Rachel Maddow shows how Oprah is an unexpected point of overlap between the Trump and Cruz campaigns as Ted Cruz welcomes the endorsement of a preacher who thinks Oprah is the antichrist and Donald Trump has repeatedly said he would like Oprah as a running mate. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the Koch-funded group that has led the conservative effort to privatize the Veterans' Administration, and the questioned raised by the unexpected departure of the group's leader. watch
Lindsey Smith, reporter for Michigan Radio, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the state of Michigan has changed its approach to addressing the toxic water crisis in Flint in recent weeks, and how challenges like poor record keeping will make compliance with the EPA orders particularly difficult. watch
* EPA: "The Environmental Protection Agency director overseeing a region that includes Flint, Michigan, is stepping down after contaminated water in that city exposed residents to lead poisoning."
* Wall Street: "U.S. stocks closed higher Friday, for their first positive week of the year, helped by a recovery in oil from multi-year lows and hopes of stimulus overseas."
* Pakistani officials now believe "a deadly assault on a university this week was orchestrated by militants in Afghanistan, part of a pattern of cross-border terrorism that is undermining peace efforts in the region."
* Economy: "U.S. home sales rebounded December after new federal regulations had delayed the completion of purchases in November. And total sales in 2015 were the most in nine years."
* DeKalb County, Georgia: "A white police officer was indicted here Thursday on six counts, including felony murder, in the fatal shooting last year of an unarmed black man who was naked and described as acting in an erratic manner."
* Clean Power Plan: "In what environmentalists hailed as a victory for efforts to curb climate change, an appeals panel in Washington on Thursday rebuffed efforts to delay enforcement of President Barack Obama's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions until legal challenges are resolved."
* Defense Secretary Ash Carter published a new op-ed on this being the "time to accelerate" the fight against ISIS. After reading the piece, I'm not altogether sure what that entails.
* It's interesting that Republicans are blocking a qualified Secretary of the Army nominee during a war and there is no controversy: "Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is vowing to keep a hold on President Obama's nominee for secretary of the Army until the president leaves office and is no longer in a position to close the Guantanamo Bay prison."
* The right's strategic genius: "Russia has fallen victim to two of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia—oops—but only slightly less well-known is this: never think an oil-exporting business can substitute for having an actual economy. Double oops."
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, the wife of one president and the mother of another, said a few years ago that she didn't really want Jeb Bush to run in 2016. "There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes," she told NBC.
Jeb, of course, decided to run anyway, reminding voters that despite his famous family, "I am my own man." The argument started looking a little shaky once the former governor turned to his family members for fundraising, and turned to his family's team advisers to help guide his campaign.
As the process intensifies, and his chances of success decline, Jeb no longer seems interested in distancing himself from his last name. Today, the Bush campaign unveiled this new ad featuring an endorsement from his mother. For those who can't watch clips online, here's the script, with Barbara Bush's pitch:
"Jeb has been a very good father. A wonderful son. A hard worker. His heart is big.
"When push comes to shove people are going to realize Jeb has real solutions, rather than talking about how popular they are, how great they are. He's doing it because he sees a huge need and it's not being filled by anybody.
"Of all the people running, he seems to be the one who could solve the problems. I think he'll be a great president."
The New Republic's Jeet Heer said in response, "There have been many sad moments in Jeb Bush's ill-fated campaign, but this is surely one of the most pathetic. Down on his luck, Bush is doing the equivalent of bringing his mother to a job interview to vouch for what a great guy he is."
That sounds about right, though that's not the part that jumped out at me. Rather, it was the pitch itself that seemed problematic.
As the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continues, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is speaking out more about his perspective on the scandal, and this morning talked to MSNBC about where he's assigning blame. The Detroit Newsreported it this way:
Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday continued to lay blame at the feet of state Department of Environmental Quality employees for failing to require Flint to add corrosion control chemicals to its river water that could have prevented lead from leaching into the drinking water supply.
