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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 24, 2015.

The problem with the GOP's Zika virus appeals

02/03/16 10:29AM

There were reports out of Dallas overnight that health officials believe they've confirmed the first known case of sexual transmission of Zika virus. It's against this backdrop that The Hill reports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is "pressing President Obama to move aggressively to combat the spread of the Zika virus."
McConnell on Tuesday warned that Obama needs to act now before panic grips the country, as it did when the Ebola virus dominated headlines in 2014.
"We need to get out in front of the Zika virus to make sure that we don't end up having the kind of feeling across the country that we're sort of reacting too late, like we did on Ebola," he said.
If McConnell is concerned about a potential public-health risk, great. If the Senate leader wants to ensure agencies and officials are prepared and taking necessary precautions, that makes perfect sense.
But that Ebola reference doesn't sit quite right.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gestures as he speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum Sept. 18, 2015 in Greenville, S.C. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty)

Facing long odds, Rand Paul calls it quits

02/03/16 09:48AM

After his fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucuses this week, Rand Paul told supporters, "We fight on! Thank you for all of your support."
The message seemed to suggest the Kentucky Republican would continue his longshot presidential campaign, though Paul apparently changed his mind soon after. This morning, the senator's campaign issued a press statement announcing the end of his candidacy. It read in part:
"Across the country thousands upon thousands of young people flocked to our message of limited government, privacy, criminal justice reform and a reasonable foreign policy. Brushfires of Liberty were ignited, and those will carry on, as will I.
"Although, today I will suspend my campaign for President, the fight is far from over. I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term."
The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise, in part because of what the senator said on Monday night, but also because Paul's support exists largely in the GOP's libertarian wing -- which exists in New Hampshire in ways it does not in Iowa.
But the combination of weak fundraising, low poll numbers, and a crowded top tier created hard-to-deny circumstances: Rand Paul simply did not have a path to the Republican presidential nomination. What's more, the Kentucky senator is the only 2016 candidate in either party who has a re-election campaign to think about this year, which created an added incentive to leave the race early and focus on the contest he's more likely to win -- just as party officials have been reminding him to do for months.
The question worth considering is why Paul failed so badly.
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the media before a campaign event at Hampshire Hills Athletic Club on Feb. 2, 2016 in Milford, Iowa. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Maybe Donald Trump's showing wasn't so bad after all

02/03/16 08:51AM

The day after this week's Iowa caucuses offered a case study in the oddities of mainstream political analysis. I've been at this for a while, and even I spent much of the day shaking my head in disbelief.
If the buzz and hype are to believed, here's what we're supposed to believe: the Democrat who finished first in Iowa looked weak by winning, while her second-place rival looked impressive. The Republican who won wasn't particularly important -- even though he was expected to lose -- while the second-place finisher was the day's biggest "loser" and the candidate who finished third is taking a "victory lap," despite the lack of a victory.
For the punditocracy, all of this makes perfect sense.
There's no shortage of angles to this dynamic, but as the chatter grew louder yesterday, I found myself thinking more and more about Donald Trump's performance. MSNBC's Ali Vitali reported yesterday that the Republican spent the day complaining and licking his wounds.
Blaming the media for unfair coverage of what he called a "long-shot great finish" in the Hawkeye State, Trump began reminding people of an undercurrent that he said followed him throughout Iowa: He wasn't supposed to win there. Trump echoed the sentiment during his Monday night speech in Iowa, reiterating on Tuesday that it factored into his strategy on the trail.
"Because I was told I could not do well in Iowa, I spent very little there -- a fraction of Cruz and Rubio," he wrote.
Look, some elements of this are simply undeniable. When one candidate leads in every poll, and then that candidate loses, there's a letdown. As Rachel explained on the show last night, "That's how these things go. You raise expectations that you're going to win, and you don't, you get bad press."
But while I'm usually not sympathetic to Trump's arguments, it's worth kicking around a contrarian idea: maybe he did pretty well in the Iowa caucuses?
Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a "get out the vote" event at Nashua Community College on Feb. 2, 2016 in Nashua, N.H. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Putting the 2016 spotlight on water, 'environmental justice'

