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Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speak during a commercial break in the sixth Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 14, 2016. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Republicans play the Endorsement Game clumsily

01/28/16 12:52PM

At a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, this week, Donald Trump focused on Ted Cruz's lack of support from within the Republican Party. "Think about it, not endorsed by one United States Senator and he works with them every day," Trump said, adding, "Not one Republican senator. How do you do that? How do you run a country that way? ... The guy doesn't have any endorsements."
 
At a certain level, that's true. Cruz has done fairly well picking up support from Republicans in the U.S. House -- his 18 endorsements are the third most in the GOP field -- but Cruz, a sitting U.S. senator, has zero endorsements from his colleagues in the chamber. He hasn't picked up any support from Republican governors, either.
 
What Trump neglected to mention is that he's doing even worse. For the first time in the modern era, a Republican frontrunner, leading in each of the first three nominating contests, is heading into Iowa with a grand total of zero endorsements from governors and/or members of the House and Senate. Literally, none.
 
Will that change? The State newspaper in South Carolina published an interesting piece late yesterday.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster endorsed Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday.
 
McMaster -- a former state attorney general, U.S. attorney and S.C. GOP chairman -- is the highest-ranking state politician to endorse a 2016 candidate.... The endorsement comes as a bit of surprise since McMaster represents the establishment in the state party.
Remember, it was earlier this month when South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) delivered her party's official response to the State of the Union address, in which she took not-so-subtle shots at Trump. And yet, yesterday, her lieutenant governor -- and likely successor in 2018 -- threw his official backing to Trump.
 
Is it only a matter of time before a member of Congress does the same? Roll Call considered the question overnight:

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.28.16

01/28/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls, Hillary Clinton is ahead in Iowa (48% to 45%); she has a much bigger lead in South Carolina (64% to 27%); but Bernie Sanders is still well ahead in New Hampshire (57% to 38%).
 
* Bernie Sanders, who will turn 75 years old by Election Day, will reportedly release his medical records later today. This meets a vow from the campaign to disclose the materials before the Iowa caucuses.
 
* Political insiders are absolutely convinced that Marco Rubio would be a strong general-election candidate for Republicans, while Donald Trump would be a weak one. Republican voters, meanwhile, are equally convinced the exact opposite is true, at least according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.
 
* Congratulations, John Kasich, you're now relevant enough to attack. A secretive far-right group called the American Future Fund, which does not disclose its donors, is launching a $1 million ad campaign against the Ohio governor, telling New Hampshire Republicans Kasich is an "Obama Republican," not a conservative or a moderate.
 
* Speaking of New Hampshire, Chris Christie is going after Marco Rubio with increasing vigor, telling Boston Herald Radio yesterday that the Floridian is "a 44-year-old first-term senator who's never accomplished anything."
 
* Politico reports that Rand Paul is under renewed pressure from GOP officials to shift his focus from his struggling presidential campaign to his Senate re-election campaign in Kentucky.
 
* Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), perhaps best known for role in trying to oust then-Speaker John Boehner, officially endorsed Ted Cruz on Fox News last night. Meadows is reportedly headed to Iowa to campaign for the Texas senator.
A Planned Parenthood location is seen on Aug. 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

GOP won't drop crusade against Planned Parenthood

01/28/16 11:20AM

It's a safe bet that the investigations into Planned Parenthood's work haven't gone as well as the group's far-right critics had hoped.
 
As we discussed yesterday, when "undercover" videos targeting the health organization first surfaced, many Republican officials and far-right activists believed the controversy would lead to criminal indictments. This week, however, a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and instead indicted the conservatives responsible for the "sting" operation against the group. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick published a piece this week explaining that the folks behind the Center for Medical Progress "have a slew of legal troubles" on their hands.
 
The editorial board of the Washington Post argued that it's time for the GOP to "give up its crusade" against Planned Parenthood. The Huffington Post reported yesterday, however, that congressional Republicans are "determined to push on."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is chairing a select investigative committee that purports to be investigating "big abortion providers" -- but for all intents and purposes is only scrutinizing Planned Parenthood -- said in a statement Tuesday that "the mission of our investigation has not changed." [...]
 
