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:
* A new Quinnipiac poll in Iowa shows Scott Walker with a surprisingly big lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, enjoying 25% support among the state's GOP voters. The next closest competitor is Rand Paul with 13%, followed by Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee tied at 11%. Jeb Bush is fifth with 10%. Chris Christie is seventh in the poll and has the lowest favorability numbers of any major candidate.
* At the national level, PPP also shows Scott Walker out in front with 25% support, followed by Ben Carson at 18% and Jeb Bush at 17%. Mike Huckabee, with 10% support, is the only other candidate above 5% in the poll.
* Hillary Clinton appeared at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women yesterday, sounding very much like a presidential candidate. In a preview of her likely 2016 message, Clinton emphasized wage growth in the economy.
* In Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul (R) is eager to change his party's presidential nominating system, and this week, his efforts received a high-profile endorsement: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is now on board with Paul's plan.
* As expected, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) announced this morning that he's running for the U.S. Senate this cycle. If he gets his party's nod, Strickland will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) next year.
* In a bit of a surprise, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) announced yesterday that he will not be a U.S. Senate candidate in 2016. The news boosts state Attorney General Kamala Harris' (D) odds as she works to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D).
Forty-nine percent of Republicans don't believe in evolution, a new Public Policy Polling survey found Tuesday.
The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 49 percent of Republicans said they do not believe in evolution while 37 percent said they do believe in evolution. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.
I was curious about the specific wording of the question, which turned out to be quite straightforward: "Do you believe in evolution or not?" A 49% plurality of Republicans said they do not.
This is obviously only one survey, though the results are roughly in line with what we've seen from other pollsters. Indeed, the evidence suggests support for evolutionary biology among Republicans has actually dropped in recent years.
On the surface, as we've discussed before, results like these are discouraging. There's plenty to divide Americans, but scientific truths need not be one of them.
The Department of Homeland Security recently circulated an intelligence assessment focusing on "the domestic terror threat from right-wing sovereign citizen extremists." The materials were clearly rooted in fact -- federal officials have identified 24 violent "sovereign citizen-related attacks" in the United States over the last four years, and they fear more may occur.
Some intelligence officials fear the threat of violence from these home-grown radicals is at least as serious as the threats posed by foreign terrorists.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), a member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, is outraged ... by the Obama administration.
"The idea that Americans who are conservatives, that disagree with the president, are just as threatening as ISIS, whose whole existence is to kill us in the name of their religion, even though the president won't say 'Islamic terrorists,' he'll call people on the right terrorists, is nonsense, it is just utter nonsense. There is no evidence of anything like that and once again more fear tactics out of the administration."
What's alarming about a response like this is how detached from reality it is. When the Department of Homeland Security circulates an intelligence assessment -- which Ted Poe probably has not read -- it's not referring to "conservatives" who "disagree with the president." Rather, intelligence officials are concerned about the possibility of violence from radical extremists and fringe anti-government groups.
When members of Congress don't appreciate the difference between "people on the right" and violent radicals on the fringes of society, there's a real problem. When they convince themselves there's "no evidence" of a home-grown terrorist threat, despite the ample evidence that's already been documented, the problem is even more severe.
But then the Republican congressman made matters just a little worse during the same interview.
There's no shortage of high-profile Republicans gearing up for the 2016 presidential race, but there's one name that probably should be in the mix, but isn't.
Imagine a popular Republican governor, easily elected twice in a battleground state President Obama won twice. Imagine he's Hispanic, young, won re-election last year by a ridiculous 46 points, and has seen his state's unemployment rate drop quickly in recent years.
I'm referring to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who seems like an almost-perfect presidential candidate for his party, but who hasn't even considered testing the White House waters.
To understand why, consider Sandoval's perspective on the pending Supreme Court case that may gut the Affordable Care Act.
"I made a decision early on that we would be a state-based exchange because I felt it was in Nevadans' best interest to run their own," Sandoval said, even boasting that twice as many Nevadans enrolled this year over the first round. "I'm just pleased," he added, "that we don't have the anxiety of the outcome King v. Burwell."
At first blush, this may not seem striking at all -- a governor embraced a sensible policy that helped his constituents have access to basic medical care. It's the sort of thing most Americans might expect every well-intentioned governor to do as a matter of course.
But in political terms, we're talking about a Republican governor who embraced the dreaded "Obamacare" -- including Medicaid expansion -- and is "pleased" he implemented the Affordable Care Act in a way that may help protect his state from his party's Supreme Court justices.
