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Your 2016 Candidates Have A Secret Weapon, According To The Media

Jason Linkins   |   February 15, 2015    7:30 AM ET

Every election cycle can be considered, first and foremost, a monument to hype. With every passing week, the political world is a blizzard of brash predictions, bold pronouncements, and bad advice. This year, your Speculatroners shall attempt to decode and defang this world with a regular dispatch that we're calling "This Week In Coulda Shoulda Maybe." We hope this helps, but as always, we make no guarantees!

ray gun

Sometimes, in life, you succeed on your own merits. But other times, you need a little something extra. And when the media thinks that they've caught on to that "something extra," they've got a term for it: the secret weapon.

If you look long enough, secret weapons abound. If you're in the National Hockey League, your secret weapon is the female figure skater. If you're the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots, it's Tom Brady's patience. If you're producing the Grammys, then what you find in your "in case of emergency break glass" box is a gospel choir.

Kanye West has a secret weapon. So does Beyonce. Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have them. Elon Musk has a secret weapon that he apparently won't tell anyone about. What if his secret weapon was "a small firearm, secreted on his person?" That would sure be a surprise to find out!

There comes a time in the coverage of any election that you start to hear about the candidates and their "secret weapons." And nearly 100 percent of the time, the secret weapon is the same thing: the candidate's spouse. This is a thing that's said about nearly every candidate. Barack Obama's secret weapon is Michelle Obama. Mitt Romney's secret weapon is Ann Romney. The same is true for Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum and Ron Paul and Herman Cain and Tim Pawlenty.

Senators got 'em. Governors got 'em. Even our favorite politicians from across the pond have got 'em. Sometimes it's awkward, like when you cheat on your secret weapon and father a son with your household staff. Sometimes it's a little bit weird, like when your predecessor's spouse becomes your secret weapon.

Once campaigns end, with the winners in ascension and the losers in absentia, there is precious little discussion as to whether any of these spouses-as-secret-weapons actually worked or not. And why would there be? The brilliance of the "spouse as secret weapon" story is that it's a trope disguised as a scoop -- a tired exercise handed down from editor to reporter to blandly pass the time.

There is not a person, in the history of the news, who has ever assigned this "spouse as secret weapon" story who would dare step forward in public and demand that we heed his case for having assigned it. And there's not a reporter in the world with the balls to tell you, truthfully, that the assignment was anything but bogus. (I dearly want someone -- anyone! -- to take on this task and present it literally. That is: a real, earnest accounting of how a candidate's spouse could potentially hurt another human being.)

Already, this year, we've crossed the threshold, with Columba Bush getting a write-up in The Hill, depicting her as Jeb Bush's secret weapon. ("Don't publicly release a bunch of random people's Social Security numbers," is the sort of thing you'd kind of like your secret weapon to advise, but, alas!) He'll join a handful of other potential 2016ers who have already notched their spouses-as-secret-weapons stories. At some point, this story will be written about each of the remaining candidates.

And so, with that in mind, we'd like to pay tribute to all the candidates who possess secret weapons that aren't their wives or husbands, and the reporters who dared to delve a little further to expose these armaments to their readers.

Hillary Clinton's Secret Weapons: Eyewear. Grandchildren. Huma Abedin. Praise from Republicans. "African-American voters and America's withdrawal from Iraq." (Well, maybe not anymore on the latter. Perhaps America's intervention in Iraq can finally be her secret weapon!)

Rand Paul's Secret Weapon: Hillary Clinton.

Mike Huckabee's Secret Weapon: Also, Hillary Clinton. (I guess Rand gets her Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Huck gets her on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, and they alternate Sundays.)

Ted Cruz's Secret Weapons: Iowa Rep. Steve King and "Republican despair." (Sort of the same concept, actually.)

Rick Santorum's Secret Weapon: The churches of America. His movie studio.

Scott Walker's Secret Weapon: Vanilla. (What else?)

Joe Biden's Secret Weapon: Laughter. (What else?)


So what is the 2016 election about this week?

Vaccines! From NPR's Mara Liasson: "Think vaccine politics are a very good mirror of the current dynamics in the 2016 presidential field. On the Republican side, the two candidates who've been doing really well lately, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, managed to navigate the crosscurrents of vaccine politics really well. The two candidates who've been floundering a bit couldn't. It's a hot potato for Republicans because even though there are plenty of rich, liberal, whole-food parents who don't vaccinate, it's a much more burning issue for the Republican grassroots. They're more likely to see it as an issue of individual freedom and liberty. "

Continuing The Obama Administration! Joe Biden: “That is what the next presidential election will be about. Do we continue on the path we are on or do we go back to the policies of the past?”

Whether people like senators or like governors! The Hill: "The Republican presidential primary is shaping up to be a battle between the statehouse and the statesmen."

elizabeth warren

Getting Drafty In Here

For as long as the 2016 campaign cycle and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have been things existing simultaneously, there has been an effort to bring about the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-ization of the two. "Oh, what? You got Elizabeth Warren in my 2016 election!" And so, we have a long-standing "Draft Elizabeth Warren" campaign, which has bred an endless array of "Is Elizabeth Warren going to finally jump into the race" stories.

But this may be the week when the "Are The Draft Elizabeth Warren People Going To Get A New Hobby" stories begin to flow. This week, one of the nascent "convince Elizabeth Warren to launch a foolhardy campaign for the White House" efforts, in concert with MoveOn, commissioned a push-poll, and Salon's Jim Newell utterly demolished it, saying, "Credit to MoveOn for being transparent and sharing its methodology. On the other hand: oh my god, this is hilarious. We can’t believe they would share this! It’s the fluffiest poll since whatever the last really fluffy poll was."

Indeed, many of the poll questions make the typical push-poll look downright shy. Do you agree that Elizabeth Warren really wants to take it to big Wall Street interests? Isn't her middle-class backstory interesting? How about this report from Time magazine, which discusses her zealous defense of consumers? Isn't it a great thing to protect consumers? It all basically reads as, "People have said Elizabeth Warren is amazing. Do you think America would benefit from an amazing president?"

Per Newell:

There’s a scientific term for this type of survey, can’t quite think of it now, but it’s not a kind one. The gist of it is “when your survey spends 11 questions puffing up someone into a quasi-deity and then immediately asks if people like that person, it’s not a very useful survey.” This isn’t how an election plays out. When New Hampshire Democrats enter the polling station on primary day, the voting machine will not read them a glowing profile of Elizabeth Warren before displaying the ballot. (Although who knows; these machines sometimes go on the fritz.)

Elsewhere in Salon, Joan Walsh absorbs the news that New York's Working Families Party joined the Draft Warren movement, and gives it the side-eye it deserves:

I admire WFP; I think they’re doing exactly what progressives should be doing: Working within the Democratic Party and pulling it to the left, not standing outside the party and declaring it no better than the GOP.

But it was hard not to contrast their “Draft Warren” move, which looks symbolic at best, and contains an implicit challenge to Hillary Clinton, with their cave-in to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year -- which was not merely symbolic but had real ramifications. At that time, they had a terrific progressive female candidate, Zephyr Teachout, ready to challenge Cuomo -– and they backed Cuomo. So to recap: With a willing progressive woman challenging a politically centrist Democratic man -– the progressive didn’t get the WFP endorsement. But now, with a centrist but more liberal (than Cuomo) Democratic woman, Hillary Clinton, (probably) running for president, WFP is courting a challenger -- who (probably) isn’t running anyway.

Lots of people admire the effort that Elizabeth Warren undertakes to see to it that a basic level of fairness for normal human Americans is restored as we climb out of the post-crash wreckage. It's something that she works at very hard, on a daily basis. Maybe it's time for everyone working in the Draft Warren world to start doing the same.

hillary clinton

The Week In Predictions

Hillary Clinton: One peril of Clinton taking her time to enter the race is that she will have to endure the periodic repetition of the "all the advantages that Hillary Clinton enjoys may turn out to be impediments," as if the best possible way to run for office is to be burdened with disadvantages. This week, it's The Washington Post: "But the luxury of front-runner status could easily become a liability as Clinton attempts the historically difficult feat of leading her party to a third consecutive term in the White House." We are subsequently told that "her advisers are working hard to fashion ways to make her seem hungrier, scrappier and less like the inheritor of Obama’s mantle." Sure, but she'll still take being up 40 points on Joe Biden eight days a week!

