THE BIG IDEA: 

— Top operatives in both parties think that the presidential debates have become too much of an antiquated spectacle. Today a bipartisan group (their names are below) will unveil a 48-page report with recommendations on how to make them better in 2016. Their goal is to make the high-stakes showdowns more accessible for younger voters, more meaningful for independents and (perhaps most of all) less of a huge pain for the campaigns themselves. We’ve devoted a lot of ink recently to Fox News’ criteria for deciding which 10 Republicans will appear on stage during the first primary debate in August, but don’t forget that tens of millions more people will watch the general election debates next fall.

— Their buzziest idea is to start using a chess clock model to divvy up time and force more clash. The most memorable exchanges come when the nominees are going at each other, not when they’re reciting canned talking points. Allowing the candidates to engage each other more directly, this panel hopes, will make for better TV and thus reverse the long-term decline in viewership. Under the “chess clock” model, each candidate would get 45 minutes of speaking time. “Anytime a candidate is speaking, that candidate’s clock visibly counts own,” the report explains. “To take control of the floor, a candidate simply hits the chess clock. No answer, rebuttal or question may exceed three minutes … When a candidate runs out of total time, he or she has exhausted the right to speak … The candidates, not the moderators, would be responsible for follow-up … The moderators would not be tasked with asking follow-up questions; instead, candidates would be expected to challenge incomplete and nonresponsive statements by the opposing side.”

Some other suggestions in the report, which members have scheduled an afternoon conference call to unveil (but which you can read in full here):

  • Get rid of live audiences for non-town hall debates, so candidates are not distracted by catering to all the donors who always want to show up and expect access.
  • Kill “Spin Alley.” The report argues that the rise of Twitter makes it less necessary to have a room of campaign representatives trying to spin reporters afterward.
  • Schedule the debates earlier to account for the rise of early voting.

— Any changes would need to be accepted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has historically been resistant to change. But the hope is that the report should carry weight because of the gravitas of the group. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, brought together Anita Dunn, Beth Myers, Bob Barnett, Bob Bauer, Joel Benenson, Charlie Black, Rick Davis, Ben Ginsberg, Ron Klain, Zac Moffatt, Neil Newhouse, Jim Perry, Joe Rospars, Michael Sheehan and Stuart Stevens for the working group.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— New Quinnipiac University polls show close races in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Florida, Clinton leads Bush 46-42 and she leads Rubio 47-44, within the margin of error. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich leads Clinton by 7 points, 47-4o, in a hypothetical matchup. The poll has more bad numbers for HRC on questions of trustworthiness. Asked whether the Democratic frontrunner is honest, a majority of voters say no (51 percent in Florida, 53 percent in Ohio and 54 percent in Pennsylvania).

— Jeb Bush slow jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon on NBC. At one point, after Bush spoke a few words in Spanish, Jimmy Fallon snapped back: “Hold the telefono. I know you just got back from Miami but I didn’t think I was interviewing Governor Pitbull.” Watch for yourself.

Rachel Dolezal publicly defended her decision to identify as African-American, even though she was raised by white parents. “Nothing about being white describes who I am,” the civil rights activist, who resigned this week as head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, told NBC. “The closest thing that I can come to is if — if you’re black or white, I’m black. I’m more black than I am white.”

GET SMART FAST:

  1. The disturbed Iraq war veteran who scaled the White House fence last September was sentenced to 17 months in prison, Spencer S. Hsu reports. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer yesterday ordered Omar J. Gonzalez, 43, to stay out of the District, give up his guns and knives, and allow the Secret Service access to his medical records.
  2. Twenty-one Republican senators voted against John McCain’s anti-torture amendment to the defense re-authorization bill. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul voted with the ex-POW, Lindsey Graham sided against his best friend in the Senate and Marco Rubio missed another big vote.
  3. An outlier poll from Suffolk University found Bernie Sanders getting 31 percent among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, trailing Clinton by just 10 points. The poll included Joe Biden, who garnered 7 percent.
  4. Eliminating trans fats, mandated by the FDA yesterday, could cost companies $200,000 per product. Estimates say the total cost for food companies will be $12 billion to $14 billion.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Sid Blumenthal was deposed for more than eight hours yesterday by the House committee investigating Benghazi. He reportedly said the memos he sent then-Secretary of State Clinton were written by former CIA division chief Tyler Drumheller.
  2. Lindsey Graham is publishing a 126-page memoir (“My Story”) as an eBook. You can download it for free on his web site at 9 a.m.
  3. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial will be held in New Jersey, after a federal judge rejected the Democratic senator’s motion that the case be moved to the District. (NorthJersey.com)
  4. Hillary Clinton named John McCain and Lindsey Graham as Republicans she can work with during an interview with the Concord Monitor.
  5. Jim Webb, the former Democratic senator poised to launch a long shot bid against Clinton, told the Des Moines Register he really does not want a super PAC set up to help him.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

