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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Many RNC members embrace Trump's 'rigged' message

10/19/16 10:00AM

President Obama has heard Donald Trump argue that the U.S. elections process is "rigged," and he made clear at a White House press conference yesterday that such rhetoric should be rejected.

"I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to go make his case to get votes," Obama said. "If whenever things are going badly for you, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job.... I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It's unprecedented."

It was a welcome rebuke, but watching the president's comments, it was hard not to wonder why more Republicans aren't saying the same thing. Where are the GOP officials who care enough about the integrity of our voting process to defend it against absurd attacks?

Part of the problem, as Politico reported yesterday, is that too many Republicans actually think Trump is right.
Donald Trump is spending the final weeks of his presidential bid declaring he's the victim of an unprecedented vote-rigging conspiracy meant to elect Hillary Clinton.

Many top Republican Party officials agree.

Interviews with more than two dozen members of the Republican National Committee reveal abiding fears of Democratic voting fraud and widespread belief that at least part of the process or outcome is rigged.
California RNC Committeeman Shawn Steel told Politico in writing, "Should Hillary get 'elected' she is immediately delegitimized. The 1% of Wall Street Bankers, Clinton Machine and [mainstream media] including your employer, Politico, is part of a massive Left Wing Conspiracy to rig this election."

For the record, I don't think he was kidding. Some RNC members actually believe using conspiracy theories to delegitimize the results of an American election is a perfectly responsible thing to do.

Indeed, it's not just RNC members. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) expressed concerns yesterday about the integrity of his own state's elections process.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty)

Witnesses help bolster Trump accuser's claims

10/19/16 09:26AM

Donald Trump's supporters have pushed a variety of arguments in response to women who've accused him of sexual misconduct, with the candidate himself suggesting at least one of his accusers wasn't attractive enough to molest. But one of the more common lines is predictable: anyone can raise allegations, but without evidence, the claims are suspect.

At face value, it's hardly a ridiculous argument. Trump is a major-party presidential candidate with many critics, and when someone raises allegations of serious wrongdoing, it's fair to evaluate the claims, consider the accuser's credibility, review Trump's record, and look for some kind of corroboration.

In this case, it's a dynamic that may work against the Republican nominee, who has denied any wrongdoing. Not only did Trump admit on tape to doing what these women have accused him of doing, but in some cases, the women's allegations have been bolstered by witnesses who say they were told about the incidents at the time.

People magazine's Natasha Stoynoff, for example, has said Trump attacked her in 2005 in Florida after a photo shoot. The GOP candidate denied the claims and complained about Stoynoff's appearance. Yesterday, People pushed back, defending Stoynoff and publishing a piece quoting "six colleagues and close friends who corroborate" her account.
PEOPLE Editor in Chief Jess Cagle says in a statement about Stoynoff's piece, "In this week's issue of PEOPLE (which hits newsstands in New York on Wednesday), we feature a story that includes named sources who can corroborate Natasha Stoynoff's account...."

Five other witnesses also back up Stoynoff's account of her encounter with Trump.
One of the purported witnesses remembers receiving a call from Stoynoff the day after the alleged incident, and during the conversation she "detailed everything about the attack."
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Voting booths await voters in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, ahead of the Iowa primary elections.

Trump says race looks 'pretty good,' but latest polls disagree

10/19/16 08:52AM

Donald Trump told an audience in Colorado yesterday that his presidential campaign is "doing pretty good in the polls." His grammar wasn't the only problematic part of the claim.
Donald Trump would need to stage a historic comeback to win the White House in 20 days as key slices of the electorate drift away from his candidacy, according to the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll.

Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Trump by 9 percentage points in the survey of likely voters, taken after a leaked video prompted a series of women to come forward alleging the Republican made unwanted sexual advances.
According to the Bloomberg Politics poll, Clinton's nine-point advantage is consistent both in a four-way contest (47% to 38%) and in a head-to-head match-up (50% to 41%).

The same poll found Clinton with a one-point lead among men -- a constituency that's been reliably in Trump's corner all year -- and showed President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are the two most popular political figures in the country.

The Bloomberg results are roughly in line with the new Fox News poll, released overnight, which found Clinton ahead by six points in a four-way race, and seven points in a two-way race.

In terms of averages, the Huffington Post's polling aggregator now shows Clinton's national lead at eight points, her largest advantage since early August.

