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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.29.16

03/29/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Though Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are already scheduled to participate in a CNN forum this evening, Cruz has challenged the Republican frontrunner to turn the event into a debate. As things stand, there are no additional GOP debates scheduled.
 
* The latest Gallup polling shows Donald Trump's Republican supporters far more enthusiastic than his Republican rivals' supporters. And though this cuts against the conventional wisdom, Gallup also shows Hillary Clinton with an enthusiasm advantage over Bernie Sanders among Democratic voters.
 
* Speaking of Sanders, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Vermont senator's campaign raised an extraordinary $4 million in the two days following Saturday night's caucus victories.
 
* Though Clinton appears to have an enormous advantage among superdelegates, Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said yesterday there's a "significant number" of superdelegates ready and willing to back the independent senator. Weaver would not say how many, or who these superdelegates are.
 
* Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has thrown his support to Ted Cruz, but if Trump is the Republican nominee, the Republican governor says he'll support him, too.
 
* Faced with the very real prospect of a contested convention, presidential campaigns are getting more serious about counting delegates. Team Trump, for example, has hired "veteran Republican strategist Paul J. Manafort to lead his delegate-corralling efforts." Manafort helped manage the 1976 convention floor for Gerald Ford.
A voter steps into a voting booth to mark his ballot at a polling site for the New Hampshire primary, Feb. 9, 2016, in Nashua, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

The Republicans' challenge: localizing a national election cycle

03/29/16 11:20AM

Republican officials, insiders, and donors are well aware of the difficult circumstances they face in this year's elections, especially if Donald Trump is the party's presidential nominee. But the GOP has a plan: while Republicans generally excel at nationalizing congressional races, in 2016, they hope to do the exact opposite.
 
The Wall Street Journal reports today on a group called One Nation, formed by to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff, which raised $10.3 million last year to help Republicans keep control of the Senate.
The Senate Republican strategy of focusing on local issues to insulate vulnerable GOP senators from turmoil at the top of the party's presidential ticket and from partisan politics in Washington has received an injection of support from a nonprofit group that is spending heavily to defend incumbents in several states, particularly New Hampshire. [...]
 
One Nation is calculating that focusing on local issues can lift GOP candidates above the fray of national politics. The group has spent $2.4 million on TV ads in the New Hampshire race, more than in any other contest. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, it has spent about $1 million apiece.
Steven Law, who created One Nation, told the Journal that the group found in 2014, most notably in Kentucky, "that a lot of voters were much more focused on issues closer to home than the national battle over larger and more abstract issues."
 
And while that may work in 2016, the odds are against it. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin joked this morning that various partisans, right before every wave election ever, invariably argue, "It's okay, we'll just make these races about local issues."
Protesters rally outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Jan. 11, 2016, as the court heard arguments in the 'Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association' case. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Supreme Court split saves public-sector unions

03/29/16 10:40AM

Republicans have made no secret of the fact that they fear the Supreme Court moving to the left, even a little, in the wake of Antonin Scalia's death. But we were reminded this morning that in the late justice's absence, the high court's capacity for conservative change has already been curtailed.
 
CNBC reported on the release of a decision that wasn't expected until June.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday split 4-4 on a conservative legal challenge to a vital source of funds for organized labor, affirming a lower-court ruling that allowed California to force non-union workers to pay fees to public-employee unions.
 
The court, shorthanded after the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and evenly divided with four liberal and four conservative members, left intact a 1977 legal precedent that allowed such fees, which add up to millions of dollars a year for unions.
The case is called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the Supreme Court's "decision," such as it is, has been posted online here. It's extraordinarily brief, however: it reads in its entirety, "Per Curium. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court."
 
This is no small development. At issue in this case was a seemingly obscure issue -- public-sector unions' "agency fees" -- but while this may seem like a tangential dispute, the outcome had the potential to disrupt many labor unions nationwide.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at a campaign stop, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Oshkosh, Wis. (Photo by Darren Hauck/AP)

Walker backs Cruz, but most Republicans remain on the sidelines

03/29/16 10:11AM

As expected, with a week remaining before the Wisconsin presidential primaries, Gov. Scott Walker (R) announced his support this morning for Ted Cruz. With the Republican nominating contest about half over, the Texas senator now enjoys the support of 5 of the nation's 31 GOP governors -- which is a little higher than the totals for Donald Trump and John Kasich, but which still isn't an impressive tally.
 
