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The sun begins to rise behind the dome of the US Capitol that is covered in scafollding for repairs, on Nov. 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.

GOP candidates try to put a positive spin on gridlock

10/26/16 11:20AM

By the time a party's candidates get to the "vote for me as a check against the other party's presidential candidate," they're effectively giving up on their own party's national ticket. The Associated Press reported yesterday that many Republicans have already reached this point.
With polls showing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump facing a steep path to victory, GOP candidates are increasingly seeking voters' support by saying they will check [Hillary] Clinton's agenda. Republicans hope that a loathing for Clinton will drive voters to the polls who otherwise might stay home because of their aversion to Trump.
Some Republicans aren't exactly being subtle about this message. One of Sen. John McCain's (R) re-election ads in Arizona tells voters, "If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp, for the White House."

At a certain level, it's easy to imagine some voters finding this persuasive. If you're skeptical about Clinton, you might see some value in keeping Congress in Republican hands, despite the party's performance in recent years, to keep a Democratic White House from going "too far."

But it's important that voters also understand the practical implications of such a strategy: the question is less about the value of "checks," and more about the public's appetite for gridlock.
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Voters cast their vote in the Presidential elections on November, 6, 2012 in Janesville Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty)

Wis. clerk rejected voting site because she feared helping Dems

10/26/16 10:38AM

After voters at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay experienced long voting lines during the state's April 5 presidential primary, a variety of student groups -- including those representing campus Republicans and Democrats -- encouraged the city to add an early-voting location on university grounds. The city, Wisconsin's third largest, refused.

Green Bay instead said it would have one early-voting site for the entire city: a clerk's office with limited hours, which isn't within walking distance from the campus. Officially, City Clerk Kris Teske, an ally of Gov. Scott Walker (R), said Green Bay didn't have the necessary resources for another voting location.

But unofficially, it was a very different story. The Nation's Ari Berman, relying on documents obtained through an open-records request by the One Wisconsin Institute, reported yesterday:
[P]rivately Teske gave a different reason for opposing an early-voting site at UW–Green Bay, writing that student voting would benefit the Democratic Party.

"UWGB is a polling location for students and residents on Election Day but I feel by asking for this to be the site for early voting is encouraging the students to vote more than benefiting the city as a whole," she wrote on August 26 in an e-mail to David Buerger, counsel at the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. "I have heard it said that students lean more toward the democrats.... I have spoken with our Chief of Staff and others at City Hall and they agree that budget wise this isn't going to happen. Do I have an argument about it being more of a benefit to the democrats?"
State Rep. Eric Genrich, who's tried unsuccessfully to expand voting opportunities in Green Bay, told The Nation, "Whether or not more students voting benefits Democrats is beside the point and that shouldn't be the position of a nonpartisan city clerk. I don't know what Kris's politics are, but it's really unfortunate to see her echoing the sentiments of Republicans in Wisconsin, who have been making it really difficult for citizens to vote in this state."
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Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the NRA, speaks at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the site for the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Houston, Texas May 3, 2013. It is time to stop...

The NRA presents its members with an alternate reality

10/26/16 10:01AM

A key element of Donald Trump's electoral strategy is convincing as many Americans as possible that the United States is in ruins. That rascally President Obama created a dystopian nightmare, the argument goes, which in turn created conditions that demand radical change that only a controversial television personality can provide.

It is, to be sure, an odd pitch in a country with low unemployment, low crime rates, the lowest uninsured rate on record, falling poverty, the highest graduation rates on record, and a relatively popular president. But the Republican presidential nominee feels like he doesn't have much of a choice: if he doesn't convince voters their lives are a living hell, they're unlikely to vote for him.

As it turns out, the National Rifle Association is thinking along similar lines. Media Matters had an interesting report this week on the NRA's new election-season message, which is striking in its departure from reality.
The leader of the National Rifle Association insisted he wasn't "crazy," "paranoid," or "nuts" before ranting to NRA members in an "urgent" video message where he made claims at odds with reality, including claiming that his widely ridiculed prediction that President Obama would come for Americans' guns "came true."

During a six-minute get-out-the-vote video, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre described America after eight years of Obama as president in hellish terms unrecognizable to anyone who actually lives here, claiming that the president has "laid waste to the America we remember" causing the country to "completely unravel."
That may seem hyperbolic, but the Media Matters report included a transcript, and LaPierre's tirade is as amazing as advertised.

"When I said Barack Obama would come for our guns and do everything in his power to sabotage the Second Amendment, they savaged me. They called me a liar," the NRA leader proclaimed. "But every one of those predictions came true."

Now, I like to think of myself as someone who pays fairly close attention to current events, but I have no recollection of the president coming for Americans' guns. The White House also proposed nothing that would "sabotage" the Second Amendment.

And yet, in LaPierre's mind, it's time for a proud victory lap -- because the anti-Obama predictions that appear kind of silly in hindsight, in his mind, actually "came true."
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Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty)

Trump ready to go 'to the back of the barn' to confront Biden

10/26/16 09:20AM

At a campaign event in Pennsylvania last week, Vice President Biden made no effort to contain his disgust with Donald Trump, following the release a recording in which the Republican boasted about sexual assault. "The press always asks me, don't I wish I were debating him?" Biden told the audience. "No, I wish we were in high school, and I could take him behind the gym. That's what I wish."

