Guy Benson - Revealed: What You Need to Know About the Iranian Nuclear 'Framework'
Posted: 4/2/2015 6:45:00 PM EST

The deal is not done -- as the Iranians are eager to remind everyone -- because various particulars must still be hammered out between now and the end of June. The devil still lurks in crucial details, and potential sticking points abound. That said, the framework announced earlier today is more specific that many had expected. It contains elements that both sides will point to as meaningful wins, though Iran appears to have gotten the better of the agreement on the whole. Based on a State Department "fact sheet" summary -- worded, unsurprisingly, to reassure skeptical Americans -- and other reporting, here's what we know:

What Iran Gets:

(1) An active nuclear program with international legitimacy: The Obama administration's original goal at the outset of these talks was to eliminate Iran's nuclear program; the Washington Post's editors write that the White House's stance has since "evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict [Iran's nuclear] capability." Their infrastructure stays intact. They don't have to shut down any existing nuclear sites, including the ones they illegally developed in secret.

(2) Thousands of operational centrifuges: Despite agreeing to effectively uninstall (but not destroy) roughly two-thirds of their centrifuges (although that statistic is actually inflated), Iran is permitted to keep 6,100 on line, with just over 5,000 actively enriching low-grade uranium. The US' reported initial aim was to reduce this number to between 500 and 1,500. Hundreds of centrifuges (sans uranium) will continue to spin in Iran's once-covert, difficult-to-penetrate Fordow mountain facility, which was discovered by Western intelligence agencies in 2009.  Iran says it will convert the facility into a nuclear "research" center, used for purely peaceful purposes.

(3) Expiration dates on restrictions: Virtually all of the major Western-imposed restrictions on Iran's program "sunset" after a period of 10 to 15 years.  Iran's chief negotiator described these limitations as temporary, lasting only "for a period of time."  These are gigantic, consequential concessions. President Obama confirmed these points in his Rose Garden statement this afternoon, but Sec. Kerry later told reporters that there was "no sunset" in the deal.  Kerry may have been referring to the IAEA inspections regime, which does not appear to have any expiration date, meaning that Iran has, in theory, agreed to perpetual inspections over an unlimited time horizon.

(4) Major sanctions relief: Crucially, all American and international nuclear-based sanctions against Iran are to be lifted immediately upon an initial IAEA (the UN's nuclear watchdog) affirmation that Tehran has so far lived up to its end of the bargain.  Kerry stated that the exact timing of this major event is still under discussion, but if it goes through, Iran will receive immense sanctions relief in exchange for going along with the program at its earliest stages.  There does not appear to be any phase-in of sanctions reductions over time, contingent on continued Iranian compliance.  This would be an enormous boon to Iran's economy (freeing up cash for the regime to fund its continued malfeasance around the world), with Western "strings attached" getting severed very early on.  In addition to the sanctions, existing anti-Iran UN resolutions will be ripped up.  They would be extremely challenging to re-impose, for reasons discussed below.

(5) No action on other abuses and rogue programs: The regime's sponsorship and direct facilitation of terrorism, malignant meddling in the region, egregious human rights abuses, and rogue missile program are all untouched by this agreement.  Obama acknowledged all of these ongoing sins in his statement, noting that US sanctions attached to the regime's other bad behavior will remain in place.  America is cutting a deal with a regime that it admits is still engaging in international lawlessness and terrorism on a massive scale.

What America and the West Get:

(1) A relatively robust-sounding inspections/verification regime: Again, this might have been what Kerry meant when he was boasting about the deal's lack of a "sunset."  In fact, really important parts of the agreement would expire after just ten years, but it seems as though the inspections aren't among them.  We'll see if indefinite, unlimited inspections makes the final cut of this still-unwritten "deal."  It appears for now that by accepting the IAEA's so-called "additional protocol," Iran has effectively agreed in principle to allow "snap," or unannounced, inspections.  They've also granted international inspectors access to known and suspected nuclear sites.

