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Greg BluesteinTamar Hallerman
Jim Galloway

Don’t blame Nathan Deal. He voted for Jeb Bush

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We know by now that Gov. Nathan Deal is no fan of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. But, even now, he’s still biting his lip as to whether he supports Ted Cruz, Donald Trump or John Kasich, the remaining upright candidates in the Republican race for the White House.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a fundraiser for Nathan Deal's 2014 re-election campaign. AJC/Special

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush headlined a fundraiser for Nathan Deal’s 2014 re-election campaign. AJC/Special

“I don’t think anybody cares what I think about who ought to be president,” he said Wednesday. “I’ll reserve that for myself and my wife, and I’m not sure she even agrees.”

He was then asked who he voted for in the March 1 primary. His answer came with a swift chuckle.

“I threw my vote away completely. I voted early and I voted for my friend, former Governor Bush. I had known him through the Republican Governors Association and so forth, and after I voted for him, he dropped out two days later,” he said. “I completely wasted my vote. I’m not a very good person to ask for advice on that.”

***

Is this the beginning of the end? Bernie Sanders announced plans yesterday to lay off hundreds of workers on his campaign, part of a hail-Mary effort to rejuvenate his slowing campaign by winning delegate-rich California in June.

The news came a day after he went one-for-five Tuesday against Hillary Clinton in Mid-Atlantic nominating contests. Here’s more from The New York Times, which interviewed Sanders on Wednesday:

Despite the changes, Mr. Sanders said he would remain in the race through the party’s summer convention and stressed that he hoped to bring staff members back on board if his political fortunes improved.

“We want to win as many delegates as we can, so we do not need workers now in states around the country,” Mr. Sanders said in the interview. “We don’t need people right now in Connecticut. That election is over. We don’t need them in Maryland. So what we are going to do is allocate our resources to the 14 contests that remain, and that means that we are going to be cutting back on staff.”

***

In his first interview since entering the U.S. Senate race, we pressed Democrat Jim Barksdale on his May 2010 trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories by a Washington-based group, Interfaith Peace-Builders, that advocates a non-violent but negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestinians. It’s an issue for Jewish Democrats. Said Barksdale:

jolt

jolt

“I think it’s so important to listen to people and try to understand. Both sides have legitimate reasons to why there is fear. And if you’re going to get an answer you first need to seek to understand. It’s not my job to offer a solution. Every president has tried to put forth a solution, and a senator only has so much of a voice. I don’t think it’s my job to offer solutions, but it’s my job to try to understand it and to listen.”

He added:

“At this point in terms of my campaign, the number one thing is to keep the focus on the U.S. economy and jobs, it’s not to offer solutions on any other front. Anyone who is a friend of Israel and a friend of human rights should seek to understand both sides. You need to listen.”

***

The White House and other backers of criminal justice reform are trying to rekindle an effort in the U.S. Senate, but David Perdue still isn’t happy with the most recent draft circulating on Capitol Hill.

If you recall, Perdue, an early backer of a congressional effort to cut in half the mandatory minimums for low-level drug offenders, ultimately came out against a bipartisan compromise backed by many GOP leaders and President Barack Obama because he worried it could lead to the early release of violent criminals.

Backers of that compromise recently tweaked the bill in order to appease nay-sayers like Perdue.

The freshman senator, however, said he still has “serious concerns” about the revamped bill, which will be formally rolled out today on Capitol Hill.

“Well, actually it doesn’t,” Perdue said when asked whether the new draft addresses his concerns. “They can’t tell me that this bill won’t have situations where violent criminals will be let out.”

***

Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue both barely broke the 50 percent mark in Senate approval ratings released this morning by the Morning Consult.

The nonpartisan media and survey technology company said the two Republicans respectively scored 50 and 51 percent favorability ratings based off a survey of nearly 2,000 Georgians between January and mid-April. Isakson had a disapproval rating of 23 percent, compared to Perdue’s 24 percent, with a 2 percent margin of error.

The two senators came in roughly the middle compared with their Senate colleagues. About a quarter of Georgians did not have an opinion of either senator, according to the data.

Who scored the highest among their constituents? Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., topped the list with an approval rating of 80 percent. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was the most unpopular, with a 49 percent disapproval rating.

Republican Ted Cruz had a 55 percent approval rating among Texans, up three points from the last survey the group did in November. Running for president appears to have hurt Marco Rubio of Florida, whose favorability dropped six points to 45 percent. The Morning Consult gave him a disapproval rating of 41 percent, compared to Cruz’s 30 percent.

***

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill in both chambers of Congress yesterday aimed at investigating and prosecuting racially-motivated crimes committed before the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act would update legislation enacted into law in 2008 that created offices within the Justice Department and FBI to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights era murders.

The new bill would extend the program — it sunsets next year — and require the FBI and Justice Department to consult with civil rights groups, universities and other organizations that have been tracking those unsolved cases and allow them to apply for federal grants. It would also allow other cold cases from after the 1960s to be investigated, among other changes.

“We can never heal from the injuries of the past by sweeping hundreds of crimes under the rug.  We have an obligation, a mission and a mandate to continue the effort required to wash away these stains on our democracy,” Lewis said in a statement.

The legislation is named for the black teenager who was beaten and brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955, an event that helped catalyze the civil rights movement. Two white men who admitted to abducting and killing TIll for supposedly whistling at a white woman were later acquitted by an all-white jury. The Justice Department reopened the case in 2004.