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Voting booths are set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Latest polls shed light on Trump's post-convention bounce

07/25/16 12:56PM

Two weeks ago, I published a warning of sorts: "Don't be shocked if Trump's narrow deficit turns into a narrow advantage after the Republican National Convention."
 
How does that hold up? As of this morning, pretty well.
A pair of new polls out Monday give a conflicting picture of whether Donald Trump emerged from the Republican National Convention with a significant bump in support.
 
In a new survey from CNN, Trump now leads Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, 48 percent to 45 percent.... But a new poll from CBS shows that the two candidates remain tied after the Cleveland convention, at 42 percent apiece, compared to 40 percent apiece before the conventions began.
Adding third-party candidates to the mix doesn't change the equation much: Trump still has a modest lead in the CNN poll, while the major-party candidates are still tied in the CBS poll.
 
One detail to keep in mind is the ongoing significance of the education gap: in the CNN poll, among white voters with college degrees, Hillary Clinton leads by four points, but among white voters without college degrees, Donald Trump enjoys a 37-point advantage.
 
Earlier this year, after a primary victory. Trump proudly declared, "I love the poorly educated." Evidently, the feeling is mutual.
 
Maybe now is a good time to pause and take stock of where things stand.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.25.16

07/25/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

* According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, 90% of consistent Bernie Sanders supporters are backing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

* Though Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he's now shifting his posture to coincide with Hillary Clinton's opposition to the trade agreement.
 
* Donald Trump says he'd consider Michael Flynn, a controversial retired Army general, to be his Secretary of Defense if elected, but no matter what happens in the election, that won't happen: Flynn isn't eligible for the Pentagon post.
 
* Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Independent, will reportedly endorse Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention this week.
 
* Ambassador Chris Stevens's mother is publicly objecting to Trump's and the GOP's partisan exploitation of her son's death in 2012. "I know for certain that Chris would not have wanted his name or memory used in that connection," Mary Commanday wrote in a New York Times letter to the editor. "I hope that there will be an immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical use by the campaign."
 
* With the White House supporting Kamala Harris's (D) U.S. Senate campaign in California this year, her rival, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D), is trying to make this into a racial controversy because Harris and President Obama are both African American.
The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

The wrong campaign picks the wrong fight over religion

07/25/16 11:20AM

Of all the controversial emails stolen from the DNC's network and leaked online, arguably none was more damaging than a message related to religion.
 
On May 5, the week after Hillary Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination, one DNC staffer raised the prospect of someone making an issue of Bernie Sanders' faith. If voters in Kentucky and West Virginia were led to believe that the senator is an atheist, it "could make several points difference" in the results, the staffer said.
 
There's no evidence any kind of plan was ever hatched, and according to Sanders himself, the senator is Jewish, not an atheist. But the fact that such a topic was even discussed in this way is impossible to defend.
 
There are, however, limits to the pushback. Don Trump Jr., for example, appeared on CNN yesterday, and seemed eager to discuss this controversy. Referencing the May 5 email, Trump, in his capacity as a surrogate for his father's Republican candidacy, told Jake Tapper:
"If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that's what you're going to see in a Clinton administration. This sort of divisiveness has to stop. They should be ashamed of themselves.
 
"And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father's campaign did that they'd be calling for people to get the electric chair."
Actually, it's a funny story, because whether he realizes it or not, his father's campaign has actually done this more than once. In fact, Trump's actions are worse: he didn't just talk about the possibility of attacking a rival's faith in a private email; he explicitly went after others' religious beliefs over and over again.
The main stage on the convention floor at the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, is prepared for the upcoming RNC, as workers stand in a man lift, July 13, 2016. (Photo by Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Republican Convention audience fails to live up to expectations

07/25/16 10:40AM

Last night on Twitter, Donald Trump seemed eager to boast about, of all things, television ratings. "The ratings for the Republican National Convention were very good, but for the final night, my speech, great," the candidate wrote. "Thank you!"
 
