Tonight, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will face off in a town hall from Nevada that will also will stream live at MSNBC.com and NBCNews.com and the Spanish-language version on Telemundo.com, ahead of this weekend's Nevada caucus. Meanwhile, three GOP hopefuls, Donald Trump, John Kasich and Jeb Bush will be in Columbia, South Carolina to answer questions from voters ahead of the Feb. 20 Republican primary in the key Southern state. The event starts at 7 p.m. and will be moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Amidst an increasingly unpredictable political season, tonight the Iowa caucuses will finally cast the first votes of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's an outsider vs. establishment war in both parties, as Republican leaders struggle to dislodge Donald Trump and Ted Cruz from the top while Hillary Clinton marshalls her endorsements and long résumé against the populist zeal of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. The best guesses of FiveThirtyEight, BetFair, and Ann Selzer's gold-standard Des Moines Register poll all favor Trump and Clinton, but the race remains very close, and turnout in the demanding and complicated caucus events will be key. Vox provides a helpful video explainer on the process [previously]. Pass the time with FiveThirtyEight's 40-minute elections podcast, and keep an eye on the New York Times live blog of the caucuses for real-time updates once voting starts at 8:00 PM Eastern -- and don't forget to leave your two cents in the MeFi election prediction contest!
Kentucky counties with highest Medicaid rates backed Matt Bevin, who plans to cut Medicaid
Owsley County, one of the nation's poorest places [prev], neatly fit the trend. Nearly 1,000 of its 4,508 residents got health insurance after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear established Kynect two years ago and expanded Medicaid to include people up to 138 percent of the poverty level, which is $16,105 a year for an individual. Newly insured people started to visit the Owsley County Medical Clinic on the outskirts of Booneville. They desperately needed medical care. Even by Kentucky's lax standards, Owsley has high rates of obesity, smoking and poor nutrition, and as a result, greater than normal incidences of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Some patients wept with relief as longtime ailments finally were treated, clinic officials said. [...] The community's largest-circulation newspaper, the Three Forks Tradition in Beattyville, did not say much about Kynect ahead of the election. Instead, its editorials roasted Obama and Hillary Clinton, gay marriage, Islam, "liberal race peddlers," "liberal media," black criminals and "the radical Black Lives Matter movement."Owsley County voted for Bevin, a Tea Party businessman who vowed to dismantle Kynect, by a 70-25 margin. [more inside]
A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.
Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare. The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers. “Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
The Republican National Committee released its "autopsy" report [PDF] today, analyzing what's wrong with the Grand Old Party after two presidential defeats, with recommendations.
"Used to be that the idea was 'once every two years voters elected their representatives.' And now instead it's 'every ten years the representatives choose their constituents.'"
Obama won Ohio by two points, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won by five, but Democrats emerged with just four of Ohio’s 16 House seats. In Wisconsin, Obama prevailed by seven points, and Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin by five, but their party finished with just three of the state’s eight House seats. In Virginia, Obama and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine were clear victors, but Democrats won just three of the commonwealth’s 11 House seats. In Florida, Obama eked out a victory and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won by 13 points, but Democrats will hold only 10 of the Sunshine State’s 27 House seats. The Revenge of 2010: How gerrymandering saved the congressional Republican majority, undermined Obama's mandate, set the terms of the sequestration fight, and locked Democrats out of the House for the next decade. It's not a new problem. But if the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act, it could get a whole lot worse. And the electoral college may be next. (What's gerrymandering, you ask? Let the animals explain. Meet the Gerry-mander. Peruse the abused. Catch the movie. Or just play the game. Previously.)
Charlie Pierce is a longtime sportswriter and author who has, among other things, reported for Grantland, Slate, and the Boston Globe, paneled on more than a few games of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, and fished diapers out of trees as a state forest ranger. He's also made a name for himself as one of the sharpest and most incisive political columnists since Molly Ivins. The lead writer for Esquire's Politics Blog ever since a caustic article on former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell cost him his Globe job, Pierce has churned out an uninterrupted stream of clever, colorful, and challenging commentary on the 2012 election season and its implications for the nation's future, dispatches often seething with eviscerative anger but shot through with deep love of (or perhaps grief for) country. Look inside for a selection of Pierce's most vital works for some edifying Election Eve reading. [more inside]
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
...Many Republicans are already looking past 2012. If either Romney or Santorum gains the nomination and then falls before Obama, flubbing an election that just months ago seemed eminently winnable, it will unleash a GOP apocalypse on November 7—followed by an epic struggle between the regulars and red-hots to refashion the party. And make no mistake: A loss is what the GOP’s political class now expects. “Six months before this thing got going, every Republican I know was saying, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna beat Obama,’ ” says former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins. “Now even those who’ve endorsed Romney say, ‘My God, what a fucking mess.’ ”John Heilemann in New York Magazine on "The Lost Party", part one of a series on the modern Republican party in light of the 2012 presidential election. [more inside]
Red money, blue money: The making of the 2012 campaign. "More than 80 percent of giving to Super PACs so far has come from just 58 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the latest data, which covers the first half of 2011." This Salon piece details who the (surprisingly small) number of large donors are, and the SuperPACs they donate to.
