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Hillary Clinton sticks to safe ground on climate

Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests gathered for a house party on July 26, 2015, in Carroll, Iowa.
Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests gathered for a house party on July 26, 2015, in Carroll, Iowa.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton unveiled a proposal to combat climate change last night, and it appears to be in the pragmatic Clintonian space of sticking to safe ground. Rather than trying to outdo her Democratic rivals, Clinton's plan seems designed to allow her to contrast with Republicans who either don't acknowledge the reality of climate change or aren't really ready to do anything about it. As Seema Mehta and Evan Halper of the LA Times report, Clinton says her approach would put the US on a path to have all homes and businesses powered by renewable energy by 2027 — a goal her campaign frames as both light on details and far short of where environmentalists would like her to be.

The Clinton package is incomplete, however. Unlike her rivals in the Democratic presidential contest, Clinton has yet to take a position on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast ports. She also has yet to weigh in on a campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing nationwide, or to take a firm position on offshore oil drilling.

The proposal Clinton released Sunday for boosting solar installations by 700% is vague on details about how it would be funded.

Clinton continues to enjoy a commanding lead among Democratic primary voters. She seems unconcerned by the more detailed and aggressive proposals offered by challengers within her party.

Vox's Brad Plumer writes that Clinton's goal involves a 700 percent increase in solar power between now and 2020 — and concludes that it's possible to achieve that level.

US solar capacity grew 418 percent between 2010 and 2014 (it was starting from a small base). So 700 percent growth between 2014 and 2020 is at least within the realm of possibility. But it would require additional policy changes — and clean energy prices would have to keep dropping.

Here are 9 more things you should know before you start the day.

1) After taking heat, Bernie Sanders appeals more directly to black voters

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to guests at the Louisiana Rally with Bernie Sanders at Pontchartrain Center on July 26, 2015, in Kenner, Louisiana.

Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders blew it at Netroots Nation a little more than a week ago, taking umbrage when he was interrupted by #BlackLIvesMatter activists. It was symptomatic of a campaign struggling to expand its appeal to minorities. Over the weekend, though, Sanders began to refocus his message to make it more attuned to the concerns of black voters, including an appearance at a predominantly black church in Louisiana on Sunday.

John Wagner of the Washington Post offers up this account:

Though the senator from Vermont was warmly received by black voters as he decried income inequality and lingering racism in the United States, the visit also underscored one of the challenges Sanders faces in his bid for the Democratic nomination: His biggest event of the weekend, a raucous 4,500-person rally, drew a predominantly white crowd in a state that is more than one-third black.

Sanders, who represents a state that is 95 percent white, has never needed to court black voters to win an election. But his involvement in the civil rights movement dates to the 1960s, when he attended the March on Washington and was arrested while protesting school segregation. Those were among the points he emphasized in Baton Rouge on Saturday night as he wooed leaders of one of the country’s oldest civil rights organizations.

Sanders tried to explain how the political and policy frame he's built on the campaign trail addresses the concerns of black voters, according to a copy of his remarks distributed to reporters.

"This is an ambitious program that would lift millions of families out of poverty and provide a pathway to greater economic security for all Americans. The right to a college education, the right to health care, and a guaranteed right to employment. It will not heal all wounds or relieve all tensions, but it would go beyond anything we have tried before, and it would send a clear signal that black lives matter."

He made an emotional appeal by referring to African Americans who have been killed by police or died in police custody in the past year.

"Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody. The chants are growing louder. People are angry. I am angry. And people have a right to be angry. Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of law enforcement sworn to protect and serve our communities, is unacceptable and must not be tolerated."

Sanders is showing his campaign has the capacity to respond to criticism and adjust, but it may be too late.

2) The appeal of The Donald

It was a very good weekend for Donald Trump, who learned that he's got a commanding lead in New Hampshire and is within the margin of error of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Iowa, according to polls conducted by Marist University and NBC News.

His rise has been a surprise and a quandary for the political class, which has struggled to explain why such a big share of the Republican Party is responding to Trump. The Wall Street Journal talked to voters to find out why he's having so much success early on.

Sam Clovis, a Sioux City college professor who ran as the GOP’s tea party candidate for Senate from Iowa in 2014, said in a phone interview that Mr. Trump is attracting many of the same people who backed his campaign. Mr. Clovis placed second to Sen. Joni Ernst in the GOP primary.

"A lot of my close friends have come out in support of him," said Mr. Clovis, who is backing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "Mr. Trump is a classic example of someone who has touched into the anger of the base of the Republican Party and right now they’re giving him a pass until they feel compelled to find out what he really thinks."

