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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.13.17

12/13/17 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* As of now, Roy Moore still hasn't conceded Alabama's Senate special election, and the right-wing candidate apparently thinks he still might win by way of a recount. This probably won't work out well for him.

* Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is appointing Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) to replace Sen. Al Franken (D), and in a notable twist, Smith won't just be a placeholder -- she reportedly intends to run again next November. Whether Smith will face primary rivals is unclear.

* On a related note, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the vice chair of the DNC, has decided not to run for the Senate seat in Minnesota next year.

* The new national Quinnipiac poll, released yesterday, showed Donald Trump with an approval rating of 37%.

* An interesting tidbit out of Texas: for the first time in 25 years, there will be a Democratic candidate running in literally every congressional district in the Lone Star State.

* As Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) gets ready to wrap up his tenure, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) is eager to replace him. In an interview with the Nevada Independent's Jon Ralston, however, the incumbent governor seemed to have some concerns about his would-be GOP successor.

* In Illinois' gubernatorial race, the Democratic establishment appears to be closing ranks behind billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker: he picked up endorsements this week from Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

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Image: White House aide Omarosa Manigault speaks during a panel discussion at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans

Reality-show personality to leave White House post

12/13/17 11:20AM

It was never entirely clear why Omarosa Manigault, a former reality-show personality, had a job in Donald Trump's White House. A Washington Post  piece in March described her as "the highest-ranking African American in the West Wing," though everyone seemed to struggle to explain her position and responsibilities.

The same Post article quoted a Republican strategist saying Manigault had input on daily press briefings and that "she carries a lot of weight" with candidates seeking ambassadorships. Again, no one seemed able to explain why this dynamic existed.

Evidently, it no longer matters: effective Jan. 20, 2018, she's parting ways with Team Trump.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, a White House aide and infamous former "Apprentice" contestant, resigned Tuesday evening, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told NBC News, "to pursue other opportunities." [...]

Omarosa was one of his highest profile African-American, female supporters and one of the few black women in Trump's West Wing. Her title during her year in the White House was assistant to the president and communications director for the Office of Public Liaison.

Though the details haven't been confirmed by NBC News, the New York Times' Yamiche Alcindor said, “I just talked to sources who tell me Omarosa was let go yesterday and that she was escorted off of the White House grounds by security. They say she is now calling friends saying that she left voluntarily because her year anniversary was coming up.”

Whatever the backstory, this seems like a good time to update the list of prominent Trump World departures:

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Democratic Senate Candidate Doug Jones Holds Election Night Watch Party In Birmingham

In the South, some blue cracks emerge in the GOP's red wall

12/13/17 10:51AM

It was three years ago last week that the New York Times published a chart that was hard to forget. In the first half of the 20th century, Democratic control over governors' mansions, senators' seats, and state legislative bodies in the South was literally 100%. Then, as the Times' piece showed, after the civil-rights era transformed politics in the region, Democratic power in the South slipped.

By this point in 2014, the percentage of governors' mansions, senators' seats, and state legislative bodies held by Democrats in the South -- excluding Florida and Virginia -- was literally 0%.

This came to mind this morning reading the Washington Post's piece from Aaron Blake about Sen.-elect Doug Jones's (D) victory in Alabama yesterday -- which offered at least some evidence that his party has a "pulse in the Deep South."

To be clear: This is a stunning result -- no matter what preceded it. Before Tuesday, a Democrat had not won a Senate seat in Alabama in nearly three decades. The party is practically extinct in the Deep South and has been for a few years now, with its gains there gradually fading during the Obama presidency. Racial polarization has made the region practically impenetrable for the blue team, which basically holds majority-black congressional districts and nothing else.

I wouldn't say this ushers in a Democratic revival, by any means -- absent the allegations against Moore, Jones very likely would have lost -- but the fact that Democrats could even capitalize on the right opportunity in a tough region has to warm the hearts of party officials and supporters.

Sure, this was just one race, and it'd be foolish to suggest Jones' win is evidence of a region in the midst of a dramatic transformation. It's not. The South is easily the Republican Party's strongest part of the country, and that won't change anytime soon.

But it's also true that the big red wall in the South now features some blue cracks.

