Kansas Supreme Court May Swing KS Senate Race

The national Democratic Party was celebrating this week after a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court will allow the Democratic Party to remove its candidate from the race to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

Chad Taylor, the Democratic Party nominee, is withdrawing from the race because of pressure from Democrats. Greg Orman, an "independent" candidate who has been a Democrat for his whole life, will for the time being be opposing incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts with no Democrat on the ballot. (A Libertarian Party candidate is also in the running but polling poorly.)

Greg Orman will likely caucus with the Democratic Party in the Senate.

A poll from liberal outfit Public Policy Polling this week placed Orman with a ten-point lead in a head-to-head matchup with Roberts:

Orman leads Roberts 41-34, with Democrat Chad Taylor — who announced plans to end his campaign earlier this month — capturing 6 percent of the vote. Libertarian Randall Batson earned 4 percent support in the poll, which was first provided to the Huffington Post. The automated phone and online survey of 1,328 likely voters was taken between Sept. 11 and Sept. 14. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.7 percentage points.

In a head-to-head matchup, Orman’s lead grows to 10 percentage points, according to the poll.

Republican secretary of state Kris Kobach insists that Democrats must nominate a replacement candidate if Taylor is removed from the ballot, but that has not proven to be binding so far.

Mich. Senate Race: Terri Lynn Land Promises to ‘Turn the Page on Washington’

Republican Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land is out with a new ad campaign, “Turn the Page,” touting her Michigan First plan.

“How will Terri Lynn Land put Michigan first?” the narrator asks, before going on to say she will ask for trade deals, work to secure the borders, and keep tax dollars in Michigan.

The ad spot began running statewide on Friday.

According to the most recent poll, the former secretary of state, who’s up against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for the seat held by retiring Sen. Carl Levin, is closing in on her opponent's lead.

A September 14 poll conducted by Mitchell Research has Peters up 2 points, 43 percent to 41 percent, which is within the margin of error.

The most recent poll comes amid reports of Peters’ petcoke hypocrisy.

Democratic Michigan Congressman and Senate candidate Gary Peters refused to sell his stock in the substance petroleum coke (petcoke), despite the fact that he has called petcoke “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel” and launched a public campaign to highlight the evils of a petcoke buildup in the area around the Detroit River.

Peters owns $19,000 in stock in the French oil company Total S.A., which produces petcoke, among other things. Peters’ 2014 Republican Senate opponent, Terri Lynn Land, has been hammering Peters on the investment.

“Am I going to sell it? I have no plans of it, no,” Peters said in comments Monday to The Detroit News. “It is an investment in the fourth largest oil company in the world. It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.”

Peters had previously been ahead of Land by seven to nine points. Real Clear Politics ranks the race as leaning Democratic, but with 44 days until the election and Peters continuing to slip in the polls, the race is still very much in play.

Obama's ISIS Tap Dance

Don’t let a rare act of bipartisanship fool you. Just because Congress came together (miraculously and quickly before, ahem, their midterm elections) in passage of a continuing resolution which also authorizes the training and arming of Syrian troops, doesn’t mean that the American people - or the military for that matter – are fully buying into the president’s plan.

All the hustle and bustle on Capitol Hill this week laid bare the confusion and political calculation behind the White House’s recent push to go after the ISIS (ISIL) terrorist group, which increases its threats against the U.S. and its allies every day. Despite overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, many members of Congress continue to push for additional details from administration officials on just exactly what the U.S. is getting into.

One major point of contention is whether or not President Obama has the legal authority to carry out the airstrikes that are currently taking place. Secretary of State John Kerry hashed this out with both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, saying that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) grants the president the authority he needs to go after “Al Qaeda and associated forces.” He argued that ISIS is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda, only recently changing its name because of an internal disagreement.

Some members of Congress buy this, others don’t; but most have requested that the President seek a new AUMF – a request that Kerry said was welcomed and encouraged by the President. Although with Congress out of session for the next 45 days, just when that measure might be taken up remains in the air.

