During the race for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders and his supporters would routinely emphasize the amazing crowds that would turn out for the Vermont senator's events. It was easy to understand why: the size of the audiences was often amazing, and for those hoping to see Sanders succeed, this was a more reassuring metric than vote totals and the delegate count.
But in the end, crowd size wasn't predictive. A candidate can host a rally with tens of thousands of people, and in the process prove that he or she has a strong following, but to assume that the crowds will deliver a victory is a mistake.
For some, however, the error still has appeal. The Huffington Postflagged a notable quote yesterday from a prominent figure in conservative media.
Fox News host Eric Bolling is sick of polls. Not only are they wrong, he said, but it's the size of crowds at Donald Trump's rallies that's much more important.
"We have to stop with these polls, they're insane," Bolling declared on "The Five" on Wednesday (skip to 5:06 in the video above for this part). "You look at a Trump rally and there's 12, 15,000, 10,000 people and then you look at Hillary Clinton and you have, I don't know, 1,500, 2,000."
Donald Trump himself expressed a similar sentiment in late June, telling conservative radio host Mike Gallagher how impressed he is with the "massive" crowds that turn out for his events. "I walked out of one [recent event], and I said, 'I don't see how I'm not leading,'" the Republican candidate said at the time.
Trump added, "We have thousands of people standing outside trying to get in, and they're great people and they have such spirit for the country and love for the country, and I'm saying, you know, 'Why am I not doing better in the polls?'"
The answer, of course, is that crowd size isn't all that relevant.
Some Republican partisans have probably made an uncomfortable calculus: Donald Trump may not be fit for the presidency, they've conceded to themselves, but given the state of the Supreme Court, GOP voters will have to hold their noses and vote for an unqualified, and potentially dangerous, candidate.
UC Berkeley's John Yoo, perhaps best known as the author of the Bush/Cheney "torture memos," co-wrote an L.A. Timesop-ed yesterday in which he rejected the thesis. As Yoo and George Mason University's Jeremy Rabkin argued, the damage Trump would do to American foreign policy outweighs potential conservative gains in the judiciary.
As conservative law professors, we share the concern that a Hillary Clinton victory would halt decades of efforts to restore an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.... But the Supreme Court is not enough. [...]
Faced with mounting international instability, Trump's answer is to promise an unpredictable and unreliable America. He has proposed breaking U.S. commitments to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, closing our military bases in Japan and South Korea, repudiating security guarantees to NATO allies, pulling out of the Middle East, and ceding Eastern Europe to Russia and East Asia to China. A Trump presidency invites a cascade of global crises. Constitutional order will not thrive at home in a world beset by threats and disorder.
Yoo and Rabkin added that conservatives shouldn't even count on Trump's "vague promises" to nominate conservative jurists to the bench. They noted, for example, that the Republican candidate's credibility on the subject is inherently suspect given the fact that he "mistook the number of articles in the Constitution and erred in thinking that federal judges could investigate Hillary Clinton."
In the larger context, there are quite a few former officials from the Bush/Cheney administration who've balked at Trump's candidacy, and some cabinet secretaries have even thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton. But who would've expected John Yoo to become such a prominent critic of the Republican nominee during the election season?
Michael Cohen, a leading figure in Donald Trump's operation, was reminded on CNN yesterday that his boss' campaign, at least for now, is trailing in the presidential race. "Says who?" Cohen responded.
Host Brianna Keilar, apparently surprised by the comment, replied, "Polls. Most of them. All of them?" Again, Cohen said, "Says who?"
"Polls," Keilar answered. "I just told you." Cohen, incredulous, asked, "OK, which polls?"
"All of them," the CNN host responded.
It's been that kind of summer for the Trump campaign. Consider the latest Quinnipiac polling, as reported by Politico yesterday afternoon:
Hillary Clinton holds double-digit leads among likely voters in Colorado and Virginia and a narrow edge over Donald Trump in Iowa, according to a trio of battleground-state Quinnipiac University polls released Wednesday.
In the head-to-head matchups, Clinton leads Trump 49 percent to 39 percent in Colorado. The race is closest in Iowa, where Clinton holds a 3-point lead over the Republican nominee -- 47 percent to 44 percent. But in Virginia, where Trump will campaign Saturday in Fredericksburg, Clinton leads by 12 points -- 50 percent to 38 percent.
The full Quinnipiac report, including crosstabs, is online here.
Note, among all of the major pollsters, Quinnipiac has generally published results favorable to Republicans this year, making yesterday's data that much more discouraging for the right.
