When it comes to foreign policy, Rand Paul isn't eager to launch any new wars. When it comes to 2016 debates, it's a different story.
The next gathering for the Republican presidential field will be Thursday night, when candidates participate in their sixth debate. The Fox Business Network announced last night that seven of the remaining candidates have been invited to the prime-time event: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. That leaves Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum, who have been relegated to the kids-table undercard debate.
The Kentucky senator, who has been on the main stage for each of the first five debates, had already vowed to skip this week's event if he were blocked from the prime-time gathering, and as of late yesterday, Paul and his campaign team intend to follow through on that threat.
But Paul also talked to the Washington Post in more detail about his frustrations.
...Paul reiterated that the "arbitrary, capricious polling standard" had been a source of disgust for the grassroots, dubbing it a story of media political bias.
"It won't take much for our supporters to understand why we're doing this," Paul said. "You want war? We'll give it to you."
Jeb Bush was asked the other day about his faltering favorability rating among Republican voters. "Hell if I know," the presidential candidate replied. "I don't really care."
And at a certain level, that's probably about as a good reply as any. After all, the underlying question -- why don't voters in your own party like you? -- is inherently brutal and insulting. Dismissing it as an unimportant distraction makes sense, if only to maintain one's self-esteem.
But turning a blind eye to a problem does not make the problem go away. Gallup isn't doing horse-race polling, at least not yet, but it is publishing data on the candidate's favorability, and the longtime pollster published this report last week:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's image among Republicans has steadily worsened over the past five-and-a-half months. His current net favorable rating of -1 (44% favorable, 45% unfavorable) among Republicans is significantly lower than his +27 (54% favorable, 27% unfavorable) rating in mid-July. [...]
Bush's campaign efforts since July have clearly moved his image in a negative direction. The percentage of Republicans with a favorable opinion of Bush has dropped 10 percentage points, while the percentage with an unfavorable opinion has increased 18 points.
Of the nine GOP presidential candidates included in Gallup's survey, Bush is the easily the least liked and the only candidate whose unfavorable scores are higher than his favorable scores. (Ted Cruz fares the best on net favorability, followed by Ben Carson.)
What's more, it's not just Gallup. As Rachel noted on the show last night, Bush has the lowest favorability scores in New Hampshire of any Republican candidate, and the lowest favorability scores in Iowa of any GOP presidential hopeful.
Ordinarily, when a national operation faces these kinds of numbers, Campaign Management 101 says a candidate can improve his or her favorability by running ads and hitting the campaign trail.
There's little evidence that the group No Labels, which exists to promote non-partisan policymaking, has ever had any impact on the American political process at any level. Yahoo News reported not long ago that the outfit "spends a disproportionate part of its budget maintaining and promoting its own organization, trying to keep its profile high while ensuring a steady flow of fundraising dollars" from undisclosed donors.
Nevertheless, the group continues to exist, and it recently asked both parties' presidential candidates to endorse vague goals No Labels considers important: 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; Social Security and Medicare fiscal stability for the next 75 years; a balanced budget by 2030; and energy security by 2024. Six candidates -- Donald Trump, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and Martin O'Malley -- each endorsed the blueprint, called the "National Strategic Agenda."
As the Washington Postreported, No Labels' controversial co-chairman was delighted.
"We had no idea when we started out down this road how many candidates would make the Problem Solver Promise," said No Labels's co-chairman and former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman, a longtime Democrat from Connecticut who retired as an independent after losing his party's primary. "Today, six have! I'm glad we got six. We could have gotten zero."
One of the six, however, didn't seem entirely comfortable with the idea of sharing the "Problem Solver" seal with one of his fellow competitors.
There's still time for the race for the Republican nomination to change, but as early January gives way to mid-January, some observations are starting to look more reliable.
For example, Donald Trump is well positioned to win the New Hampshire primary. The latest Monmouth poll was released yesterday:
1. Donald Trump: 32% (up from 26% in a Monmouth poll in November)
2. Ted Cruz: 14% (up from 9%)
2. John Kasich: 14% (up from 11%)
4. Marco Rubio: 12% (down from 13%)
5. Chris Christie: 8% (up from 5%)
The remaining candidates are each at 5% or lower, including Jeb Bush, who, at least in this poll, is in seventh place with just 4%. Trump's 32%, meanwhile, is the strongest support any candidate has seen in any Monmouth New Hampshire poll so far this entire campaign cycle.
Of course, the usual caveats apply: it's just one of many polls. In fact, most recent surveys in the Granite State show Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, Christie, and Bush nearly tied for second place, which puts Monmouth slightly out of step with most of the recent data. That doesn't mean it's wrong; it's just something to consider.
Also note, Cruz fared very well as the top "second choice" in this poll, while Rubio is fading slightly. A fourth place finish for the Floridian would be a real problem for his campaign going forward.
Regardless, Trump's dominance in the first primary -- to be held four weeks from today -- is hard to miss. Will he fare as well in the first caucus?
When the Affordable Care Act was taking shape several years ago, one of its more popular provisions was the creation of state-based exchange marketplaces. By now, most Americans are probably familiar with the concept: states would create marketplaces for insurers to compete for the public's business, and consumers could choose the best plan for their needs.
Kentucky, previously a national leader in ACA implementation, embraced the idea with great enthusiasm, creating the Kynect system, which proved to be a great success. Newly elected Gov. Matt Bevin (R), however, is dismantling it anyway. The Louisville Courier-Journalreported yesterday (via Charles Gaba):
Following through on a campaign pledge, Gov. Matt Bevin has notified federal authorities he plans to dismantle kynect, Kentucky's health insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act. [...]
Advocates had urged Bevin to keep kynect, a website praised for its accessibility and ease of use. They said helped hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians sign up for health coverage. It also included a public information campaign and workers to help people get health coverage.
"That's really disappointing," Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of advocacy groups, told the newspaper. "It's a lot more than just a website."
Beauregard wasn't alone -- public-health advocates, hospital administrators, and medical professionals statewide condemned the decision, and for good reason. It's one thing to abandon a state-based model for the federal healthcare.gov because the state system wasn't working; it's something else to scrap an effective and valuable resource, just out of knee-jerk, partisan spite over "Obamacare."
But there's also an under-appreciated irony to this: Bevin, the far-right Republican governor, is also abandoning the tenets of his own ideology. By scrapping Kynect, the Tea Party Kentuckian is shifting power from his state to Washington, D.C., on purpose, without explanation.
A few states away, in Louisiana, we see a state government pointed in a more constructive direction.
Rachel Maddow reports on how some Republican candidates' campaigns are struggling in the days leading up to the first primary voting, with Jeb Bush turning in an abysmal likeability number, Rand Paul polling too poorly for the main debate, and Ben Carson losing staffers to the Cruz campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on local clean water and filter distribution centers in Flint, Michigan running out of supplies already as Governor Rick Snyder is slow to implement an effective relief plan. watch
Congressman Brad Sherman talks with Rachel Maddow about how he and his Porter Ranch, California neighbors are coping with the massive, months-long, toxic gas leak in their town, and how the pace of dealing with the gas is slowed by the insistence that the gas be sold at regular market rate instead of being disposed of as the environmental crisis... watch
Mark Kelly of Americans for Responsible Solutions talks with Rachel Maddow about the new prominence of gun policy in Democratic politics and his and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords', recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton. watch
* Crisis in Flint, Michigan: "Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday the state is starting to draft a request for federal assistance with Flint's lead contaminated water crisis.... The Republican governor also warned city residents against using tap water from the Flint River."
* Iraq: "Islamic State militants attacked a shopping mall in eastern Baghdad on Monday evening, killing at least 17 people and turning the neighborhood into an urban war zone at rush hour, with helicopters hovering overhead and snipers taking positions on nearby rooftops."
* The population of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is down to 103: "The Department of Defense announced today the repatriation of Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
* Porter Ranch: "Lawmakers on Monday plan to announce a legislative package in response to a methane gas leak that has forced thousands of people from their homes in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles."
* A big week in Maine: "House Democrats and independents pushing for impeachment proceedings against Gov. Paul LePage say they will introduce a measure this week calling for an investigation into eight possible charges against the Republican chief executive."
* Progress: "Only 22 cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2015, the Carter Center announced last week, a significant drop from the 126 cases reported in 2014."
* Alabama: "The steering committee of the Alabama Republican Party passed a resolution Sunday asking House Speaker Mike Hubbard to step down as speaker until his ethics case is resolved."
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning over a seemingly obscure issue: public-sector unions' "agency fees." But while this may seem like a tangential dispute, the outcome of the case will matter a great deal to many labor unions nationwide.
The basic idea is pretty straightforward, and The New Republic's Elizabeth Bruenig summarized the issue this way:
Agency fees work like this: Public sector unions are required to cover all employees in a given bargaining unit, whether the employees opt into union membership or not. Public sector employees (which include EMTs, firefighters, public school teachers, social workers, and more) thus pay agency fees to their respective unions even if they are not union members, because public sector unions work on behalf of everyone in their bargaining unit, not just union members.
Agency fees do not fund unions' political activities, but rather strictly the costs of union grievance-handling, organizing, and collective bargaining. In the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court upheld the right of public sector unions to extract agency fees from public sector workers, and found that agency fees do not violate employees' freedom of speech, so long as they do not fund unions' political activities.
So far, so good.
The trouble, according to many on the right, is that literally everything unions do -- even collective bargaining itself -- is inherently political, even if it's unrelated to campaign activities. As a result, we're left with a case -- Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association -- in which the justices have an opportunity to overturn the Abood precedent, and as of this morning, it appears a majority of the justices are prepared to do exactly that.
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.