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Aaron Nemo   |   July 21, 2015    5:28 PM ET

Having trouble getting the phone number of a 60-year-old man? Donald Trump can help you out with that.

"The Donald" stooped to a new low by sharing the private phone number of sitting South Carolina senator and rival 2016 GOP presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham, during a speech today. Trump read from the original note on which he had taken down Graham's digits years earlier. Could it possibly get any worse? (Yes, it's Trump.) He did it in the senator's home state.

Shots. Fired.

Trump's bad sportsmanship knows no bounds. HuffPost Comedy captured some exclusive photographs (hmm, not sure why no one else got these) that show Trump oversharing personal information about the rest of the 2016 field. Take a look:

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Aaron Nemo   |   July 13, 2015    4:29 PM ET

You know how you feel about Hillary. You know how you feel about Jeb. But there are so many more presidential candidates that need to be savagely denigrated in your Facebook posts.

Take this quick test and you'll soon find out how similar or opposite your political views are compared to those of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Also on HuffPost:

Guess Who's Back! (Maybe Mitt Romney, According To Area Man.)

Jason Linkins   |   June 12, 2015    7:28 PM ET

Got some spicy hot 2016 speculation for you today, everyone! As you might recall, not long after this great and glorious new year dawned, the news came that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was contemplating whether he might gear up to start thinking about another presidential run. It was enough to get everyone in the political media reinvested in Romney's prospects. Let's call this "Mitt Romney's Pledge."

You might also remember that about a fortnight later, Romney decided that he would not, in fact, run for president. I wondered if maybe the whole thing was a fun prank that Romney wanted to play on the media. But let's refer to this as "Mitt Romney's Turn." This will make sense in a minute or two.

So! It sure looked like the notion that Romney might take another crack at this was well and surely put to bed. But this week, one man started having funny feelings about Romney again. Feelings he just couldn't shake. He subsequently woke from a fitful sleep with the need to recount the tintinnabulations of alarm arising in his gut in a piece called, "Romney hosting GOP summit, planning nomination coup?" Who do the coup spew that you eschew? The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky, that's who.

What's the deal, here? Well, as Budowsky notes, this weekend, Romney will be hosting his third annual "E2 Summit." There, Romney will have a chance to meet with "at least six Republican 2016 hopefuls" seeking to "win the favor of the 2012 nominee." It's going to be a combination of the Aspen Ideas Festival, a billionaire donor meeting, and "summer camp." Presumably, all that will happen is that Romney will have the chance to meet with prospective candidates, kick their tires, and maybe do some karaoke or something. But what if this summit's purpose is to seed the earth for Romney to bloom anew? That's where Budowsky is at:

It just so happens that if political events were to take certain turns, and the 2012 GOP nominee for president makes a surprise bid for the 2016 nomination, or more likely if a divided and gridlocked GOP turns to Romney as a compromise candidate and statesman, the participants in the Romney summit could raise a billion dollars overnight to support another Romney presidential candidacy, and the political organizers attending the event could organize a full-blown presidential campaign within days, if not hours!

Could they?

You know ... let's just run with this.

Budowsky, reminding everyone that he had previously "warned" that Romney's withdrawal from the race might be "part of a brilliantly clever plan" for him to get back into the race later, provided that the aforementioned "turns" had occurred. Among those turns:

1. "Republicans would have to face a list of candidates so long and unwieldy that the GOP debates shape up as a farce that would diminish all candidates by comparison to Romney, and the mathematics would have to be such that a group of bunched candidates receiving 10 to 20 percent of the vote leads to pre-convention gridlock."

2. Jeb Bush would have to "fall flat and lose the inevitability."

3. "Any potential highly electable GOP opponent has to fall by the wayside to clear the way." Budowsky believes this is happening to Marco Rubio, who's faced some rough trade in the press lately.

Now, all of that might inspire some corresponding questions:

1. If the field is so big and unwieldy that the debates are terrible and everyone involved ends up looking "diminished," how does adding another candidate, making the field even bigger and more unwieldy, improve things?

2. Isn't the reason Jeb Bush isn't exactly catching fire because he's perceived by the GOP base as a figure from the past, and a too-moderate one at that? You know ... like Mitt Romney?

3. Is Marco Rubio the only "highly electable GOP opponent?" And has Marco Rubio been hurt by that spate of New York Times articles?

[ANSWER KEY: 1. "It doesn't." 2. "Yes" and "yes." 3. "No," and "no."]

But let's leave all that aside and just start using your imagination. Let's say that you are Mitt Romney. That is, you are an American celebrity with a lot of money, few worries, and a loving and tight-knit family you enjoy being around. Now let's also say that you have a bunch of friends who "could raise a billion dollars overnight." Is "run for president a third time" what you'd do what those opportunities? Or would you do "almost anything else in the world." I mean, I would hook the Catoctin Creek Distillery up to my indoor plumbing if it were me in this scenario.

Still: There is one set of circumstances in which I think Mitt Romney should contemplate running again. Should what Budowsky suggests come to pass -- a crowded primary field spends months failing to determine a nominee, leaving the GOP in a state of panic and frustration -- there is a possibility, slim though it may be, that party elites will come to Romney, on bended knee, and ask him to jump into the race.

I hope he considers it. I hope he remembers how, long after he'd staked out a front-runner position in 2012, those same party elites kept begging many of the candidates running today to jump into that race, and snatch Romney's chain. And then I hope he tells them, "No."

And that would be "Mitt Romney's Prestige."

