The GOP’s 15 other Benghazi talking points for Hillary Clinton

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On October 22, 2016, Democratic frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. The supposed scandal has already claimed one scalp—just not hers. Would-have-been House Speaker Kevin McCarthy abandoned his campaign for the gavel after providing Clinton and the Democrats with a talking point that exposed the sham that is the entire Republican witch hunt:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today?”

To be sure, McCarthy’s Kinsley gaffe (the kind in which “a politician tells the truth”) presents a real problem for Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and his laughable claim that “this investigation has never been about her and never will be.” After all, his is the eighth probe into the tragic September 11, 2012 killings of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three

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The 50-state strategy revisited: Was it the key to Obama’s victory in 2008?

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Barack Obama and family on November 4, 2008 after winning the election.

A few weeks back, in looking at a recent study by SmartPolitics that showed a gradual hardening of statewide preferences in recent presidential election history, I noted that this could be viewed through the lens of recent discussion about resurrecting the 50-state strategy (one of the most identifiable features of Howard Dean’s tenure as head of the Democratic National Committee).
A piece of evidence that seemed to call for a renaissance for the 50-state strategy came from a 2013 retrospective by Louis Jacobson at Governing, which made the connection that the implementation of that strategy between 2005-09 also coincided with the best electoral years of recent vintage for the Democrats, particularly in states where they had not (in recent history, at least) been terribly strong.

With a presidential election on the horizon that is likely to be highly competitive, this week we dig a little deeper into the presidential

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The New York Times: When it comes to Clinton, it’s all the speculation that’s fit to print

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a press conference after talking about her strategy for rural America during a campaign stop at the FFA Enrichment Center at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa August 26, 2015.

Two things it’s never hard to find are Democrats who think the sky is falling and friends of prominent politicians who’d like their friends to run for president, and the media is doing its damnedest to turn this into a major story about the 2016 Democratic primary. The New York Times, of course, wants to be sure it’s a leader in this field, and so we get “Big-Name Plan B’s for Democrats Concerned About Hillary Clinton,” by Patrick Healy. The big names in question? Former Vice President Al Gore, who has been out of electoral politics for 15 years and shows no interest. Secretary of State John Kerry, who shows no interest. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been extremely clear she is not running. And Vice President Joe Biden, who actually seems to be flirting with the idea.
It’s not clear who should feel more insulted by such speculation:

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I really am still undecided between Bernie and Hillary

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In some ways I envy those of you who feel certain in your choice. I’m just not there yet. And I doubt I’m the only one, even on this site. On what basis is this undecided voter going to decide? That’s what this post is about.
At the heart of the matter, I’m a liberal. Because ours is a two-party political system—a duopoly really—and the Democrats have consistently been the more liberal of the two major parties during my lifetime, I am a Democrat. I freely admit, I am a liberal rather than a radical, but I do believe our system needs serious reforms. On the other hand, I don’t want to burn the system down. I believe in free markets, but with strong constraints to prevent abuse and a robust safety net to ensure that all citizens receive basic supports. All the major Democratic candidates are ideologically in

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If my mom was alive, she’d probably be voting for Hillary

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Two Delta sorors at the Centennial Celebration

Delta Sorors at their Centennial in Washington DC, 2013

Why would my mom more than likely be voting for Hillary Clinton? Because my mom was a Delta. For those of you who have no clue what that means, Deltas are not an airline—it is the short name for a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the second oldest, and the largest, black female Greek letter organization in the world, with over 900 chapters worldwide, and over 250,000 members.
In 2013, Hillary Clinton spoke to 14,000 Deltas in Washington, DC. There were 20,000 of them at a convention celebrating 100 years of Delta Sigma Theta.

They wanted her to run for office, as you can read below.