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Senator-elect, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner delivers his victory speech to supporters during a GOP election night gathering at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, in Denver, Colo. on Nov. 4, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Republicans encourage Alabama's Doug Jones to vote with them

12/13/17 10:03AM

After any major election, especially one that garners national attention, those of us who work in media can expect to receive an enormous number of press releases. Party committees, advocacy groups, political action committees, candidates with national ambitions all weigh in with their own spin on the outcome.

Naturally, the volume of press statements after Alabama's Senate special election was high, though my personal favorite came by way of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner made the following statement regarding the results of the Alabama special election:

"Tonight's results are clear -- the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate," said NRSC Chairman Cory Gardner. "I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority."

Look, I'm not unsympathetic to the circumstances. The NRSC -- which, to its credit, withheld support from Roy Moore -- probably can't remain completely silent in response to a Senate race the whole country was watching.

But, c'mon. A progressive-minded Democrat just pulled off an improbable victory in one of the nation's reddest states. Jones should now ignore his own platform and vote with the opposing party?

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Image: Steve Bannon, Leon Panetta And David Petraeus Attend Conf. On Violent Extremism

After Alabama, Republicans pin blame on Steve Bannon

12/13/17 09:22AM

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who occasionally has colorful things to say about the Republican Party's direction, shared a notable thought this morning. "After Alabama disaster GOP must do right thing and DUMP Steve Bannon," King wrote. "His act is tired, inane and morally vacuous. If we are to Make America Great Again for all Americans, Bannon must go! And go NOW!!"

As TPM noted this morning, it's an increasingly common sentiment.

Republicans members of Congress and conservative media are united in blaming one person for their party's loss in the deep red state of Alabama Tuesday night: Steve Bannon.

In a scathing editorial published late Tuesday evening, the Wall Street Journal ignited the revolt, declaring that "Bannon is for losers."

"The Alabama result shows that Mr. Bannon cares less about conservative policy victories than he does personal king-making," the editorial board wrote. "He wants to depose Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader even if it costs Republicans Senate control. GOP voters, take note: Mr. Bannon is for losers."

The piece dovetailed nicely with a tweet last night from National Review's David French: "Consider for a moment the magnitude of Steve Bannon's genius. Not every man can make an [Alabama] senate race close. Steve Bannon can."

That was published an hour before the race was called for Doug Jones (D).

Bannon, Donald Trump's former chief strategist, wasn't literally on the ballot, but no national figure invested more energy in Roy Moore's candidacy. He headlined two rallies in Alabama this past week, and was poised to make another appearance on stage last night -- right up until the results came in.

Bannon said in October, "We are declaring war on the Republican establishment." In Alabama, he lost a major battle in that war, leaving many to question his competency as a field general.

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A Donald Trump supporter's sign reads "I'm Not Politically Correct" as the Republican presidential candidate speaks during a rally on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty)

After backing two failed candidates in one race, Trump is at a loss

12/13/17 08:40AM

In the early fall, ahead of Alabama's Republican primary in its Senate special election, Donald Trump went all out for appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R). The president endorsed him, tweeted about him, encouraged the public to watch his Fox News appearances, dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for him, recorded a robocall for him, and even headlined a rally for him in Alabama.

Trump left no doubt: Luther Strange was the White House's guy. It was therefore a little embarrassing for the president when Alabama Republicans ignored Trump's advice and backed Roy Moore. Trump gambled and lost.

And then he did it again.

Alabama Democrat Doug Jones' shocking win in the Senate race Tuesday means President Donald Trump is 0 for 2 in the traditionally deep-red state.

Yes, Trump endorsed not one but two Republican candidates who ultimately lost their races.

It would've been easy for the president to avoid this second embarrassment. Indeed, once Moore confronted allegations of sexual misconduct, the White House initially distanced itself from the right-wing Alabama candidate.

But Trump couldn't help himself. The president embraced Moore's candidacy and was all set to take credit for his victory -- right up until Alabama elected a Democrat to the seat.

Campaigning for Strange in September, Trump told locals, "I'll be honest, I might have made a mistake." I'll be honest, too: he might have made the same mistake twice.