Blackburn's committee was created even as other Republicans, like Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said they didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing on the provider's part. Multiple state investigations have come to similar conclusions.
GOP lawmakers' reluctance to accept the evidence as it exists seems unsustainable.
The stage is seen inside Air Force One Pavilion before the start of the Ronald Reagan Centennial GOP Presidential Primary Candidates Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sept. 7, 2011 in Simi Valley, Calif. (Photo by David McNew/Getty)

The debate over the debates takes a turn

01/28/16 10:55AM

When Donald Trump and his campaign team told reporters on Tuesday that he wouldn't participate in tonight's debate on Fox News, it was hard to know whether or not to believe him. Maybe it was just a little cry for attention. Perhaps he'd seek some kind of concession from the network. Maybe this was the latest move to dominate the news cycle for another day or two.
 
In the end, it's not like the Republican frontrunner would just blow off a prime-time event on the party's most important news network, right? Wrong. The NBC First Read crew noted this morning:
Today isn't just four days out until the Iowa caucuses; it's also the final GOP debate before Monday's contest. But as you know by now, there's a TAD bit of drama on that front. After refusing to participate in tonight's debate, Trump is holding a competing event in Des Moines to benefit veterans' organizations.
Blowing off a debate poses a potential headache, but blowing off a charitable event for veterans isn't really an option. When the Trump campaign organized this alternative event, it effectively committed the candidate to skipping the debate. It was the point at which the conversation shifted from "he'll eventually agree to participate in the debate" to "he's really not going."
 
The drama, however, is ongoing and multifaceted. During an interview with the candidate last night, Fox's Bill O'Reilly implored Trump to participate in the debate. Trump wouldn't budge. Fox's Roger Ailes reportedly reached out to Trump's daughter, which also did not change the dynamic.
 
Ted Cruz's super PAC has offered to donate $1.5 million to a charity of Trump's choosing if the Republican frontrunner agrees to a one-on-debate ahead of Monday's caucuses -- this is a trick that should be familiar to Trump -- but such an event appears unlikely.
 
Meanwhile, according to Trump, two of his 2016 rivals reached out to him last night to ask if they, too, could skip the debate and join him at his veterans' event. Whether or not this happened in reality is unclear, though if we're talking about candidates stuck at the kids-table debate, it certainly seems possible.
 
What we don't know is what effect this is going to have on the race itself. The latest polls show Trump in a dominant position, but those surveys were conducted before this debate drama.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz address delegates at the Texas GOP Convention in Fort Worth, Texas Friday, June 6, 2014.

Reagan is Cruz's favorite non-Reagan influence

01/28/16 10:00AM

At a Republican event in May, a reporter asked several of the GOP presidential candidates to name the greatest living president. Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz all mentioned Ronald Reagan -- who died in 2004.
 
This week, BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray raised a related question while interviewing Cruz, making a deliberate effort to get a better answer. It didn't go well.
Asked by BuzzFeed News to cite his greatest foreign policy influence apart from Reagan, Cruz cited Reagan anyway.
 
"If you ask the question, the answer is Ronald Reagan," Cruz said. "You might not like that answer, but that is the truth."
On the surface, it's hard not to marvel at the knee-jerk response. The senator heard the question, and probably could have named some other people who've influenced his thinking on foreign policy, but the poor guy just can't help himself. If Cruz were asked about his greatest influences on other policy areas, I suspect we'd hear the same answer.
 
But just below the surface, I can't help but wonder just how much Cruz knows about Reagan's foreign policy.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder talks to reporters during the press preview for the 2016 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall, Jan. 12, 2016 in Detroit, Mich. (Photo by Paul Warner/Getty)

Snyder's standing weakens in the midst of Flint crisis

01/28/16 09:20AM

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is not a political story, per se. It's a man-made catastrophe affecting real people and endangering a real community. Families who have to fear the water coming out of their tap in their own home probably couldn't care less about election results, talking points, or the latest pitch from a public-relations agency.
 
When you're worried about your safety and that of your children, politics must seem very small.
 
That said, Flint's crisis isn't a natural disaster; it's a disaster that was imposed on the city by politicians. It's difficult to separate politics from the scandal because it was the decisions from political officials that created the crisis in the first place.
 
And with that in mind, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday on the results of a new EPIC-MRA poll of Michigan residents, which is the first statewide survey since the public at large first became aware of the Flint disaster (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
Gov. Rick Snyder's popularity and job approval numbers have plummeted as a result of the Flint drinking water catastrophe, with 69% of those surveyed saying the Republican governor has handled the crisis poorly. [...]
 
