* The latest from Ottawa: "A Canadian soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa was shot and killed Wednesday, and a burst of gunfire minutes later terrorized Parliament and sent lawmakers scrambling for safety. A gunman was confirmed dead, but confusion gripped Canada's capital for hours after the attack began."
* It's not a travel ban, but it's smarter: "The Centers for Disease Control just announced new measures designed to stop international visitors from spreading Ebola in the U.S. Under the new system, anybody who has been recently to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone will be subject to what CDC officials call 'active monitoring' -- which will involve, among other things, mandatory temperature checks for 21 days after arrival in the U.S."
* Ferguson: "The official autopsy on Michael Brown, obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shows the Ferguson, Missouri teenager was shot in the hand at close range. The accompanying toxicology report reveals the 18-year-old had a trace of marijuana in his system, according to the local newspaper."
* Guilty: "Four former Blackwater guards have been found guilty of killing 14 people and injuring 17 more in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisour Square. One guard, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of first degree murder, while the other three were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter."
* I really wish Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would be a little more cautious about calling others "idiots," especially when he's talking about Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
* UNC: "A blistering report into an academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina released Wednesday found that for nearly two decades two employees in the African and Afro-American Studies department ran a 'shadow curriculum' of hundreds of fake classes that never met but for which students, many of them Tar Heels athletes, routinely received A's and B's."
* Combatting ISIS goes beyond airstrikes: "[David S. Cohen], a fastidious Yale Law School graduate who is known inside the White House as the administration's 'financial Batman,' is a first line of attack against the Islamic State. His title is under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and he may be more important in the fight against the Islamic State than the Tomahawks fired off American warships or the bombs dropped from F-16s. He has become a fixture in Mr. Obama's Situation Room."
* Media fail, Part I: "In an opinion piece published Tuesday by Politico Magazine, 'No, BP Didn't Ruin the Gulf,' author Geoff Morrell writes that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst off-shore oil spill in American history, was much less disastrous environmentally for the Gulf Coast than expected. He complains that 'advocacy groups cherry-pick evidence' and 'blame BP for any and all environmental problems afflicting the Gulf.'" What's less clear for readers is the fact that the article was written by a BP employee.
The argument Democrats are making in Maine is pretty straightforward: Gov. Paul LePage (R), elected with less than 38% of the vote in a three-way race in 2010, is an embarrassment. But LePage may end up with a second term anyway, because Maine's mainstream vote is being split once again.
Polls show the Tea Party incumbent neck and neck with Rep. Mike Michaud (D), a dynamic made possible by Eliot Cutler's independent, third-place candidacy. For Dems, the obvious solution is for Cutler to stand aside to prevent LePage from winning re-election. Since Cutler appears unlikely to prevail, the argument goes, the independent would be doing the right thing for Maine, at the cost of his personal ambitions.
Another topic of the debate was the dynamic of the three-way race and how any new support for Cutler could pave the way for the governor's second term. [...]
LePage was asked about saying Cutler's campaign was one of the best things for his re-election bid.
"It's certainly an early Christmas present from the standpoint that he was here four years ago and we know what to expect, but I will tell you, four years ago we had Libby Mitchell running. This time we have Mike Michaud running. If it was Mike Michaud against Paul LePage, the election's over," LePage said.
That's quite an acknowledgement for a sitting governor to make out loud towards the end of the campaign. LePage effectively echoed the Democratic argument verbatim: in a head-to-head race, the Republican governor wouldn't stand a chance.
The fact that the independent is sticking around, splitting Maine's mainstream, is the only thing standing between the Tea Partier and certain defeat.
It was just last week that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made a surprise announcement: after having already invested more than $2 million in Kentucky's U.S. Senate race, the party would divert resources elsewhere.
The move from the DSCC, the party's committee devoted solely to supporting Senate candidates, came as something of a shock to nearly everyone, and suggested the Democratic establishment no longer saw a path to victory for Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
A week later, however, Dems have changed their minds. Politicoreported this afternoon:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to go back on the air in Kentucky after the party has been encouraged by new polls suggesting the race against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is within reach.