(2) Limiting Iran's enrichment to low levels, with rudimentary technology: For now, that is.  These limitations start to go away after 10 years, with others following five years on.  The discussed restrictions would apply to the number of centrifuges enriching uranium, the important enrichment levels (which determine whether nuclear materials can be used in a bomb), and the sophistication of centrifuges being used and developed by Tehran.

(3) A lengthened Iranian nuclear "breakout" period: At present, Iran is estimated to be two-to-three months away from achieving "breakout" (the process of enriching enough nuclear material to the necessary level of purity to make the bomb).  The terms of this framework would extend Tehran's breakout period to one year.  That's an improvement that would theoretically allow the world community extra time to identify and punish any Iranian subterfuge.  Why "theoretically"? Stay tuned. 

(4) Iran reduces its current stockpile of nuclear materials:  In addition to cutting its number of operational centrifuges, Iran agrees to scale back its stockpile of existing low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg.  The West insisted upon removing that stockpile from the country, but the Iranians started resisting that course of action as a deal-breaker in the last few days.  The State Department's summary doesn't make clear what happens to the nuclear material in question.  Does it get shipped out of Iran?  Does it get diluted by international monitors?  Unclear.

Outstanding Problems and Concerns:

Well, let's start with Iranian officials' various triumphant pronouncements, including throwing serious shade at the State Department's "fact sheet," which is dismissed as "spin."  Which of its elements does Tehran view as illegitimate or misleading? One supposes that Kerry and company will find out in the next few months, as the nuclear clock ticks away, of course:

Beyond that, the agreement appears to punt on the important question of how Iran will address concerns about previous alleged military applications of their nuclear program, which the IAEA has been insisting they do for some time.  "Coming clean" about past activities a developments is an important step in ensuring that the international community can effectively monitor Iran's nuclear progress, or lack thereof.  How this gets resolved is another TBD component of the "understanding."  Also, let's say Iran were to violate the terms of a finalized deal (as they did with the interim deal, which was dismissed as a "mistake" by the Obama administration).  Then what?  Then, in theory, the international community could quickly reimpose "snap back" sanctions, and consider other options -- including even harsher sanctions, or military action.  But this would require a difficult-to-achieve consensus at the UN Security Council, with always-looming vetoes resting in the hands of the Chinese, and...Putin's Russia, which rarely misses a chance to frustrate American designs and embarrass our leaders.  And this all assumes the vaunted international community would even be able to agree that Iran was cheating at all.  These disputes could drag out for long periods of time, experts warn, presenting logistical and geopolitical delays of which Tehran would no doubt take full advantage.   In other words, reinstating lapsed sanctions and taking corrective action against will be a laborious, improbable undertaking.  Iran also knows that it doesn't necessarily need to push its luck with dramatic breaches; the regime can cheat at the margins, and wait out certain restrictions in the deal, after which they'd be legally free to move ahead with an extensive nuclear program, the existence of which had been effectively blessed by the West.  The Israelis, who have the most to lose at the hands of an intensely anti-Semitic nuclear-armed Mullahocracy, are, shall we say, alarmed:

Finally, a few notes on President Obama's Rose Garden remarks, after which he took no questions: He gave a short history lesson about recent US-Iranian relations, correctly stating that stepped-up sanctions hurt Iran's economy and forced them to the negotiating table.  He didn't mentioned that he'd strenuously resisted those very sanctions.  This is a reflection on his judgment.  Obama went on to claim that the current interim agreement has worked flawlessly, despite cynics' complaints when it was unveiled. This brag ignores an inconvenient little "mishap" that we oughtn't worry about.  Let's also recall that a major reason that additional sanctions were slapped on Iran in the first place is that they were caught cheating on another international nuclear treaty -- because that's what they do.  They cheat.  The State Department's fact sheet assures us that even when various provisions of the new would-be deal expire, Iran would still be bound by that same treaty (NPT) it has already breached.  In an attempt to fortify the mullah's good intentions on the nuclear front, Obama cited a religious order, or "fatwa," issued by Ayatollah Khamenei that forbids nuclear weapons. Two problems: The fatwa doesn't actually exist, and Iran has a history of ignoring their own fatwas in order to achieve their military goals.  Obama's reference to this nonexistence edict is misleading and naive.

