US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Safety concerns prompted the decision to put in place a 21-day quarantine for American troops serving in the Ebola mission in West Africa, top Pentagon officials said Thursday.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he and the other Joint Chiefs of Staff believe a quarantine makes sense for the 4,000 troops that will be assigned to Liberia for a six-month period.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed off on Wednesday on the recommendation made by the Joint Chiefs that the Defense Department impose a quarantine for returning troops. That order went further than guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that travelers from Liberia should self-monitor for symptoms for 21 days, but not under quarantine conditions.
“We did factor in science,” Dempsey said. “Physics is the science we factored in.”
Dempsey made a distinction between civilian health care volunteers treating Ebola-infected patients and the large military force headed to Liberia.
“This is not about small groups of people who are transient. There’s protocols for that,” Dempsey said. “It’s also not about health care professionals in direct contact with Ebola. There’s protocols for that.”
While American troops will not be providing any health care, their six-month deployments will keep them there longer than health care volunteers who stay for one to two months because of what he called the “intense environment for them.”
“This is about a major military operation and big things on a global scale. And so we took a conservative approach and we’ll assess it in 45 days,” said Dempsey. “But we’re going to keep them safe.”
Hagel said that his decision to agree to the Joint Chiefs recommendation “was thoroughly reviewed by health care professionals in each of the services in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”
Hagel said he was mainly focused on the security of the men and women in uniform, which is why he thought “it was a smart, wise, prudent, disciplined, science-oriented decision based mainly on what the chairman just articulated, but also the reality of what else is going on.”
Hagel acknowledged the public debate about “every decision, every issue, and every part of that by decision-makers.” But he said, “You have to analyze it based on what you think is the right thing to do for your people, and that’s the decision we made and why we made it.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may be flirting with a presidential run in 2016, but it’s his son George P. Bush who has the more imminent deadline as he is running for Texas Land Commissioner.
The youngest politician in the Bush family is one of two presidential grandsons whose names will be on ballots come Tuesday as former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson Jason is running for governor of Georgia.
Jason Carter has had politics in his blood from both sides of his family, since his maternal grandfather was a Georgia state senator. After serving in the Peace Corps and becoming a lawyer, the ninth-generation Georgian served in the State Senate since 2010.
Friends say it is no surprise that his famous grandfather has been helping campaign with him, as Carter faces off against incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
"They are extremely close and I would say if there’s any genetics in this, Jason has inherited all of the political genes from his grandpa," said Peter Bourne, who served as President Carter’s campaign director in 1976 and a special assistant while in the White House.
Bourne said insiders have known that Jason Carter, 39, was going to follow in his grandfather’s democratic footprints for some time since “he was the only one in the family who clearly had an interest in politics.”
"He's the oldest grandson so President Carter always sort of took a special interest in him," said Bourne, who is currently a professor at Oxford University and wrote a biography of President Carter. "I have that sense that he hoped that would be the case, that he saw him beyond his own children and his other grandchildren that he was the one to make a successful political career."
Former President George H.W. Bush told ABC News that his grandson's foray into politics was somewhat expected.
"I wasn't surprised because he had already demonstrated his abiding commitment to service through his time in the Navy," Bush said.
"I don't know if he got this from me, but 'P' is a loyal friend. So is his father, so maybe that explains that," President Bush said, going on to describe his grandson as "candid, totally honest and hard-working."
George P. Bush, 48, got his first taste of the national spotlight when he lead the Pledge of Allegiance at his grandfather’s 1998 nominating convention when he was only 12, and later, introduced his grandmother, then-first lady Barbara Bush, at the 1992 convention.
"It’s an overall positive for me," George P. Bush told ABC's Jon Karl of his family name. “But I said from day one of my campaign, 23 months ago, that I am a man of my own right, who stands on my own two feet with my vision. And I need folks to evaluate me based on what I bring to the table."
Timothy Naftali, a historian and former President George H.W. Bush biographer, said that the decision to run for a state office like land commissioner comes as a part of a larger plan as well.
"It’s obviously considered a stepping stone," he said.
"The Bushes are obviously sensitive to a sense of entitlement. Rather than running for Congress first, they're having him establish his credentials as a political figure in Texas first,” Naftali said.
"The family very much wanted to promote George P. as a public figure, if not as a politician," Naftali said of the move. "The family itself promoted him, so there’s a dynastic quality to the Bushes that we haven’t seen in a family since the Kennedys."
Carter and Bush are not the only legacy candidates hoping for some favorable returns on Tuesday. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, whose father Moon was the mayor of New Orleans and was the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is in a tough re-election race just like Sen. Mark Pryor, the son of former Arkansas Gov. David Pryor.
