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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.14.16

10/14/16 12:00PM

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

* Can Mike Pence say with certainty that Donald Trump didn't assault any of his women accusers? The Indiana governor faced this question yesterday afternoon, and he wouldn't answer directly.

* In response to the allegations of sexual misconduct, Trump said yesterday, "We already have substantial evidence to dispute these lies and it will be made public in an appropriate way at an appropriate time very soon." Pence added this morning we should expect this evidence "before the day is out."

* No one seriously believes Texas will be competitive this year, but a new poll commissioned by WFAA-TV and Texas TEGNA television stations shows Trump leading Clinton by just four points, 47% to 43%.

* The Washington Post reports that 10 former nuclear launch control officers "who once held the keys needed to fire on the president's order have signed an open letter saying they think Donald Trump should not be entrusted with the nation's nuclear codes."

* According to the New York Times, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has been "deeply shaken" by recent revelations about Trump. He reportedly told one longtime associate that he was having "sleepless nights."

* Charles Krauthammer, one of the nation's most prominent conservative pundits, argues in his new column that Trump is wrong to push for Clinton's incarceration: "The prize for the winner is temporary accession to limited political power, not the satisfaction of vendettas. Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chávez and a cavalcade of two-bit caudillos lock up their opponents. American leaders don't."
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Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and U.S. president Barack Obama greet supporters during a campaign rally on July 5, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Obama, Clinton stop separating Trump from his party

10/14/16 11:20AM

It was a strategy many congressional Democrats hated. Hillary Clinton, eager to reach as broad a slice of the electorate as possible, made a conscious decision to draw distinctions between the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Sure, he's the GOP's presidential nominee, the argument went, but Trump is so extreme in so many ways that rank-and-file Republicans should see him as something altogether different.

For Democrats, this message appeared likely to help Clinton, but not her down-ballot allies who desperately want to tie Trump -- his scandals, his unpopularity, his radical agenda, et al -- to other Republicans. The more Clinton separated the two, the more difficult the partisan task became.

President Obama nevertheless sided with Clinton in this fight, saying in his Democratic convention speech, "Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's precisely this contest of idea that pushes our country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn't conservative."

That was in late July. The Democratic strategy has since changed.

The New Republic's Brian Beutler had a good piece the other day explaining that anti-Trump Republicans weren't especially moved by Clinton's and Obama's not-so-subtle invitation, so the party's top two figures have adopted a more combative posture.
"I think it's pretty stunning that after the debate, the speaker of the House has to come out and say that he will no longer defend Donald Trump and that each Republican member of Congress has to decide for themselves whether or not they're going to support their party's nominee," Clinton's communications director, Jen Palmieri, told reporters Monday. "I understand why they're doing that, but Paul Ryan and other leaders in the Republican Party—there was a time where they could have spoken out. That time was this summer. And obviously it's too late now. Somewhat of a civil war is breaking out in the Republican Party, but I think that Donald Trump didn't become the nominee of his party on his own. These leaders helped legitimize him and I think they have a lot to answer for and the voters I imagine will hold them accountable." [...]

The unambiguous message is that Clinton's offer not to treat Trump as a totem of the Republican Party has expired.
This dynamic was also abundantly clear in President Obama's remarks last night in Ohio, where he made his most direct case to date that Trump and his party must be linked, and GOP officials and candidates should be held responsible for their candidate's dreadful presidential campaign:
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty)

Donald Trump's fondness for projection proves to be a problem

10/14/16 10:49AM

Donald Trump's campaign this week attacked Hillary Clinton for being "filthy rich." Let that sink in for a moment: a self-professed billionaire, whose net worth dwarfs his opponent's, went after his rival for caring too much about acquiring wealth.

Soon after, Steve Bannon, Trump's campaign chairman accused Clinton of leading "a program of victim intimidation," despite the fact that Bannon himself was accused of ... wait for it ... victim intimidation.

Trump himself has spent quite a bit of time and energy lately talking about predatory behavior towards women, despite the allegations he's facing from women who've accused him of predatory behavior, and the audio recording of him boasting about groping women.

But watching Trump's speech in Florida yesterday got me thinking about the most dramatic example of the candidate's fondness for projection.
TRUMP: The Clintons are criminals, remember that. They're criminals.

AUDIENCE: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
At the same event, the Republican presidential nominee added, "Honestly, she should be locked up."

The "lock her up" mantra has received quite a bit of attention, but we don't often pause to appreciate why Trump's furious followers keep saying it. My infrequent interactions with Trump fans usually follow a certain trajectory: I'll ask why the Democratic presidential candidate should be incarcerated and they say, "Because she's a criminal."

I'll ask what makes her a criminal, and they'll say, "Because she broke the law."

