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How Many Senators Is Mitch McConnell Willing To Sacrifice?

Another day brings another terrible poll for Senate Republicans.

This time the bad news for the GOP comes from Ohio, where former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland* is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Public Policy Polling notes, “The Senate race in Ohio remains very tight, with Rob Portman and Ted Strickland each at 38%, and 23% of voters undecided. Rob Portman has just a 32/40 approval spread.” They explain, “That puts him well behind Sherrod Brown's 42/33 spread for honors as Ohio's more popular Senator (Brown also has an early 47/33 lead in a hypothetical rematch in 2018 against Josh Mandel.)”

Why are voters turning so strongly against the incumbent? According to PPP, “one issue percolating right now that really has the potential to hurt Portman is the Supreme Court seat. 53% of voters want to see the seat filled this year to only 39% who don't, including a 60/31 spread with independents in favor of filling it this year.”

Most interestingly, “where voters are really mad with Senate Republicans is the issue of holding hearings and at least giving Merrick Garland a fair shot. 65% of voters think the Senate should have hearings on Garland's nomination to only 21% of voters opposed to doing so.”

This is just one in a string of states in which Republican obstruction is tanking the poll numbers of GOP senators. Incumbents in New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all find themselves in electoral hot water. Even Arizona’s John McCain is now in a tight reelection contest and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has seen a 29-point drop in net approval ratings in his home state.

This polling collapse is driven by a miscalculation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team. They believed independent voters would see their blockade of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court appointment as standard ideological bickering and at worst declare “a pox on both your houses.”

In this case, though, voters recognize that the dysfunction they despise in Washington is the fault of Senate Republicans serving the whims of the extremes of their party.

With Donald Trump now the likely Republican nominee, senators up for reelection are painted into an even tighter box.

As we get closer to November, McConnell’s position becomes more and more untenable. Campaign dollars will be spread thin as previously safe races, like McCain’s, require great financial commitment. This will pull resources away from at-risk incumbents like Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and from open seats in Florida and Nevada.

If McConnell doesn’t reverse course soon and begin confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland soon, the question will be how many Senate seats he is willing to sacrifice to placate his party’s far-right flank.

* Full disclosure: I worked in Ted Strickland’s congressional office from 2001-2003.

Is President Cruz Planning To Use Carly Fiorina To Strong-Arm The Senate? It Sure Sounds Like It

Last month, Glenn Beck explained to a live studio audience about how Ted Cruz, if elected president, could use the constitutional provision declaring that "the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate" to essentially use his vice president to take complete control of the Senate.

Claiming that he had "no information on this" and was just "thinking outside of the box," Beck envisioned a scenario in which Cruz would name a "pit bull" like Carly Fiorina as his running mate and then instruct her to "go run the Senate," creating a situation in which "the White House is running the Senate as well."

Like Beck, right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton has very close ties to Cruz and his presidential campaign, and last week he spoke to a small group at Liberty University. That speech was attended by a Liberty graduate student who reported that Barton floated the exact same plan:

Barton spoke strongly in support of Ted Cruz’s decision to appoint Carly Fiorina as his running mate and suggested that her role in a Cruz presidency will be much more significant than the Vice President’s role in years past. If elected, the Cruz campaign plans to reinstate the VP’s reign over the Senate in the hopes of nullifying the influence of the president pro tempore, who commonly acts in the VP’s absence. This is another interesting development given the history of Cruz’s clashes with the GOP establishment.

While Beck initially presented this scenario as something of a hypothetical idea, the report on Barton suggests that this is something that he either learned directly from Cruz or his campaign or something that has at least been discussed among top-level Cruz supporters.

The fact that two key Cruz backers are promoting this idea raises the question of whether this is something that the Cruz campaign is actually planning on carrying out if the Texas senator, notorious for his poor relationships with senators on both sides of the aisles\, wins the White House.

Cruz, who has been campaigning in Indiana alongside Beck, has not yet been asked if he plans to put his surrogates' idea into action if elected.

Michael Savage Sees 'God's Hand' In Donald Trump's Rise To The Presidency

On Friday, Donald Trump chatted with Michael Savage about his deep admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, falsely claiming that Russia has been actively bombing ISIS in Syria.

Savage, meanwhile, spent the time leading up to the interview expressing his admiration for Trump.

“I personally think that after this is all over and Trump becomes the next president of the United States, I personally believe you’ll look back and you will see that there’s God’s hand in all of this,” Savage said.

Explaining that he sees “spiritual elements” in the election, Savage said that President Obama “was put here to show us just what could happen under a corrupt, left-wing administration” and that “Trump is the counterpoint to these eight years of corruption and communism in the United States of America.”

President Obama, Savage said, “goes to sleep dreaming of how to run America down” and “how to destroy America one more time, to get in one more round of smackdowns on this country and everybody sees that and Trump is the antidote to these eight years of hatred for this dear nation.”

Fox News' Favorite Sheriff Will Speak To Radical Anti-Government Oath Keepers

David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and a favorite of Fox News and the right-wing media, will deliver the keynote address to a meeting of the New York chapter of the radical anti-government group Oath Keepers next month, according to an invitation on the group’s website.

