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Gov. Nathan Deal speaks at a news conference in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 in Atlanta.

Nathan Deal stumbles on Dream Act question

08/29/14 12:44PM

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is in the middle of a tough re-election fight, which is coinciding with some unresolved ethics allegations. Stories like these probably won't help.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is being strongly criticized after he told a Hispanic student that he "presumed" she was an undocumented immigrant who came into the U.S. as a child.
Addressing the topic of immigration at a University of Georgia forum Tuesday night, Deal reportedly looked at Lizbeth Miranda when he made his remarks.
"There's a fundamental problem that can only be solved at the Congressional level and that is to deal with the issue of children, and I presume you probably fit the category, children who were brought here," Deal said, according to CBS 46.
Well, "presumptions" can be dangerous in this line of work.
In this case, the student at the University of Georgia forum quickly explained, "I'm not an illegal immigrant. I'm not," she said. "I don't know why you would have thought that I was undocumented. Was it because I look Hispanic?"
The governor, backpedaling, replied, "I apologize if I insulted you. I did not intend to."
Deal's spokesperson later said the governor was directing his comments to a different student at the time.
A video of the exchange is below, and while the camera angle isn't ideal, the audio is pretty clear. Even if we give the governor the benefit of the doubt on which student he was speaking to -- a contentious point, to be sure -- there's a substantive problem to keep in mind: Deal's eagerness to pass responsibility onto Congress is flawed.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.29.14

08/29/14 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* How competitive is Kansas' gubernatorial race? Gov. Sam Brownback (R) released an internal poll yesterday that showed him leading Paul Davis (D) by only one point, 43% to 42%.
* Moving quickly, has a new ad targeting Joni Ernst (R) in Iowa's U.S. Senate race, making use of her recent remarks crediting the Koch brothers' network for her political standing. That news only came to public light a few days ago.
* On a related note, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched a new ad of its own in Iowa, highlighting Ernst's support for Medicare cuts.
* In Michigan's U.S. Senate race, the EPIC-MRA poll shows Rep. Gary Peters (D) maintaining his lead over Terri Lynn Land (R), 45% to 39%.
* The increasingly erratic Boston Globe poll in Massachusetts' gubernatorial race shows Charlie Baker (R) edging past Martha Coakley (D) for the first time, 38% to 37%.
* Democrats on the national level haven't shown any interest in Maine's U.S. Senate race, where incumbent Sen. Susan Collis (R) is a heavy favorite, but Democracy for America is nevertheless launching some new ads in support of Shenna Bellows (D), Collins' progressive challenger.
This photo posted on the website shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in November, 2012.

ISIS believed to have waterboarded hostages

08/29/14 11:34AM

NBC News reported this morning that American journalist James Foley was tortured by his ISIS captors, and the abuses included the use of waterboarding. The initial reporting came yesterday from the Washington Post.
At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.
James Foley was among the four who were waterboarded several times by Islamic State militants who appeared to model the technique on the CIA's use of waterboarding to interrogate suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
NBC News added that the terrorists "appeared to be deliberately imitating" the torture technique embraced by the Bush/Cheney administration, which came up with the "enhanced interrogation technique" euphemism to justify waterboarding detainees.
President Obama outlawed the use of waterboarding and related torture techniques in his administration soon after taking office in 2009.
The Post's report, quoting a person with direct knowledge of what happened to the hostages said of the Islamic State militants, "They knew exactly how it was done."
Women hold up signs during a women's pro-choice rally on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.

GOP poll: women see Republicans as 'intolerant,' 'stuck in the past'

