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E.g., 10/28/2016
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio on Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jay Laprete/AFP/Getty)

Trump's proof of a 'rigged' process is unintentionally hilarious

10/28/16 10:08AM

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly asked Donald Trump yesterday if he believes public-opinion polls are "rigged." The Republican candidate didn't hesitate, saying, "I have no doubt about it."

From there, I more or less assumed the GOP nominee would deliver a confused rant about oversampling, but Trump instead went in a very different direction. "I won the third debate easily," he insisted. "It wasn't even a contest and everybody had me winning. Every poll had me winning, big league. And then CNN did a poll and they had me losing somewhat and I said, 'How did that happen I wonder.'"

I'll confess, this was the first time in a while I literally laughed at a Trump quote. He thinks he won the debate; every independent, scientific poll found that the public thought the opposite. Therefore, in Trump's mind, it's obvious the polls themselves are part of a scheme cooked up by nefarious forces conspiring against him.

If Trump perceived reality one way, how could there possibly be evidence of others perceiving reality a different way? The discrepancy is all the evidence the Republican candidate needs as the basis for a conspiracy theory.

As the interview continued, Trump complained that in 2005, when he made controversial comments about sexual assault, his "Access Hollywood" microphone "was not supposed to be on." It led to this striking exchange:
O'REILLY: You think it was illegal, what they did, putting that tape out?

TRUMP: Oh, absolutely. No, that was a private locker -- you know, that was a private dressing room. Yeah, that was certainly --

O'REILLY: Are you going to take any action after the election against NBC?

TRUMP: Well, you'll see. You will see.... You're going to see after the election.... I mean, you know, we're going to find out soon enough. I will tell you.
Just so we're clear, from Trump's perspective, when Russia steals emails in the hopes of influencing America's presidential election, that's fantastic. But as far as he's concerned, when a 2005 recording of Trump reaches the public, that's "illegal."
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Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks with Roll Call at his desk in the Hart Senate Office Building on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Mark Kirk riles Senate race with racially charged remark

10/28/16 09:20AM

The irony is, Illinois Democrats hoped to use last night's Senate debate to put Sen. Mark Kirk (R) on the defensive on the issue of race. In August, the Republican incumbent lashed out at President Obama, arguing that he's "acting like the Drug Dealer in Chief" -- the latest in a series of racial comments from the senator -- and the Democratic Party of Illinois issued a press statement yesterday afternoon, pushing Kirk to apologize at the debate.

What Dems couldn't have anticipated was Kirk making their jobs much easier.

Not only did the GOP senator decline to apologize for his racially charged rhetoric towards the president, Kirk managed to make matters much worse with some racially charged rhetoric towards his opponent.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is again under fire for making racially-charged comments, this time for questioning the military service of his Democratic opponent's family.

During Thursday night's debate between Kirk and challenger Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Duckworth spoke about her desire to be in the Senate as a voice of reason and referenced her family's history of service, saying, "My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution. I'm a daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound. Because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you're asking us to do.... Families like mine are the ones that bleed first."

Kirk responded: "I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."
I've seen the video, which in some ways makes matters worse. Note that Kirk's superfluous sarcasm, made not as part of some heated exchange, but just blurted out for no reason.

Indeed, that's the part of the story that I find hardest to wrap my head around. Duckworth, a decorated combat veteran, was born in Thailand to a Thai mother of Chinese descent, who also has an American father -- an American marine who traced his lineage back to the American Revolution.

Why in the world would Kirk, who's been caught exaggerating his own service record, find it necessary to say, "I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington"? How does it help his campaign to make racially charged comments about his opponent's family?
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U.S. economy grows at its fastest pace in two years

10/28/16 08:45AM

Perhaps Republicans were hoping the last big economic report before Election Day would help their electoral prospects, giving them a new talking point in the campaign's closing days. If so, they probably won't be pleased this morning.

Marketwatch reported:
The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at the fastest pace in two and a half years, aided by a surge in exports and a rebound in the size of inventories companies keep on hand for sale.

The government said gross domestic product, the official scorecard for the economy, expanded at a 2.9% annual clip from July through September. That's a marked improvement from the first half of the year when the U.S. grew just barely over 1%.
The full report from the Commerce Department is online here.

There are concerns, of course, that the positive news on economic growth may encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, but in the short term, there are more immediate electoral considerations.

