Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* On the heels of Donald Trump complaining about the "woman's card," Hillary Clinton reportedly raised $2.4 million, her biggest short-term fundraising boost of the campaign thus far.
* Trump may be the Republican frontrunner, but as the AP discovered, he's "collected little information about tens of millions of voters he needs to turn out in the fall. He's sent few people to battleground states compared with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, accumulated little if any research on her, and taken no steps to build a network capable of raising the roughly $1 billion needed to run a modern-day general election campaign."
* In Wisconsin, Freedom Partners Action Fund, financed in part by the Koch brothers, have launched $2 million in attack ads targeting former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in his race against incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), a favorite of far-right donors.
* Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has said he's considering a U.S. Senate campaign against incumbent Sen. Angus King (I) in 2018, and many progressive activists, hoping for a "Hindenberg-level disaster," are encouraging the governor to do exactly that.
* In a bit of a surprise, Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), who is retiring at the end of this Congress, announced yesterday that he will not run for governor in New York in 2018.
* There's no clear frontrunner in next year's gubernatorial race in Virginia, but former state A,G. Ken Cuccinelli (R), who failed in his 2013 statewide bid, announced that he isn't going to try again in 2017.
Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) decided to pick a curious fight with California. In retrospect, he probably should have thought this through a little better.
To briefly recap, the Republican governor announced that he was on his way to the Golden State, where he'd try to convince business leaders to relocate. As part of the pitch, Scott, relying on his economic development organization, launched radio ads touting Florida's lower minimum wage, non-existent state income tax, and weaker regulations.
The response from California Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) press secretary was pretty compelling in its own right, but the governor himself took some time to reply to Rick Scott directly yesterday. The L.A. Timesreported:
Brown's letter to Gov. Rick Scott was billed as a plea for the Florida Republican to get engaged on the issue of climate change. But he also made it clear that he sees nothing wrong with California's economic health these days.
"Rick," Brown wrote, "a fact you'd like to ignore: California is the 7th largest economic power in the world. We're competing with nations like Brazil and France, not states like Florida."
As it turns out, Brown didn't just send correspondence to his cross-country critic. The Californian also sent a report from a non-partisan climate initiative: "Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas."
As Brown seemed eager to note, the report said, "Florida faces more risk than any other state that private, insurable property could be inundated by high tide, storm surge and sea level rise. By 2030 up to $69 billion in coastal property will likely be at risk of inundation at high tide that is not at risk today. By 2050, the value of property below local high tide levels will increase to up to about $152 billion."
The Democratic governor concluded, "So while you're enjoying a stroll on one of California's beautiful beaches this week, don't stick your head in the sand. Take a few minutes to read the rest of this report. There's no time to waste."
On the surface, the race for a presidential nomination seems relatively straightforward: candidates compete in a series of primaries and caucuses, hoping to earn pledged delegates to their party's national convention. Get enough delegates and you're the nominee.
But just below the surface, things get a little complicated. Especially for candidates who are likely to come up short, there are often spirited attempts to suggest the only metric that matters isn't the only metric that matters. In recent months, for example, Bernie Sanders' campaign has put forward a variety of arguments intended to shift the focus away from the fight for pledged delegates: maybe blue-state contests matter more; perhaps Southern victories "distort reality"; maybe successes in closed primaries are less impressive, and so on.
Yesterday, Sanders' top campaign strategist, Tad Devine, came up with a brand new one. The Huffington Postreported:
"Let's suppose that in the next six weeks, Bernie Sanders goes on a tear like he has gone on before. And let's suppose in the 10 states and the four other contests that are out there, he wins the vast majority of them -- he wins California by a huge margin, he racks up an impressive set of victories," said Devine. "Should we then say the only benchmark is who has got more pledged delegates? Shouldn't those superdelegates take into consideration a totality of the circumstances?"
Asked if he believed that later contests were more important than earlier ones, Devine didn't flinch. "I think they are," he said,
I've seen some Sanders critics already suggest, in response to Devine's comments, the idea of later victories mattering more than early victories is absurd. And while I can appreciate the point, history offers an interesting counter-example.
By any fair metric, Donald Trump is well positioned to win the Republicans' presidential nomination, and is already starting to shift his focus to the general election. But to think that the GOP frontrunner is finished complaining about his intra-party rival is to make a mistake.
Take this morning, for example, when Trump, repeating a story he saw in a tabloid, alleged that Ted Cruz's father was seen palling around with Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Politicoreported this morning:
"His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being -- you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous," Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. "What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it."
"I mean, what was he doing -- what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?" Trump continued. "It's horrible."
In keeping with his m.o., Trump's odd broadside against his rival's father comes on the heels of Rafael Cruz, a prominent surrogate for his son's campaign, telling conservatives that a Trump presidency could lead to "the destruction of America."
Evidently, Trump heard this and decided to respond with a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
For what it's worth, there's no real reason to actually believe the conspiracy theory, but in the mind of Donald Trump, there's little relationship between evidence and wild-eyed theories that he's inclined to embrace and disseminate with great enthusiasm.
When it comes to public schools providing meals for low-income children, congressional Republicans have built up a discouraging record in recent years. In 2014, for example, a GOP congressman from Georgia suggested struggling children should either pay more for school meals or tackle janitorial tasks in their schools in exchange for food.