“Why ‘decapitation’ strikes have killed terrorist leaders, but not al-Qaeda,” by Greg Miller: “In separate strikes last week on veteran al-Qaeda leaders, the United States demonstrated again the extent to which it has perfected an almost eerie capability to find the world’s most wanted terrorism suspects in some of the world’s most chaotic environments and deliver lethal blows from above. But the continued spread of al-Qaeda’s ideology and the emergence of brutal new offshoots, including the Islamic State, have underscored the limitations of a U.S. strategy that remains largely reliant on ‘decapitation’ strikes.”

— “As budget fight rages at home, Scott Walker goes abroad,” by Jenna Johnson in Canada: “Walker in recent months booked three taxpayer-funded trips in quick succession: Four days in the United Kingdom in early February, followed by a week in Western Europe in April and now this journey to Canada … The governor also traveled to Israel for five days in May … Since the [disastrous] London trip, reporters have been discouraged from following Walker overseas, and his schedule has often been a closely guarded secret … The state budget is a bit of a mess. Republicans who dominate the legislature remain divided on two key issues: how to pay for major road projects and where to get the cash for a new basketball arena in Milwaukee so the Bucks, a professional basketball team, won’t relocate to another state.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: If Donald Trump’s campaign is a media stunt, it’s safe to say: Mission Accomplished. There were more than 113,000 total mentions of him during the 11 a.m. hour when he gave his rambling announcement speech, according to our analytics partners at Zignal Labs. In the Loop’s Al Kamen notes that Trump’s 45 minute, 30 second speech lasted 21 seconds longer than Hillary’s Saturday New York speech. Here is a graph of Trump breaking the internet.

— Pro tip: Unlike in entertainment, just because they’re writing about you does not mean you’re winning. Facebook reports that in the 24-hour period from midnight to midnight yesterday, 3.4 million Americans on Facebook generated 6.4 million interactions related to the Trump announcement. Compare that to 493,000 people and 849,000 interactions for Jeb the day before. Randomly, according to Facebook, the top state chattering about Trump (by engagement) was West Virginia. 

–WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT:

Pictures of the day, Trump edition:

Count on the Daily News not to pull punches when Donald Trump announces he’s running for president. “Hey, @realDonaldTrump — here’s our Wednesday front page,” the paper tweeted. The New York Post, by comparison, said Trump is already improving the GOP field on its editorial page. (@NYDailyNews)

Tweets of the day:

You might think this is an unlikely pairing, but Jeb Bush really did meet comedian and film director Judd Apatow on Tuesday. “He wanted to talk about higher ed reform,” Bush tweeted. “It’s no laughing matter.” (@JebBush)

Apatow then replied:

“For your collection of pix of kids on House floor,” tweets C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman.

Instagrams of the day:

Mike Huckabee showed off his catch on Instagram after a trip to the Gulf of Mexico. “I’d like to do the same thing to the IRS!” he wrote. (govmikehuckabee)

Hillary gives a 9-year-old an excused absence for coming to her event. “If you have to miss school, make sure you have a note,” she wrote on Instagram. (hillaryclinton)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Times, “G.O.P. Is Wary That Health Care Win Could Have Its Own Risks,” by Robert Pear: “Republicans in Congress would face an enormously complicated challenge to fashion an alternative, and they fear the fallout could lead to election losses if millions of Americans abruptly found themselves without health insurance. If the court voids a federal rule allowing subsidies in states that use the federal insurance marketplace, many Republicans said, they would support a temporary continuation of subsidies for people with low or moderate incomes.”

— Wall Street Journal, “The Florida Ties Behind Jeb Bush’s Rise,” by Christopher S. Stewart and Beth Reinhard: “There is no doubt the heir to one of America’s most successful political dynasties charted his own path in Florida, but he also leaned on family ties in business and politics, according to a Wall Street Journal review of public records and correspondence from the White House … Mr. Bush’s gross income averaged $106,638 in the six years before his father was elected president—then rose to $1.6 million in 1990, the middle of his father’s term, according to a summary of Mr. Bush’s tax returns reviewed by the Journal and confirmed by his aides.”

— Los Angeles Times, “California budget grants health coverage to children in U.S. illegally”“Immigrant children who are in the country illegally would receive public healthcare coverage in California under a budget deal announced Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders. An estimated 170,000 immigrants 18 and younger could qualify, marking another victory for advocates and lawmakers who have worked to make the state more welcoming to unauthorized residents.”

