It's obviously far too early to start talking about presidential running mates, especially given the uncertainty surrounding who'll make the 2016 general-election campaign. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was asked about his thinking on the subject yesterday, and according to a Reuters report, the senator specifically mentioned New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R).
It's hardly the first time Martinez's name has come up in VP conversation, and it's not hard to understand why. As we've noted before, she’s the nation’s first Latina governor and an effective former prosecutor with a high approval rating in a relatively blue state. On paper, Martinez seems to be a running mate out of central casting.
That said, Rubio's timing could be better. The Santa Fe New Mexicanreported last week that the FBI has spent "several months" talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez's campaign fundraising activities.
One prominent New Mexico Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed being interviewed in recent months by federal agents about funds from Martinez’s campaign, as well as money from her 2011 inauguration committee, going to the governor’s political consultant, Jay McCleskey.
This person also said agents asked questions about different “fundraising vehicles,” such as political action committees, used by Martinez’s political wing, though it was unclear what potential violations federal agents are investigating.
The same paper reported soon after that federal investigators "have subpoenaed records from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department looking into whether the agency performed retaliatory audits on former members of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political team or state officials who ran afoul of her administration, according to a person familiar with the investigation."
Note, this reporting has not been confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, and the FBI, as a rule, does not comment on questions about possible criminal probes.
If the reports are accurate, however, it seems like the sort of development that might have a serious effect on Martinez’s appeal as a candidate for national office.
You'd think after several dozen votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, congressional Republicans would be quite adept at one of their favorite hobbies. After all, practice makes perfect, and GOP lawmakers have all kinds of practice trying to remove "Obamacare" from the books.
All of which brings us to now and the new Republican initiative to repeal the ACA -- yes, they keep wasting time on this -- which is going surprisingly poorly.
For example, congressional Republicans are trying to pursue their goal through the budget reconciliation process, but this week, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said reconciliation is only supposed to be used for bills that decrease the deficit, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Affordable Care Act would make the deficit vastly larger.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has suggested firing MacDonough and replacing her with a parliamentarian who'll interpret Senate rules in ways Republicans want them to be interpreted.
Making matters slightly worse, The Hillreports that GOP senators are divided among themselves over how to pursue repeal, with "some Republicans are balking at a proposal to repeal the expansion of Medicaid."
“I am very concerned about the 160,000 people who had Medicaid expansion in my state. I have difficulty with that being included,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.
Sen. John Hoeven (R), who represents North Dakota, where an estimated 19,000 people gained access to Medicaid after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided to broaden the program, said he was unsure about repealing the expansion. [...]
“I respect the decision of our Legislature and our governor on Medicaid expansion,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R) of Montana, which has a Democratic governor. “I’m one who respects their rights and voices.”
One unnamed senator added, “Repealing the Medicaid expansion is not going to be in there because it’s too problematic for many Republicans." The lawmaker added, “I don’t want to stick the state with the bill.”
The rhetoric over the summer from Republican insiders was, if nothing else, consistent. It was just the "silly season," when passive voters were fascinated by passing fads. The campaign developments offered entertainment, but they were hollow and meaningless.
Once summer turned to fall, we'd see the race begin in earnest. The debates would begin; the wheat would be separated from the chaff; and the "silly season" would be little more than an unfortunate memory.
But when August turned to September, the race appeared largely static. Then September turned to October, and little changed. And then October turned to November, and the GOP's top two contenders -- a New York developer and a retired right-wing neurosurgeon -- maintained their leads over the rest of the Republican field.
The Washington Post published a fascinating piece overnight on the signs of "panic" within the Republican establishment.
Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them. [...]
The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them.
The article added, in all seriousness, that the desperation among "some" in the party establishment has led to renewed talk about drafting Mitt Romney. Friends of the 2012 nominee "have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight."
For the record, I'm extremely skeptical of the idea of Romney riding into the race on a white horse in the 11th hour, saving Republicans from their own leading, unimpressive contenders.
But what does it tell us about the state of Republican politics right now that such talk even exists?
When Congress took up a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform package in 2013, lawmakers had overlapping motivations. For most Democrats, the goals were substantive: the broken system needs a solution, and the bipartisan bill would be an effective policy.
