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Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 8, 2014.

Ernst's new game in Iowa: run out the clock

10/23/14 03:58PM

Like many candidates this time of year, Joni Ernst, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa, scheduled a series of sit-down interviews with the editorial boards of local newspapers. It's a rite of passage, of sorts -- candidates are expected to endure questions, murder-board style, in the hopes of impressing editors and earning a newspaper's endorsement.
 
Today, however, decided to scrap those meetings.
Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst snubbed The Des Moines Register, Iowa's biggest and most influential newspaper, by canceling her scheduled Thursday endorsement interview with the editorial board.
 
Ernst was scheduled to sit down with the Register for one hour on Thursday in advance of the paper's endorsement, which could come Sunday. Her Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley, met with the board earlier this month.
According to one editor at the paper, the right-wing state senator also scrapped upcoming meetings with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. At this point, it appears none of the interviews, which Ernst had already agreed to, will be rescheduled. In other words, these were cancellations, not postponements.
 
In a press statement, an Ernst aide said the candidate is "barnstorming the state" and "time is precious." Perhaps. But the Republican Senate hopeful agreed to participate in these interviews with editors, well aware of her schedule.
 
So what changed her mind? Ernst's spokesperson also suggested that the Des Moines Register's editorial board has already made its position "perfectly clear," but (a) that doesn't explain why the far-right candidate scrapped meeting with the other papers; and (b) the DMR has occasionally gone out of its way to give Ernst extraordinarily favorable coverage.
 
With this in mind, there's probably something else going on here.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton speaks during a televised debate at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. on Oct. 14, 2014.

Cotton helps disseminate ISIS propaganda

10/23/14 01:25PM

It's been alarming to see so many Republicans use ISIS propaganda in their campaign ads. But Rep. Tom Cotton (R), the frontrunner in Arkansas' U.S. Senate race, appears to have taken the tactic to a whole new level.
 
In recent months, most of the Republicans incorporating ISIS propaganda into their commercials have relied on the ISIS video in which James Foley was murdered. Foley's family has pleaded not to even watch the footage, but in a few cases, politicians on the right have ignored those wishes.
 
But Andrew Kaczynski has uncovered an even more outrageous example.
An ad from Republican Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton about his military experience and national security issues uses footage from an ISIS propaganda video as B-roll.
 
Cotton's ad, "Decisions," which came out on Oct. 13, highlights the "tough decisions" Cotton would have to make as a senator about ISIS, the militant group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq, and cites Cotton's work as an Army Ranger.
 
The ad about ISIS uses footage directly from the group -- a 55-minute long ISIS video, "Flames of War," which was professionally made and features graphic content that includes a mass execution of a group of men who fall into a ditch.
The right-wing congressman claims in the ad that he'll "make America safer" -- and apparently he'll do so by paying money to help disseminate footage from a terror video that ISIS is desperate to disseminate.
 
I honestly never thought I'd see the day. Far-right politicians, eager to seem "tough" on terror, are deliberately putting terrorists' propaganda on the air, on purpose, to advance their personal ambitions.
chaffetz_12122

GOP lawmaker pushes Ebola 'czar' to take a day off

10/23/14 01:20PM

Ron Klain was introduced last week as the White House's policy coordinator for the federal response to the Ebola virus -- he's the so-called "czar" Republicans have been clamoring for -- and he met in the Oval Office yesterday with President Obama and top aides. It was the first of many, many discussions Klain will have in his oversight role.
 
Congressional Republicans are already complaining in unintentionally amusing ways.
The White House's Ebola czar is "off to a bad start" after declining an invitation to testify before the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Wednesday.
 
"He's on the job as of today -- why not come talk to the American people in the Congress, answer questions from both Republicans and Democrats on Friday?" Chaffetz said during an interview with Fox News. "I don't know. We're off to a bad start."
Chaffetz probably didn't intend for this to be funny, but it's hard not to laugh. Klain meets with the president on Wednesday; he has his first full day on the job on Thursday; and according to the Utah Republican, Klain should stop working on Friday.
 
Why? So he can come to Congress and hear questions he couldn't possibly be prepared to answer after a day and a half on the job.
 
Chaffetz added that lawmakers "have questions as to whether or not he should be in that spot." That sounds like it would set the stage for a fascinating exchange, doesn't it? "Mr. Klain, I don't think you're the best person for this job." "Well, congressman, it's not up to you. Can I go back to actually working now?"

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.23.14

10/23/14 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:
 
* Depending on which poll you believe, the U.S. Senate race in Colorado is either a nail-biter or it's practically over. The new Suffolk poll shows Rep. Cory Gardner (R) with a sizable, seven-point lead over Sen. Mark Udall (D), while the new Reuters poll shows Gardner's lead at just two points.
 
