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“They Just Want Somebody To Fall In Love With”: Republican Voters Do Not Give A Flying Comb-Over About Who Is Electable

The parlor game for 2016 campaign observers is based on a straightforward question: “If Donald Trump’s support is eventually going to fall, what will be the cause?”

The “if” poses its own challenge, but even if we accept the premise, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what will cause Trump’s lead in the polls to evaporate. Some Republicans assume this is a fleeting fad that cannot be sustained . Others believe the GOP’s primary contest won’t really begin in earnest until after the debates begin and TV ads start airing, making Trump’s early surge irrelevant. Still others assume the former reality-show host will eventually say something so outrageous that he’ll effectively commit political suicide.

But the point that brings comfort to many in the political establishment is the issue of electability – Trump would face extremely long odds as a general-election candidate, and Republican primary voters, desperate for a win, will start thinking strategically in 2016.

Or will they? As Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest NBC News/Marist poll asked Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire for their 2016 preferences, but they also asked a question that was arguably more interesting:

“Which is more important to you: a Republican nominee for president who shares your position on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?”

The results weren’t even close. In New Hampshire, 67% of GOP voters want a candidate they agree with, while only 29% are principally concerned with electability. In Iowa, the results were practically identical.

This isn’t about Trump, per se. This is about what we’re learning about Republican voters themselves.

With the NBC poll in mind, Rachel’s take on the state of the race rings true:

“He’s the only top-tier Republican candidate who loses by double digits. not only to Hillary Clinton, but also to Bernie Sanders. But Republican voters want him anyway. And that ends up not being an interesting thing about Donald Trump. It’s an interesting thing about Republican voters. They keep picking him, and they know he would lose, but they like him anyway. They know he’s going to lose, and they don’t care. They love this guy.

“So, all this beltway analysis that says that Donald Trump’s star is going to fall, because all of the ways in which he is not electable, right, there’s the reason all that punditry, and all that beltway common wisdom keeps getting proven wrong with each new passing day and each new poll showing Donald Trump on top, because Republican voters do not give a flying comb-over about who is electable. They just want somebody to fall in love with, and they have fallen in love with him.”

Remember, we’ve seen this before in the recent past. Republicans could have won a Senate race in Delaware, but they wanted a candidate who made them happy (Christie O’Donnell), not a candidate who would win (Mike Castle). They could have won a Senate race in Indiana, but they wanted an ideologically satisfying candidate (Richard Mourdock), not a candidate with broad appeal (Richard Lugar).

Sure, this may change. Trump’s role in the race has been unpredictable thus far, so no one can say with confidence what the race will look like in early 2016.

But the GOP base has been told repeatedly – by party leaders, by conservative media, even by Republican candidates – that compromise is wrong. Concessions of any kind are offensive.

It’s a little late in the game for the same party to tell these same voters not to support the unelectable guy at the top of the polls.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republican Voters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Expand Medicare, You Damn Idiots”: On Its Anniversary, We’re Going To Start Hearing The Usual Attacks On Medicare

Every so often—okay, not very often actually, but more often than I hunt, or “take” (what a verb!), lions—I feel a little wistful about the Republican Party we all once knew. And that feeling is never stronger than when I reflect on the history of Medicare and Medicaid, which I spent part of yesterday doing, what with it being the 50th anniversary of the passage of the bill and all.

Lyndon Johnson went into the 1964 election knowing that he wanted to pass a universal health-care bill. He figured he couldn’t get full-bore socialized medicine, so he settled on socialized medicine for old people, reckoning that was a winner. Immediately upon winning election, he directed aides to get cracking, saying as I recall something to the effect that he was going to lose a little political capital every day, so the sooner the better.

It was big and messy and complicated, just like Obamacare, and frankly, Johnson lied about the cost, back in those pre-Congressional Budget Office days. But it passed, and it passed in a way that wasn’t just like Obamacare at all. Thirteen Republican senators voted for it, and 17 against; and in the House, 70 Republicans supported it, while 68 voted no. In other words, almost exactly half of all voting congressional Republicans, 83 out of 168, voted for the program that Ronald Reagan at the time was warning heralded the arrival of Marxism on our shores.

