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Morning Plum: The real reason for that new GOP Benghazi probe

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When he announced the creation of a new select House committee to investigate Benghazi, Speaker John Boehner claimed it was necessary in the wake of the disclosure of a new smoking-gun email that showed new levels of stone-walling from the Obama administration.

But what if the new committee was more a response to a failure on the part of House GOP investigators to find any real smoking gun? That’s what a senior House Republican suggests in a new interview with the Washington Examiner, though he doesn’t put it in quite those terms.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who chairs an oversight investigations sub-committee, offers the Examiner a more nuanced explanation for the creation of the new select committee:

House Speaker John Boehner moved to create a select committee to investigate Benghazi after it became apparent that the existing inquiry wasn’t getting the job done. […]
With Boehner’s approval and consultation, Westmoreland assembled an informal committee of about a dozen members to review the joint committee investigation and look for ways to improve it.
Westmoreland’s ad-hoc group, drawn from the five committees involved in the Benghazi investigation, ultimately determined that complications in coordinating the efforts of multiple panels, and periodic turf wars, were hampering the Benghazi investigation. It’s a view Boehner came to share after resisting for months the creation of a select committee on the grounds that it might set back the inquiry as any new panel got up to speed. […]
Aides have described Boehner as furious that it took a lawsuit to force the Obama administration to release copies of emails that it was supposed to have provided to congressional investigators…But Westmoreland indicated that the manner in which the information became public, and the inability of House Republicans to uncover the information through the existing investigation, simply crystallized for Boehner and others in his caucus concerns that had been building for months that the joint-committee approach wasn’t working.

This dovetails to some degree with what Dem Rep. Elijah Cummings suggested yesterday: that the new select committee is more an effort to gain control over “internal party bickering” marring efforts to probe Benghazi than anything else.

Now, in order to believe that the failure to turn up the latest emails is a sign investigators were not “getting the job done,” you have to also believe that the new emails actually amount to evidence of serious wrong-doing. But as Dave Weigel has amply demonstrated, there’s not much that’s new or serious there. The real story here may be that GOP investigators are not “getting the job done” because thus far, it is not clear that there is any job to get done.

Of course, if the real goal is keeping the base enraged for six more months, right through election day, then the new select committee will probably get it done just fine.

* HOW REPUBLICANS ARE USING BENGHAZI FOR 2014:  Time magazine gets a useful quote from an NRCC spokesperson on why Benghazi is a useful issue for Republicans in the midterms:

“The President’s credibility problems — not just on Benghazi, but on Obamacare and the IRS scandal go right to the heart of Americans’ distrust in this White House. His dismal approval numbers demonstrate the lack of trust families have in him, and it’s dragging down candidates across the country.”

It’s not a coincidence that Benghazi is being paired with attacks on the administration’s credibility on #Obummercare and the endless IRS scandal, is it? This is partly about keeping Obama’s approval numbers to weigh down Democrats among independents, to be sure, but it’s also about keeping the base as worked up as possible.

* NORTH CAROLINA PRIMARY ON TAP TODAY: North Carolina Republicans today vote on their choice to challenge Dem Senator Kay Hagan, and Peter Hamby has a good overview of the contest, noting that polls show state House speaker Thom Tillis close to winning 40 percent to avoid a runoff. Dems hope a conservative challenger — Greg Brannon or Mark Harris — will get a second shot against Tillis, which would spark a war between GOP establishment groups (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Crossroads) and groups like the Club for Growth.

If Tillis does avoid a runoff, that will be a major break for Republicans, allowing them to immediately turn their fire on Hagan, rather than enter into another bruising contest that would push the nomination into July.

* REPUBLICANS NERVOUS ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA RUNOFF: David Joaquim runs through the reasons that GOP establishment figures and groups are worried about the possibility of Tillis getting sucked into a runoff against Brannon in particular. Another contest would drain off money that could be spent on a general election, and since runoffs are often quirky and unpredictable they risk damaging the eventual winner. Meanwhile, Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy sums up the significance of today’s primary:

“This is the first high-profile Senate primary pitting the tea party against the establishment.”

Put another way, it’s the first high-profile test this cycle of the establishment’s ability to stop the Tea Party from saddling the GOP with difficult general election candidates.

 * THE TEA PARTY ISN’T DEAD QUITE YET: Stuart Rothenberg has a useful overview of all of the coming GOP primaries, showing that widespread claims that the establishment is already defeating the Tea Party wing of the party are premature. Conclusion:

No matter the wins and losses in the GOP “civil war” this year, don’t expect this to be the end of that fight. The party remains deeply divided, and both sides have the resources and commitment needed to take the fight into 2015 and 2016. The war is likely to get messier and the division more consequential before the two sides look for ways to bridge their differences. That should please Democrats.

* THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS IN 10 MAPS: Kyle Klondik has a nice piece laying out some of the basic structural realities that are shaping the current battle for the Senate, factors that are frequently overlooked as commentators rush to blame Dems’ ills on Obamacare. This really gets to the heart of it:

Republicans…need to net six seats to win the Senate, and there are six Democratic-held seats on this map where Obama got less than 45 percent of the vote in 2012. Let’s assume the GOP nets those six seats, but everything else remains the same, which is a perfectly plausible scenario. Those states — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — represent just 3.8 percent of the U.S. population.

Add in North Carolina — which Romney carried twice — and you have Dems defending seven seats in Romney states. This is the real reason why Republicans have a better than even chance of winning the Senate — and if they do, they’ll claim it was all because of Obamacare, to give themselves a “mandate” to keep attacking it.

* MITCH McCONNELL, JOBS ‘HERO’? Mitch McConnell’s campaign is up with a new spot emphasizing all the ways he has been a “hero” for saving jobs in Kentucky. It’s an indication that the McConnell camp (he is certain to win the GOP primary easily) is turning towards the general election, and looking to fend off attacks from Dem Alison Lundergan Grimes over his recent controversial suggestion (he says he was taken out of context) that it isn’t his job to create jobs.


The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say.

As Jed Lewison tweeted: “Death panels exposed.”