TIME 2016 Election

Scott Walker’s Bucks Arena Deal May Be a 2016 Misfire

scott walker wisconsin governor
Scott Olson—Getty Images Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker gets ready to participate in a Roast and Ride event hosted by freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on June 5, 2015 near Des Moines, Iowa.

The governor is caught between Wisconsin sports fans and conservative ideologues

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to save a hometown hoops team could be an air ball that affects his presidential hopes.

Walker has proposed forking over $250 million in taxpayer money to help construct a new arena for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, who have threatened to relocate if the city doesn’t build them a new home by 2017. But the idea of using public funds has drawn fire from Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature, as well as from some of the influential conservative groups who propelled Walker’s political career.

On the surface, a fight over arena financing in a basketball backwater is a provincial spat, not a national concern. But it has the potential to alienate Walker’s allies and undermine his conservative bona fides as it comes to a head over the coming weeks, amid the two-term governor’s final preparations for a presidential campaign launch.

“Government shouldn’t be in the business of financing private sports stadiums,” said David Fladboe, who has served as director of Americans for Prosperity’s Wisconsin chapter, which played an integral role in the trio of statewide victories that established Walker as a national conservative star. “This proposal needs to be rejected and the people of Wisconsin need to be protected.”

The MacIver Institute, a free-market think tank that has helped drive Walker’s agenda, also criticized the deal. “We really do question whether a fundamental mission of government [should be] to subsidize billionaires to build a brand new arena,” says Nick Novak, the group’s communications director.

For Walker, the billionaires in question don’t help matters. One of the Bucks’ co-owners is investment tycoon Marc Lasry, a close ally of the Clinton family and a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Lasry, who purchased a stake in the Bucks in 2014, previously employed Chelsea Clinton at his firm Avenue Capital, and invested $1 million in her husband’s nascent hedge fund. Lasry’s co-owner, private-equity magnate Wesley Edens, has been a donor to Democratic Senate candidates.

Walker has argued that despite the cost of the deal, it would be cheaper to pony up to keep the Bucks than to let the franchise skip town. “We would lose $419 million over the next 20 years if we did nothing, if we said, go on, move somewhere else, which the NBA said they would do,” Walker told ABC News June 7. That figure includes the loss of tax revenue from NBA players, among a variety of other factors.

Walker’s aides say the state will only kick in $80 million—$4 million for each of the next 20 years, drawn from its general fund—and argue tax revenues will cover the cost. “This plan protects taxpayers from the loss of current and future tax revenue generated by the Bucks and visiting teams and supports a new arena without tax increases or state bonding,” says Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Local and county government will fund the rest, with the Wisconsin Center District kicking in $93 million in bonds. Those would be repaid with an extension of taxes that were set to expire in coming years, including 3% on car rentals, 2.5% on hotel rooms and 0.5% on food and beverage sales. Walker said the extension does not qualify as a tax increase, though many conservatives disagree. A complicated arrangement, in which Wisconsin takes on the role of collecting unpaid debt to the counties and takes a fee from collections, will kick in another $80 million over the next two decades.

“All across the nation,” Walker told ABC News, “when they do projects like this, it’s a good deal.”

Economists disagree. A host of academic reports over the years have found that using public financing for professional sports venues is a bad investment that rarely lives up to the lofty numbers brandished by the projects’ boosters and often incurs sizable cost overruns.

One such paper, published in 2001 by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, determined “the rate of return a city or metropolitan area receives for its investment is generally below that of alternative projects.” In addition, the authors wrote, “cities and metro areas that have invested heavily in sports stadiums and arenas have, on average, experienced slower income growth than those that have not.”

Citing such concerns, the libertarian Cato Institute opposed Walker’s proposal as “corporate welfare,” noting that “economic projections for subsidized stadiums are always vastly overstated.” So did the popular conservative blog RedState. Walker “is largely seen as a strong fiscal conservative,” the author wrote. “His recent announcement should surely put that idea to rest.”

Walker is not the only 2016 Republican presidential contender who has been caught between local sports fans and free-market economics. During Rick Perry’s governorship, two Texas NFL teams—the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans—built new stadiums financed in part by taxpayers. As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush at first rejected plans to publicly finance a new retractable-roof ballpark for the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. But as the club escalated threats to relocate, Bush expressed openness to multiple proposals under consideration in the legislature, which would have granted as much as $60 million in state subsidies to the construction of a new ballpark. (A bill never made it to Bush’s desk, but a similar subsidy was approved by his successor, Charlie Crist.)

Like Bush, President Barack Obama has shifted positions on stadium financing. As an Illinois state senator, Obama voted to publicly finance an upgrade of Soldier Field, the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. In a 2007 presidential primary debate, Obama defended the decision. “Absolutely, it was the right call,” he said, “because it put a whole bunch of Illinois folks to work, strong labor jobs were created in this stadium, and at the same time, we created an enormous opportunity for economic growth throughout the city of Chicago.”

