In the latter half of September, eight polls were released publicly on Georgia's U.S. Senate race, and each one showed Republican David Perdue in the lead. Over the last week, however, three statewide polls have come out in Georgia, and Perdue suddenly isn't leading in any of them.
Roll Callreported yesterday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed the party is "looking at a tougher race in Georgia," where the contest between Perdue and Michelle Nunn (D) "has tightened up."
It's not lost on officials in either party that Republicans may come up short in their bid to control the U.S. Senate because of Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota, even if voters in Colorado and Iowa go with surprisingly right-wing candidates.
There are competing explanations for developments in Georgia, but the most obvious is Perdue's outsourcing problem -- the conservative Republican has boasted, more than once, about his controversial private-sector background, which includes significant job losses through outsourcing, on top of factory closings, consolidations, and reduced work hours at U.S. facilities.
Last week, pressed on his outsourcing record, Perdue told reporters, "Defend it? I'm proud of it."
A couple of days ago, facing a new round of questions, the GOP Senate hopeful got a little defensive. Laura Clawson flagged this Perdue quote, which was all he would say on the subject.
"You know, the criticism I've gotten over the last few weeks is coming from people who really have no business background and really don't understand, um, you know, what it takes to create jobs and create economic value, which is really what this free enterprise system is based on."
Hmm. According to Perdue, if the people of Georgia, living in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, are bothered by outsourcing, it's because they're ignorant?
The video of his comments help drive home the political significance.
In last night's debate in Iowa, Senate hopeful Joni Ernst (R) made two observations that connect in an important way. The right-wing state senator argued in support of a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget, before adding that she wouldn't raise any tax under any circumstance.
Whether the Republican Senate hopeful understands this or not, the practical implications of these two positions are extraordinary: Ernst would effectively be required, under her own misguided constitutional mandate, to dismantle most of the federal government.
Then again, from Ernst's perspective, that may very well be a feature of her plan, not a bug. Greg Sargent reported yesterday on a newly uncovered 2013 speech in which Ernst details her "rather stark views about the relationship of Americans with their government."
In it, Ernst claims that we have created "a generation of people that rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them," and that wrenching them away from their dependence "is going to be very painful." [...]
In the audio, Ernst came out for a balanced budget amendment, said that would require "severe cuts," reiterated her desire to eliminate the Department of Education, vowed a "good, hard look at entitlement programs," and said electing a GOP Senate majority would be a key step towards all of this. She also said we are "encouraging people" to get on food stamps.
Though the far-right Iowan wasn't quite as explicit as Mitt Romney was in his infamous "47 percent" video, the parallels matter. Ernst, in Romney-esque terms, complains that "a generation" of Americans "rely on the government to provide absolutely everything for them." She vows to rectify this in a "very painful" way, presumably with the most acute pain imposed on those who can afford the least.
It is the very height of anti-populism -- the Republican U.S. Senate candidate is convinced that families already struggling to get by simply have it too easy, with the public sector lavishing expansive benefits on them. For those who are just barely keeping their heads above water, relying on America's safety net to survive, the right-wing Iowan has a bleak and punitive message to offer: you've had it too easy for too long, and Joni Ernst has a "very painful" future in store.
If struggling families in Iowa turned out in significant numbers this year, Ernst would be facing a landslide defeat.
What's more, the GOP candidate's message on health care was just as striking.
Colleen McCain Nelson, Wall Street Journal White House Correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about the news that Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, was kicked out of the Navy Reserves earlier this year after failing a drug test. watch
Rachel Maddow tallies the number of beds available at elite U.S. medical facilities best prepared to treat Ebola patients (nine total, five remaining) and wonders what it will take to expand that level of care across the U.S. in the event of an outbreak. watch
Dr. Brad Britigan, dean of the containment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, talks with Rachel Maddow about how quickly U.S. specialized care capacity can be ramped up to accommodate a potential Ebola outbreak. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the personal bravery of Zainab al-Khawaja, an activist in Bahrain who is eight months pregnant, who stood up for her principles of freedom of expression despite likely imprisonment as a consequence. watch
Rachel Maddow tells the harrowing story of the rescue efforts that went into removing what was believed to be a live grenade from a man's leg, involving paramedics, military members, and a doctor who put themselves at great personal risk. watch
* Dallas: "An official at the Dallas hospital where two nurses contracted Ebola told Congress on Thursday that emergency staff were not trained this summer on how to handle the virus, despite warnings from health officials about the outbreak in West Africa."
* National Guard: "President Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to call up members of the National Guard to active duty to help combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa."