And while this may be discouraging for Trump's followers, the state polls are arguably worse.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Panama City, Fla. on Oct. 11, 2016. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Trailing with time running out, Trump has a new (old) proposal

10/19/16 08:00AM

Ordinarily, by the time a presidential campaign reaches mid-October, the major-party candidates have already decided on the major elements of their platform. But with time running out, Donald Trump finds himself behind in the polls, which has apparently led the Republican to start pushing a new idea.

Which is actually an old idea.
Donald Trump's Washington is shaping up to look a lot like a boardroom scene from "The Apprentice."

The GOP nominee on Tuesday told supporters [in Colorado] that he plans to tell the entrenched guard of Congress "you're fired," continuing his ethics reform push by advocating for term limits on members of Congress that would further "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C.
Term limits were all the rage in the 1990s, before many started to realize how horrible the idea is, but Trump is nevertheless vowing to "push" for a constitutional amendment -- "push" is the only option available for a president, since the White House has no role in the amendment process -- that would limit House members to 3 terms (for a total of 6 years) and senators to 2 terms (for a total of 12 years).

The Republican presidential hopeful, who was against term limits before he was for them, said the policy would help undermine "special-interest dealing" on Capitol Hill.

As is often the case, Trump has this backwards.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.18.16

10/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mosul: "The American ground force commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, said U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have momentum on their side in the battle to drive ISIS out of its Iraq stronghold, the northern city of Mosul."

* Related news: "Iraqi Kurdish forces advancing toward the northern city of Mosul paused Tuesday on the second day of a long-awaited offensive after the Islamic State mounted tough resistance in villages east of the strategic city."

* Syria: "Russian and Syrian troops suspended bombing sorties around Aleppo on Tuesday so aid convoys can reach the besieged Syrian city, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said."

* The criticism has the benefit of being true: "President Obama on Tuesday criticized Donald Trump's 'flattery' of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it an unprecedented development in American politics."

* Pennsylvania: "The mayor of a small Pennsylvania town is resigning after sparking outrage by posting images on his Facebook page comparing President Barack Obama and his family to apes and referencing a noose. The council of the borough of West York, located about 100 miles (160 km) west of Philadelphia, voted unanimously on Monday to accept Mayor Charles Wasko's offer to step down, council President Shawn Mauck said."
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US President Barack Obama speaks at a Hillary for America campaign event, Oct. 14, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Obama offers Trump some good advice: 'Stop whining'

10/18/16 02:27PM

For a guy who enjoys boasting about his "strength" and "toughness," Donald Trump has a bad habit of whining. When the Republican presidential nominee isn't complaining about the nefarious forces he perceives as his enemies (journalists, GOP leaders, microphones, Democrats, members of the "global power structure," et al), Trump is expressing his dissatisfaction with those he sees as uncooperative (pollsters, the Commission on Presidential Debates, Emmy voters, et al).

Reactions to this tend to be a matter of personal taste: Trump's followers seem to relate to his near-constant complaining, while Trump's critics are less impressed. But when the Republican candidate started insisting that the American elections process is "rigged" against him, the complaints raised a different kind of alarm: Trump's misguided rhetoric is arguably dangerous if it baselessly undermines public confidence in the American democratic system.

To their credit, some notable Republican officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have pushed back, saying publicly that there's simply no reason to question the integrity of the U.S. voting process. Today, President Obama weighed in on the same subject -- in a rather direct way.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday downplayed Donald Trump's suggestion that November's election is "rigged," and said the GOP presidential nominee needs to toughen up.

"I'd advise Mr. Trump to stop whining and try to go make his case to get votes," Obama said at a White House news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

"If whenever things are going badly for you, you start blaming somebody else, then you don't have what it takes to be in this job," Obama continued. "There are a lot of time things don't go our way or my way ... that's OK, you fight through it."
At the same press conference, the president added, "I have never seen in my lifetime, or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It's unprecedented,"

That happens to be true. As we discussed yesterday, there's simply no precedent for anything like this in the American tradition. Voters have never seen a major-party presidential nominee go to such lengths to undermine confidence in their own country's voting system -- without any proof whatsoever -- intentionally trying to delegitimize an election before it occurs.

But also note how Obama lowered the boom: "It doesn't really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you'd want out of a president."
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University, Oct. 9, 2016, in St. Louis, Mo. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

In 2016, 'basic facts' are the subject of major disagreements

10/18/16 12:37PM

The Pew Research Center published an interesting report last week, noting more than 80% of Americans believe partisans "not only disagree over plans and policies, but also disagree on 'basic facts.'" This was, as the report noted, a widely held belief: "Comparably large shares of registered voters who back Clinton (80%) and Trump (81%) say the two sides are unable to agree on basic facts."

