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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

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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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has never formally retreated from Obamacare repeal, but he has taken some puzzling positions, like opening the door for Kentucky keeping its new Obamacare exchange even if the law were undone.

And now in a newly published interview, he seems to acknowledge that the state's expansion of Medicaid under the law is also likely here to stay.

The New York Times recently profiled McConnell, who is facing a tough Democratic challenge from Alison Lundergan Grimes. Reporter Jonathan Martin offered some outtakes from that piece Wednesday, which included McConnell's comments on Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear decision to expand Medicaid.

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A few years ago, Lawrence Lessig, a professional troublemaker and Harvard University professor, asked some political consultants how much it would cost to rid American politics of money's influence. That would mean not only electing enough members of Congress who would vote for legislation to rein in campaign finance, but also a president who would appoint new Supreme Court justices who would uphold it.

"If you had all the money in the world, how much would it take?" he asked.

They told him $700 million. So this June, Lessig and Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to President George W. Bush who is now an independent consultant, launched Mayday PAC to formalize the mission. Their stated goal is by 2017 to have a Congress that would introduce fundamental reform, defined as some kind of publicly financed campaign system.

The plan, which has drawn plenty of skeptics, even sympathetic ones, starts with a pilot program in 2014. They have selected eight candidates who they want to elect this fall, a way of proving their bonafides and the viability of the concept before expanding the map, so to speak, in 2016. The price for that initial venture is $12 million.

And last week, they got their first win. With Mayday PAC's backing, Ruben Gallego, a former state legislator, won the Democratic primary in Arizona's 7th congressional district. The super PAC that wants to destroy super PAC's is now officially in the game.

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Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) will soon introduce legislation to authorize President Barack Obama to launch military airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria within Syria, his office announced Tuesday.

Obama has already authorized limited strikes against ISIS within Iraq and will reportedly consider whether to strike the group, which has reportedly killed two American journalists in the last month, in Syria as well. Nelson's bill would give Obama the upper chamber's approval for the latter action.

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Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) has pulled a campaign TV ad that connected his GOP opponent with a prominent murder case, amid furor from Republicans, KTVA in Anchorage reported Tuesday.

The Anchorage Daily News reported last week on the ad and the resulting backlash from Republican nominee Dan Sullivan and his supporters. The ad, which appears to have disappeared online, linked Sullivan, formerly Alaska's attorney general, with the light sentence given to a sex offender, who was later charged with murdering an elderly couple and sexually assaulting their young granddaughter after his release, according to the newspaper.

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