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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.9.14

09/09/14 12:04PM

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 the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, Republicans lead Democrats on the generic ballot, 47% to 44%, among likely voters. Among registered voters, Democrats lead, 46% to 44%.
* On a related note, the poll shows a big gender gap: Democrats lead by 12 points among women, while Republicans lead by eight points among men.
* Today is the final Primary Day of 2014, with contests in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. Among the key races to watch: Rep. John Tierney's Democratic primary in Massachusetts.
* Former Sen. Scott Brown (R) was introduced by a supporter at an event yesterday, who shared a story about a local voter who wanted to meet the Republican candidate. The local voter "always thought Scott was kind of a phony from Massachusetts," but now realizes "he's a phony from New Hampshire that just happened to live in Massachusetts for a little while."
* In Michigan's U.S. Senate race, a new PPP survey shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) with a growing lead over Terri Lynn Land (R). The Democrat is now up by seven in this poll, 43% to 36%.
* On a related note, the same poll showed Michigan's gubernatorial race nearly tied, with incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Mark Schauer (D) by just one point, 43% to 42%.
* The latest Gallup poll puts Congress' approval rating at just 14%. That's "one of the lowest Gallup has recorded in the fall of a midterm election year since Gallup first measured approval of Congress in the current format in 1974."
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) speaks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Md.

The fury of a staffer scorned?

09/09/14 11:46AM

Back in March, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference and the #4 leader in the chamber, received some good news and some bad news from the House Ethics Committee. The panel, as Zack Roth reported at the time, declined to appoint a special investigative panel "to probe whether a top Republican improperly used official funds to boost her political career," but it didn't drop the case, either.
McMorris Rodgers was accused of improperly co-mingling campaign and official funds and the Ethics Committee was interested enough in the case to recommend subpoenas for two former members of McMorris Rodgers' team.
It's unusual for a member of the House leadership to face ethics allegations like these, but in the months that followed, the McMorris Rodgers controversy largely faded away. That is, until yesterday, when a former staffer for the Washington Republican made an unusually aggressive move. Roll Call reported:
A former communications director for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent reporters a 1,959-word email Monday accusing the Washington Republican of "retribution" in connection with an ethics complaint against her office -- a serious charge that is the latest alleged impropriety in an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation. [...]
In his email, [Todd Winer] alleges the Ethics Committee is now investigating McMorris Rodgers' efforts to "intimidate and punish" him. In fact, Winer says the Washington Republican's staff spread lies about him to the media -- an act that he says rises to "the level of defamation."
It's hard to know exactly what to make of the story. Initial reports suggested Winer was the original source of the ethics complaint against McMorris Rodgers, though the former aide denies this. But as Winer tells it, the congresswoman's office is nevertheless targeting him for "retribution," which in turn has led him to "break [his] silence" and release a memo to the media about McMorris Rodgers alleged misdeeds.
Colorado Republican Congressman Cory Gardner in Denver on Saturday, March 1, 2014.

Colorado's Gardner still struggling to move to the left

09/09/14 11:04AM

Rep. Cory Gardner (R), still in the midst of a very competitive U.S. Senate race in Colorado, seems to believe the key to success is pretending he's a liberal.
For example, the far-right congressman, known for his social conservatism on culture-war issues, recently urged voters to overlook his support for "personhood" measures that would ban common forms of birth control, and instead see him as a progressive champion when it comes to contraception access.
Now, Gardner's suddenly an environmentalist, too.
In one of the GOP lawmaker's new television ads, Gardner stands in front of wind turbines and tells voters, "What is a Republican like me doing at a wind farm? Supporting the next generation, that's what." The congressman boasts that he helped "launch our state's green-energy industry," before the ad tells viewers that Gardner is a "new kind of Republican."
There are two main problems with the claim. First, Gardner didn't actually help launch Colorado's green-energy industry.
GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project. [...]
The Clean Energy Development Authority, which was set up by the law, was intended to assist in the financing of clean-energy projects such as improvements to electricity transmission lines.
Second, the notion that Gardner is presenting himself as some kind of champion of progressive environmental policy is pretty silly -- the League of Conservative Voters publishes a scorecard documenting every member's votes on environmental legislation. Gardner's most recent rating: 4%. No one in the Colorado delegation did worse.
Obviously, this is not the record of a "new kind of Republican." But let's not brush past the fact that Gardner feels the need to pretend to be more progressive.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., July 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Pat Roberts stumbling towards the finish line

