Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump nationally by eight points, 50% to 42%. That's a slight change from her nine-point advantage in the same poll a week ago.
* While addressing the issue of election "poll watchers" at an event in Ohio last night, Trump told supporters, "[W]hen I say 'watch,' you know what I'm talking about, right? You know what I'm talking about. I think you gotta go out and you gotta watch."
* Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer is intervening in Arizona's GOP Senate primary, hoping to boost Kelli Ward in her race against Sen. John McCain with a six-figure investment. The primary is a week from today, but early voting is already underway in the state.
* In Ohio, the latest Monmouth University poll shows Clinton leading Trump in the Buckeye State, 43% to 39%, with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 10%.
* The same poll found incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) in good shape against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), 48% to 40%.
* It's a bit of an outlier, but a new Roanoke College Poll shows Clinton with a 19-point lead over Trump in Virginia, 55% to 36%. With third-party candidates in the mix, the Democrat's lead shrinks to a still-dominant 16 points.
* The Associated Press researched the social media accounts of Trump's paid campaign staffers and found that they've written "Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war."
* James Glassman, a former State Department official in the Bush/Cheney administration, and the founder of the George W. Bush Institute, yesterday became the latest high-profile Republican to announce his support for Clinton's presidential candidacy.
Michele Bachmann may no longer be in Congress, but that doesn't mean she's withdrawn from the arena. On the contrary, to hear the far-right Minnesotan tell it, she has a role in the Republican presidential campaign as a policy adviser to Donald Trump.
Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann says she is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on foreign policy.
The former Minnesota congresswoman attended a fundraiser in the state for Trump on Saturday, where she revealed to the press that she has his ear on foreign policy.
"[Trump] recognizes there is a threat around the world, not just here in Minnesota, of radical Islam," Bachmann told Minnesota Public Radio.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, there's a good reason: Bachmann was already identified as a Trump adviser in June, when the Republican nominee announced the creation of an "executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America."
The name at the top of the alphabetical list: Michele Bachmann.
The violent crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago rattled the country in a variety of ways, but one of the lasting debates focused on the militarization of local law enforcement. Many Americans weren't just shocked by the unrest; they were surprised to see police officers carrying weapons of war while confronting civilians.
Soon after, there was considerable interest on Capitol Hill about reforming the Pentagon's "1033" program that makes military equipment available to police departments. Though most of the support for changes was spearheaded by Democrats -- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) were particularly invested -- even some Republican lawmakers agreed it was time to take another look at the policy.
Congressional action never materialized, but as we discussed last year, the Obama administration followed through, banning the transfer of at least some types of military weapons to local police.
As Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday, Donald Trump wants to undo what President Obama has done.
Police union members in Ohio today quizzed Donald Trump about protective gear, saying President Obama has banned practice of sales of surplus military equipment to police department.
Trump says he would resume such sales, saying "Yes, I would. I think it's ridiculous" the practice was stopped.
Keep in mind, under the White House's reforms, items like grenade launchers are no longer made available to local police departments. NBC News' reported last May that if local departments "want other, less-imposing military equipment, local law enforcement agencies will have to submit to stringent federal oversight and restrictions."
Can a misleading debate cause widespread public confusion? Of course it can. Take this Gallup report, released yesterday, for example.
The survey ... asked Americans about their general concern that ineligible voters would cast votes.... Americans are fairly split on their degree of concern about votes being cast by people who, by law, are not eligible to vote. More than a third view it as a major problem (36%), while nearly as many view it as either a minor problem (32%) or not a problem at all (29%).
A majority of Republicans (52%) perceive voter fraud as a major problem, which is reflected in the policy stances of many GOP state governors. By contrast, just 26% of Democrats expect ineligible persons voting to be a major problem this year. Southerners (42%) are more likely than those in other regions to view it as a major problem. The South is the most Republican region in the country, and the only region where some variation of a voter ID law is in effect in every state.
