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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses VA Consumer Electronics Association during a Leadership Series discussion at the Ritz-Carlton on May 1, 2015 in McLean, Va. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty)

Waiting for the 'Christie comeback' is a bad idea

05/06/15 09:20AM

In one of my favorite "Simpsons" episodes, Lisa becomes a vegetarian and decides to sabotage a barbecue hosted by Homer and Bart. She hijacks their grill and sends lunch on a wild ride, as Homer and Bart chase after it, hoping their food can be salvaged.
When lunch rolls into the street, Homer says, "It's just a little dirty! It's still good, it's still good!" When lunch lands in a river, Homer says, "It's just a little slimy! It's still good, it's still good!" When lunch gets stuck in a damn before water pressure launches it into the sky, Homer says, "It's just a little airborne! It's still good, it's still good!"
Bart, resigned to defeat, tells his father, "It's gone." Homer, crestfallen, replies, "I know."
I think about the scene whenever New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) presidential ambitions come up. As the Republican's odds of national success roll downhill, just like the Simpsons' family barbecue, Christie's admirers say of his campaign's prospects, "It's just a few criminal indictments! It's still good, it's still good!"
As the Garden State's fiscal conditions deteriorate, thy say, "It's just a few debt downgrades! It's still good, it's still good!" As the governor's electoral support collapses, they proclaim, "It's just a few polls! It's still good, it's still good!"
As Simon Maloy noted yesterday, the next "Christie comeback" always seems to be right around the corner -- though it never arrives.
The Christie Comeback! If it feels like we’ve been predicting and discussing Chris Christie’s imminent political rebirth for a long time, that’s because we have. All that’s been missing has been the actual comeback. Christie’s 2016 primary numbers have steadily eroded from their November 2013 high of 15 percent to his current five percent share. His approval rating in New Jersey has also collapsed to a record low 35 percent. The New Jersey economy is stumbling along, Christie’s paths to victory in early primary states remain highly questionable, and even his own state party is starting to turn on him. But when each new “Christie Comeback” flames out, there seems to be a new one ready to step up and take its place.
What's missing is someone to play the role of Bart, conceding, "It's gone."
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Huckabee's rough start

05/06/15 08:40AM

Towards the end of former Gov. Mike Huckabee's campaign kickoff speech yesterday, the Republican boasted, "I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground."
He then quickly interjected, "Now, rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it."
Some of the audience laughed and it was no doubt intended to be a lighthearted moment. But Philip Bump noticed that Huckabee's speech appeared to step over "one of the few clear legal boundaries that now exist in the world of money in politics."
"A federal candidate cannot solicit a million dollars, let's start there," said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center when The Post reached him by telephone. "If he's there announcing his candidacy, he cannot ask anybody for a million dollars. The most he can ask is the contribution limit; from a PAC that's $5,000."
Huckabee's campaign, of course, can't take a million-dollar contribution, suggesting that his comment was pointing people to give to a super PAC. Huckabee can ask people to give to the PAC, but only up to the limits stated above. What's more, that PAC has to be independent of Huckabee's campaign. "To the extent that he's implying that the money is given to him or will help him, that undermines the concept of independence," Noble said.
Ordinarily, presidential candidates have to be in the race for a while before they're accused of violating campaign-finance laws. Huckabee managed to raise legal concerns literally in his announcement speech.
And given his track record of deeply sketchy -- and sometimes ugly -- financial appeals, Huckabee has reason to be far more cautious.
But even putting all of this aside, the Arkansas Republican's first-day message was flawed in some fairly dramatic ways.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton attends an event in Washington on April 22, 2015

