Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Public Policy Polling shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders nationally in the race for the Democratic nomination, 55% to 20%. The former Secretary of State's 35-point lead is identical to the findings of a national PPP survey released a month ago.
* As Rachel mentioned on the show last night, Rick Perry's operation in Iowa is down to just one staffer. Yesterday, Karen Fesler, Perry's Iowa co-chair, jumped ship, joining Rick Santorum's Iowa team.
* Mike Huckabee, who has been both for and against birthright citizenship, now wants everyone to know he's now open to ending the policy mandated by the 14th Amendment.
* In New Hampshire's closely watched U.S. Senate race, the latest PPP survey shows incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) with the narrowest of leads over Gov. Maggie Hassan (R), 44% to 43%. The governor has not yet formally announced her 2016 plans.
* In response to reports about slower mail delivery, Bernie Sanders is pushing USPS to improve its overnight delivery (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up).
* Last week's "Draft Biden" event at the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting only drew about 15 attendees. Hundreds of DNC members were on hand for the seasonal gathering.
A survey of law-enforcement officials about America's most serious threats did not point to foreign religious extremists. Vox had an interesting report on who's seen as an even bigger security risk.
In a 2014 survey, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) surveyed hundreds of law enforcement personnel at the state and local level, all of whom had training in intelligence gathering or counterterrorism. They were presented with a list of radical groups and asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 4, how much they agreed that this group posed a terrorist threat to the US.
The anti-government "sovereign citizen" movement was #1, followed by "Islamic extremists." On the list of groups perceived as the highest threat, anti-government militias was third, followed by skinheads and Neo-Nazis. They were followed by animal rights extremists, environmental extremists, and then the KKK.
Granted, the data is a year old, and it's possible attitudes among law-enforcement professionals have changed a bit since 2014, but that doesn't change the striking nature of the findings.
Indeed, the findings found, "Approximately 39 percent of respondents agreed and 28 percent strongly agreed that Islamic extremists were a serious terrorist threat. In comparison, 52 percent of respondents agreed and 34 percent strongly agreed that sovereign citizens were a serious terrorist threat."
Jeb Bush's campaign operation had a pretty straightforward plan when dealing with the summer's campaign drama: stay above it. Donald Trump may lead the polls and dominate the conversation, but the former governor and his team have consistently said they intend to stick to their own script.
It was just two weeks ago that the chief strategist for Bush's super PAC said, "Trump is, frankly, other people's problem."
About a day later, Team Jeb threw out its gameplan and paid for a plane to fly above a Trump event in Alabama, telling onlookers the GOP frontrunner supports 'higher taxes.'" Bush's campaign manager soon after turned his attention to Trump's sister.
This week, the showdown appears to be intensifying. Trump hit Jeb yesterday morning with an online video, attacking the Florida Republican on immigration. Bush hit back soon after with a memo, blasting Trump as being insufficiently conservative on crime and immigration.
On the same day that Donald Trump released a video blasting Jeb Bush on immigration, the former Florida governor published a web video highlighting Trump's past statements supporting liberal policy ideas.
The video titled "The Real Donald Trump" strings together clips of Trump saying he is pro-choice, noting that single-payer health care has worked in other countries, and praising Hillary Clinton.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) caused a bit of a stir on Sunday, suggesting he's open to building a new wall, not just along the U.S./Mexico border, but also along the U.S./Canada border. But as the Republican presidential candidate's comments started drawing fire yesterday, Team Walker tried walking it back. The Huffington Post reported:
After critics mocked Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for saying a wall between the U.S. and Canada was a "legitimate" idea, his campaign said Monday that he is not pushing for such a policy.
"Despite the attempts of some to put words in his mouth, Gov. Walker wasn't advocating for a wall along our northern border," Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement.
So, which is it? Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," noted that Walker and other Republican presidential candidates frequently talk about border security, but rarely turn their attention to the north. "Do you want to build a wall north of the border, too?" Todd asked.
The far-right governor, according to the video and the transcript, replied, "Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at."
Did Walker "advocate" building a U.S./Canadian border wall? No, but he nevertheless said the construction of such a wall "is a legitimate issue for us to look at" -- despite the fact that it's clearly nothing of the sort. The GOP candidate could have characterized the idea as impractical and/or unnecessary, but instead he treated the border wall idea as if it were entirely credible.
Which is why it made headlines.
The larger pattern, however, is one in which these incidents happen more than they should. Walker has an unfortunate habit of saying something foolish, drawing criticism, and then quietly walking it back.
Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) invited Donald Trump to join him at a Capitol Hill rally in opposition to the Iran deal, and the leading Republican presidential hopeful accepted. Yesterday, organizers added a similar figure to complete the triumvirate.
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck is joining 2016 presidential contenders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at a "Stop the Iran Deal Rally" at the Capitol on Sept. 9.
The rally, organized by the Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and Zionist Organization of America, takes place a day after lawmakers return from their recess and ahead of a vote on the deal.
In a statement, Tea Party Patriots CEO and co-founder Jenny Beth Martin boasted, "Glenn Beck's decision to speak on September 9th at the Stop the Iran Deal Rally underlines the momentum behind the movement to stop President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran."
In reality, of course, the opposite is true. Supporters of international diplomacy appear to have all of the "momentum" -- new Democratic proponents announce their endorsement every day -- and the fact that conservative event organizers persuaded a far-right media personality to attend an event isn't all that impressive.
It is, however, excellent news for those who hope to see the diplomatic agreement move forward.
It's quite common for members of Congress to make appearances in schools and speak to local students. The challenge, however, is reminding lawmakers about age-appropriate messages.
About a year ago, for example, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) spoke at a high school, where he used "salty language," told a story "that involved flying to Paris to get drunk," compared marriage equality to "bull sex," and made some deeply unfortunate remarks about teen suicide. The school's principal wasn't pleased.
Fast forward a year and we find another conservative Republican congressman speaking to an even younger group of students, making a presentation that arguably went even worse. KPHO in Arizona reported yesterday:
Several parents are demanding answers from Congressman Matt Salmon, saying they cannot believe what the lawmaker said to young school children during a visit to a Gilbert school.
"It should have probably just been a good civics lesson for kids who initially were excited to meet their congressman," parent Scott Campbell said. That excitement, however, turned into fear.
According to the report from the local CBS affiliate, Salmon, a 10-term congressman, was supposed to talk to 2nd- and 3rd-graders about how bills become laws. But when Salmon turned his attention to vetoes, the Republican apparently decided to talk about his opposition to nuclear diplomacy with Iran.
One unhappy parent recalled that Salmon asked the small children, "Do you know what a nuclear weapon is? Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?"
Remember earlier this year, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a three-year-old child, "The world is on fire.... Your world is on fire"? By all accounts, Salmon's comments were about as appropriate.
Meetings like these are becoming increasingly common, though that's not at all a positive development.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, part of his weeklong trip to Israel. [...]
"Today's meeting only reaffirms my opposition to this deal," Cotton said in a statement after the meeting. "I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and work with my colleagues in Congress to stop this deal and to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself against Iran and its terrorist surrogates."
The far-right freshman tweeted a photo of himself and the Israeli prime minister, noting their joint efforts in opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran.
And at a certain level, I can appreciate why this seems terribly common. Last year, for example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) traveled to Guatemala and worked against U.S. foreign policy during the migrant-children crisis. Before that, other GOP lawmakers have traveled to Israel with the intention of undermining U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Cotton himself organized 46 of his Senate Republican colleagues to write a letter to Iranian officials, urging them not to trust the United States during sensitive negotiations.
By this measure, the Arkansas senator's meeting with Netanyahu seems like par for the course. But therein lies the point: the routinization of these incidents is itself dangerous.
Tonight, Public Policy Polling gave The Rachel Maddow Show a sneak peek at the results of their August 28-30 poll to be released tomorrow. While the findings at the top of the poll are what we've come to expect from the Republican field - Donald Trump and Ben Carson securing the top spots - what is more surprising is to find Beltway-favored... read more
Rachel Maddow reports on a conservative activist group's attempt to catch Hillary Clinton campaign staffers on video committing illegal or unethical acts. Members of the group first accidentally exposed the scam by revealing to the campaign that their operatives were using fabricated identities. watch
Chris Jansing, NBC News senior White House correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about President Barack Obama's trip to Alaska about whether the president's emphasis on climate change while travelling to the Arctic will bring new policy on fossil fuels and how the White House reconciles the green-lighting of Arctic drilling with... watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the release of 7000 pages worth of Hillary Clinton e-mails by the State Department, the latest in a series of court-ordered releases. This batch includes 150 mails retroactively categorized as classified. watch
* ISIS: "Turkey has launched its first wave of airstrikes as part of the United States-led coalition to fight the Islamic State, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday."