The Republican made frequent references to "culture" during the interview, complaining about public agencies lacking a "culture of asking the common-sense questions," adding there's "a huge bureaucratic problem and it's part of the problem with culture in government."
The rhetoric was jarring in large part because it came from the governor himself. When Rick Snyder refers to problems with "government," he's specifically talking about Rick Snyder's administration. The decisions that did so much damage in Flint were made by emergency managers appointed by the governor himself.
Even the state Department of Environmental Quality employees Snyder is now blaming are employees who answer to him.
At one point, he added, "Let's look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating" -- which is to say, the culture of how people have been operating in Snyder's own administration.
* National Review, a leading voice in conservative media, published a manifesto of sorts last night, urging the right to reject Donald Trump. Soon after, the RNC dropped the magazine as a partner for an upcoming Republican debate. Trump, predictably, is going after the magazine, too.
* Despite possible blizzard conditions in New Jersey, Chris Christie has said he will not leave the campaign trail in New Hampshire. [Update: the governor has apparently changed his mind.]
* Jeb Bush's mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, stars in a new campaign ad touting her son's candidacy.
* Ben Carson's former campaign manager said of the candidate, "I think he's just living in an alternative universe."
* In a bit of a surprise, John McCain announced yesterday he's "made up his mind" not to endorse anyone in his party's presidential race.
* Speaking of McCain, in a bit of a surprise, Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.) has decided not to launch a primary campaign against the incumbent senator.
* Ted Cruz has zero endorsements from senators and governors, but he's slowly picking up a sizable amount of support from far-right House members, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who threw his support to Cruz this week.
Back in August, shortly before the first debate for the Republican presidential candidates, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver and Harry Enten made projections as to who's likely to prevail in the race for the GOP nomination. Silver gave Donald Trump a 2% chance. His colleague saw that as far too generous -- Enten put Trump's chances at -10%.
Quite a bit happened over the five months that followed, and just as much of the Republican establishment changes its posture on a possible Trump nomination, so too has FiveThirtyEight. Silver, whose track record has earned him broad credibility, acknowledged yesterday that he's "become a lot less skeptical of Trump's chances."
Fleshing out his thinking, Silver explained that he, like many observers, "assumed that influential Republicans would do almost anything they could to prevent [Trump] from being nominated," and that just hasn't happened.
[T]he textbook on Trump is that he'd be a failure along virtually every dimension that party elites normally consider when choosing a nominee: electability (Trump is extremely unpopular with general election voters); ideological reliability (like Sarah Palin, Trump's a "maverick"); having traditional qualifications for the job; and so forth. Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.
But so far, the party isn't doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it's making such an effort against Cruz.
Jon Chait joked, "This is the horse race equivalent of Walter Cronkite saying Vietnam is lost."
Watching a presidential race closely means more than just looking at polls. Survey results offer a big piece of the puzzle, but metrics like endorsements, fundraising, appearances, and perhaps even prediction markets help fill out the picture with even greater clarity.
Ad buys matter just as much. It's one of those things that candidates and campaign committees can't bluff: folks can say they're taking a state seriously, but in the end, they're either making the investments or they're not. The proof is in the pudding.
And with this in mind, Politico published a piece overnight that's raising some eyebrows.
Marco Rubio had long planned an ambitious Iowa advertising assault in the weeks leading up to the caucuses, but his campaign has quietly scaled back its ad buys in the state by more than $860,000, according to a POLITICO analysis of advertising buys.
The change appears due partly to a switch from offense to defense, but it also comes at a time when the Florida senator is focusing his hopes for an early state victory in South Carolina, where his campaign is increasing its advertising buys, according to the analysis, compiled for POLITICO by The Tracking Firm.
Political Wire's Taegan Goddard pointed to the report as a "big sign" that the Florida senator is facing real "trouble."