I'll ask what law she broke, and they'll say, "Um, you know, email stuff."

Of course, "email stuff" isn't a prosecutable offense, and if Trump and his followers are referring to the FBI's probe of Clinton's email-server protocols, that investigation ended with no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

But the reason all of this starts to resemble projection is that Trump has also been accused of breaking quite a few laws himself.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Panama City, Fla. on Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Hindsight does no favors for Donald Trump

10/14/16 10:00AM

In 2006, Donald Trump appeared on Howard Stern's radio show -- the developer was a regular guest -- and the host said, "Donald, seriously, you know all about sexual predators and things like that." Stern's co-host intervened to add, "You are one!" Trump smiled and nodded, conceding the point.

At the time, this was intended to be funny and the people in the studio laughed. But now that a variety of women have accused Trump of groping -- against a backdrop of a recording in which he boasted about predatory behavior -- what may have seemed humorous in 2006 is being heard in a very different light.

Similarly, Vanity Fair published a piece yesterday on one of Trump's "Fox & Friends" appearances in 2010.
In the on-set interview with co-hosts Gretchen Carlson, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy, Trump recounted how he met his third wife, Melania Trump. He was at a party filled with models who "looked like Gretchen, actually," Trump said, when he saw Melania standing next to a famous supermodel. "I fought very hard. She wouldn't give me her number. I don't think she found me at all attractive, to be honest with you," he added, laughing alongside the Fox and Friends hosts. "I don't think she liked me too much, sort of like Gretchen didn't use to like me."

But now, Kilmeade pointed out, the two were married and had a son, so clearly, something worked out -- a lesson to all the men out there. "This is what I learned though: take action. He never would have got there if you didn't go over and put yourself out there to be rejected," Kilmeade summarized.

Trump countered with his own lesson: "Move forward. Even if you get smacked."
Again, people laughed after the comment, and the idea that men should "move forward," even after a woman's rejection, didn't spark any kind of controversy at the time.

But hindsight continues to do Trump no favors.
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A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

Latest polls spark fears among Trump and his allies

10/14/16 09:20AM

There was a time, not too long ago, when Donald Trump loved pollsters and their findings. During the Republican presidential primaries, when Trump was dominating, just about every speech, press conference, and interview featured proud boasts about how great Trump was doing in the polls.

The GOP nominee is far less impressed with public-opinion surveys now. Trump told supporters this week independent public-opinion polls are "crooked" and part of a "rigged system." Bloomberg Politics added this week that members of Trump's inner circle are "increasingly divorced from mainstream perceptions of the state of the race, with some members rejecting public polls on the basis of their 'flawed model.'"

I seem to recall Mitt Romney's supporters saying something similar four years ago.

Of course, the GOP campaign's resistance to the latest evidence is understandable given that the polling shows Trump falling further behind Hillary Clinton with time running out. Fox News, which is apparently part of the same "rigged system" by Trump's reasoning, released new national results late yesterday.

In a four-way contest:
Clinton: 45%
Trump: 38%

In a head-to-head match-up:
Clinton: 49%
Trump: 41%

Note, this survey was in the field on Monday through Wednesday, so it came after both the debate and the revelations about Trump's predatory remarks towards women.

The Fox poll also asked respondents whether or not the candidates are a good role model. A 54% majority said Clinton is, while 77% said Trump is not.

As for the overall averages, the major poll aggregators now show Clinton with a lead between five and eight points, which is her best advantage in quite a while. As a historical matter, since the dawn of modern polling, no presidential candidate has won after trailing by this much with four weeks remaining.
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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during the Innovation Showcase, July 14, 2016, in Ind. (Photo by Darron Cummings/AP)

Campaign takes its toll on Mike Pence's supposed strengths

10/14/16 08:40AM

For all its many faults, the Republican Party's presidential ticket at least offers something resembling "balance." Donald Trump has no experience; Mike Pence has spent years in public office. Trump is narcissistic; Pence is modest. Trump is occasionally a wild-eyed loon; Pence is mild-mannered.

But most of all, the Indiana governor is supposed to be the politically astute one on the GOP ticket -- the candidate who knows how to talk to real people and understand their concerns.

It therefore came as something of a surprise yesterday when the Republicans' vice presidential nominee talked to WBNS in Columbus, Ohio, and heard a question from an 11-year-old girl who said, after hearing Trump's rhetoric, "When I hear those words and look in the mirror, they make me feel bad about myself." Pence was asked what he'd say to that girl and he responded:
"Well, I would say to any one of my kids and any children in this country that Donald Trump and I are committed to a safer and more prosperous future for their family. The weak and feckless foreign policy that Hillary Clinton promises to continue, has literally caused wider areas of the world to spin apart. The rise of terrorist threats that have inspired violence here at home, and we've seen an erosion of law and order in our streets.