But Obama has come to question the wisdom of public subsidies for private stadiums. His 2016 budget calls for barring the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports facilities. These bonds have raised about $17 billion during the past three decades to fund stadiums and arenas around the U.S

“Allowing tax-exempt governmental bond financing of stadiums transfers the benefits of tax-exempt financing to private professional sports teams because these private parties benefit from significant use of the facilities,” the Treasury Department wrote in its explanation of Obama’s budget request. “The current structuring of the governmental bonds to finance sports facilities has shifted more of the costs and risks from the private owners to local residents and taxpayers in general.”

The future of the Bucks arena proposal is uncertain. The issue has split both Wisconsin Republicans and influential talk-radio hosts. A cadre of Republicans have objected to tucking the proposal into the state budget, but as a standalone bill it could struggle to find the votes to pass. Republican are wary of a possible primary challenge if they support the bill, while Democrats are disinclined to back anything Walker favors.

Mordecai Lee, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former Democratic member of the Wisconsin legislature, says Walker has handled a difficult issue deftly. At the same time, Lee says, it could backfire on Walker in the coming campaign as rivals try to pick apart his reputation as a conservative purist.

“It’s an opening for people to get to his right,” Lee says, noting 2016 rivals could criticize Walker as “a fake conservative who was going to do corporate welfare for billionaire owners of NBA franchises.”

TIME Polls

The Politics of Multiracial Americans

They're much less likely to identify as Republican or Democrat

Multiracial adults are more likely than the average American to dissociate themselves from the two major political parties, with nearly half identifying as neither Democrats nor Republicans, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Pew’s survey—a comprehensive look at the attitudes, experiences and values of mixed-race Americans—found that 44% of multiracial adults identify as either political independents (28%) or “something else” (16%). Among the general public, just 36% profess no partisan leanings.

The trend is particularly pronounced among young multiracial adults. More than half of all mixed-race Americans ages 18 to 29 affiliate with neither Republican nor Democrat, with 29% classifying themselves as political independents and 23% identifying as “something else.”

Multiracial Americans’ diminished sense of partisanship has the potential to reshape electoral coalitions in an era of demographic change. The percentage of multiracial babies born in America has ballooned from just 1% in 1970 to 10% in 2013, according to Pew. The sense of alienation from the political process reported by mixed-race adults suggests the need for both parties to recalibrate their messaging to match a growing, increasingly nonpartisan segment of the country. It also underscores the potential for a third party to emerge as the U.S. evolves into the majority-minority country over the next three decades.

Despite their heightened aversion to partisanship, multiracial Americans tend to mirror the general public’s political leanings. Adults who are mix of white and Asian, white and black or black and American Indian are all more likely to affiliate with or lean Democratic—though slightly less so than single-race whites, blacks or Asians.

Of all the mixed-race groups surveyed by Pew, only Americans who are part white and part American Indian favor Republicans, 53% to 42%. That proportion is similar to the political leanings of single-race whites, who identify as or lean Republican by a 55% to 41% margin.

For Pew, one of the challenges of pinpointing mixed-race Americans’ political leanings was defining the size of the multiracial population. It has only been 15 years since the U.S. Census Bureau allowed respondents to identify as more than one race, and many of those who qualify as multiracial don’t self-identify as such.

As a result, Pew argues, the Census estimate that about 2% of the U.S. is mixed-race may undershoot the mark. Pew’s report found that 7% of the U.S. population could be considered multiracial, based on respondents’ answers and the races of their parents or grandparents.

The Pew Research Center survey polled 1,555 multiracial adults and 1,495 members of the general public from February to April.

TIME Scott Walker

Walker Defends Rape and Incest Position on Abortion Bill

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.
Jim Cole—AP Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is under fire from Democrats for supporting legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, including in cases of rape or incest.

The unannounced presidential candidate told reporters Monday that he would sign a 20-week abortion ban proposed by the Badger State legislature, regardless of whether it includes rape or incest exemptions.

“I think for most people who are concerned about that, it’s in the initial months when they are most concerned about it,” Walker said. “In this case, it’s an unborn life, it’s an unborn child, that’s why we feel strongly about it. I’m prepared to sign it either way they send it to us.”

A version of the bill passed by the Wisconsin House of Representatives does not include exceptions for rape or incest but does have a provision permitting abortions that would save the life of the mother. It would also allow the mother or father to seek civil damages against a doctor who carried out an abortion after 20 weeks.

The issue is a potentially perilous one for Walker. Polls show broad support among voters, including a majority of Republicans, for legal abortions in at least some instances, such as when the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest. The last three Republican presidential nominees—Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush—all backed such exemptions.

Walker’s political opponents painted his position as extreme. “Once again, Scott Walker has placed his own rigid, backward ideology ahead of the best interests of the people of his state,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Already, this bill takes away a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor. Already, it doesn’t allow for any exceptions even for survivors of rape or incest. And now, shocking new details show that Scott Walker wants to go even further to take away a woman’s say in her own health. Rape survivors deserve more protections under the law, not less.”