Rand Paul: The National Journal's Lauren Fox opines that the "debate about defeating ISIS" could become "perilous" for the Kentucky senator. Probably not as perilous as actually fighting ISIS though!

Elizabeth Warren: The Hill's Judy Kurtz: "A battle between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren could easily divide entertainers, creating a showdown that might split Hollywood and force A-list stars to choose sides." Good thing that Warren isn't running, I guess, though even if she did, at least Amy Pascal can't lose her job a second time.

Joe Biden: He could win the Iowa Caucus, unless someone else does.

All The Advice That's Fit To Aggregate

Hillary Clinton should have her campaign headquarters in the Bronx. Or in Queens. (There's space available in Staten Island, too.) Hillary should jump into the race right now, and start doing some Teddy Roosevelt stuff. Also, David Axelrod has advice.

Jeb Bush "should think twice about playing to the Iowa GOP." Rand Paul should "come clean about libertarianism." Chris Christie should "stop telling the Sicilian mother story" and get a makeover -- there are five to choose from. Bobby Jindal "should salvage his legacy by giving up his presidential ambitions and focus on solving Louisiana's fiscal crisis," but where's the fun in that?

This week, Jennifer Rubin says that Rick Perry's "biggest problem may be [Scott] Walker, whom Perry will need to show is less prepared on foreign policy and less accomplished than he is." That means next week, Rubin can flip the names and write the same sentence.

We'll Leave You With This, Whatever This Is

Via Bloomberg's Ben Brody:

“If Jeb Bush loses New Hampshire, they'll get Mitt Romney back in the race,” said Carville, who managed Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. Clinton that year became the first modern president not to win the Granite State primary.

"Mitt Romney will jump back into the race" is the new "Elizabeth Warren will challenge Hillary Clinton."

The Great Mitt-Stakes: Who 'Wins' Now That Romney Has Quit The Race?

Jason Linkins   |   February 8, 2015   10:13 AM ET

Every election cycle can be considered, first and foremost, a monument to hype. With every passing week, the political world is a blizzard of brash predictions, bold pronouncements, and bad advice. This year, your Speculatroners shall attempt to decode and defang this world with a regular dispatch that we're calling "This Week In Coulda Shoulda Maybe." We hope this helps, but as always, we make no guarantees!

mitt romney bye bye

Mitt's Out And Everyone's A Winner!

Last week, the former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential aspirant decided to quit the race he'd only just begun. Hmmm, does that mean he was actually a three-time presidential aspirant? Was he in long enough to qualify? We'll wait for someone else to make a ruling on that. The important thing, at least as far as the media was concerned, was clearly identifying who stood to gain the most from Mitt's departure, otherwise known as "the big winner." On this matter, the elite consensus was, as always, a model of consistency.

The Big Winner Is Jeb Bush: According to Fox News, Romney's departure meant that Jeb Bush would be "positioned" as "the establishment favorite," which would help the former Florida governor to "assemble a campaign team in key early-voting states." What's more, "veteran operatives who were torn between Bush and Romney will be free to put their energies into the Bush camp," and "former Romney donors were moving toward Bush."

Yep, Totally Jeb Bush: CNN concurs: "Mitt Romney's decision to pass on 2016 anoints Jeb Bush as the clear establishment favorite." South Carolina's GOP state party chair Matt Moore shows up in the piece, remarking, "I think it is hard to argue that today's news did not help Gov. Bush."

Unless, Of Course, Jeb Bush Ends Up Being The Big Loser: The Federalist's Ben Domenech: "So who benefits from this, and who is harmed? Somewhat ironically, it may be Jeb himself who takes a small hit over this. Bear with me here: with Romney in the race, Jeb would’ve had an opportunity to contrast himself as a fresh face, a break with the past of the GOP in a healthy way ... Romney would not have been able to win the nomination this time around, and he actually could’ve proven to be a useful foil for Jeb."

Well, In That Case, It's Gotta Be Scott Walker: "This news is especially helpful to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was already the thinking man's choice for a dark horse," writes Vox's Andrew Prokop, in a piece titled, "Mitt Romney's exit is great news for Scott Walker, not Jeb Bush."

Definitely Walker!: Headline at Hugh Hewitt's site: "Chuck Todd: Scott Walker the Other Big Winner Of Romney's Decision To Bow Out."

Not So Fast! Don't Forget About Chris Christie!: Meanwhile, Business Insider is pretty sure that Bush and Christie are the big Mitt-stakes winners: "Romney, the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee, suddenly announced Friday morning that he would not launch another White House bid in 2016. His exit opens up more space for establishment-oriented contenders with similar constituencies to Romney's -- particularly Christie and Bush."

It Could Also Be Rubio! (And Walker.): The Hill's Jonathan Easley: "Walker and Rubio could also see a political windfall, building on what has been a big month for both potential candidates." The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: "Aside from Christie, Romney’s exit helps Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) the most. Both can appeal to the donor community and win over a chunk of Romney backers. They will need to build out their organization swiftly and show they have the gravitas to run and win a national campaign."

Anyone Got Kasich? Yes. "Ohio governor John Kasich may also benefit somewhat from Romney’s exit."

The National Journal's Charlie Cook Makes A Bold Prediction: "Several 2016 candidates could benefit from the 2012 GOP nominee's decision not to run." Okay, thanks!

What Do "Not Very Well-Informed" Millennials Think? According to Fusion's polling of "not very well-informed" millennials, "With Romney out of the mix, former Florida Jeb Bush benefitted the most: He could be the frontrunner with Romney out of the way. In a Romney-less field, Bush leads the pack at 16 percent, jumping 4 percentage points from a field that included Romney."

Okay, Surely There's A "Big Loser," Right? What About Rand Paul? I Don't See Him On This List: Per KSNV My News 3, "Rand Paul could pick up Mitt Romney's fan base in Nevada."

The Real Winner, Of Course: Is anyone who got to monetize this media trope this week!


So what is the 2016 election about this week?

Effective governing! The Editors of the Dispatch-Argus, of Moline, Illinois: "What it is and should be about is effective governing. And while we don’t expect, or even want, Congress to morph into a giant drum circle with members joining hands and singing Kumbaya, we do want them to work together, to be more than a fundraising machine for the next election."

Equality and responsibility! Andrew Beatty, Agence-France Presse: "While Obama's budget has no chance of being written into the statute books, it will frame arguments about equality and responsibility that are likely to dominate the 2016 race to succeed him as president."

The wealth gap! David Shribman, The Detroit News: "Indeed, there are two principal unspokens in the run-up to the next presidential campaign. The first is the quiet Republican hope that maverick Sen. Elizabeth Warren will challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the left in the Democratic primaries. The second is the anguish Republican candidates are having in trying to figure out how to address economic issues. ... At the heart of both of these unspokens is the increasingly apparent wealth gap."

hillary clinton what time

What Time Is Hillary: An Update

Last week, we parsed the news, looking for signs that pointed to when, exactly, Hillary Clinton might formally announce that she is running for president, as opposed to just persisting under the assumption that a Clinton candidacy was a fait accompli. Our findings? Hillary is definitely running, unless she isn't, and we will definitely know for sure in July and there is absolutely no rush because she is, in the words of an adviser, "better off as a non-candidate." Also we learned that "July" could mean "April," because words have no meaning and time is relative.

So is the matter settled? Of course it isn't. It seems that "Clinton's advisers are split on when Hillary Clinton should launch her campaign." You know, almost as if one adviser thinks "she's better off as a non-candidate" and a bunch of other advisers contend, "Dude, why on earth did you say that to Politico?" As CNN's Brianna Keilar reports:

There could be 10 or more Republican candidates by this summer. That might be when Hillary Clinton gets around to officially moving toward a campaign, if she heeds some confidantes, who are privately arguing for an announcement in July to coincide with the start of the third fundraising quarter. Delaying until the summer is an idea that is said to be gaining momentum against those who want to stick to the plan for an April start date.

The possibility of the delay is very real but still unsettled.

