TPM Cafe: Opinion

As is always the case, many gallons of ink (and cyber-ink) will be spilled over the next 48 hours harvesting national political implications from Thad Cochran’s victory in the Mississippi GOP Senate runoff yesterday. Some will simply revert to the MSM’s preferred “Establishment Crushes Tea Party” 2014 primaries narrative. Others will tout Cochran as matching Mitch McConnell in pursuing the audacious tactic of aggressively reminding Republican voters of the smoky goodness of the pork they deliver.

And probably not a few observers will make it an object lesson for the GOP that African-American voters can be drawn to their side — even in a GOP primary — with the right combination of effort and message.

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It’s just research like all research: conducted by humans, with limitations and caveats, but also deserving of a respectful, accurate reading.

There’s way too much student loan debt in this country. (I hold some of it myself.) I’ve written about it at length, and many times, over the course of years. I’ve written about ways to reduce the cost of college, about structural changes to the student loan system, about the desperate need for state governments to reinvest in higher education, and about a potential system of no-frills, low-or-no tuition federal universities that could graduate thousands without loan debt. It’s a big economic drag to have so many young people pouring money into student loans instead of into houses and cars, and it’s a moral travesty for so many people to suffer because they can’t afford to pay for the education they already received.

However.

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About a month ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted an event designed to “confront the myths” about the Common Core State Standards—and thereby shore up conservative support. Five former Republican governors sat on stage and thoughtfully explained why they believe the Common Core is a critical reform for American schools. They explained that the standards — developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and other state-based groups — are a critical part of improving American public education and developing a highly-skilled, world-class workforce.

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Today, the Tea Party has a chance to for a major victory. In Mississippi, Republican voters are going to the polls today to decide whether to re-nominate six-term Senator Thad Cochran or to replace him with Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel. Given that Tea Partiers have already claimed at least one huge primary victory this year by defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it is time to look at a larger question: are primary elections promoting extremism?

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The NY Times reports:

[Conservative] groups will deploy observers in areas where Mr. Cochran is recruiting Democrats, Mr. Cuccinelli said. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and conservative commentator who said he was advising the effort, described the watchers as “election observers,” mostly Mississippi residents, who will be trained to “observe whether the law is being followed.”

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Last week, the United States Senate convened hearings on amending the Constitution to “better regulate” political spending. With a two-thirds vote needed in both Houses of Congress, no one expects any amendment to pass. Yet, fundamental reform is absolutely needed — and possible.

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Until today, the sectarian conflict in Iraq has put the mess into messaging. For an administration already in love with nuance, explaining how the United States should engage in Iraq presents the worst on-the-one-hand-on-the-other challenge in the world. But sometimes it’s better to be lucky in communications than good, and for that Obama has Dick Cheney to thank. The more the former vice president talks, the better Obama seems.

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