08/29/14 11:09AM

In the 2012 elections, you didn't need to be a polling expert to realize Republicans struggled with women voters. After the "war on women" became a commonly recognized phrase, driven entirely by the GOP's actual policy agenda, Democratic candidates thrived thanks in large part to a growing gender gap.
Republican Party leaders were determined to do better. So far, they've failed.
A detailed report commissioned by two major Republican groups -- including one backed by Karl Rove -- paints a dismal picture for Republicans, concluding female voters view the party as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion" and "stuck in the past."
Women are "barely receptive" to Republicans' policies, and the party does "especially poorly" with women in the Northeast and Midwest, according to an internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report obtained by POLITICO. It was presented to a small number of senior aides this month on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources.
The sponsors of the poll matter -- the right isn't in a position to complain about "skewed" results when it's Republicans conducting a poll about perceptions of Republicans.
Reading the report, it's clear that neither party in Washington is especially popular right now, but the Politico report added, "Female voters who care about the top four issues -- the economy, health care, education and jobs -- vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Most striking, Democrats hold a 35-point advantage with female voters who care about jobs and a 26 percent advantage when asked which party is willing to compromise."
Asked about the findings, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus told msnbc yesterday that his party should approach women's issues with a better "tone."
It suggests he's still missing the more salient, substantive point.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., July 10, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Dems' unexpected dilemma in Kansas

08/29/14 10:27AM

There's no shortage of competitive U.S. Senate races to watch this year, and with control of the chamber on the line, the stakes are obviously very high. But arguably the most interesting race is one that few even considered when the 2014 cycle got underway.
The political landscape in Kansas is already unexpectedly volatile, with incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) struggling badly in his bid for a second term, despite Kansas' ruby-red reputation. But more striking still is longtime incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who was assumed to be a shoo in, but who finds himself in a messy contest.
After narrowly avoiding a primary upset against a political novice, the 78-year-old incumbent, who's been in Congress for over three decades and who no longer owns a home in the state he represents, is in a close, four-way contest. The latest PPP poll found Roberts ahead with 32%, followed by Democrat Chad Taylor at 25%, independent Greg Orman at 23%, and Libertarian Randall Batson at 3%.
In case it's not obvious, when a multi-term Republican incumbent is polling at 32% -- in a red state, in a strong year for the GOP -- he has a problem.
The question is what Democrats can and should do about it. Sean Sullivan explained today that the unexpected circumstances have presented Dems "with an intriguing, if delicate, opportunity to shift the race in their favor, and help themselves in the battle for the Senate majority."
Roberts's Democratic challenger is Chad Taylor, a little-known Shawnee County district attorney who has waved off help from national Democrats, despite raising little money on his own. Independent candidate Greg Orman, a former Democrat who says he is open to aligning himself with either party in the Senate, has raised more money and has the potential to tap his personal wealth for further reinforcements. [...]
Therein lies the Democratic dilemma: Do they passively help Orman, as they did with now-Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in 2012 -- or perhaps more aggressively encourage Taylor to end his campaign? Or is neither option worth the risk, since Orman -- who also happens to be a former Republican -- could still caucus with GOP, if elected?
This isn't an easy call.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during The Family Leadership Summit, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.

Louisiana's Jindal sues over Common Core, despite previous support

08/29/14 09:45AM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) loved the Common Core education standards. He embraced them, decided to implement them, persuaded his state's education officials to adopt them, and even sought federal funds to incorporate them into Louisiana's curricula.
Then, however, Jindal discovered just how much the Republican Party's far-right base disliked Common Core, at which point the governor (and likely presidential candidate) decided it was time for a reversal: Jindal abandoned the same education policy he'd previously championed.
But apparently, a rhetorical reversal only goes so far. This week, the conservative Republican went just a little further to demonstrate his opposition to the standards he recently supported.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday accusing the U.S. Department of Education of illegally coercing states to adopt the Common Core academic standards by requiring states that want to compete for federal grants to embrace the national standards.
Jindal also accused the department and Education Secretary Arne Duncan of forcing states to adopt the Common Core standards to win a waiver from some of the restrictive aspects of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law.
The governor now claims Louisiana has been illegally coerced, but as the Washington Post's report added, 'When Louisiana applied multiple times for a grant under Obama's Race to the Top program, Jindal never mentioned overreach, illegality or coercion. His state superintendent of education at the time wrote to the U.S. Department of Education "we proudly submit this application to Race to the Top because Louisiana's children can't wait.'"

If Jindal is so opposed to the standards he used to support, why doesn't he just pull out of Common Core altogether? The governor tried that, but state lawmakers wouldn't let him -- Jindal was so persuasive in pitching Common Core on the merits, the legislature, the state education board, and the Jindal Administration's education superintendent all remain Common Core backers.