Many questions remain concerning the international coalition and the viability of Syrian ground forces. 40 - 50 countries have been reported as partners in the fight, but very little detail has been released on exactly what each nation plans to contribute - particularly from the Arab countries. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed their hesitancy to ally with Saudi Arabia, who has funded terrorist activity, and have expressed concern over the potential impact this operation will have on empowering enemies such as Iran, Assad, and other regional terrorist organizations.

But, despite having already moved forward with airstrikes and building an international team of (somewhat questionable) allies, the most baffling moments of last week’s PR push for support was that administration officials still prefer to say that the U.S. is in the process of degrading and destroying, rather than engaging in war, and cannot determine the most politically correct way to refer to the enemy at hand. 

The White House has taken great effort to structure talking points that separate ISIS from the Islamic religion, instead of highlighting the very real threat that radical Muslim extremists continue to pose to the American way of life. President Obama told the nation that ISIS “is not Islamic,” and Secretary Kerry made several statements while on the Hill that ISIS is a cult “masquerading” as a religious movement.

Even when directly asked if the U.S. is at war, Secretary Kerry could only stammer a roundabout response that referred to ISIS as “the enemy of Islam” and “the enemy of humanity.” (See Townhall.com Web Editor Sarah Jean Seaman’s footage from Thursday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing below.)

Right now, the country needs a strong Commander-in-Chief instead of a political tap dancer. It has long been a plague of this administration – which has resulted in an even more gridlocked and bitterly political culture within Washington - that the American people get nothing but loose rhetoric and false promises.

But, taking into account that it took two American beheadings (and several rounds of golf) for the president to react to this “jayvee” enemy, it does not seem likely that change will occur soon.

The president must be clear-eyed about the reality of the world we live in. The U.S. cannot afford for its leaders to focus more on political correctness than dealing head-on with the sometimes harsh, but definitive, red lines that provide for greater national security.

Pray for this country. We need it.

Louisiana School System Says Educating Illegal Immigrant Children Will Cost $4.6 Million

The cost of educating illegal immigrant children who are residing in the United States will cost one school district in Louisiana almost $5 million, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. State Superintendent of Education John White crunched the numbers in response to a request from Senator David Vitter (R-LA).

According to White:

The Jefferson Parish School System estimates the total cost associated with educating these students to be $4.6 million. The district will receive an estimated $2.2 million toward this cost through the state funding formula based on the October 1 enrollment count adjustment (533 students x $4,261 per student). The other affected districts are calculating their estimated costs and will report them to the state next week.

In addition to normal cost of sending a child into the public school system, these aliens often need additional aid to address the language barrier. White noted that to serve the 533 illegal immigrants, the district would need to hire several additional English as a Second Language teachers.

The Washington Free Beacon, the media outlet that broke the story, has more:

Louisiana is among the 10 states that have received the most unaccompanied alien children, according to data compiled by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The state will pay $25.8 million to educate 1,250 illegal alien children this school year.

Unaccompanied alien children have been relocated to every state in the nation, stressing local education budgets. Costs of accepting the young illegal immigrants range from $147.7 million in New York with the addition of 4,159 students, to $18,630 in Montana, which will enroll just one child.

Sen. Vitter attributed the sharp increase in illegal immigrant minors to the Obama administration policies, and in particular to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action in 2012.

As I noted in a previous post, communities are required by law to educate illegal immigrants in public schools. So, taxpayers are being forced by law to pay to educate the very individuals who have broken the law. Something about this just seems terribly amiss.

Report: GOP Leadership Considering Rules To Punish Party Disloyalty

A new congressional delegation will bring a new vote for leadership. With Democrats needing a miracle to gain a few seats, much less actually take the House, Republicans are close to a sure bet to be in control come November. That'll mean elections, and elections means a John Boehner who needs to have the support of his caucus.

There are a lot of members of the GOP caucus who don't very much like John Boehner. He's taken a lot of heat for being insufficiently conservative. To avoid an embarrassing vote, leadership might have some "rules tweaks" in the pipeline, as National Journal reports:

House Republicans are quietly discussing a proposal that could fundamentally alter the way future speakers of the House are chosen, according to multiple GOP sources, with the objective of avoiding a repeat of John Boehner's embarrassing reelection vote in 2013.

