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Runaway Obamacare costs will hurt Senate Democrats

As we start the final stretch before the midterm elections, many analysts are convinced that Obamacare isn’t the hot political issue it once was. While the flood of negative publicity about the law has subsided of late, a majority of people still oppose it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls taken from Sept. 2 to 15. And I’ve always believed the voters’ negative impressions of the law were “baked” into their assessments of Democratic incumbents.

Holder and RFK’s legacy

WASHINGTON — When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can and must always be a force for that which is right.”

Battle royal brewing in Iowa

URBANDALE, Iowa — The Machine Shed restaurant, where the waitresses wear bib overalls and suggest a cinnamon roll the size of a loaf of bread as a breakfast appetizer, sells a root beer called Dang!, bandages made to look like bacon strips, and signs that proclaim “I love you more than bacon.” For Joni Ernst, however, the apposite sign reads “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

Introspection time for evangelicals

WASHINGTON — Christian conservatives are often the subject of study by academics, who seem to find their culture as foreign as that of Borneo tribesmen. And this is a particularly interesting time for brave social scientists to put on their pith helmets and head to Wheaton, Ill., Colorado Springs or unexplored regions of the South. They will find a community under external and internal cultural stress.

High stakes in Kansas

SHAWNEE, Kan. — Tacked to the wall of Greg Orman’s campaign office is a print of a John Steuart Curry painting, “Tragic Prelude,” that hangs in the capitol in Topeka. It depicts John Brown of Osawatomie, 39 miles south of here, as what he was, a deranged product of “bleeding Kansas,” the Civil War’s overture. Today, Orman, who is as calm as Brown was crazed, is emblematic of fascinating Kansas.

Tall order for GOP in ’16

WASHINGTON — It is the most important development so far in the 2016 presidential race, at least on the Republican side: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is evidently not a total meathead. Which he would have needed to be to have anything to do with the politically motivated lane closures of the George Washington Bridge — a dirty trick oddly and aimlessly directed at the public. According to recent reports, nine months of federal investigation into emails and text messages have produced nothing implicating Christie.

Why Washington is broken

WASHINGTON — Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican senator who asked the Discovery Channel to film him and a Democratic colleague last month as they subsisted on an uninhabited Pacific island, came home with a sunburn, a 10-pound weight loss — and a desire to see Senate leaders put through the same ordeal.

Obama needs Congress to approve this war

WASHINGTON — The United States last declared war many wars ago, on June 5, 1942, when, to clarify legal ambiguities during a world conflagration, it declared war on Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Today’s issue is not whether to declare war but only whether the president should even seek congressional authorization for the protracted use of force against the Islamic State.

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The GOP’s impeachment two-step

WASHINGTON — If you attack the president repeatedly for law-breaking, executive overreach and deceiving the public and Congress, do you have an obligation to impeach him? This is the logical question Republicans are now trying to duck.

The GOP as the party of reform

WASHINGTON — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair came to prominence in the 1990s as an expert in political renovation, transforming the Labour Party from a creaky, socialist relic to a modern, center-left, governing institution. Before Blair, Labour had not won back-to-back victories in a hundred years. Blair secured three.

Me Inc. offers plenty of dividends

WASHINGTON — “Checked the tax code,” wrote a friend who’s engaged to a woman from a low-tax country. “Unfortunately, marrying [my fiancee] does not entitle me to a tax inversion like the big U.S. companies are getting. Thanks for nothing IRS.”

In Oregon, a doctor calls

PORTLAND, Ore. — “Are you kidding ?” This is Monica Wehby’s amiable response to people who wonder whether she will be able to bear the pressures of office if she wins her race as a Republican Senate candidate. For 17 of her 52 years she has been a pediatric neurosurgeon, holding in steady hands sharp steel and the fate of children’s brains. She probably can cope with the strains of legislative life.

Goldwater 2.0

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco, in the unfortunately named Cow Palace, the Republican National Convention gave its presidential nomination to Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who knew he would lose: Americans were not going to have a third president in 14 months. Besides, his don’t-fence-me-in libertarian conservatism was ahead of its time. His agenda, however, was to change his party’s national brand.