Overall, when more than just the Flint drinking water issue is considered, only 39% say Snyder is doing a good job as governor and 58% say he is doing a poor job, according to the poll of 600 likely voters, made available exclusively to the Free Press, WXYZ-TV (Channel 7), and statewide media partners.
Snyder, who was re-elected to a second term in late 2014 with 51% of the vote, had a 45% approval rating last summer. His favorability ratings are also now underwater.
 
Most Michigan voters, who also elected a Republican-led legislature in the last cycle, are not, however, eager to see the governor forced from office. The same poll found that 29% of those surveyed want Snyder to resign, while 61% do not.
 
As additional details come to light about culpability in this scandal, that number may yet change.
Republican presidential candidates John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul take the stage before the Republican presidential debate, Nov. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

At this key stage, latest polls raise Republican eyebrows

01/28/16 08:40AM

After a year of chatter, the political world has finally reached the point at which actual voters will express actual preferences in the presidential race in ways that will actually matter. The Iowa caucuses are four days away; the New Hampshire primary is 12 days away.
 
On the eve of actual voting, polls can help offer valuable clues about late surges. Never mind what the results showed months ago; what matters now is whether a candidate is closing strong. Plenty of candidates have won Iowa, quickly overcoming significant deficits, and surveys from this stage in the process often let us know which candidates are making gains as voters make up their minds.
 
So, where do things stand? Let's start with the Hawkeye State, where there are two major new Republican surveys to consider. The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll has the race shaping up this way:
 
1. Donald Trump: 32% (up from 24% in early January)
2. Ted Cruz: 25% (down from 28%)
3. Marco Rubio: 18% (up from 13%)
4. Ben Carson: 8% (down from 11%)
 
Trump's 32% showing is the strongest support any Republican has had in Iowa from this poll all cycle. The latest results from Monmouth University point in a similar direction.
 
1. Donald Trump: 30% (up from 19% in December)
2. Ted Cruz: 23% (down from 24%)
3. Marco Rubio: 16% (up from 17%)
4. Ben Carson: 10% (down from 13%)
 
Note, in both of these cases, each of the remaining candidates was below 5%.
 
It's hard to say with confidence whether Trump voters intend to show up when it counts, and the lingering questions about the efficacy of the candidate's on-the-ground operation matter, but if the polls are correct, there's no question as to who's favored to win on Monday night.
 
But what about the New Hampshire race nine days later? The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll also shows:
Ammon Bundy departs after addressing the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Jan. 4, 2016. (Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Militants' standoff in Oregon starts to unravel

01/28/16 08:00AM

After well-armed militants took over a building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2, the group's leadership told the Oregonian, "We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely."
 
As things stand, the standoff will wrap up much sooner. It's not over, but as of this morning, we appear to be witnessing the beginning of the end.
 
Late Tuesday, Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested, and as part of the confrontation, a shootout left one of their allies, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, dead. Three other militants were arrested at the scene, and two more were taken into custody in related incidents.
 
NBC News reported earlier this morning that more members of the group continue are finding themselves in handcuffs.
The FBI arrested three more people who occupied the Oregon federal wildlife refuge.
 
One of the trio arrested Wednesday was 43-year-old Jason S. Patrick, who The Oregonian newspaper reported had assumed the role of leader for the remaining protesters after the original ringleaders were detained on a highway the previous day.... About four hours earlier, Duane Leo Ehmer, 45, of Irrigon, Oregon, and Dylan Wade Anderson, 34, of Provo, Utah, also were arrested after leaving the compound, the FBI said.
Those three were part of an eight-person group who decided to leave the refuge yesterday. The other five were released without charges.
 
By all accounts, there was no violence during any of these arrests.
 
Ammon Bundy issued a statement through his attorney late yesterday, urging his remaining partners to end the standoff. "Please stand down," he said. "Go home and hug your families." He added that the fight would move forward "in the courts."
'Democracy needs to be restored in Flint'

'Democracy needs to be restored in Flint'

01/27/16 09:47PM

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver joins Rachel Maddow at the MSNBC town hall “American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint" and explains the breakdown of democracy in her city and the need for Flint residents to reclaim their voice. watch

'Lead impacts everybody'

'Lead impacts everybody'

01/27/16 09:39PM

At the MSNBC town hall “American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint," Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha emphasizes the need for resources to help the approximately 100,000 people impacted by lead exposure. watch

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