"I think in the South people kind of like dynasties more than they do in other parts of the country," Bourne said.
Darren Hauck/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has gained a little ground over the past two weeks on Democratic challenger Mary Burke, putting the potential 2016 presidential candidate on track to win his third bid for governor in just four years.
While a poll conducted earlier this month showed the race at a dead heat, new data released Wednesday by the Marquette Law School now shows Walker with 50 percent of likely voters compared to only 43 percent for Burke.
Among registered voters, however, the survey still shows a tight race with Walker winning 46 percent of the vote and Burke garnering 45 percent -- essentially a statistical tie within the poll's margin of error.
Walker will continue his bus tour campaign through the Green Bay area Thursday, while Burke plans to make a campaign swing through southeastern Wisconsin.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — There are five more days until Election Day, and as candidates make their last push to gain the support of voters, political groups are running more adds in key districts.
The American Future Fund is out with three new ads in Georgia’s 12th district and Michigan’s 6th district. The conservative super PAC is also running ads for the Oregon Senate race, where Sen. Jeff Merkley is battling it out against his GOP challenger Monica Wehby.
Ads directing voter attention to the contest between Merkley and Wehby are peculiar because the race -- rated “likely Democrat by ABC News -- is no longer on the radars of most as the top and tight 11 races become more apparent. AFF, however, is pouring $200,000 into the spot going after Merkley.
The ad, titled "Stopwatch," attacks him for not doing enough in Washington with a narrator asking the viewer, "Can you think of one thing he's accomplished?" It doesn't mention Wehby, but says at the end "Jeff Merkley's time is up."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Elections are getting more expensive by the year.
The 2014 congressional elections, though seemingly less intense and animated than their recent wave-election predecessors in 2006 and 2010, are on pace to cost more than any midterm elections ever.
The 2014 House and Senate races will cost at least $3.67 billion, more than the $2.9 billion spent on House and Senate races in 2006 and slightly edging the $3.6 billion spent in 2010, but ranking just below the $3.7 billion spent on congressional races in the presidential-election year of 2012, the Center for Responsive Politics estimates.
The real number will likely be higher. Because of gaps in disclosure requirements, nonprofit groups like the conservative, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity were able to spend money on "issue ads," which didn't directly tell voters to support or oppose a candidate, for most of the year without reporting them to federal campaign-finance regulators.
The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that "well over" $100 million in 2014 will have gone undisclosed, not counting toward that $3.67 billion total.
So where's all this money going? Here are the most expensive House and Senate races, as compiled by the center. As campaigns and outside groups hurriedly file disclosure reports between now and Election Day, these figures will change, so check this page for a running list. MOST EXPENSIVE SENATE RACES
North Carolina - Tillis (R) vs. Hagan (D) - $113M
Colorado - Gardner (R) vs. Udall (D) - $94M
Iowa - Ernst (R) vs. Braley (D) - $82M
Kentucky - McConnell (R) vs. Grimes (D) - $78M
Georgia - Perdue (R) vs. Nunn (D) - $65M
Arkansas - Cotton (R) vs. Pryor (D) - $58M
Alaska - Sullivan (R) vs. Begich (D) - $58M
New Hampshire - Brown (R) vs. Shaheen (D) - $47M
Michigan - Land (R) vs. Peters (D) - $47M
Louisiana - Cassidy (R) vs. Landrieu (D) - $42M
Source: OpenSecrets.org/Center for Responsive Politics
MOST EXPENSIVE HOUSE RACES
CA07 - Ose (R) vs. Bera (D) - $21M
OH08 - Boehner (R) vs. Poetter (D) - $17M
CO06 - Coffman (R) vs. Romanoff (D) - $17M
AZ01 - Tobin (R) vs. Kirkpatrick - $17M
AZ02 - McSally (R) vs. Barber (D) - $16M
L10 - Dold (R) vs. Schneider (D) - $16M
MN08 - Mills (R) vs. Nolan (D) - $15M
NY01 - Zeldin (R) vs. Bishop (D) - $15M
FL13 (March special election) - Jolly (R) vs. Sink (D) - $14M
FL02 - MacArthur (R) vs. Belgard (D) - $14M
Source: OpenSecrets.org/Center for Responsive Politics
ABC News/Yahoo! News(WASHINGTON) -- With just days to go before midterm elections, President Obama’s former 2012 battleground states director Mitch Stewart says he believes Democrats have a 50-50 shot at holding onto control of the Senate.
“I tend to be an optimist under these circumstances,” Stewart, the co-founder of 270 Strategies consulting group, told ABC News/Yahoo! News. “I know the models that Nate Silver and others have that…lay out a 63 to 64 percent chance that Republicans will get a majority in the Senate. I think the rosiest scenario is you’re looking at a 50-50 proposition.”