Obama also stated his administration's intention of "fully briefing" Congress on any eventual deal, and to seek out a "constructive role" for them to play.  Will the president deign to "allow" a coequal branch of the United States government to vote on what amounts to a foreign treaty, as required by the Constitution?  He didn't say.  Perhaps encouragingly, he warned Congress not to kill the deal (which may signal that a vote will be held, as key leaders on the Hill are pushing hard), lest the failure of international diplomacy be "blamed" on America.  He, of course, resurrected his straw man that opposition to a very flawed deal is tantamount to adopting a pro-war stance.  He basically said straight-up that only a negotiated agreement, not harsh sanctions or military action, can solve the Iranian nuclear problem -- which at the very least undermines is own leverage moving forward.  Last but not least, Obama is asking the country to trust him that this "good deal" is "by far" our best option.  This is a man who repeatedly made false assertions to Americans about his healthcare overhaul, was humiliated and routed by adversaries in the Syrian 'red line' debacle, and green-lit and (attempted to whitewash) an unpopular (and unlawful) deal trading five top-level terrorists back to the Taliban in exchange for an accused American deserter.  His credibility on foreign policy is quite low, as is the American public's overall opinion of Iran's trustworthiness and intentions:

Leah Barkoukis - Nigeria's President-elect Vows to Crush Boko Haram
Posted: 4/2/2015 4:31:00 PM EST

In what proved to be a historic election in Nigeria this week, with challenger Muhammadu Buhari ousting incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram’s insurgency may finally be put in check—something Jonathan’s administration utterly failed to do.

Though Buhari has a rather sketchy record as the country’s former military dictator, there is reason to believe he has the will—and hopefully the ability—to turn things around.

“I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace,” Buhari said in his first address to the nation. “We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism. In tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do.”

He also pledged to rein in widespread corruption in the country.

But Buhari, 72, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), preached a receptive government “for all Nigerians” that would work to eradicate the “evil” of corruption.

He said: “There shall no longer be a ruling party again. [The] APC will be a governing party. We shall faithfully serve. We shall never rule over the people as if they were subservient to government. Our long night has past and the daylight of new democratic government has broken across the land.

“Democracy and the rule of law will be established in the land,” he added. “Let’s put the past behind us, especially the recent past. We must forget our old battles and past grievances and forge ahead.

“You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own.”

Buhari won the election with 15.4 million votes compared to Jonathan’s 13.3 million.

Vivian Hughbanks  - RFRA Bill In AR Legislature: If Not Approved Today, Will Become Law Monday Without Governor's Signature
Posted: 4/2/2015 3:45:00 PM EST

Update: Arkansas legislators have announced that Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has signed the revised RFRA bill.

Original post:

If a revised version of the bill that would implement the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the state of Arkansas is not approved by the state’s House today, it will go into effect even without the Governor’s signature next Monday.

The bill has a five day deadline for the governor to veto after first being approved by the legislature. Hutchinson refused to sign HB 1228 -- similar to legislation passed in Indiana last week -- after it was approved Tuesday by the legislature, sending it back for modification. Without a direct veto from Hutchinson or approval of new language, the original bill will become law Monday.

“He’s already done that on another bill, SB 202...he let it become law,” State Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram told Townhall.

A modified bill passed the state’s Senate Wednesday, and is currently awaiting approval in the House. The legislature will be in recess tomorrow.

“The House will hear the revised language today,” Ingram said. “This bill will mirror the federal RFRA law -- the other bill had a lot of other language in it.”

Hutchinson faced pressure to veto the bill from state leaders and organizations, and received direct statements from Walmart, Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“Today's passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement on Tuesday.

The big box giant took to Twitter Wednesday to commend Hutchinson for his refusal to sign:

The D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign also deeply opposed the bill, gathered signatures for a petition calling for a veto, and held a rally at the state capitol Wednesday.

