Every major, independent poll of Republican voters has shown the same result since July: Donald Trump leading the GOP presidential field nationally. The durability and consistency of Trump's standing surprised many, and caused sleepless nights for many Republican insiders.
The good news for the GOP establishment is that, for the first time in four months, Trump's advantage has slipped. The bad news is, the candidate who's now out in front is an unhinged retired neurosurgeon who talks about Nazis a little too often.
The new poll results from a national New York Times/CBS News survey are going to raise eyebrows.
1. Ben Carson: 26% (up three points from September)
2. Donald Trump: 22% (down five points)
3. Marco Rubio: 8% (up two points)
4. Jeb Bush: 7% (up one point)
4. Carly Fiorina: 7% (up three points)
Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee are tied for sixth place with 4% each. The remaining candidates are at 3% or below.
It's worth emphasizing that this is only one poll, which may prove to be an outlier. Indeed, all other recent national polling suggests Trump's frontrunner status remains fairly secure.
With this in mind, if these new results are a just a blip on the radar, it will soon be forgotten. But if it's correct and a sign of things to come, the New York Times/CBS News poll may mark a turning point in the race.
What's more, while national polling matters, the race for presidential nominations are a state-by-state process, which makes the latest trends out of Iowa that much more striking.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who'll wrap up his lengthy congressional career this week, has told reporters in recent days that he's determined to "clean the barn up" before his successor takes his place. In practical terms, the Republican leader is referring to Congress' lengthy to-do list -- Boehner doesn't want to leave lawmakers in an untenable position as he heads for the exits.
The outgoing Speaker apparently wasn't kidding. To the surprise of many, he and other GOP leaders negotiated a budget deal with President Obama that's rather extraordinary in its scope. NBC News reported overnight:
Congressional leaders have reached a breakthrough tentative budget deal with the White House that would set government funding levels for the next two years and extend the nation’s debt limit through 2017, avoiding routine talks of a government shutdown. [...]
If approved, the agreement would be a milestone after years of gridlock and annual threats of government shutdowns.
The full, 144-page bill was posted online late last night and is available here (pdf). The timing of the posting matters: its availability on Monday night will make it easier for House Republican leaders to set up a floor vote as early as tomorrow.
What immediately stands out in the deal is the negotiators' ambition -- this one package includes new federal spending levels through September 2017, a debt-ceiling increase through March 2017, $80 billion in sequestration relief that's likely to help the economy and the Pentagon, and measures to help seniors facing Medicare Part B premium spikes.
If approved, the deal would likely eliminate the possibility of any self-imposed crises, cliffs, or hostage standoffs between now and early 2017, which sounds awfully appealing to almost everyone. Paul Ryan, who was not part of these negotiations, could begin his tenure as Speaker with a clean slate and no major deadlines looming overhead.
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news that senior White House and congressional leaders have reached a budget deal that includes several spending issues. A vote is set for Wednesday, the day before the vote on Paul Ryan as the new House speaker. watch
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, talks with Rachel Maddow about the issues he believes will win him the support of African-American and Latino voters, from middle class economic reforms to a criminal justice overhaul. watch
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, talks with Rachel Maddow about what he would do as the party's nominee to help Democrats win more state legislatures, explaining his belief that the answer to Democratic electoral victories is turnout. watch
Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, explains why he joined a picket line at a union rally of Verizon workers in New York city, and emphasizes the detriment to the American middle class of corporate pursuit of greater profits at the expense of workers rights. watch
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president, answers Rachel Maddow about why voters should care which candidate supported gay rights first when he and Hillary Clinton have essentially the same positions now. watch
* Deadly earthquake: "A magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 150 people there and in neighboring Pakistan and flattening at least 1,400 buildings."
* More on this tomorrow: "Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years and raise the federal borrowing limit."
* Keep an eye on this one: "Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict."
* Dear Fed, don't raise rates: "Quarterly profits and revenue at big American companies are poised to decline for the first time since the recession, as some industrial firms warn of a pullback in spending."
* Testing: "President Barack Obama called for limiting the amount of time students are taking standardized tests and unveiled new guidelines that his administration would use to help schools across to administer more meaningful exams on Saturday."
* Important research: "An examination of traffic stops and arrests in Greensboro, N.C., uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct."
* Speaking of law enforcement, I wonder if Comey can substantiate this: "The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Friday that the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police brutality may have led to an increase in violent crime in some cities as officers have become less aggressive."
* The right-wing House Freedom Caucus members are under fire from the even-further-right members of the GOP base for supporting Paul Ryan's ascension to Speaker.
One of the quintessential moments of the 2012 presidential campaign came at a Mitt Romney event in Elk Grove, Illinois, where the candidate was praising “the entrepreneurial spirit.” The Republican specifically talked about Jim Liautaud, who struggled in school, but who borrowed some money from his father, created a sandwich business, and ended up with 1,200 Jimmy John restaurants across this country.
For Romney, this was clear proof that Americans "don't need the government" to get ahead. Individuals, the Republican said, simply need to "look to themselves and say, ‘What can I do to make myself better?’”
The part of the story that Romney conveniently overlooked is the fact that the hero of the tale succeeded because he had a father with money to invest. Others may also have "the entrepreneurial spirit," but if they come from a struggling family, living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn't much matter if they "look to themselves and say, ‘What can I do to make myself better?’” They won't have the seed money to start their own enterprises and pursue their own ventures.
It was a tone-deaf moment for the GOP presidential candidate, which, three years later, another Republican candidate has taken to an even more absurd level.
During a town hall on NBC’s “TODAY” on Monday, a woman asked the Republican presidential front-runner if he had ever been told “no.” Trump responded at the event in Atkinson, N.H., “Oh many times,” adding, “My whole life, really, has been a ‘no.’”
“It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars,” explained the billionaire real estate mogul. “I came to Manhattan and I had to pay him back. I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties and I did great.”
It fell to Matt Lauer to remind the frontrunner for the Republican nomination that a seven-figure loan may be out of reach for most of Americans. Trump replied, “You’re right. But a million dollars isn’t very much compared to what I’ve built.”
It's not exactly a secret that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn't show up for work much anymore. Even among sitting senators running for president, the far-right Floridian just doesn't make an effort to keep up appearances on Capitol Hill.
Part of this, of course, is the result of his campaign schedule, but part of it also relates to the fact that Rubio appears to dislike his job quite a bit. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold has a terrific piece on this today.
Five years ago, Rubio arrived with a potential that thrilled Republicans. He was young, ambitious, charismatic, fluent in English and Spanish, and beloved by the establishment and the tea party.
But Rubio had arrived at one of the least ambitious moments in Senate history and saw many of his ideas fizzle. Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.
Now, he’s done. “He hates it,” a longtime friend from Florida said, speaking anonymously to say what Rubio would not.
It's entirely possible, of course, that Republican primary voters won't care. If much of the GOP base is enthralled by a blowhard New York land developer and an unhinged retired neurosurgeon, there's no reason to think they'd balk at a senator who's had an unsuccessful, five-year tenure.
But for a mainstream audience, the fact that Rubio effectively wasted his Capitol Hill career, achieving practically nothing despite all the promise and hype, isn't much of a selling point.
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.