"I would say it's 40 percent," in the direction of those arguing for a delay, said one Democrat who supports a spring debut for Clinton's presidential campaign. Another Democrat who saw merits in both time lines put the odds of a delay at 50 percent.

The best part of this report is the part where Keilar writes: "Democrats on both sides of the debate spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity so they could make their case without upsetting Clinton or those close to her for talking openly about internal deliberations." I mean, if you're worried about the consequences of "talking openly about internal deliberations," it seems to me that the best thing, for all involved, is to definitely return Brianna Keilar's phone calls. That's just common sense.

rand paul predictions

The Week In Predictions

Rand Paul: The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar says that Paul's has a "getting elected" problem, in that he "can't" get elected, because his "heterodox views on foreign policy" are at odds with his party, and more specifically, Iowa voters: "Even in Iowa, a dovish state where Paul holds strong favorability ratings, the appetite for increased military interventionism against ISIS is high. In a new Bloomberg survey, nearly half of Republicans ranked 'more aggressively pursuing terrorists' as a leading issue out of 10 tested, ranking a close second behind repealing Obamacare." Also hampering Paul's chances is one of his campaign organizers, A.J. Spiker, is apparently despised by Iowans. According to one Iowa GOP activist, Andy Cable, Spiker is "toxic" and Paul "will get little or no exposure in the rural counties around Iowa, and most of that will be directly related to having A.J. Spiker as his front man."

Jeb Bush: More Iowa problems! Jeb Bush won't win Iowa. But it gets worse! According to Gary Gross, "It's one thing for Gov. Bush to lose Iowa. There isn't a pundit that's giving him much of a chance of winning Iowa. It's another thing to finish a distant fifth." It won't be great for the person who finishes fourth, either. (Who will presumably be Rand Paul?)

Elizabeth Warren: The Hill contributor John LeBoutillier just lets it all hang out, predicting that Warren "will run against Clinton in 2016." He gives 20 reasons for his prediction, some of which are not actual reasons. (Example: "14. So here is the big question: Will Elizabeth Warren run -- after repeatedly saying she is not running?")

Martin O'Malley: "Martin O’Malley to rock New Hampshire this St. Patrick’s Day." We are told that O'Malley's closest advisers are already downplaying the extent to which O'Malley will "rock" New Hampshire, in an effort to win "the expectations game."

Hillary Clinton: Interesting and substantive prediction from Iowa-based Democratic organizer John Deeth: "If Hillary Clinton is elected president, this will be the last Iowa Caucus." Bold and weird prediction from MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I think she should go for a 55 percent victory, 54 percent victory because then she could bring the House in, she could bring the Senate in, and she could really rule this country. This country needs somebody to get control of it." Bold and weirdly specific prediction from these people who have started some sort of online petition: "Hillary Clinton will Announce in New York City on Saturday, July 4, 2015 in Central Park."

Prediction of Doom! Wrongest pundit alive Dick Morris says that "Scott Walker could win," in a devastating blow to Walker's chances of winning.

All The Advice That's Fit To Aggregate

Jeb Bush should "rethink his approach to marijuana policy." He should also "leave the race with dignity." Scott Walker should not let Democrats define him. Marco Rubio should either run for president, or run for the Senate again, or run for governor. Chris Christie needs to watch out for the things that will hurt him, unless they help him -- specifically his vaccine comments (which "may hurt as much as help in the Iowa 2016 race"), and his "brash style" (which may "be a boon or a bust in 2016").

We'll Leave You With This, Whatever This Is

This Week In 2016 Speculation: What Time Is Hillary Clinton?

Jason Linkins   |   February 1, 2015    7:30 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Every election cycle can be considered, first and foremost, a monument to hype. With every passing week, the political world is a blizzard of brash predictions, bold pronouncements, and bad advice. This year, your Speculatroners shall attempt to decode and defang this world with a regular dispatch that we're calling "This Week In Coulda Shoulda Maybe." We hope this helps, but as always, we make no guarantees!

hillary clinton what time

Hillary Clinton: Any Minute Now ... Or Then

It's a mystery of the age: When is Hillary Clinton going to announce her candidacy for president? And the answer is: Hillary Clinton exists in a perpetual meta-state between "always running" and "never not running." Hillary Clinton is the astronaut in the "Interstellar" fourth-dimensional book room, forever warning herself about the dangers of embarking on the journey to the White House. But if she never embarks, how will she end up in the Place Between Time And Space, to warn herself? This is an unresolvable conundrum, until it isn't. But here's what we don't not know about her intentions.

Jan. 26: It's all happening, according to a deeply reported Politico piece from Mike Allen, who writes, "Not only is she running, but we have a very good idea of what her campaign will look like":

Hillary Clinton is in the final stages of planning a presidential campaign that will most likely be launched in early April and has made decisions on most top posts, according to numerous Democrats in close contact with the Clintons and their aides.

Campaign advisers say the likelihood of a campaign, long at 98 percent (she never really hesitated, according to one person close to her), went to 100 percent right after Christmas, when Clinton approved a preliminary budget and several key hires.

Perhaps the most significant detail in the whole report, however, was this: "Most of the top slots have been decided, with one notable exception, communications director." This would prove to be a little prophetic days later, when, in another deeply reported piece from Mike Allen, communications seem to have broken down:

Hillary Clinton, expecting no major challenge for the Democratic nomination, is strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July, three months later than originally planned, top Democrats tell Politico.

The delay from the original April target would give her more time to develop her message, policy and organization, without the chaos and spotlight of a public campaign.

That report contained this instant classic of campaign messaging, from "one adviser": "She's better off as a non-candidate. Why not wait?"

But later in the same piece, we learn that the real question might be, "Why not not wait, why not?"

One option being considered would be to announce an exploratory committee earlier -- perhaps in April, at the beginning of a new fundraising quarter, in the time frame when insiders originally expected her to launch her campaign.

Then the actual kickoff would be in July, near the start of the next quarter. By launching at the beginning of a quarter, supporters would have the maximum amount of time to generate a blockbuster total for their first report.

Time, flat circle, et cetera.

rand paul ted cruz

So what is the 2016 election about this week?

The economy! The Los Angeles Daily News: Not yet in the presidential race, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitt Romney already are previewing the likely focus of the 2016 campaign, a competition over who’s better able to boost paychecks for working Americans.

The great wage slowdown! Greg Sargent, The Washington Post: "Democratic strategists believe the party got shellacked in the last elections in part because Dems failed to persuade voters they had a comprehensive agenda to address stagnating wages and move the country towards broadly shared prosperity. They think addressing this problem is particularly urgent, because the 2016 elections may turn on which party more convincingly offers answers to the deep, long-term structural problems plaguing the economy."

Marriage equality! Ginger Gibson, The International Business Times: "The Supreme Court could hand Republicans a ruling that takes gay marriage out of the political debate for 2016 and eliminates an issue that has hurt them in general elections. The court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to bans on same-sex marriage in April and will likely make a ruling in June, months before the 2016 campaigns really get rolling."

What it will actually be about. If this week is any guide, the election will be about whatever the Koch Brothers' $889 million says it will be about.


The week in "hints at."

Joe Biden: "Hints at 2016 bid."
Mike Huckabee: "Hints at running for president."
John Kasich: "Hints at 2016 campaign."
Sarah Palin: "Hints at 2016 run for president."
George Pataki: "...hinted he’d be proud to run against [Rick Perry] for the White House."

George Pataki knows that he'd have to run against a whole bunch of other people, right? Like these people? Hints a go-go!

mitt romney blorp

Hello, Goodbye: Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney 2016: The flame that burns twice as bright lasts maybe three weeks. Let's relive the magic!

Jan. 26:

"Romney To Decide About Presidential Run Within Next 2 Weeks, Report Says"

Jan. 27:

"If he runs again in 2016, Romney is determined to rebrand himself as authentic, warts and all, and central to that mission is making public what for so long he kept private."

"Romney, whose last presidential bid was hampered by his image of excessive privilege and insensitivity, may recognize the trouble his real estate holdings could cause in another campaign."

"In the delicate and unseen campaign underway for [Rupert] Murdoch’s affections in the next presidential campaign, this much is clear: Romney is out of the running, a reality that has pained and angered his allies."

