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Off to the races: Paul goes to Howard Univ.

O’MALLEY: “By almost any conventional standard, raising taxes, ending the death penalty and restricting the sale of firearms is an unusual - some would say foolhardy - way to launch a presidential campaign,” Politico writes. “Yet as Martin O’Malley tests his prospects on the national level, the Maryland governor has seized 2013 as an opportunity to pile up historic accomplishments in his home state – attacking structural problems such as transportation and gun violence – even at the cost of touching the traditional third rails of national politics.”

PAUL: National Journal: “Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took his message of GOP inclusion to historically black Howard University Wednesday, where he received a polite but tough reception. It was likely the fairest hearing any prominent Republican was going to get, given the GOP’s long-standing struggles with African-American support. And the fact that Paul decided to speak at Howard in the first place did more for him and a party focusing on minority outreach than anything he actually said.”

But again, while students praised him for being there, his message was like trying to fit a square in a circle. Instead of talking about libertarian ideology and invoking Toni Morrison, students said if Republicans really hope to win over black voters, they have talk about and reach out on issues of importance to the community, like “poverty, immigration reform, and student-loan forgiveness,” National Journal notes.

In addition to that appearance, he was interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, where he said, the America needs a “spiritual cleansing.” “I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians,” he said. “Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people."

But Paul also delivered some tough medicine to the Christian right on foreign policy, saying, “When we talk about war, that I think part of Republicans problems and frankly to tell you the truth some in the evangelical Christian movement I think have appeared too eager for war."

MASSACHUSETTS: “The three Republican candidates for the state’s open Senate seat sparred tonight in a fiery debate,” the Boston Globe reports. “Former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan and state Representative Daniel B. Winslow were particularly intense in their criticism of each other, repeatedly drawing contrasts on biography and policy. At one point during the debate, Winslow and Sullivan engaged in a heated exchange, each charging that the other is a lobbyist.”

Roll Call starts to size up 2014 House races and looks at some potential rematches.

VIRGINIA: The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Virginia Democrats and Republicans held dueling news conferences Tuesday to trade blasts at Ken Cuccinelli’s ties to Star Scientific and Terry McAuliffe’s departure from GreenTech Automotive. Democrats fired first with a renewed call for the Republican gubernatorial candidate to resign as attorney general following disclosures that he owns stock and has accepted gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., CEO of Star Scientific, a struggling former tobacco company turned dietary supplement maker that is in litigation with the state over a $700,000 tax assessment.”

American Bridge is up with a video hitting Cuccinelli for a “conflict of interest” for the Star Scientific investment and calls for him to resign.