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July 15, 2014
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After his narrow victory in last month's very divisive Republican primary runoff, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran is on track to win his re-election this November. However, the actual shape of the electorate now looks very odd, to say the least, as Mississippi is a state where party politics are often drawn sharply along racial lines.

In the new survey from Democratic-aligned firm Public Policy Polling, Cochran leads for the general election with 40 percent of the vote, followed by former Democratic Rep. Travis Childers with 24 percent, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara with 5 percent — leaving an immense 31 percent of voters saying they are undecided. The poll was conducted from July 10-13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Quite notably, the poll even shows Cochran with a one-point edge among African-American voters, who typically vote Democratic: Cochran has 37 percent support, and Childers has 36 percent. Among white voters, Cochran has 42 percent, and Childers has 17 percent. Among all voters, Cochran's approval rating is 47 percent, with disapproval at 37 percent; among white voters he is underwater at 40 percent to 46 percent, while black voters now approve of the Republican incumbent by a whopping margin of 59 percent to 20 percent.

Cochran won his GOP runoff with 51 percent of the vote due to an unorthodox strategy of reaching out to the state's African-American community and encouraging them to cross over into the Republican primary in order to defeat his Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel. Since then, McDaniel has been attempting to contest the outcome, alleging that voter fraud was involved. Among all voters, though, this poll shows 58 percent of respondents saying that Cochran was the rightful winner, compared to 29 percent who are still holding out for McDaniel. Eric Kleefeld

1:35 a.m. ET
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When Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) abruptly resigned earlier this month, the chances he would ever repay taxpayers for the $84,000 sexual harassment settlement he reached with a staffer, as he'd promised to, shrank significantly. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has an idea for how he can fulfill his promise, kind of. On Tuesday, Abbott used emergency powers to call a special June 30 election for the House seat Farenthold vacated, citing Hurricane Harvey to skirt state and federal election laws, and on Wednesday, he asked Farenthold to pay for the election.

"While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress," Abbott wrote in a letter to Farenthold's office. "I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the counties and taxpayers in the 27th congressional district should not again pay the price for your actions."

Local election officials estimate that the special election will cost the 13 counties in the district more than $200,000, the Houston Chronicle reports. Farenthold, worth $2.4 million according to 2016 financial disclosure statements, is under no obligation to pay anything for the election or even respond to Abbott, and few analysts expect that he will. Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson called Abbott's request "strange" and "unprecedented," adding, "The governor does not expect that Farenthold is going to pay the cost."

Abbott sought and quickly received a waiver from state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to hold the emergency election for Farenthold's seat because his district was hit by Harvey and, Abbott argued, "hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress." Peter Weber

12:57 a.m. ET
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If you live in the United States or Canada and have been eyeing a new Ford Fusion, get one while you can.

The company announced Wednesday that by 2020, "almost 90 percent of the Ford portfolio in North America will be trucks, utilities, and commercial vehicles." Hatchbacks and sedans don't sell as well as those vehicles, and only two models will remain on the market: the Mustang and Focus Active, a new crossover-like hatchback that will debut next year.

While the Taurus and Fiesta will soon be gone, Ford said it's "exploring new 'white space' vehicle silhouettes that combine the best attributes of cars and utilities, such as higher ride height, space, and versatility." A "white space" vehicle is one that doesn't quite fit into already established categories. Catherine Garcia

12:12 a.m. ET

When Dr. Ronny Jackson proclaimed President Trump fit as a horse, we didn't know much about the White House physician "and we didn't need to," Trevor Noah pointed out on Wednesday's Daily Show. "But once Trump nominated Jackson for a Cabinet position, people started digging into his past like he was dating Taylor Swift." He ran through the new list of allegations, starting with Jackson's "candy man" nickname, due to his alleged passing out of prescription opioids and other drugs like they were candy. Noah could see some sense in passing out Ambien on Air Force One (though not to Ben Carson).

But the accusations that Jackson drank on the job, harassed female employees, and wrecked a government car after drinking heavily with the Secret Service? "This is just shocking," Noah said. "I can't believe that between Trump's two doctors, Ronny Jackson is the one who might have a drinking problem." Lawmakers from both parties are urging Trump to reconsider Jackson's nomination, "although it is funny," he said, that "they don't care if he stays on as the president's physician."

"Even if he didn't drink, even if he didn't drive drunk, and even if he didn't overprescribe drugs, Ronny Jackson would still be far from qualified to run the VA," Noah said. "And in a way, all those senators who oppose him are lucky that these drug and alcohol allegations are coming out, because if there's one thing we know, it's that on its own, being completely unqualified for a position doesn't keep you out of Donald Trump's Cabinet." Look, we all know where this is headed, he added. "The president will have to find a new VA nominee, and knowing Trump, he's not going to search for a qualified person. He's just gonna pick another guy who says nice things about him. So I guess what I'm saying is, congratulations VA Secretary Kanye West." Peter Weber

April 25, 2018
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The newest member of President Trump's legal team, Rudy Giuliani, met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday in Washington, reopening stalled negotiations for an interview with Trump, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Giuliani told Mueller that Trump and his advisers are wary about an interview but there's a chance Trump could agree to it, the Post reports. He also asked Mueller when he thinks the inquiry will be finished. Mueller reportedly responded by telling Giuliani that in order to complete the part of the investigation focusing on potential obstruction of justice, he needs to interview Trump to gather more information on the transition and first few months of his presidency. Last month, John Dowd, Trump's lead outside attorney on the case, resigned. Catherine Garcia

April 25, 2018
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Embattled White House physician Ronny Jackson, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, had a meeting Wednesday night with White House officials amid new allegations against Jackson, including that he crashed a government vehicle while drunk and handed out drugs "like candy," a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

NBC News reports that Jackson, who has denied the allegations, has grown annoyed by the process and is talking with officials about pulling his name from consideration for the position; an announcement could be made as early as Thursday. Jackson's confirmation hearing was originally set for Wednesday, but was postponed indefinitely on Monday as allegations of improper conduct started to come out. Catherine Garcia

April 25, 2018
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On Wednesday, President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen told a federal judge he will assert his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself in the Stormy Daniels case, The Washington Post reports.

Daniels, who says she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006, was paid $130,000 by Cohen right before the 2016 presidential election, and she's suing to get out of a nondisclosure agreement she signed with him. The FBI raided Cohen's home, hotel room, and office earlier this month, and Cohen, who is requesting to pause proceedings in the case, said the agents seized electronic devices and documents containing information relating to the payment to Daniels.

Lawyers for Cohen, Trump, and the Trump Organization are asking to see the material before it goes to prosecutors, and Trump's attorney said the president would be available "as needed" to review the documents. Catherine Garcia

April 25, 2018
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Why would George R.R. Martin give the people what they want — the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series — when he can give them something they never even asked for?

The author announced Wednesday on his website that he will be releasing a new book on Nov. 20, and it's not The Winds of Winter. Instead, the new work will be a history of the Targaryen family titled Fire & Blood — and at 989 pages, it's sure to keep readers busy for a long, long time.

The book is the "first half" of the Targaryen family history, Martin wrote, and will cover "all the Targaryen kings from Aegon I (the Conquerer) to the regency of Aegon III (the Dragonbane), along with their wives, wars, siblings, children, friends, rivals, laws, travels, and sundry other matters." But unlike his previous works, this will read as an "imaginary history" book instead of a novel, Martin said, adding that "there are dragons, too. Lots of dragons."

While Game of Thrones, the HBO series based on Song of Ice and Fire, is coming to an end in 2019, there will be a spin-off series. Unfortunately, Martin wrote that he is not allowed to divulge whether it will be based on Fire & Blood.

The news of his project may come as a shock to fans, considering they've been waiting on the release of The Winds of Winter, the next installment in his original series, for seven years now; its prequel, A Dance with Dragons, was released in 2011. Martin has been working on The Winds of Winter since early 2010, but it remains unclear when the book will finally be released.

At least there will be "lots of dragons" in the meantime. Amari Pollard

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