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Then-Sen. Scott Brown in Princeton, Mass., on Jan. 17, 2012.

New Hampshire GOP embraces 'personhood' as election nears

09/23/14 12:33PM

Elections in New Hampshire always tend to be interesting, but 2014 is shaping up to be quite a year in the Granite State.  Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is seeking a second term; there's a closely watched U.S. Senate race underway pitting two prominent figures, including former Sen. Scott Brown; there's a very competitive U.S. House race in the 1st district; and Democrats hope to reclaim the state Senate this year.
 
It's against this backdrop that the state Republican Party made a curious decision about picking a culture-war fight.
The New Hampshire Republican Party toughened its stance on abortion over the weekend, adding support for fetal "personhood" rights into its official party platform.
 
The party adopted new language at its annual convention on Saturday that pledges to "support pre-born child's fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections," according to the New Hampshire Journal.
Just so we're clear, personhood measures ban all abortions, IVF treatments, and common forms of hormonal birth control.
 
In much of the country, Republicans who used to support personhood are running in the opposite direction, hoping to distance themselves from such radicalism, but in New Hampshire, the state party decided to embrace personhood in a formal and official way.
 
What's more, note that the state GOP didn't do this at an obscure time when voters were unlikely to notice; rather, the New Hampshire Republican Party waited until there were just six weeks remaining until Election Day and then endorsed the right-wing policy.
 
One of the top Democratic goals for 2014 is getting women, most notably younger women, to care about this year's elections. Sometimes it seems as if GOP officials are trying to do Dems a favor.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.23.14

09/23/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
 
* As Republicans pull out the stops to rescue Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) career in Kansas, a small army of national GOP figures are headed for Kansas to rally the base. Among them is former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
 
* We haven't seen much polling out of Alaska lately, so it was of great interest to see PPP show challenger Dan Sullivan (R) with a narrow lead over Sen. Mark Begich (D), 43% to 41%.
 
* In Alaska's closely watched gubernatorial race, the same PPP poll shows independent Bill Walker inching past incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, 42% to 41%.
 
* In Iowa's extremely competitive U.S. Senate, the DSCC has invested considerable energy in absentee ballots, and as of yesterday, Democratic officials believe "73 percent of the 23,000 unaffiliated voters who had requested ballots" are likely to support Rep. Bruce Braley (D) over state Sen. Joni Ernst (R).
 
* Speaking of PPP surveys, the same pollster now shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) leading Terri Lynn Land (R) in Michigan's U.S. Senate race, 47% to 40%.
 
* The same poll shows Gov. Rick Snyder (R) hanging on against Rep. Mark Schauer (D), 46% to 44%.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition "Road to Majority" policy conference in Washington, June 19, 2014.

Brown, Cruz focus on the wrong ISIS border

09/23/14 11:36AM

When talking about the Islamic State and border issues, there are plenty of boundaries worth discussing. The border between Iraq and Syria has been deemed irrelevant by ISIS terrorists. The border between Syria and Turkey has become one of the most important areas on the planet, both in terms of refugees and in terms of ISIS growth.
 
But for some Republicans, those aren't the borders that really matter right now.
 
For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently published a piece on his vision for combating ISIS.
First and foremost, Washington should resolve to make border security a top priority finally, rather than an afterthought, of this plan in light of concerns about potential ISIS activities on our southern border, cited in a Texas Department of Public Safety bulletin reported by Fox News. As long as our border isn't secure, the government is making it far too easy for terrorists to infiltrate our nation.
And as Greg Sargent noted, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), now running in New Hampshire, launched a new, related message this morning.
In the ad, Brown, who is trailing, accuses Shaheen and Obama of being "confused about the nature of the threat" posed by "radical Islamic terrorists" who are "threatening to cause the collapse of our country." He then says we must "secure the border."
I don't think he means the border between Iraq and Syria.
 
The fact that some Republicans are hard to take seriously on national security does not come as a surprise. The fact that some strange GOP figures want to use a national-security debate to advance their agenda is even less surprising.
 