— USA Today, “Birth rate among U.S. women rises for first time in seven years”: “The rate of births among women ages 15 to 44 ticked up 1% from 2013 to 2014. That’s the first increase since 2007, the beginning of the recession, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics. The 3.98 million total births in 2014 was most since 2010.”

— IJ Review, “I’m a part of the GOP ‘establishment.’ Here’s why I have my doubts about Jeb Bush,” by John Jordan (first person account from millionaire GOP donor): “Bush, who just launched his campaign this week, brings liabilities to the general election that have not received the press attention they deserve. I bring them up not because they make him ‘bad’ or, in my view, unfit for office. I bring them up because these are liabilities that other Republican candidates do not have and represent baggage that any candidate, let alone one named Bush, can ill afford in a presidential election. Prior to beginning his campaign, Bush resigned from three corporate boards: Tenet Healthcare, a health insurance company; Rayonier, a lumber/paper company, and Barclays, a large bank. Few things in this country are more politically toxic than health insurance companies, banks and companies that promote cutting down trees.”

BUZZING AT THE CAPITOL:

Politico, “GOP leaders hatch trade workaround,” by Manu Raju and Jake Sherman: “Under the emerging plan, the House would vote on a bill that would give Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a sweeping trade deal with Pacific Rim countries, sending it to the Senate for final approval. To alleviate Democratic concerns, the Senate then would amend a separate bill on trade preferences to include Trade Adjustment Assistance.”

National Journal, “Three booted from GOP whip team as leaders crack down,” by Daniel Newhauser: “House Republican leaders are cracking down on rebellious members after a near-disaster on a trade vote last week. Reps. Cynthia Lummis, Steve Pearce, and Trent Franks have been removed from the whip team after they sided with GOP rebels to vote against a rule governing debate on a trade bill, according to sources close to the team.”

The Hill, “Oversight chair wants officials fired over hack,” by Cory Bennett: “[Rep. Jason] Chaffetz believed that his panel’s Tuesday morning hearing should serve as the nail in the coffin for OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, who both testified … Lawmakers were repeatedly frustrated during the hearing at both officials refusal to answer basic questions about the breach.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Indiana mayor comes out as gay in newspaper op-ed. In the South Bend Tribune, Mayor Pete Buttigieg writes: “‘Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy. We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business. But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good.’”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Did Hillary Clinton charge a kids’ charity $200,000 for a speech? Conservatives seized on Ken Vogel’s report that the Clinton Foundation has taken as much as $11 million from nonprofit groups. From Politico: “When Condoleezza Rice headlined a 2009 fundraising luncheon for the Boys and Girls Club of Long Beach, she collected a $60,000 speaking fee, then donated almost all of it back to the club, according to multiple sources familiar with the club’s finances … Hillary Clinton collected $200,000 to speak at the same event five years later, but she donated nothing back to the club, which raised less than half as much from Clinton’s appearance as from Rice’s … Instead, Clinton steered her speaking fee to her family’s own sprawling $2 billion charity.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Jeb Bush will attend an event in Iowa. Hillary Clinton will visit South Carolina. John Kasich and Donald Trump will greet the public in New Hampshire. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will address the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C. Scott Walker remains in Canada for a trade mission.

–On the Hill: The House will vote on a bill to repeal a tax on medical devices and a resolution designed to force floor debate on Iraq and Syria policy. The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. strategy in the Middle East. The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on drones. The Senate will continue work on a defense authorization bill. The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the CBO’s long-term fiscal outlook for the United States. Jon Huntsman  and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) will testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee during a hearing on U.S. economic and national security.

–At the White House: President Obama will make remarks at an investiture ceremony for Attorney General Loretta Lynch at 11:15 a.m., following by a meeting with winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring at 3:45 p.m. In the evening, he will speak at a White House picnic for lawmakers. Press Secretary Josh Earnest will brief the media at 12:30 p.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Donald Trump’s use of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ was not authorized. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.” — Neil Young manager Elliot Roberts in a statement to Mother Jones

NEWS YOU CAN USE IN D.C.:

— “Today features a break in the high heat along with some clouds and a shower risk,” per the Capital Weather Gang. “That heat doesn’t come roaring back right away, but more is lurking.”

— The Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6.

— The Nationals beat Tampa Bay 16-4 with 23 hits, the most since the franchise relocated to the District.

— For New York travelers, United Airlines is leaving JFK and will shift its west coast flights to Newark in October.

VIDEO OF THE DAY:

Jeb! He’s just like us… The campaign is trying to humanize the son and brother of presidents with videos that show he’s kind of a regular guy. (Via Jeb Bush YouTube page)