The party committee is reserving $650,000 in airtime to boost Alison Lundergan Grimes after reviewing recent internal and public polling, a DSCC official told POLITICO. The polling, the source says, suggested that independent voters are moving in the Democrat's direction.
This is no small development. When the DSCC announced it would walk away from Kentucky, it suggested party leaders no longer saw the contest as competitive. For Democrats to jump back in, there must have been data the DSCC found compelling.
With that in mind, it's worth noting that the latest Bluegrass Poll, conducted by SurveyUSA and released this week, showed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) ahead by the narrowest of margins over Alison Lundergan Grimes, 44% to 43%.
Let's also not forget that the Democrats' options are dwindling, arguably making Kentucky more of a necessity than a luxury.
When it comes to Republican governors imposing harsh, new voting restrictions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is hardly the first name that pops up. The Republican vetoed an early-voting bill last year, he's offered some odd criticisms of same-day registration recently, and he played some shameless political games when scheduling his state's U.S. Senate special election last year, but in general, Christie isn't known for electoral mischief, at least not by contemporary GOP standards.
But that's all the more reason to take note of Christie's comments this week on "voting mechanisms." The Bergen Recordreported this morning:
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they're the ones controlling "voting mechanisms" going into the next presidential election.
Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states -- and overseeing state-level voting regulations -- ahead of the next presidential election.
In remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey governor said, "Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?"
I'm not sure which is worse: the prospect of Christie making these remarks without thinking them through or Christie making these remarks because he's already thought this through.
In theory, in a functioning democracy, control over "voting mechanisms" shouldn't dictate election outcomes. Citizens consider the candidates, they cast their ballots, the ballots are counted, and the winner takes office. It's supposed to be non-partisan -- indeed, the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.
So what exactly is Chris Christie suggesting here?
A terrifying scene unfolded in the Canadian capitol this morning, and as of now, it's not yet clear if the incident is over.
A soldier was shot Wednesday in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, and dozens of shots were fired minutes later in the nearby halls of Parliament, where lawmakers barricaded themselves in their offices for safety, witnesses and authorities said.
Authorities said that one gunman was shot by security forces, but Ottawa police told MSNBC that they were looking for more than one suspect. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was safely escorted from the scene, his spokesman said.
Shots were also fired at Rideau Centre, a shopping mall in the area, police told the Canadian television network CTV.
Canada's parliament was in session at the time, and lawmakers could hear the gunfire.
NBC News' report added that the local law enforcement would not confirm how many people were involved in the attack but said there were "multiple suspects."
Reports from local media added that the first round of gunfire occurred at the National War Memorial, before moving across the street to Parliament.
This comes on the heels of a hit-and-run incident this week, which left one Canadian soldier killed and another injured, which is being investigated for possible terrorist connections.
The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa was locked down and President Obama has been briefed on the attack.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In Colorado, a new Monmouth poll shows Rep. Cory Gardner (R) with just a one-point lead over Sen. Mark Udall (D), 47% to 46%. The same poll shows Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) up by seven over former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R), 50% to 43%.
* In Georgia's U.S. Senate race, three consecutive polls have shown Michelle Nunn (D) leading David Perdue (R), including the new SurveyUSA poll that has Nunn up by two, 46% to 44%. The same poll shows Gov. Nathan Deal (R) also up by two over Jason Carter (D), 45% to 43%.
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, the new Monmouth poll shows Joni Ernst (R) up by one over Bruce Braley (D), 47% to 46%.
* In North Carolina, a new SurveyUSA poll for WRAL shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D) with a three-point advantage over Thom Tillis (R), 46% to 43%.
* The EB-5 scandal continues to get worse for former Gov. Mike Rounds (R), his party's U.S. Senate candidate in South Dakota.
* In Florida's gubernatorial race, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Gov. Rick Scott (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) tied at 42% each. Take out the minor party candidates, the poll shows them tied again at 44% each.
* Wisconsin's Sharon Day, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said this week, "I don't want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them might not be as sharp as a knife."