But if you're eager to engage in a debate about Islamic State terrorists, and you consider Mexico the nation's "foremost" priority, maybe a career in the Senate isn't for you.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage during a news conference March 10, 2014, in Brunswick, Maine.

The 2014 'No Debate' Club

09/23/14 10:47AM

Maine's three-way gubernatorial race is one of the most fascinating contests of the year, but if voters are looking forward to the upcoming debates, they should start lowering their expectations (thanks to reader C.G. for the tip).
Gov. Paul LePage said Monday he's leaning toward not doing any debates in the race for the Blaine House because he doesn't want to share a stage with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Mike Michaud.
 
The governor made the comment during an interview with WMTW News 8 for a political profile piece that is set to air in early October.
 
"I won't be on a stage with Mike Michaud -- I don't think -- from here on out," LePage said.
Apparently, an independent group ran a television ad in Maine recently, calling attention to the far-right governor characterizing Social Security as "welfare." LePage didn't like the ad, urged Michaud to denounce it, and when the Democrat declined, the Republican incumbent decided he'd use this as a justification not to debate.
 
Note, there's a debate already set for Oct. 21 in Maine, scheduled to include LePage, Michaud, and independent Eliot Culter, but as of yesterday, the governor is no longer inclined to show up.
 
And this got me thinking: how many other candidates in tough statewide races are also refusing to debate?
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, watches President Barack Obama speak during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

House GOP's anti-Obama lawsuit already in deep trouble

09/23/14 09:59AM

After months of congressional Republicans condemning the tyranny of a lawless, out-of-control White House, GOP leaders announced they would file a historic lawsuit, taking President Obama's outrageous abuses to the courts. The transgression at the top of the Republicans list? A delayed deadline for an obscure Affordable Care Act provision.
 
Two months later, the litigation is already in bad shape. For one thing, it still hasn't been filed. For another, Republicans recently had to replace their legal team after the original firm that took the case walked away. (The GOP hired, of all people, Maureen McDonnell's lead defense attorney.)
 
Yesterday, as Jennifer Haberkorn reported, a similar case to the one Republicans are pushing was thrown out of court.
A federal appeals court has summarily tossed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's delay of Obamacare's employer mandate -- a case that is similar to the one that House Republicans plan to file against the president.
 
This suit was filed by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which argued that the delay could hurt doctors financially. But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday said the plaintiffs don't have a right to sue.
 
A unanimous three-judge panel threw out the case only three days after oral argument, a breakneck speed.
That's not a good sign.
 
Indeed, given that the House GOP's case hasn't actually been filed, it's not too late for lawmakers to save taxpayers a few bucks and put an end to the p.r. stunt while the process is still in its infancy.
Rep. Vance McAllister, (R-LA) waits to be sworn in at the Capitol in Washington on Nov. 21, 2013.

'Kissing Congressman' latest to lean on wife

09/23/14 09:21AM

For a guy who's only been in Congress for 10 months, Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) has had quite a career on Capitol Hill.
 
Last November, the first-time candidate stunned the Louisiana GOP establishment by winning a congressional election. Four months after taking office, McAllister was humiliated by a video showing him kissing an aide -- who was not his wife. Five months after taking office, the congressman announced he would step down at the end of his term.
 
Then, just to make things extra interesting, the conservative Republican reversed course again, announced he'd changed his mind, and launched a campaign for a second term after all.
 
Now, as Benjy Sarlin reports, the "Kissing Congressman" is launching a campaign ad featuring the support of McAllister's wife, Kelly.
"I'm lucky to have been blessed with a great family and a wonderful Christian wife," the congressman says in the ad.
 
"And I'm blessed to have a husband who owns up to his mistakes, never gives up, always fighting for the good people of Louisiana," his wife responds.
 
At one point, the camera cuts to a shot of the two holding hands with Mrs. McAllister's engagement ring prominently visible. At the end, it fades into footage of the congressman smiling with his children outside.
There are a handful of questions that come to mind. Will Louisiana voters find an ad like this compelling? Are the visuals over the top? What will McAllister's Republican challengers say?
 
