* Remember how conservatives confidently predicted that in the second year of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, consumers would experience “rate shock” as their premiums skyrocketed? According to the latest data, not so much:

Premiums on ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges will rise by an average of 7.5 percent next year, according to a new analysis.

Data compiled by the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers found modest changes in premiums for 27 states and the District of Columbia, with the increases mostly falling short of dire predictions for ObamaCare’s second year.

The average national increase of 7.5 percent is “well below the double-digit increases many feared,” HRI Managing Director Ceci Connolly wrote in an email.

While no one ever likes to see their premiums to up at all, given that premium increases on the individual market used to average around 10 percent a year, that’s excellent news.

* Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Garder has a new ad complaining about people getting their insurance cancelled last year, including his own. He doesn’t mention that because of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado, saw the fifth-largest drop of any state in its rate of uninsured.

* Brian Beutler continues his ongoing project of beating Halbig Trutherism to a bloody pulp. Today’s entry: the Congressional Budget Office.

* Two out of three Republican governors named Rick decided to refuse the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. The results, for them and 22 others, are becoming clear:

The 24 states which refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare are poised to give up $423.6 billion in federal funds over a decade and keep 6.7 million residents uninsured, according to a new study by the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“In the 24 states that have not expanded Medicaid, 6.7 million residents are projected to remain uninsured in 2016 as a result. These states are foregoing $423.6 billion in federal Medicaid funds from 2013 to 2022, which will lessen economic activity and job growth,” the authors wrote.

OK, so maybe those things are bad. But what can you compare to the pure, glorious satisfaction you get from preventing a poor person from getting health coverage?

* Anchorage is 3,843 miles driving distance from El Paso, so when the border crisis is forcing even Alaska Republican Senate candidates to try to adopt the farthest right stance on immigration, as is now happening, you know this issue isn’t doing the party any favors.

* Thomas Mills offers a quick and useful overview of the political environment in North Carolina, and why the Senate election there is likely to be a squeaker. Key point: No matter what national pundits say, education cuts very well may matter a lot more than Obamacare will.

* Hillary Clinton sounded awfully hawkish, especially on Israel, in this her interview with the Atlantic. Given that Clinton lost to the antiwar candidate in 2008, here’s the tweet of the day from Atrios:

* On the flip side, Francis Wilkinson says that the degree Clinton actually “distanced” herself from Obama is being exaggerated.

* At the American Prospect, I ask why Clinton thinks it’s important to have a foreign policy doctrine, and whether she’ll tell us what hers is.

* With Iowa GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst seeming to come out against the withdrawal from Iraq, Ed Kilgore has a good post asking what on earth she’s thinking politically:

Anyone who makes the “shoulda never withdrawn” argument must believe it, because it’s really dumb politically. The obvious rhetorical diet for Republicans on Iraq is a combo platter of generalized bitching (“Obama has emboldened the terrorists by his weakness and irresolution” blah blah) and snail-eyed nitpicking (second-guessing daily decisions). Yes, there are a significant number (although a minority even there) of Republican voters who think we should still be fighting the Iraq War Bush began, just as there are almost certainly a decent number of Republicans of a certain age who think we unnecessarily “surrendered” in Vietnam. But it doesn’t play well in a general election.

Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if many GOP candidates keep it vague in just that fashion. This is particularly interesting in Iowa, given that it actually had an active and sizable anti-war movement back when the war was still going on.

* Ted Cruz is still not willing to come out for impeachment — of the president, anyway. He’s focused instead on Eric Holder. But what happens when Obama’s next act of supreme lawlessness comes along?

* According to the Pew Research Center, there are now 4.6 public relations specialists for every reporter in America. If you’re considering a career change, you too could experience the thrill of sending me press releases that I ignore.

* And have you paid your $9.95 a month to get the Sarah Palin TV channel? As Steve Benen notes, if not, you’re missing out on comedic insights like this one on the minimum wage:

We believe, wait, I thought fast food joints, don’t you guys think that they’re like of the devil or something? Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint that you just don’t believe in, I thought you, I dunno, wanted to send them to purgatory or something. So they all go vegan. And wages and picket lines. I dunno, they’re not often discussed in purgatory are they? I dunno, why are you even worried about fast food wages?

Just think of that the next time you see John McCain — who wanted to put her one heartbeat away from being the most powerful human being on earth — offering his wise counsel on anything.