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Clinton turns sights to general election

Clinton turns sights to general election

05/02/16 10:11PM

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

'Zombie race' for Cruz if IN goes for Trump

'Zombie race' for Cruz if Indiana goes for Trump

05/02/16 09:25PM

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

Monday's Mini-Report, 5.2.16

05/02/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* 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."
Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) participate in a debate sponsored by Fox News at the Fox Theatre on March 3, 2016 in Detroit, Mich. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Rubio opposes Trump, but remains silent for a reason

05/02/16 04:49PM

On March 15, Marco Rubio lost his home state of Florida by 20 points -- after having guaranteed a victory -- forcing the senator to exit the Republican presidential race. Two days later, Politico reported that Rubio's was "close" to endorsing Ted Cruz, but the senators had "some details to work out."
That was nearly two months ago. There's been no endorsement and there are no rumors about one on the way.
So what happened? Marc Caputo followed up on his March report with an interesting article today.
Marco Rubio won't be endorsing Ted Cruz during the Republican presidential primary, but he's likely to back the Texas senator at a contested convention -- if it gets that far.
The de facto plan, Rubio's backers say, is designed to help Cruz. It also, however, protects Rubio's political future, including if he decides to make another run for the White House.
Team Rubio's thinking apparently follows a certain internal logic: the senator agrees that Trump would be an awful candidate, John Kasich can't get the GOP nomination, and Cruz deserves support by process of elimination. If push came to shove at the Republican convention, and Rubio could use his influence to undermine Trump in Cleveland, the Florida senator would do what he could.
But if Rubio would prefer a Cruz victory to any other outcome, why doesn't he just take proactive steps to make that happen?
A source close to Rubio told Politico, "[W]hat Marco isn't going to do is just endorse Ted, watch Trump win anyway and then, in four years, watch Cruz use Marco's endorsement against him if they both run for president again."
Oh, I see. Rubio wants to undermine Trump, but not if it means interfering in any way with the Rubio 2020 campaign. Doing the right thing is nice, but not if it comes at a possible cost to Rubio's long-term ambitions.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, then Democratic nominee, visits former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder's Public Policy class at Virginia Commonwealth University September 5, 2013 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Virginia GOP to sue McAuliffe over felon voting rights

05/02/16 12:50PM

Up until 10 days ago, Virginia was one of the nation's harshest states when it came to denying former felons the right to vote. That changed quickly when Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) issued a historic executive order restoring ex-felons' voting rights, opening the door to more than 200,000 Virginians to participate in their own democracy.
The Washington Post added that McAuliffe's order, which covers former felons who are not on probation or parole, is believed to be "the biggest-ever single action taken to restore voting rights in this country."
Republicans weren't just outraged; they're also fighting to undo what's been done. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported this morning:
Virginia Republican leaders have hired a prominent conservative lawyer to lead an expected court challenge to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's recent order restoring voting rights for 206,000 felons.
General Assembly Republicans announced Monday that they have retained Charles J. Cooper, a former assistant attorney general under President Ronald Reagan who was once named "Republican lawyer of the year."
"We have retained Mr. Cooper to examine the legal options to remedy this Washington-style overreach by the executive branch," Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr. (R) said. "Mr. Cooper is an extremely qualified attorney and we have every confidence he will proceed prudently, judiciously, and expeditiously."
The litigation will be financed through a combination of "private and political funds, not taxpayer money."
And while state GOP officials have largely focused their criticisms on the breadth of McAuliffe's order, rather than the underlying policy itself, it's worth appreciating the racist roots of the voter-suppression policy Republicans are so eager to restore.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.2.16

05/02/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Indiana's presidential primaries are tomorrow, and the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Donald Trump leading Ted Cruz, 49% to 34%. John Kasich is third with 13%.
* Among Democrats in Indiana, the same poll shows Hillary Clinton with a narrow lead over Bernie Sanders, 50% to 46%.
* In keeping with the recent pattern, Team Cruz easily outhustled Team Trump at a state convention, this time in Arizona, where Trump won the primary easily in late March.
* Sanders and Clinton each raised about $26 million in April, though for the Vermont senator, this represents a sharp decline from his extraordinary fundraising success in the first three months of the year. Last month, Clinton also raised an additional $10 million for national and state Democratic parties.
* After a lukewarm and widely mocked Cruz endorsement on Friday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) wrote an op-ed expressing his support for the Texas senator in more enthusiastic terms.
* Thanks to a Friday court ruling, Jon Keyser (R) is back on the Republican primary ballot in Colorado's U.S. Senate race. Keyser apparently failed to submit the necessary number of ballot signatures, but a judge concluded his campaign's misstep was accidental, not an attempt at fraud.
* The latest Gallup poll shows Ted Cruz with a negative net favorability rating -- among Republicans. The primary process has not exactly done wonders for the senator's reputation.
Paul LePage

