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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty)

Despite latest polls, Donald Trump still says he's ahead

10/18/16 08:40AM

With three weeks remaining before Election Day, Donald Trump continues to focus on appeals to far-right voters, including an interview yesterday with right-wing radio host Michael Savage. As the Washington Post reported, Trump sounded optimistic about his candidacy's chances.
Trump told Savage that he believes he's actually ahead in the polls, which show him trailing Clinton, and cited "tremendous enthusiasm" and crowd sizes at his rallies as evidence.
Look, when a struggling candidate is asked about the polls, he or she has a standard line that's been repeated for many years: "The only poll that matters is the one done on Election Day." Trump, however, looks at the available data and apparently believes "he's actually ahead in the polls."

That's plainly untrue.
After a bruising week for Donald Trump amid backlash from the release of a lewd 2005 recording and in-fighting among GOP party leaders, Hillary Clinton now holds a 6-point lead over the Republican nominee, according to the latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll.

In a four-way match-up, Clinton enjoys 46 percent support this week among likely voters, while Trump drops a single percentage point to 40 percent support. Gary Johnson holds on to 8 percent support and Jill Stein has 4 percent support.
In a head-to-head match-up, the same poll puts Clinton's lead at eight points.

And given the latest survey results, that's actually some of the more encouraging data for the Republican nominee. A CBS News poll released last night found Trump trailing by nine points in a four-way contest and 11 points in a head-to-head race.

Also yesterday, a national Monmouth University poll found Clinton ahead by 12 points in a four-way race and 9 points in a two-way contest.

According to the Huffington Post's polling aggregator, Clinton's average advantage across all polls is now eight points -- her largest lead since shortly after the parties' national conventions.
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Melania Trump, wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, walks to the podium at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18, 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Trump's wife struggles to defend the indefensible

10/18/16 08:00AM

In recent campaign history, certain myths have taken hold in ways that obscure what actually happened. Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, for example, was already collapsing at the time of his "scream" in Iowa. Mitt Romney's support was already falling in 2012 when the "47 percent" video reached the public.

And Donald Trump's support was already fading when Americans heard his 2005 boasts about sexual assault, so his candidacy's current difficulties cannot solely be blamed on the "grab them by the p***y" audio.

That said, it certainly didn't help. Complicating matters, Trump and his allies still haven't thought of a credible way to explain the recording, though the candidate's wife did her best during a CNN interview yesterday.
Melania Trump defended Donald Trump against allegations that he sexually assaulted women, saying in a rare interview Monday night that her husband was "egged on" to make lewd comments about women that were caught on tape in 2005. [...]

[She dismissed the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush] as "boy talk" and speculated that her husband "was led on -- like, egged on -- from the host to say dirty and bad stuff."
That's not much of a defense. Donald Trump didn't want to brag about sexual misconduct, but he fell sway to the persuasive powers of the host of an entertainment-news show? For all the talk about Trump's persona as a tough guy, he succumbed to pressure from Billy Bush?

Not only is this unpersuasive, it's not even true -- there's nothing on the recording to suggest Trump was reluctant to boast about his exploits.

As for the "boy talk," let's not forget that Trump was 59 at the time of the interview.

Reminded of this detail by Anderson Cooper, Melania Trump responded, "Correct, and sometimes I said I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband."
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Monday's Mini-Report, 10.17.16

10/17/16 05:33PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mosul: "While Iraqi and Kurdish forces advanced on Mosul, the United Nations warned Monday that more than a million residents might try to get out before the fighting starts — and that ISIS could use them as 'human shields.'"

* Members of "the Crusaders" militia group were caught before they could kill anyone: "Three men accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants in Kansas will remain in prison after being charged with one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction."

* The prison population is now down to 60: "A longtime detainee at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who published a bestselling memoir of his treatment there was released on Monday, his lawyers and the Department of Defense said. Mohamedou Ould Slahi was sent back to his native Mauritania after 14 years of captivity, during which he was never charged with a crime."

* Hurricane Matthew: "Searchers found two more bodies inside vehicles submerged in floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina, increasing the death toll in the state to 26, Gov. Pat McCrory said on Saturday."

* Climate crisis: "Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators."

* Guilty plea: "Retired Marine Gen. James 'Hoss' Cartwright was expected to plead guilty Monday to making false statements during a federal investigation into the leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran's nuclear program."

* Florida Supreme Court: "Florida's top court struck down part of the state's capital-punishment law by ruling that only a unanimous jury may recommend a death sentence, bringing the state in line with most of the country."