The rule tweak began as an informal discussion but has morphed into a concrete proposal that is beginning to circulate in the House. According to people briefed on it, any Republican who votes on the House floor in January against the conference's nominee for House speaker—that is, the candidate chosen by a majority of the House GOP during its closed-door leadership elections in November—would be severely punished. Specifically, sources say, any dissenters would be stripped of all committee assignments for that Congress.

"There's a real concern that there's between 30 and 40 people that would vote against the speaker on the House floor, so they're trying to change the conference rules to make sure that doesn't happen," said a GOP member familiar with the proposal.

The last time, as National Journal notes, there were 12 members who voted against Boehner's speakership on the House floor. The GOP leadership wants to present a more united front this time around.

As Tillis Trails Hagan, NRA Launches Major Ad Buy

This isn’t a surprise, but Thom Tillis needs something to happen if he’s to unseat Hagan by Election Day.

Recent news hasn’t been too kind to Tillis. A poll from the conservative Civitas Institute showed that unaffiliated voters in North Carolina, who make up 27 percent of the electorate, back Hagan over him.

Fox News poll of likely North Carolina voters showed that Sen. Hagan has the advantage, beating Tillis 41/36. Yet, 19 percent said that they could change their mind between now and Election Day.

An Elon University poll also found Hagan beating Tillis 45/41 amongst likely voters. Tillis’ 47-point deficit amongst single women (they’re breaking 65/18 for Hagan) could be one of the reasons why he’s continued to trail Hagan in the polls. The poll surveyed 1,078 residents, 983 were registered to vote in North Carolina, and 629 described themselves as likely voters.

But there are some areas where Tillis can maneuver. For the first time since 2007, likely voters said the most important issue in the United States had to do with national security, or something related to international relations. Republicans have a clear advantage on foreign affairs heading into the 2014 midterms.

At the same time, from this poll, it looks as if immigration won’t be such an animating force as it is in New Hampshire amongst North Carolina’s registered voters, of which 47 percent think “immigrants are a benefit to North Carolina because of their hard work.” Forty percent feel they will be a burden to public services.

Abortion is another tricky issue, as 44 percent favor fewer restrictions on abortion; 40 percent want more restrictions. On Obamacare, almost half of registered voters–48 percent– think the ACA would make North Carolina health care worse, according to the Elon Poll. Thirty-one percent think it will make it better.

Then again, 7.5 percent of likely voters polled said they were undecided. When pressed whom they would vote for, 49 percent still said they were not sure. Elon predicted that means 4.6 percent of the electorate is up for grabs.

Recently, the National Rifle Association is planning a $11.4 million dollar advertising campaign in key senate and gubernatorial races (via Politico):

The National Rifle Association has reserved $11.4 million for its initial fall advertising campaign and will begin airing its first TV commercials Wednesday in three Senate races crucial to determining which party controls the chamber next year.

The gun rights group, which outlined its fall priorities exclusively for POLITICO Campaign Pro, said it plans to spend much more than the initial outlay during the final weeks before the midterm elections.

The first ads will begin airing in the Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina Senate races. They will be followed in the next few days with a mix of TV, radio and digital ads to help out the GOP Senate candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa and Louisiana.

The NRA has reserved $1.4 million of time in each state.

The bulk of the North Carolina buy, just over $1 million, will air in the Raleigh-Durham market, and about $350,000 will be spent in Greensboro.

Additionally, Freedom Partners Action Fund launched a $750,000 ad buy with two ads hitting Sen. Hagan over the Veterans Affairs fiasco and Obamacare.

The Obamacare ad actually ties in education, where we hear from a registered Democrat named Brenda, who taught in North Carolina for over 40 years, but had her hours cut as a substitute teacher due to Obamacare.

While not from the Tillis campaign, the Freedom Partners ad does a nice job in expanding the Obamacare blast radius to not just about gutted plans and higher premiums; it tied in education, which is an issue where Democrats are hammering Tillis.

Speaking of which, here’s an ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee slamming Tillis over his education cuts.

Sen. Kay Hagan, who garnered an endorsement from Cosmopolitan this week, also had this direct ad stating she’s "tough enough to keep taking the punches."