"It's clear Governor Hutchinson has heard the voices of thousands of Arkansans and millions across the nation, and today's decision to temporarily stop this discriminatory law from advancing is a sign of progress,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “But the proof will be in the pudding, and we must now wait to see what actions and language Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Legislature put forward in the coming days and weeks.”

Christine Rousselle - Miley Cyrus Unhappy With Mike Pence, Tom Cotton
Posted: 4/2/2015 3:01:00 PM EST

Singer/former child actress Miley Cyrus voiced her displeasure with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) following his signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week. Now, she has turned her sights to Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R), tweeting out his office's phone number to her 19 million Twitter followers, and urging them to "stir some s--t up!"

The tweet received over one thousand retweets within minutes.

Cyrus has been a vocal supporter of gay rights and got a pro-gay marriage tattoo in 2011.

Christine Rousselle - Chris Christie Pardons Woman Who Accidentally Broke NJ Gun Law
Posted: 4/2/2015 3:00:00 PM EST

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) has pardoned Shaneen Allen, the woman who made the news in 2013 after she was arrested for bringing a gun into New Jersey. Allen was a legal gun owner in Pennsylvania, and had no prior legal record. She was not aware of New Jersey's strict gun control laws until she was arrested following a traffic violation.

Allen was originally going to be sentenced to jail, but was placed into a diversion program following public outcry about the case.

The text of Christie's pardon:

New Jersey's gun laws are among the strictest in the nation.

Guy Benson - Buying Time: Iran Talks Produce Non-Binding 'Outlines of an Understanding' With Scant Details
Posted: 4/2/2015 2:05:00 PM EST

Some in the media will call this a "deal." It's not. It's a face-saving, time-buying charade -- an implicit admission that years of repeatedly-extended negotiations have resulted in nothing concrete, with yet another deadline disappearing in the rearview mirror. Consider this tortured verbiage provided to the Associated Press:

Iran and six world powers have agreed on the outlines of an understanding to limit Iran's nuclear programs, officials told The Associated Press Thursday. Negotiations continued on a dispute over how much of it to make public. The officials spoke outside weeklong talks that have been twice extended past the March 31 deadline in an effort to formulate both a general statement of what has been accomplished and documents describing what needs to be done to meet a June 30 deadline for a final accord...The Iranians want any results from talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne described less as a deal and more of an informal understanding … Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who left Lausanne Tuesday, said the two sides were close, the Interfax news agency reported. There are "only a few steps left to take or, in some cases, even-half steps, and some things have already been agreed upon," he said. But as the talks dragged on, one Western official said early Thursday that they were "at a tough moment and the path forward is really unclear," adding that the idea of breaking talks off over Passover and Easter and resuming them next week had been informally raised. That was confirmed by another official...By blowing through self-imposed deadlines, President Barack Obama risks further antagonizing lawmakers in both parties who are poised to take their own action to upend a deal if they determine the administration has been too conciliatory.

So we have "outlines of an understanding" that allow the parties to keep on negotiating, with the Iranians (a) stressing that the agreement is informal and non-binding at this stage, and (b) lobbying to keep as many details -- to the extent that they exist at all -- private.  The Guardian  reports that this "understanding" will feature "secret parameters."  So far, Iranian officials seem pretty excited about this "breakthrough:"

That's Iran's "moderate" president, also known as this guy:

In the lead up to his 2013 election victory, Hassan Rouhani gave an interview in which he pushed back against the suggestion that as Iran's nuclear negotiator during the 2003 to 2005, the program was suspended under international pressure. An angry Rouhani shot back and described how Iran was able to manipulate international negotiations and ultimately advance the program. "The Tehran Declaration was supposed to outline the resolutions and suspensions," he said. "We didn't allow it. We only halted the gas supply for those 10 centrifuges in Natanz." Though negotiations with European countries began in October 2003, he said the overall nuclear program expanded. "Do you know when heavy water was developed? Summer of 2004. Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004," Rouhani said. "Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004." "We halted the nuclear program?" he asked the interviewer rhetorically. "We were the ones to complete it!"

