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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) wave to the crowd June 27, 2008 in Unity, N.H. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty)

President Obama announces his support for Hillary Clinton

06/09/16 02:24PM

White House officials have made it clear for weeks that President Obama is eager to get on the campaign trail, and as the race for the Democratic nomination reaches its finish line, Obama has also signaled his excitement about endorsing Hillary Clinton.
 
Today, it became official. In a video first released online, the president formally announced his support for his former Secretary of State.
"I know how hard this job can be. That's why I know Hillary will be so good at it. In fact, I don't think there's ever been someone so qualified to hold this office," he says in the video, which was tweeted by Clinton's official Twitter account.
Obama added, "She's got the courage, the compassion, and the heart to get the job done.... I have seen her judgment. I've seen her toughness. I've seen her commitment to our values up close. And I've seen her determination to give every American a fair shot at opportunity, no matter how tough the fight -- that's what's always driven her, and still does."
 
The two Democratic leaders are wasting no time taking their new partnership on the road: Clinton and Obama have already announced they'll campaign together in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, June 15, and they're reportedly scheduling additional events in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
 
If you watch the new endorsement video, you'll notice that the president also spends a fair amount of time praising Bernie Sanders and applauding his successes. The comments followed a White House meeting this morning between Obama and the Vermont senator, which reportedly lasted more than an hour.
A campaign sign for Donald Trump is seen before an event in Lawrenceville, N.J., May 19, 2016. (Photo by John Taggart/Bloomberg/Getty)

Maybe Trump studied Campaign Management 101 at Trump U

06/09/16 12:53PM

When Donald Trump recently scheduled a speech on energy policy in Bismarck, North Dakota, many Republicans wondered why in the world he didn't pick a bigger city in a swing state. When he soon after started campaigning in California, where Republicans stand no realistic chance of winning the presidential race, GOP insiders scratched their heads once more.
 
This New York Times article today won't improve the party's confidence in Team Trump's strategic thinking.
Donald J. Trump has hired a new pollster to help him capture an elusive Republican victory in New York, his home state, two people briefed on the move said.
 
The pollster, John McLaughlin, will be focusing exclusively on New York, polling to determine what type of climb Mr. Trump would face in a state that hasn't voted for a Republican in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Though recent polls show Hillary Clinton leading Trump in hypothetical match-ups in the Empire State, the Times article added that the Republican is nevertheless "adamant" about winning New York.
 
As for how, exactly, he intends to pull this off, Trump isn't just hiring a pollster. Failed New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Trump's campaign's co-chair in the state, told CNN the campaign will prevail by "blanketing the upstate region with signs and bumper stickers."
 
You might think I'm making this up. I'm not. Hitting upstate New York with yard signs is part of the campaign's recipe for success in one of the nation's most populous states. (Carl Paladino lost his 2010 gubernatorial race in New York by 29 points. I just thought I'd mention that.)
 
Note, the same CNN report added that Republican officials in North Carolina and Michigan are "yet to hear from" anyone with the Trump campaign, and the presumptive GOP nominee "doesn't have so much as a state director" in battlegrounds such as Ohio and Colorado.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.9.16

06/09/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Ohio's last two uncommitted super-delegates announced late yesterday that they're supporting Hillary Clinton's campaign in order to respect voters' will.
 
* On a related note, MoveOn.org has backed Bernie Sanders enthusiastically throughout the Democratic race, but the progressive group said yesterday it cannot support Sanders' effort to use party insiders to overturn the results of the nominating contests.
 
* Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), at one time considered the frontrunner in Florida's Republican U.S. Senate primary, is now facing pressure to quit the Senate race and run for re-election to the House. Former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) is already running in Jolly's district and Republicans are worried about losing the competitive seat.
 
* This week, many of Donald Trump's Republican critics have preferred using "racist" as an adjective rather than a noun, but Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) went a little further yesterday: "Something that walks like a duck, talks like a duck, is likely to be a duck. If you continue to say what I believe are racist statements, you're likely to be a racist."
 
* In Pennsylvania, PPP shows Clinton leading Trump by the narrowest of margins, 41% to 40%, while Gary Johnson is at 6% and Jill Stein is at 3%. Clinton's biggest problem in the state, at least for now, is Sanders' supporters.
 
* Add Govs. Brian Sandoval (Nev.) and Scott Walker (Wis.) to the list of high-profile Republicans who are suddenly unsure whether they'll support Trump's candidacy.
 
* In Alaska, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) is supporting his in-state colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), in her primary. She's facing a challenge from a former Anchorage mayor, who's also named Dan Sullivan.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump applauds during a rally, June 2, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP)

'It showed me his heart and I didn't like what I saw'

06/09/16 11:24AM

There have been quite a few questions in recent months about how, exactly, Democrats would go after Donald Trump in a general election. It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer: he may create a "target-rich environment," but Democrats can't pursue each of the anti-Trump angles at once. They're going to need to focus.
 
