Cortney O'Brien - Obama to Attend Fundraiser Hosted by Pro-Israel Advocate
Posted: 9/12/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

President Obama will travel to Baltimore Friday to attend a fundraiser hosted by Howard E. Friedman, described by the Baltimore Sun as "one of the nation's foremost advocates for Israel." Those hoping to attend the event will have to fork over a hefty fee:

Howard E. Friedman, a former president of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and a leading patron of Jewish political causes, will host Obama for a dinner that will cost guests up to $32,400 — the maximum an individual may give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the calendar year.

Friedman, who has served as chairman of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and as president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, has a lot of political clout in Washington. Since 2009, he's given nearly $100,000 in contributions, mostly to Democrats. 

The fundraiser comes in the midst of Israel's struggle with the terror group Hamas. The conflict raging on the Gaza Strip is currently in a ceasefire, but judging from past ceasefire attempts, it's perhaps only a matter of time before Hamas breaks the agreement.

Many have questioned the Obama administration's support of Israel. During the crisis that has unfolded in the Middle East, the White House decided to send a $47 million aid package to Gaza, which legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned would go straight into the hands of Hamas. Others accused the administration of aiding Israel's enemy after banning flights to Israel. What's more, instead of defending Israel in its attempt to respond to the Hamas threat, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to reach out to Qatar and Turkey for a possible ceasefire. Qatar is known to be one of Hamas' biggest supporters. Still others criticize Obama for having an unnecessarily tenuous relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The president may have to do more than attend a pricey fundraiser to quell some of these criticisms and prove he truly does stand with Israel.

Guy Benson - Wow: Denver CBS News Affiliate Torches Democratic Senator for Dodging Debates
Posted: 9/12/2014 10:47:00 AM EST

Recent polling suggests that Democratic incumbent Mark Udall holds a narrow lead over Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado's US Senate race.  But the race is firmly in the 'toss-up' catregory; President Obama is deeply unpopular in the state, and Gardner is running a strong, disciplined campaign.  When the two nominees met up for an in-person (un-televised) debate last weekend, neutral observers chalked the exchange up as a Gardner win.  Udall's performance was characterized by long, awkward pauses and statements for which he was later forced to apologize.  Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that Udall has decided that his schedule won't allow for a televised debate on any of Colorado's major network affiliates. Denver's CBS News affiliate took Udall to the woodshed for this 'duck and cover' strategy in a remarkably unsparing on-air segment.  Words, not minced:

"For the first time in CBS 4 history, an incumbent US Senator has declined to debate his opponent live on our air. In fact, Sen. Mark Udall is not doing a debate on any of the four major network television stations...

As correspondent Shaun Boyd points out in the package, Team Udall sent a brash letter to the Gardner campaign in June, challenging the Republican to "a series of open and honest debates."  Gardner was perplexed at the time, since he'd accepted virtually every debate invitation he'd received.  Now Udall wants to limit the number of those "open and honest" forums, and is working to ensure that as few voters see them as possible. Other vulnerable Democrats are adopting a similar approach.  New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen has scrupulously avoided holding open town hall meetings (a Granite State staple), and North Carolina's Kay Hagan is bowing out of major debates (she did poorly in her first meeting with Republican Thom Tillis; the GOP is now hammering her for dodging debates, a criticism she successfully leveled against her GOP opponent in 2008).  Perhaps these Senators would prefer not to be challenged over their lock-step pro-Obama voting records, or their false promises on Obamacare.  For instance, all of them vowed that consumers could keep their preferred plans -- a pledge that was rated the 2013 "lie of the year" by left-leaning Politifact. Their subsequent attempts at spin and revisionism fall far short of credibility.  Millions of Americans have been stripped of their existing coverage, with millions more to come. This has become an especially hot issue in Colorado after it was revealed that Udall's staff pressured state employees to fudge and hide the cancellation numbers, which continue to swell.  Here's the latest hit in Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner eagerly joined in on the "keep your plan" fib:

Greg Hengler - Obama Decrees: Islamic State is NOT Islamic!
Posted: 9/12/2014 9:47:00 AM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Hugh Hewitt and Rep. Pompeo on the President's Islamic State address. Bill Bennett and Michael Rubin on the fight with the Islamic State. Mike Gallagher and Andy McCarthy on the war with radical Islamists. Bill Bennett and Sean Trende on the possible coming wave election. Hewitt and Rep. Cotton on the race to watch in November. Hewitt talks with the young guns from the Washington Free Beacon about the possible 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Bill Bennett and Mona Charen on the Rotherham abuse scandal. Medved on the Islamic ideology.

