House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) conceded again this morning that he made a mistake when he accidentally told the truth last week about his party's Benghazi committee. "I could have been more clear in my description of what was going forward," the GOP leader said, in yet another awkwardly worded sentence.
Meanwhile, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the head of the Republicans' Benghazi scheme, told the Washington Post he spoke to McCarthy last week, though the committee chairman still sounds pretty annoyed by the Majority Leader's accidental candor.
“I heard from [McCarthy] at 6 a.m. the next morning,” said Gowdy, whose name was recently floated for House majority leader. “How many times can somebody apologize? Yes, he’s apologized as many times as a human can apologize. It doesn’t change it. It doesn’t fix it. The only thing you can say is, instead of listening to someone else’s words, why don’t you look at our actions?”
“Kevin is a friend, which makes the disappointment, frankly, even more bitter. If faith tells you to forgive somebody...” Gowdy trails off. “It’s tough,” he says after a moment.
I'm going to go ahead and put Gowdy in the "still unhappy with McCarthy" category.
The congressman's feelings notwithstanding, the effort to shift attention away from McCarthy's confession and towards the committee's "actions" doesn't necessarily help. On the contrary, it largely does the opposite.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In an hour-long interview with the Washington Post yesterday, Donald Trump sketched out his plans for the second phase of his Republican presidential campaign. It includes "television ads with a media firm that is new to politics," events with his wife and daughter to focus on "women’s health issues," the publication of a new book, the release of policy proposals, and a deeper political organization "far beyond the early states."
* How concerned is Jeb Bush's campaign operation? NBC News reported this morning that Jeb's Right to Rise super PAC is currently "saturating the airwaves in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina," spending $1.9 million just this week in support of the former governor. No other candidate is close to this level of spending.
* Following a very rough 2012 cycle, Gallup isn't planning to conduct any polls "for the presidential primary horse race this cycle." The longtime pollster "won't commit to tracking the general election next year," either.
* Ted Cruz's ground game actually sounds pretty serious: "For every county in the first four voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the Cruz campaign has locked down county chairs in charge of not just lending their names to the campaign, but of spearheading outreach and organizing efforts."
* Jeb Bush's campaign released a video this week, boasting that his tax plan would save the typical middle-class household about $2,000 a year. In an interesting companion video, American Bridge 21st Century showed how much greater the benefits will be for Bush himself and others in his tax bracket.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) presidential campaign isn't going as well as he'd like. A recent poll found him in eighth place with just 3% support -- in his own home state. At the national level, Jindal is in even worse shape.
Facing conditions like these, the far-right governor has looked for new and creative ways to stand out in the crowded Republican field. This week, for example, Jindal demanded that the father of the Oregon mass-shooter issue a public apology -- an arguably tasteless campaign gambit, but one that nevertheless generated some headlines for the Louisianan.
But ugly rhetoric alone won't get Jindal on track; he's going to need some policy proposals, too. The Wall Street Journalreports today on the GOP governor's tax plan, which is a doozy.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, seeking to breathe life into his presidential campaign, is taking a sharply different approach to tax policy than his Republican rivals.
The presidential contender plans to unveil a tax plan Wednesday in Iowa whose goal is to make all citizens pay at least some federal income tax. That puts Mr. Jindal at the center of a long-running debate over who foots the cost of federal spending.
In a written statement, Jindal repeated a familiar far-right talking point: “We simply must require that every American has some skin in this game.”
Wait, does that mean that Jindal is pushing a tax increase on millions of American families? As a matter of fact, yes.
In the summer of 2008, John McCain was trailing in the presidential race, but he was still within striking distance of Barack Obama. Sarah Palin had not yet been added to the Republican ticket, and the Great Recession had not yet begun in earnest.
There was a question, however, that the GOP nominee and his allies struggled to answer: what were the differences between McCain and George W. Bush? Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) tried to answer, but couldn't think of a difference. Neither could Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). In July 2008, then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), a man rumored to have been a VP possibility, was asked the same question and replied, "I mean, for instance, take, you know -- take, for instance, the issue of -- I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television."