About a month ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) impressed far-right activists by shining a spotlight on a problem that doesn't exist: "no-go zones" in Europe where, in his mind, Muslim populations are so large and intimidating, non-Muslims, even local law enforcement, are too afraid to visit. Soon after, the Republican governor said these imaginary "no-go zones" may soon appear in the United States.
A Republican Tennessee lawmaker introduced a bill this month that would ask the state attorney general to report any existing "no-go zones" and work to eliminate them, The Tennessean reported.
State Rep. Susan Lynn's bill does not specifically mention Muslims, but may allude to the non-existent Muslim "no-go zones" referenced on Fox News and by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) following the January terrorist attacks in Paris.
The legislation defines a "no-go zone" as a "a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area."
The Republican state lawmaker has no evidence of any "no-go zones," but she toldThe Tennessean that there "some people who claim that there are some areas of Tennessee where they feel this is happening."
And evidently, if "some people" believe in an imaginary problem, it's time for elected officials to start approving public policies to address these imaginary problems. By this reasoning, legislation related to Bigfoot will also be necessary.
In the larger context, the funny thing about efforts like these is just how common they are.
The relationship between Republicans and modern science has become strained lately. In recent months, we've seen GOP officials -- including senators, governors, and presidential candidates -- balk at climate science, contraception, vaccinations, post-bathroom hand-washing, and even evolutionary biology.
This week is becoming especially egregious on this front. We were introduced to a Republican state lawmaker in Idaho who seemed quite confused about women's anatomy, and Jon Ralston added a new addition to the collection yesterday, highlighting the latest from Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R), who has a proposal to change existing rules on end-of-life care.
Fiore, who operates a home health care business that sometimes passes payroll taxes onto the IRS, said she knew of friends who left the country to find end-of-life treatments that are not FDA-approved. And then the payoff:
"If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus," she began, citing a widely debunked theory that the American Cancer Society warns about, "and we can put a pic line into your body and we're flushing with, say, salt water, sodium cardonate [I think she means bicarbonate], through that line and flushing out the fungus. These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective."
Putting aside the fact that cancer is not a "fungus," it's incidents like these that remind me why it's wise to separate politicians from scientific and medical decision making as often as humanly possible. In recent years, When it comes to the process of deciding which medical treatments are covered by Medicare, for example, or which medicines receive FDA approval, there are safeguards in place that empower actual experts to draw evidence-based conclusions.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore is offering a timely reminder that these safeguards must never change.
At the invitation of House Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still scheduled to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress next week, despite the international controversy. It will be the first time a foreign leader is invited to deliver a joint-session speech in order to criticize and undermine American foreign policy.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), hoping to ease tensions, invited the prime minister to visit privately with Democratic senators next week. Yesterday, Netanyahu responded in writing: No..
"Though I greatly appreciate your kind invitation to meet with Democratic senators, I believe that doing so could compound the misperception of partisanship regarding my upcoming visit. I would, of course, be glad to address a bipartisan forum of senators behind closed doors on a future visit, as I have been privileged to do many times in the past," Netanyahu wrote to the two senators in a letter dated Jan. 24, an apparent error.
Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip, said the Democratic invitation was intended to "balance the politically divisive invitation" from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The Democratic leader added that Netanyahu's "refusal to meet is disappointing to those of us who have stood by Israel for decades."
It's important to emphasize that the Israeli leader's argument isn't factually wrong -- he has scheduled no private meetings with congressional Republicans next week, so Netanyahu can plausibly claim it might appear "partisan" to huddle with Democrats exclusively.
Rachel Maddow sorts fact from fiction in several of the day's top stories, including whether Fox News' Bill O'Reilly really threatened a reporter doing a story about his lies, and the surprising legal status of sledding on Capitol Hill. watch
Congressman Seth Moulton, veteran of the Iraq war, talks with Rachel Maddow about his recent trip to Iraq, his impressions of progress in the war on ISIS, and his concerns about authorization of military force against ISIS. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews some cases of high profile figures embellishing (or inventing) their military or combat experience, and contrasts that with the humility of Congressman Seth Moulton who downplayed his war heroism as a Marine during his campaign. watch
Senator Amy Klobuchar talks with Rachel Maddow about the political games congressional Republicans are playing with funding to the Department of Homeland Security and the obligation Congress has to support and protect Americans working under threat. watch
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