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-- Blame hyper-partisanship, or technology advances that allow campaigns to slice and dice the electorate: Whatever the culprit, the era of persuasion politics is over. Look no further than Indiana and Arkansas, where state legislators passed controversial religious freedom measures, for proof of the dawn of mobilization politics.

-- The religious freedom bills are the latest examples of the bipartisan phenomenon of playing to the base. In states like Oregon and California, both Democratic bastions, they're not arguing about whether to raise taxes, they're arguing about which taxes to raise. Florida and Arizona, Republican strongholds, are the latest to debate greater restrictions on abortion.

-- Disgust with both parties has driven voter turnout to all-time lows, leaving only the hyper-partisans at the ballot box. Campaigns don't see the payout in playing to the middle anymore, because the middle stays home. That mindset has seeped onto Capitol Hill, and into legislatures across the country: If the middle isn't voting, play to the base.

The Pulse: Today's buzz on the Hill.

-- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) expects to be indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Newark on corruption charges. Menendez will be back in New Jersey to face the charges; he has said he won't resign his office. Menendez has hired defense attorney Abbe Lowell to handle his case. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

-- The Obama administration submitted its plan to cut greenhouse gases by nearly 30 percent by 2025, putting pressure on countries like Canada, Australia and India that haven't come up with their own plans. International governments are working to craft a climate deal in December in Paris. President Obama's plan includes new rules on power plant emissions, which would be cut 30 percent by 2030. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Negotiators for Iran and the P5+1 countries continued talks past the self-imposed Tuesday deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they said several "key issues" remain unresolved. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he hoped for progress on Wednesday, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said an understanding had been reached on all major sticking points. Foreign ministers from Russia, China and France all returned home on Tuesday or Wednesday. Secretary of State John Kerry is still in Lausanne. (Washington Post)

-- House Benghazi Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Tuesday asked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, through lawyer David Kendall, to appear for a private interview about her use of a personal email server. Gowdy asked Clinton to appear for "a transcribed interview" any time before May 1. Clinton spokesman Nick Merill reiterated her offer to appear at a public hearing. (New York Times)

-- Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in a televised address that Iraqi forces had recaptured Tikrit from Islamic State militants, after U.S.-led airstrikes allowed ground operations to proceed. It's the first time Iraqi security forces have reclaimed a major population center from the Islamic State, boosting hopes that they can eventually launch an offensive to recapture Mosul, a much larger city. (Washington Post)

-- Former Nigerian dictator Muhammadu Buhari claimed victory in last week's elections on Tuesday, the first time in Nigeria's 16 years of democracy that an opposition candidate defeated a sitting president. President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari to congratulate him on his win, a call observers hope will avoid the violence that killed 1,000 people after the 2011 elections. Buhari won by about 2.5 million votes out of 28 million cast. (Washington Post)

-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with the latest from Lausanne, after nuke talks missed Tuesday's deadline. WSJ banner: "Both Sides Scramble for Iran PAC." NYT leads with revelations that Lufthansa knew the co-pilot in the Germanwings crash had suffered depression. LA Times left column: "Indiana uproar reflects cultural change." Indianapolis Star four columns: "PENCE CALLS FOR LAW TO BE FIXED." Arkansas Democrat Gazette: "Religious opt-out bill off to governor." USA Today reports falling oil prices have cost 100,000 jobs in the last four months. Today's info box: Rutherford B. Hayes had the smallest feet of any president, a size 7. Abraham Lincoln had the largest, size 14s.

White House 2016: The long, strange road to Pennsylvania Ave.

-- Christie: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will hit New Hampshire twice in the next few weeks, including a two-day swing April 14-15 and an appearance at the state Republican Party's cattle call on April 17. Christie's New Hampshire campaign is being run by former state GOP executive director Matt Mowers. (NH1)

-- Clinton: Hillary Clinton's campaign has tapped Michael Halle, a former top advisor to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), to Iowa to develop and execute strategy. Clinton's team has also hired Molly Schermann and Lenora Hanks for her Iowa team. (Washington Post) Reminder: No Clinton has ever won a contested Iowa caucus. The Clinton team wants to put to rest any hint that they're taking anything for granted.

-- Paul: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would help the ethanol industry overcome a regulatory burden that's hindering sales of E15 fuel. Removing the burden isn't the industry's top priority, but it's up there on their list, said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association chief Monte Shaw. Paul opposes the renewable fuel standard, which the industry supports. (Des Moines Register)

-- Bush: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has given his tacit endorsement to a nonprofit group that can raise unlimited amounts of undisclosed money to help build his political operation. Right to Rise Policy Solutions, established by a former Wal-Mart executive and close friend of Bush's in Arkansas in February, allows donors to give separate from a super PAC, which discloses donations, and Bush's eventual campaign, which is subject to strict limits. To comply with federal law, the group is technically a policy organization, not a political or fundraising group. (Washington Post)

-- Walker: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had to move a recent dinner from the home of state GOP chair Jennifer Horn to a nearby restaurant after he learned about Al, Horn's dog. Walker, it seems, is allergic to dogs. Just about every other presidential contender, from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz to Martin O'Malley to Hillary Clinton, has or has had a dog. Walker had a fish growing up. (New York Times)

Outside The Beltway: What's happening in the rest of the country.

-- Arkansas: State legislators on Tuesday passed a religious freedom bill similar to Indiana's, even as the firestorm over Indiana's law mounts. Legislators voted down a last-minute attempt to add a non-discrimination clause to the measure. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has said he intends to sign it. (Washington Post) Wal-Mart, Arkansas's biggest employer, urged Hutchinson to veto the bill in a statement on Tuesday.