Seven years later, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) fielded a similar question from CNBC's John Harwood, who asked the far-right candidate if there's "anything that you disagree with George W. Bush or Mitt Romney on." In this week's interview, Rubio responded:
"Well, we’re in a different era. For example, my policies are about taking free enterprise and limited government, but applying them to the unique challenges of the 21st century. So you’ll hear me spend a tremendous amount of time talking about higher-education reform. Our higher-education model is outdated. And I proposed concrete bipartisan ideas about how to fix some of those things.
"We’re in an era now of increased global competition where America no longer can put in place policies because we think ideologically it’s a good or bad idea. The fundamental question is does it make us competitive again. And on many of those issues, I’ve offered solutions and ideas that no Republican’s ever talked about before because they were not part of the 20th century debate."
The answer certainly includes more words than what Sanford offered in 2008 to highlight the differences between McCain and Bush, but note, Rubio couldn't think of any examples, either. The Floridian believes he's in "a different era," which is true, but that simply means time has elapsed -- it isn't evidence of a different policy agenda.
Rubio supports "free enterprise," like every other modern Republican president and candidate. He's focused on "limited government," which is familiar, too. Rubio has a far-right higher-education plan, which includes familiar provisions we've seen from others (the issue was a staple of Romney's 2008 platform).
Rubio's pitch, in effect, seems to be, "You can tell I'm a candidate focused on the future because I use words like 'future' and '21st century' a lot."
Senate Democrats reached majority status after the 2006 midterms and, defying the odds, held on to their majority for eight years. Now that they're in the minority, they're naturally looking to reclaim what they had.
By structural standards, Dems have reason for cautious optimism about the 2016 cycle. Though all kinds of factors will contribute to the outcomes, we know before a single vote is cast that the landscape does not tilt in the Republicans' favor: there will be 34 Senate races next year, and the GOP has to defend 24 of them. That's not easy under the best of circumstances.
But to take advantage of the opportunity, Dems will need the strongest possible candidates. Roll Call had a good piece yesterday noting that when it comes to candidate recruitment, Democrats are exactly where they want to be.
With New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s entrance into the Granite State Senate contest, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has secured nearly every top-tier recruit it sought for 2016 -- when Democrats will attempt to net the five seats necessary to regain control of the Senate.
Aside from Hassan in New Hampshire, the DSCC secured strong candidates in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The DSCC also scored wins with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s decision to run for Senate in Arizona, as well as three Democratic senators from red states forgoing gubernatorial bids in 2016.
It's not a perfect map for the party -- Dems have struggled to find a top-tier challenger in North Carolina -- but the Roll Call piece quoted one party strategist saying, "I think the DSCC pitched close to a perfect game on recruitment."
Some of the Democratic candidates who enjoy party backing still face primary campaigns, some of which may disrupt the DSCC's game plan, but if the party is going to have any chance of reclaiming the Senate majority in 2017, it will have to build a strong foundation.
And so far, Democrats have done that. The fact that the 2016 electorate will be larger and more diverse than the 2014 electorate only helps boost Dems' confidence.
Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson commented yesterday on last week's mass-shooting in Oregon, subtly criticizing the victims of the mass murder for failing to respond to the crisis the way he imagines he would have.
“Not only would I probably not cooperate with [the armed madman], I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," the GOP candidate said yesterday morning. "I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.'"
It was a callous display from a presidential candidate who has no idea how he'd respond to such a life-threatening crisis.
Yesterday afternoon, a reporter asked if he'd clarify his statement. "Okay," Carson replied. "What needs clarification?" The reporter added, "I guess there's an implication that you're saying that the students didn't do enough to save themselves."
Carson answered, "No, I just said nothing about that. I said what I would do."
On Fox News last night, Megyn Kelly asked Carson to elaborate further. According to the Fox transcript, the Republican said he's "laughing at" his critics and "their silliness."
CARSON: Of course, you know, if everybody attacks that gunman, he's not going to kill everybody. But if you sit there and let him shoot you one by one, you're all going to be dead. And you know, maybe these are things that people don't think about, it's certainly something that I would be thinking about.
KELLY: But don't you allow for that notion that in a time of great stress like that, one might not know exactly what to do. And to judge them, to sound like you're judging them --
B. CARSON: I'm not judging them at all, but, you know, these incidents continue to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the seed in people's minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don't all get killed.