* In Iowa's U.S. Senate race, Quinnipiac now has Joni Ernst (D) leading Bruce Braley (D) by two, 48% to 46%. Last month, Quinnipiac showed Ernst leading by six.
 
* In New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race, the new CNN poll shows Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) leading former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), 49% to 47%. Though the CNN report on the results inexplicably failed to mention this, the last survey from this pollster showed the two tied.
 
* In his campaign-finance filings, Brown still describes himself as a Massachusetts lawmaker.
 
* In Wisconsin's gubernatorial race, the latest Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College poll shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) with the narrowest of leads over Mary Burke (D), 47% to 46%.
 
* Interesting tidbit: the recent improvement in the nation's unemployment rate "the largest ever registered by this point in a midterm election cycle, since the Labor Department started keeping records in 1948."
 
* Illinois' gubernatorial race continues to look close, with a new Chicago Tribune poll showing Bruce Rauner (R) with a narrow lead over incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D), 45% to 43%.
 
* Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) generally hasn't been considered vulnerable, but Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS is investing $1 million in new attack ads to go after the freshman lawmaker.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., participates in a news conference.

Duncan Hunter, ready for another round

10/23/14 10:57AM

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) recently generated national headlines with a bizarre tale: the far-right congressman said he had secret information about ISIS militants entering the United States through the Southern border. The more the claims were subjected to scrutiny, the more Hunter's claims looked dubious.
 
Alas, he hasn't given up.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) says the Obama administration must beef up security on the southern border of the U.S. because of the threat posed by terrorists and the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
 
"You simply have to secure the border and make sure that people we don't want coming in the country whether they have Ebola or they're terrorists, name your terrorist organization, they're coming in through the southern border. This isn't that complicated," he said on Sean Hannity's radio show Wednesday.
Well, complicated or not, when the congressman says, in reference to terrorists, "they're coming in through the southern border," this is still highly suspect.
 
Indeed, though Hunter and his aides insisted that his original claims were accurate, the California Republican is no longer sticking to his initial argument. He told Sean Hannity, "Mark that as one score against me, I should've said al Qaeda terrorists."
 
But that's wrong, too -- there's literally no reason to believe "al Qaeda terrorists" have snuck into the United States through the nation's southern border. Such fearmongering, by all appearances, is entirely baseless. "Mark that as one score against me"? I think Hunter means two against him -- he's not even correcting himself accurately.
Sam Brownback

The failures of Brownback's experiment grow more serious

10/23/14 10:21AM

Just two weeks ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) insisted his "real-live experiment" in cutting taxes far beyond what his state could afford was "working." There's new evidence that says otherwise.
 
The failures of Brownback's radical experiment have been evident for a while: the governor's economic plan has fallen short on every possible metric. The state's finances are in such shambles, Kansas' bond rating was downgraded, and then downgraded again.
Josh Barro reported yesterday on the state missing its tax revenue targets once again, leaving Kansas' fiscal health in even worse shape than previously believed.
You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated.... In June, state lawmakers debated whether the revenue shortfall was temporary. [...]
 
Revenue numbers for July through September, the first three months of fiscal year 2015, suggest Kansas' revenue gap is permanent, not temporary.... Kansas' wide miss was probably a result of wading into uncharted territory with its tax reforms.
State officials are now suggesting revenue might increase next year, making the fiscal mess a little less drastic, but let's not forget that part of the Brownback experiment includes another income tax rate cut scheduled to take effect in January.
 
And while these developments seem likely to affect Kansas' very competitive gubernatorial race, let's not forget that this isn't just about Kansas.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, confronts an aide who tried to stop him from entering the side door of a House Republican meeting in the Capitol, July 31, 2014.

Don Young digs deeper, blames suicide on public benefits

10/23/14 09:46AM

As we discussed yesterday, Rep. Don Young (R) recently spoke at an Alaska high school, less than a week after a student had committed suicide, and managed to offend nearly everyone. Yesterday, he managed to make matters much worse.
 
In his high school appearance, the Republican congressman used "salty language," told a story "that involved flying to Paris to get drunk," compared marriage equality to "bull sex," and said the boy who committed suicide must have lacked support from his friends and family. The school's principal later said, "We really spend a lot of time at our school talking about how we treat each other. We just don't talk to people that way."
 
But Don Young does. In fact, the Alaska Dispatch News reports today that the GOP lawmaker actually added insult to injury yesterday, expanding on his offensive remarks about suicide.
Young on Wednesday was back in the Valley, this time talking with about 100 people at the Palmer senior center run by Mat-Su Senior Services.
 