He and Tehran's chief negotiator (a hothead who's reportedly known for angrily berating his Western counterparts) are apparently feeling chipper about today's developments. Remember, these are the puppets of a fanatical, anti-Semitic, anti-American regime that is the world's leading sponsor or terrorism, known for cheatinglying and evading international obligations.  Iran has been killing Americans and Jews for decades.  Its supreme leader leads chants of "death to America" to this day.  More details to come…I'll leave you with my appearance on Varney & Co. this afternoon

Matt Vespa - Rubio Pollster: GOP Needs 40 Percent Of The Hispanic Vote To Win In 2016
Posted: 4/2/2015 1:45:00 PM EST

Whoa! That’s a high bar! A pollster who is set to work for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is surely laying some breadcrumbs for donors–and the media–by saying that the 2016 Republican nominee must win more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in order to win the election (via National Journal):

Whit Ayres, a prominent Republican pollster who will work for Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, says the party has to do much better much faster. Ayres told reporters Tuesday morning that the Republican nominee must capture more than 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2016 to win the presidency—and suggested that his candidate is uniquely positioned to do so.

"A Republican nominee is going to need to be somewhere in the mid-forties, or better, among Hispanic voters," Ayres said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. The pollster noted that his candidate is "extraordinarily talented" and could be "transformational" in expanding the GOP's appeal.

This adds more speculation over Rubio’s pending April 13 announcement in Miami, where many are assuming he will officially toss his hat into the 2016 ring.

Now, nabbing 40 percent or more of the Hispanic vote isn’t impossible. It’s been done before with George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election. He clinched 44 percent of the vote and handily beat then-Sen. John Kerry. Yet, that number has seen a rapid decline. John McCain received 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, Mitt Romney went even lower with 27 percent in 2012.

In 2014, the GOP pretty much gaffe-proofed their candidates in key races, and Republicans won 37 percent of Hispanic voters (not too shabby), but also 51 percent of Asians and 48 percent of women voters. While some on the left said that off year elections have lower turnout rates and are more Republican, which is generally true, that wasn’t the case in 2014. As Real Clear Politics’ Sean Trende wrote [emphasis mine]:

That is to say, let’s keep whites voting 60-38 for Republicans, Hispanics voting 62-36 for Democrats, and so forth, as they all did in 2014, but alter their shares of the electorate to resemble 2012 (72 percent white, 10 percent Hispanic, and so forth) rather than 2014 (75 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, and so forth). This allows us to isolate the effects of demographic change between 2012 and 2014.

The results are underwhelming: If the 2014 electorate had resembled the 2012 electorate in terms of race, the Republican vote share would shrink by just 1.97 percentage points. In other words, in a 2012 electorate, Republicans would have won the popular vote for the House by 4.5 points, rather than 6.5 points. That’s not nothing, as they say, but it still only explains a relatively small share of the difference between the 2012 and 2014 results. Put differently, if Obama had put up the same vote shares among racial groups in 2012 as Democrats ultimately did in 2014, he’d have lost.

Perhaps the difference is not so much differences in the racial makeup of the electorate, but rather differences in the age makeup of the electorate? The 2014 electorate was, in fact, quite a bit older than the 2012 electorate. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given that the elderly population is actually set to grow substantially in the next decade. Regardless, if we reduce the 65+ share of the electorate from 2014’s 22 percent to 2012’s 16 percent, increase the 18-24 year old share from 7 percent (2014) to 11 percent (2012), and adjust everything in between accordingly, the Republican advantage contracts by ... 1.94 points.

Now you might look at this and say, “Well, that’s a total of four points!” The problem with this approach is that there is a substantial double count going on. Democrats do better among young voters in large part because that demographic is less white; younger whites don’t vote that differently from older whites. So this isn’t a cumulative exercise.