* Texas: "Authorities have arrested a suspect in the 'execution-style' shooting of a uniformed Texas sheriff's deputy. Shannon J. Miles, 30, has been charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren H. Goforth, officials said Saturday afternoon."
* Texas: "A statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was taken down from its pedestal outside the clock tower on the University of Texas at Austin campus on Sunday, after a legal appeal to keep the memorial in place was rejected."
* New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran (R) was charged late last week with "embezzlement, fraud and other criminal violations, including allegations that the high-ranking Republican diverted campaign contributions for her personal use."
* Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) both endorsed the international nuclear agreement with Iran today, bringing the deal that much closer to congressional success.
* On a related note, this is deeply unfortunate for Democratic politics: "Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz prevented consideration of a resolution at the party's summer meeting here that praised President Obama and offered backing for the nuclear agreement with Iran, according to knowledgeable Democrats."
* Ya don't say: "Experts in government secrecy law see almost no possibility of criminal action against Hillary Clinton or her top aides in connection with now-classified information sent over unsecure email while she was secretary of state, based on the public evidence thus far."
It's nearly always unfair to judge political candidates by the actions of their relatives. When politicians enter the fray, they necessarily invite scrutiny, but it's best to consider members of their family -- private citizens, uninvolved in the process -- off-limits.
But the rules change when a candidate welcomes immediate family members into the arena. Take Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), for example, whose father, right-wing activist Rafael Cruz, spoke at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies over the weekend.
In a 45-minute talk, the 76-year-old criticized his son's leading rivals for inconsistencies on immigration, abortion and education. He decried the Supreme Court for "calling homosexuality a civil right," accused the Republican Party of "relegating God to the basement" for the sake of "inclusion," and defended Ted against questions from conservative birthers.
"The battle is not November of 2016. The battle is the primary," Cruz said during a prayer breakfast, conveying apologies from his son that he was not able to make it. "Stop listening to their rhetoric and start looking at their record. Jesus put it this way: You shall know them by their fruit. It's about time we do some fruit checking."
The Republican presidential candidate's father appears to have gone on quite a tear, blasting his son's rivals on "amnesty," Common Core, and being insufficiently opposed to reproductive rights.
According to the Washington Post's report, Rafael Cruz also lashed out at the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling. "I think the Devil overplayed his hand this time," he said. "They're calling homosexuality a civil right. The next obvious step is that they're going to come to your church and demand to be hired!"
Obviously, in reality, that's foolish, but the point here is that Rafael Cruz seemed to be playing the role of a campaign surrogate -- the far-right senator couldn't attend the National Federation of Republican Assemblies' event, but Cruz Sr. could.
Donald Trump's support from Republican voters has caught much of the political world flat-footed -- few expected the GOP candidate to dominate the race for the Republican nomination at this point. It's left pundits looking for parallels and credible points of comparison to help make sense of the odd dynamic.
Maybe Trump is the new Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential candidate from 1940 and the last major-party nominee to appear on the national ballot despite having literally no experience in government. Or perhaps Trump is the new Herman Cain, an inexperienced personality who looked strong the summer before voting began, but whose fortunes quickly faltered.
For others, Trump may be the new Pat Buchanan, who also mastered the art of far-right populism while combating the Republican establishment during an ill-fated presidential candidate.
But reading thisWashington Post piece, a very different comparison came to mind.
Sharpening his pitch to what he calls "the silent majority," Donald Trump presented himself Saturday as the "law and order" candidate in the 2016 presidential race, pledging to "get rid" of gangs and give more power to police officers.
Speaking to the National Federation of Republican Assemblies for more than an hour, in the heart of a Southern city where student sit-ins helped launch the 1960s-era civil rights movement, the Republican complained that cops are afraid to be tough in the face of more scrutiny over their tactics.
At one point, the Republican reportedly told the audience, "That first night in Baltimore, they allowed that city to be destroyed. They set it back 35 years in one night because the police weren't allowed to protect people. We need law and order!"
In case it's not obvious, Trump's rhetoric isn't just an echo of Richard Nixon's message in 1968; in some cases, it's literally the same, word for word. Nixon's "law and order" message was a cornerstone of his presidential pitch, as was his rhetoric about "the silent majority."
It's one thing to be inspired by a former official, or perhaps make an homage to a leader from yesteryear, but Trump at this point is effectively appropriating some of Nixon's most famous phrases as his own. (The two even have Roger Stone in common.)