And while plenty of Republicans also liked the practical implications -- the legislation's emphasis on border security was a major selling point in the GOP -- there was an undeniable electoral consideration. The party's post-2012 "autopsy" report urged Republicans to pass a reform bill to help get the issue off the table before the 2016 election cycle, in part to deny Democrats a potent weapon, and in part to avoid intra-GOP ugliness during the primaries.
We know, of course, that House Republicans ignored party officials' advice and killed the bipartisan reform compromise. And as of yesterday, the ugliness insiders feared came to fruition.
Two of the top Republican presidential candidates -- Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- spent the day bashing each other over immigration reform, launching a confrontation that was months, if not years, in the making. Cruz eagerly reminded the political world that Rubio partnered with liberal Democrats on a bill most Republicans condemn as "amnesty," while Rubio tried to make the case that the differences between them on immigration are practically non-existent.
At least yesterday, the fight had downsides for both of them. Cruz, an immigration hardliner, was forced to defend his far-right credentials. Rubio, meanwhile, was forced to confront an issue he'd prefer to ignore, all while continuing to move sharply to the right.
It led Bloomberg Politics to emphasize a good point.
[The dispute between Rubio and Cruz] is raising concerns among some party strategists that the high-profile fight could further alienate Latino and Asian-American voters, wrecking the party's chances in a general election where 30 percent of the electorate is projected to be non-white.
“This is disaster on all kinds of different levels,” said John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist and lobbyist. “I've always been concerned that if we don't get immigration right we have no chance to win this. And right now it doesn't look like we are getting it right or we're going to get it right.”
Given the likelihood that one of these two senators is going to be the Republican nominee, there are a lot of messages party officials would like to hear from them right now. A heated argument over who's further to the right on immigration isn't one of them.
When politicians get caught making bogus claims, they have some choices on what to do next. The obvious solution is acknowledging the misstep and setting the record straight. Some, however, try lashing out at fact-checkers and reporters who dare to question them. Others try changing the subject. Occasionally, we'll even see folks pretend they never said what they said.
But the most amusing category belongs to politicians who defend bogus claims by citing secret evidence that only they have access to. As Rachel noted on the show last night, this comes up more often than it should.
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.), for example, claimed last year to have secret information about ISIS fighters getting caught entering the United States through Mexico, which never happened in reality. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) claimed to have secret evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which is the exact opposite of the truth.
And then there's Ben Carson, who claimed this week that China has deployed troops to Syria, despite the fact that China has not deployed troops to Syria. Yesterday, Armstrong Williams, a top Carson campaign aide, defended the claim by pointing to -- you guessed it -- secret intelligence. Here was the exchange between Williams and MSNBC's Tamron Hall:
HALL: ...Dr. Carson said that the Chinese were -- are in Syria, which is not accurate.
WILLIAMS: Well, Tamron, from your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is inaccurate, but from my intelligence and what Dr. Carson`s been told by people on the ground involved in that area of the world, it has been told to him many times over and over that the Chinese are there. But as far as our intelligence and the briefings that Dr. Carson`s been in, and I`ve certainly been in with him, he`s certainly been told that the Chinese are there.
This isn't even the first time Team Carson has tried to pull this stunt.
Rachel Maddow reports breaking news of reports that the U.S. has targeted with an air strike the terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, notorious for his brutal behavior against Western hostages held by ISIS. Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, joins with the details of what is known, and analysis. watch
Johari Osayi Idusuyi, who received internet acclaim when she was seen on camera reading Claudia Rankine's “Citizen: An American Lyric,” a book of poetry about race, at a Donald Trump rally, talks with Rachel Maddow about what happened in the seats behind the Republican front-runner. watch
Rachel Maddow highlights Republican candidate Ben Carson's propensity for making confident but false claims based on mysterious personal intelligence sources, including about serious matters of war in Syria. Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer joins to discuss the actual news in the war on ISIS. watch
* Beirut: "Two explosions in a busy area of Beirut’s southern suburb killed at least 37 people and wounded 180 more, the Lebanese Red Cross told NBC News, as ISIS claimed responsibility for the bloodshed."
* Canada: "The Canadian government is forging ahead with its pledge to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, honoring an audacious campaign promise made by newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau."
