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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.5.19

11/05/19 12:00PM

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

* It's Election Day in Kentucky and Mississippi, which are home to two gubernatorial races, as well as Virginia, which is holding closely watched state legislative races. Take a look at yesterday's election preview for more along these lines.

* On a related note, Donald Trump hasn't campaigned in Virginia, but he suggested this morning that voters in the commonwealth owe him because of the "massive amount" of money he's spent on national defense.

* Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did yet another interview yesterday with a media outlet in Kansas, which sure does make it seem as if the former congressman is getting ready to run for Kansas' open U.S. Senate seat next year, despite his repeated claims that he won't.

* In Nevada, home to one of the four early presidential nominating contests, the latest poll from the Nevada Independent, released yesterday, found Joe Biden leading his party's field with 29% support, followed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who had 19% each. The only other candidate to top 5% was Pete Buttigieg, who was fourth with 7% support.

* A top aide to Tom Steyer's presidential campaign in South Carolina resigned yesterday after allegedly stealing volunteer data compiled by Kamala Harris' campaign.

* Julián Castro's presidential campaign is reportedly letting go of its staff in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and it will instead focus its resources on Iowa and Nevada.

* Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) announced his retirement from Congress earlier this year, then said he was reconsidering his decision, only to announce yesterday that he really is giving up his U.S. House seat at the end of next year.

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Team Trump's targeting of whistleblower seen as 'thuggery'

11/05/19 11:20AM

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was asked yesterday whether the intelligence community whistleblower who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry should be exposed to the public. "That's strictly up to the whistleblower," the senator replied.

The Iowa Republican added, "All I want to do is make sure the law is followed. A person like me that has advocated for whistleblowers for a long period of time, including this whistleblower, I want maximum protection for whistleblowers. The law protects the whistleblower."

Grassley's GOP brethren appear to have adopted a very different kind of posture.

Sen. Rand Paul demanded the news media print the name of the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump during a rally Monday night in Kentucky.

"We also now know the name of the whistleblower. The whistleblower needs to come forward as a material witness because he worked for Joe Biden at the same time Hunter Biden was getting money from corrupt oligarchs," the Kentucky Republican said after being invited onto the stage by Trump, referring to unverified reports circulating through conservative outlets.... To loud cheers from the audience, Paul continued, "I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name."

The man who was standing alongside Rand Paul at the time has been almost hysterical on this point, tweeting obsessively about the intelligence community's whistleblower. On Sunday, in brief remarks to reporters, Trump went on to make a series of specific claims about the whistleblower, before adding that he has no idea whether the claims are true.

He nevertheless added that journalists "ought to release" the person's identity.

I especially enjoyed this presidential comment, in which he seemed to talk himself into making a ridiculous charge: "The whistleblower should be revealed because the whistleblower gave false stories. Some people would call it a fraud. I won't go that far. But when I read it closely, I probably would."

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As support for impeachment grows, Trump claims access to unseen polls

11/05/19 10:40AM

Three major national polls have been released over the last few days, gauging public attitudes on Donald Trump's impeachment, and the similarities in the data paint a fairly consistent picture.

There's one ...

49% of Americans now say they support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, a new NBC News/WSJ poll finds. 46% do not. That's a reversal from a month ago, when the survey found the numbers essentially flipped.

... there's another ...

As the House moves to a new, more public phase of its impeachment inquiry, the country is sharply divided along partisan lines over whether President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not.

... and there's one more.

Nearly half of voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a new Fox News Poll.... Forty-nine percent want Trump impeached and removed from office, 4 percent say he should be impeached but not removed, and 41 percent oppose impeaching Trump. That's about where things stood in early October....

FiveThirtyEight maintains a report averaging all public impeachment polling, and as of this morning, it points to a 48.4% plurality of Americans supporting the president's impeachment. That's awfully close to the 49% support in each of the three national polls released over the last few days.

Trump recently tweeted that impeachment is so unpopular that Democrats "have a Death Wish" by even pursuing such an effort. The latest polling suggests otherwise.

But as it turns out, that's not all the president has to say on the matter. Consider this exchange between Trump and reporters on Sunday:

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In impeachment inquiry, House GOP has not used its time wisely

11/05/19 10:13AM

A couple of weeks ago, many House Republicans demanded access to private depositions in the impeachment inquiry. There was a degree of irony dogging their complaints: many of those whining were already welcome to participate.

Complicating matters, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Rachel on the show that "very few" House Republicans who've participated in the process have taken full advantage of the opportunity, apparently because "they don't want to do the actual work."

And now we can take this one step further. Yesterday, the House released transcripts from two impeachment inquiry witnesses: Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Obviously, what matters most are the insights they shared as part of their depositions.

But the transcripts also offer a peek into how House Republicans have conducted themselves during their proceedings. Based on this Washington Post report, it does not appear they used their time wisely.

[I]nside the secure room in the Capitol basement where the proceedings are taking place, Republicans have used their time to complain that testimony has become public, going after their colleagues who were quoted in media reports commenting on witness appearances, and quizzing witnesses themselves on how their statements had been released.

Dana Milbank added that GOP members "pursued one conspiracy theory after another involving the Bidens, George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration, deep state social-media 'tracking' and mishandling classified information. They ate up a good chunk of time merely complaining that Yovanovitch's opening statement had been made public (which under the rules was allowed)."

At face value, it seems rather obvious that House Republicans involved in the inquiry weren't especially interested in learning the facts about what transpired. But given the circumstances, the GOP members' passive indifference isn't the only problem.

