It seems inevitable that Donald Trump's standing in national polls will fade, but for now, that shift remains on the horizon. Politicoreported overnight on the new Fox News poll:
Donald Trump leads all Republican presidential candidates for the GOP primary, according to a new Fox national poll of registered voters released Thursday.
Eighteen percent of GOP voters said they supported Trump, up 7 percent from last month and 15 percent from March.
Trailing Trump's 18% support is Scott Walker, who's in second with 15%, and Jeb Bush with 14%. No other candidate reached double digits in the Fox poll.
The results are roughly consistent with this week's USA Today/Suffolk poll, which also found Trump leading, and which also showed Trump generating about the same amount of support as Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul combined.
Making matters slightly worse for the Republican establishment, the Fox poll also found President Obama's approval rating climbing three points over the last month, reaching 47%, the strongest support the president has seen in a Fox poll in three years.
As we talked about the other day, the significance of polls like these is not in their predictive value -- the results shed little light on who's likely to win the Republicans' presidential nomination -- but this year, national surveys will dictate who participates in televised debates, making the polls more important than they've ever been.
And in this specific poll, that's not all. Consider this question Fox asked respondents:
Given our previous coverage of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) "John Doe" controversy, it's only fair to note that as of yesterday, by order of the state Supreme Court, the investigation is no more. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
Dealing Gov. Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign gets underway, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Thursday ruled the governor's campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws in recall elections in 2011 and 2012.
The ruling means the end of the investigation, which has been stalled for 18 months after a lower court judge determined no laws were violated even if Walker's campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe.
That last phase -- "even if Walker's campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe" -- is of particular interest. Conservative judges have concluded that even if the Republican governor and his team did exactly what they are accused of doing, it doesn't matter.
To briefly recap the controversy, Wisconsin election laws prohibit officials from coordinating campaign activities with outside political groups. There is, however, ample reason to believe Walker and his team were directly involved in overseeing how outside groups -- including some allegedly non-partisan non-profits -- spent their campaign resources.
Several conservative judges, including a majority of the state Supreme Court, have a problem with the law itself -- so long as outside groups aren't explicitly trying to bribe a public official, the rationale argues, the coordination, no matter how explicit, is permissible.
Or put another way, as yesterday's dissent emphasized, it's an "anything goes" policy when it comes to politicians partnering with outside groups to win elections.
For Walker, the ruling is obviously a relief -- no presidential candidate wants to campaign for national office with an unresolved scandal pending, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling frees the governor from worrying about this controversy going forward.
But looking ahead, the story isn't quite finished. The next question is focused less on Walker and more on the judges who just did Walker a favor. Political scientist Norman Ornstein yesterday described the Wisconsin Supreme Court as the "worst court in America," and it's worth appreciating why.
For much of the year, policymakers were in a holding pattern when it came to the Affordable Care Act. The health care system continued to improve, and consumers continued to benefit, but officials were hesitant about adopting major changes, unsure what the Supreme Court might do to the law.
That period, of course, is now behind us. The court case is over; the system is intact; and "Obamacare" expansion is back on track. Take yesterday's developments in Alaska, for example. The NBC affiliate in Anchorage reported:
Gov. Bill Walker has announced unilateral plans to expand Medicaid in Alaska, after the state Legislature stymied his attempt to pass it during this year's regular session and a special session he subsequently called.
Ordinarily, when a state legislature balks at a legislative proposal, governors can't simply adopt a statewide policy unilaterally. But Alaska's Gov. Walker -- a former Republican who ran as an Independent with a Democratic running mate -- told reporters that state law empowers him to move forward with Medicaid expansion, with or without lawmakers' support.
"This is the final option for me -- I've tried everything else," the governor said He added, "Thousands of Alaskans and more than 150 organizations, including chambers of commerce, local hospitals, and local governments, have been waiting long enough for Medicaid expansion. It's time to expand Medicaid so thousands of our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family members don't have to make the choice between health care or bankruptcy."
The Alaska Dispatch Newsadded, "Walker's decision to expand Medicaid without legislative approval is not common but it's also not without precedent."
Barring a reversal in the courts, Alaska will be the 30th state to accept Medicaid expansion through the ACA, and while estimates vary on the number of beneficiaries, the move will reportedly expand health security to roughly 42,000 working-class Alaskans.
Rachel Maddow reports on President Barack Obama's visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma today, the first such visit by a sitting president ever, and notes that as remarkable as the president's comments are, so is the lack of political pushback. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the guilty verdict in the trial of the Aurora, Colorado mass shooter, and shares video excerpts of the dramatic trial testimony of some of the 256 witnesses to the horrific event. The jury rejected the defense of insanity. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that in the wake of the deadly shootings at two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, residents are showing up in large numbers to donate blood, forcing blood banks to open extra hours. watch
Sergeant First Class Robert Dodge, head of the Army Recruiting Center in Chattanooga that was fired upon today, talks with Rachel Maddow about what he experienced during the shooting and how his military training and experience guided his actions. watch
Rachel Maddow looks back at the litany of attacks and thwarted attacks on domestic U.S. military facilities that have taken place in recent years with today's shootings at two facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee only the latest example. watch
* Criminal justice: "President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to see the inside of a federal prison on Thursday in Oklahoma, capping a week of events aimed at rallying support for criminal justice reform. 'There but for the grace of God,' Obama told reporters after meeting with six non-violent drug offenders ... and gazing into one of the 90-square foot cells in which they live."