Pretty different GOP, eh? Well, now check out the numbers from 1983. This was, to be sure, more of a compromise piece of legislation. The Social Security Trust fund was in trouble at the time, so the 1983 amendments raised the payroll tax while increasing the retirement age to 67 for those born in 1960 or after, with the new revenue going to Medicare and Social Security. And of course you had a Republican president then, and not just any Republican president; so if Ronald Reagan was okay with a tax increase, they were, too. It passed both chambers overwhelmingly; House Republicans backed the 1983 changes 97-69, while Republican senators supported them by 47-6. (PDF)

It’s worth recalling all this on the anniversary of this great law because soon enough, we’re going to start hearing the usual attacks on Medicare. Wait, did I say soon enough? We already are! And not from the wingnut caucus. It was the, uh, moderate, Jeb Bush, who said just last week that Medicare is “an actuarially unsound system” and that “we need to figure out a way to phase out this program.”

All right. Now I’ll grant that times have changed since 1965 and 1983, and that we’re going to see all those Baby Boomers retire in the coming years. But let’s be clear about a central fact. The Medicare Trust Fund is not in big trouble right now. A few years ago, it was; there were desperate predictions that it was going to go broke in five years, three. I remember 2017 being mentioned as the ominous year, and 2017 is pretty close.

But that has changed. Now, the experts say Medicare is stable until 2030. Now 2030 isn’t infinity and beyond, but it’s not tomorrow either. The crisis has eased, and it has eased considerably.

What changed? Some of the reasons are just too wonky for me to go into with you in any detail, having to do with things like new strategies to reduce preventable hospital admissions. But another seems to be…wait for it…Obamacare. Ever since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, per-enrollee Medicare costs have decreased a little and are rising more slowly than overall health-care costs, and somehow or another the Medicare trustees have added 13 years to the program’s solvency.

In fact, let’s go mildly wonky here. This is worth knowing. Before the ACA passed, projections of Medicare bankruptcy were pegged, as noted, at 2017. Then shortly after the ACA became law, that was pushed to 2024. Then in 2013, it was nudged to 2026. Now it’s at 2030. See a pattern here? The main reason is simple. Overall spending is lower. You might remember Mitt Romney’s famous attacks on Obama for cutting $716 billion from Medicare, which took some cheek given that a) Republicans’ own projected cuts under Paul Ryan’s budget were far more severe and b) Ryan and other Republicans used the same budgetary assumptions Obama used for all their Medicare “reform” plans.

Just remember all this, will you, as you hear more from the Republicans on this topic. They are all going to say: Medicare is a disaster; it’s broke; Obamacare has made it far worse. They’ll say things that one can hardly believe can be said by a person we’re allegedly supposed to be taking seriously, like Marco Rubio’s amazing comment that Social Security and Medicare “weakened us as a people.”

None of what they say will be true. But they’ll say it and say it, and the conservative media will repeat it and repeat it, and we’ll be in that “no, the sky is green and the grass is blue” territory that we know so well. And of course, their “reform” plans are, aside from being just mean, a total fantasy. The way Medicare works is so complicated and so embedded into our national life that the disruptions to doctors and hospitals and service providers of all kinds would be horrific. Only rich people, who don’t really need Medicare, and ideologues, who despise it, think you can do this. They might as well propose rerouting every single Interstate highway in America.

But most of all, it doesn’t need changing. Or actually it does, but in the direction of being expanded, as Bernie Sanders says. That’s probably not in the cards for the foreseeable future, although it will certainly come one day, perhaps by the time of Medicare’s own 65th birthday, when the people will surely be due for another “weakening.”


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Jeb Bush, Medicare, Republicans | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Congress Complicit In Mass Murders”: Why Not Do The Right Thing”?: Renewed Gun Control Push Targets Firearm Dealers

Faced with little appetite in the US Congress to strengthen federal gun laws, a group of senators on Tuesday called on firearm dealers to help reduce the scourge of gun violence in America by performing more robust background checks, even when it’s not required by the law.

Their mantra: “No background check, no gun.”