In general, I don't much blame Republican voters for getting this wrong. Instead, I blame GOP leaders who've convinced rank-and-file voters to believe something that isn't true.
Because as a practical matter, Republicans have been told so many times over the years about the scourge of widespread "voter fraud" -- by GOP officials and prominent media conservatives -- that much of the public is bound to believe that there's a legitimate problem affecting the outcome of elections.
Except, there isn't. Objective evidence makes clear that this "fraud" hardly exists, doesn't affect elections, and remains a made-up problem in search of unnecessary solutions. Republican leaders see electoral value in imposing new voting restrictions that help give the GOP an edge, and to justify these hurdles, they have to manufacture a crisis that's largely imaginary.
The result is another installment in the "reality gap" file.
Donald Trump's newfound interest in reaching out to African-American voters is off to a bumpy start, but last night in Akron, Ohio, he expanded his message a bit.
Hoping to make the case that the status quo is untenable, the Republican presidential candidate insisted that current crime levels have reached a level "nobody's seen." Trump added, "You can go to war zones in countries that we're fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities."
But, Trump said moments later, if he's elected, all of these concerns will simply go away. From the transcript pulled together by CBS News' Sopan Deb:
"I will straighten it out. I'll bring jobs back. We'll bring spirit back. We'll get rid of the crime. You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot. Look at the statistics."
This echoes the themes and fears the Republican nominee emphasized during his convention speech last month, but if one takes the candidate's advice and "look at the statistics," it becomes clear that Trump has no idea what he's talking about.
Hallie Jackson, NBC News correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the confusing explanation from the Donald Trump campaign about the cancellation of an immigration speech and what Trump's immigration policy is since he met with immigration leaders over the weekend. watch
Rachel Maddow looks at the racist roots of some of the people guiding Donald Trump's immigration policy and how that contrasts with Trump's desire to woo Latino voters, resulting in a confusing mess. watch
Joshua Green, national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, talks with Rachel Maddow about the awkward situation of Donald Trump having to work with the RNC while hiring Steve Bannon, who has worked in opposition to GOP establishment leaders, to head his campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow looks at cancelled campaign stops, contradictory messaging on immigration policy, and genuinely peculiar spending by the Trump campaign and wonders if the campaign is suffering from some internal confusion. watch
* Louisiana: "Twenty-two districts across a vast swath of southern Louisiana were forced to close last week by a historic flood, delaying or interrupting the start of the school year for tens of thousands of children." Some will remain closed indefinitely.
* Legal setback: "A federal judge on Sunday blocked the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines that were intended to expand restroom access for transgender students across the country."
* Virginia: "During a noon ceremony at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he has restored the rights of more than 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis. The governor also detailed his rights-restoration process for other felons who have completed their terms."
* Turkey: "The wedding on Saturday night was winding down, and some guests had already left. But the music was still playing and people were still dancing in the narrow streets of Gaziantep, a city not far from the Syrian border. Just then a child -- no more than 14 years old, Turkey's president said later -- meandered into the gathering and detonated a vest of explosives."
* The virtues of discretion: "A week after allowing Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from a base inside its borders, Iran reversed course on Monday and withdrew permission for the flights, complaining that the Kremlin had been too public about the arrangement."
* Arizona: "A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his aides to the U.S. Attorney's Office, requesting that they be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court."
* Supreme Court: "For those envisioning a line of moving vans at the Supreme Court and a new president immediately reordering life at the marble palace, this small splash of cold water: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, has already hired the four clerks who will assist her through June 2018."
Perhaps no issue has defined Donald Trump's presidential candidacy as much as his hardline stance on immigration. The Republican nominee, embracing the kind of nativism modern national candidates have generally avoided, has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate immigrants and their allies with talk of mass deportations, bans, and walls.
With that in mind, it's something of a surprise to suddenly hear some mixed signals from Team Trump on the matter. The Washington Postreported this morning:
Donald Trump's campaign wavered Sunday on whether he would continue to call for the mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, the latest in a series of sometimes-clumsy attempts to win over moderate GOP voters without alienating millions who have flocked to his hardline views.
