July 27, 2014

Mitt Romney 2014?

Americans are so down on President Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they'd overwhelmingly back the former Massachusetts governor's bid. That's just one finding in a brutal CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That's an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.

Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.

Of course, the poll should be taken with a grain of salt. While Obama is actually taking on the tough task of leading the nation, Romney is sitting comfortably on the sidelines. Still, the finding comes as foreign and domestic crises have sent Obama's approval rating tumbling back to 40 percent, per Gallup.

Also in the CNN survey, a record-low 46 percent say Obama "shares [their] values," while only 49 percent say he is "sincere in what he says," also a record-low. Jon Terbush

8:33 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology following the killing of a South Korean official.

Kim in a message to South Korea on Friday said he's "deeply sorry that an unexpected and unfortunate thing has happened in our territorial waters" after a government official from South Korea was killed at sea by North Korean troops earlier this week, The New York Times reports.

The official, South Korea said, was apparently "trying to defect to North Korea" and "was killed by troops in the North who set his body on fire for fear he might be carrying the coronavirus," the Times previously wrote. It was the "first time ​that North Korea has killed a South Korean citizen in its territory since 2008," the Times added, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the official's killing a "stunning and deeply regrettable act that cannot be tolerated."

North Korea in its message on Friday reportedly denied that troops burned the body of the official, who they called an "illegal intruder," but did say they burned his flotation device "according to our epidemiological regulations."

Institute for National Security Strategy researcher Byun Sang-Jung explained to ABC News that it's "extremely unusual for North Korea to issue a statement of regret so fast," and in fact, according to the Times, this was the first apology to the South issued in Kim's name during his time as North Korean leader. Ewha Womans University international studies professor Leif-Eric Easley told the Times this apology was a "low-cost way of managing a potential crisis situation," adding that it "may also mitigate the deepening of North Korea's pariah status in South Korean public opinion." Brendan Morrow

7:11 a.m.

A federal judge in California blocked the U.S. Census Bureau late Thursday from ending the 2020 count of every U.S. resident at the end of September, siding with civil rights groups and local governments who argued that the Trump administration's premature termination of the census would result in an undercount of minorities and other hard-to-count communities. The Commerce Department had argued that ending the already shortened decennial head count on Sept. 30, not Oct. 31, was necessary to meet a Dec. 31 deadline.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh agreed with the plaintiffs that the inaccurate results would inequitably affect the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding and skew political representation. Lawyers for the Census Bureau and Commerce Department said they will likely appeal the ruling. Peter Weber

6:23 a.m.

"Folks, you know you're going through a bit of a dark patch in your nation's history when the president not endorsing the peaceful transition of power is the feel-good story of the day," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. The decision in Kentucky that "no officers would be charged with the killing of Breonna Taylor" once again "undermines many Americans' faith in our system of government — and clearly Trump is jealous, because that's kind of his thing."

Colbert was perplexed at why Team Trump would openly tell us how they plan to steal the election, but Joe Biden was right that Trump himself refusing to commit to leaving office isn't surprising: "I'm not putting it past Trump to barricade the White House gates and put Eric in a Baby Bjorn and use him as a human shield, but what Trump really wants to do is undermine your faith in the election, so you go, 'Eh, what's the point of voting?' The point is: You vote, he goes, regardless of what he tries. We just need to bury him under a mountain of votes."

If Trump "doesn't win, he wants to burn this country down," and "what he just said is terrifying," Jimmy Kimmel said on Kimmel Live. "Rarely do you see someone be a sore loser before they even play the game." Still, "several Republican senators pushed back on the president's dangerous words," he added. "Even that old son-of-a-Mitch McConnell poked his head out of his shell to refute it."

"And if recent news has taught us anything, it's that you can always count on Mitch McConnell to keep his word," Jimmy Fallon deadpanned at The Tonight Show. "Seriously, even other Republicans were like, 'Mitch, please.'"

"When Time Life releases a box set of Trump's craziest moments, this will be on it," Fallon said. "I'm getting the feeling this is gonna end with Trump locking himself in the Oval Office while yelling into the phone, 'Space Force attack!'"

The reporter's "mistake was phrasing the question that way," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. "You should've asked: 'If Joe Biden wins, do you commit to playing even more golf?'"

What Trump said was alarming, but "this does give me an idea for a new sitcom," James Corden said at The Late Late Show: "Trump refuses to leave the White House, Biden moves in anyway — Our Two Presidents, this January on CBS." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:37 a.m.

"President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law's most popular feature," protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while "avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or ObamaCare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation," The Washington Post reports.

Stat News describes Trump's affirmation of pre-existing conditions protections as "likely empty rhetoric" and one of several "simple, superficial, and non-binding executive orders" that will neither "improve the quality of Americans' health care or lower its cost."

Trump was more bullish in what was billed as a health-care policy speech in North Carolina. "The historic action I'm taking today includes the first-ever executive order to affirm it is the official policy of the United States government to protect patients with pre-existing conditions," he said. His administration is backing a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that could strike down those protections, already enshrined in the sweeping law Democrats passed a decade ago, but Trump said he's "putting it down in a stamp, because our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it."