As Election Day draws closer, more voters are likely to become more attentive to this race. Elon predicts that North Carolina will have a higher than average voter turnout this year, so the possible fall groundswell could benefit either campaign. We’ll have to see what happens.

Could ISIS Hurt Franken's Chance for Reelection?

While incumbent Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) has a comfortable lead in opinion polls, some are wondering if his relatively muted response to ISIS actively recruiting soldiers from Minnesota will come back to haunt him in November.

Minnesota has been a hotbed for ISIS recruitment, with over a dozen residents of the Twin Cities traveling to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State. Two have been killed.

Mike McFadden, the Republican candidate for Franken's seat, has jumped on the issue of ISIS in Minneapolis by portraying Franken as ineffectively combating the terror threat.

More from ABC:

Hours after the release of the ISIS video showing the execution of American journalist Steven Sotloff on Sept. 2, McFadden blasted Franken for his support of the president’s “foreign policy blunders.”

He later said Franken was “asleep at the wheel” after the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on a federal grand jury investigation of an attempt to convince 20 to 30 Somali men to leave Minnesota and join ISIS.

“This is a very, very serious issue, and it has not received the attention from Sen. Franken it deserves,” McFadden told ABC News. “We’re sitting here today six years after Sen. Franken and President Obama were elected, and the world is a more dangerous place.”

While Franken wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking for assistance on addressing the matter of his constituents being successfully recruited to terrorist groups, McFadden called the effort “a day late and a dollar short.”

Franken was narrowly elected in 2009. Despite polls earlier this year showing low favorability and approval ratings, he leads recent polls by 13 points.

Joe Biden at DNC Women's Lunch: I Sure Miss That Serial Sexual Assaulter Bob Packwood

Vice President Joe Biden is having quite the week. First he used the Jewish slur "Shylock" while attempting to describe greed. Then in another speech, Biden described Asia as "The Orient."

Today at a DNC women's event (reminder, the folks over at the DNC, including Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, love using war on women rhetoric) Biden said he misses the days of bipartisanship in Washington and especially misses Republican Senator Bob Packwood. 

"It was Republicans that were involved," Biden said in a speech at a DNC Women’s Leadership Forum breakfast. "Guys like [former Maryland Sen.] Mac Mathias and Packwood and so many others. It wasn't Democrats alone. Republicans were the sponsors of the raises of the minimum wage. I could go on and on. I'm not joking: This is not your father's Republican Party, or your mother's Republican Party."

As a reminder, Bob Packwood was run out of the Senate for abhorrent behavior as a misogynist, serial sexual harasser/assaulter and creep. 

After Republican Robert W. Packwood was narrowly reelected to the Senate by Oregon voters in 1992, The Washington Post published a lengthy front-page story outlining the senator's unwanted sexual advances as reported by 10 women, mainly former staff members and lobbyists.

The extremely detailed and convincing accounts of Packwood's gross misbehavior were appalling. Outrage toward Packwood in his home state of Oregon and across the nation grew by day. The scandal and legal entanglements surrounding it would lead the senator to tearfully end his political career in 1995.

But hey, you can't really blame Biden. Excusing sexual abuse is just a habit. After all, he's in the party that praises and glorifies Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton (who have the same records as Packwood, but because they vote the right way on abortion, were allowed by Democrats to stay in politics). At the 2012 DNC convention, Bill Clinton spoke and a seven-minute long tribute video was played in honor of Ted Kennedy's life. Naturally, they left out the chapter when Kennedy left a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, to die in his car. 

Why Was David Limbaugh's Book Left Off NYT's Bestseller List?

Was this an innocent mistake or another calculated ploy to slight a conservative author? You decide.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reports that David Limbaugh, a best-selling author and popular Townhall columnist, has been curiously left off the New York Times bestseller list -- even though his book is flying off bookshelves everywhere. As a matter of fact, it’s already reached pinnacle status on Amazon.com, boasting higher book sales in recent days than most other print publications on the market.

What, then, could possibly explain this glaring omission?

The New York Times Book Review, which has a history of belatedly recognizing conservative bestsellers, has banished conservative legal author David Limbaugh’s latest, Jesus on Trial, from its upcoming best seller list despite having sales better than 17 other books on the list.