Democrats have had political success in recent years skewering conservatives for ill-considered statements about women’s health. In 2012, Barack Obama earned the support of 56% of female voters, compared to 44% for Romney, after the Democrats made the GOP’s alleged “war on women” a centerpiece of campaigns up and down the ballot. Walker is not the only national Republican to face questions on the issue as the 2016 campaign gets underway. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul found himself in hot water shortly after announcing his presidential campaign two months ago when he wouldn’t say whether he would support exceptions to abortion bans.

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Walker’s political committee, Our American Revival, defended the governor’s stance. “A majority of Americans agree with Governor Walker that life after five months should be protected,” she told TIME. “Governor Walker has been very clear that he will sign a bill passed by the legislature to ensure the state of Wisconsin protects life after five months.”

“What’s far outside the mainstream in this country is the Democrat Party’s disregard for babies capable of feeling pain,” Strong added. “It’s unfortunate that far-left extremists are eager to twist an issue that most Americans have consensus on.”

Walker’s position on the bill is not new. In a March letter to the conservative Susan B. Anthony List, the two-term governor said he would sign the 20-week abortion ban and advocate for it on the federal level.

Such a stance could be a boon to Walker’s hopes of capturing the Iowa caucuses, which are dominated by social conservative activists. But they could backfire on the all-but-certain presidential contender by leaving him vulnerable to partisan attacks, especially should he become the Republican nominee.

It’s an issue the GOP has hoped to avoid. Since the 2012 election, Republican strategists have sought to neutralize the “war on women” trope by embracing over-the-counter birth control, championing female candidates and largely avoiding rape-related gaffes.

“The Democrats were painting us as the caveman party,“ says Katie Packer Gage, a former top aide to Romney and founder of Burning Glass Consulting, a firm that has focused on helping male Republican candidates talk about issues important to women.

Packer Gage acknowledged Walker’s comments could hurt him. But she said the 20-week abortion ban, if properly handled, could be a winning issue for Republicans in the general election. “We have [Democrats] a bit backed into the corner because the public support is there, even among women,” she told TIME. “Many people believe that if you haven’t figured this out in 20 weeks, well, the decision has probably already been made and you should probably go forward.”

Liz Mair, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Walker, noted that many women who support the right to an abortion draw a distinction between late-term abortions and those performed during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Mair, who supports a woman’s right to an abortion in the first trimester, argued it is extreme to support abortions during the final three months of a pregnancy if the mother’s life is not at risk.

TIME Lindsey Graham

Why Lindsey Graham Matters in the 2016 Race

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham announces he will seek the Republican Party nomination for president in Central, South Carolina, on June 1, 2015.
Bloomberg via Getty Images South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham announces he will seek the Republican Party nomination for president in Central, South Carolina, on June 1, 2015.

Even though he won't win

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham launched his campaign for the presidency Monday with an announcement speech that promised to restore a muscular foreign policy in a dangerous world.

“I want to be president to defeat the enemies trying to kill us, not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them,” Graham said, standing on the Central, S.C., street where he was raised in the back room of a pool hall and liquor store. “I have more experience with our national security than any other candidate in this race.”

Graham, 59, is the ninth Republican to enter the race, a field that may nearly double in size by the Iowa caucuses. And he is unlikely to emerge from the crowded primary pack.

Read More: The Full Text of Lindsey Graham’s Campaign Launch

A rounding error in the polls, Graham lacks a national profile or fundraising network and suffers from a sour relationship with the grassroots activists who dominate the GOP presidential primary. In an age of political combat, he is one of Capitol Hill’s few surviving dealmakers, willing to buck the base to partner with Democrats on issues like immigration and environmental legislation.

But even if he won’t become President, Graham will be a player in the chase for the White House: as a hawk in a party with renewed focused on the threat of Islamic terrorism; as an agitator whose folksy style masks a taste for skewering his rivals; and as a potential kingmaker, whose base of support in the nation’s first southern primary state gives him the potential to tip a tight contest with an endorsement.

Graham previewed the themes of his campaign Monday with an announcement speech that focused heavily on national security. “We’ve made some dangerous mistakes in recent years. The Obama Administration, and some of my colleagues in Congress, substituted wishful thinking for sound national security strategy,” Graham said. “As President, I will make them small, poor and on the run.”

Just a year ago, such rhetoric would have set Graham apart in a party that has grown weary after more than a decade of continuous war. But the rise of the Islamic State, the spreading chaos in the Middle East and the prospect of a nuclear accord with Iran has helped the GOP rediscover its hawkish leanings. An election that once seemed destined to showcase the party’s surprising dovishness has transformed into a battle about who can be toughest on the terrorists.

Read More: How Lindsey Graham First Earned a Reputation for Bucking the GOP

The shift fits squarely in Graham’s wheelhouse. Recently retired after 33 years in the U.S. Air Force, he has the deepest military background of any 2016 GOP candidate. “Radical Islam is running wild,” he said Monday. “They have more safe havens, more money, more capability and more weapons to strike our homeland than anytime since 9/11. They are large, rich and entrenched.” But the party’s evolving foreign policy is a mixed blessing for Graham. Though no longer a lonely voice for foreign intervention, he may be a less influential voice now that he is no longer the only candidate promising to flex the nation’s muscles.