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Image: DFoug Jones, Louise Jones

Alabama delivers a wake-up call to Trump's Republican Party

12/13/17 08:00AM

The circumstances probably sound familiar: there's a Senate special election in a reliably partisan state that always votes the same way. Before the race even begins, the conventional wisdom takes root: the contest is over before it starts.

The first-year president, who won that state with ease a year earlier, assumes his party's candidate will prevail and help advance his agenda on Capitol Hill. Polls, however, start hinting at a surprisingly competitive race. The president, just shy of 12 months in office, starts scrambling to support his candidate, urging the state's voters -- with whom he is fairly popular -- not to undermine his plans by backing the other party.

But the appeals fall short. In an upset that captures the nation's attention, and stuns political observers everywhere, the reliably partisan state that always votes the same way does the unexpected.

I'm referring, of course, to the Senate special election in Massachusetts in January 2010.

After Republican Scott Brown prevailed in one the nation's bluest states, then-Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) declared, "There's going to be a tendency on the part of [Democrats] to be in denial about all this, [but] if you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call, there's no hope of waking up."

Now look at that sentence again, but replace "Democrats" with "Republicans," and "Massachusetts" with "Alabama."

There's no shortage of angles to Sen.-elect Doug Jones' (D) upset victory over Roy Moore (R), but near the top of the list is the impact the election will have on the broader landscape -- because Alabama, to everyone's surprise, has jolted the political world.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 12.12.17

12/12/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* NYC: "Prosecutors filed federal terrorism charges on Tuesday against a would-be suicide bomber who was accused of detonating a pipe bomb affixed to his torso inside a Manhattan subway corridor."

* Syria: "Declaring a success in Syria, Vladimir Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the war-ravaged country and announced a partial pullout of his forces.... Russian television stations showed Putin walking off the plane, embracing and shaking hands with [Bashar al-Assad] at the air base."

* And then there were six: "A sixth senator on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump to resign amid renewed attention to past allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told NBC News that Trump is a 'misogynist,' 'admitted sexual predator' and 'liar' with a 'narcissistic need for attention.'"

* Alert the White House: "On Tuesday, NOAA released its latest annual Arctic Report Card, which analyzes the state of the frozen ocean at the top of our world. Overall, it's not good. 'The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,' Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA's Arctic research program, said at a press conference."

* This is not the congressman's first ethics controversy: "New York Rep. Chris Collins is pushing for the brother of his business partner to be nominated for the federal bench. Collins invested between $3.5 and $14 million in the business of Nick Sinatra, a developer in Buffalo, the Buffalo News reported. Nick Sinatra's brother is John Sinatra Jr., who Collins is pushing for a federal judgeship."

* As political sex scandals go, this one's brutal: "A Kentucky lawmaker accused of sexually abusing a teenager said Tuesday that he would not resign from office and that the allegations are false and politically motivated."

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Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.

GOP lawmakers prioritize tax cuts over children's health program

12/12/17 12:45PM

Congress was supposed to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by Oct. 1. For those counting at home, that was 11 weeks ago, and the Republican majority has largely ignored the issue since the deadline passed.

As expected, states are doing their best to move funds around to prevent children from losing coverage, but there's already evidence that they're running out of time. Officials in Colorado have already begun notifying families that the state's program will soon exhaust its available resources, and officials in Virginia started the same notification process yesterday.

Any chance the GOP-led Congress will tackle the issue soon? According to an Axios report from yesterday, the answer is, sort of.

Congress is unlikely to pass a multi-year funding solution for the Children's Health Insurance Program until January, according to House GOP leadership sources. But it will continue to pass temporary measures to make sure states get the funding they need until then.

Between the lines: Federal CHIP funding expired at the end of September. While there's a lot of bipartisan agreement on the general idea of funding CHIP, finding sources of revenue that can get across the finish line -- and then actually passing it -- just isn't Congress's top priority right now.

If this reporting is right, lawmakers won't actually let any kids lose their coverage, but the House and Senate also won't get around to passing a multi-year CHIP until after the winter holidays.

I'm glad, though, that Axios' piece used the word "priority," because that captures the broader political dynamic nicely.

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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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