02/03/16 08:00AM

They're sometimes called "sleeper issues." Most Americans can easily name the key issues that define major elections -- the economy, foreign policy, national security, et al -- but occasionally an issue just outside the spotlight will make its way onto the agenda, connecting with voters in surprising ways.
And while 2016 is still getting underway, Hillary Clinton is pushing just such an issue: water.
For example, to her credit, the Democratic candidate recognized the importance of the crisis in Flint, Michigan, before other candidates -- and even many news organizations -- took note of the story. Yesterday, Clinton added Jackson, Mississippi, to her focus, as the Clarion Ledger reported (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she's concerned about lead levels in Jackson's water and called for national infrastructure improvements. [...]
State health officials notified officials in Jackson on Thursday that 22% of water samples taken from city residents' homes in June contained excessive lead levels. City officials notified residents Thursday and Friday.
"I'm heartened that Jackson city officials are taking the right steps to fix the problem, including repeated testing and openness with the results, so families can stay informed,'' Clinton said in a statement. "As the emergency in Flint, Michigan, has made clear, cities and states must treat these situations with the utmost seriousness and do everything in their power to ensure that families -- especially children -- have access to safe, clean drinking water. We as a nation must make urgent investments to modernize our utilities and infrastructure, to keep families and communities safe and healthy."
Clinton has even introduced a new phrase into the lexicon: "environmental justice."

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 2.2.16

02/02/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Putin won't be happy with this: "President Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region."
* Good call: "President Barack Obama will ask for more than $1 billion in the new budget to fight drug abuse and overdoses, which are at record highs in the U.S., the White House said Tuesday. Obama's budget request to Congress aims to expand treatment for people who get hooked on prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin, as well as people who use the cheaper street drug heroin."
* Selective Service System: "The Army and Marine Corps' top uniformed leaders both backed making women register for the draft as all combat roles are opened to them in coming months, a sweeping social change that could complicate the military's gender integration plans."
* Somebody obviously wants attention again: "In a new dare to the United States and its allies, North Korea has notified the United Nations agency responsible for navigation safety that it is planning to launch a long-range rocket this month to put a satellite into orbit."
* Iraq "on Tuesday awarded an Italian company a contract to overhaul and maintain the Mosul dam in the country's north, days after a U.S. general warned of its possible collapse."
Midwest Food Bank workers and volunteers carry cases of donated water, Jan. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. All of the water that was collected will be sent to Flint, Mich., where drinking water has been contaminated by lead. (Photo by Darron Cummings/AP)

Flint's water crisis draws FBI interest

02/02/16 04:13PM

Not only is the crisis in Flint, Michigan, ongoing, the investigation into this catastrophe appears to be expanding. The Detroit Free Press reported today:
The FBI is now investigating the contamination of Flint's drinking water, a man-made public health catastrophe, which has left an unknown number of Flint children and other residents poisoned by lead and resulted in state and federal emergency declarations.
Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit, told the Free Press Monday that federal prosecutors are "working with a multi-agency investigation team on the Flint water contamination matter, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, EPA's Office of Inspector General, and EPA's Criminal Investigation Division."
The report added that Balaya did not specify whether the investigation relates to possible criminal acts.
The FBI's involvement isn't the only evidence of federal interest in Flint. The Detroit News reports today that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is also in the city today "to meet with researchers and local elected officials to discuss the city's ongoing problems with lead contamination in its drinking water."
As for Congress, the House Oversight Committee will hold its first hearing on the Flint crisis tomorrow, but the Detroit News added that at least one prominent figure in the scandal has decided to turn down an invitation to testify.
President Barack Obama greets Speaker of the House Paul Ryan before his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill Jan. 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/Pool/Getty)

