Presidential aspirants are weighing in on the ongoing tensions in Ferguson, Mo., staking out positions that could reverberate in 2016.

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Rand Paul skeptical about Romney as secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) made the biggest waves, saying that the police response to protests of the slaying of unarmed teenager Michael Brown was over the top, and that police disproportionately target African-Americans. He called for a demilitarization of police forces nationwide, and in doing so, made calls that could please the civil libertarians that make up his base as well as reaching out to African-Americans, who he’s worked to build a dialogue with and help grow the GOP.

"Anyone who thinks that race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. And the root of the problem is big government," Paul begins in his op-ed before warning that the scenes in Ferguson "resemble war more than traditional police action."

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"There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response," he continues. "Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement."

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzSenate GOP: National museum should include Clarence Thomas Senate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Week ahead: AT&T-Time Warner merger under scrutiny MORE (R-Texas) also weighed in to say the arrests of two journalists by police were not acceptable, though he was careful not to weigh in on the conflict itself. Cruz has also been looking to appeal to civil libertarians ahead of a potential presidential run.

"Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs," the freshman senator said on his Facebook page.

On the left, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCures bill clears first Senate hurdle House GOP to unveil short-term funding bill Tuesday Juan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama MORE (D-Mass.) tweeted that “This is America, not a war zone. The people of #Ferguson just want answers. We all want answers.” And Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who some believe might make a dark-horse bid for president or be a vice presidential contender, took control of the situation by pulling St. Louis County cops out of the town in favor of Missouri highway patrolmen in an attempt to de-escalate tensions between cops and protesters.

One big name has been notably silent on the racially charged situation, however. Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonNonprofit groups call on Trump to drop Flynn Pence: Flynn's son has 'no involvement' in transition process Free speech is a right, not a political weapon MORE has yet to weigh in.

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

HI-SEN (SCHATZ): A Hawaii judge denied a request from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s (D-Hawaii) campaign to delay a Friday in-person vote for a pair of precincts hard-hit by Hurricane Iselle that weren’t able to vote last Saturday. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) currently leads Hanabusa by 1,635 votes.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): Alaska Republican primary front-runner Dan Sullivan’s family donated $300,000 to a super-PAC supporting him in July.

American Crossroads released a radio ad in support of "clear conservative choice" Sullivan over Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (D-Alaska). “Groups tied to Reid, Obama and environmental extremists are smearing Sullivan because Sullivan can beat Begich in November,” the ad says.

Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign released a radio ad featuring a local city council member praising Begich’s work on the Armed Services Committee to protect Alaska jobs.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallGardner's chief of staff tapped for Senate GOP campaign director The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate Colorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open MORE (D) launched a new ad featuring Jamestown Mayor Tara Schoedinger boasting of the work the senator did after devastating floods hit the community last year. "Mark Udall came up as if he were a member of our community. Made sure that we didn't get forgotten, made sure that we had the support that we need in order to rebuild our community and bring our community members home,” she says.

MN-SEN (FRANKEN): Republican Mike McFadden, who this fall will face Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenDems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule GOP wants to move fast on Sessions Overnight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers pushing for vote to delay warrant rule changes MORE (D-Minn.), initially said on the campaign trail Wednesday that he would support a higher gas tax. Later, returning to reporters, he said, "I just want to reiterate that I will not support raising the gas tax." 

MS-SEN (COCHRAN): Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) has finally filed a legal challenge to Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranGOP senators voice misgivings about short-term spending bill Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything Bottom Line MORE's (R-Miss.) primary victory after six weeks of threats to do so. After an appeal to the state party to review the results that was rebuffed, McDaniel has filed a challenge in Jones County claiming that enough Democrats who'd voted in the earlier primary crossed over to invalidate the results.

NC-SEN (HAGAN): American Crossroads released a radio ad saying Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganGOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate MORE (D-N.C.) has “voted with Obama's agenda 95 percent of the time” and blaming the two for higher taxes, poor economic growth, more debt and ObamaCare. The ad praises Republican nominee Thom Tillis for lowering taxes and supporting North Carolina education.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CROSSROADS: Crossroads GPS has bought $3.1 million of  TV ad time starting this week to attack Democratic Reps. Ami BeraAmi BeraA record number of Indian Americans have been elected to Congress Calif. Dem wins reelection in overtime 115th Congress will be most racially diverse in history MORE (Calif.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Bill Enyart (Ill.), Brad Schneider (Ill.) and Nick RahallNick RahallWest Virginia is no longer Clinton country Solution needed: Rail congestion is stifling economic growth Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.).

AZ-1 (KIRKPATRICK): State Rep. Adam Kwasman (R) announced he has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a slow-growing blood cancer that likely won’t need treatment for at least a decade. Though he says he was diagnosed last year, the announcement comes two weeks ahead of his competitive GOP primary on Aug. 26 to face off against vulnerable Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickWomen make little gains in new Congress McCain wins sixth Senate term In Arizona, history and voter registration data gives GOP edge MORE (D). 

IA-2 (LOEBSACK): A poll for Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks shows her within striking distance of Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), trailing 45 percent to 42 percent.

FL-2 (SOUTHERLAND): Ocean Champions has released a TV ad hitting Rep. Steve Southerland (R). The spot features a fisherman saying the Republican would let "Washington bureaucrats ... manage local fisheries. ... I'm voting for more jobs and against Steve Southerland.” The Democratic group also released a poll showing Democrat Gwen Graham with a narrow 45 percent to 43 percent lead.

NY-11 (GRIMM): Embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) was urged to step down after his April criminal indictment but he refused, telling Fox Business Network he was still leading in the polls, though he declined to release numbers. “Look, was I counseled to step down and just worry about myself?” Grimm said. “Absolutely. I mean, would that be the smarter thing to do personally? Yes, so that I could just dedicate all my time and not — and not just leave it to the legal team. But then I'd be breaking my word to my supporters and to my constituents.”

 

2016 WATCH

CLINTON: The Washington Post details the budding relationship between the Clintons and incoming Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016. 

Clinton continues to hold a 6- to 7-point lead over her potential Republican opponents in the 2016 presidential contest, according to a Marist-McClatchy poll released Thursday. Still, according to the poll, Clinton's overall lead has declined by an average of about 8 percentage points since April, a trend reflected in other polling. The poll found Clinton would lead her closest potential opponent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), 48 percent to 42 percent.  

PAUL: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) capitalized on bipartisan talk comparing conflict in Ferguson, Mo., to war by penning an op-ed in TIME magazine seeking to place blame on Washington for the seemingly militarized response. “Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem,” he wrote.

CRUZ: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) weighed in early Thursday on the arrest of two reporters covering events in Ferguson, Mo., Wednesday evening. "Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs," the freshman senator and potential 2016 contender said on his Facebook page. President Obama made a nearly identical statement on the arrests later in the day Thursday while on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

WARREN: Progressives are urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to stump in Iowa and New Hampshire for 2014 candidates, despite her reluctance to touch down in early primary states that would catapult her into the 2016 spotlight.

BOLTON: Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton (R) endorsed four House candidates in Florida. 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

"And I do not support personhood, but I support a woman's access to, certainly to this Hobby Lobby decision, to get ... Birth control!"

—Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) having what Democrats termed a “Rick Perry moment” in a debate, before finally being reminded of the term “birth control”