It was a familiar topic for the Republican candidate, who has said for weeks that the television ratings for his nominating convention -- packed with big stars like Scott Baio and an underwear model whose name I've already forgotten -- would be spectacular. As the New York Times reported, however, the party's gathering in Cleveland "did not live up to the hype."
About 32 million Americans watched Mr. Trump's climactic acceptance speech on Thursday evening on the major cable news and broadcast channels, according to ratings from Nielsen, released on Friday.
 
Mr. Trump's remarks, at an hour and 15 minutes the longest in modern convention history, just beat out those of the previous Republican nominee, the decidedly less unpredictable Mitt Romney, who was seen by about 1.9 million fewer viewers when he addressed the party's convention four years ago. Viewership throughout the convention week was about the same as in 2012.
To help put this in perspective, the Times piece noted that the first debate for the GOP presidential candidates, aired last August, brought in 24 million viewers. The second night of the Republican convention brought in under 20 million "across all the major news networks."
 
Adding insult to injury, for all of his interest in television ratings, Trump's audience failed to match that of a certain former POW whose service Trump was quick to denigrate.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks to supporters at a reception, May 29, 2004, in Kenner, La. (Photo by Burt Steel/AP)

White supremacists feel inspired by Trump's 2016 campaign

07/25/16 10:00AM

Former KKK leader David Duke launched a U.S. Senate campaign on Friday, and in his announcement remarks, the Louisianan felt compelled to give a certain presidential hopeful a spirited shout-out. "I'm overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embraced most of the issues that I have championed for years," Duke said.
 
It's part of an increasingly difficult dynamic for the Republican Party, most of which was quick to denounce Duke's Senate bid. As the campaign season has progressed, Trump's candidacy became a source of inspiration for bigots on the right-wing fringe, as the Associated Press reported over the weekend.
"I don't think people have fully recognized the degree to which he's transformed the party," said Richard Spencer, a clean-cut 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who sipped Manhattans as he matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States.
 
Like most in his group, Spencer said this year's convention was his first. On his social media accounts, he posted pictures of himself wearing a red Trump "Make America Great Again" hat at Quicken Loans Arena. And he says he hopes to attend future GOP conventions.
 
"Tons of people in the alt-right are here," he said, putting their numbers at the RNC this week in the dozens. "We feel an investment in the Trump campaign."
Note, the "we" in that sentence refers to white supremacists.
 
I'll confess my first instinct when it comes to covering extremists like these is to deny their madness any kind of spotlight, but in 2016, that no longer seems like a responsible course. These organized racists have been inspired by a Republican presidential candidate -- who, himself, has been described as a racist on multiple occasions -- in ways the American mainstream simply hasn't seen in modern times.
 
Not to put too fine a point on this, but if white supremacists are feeling legitimized by a competitive, major-party presidential candidate, that's a development voters should take very seriously.
Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich speak on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Team Trump eyes new super PAC -- to target Republicans

07/25/16 09:20AM

On Friday morning, Donald Trump made his first public appearance after the end of the Republican National Convention, which offered him an opportunity to look ahead to the general election. Instead, the Republican nominee seemed eager to re-litigate the GOP primaries -- including Trump's ongoing interest in Ted Cruz's father and a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
 
It was a striking reminder: Trump may be eager to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election, but the Republican candidate isn't quite done thinking about his intra-party rivals.
 
The question, however, is just how far down this road Trump intends to go. A prominent Trump ally suggested last Thursday, for example, that the GOP nominee may support a primary challenger to take on Ted Cruz in Texas in 2018.
 
Trump himself made a similar comment on Friday -- after talking about Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald -- saying in reference to the Texas senator, "Maybe I'll set up a super PAC if he decides to run." Turning to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump added, "Are you allowed to set up a super-PAC, Mike, if you are the president, to fight somebody?"
 
