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U.S. President Barack Obama walks through the Colonnade at the White House Jan. 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Obama to make first mosque visit as president

02/01/16 10:00AM

On Sept. 17, 2001, less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. It was among the most striking acts of his tenure: Bush, concerned about the public targeting Muslim Americans, urged the public to "understand" that the terrorist acts violate "the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith."
The Republican president, during brief remarks, not only quoted the Koran, Bush also declared, "Islam is peace."
More than 14 years later, another president is concerned about the public lashing out violently at innocent members of a religious minority -- and he's doing something similar about it. The Baltimore Sun reported over the weekend:
President Barack Obama will visit a mosque in Baltimore County next week amid growing concern about hostility directed toward Muslim Americans -- marking the first time Obama has visited a U.S. mosque as president.
Obama will deliver remarks on Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, located in Catonsville, and will meet with community members there to discuss religious freedom, White House officials said Saturday. Administration officials hope the visit will send a message at a time when Muslim leaders are increasingly anxious about reactions following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.
White House spokesman Keith Maley told the Sun, "The president believes that one of our nation's greatest strengths is our rich diversity. As the president has said, Muslim Americans are our friends, and neighbors; our co-workers, and sports heroes -- and our men and women in uniform defending our country."
Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney eyes second attempt at Congress

02/01/16 09:20AM

For those who believe Washington needs a Cheney in a policymaking role again, I have good news. The New York Times reported over the weekend:
Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for Wyoming's only House seat, a return to politics after her short-lived but much discussed bid for the Senate two years ago. [...]
Ms. Cheney now plans to run to replace Representative Cynthia M. Lummis, a four-term Republican who was a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Ms. Lummis will retire at the end of the year. Ms. Cheney's filing on Friday with the Federal Election Commission was first reported by The Associated Press.
It's unclear what kind of resistance Cheney will face in a likely GOP primary -- given Wyoming's political leanings, the Republican nominee will be the heavy favorite to succeed Lummis in the House -- but she'll first have to repair some of the damage done during her cringe-worthy Senate campaign two years ago.
Cheney moved to Wyoming in 2013, and soon after launched a primary campaign against a popular Republican incumbent, Sen. Mike Enzi. She failed spectacularly. Over the course of a six-month campaign, Cheney's notable accomplishments as a candidate were an unfortunate controversy over a fishing license and a family dispute over her opposition to her own sister's right to get married.
She ultimately quit months before the primary, citing unspecified "health issues" with an unidentified member of her family. Perhaps Cheney's 2016 bid will be a greater success?
Candidates Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participate in the Democratic Candidates Debate hosted by NBC News and YouTube on Jan. 17, 2016 in Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

On Caucus Day, latest polls show Iowa Dems closely divided

02/01/16 08:40AM

We talked earlier about where things stand among Iowa Republicans as Caucus Day arrives; now let's take a look at Iowa Democrats.
The Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer, was released over the weekend, and it has the race shaping up this way:
1. Hillary Clinton: 45% (up from 42% a month ago)
2. Bernie Sanders: 42% (up from 40%)
3. Martin O'Malley: 3% (down from 4%)
At least in this poll, it's been interesting to watch Sanders' deficit steadily shrink over the course of several months. Last January, the same pollster showed Clinton leading Sanders by a whopping 51 points. By May, the margin was 41 points. In June, it was down to 26. Clinton's advantage was just seven points in August and October, and then two points last month.
Many speculated that Sanders would inch ahead by the time this final poll came out, but that obviously hasn't happened.
As we discussed earlier, it might seem odd that this one poll, often referred to as the "gold standard" in Iowa polling, gets so much attention, but there's a good reason for all the fuss.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures towards rivals Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz during the sixth Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 14, 2016. (Photo by Randall Hill/Reuters)

On Caucus Day, latest polls show close Republican race

02/01/16 08:00AM

The countdown is over and the Iowa caucuses have arrived. After dozens of polls over several months, the speculation can end as the process begins in earnest.
While there's plenty of worthwhile data to go through in anticipation of this evening's big event, the Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, conducted by J. Ann Selzer, was released over the weekend, and it has the race shaping up like this:
1. Donald Trump: 28% (up from 22% a month ago)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (down from 25%)
3. Marco Rubio: 15% (up from 12%)
4. Ben Carson: 10% (down from 11%)
5. Rand Paul: 5% (unchanged)
Each of the remaining candidates were at 3% or lower in this poll. Trump's 28% is his best showing in any Selzer poll this cycle, and his five-point lead is his biggest margin since August.
In other words, there's reason to believe the Republican frontrunner is headed into the caucuses with the wind at his back.
For casual observers, it might seem odd that this one poll, often referred to as the "gold standard" in Iowa polling, gets so much attention. In this case, however, there's a reason.
Clinton makes closing arguments for Iowa

Clinton makes closing arguments for Iowa

01/31/16 09:29PM

Hillary Clinton, Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination in 2016, talks with Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams about tomorrow's Iowa caucuses and how the race against Senator Bernie Sanders is shaping up for the upcoming primary elections. watch

For whom is Iowa make-or-break?

For whom is Iowa make-or-break?

01/31/16 08:15PM

Steve Kornacki looks at which candidates in each party would benefit most from the momentum that comes from a good performance in Iowa as well as which candidates will suffer the greatest setback with a loss in Iowa. watch

Presidential candidates Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and John Kasich appear before a Republican presidential primary debate on Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Chris Carlson/AP)

This Week in God, 1.30.16

01/30/16 08:00AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a second look at the Republicans' presidential debate on Thursday night, with a specific focus on matters of faith.
In his opening remarks, for example, Ted Cruz noted that Iowans "have welcomed my dad to preach at your churches." As Time magazine explained, Marco Rubio was far less subtle.
When asked to explain how is trailing Donald Trump in the polls despite being hailed as the "Republican savior" by TIME Magazine, Rubio cited a savior he feels trumps them all.
"Let me be clear about one thing, there's only one savior and it's not me," he said. "It's Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins."
As if that weren't quite enough, Rubio made multiple additional references to "Judeo-Christian values," his own personal faith, and the senator's closing statement was devoted to his belief that the Bible "commands us to let our light shine on the world." The Florida senator also made four separate references to the word "apocalypse," a word that carries its own theological significance.
At other points in the debate, Cruz talked about energy policy by saying, "I think God has blessed this country with enormous natural resources, and we should pursue all of the above"; Rand Paul referenced British theologian Os Guinness; and John Kasich said in reference to mental-health treatment, "When I study Scripture, I know that people who live in the shadows need to have a chance."
There's no great mystery here. As Time's report added, "nearly 60% of caucus-goers in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christians."
Whether Iowa Republicans appreciated the faith-based politicking or got annoyed by ham-handed religious pandering will become clearer in a couple of days.
Also from the God Machine this week: