The man behind Trump? Still Steve Bannon

170129-Stephen-Bannon-GettyImages-632670134.jpg

Says one insider of Steve Bannon: “He’s telling Trump that he can do everything he said he would do on the campaign trail.” | Getty

POLITICO

In the 10 days since the inauguration, Bannon has rapidly amassed power in the West Wing.

As protests erupted around the country late Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, many of his key White House staff left for the black-tie Alfalfa Club dinner—but not his top adviser, Stephen Bannon, who stayed behind at the White House with the president, according to a senior White House official.

In the 10 days since Trump’s inauguration, Bannon — the former head of Breitbart News — has rapidly amassed power in the West Wing, eclipsing chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was among those at the Alfalfa Club event. Along with charting the early direction of the Trump administration, he’s been named to a seat on the National Security Council, giving him a part in the nation’s most sensitive intelligence operations.

Bannon and senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller helped lay the political and ideological foundations for Trump’s rise before Trump came on the scene. Breitbart was instrumental in promoting the idea that establishment Republican lawmakers had betrayed American workers on issues like immigration and trade, a theme Trump rode to victory in November.

They’ve been responsible for setting an “action plan” for Trump’s first weeks in the White House, developing executive orders and memoranda and deciding when Trump would sign each new document, according to people familiar with the process.

The plan has so far produced executive actions weakening Obamacare, beefing up immigration enforcement, and freezing federal hiring — and on preventing refugees and visa-holders from majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

“He’s telling Trump that he can do everything he said he would do on the campaign trail,” said a person close to the administration.

That’s won Bannon the president’s favor, and endeared him to his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. Rather than telling Trump what he can’t do, Bannon — a self-made multimillionaire who Trump sees as a peer rather than as an employee, according to people familiar with their relationship — has positioned himself alongside Trump as an enemy of the Washington establishment, including the Republican Party.

During the transition, Bannon stayed away from many of the lower-level hiring decisions and avoided staff meetings where others attended, instead focusing on shaping the Cabinet. He was “integral” in the process of selecting Trump’s appointees, one person close to the team said.

Unlike some of Trump’s other advisers, Bannon doesn’t often appear on television or go to Washington dinners. He swears frequently and often dresses more casually than most White House staff, and generally seems most comfortable huddling with Trump privately or standing off to the side during large meetings.

“He has a great understanding of the American public and why Trump won the election, and he tells Trump about what people are really upset about and what they’re really concerned about,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And, Giuliani added, “Trump generally agrees with him.”

Bannon’s rise has worried Trump’s critics because he led Breitbart, which associates itself with the alt-right and groups supporting nationalism and other fringe beliefs. After he was hired in the White House, the Southern Poverty Law Center called him “the main driver behind Breitbart becoming a white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.” Bannon and his friends have denied the attacks and say he is not racist or anti-Semitic.

At Bannon’s right hand is Miller, a close ideological ally who traveled with Trump almost constantly during the campaign, forging a close bond with him and even introducing Trump at rallies.

Together, Bannon and Miller wrote Trump’s inaugural address. Since his swearing in, they’ve pushed Trump to take his most combative stances, particularly toward the media.

Both of the men have sometimes clashed with other Republican and White House staffers, who have accused them of keeping information from others. And other White House aides have worried that their policies are being implemented too quickly with little planning. Yet Trump seems to appreciate both men.

“Steve mastered [Trump’s] voice,” said the person close to the administration, referring to Miller. “He takes him stuff he knows the president will like, and he puts it in words the president will want to say.”

The working relationship between Bannon and Miller stretches back to 2013, when Miller was an aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who’s now Trump’s nominee for attorney general. The two worked together to scuttle the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill, which many Republicans thought was a done deal in the wake of Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat, when the party was focused on reaching out to Latino voters.

Miller provided Breitbart a constant flow of information designed to undermine the bill, which surfaced in articles on the website and ricocheted through Washington. The general thrust presaged Trump’s campaign with the argument that comprehensive immigration reform was orchestrated by a cadre of elites—politicians, CEOs, special interests — with an interest in importing cheap foreign labor, and at the expense of American workers.

The immigration reform bill ultimately died after House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it to the floor for a vote.

On Sunday, #StopPresidentBannon was trending on Twitter as protests raged at airports across the country in reaction to Friday’s executive order prohibiting Syrian refugees and travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States as well as Bannon’s elevation to the NSC.

The president’s sharpest critics seized on Bannon’s addition to the NSC as another sign Trump will take a hard-right approach to governing.

“Steve Bannon is not on the White House staff for his national security expertise,” said Paul Begala, a former political adviser to President Bill Clinton. “He’s there because he was a successful publisher of what he describes as a platform for the alt-right, which is part of Trump’s base. That’s politics. There should be no seat at the table at the NSC for that person.”

President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove—often referred to as “Bush’s brain” and seen as an aide with massive influence over the president—was prohibited by Bush from attending national security meetings. President Barack Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, said in an interview that he’d occasionally observe meetings in the Situation Room, but “there were occasions where I was expressly told I could not attend.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, reached back to Harry Hopkins, a close political adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who had a hand in influencing policy during World War II, to find an example of a political aide influencing national security policy to a similar degree.

“If Trump trusts his instincts and judgment, it’s a perfectly legitimate plan,” Gingrich said in an interview. “Bannon thinks about strategy all the time, and a large part of the NSC is about strategy.” Gingrich also pointed out that Bannon is a former naval officer, a talking point that was repeated by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, as a reason he is qualified for the role.

Another former naval officer, Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, disputed that view, calling it a “radical departure” to elevate a political adviser while diminishing the role of the joint chiefs of staff. “I am worried about the National Security Council,” he said Sunday on Face the Nation.

With Tara Palmeri and Shane Goldmacher

Is McConnell facing a mutiny in the lame duck? Over Russia?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and the Senate GOP leadership,listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 23, 2013, following a Republican strategy session. At left is Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Why? Because I said so dammit! | attribution: AP

DAILY KOS

This lame duck could be getting interesting in a hurry, and maybe not setting up to be not much to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s liking. Lindsey Graham and John McCain have both already come out demanding a Select Committee on cyber terrorism, and have been joined by Democratic incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and RI Democrat Jack Reed. This is not what McConnell wants, he wants an already existing Senate committee, already under his thumb to investigate the Russian hacking to sweep it under the rug. It will be harder for him to keep control of a Select committee.

But there is now more pressure on McConnell to start just such a committee, if not an independent “9-11” style commission. Politico is reporting that Republican Senator Corey Gardner from Colorado announced that he will introduce legislation for a Senate Select committee to investigate the Russian election hacking as well has other cyber hacking threats to the U.S. by North Korea and Iran.

Corey Gardner is the critical cog here. Right now the GOP controls the Senate 52-48, it would take three GOP Senators flipping their votes to get the bill passed. If the Democrats are unified about this, then if Graham and McCain are resolute, and you toss Gardner’s “yes” vote in there, the bill will pass.

This is quite a step as Corey Gardner is very close to McConnell. As Polico reports it;

Gardner, who is close with McConnell, took pains to cast his proposal as far broader than the Russian hacking of U.S. election officials. His hope is to introduce the bill with bipartisan cosponsors early next year.

“From North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures to Iran’s attack on a New York dam, it’s evident that we are facing a growing cybersecurity challenge. The nature and complexity of recent cyber-attacks require a whole of government approach to cyberspace and the development of federal policy to mitigate the threat and protect everything from personal information to the security of our critical infrastructure,” Gardner said in a statement.

This is an early test for McConnell. Other GOP Senators have been making noises about backing a Select committee, without actually proposing anything. If he loses on this Select committee, it could be read as an early indication that there are at least some GOP Senators out there who are not quite ready to just roll over and play dead for the Trump agenda. It could also come as a warning shot to Trump and McConnell that some of Trump’s cabinet picks who may have somewhat less than smooth sailings through the nomination process. Keep an eye out on how this comes out, it could be an early indicator of just how radical the Senate is preparing to go.

By Murfster35

Clinton’s support among Hispanics equal to Obama’s in 2012, 2008

Getty Images

THE HILL

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump nationally by double digits among Hispanics, according to a new poll that shows support for the Democratic nominee comparable to that seen for President Obama in 2012 and 2008.

The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) poll shows Clinton leading Trump, the Republican nominee, among Hispanics, 66 to 18 percent. Another 15 percent were undecided.

That’s a 16-point jump in support for Clinton from the same poll conducted in May, where she had the support of 50 percent of Hispanic voters, compared to Trump’s 24 percent.

Obama won the White House in 2012 by carrying similar margins with Hispanic voters: 71 percent voted for him against GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Similarly, 67 percent of Hispanics picked Obama in 2008, compared to 31 percent who voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Monica Escaleras, director of the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative, noted the similarities between the Clinton and Obama campaigns and credited Clinton’s work with Hispanic voters as the reason for her gains.

“Clinton has taken some major strides to increase her support among Hispanics,” Escaleras said.

“Her efforts to win over many who said they were undecided a couple of months ago are paying off.”

The poll also shows Hispanics view Clinton as better to handle the economy and terrorism.

Sixty-three percent see Clinton as better than Trump for the economy, compared to the 23 percent who favor Trump. And 56 percent think the former secretary of State would be best to keep them safe from terrorism, compared to the 22.9 percent who favor Trump.

The poll was conducted nationally from July 1 to 31 among 500 Hispanics and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

By Jessie Hellmann

GOP angst grows over Trump

Getty Images

THE HILL

By Alexander Bolton

The hope this week among Republicans was that Donald Trump would make headway on unifying the party in two pivotal meetings on Capitol Hill.

Instead, Trump called Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) a loser and bickered with Sen. Jeff Flake, warning he’d turn his ire on the Arizona Republican if he kept up with his criticism.

Trump also pointed to a recent Rasmussen poll showing him ahead of Hillary Clinton by two points nationally during the closed-door meeting on Thursday.

But it wasn’t lost on the GOP senators what was left unsaid: a string of other recent polls — including those from better-regarded sources such as Reuters, USA Today, Quinnipiac and Pew Research — show Clinton ahead.

With just more than a week to go before the GOP convention in Cleveland, angst over the presidential contest is growing in the Senate.

Republicans see Clinton as an entirely beatable candidate and believe this week’s scathing criticism from FBI Director James Comey over her private email system can be used against her.

But few in the GOP are convinced that Trump will win or that he is even the favorite, and this week’s meetings — and the events on the campaign trail surrounding them — did little to change things.

Several Republican senators said the meeting was far from a disaster.

While Trump traded barbs for three to four minutes, the vast majority of the meeting was positive.

“You in the media have it all wrong. That stuff was only three or four minutes. The rest of it was positive. It was a good meeting. We talked mostly about how do we unify to beat Hillary Clinton and fix the Obama economy,” said one Republican senator who has long been critical of Trump and will skip the convention in Cleveland.

Others took away the fact that Trump could be useful in delivering attacks on their Democratic opponents that would resonate with white working-class voters, his most loyal demographic.

At the same time, observers said Trump did little to move the needle during what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised would be a frank talk.

Republicans opposed to him being the GOP standard-bearer didn’t change their opinions, nor did his fans.

“I don’t think anybody came away with any higher opinion of Trump’s chances but I do think that Trump could be useful in attacking their opponents,” said a Senate Republican aide. “In a room full of people looking for any kind of silver lining, that was it. But there was no greater hope he can win.”

House lawmakers felt similarly.

“I don’t know that anything moved appreciably,” said a Republican strategist for a major business group who spoke with House lawmakers and aides Friday about Trump’s visit.

“For guys looking for more for the same and feeling underwhelmed by Trump, they left feeling exactly the same. If you were positively inclined before the meeting, you’re probably the same there too.”

“Anybody that was on the fence didn’t come off the fence,” the source added.

Republican Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who does not support Trump, said he didn’t think the meeting changed any minds.

“For me it didn’t make a difference. I heard from a lot of my colleagues in the House that they liked him more,” he said. “He’s likeable. Certainly people have strong disagreements with many of his statements but it doesn’t strike people as malicious but more like an uncle who says things that shouldn’t be said.”

Trump made members of the audience wince when he pledged to defend all articles in the Constitution, including, he vowed, Article 12, which does not exist because the founding document has only seven.

“Is it a little uncomfortable? Yeah,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R), a Tea Party conservative from South Carolina. “Is it a big deal in the greater scheme of things? No.”

But Mulvaney also said the reception was generally positive.

Trump remains disconcerting to lawmakers because just as they’re starting to feel more comfortable with him, he says something puzzling or outrageous.

In an interview with The New York Times this week he did not rule out the possibility that he would opt out of serving as president if he beats Hillary Clinton to win the White House.

“I’ll let you know how I feel after it happens,” he said.

Trump told senators Thursday that he could win in Illinois, Michigan and Connecticut, states that have voted consistently Democratic in recent presidential elections.

He also told them that he would not write off New York, where he grew up and has had a major media presence for decades, and would not ignore California either, though he acknowledged receiving advice not to spend any time in the state.

Lawmakers questioned Trump’s political calculus in light of a new Field poll showing him trailing Clinton by 30 points in California in a head-to-head matchup.

Trump also appeared to be confused during a confrontation with Flake, who he predicted would lose re-election. It’s his home state colleague, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who’s running for re-election this year. Flake is up in 2018.

Some lawmakers where left scratching their head after Trump’s speech in Cincinnati on Wednesday night that veered all over the map.

Even though the speech was unorthodox, to say the least, it didn’t get all negative reviews.

Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” declared afterward that the audience loved it and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, said, “He’s got his groove back.”

Veteran GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a former Senate aide, said the different views on Trump’s trip highlight his unique candidacy.

“What’s appealing about Donald Trump to millions of voters is that he’s not a Washington insider. At the same time, he doesn’t understand the levers of power, how the political process works and how to run a campaign,” he said.

“We’re seeing the turbulence around it right now, through some of the mistaken comments he’s made to having challenges assembling a professional staff,” Bonjean added

Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect

(Getty Images)

THE HILL

Senate Republicans are deeply concerned that Donald Trump will cost them their majority, despite private assurances from leaders that voters opposed to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee will split their ballots.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published last week shows Trump’s unfavorable rating has hit new a high, with 7 out of 10 respondents nationwide viewing him negatively.

One Republican senator facing a competitive re-election said he and his colleagues are “very concerned.”

“There’s deep, deep concern,” he added.

Republicans have to defend 24 seats while Democrats only have to protect 10. Six of the vulnerable GOP seats are in states that President Obama won in 2008 and 2012.

Almost every day, Republican senators see new evidence of Trump’s lack of mainstream appeal.

Major companies such as Wells Fargo and UPS, which sponsored the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, are skipping this summer’s event in Cleveland.

“There’s a lot of anxiety out there,” said a second Senate Republican. “People are trying to figure out what’s going on in the political climate, what it means to us, to me. There’s anxiety.”

Yet there’s a growing sense of resignation that not much can be done to change their presumptive nominee.

At a meeting of Senate Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters Wednesday, Trump didn’t even come up for discussion, according to two lawmakers who participated.

Republican leaders are trying to buck up their nervous colleagues by arguing they can win re-election even if Trump crashes and burns.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted on Fox News that this will be a “ticket-splitting kind of year.”

He believes that many people who vote for Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, or Gary Johnson, the libertarian nominee, will also vote for Republican Senate candidates.

He is urging vulnerable incumbents to distance themselves from Trump and run their own races.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), the most endangered Senate incumbent, has taken that advice and withdrawn his endorsement.

“He is too bigoted and racist for the land of Lincoln,” he told The Hill, adding that other Senate Republicans “could” be concerned about his effect on their own contests.

NRSC Chairman Roger Wicker (Miss.) said Trump won’t necessarily have a negative impact on Senate candidates.

“That hasn’t happened historically,” he said of fears that the nominee will create headwinds in Senate races. “Our candidates look very, very good. We’ll take [the races] one by one.”

Other Republicans make the same argument.

“I believe that people vote individually, evaluating each race. We have very strong Senate candidates and they will run their own races,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is not up for reelection this year.

