Democrats have a huge enthusiasm gap problem, according to a Pew survey out Thursday. In the poll, 45 percent of Republican voters say they are more psyched than usual to back the GOP candidate in their districts; among Democratic voters, that total is just 37 percent.
The split isn't quite as pronounced as the one Pew found in 2010, when Republicans held a 55 percent to 42 percent edge in voter enthusiasm. But the gap still shows the challenge Democrats face in exciting their base and getting them to the polls.
More troubling news for Dems, from Pew:
Barack Obama is as powerful a motivating factor for Republican voters as he was in 2010: about half (51 percent) of those who say they will vote Republican this fall consider their vote as a vote "against" Obama, little changed from June 2010 (52 percent). And Obama has become a less positive factor for Democrats — 36 percent of those who plan to vote for the Democrat in their district view their vote as being "for" Obama, down from 44 percent four years ago. [Pew]
So to recap: Republicans are more excited than Democrats to vote, and President Obama's unpopularity is a contributing factor. Probably not a good sign for Democrats, then, that the president's approval rating has slumped back to the low 40s in recent weeks, per Gallup. Jon Terbush
Look up. Somewhere out there — beyond the high-rises and the clouds and yes, even the airplanes — there are people. To be precise, there are two of them, and they are more than three-and-a-half hours into the first spacewalk of the year.
Astronauts Scott Tingle and Mark Vande Hei are expected to spend more than six hours Tuesday dangling off the side of the International Space Station, where they are installing a new gripper on the station's robotic arm. The mission is the ISS's 206th maintenance spacewalk since it was launched into orbit in 1998.
"This is going to be a lifetime memory for sure," Tingle told Space.com last week. "I'm looking forward to getting out there and fixing up the systems that we'll be working on."
One of the hardest parts of the spacewalk comes when Tingle has to get out of his boot restraint "and I have to go over to my partner's boot restraint, and I have to move him while he's holding a massive piece of equipment from the robotic arm, so there's a lot of mass there," Tingle said. "I think that will be tricky. I'll probably take that slow and be very cautious."
— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) January 23, 2018
At least there is a payoff for all the trouble, Phys.org reports: "Make us proud out there," fellow Space Station astronaut Joe Acaba told Tingle and Vande Hei from inside. "We'll have hot chow for you when you get back."
On Tuesday, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp appeared on CNN's New Day and tried very hard to avoid talking about President Trump's alleged affair with an adult film star.
CNN's Alisyn Camerota began by asking Schlapp about a recent report that alleges that President Trump's campaign tried to cover up the tryst, which allegedly took place in 2006 when he was married to wife Melania, with campaign money. Schlapp responded: "I don't really have many thoughts on this, Alisyn. I don't even know what we know."
Schlapp then tried to claim that the report came out of "a gossip publication," referring to a lengthy interview the woman gave to InTouch Weekly. Camerota pointed out in response that the original story about the affair was published by The Wall Street Journal. "Do you think The Wall Street Journal is legit?" she asked.
Schlapp admitted that the Journal is credible, but spun back to referencing InTouch Weekly. "We're going to really talk about about an article by InTouch magazine on facts we don't even know to be true? We are all better than this," he said.
That's when Camerota struck: "Matt, so conservatives don't care anymore about extramarital affairs?" Watch a clip of the interview below, or watch the full segment at Mediaite. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been arrested for possessing knives that are openly sold in city stores
Knives are bringing together the unlikeliest of allies in New York as the constitutionality of a nearly 70-year-old statute is being challenged in federal court. Over the past decade, "tens of thousands" of people have been arrested for possessing illegal "gravity knives" — blades that can be flicked open with the skilled snap of a wrist, In Justice Today reports. Arizona-based knife advocacy group Knife Rights, which is representing three plaintiffs in the case, claims that the law is unconstitutional because there is no firm test to define what is or is not a gravity knife.
What's more, because of how vague and arbitrary the law is, "gravity knives" are often unknowingly sold in regular city stores:
"There's literally no way to know whether you're engaged in legal conduct," Daniel Schmutter, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the three-judge panel on Thursday. Someone seeking to comply with the law, he explained, might set out to perform the wrist flick test themselves, fail, and think the knife is safely "unflickable." But whether a knife's owner can "flick" his or her knife is irrelevant if a skilled police officer can do so. [In Justice Today]
Of the 928 people arrested for possessing gravity knives between July and December 2015, 84 percent were black or Latino men, Legal Aid reports. Although the fear is that the knives will be used as weapons, "in practice, the law results in New Yorkers who work in construction and other blue-collar jobs getting arrested for carrying an indispensable tool for their jobs," the New York Daily News writes.
President Trump does not have any firm beliefs about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney seemed to say in an interview on CNN on Tuesday.
The White House wants "a large [immigration policy] agreement. We want a big deal that solves the reason we have a DACA problem in the first place," Mulvaney said. "If you simply gave amnesty, whatever you want to call it, to the folks who are here, but don't solve border security, then you're simply delaying another DACA problem 10 or 15 years from now."
Pressed by CNN's Chris Cuomo to explain Trump's terms and conditions for allowing DACA recipients, who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children, to stay in America, Mulvaney said Trump's position "depends on what we get in exchange. What do we get for border security? What do we get for the wall?" Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 23, 2018
Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for 'several hours' last week
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions for "several hours last week," The New York Times reports. The interview is the first known instance of Mueller's office questioning a member of President Trump's Cabinet, although Congress has grilled Sessions on multiple occasions with inquiries pertaining to Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and the Trump campaign's alleged involvement.
Last spring, Sessions recused himself from "any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States" conducted by the Justice Department, following reports that he had twice spoken with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 election. During his congressional interviews last year, Sessions frustrated lawmakers by repeatedly saying he did not recall the answer to questions or otherwise declining to respond.
Mueller is also slated to interview Trump's former chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, in the coming weeks. In December, The Washington Post reported that White House lawyers have been "assuring the president that Mueller's investigation is poised to wrap up by January or so." Jeva Lange
Hawaii's governor was slow to correct the missile false alarm because he forgot his Twitter password
When the government of Hawaii accidentally sent a statewide text message telling residents a ballistic missile was about to strike their home, the first official indication the warning was a false alarm came from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Twitter. It would have come from Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), he said Monday, but he couldn't remember how to get into his Twitter account.
"I have to confess that I don't know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that's one of the changes I've made," Ige told The Washington Post for a report published Tuesday. Now, he added, he has been putting account information "on my phone so that we can access the social media directly."
While Gabbard got her Twitter post up within 12 minutes of the alert, Ige's password kerfuffle delayed him another five. The official corrective text message did not send until 38 minutes after the false alarm. Bonnie Kristian
Guillermo del Toro's aquatic fairy tale, The Shape of Water, leads the 2018 Oscar nominees, competing in 13 categories including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress in a Leading Role for star Sally Hawkins. World War II drama Dunkirk followed with eight nominations, dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with seven, and Daniel Day-Lewis' final film, the twisted fashion drama Phantom Thread, with six.
The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Three Billboards, and Phantom Thread are all competing for Best Picture alongside The Post, Lady Bird, Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, and The Darkest Hour. The Netflix historical drama Mudbound, meanwhile, made history after Rachel Morrison earned a nomination for Best Cinematography. She is the first woman ever nominated in the category, which has existed since 1928.