Guy Cecil, chief strategist for the pro-Hillary Clinton superPAC Priorities USA, talks with Rachel Maddow about whether it's a bad sign that Hillary Clinton is significantly outspending Donald Trump on advertising, but not showing a significant lead in important swing states. watch
Rachel Maddow looks at looks at some of the political difficulties Indiana Governor Mike Pence has struggled with, in particular his bungled handling of the backlash over his "religious liberty" policy. watch
Rachel Maddow looks back at the selection of Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle as vice presidential running mates who were seen as vulnerabilities to their respective campaigns but were ultimately part of the winning ticket. watch
Sam Nunberg's exclusive statement to NBC News (via @KatyTurNBC):
* U.K.: "Theresa May took over as Britain's prime minister Wednesday, tasked with steering the country through the Brexit crisis. The steely 59-year-old replaced David Cameron, who became the first political casualty of last month's referendum when he announced his intention to quit hours after the result."
* A rather ridiculous choice: "Former London Mayor and Brexit backer Boris Johnson -- who once called President Obama 'hypocritical' and 'perverse' -- will now represent his country on international affairs. Johnson was named Britain's foreign secretary by Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday -- on her first day in office."
* ISIS: "Even as it launches waves of terrorist attacks around the globe, the Islamic State is quietly preparing its followers for the eventual collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed with great fanfare two years ago."
* Unlikely: "People attending the Olympics in Brazil next month are unlikely to accelerate the spread of Zika virus around the world, U.S. federal health officials said Wednesday."
* City officials in Cleveland "are planning to pass legislation Wednesday to ensure that transgender people can use public bathrooms that match their gender identity -- a poke in the eye to GOP officials, including Donald Trump, who oppose such efforts and will be in the city next week for the Republican National Convention."
* Good for John Brennan: "The head of the CIA reiterated on Wednesday that he would not allow his agency to carry out brutal interrogations like those called for by Donald Trump, and appeared to suggest he would step down if a future president demanded him to do so."
* There's more than one kind of gun death: "In the past three months, America experienced the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, with 49 people killed in Orlando, and new data showed that suicide rates have reached a three-decade high. Although mass shootings get most of the attention, experts say that the growing suicide rate reveals the much bigger effect of widespread firearm availability in the United States -- and claim thousands more lives."
There's quite a bit of new polling out today on the 2016 presidential race, and as it turns out, no matter which candidate you're rooting for, there's fresh data to make you feel good -- and bad.
If you're hoping for a Hillary Clinton victory, you're probably encouraged by new polls showing the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead in Pennsylvania (45% to 36%), Iowa (42% to 39%), Wisconsin (43% to 37%), and Colorado (48% to 35%).
If you're hoping for a Donald Trump victory, you're likely pleased to see polls showing the presumptive Republican nominee leading in Florida (42% to 39%), Pennsylvania (43% to 41%), and tied in Ohio (41% each).
In national polling, the latest McClatchy-Marist survey shows Clinton leading Trump, 42% to 39%, which is good news for the Democrat (she's ahead) and good news for the Republican (he's narrowed the gap).
What are we to make of all of this? I'd recommend keeping a few things in mind.
1. Clinton had a modest lead before and she has a modest lead now. Individual polls are interesting, but it's still the case that it's best to rely on averages. There's some evidence that the race has tightened a bit over the last week or so, but the shift hasn't been especially dramatic.
2. Last week hurt Clinton. Putting aside the question of whether Clinton's email "controversy" had merit, last week didn't do the Democrat any favors. Having every major news organization in the country question a candidate's judgment and competence -- all because of a story related to email server protocols, of all things -- is bound to have an effect. Americans believed the story mattered because they were told the story mattered. What's less clear is whether the damage is permanent or temporary.
It's tempting to assume Donald Trump would have plenty to occupy his time right now: choosing a running mate, preparing for his national nomination convention that begins in five days, trying to close the gap against Hillary Clinton, etc.
But as it turns out, the Republican candidate has also found the time to focus on filing a new lawsuit.
Donald Trump is seeking $10 million from a former aide he accused of leaking confidential information about a public spat between two senior campaign staffers, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
Trump claimed that fired campaign consultant Sam Nunberg went to the press with confidential information in violation of a nondisclosure agreement, which the real estate mogul requires nearly all staffers for his campaign and businesses to sign.
Even by this campaign's standards, it's an odd story. Nunberg was fired last summer for publishing racist messages via social media. He then allegedly leaked word of an affair between two Trump campaign staffers. This leak, Team Trump believes, was a breach of the non-disclosure agreement Nunberg signed.
Which brings us to today's court filing.