* Naming names: "Allies like Australia and Canada can also expect escalating U.S. pressure. And officials say China ought to contribute [to the Ebola response] in a way that befits a rising world power. The 'top disappointments are France and Italy -- (they) top the list of 'talk most, do least,'' a senior administration official told Yahoo News."
* A disappointing reaction: "Schools in Texas and Ohio were closed on Thursday after officials learned that students and an adult had either been on the flight with the nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, or had contact with her while she was visiting the Akron area."
* Ferguson: "A stream of eyewitnesses has been testifying in secret before a grand jury considering whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown near the Canfield Green apartments in Ferguson."
* Seems reasonable: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling for appropriators to 'return to Washington immediately' to provide additional funding for the Ebola response."
* On a related note: "Federal health officials are giving a small biotech company nearly $6 million to speed up development of another vaccine against Ebola, the third in a pipeline of vaccines to fight the virus."
In 2014, many conservative Republicans are perfectly comfortable opposing reproductive rights in general, but as we discussed last week, "personhood" has become something of a third rail. Given recent developments, it's understandable -- personhood measures wouldn't just ban all abortions, they'd also block common forms of birth control.
And Republicans clearly realize that opposing birth control in the 21st century, when the party is already struggling with the gender gap, isn't a credible option.
With that in mind, longtime personhood champions, including Colorado's Cory Gardner, Kentucky's Rand Paul, and North Carolina's Thom Tillis, have all begun to hedge on the radical proposal. Laura Bassett reports, however, that one personhood supporter is choosing a different course.
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst said she would support a federal bill that gives legal personhood rights to fetuses from the moment of fertilization, effectively wiping out legal abortion in the United States.
Ernst voted for a fetal personhood amendment in the Iowa State legislature in 2013, and she told the Sioux City Journal editorial board on Wednesday that she also would support a federal personhood measure if she were elected to the U.S. Senate.
"I will continue to stand by that. I am a pro-life candidate, and this has been shaped by my religious beliefs through the years," she said. "So I support that."
If the Huffington Post piece is correct, it's certainly a provocative move for the right-wing Senate candidate. Ernst is in one of the nation's most competitive and closely watched U.S. Senate campaigns, and for her to endorse federal legislation that would ban access to common forms of birth control, as well as eliminating all abortion rights, is an usual tactic three weeks before the election.
Indeed, it also raises curious questions about Ernst's ideology. The Iowa Republican believes a federal minimum wage law is "ridiculous," but a federal personhood law is the sort of thing she can support.
But there's another lingering concern that's worth keeping in mind: does Ernst fully understand the policy she's endorsed?
It wasn't long ago -- in fact, it was last month -- that congressional Republicans invested considerable energy in condemning President Obama's efforts to combat ISIS. GOP lawmakers were generally vague about what it was they didn't like, and they made no real effort to do any actual work on the subject.
Substantive policy concerns, however, weren't the point. Republicans saw value in Americans being terrified, so they exploited public anxiety to advance their political ambitions however possible.
If this sounds familiar, it's because the same dynamic is unfolding again. The GOP is somehow trying to blame President Obama for the Ebola virus, in the hopes that the public (i.e., likely 2014 voters) are so overwhelmed by fear that rational thought will no longer matter. The future of this public-health threat will remain entirely unaffected by the number of Republicans in Congress, but a panicked population isn't supposed to think these things through. The message is intended to be more primal: if you're afraid, rally behind those telling you to be scared.
But while GOP lawmakers balked at any kind of ISIS-related legislation, Republicans are apparently interested in one specific policy: imposing a travel ban on West African nations. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) will reportedly "introduce legislation to ban travel between the U.S. and West African countries" in order to prevent Ebola "from further infiltrating our homeland."
It's safe to assume the bill will enjoy overwhelming support, and will probably even pick up Democratic backers, but if there is some kind of credible legislative debate, I hope thisNational Review article, written by a medical doctor, is considered in detail.
[F]irst and foremost, although we are members of the world health community, we must worry about our own public psyche here in the United States. If our leaders can't give us a sense that we are protected, we must achieve it by imposing a ban. [...]
I'm not convinced medically -- I don't believe that a travel ban against the Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa will be particularly effective, it may even be counterproductive, and it certainly isn't coming from the strongest side of what being an American means. But as fear of Ebola and fear of our leaders' ineptitude grows, I think we must have a ban to patch our battered national psyche.
It's amazing to Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" thesis come to life: it doesn't matter what is true; what matters is what feels true. A travel ban won't succeed in its intended goal, and such a response "may even be counterproductive," but we should do it anyway. Why? Because it'll help our "psyche," even it doesn't help our public-health crisis.
We elect policymakers to enact policies in precisely the opposite way, but it appears "truthiness" is ruling the day.