April 28, 2014

Keying off news about "tea party" Rep. Michael Grimm's indictment, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake has penned an interesting piece on "the misappropriation of the tea party label."

As Blake notes:

The question during the election, often asked in this newsroom and (we would presume) others, was, in what situation is the tea party label appropriate?

If a candidate is endorsed by a local tea party group, does that make him or her a "tea party candidate?"

Just because someone is challenging an establishment or more well-known candidate, does that make them a "tea party candidate?"

And do reporters wait for a candidate to define themselves as a "tea party candidate," or can we make that judgment on our own based on their public statements and stances?

The answers to these questions were all too often muddled in the hectic runup to the 2010 midterms. In the end, it became pretty easy to apply the label to all kinds of Republicans who didn't necessarily fit the bill. [Washington Post]

Part of the problem, I think, is that the term makes for convenient shorthand for journalists who are looking to write a short headline, or a clickable 140-character tweet. This leads to convenient, if misleading, classifications.

Let's take, for example, the now-infamous case of Todd Akin, whose comments about "legitimate rape" helped ignite the "war on women" narrative, and likely cost the GOP at least one Senate seat in 2012. Some amorphous entity called the tea party was blamed for Akin's comments. But as Slate's Dave Weigel notes,

The 2012 Missouri primary was a three-way race between Akin, businessman John Brunner, and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. "Todd Akin is often called a Tea Party candidate," says Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo, "but we didn't support him in the primary. [Slate]

Headlining a story "Tea party candidate Todd Akin today..." is much sleeker and simpler than adding all sorts of disclaimers and caveats like: "Todd Akin — who some consider a tea party candidate, but [since he's an incumbent congressman] might be more accurately described as an establishment social conservative..." At a certain point, the caveats become absurd.

And so, the term tea party has become a victim of its own success. It sold out; went mainstream. Just as "alternative music" became a meaningless label after 1992 (once alternative music became mainstream music), the tea party label no longer means much of anything — except nominally conservative.

Now if only I could quit using it in my pithy headlines. Matt K. Lewis

3:47 p.m. ET

It looks as though before Wednesday's end, America will know its final 2016 face-off: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. Yes, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is technically still in the GOP race, but he is widely expected to drop his bid Wednesday in a 5 p.m. EDT speech, and while Bernie Sanders is remaining defiant following his surprise win in the Democratic Indiana primary, his odds still aren't great to defeat Clinton. The math dictates we're all but guaranteed a Trump-Clinton face-off — and needless to say, Hillary Clinton is ready for the challenge.

Team Clinton wasted no time capitalizing on all the #NeverTrump vitriol that's been launched at the mogul from within his own party, releasing an ad Wednesday that is a brutal compilation of sound bites from GOP leaders:

By the time this is all over, America might need some therapy, too. Kimberly Alters

3:25 p.m. ET

President Obama vouched for the safety of filtered Flint water Wednesday by symbolically drinking a glass that had been properly treated for consumption. "If you're using a filter ... then Flint water at this point is drinkable," Obama said.

The president landed in Flint, Michigan on Wednesday for his first visit to the city since the water became contaminated with dangerously high levels of lead after Flint's government, under a state-appointed emergency manager, switched water sources to save money.

Obama will also meet with officials, community leaders, 8-year-old "Little Miss Flint," and Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who has been criticized for his handling of the crisis. "It's just breathtaking [Obama] would be here to stop off and see about little old Flint," one resident told The Detroit Free Press. "I just wanted to be here and be a part of it." Jeva Lange

1:57 p.m. ET
John Sommers II/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders' chances at winning the Democratic presidential nomination are slimmer than ever, according to The Washington Post's math. Despite the Vermont senator's surprising win in the Indiana primary Tuesday, Sanders still lags far behind Hillary Clinton with only 1,400 delegates to the frontrunner's 2,202.

To make up the ever-growing gap — and to stop Clinton, who is just 181 delegates away from tying down the requisite 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination — The Washington Post says Sanders would need to do all of the below:

  • Snag 65 percent of the remaining delegates in the Democratic primary.
  • Hold onto the 39 superdelegates he currently has.
  • Win over the remaining 160 undecided superdelegates.
  • Convince 161 of the superdelegates currently pledged to Clinton to switch allegiances.

Suffice it to say, the odds aren't looking so good. Read the full rundown on Sanders' chances, along with Sanders' chief strategist's take on it all, over at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

1:34 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Even if Donald Trump were to improve by a margin of five points in every single state, he would still lose a general election against Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports. If the votes were cast today, as polling stands right now, Clinton would win all the same states as President Obama did in 2012 plus North Carolina.

But if Trump were to improve his margin by five points, Clinton would lose Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida — and still beat Trump with 285 electoral college votes to 253. Only by improving his polling margin by 10 points in each state — and thereby also winning Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — would Trump manage to clinch the presidency.

Coming back from a 10 point defect is extremely hard, but not impossible: The Times reports that in 1980, Jimmy Carter was ahead of Ronald Reagan in many polls by 10 points at this same time of year.

See for yourself what the different electoral college maps would look like over at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

12:42 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump expects to have a vice presidential pick ready to reveal in July, before the Republican National Convention, and he announced Wednesday that Dr. Ben Carson will be helping him to reach a decision on that running mate, The New York Times reports.

Trump also said he is leaning toward picking "a political person" for his VP since "I have business very much covered." Trump plans to use a committee to decide on his vice presidential pick, and that's where Ben Carson comes in: "I think on the committee I'll have Dr. Ben Carson and some other folks," Trump said. The other folks have yet to be announced.

Carson, who ended his presidential bid in March, has struggled to promote Trump in any convincing way despite having endorsed him. Jeva Lange

12:17 p.m. ET
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will announce at a Wednesday evening press conference in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, that he is suspending his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, The Associated Press reports. Kasich was initially scheduled to do a press conference at the Dulles airport in Virginia, but announced Wednesday morning that he would not be leaving Ohio after all. If the governor does drop out, that would leave Donald Trump as the only remaining Republican presidential candidate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) dropped out of the race Tuesday night after Trump's win in Indiana all but ensured the mogul would win the nomination. Becca Stanek

11:18 a.m. ET

In a video about as nerdy as the "May the 4th be with you" joke, John Kasich celebrated Star Wars Day on Tuesday by depicting himself as "the only hope" for the Empire…er, America.

Written in the classic scrolling yellow font of the Star Wars films, the trailer describes a dystopian future in which Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump in "the largest landslide since Reagan" and is busy preparing to name her Supreme Court nominee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"Only one candidate can defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall," the trailer warns at the end (you'll never guess who). Watch below. Jeva Lange

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