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Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a news conference at the State House, Jan. 8, 2016, in Augusta, Maine. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Maine's LePage comes unglued after racial controversy

08/26/16 10:00AM

Maine Gov. Paul LePage's (R) record when it comes to racially charged rhetoric has long been problematic, but this week, the trajectory of this story took a rather alarming turn.
 
At a town-hall event on Wednesday, LePage said he's been "collecting" mugshots of "every single drug dealer" who has been arrested in Maine -- why he's proactively done this is unclear -- and "90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it's a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people" from out of state.
 
Note, earlier in the year, the far-right governor said he just "reads the names" of the drug dealers and didn't care at all about race or ethnicity. This week, apparently, LePage dropped the pretense.
 
When reporters asked the governor the next day about his comments, LePage replied, "Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that!" According to the Portland Press Herald, the governor then stormed off, saying over his shoulder, "You make me so sick!"
 
The same newspaper published this follow-up report this morning:
Gov. Paul LePage left a state lawmaker from Westbrook an expletive-laden phone message Thursday in which he accused the legislator of calling him a racist, encouraged him to make the message public and said, "I'm after you."
 
LePage sent the message Thursday morning after a television reporter appeared to suggest that Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine was among several people who had called the governor a racist, which Gattine later denied.
"Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage," the governor's phone message said. "I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (expletive). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I'm a racist. I've spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist (expletive). You ... I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you."
 
I especially liked the "thank you" at the end -- because when leaving a threatening, expletive-laden message for someone, it's important not to forget one's manners.
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)

Latest polls set the stage for a historic presidential election

08/26/16 09:00AM

Addressing an adoring crowd in Texas this week, Donald Trump boasted about his perceptions of the latest polling data. "I don't know if you've seen what's happening," the Republican said, "but over the last three weeks, the polls with African American folks and Spanish-speaking folks, the Hispanics, Latinos, have gone way up. Way up. They've gone way up."
 
And while that may sound like great news for the GOP candidate's supporters, there's a small problem with Trump's claim: there's literally no evidence of it being true. In fact, actual data points in the opposite direction, and it seems Trump just made up these poll results out of whole cloth.
 
At a certain level, it's understandable that Trump would feel the need to make up polls that don't exist, largely because the polls that do exist look pretty discouraging for him.
In the battle of the unloved presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton tops the magical 50 percent mark among American likely voters, leading Republican Donald Trump 51 - 41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today. [...]
 
"We are starting to hear the faint rumblings of a Hillary Clinton landslide as her 10-point lead is further proof that Donald Trump is in a downward spiral as the clock ticks," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The same poll asked respondents, "Is your mind made up, or do you think you might change your mind before the election?" A whopping 90% of people said they're not going to change their mind.
 
It's worth emphasizing that this is only one poll, and other recent results show Clinton ahead, but not by this much. As of this morning, overall averages show her leading by between 6 and 8 percentage points.
 
For those still hoping for a Trump comeback, some obvious truths come to mind: there are still 10 weeks remaining before Election Day; there are still three scheduled debates ahead; and a lot can happen between now and Nov. 8. There's certainly some truth to this.
 
But it's not too early to start thinking about historical context.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Truckee Meadows Community College, Aug. 25, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Clinton draws a sharp contrast between Trump, Republican Party

08/26/16 08:00AM

The Democratic Party's message for much of the year has been burdened by an important contradiction, which Dems have made little effort to resolve. Some in the party, most notably those focused on congressional races, have spent 2016 arguing that Donald Trump is the quintessential Republican -- and if you don't like the GOP's presidential nominee, you should also reject his partisan brethren who share his beliefs and priorities.
 
At the same time, other Democrats, including those principally focused on the race for the White House, push the exact opposite message: Trump is something altogether new and dangerous, fundamentally at odds with the Republican Party's own norms.
 
As MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin put it a month ago, Democrats effectively have two messaging options: "Trump is not a Republican" vs. "Trump is the ultimate Republican."
 
With this in mind, Hillary Clinton delivered a rather striking speech yesterday on the so-called "alt-right" movement and the racist, fringe radicals who've made Trump their standard bearer. In the process, her efforts to resolve the Democratic contradiction stood out. Referring to Breitbart News, for example, which produced Trump's new campaign CEO, Clinton said, "This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have known it."
 
Also note this excerpt:
"My friends, this is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump. It's a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this.
 
"Twenty years ago when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits in the convention hall and told any racist in the party to get out. The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims 'love America just as much as I do.'
 
"In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters that they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew Barrack Obama, he said, was an American citizen and a decent person.
 
"We need that kind of leadership again."
There's nothing subtle about this. Indeed, Clinton was quite explicit: Trump is "taking hate groups mainstream, and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.... The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for [the alt-right], a fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party."
 
It echoed a sentiment from President Obama's speech at last month's Democratic convention: "What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn't conservative."

Thursday's Mini-Report, 8.25.16

08/25/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Tragedy in Italy: "Rescue teams aided by sniffer dogs searched for survivors Thursday amid sharp aftershocks from a powerful earthquake that reduced several central Italian towns to rubble and killed 250 people."
 
* Death toll in Afghanistan: "Militants armed with a car bomb, grenades and automatic weapons killed at least 14 people during the 10-hour attack on the American University of Afghanistan, police said Thursday."
 
* Germany: "The leader of a small faction of German extremists was seriously injured Thursday while trading gunfire with police as he and supporters tried to prevent an eviction order being served on the house he was living in. Two police commandos received minor injuries."
 
* We've seen false starts in Colombia before, but there's reason for optimism this time: "Colombia's president said Wednesday that government negotiators and leftist rebels are putting the final touches on an important peace deal that they hope to announce in the coming hours."
 
* Turkey: "Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday resisted demands by Turkey's president to immediately detain and turn over a Pennsylvania imam suspected of plotting last month's failed military coup attempt, giving a blunt lesson on American rule of law."
 
* Mylan: "After being blasted for price hikes on its lifesaving EpiPen allergy injections, the drugmaker Mylan announced Thursday that it will expand access to the product -- not by lowering the price, but by creating a savings card that will cover up to $300 of its EpiPen 2-Pak."
 
* TPP: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared to close the door Thursday on the Senate taking up the Obama administration's signature Asia-Pacific trade deal during what's left of the president's term."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Austin, Texas, Aug. 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Trump tries changing his immigration rhetoric, but not his policy

08/25/16 12:30PM

Over the last week or so, much of the political world's conversation has focused on an issue that seemed quite clear up until very recently: Donald Trump's immigration plan. Recently, words like "softening," "pivoting," and "flip-flopping" have become ubiquitous.
 
The Republican candidate said this morning that voters shouldn't be "fooled" by the media's coverage, because he continues to support being "very strong on illegal immigration" -- though that didn't clarify matters much, since no one knows what that means, exactly.
 
In this case, though, the media isn't really the problem. Trump and top members of his leadership team have publicly suggested the campaign's position on immigration is in flux. The GOP candidate muddied the waters further last night, telling a town-hall audience that undocumented immigrants, under his vision, will have to "pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, but we work with them."
 
At one point, Trump went so far as to seek guidance from his audience in Texas. "You have somebody who is terrific, who has been here ... a long time," he said to the crowd. "A long court proceeding, long everything, okay? In other words, to get them out, can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me. I mean, I don't know. You tell me."
 
Is it any wonder there's some uncertainty surrounding the state of his position? He's gone from trying to lead on the issue to literally polling an assembled audience for guidance.
 
This is not to say a candidate's rhetoric is irrelevant, it's just that a candidate's policy proposals matter more. And as of this morning, as TPM noted, the Trump campaign insists that the substance of his immigration plan remains unchanged.
Donald Trump's national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, said on Thursday that her boss hasn't changed his position on immigration -- just "the words he's saying."
 
In a panel discussion on CNN, Pierson said that Trump's nebulous immigration policy hasn't shifted. "He hasn't changed his position on immigration," she said. "He's changed the words that he is saying.... He's using different words to give that message."
This wasn't just an off-hand comment. On the contrary, it's quite elucidating: Trump may be confusing everyone with his inconsistent rhetoric, so let's focus less on what he says and more on what he proposes.
 
And what Trump has proposed -- a border wall, mass deportations, ending birthright citizenship, etc. -- remains his 2016 platform.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.25.16

08/25/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* For some reason, Donald Trump thought it'd be a good idea to describe Hillary Clinton as a "bigot" last night at a campaign rally in Mississippi.
 
* In North Carolina, the latest CNN poll shows Clinton leading Trump by just one point, 44% to 43%, while a Monmouth University poll points in a very similar direction, with Clinton ahead, 44% to 42%.
 
* On a related note, the CNN poll showed incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) narrowly leading Deborah Ross (D) in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race, 49% to 46%. Monmouth found Burr with a slightly smaller advantage, 45% to 43%.
 
* As for North Carolina's gubernatorial race, Monmouth's poll found incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in real trouble: he's now trailing state A.G. Roy Cooper (D), 52% to 43%.
 
* In Arizona, which has supported the Republican presidential ticket in 15 of the last 16 elections, CNN's poll showed a fairly competitive race, with Trump leading Clinton, 43% to 38%.
 
* Despite internal staffing issues, Bernie Sanders officially launched the "Our Revolution" organization last night, which will be led in part by his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.
 
* The Vermont senator, despite his alliance with the Democratic Party during his presidential campaign, is also reportedly "leaning toward seeking re-election as an independent" in 2018.
 
* Ed Rollins, the chairman of a super PAC supporting Trump, conceded yesterday that the Republican nominee would lose if the election were held today.

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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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