September 2

* More horrific news from the Middle East:

A new video attributed to the Islamic State terrorist organization purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, marking the second such execution in recent weeks by a group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria and has threatened to kill other captives.

The video shows a bound Sotloff being held at knifepoint by a black-clad militant against a desert backdrop that appears similar to the one shown in a recent video depicting the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Just a reminder — we’ve gotten in the worthwhile habit of saying “Thanks for your service” to people who serve in the military. But the men and women who report from war zones so the rest of us can understand what’s happening also do so at great personal risk, sometimes at enormous cost. They deserve our thanks every bit as much.

* The HuffPost Pollster is out with its Senate forecast, declaring Dems have a 52 percent chance of holding the Senate, which is more friendly to Dems than other models, because it uses a more poll-focused (and less “fundamentals” based) approach.

* Looks like attacks on Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner over “Personhood” have his campaign concerned, because he’s out with a new ad trumpeting his support for easy availability of birth control for women. Not too many other GOP candidates are doing that.

* Think Progress reports on how Gary Peters is making more of an issue out of climate change than any other Democratic Senate candidate, in large part by making it about the economy. And he’s doing it in Michigan, one of the last places you’d expect.

* This fact check rates a DSCC ad attacking Joni Ernst for supporting partial privatization of Medicare as true. Medicare — always an issue Democrats like to use to go after Republicans — will probably play an increasingly important role in lots of campaigns as we get closer to the election.

* Thomas Mills with a nice overview of the state of play in the North Carolina Senate race, and what each candidate has to do to prevail. Note once again the fading of Obamacare as a major issue.

* A new WRBL poll finds Dem Michelle Nunn with a slight lead over GOPer David Perdue, but this is not in sync with the polling average, which has Perdue up four.

* Ramesh Ponnuru floats the idea that Republicans may be looking at another 1998, in which they ended up losing seats because they ran with no agenda, just as they are mostly doing now.

* The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack talks to Scott Walker about his reelection campaign in Wisconsin and finds he doesn’t really want to talk about Obamacare or the Medicaid expansion:

Walker and his campaign have been pretty much silent on Obamacare, which Wisconsin voters oppose by a 17-point margin. To the extent that the topic is broached, it’s Burke who has taken the offensive, criticizing Walker for rejecting federal funding to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, an issue on which the Democrat enjoys a 29-point advantage…Walker said he hasn’t run ads on the Medicaid issue because it’s an argument Burke has mostly prosecuted in the media, not in her own ads.

It seems Walker really doesn’t want to talk about the Affordable Care Act — one more indication that the politics of the issue continue to move in the Democrats’ direction, on the Medicaid expansion in particular.

* Dylan Scott documents that the GOP-controlled states accepting the Medicaid expansion tend to be whiter, while those that aren’t tend to be in the south, meaning African Americans are the victims of their governments’ cruel intransigence.

* Today the White House was again very vague about exactly when Obama might take unilateral action to ease deportations, suggesting it really is possible he may push this off until after the elections.

* The conventional wisdom is that the smart move for President Obama is to delay a decision on deportations until after the election. Brian Beutler questions whether that’s really true:

I don’t entirely understand how much cover you buy for vulnerable Democrats if you put off the official announcement, but tell the press that the dreaded amnesty is coming just a few weeks later…the truth is, nobody really knows how the politics of a big new deferred-action program will shake out, because it’ll be a novel program. Our best heuristic is to watch how people with a political stake in Obama’s decision react when asked about it, and draw inferences. And the truth is that Republicans sound much more spooked than Democrats.

No one’s sure what the political effects would be, and so the administration should just figure out the substantively correct move, and do that.

* New Pew data show a shift in the number of people thinking the U.S. is doing too little to solve the world’s problems, but only 31 percent now think this, while 63 percent still say we’re doing too much or the right amount. So maybe Americans really don’t want more engagement.

* At the American Prospect, I wrote about how inane it is to send your Representatives to Washington and demand that they hate every minute they spend there.

* And let it not be said that Scott Brown does not embrace electoral innovation: Here he suggests that people from other states should come to New Hampshire to vote for him.

Brown was probably kidding (I think?), but if you’re a candidate who moved to a state just to run for office there, maybe this isn’t the smartest thing to say.