Atlantic (emphasis added):

In some schools, up to 60 to 70 percent of parents have filed these PBEs, indicating a vaccination rate as low as that of Chad or South Sudan. Unlike in Santa Monica, however, parents in South Sudan have trouble getting their children vaccinated because of an ongoing civil war.

And lo, it is these very same L.A. neighborhoods that are experiencing a resurgence of diseases like whooping cough, otherwise known as pertussis. Measles cases have also hit a high in California this year.

To be clear, not all PBEs are evidence of an anti-vaxxer parent. Schools require either a PBE or an up-to-date shot record for school attendance, and sometimes parents submit them if they simply aren't able to get the shots done on time. Still, the L.A. Times has previously reported that the percentage of kindergartens in which at least 8 percent of students were not fully vaccinated because of the parent's beliefs had more than doubled since 2007, and private-school parents were likelier to file the PBEs than their public-school counterparts. The paper found that the exemption rate for all of Santa Monica and Malibu was 15 percent.

This is a terrifying trend. I've written previously about measles outbreaks in unvaccinated communities, and it's terrifying to think of something similar happening in Los Angeles and spreading throughout the nation. Vaccines work. Vaccines are safe and do not cause autism. I'm thankful to have grown up in a time where I didn't have to worry about catching measles or polio. Americans have no excuse not to protect their children from these horrible diseases.

A Terrible Polling Day For Democrats

National - Let's start with the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, which speaks to the national 'fundamentals' of the 2014 cycle.  The environment remains treacherous for Democrats:

Republicans hold a six-point lead on the Congressional ballot among likely voters, winning independents by nine points and holding a double-digit enthusiasm advantage.  Those are all very significant numbers.  The GOP holds substantial voter preference edges on the economy (+11), terrorism (+21) and foreign policy (+12), while pulling even with Democrats on immigration and largely erasing Democrats' wide, decades-long lead on healthcare.  

Obama's overall approval rating is sagging at 40 percent, underwater by double-digits.  He's fallen to new lows in this poll on his handling of terrorism (41 percent approval) -- formerly a bright spot amidst otherwise ugly numbers -- and foreign policy (34 percent).

- Nearly six in ten Americans say Obama's posture toward ISIS is "not tough enough, with 31 percent saying he's handling things "about right."  Some respondents said he's being "too tough" on ISIS: Two percent, which is within the poll's margin of error.

"This poll finds no improvement in overall views of the health care law."

Senate - I've been writing a lot about the disparity between national polling trends (see above) and many of the state-level polls of individual races, in which many Democrats have been outperforming the president and the overall environment.  When, if ever, would those surveys "catch up" with the fundamentals?  One headline-grabbing poll isn't necessarily a turning point, but the Iowa Senate poll Conn highlighted earlier is undoubtedly a shot in the arm to the GOP.  Most striking about Joni Ernst's six-point lead is that she's hit 50 percent, with Democrat Bruce Braley sitting in the mid-40's, as quite a few Senate Democratic candidates in toss-up states are.  Here's a new ad highlighting popular Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley's endorsement of Ernst in the race:

Braley infamously demeaned Grassley and farmers at an out-of-state fundraiser with fellow trial lawyers.  Such a lawyer, that guy.  And then there's this, out of Colorado:

An incumbent at 42 percent isn't in good shape, and that may not be the only favorable-looking poll to emerge from this race this week.  See below for more.

Governor - Survey USA has Charlie Crist (the worst politician in America) trailing Florida Gov. Rick Scott by five points, and polling at just 39 percent. The respected Marquette University Law School poll shows a significant swing toward Scott Walker in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race; he now leads Mary Burke by three points.  (A NYT/CBS poll last week gave Walker a four-point lead). And finally, this stunner out of Colorado:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper ties former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, the Republican challenger, among women and trails among all likely voters 50 - 40 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess and Green Party candidate Harry Hempy each have 3 percent.

Suffolk/USA Today shows this contest roughly tied (with Hickenlooper up by two points), but if Quinnipiac has Beauprez ahead by ten, we're looking forward to see their yet-to-be-released Senate data. Last but not least, why do we write some many posts on polls? Because the media hates showcasing data that makes them sad. Straight up bias: