It's a safe bet that you have a pretty clear preference in this year's presidential race. In fact, it's also likely that nearly everyone you know -- at least those who intend to cast a ballot -- already has a good idea about who'll they'll support. The number of true undecided voters, folks who just aren't sure which candidate to back, is fairly small.
But these Americans still exist. In fact, we can even find them on Capitol Hill.
Take Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), for example. The Republican senator, facing a tough re-election fight in a blue state, announced his support for Donald Trump's candidacy several months ago, but in June, Kirk became the first and only GOP senator to withdraw that endorsement and declare he wouldn't support his party's nominee after all.
Soon after, the Illinois senator said he'd write in former CIA Director David Petraeus' name rather than support Trump.
Last week, Kirk changed his mind again, announcing he'll instead write in former Secretary of State Colin Powell's name on his presidential ballot. As the Chicago Tribunereported, this didn't turn out well.
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who has unendorsed Donald Trump, said Wednesday he "can't support" Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or anyone for president who backs the Iran nuclear agreement.
But Kirk's stated choice as a write-in candidate for president, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, also supported the U.S.-led multinational agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program.
In a CNN interview, Kirk specifically said, in reference to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, "Hillary Clinton was for the Iran agreement. And I can't support someone who is for the Iran agreement." (Powell, whom Kirk had just endorsed, is a rather enthusiastic proponent of the Iran agreement.)
Which means it's time for the Republican senator to come up with his fourth presidential preference in the last three months. And who might that be?
It's hardly an unfamiliar dynamic. Many times, high-profile rivals for a presidential nomination have waged bitter primary fights, only to grudgingly come together for the general election. Inevitably, the candidates who came up short are asked about the nasty things they said in the heat of electoral battle, and they respond with an obvious retort: those previous comments were hyperbolic and not a true reflection of their respect and affection for the party's nominee.
The comments generally aren't sincere, but it's the script candidates read, not only in the name of party unity, but also to help justify a post-primary endorsement.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may not fully understand this.
In the heat of the Republican presidential primary, Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a "con man." And he doesn't take it back. "I've stood by everything I ever said in my campaign," Rubio told the Miami Herald editorial board Monday.
But Rubio still supports Trump for president.
During the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio was quite candid in his condemnations of Trump. The Floridian referred to Trump as a "lunatic" and a "con man." Rubio's campaign, quite literally, sold #NeverTrump swag on its website. The senator told audiences that Trump might urinate on himself, mocked Trump's hair and face, and even made vulgar jokes about Trump's genitals.
The GOP senator has had multiple opportunities to walk all of this back, and chalk it up to overheated campaign rhetoric, but Rubio doesn't want to do that. On the contrary, he keeps saying that he "stands by everything" he said while condemning Trump's fitness for office.
And in the next breath, Rubio also says he supports Trump's presidential candidacy. He doesn't seem to appreciate how foolish this sounds.
President Obama and his national security team have wanted to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay for many years. Congress has stood in the way. But while lawmakers have succeeded in preventing sweeping action, they have not been able to stand in the way of incremental progress.
As Rachel noted on the show last night, the Obama administration has taken another big step towards its larger goal with another big detainee transfer. The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg reported late yesterday:
The Pentagon disclosed Monday that it sent 15 detainees from Guantanamo to the United Arab Emirates this weekend, part of an ongoing, dramatic downsizing that could see the prison population dip to fewer than 50 war prisoners in Cuba by summer's end.
The 12 Yemeni and three Afghan men sent to the Emirates range in age from 36 to 66. Most arrived at Guantanamo when they were in their early 20s a dozen or more years ago. None was ever convicted of a crime although the Bush-era prosecutor briefly swore out charges against two of the Afghans in cases the Obama war crimes prosecutor never pursued.
Updating the tally we've been keeping an eye on, the detention facility's population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners. As of today, the Obama administration has reduced that total to just 61 people -- the lowest number we've seen since the first detainees arrived 14 years ago.