"And we've seen jobs and opportunities evaporate and even leave Ohio and leave this country. I would say to any of our kids that if Donald Trump and I have the chance to serve in the White House, that we're going to work every day for a stronger, safer and more prosperous America."
Oh. So Trump's misogyny made an 11-year-old girl feel bad, and Mike Pence wants her to know that there's violent crime and terrorist threats that she should blame on the Obama administration.

And he's supposed to be the politically astute one.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Oct. 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Donald Trump puts the 'con' in 'conspiracy theory'

10/14/16 08:00AM

I was in a restaurant yesterday and heard a drunk guy at the end of the bar, shouting about Hillary Clinton having secret meetings with international bankers to plot against American sovereignty.

Wait, did I say drunk guy at the end of the bar? What I meant to say was that I heard a speech from the Republican Party's nominee for president of the United States, who apparently believes Hillary Clinton is having secret meetings with international bankers to plot against American sovereignty. Did you happen to catch Donald Trump in West Palm Beach, Fla., yesterday?
"The Clinton machine is at the center of this power structure. We've seen this first hand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.

"So true."
Actually, no, it's not true at all.

Yesterday morning, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a striking speech in New Hampshire, condemning Trump's predatory behavior towards women. Creating an extraordinary contrast, within two hours, the Republican nominee was on a stage in South Florida, telling a group of supporters there are nefarious international forces -- a "global power structure," as he put it -- controlling the media, the finance industry, the government, major corporations, and the political process as part of a vast conspiracy that only he and a select few are aware of.

It's worth emphasizing for context that Trump wasn't just spouting stream-of-consciousness nonsense, repeating any weird thought that popped into his mind. On the contrary, the GOP candidate was reading all of this off his trusted teleprompter.

In other words, he meant to say all of this.

As anyone who's watched the 2016 race closely knows, Trump loves conspiracy theories -- his political persona was long defined by his eagerness to champion the "birther" garbage -- which he uses to help make sense of developments he doesn't understand. Note, for example, that the day after accepting the Republican Party's presidential nomination over the summer, he spoke to reporters about Ted Cruz's father possibly being involved in the JFK assassination.

But yesterday was something quite different. This was Trump hitting rock bottom, droning incoherently about "our civilization" being in jeopardy unless he's elected to take "them" on. Who are "they"? The Republican candidate didn't say, exactly, but Trump is nevertheless certain they're up to no good, and they want to crush our "sovereign rights as a nation."
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First lady Michelle Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Oct. 4, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Chuck Burton/AP)

Michelle Obama's call to conscience

10/13/16 06:32PM

Michelle Obama is not a politician, and her formal role in the American political system is largely diplomatic and ceremonial. But as we're occasionally reminded, when the First Lady has something important she wants to say, she has as powerful and compelling a voice as anyone in the country.

And today Obama used that voice to excoriate Donald Trump's behavior towards women -- without ever mentioning the Republican candidate's name.
"The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can't believe that I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

"And I have to tell you that I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted. So while I'd love nothing more than to pretend like this isn't happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.

"This is not something that we can ignore. It's not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a 'lewd conversation.' This wasn't just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV."
Hillary Clinton has a variety of notable and popular figures who've fanned out across the country to help campaign on her behalf, including Michelle Obama, and ordinarily, audiences will hear a good speech from these surrogates on the candidate's behalf.

But let's not pretend the First Lady's appearance in New Hampshire today was a routine political event. It wasn't. This was a spirited defense of women, feminism, and basic human decency that some appear to have forgotten.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.13.16

10/13/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Yemen: "An American warship stationed off the coast of Yemen fired cruise missiles on Thursday at radar installations that the Pentagon said had been used by Yemeni insurgents to target another American warship in two missile attacks in the last four days."

* North Carolina: "The evacuated residents of Princeville, N.C., are stuck here on the other side of a swollen river, trying to make sense of what might happen to their threatened town.... A dike protecting their town stands 37 feet. The river, on Wednesday, was at 36.2 feet. On Thursday morning, 36.3 feet."

* Brexit was a very bad idea: "Scotland is drawing up plans for a vote on independence from the rest of Britain over Brexit, deepening the political fallout from the U.K.'s decision to quit the European Union."

* It's almost hard to believe the numbers are this good: "The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits was flat at 246,000 in the first week of October as the rate of layoffs sank to a 43-year low."

* Election Day may be 26 days away, but President Obama now has 100 days remaining in office.

* An unexpected Nobel: "Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday. The 75-year-old music legend was cited by the Swedish Academy for 'having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.'"
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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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