* Iraq: "Kurdish forces aided by thousands of lightly armed Yazidi fighters captured a strategic highway on Thursday in northern Iraq in the early stages of an offensive to reclaim the town of Sinjar from the Islamic State, which seized it last year and murdered, raped and enslaved thousands of Yazidis."
* Utah: "For the last three months, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce have raised their foster child like their own. Now they claim that a Utah judge has ordered the baby to be removed from their care, not because of anything they've done, but because they are lesbian women."
* Medal of Honor: "Retired Capt. Florent A. Groberg on Thursday became the nation's newest Medal of Honor recipient -- and the 10th living service member to be recognized with America's highest valor award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. Groberg received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 8, 2012, in Afghanistan. President Obama presented the award to Groberg during a ceremony at the White House."
* Missouri: "The University of Missouri's governing board on Thursday appointed a recently retired administrator to be the school's interim president. The Board of Curators announced that Michael Middleton, 68, will lead the four-campus university system until it finds a permanent replacement for Tim Wolfe, who resigned Monday under pressure from students who criticized his administration's response to a series of racial incidents."
* Florida: "The plainclothes Florida officer who shot and killed musician Corey Jones last month has been fired, the city of Palm Beach Gardens said Thursday."
It was arguably the most important question asked in any Republican presidential debate so far this year. Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, presented Carly Fiorina with a line of inquiry she probably wasn't expecting:
"[I]n seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you'll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?"
Fiorina, as is her wont, pretended that reality has no meaning and responded, “Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats” -- which contradicted the accurate question and made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
But Baker's observation presents Republicans with a challenge for which the party has no solution.
Before proceeding, let's note that Baker's question actually understated the case. The figure for President Obama was roughly accurate, but it included the horrific job losses from early 2009, when he took office in the midst of a global catastrophe he inherited from his predecessor. If we exclude his first year, Obama's average increases to about 180,000 jobs per month -- which makes George W. Bush's job totals slightly worse.
What's more, if we look back over the last quarter-century, the totals for H.W. Bush, who averaged annual job growth roughly in line with his son's totals, look even worse still for Republicans. The right will be quick to note that the employment picture was vastly brighter under Reagan, which is true, but on a per-year basis, Reagan's job growth fell short of Clinton's -- and even Carter's.
And this isn't limited to job creation. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, in the post-World War II era, economic growth and Wall Street returns have also been better under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents. The New York Times recently published a piece from CNBC’s John Harwood, who noted that Republicans “have a data problem”: for quite a while, GOP claims about the economy have consistently been wrong, and at times, completely backwards.
Pressed for an explanation, Republicans have ... literally nothing. Some pretend not to understand the question. Others pound the table. Many recite pleasant-sounding platitudes that their party's base finds compelling, hoping no one will notice they simply can't answer the question.
During any national campaign, the country looks for evidence of what kind of president the various candidates would be. And as part of the exercise, we can go through all kinds of areas, including the candidates' records, speeches, and proposals.
But it's always a good idea to keep an eye on who presidential hopefuls surround themselves with, because this, too, offers a hint about the candidates' intentions. The fact that Jeb Bush, for example, has hired so many members of his brother's foreign policy team speaks volumes about the kind of approach to international affairs we can expect to see if the former governor is elected.
With this in mind, the Huffington Post ran an interesting piece this week on Eric Teetsel, who'll serve as the director of faith outreach for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign.
A prominent young voice among evangelicals, Teetsel was the executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 manifesto declaring the "sanctity of life" and marriage signed by more than 550,000 people.... In June, after the Confederate flag came down on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol in the same week the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal in all 50 states, Teetsel lamented on Twitter that the U.S. "traded one symbol of illiberalism and sweeping cultural sin for another."
Teetsel expanded on his thoughts after the court ruling, warning that gay Americans would experience "suffering" unless Christians point them "toward the better way."
It's true, of course, that candidates and their top aides don't always agree on literally every issue, and it'd be unfair to argue that everything Teetsel has ever said or written necessarily enjoys Rubio's endorsement.
But it's also true that when Rubio brings on a new member of his team with a lengthy paper trail, and gives that person a prominent position, it says something relevant about the candidate's platform.
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.