Bad news on the GDP front might have given Republicans some rhetorical ammunition as Election Day draws closer. Steady growth, however, does the opposite, denying Donald Trump and his GOP allies a rationale for a radical change in direction.
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Ammon Bundy departs after addressing the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Jan. 4, 2016. (Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Jury acquits Oregon militants following armed standoff

10/28/16 08:00AM

This was one of those rare cases in which the alleged crimes played out on television. In January, a group of well-armed militants drove to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, seized control of its headquarters, and posted guards in camouflage outside. As we reported at the time, the militia members, led in part by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, controversial rancher Cliven Bundy's sons, said they were willing to kill and be killed if necessary in their effort to have federal land turned over to local authorities.

None of this is in dispute. We all saw what happened. No one has contested these basic details.

Not surprisingly, federal officials weren't willing to meet the militants' demands, and nearly six weeks after the controversy erupted, the militia members exited the wildlife refuge, and Ammon and Ryan Bundy, among others, were taken into custody and charged with a variety of crimes.

Yesterday, we learned that the punishment for well-armed men taking over a federal building that doesn't belong to them is ... nothing.
The leaders of an armed group who seized a national wildlife refuge in rural Oregon were acquitted Thursday in the 41-day occupation that brought new attention to a long-running dispute over control of federal lands in the U.S. West.

A jury found brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal facility and conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 300 miles southeast of Portland where the trial took place.
The federal prosecutor in the case told jurors during his closing argument, "Ladies and gentlemen, this case is not a whodunit." That was true: we know exactly who seized control of the federal building. We know why. We know when and how. We know that an FBI agent testified during trial that, after the armed occupation ended, officials found 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings in the facility.

The Bundys nevertheless said their armed takeover was an act of civil disobedience, and jurors decided they were not guilty.

And as unexpected as this outcome was, the scene in the courtroom after the acquittal was every bit as strange.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.27.16

10/27/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mosul: "ISIS militants are reportedly forcing civilians in their self-declared caliphate to relocate to Mosul, in what is likely preparation to use them as human shields ahead of a planned allied assault on the city."

* I believe she's the 12th accuser: "A former Miss Finland has come forward to allege that Donald Trump groped her while she was competing in the 2006 Miss Universe beauty pageant in New York." Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing.

* Another accusation of sexual misconduct: "An Alaska lawyer said Justice Clarence Thomas groped her at a dinner party in 1999, a claim that Thomas said is 'preposterous,' the National Law Journal reported Thursday."

* Quite an indictment: "Federal prosecutors brought charges on Thursday against dozens of people accused of taking part in a massive international crime ring that relied on Indian call centers to bilk thousands of Americans out of more than $300 million."

* Breaking the modern record on clemency: "President Obama granted 98 more commutations to federal inmates Thursday, bringing the total for this year to 688 -- the most commutations ever granted by a president in a single year. In all, he's now shortened the sentences of 872 inmates during his presidency, more than any president since Woodrow Wilson."

* Afghanistan: "The United States military carried out airstrikes on Sunday in eastern Afghanistan aimed at two of Al Qaeda's most senior leaders operating in the country, an attack described as one of the most significant in Afghanistan in several years, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday."

* Dakota Access Pipeline: "Authorities in North Dakota began arresting Dakota Access Pipeline opponents on Thursday afternoon at a protest camp built on private land. Many of the protesters had refused earlier orders to leave. Some prayed in circles while others yelled at advancing members of law enforcement, according to The Associated Press."
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Oct. 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump's poll-watching scheme creates legal fight for RNC

10/27/16 02:41PM

One of the key elements of Donald Trump's closing messages to voters is that the entire election process is "rigged." He has no proof of an elaborate conspiracy, but the GOP nominee is nevertheless convinced nefarious forces are working against him.

To that end, Trump is urging his followers to not only vote for him, but also to volunteer for his campaign's "poll-monitoring" program. As the Republican candidate sees it, Trump's devotees should travel to areas where the right suspects voter fraud -- invariably, their concerns focus on urban areas where voters tend to be people of color -- and effectively serve as vigilantes on behalf of the GOP presidential ticket, inspecting voting precincts and looking for suspicious voters.

As one Trump voter, responding to the candidate's call, recently explained, "I'll look for ... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I'm not going to do anything illegal. I'm going to make them a little bit nervous."

As Rachel explained at the top of last night's show, this initiative generated an important court filing yesterday from the Democratic National Committee. Bloomberg Politics reported:
In a preemptive strike against what it called a coordinated effort to intimidate voters, the Democratic Party's governing body alleged Wednesday that the Republican National Committee is violating a court order in a case that started 35 years ago.