How anti-abortion intensity wins in pro-choice America

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For four decades, American public opinion on the issue of abortion has been largely unchanged. As the numbers from Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and other polls show, roughly half of Americans have identified themselves as “pro-choice” even as consistent majorities support keeping abortion legal in all or many circumstances.
But now, a new survey conducted for Vox by the communications and strategy firm, PerryUndem, revealed that for Americans abortion is “not so black and white.” Where past polls found a public bitterly divided over the legality of abortion, the Vox survey found nuanced views and surprising common ground. When questions moved “beyond legality and into [the] reality” of the abortion experience for American women, a much different picture emerged.

Nearly four in 10 respondents said they were “neither” (21 percent) or “both” pro-choice and pro-life. Just changing the wording from “abortion should be

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What presidents can do: the Supreme Court

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Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton

A President Warren or a President Clinton would have power, but not as much as you think.

In his piece You Can’t Make The Congress Do Anything, which reviewed the book “The Fierce Urgency of Now”, Scott Lemieux writes:

We don’t have to speculate how effective LBJ’s leadership would be without a rare functioning liberal majority in Congress. After suffering major losses in the 1966 midterms, Johnson’s legendary leadership capabilities were of little value. In his final two years in office, he was forced to accept huge cuts to domestic spending, and could only pass a watered-down version of the Fair Housing Act [. . .]

Lemieux’s argument points to trying to win at the Congressional level as the key to enacting policies you want to see. Too often we all forget this through our obsession with the Presidency. And not just activists, even the rich suffer from this:

In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the “minor leagues,” while mega-donors are “the major league players.” [. . .]  [B]undlers, on the left and the right, are turning their attention to congressional races, where they can get more personal attention.

They get more than “personal attention.” They get real influence over those lawmakers. And that matters a ton, as Lemieux describes. The reality is there can be no progressive project without a progressive Congress, no matter who is president.

But there are certain powers a president has that transcend Congressional leanings: (1) the power to make war and formulate foreign policy, and (2) the power to nominate Supreme Court justices. More on this on the flip.

Harry Reid endorses Chuck Schumer to succeed him as Democratic Senate leader

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) hold a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX17GRH

Harry Reid (left) and Chuck Schumer

Harry Reid’s surprise retirement announcement has left a wide-open race to succeed him back home in Nevada, but his replacement as Democratic Senate leader looks a lot clearer. Reid quickly endorsed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer for the post, while Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Schumer’s chief rival for the top job, reportedly has told colleagues he would not seek a promotion. (Durbin is currently number two in the Democratic caucus, Schumer number three.)
A couple of other names—Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet—surfaced as early possibilities, but with Schumer consolidating support, they’re unlikely to challenge him. (If anything, Murray, the fourth-ranking member of the caucus, might go after Durbin’s job as chief whip.) For good measure, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive favorite, has said that she, too, would not run.

Assuming Schumer does indeed take over for Reid, what does this mean for the Democratic Party? Matt Yglesias makes a convincing argument that the answer is “not a whole lot“:

Legislative leaders are important people. But especially in the US Senate, leadership is more like being captain of a rec league basketball team than like being a coach in the NCAA tournament. You can only lead the caucus in directions the members are willing to follow, and the imperatives of doing the job often mean the leader’s priorities change as much—if not more so—than the party’s. […]
There are real differences between Schumer and Reid. As a New York legislator, Schumer takes a kinder view of Wall Street as something of a hometown industry. He also is a genuinely passionate and fired-up hawk on Israel-related issues. But it would be a mistake to think his ascension would lead to a massive Democratic Party reorientation in favor of Bibi Netanyahu and Jamie Dimon. If anything, the opposite. If he becomes leader, Schumer will have to sand down the edges of his personal approach to politics in order to better fit the posture of generic Democratic leader. This is one reason the Warren idea is so ridiculous—if your passion in life is picking intra-party fights, a leadership job would be a disaster.

