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A Preview for Red-State Democrats
For a test of how the political environment will be for red-state Democrats in 2014, look no further than Alison Lundergan Grimes' just-launched campaign against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. She's running in a state where President Obama is viewed unfavorably, but is facing a Republican with his own image problems.
Grimes will start out the race as an underdog, but has an inviting target in McConnell. Her biggest challenge will be distancing herself from the Obama administration's unpopular policies on energy (read: coal) and gun rights. Democrats are capable of winning statewide races in Kentucky, but it's tougher in a federal contest where control of the Senate is at stake.
Her announcement was highly unconventional: on the week of July 4, without throngs of cheering supporters in attendance, having briefed only a small group of friends and allies right before the speech. She'll need a similar outside-the-box campaign to pull off the upset. Other red-state Democrats, from Mark Pryor to Mary Landrieu, will be watching closely.
GRIMES WILL RUN AGAINST McCONNELL. After months of consideration, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced today that she will mount a campaign against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, giving national Democrats a recruiting victory after a series of failures to attract major candidates into Southern Senate races this cycle, Hotline's Sarah Mimms reports. Grimes is a strong fundraiser, and she's got political connections through her family. She'll need it all to compete against McConnell's $8.3 million war chest. Read more
PUTIN SAYS SNOWDEN CAN STAY—IF HE STOPS LEAKING. Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out some rules today for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden (who has apparently applied for asylum in 15 countries) if he wants to stay in the country, the Associated Press reports. "There is one condition: he must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound on my lips," Putin said. Meanwhile, President Obama said the countries have engaged in discussions about Snowden's extradition. Read more
- The Edward Snowden movie is already a reality, National Journal's Matt Berman reports. Read more
KERRY TO EUROPEAN ALLIES: SPYING IS 'NOT UNUSUAL.' Secretary of State John Kerry today attempted to downplay reports in Germany's Der Spiegel that the NSA tapped European Union offices, saying that spying of that variety was "not unusual." "Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs of national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security, and all kinds of information contributes to that," Kerry said at a news conference in Brunei. Meanwhile, Obama said the U.S. will give allies more information. Read more
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIALS ADDING TO MISINFORMATION ON NSA. Top U.S. officials have contributed to the misinformation surrounding leaked NSA surveillance programs with misleading, erroneous or false statements about the secret initiatives, The Washington Post reports. The paper concludes that "beyond inadvertent missteps, however, an examination of public statements over a period of years suggests that officials have often relied on legalistic parsing and carefully hedged characterizations in discussing the NSA's collection of communications." Case in point: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee for his "erroneous" response during a hearing. Read more
- Former President George W. Bush said in an interview that Snowden has "damaged the country" by leaking top-secret information about NSA surveillance programs, The Washington Post reports. Read more
SOME STUDENT-LOAN INTEREST RATES DOUBLE. As was widely expected, interest rates on some federal student loans doubled today, after Congress failed to address the issue before the Fourth of July recess, The Washington Post reports. Interest rates for new subsidized Stafford loans jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The House passed a student-loan bill in May, but Obama threatened to veto it. Despite negotiations, the Senate has yet to embrace a solution. If Congress does pass a solution, advocates say it is likely to take effect retroactively. Read more
EPA SENDS WHITE HOUSE DRAFT OF PROPOSED GREENHOUSE GAS RULE. Less than a week after Obama renewed efforts to curb carbon pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House a confidential draft of its proposed greenhouse rule for future power plants, Politico reports. The swift move indicates the EPA is already primed to carry the water on Obama's climate pledges, and may indicate the EPA will also move quickly on a new rule affecting existing power plants. The rules are expected to disadvantage coal in favor of natural gas, nuclear power, and alternative energy sources. Read more
EGYPT'S ARMY GIVES MORSI 48 HOURS TO ADDRESS MASSIVE PROTESTS. Egypt's powerful military today gave President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters 48 hours to respond to the "unprecedented" popular protests that began Sunday, The New York Times reports. The ultimatum is being seen by many as a victory for the opposition, who believe the military may remove Morsi and install a transitional government in a maneuver reminiscent of then-President Hosni Mubarak's 2011 ouster. At least 16 people have died in the protests, including eight in a fight outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. Read more
TEXAS STATE LEGISLATURE GOES INTO DOUBLE OVERTIME. The Texas state Legislature is starting another special session to pass legislation to ban abortions, which previously failed after state Sen. Wendy Davis's now-famous filibuster, the Associated Press reports. Though lawmakers haven't announced an official timeline for passing a bill, Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants quick action and The New York Times notes that bringing up the legislation sooner in the session could undermine filibuster tactics. Protesters returned to the state capitol today as the new session started. Read more
FOREIGN INVESTORS CLAMORING FOR D.C. REAL ESTATE. Foreign investors have already purchased or are under contract to buy nearly $1.9 billion in Washington office properties in 2013, an accelerating figure that far outpaces the $1 billion bought in 2012 and doubles the investment in 2011, The Washington Post reports. The District's downtown properties are attractive to investors looking for stability (Washington emerged from the recession more quickly than other cities). Foreign entities account for 75 percent of all investments in Washington commercial real estate in 2013. Read more
OBAMA, BUSH MEET IN TANZANIA. Obama will meet with former President George W. Bush Tuesday in Tanzania for a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of a bombing of the U.S. Embassy in 1998 that killed 11 people. Read more
BRIEFING ON FLIGHT 800. The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a briefing on its investigation into what caused the crash of TWA Flight 800, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport in 1996. Read more
"The U.S. has done a lot. But if I say they have done enough, then the President will not listen to my new requests. " -- Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, said referring to Obama
WORKERS FED UP WITH FEES. Imagine if, in order to access your wages each week, you were first required to pay a fee. So it is for a growing number of American workers who, rather than through paychecks or direct deposit, are being compensated using prepaid cards issued by their employers, The New York Times reports. These workers can face all sorts of fees—for withdrawing funds, replacing cards, or even for not using the card. "Some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account," TheTimes reports. Read more
D.C.'S METRO IS ACTUALLY PRETTY POPULAR. Something to keep in mind on your commute home: Roughly seven in 10 D.C.-area residents gave the Metro system a positive rating, according to a Washington Post poll released today. There was, however, an 8-point drop (from 75 to 67) in those who say the Metro is a "good value" versus 2005. Read more
TODAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
OBAMAS VISIT APARTHEID PRISON. BuzzFeed has a photo gallery of President Obama and Michelle Obama visiting Robben Island, South Africa, and touring the prison where Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists were jailed. The images include cell number five, where Mandela spent most of his time imprisoned. See the photos here.
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