The Washington Post's Robert Costa added that Trump reportedly "decided to file a lawsuit in the middle of a general-election campaign because he's furious" with Nunberg.
But that's not much of an explanation. Donald Trump is scheduled to receive a major-party presidential nomination literally next week. He's announcing his running mate in two days. Whether he's furious with Nunberg over campaign gossip or not, it's not unreasonable to think Trump should have some impulse control.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) participated in a town-hall forum last night, and CNN's Jake Tapper asked a good question: is Ryan prepared to work with a President Hillary Clinton, should she win in November? Here's his response:
"Well, I'll certainly try. The point I'd say is, this is not the Democratic Party of the mid-1990s.... This is the liberal progressive party of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and, yes, Hillary Clinton.
"I think Hillary Clinton is a very liberal progressive. They have moved far, far, far to the left. And so in the 1990s, there was a little more overlap between the two parties and more room for common ground."
This is the sort of assessment that many Beltway pundits will probably like, because it reinforces the agreed-upon narrative that both parties are always to blame for all things, even when that doesn't make any sense. Sure, the argument goes, Republicans are more conservative, but Democrats have moved "far, far, far to the left." If only today's Dems were more like '90s-era Dems, just imagine the wonderful bipartisan compromises we'd see!
If this reflected reality, it might even serve as the foundation for meaningful political change.
Ryan's comments are interesting for all sorts of reasons, so let's unpack this a bit.
1. If we had a time machine, '90s-era Republicans would find this hilarious. Paul Ryan didn't take office in Congress until 1999, so he may not realize this, but in the mid-1990s, Republicans were convinced that Democrats of the day were far-left radicals, led by a lawless president GOP lawmakers felt compelled to impeach.
To look back at the politics of 20 years ago as an era of bipartisan "overlap" and "common ground" is kind of hilarious to anyone familiar with the politics of 20 years ago.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump joined his son, daughter, and son-in-law for a private conversation with Gov. Mike Pence (R) at his Indiana home this morning. Take a wild guess what they chatted about.
* The NAACP confirmed yesterday that it invited Donald Trump to address the organization's national conference, but the presumptive Republican nominee declined.
* Reinforcing Quinnipiac's reputation as the GOP's new favorite pollster, Quinnipiac's new swing-state polls shows Trump narrowly leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania, and tied in Ohio. When third-party candidates are added to the mix, Trump's lead grows.
* Note, in just five hours, NBC News will have new polls of its own out of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.
* A new McClatchy-Marist poll shows Clinton leading Trump nationally, 42% to 39%, in a head-to-head match-up. Clinton's advantage is slightly larger when third-party candidates are added to the mix. (Note of caution: this poll shows Clinton's support among Latino voters at just 52%. There's no way that's correct.)
* In Iowa, the latest Monmouth University poll shows Trump leading Clinton in Iowa, 44% to 42%. Every other recent poll out of Iowa shows Clinton ahead in the state.
* The same poll shows incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) with a big lead over former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D) in Iowa, 52% to 42%.
* Trump sat down with radical TV preacher Pat Robertson yesterday, who told the candidate, "You really love Mexicans, Hispanics. Talk to us about that, because you're portrayed as a guy who hates Mexicans, but you don't hate them." Trump said he's hired lots of Latino employees, and polls show his support among Hispanic voters going "up, up, up." (In reality, polls show no such thing.)
It seemed alarming enough this week when Republican officials added a provision to the national platform labeling pornography "a public health crisis" and a "public menace" that is destroying lives. But as it turn out, the party wasn't done moving even further to the right.
Republicans tasked with drafting a policy document that guides and defines the GOP has completed its work, effectively moving the party further to the right on issues of guns, immigration, and traditional marriage. [...]
After the committee completed its work Tuesday, aides to Trump said they are pleased with the product. It now must be approved by the delegates on the floor of the Republican National Convention Monday.
Perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the platform drafting process came yesterday, when Republican officials considered language that would have acknowledged that LGBT people have been targeted by ISIS with "violence and oppression."
The platform committee rejected the proposal. Even this was a bit too far for Republicans.
It was that kind of process for GOP officials -- who also felt compelled to change "illegal immigrant" to "illegal alien" in the platform, just because.
Similarly, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach successfully championed an amendment voicing the party's opposition to any measure that would restrict magazine capacity in firearms.
That passed around the time the Republican platform committee endorsed the construction of an actual, physical wall along the U.S./Mexico border -- just like Donald Trump wants.
The "Trump University" scandal hasn't done Republicans any favors. Donald Trump's controversial enterprise, which is already the target of a major lawsuit, has been accused of being a con job, ripping off students who trusted the developer's name.