Hillary Clinton goes all in on immigration reform

05/06/15 08:00AM

Before Hillary Clinton's remarks late yesterday in Nevada on immigration policy, reform proponents weren't entirely sure what to expect. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Clinton adopted a decidedly moderate posture on immigration during her first campaign eight years ago, and there was uncertainty about how far she'd be willing to go this year.
But as Alex Seitz-Wald reported, the Democratic frontrunner answered those questions emphatically in the Silver State.
In perhaps the strongest remarks on immigration of her entire career, Hillary Clinton vowed Tuesday evening to "do everything I possibly can" to help immigrants – including going beyond President Obama's executive actions to extend deportation relief to undocumented immigrants. [...]
The Democratic presidential candidate hit almost every issue on the immigration reform activist's wish-list. She called for more humane detention practices, making it easier for families to plead their case for leniency, and took on the private prison industry. And crucially, she said she supported President Obama's actions to shield millions of immigrants from deportation – and promised to go do even more. "If Congress continues to refuse to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further," she said.
According to the transcript made available from the Democrat's campaign, Clinton said during the roundtable meeting, "The American people support comprehensive immigration reform not just because it's the right thing to do -- and it is -- but because it will strengthen families, strengthen our economy, and strengthen our country. That's why we can't wait any longer, we can't wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship. Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side.
"Make no mistake: Today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one. When they talk about "legal status," that's code for 'second-class status.'"
Dara Lind noted that Clinton's speech told progressive activists "exactly what they hoped they'd hear," and turned out to be "much better than they expected to hear." BuzzFeed's report added that the former Secretary of State "just won over much of the skeptical immigrant activist movement."
If this seems like a familiar political dynamic, it's not your imagination.

Plane crash practice? and other headlines

05/06/15 07:38AM

Germanwings co-pilot rehearsed crash on previous flight: report. (NBC News)

Surveillance planes spotted in the sky for days after West Baltimore rioting. (Washington Post)

Attorney for Baltimore officer wants to see the knife Freddie Gray was carrying. (Washington Post)

A gun from Georgia is linked to a New York Police officer's death, again. (New York Times)

Eric Garner case prosecutor is elected to Congress. (New York Magazine)

Texas attacker left trail of extremist ideas on Twitter. (New York Times)

Britain's closest election in a generation goes down to the wire. (Reuters)

read more

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 5.5.15

05/05/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* An important first: "Secretary of State John Kerry made a brief but symbolically significant stopover in Somalia on Tuesday, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit the war-ravaged country since a disastrous foray by American forces more than 20 years ago."
* Baltimore: "In her first visit to Baltimore since riots roiled the city, Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday met with community members and law enforcement officials in an effort to help ease tensions."
* The last of the National Guard troops who were deployed to Baltimore are expected to be gone today.
* Joint Chiefs: "President Barack Obama will name the commandant of the Marines, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., as the 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior defense officials told NBC News on Monday.... If he's confirmed by the Senate, Dunford, the Marines' 36th commandant, or commanding general, would replace Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the nation's top military officer in October when his tour is completed."
* Mac Thornberry on Jade Helm 15: "The chairman of the House Armed Services committee called concerns about a special forces training exercise in Texas 'silly' on Monday, dismissing conspiracy theories of impending martial law."
* Louie Gohmert on Jade Helm 15: "Tea party darling Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday demanded that the U.S. military alter a planned training exercise that some conspiracy theorists believe is cover for a possible takeover of the Lone Star state."
* Saving lives sounds like a good idea: "The Obama Administration's hotly debated plan to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the nation's power plants will save about 3,500 lives a year by cutting back on other types of pollution as well, a new independent study concludes."
* Evidence-based conclusions rarely affect political debates: "The State Department said Monday it has no evidence that any actions taken by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was secretary of state were influenced by donations to the Clinton Foundation or former President Bill Clinton's speaking fees."
Lindsey Graham (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Lindsey Graham's unfortunate beef with the word 'the'

05/05/15 04:54PM

Do you ever see a news headline and find yourself saying, out loud, "Uh oh"? This is not an uncommon occurrence at my desk, and just such an occasion happened this afternoon.
The Haaretz headline read, "Senator Lindsey Graham: Everything that starts with 'Al' in the Mideast is bad news." Like I said, uh oh.
"Everything that starts with 'Al' in the Middle East is bad news," said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina at an AIPAC dinner in Boston on Monday. "Al-Qaida, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula," said the senator, who may be running for president. [...]
The problem -- linguistically -- with Graham's comment is that "Al" is the definite article in Arabic (i.e. equivalent to English's "the"), and usually appears before most Arabic proper nouns, especially place and personal names.
Lindsey Graham is not without his folksy charms, and on Capitol Hill, the South Carolina Republican has developed a well-deserved reputation for being good humored.
But I'm going to hope that this is one joke Graham wishes he could take back.
The stage is seen inside Air Force One Pavilion before the start of the Ronald Reagan Centennial GOP Presidential Primary Candidates Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 7, 2011 in Simi Valley, Calif. (Photo by David McNew/Getty)

Biggest. Field. Ever.