There is still no one in the Republican field who can match Graham’s gift for the crowd-rousing zinger—a talent that wins him a media profile bigger than his poll numbers. Graham often uses the spotlight to throw darts at his rivals. And most of the time, GOP Sen. Rand Paul is the target. “I think Sen. Paul’s record on [foreign policy] is frankly behind President Obama,” Graham told reporters recently. “If he’s the nominee of the party, I think we risk giving up the central issue of the 2016 campaign, which will be foreign policy.” If Paul’s campaign for the presidency picks up steam, Graham is poised to be the Kentuckian’s chief tormentor.

He’s also the only 2016 Republican who will contest a crucial primary on home turf. Last year Graham won a third term representing the Palmetto State, the first Southern state to hold elections in an increasingly Southern party. If his own campaign can’t gain traction by the time of the primary, he’ll be positioned to give someone else a critical boost.

Though few predict he’ll emerge victorious, Graham’s allies believe he has the potential to pull some surprises. He’s a canny operator from humble beginnings, with a proven ability to energize crowds and valuable ties to one of the party’s premier donors. And as a foreign policy candidate in what is shaping up as a foreign policy election, he’s likely to stay in the headlines for as long as he stays in the race.

“The world is exploding in terror and violence,” he told supporters in South Carolina Monday. It’s not sunny stuff. But these are the kinds of lines that could make Graham a factor in fearful times.

Read More: The Three Best Friends Who Ran for President

TIME portfolio

‘The Corridor of Death’: Along America’s Second Border

The body lay along a fence line at the edge of a highway. He was a 23-year-old Salvadoran, according to the ID in his wallet, carrying a toothbrush and a picture of a young girl posing in a cap and gown. The man had spent days trudging through the sandy brush of South Texas, stripped to socks and underwear in the heat. When he collapsed and died, someone dragged the corpse toward the road, where it was spotted by a passing cowboy. By the time Brooks County chief sheriff’s deputy Benny Martinez arrived on May 21, the body was bleeding from the eyes.

Collecting the dead is one of the grim rituals of Martinez’s job. The young man from El Salvador was the 24th undocumented immigrant to perish in Brooks County this year. Over the past six years, more than 400 bodies have been discovered in the desolate rural jurisdiction, whose 7,200 people are spread across 943 sq. mi. (2,440 sq km) of cactus and mesquite. “You never get over it,” Martinez says.

The body count makes Brooks County one of the deadliest killing fields in the U.S. border crisis. But it is not actually on the border. The county is a graveyard for migrants because of the three-lane traffic checkpoint, operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that sits on U.S. 281, 70 miles (115 km) north of Mexico. To circumvent the checkpoint, coyotes drop carloads of undocumented immigrants along the highway a few miles south, where they embark on an arduous hike through private ranchland with plans to rejoin their ride north of the station. For undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. in South Texas, the multiday trek is the most perilous leg of a journey that starts with a payment (often $5,000 to $10,000, according to authorities) to coyotes in their home countries, who stash their clients at squalid border safe houses and shepherd them across the Rio Grande aboard inflatable rafts.

Since 2006, when she became a staff photographer at The Monitor in the border town of McAllen, Tex., Kirsten Luce has been documenting immigration issues on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Now a freelance photographer, Luce made extended reporting trips to Brooks and Kenedy Counties in January and March. She embedded with the U.S. CBP, joining agents in the brush on both day and night patrols as they used footprints and censors to track the migrants during the difficult and dangerous walk around the Brooks County checkpoint.

“I hadn’t spent much time there in years, and it was a piece of the migration story that I wanted to revisit,” Luce says. “These are the places where most deaths occur. Migrants—often tired, thirsty and hungry after a couple nights in stash houses further south in Texas—succumb to heat exhaustion or dehydration while circumventing vehicle checkpoints on foot.”

“It wasn’t until I witnessed the conditions in these houses that I fully realized these migrants were beginning the hike in Brooks or Kenedy County with severely compromised health conditions,” Luce says. “The people who hold migrants in these houses coordinate with other smugglers to lead them around the checkpoints. All are directly or indirectly linked to the drug cartels operating with impunity in Northeast Mexico. In recent years, human smuggling (especially all the way from Central America) has become as profitable as drugs, and it’s harder to prosecute as smugglers often try to blend in with their group and get deported alongside them. The cartels now control all traffic across the Rio Grande and everyone must use a cartel-approved guide. If caught crossing alone, one could be beaten or disappeared.”

Despite all the attention to securing the border itself, often the best chance of intercepting the flow of people and contraband is at checkpoints on key roads leading north. “These interior checkpoints always intrigued me, because each migrant passing undocumented through the Rio Grande Valley essentially crosses two borders,” Luce says. In Brooks County, the enforcement checkpoint has pushed undocumented immigrants onto private ranches, where they are unprepared for the searing heat and arid terrain on what can be a 25-mile (40 km) detour around the patrol stations.