The Quinnipiac poll coincided with a new Fox 2 Detroit/Mitchell Poll out of Michigan, where Clinton leads Trump by double digits, 49% to 39%, even with third-party candidates included in the mix.
The news for the Republican nominee wasn't all bad. A Monmouth University poll, for example, showed Trump leading comfortably in Indiana -- the Midwest's reddest state -- while Public Policy Polling found him leading Clinton in Missouri by three points, 45% to 42%.
Of course, given that Mitt Romney won Missouri by nine points in 2012, the fact that the Show-Me State is competitive at all is discouraging news for the GOP ticket.
Donald Trump received his first briefing yesterday from U.S. intelligence officials, though there's a limit as to how much information he received. As NBC News' report explained, the briefing, which lasted about two hours, described "how U.S. intelligence agencies see a variety of global issues," but did not describe "espionage methods, covert operations or nuclear secrets." Rachel's segment from Tuesday explored this in more detail.
What we don't know is how engaged the Republican presidential hopeful was during the meeting. As TPM reported yesterday, Trump said ahead of the briefing that he's wary of the U.S. intelligence community and doesn't necessarily consider the agencies reliable.
During an interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about his upcoming intelligence briefing and whether he does "trust intelligence."
"Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. Look what's happened over the last ten years. Look what's happened over the years. It's been catastrophic," he said in response. "And in fact, I won't use some of the people that are sort of your standards, you know, just use them, use them, use them. Very easy to use them, but I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions."
At a certain level, some criticisms of the CIA, for example, are understandable. Credible critics of the intelligence community can point to real and important missteps, and no one should suggest the agencies are beyond reproach.
But let's not miss the forest for the trees here. Donald J. Trump, if elected president, is inclined to ignore "the people that have been doing it for our country." The "it" in that sentence refers to the collection of sensitive security information provided to American policymakers.
The next question is obvious: if the GOP candidate doesn't want to rely on U.S. intelligence agencies, who exactly would Trump listen to when making critical security decisions?
Miguel Almaguer, NBC News correspondent, reports live from Rio de Janeiro on breaking news that two U.S. swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, have been pulled off their flight by Brazilian authorities in Rio who want answers to questions about their claim that they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio. watch
Rachel Maddow notes that Donald Trump's weirdest and most offensive behavior has a home in the right-wing fringe of American politics, a radical perspective that will now be the campaign's guiding voice as Steve Bannon, chairman of Breitbart News, has been made the campaign's chief. watch
Rachel Maddow notes how poorly the Donald Trump campaign has been run so far, with an out-dated web site and little to no campaign operations in key states, so changes to the campaign leadership is not surprising. watch
Rachel Maddow reveals that while it may seem that the four times she has interviewed Hillary Clinton without a pillow supporting Clinton's back would disprove a new right-wing conspiracy theory, in fact, what it proves is the use of a secret invisible conspiracy pillow. watch
Robby Mook, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, talks with Rachel Maddow about the decision to take on the Donald Trump campaign's spreading of bizarre conspiracy theories, and how they'll handle other Trump low-road tactics. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the Hillary Clinton campaign rebutting a bizarre and baseless conspiracy theory dragged from the fringe right by Donald Trump and Fox News, perhaps because of how normalized conspiracy theories from the right were seen to damage John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on a bizarre conspiracy theory developed in right-wing media that Hillary Clinton suffers from a variety of ailments, and notes the effort by Fox News and the Drudge Report to push the story into mainstream awareness. watch
Already hearing from people who have been contacted by reporters with knowledge of the content of their interviews in FBI 302's. (1/2)
* Louisiana: "The forecast for Louisiana on Wednesday was for more rain -- and more pain. With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has left at least 11 dead and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned the deadly deluge was far from done."
* A striking related detail: "The country has not seen a natural disaster this bad since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, according to the American Red Cross."
* California: "More than 82,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday as a fast-moving fire near San Bernardino, Calif., roared across 15,000 acres in several directions."
* Quite a shift: "A prominent Iranian lawmaker has confirmed that Russia is using Iran's Shahid Nojeh Air Base for airstrikes in Syria.... The announcement from Russia marks the first significant stationing of its troops in Iran since World War II."
* NSA: "Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency's elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency's operations and the security of government and corporate computers."
* Defection: "A high-ranking diplomat from North Korea who was based in Britain has defected to South Korea, officials in Seoul said Wednesday, making him one of the most prominent North Koreans in recent years to abandon their reclusive government."
* Good call: "The Obama administration on Tuesday issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year."
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.