Jan. 28:

"Mitt Romney is renewing his pledge to fight for the poor and middle class in a speech that questions Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's foreign policy and economic credentials."

Jan. 29:

Washington Post headline: "Mitt Romney’s people insist he’s not ‘rebranding.’ Sorry, but he most definitely is."

"Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has scheduled a call with staff members and supporters Friday morning, two weeks after he publicly announced his interest in launching a third presidential campaign. The topic of the call was not specified in an email to his allies -- other than its description as an "update call" -- but it will occur within the window that Romney had set for deciding whether to run."

"Closing in on a decision about whether to again run for president, Mitt Romney is finding that several past major fundraisers and donors in key states have defected to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush."

Jan. 30:

"Mitt Romney will call senior donors at 11 a.m. ET Friday to give them “an update” on his campaign plans. Sources have told The Daily Beast that the former Massachusetts governor will announce his intention to explore a third run for the White House. Romney and his senior aides believe he is the best placed candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton."

A few hours later...

"Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he will not run for president in 2016."

One thing you have to give Romney: He handles everything with brutal technocratic efficiency.

marco rubio

The Week In Predictions

Marco Rubio: The boldest prediction of the week comes from Gary Stein at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who says, in a 17-line tone-poem, "Marco Rubio will get the Republican nomination. You read it here first." We read this here, at The New York Times, next: "Marco Rubio could end up being the G.O.P.’s Tim Pawlenty."

Hillary Clinton: Her campaign might be a "white dude fest." She will "distance herself from Obama." She "could play a pivotal role" in the ongoing controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's address to Congress.

Jeb Bush: On the one hand, the "lack of name recognition is not a problem Jeb Bush will suffer." On the other hand, "Jeb Bush will have to run against your name." Sorry, Jeb. This week, the oracle says "¯\_(ツ)_/¯."

Rand Paul: Paul "will need to broaden his appeal far beyond his father’s hard-core supporters if he hopes to win the GOP nomination his father never could." Alternatively, Paul "could be 2016's Howard Dean."

Scott Walker: Will either be Jeb Bush's "most formidable opponent," or he "will be the logical selection for Bush's vice-presidential running mate."

Finally, there's this: "Why Mike Huckabee will lose the war on Beyoncé"

All The Advice That's Fit To Aggregate

"Hillary Clinton should be worried about Elizabeth Warren! Jeb Bush should be worried about Scott Walker! He also needs a "better answer on immigration ASAP," or else Chris Cillizza will unleash one of his devastating "call your office" jokes on Twitter. Using Carly Fiorina to shout at Hillary Clinton might not be the best idea, you guys. And finally, George Pataki, your campaign is making everyone around you feel sad and you need to say you're sorry and stop doing it right now."

We'll Leave You With This, Whatever This Is

Former President Bill Clinton has had plenty of nicknames, but if his wife becomes president, he’ll need another one -- and he already has an idea for what it could be.

“Let’s say, if a woman became president, we could, I could be called Adam,” Clinton said in an interview with the “Rachael Ray Show” airing Thursday, referring to the first man of Judeo-Christian scripture.

Hot Hot 2016 Scoop: Hillary Clinton Might Wait To Do Some Stuff, Say Random People

Jason Linkins   |   January 29, 2015    3:47 PM ET

Good morning, everyone, I come before you today bearing a distant early warning of incoming 2016 speculation and hype. Secure your stocks of bread and toilet paper right now, because a blizzard of breathlessness may be moving into your area.

Today's campaign susurrations involve former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom I'm contractually obligated to remind you is the presumed Democratic frontrunner in the upcoming Democratic primary. Via Politico's Mike Allen (courtesy of a "Democrat familiar with Clinton's thinking" and "one adviser") comes the news that Clinton is "strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July." Unless she doesn't! (More on that in a moment.)

A Democrat familiar with Clinton's thinking said: "She doesn't feel under any pressure, and they see no primary challenge on the horizon. If you have the luxury of time, you take it."


"She doesn't want to feel pressured by the press to do something before she's ready," one adviser said. "She's better off as a non-candidate. Why not wait?"

The argument for waiting, apparently, is that by doing so, Clinton has time to avoid the spotlight and stay out of the fray. "Polling by both Democrats and Republicans," writes Allen, "shows that one of her biggest vulnerabilities is looking political." Which is kind of a problem, since no one in the recent history of America has quite managed the trick of running for political office without looking political. (Though virtually every person elected to any office erroneously believes that they have done exactly that.)

What's more, the apparent danger in waiting is that she could "fuel complaints that Clinton sees the nomination fight as a coronation." Though it should be noted, the only people making such "complaints" would be her opposition, in an effort to generate "optics" on the basis of which political reporters and pundits could use their ersatz eyeballs to make broad assumptions about public opinion as a substitute for actually engaging with the public and its collective opinion.

Still, it's worth noting the tendency among purported "political experts" to say hilariously vacuous things, such as, "She's better off as a non-candidate." If we presume that this person plans to support her candidacy in some material way, this is a deeply strange thing to say! (Which makes me think this source has no such plan, to be honest.) Every so often you get a hot campaign story that features people who do not talk as if they are actual human beings with a meaningful connection to our shared tradition of spoken language.

We can, however, ferret out a few grains of real significance. For instance, this is a good occasion to re-familiarize yourself with our new, byzantine campaign finance laws and recall that as long as you have not declared yourself a candidate, you can coordinate with whatever super PACs you want, in any way you please. For more on this, please see Mother Jones' Patrick Caldwell's explanation of this teensy little loophole in the alleged "firewall" between candidates and super PACs.

Another impact of Clinton delaying her announcement, to which Allen never really alludes, is that the Democrats will field a nominee in any event, whether or not Clinton runs. But Clinton's leviathan presence, lurking outside the universe of "candidates who have announced their intentions," casts a shadow over any other would-be nominee's ability to run a credible campaign of his or her own. This is the whole "freezing the field" phenomenon -- in which Clinton's potential candidacy keeps other campaigns from attracting top talent and the tallest dollars, because those resources presumably want to wind up with the candidate who has the most advantages.

People first started talking about Clinton's field-freezing back in January 2013. That was way too early to have that discussion, but now that we've really officially entered that time period when would-be Democratic contenders really are competing for the best staffers and top donors, this matters. Should July roll around and Clinton decide not to run, all the other Democratic hopefuls will have to scramble to ramp up their campaigns, starting the race many months behind the GOP field in a multitude of ways.

That is: if Clinton waits until July. Remember when I said, "Unless she doesn't?" Let's circle back to that part. Allen reports, "One option being considered would be to announce an exploratory committee earlier -- perhaps in April, at the beginning of a new fundraising quarter, in the timeframe when insiders originally expected her to launch her campaign."

So one of the options being considered is to get Clinton into the campaign while leaving her with an escape hatch. In this way, Clinton is no different than, say, Jeb Bush. The thing is, once she forms an exploratory committee, all that talk about remaining a "non-candidate" and avoiding "looking political" goes right in the bin, because like it or not, she'd look political and effectively be a candidate.

As if she isn't those things already. I mean, come on, now.

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Here Are The 55 People That Pollsters Have Included In 2016 Polls (So Far)

Jason Linkins   |   September 3, 2014    5:34 PM ET

We've gone back over all of the 2016 presidential polls that have been conducted so far and discovered that as of this moment, pollsters have already included 55 people in various and sundry polls, for some reason.

Who are these people?