Yglesias offers a good illustration of how this exact process worked on Reid, who began his career declaring he was “pro-life.” But in his time in charge, he operated as a loyally partisan pro-choice leader because that’s where his caucus stood. This isn’t to say that Schumer will transform into a progressive hero overnight, but he’ll be beholden to his fellow Democrats—and in this case, that’s a good thing.
There’s also one definite positive here: Unlike Reid, Schumer will never have to worry about re-election, since he represents safely blue New York. Reid always faced difficult campaigns, and his role as party leader made him more vulnerable, perhaps to the point that he felt it necessary to shy away from some national battles in order to preserve his chances of victory back home.

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The Fix: Elizabeth Warren: The id of the Democratic party

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There is perhaps no other politician on the national scene right now who has a clearer identity than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She is the unvarnished id of her party, providing that gut check, that heart part of every issue that others can’t seem to muster. And she does it in what appears to be carefully planned exchanges and performances.  (Perhaps only Chris Christie rivals her YouTube greatest hits collection).Read full article >>

Hillary Clinton’s presidency is not inevitable, but it is as close to it as we’ve seen in years

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Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally for Democratic challenger for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, October 9, 2014. The general election day in Pennsylvania will be held on November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mar

Hillary Clinton remains the frontrunner in primary and general election polling for president in 2016.

Depending on your stance on the presumptive Democratic frontrunner, many casual political observers are either confident or resigned when faced with the prospect of Hillary Clinton avenging the narrow defeat of her 2008 campaign for president and sweeping her way both to the Democratic nomination and into the White House.
Which is why, it seems, those who are critical of the former First Lady/U.S. Senator/Secretary of State seem very invested in crushing this creeping sense of inevitability about her 2016 prospects.

On the right, we have seen a lot of “she’s really not that popular, folks” (here is a nice little tweet in that vein).

And, now, we are seeing a similar pushback on the left. Late in January, a handful of wealthy Democrats still pining for an Elizabeth Warren candidacy financed a survey that had a battery of message-testing questions clearly designed to show that Clinton had vulnerabilities on a whole host of issues, ones that could hamstring her both in the primary and in the general election.

Make no mistake—there is potential merit in both efforts at pushback, on the right and the left. However, there are also substantial issues with both critiques, and the fact remains that Hillary Clinton is arguably in a more enviable position heading into a presidential election cycle than anyone in over a generation. Follow me past the fold to look at why these critiques of the “Clinton inevitability” are more nuanced than they appear, and why Clinton might be in a more commanding position than any of the “frontrunners” of the recent past.

The Fix: The chairwoman of the DNC just bashed MSNBC. What’s going on here?

This post is by Nia-Malika Henderson from Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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In this day and age, every elected official should speak and act like every single thing they do and say is being recorded and at some point will become public. And that’s especially true if your tenure as the head of an organization has been as rocky as Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s at the Democratic National Committee.Read full article >>

Democrats saved the economy. Republicans tried to kill it.

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Four years ago, Republicans led by then-new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) began taking credit for the economic progress made since the Bush recession began in December 2007. Just 19 days after the GOP had assumed control of the House, Cantor issued a statement declaring, “THERE ARE THE JOBS: Republicans Prevent Massive Tax Increase, Economy Begins to Improve.” In February 2012, then-Virginia governor and future convicted felon Bob McDonnell assumed the role of GOP mythmaker, explaining, “Look, I’m glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it’s because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president.”
Now, the arsonists are once again taking credit for putting out the fire. During his holiday break from drowning government in a bathtub, Grover Norquist comically demanded Republicans take credit for the strengthening Obama recovery. Less than 24 hours after he picked up the majority leader’s gavel, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dutifully complied:

After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.

Of course, McConnell isn’t just wrong about the timing of the accelerating Obama recovery, which in the second and third quarters of 2014 had ramped up long before a GOP takeover of the Senate seemed likely. As it turns, the Republican Party deserves zero credit for the improving American economy. Make that less than zero. After all, from their opposition to the stimulus, the auto industry rescue, and the fed’s “quantitative easing,” to their debt-ceiling hostage-taking and draconian austerity policies in Washington and the states, Republicans have been undermining the economic recovery from the moment Barack Obama first took the oath of office.

