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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.17.16

10/17/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Mike Pence said yesterday that the Republicans' national ticket will "respect the outcome of this election." File that away for future reference.

* With three weeks remaining before Election Day, Donald Trump's campaign announced on Saturday that its state director in Ohio will no longer work with the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

* There's been quite a bit of speculation lately about whether or not Hillary Clinton's campaign will make an effort to win Arizona, and so it was of great interest this morning when Clinton's team announced First Lady Michelle Obama will headline a rally in Phoenix on Thursday.

* It's not just tweets that can provoke Trump; a comedy skit can do the same. Trump said over the weekend, "Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!"

* In what appears to be a first for a national major-party candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Clinton's running mate, delivered a campaign speech in Miami yesterday entirely in Spanish.

* The Clinton campaign released a new video yesterday, hoping to draw attention to one of Trump's more ridiculous allies. The video is called, "This is Alex Jones"

* As if Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) weren't facing enough trouble with his tough re-election fight, the longtime congressman is dealing with questions about his residency status in Missouri.

* The editorial board of the Charlotte Observer has been endorsing North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in a variety of elections for 25 years. This year, however, it's recommending McCrory's gubernatorial opponent, state A.G. Roy Cooper (D).
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., during a town hall, July 25, 2016, in Roanoke, Va. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Pence, Trump find another key issue on which to disagree: Russia

10/17/16 11:27AM

One of the most memorable moments of the second 2016 presidential debate came when Donald Trump rebuked his own running mate. Co-moderator Martha Raddatz reminded the Republican nominee that Mike Pence, in the context of a discussion about U.S. policy in Syria, said "provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength."

After being reminded of the Indiana governor's argument, Trump said, "He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree. I disagree."

When it comes to Russia, this disagreement is part of a larger trend. Consider this on-air exchange between Pence and Fox News' Bret Baier yesterday:
BAIER:  Well, about the WikiLeaks e-mails, you know, I know you look at the substance of those and we've been covering the substance inside those emails as well, extensively here on FOX, but are you concerned at all about the fact that Russia, according to U.S. intelligence officials, has hacked into these computers and is, according to the intel officials, trying to influence this election in one way or another?

PENCE:  Well, I think there's no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction, and we should follow it where it leads.  And there should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.
On "Meet the Press," Pence also told NBC News' Chuck Todd, "I think there's more and more evidence that, that implicates Russia. And there should be serious consequences."

Asked why his running mate disagrees, Pence changed the subject -- which may be understandable, but is also untenable.
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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) pauses while speaking to the media after closed-door meeting with House Republicans, on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

The Trump vs. Ryan bout goes another round

10/17/16 10:52AM

Donald Trump has spent much of the last few days trying to convince Americans not to trust the integrity of the election system, which the Republican presidential candidate believes without evidence is "rigged." The argument is so wrong, and so corrosive, that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) felt compelled to say he's "fully confident" the elections will be carried out fairly.

It was a subtle rebuke -- the Speaker's office didn't criticize the GOP presidential nominee specifically -- but Ryan's willingness to defend the American system of elections nevertheless seemed to infuriate Trump. The Republican presidential hopeful tweeted yesterday afternoon:
"The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee!"
Trump added soon after:
"Paul Ryan, a man who doesn't know how to win (including failed run four years ago), must start focusing on the budget, military, vets etc."
Remember, in this case, all Ryan did was say, through a spokesperson, "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the Speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."

It was enough to reinforce Trump's case that Ryan -- the Republican leader who continues to endorse Trump's candidacy -- is an enemy. The candidate's offensive against the House Speaker began in earnest last week; it reached a new level when Trump accused Ryan of being part of a "sinister" conspiracy against the GOP ticket; and it includes Trump allies making some pretty bizarre allegations against the Wisconsin congressional leader.

Indeed, Sean Hannity, one of Trump's most enthusiastic media allies, publicly reiterated his belief on Friday that Republicans need to replace Paul Ryan -- with someone even more right-wing.
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A Washington Post newspaper box (L) stands beside the empty box of competitor Washington Times (R) outside the Washington Post on August 5, 2013 in Washington, DC, after it was announced that founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had agreed to purchase...

Newspaper editorial boards back Clinton, but it's not a shutout

10/17/16 10:30AM

Presidential endorsements from newspaper editorial boards aren't generally a national political story, but as is true in so many ways, this isn't a normal year.

