Four years ago, around this time in the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney had a problem: his high-profile campaign surrogates didn't seem to care for him. It became something of a running joke after many of the Republicans tasked with singing Romney's praises struggled to show any affection or enthusiasm for their presidential candidate.
Soon after endorsing Romney, Marco Rubio, for example, said, "There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president -- but they didn't." Then-House Speaker John Boehner conceded at the time, "The American people probably aren't going to fall in love with Mitt Romney." My personal favorite was former NRCC Chairman Tom Davis, who told a national television audience, "He may not be Mr. Personality. You know, he's the guy who gives the fireside chat and the fire goes out." There were many, many others.
This year, Donald Trump has his own notable supporters who the campaign dispatches to talk up his candidacy. Among the highest profile campaign surrogates for Team Trump is former rival Ben Carson -- who was a terrible candidate, but who's an even worse ally.
BuzzFeed reported yesterday on a recent radio interview in which Carson talked to conservative host Krista Kafer, who has said she won't support Trump under any circumstances. Carson seemed sympathetic to her position.
"For me, it's about the children and the grandchildren," said Carson. "If it was just me, I would be completely where Krista is. I would say, 'Hey, I got this, I can deal with it,' but for them, I can't."
Earlier, when Kafer said Trump was a bad man, Carson said we all are. "Who isn't? Who among us isn't?" asked Carson.
Remember, the reason Carson makes media appearances like these is to persuade the public to support Trump -- who enjoys Carson's backing for reasons Carson can't seem to explain.
This interview was hardly an isolated incident. Last month, Carson suggested Trump might be a horrible president, but worst case scenario, he'd only be in office for four years. Carson has also called Trump's poll support "horrible" and his candidacy has "major defects."
Steve Kornacki reports that Montgomery Blair Sibley, the attorney for the D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, has release some of the documents in the case as he continues to obtain permission from the Supreme Court to disregard the gag order in the case and release his client's phone records. watch
Steve Kornacki shows how the large number of unbound delegates in Pennsylvania could be the key to Donald Trump's path to the Republican nomination. Rep. Charles Dent joins to discuss whether the Pennsylvania Republican political climate support's Kornacki's theory. watch
Steve Kornacki tells the story of men stranded on a deserted island who were able to draw the attention of rescuers by making a smoke signal and writing out the word HELP with palm fronds on the beach. watch
Steve Kornacki reports that the U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether a new Mississippi anti-LGBT law violates anti-discrimination policies, making it the fourth federal agency looking into the matter and putting billions of dollars in federal funds in Mississippi in jeopardy. watch
Rev. Al Sharpton talks with Steve Kornacki about the political atmosphere at the time of the passage of the 1994 crime bill and the extent to which African-Americans favored the bill now cited by activists as racist and damaging to the black community. watch
.@ScottWalker is giving away "free" presidential campaign T-shirts for a $45 donation, but he can't guarantee size or color
* Afghanistan: "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday committed to pushing reforms after his picks for attorney general and interior minister won long-sought Cabinet confirmation, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pleaded with the government's power-sharing leaders to bury their 'factional divisions' for the good of the country."
* Speaking of our peripatetic chief diplomat: "Secretary of State John Kerry attended a memorial ceremony in Hiroshima on Monday for victims of the American atomic bombing 71 years ago, becoming the highest-ranking United States administration official to visit the site of one of the most destructive acts of World War II."
* Torture: "CIA Director John Brennan told NBC News in an exclusive interview that his agency will not engage in harsh 'enhanced interrogation' practices, including waterboarding, which critics call torture -- even if ordered to by a future president."
* Good for him: "Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed two anti-discrimination executive orders related to the rights of transgender people on Thursday, contrasting recent high-profile laws in other states that been criticized for discriminating against the LGBT community."
* Fascinating research: "For poor Americans, the place they call home can be a matter of life or death."
* The labor force participation rate is climbing, which doesn't do Republican talking points any favors.
* Discouraging changes to the federal Election Assistance Commission: "For years, Republicans in statehouses have been trying to block voting rights. Now, the federal agency whose mandate is to make voting easier is also being hijacked by Republican ideologues."
Among many Republican, it's simply an article faith: Hillary Clinton will, any day now, face a criminal indictment. As the argument goes, her email server management issues aren't just a scandal, they'll actually lead to her arrest.
Even some of the Democrat's critics on the left buy into the idea that such a scenario is plausible. If my Twitter mentions are any indication, there are more than a few Bernie Sanders supporters who genuinely seem to believe Democratic voters might as well support the Vermont senator now, since his rival for the nomination is bound to end up in handcuffs.
The fact remains, however, that such a scenario is pretty far-fetched. Politico's Josh Gerstein took a closer look today at the legal circumstances, and the reasons Clinton's foes shouldn't hold their breaths.
The examination, which included cases spanning the past two decades, found some with parallels to Clinton's use of a private server for her emails, but -- in nearly all instances that were prosecuted -- aggravating circumstances that don't appear to be present in Clinton's case.
The relatively few cases that drew prosecution almost always involved a deliberate intent to violate classification rules as well as some add-on element: An FBI agent who took home highly sensitive agency records while having an affair with a Chinese agent; a Boeing engineer who brought home 2000 classified documents and whose travel to Israel raised suspicions; a National Security Agency official who removed boxes of classified documents and also lied on a job application form.
Politico's examination seems to have only been able to find one person who sincerely believes Clinton will face prosecution: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who was a prosecutor and a Justice Department official before his partisan antics made him something of a clownish joke.
