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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.31.15

03/31/15 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:
 
* A new 2016 Quinnipiac poll offers some strange results. The survey focused specifically on Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where Hillary Clinton fares pretty well, though she trails Jeb Bush in Florida by three, 45% to 42%, and trails Rand Paul in Pennsylvania by one, 45% to 44%.
 
* Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who'll be on "The Rachel Maddow Show" tonight, talked to NBC's Savannah Guthrie earlier, and when asked about 2016, the senator said, "No. I am not running and I am not going to run." That settles that.
 
* One of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) lawsuits against Common Core educations standards -- a policy he supported until he learned the GOP base's position -- was thrown out of court yesterday. The unannounced Republican presidential candidate has vowed to appeal.
 
* Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has made no secret of his White House ambitions, and his team announced late yesterday that the senator will launch his presidential campaign in Miami on April 13.
 
* Rubio's official kickoff will likely come six days after Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) launch, which is scheduled for April 7.
\Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., arrives for the bipartisan Senate luncheon in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Feb. 4, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Rand Paul rejects 'rights based on your behavior'

03/31/15 11:25AM

When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) makes public appearances, he routinely likes to tell audiences, "You'll find nobody in Congress doing more for minority rights than me right now -- Republican or Democrat."
 
And though the boast is itself dubious, the latest BuzzFeed report raises questions about just how much the Republican senator actually understands minority rights on a conceptual level.
Sen. Rand Paul said he doesn't buy into the concept of gay rights because they are defined by a gay person's lifestyle.
 
"I don't think I've ever used the word gay rights, because I don't really believe in rights based on your behavior," the Kentucky Republican told reporters in a videotaped interview that has received little attention since it was recorded in 2013.
Admittedly, the senator's quote is a bit old, though it's apparently surfacing in earnest now for the first time. That said, a Rand Paul spokesperson yesterday "did not reply to BuzzFeed News' question seeking clarification on gay people's rights not associated with their behavior."
 
Regardless, the senator's comments suggest Rand Paul doesn't recognize gay rights as a real issue at all because, in his words, rights based on "behavior" lack legitimacy.
 
The Kentucky Republican may not have thought this one through.
A view of the state capitol on March 6, 2015 in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

Alabama Republican targets 'Rose's law' he helped inspire

03/31/15 10:46AM

In 1998, an Alabama nurse named Rose Church gave birth to a healthy baby girl and was discharged from the hospital 36 hours later. The Church family returned to the emergency room soon after, however, when Rose started experiencing complications. She was treated and released again.
 
Just 36 hours later, Rose Church died.
 
The family took their OB/GYN, Dr. Larry Stutts, to court in a wrongful death suit, arguing that Rose was discharged too quickly and without the necessary tests. The case was settled out of court, but the controversy surrounding the case prompted political action: less than a year after the nurse's death, Alabama's legislature unanimously approved a statewide law requiring a minimum of a 48-hour hospital stay for new mothers following normal, vaginal births, and 96-hour hospital stay for more complicated births, including C-sections.
 
The measure, pushed vigorously by the Church family, quickly became known as "Rose's law."
 
Nearly two decades later, Dr. Larry Stutts is now Republican state Sen. Larry Stutts. And just a few months into his tenure as a lawmaker, the former OB/GYN is getting right to work, targeting the law he helped inspire. The Washington Post reports:
Alabama state Sen. Larry Stutts (R) wants to repeal a woman's legal right to remain in a hospital for at least two days after giving birth -- a law legislators passed almost two decades ago after one of Stutts's patients died of complications of a pregnancy. [...]
 
Stutts said in a post on his Facebook page that he's trying to get the legislature out of the doctor-patient relationship.
"I am proud to say that I am hard at work removing one-size-fits-all Obamacare-style laws from the books in Alabama," Stutts said.
 
Just so we're absolutely clear, "Rose's law" was passed in 1999 and has literally nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act.
 
On the contrary, it has everything to do with the death of one of Stutts' patients.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his budget address for fiscal year 2016 to the Legislature, Feb. 24, 2015 at the Statehouse in Trenton, NJ. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Christie announces support for 20-week abortion ban

03/31/15 10:02AM

For much of the 1990s, when Chris Christie (R) launched his political career in New Jersey, he was unapologetically pro-choice. The Republican, eager to be seen as a blue-state moderate, even used to brag about the personal donations he'd made to Planned Parenthood.
 