In recent elections, however, the macro political environment has had as big an impact on results and candidate quality, experts say.

“They’re whistling past the graveyard,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, when asked about GOP skepticism of a presidential coattail effect in 2016. “To deny there’s coattails is laughable. It’s a very polarized era.”

In a report published last year, UVA’s Center for Politics observed the correlation between presidential and Senate voting exceeded 80 percent in the past two presidential elections.

Democrats picked up two Senate seats when Obama was re-elected in 2012, winning races in five Republican-leaning states: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. They also won in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

Democrats won a net gain of eight Senate seats in 2008, when Obama first captured the White House.

Karl Rove, who served as former President George W. Bush’s top political advisor, predicted in December that the top of the ticket will have a major influence on November’s Senate races.

“In the past two presidential contests, the Republican ticket’s downward pull on the party’s Senate candidates was pronounced,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, noting that Senate Republican incumbents lost in New Hampshire and Oregon in 2008 despite running ahead of their presidential nominee, John McCain.

Senate Republicans picked up four seats when Bush won re-election in 2004.

In 2014, losing Senate Democratic incumbents such as former Sen. Mark Begich (Alaska) blamed their losses on President Obama’s unpopularity.

Begich, who was thought to have run a near-perfect race, observed to the Alaska Dispatch that the Republican strategy that year was to make every race about Obama.

Republicans say this year will be different because unlike in past presidential elections, their candidates won’t embrace the nominee.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), who has a tough race in New Hampshire, for example, has emphasized that she will support but not endorse Trump.

Democratic strategists say it will be impossible for Republican candidates to inoculate themselves from Trump’s unpopularity. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched a campaign branding the GOP as “the party of Trump.”

Adam Jentleson, a senior aide to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), on Thursday called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his fellow Republicans “puppets of Trump” after McCain blamed Obama’s national security policies for the mass shooting in Orlando. McCain is facing the toughest race of his Senate career,

Trump’s penchant for shooting from the hip and sparking media frenzies has overshadowed Republican accomplishments in Congress.

Senate Republicans were hoping to spend the week of June 6 discussing the disappointing May jobs report, which showed employers added only 38,000 workers to their payrolls.

Instead, Trump’s comments attacking a Mexican-American judge presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University dominated the political debate, putting vulnerable Senate incumbents on the defensive.

“If he had just said nothing and let the jobs report speak for him, it would have been a great week,” said another GOP senator facing a tough re-election.

Trump’s most stomach-churning characteristic, according to many Senate Republicans, is his sheer unpredictability.

He surprised allies by tweeting Wednesday that he would be meeting with the National Rifle Association about not allowing people on terror watch lists from buying guns, a position that most Senate Republicans oppose without sufficient due-process safeguards.

Trump’s unexpected statement immediately put Republicans who voted in December against legislation sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) banning people on the no-fly list from buying guns on the defensive.

The entire Senate GOP conference except for Kirk voted against it.

By Alexander Bolton

Cruz floats restarting campaign if he wins Nebraska primary

From The Smoke-filled Room

THE HILL

Ted Cruz floated the possibility of restarting his presidential campaign if he wins Nebraska’s GOP primary on Tuesday and avoided saying whether he supports Donald Trump‘s bid for president.
Cruz, who suspended his White House run last week, said he does not expect to win Nebraska’s primary but is leaving the door open.
“We launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended our campaign was that with the Indiana loss, I felt there was no path to victory,” he said Tuesday on conservative host Glenn Beck’s radio program.
“If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly.”
Cruz demurred on supporting Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, because the Republican National Convention and general election are still months away.
“This is a choice every voter is going to have to make. I would note, it’s not a choice we as voters have to make today,” Cruz said when asked about supporting Trump.
He also brushed aside the prospects of a convention fight or third-party presidential bid.
Cruz and allies told supporters Monday night call that they would not try to block Trump’s nomination but instead focus on influencing the party’s platform and rules, according to Politico.
Cruz joins a number of prominent Republicans who have said they are not yet supporting Trump for president.

Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former GOP presidential nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain have all decided not to attend the party’s convention in July, an apparent rebuke of Trump.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said last week he was not ready to endorse Trump, adding he needed assurances that Trump would champion conservative ideas.

Cruz dropped out of the presidential race last week after losing big in Indiana’s primary. John Kasich dropped out a day later, clearing the way for Trump to become the presumptive nominee.

Cruz had hoped a win in Indiana could give him momentum into Tuesday’s Nebraska contest, but Trump emerged from the Hoosier State as the only candidate with a viable path forward.

Arizona Democrats Grow A Pair, Recruit Quality Candidate To Challenge John McCain (Video)

Arizona Democrats Grow A Pair, Recruit Quality Candidate To Challenge John McCain (VIDEO)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick/Sen. John McCain – Photos from Wikipedia

REVERB PRESS

Arizona Democrats seemed to have long ago given up, rolled over, and played dead when it came to John McCain’s Senate seat. He waltzed away with every election since 1986.

That’s about to change. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her candidacy for his Senate seat. She’s such a strong candidate that, within hours of her announcement, Roll Call changed their rating of the race from ‘Republican Favored’ to ‘Leaning Republican’. And that’s just the beginning.

Kirkpatrick has been a resilient campaigner. She first won her seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District in 2008, lost it in 2010 to Tea Partier Paul Gosar, regained it in 2012, then held onto it during the Republican sweep of 2014. The right has tried to characterize her as President Obama’s foot soldier and she is decidedly liberal, but the 1st District swings both ways, politically. It contains the largest Native American population of any district in the nation and includes the northern university town of Flagstaff.

Kirkpatrick has deep ties to the northern part of the state, especially with the Navajo Nation. Her emphasis is on jobs, jobs, jobs — plus veterans’ affairs and restoring the nation’s infrastructure. In the video of her announcement, she says:

“I’ve got a vision for the future of Arizona — and it’s all about jobs. I know this isn’t going to be an easy race. But I’ve got my boots on, my sleeves are rolled up, and I’m ready to work.”

There’s still time for other Democrats to join the primary race. A redistricting case before the Supreme Court may influence other candidates’ decisions, as it may change the composition of districts from which Democratic candidates like Rep. Kyrsten Sinema would have to run, increasing the tilt toward the Republican Party. The case was heard in August, with a decision to come soon.

Nevertheless, Kirkpatrick is an extremely credible candidate who can draw donors from both within and without the state, especially since McCain is in increasing trouble with Arizona voters. According to a recent report by Public Policy Polling (PPP), only 41% of Republican primary voters approve of the job he’s doing. Among those who identify as ‘very conservative’, only 11% say they would vote for McCain. He’s likely to also face a strong challenge from the far right, which could help consume some of his own vast financial resources.

To get a preview of what McCain can expect from candidate Ann Kirkpatrick, watch her announcement video below:

Deborah Montesano

H/t: DB

“I’m normal, I promise!”: Mitt Romney’s unending quest to win over America

"I'm normal, I promise!": Mitt Romney's unending quest to win over America
Mitt Romney | (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

Salon

Going into 2016, Mitt is “determined to re-brand himself as authentic” — which is indeed the very essence of Mitt

If you’re looking for the very stuff of Willard Mitt “Mitt” Romney, the pure essence that lies at the center of his political soul, it can be found in the fourth paragraph of Tuesday’sWashington Post story on the embryonic stages of Mitt’s 2016 presidential campaign (emphasis added):

If he runs again in 2016, Romney is determined to re-brand himself as authentic, warts and all, and central to that mission is making public what for so long he kept private. He rarely discussed his religious beliefs and practices in his failed 2008 and 2012 races, often confronting suspicion and bigotry with silence as his political consultants urged him to play down his Mormonism.

This is Mitt Romney’s burden – a never-ending struggle to convince the country that he’s a normal fellow who does normal fellow things. If only America knew the “real” Mitt Romney, if only they could just see Mitt being Mitt, well, by gosh and by golly, they’d make him president tomorrow! Apparently an important part of the strategy he’s settled on, per the Post, is to talk about being a Mormon, recite Scripture, and “crack jokes about Joseph Smith’s polygamy.” Then he’ll emerge from his custom-built “manse complete with a ‘secret door’ hideaway room and an outdoor spa off the master bath” to give a speech or two on poverty, which will be “a central theme of his next campaign.”