3) Republican presidential candidate calls for stricter gun laws

In the wake of a mass shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, last week, the state's governor, Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, is calling on other states to tighten background check controls. It's certainly not a comprehensive plan to limit access to weapons, but Jindal stands out in calling for any type of gun control. The New York Times has the story:

Until Sunday, Mr. Jindal and most of his Republican rivals had deflected questions in recent days over whether the killings reflected a need for tighter gun control laws. On CBS’s "Face the Nation," Mr. Jindal called for states to adopt laws similar to Louisiana’s that feed information about mental illness into a federal background check system for potential gun buyers.

"I think every state should strengthen their laws," he said. "Every state should make sure this information is being reported in the background system. We need to make sure that background system is working. Absolutely, in this instance, this man never should have been able to buy a gun."

Officials have said Mr. Russell, of Phenix City, Ala., legally bought the murder weapon there in 2014, although he had been denied a state-issued concealed weapons permit in 2006 because he was accused of domestic violence and soliciting arson. His family repeatedly described him as violent and mentally ill, and questions about his mental health had been raised for decades. In 2008, his family had him involuntarily committed to a hospital in Georgia to receive psychiatric care.

4) Republicans split on how to handle Clinton email issue

While some Republicans are going after Clinton directly on the unusual arrangement by which she kept her State Department email on a personal server, others seem to be hoping it damages her without their input. That, according to Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker of the New York Times, is how Jeb Bush is playing it.

The advisers said that the emails could be an effective issue if enough negative information was provided to voters, but that there were other potential vulnerabilities to highlight. The super PAC, which cannot coordinate with the campaign, recently released a video contrasting Mr. Bush with Ms. Clinton on the issue of transparency.

Liesl Hickey, a top strategist with the super PAC, said any serious group that wanted to win would be prudent to consider Mrs. Clinton’s vulnerabilities early on. But most groups are still in the early phases of figuring out what lines of criticism might be most effective. The work of trying to damage Mrs. Clinton has been essentially outsourced to the congressional committees that have investigated the events leading up to and after the 2012 attacks on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Not everyone is skittish about taking on Mrs. Clinton. "At one point in time was there any concern about how to attack Hillary? Certainly," said Carl Forti, the political director for American Crossroads, which has tested some attacks against Mrs. Clinton. "But I think that time has passed."

5) Of course someone was going to liken the Iran deal to the Holocaust and Obama to a Nazi

Mike Huckabee wins the award for most likely to offend while losing an argument by suggesting the president of the United States is no better than a Nazi.

6) Trans-Pacific Partnership deal isn't done yet

Politico's Doug Palmer reminds us that President Barack Obama's tough battle to get fast-track trade authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact was just one step in a lengthy process. Negotiators meet in Hawaii this week, and there are still more outstanding issues than can be easily counted in this space. Here's how Palmer sees it:

And while they could leave with a breakthrough deal, the talks could just as easily be blown up by petty and not-so-petty grievances over everything from cheese labels to auto tariffs. ...

Canada wants to protect its dairy and poultry producers and Japan, its rice farmers. American drug companies want other countries to adopt strong U.S. protections on a blockbuster new class of medicines called biologics, and U.S. automakers oppose giving Japan more market access. Canada and Malaysia are particular concerns because of difficult domestic politics that could make it more difficult for them to close in Maui, even if other countries are ready.

If talks slip into next year, election-year politics could destroy any momentum and relegate the pact to another administration. "I think there’s limited time to try to conclude a deal," said Tami Overby, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

7) US and Turkey strike deal for fighting ISIS

The Washington Post has the details on an agreement that would enhance American air power in Syria.

Turkey and the United States have agreed on the outlines of a de facto "safe zone" along the Turkey-Syria border under the terms of a deal that is expected to significantly increase the scope and pace of the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in northern Syria, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

The agreement includes a plan to drive the Islamic State out of a 68-mile-long area west of the Euphrates River and reaching into the province of Aleppo that would then come under the control of the Syrian opposition. If fully implemented, it would also bring American planes in regular, close proximity to bases, aircraft and air defenses operated by the Syrian government, and directly benefit opposition rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

8) The downward Latino voting trend

Vox's Matt Yglesias flags a new graphic from the Census Bureau that shows Latino voting dropping off in recent congressional elections.

9) Ex-Im is in highway bill, but the vehicle may be dead

Senators have voted to put an extension of the Export-Import bank's authority to make loans and loan guarantees into a new highway bill. But that measure is probably dead on arrival in the Senate. The Washington Post has more details:

The pitched battle over a relatively unknown federal agency further inflamed the Republican Party’s ideological feud as the Senate voted Sunday to extend the life of the Export-Import Bank over intense conservative objections.

Sunday’s vote did little to guarantee that the bank would resume business as usual anytime soon. The underlying highway bill remains anathema to many House Republicans, not just because of the Ex-Im language. The Senate’s proposed three-year plan does not meet the usual six-year authorization for highway funding, and its policy prescriptions differ from those backed by members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The vote did, however, give backers of the Ex-Im bank proof that most senators want to see it up and running at full capacity again.