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Breakfast sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., back center, rocks the chair next to him with his hand as he speaks during a interview at the Kilton Library in West Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, July 25, 2015. (Cheryl Senter/Associated Press))

1) He'll avoid the stigma of having to sit at the kids' table for the first Republican presidential debate next week, but Rand Paul has bigger problems – like, say, trying to figure out how to be the first declared candidate to drop out of the race.

2) The U.S. Senate takes up a measure today to cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a boneheaded response to videos – stolen, edited and released by abortion opponent group Center for Medical Progress – that purport to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing how to profit from harvested organs harvested from aborted fetuses. Ignoring the fact that Planned Parenthood officials aren't legally permitted to profit from tissue sales – and the assurances from the group that they don't – Congressional Republicans wouldn't actually do anything to keep Planned Parenthood from doing abortions – no federal money is used for those procedures – but they would cut off money used for mammograms, cancer screenings, birth control and other women's health care.

3) Gov. Go Time took questions on Facebook last night, responding to queries about minimum wages, property-tax reform and working with Harrisburg Republicans. He didn't respond, however, to a flood of questions from the state Republican party. And he took one question from a forlorn Eagles fan, responding with a lament about the Phillies – to which we would remind the Mr. Wolf that he is governor of Pittsburgh as well.

4) Maybe a prerequisite for working for Donald Trump is having a big mouth, just like the boss. While defending Mr. Trump from a long-ago story that he raped his then-wife Ivanka Trump, the Trumpernator's executive vice president and lawyer in residence Michael Cohen told The Daily Beast that it's not legally possible to rape one's spouse – an inaccurate and idiotic statement from an attorney who presumably is paid pretty well. Mr. Cohen has since recanted and apologized, and while he didn't sound pleased about the comments, the boss said the lawyer's job is safe.

Republican presidential candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, places an order for a cheesesteak Tuesday, July 28, 2015, during a campaign stop at Pat's King of Steaks in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press))

5) Scott Walker tried to ingratiate himself and his presidential aspirations to Philadelphians on Monday, in part by trying to eat cheesesteaks at both Pat's and Geno's in South Philly. Problems: 1) He ordered American cheese on both. 2) He couldn't finish the steak at Pat's. 3) He should have taken a road less traveled and tried a roast pork sandwich – the one with the broccoli rabe – at Tommy DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market.

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Breakfast sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

A mailer from Citizens to Protect PA Jobs, a group owned by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.A mailer from Citizens to Protect PA Jobs, a group owned by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

1) Curious about who's behind the flood of TV ads and mailers that target different facets of Pennsylvania's budget debate? Hey, so are we. But the chances we're going to find out who is actually writing the checks aren't good; the identity of those donors is legally protected. Our Chris Potter has more about 501(c)(4) groups and the dark money they spend.

2) And speaking of money, don't miss Rich Lord's two-part series on Tom Corbett's courtship of the energy industry as a candidate for governor and the connections he maintained with that industry once he was elected.

3) Given that his party mates in the Senate aren't happy with him and that his campaign numbers are hovering in the low side of the single-digit range, perhaps it's time for Ted Cruz to consider a different strategy.

4) Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, has made it clear that he's not stepping away from the Holocaust analogies any time soon, even though it doesn't seem to do much other than irritate the voters he's trying to court.

5) In celebration of Bugs Bunny's 75th birthday, we share what is unquestionably the high point of his illustrious career: 1950's "Rabbit of Seville."

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Breakfast sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

That red line rocketing skyward is the one that everyone is freaking out over.

1) In just under two weeks, the Republicans will hold the first of the party's 2016 presidential debates. As we've discussed previously, the party established some interesting – not to mention controversial – rules about who will be on stage and who is relegated to the kids' table: if you, as a candidate, are in the Top 10 of an aggregation of recent polls, you're in. And while there's still a little time for candidates to shuffle themselves into the debate, we thought this would be a good time to update the debatin' standings. We're using Huffington Post's excellent Pollster tool; that's not necessarily the same aggregation that the RNC will use, but it's good enough for our purposes. Starting at No.10, we have Rick Perry and his glasses. Next up is Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul. At a solid No. 5 we have an upstart: Ben Carson. At No. 4 is Marco Rubio, and then Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. And your leader as they make the turn and head towards home? That would be Donald Trump.