People Who Can Reasonably Be Said To Be 2016 Presidential Contenders:
1. Joe Biden
2. Jeb Bush
3. Chris Christie
4. Hillary Clinton
5. Bobby Jindal
6. John Kasich
7. Martin O'Malley
8. Rand Paul
9. Marco Rubio
10. Paul Ryan
11. Scott Walker

People Who Are Maybe A Tiny Bit Of A Stretch To Think Of As Running In 2016, But Who Knows?:
12. Ted Cruz
13. Andrew Cuomo
14. Peter King
15. Rob Portman
16. Bernie Sanders
17. Rick Santorum
18. Brian Schweitzer

Time Is A Flat Circle Where These People Are Always Running For President:
19. Michele Bachmann
20. Herman Cain
21. Howard Dean
22. Mike Huckabee
23. Jon Huntsman
24. John Kerry
25. Tim Pawlenty
26. Rick Perry
27. Mitt Romney

These People Are Not Running For President, But We'll Show Them By Putting Them In Polls, Anyway:
28. Cory Booker
29. Julian Castro
30. Kirsten Gillibrand
31. Deval Patrick
32. Elizabeth Warren

Pollsters Remember These People's Names Because They Did A Thing That One Time, Remember That Thing They Did?:
33. Kelly Ayotte
34. Tammy Baldwin
35. Evan Bayh
36. John Bolton
37. Jan Brewer
38. Ben Carson
39. Mitch Daniels
40. Rahm Emanuel
41. Nikki Haley
42. John Hickenlooper
43. Amy Klobuchar
44. Susana Martinez
45. Condoleezza Rice
46. Michael Steele
47. John Thune
48. Antonio Villaraigosa
49. Mark Warner
50. Jim Webb

LOL, Pollsters Are Straight Up Trolling You:
51. Scott Brown
52. Bob McDonnell
53. Sarah Palin
54. Joe Scarborough
55. Donald Trump

Most of these people, if history and common sense are any guide, will not come remotely close to running for president, let alone being elected. By our count, in 2008 -- the last presidential election without an incumbent -- 55 politicians were also mentioned in at least one poll. Of those, just under half ended up even briefly becoming candidates, while fewer than a third made it to the Iowa caucuses.

That list includes some less-than-serious options, from Bill Clinton (who was term-limited) to Arnold Schwarzenegger (who was born in Austria) and Stephen Colbert (who already had a better job). This serves as a reminder of the futility of trying to predict the winners of a contest before knowing who the contestants actually are.

FUN FACT: If you stacked all of these people end to end, the middle class would still have no future in America.

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Media People: Polls Say It's Throwback Thursday To That Time Romney Ran For President

Jason Linkins   |   August 28, 2014    3:37 PM ET

A few days ago, former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential aspirant Mitt Romney told Hugh Hewitt that he was not going to run for president in 2016. What everyone seems to have heard, however, is that he might run for president in 2016. And so, Mitt Romney 2016 is now a thing. It's August. This is what happens in August.

The words that everyone is citing to suggest that Romney is "leaving the door open," as they say, to a run, are "circumstances can change." Go ahead and Google "Mitt Romney circumstances can change" and you'll see what I mean. (The Huffington Post is quoting those words, too, though we are at least really clear about Romney's stated intentions.) It's worth taking a look at the relevant transcript (emphasis mine):

HEWITT: Now I'm pressing, and I'm pressing an advantage of long acquaintance, and so forgive me for this, but that's subject to change, right? People's candidacies implode, circumstances change. People who organized campaigns approach you. And so I'm not asking you to -- I wouldn't presume to ask you to say, "Yeah, I'm in the race." But circumstances change. And if you thought that in fact it were not that way, that you thought you were the only one who could do this, you'd change your mind, wouldn't you?

ROMNEY: I'm not going there, Hugh. I know you're going to press, but you know, this is something we gave a lot of thought to when, early on, I decided we're not going to be running this time. And again, we said, "Look, I had the chance of running. I didn't win. Someone else has a better chance than I do." And that's what we believe, and that's why I'm not running. And you know, circumstances can change, but I'm just not going to let my head go there. I remember that great line from "Dumb and Dumber," where the...

HEWITT: "So you're telling me I have a chance?"

ROMNEY: There you go, you remember. You're telling me I have a chance? That's one of a million.

So all those headline writers probably should have attributed the "circumstances change" language to Hugh Hewitt, with whom Romney was politely playing along.

Or they could have gone with, "Romney: 'If Everyone Else's Candidacies Implode And A Well-Organized Campaign Comes To Me, Maybe I'll Run,'" as an alternative. Because those are the conditions to which Romney is agreeing here: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and whoever else suffers an "implosion," and then a bunch of people who are well-positioned to support a campaign -- financially and infrastructurally -- but who have not joined a campaign in the meantime suddenly decide to approach Romney.

I mean, it could happen. Giraffes from space could cure leukemia. The Detroit Lions could go to the Superbowl. Tupac could be alive. The world is full of possibilities. But likelihoods are more scant, by comparison. This is really just Romney funnin' around with Hewitt, who -- back when it was chic in establishment conservative circles to beg any Republican with a pulse to jump into the 2012 GOP primary and prevent Romney from winning it -- stuck by Romney. (He is, after all, Romney's biographer.)

But, remember, it's August! And someone -- specifically, USA Today/Suffolk University -- polled Iowans, and this is what they found:

According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for the 2012 GOP nominee in 2016. When Romney's name was added to the pool, no other candidate received double-digit votes.

The survey comes as rumors have begun to swirl about a potential Romney bid for president in 2016. After months of insisting that he will not run again, the former Massachusetts governor on Tuesday acknowledged that "circumstances can change."

(In the second paragraph, a copyeditor should have changed "The survey comes as rumors have begun to swirl about a potential Romney bid for president in 2016" to "The survey comes at a time when we're desperate to find something to write about, got any ideas?")

Back in January, Ariel Edwards-Levy and I came up with a system of shorthand symbols that could be deployed for polls conducted well before anyone has any business conducting polls. In our system, this USA Today/Suffolk University poll would get the "ℑ" for "It's way too early to write about 2016, but here we are doing it anyway, like idiots" and the "Ñ" for "No, [name of candidate] is not running/cannot run/will not run, but what if [name of candidate] did/could/would run? Huh?! What then!?” We created a symbol for polls in which Public Policy Polling is just trolling people, as is their wont, but since PPP isn't implicated here we wouldn't do that. Same spirit, though!

Ariel and I failed to come up with a symbol for "absurdly teensy sample size," because we didn't think a poll with an absurdly teensy sample size would touch off a cuckoo-bird media frenzy. We forgot about what happens in August, and we apologize. More to the point, though, this poll has an absurdly teensy sample size! "How many Iowans actually support Romney for 2016?" asks Dave Weigel, "One hundred seventy Republicans were polled, and 60 chose Romney."

Why would 60 people do this? Well, if you recall, a bunch of Republican voters in Iowa voted for Mitt Romney not so long ago. That was a discrete, concrete decision that they made. If Romney had said to Hugh Hewitt, "YOLO, cuz, I am gonna go for it one more time in '16," it's very possible that Romney would bring many of them along again. In the meantime, however, we have Republican voters who, when presented with a hypothetical question about an imagined set of circumstances that won't take place for another year, retreat to the least abstract position: a decision they already made before about which they are probably still quite happy.

This would be a good time to point out that one thing Mitt Romney has never actually done, technically speaking, is win an Iowa Caucus.

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Relax Everybody, Nobody Is A '2016 Frontrunner' Yet

Jason Linkins   |   March 3, 2014    2:51 PM ET

I don't know if it was the anticipation of being snowed in today, or the zany highs of award season reaching their peak with last night's Academy Awards ceremony, but this past weekend was a looney-tune time for Washington's professional 2016 Speculasturbators. Did you know that we already have "frontrunners" for 2016? As in more than one? Ninnyhammers, away!

Hey, I just double-checked, but it's apparently only March in the year 2014, so everyone can feel free to just chill, for God's sake.

Look, y'all. I ain't even trying to put the kibosh on discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of potential 2016 candidates. I'm even OK with making comparisons. But we have to stop abusing this poor word, "frontrunner," before the English-language's version of Sarah MacLachlan starts making sad teevee commercials about it. There is no "frontrunner" at this point. There isn't even a race.

But once the race is enjoined, we'll still really need some new rules governing the use of this word. As things are, we deploy the word "frontrunner" way too readily, using it to describe everybody from candidates who are clearly dominating a race, to candidates who have snagged a slight lead over a pack of contenders, to -- as in the above cases -- candidates who aren't even candidates. It's important to remember that when Chris Cillizza or Conn Carroll declare a frontrunner, they've not taken the pulse of America or done anything quantitative to make that determination. They approach it with this kind of thinking: "Which prospective candidate, if I named them the 'frontrunner,' would give my personal #brandz #moar #klout and #zazz."

