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?
Before Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, joined the New York Republican's team, she helped run a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. On ABC's "This Week" yesterday, George Stephanopoulos reminded her that she wasn't always complimentary towards her current boss.
In fact, the host aired a clip from the primaries in which Conway complained about Trump being "vulgar," asking, "Do I want somebody who hurls personal insults or who goes and talks about philosophical differences?"
It led to an interesting exchange on yesterday's show. From the ABC transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what changed for you? And do you stand by those comments?
CONWAY: I do. And the reason is I don't like when people hurl personal insults. That will never change. That's not my style. I'm a mother of four small children. And it would be a terrible example for me to feel otherwise --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think Mr. Trump's going to change on that?
CONWAY: Well, but he doesn't hurl personal insults.
There was no indication that she was kidding. As far as Trump's campaign manager is concerned, the Republican nominee really doesn't "hurl personal insults."
The problem, of course, is that no one could possibly believe this. Indeed, even Conway herself didn't believe it when she worked for a rival candidate. The list of groups and individuals Trump has insulted isn't short -- the New York Daily News published one overnight, but there are plenty of others -- and it grows quite regularly.
I can appreciate the fact that Trump's new leadership team is taking steps to change public perceptions about the controversial candidate, but "don't believe your lying eyes and ears" probably isn't going to work as a campaign tactic.
Earlier this year, after a man rushed the stage where Donald Trump was speaking, the Republican presidential candidate claimed his would-be assailant had ISIS ties, pointing to online evidence that turned out to be a hoax.
Pressed by NBC News' Chuck Todd for some kind of evidence, Trump replied, "What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the Internet."
As BuzzFeed noted, others on Team Trump have adopted a similar posture towards conspiracy theories and intellectual scrutiny.
When Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream asked Giuliani about Trump's lagging poll numbers, Giuliani responded that Clinton has "an entire media empire," -- including the New York Times, ABC, and CBS, among others -- working on her behalf.
"She has an entire media empire that ... fails to point out several signs of illness by her. All you got to do is go online."
Giuliani's comments were the latest salvo in an aggressive push from the Trump campaign to push bizarre and unsubstantiated claims, contradicted by real evidence, about Hillary Clinton's health. One campaign spokesperson last week went so far as to start making specific diagnoses about the Democratic candidate from afar.
To date, Clinton's critics have offered literally nothing to substantiate the claims.
Traditionally, political campaigns have relied on innuendo and whisper campaigns to raise questions about rivals' health. But as is often the case with the Trump campaign, Republicans this year have no use for subtlety: there's no subtext, only text. There's no need to rely on allies to quietly push an ugly smear in the shadows when the presidential nominee and top members of his team are happy to repeat nonsense on national television.
But what's especially striking about Team Trump's baseless offensive is that Republicans feel like they have no choice but to go down this unfortunate road.
Rachel Maddow reviews the history of some elitist, racist movements in the U.S. and the role of eugenicist John Tanton in those movements, and notes that his Center for Immigration Studies is cited Donald Trump's new campaign ad. watch
Jake Anantha and his father, Ramesh Anantha, talk with Rachel Maddow about Jake being removed from a Donald Trump rally by security and accused of being a protester, even though he was an actual Trump supporter. watch
Dan Rather, host of The Big Interview on AXS TV, talks with Rachel Maddow about the unusual frequency with which Donald Trump overhauls his campaign leadership, and what he's really trying to do with his new African-American outreach. watch
* President Obama will travel to Louisiana on Tuesday to meet with officials and assess flooding damage.
* CDC: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [issued] a new travel advisory for pregnant women, telling them to consider avoiding Miami-Dade County altogether due to evidence of widespread transmission of Zika, which can cause birth defects."
* Syria: "A Pentagon spokesperson confirms that the Syrian Air Force dropped bombs Thursday in an area where U.S. Special Operations forces were operating on the ground."
* Russia is "bolstering its military presence on its western border, sending tens of thousands of soldiers to newly built installations within easy striking distance of Ukraine."
* Automatic voter registration faces a second Christie veto: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made it easier for people to register to vote, claiming the measure would increase voter fraud."
* Sadly predictable: "Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women's health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology." [Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but her work is unrelated to affiliates in Texas.]
* Good advice: "Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says Donald Trump needs to issue specific apologies to Sen. John McCain, the judge in the Trump University lawsuit, and to Mexican immigrants."
As recently as a few months ago, Donald Trump's presidential campaign appeared to be at odds with itself, with a civil war of sorts between campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
In June, the Republican presidential hopeful parted ways with Lewandowski. As of this morning, Manafort is out, too.
Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort resigned from the campaign Friday morning. The move comes days after a campaign shake-up that brought two new members to the top of the organization, including new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon.
In a statement Trump said: "This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."
Whether Manafort stepped down voluntarily (maybe he didn't want to be associated with a likely defeat) or was pushed out (he was at the center of many ongoing controversies and wasn't leading the operation to success) is, at least for now, unclear.
Either way, Manafort's resignation comes just two days after the Associated Press reported that the Republican lobbyist "helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy."
Making matters worse, Politicoreported late yesterday, "In an effort to collect previously undisclosed millions of dollars he's owed by an oligarch-backed Ukrainian political party, Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been relying on a trusted protégé whose links to Russia and its Ukrainian allies have prompted concerns among Manafort associates, according to people who worked with both men."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump's presidential campaign unveiled its first television ad of the general election this morning, a spot encouraging Americans to be afraid of immigrants, refugees, and terrorism. It's part of a $4 million ad buy that will focus on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.
* Trump will also travel to flood-ravaged Louisiana today. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) wasn't consulted on the visit.
* The Wall Street Journalreports that Bill and Chelsea Clinton "plan to stop raising money for the Clinton Foundation and turn over operations to independent parties if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president."
* While most recent national polling shows Clinton leading Trump nationally by seven to eight points, the new Pew Research Center poll shows the Democrat up by only four, 41% to 37%. An unusually high 14% of voters in this survey sided with third-party candidates.
* In Nevada, the latest Suffolk poll shows Clinton leading Trump by two, 44% to 42%.
* The same poll shows Nevada's U.S. Senate race all tied up, with Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Joe Heck (R) each garnering 37% support.
* In Georgia, a poll commissioned by the Fox affiliate in Atlanta shows the Peach State as a 2016 battleground, with Clinton and Trump tied at 43% each.
* On a related note, the Trump campaign reportedly began inquiring about ad rates in Georgia this week. Republican presidential candidates have won Georgia in each of the last five elections.
* In Iowa, Quinnipiac shows Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) with a fairly comfortable lead over Patty Judge (D), 51% to 42%.
* In Colorado, Quinnipiac also found Sen. Michael Bennet (D), once thought to be the cycle's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, leading Darryl Glenn (R), 54% to 38%.
Donald Trump's outreach to Jewish voters hasn't gone especially well during the Republican's presidential campaign. In December, for example, he spoke at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, where he told attendees, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks. Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?"
More recently, Trump used a social-media account to promote a message that included anti-Semitic imagery.
McClatchy reported yesterday on a new, related problem: one of Trump's foreign policy advisers is facing allegations of anti-Semitism.
Joseph Schmitz, named as one of five advisers by the Trump campaign in March, is accused of bragging when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago that he pushed out Jewish employees. [...]
In his complaint, [Daniel Meyer, a senior official within the intelligence community] said Crane also said Schmitz played down the extent of the Holocaust.
"In his final days, he allegedly lectured Mr. Crane on the details of concentration camps and how the ovens were too small to kill 6 million Jews," wrote Meyer, whose complaint is before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
Schmitz has called the allegations "completely false and defamatory," and said his accusers are lying.
Still, it's hardly the kind of story the Trump campaign wants to see right now. What's more, if Schmitz's name sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that.
In politics, there's an important difference between traditional norms and legal requirements. Since Watergate, every major-party presidential candidate has released at least some of his or her tax returns, not because it's mandatory, but because it's the kind of routine disclosure Americans have come to expect.
Donald Trump, of course, is blazing a new trail, refusing to release the materials for reasons that don't make sense.
But what if Trump didn't have a choice? The Connecticut Mirrorreported yesterday on a legislative effort I've been keeping an eye on.
Since Donald Trump has declined to release his tax returns, Sen. Chris Murphy is backing a way to make them public -- a bill that would force the issue.
Partnering with fellow Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Murphy on Thursday pressed for votes for a bill that would require all presidential candidates from major parties to make public their tax returns within two weeks of their parties' national conventions. The effort is part of a renewed Democratic campaign over Trump's tax filings.
The name of the bill is the "Presidential Tax Transparency Act," and as the Mirror's article explained, it would "force the Treasury Department to post presidential candidates' returns on the Federal Elections Commission web site if that candidate did not disclose the information within two weeks of their nominating convention."
As of this morning, the measure only has five co-sponsors -- all of them members of the Democratic minority -- including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the Dems' vice presidential nominee. In other words, this bill isn't going anywhere fast, and it certainly won't affect the 2016 election cycle.
But circling back to our previous coverage, if we put aside legislative projections, does the idea itself have merit?
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.