But as it turns out, this is part of a broader area of concern for the GOP -- because several other Republicans are caught up in their own messes surrounding for-profit colleges.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), for example, supported a for-profit college chain "that has hurt far more students than Trump University has. Corinthian Colleges, which actually offered degrees and was regionally accredited, damaged far more students' lives." As we discussed last year, Corinthian Colleges, which abruptly closed its doors last April, is facing some pretty brutal allegations -- which in turn have raised questions about why Rubio went to bat for Corinthian during an investigation into its allegedly corrupt business practices.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire Public Radio reported yesterday that one of Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R-N.H.) major donors -- Bridgepoint Education, the parent company of Ashford University, an online university based in California -- is facing several investigations, including from the U.S. Justice Department.
After the Huffington Postreported last month on Bridgepoint's many legal troubles, Ayotte returned the money she'd received from the school.
And in Pennsylvania's closely watched U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey's (R) for-profit-college ties are also becoming a campaign issue. The Huffington Postreported two weeks ago:
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is trying to distance himself from a conservative, for-profit university known for bizarre teachings about gender as he prepares for a tough re-election campaign.
Toomey served on the board of the online school Yorktown University from 2007 to 2009, invested thousands of dollars in it and appeared in its promotional materials. Yorktown, founded in 2001 as a conservative counterweight to mainstream schools, offered courses that railed against political correctness, feminism, egalitarianism and multiculturalism.
A spokesperson for the conservative senator said Toomey had "minimal involvement" with the controversial for-profit school.
A week ago, Eric Trump, Donald Trump's son, called the Washington Post to complain about the paper's coverage of his father's charitable contributions. By all accounts, Eric Trump didn't say the Post had made any mistake -- David Fahrenthold's research and reporting has been impeccable -- but instead blasted the newspaper for making his father look bad.
"I'm just saying, Jesus Christ, why is this guy trying to f---ing kill us?" Trump allegedly told Fahrenthold.
It was a revealing sentiment. As we discussed last week, Trump may have boasted about millions of dollars in charitable contributions, but the Post's investigation turned up less than $10,000 in donations over the last seven years. The New York Republican set up a foundation to help dispense his charitable donations, and in years past, Trump contributed $2.8 million. That total, however, is less than a third of what he'd pledged, and records suggest he hasn't made a donation to the foundation since 2008.
No wonder Eric Trump is unhappy. Under normal political rules, this is the sort of thing that could bury a presidential candidate. It's not just a question about greed or stinginess, it's also one about honesty.
Trump's son is apparently trying to help, but a follow-up report from the Post's Fahrenthold, published overnight, actually makes matters worse.
Last week, Eric Trump said that his own charitable foundation had received "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in personal donations from his father.
But on Monday, Eric Trump said he could not name a single instance when Donald Trump had given such a gift.... Eric Trump said he was too busy to look for evidence that would back up his earlier statements: "I have a lot going on -- I just don't have the time. Good luck with the story," he wrote.
This isn't a normal week on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress are getting ready to take an unusually long summer break -- they'll wrap up this week and won't return to work until Sept. 6 -- which generally leads to a flurry of legislative activity before lawmakers leave town.
But this Republican-led Congress isn't exactly a model for constructive productivity, and it's likely members will head home without tackling some key issues on the nation's to-do list. Politicoreported yesterday, for example, on the GOP's refusal to budge on the federal response to the Zika virus threat.
Senate Democrats are making a last-ditch effort to resuscitate a measure providing funding to combat the Zika virus, but Republicans have already panned their offer -- escalating the partisan blame game as Congress prepares to leave for a summer recess without finishing a Zika bill.
In a pitch to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called for striking several provisions in the Zika measure loathed by Democrats.
It's a pretty straightforward plan Senate Dems are proposing: if both parties are roughly in agreement on the amount of money that needs to be invested, the bill can pass the chamber if Republicans would simply agree to remove the poison-pill provisions -- blocking Planned Parenthood funding, taking funds from efforts to combat the Ebola virus, and cutting the Affordable Care Act -- that Democrats can't accept.
But the Republicans continue to refuse, making the current bill -- a compromise Senate Republicans struck with House Republicans -- a take-it-or-leave-it offer: either Democrats play along with the GOP's culture-war priorities, or there will be no federal response to the Zika threat.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, which sent Congress an emergency funding request back in February, reminded lawmakers yesterday that political gridlock "could delay research and development of a vaccine to protect against Zika and tests to detect it."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told ABC News yesterday, "We getting to the point where both the CDC and the NIH are actually running out of money, and we have important work to do."
President Obama recently argued that Congress should delay its nearly two-month-long break until after a Zika bill passes, but Republican leaders show no interest in doing that.
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.