Connecticut senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, along with 11 of their Democratic colleagues, sent a letter urging three large firearms dealers – Cabela’s, EZ Pawn and Bass Pro Shops – to stop allowing for “default sales” and refuse to sell guns without a completed background check. Current federal law includes a loophole that allows gun dealers to complete a sale without any background check, if the check takes longer than 72 hours.

Blumenthal and Murphy also made their case at a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, where they were joined by New York senator Chuck Schumer, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, and relatives who lost loved ones to gun violence. The senators cited the national retailer Walmart as an example of a company that took steps to toughen its requirements for gun transactions.

“For the gun dealers of America, why not do the right thing? Insist that there be a background check before you sell the gun,” Blumenthal said, while also encouraging a ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchases, steps to address mental health, and the enhancement of school safety.

Murphy said there was “absolutely no justification” for retailers not to follow Walmart’s lead, arguing that it caused “no inconvenience to the retailer” to perform safer background checks to ensure that criminals or mentally ill people do not walk out of their stores with a gun.

“The temporary inconvenience to a smidgen of gun purchases is certainly worth the lives that we know we could have saved or can save in the future if retailers make this change,” Murphy said.

For Blumenthal and Murphy, the push on firearm dealers is the latest in a two-year effort to confront gun violence – which personally impacted their constituents in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Both senators acknowledged it had been a tough road ever since. The US Senate failed to pass universal background checks in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, which took the lives of 20 children and six educators.

“We were there to see the cries and faces that expressed that grief. We know that we will never be the same because of that experience,” Blumenthal said. “We should take heart that this struggle, this battle, is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Despite a series of high-profile mass shootings since Newtown, Congress hasn’t budged on any proposals to improve America’s gun laws.

Murphy said the lack of even a debate on the issue was “an abomination” while acknowledging that the National Rifle Association had for decades built “one of the most politically powerful forces in the country” and, at least for now, maintained the upper-hand.

Although Murphy said he and Blumenthal would continue to press upon “the consciousness of our colleagues”, Republicans who control both chambers of Congress have shown little indication they will revisit a debate over guns.

West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat who co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to expand background checks after Newtown, said the votes for his legislation simply weren’t there.

“That bill’s not going to come up unless Republicans vote for it,” he told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Manchin said he still believed that his proposal, which he co-authored with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, was “pure, common gun sense”.

“It’s not gun control,” Manchin said. “I don’t think there’s a law-abiding gun owner that doesn’t believe that someone who has been mentally adjudicated or been criminally adjudicated shouldn’t be able to get a gun. I really believe that. And that’s all we’re trying to do.”

An overwhelming majority of Americans support the universal background checks bill, which fell victim to a Republican-led filibuster two years ago. Arizona senator John McCain, one of just four Republicans who voted for the Manchin-Toomey bill after the Newtown shooting, said he didn’t expect to see the background checks bill – or anything else pertaining to guns, for that matter – resurface.

“Frankly, with all the things that are going on right now, I don’t see anything real soon on this issue,” McCain told the Guardian in the Senate hallway.

McCain added, nonetheless, that he still supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

“There’s no reason not to,” he said.

Murphy implored lawmakers to do the same, or at the very least to start talking about ways to better protect Americans.

“There is a deafening silence coming from Congress,” he said. “Our silence is becoming complicity in these murders.”


By: Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian, July 29, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Congress, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America’s Craziest Governor”: Just When Things Couldn’t Get Worse For Paul LePage…

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a doozy of a controversy. As regular readers know, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D), but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school’s state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, “It’s a nice school you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”

The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don’t like. By most measures, it’s an impeachable offense.

As of today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, it’s also the basis for a civil suit.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will file a civil lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that the governor used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring at a private school in Fairfield.

The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated ever since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year to become the organization’s next president. Eves said that the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job.

“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint reads.

The discovery phase of this case ought to be a doozy.

Remember, the Tea Party governor hasn’t actually denied the allegations, and neither have LePage’s allies. The Maine Republican did argue this morning, however, that when he threatened the school it was comparable to LePage intervening in a domestic-violence dispute.

“It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context. Unless the state House Speaker intended to physically assault the charter school, the comparison appears to be gibberish.

And just in case this wasn’t quite enough of a mess for the beleaguered governor, LePage is simultaneously facing a parallel controversy in which he claims to have vetoed bills that have already become state law.