According to publishing sources, Limbaugh’s probe into the accuracy of the Bible sold 9,660 in its first week out, according to Nielsen BookScan. That should have made it No. 4 on the NYT print hardcover sales list.

Instead, Henry Kissinger’s World Order, praised by Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post, is No. 4 despite weekly sales of 6,607.

As Secrets wrote about a similar banishment early in the sales of conservative Dinesh D’Souza’s America, the Gray Lady is mysterious in how it calculates its list. A spokeswoman said, “We let the rankings speak for themselves and are confident they are accurate.”

If so, Limbaugh’s book should easily have made the bestseller list. The fact that it didn't certainly suggests that the New York Times is once again engaging in anti-conservative bias.

President and publisher of Regnery Publishing, Marji Ross, told Townhall she was absolutely "flabbergasted" by the news.

“Basically, we were flabbergasted when we got the New York Times bestseller list...and saw that Jesus on Trial wasn’t listed on their top 20 print books,” she said. “We saw sales of nearly 10,000 copies for David’s book, and we knew from past experience what that translates into. And that certainly is enough copies to always make it onto the bestseller list.”

She explained that Limbaugh’s book sold roughly 9,600 copies (according to advanced figures) while Henry Kissinger’s book sold roughly only 6,600 copies -- and yet Kissinger’s book landed at No. 4 on the bestseller list.

“When we saw Henry Kissinger’s book at #4, we literally couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Be that as it may, this isn't the first time something like this has happened.

“We’ve seen this kind of thing before where one of our books [is slighted], and frankly, I think it happens a lot to conservative authors and conservative titles and conservative publishers,” she added. “But this time was truly the most shocking.”

You can learn more about ways to receive a free copy of Jesus on Trial by clicking here.

After all, regardless of what the Times thinks, the book is still very much worth reading.

Military Leaders Increasingly at Odds With Obama Over ISIS Strategy

Obama's strategy on how to combat ISIS is confusing at best, but one thing is clear: the battle brewing between Obama and America's top generals about how to move forward against the terror army. 

Earlier this week during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey said there is potential he will recommend ground troops should the coalition with Arab countries against ISIS fail. 

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that we include the use of U.S. military ground forces. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said.

The next day, President Obama gave a speech in Florida at U.S. Central Command and stressed, "I will not commit you, and the rest of our armed forces, to fighting another ground war in Iraq." Obama has repeatedly insisted ground troops will not be used against ISIS.

Regardless, the line of generals and other high ranking military officials expressing skepticism over President Obama's plan and strategy is quickly getting longer. 

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis:

"Half‐hearted or tentative efforts, or air strikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foe’s credibility, reinforcing his recruiting efforts which are already strong. I do not necessarily advocate American ground forces at this point, but we should never reassure our enemy that our commander‐in‐chief would not commit them at the time and place of his choosing. When we act it should be unequivocal, designed to end the fight as swiftly as possible. While no one is more reluctant to see us again in combat than those of us who have signed letters to the next of kin of our fallen, if something is worth fighting for we must bring full strength to bear."
General Loyd Austin:
President Obama had been given advice on how to handle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but did not act on it, according to a new report from Real Clear Defense.Obama was preparing his strategy when he rejected the “best military advice” of Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command.

General Ray Odierno:

Airstrikes have halted the advance of the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, General Odierno, now the Army chief of staff, told journalists from four news organizations, including The New York Times, in what aides said were his first public comments on the current situation in Iraq. Ultimately, though, “you’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting them out,” he said, referring to the Islamic extremists.

The airstrikes “will not be the end all and be all solution in Iraq,” he said. Similarly, he added, the jihadis cannot be allowed to have a safe haven across the border in Syria.

Lt. Col. Oliver North:

"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." 

"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...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.'"

Last night on The Kelly File, General Jack Keane gave his analysis: 

And then there's this:

The current situation in Iraq is a direct result of President Obama choosing politics over the advice of his generals. Even with the threat of ISIS, things haven't changed.