Leah Barkoukis - CIA: Number of ISIS Fighters Now Up to 31,500
Posted: 9/12/2014 9:16:00 AM EST

It seems the Islamic State’s ranks have swelled considerably in the last couple of months. Up until this point it had been estimated that at least 10,000 fighters were in the group. Now, however, that number has tripled.

A spokesperson for the agency told Fox News that new assessments show that the militant group can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria.

The spokesperson said the new figures were determined after a review of “all-source intelligence reports” on the group from May to August.

The new numbers are a big jump from the agency’s previous estimate that there were at least 10,000 Islamic State fighters.

The spokesperson said the increase is likely due to the militant’s group recruiting gains after its success on the battlefield.

“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence,” the spokesperson told Fox News.

Obama said in his speech on ISIS this week that the U.S. and its allies will “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terrorist organization.

Katie Pavlich - Illegal? Obama Wants to Use Bush's 2001 War Authorization to Justify Attacks on ISIS
Posted: 9/12/2014 8:55:00 AM EST

In his address to the nation Wednesday night about how the United States is going to handle the growing ISIS threat, President Obama announced new airstrikes in Syria and called on Congress to give "input," but didn't ask for their authorization. Why? Apparently President Obama thinks he can use the authorization given to President George W. Bush in 2001 to go after al Qaeda. Legally, that move isn't panning out. As Eli Lake over at the Daily Beast writes, Obama's latest war is probably illegal: 

Obama’s using the law that authorized attacks against al Qaeda to justify his new fight in Syria and Iraq. One small problem: ISIS and al Qaeda are at each others’ throats. Legal experts were shocked to learn Wednesday that the Obama administration wants to rely on that 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force against al Qaeda for the new ISIS war.

“On its face this is an implausible argument because the 2001 AUMF requires a nexus to al Qaeda or associated forces of al Qaeda fighting the United States,” said Robert Chesney, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “Since ISIS broke up with al Qaeda it’s hard to make that argument.”

Ideally, when beginning a new war like Obama is doing now, the president would ask Congress to declare it.

As a reminder, President Obama campaigned on asking Congress for war authorization back in 2008. My how things have changed.

Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States isn't "at war" with ISIS but instead has launched a "counterterrorism" operation against the army. The White House echoed that statement. The administration won't admit Obama is starting a war for two reasons. The first is political in that it upset Obama's far left base. The second is that declaring war would require Obama to ask Congress for authorization, which in return would require the President to come up with a coherent strategy and be accountable to lawmakers for implementing that strategy as planned and promised. Obama doesn't want to answer to anyone, but especially Congress. 

Katie Pavlich - Brother of Beheaded American Journalist James Foley: State Department Threatened Us
Posted: 9/12/2014 8:40:00 AM EST

In an exclusive interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly last night on the Kelly File the brother of beheaded American journalist James "Jim" Foley, Michael Foley, expressed disappointment over how the Obama administration is handling the threat of terror army ISIS and in the administration's handling of his brother's capture leading up to his death. James Foley was beheaded three weeks ago by an ISIS terrorist and a YouTube video of the gruesome murder was posted online. President Obama was on vacation at the time and eight minutes after making a statement about the murder, returned to the golf course, a move a majority of Americans found to be in bad taste. 

In reacting to President Obama's speech earlier this week, Foley said he wanted to see a more involved strategy put on the table to stabilize the region. Further in reaction to a question posed by Kelly about whether the Obama administration did everything it could to bring James Foley home, especially after the Bowe Bergdahl swap and comments by Obama saying Americans leave no man behind, Michael Foley said his family is "appalled" by the situation. Foley also talked about how he was threatened directly by the State Department and said that when the family tried to get information from the U.S. government or from other allies, they were stonewalled.

Kelly: I'm wondering if you feel he [Obama] and the administration did all they could to get Jim back. 

Foley: No, no. We're appalled by the situation and you know, it went past not doing everything they could, they were actually in impedance and got in our way and that's what really bothers me to the core. We were, I was specifically threatened by the Department of State about raising funds toward ransom demands for my brother. We were smart enough to look past it but it slowed us down. We lost a lot of time trying to regroup. 

"The video just struck me to the core that, just the evil this group has, I just can't wrap my mind around that. Jim was such a good person. I wish I could even come close to his approach to life. He really, really cared about the disadvantaged his entire career from teaching in inner city Phoenix to working with mother's getting their GED's in Chicago and all of his work in the Middle East to bring light to all of the atrocities there," Foley said. "It was just a circumstance, an ending that I could have never imagined."

Leah Barkoukis - ISIS Seeks 'Cyber Caliphate'
Posted: 9/11/2014 8:42:00 PM EST

ISIS is hoping to carry out major attacks on the West that could wreak major havoc—and they could do it from anywhere in the world.

Islamic State militants are planning the creation of a 'cyber caliphate' protected by their own encryption software - from behind which they will launch massive hacking attacks on the U.S. and the West.