The problem for Romney is that he’s tried this “I’m authentic! Really!” routine so many times before, and it has obviously never worked. He foundered in the 2008 primaries against John McCain and Mike Huckabee because they came off as more genuine in their policy positions and more comfortable in their ideological skins than Romney, who desperately wanted Republican voters to believe that he was a true conservative and a real person. And so going into 2012, Romney and his advisers were committed to show the political world that Mitt was a conservative Average Joe.

They sent Mitt to NASCAR events, where he forged his link with the common man by talking about his wealthy friends who own NASCAR teams. They sent him down to the South, where we sampled the local cuisine and took a stab at speaking the regional dialect: “I’m learning to say ‘y’all’ and I like grits. Strange things are happening to me.” These are the ways Mitt Romney tries to connect with people. He’s not offensive and he’s not completely robotic – he just has no idea what people expect of him.

The Romney awkwardness finally came to a head in early October 2012. Behind in all the polls and not gaining traction on any issue, Mitt’s people fed to Politico the story of how Romney’s family usurped the campaign strategists and “pushed for a new message, putting an emphasis on a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee — a ‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew.” At the time the story ran, Romney was bouncing back in the polls owing to his stronger-than-expected performance in the first debate against Obama, and Team Romney was eager to paint the turnaround as a consequence of The Authentic Romney finally emerging. “When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga,” Politico reported at the time.

Of course, Mitt spent the entire month of October “being Mitt” and still lost handily – turns out you can’t erase multiple years of poor campaigning and quell voters’ long-standing suspicions with a few weeks of not-totally-incompetent messaging.

And now, after letting himself be himself and failing, Romney wants to rebrand as a still more authentic version of himself. There is no known limit to the depths of Romney’s authenticity. And that, again, gets to Romney’s problem of never knowing what people expect of him. He keeps promising us over and over that we still haven’t seen the “real” Mitt Romney. He probably thinks that’s what people want to hear, and doesn’t quite get that he’s just confirming to anyone who still cares that every Mitt Romney we’ve seen up to now has been fake.

10 things you need to know today: January 4, 2015

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee | Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The Week

Mike Huckabee prepares for a 2016 run, the first popularly elected black senator dies, and more.
1. Mike Huckabee leaves Fox News to consider 2016 bid

Fox News host Mike Huckabee announced Saturday he would leave his TV show while weighing whether to mount another White House bid. The former Arkansas governor, who fell short to eventual nominee John McCain in 2008, said the speculation surrounding his intentions was not fair to Fox and that the “honorable thing to do at this point” was leave the network. Huckabee said he would make a final decision on a 2016 bid by late spring. [Politico]

………………………………………………………………………………

2. Edward Brooke, first elected black senator, dies

Edward W. Brooke, the first African-American ever elected by popular vote to serve in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday at the age of 95. A Republican, Brooke won his first Senate election in Massachusetts in 1966, and later became the first Republican senator to call for President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The only two black senators to precede Brooke, Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram R. Revels, were both elected by Mississippi’s legislature — not the people — in the 1870s. [The Boston Globe]

………………………………………………………………………………

3. Israel withholds Palestinian tax payment

Israel on Saturday froze about $127 million in tax payments in retaliation for Palestine applying to join the International Criminal Court. Palestine moved on Friday to join the ICC in hopes of addressing alleged Israeli war crimes. Collected by Israel on behalf of Palestine, the tax revenue makes up more than half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]

………………………………………………………………………………

4. North Korea blasts U.S. over Sony hack sanctions

North Korea on Sunday struck back at the U.S. over new sanctions aimed at punishing the Hermit Kingdom for its alleged role in the massive Sony cyberattack. Imposed Friday, the sanctions target three companies and 10 government officials the U.S. claims had a hand in the hack. In response, North Korea continued to deny any involvement in the breach, instead accusing Washington of “groundlessly stirring up bad blood” and maintaining an “inveterate repugnancy and hostility” toward the Pyongyang. [BBC]

………………………………………………………………………………

5. Funeral to be held Sunday for slain NYPD officer

The funeral of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed in the line of duty last month, will be held Sunday in Brooklyn. Thousands of police officers and politicians from around the country are expected to attend the memorial service. At a funeral last weekend for Rafael Ramos, the other officer killed in the December ambush, some members of the city’s police force turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, highlighting lingering tension between City Hall and the NYPD. [CBS]

………………………………………………………………………………

6. U.N. report: 12,300 civilian deaths in Iraq last year

An estimated 12,282 civilians died last year in violence across Iraq, making it the deadliest year there since 2007, according to the United Nations. The bulk of the deaths came later in the year as ISIS gained ground in the country. “This is a very sad state of affairs,” Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. representative for Iraq, said. [The Los Angeles Times]

………………………………………………………………………………

7. Boko Haram abducts dozens in Nigeria

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram last week abducted about 40 men and boys from a village in northern Nigeria. The group seized its captives on Dec. 31, but news of the abduction didn’t trickle out for a few days due to faulty communications infrastructure destroyed in previous Boko Haram attacks. [CNN]

………………………………………………………………………………

8. Pope Francis names 15 new cardinals

Pope Francis on Sunday named 15 new cardinals from disparate places around the globe, saying the selections were intended to “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.” Francis tabbed cardinals from Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Tonga, among others. [The Associated Press]

………………………………………………………………………………

9. Oregon, Ohio, to change name for college football championship

The town of Oregon, Ohio, says it will temporarily change its name ahead of next week’s college football title game. The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship pits the Oregon Ducks against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which prompted two Oregon — the suburb, not the state — natives to petition the city council for a name change. Oregon City Administrator Michael Beazley told the Toledo Free Press the town had not settled on a new name yet, but that they were “going to do something” in the next few days. [Toledo Free Press, ESPN]

………………………………………………………………………………

10. Opry star Jimmy Dickens dead at 94

Jimmy Dickens, a Country Music Hall of Fame member known best for his decades-long presence at the Grand Ole Opry, died Friday at a hospital in Nashville after suffering a stroke. He was 94 years old. Standing at just 4-foot-11, the country music star earned the nicknames “Little Jimmy Dickens,” and, as he called himself, “Mighty Mouse in Pajamas.” [The New York Times]

Sunday Talk: … for John McCain! #GreatNews

attribution: none specified

John McCain (AS SEEN ON TV) might have lost the battle for the White House, but he’s definitely winning the “War onWar.” #TehSurgeIsWorking

If all goes according to plan—and why wouldn’t it?the U.S. could be operatingin Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere for another hundred… or thousand… or even 1 million years! #NeverGonnaGiveYouUp

And better there than here. #amirite

President B. Hussein Obama won’t say it, but there are some really scary dudes (Mooslims) out there hatin’ America—just because we’re beautiful. #2Sexy4Sharia

History has shown us time and again thatthose people can’t be reasoned with, nor can they be appeased; the only winning move is to bomb them back to the Stone Age. #PaintItBlack

Nevar forget; the fundamentals of this strategy are strong. #ReaganSmash

 

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Former Secretary of State James Baker; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Roundtable: Nia-Malika Henderson(Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Republican Strategist Mike Murphy and Jim VandeHei (Politico).

Face The Nation: Secretary of State John Kerry; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); “The Roosevelts” Roundtable: Filmmaker Ken Burns, Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Author Geoffrey Ward.

This Week: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Roundtable: Democratic Strategist Donna Brazileand Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd.

Fox News Sunday: Former CIA/NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI); Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News), Kristen Powers  (USA Today), Republican Strategist Karl Rove and Juan Williams (Fox News).

State of the Union: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.); Lieutenant General James Dubik (Ret.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Rep. John Conyers (D-MI); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Roundtable: Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Republican Strategist Lanhee Chen, S.E. Cupp (CNN) and LZ Granderson (ESPN).

 

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on severe shortcomings in the state of mental health care for young people (preview); a report on the FBI’s 16-year hunt for Boston gangster Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend (preview); and, an interview with University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban (preview).