Rubio Scores Endorsement From Bobby Jindal

After gaining the support of Sen. Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio has earned another endorsement from a former 2016 presidential candidate. On Fox News Friday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced he is rooting for Rubio. 

Unlike his fellow governors, Jindal sees leadership potential in the Florida senator. Earlier this week, both Govs. Christie and Bush questioned Rubio's youth and inexperience, suggesting he was unqualified to be commander-in-chief. 

Rubio has also earned recent endorsements from popular conservatives like Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

Update: Rubio responded to Jindal with some high praise of his own:

CDC: Ladies, Don't Drink Unless You're On Birth Control

In a rare show of bipartisanship, women of all political persuasions are furious after the Center for Disease Control released an infographic and report that suggested that women of childbearing age avoid all alcohol unless they are using some form of contraception. While the goal of preventing fetal alcohol syndrome is laudable, many are criticizing the "scare tactics," "Puritanical attitude," and condescending nature of the CDC's suggestion.

Now, I know I'm not a biologist, but I feel like there's a missing step between "drinking alcohol" and "getting pregnant." I had a glass of wine with dinner last night, and I'm pretty sure I didn't spontaneously get pregnant or an STD as a result. Rather than belittle women and try to scare new moms that the glass of wine they had in the early weeks of pregnancy is going to deform their baby (it in all likelihood won't), the CDC should be using real facts and better techniques than creepy faceless women to help prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

While alcohol certainly can lower a person's inhibitions, it definitely doesn't make a person pregnant by itself.

Christie Doubles Down on 'Boy in the Bubble' Comment, Hammers Rubio on Youth, Inexperience

A few days ago in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Christie called his presidential rival Marco Rubio the “boy in the bubble.” He was referring to Rubio’s supposed lack of face time with voters, instead relying on manufactured town halls and scripted answers. Yet, pundits can’t help thinking the New Jersey governor was also targeting Rubio’s youth. Judge for yourself:

"We know who the boy in the bubble is up here who never answers your questions, who's constantly scripted and controlled because he can't answer your questions," Christie said. "So when Senator Rubio gets here, when the boy in the bubble gets here, I hope you ask him some questions."

The New Jersey governor had no intention of backtracking on the controversial comment in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren:

"The reason it applies to him is because he is not ready to be president of the United States. He is not ready because of the way he – not only his lack of accomplishment in his Senate career but also because he lives a very protected life as a candidate. He doesn't answer questions in gaggles." 

Rubio, who has enjoyed a surge in New Hampshire as of late, surpassing Ted Cruz to get to second place, dismissed Christie’s dis as a simple knee jerk reaction to his own slipping poll numbers.

"When people are having a tough time in a campaign, especially near the end, you see some desperation set in they start saying things," Rubio told reporters Thursday.

Christie has company in attacking the increasingly popular Florida senator. In an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe” Friday, Gov. Jeb Bush said Rubio had accomplished “nothing” in the Senate.

The timing of the two governors’ attacks against Rubio led to a New York Times report suggesting the two had a secret deal to jeopardize Rubio’s campaign. Christie denied that allegation.

Donald Trump is still well in front in New Hampshire polls, but with Rubio steadily gaining, the businessman may again find himself in a frustrating second place.

Trump: Actually, I Don't Care About That Fraudulently 'Stolen' Election Anymore


Oh:


In case you're struggling to keep up, Trump has gone from (a) "congrats, Ted, you earned it," to (b) "THIS IS FRAUD, THE ELECTION WAS STOLEN, AND I DEMAND A DO-OVER!" to (c) "meh, whatever, I don't care anymore" in the span of 48 hours or so.  From graciousness, to leveling the most serious electoral charges that exist, to a shrug.  Seriously, please try to imagine the potential consequences of electing Moodswings McGee to the most powerful office in the world. This is precisely what Cruz was getting at with his "nuke Denmark" dig at Trump: The man is erratic and unstable. Speaking of Cruz, as Mark Steyn and Ben Carson go nuclear on him for being 'dishonorable' like Hillary on Benghazi (!), it appears as though his stock is temporarily up in Trump's book. He's no longer a universally-disliked "total liar," it seems:

In a striking reversal of rhetoric, Donald Trump would not rule out Ted Cruz as his hypothetical vice-presidential pick. “Well, I don’t know. Look, I have nothing against him. It was sort of a sad thing that happened, but I’ve always liked him,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Thursday, after weeks of trashing his primary rival as nasty, hypocritical and disliked. Trump added that he has “always gotten along well” with Cruz, but that “I’m so much now focused on New Hampshire.”

"My fellow Americans, meet my running mate, the 'very nasty' and widely-loathed liar, Ted Cruz!" A ridiculous man. For what it's worth, Trump now says he's no longer going to sue Cruz over Iowa, but no word on whether a spurrious eligibility lawsuit is still on the table. Question: How long until Trump drops the Cruz feud and starts pummeling Marco Rubio with every insult and conspiracy that pops into his head? Per three new polls, "Marcomentum" in New Hampshire is real, which is why the collective beating is underway.  And like clockwork, Jeb's gasping campaign is about to drop even more money attacking Rubio:


I'll leave you with two additional polling notes:



Charitable: CNN Produces and Airs Hit Piece on Rubio

In what amounts to an independent expenditure on behalf of the other Presidential candidates, CNN decided to hit Marco Rubio for the high crime of having a stump speech.
If you were waiting for the video to end with "I'm (insert Rubio opponent here) and I approve this message," you were disappointed.

The intent of the piece is to leave the viewer with the impression that Rubio is a big fat phony.

I don't know if Rubio is a phony or not. However, every candidate gives virtually the same carefully crafted, poll tested speech at each location they visit on the campaign trail.

Not only is this not news, it's electioneering on the part of CNN. The only explanation seems to be that there's a producer on the show who just cannot abide a Rubio V Democrat general election.

German Spy Agency: Yes, ISIS Is Sending Fighters Disguised as Refugees

One day after hundreds of police in Germany carried out raids on suspected ISIS terrorists across the country, the head of the nation’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, confirmed that the terror group is sending militants into Europe disguised as refugees.

"We have repeatedly seen that terrorists ... have slipped in camouflaged or disguised as refugees. This is a fact that the security agencies are facing," Hans-Georg Maassen told ZDF television.

"We are trying to recognize and identify whether there are still more IS fighters or terrorists from IS that have slipped in," he added.

According to local media reports, Maassen said the BfV had received more than 100 tip-offs that ISIS militants were disguised among the refugees staying in Germany.

Two men and a woman were arrested during Thursday's police raids, all three of whom had existing warrants out for their arrest. One man, whose wife was also detained, was wanted by Algerian authorities for belonging to ISIS. He had been trained in Syria. The other man had fake ID documents.

Police had been searching for four Algerians linked to ISIS in Syria who they said are “under investigation over suspicions that they are planning a serious act threatening the security of the state.”

Maassen warned against alarm, however.

"We are in a serious situation and there is a high risk that there could be an attack,” he said. “But the security agencies, the intelligence services and the police authorities are very alert and our goal is to minimize the risk as best we can.” 

Watch: George W. Bush Finally Makes an Appearance for His Brother

George W. Bush has been virtually silent for his brother Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential campaign.  One would wonder why a former two-term president would be kept in the shadows and not used as leverage in a bitter fight with other candidates who have no presidential connections.  

With only four days left until the New Hampshire primary, it appears as though Bush's "Right to Rise" Super PAC  has decided to bring George W. into the game.  

"The first job of the president is to protect America. Our next president must be prepared to lead. I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone.  Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror. He knows when tough measures must be taken.  Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe," George said.  

Poll: Sanders Has Just About Caught Up to Hillary Nationally

Hillary Clinton’s woes did not end in Iowa, where she barely eked out a win. A new Quinnipiac poll reveals that her last opponent standing, Bernie Sanders, has caught up to her - not just in Iowa and New Hampshire, but nationally.

In the Democratic race nationwide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 44 percent, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 42 percent, and 11 percent undecided.

This is especially bad news for Team Hillary because just a couple months ago the same poll had her ahead 61 percent to 30 percent.

Sanders nearly beat Clinton in Iowa and he is ahead in New Hampshire by double digits. In a new campaign email, Clinton’s team warned her supporters that Sanders had raised more money than her.

We just learned that the Sanders campaign raised $5 million more than ours did in January, and they raised another $3 million in a single day after the Iowa caucus.

This was the first month in the 2016 race in which Sanders surpassed Clinton in financial contributions.

Sanders has been very effective in defining Clinton as the establishment candidate and continually reminding voters of her cozy Wall Street connections. As for her email scandal, at this point Sanders doesn’t have to do anything but watch it unfold.

Most voters would still place money on Clinton securing the Democratic nomination, but with Sanders’ momentum, they would perhaps not wager quite as much. 

Email Scandal Spin: No, Hillary, Powell and Rice Didn't 'Do It Too'


Team Clinton seized on this report yesterday, claiming it was an email scandal "game-changer" that shifts the terrain of a controversy that has plagued Hillary's campaign for months. It is, and does, nothing of the sort, for reasons we'll address in a moment. First, the basics, via Politico:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the FBI has contacted him about his use of personal email when he was the nation's top diplomat, as a review conducted by the State Department inspector general concluded that Powell and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both received classified information through private email accounts...The State Department inquiry identified 10 messages sent to Rice's immediate staff that were classified and two sent to Powell, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Benghazi committees. The emails, Cummings said, appear to have no classification markings, and it is still unclear if the content of the emails was or should have been considered classified when the emails were originally written and sent. In an interview with POLITICO Thursday. Powell vigorously disputed the sensitivity of the information sent to him through personal email, but he acknowledged the law enforcement interest in his email routine. "The FBI has come to us," Powell said. Two FBI agents visited Powell in December for a discussion an aide described as a casual conversation about email practices during his term as secretary from 2001 to 2005...Powell seemed exasperated by State's latest claim. The agency has designated the two messages "Confidential," which is the lowest tier of classification. "Now, 11 or 12 years later, as part of a whole process of reviewing things somebody in the department says, 'Well, they're classified.' My response to that is no they were not," Powell said. " You can say your judgment is they should have been classified but at the time they were not classified.

Hillary pounced on this development at last night's Democratic debate, expressing "100 percent" confidence that this email nuisance will come to nothing in the end:


Nothing to see here, she assures nervous Democrats, casting the ongoing and expanded FBI investigation as a mere formality. A few points:

(1) Yesterday evening, Hillary said, "I never sent or received any classified material," without her (legally irrelevant) "marked" caveat. This is a flat falsehood. It is an established fact that she personally sent and received classified material. The State Department's review has discovered more than 1,600 classified emails on her server thus far, with another batch still outstanding -- to say nothing of the 32,000 messages she unilaterally deleted, some of which we now know did pertain to official business.

(2) She also blames this controversy on the issue of retroactive classification, which Powell complains about, too. This gripe may apply to some of Hillary's emails, and to both of Powell's, but Hillary is being deeply disingenuous here. The nonpartisan IC Inspector General has determined that a number of her classified emails were absolutely classified at the time they originated, including top secret and beyond-top-secret intelligence. There was nothing "retroactive" about these classifications. News organizations have also confirmed that scores of her emails were, in fact, classified at the time. It was her duty to identify and protect highly sensitive information, regardless of markings, a responsibility she acknowledged and swore to uphold upon assuming office:


(3) "See? Condi and Colin did it, too!" relies on a thoroughly bogus equivalency.  Above all else, neither Rice nor Powell set up and used a recklessly unsecure private emails server on which they conducted all of their official business, against "clear cut rules" implemented in 2005.  (A former CIA director and Secretary of Defense have each stated that her vulnerable server was likely penetrated by foreign powers like the Russians and Chinese).  This review identified ten -- total -- emails that have now been assigned retroactive, low-level classification levels.  Only two of them went to then-Secretary of State Powell, with the others going to Rice's aides, and both of those are now classified at the lowest level ("confidential").  As mentioned above, Hillary's server contained 1,600 classified emails and counting, including the most sensitive level of intelligence in existence (SAP, beyond-top-secret).  There is no comparison between the conduct of Hillary Clinton and that of her immediate predecessors.  Beyond her exclusive use of an improper and unsecure server, Sec. Clinton was personally and specifically warned about the vulnerability of her email scheme in 2011, when a State Department security expert sounded the alarm over foreign hackers seeking to infiltrate US secrets by targeting high-ranking officials' private emails.  Mrs. Clinton carried on with her arrangement anyway.

In summary, Hillary Clinton's server is the scandal.  It's possible that Rice's aides and Sec. Powell may have acted improperly (though the email rules were set forth after Powell left office).  They may have been sloppy with a small number of low-level classified information on an ad hoc basis.  The rules and laws pertaining to the US government's data security must be followed.  By everyone.  But Clinton mishandled hundreds upon hundreds of classified emails, which held state secrets at the highest classification levels.  In fact, just this week, the State Department deemed another seven Clinton emails too sensitive to release in any form, even with redactions, bringing that total to 29.  Intelligence officials who've seen some of the documents in question say they betray operational intelligence, the leakage of which puts covert missions and lives at risk.  A former NSA official has intelligence community sources who say Clinton's emails included the true identities of CIA operatives and assets, including foreign nationals working for the agency.  Unlike Powell and Rice, Mrs. Clinton exhibited ongoing gross negligence by exposing reams of sensitive and classified intelligence to foreign governments.  She ignored her sworn duty to safeguard secrets, "marked and unmarked," and declined to alter her behavior after she was admonished of an explicit vulnerability pertaining to personal email use.  And unlike Powell and Rice, Hillary has consistently lied about this scandal.  Her smug assertion that the (twice expanded) FBI investigation won't go anywhere amounts to waving a red flag in front of career investigators and intelligence officials, who are reportedly fuming over her irresponsible, and likely criminal, conduct.  Remember, the probe reportedly entails more than just her email misconduct, Gen. David Petraeus was charged for classified intelligence spillage that was far more limited and contained, and a former US Attorney General says there's already sufficient evidence to justify an indictment.  Clinton seems confident that her political power and privilege will shield her from accountability in the end, sending a less-than-subtle message to the Justice Department, which has already been influenced by two public White House statements. I'll leave you with an interesting point from Gabriel Malor:


Parting thought: Colin Powell says the FBI has contacted him about his two "confidential" messages sent prior to the revamped email rules being established.  Hillary Clinton recently claimed she hasn't been interviewed by the FBI in connection to its serious and growing probe that focuses on her practices. Is that still true?

Des Moines Register: The Democratic Iowa Caucus ‘Was A Debacle’

You heard about the suspicions within the Democratic caucuses in Iowa Monday night. Delegates being assigned to Clinton over Sanders via coin tosses and 90 precincts having irregular voting counts. In the words of Donald Trump, it was a "total disaster," and the Des Moines Register  seems to have agreed:

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

[…]

First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.

Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.

The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. The campaign seeks the math sheets or other paperwork that precinct chairs filled out and were supposed to return to the state party. They want to compare those documents to the results entered into a Microsoft app and sent to the party.

“Let’s compare notes. Let’s see if they match,” Batrice said Wednesday.

Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no. She said the three campaigns had representatives in a room in the hours after the caucuses and went over the discrepancies.

McGuire knows what’s at stake. Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.

So her path forward is clear: Work with all the campaigns to audit results. Break silly party tradition and release the raw vote totals. Provide a list of each precinct coin flip and its outcome, as well as other information sought by the Register. Be transparent.

During the Democratic debate in New Hampshire last night, Sanders pretty much said that this isn’t the biggest of issues that face the 2016 race right now (via the Hill):

“This is not like a winner-take-all thing. I think where we now stand, correct me if I’m wrong, you have 22 delegates, I have 20 delegates, we need 2,500 delegates to win the nomination," he said, regarding rival Hillary Clinton. "This is not the biggest deal in the world.”

You can read Ed’s take on the matter here.

Tinder Bans Bernie Sanders Supporters Who Were Campaigning on the App

Looks like Bernie Sanders won't be adopting any "swipe right"-themed campaign slogans any time soon. The popular dating/hookup app Tinder has banned two women who would promote Sanders to men they would match with using the app. Apparently, many thought the women were a "bot" (a fake, spam profile) and reported the accounts for their behavior.

Two women - one from Iowa and the other from New Jersey - confirmed to Reuters on Friday that they received notices from Tinder in the previous 24 hours that their accounts were locked because they had been reported too many times for peppering men on the site with messages promoting Sanders' candidacy.

Robyn Gedrich, 23, said she sent messages to 60 people a day for the past two weeks trying to convince them to support the U.S. senator from Vermont in his race for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Do you feel the bern?" her message to other Tinder users read, parroting a Sanders campaign slogan. "Please text WORK to 82623 for me. Thanks."

Gedrich, an assistant store manager at retailer Elie Tahari who lives in Brick, New Jersey, said a text would prompt people to start receiving updates from the Sanders campaign, as well as a link where they could sign up and volunteer. She has been unable to sign back into Tinder since logging off on Thursday.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the matches were less-than-thrilled with the Sanders message, and would reply with "Trump 2016."

While it's probably a violation of Tinder's terms-of-service to campaign for a candidate, this is actually a pretty brilliant idea to target the youth demographic. The overwhelming majority of Tinder's users are under the age of 35, and those people vote at a much lower rate than other generations. While it's unlikely that Tinder outreach would do enough to sway an election, it's still a very innovative way to get young voters involved.

The Name "Hillary" Dropped 90 Percent in Popularity While She Was First Lady

While it's normal for baby names to fluctuate in popularity over time, a Michigan State PhD student found that the name "Hillary" dropped 90 percent in popularity during Hillary Clinton's tenure as First Lady. While other names of First Ladies experienced a drop as well, the decline in popularity of the name "Hillary" was unique in that the name was experiencing a surge prior to Bill Clinton's election in 1992. The second-biggest drop in popularity of a First Lady's name was "Laura," during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency.

When we look at Figure 1 we can see that naming popularity seems to be heavily affected by First Ladies. Most names experienced a steady downward trend in popularity. The name "Rosalynn" is an exception as it peaked in popularity during the Carter administration before falling by the end to have risen in popularity once again.

The name "Hillary" is very unique in this pattern as unlike most names, it was growing rapidly in popularity prior to the Clinton administration. However, early into the Clinton administration the popularity dropped rapidly falling to pre-1980s levels for the name. Except for a small rally in during the 2007/2008 primary campaign against Obama, it has not recovered.

While this is certainly quite silly and doesn't necessarily mean anything, it's strange to think about how many American girls could have potentially been named Hillary if Bill Clinton had lost the 1992 election. Additionally, it would be curious to see if "Melania," "Jane," "Heidi" or "Jeanette" (the spouses of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, respectively) experience a surge or drop in popularity in the coming years if their husbands are elected.

Obama Quips That New Low Unemployment Number Is ‘Inconvenient’ For Republican Candidates

“Americans are working,” President Obama proudly declared at a White House press conference Friday morning.

He was referring to the new jobs report that revealed unemployment has dropped to 4.9 percent – the first time it’s fallen below 5 percent in 8 years.

The president also remarked on how his administration has added 14 million new jobs over his tenure and that over the past 6 months wages have risen at an impressive rate. He couldn't help pointing to falling gas prices as well.

After gleefully sharing these new numbers, Obama quipped that the supposedly successful economy is “inconvenient” for Republican stump speeches as the 2016 candidates talk about “doom and gloom.”

“I guess you can’t please everybody,” he said.

Yet, Republicans aren’t the only ones not satisfied with the numbers.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have sparred about how to encourage the struggling middle class. Moreover, a majority of Americans continually say they are not happy with the direction America is heading.

As for those unemployment numbers, economists would argue it is more like 9.9 percent.

Oklahoma School Signs Warn: Teachers Are Armed and Will Use Force

In the gun friendly state of Oklahoma, one school isn't messing around when it comes to making criminals think twice. 

In the town of Okay, school district officials have purchased signs that read, "Attention: Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students." The signs are posted outside of schools for everyone to see. 

More on the background for the signs from Muskogee Phoenix writer Harrison Grimwood

The Okay Public Schools Board of Education passed an “Armed School Employees” policy in August. On Monday, the district publicized that policy with signage in front of the school.

“The signs are more or less a deterrent,” Superintendent Charles McMahan said. “We don't want to be a soft target.”

McMahan said his administration looks for ways to keep students safe and secure, particularly since the Okay Police Department was disbanded in December 2014. Although Wagoner County sheriff's deputies are available, McMahan said it is “seconds, not minutes, that matter.”

Student Richard Antosh and several of his peers supported the policy, trusting their teachers should a threat arise.

You can see a photo of the signs here.

There are a number of school districts across the country that have implemented similar carry policies for teachers over the years.

Tremendous: Maryland’s Assault Weapons Ban Could Be Gutted

In deep-blue Maryland, there are 45 types of firearms that are prohibited under its assault weapons ban, along with so-called high-capacity magazines. Now, a federal court has asked that the statute be reviewed under stricter legal standard. These are baby steps. The lower courts are now tasked with reviewing the law again, but the ban is still in place until another judgment is rendered (via WaPo):

The 2-to-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sends the gun-control law back to a lower court for review, but allows the existing ban to remain in place.

Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr., writing for the majority, found that the Maryland law “significantly burdens the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home” and should have been analyzed using a more stringent legal standard.

[…]

The Maryland law was challenged by a group of gun-store owners and individuals who said the prohibited firearms are not military weapons and are used for lawful purposes such as self-defense, target practice and hunting.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who helped pass the law as a state senator, said Thursday that the court majority got it wrong.

“I think it’s just common sense that the Second Amendment does not give people a right to own military-style assault weapons,” he said.

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Robert B. King wrote: “Let’s be real: The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war” and as such, he said, not necessarily protected by the Second Amendment.

Bob Owens noted that this could impact the legality of assault weapons bans from other anti-gun states as well. The National Shooting Sports Foundation voiced their support in a statement released yesterday:

“We are greatly heartened by the Fourth Circuit panel's ruling today," said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), one of the lead plaintiffs in this case. "As this important case goes forward, NSSF will continue to work with our co-plaintiffs to ensure that our citizens' Second Amendment rights are protected and that the lawful commerce in firearms is restored in support of this constitutional protection."

Liberals keep twisting themselves into pretzels over these so-called assault weapons, which are a figment of the liberal imagination. It looks scary–that’s their argument. An AR-15 rifle has the same operating system as a handgun. They’re both semi-automatics, meaning they self-reload upon discharging a round. Hundreds of millions of these firearms are in circulation. Now, an assault rifle that has the ability to fire multiple rounds per trigger pull (aka automatic) I guess would fit the “weapons of war” term gun control wingnuts use often to curtail Second Amendment liberties. Even with this class of weapons, a civilian can own them if they pay for the tax stamp issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the background check for that usually takes anywhere from 8 months to over a year.

Regardless, let’s see what happens.

Here’s a copy of the opinion via Legal Insurrection:

Kolbe v. Hogan Opinion

So Apparently Sanders Won A Few Coin Tosses in Iowa, Too

After reports surfaced out of the Iowa caucuses that Hillary Clinton went six-for-six in coin tosses to decide delegates, many, including this reporter, raised their eyebrows as to how on earth someone could have such incredible luck. As it turns out, her luck wasn't so great after all: the initial reports of her six-for-six victories were incorrect, and Bernie Sanders actually won quite a few delegates via coin toss as well. According to the Washington Post, each candidate won about 50 percent of the coin tosses.

Here's a video showing Sanders winning a delegate in Hardin Township after a coin flip:

While it's somewhat comforting that Clinton isn't some kind of wizard with the ability to make statistical improbabilities turn in her favor, it is incredibly uncomfortable that both political parties place so much importance on the Iowa caucuses. The presidential nominating process should never be reduced to a coin flip. The caucus system is outdated and should be replaced.

Barbara Bush: Women ‘Knew’ What Trump Meant By Megyn Kelly Comments

Barbara Bush, you’ll remember, said two years ago that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House. She changed her tune last February. Now, she has made her endorsement even more official by joining her son Jeb on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week to try and convince voters that the former Florida governor is the best man for the job.

At one point, Mrs. Bush defined her son as the “nicest, wisest, most caring” candidate in the race.

Is this really the best strategy though? After all, Donald Trump has been successful in questioning Jeb’s ability to be a strong leader, calling him “weak” and “low energy.”

In an interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, Mrs. Bush insisted someone with such bully-like behavior is not fit to be commander-in-chief. In particular, she criticized the businessman’s treatment of women.

"I mean, unbelievable. I don't know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly," she said. "And we knew what he meant too!"

Mrs. Bush was referring to Trump’s insulting the Fox News journalist by saying she had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the first GOP presidential debate when the moderator asked him about his past demeaning comments about women. He insisted he meant Kelly’s nose was bleeding, but some women like Barbara Bush beg to differ and are of the mind he meant something a bit cruder.

Jeb’s brother, former President George W. Bush, also added his voice to Jeb’s campaign. Number 43 appeared in a new TV ad highlighting Jeb’s resume.

"Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror. He knows when tough measures must be taken,” Bush adds. “Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe."

Will Jeb gain momentum now that he is getting more help from his family?

I’m curious if, after Mrs. Bush’s comments especially, if Trump will dare to call her even half the names he calls her son. 

Despite Pressure ABC News Doesn't Budge, Refuses to Allow Carly Fiorina to Debate Saturday

ABC News announced the lineup for Saturday's GOP presidential debate in Manchester late Thursday evening. Seven candidates will take the stage just three days before the New Hampshire primary. For Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will not be one of them despite beating rivals John Kasich and Chris Christie in the Iowa caucus. She's also beating Dr. Ben Carson in New Hampshire polling. 

Fiorina is responding with accusations the "game is rigged."

"I’ve been telling you the game is rigged. And here’s even more proof: The people of Iowa voted in an election this week, and I beat the establishment’s guys. Tens of thousands of you stood with us yesterday to demand a fair debate. But Disney’s ABC and the RNC have decided to keep me off the debate stage this weekend, caving to pressure from the same establishment candidates we beat who are afraid to debate me," Fiorina sent out in a campaign email Friday morning. "This isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about the people of New Hampshire who are about to vote. This is emblematic of the power that is being taken away from you every day?—?by the political class, the media establishment, and the bureaucracy. They don’t want your votes to count. They don’t want your voice to be heard. The network of George Stephanopoulos wants to tell you to sit down and shut up and elect Hillary Clinton."

"Well, guess what? ABC and the RNC and other candidates may keep me off that stage. But I will not be silenced. Our government is broken, and we know the establishment isn’t going to fix it. It’s time to stand together and say we won’t back down," she continued.

Yesterday New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney publicly advocated on Fiorina's behalf.

Retirement Home Rumble: Sanders Proves Why He Shouldn't Be Commander-in-Chief, Clinton Hits Him For Suggesting She Could Be Bought

Editor's note: The post has been cleaned up a bit. 

Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had one more retirement home rumble before New Hampshire residents flock to the polls Tuesday. In some areas, the two candidates showed great respect for one another, along with agreement on some policy issues. At other times, the gloves came off and things got a bit testy. NBC’s Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow moderated the debate.

Bernie Sanders opened by saying that millions are leaving political process because they know the economy is rigged. The top one percent is reaping the benefits, and there’s a corrupt campaign finance system is keeping that system in place via donations to super PACs. We need to work to create an economy that works for all

Hillary Clinton said that we could get back on the right track, where wages reflect people’s work. I’m fighting for people, and I’m not making promises I cannot keep.

Clinton said that she shares a lot of policy goals with Sen. Sanders, like fighting for universal health care. She said that she wants to build on the progress we’ve made. I don’t want to rip away coverage for Americans

She added that she believes in affordable college, but thinks free college is a bit of a pie-in-the-sky initiative. She respectfully noted that many of Sanders’ policy ideas are unrealistic.

Sanders, of course, disagreed, noting that he’s known Clinton for 25 years and respects her very much. But he cited Canada, France, and other industrialized nations having health care systems that consider such benefits as a fundamental human right. He didn’t accept the position that U.S. cannot do the same here. Oh, and to pay for tuition-free higher education, he plans to tax Wall Street. Moreover, he denied that he would dismantle Obamacare, adding that the Affordable Care Act been good for the country. But also mentioned that 29 million still have no insurance, some are under-insured, and we need to move forward with a health care for all agenda.

When asked about the meaning of being a “progressive” by Rachel Maddow, Clinton hit Sanders for voting against the Brady bill five times and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The Brady bill established a national background check system for firearms purchases, while the PLCAA offered a legal shield to gun manufacturers from being sued if their guns are unwillingly and unknowingly used in felonious activities that result in fatalities. It’s a good law–one that prevents anti-gun liberals from suing the industry out of existence.

The former first lady also added that by Sanders’ definition of a progressive wouldn't include the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) because he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, and even President Obama would be not be considered one since he accepted donations for Wall Street.

Throughout the debate, Sanders was apt to point out that he is the anti-establishment candidate, despite being in Congress for over 20 years. He added that Secretary Clinton has nabbed most of their party’s endorsements. Yet, campaign finance reform seemed to be the self-described democratic socialist’s rallying cry, saying that without this reform–nothing is going to get done. He was adamant that if we do not get a handle on money in politics–and how that impacts the political process–changes for middle class and working class families would not happen.

The gloves came off when Clinton took umbrage with the alleged innuendos disseminated by Sanders and his campaign that she could be bought, or that anyone who accepts donations or speaking fees can be influenced. She rejected that allegation and said that such insinuations were not worthy of the often-disheveled socialist. In the cross talk, she noted how she worked hard for McCain-Feingold, a landmark campaign finance reform law.

Sanders responded by doing a rapid-fire session about how certain policies that have been harmful to America, like deregulation of derivatives, might have been influenced by political donations. He also added that the Koch brothers (drink!) and ExxonMobil’s contributions to Republican lawmakers might have prevented them from supporting actions to address climate change.

It was this anecdote about moneyed interests, where I could see a liberal Democrat move towards Sanders.

The senator described how Goldman Sachs just paid a $5 billion fine to settle with the government over allegations that they defrauded investors and ruined the lives of millions of Americans. Not a single executive from any banking institution are in jail. There’s no criminal record either, but a kid who gets caught with marijuana gets slapped with one. That’s how a corrupt system works, according to him.

One could argue that even Republican voters, especially those in the Tea Party and Trump camps might feel the same way.

On foreign policy, Sanders knew he was at a disadvantage, given Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State and admitted so on stage.

Maddow asked about the fight against ISIS, where Clinton responded by saying that we need to encourage Kurdish troops and other groups fighting this extremist terrorist network, but was staunchly opposed to sending combat troops region. Then again, Clinton said that deploying advisers and special operations forces was fine. I guess in Democrat land, special operations forces are not combat troops.

Sen. Sanders said that our great task was not getting sucked into perpetual warfare in Syria and Iraq. As president, he said he would do his very best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Concerning how to fight ISIS, he channeled King Abdullah of Jordan, who has likened the conflict as one fighting for the soul of Islam, saying that it must be Muslim troops–with support of major powers, including Russia, that need to finish off this extremist group. Sending American troops is what ISIS wants for a propaganda campaign. Sanders wouldn't give in to that, but air support and the deployment of special operations (when appropriate) would be options on the table for a Sanders White House taking the helm on this issue.

When asked about his foreign policy doctrine by Chuck Todd, Sanders said that we learned the lesson of the wars in Iraq; we cannot do it alone. The key doctrine is no we cannot continue to do it alone; we need to work in coalition. This whole segment pretty much confirmed what some have said about the senator: that he would make a lousy commander-in-chief. In fact, a lot of people noted that Sanders was way out of his element on this issue. 

Concerning veterans affairs, Clinton said that she was against privatizing the VA, but wanted to build upon the reforms that Congress has passed. The issues plaguing the VA, especially the wait times, need to be remedied as soon as possible. Sanders went on to blame the progressive left’s favorite enemy, the Koch brothers, in his response.

As for concerns about the Iowa Caucuses, Sanders agreed that this isn’t the biggest issue in the world. If there were an audit, he expects that it would break about even between him and Clinton. The former first lady would support whatever happens if such a process would occur.

As for electability, Maddow aptly noted that Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater on the right and George McGovern on the left got their bases excited in the 1964 and 1972 presidential elections respectively, but got decimated in the general election. She asked what's his general election strategy.

Sanders said that Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout. Republicans win when people are demoralized, which is why they love voter suppression. Our campaign can create enthusiasm from working people and young people. If there is a large voter turnout, we will win and retain the White House.

Clinton added that she’s the strongest person to take on the Republicans, and hopes to nab Sanders’ supporters in the future.

MSNBC did ask Clinton about her email fiasco. Prior to that she said that she’s been vetted, and that there’s hardly anything you don’t know about her. She also said that she’s confident she would survive any attack against her on this issue. The former first lady also noted that past Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice had classified information in their email accounts.

She was “100 percent” confident that she would survive, even with the FBI investigating whether she mishandled classified information, while repeating that claim that she never sent or received any sensitive information.

The rest of the debate concerned the water crisis in Flint, what issues they would tackle first in their possible administrations, and the death penalty.

So, this is the state of the Democratic race. Two old people, one with far-fetched ideas that are so exceedingly expensive, they’re never going to become law, and another whose possible legal troubles are so great that there’s no way she could get anything substantive passed. One’s a self-described democratic socialist, the other trying to come off of a left-of-center pragmatist, though many have noted that she’s really a strong doctrinaire liberal; she just doesn’t want to alienate voters. It’s a question about authenticity, which Sanders wins by more than a few touchdowns.

Oh, and Sanders refused to attack Hillary on her emails. If he was serious about toppling her, the Sanders camps would launch an aggressive offensive.  It's the most publicized flaw of hers so far, but we won’t. Clinton also repeatedly lied (shocker!) about the nature of the scandal. Guy has written extensively about how information on CIA informants and undercover agents were possibly on the server, along with the added bonus of highly classified information actually being found on the server, despite her saying otherwise. Some of those emails are so sensitive that they won’t be released to the public. She also instructed a staffer to remove the classified markings on a document and send it unsecure to her. That’s a crime, Mrs. Clinton–a crime.

Welcome to the Democratic Party, a race that features a possible crook and a left-wing kook. 

CNN/WMUR Poll: New Hampshire Feeling the Bern, With Trump On Top–But Rubio Surging

As Katie reported earlier today, a new Public Policy Poll had Trump taking a nosedive following his defeat in the Iowa Caucuses on Monday night. The billionaire magnate was still in the lead, albeit after dropping nine-points. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) surged to tie Cruz for second (25/21/21). Now, a new CNN/WMUR poll released just hors before tonight’s Democratic debate shows Sanders leading Clinton by a two-to-one margin, with the Donald still leading the field but could be forced to defend himself from a rising Rubio who took second place in the poll. Cruz and Kasich are in a virtual tie for third (via CNN):

Behind Trump's field-leading 29% support, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio climbs to second place with 18% following his strong third place finish in Iowa, followed by Ted Cruz (13%) and John Kasich (12%) in a near-tie for third. Jeb Bush holds fifth place at 10%, a hair behind Cruz and Kasich, with Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina well behind at 4% each. The fight for second place between Cruz, Rubio and Kasich remains within the survey's margin of sampling error.

The poll was conducted entirely after the Iowa caucuses.

[…]

Trump has also been ruled out by more likely voters than any other Republican in the field, 37% say they would never vote for him. Cruz is second on this score, with 13% saying they would never vote for him, followed by Bush at 7%.

There’s a lot of room for candidate to make their last minute pitches New Hampshire heads to the polls on February 9. Forty-one percent of Granite Staters have made up their minds come Election Day, with 25 percent leaning towards someone. Yet, 34 percent are still undecided. But given how strong Marco and Cruz did during the Iowa Caucuses– it could be the nudge these fence sitters need to pick who they feel should be the GOP nominee this year.

As for the Democrats, it’s, uh, looks pretty much locked for Sanders:

Sanders stands at 61% support, up slightly from the 57% he held in a late January CNN/WMUR poll conducted before he and Clinton divided Iowa caucusgoers almost evenly on Monday night. Clinton holds 30%, down a tick from the 34% she held before the caucuses. Both changes are within the poll's margin of sampling error.

The results reflect interviews conducted during the first two and a half days of a tracking poll that will ultimately wrap together three nights worth of interviews, but give the first look at how the race is shaping up following Monday night's caucuses in Iowa.

Democratic voters are also more decisive, with 64 percent knowing whom they will vote for next Tuesday; just 17 percent are in the undecided category.

Iowa Democratic Caucus: Hillary Still A Bad Campaigner

With Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley out of the race, the Democratic field is now Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Hillary Clinton. The average age of the Democratic field is 71. First, read Guy’s post about how the Clinton campaign is nervous about Monday night’s tallies, where she barely eked out a win over Sanders, mostly due to coin tosses. Another surprise was the fact that Sanders apparently overcame the biggest turnout obstacles he faced in the state: turning out voters who really don’t vote. And the voters we’re talking about are young liberals.

In that breakdown, it truly is the old guard vs. an emerging new order, despite both candidates being part of the Washington beltway for at least two decades.

  • 17-29 year olds: 84/14–Sanders
  • 30-44 year olds: 58/37–Sanders
  • 45-64 year olds: 58/35–Clinton
  • 65 and over: 69/26–Clinton

With income, it was hero of the proletariat, Sanders, vs. money bags Clinton:

  • Under $30k: 57/41-Sanders
  • $30k-$49,999: 50/47-Sanders
  • $50k-$99,999: 50/44-Clinton
  • $100k or more: 55/37-Clinton

Clinton won the East Central, Des Moines Area and Central parts of the state, while she tied Sanders in the Eastern cities and the West. Those who described themselves as Democrats broke for Clinton 56/39; Sanders took the “Independent and something else” crowd 69/26. He also nabbed the “very liberal” voters 58/39 over Clinton, whereas the former first lady took somewhat liberal and moderates 50/44 and 58/35 respectively.

Clinton won Democratic voters regarding questions about her electability (77/17) and experience (88/9), while Sanders handily won those concerned with the empathy portions (aka the candidate who “cares about people like me” question) (74/22) and honest and trustworthy (83/10). When it comes to health care, it wasn’t shocking either; the Sanders people only trust him on the issue and vice-versa with Hillary.

Another interesting aspect of the Democratic exits belonged to unmarried women. This key (and mostly liberal) voting bloc went to Sanders, showing that identity politics wasn't really a factor in this contest . This is a woman who had a significant double-digit lead over Sanders–and wasted it (throwback to Obama). The Des Moines Register poll released last August showing that her support had dropped by a third at the time, a course projecting an eventual defeat for her for the then-upcoming caucuses, serves as a prophetic event for the first 2016 bout for Democrats.

As Guy outlined in his post, Monday night’s results prove that Clinton is still a bad campaigner. Yet, she dodged a blowout loss (which didn’t seem likely) meaning that her southern firewall should be able to keep Sanders from toppling her for the nomination, despite the poor optics and criticisms of weakness associated with losing key primary contests as the frontrunner. Also, as the Cook Report noted, the delegate math is still in her favor:

…98 percent of pledged Democratic delegates will come from states with lower shares of liberal whites than Iowa and New Hampshire. Just 447 of 4,051 pledged Democratic delegates - 11 percent - are tied to results in states or districts with higher shares of college-educated whites than New Hampshire. Moreover, just 13 percent of pledged Democratic delegates will be awarded in caucus states like Iowa, which as 2008 proved, tend to bring out more liberal participants than primaries.

In other words, if Sanders prevails narrowly in Iowa or New Hampshire, his support among liberal whites and in college towns - essentially Portlandia - would be entirely consistent with a scenario in which he also gets clobbered by Clinton nationally.

As Cook National Editor Amy Walter wrote last week, this race will come down to whether Sanders is Howard Dean or Barack Obama. While Dean fizzled in Iowa, Obama's Iowa win solidified his burgeoning popularity among white liberals but also legitimized his candidacy in the eyes of many previously skeptical African-American voters. But so far, there are few hints of a Sanders "expansion" constituency beyond liberal whites.

There's another gigantic Sanders math problem the Post failed to mention: thanks to Clinton's early dominance of superdelegates, he effectively begins the race eight points behind in the delegate count, before any votes are even cast.

So, Sanders is probably going to beat Hillary in New Hampshire, but he faces uncertainty as he heads towards the Mason-Dixon line. Then again, the Clinton attacks against him have only led to significant campaign donations flowing into the Sanders camp. Post-Iowa, the self-described democratic socialist has raked in $3 million from donors.

Let’s see how long this blood sport goes.

Sharpened Knives: Jeb, Christie Camps Coordinate Attacks on Rubio?


The New York Times previews Saturday night's "get Rubio" debate, reporting that the campaigns of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are informally collaborating on methods and lines of attack in an effort to reverse the Florida Senator's momentum in the race. (UPDATE: Christie denies the story, see below). It's not official collusion, per se, but the mutual interests at play within the so-called 'establishment wing' of the field are obvious and urgent:

For Mr. Christie, the verbal barrage is a carefully calibrated attempt to damage Mr. Rubio’s standing in New Hampshire before Tuesday’s primary — and to set up a showdown with him in Saturday night’s Republican debate, possibly Mr. Christie’s best chance to impede Mr. Rubio’s surging candidacy. Mr. Rubio’s strong third-place performance in Iowa on Monday night, and his steady improvement in the polls days before the voting there, alarmed Mr. Christie and his mainstream Republican rivals, including Mr. Bush, who fear Mr. Rubio’s emerging as a breakout figure in New Hampshire. The shared concern has even prompted the opening of a back channel: Members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt Mr. Rubio’s rise in the polls, according to Republican operatives familiar with the conversations. While emails, texts and phone calls between operatives in rival campaigns are not uncommon in the tight-knit world of political strategists, the contact between senior aides in the two campaigns has drifted toward musings about what can be done to stop or at least slow Mr. Rubio, the operatives said. In a sign of a budding alliance, the aides have, for example, exchanged news articles that raise potential areas of vulnerability for Mr. Rubio. There is no formal coordination, the operatives stressed, but rather a recognition of a shared agenda. “We do have similar goals,” an adviser to Mr. Christie said. For their part, Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush are finding ways to praise one another in public and cozy up to each other in private: Mr. Bush telephoned Mr. Christie on Monday to wish him good luck in the caucuses.

Christie's been doing the heavy lifting in slamming Rubio lately, ridiculing him as "the boy in the bubble," and suggesting that the first-term Senator has zero accomplishments to his name.  This dovetails into Christie's oft-repeated contention that Republican voters should choose a governor with chief executive experience, rather than a legislator.  Bush, also eager to blunt Rubio's ascendancy and derail the emerging "three-man race" narrative, is throwing the kitchen sink at his former protege: His SuperPAC is criticizing Rubio for being too pro-life on abortion, and too liberal on immigration, while Bush himself has criticized Rubio from the left on immigration, and has portrayed his fellow Floridian as driven by ambition.  [Please clap].  Rubio has earned a bright red target on his back by significantly exceeding expectations in Iowa, where he gained late by pitching himself as a unifying figure within the party who is best equipped to defeat the Democratic ticket in the fall.  As Katie wrote earlier, a new, post-Iowa national poll from Democratic pollster PPP (which has a checkered methodological reputation, it must be said) shows Rubio surging into a second-place tie, not far behind Donald Trump.  A key graf from the polling summary:

Things also bode well for Rubio as the field gets smaller in the coming weeks. In a four candidate field he gets 32% to 31% for Trump, 23% for Cruz, and 8% for Bush. In a three candidate field he gets 34% to 33% for Trump and 25% for Cruz. And in head to heads he leads both Trump (52/40) and Cruz (46/40). As other candidates drop out of the race Rubio is the most likely destination of their supporters.

That's why Christie, Jeb et al aren't the only ones who'll be gunning for Rubio over the weekend. If Rubio leaves New Hampshire with a full head of steam and a winnowing field, he poses a major threat to Trump and Cruz, too -- especially with a slew of major endorsements and Rush Limbaugh's blessing in his back pocket. It's worth mentioning that a fresh UMass/NBC New Hampshire poll has Rubio edging ahead into second place at 15 percent, still far behind Donald Trump's 36 percent support.  I discussed these dynamics with Fox News' Gretchen Carlson this afternoon (via Right Sightings):


Parting thought: When Christie and friends come at Rubio with the "no accomplishments" line, what's his response? Will he point to his successful leadership that led to the defunding of Obamacare's taxpayer bailouts? That's a big mark in his favor for sure, but is he exaggerating the extent to which his legislative efforts dealt that major blow to the unpopular law? What else? He'd be crazy not to have a specific answer prepared for this challenge, because it's a fair one, and it's coming.

UPDATE - Chris Christie is denying the New York Times story, which at least purports to quote people within his camp:


He's denying that there's an agreement between the two campaigns, but that doesn't mean there isn't informal coordination or sharing of oppo, which the story reports. I've added a question mark to my headline, for the purposes of accuracy, given Christie's comments. While you're here, I'll add this video, in which the Rubio campaign seizes on Rush Limbaugh's comments as a means of touting the Senator's conservative credentials -- as I predicted they would:



Despite US Bombing Campaign Against ISIS, Size of Terror Army 'Remains the Same'

Back in December—and after 15 months of bombing ISIS in an effort to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the terror group—the U.S. military said its munitions supply was running low.

The Air Force had fired more than 20,000 bombs and missiles in Syria, and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh admitted they are “expending munitions faster than we can replenish them.”

All this would be less concerning if it was actually making an impact. According to a new report, however, the size of the terror group’s army is the same as it was last year.

Officially, ISIS is estimated to have between 20,000 and 25,000 fighters based on the new intelligence estimate, as first reported by USA Today. A year ago, ISIS was estimated to have between 19,000 and 31,000 fighters.  

The new estimate means that despite more than 10,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS starting in August 2014, ISIS largely has maintained the size of its force – due in part to an emerging practice of “forced conscription” and an influx of new members, including foreign fighters flocking to ISIS’ self-declared caliphate. 

Meanwhile, there are now an estimated 5,000 ISIS fighters in Libya, a defense official told Fox News. “It is getting harder to get into Syria and fighters are being directed to Libya,” the official said. 

It’s not all bad news, though. Despite the size of the ‘army’ remaining the same, territory from the terror group has been taken back.

Forty percent of territory has been retaken in Iraq, according to military estimates, while only 5 percent of land has been recaptured in Syria.

The aerial campaign has also helped cut off major supply lines, such as a Highway 47 connecting ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria to its headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, which is helping curb the flow of reinforcement fighters.

So while the bombing efforts of the U.S. and its allies haven't been a total loss, it is discouraging that ISIS' fighting force has not been diminished, especially as it seems the military will not be able to continue apace with the aerial campaign unless funding is in place for the long fight ahead. But with a price tag of more than $9 million per day, how much longer is this strategy really worth supporting?

Mitt Romney: Put Fiorina On The Debate Stage

As Cortney has already reported, there is controversy surrounding the decision from ABC News to exclude Carly Fiorina from the debate stage Saturday night (the under-card debate has been eliminated). Of the remaining GOP candidates, Fiorina received more votes in the Iowa Caucus than Governor John Kasich and Governor Chris Christie. She is also beating Dr. Ben Carson in New Hampshire polls. As of now, Kasich, Christie and Carson will be on the stage, Fiorina will not. 

This seemingly unfair situation has prompted a number of high profile Republicans, like New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, to come to Fiorina's defense. Now former GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney is adding his support.

At this point, ABC News isn't changing their decision.

Black Lives Matter Activist Enters Baltimore Mayoral Race

A Black Lives Matter activist could become the next mayor of Baltimore. DeRay McKesson filed his election papers almost at the last minute for the Feb. 3 deadline last night at 8:50 p.m. - 9 p.m. was the cutoff. He enters a very crowded primary; with 10+ candidates vying for the top spot in the city after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced she was not running for re-election (via WaPo):

Because Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city, Baltimore’s April 26 primary is expected to determine who replaces Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the once-rising star in national Democratic politics who announced last year that she would not seek reelection.

“Baltimore is at a moment,” Mckesson, who becomes the first of the prominent post-Ferguson activists to seek public office, said in a phone interview on Wednesday night. “I’m running to usher Baltimore into a new era where our government is accountable to its people and aggressively innovative in how it identifies and solves problems

[…]

Mckesson, 30, joins a crowded field that includes former mayor Sheila Dixon, who is leading in the polls, state Sen. Catherine Pugh, and city councilmen Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby as well as 10 other Democratic candidates.

The election comes at a time when Baltimore serves as one of the primary anecdotes in the national conversation about the overlay of race, inequality, and inner-city public policy. A poll conducted late last year by The Baltimore Sun found that 58 percent of city primary voters believe the city is “on the wrong track.”

The Post added that McKesson has become the go-to person regarding the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability after a series of fatalities at the hands of police launched the Black Lives Matter movement, the most highly publicized incident occurring in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014. Former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown in self-defense, but a series of erroneous reports made that Brown had his hands up set off a firestorm of rioting and looting that virtually destroyed the city.

The decision to runoff mayor occurred in January at the Charles Fish Building:

The four-hour policy meeting — attended by a Washington Post reporter on the condition that details of the gathering would not be reported until after Mckesson made his final decision on whether he would enter the race — was a free-for-all, in which a dozen participants reviewed data on education, housing, and criminal justice.

“The question is,” Mckesson asked to the assembled advisers, “what is the world we want to live in? What does that world look like?”

In attendance were Johnetta Elzie and Samuel Sinyangwe, two activists who, with Mckesson, run Campaign Zero (the fourth partner, Brittany Packnett, joined the meeting via conference call); Donnie O’Callaghan, an education policy analyst and Mckesson’s best friend, and several city officials who knew Mckesson from his time working for the school district and his prior nonprofit and community organizing work.

Attendees went line-by-line through the platforms of Dixon and Mosby — at the time the only candidates with published mayoral proposals — with Mckesson marking what the group determined were strengths and weakness of each proposal on large pieces of poster paper taped to the wall.

[…]

Mckesson would be the first political outsider elected to the corner office of Baltimore City Hall in modern history. In the last 50 years, voters in Baltimore have only once elected a mayor who was not a sitting city councilor — Kurt Schmoke, the city’s first elected black mayor, who was serving as Baltimore’s State’s Attorney when he was elected in 1987.

The city remains on edge, given that the trials for the police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray are ongoing. In that case, which occurred in April of 2015, Freddie Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while being transported in a police van. Like Ferguson, his death sent Baltimore into anarchy, prompting Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency and to deploy of the National Guard to restore order. Since then, the police commissioner for the city was fired, the police have retreated from doing their jobs, and the officers involved in Gray's arrest have been indicted on charges ranging from misconduct to second-degree murder. The city also had 344 homicides, which almost broke the 1993 record of 353. With things going so bad, no wonder why the mayoral race is chock full of candidates–the city is a nightmare.