“Some arrange to get dropped off several miles south and spend a night or two hiking north, following a wide arc far from the road,” Luce says. “Others are more brazen, getting dropped off less than a mile from the checkpoint at one of several turn-around lanes off of Highway 281 or 77, the only two direct routes out of the Valley. Typically the migrants have no idea where they are or what they are facing ahead. One once asked me if we were in Houston, some 250 miles away.”

Temperatures can reach triple digits in the summer. It’s easy to become disoriented and get lost. Migrants carry little food or water, and those who lag are left behind by their guides. “It’s the corridor of death,” says Eddie Canales, who runs the South Texas Human Rights Center, a few miles from the Falfurrias checkpoint in Brooks County. “There’s no telling how many remains are still out there.”

South Texas has struggled for years with the U.S. immigration crisis, but the problems deepened as migration patterns shifted. Beefed-up border security across former trouble spots in California, Arizona and West Texas prompted smugglers to find new routes through the Rio Grande Valley, while escalating violence in Central American nations spurred a wave of refugees searching for a path to the U.S. Illegal border crossings have dropped in 2015 with the end of the unaccompanied-minor crisis, and deaths in Brooks County are actually down from their peak of 129 in 2012.

But the impact still hits hard in places like Brooks County, which has just five sheriff’s deputies, and neighboring Kenedy County (pop. 400), where another border-patrol checkpoint sits astride U.S. 77. In these poor rural areas, recovering, identifying and burying the dead carries significant costs. Judge Imelda Barrera-Arevalo, the top elected official in Brooks County, estimates that dealing with the humanitarian crisis will consume 15% to 20% of the county’s budget this year. “It’s still our responsibility,” she adds, “whether we like it or not.”

To reduce fatalities, humanitarian groups and some ranchers have installed water stations. The border patrol has positioned rescue beacons on private land so migrants can buzz for help. Agents use ground sensors, cameras and blimps to surveil the sprawl. “I won’t be happy until the death toll is zero,” says Doyle Amidon, the patrol agent in charge of Falfurrias station. “But the nature of this area, and the fact that we are in the perfect location for illegal migrants to pass through here, it’s sort of the perfect storm.”

On one nighttime patrol, Luce joined border patrol agents as they tracked a group of 12 migrants for close to two hours. “There was something exciting about these pursuits. The air was cool and the moon was bright. We were fed and hydrated,” she says. “The migrants, however, had been traveling for days or weeks and were exhausted and dirty. They were as close as they’d ever been to relative freedom. They’d invested an untold fortune for this opportunity, an amount nearly impossible to pay back in their home countries. Their clothes were covered in leaves and stickers, any exposed skin covered in small scrapes from the brush.”

Eventually, they came upon the migrants hiding in a grove of mesquite. Agents surrounded the grove and moved in from all sides, working quickly to handcuff the migrants. Some tried to flee, but most remained perfectly still as they were detained.

“Any momentary thrill I had felt during the pursuit was replaced first by adrenaline and then by a hollow sadness,” Luce says. “The migrants’ resignation, and sometimes fear, is sobering for everyone. The air felt thicker as we hiked out, nearly a mile to the closest road. Everyone had a heavy heart, no one is rejoicing. I think many agents feel that they are rescuing these people from an uncertain fate, which is certainly true. They are doing their part to enforce the nation’s immigration laws, albeit some 80 miles north of the border, on privately owned land.”

Kirsten Luce is a freelance photojournalist based in New York.

Alex Altman is TIME’s Washington Correspondent.

TIME gambling

World Series of Poker Gambles on Luring New Players

World Series of Poker, Poker, Gambling, Jorryt van Hoof
John Locher—AP Jorryt van Hoof places a bet during the final night of the World Series of Poker final table in Las Vegas on Nov. 11, 2014.

This year's tournament is designed to attract more of the recreational players priced out of higher-stakes events

The World Series of Poker is betting that smaller stakes will sweeten the pots this year.

The globe’s biggest annual poker bash begins May 27 in Las Vegas, with the first of 68 individual tournaments that last year paid out more than $227 million in prizes. And while the 46th running of the World Series will still boast its share of big buy-in events—including the $10,000 Main Event World Championship in July and a high-roller event that costs $111,111 to enter—this year’s tournaments are designed to lure some of the recreational players priced out of the larger games.

For the first time in its history, the World Series is running a $565 event for gamblers who don’t want to fork over four figures to get in on the action. The debut of the “Colossus,” which begins Friday and has a $5 million guaranteed prize pool, is part of a strategy to boost participation rates by spreading the wealth.

Unlike last year, there is no $1 million buy-in event on the calendar in this Series. And the 2015 Main Event, which begins July 5, will no longer guarantee $10 million to the big winner. Instead it is designed to pay at least 1,000 entrants, up from last year’s 695. (The tournament is still expected to award some $8 million to the last player standing.) These are among several adjustments, like more starting chips, implemented this year to make the format more friendly to recreational players.

“Now more than ever, the WSOP has something for everyone,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a statement.