The RNC is supporting Trump's recruitment of so-called watchers at polling places, which is in breach of consent decrees going back to 1982 that forbid the group from engaging in ballot-security measures, according to a filing in federal court in Newark, New Jersey. The DNC said the watchers are really intended to deter registered voters from casting ballots.
I can appreciate why phrases like "breach of consent decrees" might make this story seem a little dry and complex, but stick with me because this one's going somewhere interesting. As Rachel said on the air last night, "This is a big deal."
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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

If the GOP loses, the fallout will be worse than the defeats

10/27/16 12:45PM

By most measures, it's too early for Democrats to feel great about the election and for Republicans to feel dread. The presidential race is starting to tighten; control of the Senate is still up for grabs; and while Dems are likely to narrow the GOP advantage in the House, few believe Nancy Pelosi will reclaim the Speaker's gavel in January.

That said, as conditions stand, Democrats generally wouldn't want to change places with their Republican counterparts. As Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said this week, in reference to Dems, "The math kind of just works for them."

Barring 11th-hour surprises, the New York Times made a compelling case that the fallout of GOP defeats may very well hurt more than the losses themselves, as the party confronts "crucial and onerous decisions they are now beginning to confront."
Do they try to find a way to cooperate with Democrats and get something done after years of stasis in Washington, perhaps as a way to move beyond the Trump phenomenon? Or do they dig in against Democrats and the new president as a bet on a Republican comeback in the 2018 midterm elections, adopting a noncooperative strategy to recapture the Senate majority and pad their numbers in the House?

Can [Paul] Ryan survive as speaker? Does Mr. Ryan even want to survive as speaker of a House where any negotiating room is likely to be severely constricted by pressure from his right? What about Merrick B. Garland or an alternative choice for the Supreme Court? Will Republicans finally make way for the court-shifting nominee of a Democratic president, or will Democrats resort to ending the filibuster to fill a court opening?
These are all good questions, for which there are no obvious answers, but these challenges will unfold against a broader challenge playing out in the background: Donald Trump, if he comes up short, will not be eager to accept responsibility for defeat.

On the contrary, he would expect party officials and GOP leaders to pay a price for his failure. Trump is laying the foundation for these arguments already.
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.27.16

10/27/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* A senior official in Donald Trump's campaign told Bloomberg Politics, "We have three major voter-suppression operations under way," including one targeting African Americans. (I think the aide was probably misusing the term, referring instead to discouraging, not suppressing, the vote, but the fact that he or she doesn't know the difference is interesting.)

* Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, joined Twitter this morning to release a new video in which he explains why the election is "going to be close," and warns against "complacency."

* In Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, a new New York Times/Siena poll shows Katie McGinty (D) leading incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R), 47% to 44%.

* In Nevada's U.S. Senate race, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Joe Heck (R) with a seven-point advantage over Catherine Cortez Masto (D), 49% to 42%. On the other hand, the latest Las Vegas Review Journal poll shows Cortez Masto leading Heck, 45% to 44%.

* And speaking of Toomey and Heck, the Nevada Republican borrowed a page from the Pennsylvanian's playbook yesterday, insisting voters shouldn't know whom he's supporting for president.

* In New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, the same NBC poll found incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) with the narrowest of leads over Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), 48% to 47%. The latest Monmouth University poll shows the two rivals tied.

* As for New Hampshire's gubernatorial race, the Monmouth poll also found Colin Van Ostern (D) leading Chris Sununu (R), 48% to 43%, erasing the Republican's previous advantage.
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President Barack Obama arrives for a rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia, Penn. on Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Poll: Most Americans see the country on the right track

10/27/16 11:20AM

Those who see the 2016 cycle as a "change election" point specifically to right-right/wrong-track polls. As we discussed last week, it's a deeply flawed metric, but many pundits continue to say there's a broad public appetite for radical change -- for proof, they point to the fact that most Americans consistently say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But sometimes, the wording of a question can produce unexpected results. Take this new CNN poll, for example.
More Americans than at any time in Barack Obama's presidency now say that things in the United States are going well, a sharp uptick in positive views and the best reviews of the country's trajectory since January 2007, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll.

Overall, 54% say things in the country today are going well, 46% badly. That's a reversal from late July when 54% said things were going poorly and 46% said they were positive.
While right-track/wrong-track polling has been common for many years, this poll asked respondents, "How well are things going in the country today -- very well, fairly well, pretty badly or very badly?" A combined 54% majority said things are going very well or fairly well.

To be sure, 54% isn't an overwhelming number, but it is the highest we've seen in this poll since before the Great Recession started nine years ago. The number of Americans who believe things are going very well has now reached a decade-long high.

The electoral implications of these attitudes are real.
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