TPM Cafe: Opinion

As the Invisible Primary for 2016 reaches its zenith in the months before formal voting begins, there is one Republican candidate doing very well despite a lack of media attention, a record in public office, an elaborate campaign apparatus or even a clearly articulated platform. In the latest survey of Iowa for the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics by highly-regarded pollster Ann Selzer, Ben Carson is running second behind Donald Trump at 18 percent, triple the vote share of supposed Establishment favorite Jeb Bush, and more than twice the vote share of early Iowa frontrunner Scott Walker.

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While Lower 48 politicians might have partisan heartburn over President Barack Obama’s decision to change the name of Mount McKinley to its Koyukon Athabascan name, Denali, you’d be hard pressed to find many Alaskans, conservative or otherwise, with objections.

“We’ve been calling it Denali since I moved up here,” Dave Stieren, a conservative talk radio host for KFQD-AM in Anchorage told me. “To me it’s like happy holidays/merry Christmas. Anybody who cares about it too much is not someone I’d like to hang out with.”

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President Obama’s decision to approve the formal renaming of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley to Denali has been met with outrage. Some of it has been par for the course: House Speaker John Boehner expressed his “deep disappointment in this decision” and conservatives have critiqued Obama for bypassing Congress yet again. But the volume of outraged responses from present and former lawmakers in President William McKinley’s native state of Ohio is surprisingly high for a distant mountain and 120-year-old presidency.

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When I was a child my family had a consistent reaction to news of horrific crimes on TV: They would look at the screen, wait for the face to pop up, and pray that it wasn’t a black one. If I was over at a friend’s house, I would notice a similar viewing habit in older African Americans. It was as if a communal prayer was being sent up in thousands of households at once, from their eyes and up through the TV screens: Lord, don’t give them another reason. Don’t give them another reason to hate us, to discriminate against us, to racially profile us while we drive, walk and live. And even though most rational people know that racism has more to do with bigoted mindsets than individuals’ actions among a disadvantaged group, the “don’t give another reason” prayer still went up.

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The rape trial of Owen Labrie, a Harvard-bound student from St. Paul's School in Concord, has come to its conclusion with Labrie being found not guilty of the most serious of the charges. This verdict might surprise many people who were following the trial, which garnered major media attention because of the eliteness of the prep school and the strange sexual score-keeping that apparently went on. Labrie’s testimony—he claimed to have not had intercourse with the victim, after experiencing “divine inspiration” at the last moment—contradicted the physical evidence of his semen in her underwear.

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Numerous stories over the past months have reported that the Israeli government is indirectly negotiating a long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. First reported in May by leading Israeli security journalist Amos Harel, last week it was revealed that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who recently stepped down as Middle East “Quartet” envoy, had served as a point of contact for the talks. In exchange for a long-term truce, Israel would significantly ease the siege that has strangled Gaza for nearly a decade, which has been a key demand of Hamas and a condition of past cease-fire agreements ending previous rounds of fighting, though one that has never been implemented.

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Grandma is not your grandma’s abortion movie. Not that there are so many to choose from—and not that this new film from Paul Weitz and starring Lily Tomlin as Elle, the grandma in question, is just about abortion. But the treatment the subject receives is so real and so nuanced and so normalizing, it feels like a totally new take on the subject.

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Donald Trump has reignited his sexist harassment campaign against Megyn Kelly, and the folks at Fox News are, in seemingly coordinated fashion, striking back. Fellow Fox News hosts and pundits are asking Trump to cool it, and even Roger Ailes has released a statement calling Trump’s abuse “unacceptable” and “disturbing." It’s almost touching, watching all these conservative media people who usually profit at peddling sexism choose, this time at least, to join together in an effort to stop this one particular instance of it.

It’s also going to backfire.

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If it were not for the air of unreality being cast over the 2016 presidential election by the candidacy of Donald Trump, it’s probable we would not be hearing so much about a non-candidacy: that of the Vice President of the United States. But at a time when anything seems possible, Joe Biden is the subject of a draft campaign that appears to be vast and pervasive.

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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