Among more objective observers, the idea of Clinton facing an indictment seems, at best, implausible. This is very much in line with a recent American Prospectexamination, which reached the same conclusion.
TPM's Josh Marshall published a related piece in February, after speaking to a variety of law professors and former federal prosecutors about the Clinton story. "To a person," Josh wrote, they agreed the idea of a Clinton indictment is "very far-fetched."
So, why does such an unlikely scenario generate so much attention? I think there are probably a couple of things going on here.
In theory, Hillary Clinton arguably has the best Democratic campaign surrogate in the country: her husband. Every presidential hopeful has well known supporters, but only the Democratic frontrunner can have a two-term former president, whom many Democrats are excited to see, appear literally anywhere in the country to sing her praises.
But there are exceptions. Last week in Philadelphia, former President Bill Clinton was confronted by two Black Lives Matters protesters who pressed him on, among other things, the 1994 crime bill. By any fair assessment, the exchanges between Clinton and his critics didn't go well for the former president, who expressed some regrets over the incident a day later.
Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders appeared at an event at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he took advantage of the apparent opportunity.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticized Bill Clinton's public argument with Black Lives Matter protesters, calling his words "unacceptable." [...]
"I think that the president owes the American people an apology for trying to defend the indefensible," Sanders said.
In context, "indefensible" was apparently in reference to '90s-era rhetoric about "superpredators" -- a word coined by political scientist John DiIulio to describe a coming wave of remorseless and brutal youngsters who would soon wreak havoc on American society. (They did not, in fact, exist.)
On the surface, having the two campaigns argue about criminal-justice policy is a welcome, substantive shift from some of the nastier and more personal criticisms voters have heard of late. That said, it's unexpected for the 2016 race for the Democratic nomination would focus so much on a 22-year-old law that both of the candidates supported.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* With eight days remaining until the New York presidential primaries, a new Fox News poll shows Donald Trump in a dominant position with 54% support. John Kasich is second in the poll with 22%, followed by Ted Cruz with 15%.
* Among New York Democrats, the same poll found Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders, 53% to 37%.
* In Pennsylvania, which hosts its presidential primaries on April 26, a new Fox News poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by 11 points, 49% to 38%.
* Among Pennsylvania Republicans, the same poll found Trump far ahead of his rivals with 48%, followed by Kasich's 22% and Cruz's 20%.
* Though Sanders is no longer questioning Clinton's qualifications for the presidency, the Vermont senator yesterday said on "Meet the Press" yesterday there's something "clearly lacking" in the former Secretary of State's judgment. For her part, Clinton is starting to focus her criticisms on Trump directly. She said during a CNN interview yesterday that she doesn't have "anything negative to say" about Sanders.
* Ahead of Maryland's April 26 primary, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) ended his official neutrality yesterday and threw his support to Clinton.
It's inevitable that prominent figures in public life, most notably politicians, are occasionally going to be confronted by critics. There are, however, different ways to handle hecklers.
Last week, for example, in a north Florida coffee shop, Gov. Rick Scott (R) ran into a local woman named Cara Jennings, who had some concerns about the Republican governor's health care agenda. "You cut Medicaid so I couldn't get Obamacare. You're an a**hole," Jennings yelled. "You don't care about working people. You should be ashamed to show your face around here."
When Scott walked away, Jennings kept going. "You stripped women of access to public health care," the Florida woman added. "Shame on you, Rick Scott. We depend on those services. Rich people like you don't know what to do when poor people like us need health services -- you cut them."
MSNBC's Khorri Atkinson reported on the unexpected response from the governor's political operation: Team Scott launched an attack ad targeting the critic.
Scott's super PAC, Let's Get to Work, made the governor's statement into an attack ad calling Jennings "a terribly rude woman," a "latte liberal" and someone who "clearly has a problem."
The PAC defended Scott's record on job creation, which Jennings called into question. "Almost everybody [has a great job]," the ad says. "Except those who are sitting around coffee shops, demanding public assistance, surfing the internet and cursing at customers who come in."
The ad also said Jennings is a "former government official" who "refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance" and "calls herself an anarchist."
For the record, I know practically nothing about Cara Jennings, her career, her ideology, or her personality.
But in a story like this, I'm not sure it matters. Since when do political operations tied to elected officials go after regular, private citizens? Is there any precedent at all for a sitting governor's PAC launching an attack ad against a constituent?
On ABC's "This Week" yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Bernie Sanders about his campaign strategy at this stage of the race. The Vermont senator, making an oblique reference to his message to Democratic superdelegates, presented himself as a "stronger candidate" than Hillary Clinton. It led to an interesting exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: She's getting more votes.
SANDERS: Well, she's getting more votes. A lot of that came from the South.
Just as a matter of arithmetic, there's certainly some truth to that. Clinton, at least for now, has a sizable advantage over Sanders -- both in pledged delegates and in the raw popular vote -- in part because of several big wins from Texas to Virginia. Remove her successes in the region from the equation and the race for the Democratic nomination would obviously be very different.
The result is a provocative rhetorical pitch from Team Sanders: Clinton may be ahead, but her advantage is built on her victories in the nation's most conservative region. By this reasoning, the argument goes, Clinton's lead comes with an asterisk of sorts -- she's up thanks to wins in states that aren't going to vote Democratic in November anyway.
Stepping back, though, it's worth taking a closer look to determine whether the pitch has merit.
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.