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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence wave to the crowd before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. (Photo by John Sommers II/Reuters)

Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history

07/15/16 12:39PM

Donald Trump talked with Time magazine the other day, and was asked about his impulsive decisions and erratic instincts, but the Republican presidential candidate waved off such concerns. "I'm a very stable person," he said. "I'm so stable you wouldn't believe it."
 
The rollout of his vice presidential nominee offers some proof to the contrary.
It's official: Mike Pence is Donald Trump's running mate. Trump announced Friday in a tweet that he has selected the Indiana governor to run on the GOP ticket with him in the fall. [...]
 
The announcement came after a day of confusion about whether published reports about his choice of Pence had been premature, with the candidate insisting late Thursday night that he had not made a "final, final decision."
Consider the chain of events over the last 24 hours or so. First, Trump settled on Pence and scheduled an event for 11 a.m. (ET) Friday. Soon after, Trump became "irritated" by the media leaks and decided the deliberations would continue. After last night's attack in Nice, France, Trump impulsively announced that Friday's event would be postponed, out of respect for the victims, though he nevertheless attended a fundraiser and made multiple media appearances last night. Trump added that the "final, final" decision about his running had not yet been made.
 
After telling donors he'd make the formal announcement on Saturday, Trump instead decided to break the news on Twitter this morning -- right around the time of the postponed event. (Why Trump could make an announcement at 10:50 a.m., but not host an event at 11 a.m., is unclear.)
 
But remember, he's "so stable you wouldn't believe it." Perhaps he meant that literally, since it's so obviously difficult to believe.
 
As for the Indiana governor, regular readers know I've followed his career pretty closely for many years, and we'll have all kinds of detailed coverage as the campaign progresses, but on this first day, I think it's important to emphasize a foundational point: Mike Pence is almost certainly the most right-wing vice presidential nominee of the modern era.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.15.16

07/15/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* After Republicans announced that former NFL quarter Tim Tebow will appear at the party's national convention, Tebow himself denied it yesterday.
 
* In Florida, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Sen. Marco Rubio (R) with a modest lead over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), 47% to 44%.
 
* In Colorado, the same poll shows Sen. Michael Bennet (D) with a big lead over Darryl Glenn (R), 53% to 38%. A new Fox News poll shows the Democrat up by an identical margin.
 
* In North Carolina, the NBC poll offers Republicans good news in the Senate race, where incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) is up by seven points, but bad news in the gubernatorial race, where incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R) now trails state A.G. Roy Cooper (D) by four points.
 
* Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said he might reconsider supporting Trump now that he's chosen Mike Pence as his running mate. Kirk's spokesperson added soon after that the senator won't change his mind, even if he said the opposite.
 
* In Wisconsin, the latest Marquette poll shows former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) by a modest margin, 49% to 44%.
 
* In Kansas, a new KSN poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows Trump leading Clinton in the state, 47% to 36%, which looks good for the Republican until you realize Mitt Romney won Kansas by 22 points.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Penn., July 8, 2016. (Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

New polling points to a clear presidential favorite

07/15/16 11:13AM

Just two days ago, Quinnipiac released new swing-state polling that rattled the political world: Donald Trump, the results said, is narrowly leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania, and the two are tied in Ohio. Add third-party candidates to the mix, and Trump's lead is even larger.
 
The reaction to this polling report was practically an earthquake. Democrats panicked, Republicans beamed, and pundits began saying it's time to rethink previous assumptions and consider the possibility that Trump may be elected president in the fall. The data was treated as one of the week's bigger political stories.
 
I have a hunch the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, which is no less important, will generate far less attention.
 
In Colorado: Clinton leads Trump, 43% to 35%.
 
In Florida: Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 37%.
 
In North Carolina, Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 38%.
 
In Virginia, Clinton leads Trump, 44% to 35%.
 
"With 66 electoral votes at stake in these four states, Donald Trump is playing catch-up against Hillary Clinton," Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said.
 
It's possible some of the chatter is the result of human nature: unexpected results seem more interesting than predictable results. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton is ahead, so when Quinnipiac challenges our assumptions, it's perceived as wildly important, while polls that show Clinton with comfortable leads in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia seem routine.
 
But the fact remains that such perceptions aren't a constructive way to look at polling, and when the media only makes a fuss about surveys that show Trump doing well, it's an imbalance that might even shape the public's understanding of the race.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives at a rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on May 25, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

Trump's lock on the GOP nomination is suddenly more secure

07/15/16 10:40AM

It's been obvious for quite a while that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party's presidential nomination, and he's been the party's presumptive nominee since early May. And yet, the GOP's "Never Trump" contingent has been surprisingly persistent, looking for every possible avenue to derail the controversial television personality.
 
Indeed, this has been a leading concern among Democratic donors, who've made no secret of their fear about Republicans dumping Trump for a less ridiculous -- and more electable -- presidential candidate.
 