It took a few days, but the GOP nominee heard about Biden's rhetoric and responded at a rally in Florida last night.
Trump remembered the comments slightly differently -- he said, "did you see Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn?" -- but wasn't deterred by the sentiment behind them.

"I'd love that," he said of the idea of the two grown men tussling as if they were high schoolers. "Oh, some things in life you could really love doing," Trump added.

Trump attacked Biden as a "Mr. Tough Guy when he's standing behind a microphone by himself."
For what it's worth, I don't think any of this posturing does anyone any good, and Biden shouldn't have started this pointless spat. He's clearly an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, and at a certain level it may seem understandable that Biden would respond to Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape in a candid way, but he's a sitting vice president. Biden shouldn't be talking publicly about his desire to beat up a major-party presidential nominee.

Having said that, if there were some kind of showdown between Biden and Trump, history is on the Democrat's side: vice presidents have an undefeated record in these kinds of violent confrontations.
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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks in Providence, R.I.,  (Photo by Steven Senne/AP File)

Colin Powell makes his presidential preference clear

10/26/16 08:40AM

On Oct. 25, 2012, former Secretary of State Colin Powell praised President Obama's record and announced his support for the president's re-election. Exactly four years to the day later, on Oct. 25, 2016, Powell once again weighed in on the nation's presidential race, and again expressed support for the Democratic nominee.
Colin Powell said Tuesday that he is endorsing and voting for Hillary Clinton, NBC News has confirmed. [...]

He has been highly critical of Trump, calling him a "national disgrace" but has also been critical of Clinton. But unlike many Republicans who say they can't vote for Trump but have also said they can neither back Clinton, Powell has come out for Clinton.

He has been a tangential figure this election cycle as hacked emails show that Powell told Clinton when she was beginning her tenure as secretary of State that he used his personal email while at State.
Powell's support doesn't come as too big of a surprise given his criticisms of Trump -- Powell has referred to his party's nominee as a "national disgrace" -- though he obviously could've remained neutral.

It's tough to gauge the impact of a development like this, though it's probably fair to say Powell remains a popular figure, despite his tenure in the Bush/Cheney administration, and one of the nation's most widely respected Republicans. Clinton and her team have made a concerted effort to reach out to mainstream GOP voters, telling them that this is one of those cycles in which they really should vote Democratic, and Powell's backing makes that pitch a little easier.

But of particular interest is how Republicans might try to explain this one away.
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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump undermines Republican Party with controversial strategy

10/26/16 08:00AM

A couple of weeks ago, the Republican Party faced crisis conditions. Donald Trump was reeling after a tape emerged of boasting about sexual assault; GOP lawmakers were distancing themselves from their party's presidential nominee; Trump backers held protests outside Republican National Committee headquarters; and party officials were generally at each other's throats. A former GOP senator noted, "It's every person for himself or herself right now."

As Election Day draws closer, that assessment is even more true now. As Rachel noted on last night's show, the Washington Post published a scoop that's almost hard to believe.
Donald Trump's campaign said Tuesday that it has scheduled no more big-money fundraising events to benefit the Republican Party, another sign of the GOP nominee's struggling campaign and a serious blow to the party's get-out-the-vote operations with less than two weeks to go until Election Day.

The consequences of halting major fundraisers will compound the challenges facing a candidate and a party already straining to match Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's much larger and better-financed operation. Unlike Clinton, who has an extensive turnout operation of her own, Trump and many other GOP candidates down the ballot are relying heavily on the Republican National Committee to bring voters to the polls.
With two weeks remaining, Clinton and Democrats are still trying to build as large a financial advantage as possible, not just for the presidential ticket, but to help Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine didn't have any major rallies scheduled yesterday, but when he sat down with Rachel last night, the interview was scheduled in between five separate fundraisers the senator was headlining just yesterday.

Meanwhile, Steven Mnuchin, Trump's national finance chairman, told the Post that Trump Victory, a joint fundraising operation intended to benefit the candidate and the party, held its last formal fundraising event on Oct. 19 -- three weeks ahead of Election Day -- and no additional events are on the calendar.

Mnuchin added that while online donations continue to come in, "We've kind of wound down."

It's an astonishing strategy, adopted by a Republican presidential nominee who appears increasingly indifferent to his party's needs.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.25.16

10/25/16 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mosul: "As thousands of Iraqi troops slowly encircle the city of Mosul, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter met here Tuesday with key coalition members, suggesting that the battle for the Islamic State's de facto capital in northern Syria could soon begin."

* ISIS: "U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday that the planned offensive against the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa, in Syria, would overlap with the ongoing assault in Mosul, while warning that the terrorist group would feel cornered and seek revenge against targets in Europe or America."

* Wisconsin: "A City Clerk Opposed an Early-Voting Site at UW–Green Bay Because 'Students Lean More Toward the Democrats.'"

* North Dakota: "Former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday praised demonstrators protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, calling the project 'dangerous.' Gore said he is opposed to the $3.8 billion pipeline project and supports the fight to stop it in North Dakota, where the pipeline has become a rallying point for American Indian rights and anti-fossil fuel activists alike."

* Keep an eye on this one: "President Obama is cracking down on 'non-compete' and 'no-poaching' agreements that have become notorious in the Silicon Valley for depressing the wages for tens of thousands of technology workers."

* VW: "A federal judge on Tuesday approved one of the largest consumer settlements in U.S. history, a nearly $15 billion U.S. deal concerning Volkswagen Group's diesel car emissions scandal."
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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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