Remember, National Review published a piece the other day saying Rubio's team hopes to win through a "3-2-1" strategy that involves coming in third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and first in South Carolina. If that's true, scaling back ad buys in Iowa and increasing them in South Carolina makes sense -- the Florida senator has effectively already locked up a top-three finish in Iowa, but he has a lot more ground to make up in South Carolina.
But this is clearly a plan with risks. Candidates who come up short in Iowa and New Hampshire -- finishing outside the top two -- tend to lose traction going into the next round of contests. It wasn't long ago that Rubio believed he could win the Iowa caucuses outright, and now he's scaling back ad buys and trying to lower expectations.
The senator is still a media darling who enjoys support from much of the Republican establishment, but such a position is not without limits. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin this morning described Rubio as "the consensus front-runner with no consensus."
When Bill Clinton talks about this year's New Hampshire primary, the former president tends to focus on one of the candidate's regional advantage. Slate had this report the other day:
"I want to begin by saying that I know there's a hard fight here," Clinton said at the beginning of his rally in Concord, New Hampshire on Wednesday, his third visit to the state since he recently began campaigning, "and I know we're running against one of your neighbors." (Lowering expectations by noting that Sanders represents Vermont, and that's probably the only reason why Hillary could/will lose here? Check.)
By one account, Bill Clinton claimed recently that no candidate whose state borders New Hampshire has ever lost a presidential primary in the Granite State.
And this got me thinking. We tend to consider Southern candidates having a geographic edge when competing in Southern primaries, but is the same thing true in New England? Is Clinton right that New Hampshire's neighbors always win when running in the New Hampshire primary?
President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets in the Middle East back in August 2014, and since that time, the United States has conducted over 7,000 strikes, more than triple the rest of the world combined. In response, congressional Republicans have complained bitterly about the White House's passivity towards ISIS, largely ignoring what's actually happened.
At the same time, however, GOP lawmakers have been surprisingly reluctant to do any actual work of their own. Month after month, the president has urged Congress to authorize the mission, but most of Obama's critics on Capitol Hill have been unwilling to move past the carping phase.
Indeed, as recently as two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked if his chamber would ever get around to tackling an AUMF for the current mission. The Kentucky Republican demurred.
Given all of this, yesterday's developments came as something of a surprise. The New York Timesreported:
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader, has set the stage for debate on a bill that would give President Obama broad authority to use military force against the Islamic State.
Mr. McConnell has generally opposed the idea of revisiting the president's authority for military operations in the Middle East.... But aides to Mr. McConnell said the new bill, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was sufficiently broad and would provide a new platform for showcasing what Republicans view as Mr. Obama's deep failings in combating the Islamic State.
At face value, this would seem to offer at least some encouragement to those eager to see Congress do its duty.
The trouble, however, is what Graham and his allies have in mind.
Bernie Sanders may be a first-time presidential candidate, but he's proven to be quite adept when it comes to messaging. Looking back over the last several months, few instances come to mind of the Vermont independent committing a "gaffe" or having to apologize for a verbal slip-up.
This week, however, the senator caused some trouble for himself. Appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show, Sanders was asked about several leading progressive organizations, including Planned Parenthood, formally endorsing Hillary Clinton's campaign. He responded by saying he's "taking on ... the political establishment" -- comments Clinton and the relevant groups quickly seized upon.
Sanders campaign officials insisted, more than once, that there was nothing wrong with the senator's on-air comments. But yesterday afternoon, in comments to MSNBC's Kasie Hunt, Sanders backpedaled, clarifying his comments from a couple of days prior.
"That's not what I meant," Sanders told NBC News in an interview during his campaign swing through the first-in-the-nation primary state. "We're a week out in the election, and the Clinton people will try to spin these things."
Pressed on whether he views the groups as "establishment," Sanders said: "No. They aren't. They're standing up and fighting the important fights that have to be fought."
Sanders said he was specifically talking about the leadership of those groups and their endorsement decisions.
This should effectively wrap up the controversy, such as it was, though no one should be surprised if Team Clinton stokes these fires a little more.
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.