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Root of Rubio gaffe: confirming suspicions

Root of Rubio gaffe: confirming suspicions he's scripted

02/08/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reports on chaos in the polling of the Republican presidential primary field in New Hampshire, made even more chaotic by the interruption of Marco Rubio's momentum by his awkward debate performance they seemed to confirm a pre-existing narrative that he is over-scripted. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 2.8.16

02/08/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Fighting the Zika virus: "President Barack Obama will ask the U.S. Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the United States and other countries, the White House said on Monday."
* Good advice: "President Obama sought to assure Americans that the spread of the Zika virus should not evoke the panic that has accompanied past public health scares."
* North Korea "launched a long-range rocket Sunday, drawing stern condemnation from the U.S., Japan and the United Nations. While Pyongyang said the rocket carried a satellite, the launch was widely viewed as a cover for testing ballistic missile technology -- in defiance of United Nations sanctions."
* Related note: "The United Nations on Sunday condemned North Korea's satellite launch as a 'dangerous and serious' violation of international restrictions, and threatened new sanctions aimed at dissuading the rogue nation from building missiles capable of delivering weapons against distant adversaries, including the United States."
* It's not just Saudi Arabia: "A top official in the United Arab Emirates said Sunday that his country is prepared to send ground troops to Syria to fight Islamic State militants as part of an international coalition."
* Taiwan: "A powerful earthquake struck southern Taiwan Saturday, killing at least 14 people and leaving more than 150 people missing in one building alone, officials said."
* North Carolina: "Federal judges struck down late Friday two majority black congressional districts in North Carolina, saying race was the predominant factor in drawing those lines but state legislators lacked justification in using that practice."
Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) holds a town hall meeting in the Londonderry High School cafeteria Feb. 7, 2016 in Londonderry, N.H. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Rubio's clumsy case against Obama and 'change'

02/08/16 04:50PM

Marco Rubio's debate debacle Saturday night, whether it hurts his campaign or not, was one of the more cringe worthy moments in modern debate history. The Florida senator did the one thing a candidate should never do -- Rubio confirmed an unflattering caricature -- and he did so on a widely seen national television event at a key juncture in the campaign.
But just as important as the Floridian's panic-induced repetition was the point Rubio kept repeating, word for word: "Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is trying to change this country."
Today, the senator practically bragged about the source of his embarrassment. The New York Times reported:
"I'm going to say it again," Mr. Rubio said in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people who packed a high school cafeteria here, one of his largest New Hampshire audiences. "Barack Obama is the first president, at least in my lifetime, who wants to change the country. Change the country -- not fix it. Not fix its problems. He wants to make it a different kind of country."
It may seem like a strange thing for Rubio to whine about. In 1985, Ronald Reagan said he intended to "change America forever," and the Republican icon had some success on this front. Bill Clinton ran on a "change" platform, and he too delivered on a series of changes.
George W, Bush, for good or ill, changed the country. Barack Obama, love him or hate him, changed the country. People very rarely seek national office because they intend to leave things exactly as they are. On the contrary, would-be leaders seek powerful offices because they're not satisfied with the status quo.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but a President Rubio "wants to change the country," too -- by taking away families' health care benefits, ending efforts to combat climate change, turning back the clock on marriage equality, giving the wealthy a massive tax break the country can't afford, etc.
All of which leads to a rather basic question: why in the world is Rubio complaining so incessantly about President Obama being an agent of change? If you've misplaced your right-wing decoder ring, there's an actually an underappreciated answer to all of this.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduces Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Rochester Opera House campaign town hall meeting in Rochester, N.H., Jan. 22, 2016. (Photo by Faith Ninivaggi/Reuters)

Clinton responds to rumors about a staff shake-up

02/08/16 03:23PM

A report from Politico has caused quite a stir in the political world this afternoon, quoting unnamed figures close to the Clinton campaign who said Hillary and Bill Clinton are "so dissatisfied with their campaign's messaging and digital operations they are considering staffing and strategy changes" following a likely defeat in the New Hampshire primary.
In her only national interview before Granite State Democrats head to the polls tomorrow, Clinton sat down with Rachel Maddow, who asked about the scuttlebutt.
MADDOW: Politico dot com, just this afternoon, just published something that says that there's changes in the works, and there's always these sort of campaign gossip stories but they say they are citing a half dozen people with direct knowledge of the situation. ... Are you planning some sort of shakeup like that?
CLINTON:  Yeah somebody showed that to me. I have no idea what they're talking about or who they are talking to. We're going to take stock but it's going to be the campaign that I've got. I'm very confident in the people that I have. I'm very committed to them; they're committed to doing the best we can. We're going to take stock, what works, what doesn't work. We're moving into a different phase of the campaign. We're moving into a more diverse electorate. We're moving into different geographic areas. So, of course it would be malpractice not to say, "OK, what worked? What can we do better? What do we have to do new and different that we have to pull out?"
So, given these comments, it would seem the kind of shake-up Politico described is unlikely, though some changes in direction are probably in store.
Donald Trump speaks at the Republican presidential candidate debate sponsored by ABC News and the Independent Journal Review at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Latest polls offer hints about nation's first primary

