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First thoughts: Will gay marriage be an issue in the fall?

Will yesterday's gay marriage ruling measure on the political Richter scale this fall?... Obama, in Chicago, makes remarks on the U.S. auto industry at 11:15 am ET and stumps for Alexi Giannoulias after that… MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" interviews David Axelrod and Rick "One Tough Nerd" Snyder… The House -- on its August recess -- is set to come back to work to pass $26 billion in state aid… Senate is set to confirm Elena Kagan… It's primary day (on a Thursday!) in Tennessee; polls close at 8:00 pm ET… Profiling Rick Santorum's inner circle… Previewing KS-3… And Rossi and Didier disagree on Afghanistan.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Will gay marriage be an issue this fall? Yesterday's ruling by a federal judge striking down California's gay-marriage ban produced political and legal tremors that could be felt here in Washington at some point. Here's the San Francisco Chronicle: "When a judge struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, he handed gay rights advocates a historic and invigorating victory, but also a temporary one in a long fight that may be heading toward a showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court." The political question everyone is asking is, "What does this mean for the 2010 midterms?" But we're unsure if it will still measure on political Richter scale in the fall. Why? Because while gay marriage has been a base motivator for Republicans, it doesn't seem like the GOP base needs help motivating this year. As for swing voters, in elections where the economy is issue No. 1, social issues tend to take a back seat. In fact, the White House would probably love nothing more for the fall to be a debate over gay marriage and the 14th Amendment. Do GOPers take the bait? http://bit.ly/cGAfsB

*** Obama's day in Chicago: For the second time in a week, President Obama will make remarks highlighting what he believes are administration-assisted successes of the U.S. automotive industry. At 10:55 am ET, the president tours a Ford assembly plant in Chicago, and he makes remarks at 11:15 am. (The president will sit down with CNBC's Phil Lebeau to talk about the administration's role in the rebuilding of the auto industry. Highlights of the interview will be on CNBC late today and then on the NBC Nightly News.) Then, later in the day, he speaks at a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. And finally, at 7:00 pm, Obama hits a low-dollar DNC fundraiser before returning to Washington. Per the Giannoulias campaign, Alexi will accompany the president at both the Ford plant and the DNC fundraiser. Pegged to Obama's event for Giannoulias today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has produced a Web video going after the Democratic candidate. By the way, we assume the White House hopes the Blago verdict doesn't come while the president is in Chicago…

*** Programming note: MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" this morning interviews White House adviser David Axelrod, as well as Rick "One Tough Nerd" Snyder, who won Tuesday's GOP gubernatorial primary in Michigan.

*** The House comes back to work: After the Senate beat back a GOP filibuster -- with crossover votes from Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe -- blocking a $26 billion bill in state aid to save teaching and other jobs from the budget chopping block, the House is temporarily ending its recess to pass the measure next week. "As millions of children prepare to go back to school -- many in just a few days -- the House will act quickly to approve this legislation once the Senate votes," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement yesterday. As the Washington Post writes, "House members left town last week, and many rank-and-file Democrats looked forward to the break as a chance to defend dozens of seats at risk in the November elections. But aides said many lawmakers will welcome the interruption, viewing it as a chance to score a fresh legislative victory for teachers and public-service unions, an important Democratic constituency."

*** Kagan gets her vote: The Senate is poised to vote on Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination today. And while her confirmation is a sure thing, she's likely to receive fewer votes than Sonia Sotomayor got a year ago. The AP: "Her confirmation assured, Elena Kagan is on the brink of becoming the fourth woman ever to serve as a Supreme Court justice. The Senate is set Thursday to confirm President Barack Obama's nominee, whose addition to the court will mark the first time three female justices have served concurrently."