What's more, we can expect that total to shrink further. The Miami Herald's report added that 20 of the remaining 61 should leave the prison "soon," as a result of "resettlement or repatriation through agreements."
As we discussed in April, the point of the gradual reductions, obviously, is to reduce the overall population, but it's also intended to appeal to Congress' sense of fiscal sanity: the smaller the number of detainees, the harder it is to justify the massive expense of keeping open a detention facility that houses so few people. Even if congressional Republicans are inclined to ignore the White House, military leaders, and Bush/Cheney administration veterans, the hope is that GOP lawmakers will at least care about wasteful spending.
Most of Donald Trump's big speeches tend to raise questions about his competence, but yesterday's address on foreign policy and national security was stranger than most. It left many wondering, for example, if the Republican presidential candidate is familiar with his own past opinions.
Trump, for example, is on record supporting the war in Iraq, the ouster of the Mubarak government in Egypt, and the U.S. military offensive in Libya. Yesterday, Trump not only pretended he never held those positions, he also blamed these policies for contributing to the rise of ISIS.
It led MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin to note that the national security framework he described "was so contradictory and filled with so many obvious falsehoods that it's virtually impossible to tell what he would do as president."
There was, meanwhile, one part of the speech that deserves closer scrutiny. NBC News reported:
Donald Trump on Monday promised "extreme vetting" of immigrants, including ideological screening that that will allow only those who "share our values and respect our people" into the United States.
Among the traits that Trump would screen for are those who have "hostile attitudes" toward the U.S., those who believe "Sharia law should supplant American law," people who "don't believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred."
All of this is intended to shed light on Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, unveiled in December. A month ago, the GOP nominee added a geographic "expansion" to his idea, saying he wants closer scrutiny of immigrants from countries "compromised by terrorism" -- a policy that would apparently include most of the planet.
Now, evidently, there's a new prong to the policy: an ideological test. Those immigrants who declare their hostility for American law and their contempt for pluralism won't be allowed in.
Aisha Turner, producer of the 'Precious Lives' radio series about gun violence and young people in Milwaukee, talks with Rachel Maddow about the context of the racial protests taking place in Milwaukee. watch
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort should be required to disclose the details of his employment with Ukraine's Russia-backed former president. watch
Rachel Maddow relays new reporting from the New York Times about Ukrainian investigations into Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's recent employment with Ukraine's Russia-backed former president. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on Vice President Joe Biden offering vehement criticism of Donald Trump's qualifications to be president, particularly on foreign policy and his positions on Russia and NATO. watch
* Louisiana's flooding crisis continues: "Louisiana has been deluged by rainfall since last week, with at least seven people dead and thousands of homes damaged by floods. Gov. John Bel Edwards said officials 'won't know the death toll for sure for several more days.' President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state Sunday, freeing up federal aid to support recovery efforts."
* A different kind of crisis in Wisconsin: "The mayor of Milwaukee imposed a 10 p.m. Monday curfew for teenagers after the city was rocked by a second straight night of violent street protests over the fatal police shooting of a local man."
* NYC: "Police were questioning a suspect early Monday in the brazen broad-daylight killings over the weekend of a local imam and his assistant in New York City, sources told NBC News. The man, who police say matched a description of the shooter, was detained while returning to a vehicle near the scene of the killings, the sources said."
* Syria: "U.S.-backed fighters have liberated the Syrian town of Manbij from ISIS, observers and Syrian-Kurdish officials said Saturday as dazed residents reportedly described their terror at the hands of militants."
* ISIS: "The leader of the Islamic State branch that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan was killed in an American airstrike on July 26 in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Friday. It was the United States military's second killing of an anti-American Islamist militant leader in the region in the past three months."
* Socialism: "U.S. stocks hit record highs on Monday as traders remained buoyant and oil prices ticked upward."
* Regulations can make quite a difference: "While the earth continues to shudder more frequently than seven years ago beneath Oklahomans feet, the rate of earthquakes in the state in 2016 is down from last year.... Increased regulation on wastewater disposal related to oil and gas extraction could be one reason behind the decline, said Robert Williams, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey."
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.