As a rule, when discussing the victims of a mass murder, I might recommend avoiding phrases such as, "I'm not judging them at all, but..."
By any fair measure, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is not popular among his Senate Republican colleagues. Indeed, once in a while, they make moves that suggest they actively dislike him, as was the case last week.
But the far-right senator is not without Capitol Hill allies. What's unusual is that Cruz has found his compatriots on the other side of the building. The Washington Examinerreported yesterday afternoon:
Sen. Ted Cruz will meet with a group of House Republicans one day before they're scheduled to vote for a new senior leadership team.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has invited the Texas Republican, leading presidential contender, to address his Conservative Opportunity Society at a Wednesday breakfast meeting. The agenda, according to the invitation, is "conservative strategy for the remainder of the year." Cruz has meddled in House affairs on several occasions, advising supportive insurgent Republicans in the chamber on key legislation and strategic matters.
The Texas Republican's office confirmed that Cruz planned to meet with House conservatives today -- just one day before House GOP members meet in private to nominate their choice for Speaker of the House.
Whether, and to what degree, Cruz intends to intervene in House affairs is not clear, but when the Washington Examiner said the senator has "meddled" in the lower chamber "on several occasions," that's no exaggeration.
1. Donald Trump: 27% (down two points from late August)
2. Ben Carson: 17% (up two points)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (up six points)
4. Jeb Bush: 10% (up one point)
5. Ted Cruz: 7% (up one point)
6. Carly Fiorina: 6% (down two points)
7. Mike Huckabee: 4% (down one point)
7. John Kasich: 4% (down two points)
Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum are tied for ninth place with 2% each in the poll, while Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki are each at 1%.
The PPP analysis added, "Trump continues to lead with every subgroup of the GOP electorate."
A new Quinnipiac poll, meanwhile, shows Trump leading in Florida with 28% of the Republican vote, up seven percentage points from late August. The New York developer also leads in Ohio with 23%, up two points from five weeks ago, and Trump leads in Pennsylvania with 23%, down a point from late August.
In each of three battleground states, Ben Carson is in second place. In Florida, Jeb Bush is running fourth in the state he led for eight years.
Senator Amy Klobuchar talks with Steve Kornacki about her bill to make it harder for stalkers and domestic abusers to purchase guns, and whether there is enough flexibility among gun lobby-aligned members of Congress to pass a gun control bill no matter how narrow, targeted, and common sense it may be. watch
Jake Sherman, staff writer for Politico, talks with Steve Kornacki about the machinations taking place within the Republican Party to select a new speaker of the House, and the power of the party's right flank to disrupt the establishment while being too weak to put up a plausible candidate of their own. watch
E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist for the Washington Post, talks with Steve Kornacki about a Politico article accusing Vice President Joe Biden of using how own son's death in a calculated, political way to set the stage for a presidential run. watch
* DOJ: "The Justice Department will grant early releases to about 6,000 federal inmates within weeks, the federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed Tuesday."
* More on this tomorrow: "Legislation that would set the nation’s defense policy overcame a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday despite a looming veto threat from the White House."
* South Carolina: "The deadly, record-smashing rainfall that soaked South Carolina may have finally passed, but the threat was far from over early Tuesday. Much of the state was still underwater, with more than 20 flooded rivers and 10 failed dams."
* Afghanistan: "With the United States struggling to account for an airstrike that decimated a Doctors Without Borders hospital, the American commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday took responsibility for the sustained bombardment of the medical facility, which he said took place in response to an Afghan call for help."
* Keep expectations low, Part I: "Senate Democrats are planning to unveil a new gun-control proposal on Thursday in the wake of a shooting at a community college in Oregon."
* Keep expectations low, Part II: "Russia offered Tuesday to resume talks with the United States on managing separate airstrike operations in Syria, even as the former Cold War foes bicker over Moscow’s objectives in the civil war."
* “Right now, if I was taking the advice of some of the members of Congress who holler all the time, we’d be in, like, seven wars right now,” President Obama said last month to a small group of veterans and Gold Star mothers of slain U.S. military personnel. He added, “I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been counting."