After insisting for more than a year that all illegal immigrants "have to go," Trump met with a newly created panel of Hispanic advisers on Saturday and asked for other ideas -- making clear that his position is not finalized, according to two attendees.
To be sure, there's been no explicit shift from the candidate, and there are no exact quotes from Trump's weekend gathering with Hispanic advisers.
Last November, however, Trump said on MSNBC that he would use "a deportation force" to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants. Yesterday, when CNN's Dana Bash asked Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway about whether or not "a deportation force" is part of the candidate's plan, Conway replied, "To be determined."
Around the same time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Trump confidant and prominent anti-immigration voice on Capitol Hill, appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" and was asked about Trump' deportation plans. "He's wrestling with how to do that," the Alabama Republican said.
On "Fox & Friends" this morning, Trump himself insisted, "No, I'm not flip flopping. We want to come up with a really fair, but firm answer. It has to be very firm. But we want something fair."
I don't know what that means. I'm reasonably confident Donald Trump doesn't know, either.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump's first television ad of the general election focuses on immigrants and refugees, but according to a Politicoreport, as recently as the middle of last week, Trump aides determined their first spot would be devoted to "an economic message." It's unclear exactly who changed the plan the next day.
* David Nierenberg, the former chairman of Mitt Romney's national finance committee, is the latest Republican to throw his support to Hillary Clinton.
* There's some question in Indiana as to whether or not former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), hoping to reclaim his old Senate seat, still has an active voter registration in the state.
* Evan McMullin, running a conservative independent presidential candidacy, has reportedly qualified for the ballot in Iowa and Louisiana. He's also slated to appear on the ballot in Colorado and Utah.
* On a related note, Green Party nominee Jill Stein tried to get on the presidential ballot in Georgia, but she appears to have come up short.
* After complaining about a local story published in Naples, Florida congressional candidate Dan Bongino (R) "went on a screaming, profanity-laced tirade Sunday during a telephone call" with Politico yesterday.
At a campaign event in California in June, Donald Trump looked out at a supportive audience and, for some reason, felt the need to single out one person. "Look at my African American over here," the Republican presidential hopeful said, raising eyebrows.
It's hard to say with confidence why, exactly, the GOP candidate made this comment, though it may have had something to do with a degree of surprise. Most Trump supporters are white, and he was likely pleased to see a person of color in the crowd.
Trump, however, has high hopes for the future. At a rally on Friday afternoon, Trump not only predicted a 2016 victory, he also aimed high for the 2020 race: "At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you."
Just to put that number in context, exit polls show President Obama won roughly 93% of African Americans' support four years ago. Trump, who's generally received between 0% to 2% of the black vote in recent polling, "guarantees" and "promises" that he'll be even more popular with this constituency when he runs for a second term.
But as the Washington Postreported, that's not all Trump said about African-American voters at his Michigan rally.
"Look at how much African American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?" he asked. "You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?"
If the Republican nominee believes this is going to boost his vote totals, he's likely to be disappointed.
Plenty of Republicans have complained bitterly about the recent U.S. payment to Iran, but few went quite as far as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The Republican senator, in the middle of a tough re-election fight, has long been a fierce critic of international nuclear diplomacy with Iran, but Kirk appeared to push the rhetorical envelope last week while speaking to the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill.
The administration used the term "leverage" to say why it held back delivery of the money it said was owed to Iran because of an arms deal in the 1970s until hostages were released.
Kirk, talking to the editorial board of The State Journal-Register on Tuesday, was critical of the cash payment.
"We can't have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief," Kirk said, "giving clean packs of money to a ... state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East.... We're going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them."
It didn't take long for some to note the racial overtones of a senator referring to President Obama as a "drug dealer in chief."
I'm also not altogether clear on the point Kirk was trying to make. Drug dealers give "clean packs of money"? To whom? What exactly is the similarity between Iranian diplomacy and dealing drugs?
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.