2) Facebook gave us a look at the presidential campaign through the eyes of its users on Thursday. Among the interesting stuff: West Virginia has spent more time jabbering about Mr. Trump than any other state. Hillary Clinton maintains a huge lead in terms the number of unique mentions per day over the last 90 days. And for all of his bluster about hating Washington and the culture there, Mr. Cruz was the subject of more interactions there than in his home state of Texas; we're not sure how many mentions Mr. Cruz has earned in Canada.

3) Still scratching your head over Mr. Trump and figuring out just what he's up to? Here's your answer. It's not about the presidency, which he can't win. It's about the brand.

4) Walkin' Joe Sestak is likely going to have to revise his campaign strategy of focusing strictly on incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey. Because it looks like Katie McGinty, the former Department of Environmental Protection secretary who resigned Thursday from her job as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff, is going to jump into the race for the Democratic nomination to take on Mr. Toomey next year.

5) A potential side effect to McGinty's departure from Gov. Go Time's staff? The budget standoff may loosen up a bit.

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Hit It Toomey takes Keystone series lead

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er casey toomey sbSens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey during Monday's Keystone Cup softball game. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Toomey's office)

Pat Toomey has a more important contest coming up in 2016 -- and no, we're not talking about an appearance on Family Feud -- but that doesn't mean the Republican U.S. senator doesn't take the annual Keystone Cup game seriously.

Mighty Toomey at the bat. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Toomey's office)Mighty Toomey at the bat. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Toomey's office)

Toomey and a team of his staffers -- called Hit It Toomey -- took an early lead on Penn Is Mightier -- the team fielded by Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and his staff -- and held it to win this year's edition of the all-Pennsylvania sofrball game, 19-7. The game was held Monday on the National Mall.

"During the workday, our offices work together in a bipartisan fashion for the people of Pennsylvania. But the Keystone Cup softball game is for bragging rights," Mr. Toomey, his team's second baseman, said in a statement. "We take this game seriously and we've been preparing since the unfortunate outcome last summer. I am extremely proud of our win and look forward to squaring off again next year."

Monday's win gave Team Toomey a 3-2 series lead.

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Breakfast sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

President Obama speaks at the VFW national convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)President Obama speaks at the VFW national convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)

1) He was speaking to a group that's probably a bit more conservative than he's used to, but President Obama got warm reception for his speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention Downtown. The president took the opportunity to boost the newly minted Iran nuclear deal; he also seemed to score points while pushing Republicans in Congress to ensure programs for active military and veterans escaped the constraints of budget sequestration.

We hope Mr. Peduto doesn't mind us using this image, which he posted on Twitter Monday.We hope Mr. Peduto doesn't mind us using this image, which he posted on Twitter Monday.

2) The president's visit also meant Mayor Bill Peduto got a once-in-a-lifetime chance. After greeting Mr. Obama at Pittsburgh International, the president invited Mr. Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to ride into town in his limo. Twenty five uninterrupted minutes with the president of the United States? Priceless.

President Barack Obama speaks with Jon Stewart during the taping of a segment of "The Daily Show” in New York, July 21, 2015. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)President Barack Obama speaks with Jon Stewart during the taping of a segment of "The Daily Show” in New York, July 21, 2015. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

3) As if a visit to Pittsburgh wasn't enough for one day, Mr. Obama wrapped up his busy Monday by making his final appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" before the departure of longtime host Jon Stewart. There was some joking around and some serious political talk; we're hoping that the president wasn't joking when he said he would issue an executive order barring Mr. Stewart from leaving the show.

4) A trend that we hope to see more of: Candidates and officials taking – and answering – questions directly from us (even if "us," as it turns out, includes a couple of sneaky reporters).

5) And finally: the latest from the circus. We think Senator Graham's assessment is probably correct.