09/09/14 10:18AM

Looking back at Sen. Pat Roberts' (R-Kan.) lengthy career on Capitol Hill, there's something striking about his electoral background: he's never really faced a tough race. As a U.S. House member, the Republican Kansan cruised to easy victories. As a three-term senator, each of his statewide wins has been by landslide margins.
And in a way, that's unfortunate for Roberts -- politicians who never experience a challenging election fail to develop valuable political skills. It's like a muscle that can either grow stronger or atrophy from lack of use.
It's become clear that Roberts, whatever his merits as a legislator may or may not be, never learned how to hit the trail like a pro.
Back in July, facing a primary challenge that shouldn't have been close, Roberts told a radio audience, "Every time I get an opponent -- I mean, every time I get a chance, I'm home." The senator was struggling with questions regarding his in-state residency at the time.
After the primary, the longtime incumbent effectively stopped campaigning, with one of his top campaign officials announcing that Roberts had returned "home." In this case, that meant going back to Roberts' residence in Washington, D.C., since the senator doesn't actually own a home in the state he represents.
Andrew Kaczynski uncovered the latest trouble for the incumbent.
Incumbent Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts says he's "damn proud" to live in Dodge City -- noting he's only been home "about seven times" this year -- at a state fair debate with lurking independent challenger Greg Orman.
"My home is Dodge City and I'm damn proud," Roberts said in the debate.
When Orman noted in the debate that he'd probably been to Dodge City more often than Roberts this year, the senator interrupted to ask how many times he'd been to the city. Four times, Orman said.
Roberts responded he'd been to Dodge City "about seven times," which may have been the accurate number, but was nevertheless the wrong thing to say.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe during a news conference at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Va.,  Monday, March 24, 2014.

McAuliffe can only go so far on Medicaid expansion

09/09/14 09:39AM

In the early summer, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) dropped not-so-subtle hints about his intentions: he was fully prepared to embrace Medicaid expansion by somehow circumventing Republican state lawmakers.
The governor said in June his Department of Health and Human Resources "will have a plan on my desk by no later than September, first detailing how we can move Virginia health care forward even in the face of the demagoguery, lies, fear and cowardice that have gripped this debate for too long."
McAuliffe, who ran on a platform of Medicaid expansion during his successful campaign last year, followed through, but it turns out there's a pretty severe limit on what a governor can do in the face of unyielding legislative opposition.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who vowed in June to defy the Republican-controlled legislature and expand healthcare to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, unveiled a much more modest plan Monday after being thwarted by federal rules and a last-minute change to state budget language.
McAuliffe outlined measures to provide health insurance to as many as 25,000 Virginians, just a fraction of those he had hoped to cover by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
No one can doubt the governor's efforts -- he tried everything he could think of. But in order for Virginia to do the smart and responsible thing, the GOP-led legislature would have to do what policymakers in most states have done: embrace the basic arithmetic of Medicaid expansion.
And Virginia Republicans simply would not budge. To this extent, far-right GOP lawmakers "won" the fight -- roughly 375,000 low-income Virginians will not have access to affordable medical care, for reasons that defy moral comprehension.
 Former Vice President Dick Cheney boards an elevator at the U.S. Capitol.

Republicans just can't get enough of Dick Cheney

09/09/14 08:54AM

It was just a few months ago when the Republican Study Committee, a group of far-right House GOP lawmaker, invited former Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill to complain about President Obama for a while. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), now a member of the House GOP leadership, said at the time, in reference to Cheney, "He's got a lot of credibility when it comes to talking about foreign policy."
I don't think he was kidding.
Apparently, this thinking remains quite pervasive among GOP lawmakers, who keep extending invitations to Cheney, his spectacular failures and incompetence notwithstanding. The Washington Post reported late yesterday:
The leading architect of the Iraq war will be on Capitol Hill for a private chat with House Republicans on Tuesday, just as Congress is grappling again with how involved the United States should be in the region's snowballing unrest.
Yes, as in Dick Cheney, one of the war's most ardent defenders. The former vice president was invited by the GOP's campaign arm to speak at its first weekly conference meeting since Congress's five-week break, a House GOP official confirmed.
It says something important about Republican lawmakers that to better understand international affairs, they not only keep turning to failed former officials, they keep seeking guidance from the same failed former official.
Indeed, this isn't a situation in which was Cheney was just wandering around, looking for someone who'd listen to his mindless condemnations of the president who's cleaning up Cheney's messes, and GOP lawmakers agreed to listen as a courtesy. Rather, Congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to make the former V.P. one of their most sought after instructors.
Just in this Congress, Cheney has been on Capitol Hill advising GOP lawmakers over and over and over again.
It's tempting to start the usual diatribe, highlighting all of Cheney's horrific failures, his spectacular misjudgments, and his propensity for dishonesty on a breathtaking scale. But let's skip that, stipulating that Cheney's tenure in national office was a genuine disaster, the effects of which Americans will be dealing with for many years to come.
Let's instead note how truly remarkable the timing of Cheney's latest invitation to Capitol Hill is.

