As expected, with a week remaining before the Wisconsin presidential primaries, Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced his support this morning for Ted Cruz. With the Republican nominating contest about half over, the Texas senator now enjoys the support of 5 of the nation's 31 GOP governors -- which is a little higher than the totals for Donald Trump and John Kasich, but which still isn't an impressive tally.
The conventional wisdom is that the Republican establishment, left in an untenable situation, is making its peace with the fact that Cruz is preferable to Trump. John McCain, who's called Cruz a lying, crazy "wacko bird," said last week that he's ready to "put aside my anger in some cases and work with" his party's nominee, even if it's Cruz, "in every possible way that I can." Lindsey Graham has gone much further in expressing his grudging support for his Texas colleague.
But let's not go too far with these assumptions. The fact remains that much of the GOP still can't quite bring itself to support Cruz, even facing the prospect of a Trump nomination. Vox's Andrew Prokop noted yesterday:
Yes, there is a small faction of the party willing to say in public that Trump should be stopped, and there are some more insiders willing to help behind the scenes. But there appears to be a much larger majority that, even now, doesn't want to bother lifting a finger. [...]
Eighty-two percent of GOP House members, 90 percent of GOP senators, and 69 percent of GOP governors haven't endorsed any of the three remaining candidates. (Some had endorsed Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out, but even when he was in the race the majority of the party was neutral.)
Walker's announcement this morning obviously effects this tally a little, but the broader point remains sound: asked to choose between the lesser of two evils, most of the party's top elected officials prefer not to make any choice at all.
It's worth pausing from time to time to appreciate why, exactly, so many of those who work alongside Cruz dislike him so vehemently. Bloomberg Politics had a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago:
Last year, when Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) appeared likely to lose the gubernatorial race he expected to win, the Republican's desperation led to an ugly move. With just a couple of weeks remaining, Vitter overhauled his campaign message and presented himself as the anti-Muslim-refugee candidate. In the end, it didn't work -- Louisiana rejected the senator by double digits.
But the outcome of the race hasn't dissuaded other Republicans from trying a similar strategy. Take Sen. Mark Kirk, for example.
By most measures, the Illinois Republican, who's seeking a second term, is the Senate's most vulnerable incumbent, running in a state that's very likely to go "blue" in November. Kirk and his campaign appear to believe, however, that it's still possible to scare voters into supporting him.
In recent weeks, Kirk has launched attack ads telling Illinois voters that they should be terrified of ISIS, and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) is a fool for supporting a policy that welcomes Syrian refugees who are fleeing ISIS. Yesterday, the Republican senator directed the public to his latest op-ed in which Kirk argued that we should also be terrified of Guantanamo detainees.
The intelligence community agrees 30 percent of the terrorists released from Guantanamo are known or suspected to have already re-joined the fight against Americans -- a statistic that translates to a horrific reality. [...]
Guantanamo remains the best way to protect Americans at home and abroad from the threat these terrorists pose.
U.S. military leaders have drawn the exact opposite conclusion, but Kirk hopes that voters will ignore them and instead listen to him. (Also note, many of the detainees who've "already re-joined the fight" were released from the prison by the Bush/Cheney administration, when Kirk was not inclined to complain about U.S. policy.)
But even putting substance and public policy aside, it's becoming increasingly clear what kind of message Kirk believes will salvage his career: be afraid of ISIS, be afraid of refugees running away from ISIS, and be afraid of detainees in Guantanamo. How inspiring.
A variety of Republican governors, even in the Deep South, have been cautious about approving anti-LGBT measures, fearing an economic backlash. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), however, appears to support a more ambitious approach to fighting a conservative culture war.
To briefly recap, the city of Charlotte recently approved an anti-discrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBT Americans. In response, the Republican-led state legislature held a special, emergency session last week to pass something called H.B. 2, which prevents North Carolina cities from expanding their civil rights laws, and as Rachel noted last night, effectively overturned nearly every local anti-discrimination ordinance in the state.
With private-sector leaders ready to punish North Carolina, and a federal lawsuit now filed, McCrory responded to the criticism yesterday by blaming the media and progressive activists for creating "political theater" and a "calculated smear campaign."
In an interview with NBC News, McCrory, a Republican who is running for re-election, said he would not back down from the measure.... He cast himself as a voice of reason, standing against an assault on "the norms and etiquette" that have existed for generations. And he said the law doesn't discriminate against anyone.
"This political correctness has gone amok," he said.
There are some questions, however, about whether or not the governor fully understands the new law he just created after a rushed legislative push. The News & Observerreported yesterday, for example, that the new policy appears to revoke a fair housing ordinance in Greensboro and a policy governing municipal contracts in Raleigh.
Asked for a response, McCrory, who signed H.B. 2 into law last week, said, "I've been traveling all day, so you're telling me something I'm not aware of."
The governor's spokesperson later argued that the law doesn't affect local housing ordinances, but he said he's "still not sure" about the impact on other types of ordinances.
It's not unreasonable to think McCrory and his GOP allies should have worked out these details before changing the state's discrimination laws.
When the Republican National Convention gets underway in Cleveland in July, attendees will not be permitted to bring loaded firearms with them onto the convention floor. The policy isn't exactly surprising, and it's consistent with the precautions taken at every national party convention in recent memory.