By late Friday, sources close to Trump were saying Trump intends to "create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again." On "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Republican nominee confirmed those plans to NBC's Chuck Todd.
"Look, what's on my mind is beating Hillary Clinton. What's on my mind is winning for the Republican Party. With that being said, yeah, I'll probably do a super PAC, you know, when they run against Kasich, for $10 million to $20 million, against Ted Cruz. And maybe one other person that I'm thinking about."
Asked who the other Republican might be, Trump told the host, "I won't tell you that."
 
All of this should be quite alarming for GOP officials for a variety of reasons, some more obvious than others.
Democratic National Committee Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) addresses a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine (Photo by Gaston De Cardenas/AFP/Getty)

On eve of Democratic convention, DNC chair steps aside

07/25/16 08:40AM

In the end, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) ran out of allies. For months, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman faced quiet criticisms from party insiders, coupled with much louder rebukes from Bernie Sanders and his allies, who believed the DNC wasn't entirely neutral during the presidential primaries.
 
Last week, after nearly 20,000 DNC emails, apparently stolen by Russian hackers, showed up on WikiLeaks, Wasserman Schultz's tenure became even more controversial. Late yesterday, on the eve of the party's national convention, the Florida congresswoman announced she's stepping down from her leadership post.
"Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention," Wasserman Schultz said in a lengthy statement Sunday announcing her resignation. "I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans."
 
"We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had," she added.
DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will step up, serving as Interim Chair for the rest of the election season. It will be her second term: Brazile, who also served as Al Gore's campaign manager, led the DNC in 2011, following Tim Kaine's chairmanship.
 
Wasserman Schultz has also stepped aside as chair of the Democratic National Convention, handing the reins to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
 
As a practical matter, the impact of the shake-up will probably be relatively modest: once a presumptive nominee emerges, he or she effectively takes control of the party apparatus. In the Democrats' case, Hillary Clinton's campaign had already installed Brandon Davis at the DNC, and he's been overseeing day-to-day coordination on behalf of the candidate for weeks.
 
What's more, as a historical matter, there's some precedent for moves like these. As Michael Beschloss noted yesterday, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, and George McGovern "all forced out the sitting Democratic national chair as soon as they got the nomination."
 
But the broader circumstances matter: for Sanders and his allies, Wasserman Schultz had become a villain. Her departure offers evidence of a party that still takes Team Bernie's concerns seriously, and constitutes the latest in a series of important internal victories for the Vermont senator.
A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

New questions surround Putin's interest in Trump's election

07/25/16 08:00AM

In his first public remarks as a vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) took some time to highlight Donald Trump's ugly rhetorical record. "Donald Trump trash talks folks with disabilities," Kaine noted, "trash talks Mexican Americans and Latinos, whether they're new immigrants or governors or federal judges; trash talks women; trash talks our allies; and calls the military a disaster."
 
After someone in the Miami audience made a comment that was hard to hear, Kaine paused and said, "Oh, you're right, he doesn't trash talk everybody -- he likes Vladimir Putin."
 
Interest in the Republican presidential candidate's ties to -- and affection for -- Russia's autocratic leader have been simmering for months, but what was once a relatively obscure issue is making its way from the back-burner to the front. ABC News had this report yesterday:
Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook said candidate Donald was pushing for a "pro-Russian" platform and cited experts who say that Russian state actors were behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee emails in an attempt to help Trump win.
 
"Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails, and now are leaking them out through these websites," Mook told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "It's troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump."
 
Mook also suggested that the GOP nominee altered the Republican party platform to make it more attractive to Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime. "It was concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian," Mook said.
Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, called the allegations "pure obfuscation," which (a) is an odd way to phrase a denial; and (b) dubious given Manafort's own ties to Putin's regime.
 
Team Trump's credibility problems notwithstanding, it's not overstating matters to suggest Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election may be the biggest political bombshell of the year -- or in several years. I realize there are plenty of shiny objects on the political landscape, but this is becoming an issue that shouldn't be ignored.
 
The evidence is not yet conclusive. The available information, however, points in an alarming direction:

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