02/08/16 12:40PM

The recent track record for Republican polling in the New Hampshire primary is quite good. In 2008, polling showed John McCain ahead by about 4 points and he won by about 5 points. In 2012, the survey data found Mitt Romney with a 20-point lead and he won by about 16 points.
And with one day remaining before the first-in-the-nation primary, where do things stand? The final New Hampshire poll from Monmouth University, conducted almost entirely before Saturday night's debate, has the race shaping up this way.
1. Donald Trump: 30% (down from 32% a month ago)
2. John Kasich: 14% (unchanged)
3. Marco Rubio: 13% (up from 12%)
3. Jeb Bush: 13% (up from 4%)
5. Ted Cruz: 12% (down from 14%)
6. Chris Christie: 6% (down from 8%)
A Franklin Pierce University-Boston Herald poll conducted over the same period produced some different results:
1. Donald Trump: 31% (down from 38% in late-January)
2. Ted Cruz: 16% (up from 13%)
3. Marco Rubio: 15% (up from 10%)
4. John Kasich: 11% (up from 8%)
5. Jeb Bush: 10% (unchanged)
6. Chris Christie: 5% (unchanged)
A CNN/UNH/WMUR tracking poll, meanwhile, found a different set of results:
1. Donald Trump: 33% (up from 28% from earlier in the week)
2. Marco Rubio: 16% (down from 17%)
3. Ted Cruz: 14% (up from 13%)
4. John Kasich: 11% (down from 13%)
5. Jeb Bush: 7% (down from 9%)
6. Carly Fiorina: 6% (up from 5%)
7. Chris Christie: 4% (unchanged)
And finally, UMass Lowell has its own tracking poll, which has the race shaping up this way:

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.8.16

02/08/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The day before the New Hampshire primary, how many polls show Bernie Sanders with a comfortable lead over Hillary Clinton? All of them. FiveThirtyEight gives the Vermont independent a greater than 99% chance of winning.
* Bill Clinton took on an attack-dog role yesterday, blasting Sanders at a New Hampshire rally, insisting the senator's message was "hermetically-sealed" from reality.
* Add Jeb Bush's campaign to the list of folks creating an ad out of Rick Santorum's inability to think of any Marco Rubio accomplishments.
* Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has recorded a robocall for John Kasich's presidential campaign.
* I didn't realize that when Rubio talks to reporters, his aides "select the reporters who can ask questions, often shutting down follow-ups."
* The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal is generally quite complementary towards Rubio, but it wrote today that "his gutting by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Saturday was as complete as any we've seen." The same editorial board concluded it was foolish for Rubio to condemn President Obama's speech at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

Republican debate draws large television audience

02/08/16 11:20AM

If your favorite Republican presidential candidate had a rough time in Saturday night's debate in New Hampshire, I have some bad news: quite a few folks saw it. Politico reported:
ABC's Republican primary debate on Saturday night attracted 13.2 million viewers.
The network also reported 1.3 million livestream views. It was the network's best performance on a Saturday night with non-sports programming in over 14 years.
Going into the event, there was some chatter that the combination of "debate fatigue" and a three-hour gathering the day before the Super Bowl might depress ratings a bit. Evidently, that wasn't the case.
How did the audience for this debate stack up against the others? The above chart helps provide some context.
Republican Presidential candidates arrive for the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate on Feb. 6, 2016 at St. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

The test of 'extremism' on reproductive rights

02/08/16 10:40AM

Last week, it came as a bit of surprise when Chris Christie criticized Marco Rubio from the left on the issue of reproductive rights. The New Jersey governor noted that he opposes abortion rights, but unlike the Florida senator, he also supports rape and incest exceptions. Referring to Rubio's more extreme position, Christie said in an MSNBC interview, "I think that's the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about."
In Saturday night's debate, Jeb Bush touched on a similar point. After boasting about his own far-right record on the issue, the former governor added, "But I think we have to be cognizant of the fact there's a lot of people that are concerned about having a pro-life position without any exceptions."
All of this may seem counterintuitive in a GOP primary, but as we talked about the other day, surveys suggest a plurality of New Hampshire Republicans are actually pro-choice.
For his part, Rubio argued, "I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life." The senator added that, as far as he's concerned, Hillary Clinton and Democrats "are the extremists when it comes to the issue of abortion."
Of course, "extremism" is a matter of perspective. The morning after the debate, Rubio talked to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who asked about the rights that should be available to women impregnated by rapists. The senator reiterated the same position he's maintained for years: the government, under a Rubio administration, should have the authority to force those women to take the pregnancies to term, whether they want to or not.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions during a campaign town hall meeting at the Crossing Life Church Feb. 2, 2016 in Windham, N.H. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Cruz's 'carpet bombing' plan still doesn't make sense

02/08/16 10:00AM

It's been a few months since Ted Cruz first vowed to "carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion," testing whether "sand can glow in the dark." When veteran foreign policy experts, inside the Republican Party and out, express disappointment with what's become of the GOP's approach to national security, they generally cite Cruz's quote as Exhibit A.
But as scrutiny has increased, so too has the senator's commitment to the idea -- or at least the idea as he understands it. In Saturday night's debate, ABC's Martha Raddatz asked Cruz to explain how his carpet-bombing idea "would work against an unconventional terrorist group that is now hiding" in areas with large civilian populations. The candidate argued:
"[W]hen I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate. That is targeted at oil facilities. It's targeted at the oil tankers. It's targeted at command and control locations. It's targeted at infrastructure. It's targeted at communications. It's targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa. It's using overwhelming air power."
This is actually a helpful reply insofar as it highlights the key problem: Ted Cruz says he wants saturation carpet bombing, but he doesn't know what that means.