That version of Christie is long gone.
The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, in tandem with the conservative American Principles Project, has been asking Republican presidential hopefuls to take a pledge. One by one -- either with preexisting legislation, or new statements -- they have come aboard, and supported bans on abortions after 20 weeks.
 
On Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the SBA List a statement of his support for a "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act which would protect unborn children beginning at 20 weeks."
As Dave Weigel's report noted, Christie's statement endorsing a 20-week ban includes the governor's boasting, "When I was preparing to run for Governor of New Jersey there were those who told me there was no way I would be elected as a pro-life candidate.  I told them that they were wrong, that the voters would accept the sincerity of my beliefs even if they felt differently. Today, I am a living example that being pro-life is not a political liability anywhere in America."
 
The part about Christie's pro-choice background seems to have been left out.
 
As a matter of policy, whether the governor appreciates these details or not, a 20-week ban is deeply problematic. As regular readers may recall, because roughly 99% of abortions occur before the 21st week of a pregnancy, these later terminations often involve "rare, severe fetal abnormalities and real threats to a woman's health."
 
It's why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is so strongly against proposals like the one Christie endorsed yesterday.
 
Also note, of course, that the Republican-run U.S. House tried to pass its own 20-week ban earlier this year, but the bill was derailed when GOP lawmakers couldn't agree among themselves about exemptions for rape victims.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, front, gives his state-of-the-state address on Jan. 12, 2015, in Phoenix. (Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP)

New law forces Arizona doctors to mislead abortion patients

03/31/15 09:21AM

Remember when the right said it opposed politicians getting between patients and physicians? Well, forget it -- at least in Arizona, it appears conservatives have changed their minds.
Arizona's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said on Monday he has signed into law a controversial measure blocking women from buying insurance that includes abortion coverage through the federal healthcare exchange.
 
The fiercely debated bill also requires doctors to tell women they could possibly reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion, a claim that critics have called "junk science."
The first part of the legislative package is itself problematic. Under the new law, consumers who want to receive health care coverage through an exchange will be prohibited from buying private insurance through a private business covering a legal medical procedure that Republicans don't like.
 
But it's the junk science provision that rankles because of its brazen disregard for a simple principle: politicians shouldn't force medical professionals to deliver bogus talking points to patients against their will.
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (L) holds a bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) on the second straight day of talks over Tehran's nuclear program in Vienna, on July 14, 2014.

American mainstream strongly supports Iran talks

03/31/15 08:35AM

As international nuclear talks continue with Iran, and a pressing deadline looms, the domestic political debate is heating up, with a variety of contingents delivering a similar message to the American public: "Don't believe those other guys; believe me."

Oddly enough, each side seems to believe it's winning the political argument. Josh Kraushaar, a National Journal conservative, continues to believe President Obama is dangerously "ignoring public opinion," willing to "bypass public resistance" to P5+1 diplomacy. As we discussed last week, prominent Republicans are pushing the same line -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed dismay that the White House is "circumventing the will of the American people," while former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) said "public opinion" is not on Obama's side.
 
As a matter of principle, there's room for debate about whether or not polls matter in a case like this. Sometimes worthwhile ideas are unpopular; sometimes dreadful ideas enjoy broad support. But in the case of the Iran talks, the more pressing concern is the degree to which Republican assumptions have the entire story backwards.
By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans support the notion of striking a deal with Iran that restricts the nation's nuclear program in exchange for loosening sanctions, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds. [...]
 
Overall, the poll finds 59 percent support an agreement in which the United States and its negotiating partners lift major economic sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran's nuclear program. Thirty-one percent oppose a deal. Support outpaces opposition across nearly all demographic and political groups....
The results are very similar to those from a recent CNN poll, which found a broad majority of Americans in support of the negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program.
Demonstrators gather at Monument Circle to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally in Indianapolis March 28, 2015. (Photo by Nate Chute/Reuters)

GOP candidates back Indiana's anti-gay law amid uproar

03/31/15 08:00AM

As the national controversy grows surrounding Indiana's new right-to-discriminate law, the pushback against Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his allies is intensifying. The Indianapolis Star, the state's largest newspaper, abandoned subtlety this morning, running a full-page, front-page editorial with an all-caps headline that serves as a powerful command: "Fix This Now."
 