Senate GOP 'simply shameful' on ambassador nominations

09/09/14 08:00AM

Back in July, political scientist Norm Ornstein noted that "blocking ambassadors when the world is in turmoil and America's national interest is at stake is simply shameful." At the time, Senate Republicans just didn't care.
The question now, as Rachel explained on last night's show, is whether GOP senators are prepared to be more responsible now that their five-week break is over.
For example, when it comes to addressing ISIS, there are few countries on the planet more important than Turkey. Consider the White House's full-court press.
The Obama administration on Monday began the work of trying to determine exactly what roles the members of its fledgling coalition of countries to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will play, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel huddled with the leaders of the one country the administration has called "absolutely indispensable" to the fight: Turkey.
But after hours of meetings here, there were no announcements of what the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might do. In fact, Turkish officials meeting with Mr. Hagel eschewed the news conferences that usually accompany high-level visits from American officials.
Diplomatic progress with Turkey is critical when it comes to an international response to ISIS, but Senate Republicans have refused to allow the United States to have an ambassador to the country to help with the talks. Obama was forced to dispatch the Bush/Cheney ambassador to Turkey in a temporary capacity because of the immediacy and urgency of the situation.
Note, the problem is not with Obama, who months ago nominated a highly qualified, career foreign-service officer, John Bass, to fill the post. Rather, there's no U.S. ambassador to Turkey right now because of a Republican tantrum.
And it's not just Turkey. The United States wants to help respond to the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, but Republicans won't confirm an ambassador to Sierra Leone. U.S. officials want to address the humanitarian crisis in Central America, but Republicans won't confirm an ambassador to Guatemala. The Department of Homeland Security doesn't even have Senate-confirmed policy chiefs in place to handle terrorism and cybersecurity threats because Republicans haven't allowed votes on pending nominees.
It's important to understand why.

The last primary day and other headlines

09/09/14 07:47AM

It's primary day in 5 states. (Politico)

Obama unlikely to seek formal authorization for military strikes against ISIS in Syria, congressional aides say. (Washington Post)

Obama hosts foreign policy experts, laying groundwork for speech on ISIS. (NY Times)

Dick Cheney meets with House Republicans today. (Politico)

New V.A. chief vows to learn lessons from Phoenix problems. (AP)

The Ferguson, MO City Council meets tonight to discuss policing. (KSDK)

Missouri and Texas plan executions tonight. (AP)

A fourth American ebola patient comes home for treatment today. (AP)

What on earth can you do with an 8+ pound tomato? (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

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Abuse video brings unprecedented shame to NFL

Abuse video brings unprecedented shame to NFL

09/08/14 10:51PM

Juliet Macur, sports reporter for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the newly public video of football player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancé unconscious, and the pressure on the NFL not to look the other way on domestic violence. watch

Obama immigration reversal flusters advocates

Obama immigration reversal flusters advocates

09/08/14 10:50PM

José Díaz-Balart, host of the José Díaz-Balart show on MSNBC, talks with Rachel Maddow about the frustrated confusion among immigration reform advocates at President Obama's emphatic promise to take action before summer's end and sudden delay... watch

Ahead on the 9/8/14 Maddow show

09/08/14 07:12PM

Tonight's guests:

  • Juliet Macur, New York Times sports reporter
  • José Díaz-Balart, host of the José Díaz-Balart show on MSNBC and news anchor for Telemundo

Watch a preview video of tonight's show after the jump

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Monday's Mini-Report, 9.8.14