*** Don't throw stones in glass houses: Given all the attention Charlie Rangel's and Maxine Waters' ethics woes have received, don't forget that another person is potentially facing even more serious charges -- GOP Sen. John Ensign. Both the Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department are investigating these matters relating to Ensign's affair with a staffer whose husband was a top Ensign aide: 1) the allegation that Ensign promised to set up the cuckolded husband as a lobbyist after he confronted Ensign about the affair, and 2) that Ensign's parents wrote a $96,000 to the couple. For Ensign, the attention being given to Rangel and Waters is not a good development. As Republicans attempt to make hay over Rangel and Waters, they'll be forced to defend the Ensign situation -- something that makes Senate Republicans, in particular, very uncomfortable. By the way, it's being reported that Ensign has registered his legal defense fund as a 527…

*** If it's Thursday… : Two days ago, mainstream made a bit of comeback in GOP primaries when moderate Rick Snyder won the gubernatorial nomination in Michigan, and conservative Jerry Moran won the Senate nomination over the more conservative Todd Tiahrt in Kansas. Will today's Tennessee primary for governor -- taking place on rare Thursday! -- make it three in a row? As we mentioned earlier this week, three top Republicans are vying for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). The three are Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and Rep. Zack Wamp. (The fabulously great Basil Marceaux is also in the race.) http://bit.ly/bwsK8K

*** Will another GOP moderate win … in Tennessee? Ramsey drew national attention by describing Islam as a cult, while Wamp has a TV ad in which he says, "I believe God is the center of the universe. He made us to serve him and to serve others"; Wamp also suggested succession before backtracking from that. By comparison, Haslam is the moderate in this race (think Bob Corker, circa 2006). The winner will take on Democrat Mike McWherter in the fall; McWherter is the son of a former TN governor. There are also some House primaries of note, including the GOP primaries in TN-6 (the open seat being vacated by Dem Bart Gordon) and TN-8 (an open seat being vacated by Dem John Tanner), and the Democratic primary in TN-9 (between incumbent Steve Cohen, who is white, and challenger Willie Herenton, who is black). Polls close at 8:00 pm ET.

*** 2012 Thursday: The latest in our weekly look at the emerging 2012 race is a profile of Rick Santorum's inner circle. The team: media consultant John Brabender; former chief of staff Mark Rodgers, a senior adviser on policy/operations; finance director Nadine Maenza; and spokeswoman Virginia Davis. By the way, it does appear that Santorum is running. Since 2009, he's made four trips to Iowa, three visits to New Hampshire, and another four trips to South Carolina. And he heads back to Iowa Aug. 16-18. In fact, by the end of this year, Santorum probably will be the Republican who will have spent more time in the big three early states than either Pawlenty or Romney.

*** 75 House races to watch: KS-3: This is an open seat vacated by eight-term Rep. Dennis Moore (D), and the Democratic nominee is Moore's wife -- Stephene. The GOP nominee is state Rep. Kevin Yoder. Yoder (as of June 30) has $510,000 in the bank, while Moore has $237,000. In 2008, Obama won 51% in this district, while Bush won 55% in 2004. Stephene Moore's husband voted for the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and health care. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the race as Lean Republican.

*** More midterm news: In Illinois, Mark Kirk's ex-wife told Chicago Magazine "that she will not 'advocate' for her ex in his Senate run because she fears he is too influenced by a 'Svengali figure' in his life—a former staffer named Dorothy "Dodie" McCracken… In Kentucky, it turns out that Rand Paul never received an undergraduate degree, though he did graduate from medical school… Also in Kentucky, Dan Mongiardo FINALLY endorsed Jack Conway… In New Hampshire, Norm Coleman's American Action Network is targeting Paul Hodes in a new TV ad… And in Washington state, Dino Rossi and Clint Didier disagree on Afghanistan, with Didier wanting troops instead on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Countdown to CO, CT, and MN primaries, plus GA run-off: 5 days
Countdown to WA and WY primaries: 12 days
Countdown to AK, AZ, FL, and VT primaries: 19 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 89 days

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