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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.24.16

08/24/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Earthquake in Amatrice, Italy: "Homes opened up, like dollhouses, revealing shards of life interrupted by the 6.2-magnitude earthquake before dawn Wednesday.... Amatrice, considered among the most beautiful of Italy's historic towns, has survived centuries of war, weather and earthquakes, but never one like this. 'Three quarters of the town is not there anymore,' Amatrice Mayor Sergio Pirozzi told state broadcaster RAI."
* Afghanistan: "Gunmen stormed the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday night, engaging with Afghan special forces who were responding to reports of gunfire and an explosion. A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that the attackers 'got inside the compound,' but there were no immediate reports of casualties or hostages."
* Middle East: "Turkish tanks, American warplanes and Syrian rebels joined forces Wednesday in a major cross-border assault into northern Syria that quickly pushed Islamic State forces from a strategic border town, officials from the U.S. and Turkey said."
* Indiana: "An Indianapolis homeowner who called police to report an attempted armed robbery at his house was mistaken for the suspect and was shot in the stomach by the responding officer, authorities said."
* Federal aid for communities that need a hand: "Officials say 29 projects in nine Appalachian states and in Texas are being funded by nearly $39 million from a federal initiative aimed at stimulating economic development in U.S. communities hard hit by coal industry layoffs. Officials for the Appalachian Regional Commission and other agencies announced the projects Wednesday at a news conference in Huntington."
* The worthwhile executive action: "With its time in the White House winding down, the Obama administration plans to add yet another executive order to its list on Wednesday -- one that will bar companies from receiving federal contracts if they recently violated labor laws."
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters on August 23, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

Trump picks a fight with Clinton over ... celebrities?

08/24/16 04:31PM

In the run-up to the Republican National Convention last month, Donald Trump envisioned an all-star lineup, featuring "A-List celebrities" and athletic "champions," all of whom would be eager to celebrate the GOP candidate's nomination.
That didn't work out too well. Scott Baio and some underwear model whose name I've forgotten delivered convention speeches, prompting more ridicule than acclaim, but A-listers were nowhere to be found.
Soon after, reflecting on the underwhelming lineup in Cleveland, Trump delivered one of the year's most unintentionally hilarious lines: "I wasn't looking for star power [at the convention]; I was looking for policy." No, seriously, that's what he said.
A month later, the Republican evidently still has celebrities on his mind.
Donald Trump apparently does not think Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back.
Speaking at a rally in Tampa on Wednesday, Trump offered his take on Hillary Clinton's supporters: "The only people enthusiastic about her campaign are Hollywood celebrities, in many cases celebrities that aren't very hot anymore."
Is this really the fight Trump wants to pick? The "hotness" of Clinton's celebrity backers?
Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Campaign manager believes 'undercover Trump voters' exist

08/24/16 12:50PM

When a presidential campaign is losing, it's difficult for aides to answers questions about the polls. Usually, they try to either point to the calendar ("There's plenty of time for the polls to change, and we're optimistic about breaking through") or they'll downplay the importance of polling itself ("The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day").
But occasionally we'll see a more problematic posture: a candidate's supporters will argue that the polls are somehow skewed.
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who's scheduled to be on "The Rachel Maddow Show" this evening, sat down with the U.K.'s Channel 4, which asked about the Republican candidate's current deficit. Conway pointed to "hidden" Trump backers who've been excluded from surveys.
The dozens of recent polls that show Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump both nationally and in battleground states are, according to Conway, "cherry-picked polling numbers that are put out there by media outlets that are also bent on his destruction."
"He performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election," she told Channel 4, in comments first flagged by MSNBC. "It's because it's become socially desirable, if you're a college educated person in the United States of America, to say that you're against Donald Trump."
"The hidden Trump vote in this country is a very significant proposition," she added.
Asked if Conway, a longtime GOP pollster, has been able to quantify this, she said she has, but wasn't prepared to discuss it publicly. "It's a project we're doing internally," Conway said. "I call it the 'undercover Trump voter,' but it's real."
And while anything's possible, it's best to be skeptical about this.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.24.16

08/24/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* On Fox News last night, Donald Trump said of his immigration plans, "There certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people." Beyond vague statements like these, however, no specific changes have been made to the Republican candidate's platform.
* In Missouri, the latest Monmouth University poll shows a surprisingly close presidential race in the Show-Me State, with Trump narrowly leading Hillary Clinton, 44% to 43%. Missouri has voted Republican in each of the last four cycles.
* On a related note, that same poll found incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) ahead by five over Jason Kander (D), 48% to 43%.
* As for Missouri's gubernatorial race, Monmouth found state Attorney General Chris Koster (D) with a surprisingly large 11-point advantage over businessman Eric Greitens (R), despite most other recent polling showing a far more competitive contest.
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest PPP poll out of Utah, where Clinton recently opened a campaign office, found Trump ahead, 39% to 24%.
* Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R) new ad in New Hampshire seems quite similar to an ad Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) ran in North Dakota in 2012.
* The Koch network hasn't taken much of an interest in the presidential race, but it's launched a new attack ad in Ohio blasting Clinton and Senate hopeful Ted Strickland (D).
* Republicans pounced yesterday when former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), hoping to reclaim his old seat, told reporters his home in Indiana is located on "Canterbury Court," though it's actually found on "Canterbury Square."
* Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) isn't just a member of the GOP's #NeverTrump caucus; he's also urging party officials to give up on Trump and invest in congressional races.