This morning, the GOP governor said he’s “not going to enforce” the state laws he doesn’t believe exist, even if the state legislature and state Attorney General’s office believes those state laws do exist. The Maine Supreme Court hears arguments in the veto issue tomorrow.

Politico recently characterized LePage as as “America’s Craziest Governor,” asking whether the Republican is still “playing with a full deck.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Impeachment, Maine Legislature, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP’s Epic Trainwreck”: Jeb Bush Flails And Donald Trump Ascends As The Party Goes Further Off The Rails

The news keeps getting worse for the Republican Party. Despite its “deep bench” for 2016, Donald Trump continues to dominate in early polling. Yes, that word “early” is important, but this is getting to be humiliating for the GOP – and especially for Jeb Bush.

Not only has Trump led Bush in several national polls, he’s now leading in his home state of Florida, an electoral vote treasure trove that was crucial to Bush’s “story” – that he was the guy who could compete with Hillary Clinton nationally. Trump is also ahead of Bush in recent New Hampshire polls, and catching up to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Iowa.

Maybe most alarmingly for the guy whose passionless and entitled candidacy rested solely on his perceived electability, Jeb! dropped into third place in the latest Quinnipiac poll released Thursday morning, behind Walker.

Republicans like to console themselves by pointing to 2012, when most of the mediocre GOP candidates took a turn running first in the polls. But Donald Trump isn’t Herman Cain.

I’ll admit Trump’s rise, and his persistent lead in the polls, surprises me a little. But it shouldn’t. All the things people think ought to damage him – his attacks on illegal Mexican immigrants and John McCain; his attorney’s claim that marital rape isn’t rape; ugly comments about a breastfeeding attorney – aren’t going to matter to the GOP base. They don’t like immigrants, McCain, feminist talk about “marital rape” or uppity breastfeeding career women.

I suggested Tuesday that Trump might be hurt by attorney Michael Cohen’s bizarre attack on the Daily Beast journalists who unearthed a 1989 Ivana Trump deposition accusing her husband of rape, as well as by his claim that there’s no such crime as marital rape. Indeed, Cohen quickly apologized and Trump moved to distance himself from his close associate and regular campaign surrogate. There was no such reaction to outrage over his comments about McCain or Mexican immigrants. So Trump recognized that he couldn’t brazen through a claim that marital rape doesn’t exist (the attack on journalists wasn’t as big a deal.)

Meanwhile Jeb, the man who was running to save his party from scary guys like Trump, is fading. But maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise, either. It took Bush two weeks to condemn Trump’s remarks about Mexicans who come to this country illegally. He quickly denounced his attacks on John McCain, but he’s been otherwise silent about the threat Trump’s right-wing populism poses to his party and the country. Jeb was supposed to be the guy who was willing “to lose the primary to win the general,” but he hasn’t had the courage, or even the apparent impulse, to go after Trump.

Trump aside, Bush’s campaign has struggled through one self-created mess after another. With attacks on the minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, the Bush family scion is making Mitt Romney look like a working class hero.

Yes, as I’ve written before, Bush could still be the beneficiary of Trump’s current dominance, as other GOP candidates struggle to get attention. (Nobody but Trump, Walker and Bush topped 6 percent in this latest Q poll.) He’s got a ton of cash, and the support of GOP elites.  But he’s being humiliated by Trump daily.

There are only so many ways to say the GOP made this mess. Party leaders have courted and advanced the Sarah Palins and Donald Trumps of the world. They’ve tolerated and even encouraged anti-Obama birtherism and the ugliest sorts of nativism.  They’ve let the wingnuts hold the debt ceiling hostage and shut down the government. And they’ve accepted their status as a 90 percent white party without doing anything to begin to compete for the votes of African Americans, Latinos or Asians.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the guy who called illegal immigrants “rapists” and “criminals” is leading the field– two thirds of GOP voters in the latest CNN poll said they support the mass deportation of the 11 million immigrants who are here illegally.

The Republican Party is like an old, ramshackle house long neglected by its owners. A crazy squatter moved in, and now they can’t get him out. For now, anyway, it’s Trump’s house.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, July 30, 2015

July 31, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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