To get around this, we can look at the age-race crosstabs. That is, the exit polls tell us how not just 18-29-year-olds voted and African-Americans voted, but also how 18-29-year-old African-Americans voted (and so forth). If those groups had turned out in a way as to re-create the 2012 electorate, the Republican margin constricts by a bit more than if we looked at race alone or age alone, but the change still only amounts to about two points.

In other words, even if Democrats had managed to re-create 2012-style age or racial demographics in 2014, they still would have had a rough year.

On a side note, the swing these three groups had–especially with Asians–towards the GOP shows they’re not monolithic voting blocs; women, Hispanics, and Asians are movable. In the 2010 midterms, the GOP actually won the majority of women voters; Hispanic voters hung around 34 percent.

So, does the GOP need Hispanic voters to win? As I mentioned in a previous post, Republicans could be overstating the need of winning more Hispanic voters–theoretically (a disclaimer I should’ve added previously). The road to 270 isn’t impossible for Republicans without a surge in Hispanic support, but it’s certainly a more difficult one according to Nate Cohn of The New York Times. He said the problem rests in the fact that Hispanic voters mostly live in states that are just not competitive in national elections. Texas isn’t going blue in the foreseeable future, despite what liberals might say; it’s their unicorn. And Republicans aren’t going to make inroads in California, which has seen their share of GOP voters fall. Cohn added that the GOP must focus on winning more white voters in the North, coupled with Hispanic voters. And the one state they must carry–which also has a large share of eligible Hispanic voters–is Florida [emphasis mine]:

The Republicans have a path to the White House without Hispanic voters. It’s just a harder one.

[I]n 2016 Hispanics will represent just 12 percent of eligible voters, and between 9 and 10 percent of actual voters. That’s a lot, but it’s not large enough to grant or deny Republicans the presidency.

The math is simple: A 10-point gain among 10 percent of the electorate yields an additional point in the popular vote. Mr. Obama won by a 3.9-point margin in 2012. So even if the next Republican presidential candidate received the magical 40 percent of Hispanic voters that Mr. Bush received in 2004 — which seems unlikely in a fairly competitive national election — it still wouldn’t erase Mr. Romney’s deficit in the popular vote.

Hispanic voters are disproportionately concentrated in noncompetitive states like Texas and California. This makes it even harder for the Republicans to claim the presidency by focusing on them, since there are relatively few Hispanic voters in the battleground states that determine who wins the Electoral College. Hispanics represent more than 5 percent of eligible voters in just three battlegrounds: Florida, Nevada and Colorado. As a result, the Republicans could have entirely erased Mr. Obama’s advantage among Hispanic voters and still lost the presidency in 2012, since Mr. Romney would have still lost states like Virginia and Ohio, where there are very few Hispanic voters.

Improving among white Northern voters is the core of the G.O.P. route to victory, regardless of whether the party makes gains with Hispanic voters. If the Republicans can’t make gains among white Northerners and hold Mr. Romney’s share of white Southerners, it just won’t really matter whether they receive 25 or 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.

But if the Republicans don’t make any gains among Hispanic voters, they will be taking a big risk. Hispanic voters are still important — and it’s easy to imagine a situation in which Republican gains among Hispanics are in fact necessary to win.

That situation turns on Florida. The Republicans don’t have an especially credible path to the presidency without Florida’s 29 electoral votes. The easiest alternative might be for Republicans to flip Virginia and Ohio, scale the so-called Blue Wall in Pennsylvania, and then pick up 12 additional electoral votes from some combination of Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. The G.O.P. path to the presidency all but closes if the Democrats combine Florida and Pennsylvania.

Florida was the closest state of the 2012 presidential election, and Hispanics will most likely represent 19 percent of eligible voters in 2016, up from 17 percent in 2012.

Obama only won Florida by a razor thin margin (50/49.1). No doubt, Romney’s disastrous comments about self-deportation contributed to his loss there. In 2004, Hispanics broke for Bush with 56 percent of the vote; they were 15 percent of voters at the time. Romney was only able to nab 39 percent in 2012.