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while meeting with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

On farming, Trump doesn't think Obama was socialistic enough

11/05/19 09:20AM

A decade ago, with the United States in the grips of the Great Recession, the American automotive industry -- the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector -- was on the brink of collapse. It wasn't a popular move, but Barack Obama launched a rescue package to save the auto manufacturers. The price of the bailout: $12 billion.

A decade later, Donald Trump's trade war has taken a severe toll on many American farmers, prompting the Republican administration to launch two bailouts for the agricultural sector. The combined price of the farmers' bailouts: $28 billion.

In fact, research from the American Farm Bureau Federation noted last week that nearly 40% of all farm income in the United States this year will come from federal aid. As Garance Franke-Ruta noted the other day, it's an economic dynamic that, in a rather literal sense, is starting to look like socialism.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump headlined a campaign rally in Mississippi on Friday night, where he found all of this worthy of boast. In fact, the president seemed eager to draw a comparison between his record and that of his immediate predecessor.

"I mean think of that: $28 billion.... Not bad, right? Not bad. Do you think Obama would do that? I don't think so."

As a substantive matter, Barack Obama wouldn't have needed to bail out farmers from a trade war because Obama would've known not to launch one. But putting that aside, it's hard not to marvel at the point of Trump's boast: Obama, in the Republican's mind, wouldn't have been eager enough to embrace a socialistic solution.

Indeed, when Obama rescued the American automotive industry, GOP lawmakers were apoplectic, convinced that the Democratic president was waging war on the nation's free-enterprise system. A decade later, we're apparently supposed to believe Obama wasn't hostile enough to the free market?

Stepping back, at the same Mississippi event, Trump referenced Obama by name 14 times -- including a not-so-subtle riff on Trump's belief that "Barack Hussein Obama" was lazy. I've long been fascinated by the Republican's preoccupation with his predecessor, but is it perhaps getting worse?

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Democratic presidential candidates wave as they enter the stage for the second night of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Miami.

Latest polls bring 2020 race into sharper focus

11/05/19 08:40AM

For much of 2019, it's been easy to see the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses as contests on a distant horizon. Everyone realized the party's voters would eventually have their say, but that phase of the process seemed like it would never arrive.

It doesn't seem like that anymore. The Iowa caucuses -- the first nominating contest -- are 90 days from today. The enormous Democratic field is slowly starting to shrink, with two more candidates ending their candidacies in the last two weeks. Iowa's Liberty & Justice Celebration, a party dinner seen as "the last major candidate gathering before the caucuses," has now come and gone.

With developments like these in mind, it's a good time to stop thinking about the nominating contests as something that'll happen eventually and start thinking about them as something that'll happen relatively soon.

And the closer we get to voters casting ballots, the more it's worth paying attention to polling. There's been quite a bit of data released over the last few days, some of which relates to the race for the Democratic nomination, some of which refers to the general election. Let's start with the former, taking a look at the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

1. Joe Biden: 27% (down 4 points from mid-September)
2. Elizabeth Warren: 23% (down 2 points)
3. Bernie Sanders: 19% (up 5 points)
4. Pete Buttigieg: 6% (down one point)
5. Amy Klobuchar: 5% (up three points)
6. Kamala Harris: 4% (down one point)
Every other candidate was at 3% or lower.

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll of Democratic-leaning registered voters is similar, but not identical.

1. Biden: 28% (down one point since early-September)
2. Warren: 23% (up five points)
3. Sanders: 17% (down two points)
4. Buttigieg: 9% (up five points)
Every other candidate was below 3% in this poll.

And then there was the latest national Fox News poll:

1. Biden: 31% (down one point since early-October)
2. Warren: 21% (down one point)
3. Sanders: 19% (up two points)
4. Buttigieg: 7% (up three points)
Every other candidate was at or below 3% in this poll.

With this in mind, let's take stock of some of what the latest data is telling us.

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Trump's move on Paris climate agreement raises 2020 stakes

11/05/19 08:00AM

Donald Trump had only been in office for six months when he announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, isolating the United States, which had helped negotiate the international agreement. In practical terms, however, the president's declaration was largely symbolic: under the terms of the deal, no country can withdraw in the first three years.

The Paris agreement took effect on Nov. 4, 2016, which meant the earliest possible date any country could even consider withdrawal was yesterday, Nov. 4, 2019. As the Associated Press reported, the Republican administration wasted no time.

For more than two years President Donald Trump has talked about pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Starting Monday he finally can do something about it.

Even then, though, the withdrawal process takes a year and wouldn't become official until at least the day after the 2020 presidential election.

It's worth noting that the president appears to know very little about the climate agreement he's eager to reject. Kellyanne Conway conceded two years ago that when it came to the climate accord, Trump "started with a conclusion." That's generally not how responsible policymaking is supposed to work.

When the president delivered remarks explaining his rationale in June 2017, a Vox analysis said of the remarks, "It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading. The sheer density of bulls**t is almost admirable, from a performance art perspective."

In the same speech, Trump looked ahead, assuring the world, "We're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair." There's little evidence to suggest the White House made any effort to follow through on this half-hearted commitment.

But as indefensible as Trump's indifference to the climate crisis is, and as painful as his willful ignorance has become, yesterday's developments raised the stakes of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in a specific way.

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When facing a news deluge, take one story at a time

When facing a news deluge, take one story at a time

11/04/19 09:12PM

Rachel Maddow looks at just some of the news stories from the past 48 hours that would be show-stoppers in their own right were it not for all of the bigger stories all breaking simultaneously. From court rules on Donald Trump's taxes to the U.S. pull-out of the Paris Climate Accord, all you can do it take one story at a time. watch