But among Republican presidential hopefuls, the uproar is misguided -- according to the national GOP candidates, the new law is great and doesn't need "fixing."
 
The scope and scale of the criticism continues to reach new heights. Private-sector leaders are demanding action; other states are launching boycotts; entertainers are canceling shows, and some Indiana communities are taking action on their own in the hopes of preventing discrimination.
 
But while much of the American mainstream moves in one direction, Republican presidential candidates are quickly scurrying in the other direction.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida weighed in Monday on the debate that has engulfed Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana over a new religious freedom law in the state that critics are calling legalized discrimination.
 
Speaking to Hugh Hewitt, the conservative talk show host, Mr. Bush defended the law as similar to legislation in Florida and as a safeguard for religious belief. "I think Governor Pence has done the right thing," said Mr. Bush, who is expected to run for president in 2016. "I think once the facts are established, people aren't going to see this as discriminatory at all."
Remember, Jeb Bush is supposed to be the "gay-friendly" moderate of the GOP's 2016 field.

"Fix this now" and other headlines

03/31/15 07:27AM

Indianapolis Star editorial: "Fix this now." (Indystar.com)

Fight over religious objection proposals shifts to Arkansas. (AP)

Officials: Iran nuke talks to continue in new phase. (AP)

Ted Cruz MIA at Armed Services hearings. (Politico)

Pentagon chief backs concept of a joint Arab military force. (AP)

AZ Gov. vetoes bill that would keep police names secret after shootings. (NBC News)

Alabama state senator trying to end law enacted after the death of one of his patients. (Washington Post)

read more

Second suicide shocks Missouri Republicans

Second suicide shocks Missouri Republicans

03/30/15 10:25PM

Just weeks after Missouri state auditor and candidate for governor Tom Schweich shot himself, Spence Jackson, his communications director has also been found dead of apparent suicide. Dave Helling, columnist for the Kansas City Star, joins for discussion. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 3.30.15

03/30/15 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* P5+1 talks: "The U.S. and other world powers and Iran met Monday in a final push to reach an interim nuclear deal -- with one foreign minister saying there had been 'some progress and some setbacks' as a deadline loomed in the negotiations."
 
* The latest sticking point: "For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But on Sunday Iran's deputy foreign minister made a surprise comment to Iranian reporters, ruling out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass."
 
* A deadly scene: "An NSA police officer opened fire Monday morning when two men dressed as women and driving a stolen car tried to ram through the gates at Fort Meade -- and one suspect was killed, sources said. After trying to make an 'unauthorized entry,' the driver of the Ford Escape ignored the guard's order to leave the area, NSA spokesman Jonathan Freed said in a statement."
 
* Missouri: "Veteran Missouri state official Spence Jackson, who was media director for the late state auditor Tom Schweich, was found dead Sunday, sources said. He was 44. A source told the Post-Dispatch his death was being investigated as a suicide."
 
* I'm not convinced the Speaker knows what "reprehensible" means: "House Speaker John Boehner, who is traveling to Israel during the congressional recess this week, called the Obama administration's treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 'reprehensible.'"
 
* This was a dumb case: "The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the latest lawsuit against Obamacare, this time a challenge to a board that critics label a 'death panel.'"
 
* Why is Indiana's right-to-discriminate law different from the federal RFRA? "The new statute's defenders claim it simply mirrors existing federal rules, but it contains two provisions that put new obstacles in the path of equality."
President Barack Obama answers questions during an event on Feb. 6, 2015, in Indianapolis. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Poll: most Republicans see President as a national 'threat'

03/30/15 05:10PM

Why do so many Republican lawmakers seem to be driven by an irrational, almost hysterical disgust for President Obama? It may have something to do with GOP officials reflecting the feelings of Republican voters.
Republicans believe that President Obama poses a greater imminent threat to the United States than Russian President Vladimir Putin or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday.
The poll asked respondents a series of "How much of a threat does _____ pose to the United States?" questions, filling in the blank with a variety of leaders, countries, and phenomena (such as global warming).
 
Most Americans, naturally, do not see their president as a national threat, but when the results are broken down by party affiliation, more than a third of self-identified Republicans said they consider Obama an "imminent" threat to the United States. An additional 16% said they consider the president a "serious threat."
 
Republicans were concerned about Putin, Assad, and North Korea -- they're just more concerned about the U.S. leader.

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