The petition's author, known as N A, finds fault with the policy, calling it "a direct affront to the Second Amendment." Pointing to an article that ranks Cleveland among the United States' most dangerous cities and mentioning "the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack," the author said the Republican National Committee and the Quicken Loans Arena are putting people at risk.
"Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life," the petition reads. "All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN Obama's 'gun-free zones.'"
Putting the president's middle name in all caps is always a sign of a serious and thoughtful person making a substantive argument.
The specific request demanded that the Republican National Committee, the National Rifle Association, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and those who manage the Quicken Loans Arena itself all take steps to allow convention attendees to carry loaded guns at the party gathering.
This is the same gathering, by the way, where Donald Trump said there may be "riots," and at least one U.S. senator has said he may skip the convention because he fears for his personal safety -- and this was before gun enthusiasts created and signed the firearm petition.
Yesterday, the Secret Service announced their response to the petition. The Washington Postreported:
Rachel Maddow points out that contrary to the "anti-establishment" tone of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Republican voters are so far not rebelling against Republican incumbent candidates and by all measure just seem to like Trump. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on seven counties in Florida where Republican registration went up this year (Democratic registration fell in six of them) and the speculation that Donald Trump inspired this surge, though whether Democrats should be worried isn't as watch
Rachel Maddow alerts viewers that on this Wednesday night, Chuck Todd will interview John Kasich at 7pm ET, Chris Matthews will interview Donald Trump at 8pm ET, and Maddow will have back-to-back interviews with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at 9pm ET and likely running for more than an hour. watch
Kyle Cheney, Politico "campaign pro" reporter, talks with Rachel Maddow about the advantage Ted Cruz has over Donald Trump in working within state-level Republican Parties to establish delegates who are loyal to him should he need them in a contested conv watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the shadow primary within the Republican primary to secure as many loyal and double-agent delegates as possible to serve in the event of a contested convention. Donald Trump is apparently compensating for his lack of preparedness on this front with legal threats. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews reporting done in advance of Super Tuesday on how the Sanders campaign was increasing spending and staffing for those primary contests, facts that now undercut the campaign's explanation that they weren't really trying in those states they lost to Hillary Clinton. watch
* Capitol Hill shooting: "Police locked down the US Capitol complex on Monday after a police officer was shot, NBC News has learned. 'Shooter has been caught,' the Capitol's sergeant at arms reported. 'One police officer shot, but not seriously.'"
* A devastating attack in Pakistan: "A suicide bomber set off a powerful blast close to a children's swing set in a public park on Sunday evening in the eastern city of Lahore, killing at least 69 people and wounding around 300, rescue workers and officials said."
* The investigation in Brussels continues: "Belgium on Monday released the sole suspect prosecutors had arrested directly in relation to the Brussels terror attacks."
* Um, can we talk a little more about this? "As a dragnet aimed at Islamic State operatives spiraled across Brussels and into at least five European countries on Friday, the authorities were also focusing on a narrower but increasingly alarming threat: the vulnerability of Belgium's nuclear installations."
* The whole idea of man-made earthquakes is still something I find extraordinary: "On Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey published for the first time an earthquake hazard map covering both natural and 'induced' quakes.... Some 7 million people live in places vulnerable to these induced tremors, the USGS concluded."
* A done deal in California: "A deal to raise California's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 was reached Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators, making the nation's largest state the first to lift base earnings to that level and propelling a campaign to lift the pay floor nationally."
* If only Donald Trump had some understanding of his own rhetoric: "Trade deficits are not inherently good or bad; they can be either, depending on circumstances. The trade deficit is not a scorecard."
Presidential campaigns are long, exhausting exercises for the candidates and their teams, and the fatigue invariably leads otherwise competent people to slip up. It happens in every race, in both parties, whether things are going well or going poorly.
A few weeks ago, for example, Tad Devine, the top strategist in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and an experienced consultant, mentioned in passing the idea of Hillary Clinton adding the Vermont senator to the ticket as her running mate. Asked if Sanders would consider such an offer, Devine replied, "I'm sure, of course." Soon after, Devine realized that this made it sound as if the independent lawmaker wasn't really running to win, so he walked it all back. Staffers everywhere had a "there but for the grace of God go I" moment.
The strategist obviously just made a mistake, said something he didn't really mean, and reversed course quickly. Today, however, I think Devine slipped up again in a way he'll soon regret. Mother Jonesreported:
"[Hillary Clinton's] grasp now on the nomination is almost entirely on the basis of victories where Bernie Sanders did not compete," said senior strategist Tad Devine. "Where we compete with Clinton, where this competition is real, we have a very good chance of beating her in every place that we compete with her."
Devine named eight states where he said the Sanders campaign did not compete with a big presence on the ground or much on-air advertising: Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas.
According to a report from Business Insider, Devine added, "Essentially, 97% of her delegate lead today comes from those eight states where we did not compete."
No matter which candidate you like or dislike, I think it's fair to say Team Sanders has generally run a strong campaign, exceeding everyone's expectations, and positioning the senator as one of the nation's most prominent progressive voices for many years to come. Sanders isn't the first presidential candidate to run on a bold, unapologetic liberal platform, but he is arguably the first in recent memory to do in such a way as to position himself as a leader of a genuine movement.
But whether or not you're impressed with what Sanders has put forward, his campaign's latest pitch is an unfortunate mess.
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.