As of last night, however, it appears that the "Never Trump" campaign has run its course: Trump will be the nominee.
Donald Trump received a major victory Thursday as delegates overwhelmingly opposed last-ditch efforts to derail his nomination.
 
In the wonky Rules Committee meeting ahead of the Republican National Convention next week, a whip team assembled by the Trump campaign worked closely with officials at the Republican National Convention to defeat anti-Trump delegates' efforts.
Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, doesn't say much via social media, but he felt compelled to boast last night, "Anti-Trump people get crushed at Rules Committee. It was never in doubt."
 
Well, it was sort of in doubt. While "Never Trump" activists have long faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles, the Republican National Committee was worried enough about these efforts to launch a whip team to lobby members of the Rules Committee, helping ensure this outcome.
 
If the outcome was a foregone conclusion, party insiders wouldn't have bothered.
Then, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis speaks to voters during a Davie County GOP rally Nov. 2, 2014 in Mocksville, N.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

GOP senator: Confirming judges unrelated to 'doing our jobs'

07/15/16 10:00AM

If there's a compelling defense for how Senate Republicans are treating President Obama's judicial nominees, no one has shared it yet. This goes well beyond the unprecedented mistreatment of Merrick Garland: Politico reported yesterday that this GOP-led Senate has confirmed "just 20 district and circuit court judges ... a time when the vacancies are hampering the federal bench nationwide."
 
This may seem like predictable partisanship -- there's a Democratic White House and a Republican majority in the Senate -- but note that when Democrats ran the Senate for the final two years of the Bush/Cheney era, they approved 68 federal judges, more than triple what we're seeing now.
 
Also note, some of the pending nominees who can't get floor votes are jurists who enjoy bipartisan support. The White House routinely accepts consensus recommendations from senators from both parties, and there are plenty of judicial nominees championed by Republicans who are currently stuck -- because GOP leaders want to shut down the confirmation process altogether out of partisan spite.
 
But the fight took an unintentionally funny twist yesterday when Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said that when it comes to confirming judicial nominees, it's not part of senators' job. The Huffington Post reported:
Democrats including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) made repeated requests Wednesday to confirm a batch of Obama's judicial nominees who are ready for votes. Each time they tried, Tillis objected and suggested the Senate shouldn't be spending time on judges.
 
"What we get are things that have nothing to do with doing our jobs," he said. "I'm doing my job today and objecting to these measures so we can actually get back to pressing matters."
I realize that Tillis, a far-right freshman, hasn't quite learned how to be an effective senator yet -- the North Carolinian just took office last year -- but to say that confirming judicial nominees has "nothing to do with doing our jobs" is baffling.
 
The Constitution isn't explicit on much when it comes to lawmakers' responsibilities, but the text is rather literal when it comes to this part of the governmental process: it is absolutely senators' job to vote on judicial nominees.
The Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, is prepared for the upcoming Republican National Convention, July 13, 2016.

Republican Convention finds itself in need of a bailout

07/15/16 09:20AM

The first signs of trouble emerged in March. Fearing possible violence on the convention floor, a variety of corporate sponsors, previously expected to support the Republican National Convention, announced they would hold back this year.
 
As we discussed in June, as spring turned to summer, and the likelihood of unrest at the Republican convention dissipated, some assumed the corporate sponsors would get back in line. They didn't. Some of the biggest companies in the country -- Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft,  et al -- each of which had extended support to Republican conventions in the past, said they were keeping the checkbook closed in 2016, largely for fear of association with the party's controversial presidential nominee.
 
For a while, this was mostly a matter of political curiosity, with many observers marveling at Corporate America going out of its way to keep Donald Trump at arm's length. But as the GOP gathering in Cleveland prepares to get underway, there's an unexpected problem: Republicans don't have the money they expected to have for their convention.
 
The target was to raise $64 million, but GOP organizers, spurned by corporate allies, are far short of their goal. Politico reported yesterday that Republican National Convention officials have turned to billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, looking for a $6 million bailout.
In a letter addressed to the Adelsons, obtained by POLITICO, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee revealed the names of more than two dozen prominent corporations and individuals who have reneged on a collective $8.1 million in pledged donations.
 
The letter represents the most public acknowledgement to date that Donald Trump has directly cost convention organizers millions of fundraising dollars.
The letter, dated Tuesday, said "negative publicity" surrounding Trump led a variety of sponsors to back out from their financial commitments to the convention.
 
Indeed, the document named names: FedEx, Pepsi, and others planned to make six- and seven-figure contributions, only to change their minds because of Trump.
 
Remember when RNC officials insisted Trump wouldn't cost the party major donors? Those assurances now look kind of silly.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference March 31, 2015 at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

Trump's delay leaves Indiana politics in limbo

07/15/16 08:40AM

The schedule was set. We knew Donald Trump had settled on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his presidential running mate. We knew when and where the Republican candidate would make the announcement. We even learned that the far-right governor had traveled to the New York area yesterday afternoon in advance of his introduction. The speculation and air of mystery surrounding the process had come to a sudden end.
 