Ironically, one of the only areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans is that the other side lives in its own reality.

Pew's findings were well timed. The day those results were published, Politico published this report:
The latest Marketplace-Edison Research survey shows economic anxiety is up to 36 from 30 a year ago (the scale runs 0-100). But that's not the depressing part of the poll's findings.

It's this: 25 percent of Americans "completely distrust the economic data reported by the federal government, including statistics like the unemployment rate, the number of jobs added, and the amount of consumer spending." Perhaps unsurprisingly, that number soars to 48 percent of Donald Trump supporters compared to just 5 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters.
As discouraging as this is, the results are helpful in understanding why contemporary debates are so frustrating.

A reality-based observer might note, for example, that the unemployment rate has dropped sharply under President Obama. And the budget deficit has shrunk. And border security has tightened as the number of undocumented immigrants entering the United States has declined. And government spending has leveled off. And murder rates are down. And voter fraud hardly ever happens anywhere in the United States.

Many rank-and-file conservatives will, with great sincerity, insist that each of these claims is wrong. These folks are mistaken, of course, and reality-based observers might point to official evidence to prove their point, but that won't work -- because much of the right "completely distrusts" data reported by the federal government.

Indeed, it must be terribly frustrating for conservatives to be stuck in something akin to a state of Cartesian confusion: independent news organizations, citing official data, will routinely tell the public about important developments surrounding, say, job creation. But for much of the right, independent media outlets are corrupt and untrustworthy; official figures from the government are extension of some kind of conspiracy to mislead the public; and they know in their guts that job creation is collapsing, evidence be damned.
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.18.16

10/18/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, was asked yesterday on MSNBC about her candidate criticizing the appearance of some of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct. "It's not how I would answer the question," Conway conceded.

* Though Team Trump appeared prepared to give up on Virginia as recently as last week, the Republican campaign is apparently now launching a $2 million investment in the commonwealth, despite polls showing Hillary Clinton well ahead.

* After the Clinton campaign released a video criticizing Trump's associations with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Jones responded yesterday by reiterating his belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories. Perhaps most notably, Jones added, "Trump knows about 9/11."

* During a debate in Florida last night, Marco Rubio was pressed on whether or not he'll serve a full six-year term, ruling out an expected presidential campaign in 2020. The incumbent senator's answer wasn't quite as direct as it should have been.

* In North Carolina's closely watched U.S. Senate race, the new CNN poll found incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) ahead by only one point over Deborah Ross (D), 48% to 47%.

* The same poll found Catherine Cortez Masto (D) with a surprisingly healthy seven-point lead over Joe Heck (R) in Nevada's U.S. Senate race, 52% to 45%.

* A guy in California joked over the weekend that he's an Ohio mailman who's been "ripping up absentee ballots that vote for Trump." Conservative media embraced the joke as real, including Rush Limbaugh, who condemned major news organizations for failing to take the story seriously.

* The Republican National Committee has reached out to party officials in Alabama, urging them to volunteer to work in nearby Florida in the election season's closing weeks (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).

* Wendy Day, a prominent figure in the Michigan Republican Party, was ousted from her post yesterday for refusing to support Trump's presidential campaign.
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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Trump eyes Putin for his post-election transition plans

10/18/16 11:00AM

It's a bizarre set of circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not at all popular with the American mainstream, appears to be taking steps to intervene in the U.S. presidential election, including stealing and releasing Democratic emails in order to boost Donald Trump. It's against this backdrop that the Republican candidate has repeatedly praised and defended the Russian autocrat.

Given this, it's tempting to assume Trump would try to avoid drawing more attention to his pro-Putin attitudes. But as this New York Times report suggests, Trump apparently can't help himself.
Donald J. Trump suggested on Monday that Hillary Clinton was too "tough" in her language about Russia, and said that if he won the election, he might meet with President Vladimir V. Putin before being sworn in.

Mr. Trump made the remarks in an interview with the conservative radio host Michael Savage, who repeatedly affirmed Mr. Trump's recent claims that the mainstream media was attempting to thwart him.
Trump wasn't subtle about his perspective, complaining that Democrats shouldn't "insult" Putin so frequently, and Hillary Clinton in particular "shouldn't be talking so tough" about Russia.

Looking ahead, as Media Matters' audio clip shows, Trump added, "If I win on Nov. 8, I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration."

The GOP nominee may not fully appreciate just how provocative this is.
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