But look, I'm trimming my own excesses and taking responsibility for my own abuses, as well. Back in the 2012 GOP primary, as the fortunes of the various candidates waxed and waned over the months, I passed around the term "frontrunner" a little too promiscuously. So, now, I'm taking up the cause of HuffPost Pollster's own Mark Blumenthal, who wants this term to be used more realistically, so we stop hurting this poor word "frontrunner" so much! Here are some rules, from Mark Blumenthal:

1. "First, to be a frontrunner you need to at least have a real lead, which means statistical significance in some form. But again that’s the easy part."

2. "Second, we really need a different term to distinguish the true, dominant, likely-to-win frontrunner from a candidate that enjoys an early lead that’s quite possibly temporary."

My advice is to consider using terms like "ahead of the pack" or "so hot right now" or "I get sprung when I think of [NAME OF CANDIDATE]," and let the truly dominant candidates take "frontrunner." Because, honey, you do not want to have headlines like, "Newt Gingrich, frontrunner" on your permanent record. Oof.

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And Now Joe Scarborough Would Like Some Attention From The 2016 Speculation Mongers

Jason Linkins   |   February 13, 2014   12:21 PM ET

Back in 2010, MSNBC presenter and "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough told his television colleagues that he was "irritated" at a Huffington Post story that suggested he might undertake a 2012 campaign as the bottom part of a Mike Bloomberg presidential ticket. (This would have been on the ballot line of the "Polite Centrists For Unregulated Derivatives Trading And Gutting The New Deal Party" or something.) Per Scarborough:

"There is nothing to this. They say somebody very close to they mayor says I want to be vice president. That's a joke. Nobody that has worked with me who is a lawyer, nobody that's worked with me in media, nobody that's worked with me in Congress would ever say, 'You know who I think would make a great vice president? Joe Scarborough.' Seriously? Seriously? ... I could not have been more unequivocal."

Flash forward to today, and things are getting a little more ambitious and a little less unequivocal. Per Politico:

Asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt if he had ruled out running for president, Scarborough said he "won't rule anything out" and later added, "we'll see what happens."

"No, I won't rule anything out. I've always said and I've always been open about the fact that the greatest job I ever had and the greatest honor I've ever had was being in the House of Representatives," the former Florida congressman said. "It was an absolute thrill and I had to get out because I had young children to raise and I wanted to be back home in Pensacola. No, I've always said I wanted to get back in. It's just a matter of time. We'll see what happens."

Here's what's going to happen: Joe Scarborough will not run for president, the end. Sure, there may have been a time when Scarborough could be tempted into doing all the work needed to set up a presidential campaign, but he's been moving in an entirely different career direction for years -- away from electoral politics and toward Thought Leadership.

Which is in many ways too bad. Americans have a lot of means at their disposal to shoot down someone's presidential ambitions, but Thought Leaders are like black mold -- we'll be stuck with them until we burn the whole house down.

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Everything Hillary Clinton Does Fuels 2016 Speculation, Apparently

Jason Linkins   |   February 6, 2014   12:08 PM ET

The year is young, but it's going to be a tough competition to write a dumber sentence that includes the word "speculation" and the number "2016," than this one from the New York Post's Emily Smith:

Hillary Clinton went on a private shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman early Tuesday morning, sparking further speculation that she’s suiting up for a 2016 presidential run.

I mean, to my mind, it fuels speculation that Clinton wanted to buy some clothes, but I guess Smith really liked the look of that off-the-rack pun.

The most disappointing thing about this article is that "Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines didn’t respond [for comment]," because Reines popping off at reporters is at least marginally entertaining.

At any rate, at some point Hillary Clinton might get some food, almost as if she wanted to synthesize the energy necessary to go on living until 2016 or something.

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Insanely Early 2016 Speculation (Hillary Clinton Edition)

Chris Weigant   |   February 5, 2014    7:47 PM ET

Yes, it is insanely early to be speculating about 2016. This, however, is not going to stop me from doing so. In fact, I am somewhat late to this particular party, since we've all been seeing a spate of stories about Hillary Clinton in the punditocracy for the past month or so. So, yes, this is going to be another of those pieces. If this doesn't interest you, then I strongly advise you stop reading right now and choose some more productive use of your time.

For the rest of us wonks, I have to point out that I've already written about the 2016 election previously, looking at Chris Christie (pre-bridge scandal) way back in November, and more recently laying out what a large Electoral College advantage just about any Democrat is going to enjoy in 2016.

Other than the Electoral College shift, another rather strange dynamic seems to be shaping up between the two dominant American political parties. Democrats and Republicans are reversing their traditional scenarios when it comes to nominating presidential candidates. This tradition even comes with its own bumper sticker slogan to define it: "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line." Democrats, in other words, have a large field to pick from and select the one that everybody likes best, in the end, and then everyone enthusiastically gets behind them for the general election. Republicans, however, pretty much know who is "next in line" for the nomination, and while other candidates may put up a limited fight, everyone knows who the nominee is going to be long before the first primary happens -- after which Republicans all fall into line behind him, like him or not. But this time around the primary field is going to be wild and wooly over on the Republican side, with nobody being able to convincingly claim to be "next in line" (Rick Santorum or Paul Ryan could come closest to making such a claim, but this is going to be challenged by many others). But over on the Democratic side, there is only one woman standing, at least at this point, and her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton has a great argument for 2016 being "her turn." She is, without a doubt, "next in line" in the Democratic Party. After the closely fought 2008 primary season, Hillary brought the party together behind Barack Obama and later accepted a position in his cabinet. She's definitely paid her dues, party-wise. And she's already shown the ability both to raise money and to get millions of people to vote for her. There is nobody else in the Democratic Party with an equivalent claim -- the only one with even a hope of making such a claim is Joe Biden, in fact. But his claim is a fairly weak one.

This was just reflected in a Washington Post poll, which showed Hillary beating all other Democratic contenders by a wider margin than has ever been seen in such early polling. Hillary was at 73-percent support among Democratic voters. Biden was far, far behind in second place, with only a paltry 12 percent. Leading the field by a whopping 61 points is one of the reasons that Hillary's name has been in the news of late. The other reason is that there is a shadow "Draft Hillary" campaign organization that is growing and putting out press releases touting Hillary's so-far-nonexistent campaign as being all but inevitable.

Astute watchers of the political scene will note, however, that this is precisely the same argument Hillary was making roughly seven or eight years ago. Hillary was going to be the inevitable candidate for 2008, remember? This got so prevalent that people even started talking about a "coronation" rather than a primary season.

Hillary Clinton, quite obviously, remembers all this. Should she run, she will no doubt be on guard against the "inevitable" label. She will present herself as "not taking anyone's vote for granted," and "fighting hard for every vote." She will also, no doubt, not hire the same campaign consultants who told her to just clear the field on Super Tuesday and then not worry about anything after that, because by then she'd be a shoo-in. Hillary knows full well that mistakes were made the last time around, and she will be doing everything she can not to repeat them.

Of course, eight years ago few people knew the name "Barack Hussein Obama." Just because Hillary looks inevitable this far out doesn't mean she actually will be when the voting starts. There could be some charismatic up-and-comer lurking within the Democratic Party who will explode onto the political scene and sweep everyone off their feet. It is, after all, insanely early to even be talking about 2016.

My guess, however, is that this time around "Hillary is inevitable" is going to prove correct -- if she runs. I think that there will be a number of Democrats challenging Hillary in the primaries, but that they all will essentially be running to become Hillary's vice president. A number of young candidates (young enough to wait their turn for the big race until 2024, that is) will politely make their own case, without beating up on Hillary too viciously. There may be a challenge from the left, but Hillary can defuse any such candidate by shaping her own positions in a more populist manner than her husband (and Barack Obama, for that matter) did.

Hillary, if she runs, is going to be as exciting a candidate as Obama was. If elected, she would be the first woman to hold the office, of course, which is historic. She would also be the first first lady to ever rise to the job as well. Women voters will be exuberant about seeing Hillary elected. The only way Republicans could even hope to counter this would be if they nominated a female candidate as well, but at this point that seems somewhat of a long shot.