09/08/14 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Iraq: "Early Monday, ISIS forces attacked Sunni tribal fighters north of Baghdad, killing at least 17 people. Using an explosive-laden Humvee, apparently captured from the Iraqi Army, the militants assaulted an entrance to the town of Dhuluiya, according to local tribal leaders."
* Some Iraqi political progress: "Iraq swore in a new government on Monday to try to bridge the violence-ravaged country's deep divisions. The late-night vote in parliament got underway after Kurdish lawmakers, who had threatened to boycott, joined from the cafeteria an hour and a half late. But key positions, including the defense and interior chiefs, were left open amid controversy over who would fill the roles."
* Ukraine: "With a fragile truce barely holding in eastern Ukraine, President Petro O. Poroshenko visited the port city of Mariupol on Monday, not far from where Ukrainian forces suffered severe losses in recent days, and declared that his government would never relinquish territory that some separatists claim historically belongs to Russia."
* What will Congress say? "President Obama is pushing congressional leaders to authorize a broad counterterrorism relief fund that could be used to support operations against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. Doing so might allow the White House and congressional leaders to avoid a tough vote to either authorize or fund military action before the midterm elections and still achieve the 'buy in' the president has said he wants from Congress."
* Ebola: "The Pentagon will send a 25-bed field hospital to Liberia to help provide medical care for health workers trying to contain the fast spreading Ebola virus that has killed 2,100 people in West Africa."
* This could get ugly: "The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah once more brought Afghanistan's troubled electoral process to the brink on Monday, insisting that he had won the disputed vote and vowing to reject any government formed on the basis of it."
* Hey, look, bipartisanship: "The bonhomie was flowing between former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Monday morning at an event to announce a new scholarship program run jointly by their presidential centers."
* While President Obama assembles an international coalition to respond to ISIS, Iran's role is well worth watching. Joshua Keating had a good piece explaining why,
* Net neutrality: "The Federal Communications Commission should ban 'fast lanes' on the Internet by regulating broadband companies like traditional phone companies, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Monday."
* Overdue: "Democrats are demanding the Obama administration update its policy to allow gay men to donate blood, tissue and organs."
* Another NBA owner? "Another basketball team will go up for sale thanks to racist statements. Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson will sell his stake in the team over a 2012 email that included disparaging statements about the team's African-American fans."
Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens sits on the bench against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of their preseason game on August 16, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.

Ray Rice video generates outrage, suspension

09/08/14 05:03PM

We don't usually cover sports stories, but some controversies have a cultural and societal impact that extends well beyond the game. The Ray Rice story, for example, is about far more than one athlete caught on film in an incident of brutal domestic violence.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL and terminated by his team after the celebrity gossip website TMZ released disturbing new footage Monday of the star player striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in February.
This unprecedented move by the NFL and the Ravens comes just weeks after the league instituted a stronger policy to combat domestic abuse by personnel on and off the field.
The public was already aware of the incident, though up until very recently, the available video had previously only shown the aftermath of Rice's assault. The NFL, for example, issued a brief, two-game suspension for the player in July in response to footage of Rice dragging this unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator.
The tepid response from the league drew widespread condemnations and caused the NFL to increase the penalty and overhaul its approach towards players accused of domestic violence.
The newly released video, however, was so shocking that the previous reactions were immediately deemed inadequate all over again. It led Rice's team to cut him this afternoon, an announcement that coincided with the indefinite league suspension.
There's no shortage of questions that still deserve answers. Did the NFL see the entire video sooner than league officials now claim? Why was the initial video not sufficient for a meaningful response from the league and the Ravens? By what justification was the NFL largely indifferent towards domestic violence up until very recently?
And while we're at it, what in the world was Fox News thinking this morning?
A sign is posted in front of a Panera Bread restaurant on June 3, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Panera Bread latest to push for gun-free dining

09/08/14 03:25PM

In the spring, some national restaurant chains, including Chipotle, Chili's, and Sonic, issued statements on a pressing national issue: going forward, their customers should not bring loaded firearms into their establishments.
As Michele Richinick reports, the list of chains following suit keeps growing.
In a move unlike any other management persuaded by national campaigns to alter their gun policies, the CEO of Panera Bread is asking customers to leave their guns at home. Throughout the past year, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have influenced various corporations to ban armed individuals from entering stores. The companies typically respond promptly to the petitions by asking clients to refrain from possessing firearms while dining or shopping at the various locations across the country.
A spokesperson for the pro-reform gun group said the moms and Panera management had discussed the possibility of a firearms prohibition in the months prior to the CEO's ultimate choice on Monday. But CEO Ronald Shaich proactively adopted new regulations, unprompted by a national campaign against his stores.
In a statement to msnbc, Panera Bread said, "Within our company, we strive to create Panera Warmth. This warmth means bakery-cafes where customers and associates feel comfortable and welcome. To this end, we ask that guns not be brought into this environment unless carried by an authorized law enforcement officer. Panera respects the rights of gun owners, but asks our customers to help preserve the environment we are working to create for our guests and associates."
The new policy applies to all North American locations and takes effect immediately.
The Panera Bread announcement also comes just a month after Target unveiled a policy asking that its "guests not bring firearms to Target -- even in communities where it is permitted by law." Similar no-firearms policies have been announced this year by Costco, Toys "R" Us, Babies "R" Us, Whole Foods Market, and IKEA.
What I continue to find amazing is that these policies have become quite necessary.