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A voter steps into a voting booth to mark his ballot at a polling site for the New Hampshire primary, Feb. 9, 2016, in Nashua, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

State special elections continue to go Democrats' way in 2017

09/13/17 12:57PM

In recent years, Republican have started to dominate in state legislatures nationwide, but so far this year, that GOP advantage has started to shrink, at least a little bit, as a result of some Democratic victories in special elections. The Week reported overnight:

In special elections on Tuesday, Democrats in Oklahoma and New Hampshire won state legislative seats vacated by Republicans in districts President Trump won by double digits.

In New Hampshire, Democratic small-business owner Charles St. Clair beat Republican Steve Whalley, 55 percent to 45 percent, for a state House seat that Trump won by 19 points last November. Democrats last held the seat in 2012, and Republicans had a 12-point party registration advantage. In Oklahoma, meanwhile, Democratic school teacher Jacob Rosecrants beat Republican Darin Chambers, 60 percent to 40 percent, in state House District 46, a district Trump won by 11 points and where Republicans have nearly 3,000 more registered voters.

According to a tally from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on Democratic state legislative races, the party has now flipped six seats this year from "red" to "blue" -- three in Oklahoma, two in New Hampshire, and one in New York -- on top of a series of other victories.

How many seats have Republicans flipped in 2017 from "blue" to "red"? Just one, in Louisiana, in a district where Democrats failed to run a candidate.

Given the setbacks Dems faced in 2016, the party has reason to be encouraged by results like these.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.13.17

09/13/17 12:00PM

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

* In Michigan, Republican Bill Schuette, the state's conservative attorney general, launched his 2018 gubernatorial campaign yesterday. Schuette's name may be familiar with those who kept up on Rachel's coverage of the water crisis in Flint last year.

* Politico reported yesterday that a state judge in New Hampshire "has blocked recent changes to the state's voting laws that would have exposed some first-time voters to a fine or jail time if they failed to submit residence paperwork within 10 days of registering."

* House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) continues to be a central figure in his party's fundraising apparatus, transferring an additional $2 million to the NRCC in August, on top of the $28 million haul for the House campaign committee from earlier in the year. Politico reports that the House Speaker's fundraising "accounted for more than half of what the NRCC raised" last month.

* Democratic efforts to recruit military veterans to run for Congress continues apace, with Chris Kennedy, a Grand Junction City Councilor and a retired Marine, kicking off his campaign against Rep. Scott Tipton (R) in Colorado.

* In New Jersey, the Associated Press reported that Rep. Leonard Lance (R) is eyeing retirement in 2018, prompting the Republican lawmaker to insist he intends to run for re-election next year.

* In Detroit last night, Kid Rock, who's apparently considering a Republican U.S. Senate campaign, apparently delivered "an R-rated political speech ... chastising everyone from Nazis and professional athletes to single moms and deadbeat dads." The Washington Post published a transcript.

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty).

Conservative Dem open to 'exploring' single-payer health care

09/13/17 11:20AM

By most measures, West Virginia is an undeniably red state. It has a Republican governor and a Republican-led legislature. It has three representatives in the U.S. House, and they're all Republicans. Donald Trump won the state by nearly 42 points last year -- that's not a typo -- making it one of his strongest states in the 2016 election. (West Virginia has 55 counties and Trump won literally all of them by double digits.)

It's against this backdrop that GOP officials are looking at incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D) and assuming he's ripe for the picking in 2018. After all, how in the world can a Democrat expect to compete in a state where nearly every statewide officeholder is a Republican?

The answer, it turns out, is pretty well. The MetroNews Network in Charleston recently reported on the latest statewide polling in West Virginia, which found that Manchin is easily the most popular politician in the state -- and is even more popular there than Trump. In hypothetical 2018 match-ups, Manchin had double-digit leads over his most likely GOP rivals.

With this kind of support from his constituents, Manchin can even open the door to a debate on single-payer health care. Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday:

"It should be explored," said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who faces re-election next year in a state President Donald Trump carried by 42 points. "I want to know what happens in all the countries that have it -- how well it works or the challenges they have."