After weeks of fake primaries, fraudulent mailers, special interest moneybombs, and last-minute attempts at voter suppression, Wisconsinites went to the polls yesterday in an unprecedented round of six recall elections targeted mainly at Republican state senators for their support of Governor Scott Walker's controversial union-busting agenda. Five of the six races were called by Tuesday evening, with Democrats taking two of the three they'd need to regain control of the state senate. The lone holdout? A dead heat between incumbent Alberta Darling and challenger Sandy Pasch in District 8 -- the very same district that saw suspicious vote-counting by conservative Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus unexpectedly tip the balance towards Walker ally David Prosser late in the crucial state supreme court race this past April. The protracted count and late-night shift toward Darling coupled with Nickolaus's questionable history soon prompted Democratic officials to make accusations of fraud (later retracted). Control of the senate now lies in the defense of two Democratic seats up for recall next week and the possible wooing of GOP Senator Dale Schultz, the only Republican to vote against Walker's bill. Walker himself will be eligible for recall next spring. [more inside]
The warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty will be voted on tomorrow in Congress. The bill pushed through by Democratic Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is looking likely to pass. [more inside]
The Democrats' Sonny Bono? When George Bush used the 1970s Orleans hit, Still the One, as a campaign song in 2004, John Hall issued Bush a cease and desist order for using his song without permission. A founder of the antinuclear group, Musicians United for Safe Energy (best known for the 1979 concert film, No Nukes), Hall decided to run for Congress in upstate New York, winning upset victories this year in both the Democratic primary and the general election against GOP incumbent, Sue Kelly. Before his Congressional victory, Editor & Publisher posted From Soundchecks to Soundbites, an interesting discussion with Hall about music journalism vs. political journalism.
Keith Olbermann's Edward R. Murrow* moment: A Textbook Definition of Cowardice. MSNBC's host excoriates Bush, FOX News host Chris Wallace, and the media for its response to former president Clinton's "tantrum" [still being discussed here]. Note: Don't just read the transcript. Watch the video, because Olbermann's use of visuals adds greatly to the power of his presentation. No matter which side of the red/blue-state divide you're on, students of politics and media will be reviewing this clip for years to come as a little cultural watershed -- if only a consummate example of "Democrat" angerTM.
"Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans." Invoking "high crimes and misdemeanors," Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold introduces a motion to censure [PDF link] President Bush for his controversial, legally dubious NSA wiretapping program. Feingold declares: "The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law." Republican leader Frist retorts: "It's a crazy political move" that sends a "terrible" signal to Iran. Democratic bloggers say: Call your senator. [More legal fallout from the NSA program recently discussed here.]
'The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House," said Jay Rockefeller, vice-president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after the committee quashed a broad inquiry into the legality of the NSA spying on Americans -- despite an increasing number of legal scholars coming forward and declaring that the program is "blatantly illegal," in the words of Yale Law School dean Harold Koh. Meanwhile, the GOP proposes giving spying on Americans the "force of law" while subjecting it to "rigorous oversight."
[Mugshot filter] The Hammer is tanned, rested, and ready... to kick some partisan-hack a**! But seriously folks, has Tom DeLay ever looked better in his life? Book 'im, Danno -- and don't muss that fabulous hair!
Republicans for Dean... but not in the way you might think. An interesting op-ed piece by David Brooks on why a Dean candidacy might be good news for the Bush team. (NYTimes, but no registration required.)
'Come Out To Vote On November 6th' In Baltimore, Republicans are accusing Democrats of paying people to canvass African-American neighborhoods on Tuesday. Democrats are accusing Republicans of intimidating minority voters by planning to use members of the Fraternal Order of Police to serve as GOP poll workers. Meanwhile, a flyer being circulated in African-American communities 'reminds' readers to vote on November 6th - but only if all outstanding tickets, warrants, and outstanding rent payments have been paid.
Grand Old Petroleum. GOP. Get it? The DNC really cracks me up sometimes. This is, however, an interesting development in politics. Is every issue going to have its own clever webpage in the future? The mind boggles.