* Eurozone: "Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schauble, suggested on Thursday that Greece might be better off leaving the euro, saying that a temporary exit from the common currency could give the country additional flexibility to reduce its crippling debt load."
* Education: "No Child Left Behind is a step closer to a major overhaul giving far more flexibility to states to act -- or not -- on poorly performing schools. The vote on the Senate bill -- 81 to 17 -- sends it to a conference with the House bill, which the White House threatened to veto."
* Israel: "When President Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss the nuclear deal with Iran, the American president offered the Israeli leader, who had just deemed the agreement a "historic mistake," a consolation prize: a fattening of the already generous military aid package the United States gives Israel."
* Middle East: "U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will travel to Saudi Arabia as part of the Obama administration's efforts to convince skeptical allies in the region about the benefits of the Iran nuclear deal, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said on Wednesday."
* A worthwhile endeavor: "President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged the expansion of high-speed Internet access to low-income children in rural communities by talking about a young woman who once had to stand on a rock to get cell-phone service."
* Alabama: "A Cullman-based attorney has filed a lawsuit against Alabama's governor saying Robert Bentley didn't have the authority to remove Confederate flags from the grounds of the state Capitol."
The timing of today's news is itself gut-wrenching. The gunman in the Charleston mass shooting was in court this morning; the verdict in the Aurora mass shooting is expected later today; and this afternoon, a gunman killed four Marines in attacks on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
NBC News' Pete Williams and Courtney Kube reported this afternoon:
The gunman was killed after a shootout with police at the second facility, authorities said. It was not immediately clear whether police killed him or he killed himself. [...]
Bill Killian, the top federal prosecutor for eastern Tennessee, said the attack was being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism. The shootings happened about 40 minutes and six miles apart, first at a military recruitment station and then at a Navy and Marines reserve center.
A police officer and a Marine recruiter were among those injured in the mass shooting. Their injuries are not expected to be life-threatening, and the recruiter is reportedly already been treated and released.
We don't yet know anything about the gunman or his motives, though officials believe he acted alone. We also do not yet have the names of the victims, whose families are still being notified.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talked to msnbc's Andrea Mitchell last week, and seemed eager to put some distance between himself and Donald Trump, calling the Republican candidate "offensive."
The senator went further talking to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.
"It's very bad," McCain, who was eager to talk about Trump, told me on Monday when I stopped by his Senate office. The Senator is up for re-election in 2016, and he pays close attention to how the issue of immigration is playing in his state. He was particularly rankled by Trump's rally. "This performance with our friend out in Phoenix is very hurtful to me," McCain said. "Because what he did was he fired up the crazies." [...]
"We have a very extreme element within our Republican Party," McCain said. ... "Now he galvanized them," McCain said. "He's really got them activated."
His criticisms have real merit. By national standards, McCain is pretty far to the right, but for much of the GOP base -- inside Arizona and out -- he's a moderate sellout worthy of conservatives' wrath. The senator has seen the "crazies" and the Republican Party's "extreme element" up close, so he knows of what he speaks.
But reading McCain's concerns, there's a nagging question: isn't this the guy who wanted to put Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency of the United States?
When McCain elevated the former half-term governor to national prominence, was it because the senator saw her as a brilliant visionary, or was it because he wanted her to "fire up the crazies" and get them "activated"?
There's no shortage of money circulating in the 2016 presidential race. NBC News' First Read, taking note of the official second-quarter fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, reports $385 million has already been donated to either candidates or affiliated entities like super PACs.
Given that the actual presidential election is still 69 weeks away, that's a pretty striking figure.
Of course, the money isn't divided evenly. I put together the above chart to show how the most competitive candidates are doing, omitting candidates who've raised below $3 million.
Note, the lighter colors -- red for Republicans, blue for Democrats -- show how much money the candidates have raised through their campaigns, while the darker colors show how much has been raised by the candidates' allied, outside groups.
For some, it's not a pretty picture. The race for votes is obviously paramount, but at this stage in the election cycle, the race for donors matters, too.
Some caveats are in order, just to help add some context to all of this:
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* Gov. Scott Walker's Republican presidential campaign received some good news this morning when the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked "a secret investigation into millions of dollars spent on financing of recall election victories by Walker and other Republicans."
* Walker has also tried to clarify this week's comments about protecting Boy Scouts from gay leaders. He's trying to argue now that he meant protecting the Scouts from a political controversy.
* Ted Cruz wants Fox News to change its criteria for upcoming debates, only including national polls with at least 1,000 respondents, all of which are contacted via phone instead of online, and which must not be conducted over a Friday or Saturday. The number of polls conducted this year that would pass that criteria? Zero.
* Speaking of Cruz, the far-right Texas senator has apparently landed on the New York Timesbest-seller list after all. The presidential hopeful's book is now #7 on the list for hardcover non-fiction.
* A new PPP poll in Nevada shows Hillary Clinton leading each of her Republican rivals by relatively modest margins. Marco Rubio comes the closest, trailing the Democratic frontrunner by five points, 48% to 43%.
* On a related note, the same poll shows a very competitive open U.S. Senate race in Nevada, with Catherine Cortez Masto (D) leading Rep. Joe Heck (R) by just one point, 42% to 41%.
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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