While the polls favor Republicans’ odds for victory in Tuesday’s elections, Stewart expressed confidence that the Democrats still have the edge when it comes to field strategy -- and are capable of reproducing some of the ground game magic that helped propel Obama to presidential victory in two elections.
For one, Stewart said Democrats have made the necessary investment in field organizers.
“They have this project that they invested I think $40 million to try to get 4,000 field staff, and you're seeing some of the fruits of that labor right now,” he said.
One of the ways he expects the results of that investment to manifest is an increase in early voting -- something the Democrats have made a strategic focus this year.
“In Alaska, for example, you had 82 vote locations in 2012; in 2014 they have over 200,” Stewart said. “It's small, tactical decisions like that in a close race that can make the difference between winning and losing.”
He said the Iowa Senate race, where Democratic candidate Bruce Braley is facing off against Republican Joni Ernst, is one where the impact of increased early voting may tip the scale of the election.
“If 40 percent of the electorate votes early, and Braley has a 10 point lead, that means that his opponent is going to have to win Election Day probably by 7 points,” he said.
Advanced as the Democrats’ ground game may be, Stewart acknowledged that the party still has a ways to go to overcome the problem of midterm drop-off voters, who tend to vote only in presidential election years.
He pinpointed the non-white electorate as a particularly crucial piece of the puzzle.
“One of the really interesting things of 2008 was [that] 26 percent of the electorate was non-white,” Stewart said. “So a lot of projections then coming after 2010, which was then an older, whiter electorate, was that in 2012 it would be some sort of mix between 2008 and 2010.”
But those projections proved to be wrong. “What we had in 2012 though was 28 percent of the electorate was non-white,” he explained.
And if that trend of a growing non-white electorate continues, as Stewart expects it will, he said the voting population in 2016 could be as high as 31 percent non-white.
“Eventually the midterms will catch up; but at least for the foreseeable future, you are going to have a bipolar electorate between presidential and midterm elections,” Stewart said.
Another liability for Democrats this midterm cycle: a largely unpopular president at the head of the party. Obama has been largely unwelcome on the campaign trail, sticking to only state-wide races in deeply Democratic states.
Stewart, ever-loyal to his former boss, brushed off the Obama liability problem as one any president midway through their second term faces.
“If you look at any presidential 8 years, two four-year terms, [and] you look at that last go-around -- whether it was Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush -- there's a challenge,” he said. “I think this is nothing new to sort of what has happened to two four-year term presidents.”
File photo. Office of the Governor(TRENTON, N.J.) -- This is why some people love him...and some people hate him.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, appearing along the Jersey Shore to mark the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, got heckled by a local activist and former councilman.
So Christie fired back.
“I’m glad you had your day to show off, but we’re the ones who are here to actually do the work,” Christie said from behind an official podium placed in a Belmar, N.J., intersection. "So turn around, get your 15 minutes of fame and then maybe take your jacket off, roll up your sleeves and maybe do something for the people of this state."
Christie summed up: “So listen, you want to have the conversation later, I’m happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up.”
The target of the governor’s ire was James Keady, a Democrat and former Asbury Park city councilman who interrupted Christie’s event while holding a sign that read: “GET SANDY FAMILIES BACK IN THEIR HOME – FINISH THE JOB.”
Known for his pugnacious style (he’s publicly argued with a boardwalk passerby while holding an ice cream cone), Christie saw his national profile and local popularity soar because of his in-command leadership in the wake of Sandy.
Though critics have questioned his administration’s performance in dealing with the storm, Christie points to the post-Sandy period as Exhibit A for why he’s been a success.
Not everyone along the Jersey Shore sees it that way.
Keady was not immediately available. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of controversy regarding multiple states enacting mandatory quarantines for medical personnel returning from West Africa, President Obama on Wednesday demanded that the "heroes" fighting Ebola on the front lines receive "dignity and respect."
"We need to call them what they are: American heroes," Obama said. "They deserve our gratitude. And they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect." He stood by his previous statements that the best way to fight the Ebola situation is to do so at the source, in West Africa.
"When I hear people talking about American leadership and then are promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction...hiding under the covers...it makes me a little frustrated," the commander-in-chief admitted.
"All of them have signed up to leave their homes and their loved ones to head straight into the heart of the Ebola epidemic," Obama said, adding that "they make huge sacrifices to protect this country that we love and when they come home, they deserve to be treated properly...they deserve to be treated like the heroes that they are."
Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Government Accounting Office says that some of the Federal Protective Service guards being called upon to provide extra security at federal buildings around the country after last week's shooting in Ottawa do not have the "active shooter" training necessary for the job.