The conventional wisdom is that the Republican establishment, left in an untenable situation, is making its peace with the fact that Cruz is preferable to Trump. John McCain, who's called Cruz a lying, crazy "wacko bird," said last week that he's ready to "put aside my anger in some cases and work with" his party's nominee, even if it's Cruz, "in every possible way that I can." Lindsey Graham has gone much further in expressing his grudging support for his Texas colleague.
 
But let's not go too far with these assumptions. The fact remains that much of the GOP still can't quite bring itself to support Cruz, even facing the prospect of a Trump nomination. Vox's Andrew Prokop noted yesterday:
Yes, there is a small faction of the party willing to say in public that Trump should be stopped, and there are some more insiders willing to help behind the scenes. But there appears to be a much larger majority that, even now, doesn't want to bother lifting a finger. [...]
 
Eighty-two percent of GOP House members, 90 percent of GOP senators, and 69 percent of GOP governors haven't endorsed any of the three remaining candidates. (Some had endorsed Marco Rubio, who has since dropped out, but even when he was in the race the majority of the party was neutral.)
Walker's announcement this morning obviously effects this tally a little, but the broader point remains sound: asked to choose between the lesser of two evils, most of the party's top elected officials prefer not to make any choice at all.
 
It's worth pausing from time to time to appreciate why, exactly, so many of those who work alongside Cruz dislike him so vehemently. Bloomberg Politics had a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago:
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks with Roll Call at his desk in the Hart Senate Office Building on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Facing long odds, Mark Kirk's desperation ploy gets ugly

03/29/16 09:28AM

Last year, when Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) appeared likely to lose the gubernatorial race he expected to win, the Republican's desperation led to an ugly move. With just a couple of weeks remaining, Vitter overhauled his campaign message and presented himself as the anti-Muslim-refugee candidate. In the end, it didn't work -- Louisiana rejected the senator by double digits.
 
But the outcome of the race hasn't dissuaded other Republicans from trying a similar strategy. Take Sen. Mark Kirk, for example.
 
By most measures, the Illinois Republican, who's seeking a second term, is the Senate's most vulnerable incumbent, running in a state that's very likely to go "blue" in November. Kirk and his campaign appear to believe, however, that it's still possible to scare voters into supporting him.
 
In recent weeks, Kirk has launched attack ads telling Illinois voters that they should be terrified of ISIS, and Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) is a fool for supporting a policy that welcomes Syrian refugees who are fleeing ISIS. Yesterday, the Republican senator directed the public to his latest op-ed in which Kirk argued that we should also be terrified of Guantanamo detainees.
The intelligence community agrees 30 percent of the terrorists released from Guantanamo are known or suspected to have already re-joined the fight against Americans -- a statistic that translates to a horrific reality. [...]
 
Guantanamo remains the best way to protect Americans at home and abroad from the threat these terrorists pose.
U.S. military leaders have drawn the exact opposite conclusion, but Kirk hopes that voters will ignore them and instead listen to him. (Also note, many of the detainees who've "already re-joined the fight" were released from the prison by the Bush/Cheney administration, when Kirk was not inclined to complain about U.S. policy.)
 
But even putting substance and public policy aside, it's becoming increasingly clear what kind of message Kirk believes will salvage his career: be afraid of ISIS, be afraid of refugees running away from ISIS, and be afraid of detainees in Guantanamo. How inspiring.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory

NC's McCrory dismisses criticism of new discrimination law

03/29/16 08:40AM

A variety of Republican governors, even in the Deep South, have been cautious about approving anti-LGBT measures, fearing an economic backlash. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), however, appears to support a more ambitious approach to fighting a conservative culture war.
 
To briefly recap, the city of Charlotte recently approved an anti-discrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBT Americans. In response, the Republican-led state legislature held a special, emergency session last week to pass something called H.B. 2, which prevents North Carolina cities from expanding their civil rights laws, and as Rachel noted last night, effectively overturned nearly every local anti-discrimination ordinance in the state.
 