Continue reading about the Republicans’ economic sabotage below.

The Fix: Democrats are learning to loath themselves, just like Republicans

This post is by Aaron Blake from Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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Republicans have been a party divided for a few years now, with the tea party feuding with the establishment in hopes of guiding the party down a more conservative path.A byproduct of this was that many Republicans decided they didn’t much like their own political party. And so, for years, the Republican Party’s image lagged behind the Democratic Party’s.Read full article >>

She may not want to, but we need Elizabeth Warren to run for president

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Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton

The country needs her to run. So does our party. And so does Hillary Clinton.

The midterms didn’t go so well. As I said about a week ago, the Democrats should have run on economic populism. They should have put forth a coherent vision of where they want to take our country, one that includes a frank assessment of our current problems, and a concrete set of proposals to address them. Instead they tried to run to the right of President Obama by distancing themselves from Obamacare and other administration priorities. One candidate even tried to keep “private” the fact that she voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.
Democrats will never win by running as what Harry Truman called “phony Democrats.” We can only win by contrasting what we believe and what we’ve done when in power with the beliefs and actions of our Republican opponents. There is no alternative. And there’s no one in our party better suited to make that contrast to the American people than the woman who said this:

People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. […]
The Republican vision is clear: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.” Republicans say they don’t believe in government. Sure they do. They believe in government to help themselves and their powerful friends.

[snip] Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.

That woman, of course, is Elizabeth Warren. And damn if those words don’t get me excited. Many people have said this before. I’m one of them. But I’m going to say it again, because it must be said after our losses in the midterms: We need Elizabeth Warren to run for president. Whether she wins or loses, no one else can more effectively reshape the message and policy agenda of the Democratic Party, and there’s no better way for her to do so than with the platform of a White House run.

Please join me for more discussion beyond the fold.

Criminalizing liberalism

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After months of delays, President Obama is poised to finally take executive action to address the crisis of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, 85 percent of whom are estimated to have lived in the United States for at least five years. Relying on the same authority presidents of both parties have used for over 70 years to permit millions of Mexicans, European refugees, Cubans, Haitians, Vietnamese, and others to legally stay and work in the United States, Obama reportedly will issue executive orders “to protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits.”
Predictably, the Republican response has been—pun intended—fast and furious. On Capitol Hill, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-CA) and Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) are threatening to shut down the federal government rather than fund President Obama’s new immigration enforcement policies. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) among others have warned they will block the nomination of Loretta Lynch if she—or any other Obama nominee for attorney general—refuses to repudiate the president’s executive orders on immigration. But some Republicans in Congress and many among the GOP’s hardest of hard-liners want to go even further by impeaching the president of the United States. As Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) announced this week:

Well impeachment is indicting in the House and that’s a possibility. But you still have to convict in the Senate and that takes a two-thirds vote. But impeachment would be a consideration, yes sir.

That extreme reaction to President Obama’s supposed “lawless, reckless, a leap into the anti-democratic dark” is a little puzzling. After all, the Oval Office occupant Speaker John Boehner is suing for acting like “a king” has turned to executive orders much less frequently than his predecessors. And as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson acknowledged, Congress has often acted after (even months or years after) to codify or modify presidential action on immigration enforcement. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were no exception.
But if the roles were reversed, we know Republicans would not be accusing the president “poisoning the well” or “burning himself” or “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Instead, the GOP and its amen corner would level a familiar charge at Democrats:

“Criminalizing conservatism.”

Follow below the fold for more.

What Florida tells us

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Former Governor of Florida Charlie Crist answers a question during the University of Southern California's Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy inaugural Symposium in Los Angeles, California, September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas (UNITED

Sometimes good candidates lose. Why did Charlie Crist?