There's one question that needs a bit more attention, though: will Hillary actually run? Most people make the assumption that this is a foregone conclusion, but I'm not entirely convinced. She sure does have the "fire in the belly" to run; she's already proven that. She wants the job. She really, really wants the job, in fact. She is convinced of her ability to do the job, she thinks she'd do a good job, and she thinks she'd be the best person for the job. None of that is in question. Most Democrats would agree with at least two out of those three. But will she still be able to do the job?

Hillary Clinton, if elected, would be the second-oldest president in American history. Ronald Reagan was less than a month from being 70 years old when he was first sworn into office, in 1981. Hillary would be a few months older than 69, if inaugurated. As Reagan showed, age doesn't preclude winning elections (he was four years older for his second term, remember). But it would indeed be an issue in the campaign, and a much bigger issue than some might think. The entire Republican field of candidates is decidedly youthful-looking when stacked up against Hillary. The Republican campaign will take on the flavor of "young ideas" versus "old, stale, discredited thinking." While Hillary will be an exciting candidate for women, it remains to be seen if she'll turn out the youth vote as successfully as Obama did.

Of course, "age" is another way of saying "health." Americans want to elect someone who will be reliably healthy while in office. Republicans can be expected to suggest that electing Hillary would be a risk. The health scare she had right before leaving office will be brought up either suggestively or perhaps openly, to convince voters that the (younger, healthier) Republican is a better choice. Campaigning for president is exhaustive, and so Republicans will say that Hillary just isn't up to the challenge.

This will be tough for Hillary to get around, but by being an example of an energetic politician out on the campaign trail, she can work to defuse such worries. She will also be all but guaranteed to choose a vice presidential candidate much younger than she is, to balance out the ticket.

As for Hillary's experience, good and bad, most of it is going to be old news to just about everybody. She inoculated herself against most of it in the 2008 run, meaning nobody's going to pay much attention to opposition research from her days in Arkansas or by Bill's side in the White House this time around. The public has already formed their opinion -- good or bad -- of her earlier days, to put this another way. The only new negatives for her will stem from her term as Secretary of State, and even these have been pretty well hashed-out in the press already. The biggest two negatives from this period are that she didn't accomplish much else as Secretary of State other than flying around the world a lot, and (of course) Benghazi. Hillary will counter the first with a list of accomplishments most have forgotten, and the second by pointing out that only conspiracy theorists (and Fox News) are convinced that Hillary had anything to do with Benghazi.

Hillary Clinton may not be inevitable as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but she certainly is formidable, even this early. Barring any health problems, and after she writes a book and enjoys a hugely successful book tour, my guess is that she is going to toss her bonnet in the ring. The Democratic field won't be completely cleared for her, but in the end she will hire much more realistic campaign advisors and run a much more populist campaign, and she will be the odds-on favorite for the entire primary race. Hillary has the best chance of sweeping the primaries, as Democrats fall into line behind her. She is much more comfortable and much more forceful a speaker than she was when she ran in 2008, and she will be a very tough and savvy politician throughout the entire race.

However, if she has any health incidents while campaigning, then the entire race could be blown wide open. If this happens early enough, Hillary may be eclipsed by a Democrat who looks a lot better than Hillary giving speeches from a hospital bed. But if it happens in the general election itself, it could be catastrophic for the Democrats' chances of holding on to the White House -- especially if the Republican candidate is hale and hearty and young.

Like a sports star who is getting along in years, this will be the Democrats' big gamble with Hillary. Does Hillary have one more "big game" in her? If she stays healthy, then there is nobody who has more experience on the presidential campaign trail than Hillary. If she is never put on the disabled list, then she has an excellent shot of sweeping the general election as well as the primaries. She would clearly be the best candidate for the Democrats to choose, and she already polls well in front of all the possible Republican challengers. If she picks up a large "crossover" vote from Republican women, Hillary Clinton might even win an enormous landslide in the Electoral College. Before she even announces, she is already the clear frontrunner -- and my prediction is that she will remain in the front of the pack for the entire election season. As long as she stays healthy.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Poll: Mitt Romney Would Win 2016 New Hampshire Primary If It Were Held In 2014 For Some Reason

Jason Linkins   |   January 30, 2014    5:43 PM ET

Important news today from the Magical Kingdom of Hypothetica, where polls are conducted many hundreds of days before electoral races begin, and their sweet songs of trolling arrive on a golden wind to beguile the imagination. Mitt Romney, late of losing the 2012 presidential election, is the "frontrunner" for "2016" according to a poll of New Hampshire primary voters.

This could be a challenge to Mike Huckabee, who is also posting pretty good polling numbers in this non-existent primary contest.

National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros, who reports this news directly from the child heralds who flew in from Hypothetica's harlequin-colored court, notes that the Mitt Romney who lives here on our planet has repeatedly said no to another run for president. How many times did he repeat "no"? Eleven times. But, there is a but:

But that didn't stop the Virginia-based bipartisan policy firm Purple Strategies from adding his name to a recent survey for Granite State voters, which shows Romney in the lead with 25 percent support. Libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (who has strong infrastructure in New Hampshire) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are behind with 18 percent and 17 percent support, respectively.

See, that's the thing. Nobody tried to stop Purple Strategies from conducting this poll, because it's a free country and they can do what they want. Though I'll note that articles that report this news are nevertheless supposed to be tagged with the following symbols -- "ℑ" and "»" and "Ñ" -- according to the Edwards-Levy/Linkins Way-Too-Early Polling Shorthand System.

Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the insistence that "GOP insiders want [Romney] to come back." What's the sourcing on that, Skippy? Oh, it's this guy from a Buzzfeed article:

In fact, it's gotten so bad, the operative said, that some donors have started looking back fondly on the good old days of 2012: "You know what a lot of them say to me? I think we need Mitt back."

Hoo, boy! That's a confident take from a guy who's so sure of what he's talking about that he doesn't want to have his name attributed to this nice thing he's saying about Mitt Romney.

Elsewhere in the National Journal piece, we find this: "We might be experiencing Mittmentum 3.0." In all likelihood, no. What we're probably experiencing is "Mitt-stalgia." A portion of the New Hampshire voters who voted to nominate Romney in 2012 would likely do so again. There are two things worth observing here.

First, we're essentially seeing a situation in which many of the people who recently voted for Mitt Romney for president do not think the choice they made was a bad one. Because that's what Purple Strategies is really asking when they drop Romney into this poll: "Do you feel like you'd vote for Romney all over again?" And many would, because many did.

Second, this poll indicates that this far out, none of the more plausible 2016 candidates have captured the loyalty or attention of GOP primary voters in a way that dislodges the memory of the 2012 election and the candidate they backed.

Consider what Vasilogambros observed: "Libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (who has strong infrastructure in New Hampshire) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are behind with 18 percent and 17 percent support, respectively." If nothing else, this tells you that Christie is not doing too badly, despite his recent political travails. Republican primary voters aren't like political media obsessives. They haven't yet paid as much attention to "Bridgegate." One day they might, but at the moment they aren't even thinking of Chris Christie. Mitt Romney is still foremost in their hearts and minds.

Alongside today's other big polling news -- Hillary Clinton has some insane lead over her hypothetical competitors in their hypothetical match-up -- what have we learned? Democrats haven't done much thinking about 2016, but they have moved on from 2012. Which makes sense: they won. Republicans haven't yet moved on. Which makes sense: the guy they wanted voted out of office just gave the State of the Union address.

Turns out that when you call up people on the phone and ask them questions, they respond rather logically. The rest is divination.

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Non-Existent Candidate Leads Non-Existent Competitors In Non-Existent Race, According To Poll

Jason Linkins   |   January 29, 2014    5:29 PM ET

The 2016 election, as you know, is basically any minute now -- if by "any minute" you mean "one million, four hundred and fifty-four thousand, four hundred minutes, give or take." But polls aren't going to conduct themselves, and so on Wednesday there is wow much news so polled very amaze news about the GOP presidential primary that is not happening. Per Politico:

In the wake of his “Uncle Sugar” comments at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has taken the lead in a hypothetical 2016 Republican primary, according to a new poll.

Huckabee gained 3 points in the past month to top the GOP field at 16 percent, according to a left-leaning Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday.

Yes, in the Magic Kingdom of Hypothetica, Mike Huckabee, on the strength of comments that embarrassed Reince Priebus, is narrowly beating Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Luke Skywalker, Grumpy Cat, and a plucky little toaster that can talk and grant wishes, but would trade all of his powers for the chance to find true love.