There are, to be sure, notable endorsements based on the strengths of their arguments. The Washington Post's case in support of Hillary Clinton -- who has "the potential to be an excellent president," the editors wrote -- is compelling and persuasive.

But some endorsements raise eyebrows because they're so unexpected. The editorial board of Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska, for example, hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1932, but it's nevertheless recommending Clinton this year.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, this is part of a trend: the Dallas Morning News endorsed the Democratic candidate for the first time since before World War II; the Cincinnati Enquirer backed Clinton despite nearly a century of uninterrupted Republican endorsements; the same is true of the Columbus Dispatch; the Arizona Republic, for the first time since launching in 1890, announced its support for a Democrat over a GOP nominee; and the San Diego Union Tribune endorsed a Dem for the first time in 148 years.

As it turns out, some Trump fans aren't pleased with newspaper editorial boards that dare to defy the Republican candidate. Some Arizona Republic readers, for example, contacted the paper with threats to burn down the building and kill its editors. Mi-Ai Parrish wrote a terrific piece responding to those who made the threats.
To the anonymous caller who invoked the name of Don Bolles -- he's the Republic reporter who was assassinated by a car bomb 40 years ago -- and threatened that more of our reporters would be blown up because of the endorsement, I give you Kimberly. She is the young woman who answered the phone when you called. She sat in my office and calmly told three Phoenix police detectives what you had said. She told them that later, she walked to church and prayed for you. Prayed for patience, for forgiveness. Kimberly knows free speech requires compassion.

To those who said we should be shut down, burned down, who said they hoped we would cease to exist under a new presidential administration, I give you Nicole. She is our editor who directs the news staff, independent of our endorsements. After your threats, Nicole put on her press badge and walked with her reporters and photographers into the latest Donald Trump rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz. She stood as Trump encouraged his followers to heckle and boo and bully journalists. Then she came back to the newsroom to ensure our coverage was fair. Nicole knows free speech requires an open debate.

To those of you who have said that someone who disagrees with you deserves to be punished, I give you Phil. Our editorial page editor is a lifelong Republican, a conservative and a patriot. He was an early voice of reason, arguing calmly that Donald Trump didn't represent the values of the party he loves. Phil understands that free speech sometimes requires bravery.
It continues from there and the piece is well worth your time.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty)

Trump's latest accuser: 'He can't claim we're all liars'

10/17/16 10:00AM

When some women went on the record last week to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, many wondered if the published allegations would lead to additional accusers. They have, and the Guardian reported on the latest over the weekend.
On 7 October, as the political world convulsed from the revelation that Trump had bragged about kissing and groping women without their consent, Cathy Heller, 63, was sitting in her New York home fielding incredulous emails from a friend.

"I keep thinking about how he treated you," her friend wrote, hours after showing Heller the tape. "Obviously not an isolated incident."

It was a story Heller had told many friends and family members over the years, but is only now telling in public. Some 20 years ago, she claims, when she met Donald Trump for the first and only time, he grabbed her, went for a kiss, and grew angry with her as she twisted away. "Oh, come on," she alleges that he barked, before holding her firmly in place and planting his lips on hers.
Heller told the Guardian, in reference to the Republican presidential nominee, "He can't claim we're all liars," Heller said.

Trump and his campaign team continue to insist the GOP candidate did nothing wrong and his accusers' claims are unfounded. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that Trump was recorded bragging about committing sexual assault, including boasts that he kisses women without their consent when he considers them attractive. "I don't even wait," Trump said in 2005, adding that he can get away with such behavior because of his public profile.

In other words, Cathy Heller's allegations appear consistent with Trump's description of his own behavior.

Accounts vary, but Heller appears to be the 10th woman to raise allegations against Trump over the last week, and NBC News has a rundown of the various claims.

Team Trump's pushback against the accusations hasn't gone smoothly.
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage at a fundraiser at the Civic Center Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif., Oct. 13, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Latest polls show Trump behind, Clinton in the 2016 driver's seat

10/17/16 09:30AM

Election Day is still 22 days away, and a lot can happen in three weeks, but in light of the latest polling in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton has to like her chances.
Hillary Clinton is ahead of Donald Trump by double digits with just over three weeks until Election Day, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted entirely after the second presidential debate.