But where? Is his inexperience and incompetence his most important flaw? How about his dishonesty? Or his racist outbursts? Or his private-sector failures? Or the dangers of his far-right ideas?
 
This week, we received our first real inkling of where the Democratic message is headed with an ad from Priorities USA Action, a pro-Clinton super PAC, featuring a family in Ohio. The New York Times highlighted the spot, part of a multi-million-dollar ad buy that began this week in Ohio, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada.
A husband and wife tell their story, side by side, of learning through an ultrasound that their daughter, Grace, would be born with spina bifida, a spinal condition. Images of young Grace flicker by -- as a newborn in the hospital, sleeping near a cross, smiling and offering a hug from her wheelchair -- while her parents tell of her loving personality: "She brings out the goodness in each person."
 
Twenty seconds in, the mother shifts to Mr. Trump, saying, "When I saw Donald Trump mock a disabled person, I was just shocked." A well-known clip plays in full of Mr. Trump imitating the journalist, a New York Times reporter who has a condition that limits the functioning of his joints. Then the mother offers a reproach: "The children at Grace's school all know never to mock her. And so, for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking." Visuals of Mr. Trump's imitation are played again for good measure.
Grace's father says at the end of the ad, "When I saw Donald Trump mock someone with a disability, it showed me his soul. It showed me his heart. And I didn't like what I saw."
 
The brutal, minute-long spot is available online here. It's worth noting for context that the journalist with a disability whom Trump mocked, Serge Kovaleski, was targeted because he had the audacity to point out, accurately, that Trump was lying about Muslim Americans in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11.
 
And while the ad is powerful in its own right, also note what it tells us about the broader election strategy as it relates to the presumptive Republican nominee.
Mortgage Bankers Hold Nat'l Conference in S.F

Karl Rove's failures of self-awareness reach new depths

06/09/16 10:50AM

Karl Rove argued on Fox News last night that President Obama shouldn't endorse Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign because, as the Republican operative put it, an elusive criminal indictment could be handed down at any moment. And if there's one thing Rove is concerned about, it's helping the Obama White House avoid any potential embarrassment.
 
But during the same interview, the GOP activist/pundit went a little further. From the transcript published by Lexis-Nexis:
"[If the president] were to endorse now, and something were to happen where either the former Secretary of State or some of her closest aids somehow were indicted, and/or that the FBI more likely recommended that they be indicted and the main Justice Department turned it down, believing that it lacked credibility. Then people would worry about whether this was all done because the president put his finger on the scale. [...]
 
"[T]his should have been handled early on the administration in my opinion should have called for an independent council. The American public would have had a lot more confidence in how this rolled out, regardless of what it ends up being if it were done independently as opposed to being done by this Justice Department and the FBI."
Bill Burton, a veteran of the Obama White House, explained that it's "ludicrous" to suggest the Justice Department isn't working independently of the West Wing, and that if the Justice Department were really trying to help the Clinton campaign, officials would have blown off the email "controversy" a long time ago -- a point that has the benefit of being true.
 
But let's not brush past Karl Rove's failure of self-awareness too quickly. First, while I'm sure his fascination with cabinet-level email protocols has nothing to do with a partisan agenda, let's not forget Rove was once at the center of a controversy involving ... wait for it ... missing emails during his tenure in the Bush White House.
 
Second, if there's anyone in the country who should avoid talking about potentially scandalous political influence over the Justice Department, it's Karl Rove.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. to the chamber to vote at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

McConnell tries teaching someone to 'act' like a candidate

06/09/16 10:13AM

Several years ago, I caught a few episodes of a BBC reality show called "Faking It." The idea was pretty straightforward: the show's producers would take a person with no background in a given profession, put him or her through a crash course of lessons and training, and then have him or her try to fool a panel of experts while competing against rivals who actually knew what they were doing. Surprisingly, the contestants would sometimes do pretty well.
 
Watching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talk about Donald Trump's presidential campaign, it occurred to me we're all stuck in one long, occasionally excruciating episode of "Faking It" -- better known as the 2016 presidential election.
 
Consider this comment from McConnell on CNN yesterday:
"We have an obligation here in 2016 to see if we can turn this country around. And the primary voters have selected Donald Trump to be the change agent, and what we're trying to do is to get him to act and speak like a serious presidential candidate."
Note, it goes without saying -- in McConnell's case, literally -- that Donald Trump isn't a serious presidential candidate. He's not going to become a serious presidential candidate. He will never be a serious presidential candidate.
 
But what Republican officials are "trying to do is to get him to act and speak like a serious presidential candidate."
 
In other words, in this elaborate episode of "Faking It," GOP officials are the coaches putting an amateur through a crash course before he has to compete with an actual presidential candidate who knows what she's talking about. A panel of experts -- i.e,, the American electorate -- awaits.
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) speaks during a hearing on implementation of the Affordable Care Act before the House Energy and Commerce Committee October 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

N.C. Republican is the exception that helps prove the rule

06/09/16 09:20AM

The Washington Post recently noted in passing that the 2016 campaign season is being shaped by "voter fury" and "angry voters." Slate's Jamelle Bouie called it the year's "great cliché": the notion that "there's an anti-establishment mood," driven by Americans who "just aren't going to take it anymore."
 