Both Islamic State and Al Qaeda claim to be actively recruiting skilled hackers in a bid to create a team of jihadist computer experts capable of causing devastating cyber disruptions to Western institutions. […]

Large numbers of Islamic State fighters are young, highly educated Westerners who are fighting the holy war with sophisticated backgrounds and training with digital technology.

Militants' use of Twitter and Facebook allows them to target an entire new generation of young possible recruits, while the beheading videos of James Foley and Steven Sotloff were created using skilled video and audio editing techniques.

They are now boasting it is only a matter of time before their plan becomes a reality.

“They are forward-thinking and are experimenting with hacking,” Steve Stalinsky of the Middle East Media Research Institute, told the Daily Mail. “In the future, the jihadists’ cyber army’s activities will become a daily reality.”

U.S. government organizations, energy companies, transportation systems, and banks are among the likely targets.

Matt Vespa - CT GOV: Dem Trails By Six, Voters Say Republican Is Better On Economy And Spending
Posted: 9/11/2014 7:30:00 PM EST

It looks like Republicans will control the majority of governorships after the 2014 cycle. They lead most gubernatorial races, albeit with small margins. Things look grim for incumbent Republican Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, but Republicans are in fairly decent shape in blue states like Illinois and Connecticut.

In Illinois, Republican challenger Bruce Rauner has a decent 7-point lead over Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, which is probably why both men “went for the jugular” in their first non-debate with the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Quinn has been struggling to break beyond 40-43 percent in the polls since January.

In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Republican challenger, Tom Foley, holds, on average, nearly a 7-point lead over him with likely voters. The new Quinnipiac poll also gives Foley a 6-point lead. While Malloy has the edge over Foley with women voters 45/38, it still makes him competitive within that demographic and offsets any advantages due to Foley’s massive lead with men 54/35. Additionally, Independent voters favor Foley over Malloy 48/35.

When it comes to favorability, both men are under water; Foley has a slightly better rating at 42 percent compared to Malloy’s 40 percent. For Malloy, his unfavorable ratings are high at 53 percent, with 40 percent saying they strongly dislike their current governor; an aspect Quinnipiac notes will be an additional obstacle in his re-election bid.

A further breakdown shows Malloy trailing Foley badly on key issues in this campaign, which are the economy/jobs, taxes, and a balance in government spending. In those three areas, on average, Malloy trails Foley by 21-points: 54/37, 59/31, and 54/36. Also, 48 percent of likely Connecticut voters think that Malloy doesn’t care about “their needs and problems.” On a positive note, 57 percent think he has “strong leadership qualities.” Yet, 53 percent also said the same thing of Foley.

While gun control might not be a top-tier issue, it has been brought up in debates. Regardless, Foley is much more gun friendly than Malloy and a pro-gun governor winning in the state that set off the latest anti-gun crusade across the country is interesting.

Guy Benson - Toxic: Obama Falls to New Lows in Fox News Poll
Posted: 9/11/2014 5:50:00 PM EST

Let's review eight data points from Fox's newly-released national survey, which is hardly an outlier in the national polling picture.  The picture isn't pretty for the White House:

(1) The president's job approval rating is at an all-time low in the series (38/56).  He's at (-37) among independents, (-16) with women, and (-12) with young voters.

Obama is deep underwater on every single major issue tested: The economy (-18), healthcare (-16), immigration (-32), foreign policy (-25), Syria (-34), Ukraine (-19), terrorism (-18), and Iraq (-25).

Fifty-nine percent of Americans say the US has become less respected in the world during Obama's presidency, compared to just 10 percent who say "more respected."  More than one-third of Democrats agree that America's standing has slid under Obama.  Fifty-seven percent of respondents call the president's leadership "weak and indecisive." 

A whopping 76 percent say the US should do more to combat ISIS, but a majority (54 percent) say Obama isn't prepared to do what it takes.  The survey was taken before Obama's prime time address last night.  Fifty-one percent said defeating ISIS will require ground troops, an assessment shared by top military officials, but rejected by the White House.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the beheaders of two American journalists should be dealt with by the US military, as opposed to the criminal justice system (14 percent).  Fully 77 percent believe it's at least somewhat likely that ISIS will attempt an attack on US soil in the future.

For the first time in this series, more voters feel less safe than they did before 9/11.

Presidential approval ratings are a significant factor in midterm election cycles -- which we discussed in yesterday's 2014 polling deep dive.

Greg Hengler - Gutfeld Kills Obama's ISIS Address
Posted: 9/11/2014 5:23:00 PM EST

"And you're right about climate change. Since you've been in charge it's gotten hotter in Libya, the Ukraine, Syria, Iraq...Detroit. You're worse for the environment than coal."