Maine lawmakers override LePage's callousness on drug policy

05/02/16 11:20AM

Even those who've come to expect the worst from Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) were taken aback two weeks ago when he vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense an effective anti-overdose drug without a prescription. Making matters slightly worse was the Republican governor's explanation.
"Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose," LePage said in a written statement. As we discussed at the time, the governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case that those struggling with opioid addiction don't have lives worth saving.
Experts from the health care and law enforcement communities hoped state lawmakers would override LePage's veto. Late last week, the Portland Press Herald reported that the legislature did exactly that.
Maine lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Friday to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto and allow pharmacists to dispense the drug overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription.... The House voted 132-14 and the Senate voted 29-5 to override LePage.
Also known by the brand name Narcan, naloxone works to quickly counteract the potentially deadly symptoms of an overdose from heroin or other opiates.
It's worth noting for context that the Maine Senate has a Republican majority and the state House has a Democratic majority, though in this case, that didn't make much of a difference.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks during an interview at the Governor's mansion in Raleigh, N.C., April 12, 2016. (Photo by Gerry Broome/AP)

Election-year divisions rock North Carolina's GOP

05/02/16 10:40AM

Things could be better for North Carolina Republicans right now. After significant victories in 2012 and 2014, GOP policymakers are in a dominant position in the Tar Heel State, but as things stand, the right's hold on North Carolina may not last much longer.
The debacle surrounding the anti-LGBT HB2 continues to haunt the Republicans who rushed the law through, and the consequences are likely to linger. Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was apparently caught off guard by the entire controversy, continues to struggle with the mess he helped create.
Voters have noticed. A conservative group released a statewide poll on Friday that found McCrory losing his re-election bid to state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) by 10 points, 46% to 36%. And while Mitt Romney won North Carolina four years ago, this same poll showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in North Carolina by 12 points.
Sen. Richard Burr (R), meanwhile, is also seeking a second term this year, despite a low approval rating and a dwindling lead over his Democratic challenger.
Perhaps the state Republican Party can help calm the waters and get the GOP slate back on track? Not anytime soon they won't: WRAL reported over the weekend that the state party just fired its own chairman.
Members of the North Carolina Republican Party's nearly 600-member member executive committee voted Saturday to remove Hasan Harnett as chairman, ending a months-long leadership struggle that focused GOP establishment on its own internal drama rather than campaigning against Democrats.
Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse made the announcement shortly after 5 p.m., saying that the proceedings had been "somber." The committee found that Harnett was responsible for violating the party's plan of organization and "gross inefficiency."
If North Carolina Republicans are hoping this reduces some of the intra-party pressure, they may be disappointed.
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign rally on the New Haven green in New Haven, Conn., April 25, 2016. (Photo by Bill Shettle/ZUMA)