While the entirety of the election was a disaster and one is tempted to look to the pat answers (sixth year of a presidency, Democratic turnout dropoff in midterm elections, etc.) and just chalk up the disaster to that, it’s important for Democrats to figure out what else went wrong.
The election I was following most closely was the Florida governor’s race, which pitted new Democrat and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist versus the incumbent Republican Rick Scott. I think this race is very instructive for the following reasons: (1) Charlie Crist ran, in my opinion, a quite good campaign; (2) Crist is in fact a good politician; (3) Rick Scott was a flawed candidate; (4) while Crist could never match Scott’s spending (Scott used $13 million of his own fortune on top of the unprecedented spending by GOP billionaires like the Koches and Sheldon Adelson, among others), he was well-funded by Democratic state race standards. So what happened?

In this article, Florida Democrats point to Scott’s last-minute ad blitz as key. And there’s denying that Crist’s polling appeared to drop in the last week. But the problem with this theory for me is twofold: that the last minute blitz was somehow different than the previous months of barrages of Scott negative ads and, ultimately, this exit poll result:

Favorable 51%                                           Favorable 44%
Unfavorable 44%                                        Unfavorable 54%

I have never seen an election result diverge this sharply from personal favorability ratings. Indeed, that’s why you run negative ads, to drive down your opponent’s favorables. Now that I have set up the conundrum, I’ll search for answers on the other side.

For Democrats, GOP voter intensity trumps Americans’ propensity again

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Rout. Thumpin’. Shellacking. Call it what you will, but Democrats suffered a defeat even more dispiriting than the larger 2010 drubbing that delivered the House majority to the GOP. More dispiriting, that is, because the state of the nation has improved so dramatically over the past four years. Unemployment is down to 5.9 percent and consumer confidence is back to levels not seen since before the deep recession which began in late 2007. The stock market is at record highs while the annual federal budget deficit is less than half of what it was when Barack Obama first took the oath of office. While too many Americans clearly still do not see it or feel it, the growing U.S. economy is consistently producing new jobs, if not yet higher wages to match.
Nevertheless, Democrats nationwide got crushed on Election Day 2014 for the same reason they now typically do in midterm balloting. As the charts below once again reveal, Republican voter intensity trumped Americans’ propensity to support Democrats on the issues. In a nutshell, Republicans simply were more motivated to vote. Vote, that is, against Barack Obama, against abortion and marriage equality, and even against Ebola and ISIS. To put it another way, Republican fear and loathing beat Democratic hope and change.

The turnout numbers above tell the tale, or at least much of it. Since 2000, Americans have turned out for presidential elections at rates between 15 and 20 points higher than in midterm Congressional elections. But according to preliminary data compiled by the U.S. Election Project, 2014 turnout plummeted to just 36.6 percent of the roughly 230 million Americans eligible to vote, well below the typical 40 percent range.

The blame for the electorate’s apathetic performance goes to the Democrats. As a Gallup pre-election survey showed, with the exception of President Bush’s Katrina and Iraq backlash year in 2006, Republicans have enjoyed a large “enthusiasm gap” among likely voters.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

As midterm campaigns enter stretch run, Ebola and other twists set stage for drama

This post is by Philip Rucker from Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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Republicans are bullish that they will win control of the Senate, make small gains in the House and retain many governor’s offices this year. But just over two weeks from Election Day, fears about Ebola and Islamic State militants, along with sudden, surprising scrambles in key states, have added new volatility to the 2014 campaign.

Read full article >>

Accusation that GOP cuts have stymied Ebola efforts doesn’t add up

This post is by Glenn Kessler from Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More – The Washington Post 2014-10-18 03:50:00

This post is by Robert Barnes from Post Politics: Breaking Politics News, Political Analysis & More - The Washington Post

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The Supreme Court in a pre-dawn ruling Saturday said that Texas could proceed with its strict voter ID law in next month’s election, despite a lower court’s ruling that it was unconstitutional.

The court gave no reasoning for its decision, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Read full article >>