The tweaks also reflect the challenges poker is grappling with in the wake of the Department of Justice’s 2011 crackdown on Internet gaming. By curtailing access to online poker, regulators blocked the surest path for most recreational players to win their way into the Worst Series. The number of entrants in the Main Event has slipped about 25% since its peak in 2006, which took place amid a poker boom fueled by hole-card camera technology and televised coverage on ESPN.

In response, the World Series has diversified its offerings, running lower-stakes regional tournaments around the U.S. and expanding internationally to Europe, Asia and Australia.

But the juiciest action is still at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where beginning May 27, anyone over 21 with a chip and chair has a chance to make a million.

TIME justice

Why This Red State Is Poised to End the Death Penalty

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is seen through bars during a tour of the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution in Tecumseh, Neb., on May 19, 2015.

It would be the first conservative state to do so since 1973

As a college student in the mid-1990s, Colby Coash attended an execution at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. Two groups gathered to bear witness. On one side were death-penalty opponents, who prayed quietly. On the other side, the atmosphere was festive.

“It was like a tailgate party,” Coash recalls, replete with a band and barbecue, and locals banging on pots and pans. As the minutes ticked toward midnight and the condemned was strapped into the electric chair, the crowd drank beer and counted down “like it was New Year’s Eve,” says Coash, who supported the death penalty at the time. “Later, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t like how it felt to be a part of the celebration of somebody’s death.”

Coash now serves in Lincoln as a state senator, and on Wednesday he was among a cadre of conservatives who voted to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska. If the measure becomes law, Nebraska would become the first red state to ban capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973.

Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican who supports the death penalty, has threatened to veto the bill. But Wednesday’s 32-15 margin in the Nebraska legislature indicates supporters have the votes to override such a move. Ricketts has five days to sign or veto the measure before it automatically becomes law.

The landmark vote was a reflection of the shifting politics of criminal justice. For decades, law-and-order conservatives have been staunch proponents of capital punishment. But in recent years, a growing number of Republicans have begun to oppose the death penalty, arguing it violates the central tenets of conservatism.

“It does things that are cardinal sins for conservatives,” says Marc Hyden, a former NRA staffer from Georgia who serves as coordinator of a national group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “It risks innocent life. It wastes taxpayer money when there’s cheaper alternatives, and fails to be representative of a limited government—while it meanwhile fails to deter crime.”

Overall, Americans’ support for the death penalty is relatively stable, according to a 2015 Gallup poll that found 63% of respondents favored capital punishment for convicted murderers. But among conservatives, support for the practice appears to be dropping, though it remains high. In 2014, Gallup found that 76% of Republicans supported the death penalty, down from 81% the year before. Says Hyden: “It’s just a broken government program that conservatives are speaking out against in greater numbers nationally.”

Eighteen states have banned the death penalty, mostly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Nebraska might seem an unlikely candidate to join them. The state is a conservative stronghold, and while its unicameral legislature is officially nonpartisan, 36 of its 49 seats are held by Republicans.

But the Cornhusker State has been down this road before. In 1979, a bill banning capital punishment passed the legislature before it was vetoed by the governor. Though Nebraska has 11 inmates on death row, no one has been executed in the state since 1997. In 2013 some observers believed there were enough votes to pass such a measure, though not enough to override a veto. The current legislature had voted twice already to abolish the death penalty.

In preparation for the push, opponents of the death penalty lobbied lawmakers extensively, circulating studies that show the practice is ineffective as a deterrent to crime and enlisting the family members of murder victims to testify about how the endless appeals process compounded their grief.

Stacy Anderson, a conservative Christian and former Republican operative who directs a group called Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said the unique nature of the state legislature—the only nonpartisan, unicameral legislature in the U.S.—helped break down traditional partisan lines. “It’s a very cordial, small body,” Anderson says. “They engage the issues far beyond the regular political rhetoric.”

Some conservatives originally ducked meetings on the topic, Anderson added. Over time, a number came to change their minds. “They learned how much it cost, the risk of executing innocents, how it didn’t align with pro-life values,” she says.

Death penalty opponents hope Nebraska’s vote will be the beginning of a trend. A push to abolish capital punishment in conservative Montana fell one vote short earlier this year. Anti-death penalty legislation has also been introduced in Kansas.

Before the vote Wednesday, Ricketts released a statement urging lawmakers to listen to their constituents. “No one has traveled the state more than I have in the past 18 months, and everywhere I go there is overwhelming support for keeping the death penalty in Nebraska,” he said, calling a vote to abolish the death penalty a vote to “give our state’s most heinous criminals more lenient sentences. This isn’t rhetoric. This is reality.”

For Coash, that’s precisely the point. “People sent me here to Lincoln to find and root out government waste,” he says. In addition to the expense, he came to believe that the protracted appeals process prevented the families of victims from achieving closure. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he says. And “I’m a pro-life guy. I couldn’t reconcile my pro-life beliefs regarding the unborn with doing something different with the condemned.”

