In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Rand Paul said on Friday he'd vote to authorize further air strikes against ISIS "in a heartbeat," changing his position on how the U.S. should deal with the radical Islamic group.

"I would vote yes and I would do it in a heartbeat. Radical Islam is a threat to the United States, our embassies, our journalists," the Kentucky Republican said on Fox News, adding that President Barack Obama needs to seek permission from Congress.

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Is Justice Antonin Scalia the ironic hero of the gay rights movement?

Somehow, the conservative jurist's arguments in prior opinions have become a regular feature in lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage. The latest example came Thursday in a decision by renowned Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, with whom Scalia has an ongoing feud.

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The breadcrumbs were there, but it's fair to say that Democrat Chad Taylor stunned the political world when he announced Wednesday that he was dropping out of the Kansas Senate race. That leaves independent Greg Orman, who was once a Democrat, to challenge incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) in November's general election.

It bewildered outsiders in part because Taylor was performing admirably for a Democrat in the state with the longest gap since it lasted elected one to the Senate. TPM's PollTracker average had Taylor trailing by less than 6 percentage points.

But did Democrats really think the best shot of knocking of Roberts was to clear the field for Orman, even if that meant getting their own nominee out of the race? Or was something else going on, too?

Political observers in Kansas suggest looking at the state's gubernatorial election contest. State Sen. Paul Davis (D) seems to have a real shot at knocking off Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative stalwart; Davis leads by 6 percentage points, per TPM's PollTracker average.

With Taylor out of the race, in-state Democrats can focus almost all of their attention on Davis. And if some recent polling is to be believed, Orman still has a realistic shot to beat Roberts and he's a former Democrat who's said he's open to caucusing with either party. That's a potential win-win.

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Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), has expressed skepticism in the past that climate change is caused by man and is now drawing attacks from Democrats for it. But he's still touting his own green bonafides in a key Senate race that could turn on environmental and energy issues, releasing an ad this week that features Gardner striding in front of windmills and talking up his support for renewable power.

"What is a Republican like me doing at a wind farm?" Gardner asks the camera. "Supporting the next generation, that's what." He touts his authorship while in the state legislature of a law that "launch(ed) our state's green energy industry."

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Obamacare's Medicaid expansion has lately been making progress in unlikely places like Wyoming, where Republicans are being slowly swayed by business groups that it is a good financial deal for their state. But the quickest way to bring Medicaid expansion to the 23 states that have declined it so far would be a new state legislature or governor.

The former can be a little harder to anticipate. And according to some handicapping by Governing magazine's Lou Jacobson, it doesn't look like any legislatures are going to flip in a way that would have serious repercussions for Medicaid expansion, anyway, absent a change in the governor's house. Gubernatorial races, on the other hand, get a lot of national attention and as the head of the executive branch, governors have an outsized influence on the fate of Medicaid expansion.

So here are the five states where, if a Republican incumbent falters in November, Obamacare would have an opening.

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In a historical aberration, out-of-pocket spending on health care is expected to decrease in 2014, according to a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, because of expanded insurance coverage under Obamacare.

CMS actuaries, writing in Health Affairs, projected that Americans' out-of-pocket spending would decrease by 0.2 percent. While that's a small drop, it's a big change from the historical trend of steadily increasing out-of-pocket spending. Out-of-pocket spending increased by 3.2 percent in 2013. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt, such spending has only decreased in 1967 (Medicare and Medicaid took effect) and in 1994 and 2009 under slowing economies.

The cause this year is Obamacare.

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