And yet, there's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. President Obama's approval rating, for example, has improved considerably this year, which isn't what we'd expect from a furious electorate. And while Congress' support is still woeful, congressional incumbents have fared well in 2016 primaries.
 
In fact, it's worth pausing to appreciate how well.
 
As we discussed in April, if the conventional wisdom were true, we'd expect to see furious voters, desperate for radical and revolutionary changes, kicking out congressional incumbents. After all, if the electorate believes a rotten establishment needs to be overturned, it stands to reason sitting members of Congress would be among the first to go.
 
But that's not happening at all. Kyle Kondik noted this morning in Sabato's Crystal Ball that House incumbents are "168 for 170 in primaries this year."
That's very much in line with history: More than 98% of House incumbents who sought re-nomination got it in the post-World War II era. This cycle's tally does not include California, where all 49 House incumbents who sought another term advanced to the November general election after finishing in the top-two of their all-party primaries. These are not traditional primaries, but one can consider advancing to the second round akin to winning a primary.
And what about the two incumbents who lost? Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) came up short in an April primary, not as some kind of backlash against the status quo, but because the Philadelphia-area congressman is facing a 29-count criminal indictment. The establishment, in this case, rallied behind Fattah's Democratic primary rival, who won easily.
 
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) became the first congressional Republican to lose in a primary, failing badly this week despite an endorsement from Donald Trump, but she lost to another sitting U.S. House member: they were pitted against one another as a result of redistricting.
 
All told, this isn't evidence of a throw-the-bums-out attitude; it's evidence of the opposite. Given the circumstances, Ellmers' loss this week looks like the exception that helps prove the rule.
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses during his rally at the Charleston Civic Center on May 5, 2016 in Charleston, W. Va. (Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty)

Donald Trump's 'huge and not widely understood' disadvantage

06/09/16 08:40AM

Donald Trump has all kinds of problems as a presidential candidate -- he's unpopular, he's unqualified, he knows practically nothing about government or public policy -- but at least the New York Republican is extremely wealthy. If there's one aspect of this presidential campaign that should be easy for the presumptive GOP nominee, it should be his finances.
 
Ironically, however, money is proving to be one of Trump's biggest pitfalls.
 
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Trump, who's abandoned his promises about self-financing, finds himself "reliant on party fundraisers who haven't all swung into action and aren't always in sync with his campaign promises."
 
The WSJ article quoted Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a leading fundraiser for past GOP nominees, describing Trump's fundraising disadvantage as "huge and not widely understood." Malek added, "Unless he's willing to write a huge personal check, which is unlikely, I believe Trump will have a financial disparity of $300 million to $500 million."
 
What about Trump's boasts last summer that he's prepared to spend $1 billion on the presidential race? Those claims now appear ridiculous. He has no intention of writing that kind of check; few believe he'll be able to raise anywhere close to that kind of money; and in an interview with Bloomberg Politics yesterday, Trump downplayed the figure's significance.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump distanced himself from his own fundraising estimate of $1 billion, refusing to commit to collecting even half that amount, and saying his campaign didn't need much money to win the White House.
 
Trump, who has held just two major fundraising events since agreeing three weeks ago to help the party raise cash, said he would rely instead more on his own star power as a former reality-TV personality to earn free media, and has no specific goals for how much money his campaign needs.
"There's no reason to raise that," Trump told Bloomberg Politics about raising $1 billion. "I just don't think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them."
 
If only it were that simple.
The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Iowa lawmaker has seen enough, gives up GOP allegiance

06/09/16 08:00AM

It's exceedingly rare for an elected official to abandon his or her political party, especially during a legislative session and an election year, which made this Des Moines Register story that much more noteworthy.
State Sen. David Johnson, one of the senior members of the Iowa Senate, says he has suspended his Republican Party membership to protest "the racist remarks and judicial jihad" by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. [...]
 
"I will not stand silent if the party of Lincoln and the end of slavery buckles under the racial bias of a bigot," Johnson said, referring to Trump.
It's worth noting that Johnson, a longtime state lawmaker who has always served as a Republican, did not partner with Democrats, but rather changed his voter registration to "no party."
 
His decision does not alter control of the chamber in which he serves: Iowa's state Senate already has a narrow Democratic majority, and Johnson's break with the GOP leaves the Dems' advantage unchanged.
 
It's likely that Johnson has grown increasingly frustrated over time, because veteran lawmakers don't usually walk away from their political party over a single offensive incident. One wonders, though, how many David Johnsons there are nationwide: Americans who've long considered themselves Republicans, who remember what the GOP was like before its radicalization, and who may be tempted to give up on the party in light of Trump's nomination and antics.
 
In this case, Johnson also told the Des Moines Register he's been disappointed by the GOP's timidity in criticizing Trump -- and to help prove the point, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) defended his party's presidential nominee.

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