Asked about the "lack of support" comment, Young expanded on it and added that suicide in Alaska didn't exist before "government largesse" gave residents an entitlement mentality, according to an audio recording of his senior center appearance.
According to the audio recording made available to the Alaska Dispatch News, the state's largest newspaper, the congressman told voters yesterday, "When people had to work and had to provide and had to keep warm by putting participation in cutting wood and catching the fish and killing the animals, we didn't have the suicide problem."
 
Suicide comes from federal government largesse "saying you are not worth anything but you are going to get something for nothing," he added.
 
Emile Durkheim, he isn't.
 
Forrest Dunbar, Young's Democratic challenger, said the Republican lawmaker has "gone past the point of bizarre," which seems quite fair under the circumstances.
Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, campaigns at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 8, 2014.

Second Amendment remedies, 2014 style

10/23/14 09:04AM

In the 2010 midterms, Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle used a chilling phrase as part of her political vision: "Second Amendment remedies." In context, Angle argued that if U.S. policymakers pursued an agenda the far-right disapproved of, Americans may have to turn to armed violence against their own country.
 
The Republican candidate lost her Senate bid, and most of this talk receded to the fringes of right-wing politics.
 
It did not, however, disappear entirely from the Republicans' rhetorical quiver. Sam Levine had this report overnight.
Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.
 
"I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere," Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. "But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."
In the United States, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to the courts. In Joni Ernst's world, if we believe our rights are being violated by the state, we turn to guns.
 
This comes on the heels of a report showing Ernst expressing support for arresting federal officials who try to implement federal laws the far-right doesn't like. Noting the two radical positions, Jamison Foser joked, "First Joni Ernst wants to arrest government employees, now she wants to shoot them?"

Jobless claims climb, but remain low overall

10/23/14 08:38AM

After last week's extraordinary report on initial unemployment claims, this week's data was bound to be at least a little disappointing. But the fact remains that figures like these remain quite encouraging in the larger context.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits rose by 17,000 last week to 283,000, but initial claims remained below the key 300,000 level for the sixth straight week to reflect the low level of layoffs taking place in the economy. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected claims to rise to a seasonally adjusted 285,000 in the week ended Oct. 18.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, meanwhile, fell by 3,000 to 281,000 to mark the lowest level in 14 years, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average reduces seasonal volatility in the weekly data and is seen as providing a more accurate snapshot of labor-market trends.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it's considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we've been 300,000 in 10 of the last 20 weeks.
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives for the Senate Republicans' news conference to mark sixth anniversary of the original application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline project on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.

McConnell leads with his chin in Kentucky

10/23/14 08:00AM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knows the value of a strong closing message. The incumbent senator is in the midst of the toughest race of his lengthy career -- polls show him clinging to a tiny lead over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) -- and with very little time remaining, McConnell wants to sprint to the finish line with his strongest message.
 
And yet, for some reason, the longtime lawmaker has chosen to emphasize women's issues in his final pitch.
 
Team McConnell unveiled this new ad late yesterday, featuring four women speaking to the camera. For those who can't watch clips online, here's the script:
First woman: Alison Lundergan Grimes wants me to think that I'm not good enough.
 
Second woman: That I couldn't get a job, unless Washington passed more laws.
 
Third woman: That I can't graduate college, without raising your taxes.
 
Fourth woman: She wants me to believe that strong women and strong values are incompatible.
 
Third woman: She thinks I'll vote for the candidate who looks like me.
 
First woman: Rather than the one who represents me.
After they say they're voting for McConnell, the first woman says "he believes in me."
 
This is the sort of ad a politician runs if he's convinced voters just aren't very bright.
 
Part of the problem, of course, is that McConnell is a poor messenger for a weak message. He is, after all, the same senator who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay, voted repeatedly to kill the Violence Against Women Act, rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act, and voted to restrict contraception access. Closing the campaign with a discussion about women's issues seems like an odd choice.

War memorial and other headlines

10/23/14 07:59AM

Canadian MPs to meet at National War Memorial this morning before Parliament resumes. (CBC)

Meet the Sergeant at Arms who stopped the Parliament attacker. (USA Today)

Justice Department condemns Ferguson leaks as effort to influence opinion. (L.A. Times)

That Ginsburg dissent that she stayed up all night to write contained an error; the acknowledgment of it is apparently rare and important. (NY Times)

3 states deny gay unions despite appellate rulings. (AP)

Rand Paul to lay out foreign policy vision. (Politico)

Don't forget the partial solar eclipse today. (NBC News)

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Canadians confront terror threat from within

Canadians confront terror threat from within

10/22/14 11:12PM

Charlie Angus, member of the Canadian Parliament, talks with Rachel Maddow about his experience being inside the Parliament building during today's deadly shooting, and the need for a measured reaction given the domestic nature of the shooter. watch

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