March 12, 2015


Why Republicans Hold an Early Edge for 2016 : Amid Hillary Clinton's stumbles, the GOP field is keeping its poise. (JOSH KRAUSHAAR, March 11, 2015, National Journal)

With all the attention focused on the details of Hillary Clinton's personal email over the past week, it's easy to overlook the political big picture for the 2016 presidential campaign. If anything, Team Clinton's cautious, tone-deaf response to the potential scandal is a reminder of all the challenges that her candidacy will entail. Far from being the juggernaut that her campaign has been portrayed as, it's becoming clear that she will be facing strong headwinds in vying to succeed a divisive president, overcoming her past personal baggage, and convincing voters desperate for change that she's the candidate of the future.

The whole episode has raised glaring red flags about the emerging Clinton operation. It's only March, and the nascent campaign is still grasping for a message while being surprisingly unprepared to respond to criticisms about her email practices, which were known to her inner circle. A week that was designed to underscore her work for women across the globe descended into damage control over why she concealed emails as secretary of State on a private server. Her campaign operation resembles a clunky bureaucracy, filled with both allies from the last Clinton administration (Lanny Davis, David Brock) and younger strategists from President Obama's campaigns tasked to shake things up. She's got a well-defined brand, but one that's losing its luster amid controversy and organizational dysfunction. Sound familiar? [...]

One of the unheralded stories of the 2014 midterms is how Senate Republicans avoided many of the internal conflicts that dogged their party in previous elections. That success is extending into the 2016 presidential primaries, where an unusually deep roster of presidential prospects has emerged, and (for now) has avoided the pitfalls of the past. Just last weekend at an Iowa agricultural forum, Jeb Bush reiterated his support for immigration reform, and even Ted Cruz denounced ethanol subsidies. That resistance to pandering would have been unimaginable for Mitt Romney several years earlier.

As significantly, most candidates have resisted attacking Clinton, content to let her face the harsh scrutiny of the media on her own. (Only Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee issued any formal response to her press conference.) Indeed, it was notable that Clinton preemptively attacked GOP senators for their letter warning Iran about a nuclear deal with the U.S. in an attempt to deflect attention from her own controversy.

Eventually the story will die down, and the GOP candidates will have to decide how to incorporate Clinton's controversy as part of their own messaging. And inevitably, some will overreach. But it's a telling early indicator of the caliber of the Republican campaigns that most haven't jumped on the shiny bright object of the moment, and are playing a longer game. It's in distinct contrast to the GOP field of 2012, which constantly got sidetracked on issues ranging from Obama's birth certificate to contraception. They're taking veteran Republican strategist Rick Wilson's advice: "Better to go dark than play this game by the Clinton rules."

Legislators are children, Iran letter blowback startles GOP (BURGESS EVERETT 3/11/15 , Politico)

Some Republican senators admitted Wednesday they were caught off guard by the backlash to a letter warning Iranian leaders against a nuclear agreement with President Barack Obama. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Republicans -- many of whom blessed the missive during a brisk signing session at a Senate lunch a week ago, as senators prepared to flee a Washington snowstorm -- should have given it closer consideration.

"It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm," McCain said. "I think we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is."

On this at least, Democrats and Republicans found agreement.

"I find it hard to believe that they understood the severity of what they were doing," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Posted by at March 12, 2015 4:18 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus