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2014 Watch
May 7, 2014

Last night's GOP Senate primary in North Carolina was billed as a surrogate battle in the Republican Civil War between the establishment and grassroots. But it ended up being more of a surrender than a battle. And since establishment candidate Thom Tillis easily trounced his two grassroots conservative opponents, it would be easy to declare today that the tea party is toast.

The truth is probably more complicated than that. In fact, if the tea party didn't show up, or put up much of a fight, it might be because they already won the war. I'll let The Atlantic's Molly Ball explain:

[I]f Tillis represented the Republican establishment — something he denies, of course; it is not a label anyone embraces — he also represents the party's new, post-Tea Party mainstream. He was endorsed by National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. As House speaker during a time when Republicans took over North Carolina's government for the first time since 1896, he oversaw a dramatic slate of rightward policies, from tax cuts to voter ID, that he terms a "conservative revolution."

It was hard for opponents to paint Tillis as a liberal when actual liberals were picketing his initiatives on the steps of the statehouse in Raleigh on a regular basis. If this race is any indication, the "Republican civil war" storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired... [The Atlantic]

The theory goes like this: In the beginning, the GOP establishment had grown old and fat and corrupt, and the tea party bench was full of young and talented and pure candidates. And so, when quality candidates like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and former Rep. and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey challenged moderate GOP candidates like then-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — both of whom later became Democrats — it was like picking low-hanging fruit.

But there are only so many Rubios and Toomeys (and only so many Crists and Specters). So it gets increasingly harder to replicate this success. The well of quality tea party candidates goes dry, and eventually, you're scraping the bottom. What's more, the early victories send a message to the old guard that they'd better clean up their act.

And so, the tea party message gets co-opted by the establishment — which, for tea party conservatives, ought to be cause for celebration; incumbents who want to survive either get religion, or get ousted.

If the tea party is having a bad year, it's only because they are a victim of their own success. Matt K. Lewis

gaffes
7:44 p.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Jeb Bush learned a valuable lesson on Tuesday: Don't go off script, and if you do, don't say that women's health programs aren't worthy of being fully funded.

While speaking to 13,000 people at a Southern Baptist convention in Nashville, Bush said that Planned Parenthood should be cut off from federal funding, and then went a step further by stopping mid-sentence to qualify his remarks and question government support for women's health programs in general, Politico reports. "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women's health programs," he said. "If you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues."

Not long after his remarks were made public, Hillary Clinton tweeted to Bush: "You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong." Bush quickly posted a statement online saying he "misspoke," and tried to clarify his comments. "There are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women's health organizations that need to be fully funded," he said. "They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don't have the access they need. I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood.” Bush has had to explain other blunders in recent weeks, including his statement in July that "workers need to work longer hours." Catherine Garcia

This just in
6:27 p.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Fox News announced the official line-up for its prime-time Republican debate Thursday.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) all qualified, with Fox saying the roster was determined based on an average of the five most recent national polls.

The seven Republican candidates who did not make the list — Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana), George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, and Rick Perry — will be invited to a separate debate at 5 p.m. ET., four hours before the main debate starts. Catherine Garcia

This just in
4:22 p.m. ET
JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mandated citywide inspections of water-cooling towers after they were determined to be the cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. De Blasio additionally vowed to propose new regulations to prevent future outbreaks.

Since July 10, 86 people have fallen ill with Legionnaires' disease, a severe form of pneumonia that is contracted by breathing in moist air infected with the bacteria; of 17 towers tested by city health officials, five in the South tested positive for Legionella bacteria. Seven people have died since the outbreak began. Jeva Lange

Pay up
3:40 p.m. ET
Yuri Gripas/Getty Images

Nearly a third of moviegoers surveyed by research firm C4 agree that they want customers' bags and purses checked for weapons before they enter a theater, Variety reports. The study asked the opinions of 250 moviegoers on July 28 and 29, less than a week after a shooter opened fire on an audience during a screening of Trainwreck in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two and injuring nine. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed favored having armed security guards in theater lobbies while 14 percent called for armed security in every individual theater.

Despite the recent high-profile shootings in movie theaters — the 2012 massacre of 12 during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado among them — Americans do still seem to believe that movie theaters are among the safest public spaces where they can spend their time, according to the study. Even despite wanting armed guards and metal detectors installed, customers didn't want to have to pay more than $3 per ticket for the additional security, and only 85 percent of 124 moviegoers surveyed said their theater habits had actually changed since the attack in Louisiana. Jeva Lange

A beer a day keeps the doctor away
2:59 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

A 110-year-old woman credits her longevity to the simple things: God and Miller High Life. New Jerseyan Agnes Fenton says she has been drinking a few Millers a day for the last 70 years, a habit she started after a doctor told her that her only health problem was a benign tumor.

Though Fenton no longer drinks as much as she did when she was a youthful 105 (her caregivers have told her that three Millers and a glass of whiskey a day is too much now that she eats less) Fenton says other than being faithful to God and a loyal imbiber of the champagne of beers, there isn't really a secret to her longevity.

"Just keep in touch with God and do the right thing," Fenton told ABC 7. "That's all I know." Cheers! Becca Stanek

This just in
2:36 p.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

The first Republican presidential debate on Thursday, which is capped at 10 candidates, is now expected to include Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich, The New York Times projects. Fox News, the host of the debate, will announce the official slate of 10 candidates after Tuesday's 5 p.m. polling deadline, but according to the network's criteria, it appears that Christie and Kasich will have firmly made the cut. Rick Perry, who had been neck-and-neck with them in earlier polls, fell to 11th place after he secured support from only 2.0 percent of those polled.

Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki likewise did not make the cut, and are expected to be designated to the earlier 5 p.m. debate on Thursday for those polling outside the top 10. Trump, meanwhile, leads the top 10 contenders with 23.2 percent support, and will appear on the debate stage in Cleveland on Thursday at 9 p.m. alongside his fellow presidential hopefuls. Jeva Lange

Trump mania explained
1:56 p.m. ET
Matthew Busch/Getty Images

Fox News Radio host Todd Starnes finally answered the question that political pollsters have been struggling to answer: Why is Donald Trump so popular across so many demographic groups? His theory is that while "everybody is trying to be the kinder, gentler, you know, the compassionate conservative," that's not what the "average American" actually wants.

He broke it down further, using a dog analogy. "The average American," Starnes explained, "they don't want one of those metrosexual purse dogs, they want a pit bull in the White House." Donald Trump, presumably, is the pit bull. A candidate such as Jeb Bush, in Starnes' opinion, is the "metrosexual purse dog."

In polls that came out this week, Trump led the GOP presidential field by a 2-to-1 advantage, garnering support from 26 percent of respondents in both the latest Monmouth University poll and the latest Fox poll. While political pundits were at first leery of Trump's staying power, Starnes said he knew all along that Trump's support would only continue to grow.

"I might not be the brightest bulb in the lava lamp," Starnes said, "but I came out with a commentary that aired all across the country that said 'do not underestimate Donald Trump.' This is the guy who is saying what the American working man and the American working woman want to hear." Becca Stanek

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