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Donald Trump speaks at a town hall event in Rochester, N.H. on Sept. 17, 2015. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Trump has 'no idea' if birther theories alienate black voters

09/07/16 12:10PM

It's gone largely overlooked in the presidential race, but Donald Trump's first real foray into politics came during President Obama's first term, when the New York Republican helped lead the "birther" brigade. Trump not only embraced the racist conspiracy theory, he became one of its key boosters, bragging about having sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to uncover damaging information. (He was lying; no investigators were dispatched.)
 
Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox's Bill O'Reilly broached the subject last night:
O'REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?
 
TRUMP: I don't know. I have no idea. I don't even talk about it anymore, Bill.... I guess with, maybe some. I don't know why. I really don't know why. But I don't think -- very few people, you are the first one that's brought that up in a while.
For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday -- the day before this O'Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue "in a while," that clearly wasn't true.
 
Nevertheless, note that Trump isn't prepared to denounce his ridiculous embrace of a nonsensical conspiracy theory; he simply prefers not to "talk about it anymore."
 
Trump could acknowledge he was wrong, or perhaps show some kind of contrition, but that's clearly not his style. Instead, the Republican presidential nominee is left to say he has no idea why African-American voters might be bothered by Trump's promotion of a racist conspiracy theory.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.7.16

09/07/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Donald Trump's campaign will reportedly scrap its media blacklist tomorrow targeting news outlets the Republican candidate doesn't like. The fact that this list existed in the first place is itself a remarkable controversy.
 
* Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, conceded this morning that she has no idea whether Roger Ailes is serving as one of her boss' campaign advisers.
 
* The editorial board of the Dallas Morning News, which hasn't endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate in any election since WWII, is now encouraging its readers to vote for Hillary Clinton.

* In Florida, PPP now shows Clinton leading Trump statewide by one point, both in head-to-head and four-way match-ups.

* The same poll found Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) by three points, 40% to 37%.

* The Trump campaign unveiled a list yesterday of 88 U.S. military leaders who've endorsed the GOP candidate's candidacy. The Clinton campaign responded this morning with a new list of military leaders supporting her candidacy -- and it features 95 retired generals and admirals.
 
* Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine released a book version of their national platform this week. The 256-page blueprint is titled, "Stronger Together."
 
* In Arizona, one of the nation's most consistent "red" states, a new statewide poll from the Arizona Republic shows Clinton narrowly leading Trump in the Grand Canyon State.
Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.

In 2016, the 'education split' is driving the campaign

09/07/16 10:30AM

In many recent election cycles, observers and pundits look for a key demographic that's positioned to help drive the results. The analysis tends to be overwrought, but it leads to chatter about constituencies such as Soccer Moms, NASCAR Dads, Security Moms, Office Park Dads, et al.
 
This year, however, there's no overused label -- not yet, anyway -- but there is a demographic shift emerging as one of the election's most important: the gap among white voters with college degrees and those without.
 
We saw some hints of this a couple of months ago, when polls showed Hillary Clinton narrowly leading among college-educated whites, while Donald Trump dominated among white voters without degrees.
 
This dynamic is holding, and by some measures, intensifying. Slate's Jim Newell had a good piece on this yesterday, making the compelling case that "the educational split among white voters is the defining characteristic of this election."
The hinge point in this election is education levels among white voters. In 2012, according to exit polls, Romney won whites overall, with 59 percent to Obama's 39 percent. Education levels didn't make much of a difference: Romney won 61 percent of non-college whites and 56 percent of college-educated whites.
 
Now look at the CNN/ORC poll, which, caveats aside, shows what a winning Trump coalition would look like. Like Romney, Trump is winning whites by about 20 percentage points, 54 to 33 percent, and he's in the teens among nonwhite voters. Look under the hood a little more, though, and that breakdown of white voters is split. Trump has 66 percent of whites without college degrees to Hillary Clinton's 23 percent. Meanwhile, Clinton leads among white college graduates, 49 percent to 35 percent.
As The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein has documented more than once, no Democratic presidential candidate has carried college-educated whites "in the history of modern polling dating back to 1952." Think about that: since 1952, Americans have voted in 16 presidential elections. When it comes to white voters with college degrees, Democrats have gone 0-for-16 -- including several races Dem candidates won with relative ease.
 