-- Missouri: Spence Jackson, the former top aide to the late Auditor Tom Schweich who committed suicide over the weekend, said in a note he couldn't handle unemployment. Police officials in Jefferson City said Jackson's family asked them to release the note to put aside any speculation that the two suicides were related. (Washington Post)

-- California: Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) visited business and labor groups in San Diego on Monday as he continues contemplating a bid for Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) seat. (Sacramento Bee) Former state GOP chairman Duf Sundheim (R) announced he would form an exploratory committee, making him the seventh Republican in the race. (Mountain View Voice)

-- Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) this week signed legislation requiring doctors to tell women receiving a medically-induced abortion that the procedure can be reversed. The bill also bans insurance companies from providing abortions to women who get medical coverage through the federal health care exchange. (Arizona Republic)

-- Pennsylvania: The state Supreme Court said Tuesday it had the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate leaks from grand juries, ruling against Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D), who sought to block an investigation into her office. The ruling means Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman can decide whether to bring criminal charges against Kane. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

-- Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) on Tuesday formally declared former Rep. Aaron Schock's (R) seat vacant. Because Illinois state law isn't compliant with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the state will enter into a consent decree with the Department of Justice, so a primary election will be held in late June or early July, with a general election in late August. Candidates have to file papers for the seat between April 15 and 20.

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama doesn't have anything public on his schedule today. He'll have lunch with Vice President Biden, and that's it.

-- Vice President Biden is also staying out of public view today.

-- The House and Senate are chilling out at home.

-- The Architect of the Capitol has picked Historical Arts and Casting, a West Jordan, Utah, company, to recreate more than 100 badly damaged cast iron pieces of the Capitol Dome. The company is the only one in the country that can handle cast iron from beginning to end. (Associated Press)

-- Comings and Goings: The National Cannabis Industry Association is dropping actor Tommy Chong from its annual lobbying push in order to present a more serious face. (Politico) Former House Ways and Means Committee policy director Warren Payne is moving to Mayer Brown to join their tax and trade practice. And Sergio Gor emails: "I wanted to send a quick note to let you know that this week will be my last week in Senator [Rand] Paul’s Senate office. Starting next week I will be full time as the Communications Director on the political side for Senator Paul."

The Intersection: Business, politics and the business of politics.

-- D.C. law firm Wiley Rein is cutting a combined 48 attorneys and staff, including 18 partners and of counsel, the firm said. That's about 9 percent of its total workforce. (Washington Post)

-- A new report shows nearly 40 percent of crab cakes purchased at local restaurants were prepared with imported, and possibly illegally caught, crabs, rather than the more expensive Chesapeake blue crabs advertised. The advocacy group Oceana said 38 percent of crab cakes from 86 restaurants in the Chesapeake region were mislabled, though the group can't identify where along the supply chain the fraud took place. In D.C., 12 of 31 samples were mislabeled. (Washington Post) New header idea: Attn CNN: Something to outrage everyone?

-- Stock futures are lower this morning after the Dow dropped 200 points on Tuesday. Asian shares were mixed on Wednesday, but European shares are trading higher. (CNN) Big picture: The Dow was down 0.26 percent over the first quarter of the year, while the German DAX exchange rose just over 22 percent.

Long Reads: Take the time when you're bored at work.

-- One of the largest cranes in the world is hauling Bertha, the massive drill creating a new tunnel under Seattle, to the surface for repairs. Crews will not be able to raise Bertha to the surface once it turns east and north, under downtown. The project is already woefully over budget and behind schedule, and the effort to repair the machine has caused the surrounding neighborhood to sink more than an inch. (Bloomberg) We've written about Bertha before, but this Bloomberg piece has some of the coolest graphics we've seen. Worthy of a click. Don't miss the animated progress bar on top. Well done, Bloomberg graphics folks.

-- Paul Kane writes from the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston: "Many of today’s senators regret not building relationships the way Kennedy did. A generational shift has occurred over the past eight years -- 45 senators never served a single day with Kennedy -- and this era’s schedule calls for more travel and fundraising." Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): "You can’t achieve anything in a body like this without trust, and you can’t build trust without having some pre-existing relationship." (Washington Post)

-- More people report using mood-altering drugs or medications almost every day in West Virginia (28.1 percent) than any other state. Nearly 26 percent of Rhode Islanders said they take a pill almost every day. The percentage is lowest in Alaska (13.5 percent), and fewer than 16 percent of Wyoming and California residents say they use medication almost every day. (Gallup)

Attn Fox News: What outrages conservatives today.

-- A seven-month delay in approving federal emergency loans awarded to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy was caused by a faulty online system that forced the state to withdraw and resubmit its request for aid 15 times. The Labor Department's inspector general found no fault with the Employment and Training Administration's inital grant award process, but the agency's handling of modification requests caused uncertainty and impacted clean-up and recovery efforts. (Newark Star-Ledger)

Attn MSNBC: Cable fodder for liberals today.

-- In a Tuesday press conference, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said he "abhor[s] discrimination," even against gays and lesbians. But a check of his old website, and his voting record, show a long history of anti-LGBT positions. Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 and against hate crimes legislation in 2009. His Congressional campaign website said Congress "should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual's [sic] as a 'discreet and insular minority' entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities." (The Advocate) Pence's old website also called for funding for groups "which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior." (, h/t @Mikiebarb)