Thursday's actions were "a tacit admission that Trump had failed to keep his 2016 promise to replace his predecessor's signature achievement with a conservative alternative," the Post reports. But that failure "has not stopped Trump from repeatedly promising a soon-to-come health-care plan in a repetitive cycle of boastful pledges and missed deadlines that intensified in recent weeks ahead of the November election."

Trump also "promised millions of older Americans would receive $200 toward the cost of prescription drugs and signed executive orders he said would somehow prevent unexpected medical bills," the Post reports. The $200 coupons, which Trump said will arrive for 33 million Medicare beneficiaries "in the coming weeks," are pretty clearly "a political ploy to curry favor with seniors who view drug prices as a priority," Stat News says. And it's not clear how or if the White House can legally pay the $6.6 billion price tag, though the administration pointed to savings from a regulation that hasn't yet been implemented.

You can read more about the $200 gift cards, Trump's other largely symbolic moves on health care, and the conference call in which Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare administrator Seema Verma struggled to portray them as "historic" at Stat News. Peter Weber

2:26 a.m.

At least two Senate elections Nov. 3 are actually special elections, but while the winner of the Arizona race will take office early, Georgia's contest is almost certainly headed to a January runoff. The appointed incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), is ahead slightly in the polls, but GOP challenger Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.) and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock are essentially tied in close second place. Loeffler, who is very wealthy, tried to pay President Trump to make Collins go away, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Collins ally.

"This is what the Loeffler team went to the Trump team with," Gaetz said at a campaign event last week, The Daily Beast reported Thursday. "They went and said, 'Look, you guys gotta get Doug Collins out of this race.' … She said, 'I have $50 million for this project, and I can either spend my $50 million getting new voters and helping the Trump campaign, or I can spend that $50 million taking out Doug Collins.'"

Gaetz's version of events isn't the only one, and other sources told The Daily Beast the offer from Loeffler's camp was more nuanced, with money dangled to support other Senate candidates, not Trump, or at least relayed to Trump using Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as an intermediary. "Basically it was to get McConnell and the Senate committee behind Loeffler and to not support Collins,'" a source told The Daily Beast.

Whatever was said or wasn't said, Trump has remained neutral in the race and Loeffler's husband, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, has so far reported giving $1 million to a super PAC supporting Trump and a six-figure contribution to another GOP PAC, Trump Victory, The Washington Examiner reports, noting these checks are nowhere "near the $50 million that Gaetz suggested they would spend." You can read more at The Daily Beast. Peter Weber

1:34 a.m.

To celebrate 60 years of marriage, Lucille and Marvin Stone put on the same dress and tuxedo they wore to tie the knot and held a photo shoot, laughing and smiling just like they did on their wedding day.

Lucille, 81, and Marvin, 88, live in Kearney, Nebraska. They met while working at the same high school — she taught home economics, while he was a math, English, and geometry instructor — and married on Aug. 21, 1960, with Lucille donning a white dress with lace that she made by hand. For their anniversary this summer, they called local photographer Katie Autry and asked if she would take pictures of them in their original wedding attire.

"Being in their space, you could see how much they care about each other and that's a rare thing to find," Autry told Good Morning America. The Stones have three children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren, and they shared with Autry their tips for a lasting marriage, including think before you speak and be kind to your spouse. "We've had some disagreements," Lucille told ABC News, "but on the big things, we're pretty much on the same track." Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m.

"Thanks to Donald 'Junta' Trump, we just don't have enough time to cover some of the more fun stories," like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lugging suitcases of dirty laundry to Washington so the White House will clean it for free, Trevor Noah said on Thursday's Daily Show. But it's hard to care too much about these smaller stories "when the world's oldest democracy is about to become the world's newest dictatorship."

"I never thought I would see the day where an American president would threaten not to accept an election defeat," Noah said. "Because let's be honest, this is something you hear about in some random country where America steps in to enforce democracy. I feel like now it's only fair that those countries should send peacekeepers to the U.S."

"By Trump saying that he refuses to leave peacefully, he's basically threatening a coup," Noah said, and "if you've paid any attention to Donald Trump over the past five years, it's no surprise that he likes the idea of being a dictator. I mean, he's written more love letters to Kim Jong Un than his own wife. The question is, will other Republicans allow him to get away with it?" Despite some reassuring tweets, "there is nothing the GOP can do put people at ease," he concluded. "They try and reassure people all the time and then what to they do? They always end up backing Trump." Noah asked Roy Wood Jr. for his thoughts, and Wood preached calm — as he packed to flee to Canada.

"I will say, man, Donald Trump has gone on quite the journey," Noah said. "The man spent his entire life as one of the world's most famous landlords, and now he's turning into the world's most famous squatter. I bet even if Joe Biden wins, they're gonna find Trump in the White House basement someday living that Parasite life."

The Late Show had its own ideas for how to get rid of a pest that won't leave the White House. Watch below. Peter Weber

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