* An overdue shift: "The Obama administration on Friday lifted restrictions on how many cigars and bottles of rum Americans can bring back from Cuba, part of continuing efforts to mend more than five decades of strained relations between the nations."
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U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) listens during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi Feb. 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

John McCain points to indefinite Supreme Court blockade

10/17/16 02:49PM

Remember that vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created by Justice Antonin Scalia's death in February? It was never filled. The high court still only has eight members, despite President Obama nominating a compromise choice who'd been recommended by Senate Republicans.

GOP senators -- sometimes with a straight face, sometimes while struggling to contain their snickering -- responded by saying their blockade, unprecedented in American history, would continue until after the 2016 presidential election, at which point they'd consider doing their constitutional duty.

Those talking points, however, were written when Republicans were still confident they'd control the White House in 2017. Now that the GOP is feeling pessimistic, those attitudes are starting to change. CNN reports today, for example, on Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) comments during a radio interview this morning in Philadelphia.
McCain promised that Republicans would be "united against any Supreme Court nominee" put forth by Clinton.

"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said. "I promise you...."
The radicalism of such a posture is hard to overstate. McCain is effectively vowing to leave his party's Supreme Court blockade in place indefinitely -- through 2020, at a minimum -- regardless of whom the American electorate chooses, regardless of the qualifications of the president's nominee.

The point of such a position isn't subtle: as far as John McCain is concerned, a Democratic president is, by definition, an illegitimate president. Advise and consent is a nice principle in our system of government, but to hear Arizona's senior senator put it, it's not nearly as important as raw, scorched-earth, partisan politics.
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Voting booths are illuminated by sunlight as voters cast their ballots at a polling place on Nov. 6, 2012. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

Why Obama's right to say democracy is 'on the ballot'

10/17/16 12:47PM

In a much-discussed speech last month at a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation event, President Obama told the audience, "If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we've made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot."

This notion that democracy itself is facing a historic test resonated, and the president has started incorporating the line into other remarks.

But it's worth pausing to consider what the argument means, exactly. Why do Obama and other progressives believe democracy itself on the ballot in 2016? It's probably because Americans have arguably never seen a major-party presidential nominee as hostile towards democratic principles and institutions as Donald Trump.

The dynamic is actually getting worse as it appears more likely that the GOP candidate will lose. In recent weeks, voters have seen Trump call for the imprisonment of his rival candidate and her attorneys, condemn the free press and threaten to sue news organizations he disapproves of, attack the legitimacy of the American elections process, and suggest he may not concede the outcome of the presidential race. (This followed months in which Trump praised authoritarian regimes abroad.)

There is no precedent in the American tradition for a presidential hopeful to demonstrate quite this much hostility towards democratic norms -- and we haven't even gotten to Trump's calls for "poll monitoring." The Huffington Post noted yesterday that Trump "has explicitly and repeatedly warned of voter fraud -- and told his supporters to serve as poll monitors in precincts where illegal voting is most likely."
He's mentioned the issue on at least three occasions in rural or western parts of Pennsylvania, warning about the possibilities of cheating in Philadelphia. The argument has obvious racial overtones, since his audiences are almost entirely white, and Philadelphia, like most large cities, has a significant African-American population. [...]

[Mike] Pence, appearing on CBS "Face the Nation," also endorsed the call for poll monitoring, brushing off concerns that doing so might intimidate minority voters who would be more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.
"People that are concerned about this election and about us preserving the one person, one vote that's at the very center of our American democracy, should become involved, should volunteer at their neighborhood polling place," Pence said. "That's how we ensure the accountability. Frankly, that's how we protect the integrity of the vote for Republicans, Democrats, Independents."

And what does this mean in practical terms? The Boston Globe talked to one Trump follower in Cincinnati who vowed to heed the candidate's call.
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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.17.16

10/17/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Mike Pence said yesterday that the Republicans' national ticket will "respect the outcome of this election." File that away for future reference.

* With three weeks remaining before Election Day, Donald Trump's campaign announced on Saturday that its state director in Ohio will no longer work with the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

* There's been quite a bit of speculation lately about whether or not Hillary Clinton's campaign will make an effort to win Arizona, and so it was of great interest this morning when Clinton's team announced First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a rally in Phoenix on Thursday.

* It's not just tweets that can provoke Trump; a comedy skit can do the same. Trump said over the weekend, "Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!"

* In what appears to be a first for a national major-party candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton's running mate, delivered a campaign speech in Miami yesterday entirely in Spanish.

* The Clinton campaign released a new video yesterday, hoping to draw attention to one of Trump's more ridiculous allies. The video is called, "This is Alex Jones"

* As if Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) weren't facing enough trouble with his tough re-election fight, the longtime congressman is dealing with questions about his residency status in Missouri.

* The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer has been endorsing North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in a variety of elections for 25 years. This year, however, it's recommending McCrory's gubernatorial opponent, state A.G. Roy Cooper (D).
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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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