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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.24.16

08/24/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* On Fox News last night, Donald Trump said of his immigration plans, "There certainly can be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people." Beyond vague statements like these, however, no specific changes have been made to the Republican candidate's platform.
 
* In Missouri, the latest Monmouth University poll shows a surprisingly close presidential race in the Show-Me State, with Trump narrowly leading Hillary Clinton, 44% to 43%. Missouri has voted Republican in each of the last four cycles.
 
* On a related note, that same poll found incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) ahead by five over Jason Kander (D), 48% to 43%.
 
* As for Missouri's gubernatorial race, Monmouth found state Attorney General Chris Koster (D) with a surprisingly large 11-point advantage over businessman Eric Greitens (R), despite most other recent polling showing a far more competitive contest.
 
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest PPP poll out of Utah, where Clinton recently opened a campaign office, found Trump ahead, 39% to 24%.
 
* Sen. Kelly Ayotte's (R) new ad in New Hampshire seems quite similar to an ad Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) ran in North Dakota in 2012.
 
* The Koch network hasn't taken much of an interest in the presidential race, but it's launched a new attack ad in Ohio blasting Clinton and Senate hopeful Ted Strickland (D).
 
* Republicans pounced yesterday when former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), hoping to reclaim his old seat, told reporters his home in Indiana is located on "Canterbury Court," though it's actually found on "Canterbury Square."
 
* Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) isn't just a member of the GOP's #NeverTrump caucus; he's also urging party officials to give up on Trump and invest in congressional races.
Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Carson wants scrutiny of 'elderly' candidates (including Trump)

08/24/16 11:00AM

It's a detail that's gone largely overlooked: if this year goes his way, Donald Trump would be the oldest president ever elected in American history. In 1981, Ronald Reagan was just days shy of his 70th birthday when he was inaugurated, but Trump became a septuagenarian earlier this summer.
 
Of course, given that Hillary Clinton is only a couple of years younger than the Republican nominee, few have been inclined to make much of a fuss about this issue. It came as something of a surprise, then, to see Ben Carson on MSNBC this morning, using the e-word.
Both "elderly" major party candidates for President should publicly release their full medical histories, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on Wednesday morning.
 
"I think that somebody who is running for President of the United States, particularly if they're elderly, and that would include both candidates, should disclose their medical history," Carson, a surrogate for Trump's campaign, said. Trump is 70 years old and Hillary Clinton is 68.
Carson is quite the campaign surrogate, isn't he?
 
For the record, the Clinton campaign released a two-page letter last summer from Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton's personal physician for the last 15 years, summarizing the candidate's medical history, which included "a deep vein thrombosis in 1998 and 2009, seasonal allergies, and a concussion in 2012."
 
The doctor wrote, "Mrs. Clinton is a healthy female with hypothyroidism and seasonal allergies, on long-term anticoagulation. She participates in a healthy lifestyle and has had a full medical evaluation, which reveals no evidence of additional medical issues or cardiovascular disease. Her cancer screening evaluations are all negative. She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States."
 
Several months later, the Trump campaign released a much shorter -- and unintentionally hilarious -- letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who said he's been Trump's personal physician since 1980. The doctor insisted the Republican candidate's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and his recent lab tests results were "astonishingly excellent."
 
Bornstein added, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
 
And who is Dr. Harold Bornstein? I'm glad you asked.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks concerning House Bill 2 while speaking during a government affairs conference in Raleigh, N.C., May 4, 2016. (Photo by Gerry Broome/AP)

NC's McCrory still struggling to defend controversial HB 2

08/24/16 10:00AM

Four years ago, Republican Pat McCrory cruised to an easy victory in his gubernatorial campaign. This year is proving to be far more difficult.
 
Recent polling suggests the GOP incumbent is in a very tight race against state Attorney General Roy Cooper -- three polls since early July show the Democrat in the lead -- and McCrory is still having to deal with the fallout of his controversial anti-LGBT law, generally known as HB 2.
 
The national blowback to the culture-war measure took a toll on McCrory's political standing, but WRAL in Raleigh reported yesterday that the governor's re-election campaign is defending the policy in a curious new television ad.
The campaign rolled out [an] ad with no announcement or discernable social media push. That ad features a sexual abuse survivor and slams Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running against McCrory, for not defending House Bill 2, a measure which, among other things, requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding with their birth gender.
 
"At nine, I was molested by a teenager," a woman named Gina Little says in the ad, titled "The Truth About Roy Cooper."
 
"When I found out that President Obama and Roy Cooper want to force school children to share the same locker room, shower and restroom with someone who claims to be the opposite sex, I was horrified," Little says. The ad goes on to praise McCrory's efforts to defend House Bill 2 against a federal lawsuit.
The governor's team has had months to come up with a strong defense for HB 2. If this ad is the best McCrory's aides have come up with, that's not a good sign.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband former president Bill Clinton greet guests at the end of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Oct. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Clinton Foundation story offers smoke, but no fire

08/24/16 09:01AM

The report from the Associated Press yesterday came with a headline designed to raise eyebrows: "More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation." The story's lede leaves no doubt that the AP believes it's uncovered something resembling wrongdoing:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
The proportion is considered "extraordinary" because, well, apparently the Associated Press says so.
 
But right off the bat, the first sentence undercuts the provocative headline: "more than half" of those Clinton met with "outside of government" supported her husband's charitable foundation. In other words, to arrive at the controversial figure, the Associated Press had to exclude all kinds of people: State Department officials, diplomats, ambassadors, foreign leaders and officials, White House personnel, military servicemen and women, etc.
 