05/05/15 04:14PM

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee unveiled a schedule of party-approved primary debates for the 2016 presidential race. Between August and February, GOP candidates will meet for nine debates, a third of which will be hosted by a Fox network. (The Democratic National Committee unveiled its smaller debate schedule today.)
Almost immediately, however, a problem emerged: how exactly are Republicans going to hold debates for the largest field of candidates in American presidential history? Zeke Miller reported yesterday on the challenge, which relevant players are still working on.
Largely out of view, executives and journalists from Fox and CNN, with input from the national party, are weighing the entrance criteria for the first two debates. Among the options being considered is using polling as a rough inclusionary test, followed by a fundraising metric -- dollars raised or the number of individual donors activated. All of these things are in flux as the networks and the national party struggle with the largest plausible debate field in history.
"This is truly historic in that normally you are trying to get people into the debates and now you are trying to whittle people out of the debates," said one Republican operative familiar with the debate process. "You've never had more than 10 candidates in either party on a debate stage. You could get to at least 16 to 17 candidates and make a legitimate case for them being there -- easy."
That's actually a fairly conservative number. I'd say there are probably 14 candidates likely to compete for the Republican nomination: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Carly Fiorina.
We can probably add two former governors -- James Gilmore and George Pataki -- to the mix, along with John Bolton and Donald Trump. That's 18.
Two current governors -- Mike Pence and Rick Snyder -- certainly seem interested, as does former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Peter King has publicly talked up the possibility, too, bringing us to a total of 22, enough to hold an 11-on-11 football scrimmage.
All of this, of course, leads to some practical questions, including who gets to participate in debates, but there's also an overarching question: why in the world is the Republican field so big?
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential race on May 5, 2015 in Hope, Ark. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/AP)

Does Mike Huckabee stand a chance?

05/05/15 01:08PM

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) may seem like yesterday's news in the world of Republican politics, not having won an election in 12 years and not having served in any public office in nearly nine years. But the preacher-turned-politician-turned-pundit-turned-politician-again still has a base of support and sees a national opportunity.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee from his hometown Tuesday announced his second run for president, declaring to an auditorium of cheers that he is ready to help take America "from hope to higher ground."
"I am a candidate for president of the United States," he said.
Huckabee put together a respectable showing in his 2008 race, but struggled to raise money, and failed to rally support outside the party's evangelical base. The Arkansan -- who now calls Florida home -- has held onto many of those supporters and enters the race as a credible, second-tier contender, leading much of the large GOP field.
But by most measures, Huckabee remains a factional candidate who will struggle to compete for his party's nomination.
Broadly speaking, Republican politics at the national level is comprised of three contingents: social conservatives (anti-gay, anti-abortion), economic conservatives (tax breaks for the rich, deregulation), and military hawks (more wars). The more a GOP presidential candidate can appeal to voters across the factions, the greater his or her chances of success.
Huckabee clearly excels with the religious right, which applauds his radical worldview on cultural and social issues, but the problem he can't shake is simple: the other two contingents aren't just backing other candidates; they actively despise Huckabee.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.5.15

05/05/15 12:00PM

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:
* Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will reportedly kick off his presidential campaign this afternoon. More on this story a little later this afternoon.
* In the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Jeb Bush leads his party's 2016 field at the national level with 23% support, followed by Marco Rubio with 18%, and Scott Walker at 14%.
* The NBC poll also found Hillary Clinton with the best favorability numbers of any national presidential candidate. The Democratic frontrunner also leads each of her Republican rivals in hypothetical general-election match-ups, by margins ranging from 4 points (vs. Rand Paul) to 10 points (vs. Scott Walker).
* Finally, note that President Obama's approval rating in the NBC poll ticked up to 48%, his strongest support in nearly two years. That's 13 points better than George W. Bush's standing at this point eight years ago, and it has the potential to make a big difference in the next election.
* A week after a few dozen House Republicans voted to delay protections for veterans against predatory lenders, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching "digital and direct mail ads" targeting some of the GOP lawmakers who sided with the banking industry.
* In Florida's open U.S. Senate race, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already thrown its support behind Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), despite the fact that the field is not yet settled. The endorsement was unwelcome news for Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who's expressed an interest in the statewide campaign.


About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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