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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.30.16

08/30/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* It's primary day in Florida and Arizona. Pay particular attention to Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) primary, the U.S. Senate primaries in both parties in Florida, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's (D-Fla.) House race.
 
* Former KKK leader David Duke launched a robocall this week, asking voters to support his Senate campaign in Louisiana and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Team Trump has disavowed the message.
 
* First, Marco Rubio said he wouldn't seek re-election to the Senate. Second, Rubio said he wants a second term after all. This morning, Rubio complicated matters further, refusing to say whether he'd serve a full term if re-elected.
 
* Mark Burns, a pro-Trump pastor and campaign surrogate, apologized yesterday after tweeting a cartoon of Hillary Clinton in blackface.
 
* Bernie Sanders yesterday emailed his large mailing list, encouraging his backers to support four U.S. Senate candidates in tough races: Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, Ted Strickland in Ohio, and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
 
* On a related note, one of those four appears to be in trouble: Ohio's Ted Strickland (D), once thought to be well positioned to defeat incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R), has struggled of late. This week, the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC delayed ad buys in the Buckeye State that had been scheduled to run on Strickland's behalf.
 
* Add Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan's solicitor general, to the list of Republicans supporting Clinton's candidacy.
 
Poll results from Emerson College, released yesterday, found Clinton leading Trump by 5 points in Michigan, 3 points in Pennsylvania, and tied in Ohio.
Paul LePage

Maine's Paul LePage eyes possible resignation

08/30/16 11:01AM

Over the last week, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has made several overly racist comments and left a threatening, expletive-laden phone message for a state legislator. This, coupled with his history of bizarre and erratic behavior, has led a variety of Maine officials to call for his resignation and question his mental stability.
 
Last night, the embattled Republican governor met privately with top GOP state lawmakers, and LePage reportedly spoke about "corrective action" he could take in the wake of the ugly controversies he created.
 
The Portland Press Herald reported this morning that LePage "raised the possibility" of resigning during an interview today.
"I'm looking at all options," the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station. "I think some things I've been asked to do are beyond my ability. I'm not going to say that I'm not going to finish it. I'm not saying that I am going to finish it."
 
He later said, "If I've lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it's time to move on."
Reflecting on the threatening voicemail message he left for a Maine Democrat last week, LePage tried contrition for a change, saying, "When I was called a racist I just lost it, and there's no excuse. It's unacceptable. It's totally my fault."
 
The governor nevertheless believes his racist comments last week were accurate. As the Press Herald report added, LePage insisted, "Every drug arrest, we get the story and the people, and when it comes to meth labs it's all white people from Maine. When it comes to heroin, it's just the opposite. Whether it's right or wrong and I'll leave you to make that judgement, but I spoke fact.
 
"Now they are saying, you can't do this because of the racially charged atmosphere in our country but the same token is all lives matter. That's the bottom line, all lives matter."
Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.

Latest polls show Clinton leading Trump, but by a smaller margin

08/30/16 10:00AM

Election Day is exactly 10 weeks from today, and given the new national polls, Republicans find themselves short of where they'd like to be.
 
Three new surveys have been released over the last day or so, and let's start with the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll:
 
Hillary Clinton: 48% (down from 50% last week)
Donald Trump: 42% (unchanged since last week)
 
And here's the Public Policy Polling results, as first reported by Rachel on the show last night:
 
Hillary Clinton 48% (down from 50% a month ago)
Donald Trump 43% (down from 45% a month ago)
 
And here's the latest Monmouth University Poll, released yesterday afternoon:
 
Hillary Clinton 49% (up from 47% in June)
Donald Trump 42% (up from 40% in June)
 
Taken together, the good news for Democrats is that the Clinton/Kaine ticket is largely hanging on to the lead it built up after the parties' national conventions. The good news for Republicans, meanwhile, is that the race hasn't slipped away completely, and the GOP's deficit appears to be shrinking a bit.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nev., on Aug. 25, 2016. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Hillary Clinton's mental-health plan matters

08/30/16 09:00AM

When Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, sat down with Rachel last week, she lamented the overall direction of the presidential race. "[S]o much of the campaign has been content-free cacophony," Conway complained, with "no substance being discussed."
 
Let's put aside, at least for now, the role the Republican presidential candidate has played in pushing the 2016 race away from anything resembling a policy debate. Instead, let's pause to note Hillary Clinton's efforts yesterday to push back against the "content-free cacophony" by unveiling policy measures such as her package of mental-health initiatives. The Washington Post reported overnight on the Democratic nominee's new proposal, released yesterday:
The plan, the Democratic nominee said, seeks to fully integrate mental health services into the nation's health-care system during her tenure as president. Measures include a national suicide prevention initiative, higher payments for providers in the Medicaid program, an emphasis on treatment over jail for low-level criminal offenders with mental health issues and the creation of new housing and job opportunities.
 
Clinton also pledges increased investment in brain and behavioral science research and to fully enforce prior laws that require mental health coverage to be an essential benefit in health insurance plans.
Some of the provisions of Clinton's plan are familiar -- they've been touted before by policy experts and officials in the Obama administration -- but the entirety of the Democratic candidate's comprehensive agenda is nevertheless compelling.
 
For that matter, it's also the sort of initiative that could benefit an enormous number of Americans: as the Washington Post's report added, roughly "1 in 5 adults -- or 43.6 million people -- had a mental illness in 2014, with nearly 10 million of those experiencing a serious condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder."
 