I’m not saying that Republicans shouldn’t be aggressive in their Hispanic outreach operations–they should. And they should have the same fervor with women, men, Asians, and every potential voter bloc that will participate in the 2016 elections. It’s incredibly important that we expand the tent of the party in order to survive. Yet, there seems to be this “do or die” attitude with the Hispanic voter bloc. Yes, they have growing influence–and they will play a larger role, along with Asians, in future elections. But they’re still not as influential–concerning shifts in voting (yet)–since the white vote still represents around 75 percent of the electorate in presidential years.

At a Brookings Institute event in 2013, Trende noted Republicans had three options to reach the proverbial “50 plus one” in the popular vote in 2012. They could have won 16 percent more of the black vote, 21 percent more of the Hispanic vote, or three percent more of the white vote. He explains the rest here; fewer whites voted in 2012 (72 percent) than in 2008 (74 percent), and that’s true when you go back to 2004 (77 percent). What happened to turnout?

You need to look where it was down for white voters; it was mostly the rust belt and a large amount of counties stretching in a diagonal direction from upstate New York to New Mexico, according to Trende. These were the areas where Ross Perot did well in the 1990s due to his economic populism. And the voters who live in these areas during the 2012 election thought Obama was too liberal, but didn’t see much that Romney could offer them either, so they stayed home. Trende added that both parties didn’t offer much to working class whites, though they have drifted far and away from Democrats in recent elections. This is due to the fact that these voters live in areas where Republicans dominate local politics. Yet, there are inroads both sides can make with this voting bloc that is more of a “do or die” moment for Democrats if they can’t win them back in some fashion.

In short, of course a Rubio pollster will sound the alarm bells about the Hispanic vote a few weeks before his employer announces his presidential run. But, if you look at the electorate–and where these voters live–it’s not a doomsday scenario. And it still hinges a lot on Republicans doing better with white voters, though they should gobble up as many Hispanic voters as they can next year if they want to make it a lot easier on themselves in winning the fight for the White House.

Cortney O'Brien - BREAKING: Two NYC Women Arrested for Conspiring to Make Homemade Bombs
Posted: 4/2/2015 1:02:00 PM EST

Two women in New York City have been arrested by federal authorities for allegedly planning to construct and detonate a bomb. Their arrests were part of an ongoing FBI investigation. More specifics from ABC News:

The women have been identified as Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui, roommates living in Queens, N.Y.

Court records allege the pair was looking to build an improvised explosive device with propane tanks, but it’s unclear how far along their plan had reached.

The signs seem to point to terrorism and that the two women were dangerously inspired by ISIS, reports ABC. Fox News's "Outnumbered" is reporting that the wannabe terrorists were planning to use the same pressure cooker bombs that were used in 2013's deadly Boston bombing in a mission to wage 'violent jihad' on the US.

The two women now in custody will appear in a federal court in Brooklyn later this afternoon.

Stay with this story as more information becomes available.

Update: NBC New York has detailed information in regards to Velentzas and Siddidqui's past interviews with federal investigators. Among other disturbing comments, Velentas reportedly applauded the Sept. 11 terror attacks:

Velentzas allegedly praised the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and told the undercover officer that being a martyr through a suicide attack guarantees entrance into heaven. According to the complaint, Velentzas showed the officer her phone, which included a background picture of bin Laden holding an AK-47, and called the infamous terrorist and his mentor, Abdullah Azzam, her heroes, the complaint says.

Vivian Hughbanks  - Many Dead In Brutal al-Shabab Attack at Kenyan University
Posted: 4/2/2015 11:25:00 AM EST

UPDATE 2:39 p.m.: 147 deaths confirmed by Kenyan Disaster Operations.

UPDATE 2:04 p.m.: Death toll in Garissa could be up to 150, the AP reports. The situation is over. Four of the jihadists are confirmed dead. A 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. curfew has been set on several counties in the region for security purposes. The attack is the most deadly since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

UPDATE 12:12 p.m.: Somali Islamic terror group al-Shabab has officially claimed responsibility for the attack, and has claimed to have separated Muslims hostages from non-Muslims.