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it would increase FPS guards at federal buildings in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the country. According to a GAO report from May, 38 percent of FPS guards lack even basic X-ray and magnetometer training -- important methods of screening. An additional 23 percent of guards didn't have required training and/or certification on file -- including CPR certifications and firearms qualifications.
The report also indicated that FPS "has limited knowledge of the risks facing about 9,600 federal facilities around the country."
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Wednesday agreed to a 21-day quarantine for all military personnel returning from Ebola response efforts in West Africa.
A similar quarantine mandate had been implemented by Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno. Hagel requested an implementation plan for the quarantine for all members of the U.S military fighting Ebola at the source, even those who don't come in direct contact with Ebola patients, be presented to him within 15 days.
That plan will be reviewed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 45 days to determine whether the monitoring should continue.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the Department of Defense has "the largest and youngest population of Americans responding to Ebola in West Africa and, although our mission does not involve direct patient care, our service members are performing duties in an environment where there is an ongoing epidemic."
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One day after a senior administration official confirmed to ABC that hackers had breached an unclassified computer system at the White House, the system remains on the fritz.
Administration officials tell ABC News that the defensive measures taken to protect and repair the unclassified network have caused some outages and connectivity issues. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest termed those issues as "inconveniences" which haven't "affected the ability of White House staffers...to carry out the important work that's done here."
Earnest also said Wednesday that the White House's classified systems were not affected by the breach.
"There are many people around the world who would love to gain greater insight into the activities of the U.S. government by collecting information from the White House network," Earnest pointed out Wednesday.
Still, he opted not to share any further details, saying that "it would be unwise for me to discuss exactly what we know...by publicly revealing what we know it might affect our ability to know more."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has not offered to allow non-Americans into the country to receive treatment for Ebola, the State Department said Wednesday.
While the U.S. has discussed allowing other nations to use U.S. MEDEVAC capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or other nations, "we are not contemplating bringing them back to the U.S. for treatment," State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke said Wednesday. "There is no policy of the U.S. Government to allow entry of non-U.S. citizen Ebola-infected to the United States. There is no consideration in the State Department of changing that policy," he added.
The Washington Times reported that an internal memo was written arguing that any doctors or medical workers infected with Ebola in West Africa should be treated in the U.S., but Rathke said that memo was never cleared by or even brought to senior leaders at the State Department for approval.
Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is trying to lead by example as he works to calm public fears about Ebola in the U.S.
Obama has come into contact with more American Ebola patients, and the doctors and nurses who treated them, than just about any other American.
For weeks, the president has repeatedly assured the American people that the risks of a widespread outbreak are “very, very low.” To hammer home the point, the president has gone beyond words to hugs, kisses, and hand-shakes.
“I want to use myself as an example, just so that people have a sense of the science here. I shook hands with, hugged and kissed not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory, because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing, and I felt perfectly safe doing so,” Obama told reporters last month.
From meeting with health care professionals who have come in close contact with the deadly virus to hugging survivors, Obama is using these images to show the public that his administration’s response to the Ebola crisis is working.
Obama greeted the first ever American Ebola patient, Dr. Kent Brantly, in the Oval Office less than a month after he was declared virus-free. He then flew to Emory University Hospital to hug and kiss the nurses and doctors who treated Brantly.
In late September, Obama hosted at the White House leaders of Ebola “hot zone” countries and embraced a Liberian who contracted the disease.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has toured the Ebola wards in West Africa, gets a prime seat next to Obama for Oval Office briefings.
And the same day she was released from a high-level containment unit for Ebola treatment, nurse Nina Pham gave Obama a bear-hug in the Oval Office.
The public seems to be getting the message. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows an eight-point increase in the president’s approval rating for his handling of the issue.
Alex Wong / Scott Olsen / Getty(WASHINGTON) -- The Iowa Senate race on Wednesday isn’t just a contest between State Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. Bruce Braley -- it’s also turning into an endorsement battle between two former secretaries of state.
As Braley, D-Iowa, prepares to campaign with Hillary Clinton at an early voting rally taking place later in the day, his Republican opponent released news of an endorsement from Condoleeza Rice.
In a statement, Rice, who served under President George W. Bush, touted Ernst’s military service and urged Iowan voters to seize the opportunity to elect the “first female combat veteran to ever serve in the U.S. Senate.”
Both Senate candidates can use the added help with just six days to go before Election Day.
A new Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday morning shows Ernst ahead of Braley 49 to 45 percent, with 5 percent still undecided.
Among likely voters in the state, 91 percent say their mind is up, while 9 percent say they may change their mind.