Bernie Sanders commits to controversial convention strategy

05/02/16 10:00AM

The road ahead for the Bernie Sanders campaign has been difficult to discern of late. Yesterday brought unexpected clarity.
Two weeks ago, Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC that the senator would "absolutely" take the Democratic race to the convention, even if Sanders loses the fight for pledged delegates and popular votes. The plan, Weaver said, is to ensure that the race is "determined by the superdelegates."
Soon after, however, Sanders' chief strategist, Tad Devine, told Rachel that the campaign plan is actually quite different. As Devine described it, Team Sanders believes superdelegates should "follow the will of the voters." In practical terms, given Hillary Clinton's advantage, Devine was describing a scenario in which the Sanders campaign would accept the outcome of the primaries and caucuses.
So, which of these aides was correct? The Vermont senator himself shed light on his plans at a press conference in D.C. yesterday.
Bernie Sanders said on Sunday that he and Hillary Clinton were heading to a "contested" convention this summer because she will need superdelegates to secure the nomination, a claim that clashes with the accepted definition of a contested convention. He also said that superdelegates who have supported her should switch to him instead.
At a news conference in Washington, Mr. Sanders said that the Democratic convention in July would be contested because "it is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to reach the majority of convention delegates by June 14 with pledged delegates alone," and that she "will need superdelegates to take her over the top." He added: "In other words, the convention will be a contested convention."
Of particular interest, Sanders pointed to states where he was successful at earning voters' support, though party officials from those states are nevertheless backing Clinton. He pointed specifically to the state of Washington, where Sanders won a huge landslide victory, but where the state's 10 superdelegates continue, at least for now, to support his opponent.
"If I win a state with 70 percent of the vote, you know what? I think I am entitled to those superdelegates," Sanders said yesterday. "I think the superdelegates should reflect what the people of the state want, and that's true for Hillary Clinton as well."
That's hardly an outrageous argument. Under the rules, superdelegates are allowed -- and by some measures, encouraged -- to exercise their own judgment, but Sanders' point seems reasonable enough. Perhaps there should be some correlation between the judgment of a state's voters and the attitudes of the state's superdelegates?
Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) walks through Statuary Hall on his way to the House floor to make his farewell address to Congress on Nov., 15, 2007 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Worst. Speaker. Ever?

05/02/16 09:20AM

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a founding member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, made no secret of his contempt for former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) when they served together in Congress. Indeed, the Idaho congressman plotted against Boehner for quite a while, contributing to the former Speaker's decision to quit last year.
Given this history, Labrador's comments to CNN on Friday probably didn't come as too big of a surprise.
Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador said Friday that John Boehner was "the worst speaker of the House in history." [...]
"I've been pretty good at trying not to attack John Boehner on a personal basis, even though I thought he was the worst speaker of the House in history. He was a terrible leader. And now I think the gloves are off," Labrador added.
Labrador was apparently outraged by Boehner's criticism of Ted Cruz during a public appearance last week, prompting the congressman's furious response.
But the thing that jumped out at me as Labrador's unfortunate timing: on Wednesday, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was sentenced to prison after a judge concluded he was a serial child molester. Two days later, Raul Labrador concluded someone else was the worst House Speaker ever?
It seems as if much of the political world doesn't want to think too much about the implications of the Hastert scandal. It's uncomfortable realization -- the longest serving Republican Speaker in American history, a man who was two heartbeats from the presidency for eight years, sexually assaulted several minors -- and as a result, some in D.C. prefer to simply look away.
And Labrador's comments help drive the point home. It apparently didn't occur to him, 48 hours after Hastert's sentencing, to think the serial child molester might be the worst Speaker ever.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a rally at the Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Ind., April 26, 2016. (Photo by Michael Conroy/AP)

Running out of options, Ted Cruz moves the goalposts

05/02/16 08:40AM

About a month ago, shortly before the Wisconsin primary that he would soon after win, Ted Cruz made a very specific case: if a Republican presidential candidate can't win the party's nomination before the convention, dropping out is the obvious thing to do.
During an interview with WTMJ in Milwaukee, Cruz said of John Kasich, "I think any candidate that doesn't have a path to winning, that's the time you should suspend your campaign. Kasich has been mathematically eliminated. He needs more than 100% of the remaining delegates.... Kasich is a good an honorable man, but he doesn't have a path to win."
At the time, that might have seemed like a reasonable position, since Cruz believed there was still a chance he'd catch up to Trump and possibly even reach the 1,237-delegate threshold by June. But in the six primaries since Wisconsin, the Texas senator has earned a whopping two pledged delegates. A month after dismissing Kasich as a candidate who should obviously quit because he's been "mathematically eliminated," needing "more than 100% of the remaining delegates," Cruz awkwardly finds himself facing identical circumstances.
If the Republican senator followed the same principles he outlined just last month, Cruz would have no choice but to end his own campaign. And since he obviously doesn't want to do that, Cruz is instead moving the goalposts. Consider what the Texan told ABC's Martha Raddatz yesterday:
"You know, if you can't earn a majority, you can't unite the party. And that makes you a terribly weak general election candidate."
This is the wrong argument from the wrong candidate.