Meanwhile, in America, I would really, really caution anyone to think twice before betting that Mike Huckabee will run, let alone lead a primary field. Call me up when Huckabee starts doing things like hiring an experienced campaign staff or signing up major donors.

Meanwhile, I'll note that this Politico article failed to use either of the applicable symbols that Ariel Edwards-Levy and I suggested in the Early Polling Shorthand System that we developed last week:

Ø: Yes, your suspicions are correct, Public Policy Polling is trolling you again.
polling symbol seven

By indicating right at the top that the poll in question is a bit of Public Policy Polling trolling, it allows the reader to experience the poll's result in the spirit PPP intended, which is "smirking."

Additionally, the piece should have used the "»" symbol.

»: This poll went ahead and also tested 26 other super-duper obscure candidates because there literally wasn't anything better to ask about in May 2014.
polling symbol three

Wow, me and Ariel basically nailed that one.

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Let's Make 2016 Pollster Speculation Better By Using These Shorthand Symbols In Headlines

Jason Linkins   |   January 22, 2014    7:55 PM ET

It is currently January 2014, many hundreds of days before the 2016 election. That’s a long journey without much to talk about, but as you soon learn when you get into this typing-about-politics game, there are plenty of ways to sustain a pointless conversation. One way we fuel the narrative is with scads and scads of statistical noise, generated by the polling industry, which frequently joins/enables us in chasing the next big fix.

Now, this is not to say that the periodic data generated by pollsters isn't sometimes useful or worthy of mention. Just not a lot of it. And in our experience, a lot of the headlines generated by the efforts of pollsters during the long run-up to an election year starts with a pretty formulaic, or even reflexive, exploration of public opinion, and leads to a concise set of media tropes that can be repeated, week after week, in the headlines of political reporting.

Well, we’ll be damned if there’s anything we can do to stop this from happening, but at the very least, we can make the process more efficient. So, for the benefit of everyone plying the “writing up the most recent polls” trade, we offer a new shorthand system. Using the guide we lay out below, you can save thousands of characters in your polling coverage this year, simply by deploying a few handy symbols that can serve as permanent stand-ins for those sentence-long concepts you would otherwise have to repeat, again and again and again, for the next two years.

As a visual aid, we have provided examples of their usage, rendered in our house style. Enjoy!


ℑ: This symbol becomes the universal code for: “It's way too early to write about 2016, but here we are doing it anyway, like idiots!”

polling symbol one

Þ: Hillary Clinton and (recent events aside, let’s just say) Chris Christie are ahead in their respective 2016 primaries, shockingly!

ß: Hillary Clinton has a 15-point lead against every GOP candidate who isn't (again, for the sake of argument) Chris Christie.

polling symbol two

»: This poll went ahead and also tested 26 other super-duper obscure candidates because there literally wasn't anything better to ask about in May 2014.

polling symbol three

±: This poll reports that one frequently written-about candidate has experienced a 2-point drop, which we could make into a bigger deal than it is if we just use a super strong verb like “PLUMMETING” or “COLLAPSING.”

polling symbol four

Ñ: “No, [name of candidate] is not running/can’t run/won’t run, but what if [name of candidate] did/could/would run? Huh?! What then!?”

polling symbol five

℘: This poll is hyping a total outlier result, but it's a slow news day.

polling symbol six

Ø: Yes, your suspicions are correct, Public Policy Polling is trolling you again.

polling symbol seven

ℜ: Do you remember that time Rudy Giuliani was thought to be a strong presidential contender? Like 2006 or something? In 2022 we're going to find this just as funny.

polling symbol eight

Θ: Indicates that the article contains totally disingenuous advice offered to a leading Democratic candidate by pollster-megahacks Douglas Schoen and Pat Caddell.

polling symbol nine

⊗: Please stop clicking on stories that mention Sarah Palin.

polling symbol ten

[HEADLINE FONT IS COMIC SANS]: This font should just be used for anything Dick Morris says or does.

polling symbol eleven

“aksdfjkafdgjadljasdfjklsd!!!!”: Use the classic “keyboard smash” anytime someone puts Donald Trump in any poll that’s not “Person Americans would most like to see pushed out to sea on an ice floe,” and it results in some sort of pundit-chaos. (Number of exclamation points can vary according to personal taste.)

polling symbol twelve

That ought to take care of a lot of problems, but we reserve the right to update this guide when pollsters inevitably create new ones.

More And More People Are Not Running For President

Jason Linkins   |   January 16, 2014    6:25 PM ET

It is 2014 at the moment, but since there isn't any kind of massive unemployment problem and it's totally safe for pregnant women to drink the water, water, everywhere, the media are filling the hole in their lives with only the hottest speculation about the 2016 presidential election.

For example, this week Time magazine is tackling the phenomenon that is Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign for president, noting that the mere threat of her candidacy is keeping other Democrats out of the race. This is less a "news story" than it is a fun and bouncy ball that is being passed from news organization to news organization. Time all but announced the unoriginality of the idea with its cover, which was created by going to a clip art archive and doing a global search for "women" and "clichés." As with the story's trope itself, it's best examined in the gray light of the afterglow of an afterthought.

Against the 2016 onslaught, and our own contributions to it, let us now praise the real heroes of this period of premature frenzy -- those men and women who have seen the light of presidential speculation beaming in their direction and have forthrightly declared, "You can include me out." This week's award for Valor In The Face Of People Wondering If You'll Run For President goes to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is not running for president:

Speaking at a Tuesday news conference in Riverside, Calif., Brown scuttled speculation about his presidential prospects when a reporter asked if he planned to throw his hat in the ring for a fourth time.

"No, that's not in the cards. Unfortunately," Brown said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Actually, California is a lot more governable."

Supporters of Brown -- who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992 -- had hoped the popular governor would enter the 2016 race. Brown stoked speculation by not explicitly ruling out the possibility, although in May the 75-year-old noted that "time is kind of running out on that."

You are forgiven if you weren't aware that "Jerry Brown 2016" was even a thing about which people were even talking. It was an idea that had a share of anonymous supporters, but only just enough news coverage to warrant an inclusion on Wikipedia's list of potential 2016 candidates.

That page, by the way, is one of the most hilarious reflections of American politics on the Internet, because it turns out it doesn't take much to be included. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) ended up there because a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight led to a Politico story speculating on whether Nixon might not get his turn in the national spotlight because of Hillary Clinton, which led to another St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the aforementioned Politico story, which led to a Washington Post story ... speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight, again.

Meanwhile, outside of Missouri, you have probably never heard of Jay Nixon. But you're probably aware that Jerry Brown, between his first and latest stint as the Golden State's governor, ran for president a bunch of times. And so, unsurprisingly, there was always someone on hand to stoke the fires of retro chic. In July 2013, the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported that some of Brown's "allies" were "starting to talk up a possible 2016 presidential bid," while another group of Brown's associates were saying that Brown was going to be "78 [years old] by Election Day 2016," that he "ran for statewide office only to end [California's] budget crisis," and that he was thus "nearly done with politics."

A month later, Bernie Quigley, writing for The Hill, attempted to coax a Brown candidacy into being with the awesome force of the purplest prose he could muster:

California rises again with Brown, and it should come as no surprise. California brings the final destiny of our American journey, the final edge of expectation, the end and then the beginning again, the place and time of our American turning. Steve Jobs put it succinctly at the end: “The spaceship has landed.”

I asked an astute Californian about Brown’s prospects for national office. He said he will be too old in 2016. But Brown, Zen man of contemporary politics, is in a sense timeless.

Yeah ... so that was a lot to absorb. The salient point is that Brown, obviously, doesn't have the same opinion of his own timelessness. (Perhaps he finally decided to not run when he failed to regenerate into Peter Capaldi?)

Brown joins a happy confederacy of other men and women who have indicated that everyone can stop wondering if they are going to run for president, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).

Also, Tim Pawlenty is not going to run for president. (I did some digging and found out that this Pawlenty fellow was a former Republican governor of Minnesota who ran for president once before. Who knew? I guess I totally spaced.)

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This story appears in Issue 85 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Jan. 24 in the iTunes App store.