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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.19.16

10/19/16 12:00PM

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

* Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, contradicted her boss again this morning, telling MSNBC, "No, I do not believe that" there will be widespread voter fraud on Election Day,

* Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), following controversial comments this week about extending his party's Supreme Court blockade past this year's election, was filmed racing away from a local reporter with questions on Monday.

* Priorities USA, a super PAC that has been focused on Hillary Clinton's election, is now poised to run ads in support of Democratic Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

* Several large Florida newspapers that endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio (R) six years ago -- Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Orlando Sentinel -- are now backing his opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D).

* Nevertheless, the DSCC is reportedly pulling its investments from the Sunshine State, suggesting Democratic officials expect Rubio to prevail.

* On a related note, Quinnipiac released a batch of Senate polls yesterday showing Sen. Michael Bennet (D) up by 18 point in Colorado; Rubio ahead by just two points in Florida; Sen. Rob Portman (R) leading by 13 points in Ohio; and Sen. Pat Toomey (R) up by 4 points in Pennsylvania.

* In Nevada's U.S. Senate race, a Monmouth University poll released yesterday found Rep. Joe Heck (R) ahead by three, 45% to 42%, over former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D).
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A voting booth at the Early Vote Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in northeast Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty)

The limits of the right-track/wrong-track metric

10/19/16 10:41AM

There are pundits who genuinely believe 2016 is a "change" election, with much, and perhaps even most, of the electorate eager for a radical shift in direction. A couple of weeks ago, ABC News' Matthew Dowd, a former chief strategist for George W. Bush, even offered some proof to bolster the thesis: "[T]his is a change election when 70% of country believes we are off on wrong track."

The right-track/wrong-track metric has its fans, and it's true that when the American mainstream is asked, voters by wide margins express dissatisfaction with the nation's current course.

At this point, it may be tempting to think Dowd's point is correct. After all, if more than two-thirds of the country believes we're on the wrong track, there must be an enormous public appetite for a dramatic departure from the status quo, right?

Not necessarily.

Note, for example, that right-track/wrong-track polling has been relatively consistent for many years -- Americans have thought the country is headed in the wrong direction for quite a while -- and it's offered little guidance on election outcomes.

And that's because the right-track/wrong-track question is inherently vague. If a poll respondent is unsatisfied with the country's direction, is he/she a conservative who disapproves of President Obama or a liberal who opposes the Republican Congress? Or perhaps an independent who's outraged by the rise of Donald Trump as a competitive presidential hopeful?

We have no idea what kind of "change" that voter wants and the survey question leaves his/her motivations ambiguous.
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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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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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