As a political matter, though, one of the things I found interesting about yesterday's policy rollout was the reaction -- or in this case, the lack thereof -- from Clinton's detractors.
CEO of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaign Stephen Bannon is pictured during a meeting with Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower, Aug. 20, 2016, in the Manhattan borough of New York. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Trump campaign CEO faces series of allegations

08/30/16 08:00AM

When Donald Trump's campaign announced that Steve Bannon, of Breitbart News notoriety, had joined the team as CEO, it was a striking development in its own right. With this staffing move, the Republican presidential hopeful had taken an alarming step in giving the far-right fringe a leadership role on the GOP's national ticket.
 
But the specific details surrounding Bannon matter, too. Rachel reported on Friday's show, for example, that Trump's campaign CEO was arrested and charged with domestic violence 20 years ago -- prosecutors ultimately had to drop the charges when Bannon's then-wife failed to show up for testimony. She also accused him of making anti-Semitic comments, which he denies having made.
 
New controversies continue to emerge. BuzzFeed reported overnight, for example, that Bannon and a former colleague were also "accused of sexual harassment in a 1990s court case."
The suit was related to Bannon’s time as director of Biosphere 2, a research facility located in Oracle, Arizona, that aimed to simulate the surface of Mars.... The suit, filed by Biosphere 2’s former director Margret Augustine, named [Texas billionaire Edward Bass, the project’s financial backer] as the primary defendant. Bannon and a fellow banker, Martin Bowen, were also named and accused of having acted as his agents. [...]
 
[T]he most explosive allegations were that Bannon and Bowen, had made sexually suggestive remarks and lewd remarks toward her, and had disparaged female employees of the research facility.
Bannon and Bowen have denied any wrongdoing.
 
BuzzFeed also reported yesterday on anti-gay slurs Bannon used during an on-air interview in 2011.
 
Noting the series of allegations, The New Republic's Eric Kleefeld made the case the other day that Trump hiring Bannon "might go down as the worst campaign hire of all time."
 
There's probably some truth to that, but there's also a larger context to consider: did Team Trump fully appreciate just who they were bringing on board as the campaign's CEO?

Monday's Mini-Report, 8.29.16

08/29/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Yemen: "A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives Monday in a mustering area for army recruits in the port city of Aden in southern Yemen, killing at least 54 people, according to the Health Ministry."
 
* Mylan shifts strategies: "Drugmaker Mylan said Monday that it will offer a generic version of the life-saving allergy treatment EpiPen for half the list price of the brand-name treatment after it became the center of a national controversy over skyrocketing drug prices."
 
* A commitment met: "The 10,000th Syrian refugee will arrive in the U.S. on Monday -- meeting a humanitarian goal the Obama administration set last year."
 
* DHS: "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will study whether to discontinue using privately run detention centers, which the Justice Department recently called unsafe, for migrants and shares of private prison operators fell on Monday after the news."
 
* HB 2: "A federal judge on Friday curbed the enforcement of a North Carolina law that restricted restroom access for transgender people. The ruling was the first judicial rebuke of a statute that has been condemned as discriminatory and, with lawsuit after lawsuit, has deepened the national debate about transgender rights."
 
* LAX: "Operations were returning to normal at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday morning, after false reports of an active shooter sent passengers stampeding from terminals and, in some cases, onto the tarmac."
Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel attends the Hollywood Reporter celebration of "The 35 Most Powerful People in Media" at the Four Season Grill Room on April 11, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty)

Roger Ailes' role on Team Trump draws scrutiny

08/29/16 12:51PM

About a month after Roger Ailes was ousted as chairman of Fox News over sexual harassment allegations, the New York Times reported that Ailes had already landed a new role -- as an adviser to Donald Trump, specifically in the area of debate preparation.
 
Almost immediately, the Trump campaign, perhaps fearing the consequences of bringing on such a controversial figure, denied the reporting. In a statement, the Republican ticket insisted, "He is not advising Mr. Trump or helping with debate prep. They are longtime friends but he has no formal or informal role in the campaign."
 
Last week, Rachel sat down with Kellyanne Conway, Trump's latest campaign manager, and asked a straightforward factual question:
MADDOW: Is Roger Ailes working as part of the Donald Trump campaign?
 
CONWAY: No. He is not a formal or informal adviser. They're old friends. I mean, he's Donald Trump. He talks to a lot of people. Something is always ringing. [...]
 
MADDOW: Roger Ailes, no role in the campaign, though?
 
CONWAY: Roger Ailes has no formally or informal role in the campaign, no. But he is a marketing genius.
A "marketing genius" who was recently accused of grotesque and indefensible workplace behavior.
 
What's more, Rachel asked specifically about accounts of a meeting at a New Jersey golf club two weeks ago, where they reportedly discussed Ailes helping Trump prepare for the debates, joining the team as an informal adviser. Conway said she wasn't there, and while she's sure the two men "talk," the campaign manager was nevertheless categorical: Ailes has no role on the team.
 
There's nevertheless a fair amount of evidence of Ailes having at least some kind of role in the Republican operation. The Washington Post reported over the weekend, for example, that Ailes still has no formal role on the campaign, but the former Fox News chairman "talks to the candidate frequently and attended a strategy session last weekend."

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