Report: ISIS Urging "Lone Wolves" To Target US Soldiers

My visceral reaction to reading this story was intense anger. And yet, why am I bewildered that a terrorist organization that kills innocents has reportedly stepped up its efforts in urging rogue extremists in the U.S. to target American soldiers?

On second thought, I’m not surprised at all. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find their their latest tactic to kill Americans somewhat strange. Is this not the same army of barbarians whose chief spokesman (since killed in a drone strike) arrogantly prodded the president to “send [us] your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq?” If ISIS is so confident and proud of their own military capabilities, why must they resort to such cowardly and desperate acts?

Fox News has the exclusive:

A law enforcement bulletin obtained by FoxNews.com warned that Islamic State fighters have increased calls for "lone wolves" to attack U.S. soldiers in America in recent months, citing one tweet that called for jihadists to find service members' addresses online and then "show up and slaughter them."

There will be “a continued call - by Western fighters in Syria and terrorist organizations - for lone offender attacks against U.S. military facilities and personnel,” warned a July law enforcement intelligence bulletin from the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange, a state-run agency that gathers, assesses and shares threat information and works with the Department of Homeland Security. “These threats will most likely increase should the U.S. or its allies attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) in Syria or Iraq.”

Given what happened yesterday in Australia, the West must be ever-vigilant and on its guard against coordinated and “lone wolf”-style terror attacks from ISIS. Our soldiers, it seems, are now top targets.

And while not wholly unexpected, this is something all of us should bear in mind.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is An Obama Problem, Not A DNC Problem

A Politico report came out a few days ago about the Democrats and the White House turning against DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It's obvious timing because Wasserman Schultz has become a public liability for the Democrats - but not for the reasons they claim.

The White House claims that Wasserman Schultz is looking out for herself above the party. But that's not true. Wasserman Schultz is only doing what the Democrats and the Obama White House want her to do.

RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said that the way Wasserman Schultz is being treated is embarrassing:

What the White House and what others are doing, throwing her under the bus, if they don't like the job they're doing they should respectfully ask her to step down, but treating her this way is just really not something that should be done.

An RNC spokesperson tells Townhall that "when they lose this November, it won't be because of what the DNC didn't do. It will be due to the failures at the White House."

"Obama Lives in a Cocoon Surrounded by Sycophants"

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal: 

Bill Bennett interviews Marc Thiessen on why we need American troops fighting the Islamic State. Medved talks with John McCain about the best strategy moving forward in Iraq. Krauthammer tells Hugh Hewitt that Obama lives in a cocoon surrounded by sycophants. Bennett speaks with Marco Rubio and then David Gelernter on Islamic Jihadism and Muslims trying to stop Ayaan Hirsi Ali from talking on campus.

Boom: Federal Investigators Find No Christie Link in 'Bridgegate' Probe

When the team of investigators enlisted by Chris Christie's office to look into the 'Bridgegate' matter -- which was comprised of former federal prosecutors with reputations on the line, by the way -- cleared Christie of any knowledge of those fateful lane closures, critics scoffed.  Of course his personally-sanctioned internal investigation produced favorable results.  Acutely aware of that skepticism, Christie made the following prediction during a lengthy press conference at which he unveiled the inquiry's results: "I think the report will stand the test of time. But it will be tested by the other investigations that are ongoing.”  He was right, of course.  If independent investigators had unearthed evidence refuting his consistent story, his credibility would be shot.  And the probe he'd authorized would look like a corrupt joke -- an elaborate, crass, and taxpayer-funded cover up.  Well, that report has been tested by federal investigators for nine months, and now we have our first meaningful look into what they've found.  Or, more accurately, haven't found:

The U.S. Justice Department investigation into New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie’s role in “Bridgegate” has thus far uncovered no information he either knew in advance or directed the closure of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, federal officials tell NBC 4 New York. The September 2013 closures -- where several entrance lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee were shut down causing a traffic nightmare for commuters -- has been the subject of several federal and state investigations. Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes . According to one former federal prosecutor, who had no involvement in any of the probes into the bridge closure, investigations of this kind will often turn up a solid connection early in the inquiry.

