2014 Watch
March 24, 2014

The Washington Examiner's David Drucker has an interesting read on the two conservative candidates running for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. Tea party groups and national conservatives have (mostly, with a few notable exceptions) coalesced around Ben Sasse, even though Shane Osborn has what many would consider solid conservative credentials.

So what makes one conservative more appealing than another? Speaking in general terms (actually, using a different hypothetical example), one GOP operative told Drucker the key difference is "not that they disagree on ideology but they have a different view of the world and how much trouble the country is in."

My theory: A voter who is temperamentally more conservative might favor a different candidate from someone who is temperamentally more radical. There's also the "zealotry of the convert" phenomenon, whereby new activists might be (ironically) more worried about America's situation than those who have been following conservative politics for years. Voters may think they apply policy or philosophical litmus tests to candidates, but I suspect it has more to do with style and "gut" than we'd care to admit.

Watch this
9:46 p.m. ET

On Thursday's Conan, Will Ferrell is happy to talk about anything and everything — except for the big white bird on his shoulder. When Conan O'Brien asks for details about the bird — named Prof. Don Feathers — Ferrell freaks, saying he tries to keep his life private. "I told him this would be low key, and now you've made it weird!" he exclaims. This is the latest in a string of wacky late night appearances by Ferrell to promote his new movie, Get Hard; last week, he showed up as Little Debbie on The Tonight Show. —Catherine Garcia

crisis in yemen
8:58 p.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi flew to Riyadh on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia and its allies bombed sites controlled by Houthi rebels across the capital city of Sanaa.

Medical officials say at least 45 people have been killed and dozens injured from the airstrikes, the Los Angeles Times reports, and several military sites held by the Iranian-backed rebels have been reported destroyed. Schools were closed and there were widespread power outages across Sanaa, as well as long lines at grocery stores where residents who did not know what might happen in the near future stocked up on necessities.

Iran, Russia, and China have condemned the intervention by Saudi Arabia and the nine other countries in its coalition. Houthi leader Abdul-Malak Houthi gave an angry speech Thursday, telling Saudi Arabia to stop "their evil atrocities," adding, "Yemenis won't remain in their houses. All will carry arms and defend their land."

laws
8:10 p.m. ET
John Gress/Getty Images

Despite pressure from opponents, Indian Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a "religious freedom" bill into law on Thursday during a private ceremony not open to the press.

Senate Bill 101 prohibits state or local governments from burdening a person's ability to exercise their religion, and takes effect July 1, The Indianapolis Star reports. While it does not mention sexual orientation, critics of the bill are afraid it could lead to people being able to deny services to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. Opponents say the timing of the bill is also suspicious, as it comes after last year's unsuccessful attempt to get a same-sex marriage ban added to Indiana's constitution.

Pence, who was flanked by Franciscan monks and nuns, Orthodox Jews, and evangelical Christians as he signed the bill, said that it is "not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it." Several convention organizers and business executives have said they will no longer come to Indiana, and Pence said he is open to speaking with those concerned about the measure.

ISIS
7:10 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

An Army National Guard member and his cousin have each been charged with one count of conspiring to provide material support to ISIS, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, was arrested Wednesday night as he tried to board a plane from Chicago Midway International Airport to Cairo, where he planned to join ISIS, federal officials said. His cousin, 29-year-old Jonas "Yunus" Edmonds, was arrested at his home in Aurora, Illinois, in connection to an alleged plot to attack the U.S. military facility in northern Illinois where Hasan Edmonds trained.

An undercover FBI informant posing as an ISIS fighter living abroad sent a friend request to Hasan Edmonds on Facebook late last year, CNN reports. In private messages, Hasan Edmonds said he wanted to fight for ISIS along with Jonas Edmonds, and in February said that they were willing to conduct an attack in the United States. Prosecutors say that Jonas Edmonds told the informant he planned to purchase AK-47s and grenades for the attack at the military installation, and would go through with it after his cousin left for Egypt. If they are found guilty, the cousins face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

By the numbers
4:57 p.m. ET
CC BY: DonkeyHotey

Move over, New York. Florida is now the nation's third-most populous state, and if trends continue, The Sunshine State could soon give even California (38.8 million people) a run for its money.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, The Villages, a Floridian city west of Orlando, ranked as the nation's fastest-growing metro area last year, as its population increased by a remarkable 5.4 percent. The report also revealed that Florida "contained seven of the nation's top 50 numerically gaining metro areas" — enough to reverse the long-standing "more deaths than births" statistic.

Also seeing a population boom last year was Texas, the nation's second-most populated state (27 million people). The Lone Star State had the largest growth of people by counties, and claimed four cities in the top 20 fastest-growing metro areas.

Rounding out the top ten fastest-growing cities list behind The Villages were: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; Odessa, Texas; and St. George, Utah.

ObamaCare
4:48 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Senate Republicans are determined to destroy ObamaCare. While the 85 proposed amendments to the healthcare law are largely symbolic, they serve as an indicator of lawmakers' priorities. 

Included among the amendments proposed by Republican senators are attempts to fully repeal ObamaCare, ban any ObamaCare marketing, and make Medicaid a matter of states' control.

Senate Democrats, for their part in the epic all-day voting session, will try to protect the Affordable Care Act by making it less easy for the budget to affect the bill and by increasing funding to the IRS in order to enforce ObamaCare.

Developing story
4:28 p.m. ET

An explosion tore through a building in Manhattan's East Village Thursday afternoon, causing it to partially collapse. One person was reportedly critically injured, while six people were treated at the scene and two firefighters were injured.

A stop-work order had apparently been issued on the commercial and residential building, according to the New York Buildings Department. The fire "could be seen tearing through at least two buildings," but the surrounding vicinity has been evacuated. —Stephanie Talmadge

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