The latest Bloomberg Politics poll shows President Obama with an overall approval rating of 47%, which is roughly in line with other national polling, but it wasn't the result that stood out most.
Americans are becoming more optimistic about the country's economic prospects by several different measures. President Barack Obama's handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49 percent to 46 percent -- his best number in this poll since September 2009. [...]
"The uptick extends not just to Obama but to the mood of the country and to things getting better," says J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. "This will be an interesting potential transition, if it's a movement that signals the country is more cognizant about things turning better and that, in an indirect way, they're feeling better about Obama."
As Aaron Blake noted this morning, it's not the only poll showing Americans feeling better about economic conditions.
For more than six years now, President Obama's record has been bogged down, to varying degrees, by the economy.... But things have taken a turn. New Gallup polling shows, for the first time during the Obama presidency and since the recession in which it began, a majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- say their personal financial situation is getting better.
The economic results themselves aren't new -- the unemployment rate, for example, has been dropping quickly for years -- but the public's beliefs are starting to come into line with the data. In other words, the economy has improved considerably since President Obama helped end the Great Recession, but we're now reaching the point at which most Americans feel that improvement and experience it in their own lives.
The political implications are likely to be dramatic.
Nearly five years ago, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate named Sharron Angle used a phrase that was as memorable as it was alarming: her political vision included "Second Amendment remedies." At the time, Angle's point was that if conservatives disapproved of policies adopted by elected officials, Americans might want to consider armed violence against their own country.
We learned last year that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), before her election, endorsed a similar perspective. The right-wing Iowan said at an NRA event that she carries a firearm "virtually everywhere," in case she needs to defend herself "from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
This year, it's Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who's dipping his toes in the same waters. Sahil Kapur reported yesterday that the far-right presidential candidate is taking the "uncommon" view that the Second Amendment "includes a right to revolt against government tyranny."
"The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn't for just protecting hunting rights, and it's not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny -- for the protection of liberty," Cruz wrote to supporters in a fundraising email on Thursday, under the subject line "2nd Amendment against tyranny."
This "insurrectionist" argument, as Second Amendment expert and UCLA law professor Adam Winkler calls it, is popular among passionate gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association. But major party candidates for president don't often venture there.
Winkler told TPM, "It's pretty rare for a presidential candidate to support the right of the people to revolt against the government."
At least it used to be. In the American mainstream, when the people are dissatisfied with the government's direction, we don't need to take up arms or threaten violence -- we have elections. Your right to vote exists; your right to armed conflict against Americans does not.
Cruz's radicalism was enough to draw a rebuke from a fellow Republican and likely White House rival.
As marriage equality takes root as the legal norm in much of the country, opponents of equal-marriage rights have adopted a new set of tactics. Whereas it was common a decade ago to see Republicans pushing anti-gay constitutional amendments -- at the state and federal level -- right-to-discriminate measures have clearly become the new weapon of choice.
Arizona generated national attention last year with its foray into this area, but a gubernatorial veto quickly ended the fight. This year, Indiana created a firestorm with its discrimination statute, which policymakers were soon after willing to "fix." Arkansas scaled back its far-right drive in this area soon after.
But msnbc's Jane C. Timm reported yesterday that Louisiana Republicans are plowing ahead with a related bill of their own.
HB 707 -- the "Marriage and Conscience Act" -- says the state can't take "adverse action" against someone for opposing same-sex marriage for religious reasons; sponsor Rep. Mike Johnson told msnbc he's hoping the bill will come up for a vote in the next few weeks. If passed, this law would likely ensure, for example, that the state couldn't punish a state worker who refuses to process paperwork on a name change following a gay marriage in another state, or a police officer who didn't want to police a same-sex wedding ceremony.
"This Louisiana bill really does what people accused the Indiana law of doing," leading religious freedom expert and University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock told msnbc. While Indiana's law offered up individuals accused of discrimination a legal defense that a judge could then weigh, Laycock explained, this law gives religious individuals absolute protection from state action, without balancing interests of – for instance – whether a gay individual's right to services outweighs the religious individual's freedoms.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), not surprisingly, told msnbc the proposal is "not about discriminating against anyone," so much as it's about "religious freedom."
Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, talks with Rachel Maddow about ideas for reducing the volatility of oil being transported on trains, and how receptive the train and oil industries are to new safety rules. watch
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid talks with Rachel Maddow about how the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United has hurt American politics, and discusses what Congress can do to remedy the damage. watch
Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer, talks with Rachel Maddow about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's threat to force a confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch if Mitch McConnell doesn't act soon, and how the Senate calendar is likely to play out. watch
Rachel pointed out on Wednesday that liberals were pleasantly surprised to hear among the planks of Hillary Clinton's campaign an emphasis on getting unaccountable money out of the American political system. But with literally billions of dollars expected to be spent by 2016 candidates, many wonder if it's even possible that...