Clarke’s association with the anti-government fringe is nothing new: In 2013, he accepted the “Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that believes that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country and have a duty to defy federal laws on issues like gun control and health care. At that event, he shared the stage with Oath Keepers head Stewart Rhodes and a number of other radical activists.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as “a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group” summarizing the group’s philosophy like this:

The core idea of the group is that its members vow to forever support the oaths they took on joining law enforcement or the military to defend the Constitution. But just as central is the group’s list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey,” a compendium of much-feared but entirely imaginary threats from the government — orders, for instance, to force Americans into concentration camps, confiscate their guns, or cooperate with foreign troops in the United States. These supposed threats are, in fact, part of the central conspiracy theory advocated by the antigovernment “Patriot” movement of which the Oath Keepers is a part — the baseless claim that the federal government plans to impose martial law, seize Americans’ weapons, force those who resist into concentration camps, and, ultimately, push the country into a one-world socialistic government known as the “New World Order.” In 2013, the group took on a more aggressive stance, announcing the planned formation of “Citizen Preservation” militias meant to defend Americans against the New World Order.

Rhodes, the group’s founder, regularly turns to the far-right media to promote conspiracy theories about a coming civil war in which the federal government will use some combination of race war, Jade Helm 15gun lawsEboladeath campsBlack Lives Matter and radical Islamists to subdue an unarmed and unprepared population.

Speaking at a New York Oath Keepers event last year, Rhodes warned of a government plan to “cause chaos, and in the middle of all that chaos, spark a race war, and in the middle of that, unleash these ISIS cells that are now all over the country”:

At a gathering in Arizona last year, Rhodes said that Sen. John McCain “should be hung by the neck until dead” for being “a traitor to the Constitution.”

Clarke has been embraced by Fox News, and even by politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in part because of his fiery dismissal of critiques of the criminal justice system and in particular of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are seemingly willing to ignore Clarke’s association with an extremist fringe movement.

Once Again, Glenn Beck Has No Idea What He Is Talking About

On several occasions, we have noted that the claims made by right-wing pseudo-historian and pro-Ted Cruz super PAC leader David Barton are so misleading, if not outright false, that it has gotten to the point where we have to fact check just about every assertion that he makes. 

Barton, of course, is extremely close friends with his fellow Cruz booster Glenn Beck and it seems as if his habit of utterly misrepresenting information for the purpose of promoting his own agenda has been rubbing off on the right-wing radio host. 

For the last week or so, Beck has repeatedly claimed that Microsoft's Bill Gates recently asserted that the biggest mistake he made when starting his company was failing to hire lobbyists. To Beck, this is a sign that government regulation is out of control, as he explained again today on his radio broadcast.

"Bill Gates just said recently he would not be able to start Microsoft here in America any more," Beck said. "He wouldn't be able to do it because the regulations have gotten so out of control. And, in one of the saddest comments I've ever heard, he said that the problem with Microsoft was that, at the very beginning, Bill Gates did not believe in going to Washington and getting a lobbyist group. Apple did and so, from the beginning, Apple went and hired lobbyists to make sure their interests were protected in Washington. Bill Gates was of the opinion that Washington has nothing to do with the computing business, they have nothing to do with Microsoft, so he didn't hire lobbyists. He says that's the difference between the wild success and the ease of doing business between Apple and Microsoft. That's not America."

After hearing Beck make this same point several times, we decided to look into it and, of course, Gates said nothing of the sort. 

What actually happened was that Brad Silverberg, who served as senior vice president at Microsoft for nine years, was asked "what were Bill Gates's worst decisions as CEO?" and he suggested that not hiring lobbyists was a key mistake:

Top of the list for me is that Bill did not engage – either himself or the company – in the political process early enough.  When Microsoft’s competitors were effectively lobbying the government, Bill’s attitude was the government should just go away and leave Microsoft alone.  In his view the company was competing hard but fairly; it was creating value for customers and that should be enough.  Well, this approach of not constructively engaging the government and concerned politicians, of not alleviating  concerns that were not going to go away, was a disaster.  The US federal government, many states, and the EU all essentially declared war on Microsoft, and Microsoft paid a devastating price.

Intel did a better job figuring out how to negotiate with the government and avoided the catastrophic fate Microsoft suffered.  Google has done a better job with the US government but it seems the EU is on Google’s case now.

Gates didn't say that failing to hire lobbyists was the worst mistake he ever made, nor did he claim that he couldn't start Microsoft today because there is too much regulation. Those were things that Beck simply made up after apparently misreading news articles and then, as usual, proceeding to making false declarations based on his own lack of information.

Ted Cruz Joins Forces With Yet Another Anti-LGBT Extremist

On Friday, days before the crucial GOP presidential primary in Indiana, Ted Cruz announced the endorsements of 50 clergy members from the state.

In a press release, the Cruz campaign highlighted the support of Micah Clark of the American Family Association’s Indiana chapter.

“We always encourage people to vote their values,” said Micah Clark, Executive Director of the American Family Association of Indiana. “We encourage people of faith to look at a person’s record. Ted Cruz is the only truly pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious freedom candidate for president, from either party. Ted Cruz is a true conservative champion for change.”

“I am honored to earn the support of these leaders,” said Ted Cruz. “Hoosiers want a president they can trust. They are eager to see sanity restored in Washington, and our message of jobs, freedom, and security is resonating. Carly Fiorina and I look forward to bringing common sense Hoosier values to Washington.”

Clark, like his fellow AFA leaders, has quite the record of anti-LGBT activism.

He believes that homosexuality is “has no societal benefit” and is “individually destructive and dangerous.” He’s criticized rulings that allow gay people to recognize their spouses on their death certificates and suggested that employee benefit plans recognizing same-sex couples are “subsidizing homosexual sex.”

When the Boy Scouts ended its ban on gay youth members, Clark harshly criticized the move: “What did Christ say about harming the least of these? He said it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown in the sea on the day of judgement than to cause a child to stumble into sin. And if we’re going to support organizations telling kids that homosexuality is okay — which is treatable, changeable, you don’t have to be homosexual, but if you are, you are at significantly higher risks of mental harm, psychical harm, emotional harm and spiritual harm — we can’t be a part of that.”

Clark once joined a letter calling on schools not to “allow ‘gay-straight alliances,’ homosexual indoctrination programs, permission for use of opposite sex restrooms, and any of the other ridiculous demands of the ‘gay’ lobby” because they would “aid child corruption.”

He attacked a fundraising campaign for a LGBT youth group by claiming that the organization “recruits teens into the homosexual lifestyle,” reprimanded a girl who wanted to wear a tuxedo to her school prom for trying to make “a sexual statement,” and encouraged LGBT young people to seek ex-gay therapy.

As we’ve said before, it seems that no anti-LGBT activist is too extreme for Ted Cruz.

Glenn Beck Says God Has Raised Up Ted Cruz And Is Asking Us To Choose Between Good & Evil

Fresh from smearing his face with Cheetos in a bizarre attempt to mock Donald Trump, Glenn Beck headed back out on the campaign trail yesterday on behalf of Ted Cruz, declaring at a rally in Le Porte, Indiana, that God is dragging out the Republican primary in order to give everyone a chance to go on the record in choosing between good and evil. And the choice is obvious, Beck said, because God has raised up Cruz to save this nation just as He raised up George Washington and the Founding Fathers.

"Make no mistake, we are being watched," Beck said. "We're being watched by our maker ... Every single state is being required and I believe — and they're going to rake me over the coals for saying it; so be it — I believe that's the Almighty God saying, 'Each one of you, I want you to stand and you choose: good or evil? Which way will we go? Am I still your God and are you still my people? Choose who you serve.'"

"Before I walked out on stage, Ted and I got down on our knees and we prayed," he continued. "And we didn't pray for us, we prayed for the nation and for you. He is a servant at heart. He is a man who was raised for these times. People don't believe that stuff any more, but I do. If God raised George Washington and Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, if He put that collection together, He is the Almighty, I think He can send us one guy!"

Anti-LGBT Activists 'Testing' Target By Sending Men Into Women's Rooms

UPDATED 

It turns out that anti-LGBT activists are right that men are taking advantage of a transgender-inclusive policy at Target to go into women’s restrooms — and those men are anti-LGBT activists.

In an interview this morning with “Breitbart News Daily,” the American Family Association's director of governmental affairs, Sandy Rios, said that activists have been “testing” Target’s policy by sending men into women’s rooms at the retail chain.

Rios' group has been leading a boycott of Target after the company said it would allow transgender people to use the restroom that matches their gender identity, which it claims will lead to open season for “sexual predators.”

The program’s host, Stephen Bannon, contended that rather than being inclusive, Target is “trying to exclude people who are decent, hard-working people who don’t want their four-year-old daughter to have to go into a bathroom with a guy with a beard in a dress.”

“I think there’s no question that when you say that there are no barriers in the bathroom,” Rios said, “and that if men or women feel like they are men or women, the opposition of however they are equipped, and you have no restrictions, the net effect will be that people will not be stopped. We’ve already had people testing this, going into Targets and men trying to go into bathrooms. There is absolutely no barrier.”

“And so the chief concern,” she continued, “even more than just, I think, trauma, certainly for little girls of having men dressed like women coming in their bathrooms, the chief concern of the American Family Association is the predators who will take advantage.”

UPDATE: AFA says that it is not in fact sending men into women’s changing areas:

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/29/16

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 4/29/16

  • Glenn Beck has laid off dozens more employees and he basically blamed everyone but himself on his radio program today.
  • In a shocking development, Ted Cruz's campaign tells us that Cruz supporters think his idea to name Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate was a stroke of genius.
  • Peter LaBarbera blasts Kelly Ripa for gay-brainwashing her son.
  • Pamela Geller says that Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigration is "a common-sense solution."
  • Matt Barber says that Target's policy supporting transgender employees and customers is "discrimination against women,."
  • Finally, why did the American Center for Law and Justice just spend $7.5 million to buy a 32,000 square foot building outside of Nashville?