And yet, this year, multiple independent polls show Clinton narrowly ahead with this constituency. But if that's the case, why isn't she crushing Trump?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses during a town hall, Sept. 6, 2016, in Virginia Beach, Va. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump inadvertently proves Clinton right on national security

09/07/16 09:45AM

Campaigning in Tampa yesterday, Hillary Clinton blasted Donald Trump's agenda on national security, explaining why the Republican nominee is "unfit and totally unqualified to be president of the United States."
 
At the exact same time, Trump was campaigning in Virginia -- participating in a town-hall forum in which no one from the audience was allowed to ask questions -- inadvertently proving Clinton right.
 
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a prominent Trump supporter, lobbed softball questions at the Republican nominee, which Trump nevertheless struggled with. Asked about cyber-security threats, for example, the GOP candidate replied:
"[Y]ou know cyber is becoming so big today. It's becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn't even a word. And now the cyber is so big. And you know you look at what they're doing with the Internet, how they're taking and recruiting people through the Internet. And part of it is the psychology because so many people think they're winning."
Trump, who apparently has no idea what cyber security refers to, then transitioned to talking about a CNN poll that showed him narrowly leading among likely voters.
 
At the same event, asked about Iran, Trump offered this odd assessment: "[W]e also happened to have given them Iraq. Because, you know, I always say, Iraq and Iran were very similar militarily, and they'd fight, fight, fight, and then they'd rest. They'd fight, fight, fight, and then Saddam Hussein would do the gas, and somebody else would do something else, and they'd rest."
 
Those foreign-policy lessons apparently aren't going especially well for the Republican candidate.
 
But my personal favorite was Trump's rhetoric about defeating ISIS: "I am also going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction: They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for defeating ISIS."
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) listens during a news conference on the terror attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi Feb. 14, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

John McCain gets lost in translation

09/07/16 09:00AM

In recent years, a variety of Republicans have run into trouble trying to take very different messages to English- and Spanish-speaking voters. In his 2012 race in Nevada, for example, Sen. Dean Heller's (R) website boasted in English about his hardline stances on immigration, while conveniently omitting these details in Spanish.
 
Three years later, when it came time for Republicans to deliver their response to a State of the Union address, the party said it would have GOP officials deliver the same speech in both languages. That wasn't true: the Spanish version suggested Republicans support immigration reform, while the English version did not.
 
Now it's Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) turn. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
There's no doubt that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been a longtime advocate for revamping the nation's immigration laws and border security system. But his newly-published Spanish-language campaign website selectively highlights just part of his legislative record -- while his English-language site emphasizes other parts.
 
The Spanish language site, for instance, lauds him as a member of the Gang of Eight that sought comprehensive immigration reform, and a supporter of a pathway to citizenship for the children of immigrants who came to the country illegally -- a group known as the "Dreamers." The English-language site makes no mention of either and portrays the senator as a champion of tougher border security.
I'm curious to know if McCain's campaign aides thought no one would notice.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

New details emerge in Trump's Florida AG controversy

09/07/16 08:00AM

As Rachel noted on the show last night, Donald Trump's $25,000 campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) was problematic for all sorts of reasons, and if the Republican presidential hopeful was counting on the controversy fading away, he's likely to be disappointed.
 
On Monday, for example, Trump told reporters he "never" spoke to Bondi, a claim that contradicted evidence that the Florida A.G. had personally reached out to Trump about a political donation. Yesterday, the presidential candidate clarified matters, conceding he did speak to Bondi, but not about her possible investigation into "Trump University."
 
Last night, the Huffington Post reported some additional details about the simmering controversy, including a March 2014 event in which Trump opened his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for a Bondi fundraiser at a generous price.
Trump, whose personal foundation had given $25,000 to a pro-Bondi group the previous fall, did not write a check to the attorney general that night. But by hosting her at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own high-profile Florida contacts, he provided her campaign with a nice financial boost. [...]
 