TIME Immigration

Republican Candidates Dodge Immigration Questions

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015.
Jim Young—Reuters Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015.

The GOP wanted to talk differently about immigration in 2016. Instead they're trying to avoid talking about it at all

Sitting in a hotel conference room of a Scottsdale, Ariz., resort, Mike Huckabee kibitzed with a few reporters Friday about issues ranging from the Iraq War to the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

But when the talk turned to whether undocumented immigrants should have a path to U.S. citizenship, the former Arkansas governor clammed up. “Until we have a secure border,” Huckabee demurred, “there isn’t any other discussion for us to be having.”

Huckabee isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate to dodge the topic lately. As the 2016 race ramps up, GOP candidates are increasingly skirting the specifics of immigration policy. It’s a trend that threatens the party’s hopes of reclaiming the White House.

Routed in the battle for Hispanic voters in 2012, the Republican Party promised to speak differently about immigration this time. But the need to repair its relationship with Latinos has collided with its candidates’ need to court the conservative activists who dominate the GOP nominating contest. As a result, many of the party’s presidential hopefuls don’t want to divulge the details of their positions on an issue with major political and policy ramifications.

To discern the differences between the candidates on immigration, TIME distributed a brief survey to declared and likely White House hopefuls. The questions focused on the fate of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., a subject at the heart of the bipartisan debate over comprehensive immigration reform:

  1. Do you support an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., and if so, under what conditions?
  1. Do you support an eventual pathway to legal status short of citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S., and if so, under what conditions?
  1. Do you support a separate process to give legal status or citizenship to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors?
  1. Do you support any government benefits, such as in-state college tuition, for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors?

Some likely GOP candidates offered clear and succinct answers. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was a “no” on all four, according to his spokesman. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the architects of the Senate’s bipartisan attempt to overhaul U.S. immigration laws in 2013, stuck by his support for a path to citizenship under detailed conditions. “Citizenship need not be mandatory, but it needs to be an option for those who are qualified,” said Graham spokeswoman Brittany Bramell. Graham also backed a process to give legal status or citizenship—along with government benefits like in-state tuition—to minors brought to the U.S. by their parents.

But the majority of the field offered muddier responses, or declined to answer at all. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was one of several to argue the debate should be postponed until the southern border is secured.

“Any discussion about dealing with who is already here is counterproductive until the border is secure,” Jindal told TIME in a statement issued through his spokesman. “Any attempt to deal with the millions of people who are currently in this country illegally prior to securing the border is illogical, and is nothing more than amnesty.”

Asked about a pathway to legal status for undocumented workers who met certain conditions, Jindal dismissed it as “a hypothetical conversation.” As for legal status or citizenship for those brought to the U.S. as minors, Jindal turned the focus to Obama. “A serious discussion about those individuals is just not possible right now because of the reckless policies of this administration,” he said. “This President has done everything he can to encourage illegal immigration.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose path to the GOP nomination runs through the conservative grassroots, opposes a path to citizenship for the undocumented. But it’s unclear where Cruz, who casts himself as a proponent of immigration reform, stands on the matter of legal status. He did not directly answer questions from TIME at a recent question-and-answer session hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

These evasions reflect the divisiveness of a topic that splits the party’s bigwigs and its base. The fate of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. is such a freighted question among conservative activists in early voting states like Iowa that White House hopefuls are leery of sinking their campaigns with a single slip of the tongue.

Take former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is likely to launch his second campaign for the presidency next month. Many recall the brain freeze Perry suffered in the middle of a 2011 debate as the moment his first bid for the White House went awry. But the face plant capped a free fall set in motion at an earlier debate, when Perry excoriated critics of in-state tuition breaks for undocumented minors. “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there by no fault of their own,” Perry argued then, “I don’t think you have a heart.”

Perry takes a different tack now. In response to TIME’s questions, a spokesman for the former Lone Star State governor compiled a summary of his tough record on illegal immigration, including a “border surge” to stem the tide of undocumented immigrants from Central America in 2014, an increase in border-security funding and a mandate for state agencies and contractors to use e-verify, an electronic system designed to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers. “Under Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership, Texas did more to secure the southern border than any state in the nation,” said spokesman Travis Considine.

Perry isn’t the only Republican to recalibrate his approach. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has shifted on immigration more than any other GOP candidate. Once a supporter of a path to citizenship, Walker is now a firm no. “He believes citizenship should be reserved for those who follow the law from the beginning,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong told TIME. Asked if Walker supported an eventual pathway to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally or a separate process for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, Strong replied: “He believes that following the President’s illegal executive action, the U.S.’s priorities must be repealing the executive action, securing the border, and enforcing the laws on the books while implementing a workable e-verify system.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped craft the 2013 Senate measure, has edged away from his support of a comprehensive reform bill; he now says he would support a path to citizenship only after tough border measures are imposed first. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is from Mexico, is a supporter of immigration reform who has urged the party to rethink its approach on immigration. But while he once spoke favorably about a path to citizenship, he prefers a path to earned legal status.