* A deal on trade policy: "Top lawmakers struck a bipartisan agreement Thursday to allow President Barack Obama to negotiate trade deals subject to a yes-or-no vote from Congress without the possibility of changes. The 'fast track' legislation comes as Obama seeks a sweeping trade deal with 11 Pacific nations."
* Ohio: "An Ohio man who trained with a terrorist group in Syria was charged Thursday with returning to the United States with the goal of mounting an attack at home, a pattern that counterterrorism officials have long feared."
* Maybe Congress should show some interest in the conflict: "The cost of U.S. military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has surpassed the $2 billion mark."
* Important case: "A panel of federal judges on Thursday appeared inclined to dismiss the first legal challenge to President Obama's most far-reaching regulation to slow climate change."
* Comments like these on the debt ceiling from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) really are important: "[O]bviously we're not going to default on the nation's obligations." If that's "obvious," then there's no point in another GOP hostage crisis.
* Richard Engel digs deeper into the details surrounding his 2012 kidnapping in Syria.
* Will the new Iran bill in Congress derail the international diplomacy on Iran's nuclear program? Probably not. In fact, if a deal comes together, there's reason to believe it will withstand congressional pushback.
In recent months, high-profile Republicans, sounding quite a bit like class warriors, have complained bitterly about the wealthy benefiting most from the recent economic recovery. Even House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), without a hint of irony, complained that recent trends point to "exacerbated inequality." The far-right congressman added that only "the wealthy are doing really well."
It's genuinely impossible to reconcile Republican rhetoric and Republican priorities in light of votes like these.
The House voted Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime priority of Republicans that also spurred Democratic charges that the GOP is in the pockets of the rich. [...]
The White House has threatened to veto the measure, and the bill does not appear to have the 60 votes necessary to break a Democratic filibuster and get through the Senate.
The final tally was 240 to 179, with nearly every GOP lawmaker voting for it and nearly every Democrat voting against it.
When describing Republican tax proposals, it's not uncommon to talk about policies that disproportionately benefit the very wealthy. GOP proponents will say a bill benefits all taxpayers, but they'll brush past the fact that the rich benefit most. This, however, is altogether different -- today's bill, called the "Death Tax Repeal Act," quite literally benefits multi-millionaires and billionaires exclusively.
It's not an exaggeration to say House Republicans, en masse, voted for a $269 billion giveaway to the top 0.2%. Under the plan, GOP lawmakers, who occasionally pretend to care about "fiscal responsibility," would simply add the entire $269 billion cost to the deficit, leaving future generations to pay for a massive tax break for the hyper-wealthy.
Loretta Lynch's Attorney General nomination has been pending for nearly 23 weeks, creating unprecedented circumstances for a nominee who already enjoys majority support.
In an interview that will air tonight on The Rachel Maddow Show, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Rachel that his patience is not only wearing thin, he's weighing an unusual procedural move.
MADDOW: One thing that has not been done and is now approaching historic delay is the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the next Attorney General of the United States. What is going on there and is she ever going to get a vote?
REID: Now I want to say this to all your viewers, um, we've put up with this far too long and we're going to need to have a vote on her very soon that's created by Mitch McConnell or I'll create one. I can still do that. I know parliamentary procedure around here and we're going to put up with this for a little while longer but not much.
MADDOW: You have a way that you think you can force a vote even if McConnell will...
REID: Absolutely we can force votes. If we don't get something done soon I will force a vote.
Asked if there will be a trigger for such a move, the Minority Leader added, "I had a conversation today with a number of Republicans and told them really to get her done or I will make sure they will have an opportunity to vote against her."
The procedural question is an important one. Lynch has been on the Senate's executive calendar since February, and under current rules, that means the Minority Leader has the authority to move to proceed on her nomination.
There's no guarantee of success. In fact, because it's a procedural fight, there's an expectation that Republicans, including those who support Lynch, would vote together, which would derail Reid's gambit.
The fight, however, would increase the pressure on GOP lawmakers considerably.
As a moderate presidential candidate in 2000, Republican Sen. John McCain still thought it was possible to win his party's presidential nomination by aiming at the center. In February 2000, he traveled to Virginia to dismiss radical TV preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "agents of intolerance."
The gambit failed miserably -- the religious right rallied behind George W. Bush and McCain lost any chance he had of prevailing. Eight years later, the Arizona senator ran again, and this time, McCain cozied up to Falwell, speaking at the televangelist's Liberty University.
In 2012, it was Mitt Romney who was eager to speak to Liberty students. In 2013, Rand Paul spoke at Liberty, presenting others' words as his own.
Last month, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) kicked off his presidential campaign at the evangelical school, and next month, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will make a visit of his own.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush will pay a visit to the heart of the conservative movement next month when the likely presidential candidate gives a commencement address at Liberty University. [...]
University officials said on Wednesday that Mr. Bush would speak at Liberty's 42nd commencement on May 9.
As remarkable as this may seem, Republican politics has reached the point at which Jerry Falwell's college has become an important GOP destination.