The use of Mar-a-Lago alone was a donation of some value. Space at the resort is expensive to rent. Trump has charged his own presidential campaign roughly $140,000 an event for use of the resort. In contrast, the Republican Party of Florida paid only $4,855.65 for the Bondi fundraiser, cutting a check on March 25, 2014.
Even the New York Times, which has conspicuously avoided reporting on this story, has broken its silence, publishing a news article and an editorial this morning. The latter argued, among other things, "there's little doubt" that Trump and Bondi "abused the public trust."
 
With these details in mind, consider this timeline of events:

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.6.16

09/06/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Climate: "President Barack Obama has announced the U.S. will formally join a sweeping global emissions-cutting accord reached last year, boosting efforts to bring the plan into effect by the end of 2016. The Paris Agreement could well be remembered as 'the moment we finally decided to save our planet,' Obama said on Saturday in advance of the Group of 20 summit."

* Laos: "Acknowledging the scars of a secret war, Barack Obama on Tuesday said the United States has a 'moral obligation' to help Laos heal and vowed to reinvigorate relations with a country with rising strategic importance to the US."

* Afghanistan: "Twin bombings near the Afghan Defense Ministry killed at least 24 people on Monday, including two security force generals, in an attack claimed by the Taliban."
 
* Syria: "A string of explosions across Syria, most of them targeting government checkpoints, killed at least 40 people on Monday as talks between the United States and Russia on a cease-fire in the war failed."
 
* Someone wants attention again: "North Korea fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast Monday, South Korea's military said, in a show of force timed to the G-20 economic summit in China. North Korea regularly engages in missile and rocket tests, especially when international attention is turned to Northeast Asia."
 
* Chicago has already seen more murders this year than all of last year: "Thirteen people were shot to death in Chicago over the Labor Day weekend as the city logged its 500th homicide of the year according to data collected by the Tribune."
 
* Russia: "U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said."
 
* Earthquake: "A 5.6-magnitude earthquake rattled Oklahoma on Saturday, damaging buildings and tying for the strongest temblor ever recorded in the state, which has experienced a rash of earthquake activity in the past decade that U.S. seismologists have tied to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil and gas drilling."
 
* Filipino voters may not have chosen wisely: "Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed regret Tuesday over his crude remark while referring to President Barack Obama -- a rare display of contrition by a politician whose wide arc of profanities has unabashedly targeted world figures including the pope."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at a sheet of notes and talking points as he speaks during a rally in Eugene, Ore., May 6, 2016. (Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP)

Trump campaign's 'black box' leaves key questions unanswered

09/06/16 12:35PM

The Associated Press had an interesting report last week just how little work Donald Trump and his team have done when it comes to "the nitty gritty of outlining what he would do as president."
From the start, Trump has never been the kind of candidate to pore over thick policy books. Indeed, he has mocked Clinton on the subject.
 
"She's got people that sit in cubicles writing policy all day. Nothing's ever going to happen. It's just a waste of paper," he told Time Magazine in June. "My voters don't care and the public doesn't care. They know you're going to do a good job once you're there."
 
To date, Trump's campaign has posted just seven policy proposals on his website. There are 38 on Clinton's site, ranging from efforts to cure Alzheimer's disease to Wall Street and criminal justice reform.
It led CNN's Brian Stelter to flag an interesting detail over the weekend that I hadn't seen elsewhere: "Trump's site has 9,000 words of policy proposals. Clinton's site: 112,735 words."
 
Clinton herself is certainly aware of the discrepancy, recently telling voters, "I've laid out the best I could, the specific plans and ideas that I want to pursue as your president because I have this old-fashioned idea. When you run for president, you ought to tell people what you want to do as their president."
 
According to her Republican rival, this is an antiquated model to be avoided.
 
MSNBC's Chris Hayes had a series of tweets on this earlier today, and it's worth checking them out. Chris noted, for example, that Politico ran a fairly routine profile on Clinton's tech policy advisers, which stood out largely because there is no comparable group on Team Trump, which has made a deliberate decision not to build any intellectual infrastructure.
 
"[U]ltimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box," Chris concluded. "No one, probably not even Trump, knows what the hell it looks like."

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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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