To be sure, the West Virginian isn't signing on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) "Medicare for All" bill, and in a follow-up statement, Manchin clarified that he's "skeptical that single-payer is the right solution."

But the debate is clearly changing rapidly, to the point that Congress' most conservative Democrat, instead of dismissing single-payer out of hand, is ready to examine the idea on its merits. Up until very recently, this was largely unthinkable.

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Image: Donald Trump

Trump's meeting with the Malaysian leader was anything but normal

09/13/17 10:24AM

When a president hosts a meeting with a foreign head of state, it's normal. When Donald Trump welcomed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House yesterday, "normal" isn't the adjective that comes to mind.

After all, as the New York Times reported, Najib is at the center of a corruption scandal that's under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

[Najib] is under investigation by the United States and others for an estimated $3.5 billion that investigators believe he and his associates diverted from a Malaysian government fund that he headed. Among other things, the money was used to buy jewelry, real estate and the rights to Hollywood films.

The White House insisted that the Justice Department inquiry had no relevance to the meeting and would not figure in the conversation.

It's an awkward dynamic to consider: when Trump and Najib met, who was the most controversial head of state in the room?

For his part, Najib has responded to the corruption allegations by firing investigators and dismissing allegations as "fake news."

Traditionally, when the United States talked about exporting the power of ideas around the globe, this wasn't what we meant.

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An attendee handles a revolver in the Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. booth on the exhibition floor of the 144th National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Nashville, Tenn. on April 11, 2015. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty)

With the NRA's backing, gun silencer bill gets attention in House

09/13/17 09:20AM

A  plan to make it easier to buy gun silencers was scheduled to receive some attention in June, though the timing was less than ideal: work on the bill was going to roughly coincide with the first anniversary of the Orlando nightclub massacre and the second anniversary of the murders at a Charleston Bible study.

The bill was delayed, however, because of the mass shooting that nearly killed House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

Three months have passed, however, and Politico reports that the measure, championed by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), is back.

Duncan included the silencer provision in a broader bill, the "Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act," or SHARE Act. There are several gun-related items in the package, which is being marked up by the Natural Resources Committee this week.

Duncan argues that silencers are used by hunters and target shooters to limit potential hearing loss from gunfire.

The article added that while many police organizations oppose the bill, it remains "one of the top legislative goals for the powerful National Rifle Association."

As for what, exactly, the bill would do, it's an interesting story.

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A voter casts their ballot at a polling place in Nashua, N.H., on Feb. 9, 2016. (Photo by Cassi Alexandra/For The Washington Post/Getty)

Trump's voting commission descends further into farce

09/13/17 08:40AM

The existence of Donald Trump's "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" has long been a running joke. By all appearances, the Republican president, annoyed about losing the popular vote and comforted by strange conspiracy theories, created a panel to root out the voter fraud scourge that exists only in conservatives' imaginations.

But as its work has progressed, Trump's voting commission has somehow managed to get even more embarrassing. Last week, for example, the panel's co-chair, voter-suppression pioneer Kris Kobach, claimed to have uncovered "proof" of systemic fraud in New Hampshire -- claims that were quickly discredited as transparent nonsense.

Yesterday, at the commission's public event in the Granite State, members of the panel clashed with Kobach over his attempts at public deception, and heard from a witness who's "proposing that voters literally undergo the same background check as those who are purchasing firearms."

The witness, John Lott, a controversial researcher and Fox News commentator, stressed yesterday that he wasn't kidding.

The New York Times, meanwhile, flagged another rather amazing detail.

Critics say the panel is politically stacked -- the chairman and vice chairman are both Republicans -- and loaded with extremists who contend that election fraud is rampant.

On Tuesday, the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group, released an email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in which a Justice Department employee was urged to push Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create just such a commission.

The email's author, whose name was originally redacted, was concerned that the administration's voting commission would include Democrats and "mainstream Republicans and/or academics."

The Heritage Foundation conceded late yesterday that the email was written by Hans von Spakovsky -- whom Trump appointed to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, despite his ridiculous record on voting rights, and who'd denied having authored the note.