Around the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a speech suggesting kids who rely on school lunches aren't cared for as much as kids who bring their own lunch to school. The far-right lawmaker, we later learned, was relying on an anecdote that turned out to be made-up.
That was the last Congress. In this Congress, Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg made the case in the Washington Post yesterday that Republican lawmakers are eyeing new restrictions on the federal program.
Under current law, changed by Democrats in 2010, schools don't have to verify which individual students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Rather, if a school serves a community in which 40% of the kids are eligible for meal assistance -- called the "Identified Student Percentage" -- the schools can make food available to all of its students. It streamlines the bureaucracy and verification process, cuts down on paperwork, and helps ensure children receive the benefits to which they're entitled under the law.
A new GOP proposal wants to change the status quo. From the Bernstein/Spielberg piece:
[A] new proposal by congressional conservatives would restrict community eligibility, substantially increasing administrative burdens in more than 7,000 schools and threatening 3.4 million students' access to school meals. For no good reason that we can see, lawmakers from the Education and the Workforce Committee may vote soon to raise the ISP threshold from 40 percent to 60 percent. Because [Identified Student Percentage] numbers don't capture low-income students who must typically apply for free or reduced-price meals, this threshold would render all but the highest-poverty schools (generally those in which more than 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals) ineligible for community eligibility.
Raising the threshold would save a little bit of money, as fewer students would qualify for free school meals, but the overall savings of about $1.6 billion over 10 years wouldn't come close to offsetting the administrative burden, increased social stigma for low-income students, and negative health and academic effects it could create.
In recent weeks, we've seen some high-profile examples of Republicans accidentally telling the truth about voter-ID laws. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), a far-right freshman congressman, admitted a month ago, for example, that these laws are likely to make a difference boosting Republicans in the 2016 elections.
Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now the head of the Heritage Foundation, added last week that Republicans have kept up the crusade in support of this policy "because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you've seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates."
But what sometimes goes overlooked is the fact that anti-voting policymakers aren't just spinning their wheels, pushing an idea that may or may not have some effects on the margins. As the New York Timesreported yesterday, Republicans are championing voter-ID laws precisely because they have the intended effect.
Since their inception a decade ago, voter identification laws have been the focus of fierce political and social debate. Proponents, largely Republican, argue that the regulations are essential tools to combat election fraud, while critics contend that they are mainly intended to suppress turnout of Democratic-leaning constituencies like minorities and students.
As the general election nears -- in which new or strengthened voter ID laws will be in place in Texas and 14 other states for the first time in a presidential election -- recent academic research indicates that the requirements restrict turnout and disproportionately affect voting by minorities.
The Times highlighted a study published by Zoltan Hajnal, a UC San Diego political science professor, whose research found that "strict voter ID laws double or triple the gap in turnout between whites and nonwhites."
None of this is accidental. It's a feature, not a bug, of a deliberate assault on democracy. Republicans, frustrated by a series of defeats, had a choice: change and adapt in order to appeal to a larger group of American voters, or take steps to rig the game in order to give GOP candidates a built-in advantage.
In recent years, the party has preferred the latter, finding it vastly easier than actually earning more public support.
Rachel Maddow reports on Hillary Clinton shifting the focus of her campaign to general election strategy ahead of the Indiana primary as Bernie Sanders continues to insist he will contest the Democratic nomination at the national convention. watch
Bill Bogert, actor in the famous 1964 anti-Goldwater campaign ad "Confessions of a Republican," talks with Rachel Maddow about the unnerving parallels between the 2016 Republican primary race and the 1964 presidential race. watch
Mark Murray, senior political editor for NBC News, talks with Rachel Maddow about the stakes for Tuesday's Indiana Republican primary, noting that for Donald Trump a big win could make the nomination a slam dunk, but for Cruz, a big loss could turn his campaign into a "zombie race." watch
* Iraq: "Two suicide car bombs claimed by ISIS killed at least 32 people and wounded 75 others in the center of the southern Iraqi city of Samawa on Sunday, police and medics said."
* Also in Iraq: "Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Saturday and entered the Parliament building, waving Iraqi flags, snapping photographs, breaking furniture and demanding an end to corruption. The episode deepened a political crisis that has paralyzed Iraq's government for weeks."
* Syria: "Negotiations are underway to extend a fragile cease-fire agreement in Syria to the embattled northern city of Aleppo, which a surge of violence has nearly torn apart in recent weeks, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday."
* L.A.: "A senior official with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department resigned Sunday after a series of emails he sent mocking Muslims, Mexicans, black people and women during a previous job were released publicly."
* Japan: "President Obama may visit Hiroshima when he travels to Japan late this month for a summit of key industrialized nations, but he will not apologize for the World War II decision to destroy that city with an atomic bomb, the White House said Monday."
* Florida: A Florida man who allegedly planned to blow up a synagogue was arrested by federal agents following a weeks-long sting operation, authorities announced Monday. Court documents say James Gonzalo Medina, 40, of Hollywood, Florida, plotted to plant a bomb at a synagogue in Aventura in Miami-Dade county."