In other words, after excluding the people any Secretary of State might ordinarily see on a typical day, and looking exclusively at this smaller subset of people Hillary Clinton met with, more than half of them contributed to Bill Clinton's charity.
 
Of course, the implication is that we're looking at some kind of pay-for-play controversy: people hoping to influence the Secretary of State, the argument goes, offered support to the Clinton Foundation, and in turn, they gained access to Hillary Clinton. The controversy, for lack of a better word, is based on the implication that charitable contributions helped some powerful people gain access to the United States' top diplomat.
 
But at least for now, there's no evidence of actual wrongdoing. Even Clinton's critics have not yet pointed to any specific instances of impropriety or ethical lapses. We're looking at a story with smoke, but no fire.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd at a campaign rally March 7, 2016 in Concord, N.C. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty)

Trump's efforts to shake racist label likely to come up short

08/24/16 08:00AM

There's some truth to the old cliché, "The first step is admitting you have a problem." In Donald Trump's case, the Republican's presidential campaign is burdened by public perceptions that he's overtly racist, and as the election season enters the home stretch, the Washington Post reports that the candidate and his team are "rapidly trying" to improve Trump's bigoted reputation.
Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.
 
Trump is planning trips to urban areas -- with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities -- and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
There's no great mystery as to Team Trump's motivations: racism isn't just morally reprehensible; in presidential politics, it's also an electoral loser. In an increasingly diverse country, Republican candidates will continue to lose national elections unless they improve their standing with racial and ethnic minorities.
 
Recent polling suggests, however, that Trump is on track to do far worse than any modern presidential hopeful with these communities. Thus, the new "strategy."
 
Will it work? Almost certainly not.
Biden reassures Baltic allies of US fidelity

Biden reassures Baltic NATO allies of US fidelity

08/23/16 09:27PM

Rachel Maddow reviews how the Baltic states put themselves in the service of the United States after the 9/11 attacks, and reports on Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Latvia to reassure those countries feeling threatened by Russia aggression, that the U.S. honors its treaty promises, including the NATO alliance, and Donald Trump doesn&... watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 8.23.16

08/23/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Louisiana: "President Obama met with survivors in flooded Louisiana Tuesday, touring a hard-hit Baton Rouge suburb strewn with debris and rubble. 'Sometimes when these kinds of things happen, it can seem like too much to bear. But what I want the people of Louisiana to know is you're not alone, even after the TV cameras leave,' Obama said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon after walking through destroyed homes and shaking hands with residents."
 
* Afghanistan: "A U.S. service member was killed after their patrol triggered an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said. Another American service member and six Afghan soldiers were wounded in the blast, near the city of Lashkar Gar, in Helmand Province, according to a U.S. military statement."
 
* A big step backward in Ohio: "The state got permission again to shorten early voting and eliminate the so-called 'Golden Week' that allowed people to register and vote early at the same time. In a 2-1 ruling, a panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court's decision."
 
* The news was better for voting advocates in Wisconsin: "On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit refused to block a lower court decision invalidating large chunks of Wisconsin's Republican-sponsored voting restrictions. The ruling effectively ensures that Wisconsin's most burdensome new voting laws will not be in effect during the 2016 election, unless the Supreme Court intervenes -- an extremely remote possibility."
 
* An important trip: "Vice President Joe Biden promised a U.S. response to any act of Russian aggression in Europe and told Baltic leaders on Tuesday to ignore Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's dismissive comments about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."
 
* Guantanamo: "After 14 years of detention, Abu Zubaydah, the suspected terrorist brutally tortured after his capture in 2002, appeared for the first time at a Guantanamo Bay hearing on Tuesday morning and said he should be released because he posed no threat."
 
* Central Africa: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday condemned a recent outburst of violence in South Sudan as 'tragic and in some cases even reprehensible,' and said the United States would not automatically continue to provide humanitarian support for the country unless its leaders commit to peace."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015.

Trying to unwrap Trump's immigration position

08/23/16 01:07PM

Over the weekend, some of Donald Trump's top staffers and advisers made some comments that suggested the Republican was hedging on his hardline immigration views. It quickly became clear that the candidate himself would have to address the issue and clarify where he stands.
 
And in theory, that'd be helpful, but in practice, the GOP nominee spoke at some length to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly last night, and his on-air comments seemed to raise as many questions as they answered.
 
The host asked at the outset, for example, "Are you really rethinking your mass deportation strategy?" Trump replied, somewhat cryptically, "I just want to follow the law."  He then changed the subject.
 
The host pressed further, and according to the Nexis transcript, here's Trump explaining his current position:
"We are going to obey the existing laws. Now the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we are going to do if and when I win, is we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones. We have got gang members, we have killers. We have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country.
 
"We are going to get them out. And the police know who they are. They are known by law enforcement who they are. We don't do anything. They go around killing people and hurting people. And they are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin. We have existing laws that will allow to you do that as far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process. What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing and I just said that."
I've seen quite a bit of analysis of this, and I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. Trump seemed to suggest he'd prioritize enforcement against undocumented immigrants who commit violent felonies, but if so, that'd put him in line with President Obama's position.
 
Indeed, note that while Trump said "we don't do anything" about deporting dangerous people, the Republican added moments later that President Obama has already deported a "tremendous" number of felons.
 
As for "the process" other undocumented immigrants would have to "go through," Trump hasn't explained in detail exactly what that process might look like.

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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.

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