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Image: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Anthony Scaramucci

White House: Prosecutors 'should certainly look at' charging Comey

09/13/17 08:00AM

The White House's campaign against former FBI Director James Comey has intensified of late, and yesterday, it reached a striking new level.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that the Justice Department should "certainly look at" charging James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director whom President Trump fired, for what she described as leaks of classified information. [...]

Asked whether Mr. Comey should be prosecuted, Ms. Sanders replied, "That's not the president's role." She added, "That's the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at."

The president's spokesperson added that Comey's actions "were improper and likely could have been illegal."

Asked similar questions in Monday's press briefing, Sanders emphasized that she's "not an attorney," but a day later, she nevertheless seemed comfortable reflecting on the former FBI director's alleged misdeeds.

To the extent that reality matters, no one at the White House has pointed to any specific instances in which Comey committed alleged crimes, but that's obviously not what this is about. Trump World recognizes the Russia scandal as an existential threat to Trump's presidency, and given the apparent investigation into obstruction of justice, the president's team believes it must tear down the former FBI director's credibility.

Evidently, that includes accusing him of wrongdoing without credible evidence to back it up.

What often goes overlooked, however, is how common this line of attack is in Trump World: opponents aren't just attacked; they're almost instinctively labeled criminals.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.12.17

09/12/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Florida: "Weary residents in the Florida Keys, eager to assess their hurricane-ravaged homes, may not see electricity return for at least another week -- and those are the lucky ones. About 25 percent of homes in the chain of islands were completely destroyed and another 65 percent sustained major damage, federal officials estimated Tuesday."

* Mexico: "As Hurricane Harvey was still pummeling Houston, Mexico reached out with an offer of help.... But now, Mexico says that it is withdrawing its offer of aid. It needs those resources, the government says, to clean up after its own hurricane and a massive earthquake."

* U.N.: "The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea on Monday after U.S. officials eased their demands to convince China and Russia to approve the measure."

* Trump-Russia: "Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers earlier this summer concluded that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser because of possible legal complications related to a probe of Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election and aired concerns about him to the president, people familiar with the matter said."

* Derek Harvey's new job: "A former National Security Council official, forced out by National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in July, is set to join the staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, according to two sources familiar with his move."

* Trump World: "Hope Hicks, the longtime aide to President Donald Trump who'd been serving as the interim White House communications director, will now lead the communications team on a permanent basis. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told NBC News of the move Tuesday."

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Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party, at the Iowa State Fair Oct. 31, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty)

The final fight of the Republican health care crusade has arrived

09/12/17 12:58PM

By all appearances, the Republican health care crusade has already run its course, but tomorrow morning, four GOP senators will make one last-ditch effort to get it back on track.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will formally unveil the only remaining Republican plan to overhaul the nation's health care system. For reasons that aren't altogether clear, they'll be joined by former Sen. Rick Santorum, who lost his re-election bid in a landslide over a decade ago.

NBC News obtained an advanced draft of the proposal, which has been percolating for a couple of months.

The 23-page summary draft and an explanation of funding, which Graham's office confirmed is authentic, attempts to achieve parity in federal funding between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not by 2026. That division was one that helped to kill the Senate's efforts because senators from expansion states tended to oppose the legislation in its previous versions due to the roll-back of the Medicaid expansion.

The bill also provides federal money to states to implement their own health care plan as opposed to one system for all 50 states that exists under Obamacare.

We've discussed many of the profound flaws in this plan before, and we can go into more detail once the legislation is available for scrutiny. For now, however, let's consider whether the Graham-Cassidy plan has a credible chance at success.

After its unveiling tomorrow, the bill will have to receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office, receive committee scrutiny, pass the committee, be subjected to Byrd Rule scrutiny, receive a floor debate, face a series of votes on amendments, and pass the Senate with 50 votes. At that point, the House would have to pass the same bill as-is, or make changes that the Senate would again approve with 50 votes.

In order for the plan to become law, all of this has to happen by Sept. 30 at midnight. In other words, proponents of Graham-Cassidy will have 17 days to get all of this done.

This isn't to say it's impossible, but even the most ambitious Republicans should concede this is a steep cliff to climb.

As the process moves forward, there are a few key angles to keep in mind.

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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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