On Groundhog Day, Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare

02/02/16 02:31PM

President Obama hasn't spent a lot of time with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but the two leaders, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), met at the White House this morning. The point, according to everyone involved, was to look for ways the policymakers can find some common ground and try to get things done in 2016.
To help set the tone, the Wisconsin congressman told reporters yesterday he was excited about the Iowa caucuses because "what it tells me is the days of Barack Obama's presidency are numbered."
He's a real charmer, this one. You can just feel his enthusiasm for bipartisan policymaking in an era of divided government.
After the meeting in which the president tries to find areas of possible agreement with GOP leaders, Ryan will hold another vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Washington Post reported:
The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on overturning President Obama's veto of legislation to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. The vote, appropriately scheduled for Groundhog Day, is expected to fail, leaving conservatives to gear up for a final year of budget fights with the president.
Asked about today's events, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, "Republicans are poised to host another vote in the United States Congress today for the 60th time to repeal Obamacare. It's almost like it's Groundhog Day, except today it is actually Groundhog Day and they're doing it again."
Earnest added, "So I'm not really sure that qualifies as the contours of a proactive legislative agenda but it does put some pressure on Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, and other Republicans in Congress, to lay out what it is exactly they support and try to find some common ground with the administration."
For the record, estimates vary on exactly how many times Republicans have tried to repeal all or part of the ACA, but the last time I checked, they were up to 62. In other words, Earnest might have been understating the case a bit.
Confetti lie over the floor on the last day of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

GOP insiders face more chaos, not less

02/02/16 01:03PM

When Republican insiders and donors started warming up to Donald Trump in recent weeks, it was one of the more widely reported political developments in a while. And why not? As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote recently, "That soft flapping sound you hear is the Grand Old Party waving the flag of surrender to Trump. Party elites ... are acquiescing to the once inconceivable."
This wasn't just the result of polling results; the Republican establishment had come up with a plan. Here's how it would work:
Step 1. Help Trump dispatch Ted Cruz in Iowa.
Step 2. Watch Cruz fade after he loses his must-win state.
Step 3. Move closer to a one-on-one matchup, pitting Trump against an establishment-friendly rival (almost certainly Marco Rubio).
Step 4. Consolidate support behind the establishment-friendly rival, while Trump hits his ceiling.
Step 5. Sit back, pop the champagne, and wait for all the #thepartydecides tweets.
The plan, we now know, didn't work. The Republican establishment made a conscious choice -- Cruz must be stopped, quickly -- and the Texas senator foiled the gambit. Iowa's six-term GOP governor said Cruz was the one candidate who must lose, and a plurality of Hawkeye State Republicans backed him anyway.
So why is the New York Times' David Brooks, who's been in a full-blown panic over the direction of his party, suddenly breathing a sigh of relief?
"What happened in Iowa was that some version of normalcy returned to the G.O.P. race," the center-right columnist wrote overnight with an almost audible exhale. "The precedents of history have not been rendered irrelevant."
I think this helps capture the attitudes of Republican elites this morning. I also think it's misguided.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.2.16

02/02/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* As expected, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has thrown his support to Marco Rubio. It's the fifth Senate endorsement Rubio has received -- which brings him into a tie with Jeb Bush for the most endorsements from GOP members in the Chamber.
* Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) argued on an Iowa radio show the other day, "If I get one vote, frankly, in Iowa, I'll consider it a victory." Gilmore won 12 votes. Congratulations, governor.
* The number of House Republicans retiring this year continues to grow: Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) announced yesterday that he'll step down at the end of this term.
* Ending the suspense surrounding his plans, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said yesterday that he will run for re-election to the House, skipping the open U.S. Senate race in Maryland.
* On a related note, the latest polling in the Maryland race shows Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen effectively tied in the Democratic primary.
* Given that Senate Dems are in the minority, this is a bit of a surprise: "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $51.6 million in 2015, $10 million more than the National Republican Senatorial Committee did in the same time period. The total came after a $13.4 million haul in the fourth quarter. In the final month of 2015, the DSCC raised $5.1 million, $2 million more than its Republican counterpart."


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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