2016 Watch
May 13, 2014
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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) just blundered into another problem of his own making. Days after saying Republicans should not "go too crazy" in their efforts to implement restrictive voter ID laws, the freshman Kentucky lawmaker walked back his criticism, saying he supported such proposals after all.

In a statement to Slate, a spokesperson said Paul only meant that voter ID laws, "should not be a defining issue of the Republican Party," and that, "in terms of the specifics of voter ID laws, Senator Paul believes it's up to each state to decide that type of issue."

This is the biggest problem Paul will face if he pursues a White House bid. He has a penchant for breaking with the party — most notably on national security — and espousing beliefs that are anathema to a big chunk of primary voters. Racing to clarify his remarks may stem the backlash from the right in the short term, but it also risks painting him as a waffler in the long term.

This creates something of a no-win for Paul: Either stick to his guns and irk the base, or hedge his criticisms and come across as unprincipled. Jon Terbush

over and out
2:39 p.m. ET
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With prisons overcrowded and drug offenders facing long sentences, the Justice Department is now set to release 6,000 inmates early from prison, The Washington Post reports. The move, which that marks the largest ever one-time release of federal prisoners, follows a decision made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year, which reduced the punishment for drug offenders both in the future and retroactively. While President Obama has made headlines for granting clemency to large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders, the Justice Department's mass release is a separate initiative.

Approximately 100,000 drug offenders are serving time in prisons across the United States; sentencing guidelines could result in the early release of 46,000 of that number. While the first wave of 6,000 will be released between October 30 and November 2 — primarily into halfway houses or home confinement — another 8,550 will be eligible between November 2015 and 2016, The Washington Post reports. On average, the program eases prisoners' sentences by two years, from an average 10 and a half years to eight and a half. Jeva Lange

the saga continues
2:09 p.m. ET

Rihanna doesn't think that Rachel Dolezal, the white N.A.A.C.P. chapter president who identifies as black, is as bad as everyone is making her out to be. While Dolezal was largely scorned after her estranged parents revealed this summer that their daughter was actually white, Rihanna seems to be taking Dolezal's side.

"I think she was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit," Rihanna told Vanity Fair in an interview for the magazine's November cover story. "Is it such a horrible thing that she pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people's perspective a bit and woke people up."

While some criticized Dolezal for appropriating black culture, Dolezal maintains that she is "transracial" and that, for her, being black is "not a costume." Read Rihanna's full interview at Vanity Fair. Becca Stanek

play nice
1:31 p.m. ET
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In a week, Hillary Clinton will take the stage alongside Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee to duke it out in the first Democratic debate, hosted by CNN in Las Vegas. While the Republicans have had their share of verbal elbowing and name-calling on live TV, Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, has much more to lose if her takedowns backfire — especially if her criticism is leveled at her primary competition in the field, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"I've seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked," former Vermont governor and Clinton supporter Howard Dean told The New York Times, adding that condescending to Sanders' character or political alignments will "only make him stronger, especially with his base — and we need his base." Clinton herself has said that she "knows Bernie" and respects his "enthusiastic and intense advocacy of his ideas." What's left, then, is for Clinton to prove her worth against Sanders using his wobbly record with gun control against him — as well as the flaws in his proposals:

Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to belittle Mr. Sanders. But her debate preparations have touched on, among other things, how Mr. Sanders would accomplish some of his ambitious proposals if he were elected president, according to three people briefed on the private discussions. (Mr. Sanders's spending plans — free public college tuition, a $1 trillion infrastructure program and a single-payer health care system — would be financed with a variety of tax increases; both would be nonstarters under a Republican-controlled Congress.) [The New York Times]

Sanders, however, will likely share none of the same reservations about taking swings at Clinton. "If you think establishment politics and establishment economics is the answer to our problems, fine," he told David Axelrod in a podcast. "There are good candidates out there." Jeva Lange

The tables have turned
1:06 p.m. ET

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) set himself up and Hillary Clinton just couldn't resist. McCarthy's now-infamous Benghazi gaffe in a Fox News interview last week — in which he implied that the House's special Benghazi committee was created to sabotage Clinton — now appears in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad.

In what marks Clinton's first national ad of the cycle, she posits that Republicans "finally admit it." The 30-second spot opens with McCarthy's remark: "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee. What are her numbers today?"

Clinton then turns the tables. "The Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she's fighting for everything they oppose," the ad's narrator says. "From affordable health care to equal pay, she'll never stop fighting for you, and Republicans know it."

Watch the ad, which will begin airing Tuesday, below. Becca Stanek

This just in
12:17 p.m. ET

American commander in Afghanistan Gen. John F. Campbell admitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the airstrike targeting a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan was the result of "a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command."

"A hospital was mistakenly struck," Campbell said. "We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility." The attack came as Afghan forces were attempting to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban.

Doctors Without Borders has said the strike, which killed 19 people, "may amount to a war crime," The New York Times reports. Becca Stanek

write good
10:45 a.m. ET
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Presidential elections become more digitally oriented every year, with debates and conversations about the 2016 campaign occurring on almost every social media platform. As such, it's inevitable that some supporters will happen to be better spoken than others. To find out which candidate has the most grammatically correct supporters, the app Grammarly conducted a study on Democratic and Republican candidates' Facebook pages — and it turns out that Republican commenters get the red squiggly underline more than twice as often as Democrats do.

Grammarly sampled comments of 15 or more words on candidates' official Facebook pages between April and August 2015. The team then looked specifically at positive or neutral comments and ran grammar tests using both Grammarly and live proofreaders. For the purpose of the study, Grammarly only counted misspellings, wrong or missing punctuation, misused or missing words, and subject-verb disagreement, letting slang words, serial commas, and miswritten numerals slide.

With that, the results were in: Democrats made 4.2 mistakes per 100 words, while Republicans, at 8.7, made over double that. What's more, Lincoln Chafee, an underdog in the Democratic primary, had the most grammatically knowledgeable fans — they only made 3.1 mistakes for every 100 words. Hillary Clinton had the least grammatically correct supporters of all of the Democratic candidates, with commenters clocking 6.3 mistakes per 100 words — the same number as the best-spoken Republican supporters, who rallied in a grammatically correct fashion behind Carly Fiorina.

But not everyone can be winners: Way down at the bottom of the list was Donald Trump, whose supporters made a whopping 12.6 errors for every 100 words they wrote. Jeva Lange

10:19 a.m. ET
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In 2013, presidential candidate and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voted against federal aid to New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But now that similarly devastating flooding has hit South Carolina, Graham is leading the call for federal help in his home state.

Pressed on the apparent contradiction during a CNN interview on Monday, Graham said that he does not recall opposing the Sandy aid, a position many Republicans took because the package also funded projects superfluous to helping Sandy victims.

"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. "I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did." Bonnie Kristian

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