Steve Kornacki looks at which candidates in each party would benefit most from the momentum that comes from a good performance in Iowa as well as which candidates will suffer the greatest setback with a loss in Iowa. watch
First up from the God Machine this week is a second look at the Republicans' presidential debate on Thursday night, with a specific focus on matters of faith.
In his opening remarks, for example, Ted Cruz noted that Iowans "have welcomed my dad to preach at your churches." As Time magazine explained, Marco Rubio was far less subtle.
When asked to explain how is trailing Donald Trump in the polls despite being hailed as the "Republican savior" by TIME Magazine, Rubio cited a savior he feels trumps them all.
"Let me be clear about one thing, there's only one savior and it's not me," he said. "It's Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins."
As if that weren't quite enough, Rubio made multiple additional references to "Judeo-Christian values," his own personal faith, and the senator's closing statement was devoted to his belief that the Bible "commands us to let our light shine on the world." The Florida senator also made four separate references to the word "apocalypse," a word that carries its own theological significance.
At other points in the debate, Cruz talked about energy policy by saying, "I think God has blessed this country with enormous natural resources, and we should pursue all of the above"; Rand Paul referenced British theologian Os Guinness; and John Kasich said in reference to mental-health treatment, "When I study Scripture, I know that people who live in the shadows need to have a chance."
There's no great mystery here. As Time's report added, "nearly 60% of caucus-goers in 2012 identified as born-again or evangelical Christians."
Whether Iowa Republicans appreciated the faith-based politicking or got annoyed by ham-handed religious pandering will become clearer in a couple of days.
Rachel Maddow reports that the criteria for qualifying for the February 6 Republican primary debate on ABC make no mention of anyone not qualifying for the main stage and the network has confirmed it is not offering a second-tier event. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, since he declared a state of emergency, would serve Flint residents better by going door-to-door to help them, rather than simply advising residents on how to prioritize their own response. watch
Rachel Maddow relays breaking news that some new lead tests of tap water in Flint, Michigan homes are still showing extremely high levels, in many case exceeding the capacity of the filters being handed out at relief stations. Hank Winchester, WDIV-TV investigative reporter, joins to discuss the crisis. watch
Rachel Maddow talks with residents of Flint, Michigan about how they're coping with their city's toxic water problem and whether anything the Snyder administration has done has made their lives any easier. watch
* Oregon: "FBI officials moved aggressively to dispel questions about the shooting death Tuesday of one of the most high-profile occupiers of a rural Oregon wildlife refuge. A video appears to show the man reaching for a loaded handgun before being shot by an Oregon state trooper."
* The second sentence seems to make the first sentence a lot less important: "Twenty-two emails from Hillary Clinton's private email server have been marked 'top secret' and won't be released, the State Department said Friday. The emails were not marked as classified at the time they were sent."
* On the Ledbetter anniversary: "The Obama administration will move on Friday to require companies to report to the federal government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity, part of a push by President Obama to crack down on firms that pay women less for doing the same work as men."
* Scott Walker's agenda produces its intended result: "Union membership in Wisconsin collapsed in 2015, falling well below the national average for the first time and thinning the ranks of the labor movement by tens of thousands of workers in one of its former bastions."
* A worthwhile fact-check: "Trashing Obama and arguing that he has failed to spend enough on defense has become a staple for Republican presidential hopefuls. At the debates and campaign stops, they've cast him as a feckless commander in chief, standing idly by while the world's finest military withers away. What's lost in the din: Money spent on weapons modernization is on par with the George W. Bush administration."
* Delaware: "Proponents of a defeated measure to abolish Delaware's death penalty say they will continue fighting until capital punishment is outlawed. The legislation failed Thursday evening in the state House, getting only 16 of the 21 votes needed for passage. Twenty-three lawmakers voted against the bill, which cleared the Senate last year by a single vote."
The recent focus on 2016 polling is easy to understand: two competitive presidential primaries are underway, and the first round of voting begins next week. But away from the spotlight, it's interesting to see President Obama's support growing, even as a giant GOP field spends every day condemning him.
President Obama's job-approval rating has rebounded into positive territory, boosted by improving assessments of his handling of the nation's economy since 2012 and thawing ratings on handling the terrorist threat, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Fifty percent of Americans approve of Obama's overall job performance in the new poll, similar to 51 percent in October. While barely positive, Obama's marks are up slightly from 45 and 46 percent in the past two months.... Fully 50 percent approve of his handling of the economy, while 46 percent disapprove, the best margin in Post-ABC polls since 2009.
Looking a little closer at the data, the 50% approval rating is actually a combined total of those who "strongly" approve of the president's job performance and those who "somewhat" approve. In this case, note that 31% now say they "strongly approve" -- and that's the highest total Obama has seen in nearly three years.
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver added yesterday that the latest RealClearPolitics average shows the president's support reaching its highest point since June 2013. It could be a temporary blip, of course, but Nate added, "Maybe Obama looks a little better in comparison to the unpopular set of candidates they've been seeing and hearing so much from lately."
And at the risk of making the president's detractors feel a little worse, let's also note that Gallup shows Obama's standing, when compared to Ronald Reagan's standing at this point in his presidency, is practically identical.
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.