“Governor Bush believes once immigrants who entered illegally as adults plead guilty and pay the applicable fines or perform community service, they should become eligible to start the process to earn legal status,” spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger told TIME. “Such earned legal status should entail paying taxes, learning English, committing no substantial crimes, and not receiving government benefits. Governor Bush believes this must be accompanied by measures to secure the border and reform America’s broken immigration system to make it economically driven.”

Candidates like Bush and Rubio are trying to navigate the tightrope on a tricky policy issue by taking a position that can win over moderate voters (including the center-right business community, which favors reform) without alienating the GOP base. Their position grew more precarious recently, when likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, vying to maintain the party’s grip on the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, positioned herself as a greater advocate of undocumented workers than anyone in the field.

“We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” she said, claiming Republican candidate has consistently supported that policy. “When they talk about ‘legal status,’ that is code for second-class status.”

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller/Scottsdale, Ariz.

TIME Foreign Policy

The Republicans’ Iraq Trap

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.
Ricardo Arduengo—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during an event at the Metropolitan University in San Juan, Puerto Rico on April 28, 2015.

Jeb Bush still doesn’t know how to talk about Iraq.

The all-but-certain Republican presidential candidate’s strategy for handling his trickiest political inheritance has swung wildly in recent days, earning criticism from both sides of the aisle.

On Saturday the former Florida governor appeared to say he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq even if he knew weapons of mass destruction weren’t present. By Tuesday, Bush was backpedaling, claiming he “misheard” the question. And by Wednesday he was punting, arguing against answering “hypothetical” questions about a war that claimed 4,491 U.S. lives.

No candidate this year is haunted by that conflict like Bush, who must weigh political and familial considerations. But he’s not alone in his struggles. In a campaign dominated so far by foreign policy themes, GOP presidential hopefuls are increasingly torn between the need to project toughness and the need to acknowledge what many voters see as the defining error of the last Republican commander-in-chief.

It’s a balancing act driven by the demands of the electorate. Years of surveys show the American public’s rejection of a war launched on faulty intelligence: a 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for example, found 71% of voters thought the war “wasn’t worth it,” compared to just 22% who thought it was. At the same time, the tumult rippling across the Middle East—from the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) to the unrest in war-torn nations like Libya, Syria and Yemen—has rejuvenated the nation’s hawkish impulses. A succession of polls this year suggest most Americans support sending ground troops to fight ISIS.

As a result, GOP candidates have embraced anew a muscular foreign policy that had atrophied for much of the Obama presidency. Promises to calm the chaos of the Middle East have dominated early candidate cattle calls, while tough talk on Iran has taken the place of Obamacare as a stump speech fixture. Even Sen. Rand Paul, who advocates a restrained foreign policy as part of the party’s more isolationist wing, introduced an amendment to significantly boost the defense budget. After announcing his presidential bid in April, the Kentuckian posed in front of a retired aircraft carrier in the port of Charleston to repeat his call. On a recent trip to South Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio invoked Liam Neeson’s avenging promise from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you.”

The bellicosity is one element of a broader strategy that includes also blaming President Obama for the mess in the Middle East and tethering Bush to his older brother. “If we knew then what we know now and I were the president of the United States, I wouldn’t have gone to war,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN. Paul told the Associated Press that Bush’s comments represent “a real problem if he can’t articulate what he would have done differently.”

“Knowing what we know now, of course we wouldn’t go into Iraq,” Sen. Ted Cruz told The Hill.

Rubio went even further in an interview Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it. He said so,” he said.

Turning Iraq into a centerpiece of the campaign is fraught with risk for Republicans, who have wrestled with the demons of a misbegotten war for a decade now. In 2004, the GOP made support for the conflict into a proxy for patriotism and rode the decision to victory in the presidential election. But by 2006, Democrats regained control of Congress amid the persistent casualties and growing sectarian violence sweeping Iraq.

Two years later, Obama’s early opposition to the war helped vault him past Hillary Clinton in their epic primary contest. He then used Sen. John McCain’s outspokenness for the war against him, mocking McCain’s suggestion that there might be an American presence in Iraq for 100 years. In 2012 Obama won re-election while highlighting his commitment to end the war.

But as the stability of Iraq crumbled in the wake of Obama’s troop withdrawal, Republicans sensed they could regain the upper hand. GOP candidates have criticized Obama for not leaving a larger security force in place to support the Iraqi government. Party strategists believe the path to the presidency hinges in part on an ability to disavow George W. Bush’s mistakes while blaming Obama for making the mess much worse.

Recognizing it won’t be easy, some of the party’s presidential contenders are treading lightly. In a speech laying out his foreign policy vision Wednesday, Rubio only briefly alluded to Iraq, implying that Obama’s troop drawdown was too swift and invoking “Afghans worried that America will leave them like we left Iraq.”

The delicate balancing act is sharply different from the strategy employed by the likely Democratic nominee. After years of standing by her vote to authorize the war, Clinton wrote in her 2014 memoir that she “got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

It was a reflection of how the politics of the issue had shifted—and may be shifting still.

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