Asked if he thought it would be likely that the state legislature would expand Medicaid coverage after refusing to do so previously, Tillis said it might make sense once the state has better control of the financing of the program, which is notorious for its cost overruns.
He said he didn't have an ideological objection to expanding the coverage. But he said when the state auditor told the previous governor that money was being wasted on it, the appropriate response would not have been to make it bigger and more costly.
"I would encourage the state legislature and governor to consider it if they're completely convinced they now have the situation under control," Tillis said.
On its face, that may not seem especially noteworthy, especially since plenty of other state Republican officials nationwide have already embraced Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
The twist in this case, however, is considering what Tillis said about this issue before.
After the 2012 elections, Republican officials said the party had to face its demographic challenges responsibly. Party leaders said outreach to Latino voters was a necessity, and the Republican National Committee's autopsy report said it was obvious the party would have to support comprehensive immigration reform.
But as the 2014 elections near, Republican politicians have proven that they simply do not care, and the party is arguably more anti-immigration now than any point in modern history. In an unexpected twist, though, the consequences of such fierce, far-right attitudes appear to be non-existent: after two years in which Republicans almost seemed determined to alienate Latinos on purpose, voters appear likely to expand the House Republican majority, and possibly even hand over control of the Senate to the GOP, too.
How is this possible? Nate Cohn crunched the numbers and discovered that Republicans blew off this entire constituency because they could -- even if the GOP loses 100% support of the Latino vote this year, the party would still be positioned to keep control of the House and win the Senate.
Even a situation in which every Latino voter in America chose the Democratic candidate would mainly allow Democrats to fare better in the heavily Hispanic districts where the party already wins. This is already occurring, to a lesser degree. Over the last decade, Democratic gains among young and nonwhite voters have allowed Democrats to win a majority of the House vote without flipping enough districts to earn a majority of seats.
The Upshot analysis found that if not one of the eight million Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate, Republicans would lose about a dozen House seats.... But given the Republicans' current strength across rural areas and in conservative suburbs, the loss of every Hispanic every voter would not be enough to cost them the 17 seats that would flip House control.... In districts held by House Republicans, Hispanics represent only 6.7 percent of eligible voters and an even smaller share of the electorate.
The point isn't that the GOP will get literally 0% of the Hispanic vote this year, because that's obviously wrong. Rather, the point is, Republicans realize they could get 0% and keep power anyway.
And it's not just the House: in the eight states with the closest U.S. Senate races, "fewer than 5 percent of eligible voters are Latino, according to a new Pew Research report."
With this in mind, the post-2012 recommendations appear to be wrong -- sort of.
Diligent political observers know there are often interesting tidbits in campaign-finance reports, and one appears to have popped up in Arkansas.
Sen. Tom Cotton's (R) U.S. Senate campaign has paid $322,963 to something called Right Solutions Partners LLC for "fund-raising consulting." That wouldn't ordinarily be especially interesting, since congressional candidates in both parties routinely write big checks to DC-based consultants.
[H][ere's the catch: It's not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year.
However, the address, 1717 K Street Northwest, is where the Washington office of the law firm Arent Fox is located, and a Republican campaign finance lawyer at the firm signed the organizing papers with the city. When I called that lawyer, Craig Engle, he initially said he did not set up Right Solutions Partners. Then he amended that, saying, "I remember being part of the organizing of it."
But he said he forgot who asked him to set up the entity and quickly moved into lawyer-political speak, saying he could not get into for whom he was and was not working. He said he would try to get more information, but, alas, little was proffered. In a subsequent email, Mr. Engle said only that Mr. Cotton's campaign was not a client of Arent Fox, and that he had alerted the campaign to my inquiries.
The far-right congressman and his campaign team wouldn't respond to the New York Times' inquiries, but they did share some additional information with a conservative media outlet.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has had quite an interesting year. In fact, just over the last four months, the Republican congressman has been caught manhandling a Capitol Hill aide who bothered him, threatening his Democratic challenger, and even clowning around on the House floor while a Republican colleague delivered remarks honoring a fallen American soldier.
But the Alaska Dispatch News, the state's largest paper, reported the other day on Young's appearance at a Wasilla High School assembly last week, which apparently didn't go well.
Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.
"We really spend a lot of time at our school talking about how we treat each other," Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo said Tuesday afternoon. "We just don't talk to people that way."
More concerning, school officials say, Young made what they called hurtful and insensitive statements about suicide just days after a Wasilla student took his own life.
Two weeks ago, a student at the school took his own life, and with the school still coming to grips with the tragedy, Don Young reportedly told students that suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family -- which is largely the opposite of what professionals had told them.
"When I heard 'a lack of support from family' and I heard 'a lack of support from friends,' I felt the oxygen go out of the room, but I gasped as well," Wasilla Principal Amy Spargo said. "It just isn't true in these situations. It's just such a hurtful thing to say."
According to the Alaska Dispatch News' account, Young, whose appearance was not recorded, proceeded to use "salty language" with the minors and "told a story that involved flying to Paris to get drunk."
Perhaps talking to students isn't the ideal forum for the longtime congressman?
We've seen press conferences with television personality Donald Trump. And we've seen press conferences with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). But our friends at Right Wing Watch reported yesterday on one of those rare moments in which the two joined together for one special media event in the right-wing congressman's home district.
The two heaped praise on one another, with Trump calling King "a special guy" and "a smart person with really the right views on almost everything" and King gushing that "time after time, when the hand of Donald Trump reached out and touched something, it turned into something good for America."
And they tried to outdo each other with criticism of President Obama, as Trump evaded questions about his own plans to run for president while blaming Obama for such offenses as turning major U.S. airports into "third-world airports."
Hunter joked, "If Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King had not planned a press conference together, we probably would have had to launch a Kickstarter campaign supporting the idea."
King took full advantage of the opportunity: "In video captured by the Iowa Republican, King went on a long tirade claiming that America is becoming “a third-world country” because of “the things that are coming at us from across the border,” including illegal drugs, Central American children of “prime gang recruitment age,” ISIS, a childhood respiratory illness that has spread in recent weeks, and the Ebola virus. The ISIS and respiratory disease claims are based on unsubstantiated reports in the right-wing media, while there is absolutely no link between border enforcement and Ebola or the Oklahoma beheading incident."
The congressman then said President Obama wants "to treat people in Africa as if they were American citizens," before adding that the president "has pitted people against each other."
About 20 years ago, there was a great episode of "Cheers," featuring a city councilman who goes to the bar to ask voters for support. "Kevin Fogarty, City Council. I hope I have your vote on election day," he says. Frasier Crane asks, "And why exactly should I vote for you, Mr. Fogarty?"
The councilman replies, "Well, because I'm a hard worker, and I take a stand." Crane adds, "On what, exactly?" "The issues of the day," Fogarty replies. "Which are?" Crane asks. "The things that concern you and your family -- the most," the councilman concludes.
The folks in the bar thought this was a great answer, failing to notice that the candidate clearly had nothing of substance to say, and was simply faking his way past the questions, hoping no one would notice.
The "Cheers" episode came to mind last night watching Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) debate former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in New Hampshire. At one point, for example. moderator Chuck Todd asked about climate change -- Brown believes some of the crisis is "natural" -- and pressed the candidates on how best to reduce carbon emissions.
"I'm not going to talk about whether we're going to do something in the future," Brown replied, apparently confused about the purpose of a political campaign.
When Todd asked the Republican to explain the metrics he'd use to determine whether the U.S./Mexico border is secure, Brown replied, "You know it's secure when people don't come across it."
Remember, border security is one of the issues Brown claims to care the most about.
Scott Brown's strategy in his New Hampshire Senate campaign has focused on claims that securing the border would prevent Islamic State militants from crossing into the United States. But when asked on Tuesday for evidence, Brown denied he ever made such statements.
"With respect, I did not say that -- what I have said is ISIS is real," Brown, a Republican, said during the first televised debate of the New Hampshire Senate race.... "Is there a possibility?" he added. "It's been raised that there are opportunities for people to come through that border. What are their intentions, I'm not sure, but they have made it very clear that they want to plant a flag in the White House."