With private-sector leaders ready to punish North Carolina, and a federal lawsuit now filed, McCrory responded to the criticism yesterday by blaming the media and progressive activists for creating "political theater" and a "calculated smear campaign."
In an interview with NBC News, McCrory, a Republican who is running for re-election, said he would not back down from the measure.... He cast himself as a voice of reason, standing against an assault on "the norms and etiquette" that have existed for generations. And he said the law doesn't discriminate against anyone.
 
"This political correctness has gone amok," he said.
There are some questions, however, about whether or not the governor fully understands the new law he just created after a rushed legislative push. The News & Observer reported yesterday, for example, that the new policy appears to revoke a fair housing ordinance in Greensboro and a policy governing municipal contracts in Raleigh.
 
Asked for a response, McCrory, who signed H.B. 2 into law last week, said, "I've been traveling all day, so you're telling me something I'm not aware of."
 
The governor's spokesperson later argued that the law doesn't affect local housing ordinances, but he said he's "still not sure" about the impact on other types of ordinances.
 
It's not unreasonable to think McCrory and his GOP allies should have worked out these details before changing the state's discrimination laws.
Confetti on the floor on the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Fight over guns at the RNC draws Secret Service response

03/29/16 08:00AM

When the Republican National Convention gets underway in Cleveland in July, attendees will not be permitted to bring loaded firearms with them onto the convention floor. The policy isn't exactly surprising, and it's consistent with the precautions taken at every national party convention in recent memory.
 
But some gun enthusiasts created a Change.org petition to challenge the gun ban.
The petition's author, known as N A, finds fault with the policy, calling it "a direct affront to the Second Amendment." Pointing to an article that ranks Cleveland among the United States' most dangerous cities and mentioning "the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack," the author said the Republican National Committee and the Quicken Loans Arena are putting people at risk.
 
"Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life," the petition reads. "All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN Obama's 'gun-free zones.'"
Putting the president's middle name in all caps is always a sign of a serious and thoughtful person making a substantive argument.
 
The specific request demanded that the Republican National Committee, the National Rifle Association, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and those who manage the Quicken Loans Arena itself all take steps to allow convention attendees to carry loaded guns at the party gathering.
 
This is the same gathering, by the way, where Donald Trump said there may be "riots," and at least one U.S. senator has said he may skip the convention because he fears for his personal safety -- and this was before gun enthusiasts created and signed the firearm petition.
 
Yesterday, the Secret Service announced their response to the petition. The Washington Post reported:
Facts don't show a Trump revolution

Facts don't show a Trump revolution

03/28/16 09:57PM

Rachel Maddow points out that contrary to the "anti-establishment" tone of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Republican voters are so far not rebelling against Republican incumbent candidates and by all measure just seem to like Trump. watch

Trump boosts GOP registrations in Florida

Trump boosts GOP registrations in Florida

03/28/16 09:53PM

Rachel Maddow reports on seven counties in Florida where Republican registration went up this year (Democratic registration fell in six of them) and the speculation that Donald Trump inspired this surge, though whether Democrats should be worried isn't as watch

Huge night Wednesday on MSNBC

Huge night Wednesday on MSNBC

03/28/16 09:39PM

Rachel Maddow alerts viewers that on this Wednesday night, Chuck Todd will interview John Kasich at 7pm ET, Chris Matthews will interview Donald Trump at 8pm ET, and Maddow will have back-to-back interviews with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at 9pm ET and likely running for more than an hour. watch

Cruz has upper hand on Trump in delegate game

Cruz has upper hand on Trump in delegate game

03/28/16 09:18PM

Kyle Cheney, Politico "campaign pro" reporter, talks with Rachel Maddow about the advantage Ted Cruz has over Donald Trump in working within state-level Republican Parties to establish delegates who are loyal to him should he need them in a contested conv watch

Trump mobilizes lawyers in delegate fight

Trump mobilizes lawyers in delegate fight

03/28/16 09:09PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the shadow primary within the Republican primary to secure as many loyal and double-agent delegates as possible to serve in the event of a contested convention. Donald Trump is apparently compensating for his lack of preparedness on this front with legal threats. watch

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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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