And while those angles certainly matter, the foremost question on my mind is this: why do cheating political husbands keep asking their wives to do stuff like this?
New York City Attempts To Remove Occupy Wall St Protestors From Park Encampment

Obama admin moves to curb inversion tax schemes

09/23/14 08:42AM

About six weeks ago, some congressional Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), publicly urged the White House to use executive powers to limit corporate tax "inversions." The Dems stood behind a legislative fix, including the proposed "Stop Corporate Inversions Act," but with Congress no longer legislating, it fell to the administration to act.
 
There was ample evidence to suggest the president's team was amenable to the suggestions. Indeed, Treasure Secretary Jack Lew acknowledged that officials were "looking at a very long list of possible ways to address the issue."
 
Suzy Khimm reported last night that the Obama administration is now moving forward with its policy decision.
The Treasury Department issued new rules on corporate "inversions" that would limit U.S. multinationals' ability to access their foreign subsidiaries' earnings without paying U.S. taxes on them.
 
The administration also made it more difficult for companies to conduct inversions in the first place: After an inversion, the previous owners of the U.S. multinational would have to own less than 80% of the new multinational, among other changes announced on Monday. The new rules "apply to deals closed today or after today," the Treasury said in a statement.
As one might expect, congressional Democrats are delighted and congressional Republicans aren't, but the underlying question remains the same: just how much effect will these actions have in the absence of legal changes approved by Congress?
In this image made from video released by the U.S. Navy on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, missiles bound for Syrian Islamic State group targets are launched off of a U.S. Navy ship.

U.S. air campaign begins overnight in Syria

09/23/14 08:01AM

When President Obama spoke two weeks ago about his counter-terrorism strategy towards the Islamic State, he specifically talked about using force to target ISIS "in Syria, as well as Iraq." It was at this point that we knew it was only a matter of time before the U.S. airstrikes began inside Syria.
 
Last night, we learned that this phase of the campaign is now underway.
The United States and a broad coalition of Arab partners launched a predawn attack on Islamist fighters in Syria, the Pentagon announced Monday, using bombers and cruise missiles in the first such strike on the Middle Eastern country that has been riven for two years by a catastrophic civil war.
 
The strikes -- part of a U.S. plan to hit up to 20 targets in and around Raqqa, Syria, where the militants have their headquarters -- mark a major escalation in the American military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which previously had been limited to Iraq.
As NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel noted last night, the timing of the offensive is important: the airstrikes coincide with the United Nations General Assembly, at which world leaders will consider how best to address the ISIS threat.
 
There are, of course, more questions than answers, and if you missed Rachel's segment at midnight (ET), it fleshed out many of the key aspects of the debate. For example, are the U.S. airstrikes likely to have the intended effect?
 
Thus far, the air campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq has been constant for six weeks, but the offensive has "scarcely budged the Sunni extremists." Whether a related campaign in Syria is determinative remains an open question.
 
Also, to what extent is the United States acting as part of a coalition?

Strikes on Khorasan Group and other headlines

09/23/14 07:48AM

Air strikes in Syria targeted Khorasan Group as well as ISIS. (NBC News)

Israel says it shot down a Syrian fighter jet. (NY Times)

Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin will campaign for Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas. (Wichita Eagle)

Biden to Hispanics: Obama will act on immigration. (AP)

Another experimental ebola drug gets nod from the FDA. (Wall Street Journal)

Google to cut ties with ALEC for "literally lying" about climate change. (Talking Points Memo)

Politico names Chelsea Clinton's baby for her. (Politico)

read more

US, partners rip ISIS on new Syrian front

US, partners rip ISIS on new Syrian front

09/23/14 01:12AM

Laith Alkhouri of Flashpoint Global Partners, talks with Rachel Maddow about global recruitment efforts by ISIS and how the new airstrikes by U.S. partners inside Syria are likely to affect the terror organization. watch

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