Of course, none of them are preparing a run for national office and looking for ways to pander to far-right activists.
Tom Corbett

Pennsylvania's Corbett strikes deal to expand Medicaid

08/29/14 08:45AM

Republicans expect to have a successful year in 2014 congressional races, but the gubernatorial terrain looks far less favorable. A fascinating analysis this week found that incumbent GOP governors who've accepted Medicaid expansion are in far better electoral shape than Republicans who refused to embrace the health care policy.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has been in the latter category -- the Republican had balked at Medicaid expansion and he's trailing badly in most polls -- though as Greg Sargent reported yesterday, the governor just announced a big shift.
In another sign that the politics of Obamacare continue to shift, the Medicaid expansion is now all but certain to come to another big state whose Republican governor had previously resisted it: Pennsylvania.
The federal government has approved Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's application for the state's own version of the Medicaid expansion, without a handful of the conditions Corbett had hoped to impose.... Corbett just announced that he will accept the expansion that has been offered, perhaps with some last-minute changes -- expanding coverage and subsidies to as many as half a million people.
As a substantive matter, this is an important breakthrough. Pennsylvania is the nation's sixth-largest state by population, and with a stroke of the governor's pen, nearly 500,000 low-income adults are poised to gain access to medical care. For many, this may ultimately be a life-saving policy.
Corbett's move also means there are now 27 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have embraced Medicaid expansion, including every state in the Northeast except Maine.
As for the politics, it's fascinating to see the degree to which health care politics have been turned on their ear. Here we have a Republican governor, down in the polls, looking to improve his standing with voters. What does he do? Corbett runs towards the Affordable Care Act, not away from it. For all the assumptions about "Obamacare" being an electoral albatross, the evidence to the contrary keeps getting in the way.
Indeed, this is arguably part of an important emerging pattern.
President Obama Delivers Statement At The White House

Obama crafting plan for ISIS threat in Syria

08/29/14 08:02AM

For good or ill, President Obama sometimes offers candid, shorthand assessments without much regard for how they'll be perceived by the political world -- or how easily the comments might be taken out of context. From a distance, I get the sense he just doesn't care what offhand phrase might send the Beltway into a tizzy and generate a half-dozen Politico items. After nearly six years on the job, Obama just seems to have bigger things on his mind.
But those of us who regularly swim in these waters -- and who've internalized Republican talking points to the point at which we can visualize Fox News segments before they even air -- tend to see the pointless uproars coming.
Take yesterday, for example.
President Obama pushed back against media reports of planned U.S. military action against ISIS in Syria on Thursday, stressing that the administration is still determining the next steps to take in the region.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Obama said at a Thursday press conference, adding that there would be "military, political, and economic components" to the fight against ISIS.
The moment the six-word sound bite was uttered, you could almost feel the manufactured outrage take shape, which is a shame because in context, this latest shocking development wasn't especially shocking.
Look at the transcript. A reporter asked the president, "Do you need Congress' approval to go into Syria?" Obama's obvious point was to challenge the premise of the question -- to assume that the United States is poised to use military force in Syria is premature. The Obama administration has already spent three weeks launching several dozen airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, but because Syria is a much different story, the White House is still consulting with allies and talking with Pentagon officials about the next step.
And in a nutshell, that's the story. That's the basis for the latest political-world uproar. A reporter asked whether Congress needs to approve a mission in Syria and the president said there is not yet a mission to approve. Why is this scandalous? It isn't.

Ferguson firing and other headlines

08/29/14 07:58AM

One officer resigns, another is fired after actions taken during Ferguson protests. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)

Autopsy results released on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett. (Tulsa World)

Lawyers present closing arguments in the Bob McDonnell trial today. (Richmond Times Dispatch)

U.S. identifies citizens joining rebels in Syria, including ISIS. (NY Times)

Putin commends the "New Russia" militia in Ukraine. (NY Times)

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Middle class voices boost political ad clout

Middle class voices boost political ad clout

08/28/14 10:47PM

Rick Tyler, former director of the "Winning Our Future" superPAC, talks with Rachel Maddow about the effective use of middle class, working Americans in political advertisements, like those being run by Michelle Nunn against David Perdue in Georgia. watch