But then Trump surprised the political world, declaring on Twitter last night that he's postponing the running-mate announcement, ostensibly because of the deadly terrorist attack in Nice, France. Complicating matters further, the presumptive Republican nominee told a national television audience that he hasn't yet made a "final, final decision" among the three finalists.
 
A model of efficient decision-making this isn't.
 
But as the Washington Post noted, this unexpected delay doesn't just matter in the presidential race; there's also the gubernatorial race in Indiana to consider.
The next few hours are critical to the Indiana governor's race. If, as expected, Trump picks Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to be his running mate, Pence will have to drop out of his reelection race because Indiana law doesn't let you run for two offices on one ballot.
 
The rules say he has to make that decision by noon Friday. Trump was set to make his announcement at 11 a.m. Friday, but he postponed it in light of the terrorist attack in Nice, France. Now, an announcement might not happen until this weekend. That means Pence could be forced to make a tough decision Friday morning between staying on the ballot and forfeiting the vice presidential nomination or taking a risk and getting off the ballot.
It's a relatively safe bet that Pence will take the gamble and things will work out. The governor will probably end his re-election bid -- which was turning out to be a pretty difficult race for him anyway -- before this afternoon's deadline, and move forward with his expected campaign for national office.
 
But there has to be just a hint of doubt, doesn't there? Pence is counting on Trump being steady and consistent enough not to change his mind at the last minute -- because if he does, the Indiana governor may soon find himself without any job in elected office at all.
 
For the sake of conversation, let's assume that this plays out as expected. Let's say Pence bows out of his race in Indiana within the next few hours, assuming he'll be added to the Republican ticket. Chances are, Trump's postponement won't affect the outcome, and by tomorrow, Pence will be introduced as Trump's running mate.
 
What happens to Indiana's gubernatorial race?
Ambulances line up near the scene of the attack in the French resort city of Nice, southern France, July 15, 2016. (Photo by Claude Paris/AP)

Attack in France jolts U.S. presidential race

07/15/16 08:00AM

As of this morning, the death toll in Nice, France stands at 84 people, following an attack in which an unidentified driver mowed down dozens of revelers enjoying the country's Bastille Day celebrations.
 
Four thousand miles away, as the Washington Post reported, news of the attack had a significant impact on the U.S. presidential race.
In a stunning move late Thursday, Donald Trump said he was scrapping his plans to announce a running mate because of the terrorist attack in southern France, following a day of strong signals that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the likely choice.
 
Throughout the day, aides to Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, were preparing to formally announce Pence as the vice-presidential candidate at a news conference in New York on Friday morning. But by early evening, Trump said that he had yet to make a "final, final decision" between Pence and two other candidates, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).
Even for a candidate known for his mercurial ways, Trump surprised many last night with his comments. For example, when the presumptive Republican nominee postponed his introduction of Pence as his running mate, it raised concerns that Trump was signaling to terrorists that they can help dictate events in the United States.
 
There was also something of a mixed message: the GOP candidate delayed his vice-presidential announcement in the name of propriety, but Trump nevertheless headlined a fundraiser last night and made multiple Fox News appearances.
 
And during those television interviews, Trump called for a declaration of war, though he may not fully understand what that means; and Trump called for a NATO offensive against terrorists, though he doesn't think NATO should exist. On Twitter, Trump added, in response to the deadly attack, "When will we learn?" He hasn't made any effort to explain what it is, exactly, he wants us to learn that we don't already know.
 
In the wake of the latest terrorist crisis, Trump continues to raise questions about his basic competence and ability to function well under pressure.
 
That said, compared to Newt Gingrich, Donald J. Trump is practically a learned statesman.
France to mobilize troops to bolster security

France to mobilize troops to bolster security

07/14/16 09:52PM

Laura Haim, White House correspondent for Canal Plus, talks with Rachel Maddow about French President Francois Hollande's address regarding the deadly attack in the city of Nice and his announcement that he will be calling up Operational Reserves to bolster national security, including at the borders. watch

Weaponized vehicles a familiar terror tactic

Weaponized vehicles a familiar terror tactic

07/14/16 09:39PM

Malcolm Nance, former U.S. counter-terrorism intelligence officer, talks with Rachel Maddow about the frequency with which terrorists use vehicles as their means of attack, and the details investigators will analyze as they examine the truck attack in Nice, France. watch

Vehicle attacks previously encouraged by ISIS

Vehicle attacks previously encouraged by ISIS leader

07/14/16 09:18PM

Rukmini Callimachi, correspondent for The New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about ISIS supporters cheering the deadly attack in Nice, France as the terror group has yet to claim credit for the attack, and how ISIS has encouraged supporters in the West to commit acts of terror with whatever means are available, including vehicles. watch

Attack witness: 'a sea of people just...

Nice witness: 'a sea of people just running'

07/14/16 09:12PM

Terri Clarke, an eye witness to the deadly truck attack in Nice, France, describes what she saw as a large white truck plowed through crowds of Bastille Day holiday crowds, leaving a trail of dead and injured. watch

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