And that hasn't happened.  This isn't the final report, so it's probably premature to sound the "total exoneration, full stop" trumpet just yet, but this is big news nonetheless.  To recap: The Christie-authorized investigation cleared him, the feds have found zero evidence connecting him to the decisions he's repeatedly repudiated, and the Trenton-based legislative probe has also struck out, by leading Democrats' own admission.  Oh-for-three.  Unless significant, heretofore unseen information comes to light (and no, deranged, discredited accusations don't count), this matter is resolved.  Two high-ranking members of Christie's inner circle abused their authority and lied about it, which is a fair knock on Christie's judgment.  But he dealt with the violators swiftly and decisively (and with contrition), and his unwavering insistence that he had absolutely nothing to do with their machinations appears to have been vindicated by the facts.  But in the sphere of public opinion, real damage has been done.  Christie's recovered from his mid-scandal polling free fall in New Jersey, but he's never come close to recapturing the remarkably broad-based support that fueled his overwhelming re-election victory.  The media's incessant drum-beating on 'Bridgegate' has taken its toll; we'll see how much ink and airtime they devote to this new chapter.  Either way, the federal whiff presents a peg for Christie to hang his hat on -- a clean, easy rebuttal to scandal-related criticism that may come his way should he decide to run for president in 2016.

Many conservatives harbor legitimate wariness when contemplating a potential Christie presidential candidacy; absent major countervailing evidence, 'Bridgegate' should be stricken from the sources of concern.  In fact, aside from the judgment questions pertaining to the fired staffers, it might even deserve a place in the 'positives' column.  Democrats threw everything they had at the guy to try to kill his political career in one fell swoop.  Much of the mainstream media was happy to oblige in the endeavor.  Though they've wounded Christie, they didn't finish him off.  Their obvious fear of him, coupled with his skillful and articulate defense of himself throughout this ordeal, shouldn't be discounted.  Conservatives should also be mindful that the Left is increasingly weaponizing the criminal justice system as a means of knee-capping people they view as threats.  Over the last year alone, they've come after Christie in Jersey, Rick Perry in Texas and Scott Walker in Wisconsin (which might be the most insidious case of the three for a number of reasons).  The Right can and should have robust debates about personalities and policies in advance of 2016, but it must stand arm-in-arm against unjustified character assassination in the form of partisan criminal investigations and bogus indictments.  I'll leave you with a bit of snark at the anti-Christie media's expense:

In fairness to MSNBC, it's not exactly a slow news week -- but if it were, would they devote endless hours of coverage to this narrative-disrupting revelation? Doubtful, and don't bother asking, either. Rachel Maddow "doesn't play requests."

UPDATE - Christie responds:

Megyn Kelly Destroys Bill Ayers, Again

Yesterday Salon, a far-left outlet, published a piece in which Bill Ayers said Fox News Host Megyn Kelly had "very cold eyes" and that she is a very strange person. The comment came a month after Kelly conducted an explosive interview with Ayers on her show. From the piece

She struck me as a very strange person. She’s like a cyborg constructed in the basement of Fox News. She’s very striking, but very metallic, very cold. Her eyes are very cold.

In response to Ayers, Kelly tweeted about his comments and then took him on during her show last night.

As for my alleged time in the basement, well I've never actually lived underground unlike Ayers and his wife Bernadine who evaded the FBI for 11 years. And then there's the eyes. The man's got a point, they can be cold, but not as cold as those of three people killed while making bombs for Ayers' group, but I see a tie, especially when I'm looking at a serial bomber who terrorized so many, including an innocent little boy.

Well done. 

U.S. Air Force Allows Scrubbing of "So Help Me God" From Enlistment Oath

The U.S. Air Force is allowing airman to scrub "so help me God" from their enlistment oath if they choose to do so. 

The Washington Post has the background details on the change: 

After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states “so help me God,” the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath.

Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement.

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in the statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.

It has been the tradition of the military for centuries to include "so help me God" in the enlistment oath. The change came after an atheist group pressured the Air Force to change the policy and argued an the atheist airman at the center of the controversy shouldn't be speaking about a God he doesn't believe in. 

On another note, Fox News radio host and Townhall columnist Todd Starnes has been reporting on the cleansing of God from the military for years. 

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 favorability 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.