In a four-way race, Democrat Clinton holds an 11-point lead over Republican Trump among likely voters, 48 percent to 37 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 7 percent and the Green Party's Jill Stein at 2 percent. In a two-way contest without Johnson and Stein, Clinton is ahead by 10 points, 51 percent to 41 percent.
Note, not every poll shows Clinton with an advantage nearly that large. Yesterday, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found a far more competitive race, with the former Secretary of State leading by just four points, with Trump drawing support from GOP partisans -- including many of those who believe he's guilty of sexually assaulting women.

Obviously, there's a pretty significant difference between a 4-point race and an 11-point race, which is why averages help paint a broader picture. Polling aggregators now put Clinton's lead between five and seven points. In the modern polling era, no candidate has ever overcome that kind of deficit in in an election's closing weeks.

Also of interest, the Wall Street Journal added, "The clearest dividing line in this year's presidential election now falls along educational lines: Whites without a college degree have consolidated behind Donald Trump and those with a four-year degree are tending to back Hillary Clinton." This is consistent across multiple surveys over the course of several months: the more formal education a voter has received, the more likely he or she is to support Clinton.
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For his next trick, Trump calls for candidate drug tests

10/17/16 09:00AM

Thirty years ago, during a heated re-election campaign, Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) faced a challenger who dared him to take a drug test. "I'll take a drug test if you take an I.Q. test," Hollings responded.

It's hard not to wonder if Hillary Clinton had a similar thought over the weekend.
Donald Trump took aim at the war on drugs on Saturday — by challenging Hillary Clinton to take a drug test.

"Athletes, they make them take a drug test," Trump said at a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, rally. "We should take a drug test prior to the debate because I don't know what's going on with her. But at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning. And at the end ... she could barely reach her car."

"I'm willing to do it," he added.
This is ordinarily about the point at which I'd let readers know whether or not a candidate was kidding, but in all candor, I have no idea if Trump actually believes what he says. It's possible he doesn't know, either.

When we talk about trolls in the political discourse, we're not referring to small, mythical creatures who live under bridges; we're referring to people who intentionally say ridiculous things in order to get attention and rile those who disagree with them.

Donald Trump is the first major-party presidential nominee whose entire candidacy is an elaborate trolling exercise -- and his call for drug tests is only the most recent evidence.
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Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage and begin the second presidential debate without shaking hands, Oct. 9, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Reactions to N.C. firebombing offer lessons about candidates

10/17/16 08:30AM

As the Charlotte Observer reported over the weekend, someone "threw a bottle of flammable liquid through the window of Orange County's GOP headquarters, setting campaign signs, supplies and furniture ablaze before burning itself out." Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze, but the property damage was considerable.

This was no accident: as the local report added, a swastika and "Nazi Republicans get out of town or else" were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building.

Local and federal officials are investigating, and we'll hopefully have more information about the attack soon. But in the meantime, note that the reactions to the firebombing are themselves quite instructive.

Midday yesterday, for example, Hillary Clinton published a tweet calling the attack "horrific and unacceptable." She added that she's "very grateful that everyone is safe." The North Carolina Republican Party soon after thanked Clinton for the well wishes.

Then Donald Trump decided to weigh in.
"Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning."
The Republican presidential hopeful has no proof about the assailant or his/her motivations, but Trump doesn't believe in waiting for facts before responding to events. It's not an attractive quality in someone seeking to lead.

Similarly, making knee-jerk assumptions about this kind of violence does little to help calm a volatile situation. On the contrary, Trump, putting his instincts on display, spoke out in such a way as to make matters worse.

This was the latest in a series of leadership tests for Trump. All he had to do was condemn the attack and express support for the community and the affected officials. But Trump just can't help himself -- which is why he immediately and reflexively accused the firebomber of "representing" Democrats, based on nothing but his own evidence-free assumptions. Would-be presidents really ought to know better.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Oct. 14, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump insists election is 'rigged,' divides Republican Party

10/17/16 08:00AM

With three weeks remaining, and polls showing him trailing, Donald Trump should probably be focused on pushing his strongest possible closing message. For reasons that don't appear entirely rational, the Republican nominee has decided the smart move at this point is telling voters that the entire election is "rigged."

Last week, pointing to nothing except his own bizarre assumptions, the GOP candidate said the presidential election "one big fix" and "one big, ugly lie." On Saturday morning before dawn, Trump shared related thoughts on Twitter:
"This election is being rigged by the media pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies, in order to elect Crooked Hillary!"
Soon after, he tweeted again:
"Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election."
In case this isn't already obvious, let's note that there's literally no evidence to suggest the election has been "rigged" by anyone at any level. Let's also mention that there's no wisdom in having a major-party presidential nominee discouraging his own supporters from casting a ballot.