UPDATE 12:01 p.m.: Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Interior Joseph Ole Nkaissery has announced that the death toll at Garissa University is now 70 -- making the attack more deadly than the 2013 Westgate Mall siege. 79 are seriously injured. Also, 500 students have been rescued. Nkaissery announced that 90 percent of the threat has been eliminated.

UPDATE: Two militants have been killed at Garissa.

Before dawn on Thursday morning, Somali al-Shabab militants attacked Garissa University in Kenya -- just over 200 miles from Nairobi.

So far, at least 21 are confirmed dead from the attack -- many put the number much higher, with many more wounded. The gunmen have taken prisoners, and reports indicate some have been beheaded. Kenya Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has said that 533 students are currently being held hostage, and 282 have been rescued.

“It was around five [in the morning], and guys started jumping up and down, running for their lives,” a witness said, according to Kenyan News 24. “But where they were going to is where the gunshots were coming from... We went to the field, sat there, and the gunshots continued... This made us to run to the fence so that we can get away out from the school. Some jumped, some opened some openings from the fence and got out.”

According to reports, the militants targeted Christians in the attack: 

Collins Wetangula, who is also the vice chairperson of the Garissa University College students union told News24 that he heard the attackers question students whether they were Christian or Muslim before attacking them.

He said he heard gunshots and when he looked outside the window, he saw masked men shooting. He then locked fellow students in his room and sat tight.

"They were shouting loudly that they are al-Shabaab and that that we should all be afraid," he said of the beginning of the attack.

Claims have been made that there were warning signs prior to the attack:

Kenya’s Interior Ministry has put a bounty of 2 million Kenyan Shillings -- or more than $200,000 -- on Mohamed Kuno, the man they believe to be the mastermind of the attack.

Kuno is also believed to be responsible for the bus attack last November, when more than 100 al-Shabab gunman shot 28 non-muslims when they were unable to recite a portion of the Quran. Al-Shabab was also responsible for the deadly siege of Westage Mall in Nairobi in 2013.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered 10,000 pending police recruits to report immediately for training at the nation’s Police College in Kiganjo.

“I take full responsibility for this directive. We have suffered unnecessarily due to shortage of security personnel. Kenya badly needs additional officers, and I will not keep the nation waiting,” Kenyatta said in a statement.

Wounded from Garissa have been taken to Langata Barracks in Nairobi.

Just yesterday at a conference, Kenyatta criticized other nations for keeping travel advisories in effect for Kenya.

Daniel Doherty - In Presser, GOP Lawmakers Announce Fix To Indiana's RFRA Statute
Posted: 4/2/2015 11:00:00 AM EST

Earlier this week, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) implored Indiana lawmakers to send him a revised version of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that the governor himself recently signed into law. LGBT groups and media outlets, after all, have noted that the language of the statute is rather ambiguous and therefore does not necessarily explicitly protect the rights of gays and lesbians from discrimination. (I would encourage you to read Guy's piece, by the way, debunking some of the Left's talking points about what the law does and does not actually do). Republicans in the state legislature, however, announced today they are taking bold and concrete steps to address the concerns of the LGBT community and all Hoosiers.

“What was intended as a message of inclusion, inclusion of all religious beliefs, was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma told reporters this morning announcing the forthcoming changes to the law. “Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear that the perception had to be addressed. Hoosier hospitality had to be restored.”

“We are pleased to tell you that today at 9:30 we will be presenting what we believe is a very strong statement to ensure that every Hoosier's rights are protected and won’t be infringed upon by the enactment of RFRA,” he added.

Sen. David Long also spoke.

“If there’s one takeaway from all the calamity that’s happened in the past week it would be this,” he declared. “Religious rights – and individual rights — can coexist in harmony together.”

“I know I speak for many when I say that in supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – or RFRA, as well call it – that it was never meant to discriminate against anyone,” he added. “Its goal was simply to create a new standard.”

UPDATE: Read the proposed new language of the law below: