A free piece of advice to the politicians out there: Never, ever insinuate offhandedly that a swath of your opposition is motivated by latent racial animus. Short of ironclad proof — say, footage of your opponents admitting to being gigantic, unabashed racists — the claim sounds accusatory and defensive.
Yet Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.) stumbled into that no-no Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
Host Candy Crowley asked, "Do you think your Republican colleagues are racist?"
"Not all of them," Israel said. "No, of course not. But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are motivated by racism."
That is sure to rile up the right, including the very base Israel was pooh-poohing. Remember that many on the right pounced when President Obama said in an interview with The New Yorker earlier this year that, "no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president." And that backlash came even though Obama, in the next breath, added that other people gave him "the benefit of the doubt" specifically because he is a black president.
In any event, you can expect a conservative backlash to Israel's comments in three, two, one. --Jon Terbush
Former Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah died Wednesday after a suffering a stroke and battling pancreatic cancer. He was 82.
Bennett, a Republican, was born Sept. 19, 1933, in Salt Lake City. His father, Wallace F. Bennett, was also a senator, serving from 1951 to 1977, and for a time, his son was his top aide. Before he was first elected to the Senate in 1992, Bennett worked as a lobbyist for J.C. Penney Co., was a congressional liaison for the Transportation Department during the Nixon administration, and purchased the Robert R. Mullen Co., a public relations firm and CIA cover organization, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. One of his most famous clients was the reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes.
Bennett was known for working with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done, and helped bring federal dollars to Utah for a freeway project and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "He was respected by men and women on both sides of the aisle, not only for his expertise but also for his common touch, his common sense, and his commitment to uncommon virtues," Mitt Romney said in a statement. Bennett was criticized by members of the Tea Party for voting for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and lost his 2010 re-election bid at the Republican State Convention to Sen. Mike Lee. After leaving the Senate, he started a consulting firm and taught at the University of Utah and George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Bennett is survived by his wife Joyce, six children, and 20 grandchildren. Catherine Garcia
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill on Wednesday that raises the state's smoking age from 18 to 21.
"The governor's signature on Tobacco 21 is a signal that California presents a united front against Big Tobacco," state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said in a statement. "Together, we stand to disrupt the chain of adolescent addiction." Brown also signed a bill that restricts the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces. California is now the second state in the United States to raise the smoking age to 21, after Hawaii. Active military members are exempt from the law.
The bills were backed by the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and American Cancer Society, and will become effective on June 9. The National Survey on Drug Use and and Health reports that 90 percent of tobacco users start smoking before the age of 21 and 80 percent try it before 18, and a 2015 Institute of Medicine study estimates that by making 21 the legal age to buy tobacco, there will be 200,000 fewer early deaths for people born between 2000 and 2019. Before the bills were signed, the tobacco industry threatened to seek a referendum vote to overturn them, the Los Angeles Times reports. Catherine Garcia
Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump said that looking ahead to the general election, he will not self-fund his campaign, instead creating a "world-class finance organization."
The campaign is expected to cost more than $1 billion, and Trump said Wednesday he does plan on "putting up" some money, The Wall Street Journal reports. By the end of March, Trump's campaign had spent $47 million, with $36 million coming from Trump. Two advisers told WSJ he plans on tapping into supporters who do not regularly give to the Republican Party, and an aide said he is starting to work with the Republican National Committee to develop a joint fundraising agreement. He also plans on helping the RNC raise money for other candidates through fundraising events and direct mail.
Throughout his campaign, Trump touted the fact that he was not accepting money from wealthy donors or super PACs. "This is one more example that voters can't take Donald Trump at his word," Democratic National Committee Communications Director Luis Miranda said. "He'll say anything to get elected, so long as it personally benefits him." Trump's website features a prominent "donate" button, and proceeds from items sold in his online store go towards his candidacy. Trump has already raised $12 million from supporters, with most donations of $200 or less, WSJ reports. Catherine Garcia
Automakers in the United States are recalling an additional 35 to 40 million air bag inflators manufactured by Takata, the company and U.S. Transportation Department said Wednesday.
Already, 28.8 million inflators assembled by Takata have been recalled to fix a defect that can cause air bags to explode during accidents, sending shrapnel through the air. The new recalls will be prioritized by age and risk of exposure to high humidity, conditions that affect the inflators, Reuters reports. There have been 11 deaths and about 100 injuries linked to the defective parts, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind said this is "the largest recall in American history." Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, the Justice Department sent officials in North Carolina a letter warning them that a new law requiring people who are transgender to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender they were born with violates federal civil rights law.
The letter, sent by the head of the department's civil rights division, states the law also violates Title IX, and the state could lose billions in federal education funding, The Charlotte Observer reports. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) called the letter "Washington overreach like we've never seen in our lifetime," but opponents like Democratic Rep. Chris Sgro said the letter confirms the bill "is deeply discriminatory, violates civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible."
State officials have until Monday to respond "by confirming that the state will not comply with or implement" the law. Catherine Garcia
George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush will not weigh in on the 2016 election, people close to the former presidents told The Texas Tribune Wednesday.
The elder Bush has endorsed every Republican nominee in the last five election cycles, including political rival Bob Dole in 1996, and supported his son Jeb Bush before he dropped out of the race in February. His spokesman, Jim McGrath, said Bush 41 does not plan on endorsing presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, and "at age 91, President Bush is retired from politics. He came out of retirement to do a few things for Jeb, but those were the exceptions that proved the rule."
Bush 43's personal aide, Freddy Ford, told the Tribune he "does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign." Neither have said anything publicly against Trump, although George W. Bush got in a veiled jab while campaigning for his brother, telling an audience that "the strongest person in the world usually isn't the loudest one in the room." Catherine Garcia
Update 5:35 p.m.: John Kasich formally announced his exit from the 2016 race Wednesday, telling a roomful of supporters and press that he was suspending his campaign. He thanked his family, volunteers, and supporters for being part of "something bigger" than themselves, and told stories of some of the most meaningful interactions he'd had with voters on the campaign trail. He did not mention Donald Trump, an endorsement, or the general election at all, simply thanking the people of Ohio for "the greatest professional experience of my lifetime." He closed his speech on a hopeful note: "As I suspend my campaign today, I have faith ... the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life."
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