On the Sunday shows, Trump's running mate and surrogates fanned out, trying to clarify the scope of Trump's conspiracy theory: the GOP candidate, they said, is really just complaining about news organizations, which aren't covering the presidential race the way Trump wants them to.

Even Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and someone who really ought to know better, told an audience on Saturday, "They are attempting to rig this election." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) added that this line of attack isn't focused on state and local elections officials, so much as it's focused on media outlets, which he accused of orchestrating a "coup d'etat."

Apparently unaware of his own allies' talking points, Trump himself weighed in soon after to say his conspiracy theory isn't limited to the media: it also includes corruption "at many polling places."
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This Hubble Space Telescope view reveals thousands of galaxies stretching back into time across billions of light-years of space.

Week in Geek - Crowded House edition

10/16/16 10:32AM

Did you notice anything different last week? Did things feel more crowed than usual? They should have, because Universe just got a lot denser.

Okay so maybe not exactly, but the estimated density of galaxies in the Universe did change, thanks to some intrepid astronomers at the University of Nottingham in England. Up until last week, the party line in astronomy was that there were roughly 100 billion galaxies in the (observable) Universe. Now, we are all revising our talking points because it seems that number is twenty times too small. A team led by Christopher Conselice places the new estimate of galaxies in the Universe at two trillion!

If your wondering where these numbers come from, I can assure you it isn't from counting galaxies one by one. Instead, it comes from taking a representative sample of the number of galaxies in a certain area of the sky and extrapolating from there. The 100 billion number comes from analysis based on the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) - an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 of an area of the sky no bigger than President Roosevelt's eye on a dime held at arm's length. In this minute speck, Hubble saw ~10,000 galaxies ranging from nearby to back to only a few million years after the Big Bang. Previous observations showed that the Universe looked roughly the same in all directions (the technical term is "isotropic"). So by calculating how many HUDFs it took to cover the whole sky, astronomers deduced that there should be about 100 billion galaxies in the Universe.

Conselice and his team decided to take a close look at this number to see if we might be missing anything. They took deep images taken by Hubble as part of the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) and converted them into 3D space to better determine the density of galaxies at various distances. Then they mathematically determined how many galaxies at each distance Hubble was "missing" due to its detection limits. The answer was, Hubble was missing a lot... like 90%. Conselice calculated that there should be many more small galaxies at greater distances in order to produce the larger and more massive galaxies we see in the nearby Universe today.

So the next clear night you have, wherever you are, go outside and hold up a dime at arms length. Imagine that there are now 200,000 galaxies in that tiny spot on the sky and marvel at how we can figure all that out from the even tinier spot in the skies we live on.

Here's some more geek from the week:

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University Jan. 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

This Week in God, 10.15.16

10/15/16 08:26AM

After a hiatus, the God Machine is back this week, and first up is a story about one of the nation's more politically active evangelical colleges, which is facing a familiar schism.

Virginia's Liberty University, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, is now run by his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., who also happens to be one of Donald Trump's most loyal and enthusiastic allies. Indeed, during the Republican presidential primaries, while many social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement were rallying behind Ted Cruz, Falwell bucked the trend and offered his spirited support (no pun intended) to a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who'd never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith.

Even this week, after Trump was heard boasting about sexual assault and accused by a variety of women of sexual misconduct, Falwell continued to express his enthusiastic support for the Republican nominee. The interesting twist, however, came when Liberty students -- a conservative, evangelical bunch -- balked. The Washington Post reported this week:
Students at Virginia's Liberty University have issued a statement against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as young conservatives at some colleges across the country reconsider support for his campaign.

A statement issued late Wednesday by the group Liberty United Against Trump strongly rebuked the candidate as well as the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for defending Trump after he made vulgar comments about women in a 2005 video. [...] The students at Liberty University wrote that they felt compelled to speak out in light of Falwell's steadfast support for Trump even after the candidate's comments about women and sexual assault.
The statement, released under the Liberty United Against Trump name, read, "Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.... He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose."

As of Thursday, the total number of Liberty students, alumni, and faculty who signed on to the letter stood at more than 1,300.

Falwell called the statement, among other things, "incoherent and false."
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About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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