PREVIOUSLY, on Eat The Press:
Mitt Romney Will Have His Revenge
Mitt Romney Drops Out, But He Got Us Good

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Someone Is Wrong About Jeb Bush's Fundraising Prospects

Jason Linkins   |   June 10, 2015    3:45 PM ET

Would-be presidential aspirant Jeb Bush and his campaign team have a #squadgoal: They would like to sock away a cool $100 million in campaign money through Bush's "Right To Rise" super PAC by the end of June, when this fundraising quarter ends. But when you ask Bush's squad about whether they are going to pull this off, accounts differ. The New York Times' sources within the squad say that Bush is going to hit the target. The Washington Post's squad sources are saying, "Nah, not gonna happen, [punctuation that looks like a guy shrugging]." All of which means: Someone is wrong on the Internet! But who?

Believe it or not, this isn't a trivial issue for the Bush campaign. It's widely assumed that the former Florida governor's strategy, during the early part of the "invisible primary," was to come crashing into the race -- and into the public eye, which he'd been out of for a while -- on a wave of tall dollars and elite support, in the hopes of scaring away potential rivals. You know: shock and awe. But things haven't quite worked out that way. With the affections of so many pet billionaires in play, lots of people in the GOP field are stacking coin, and there isn't much sign that anyone's particularly scared of Jeb.

In short, things just aren't going that well for Bush, who's notched his first big campaign "shake-up" before he's even officially gotten into the race. So missing that $100 million target -- the promised result of two fundraising quarters' worth of hustle -- would just add weight to a campaign that's already starting to look leaden.

Therefore, it's weird to see two different sets of expectations featured in two different major newspapers within 48 hours of each other. Someone's sources -- either the Times' or the Post's -- are going to be wrong come July, when fundraising numbers are reported. Let's try to figure out who it's going to be, using Eat The Press' proprietary analytical tools (i.e. "guessing").

The New York Times: "Jeb Bush Shakes Up Campaign Staff, Week Before Campaign Becomes Official," by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

Publication date: June 8, 2015

Claim: "His aides, trying to deflect attention from the reshuffling, said Monday that Mr. Bush would raise $100 million in the first six months of the year, a figure that they once waved off as unrealistic and that almost certainly will be higher than any other Republican contender."

Who did they talk to? Bush's "longtime advisors," "people who have spoken with [Republican strategist Brad Kochel]," Bush campaign communications director Tim Miller, Bush's "aides," Bush's "loyalists," "several Republicans with direct knowledge of his team," "two people involved in the staff discussions," "three people with direct knowledge of the campaign," campaign strategist Sally Bradshaw and various officials.

Does The New York Times appear to naively believe that campaigns and super PACs will not "coordinate" with one another? Yes, and they are incorrect.

Why might this article be wrong about the fundraising claim? No real apparent reason.

Why might it be right? Haberman and Martin are fairly formidable reporters. Their article is deeply skeptical of the Bush team's whole operation. Though the fundraising claim is advanced, it's implied that nothing is really going right for Bush's campaign at the moment. Sooo... the article is sort of having it both ways.


The Washington Post: "Super PAC backing Jeb Bush unlikely to hit $100 million by end of June," by Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger

Publication date: June 9, 2015

Claim: "A super PAC backing former Florida governor Jeb Bush is likely to fall short of collecting $100 million by the end of this month, despite widespread expectations that the group would hit that record-breaking sum... The total that the Right to Rise super PAC will report in mid-July could be substantially lower than the nine figures that senior Republicans have anticipated."

Who did they talk to? "People close to the operation," "two individuals familiar with internal discussions [of the Right To Rise super PAC]," Right To Rise overseer Mike Murphy, "one veteran bundler raising money for Bush" and various "aides."

Does The Washington Post appear to naively believe that campaigns and super PACs will not "coordinate" with one another? They do not make this claim. Nice work!

Why might this article be wrong about the fundraising claim? Gold and Hamburger themselves acknowledge that there's more than one way to skin this cat. "It is possible that Bush will approach the $100 million figure if his campaign includes the entire sprawling political apparatus that he and his allies have built since January," they write. "By the end of the month, that operation will include a super PAC, a leadership PAC, a nonprofit and the soon-to-be announced campaign." Sooo... they're hedging their bets.

Why might it be right? Fewer sources, but they seem much closer to the action. Also, Gold and Hamburger are on the Post's "intersection of money and politics" team; this sort of story is their specialty.

* * *

There's a lot to consider here, but the important thing is that one of these papers has advanced a claim that's going to turn out to be wrong, and the consequences for people who cover politics and botch a story are -- ha ha, just kidding, there are none, don't be insane.

And so, with that in mind, Eat The Press will go with "Right To Rise will miss their $100 million target." Also, the Republican presidential nomination will go to... oh, let's say Moe.

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Who Else Is Running For President, And When Will They Get In?

Jason Linkins   |   June 2, 2015    7:03 PM ET

At this point in the 2016 election cycle, it's starting to look like we're going to have enough participants to have ourselves a real hootenanny. As has been discussed at length, the GOP field is swelling to a size too big for the camera frame to even accommodate, forcing some would-be politicians into a situation where they're scrambling to score high enough in the polls to qualify for those campaign-boosting debates. And there's even more than one Democrat running now -- meaning the scores of pundits who'd autodrafted their "Hillary will regret not having a competitive primary" columns will have to find some other cliche to expand into 1,000 words.

It's hard not to feel as if the last stragglers are joining the party. In the past few days, we've welcomed South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former New York Gov. George Pataki and 2012 returnee Rick Santorum into the race. Between the four of them, their chances at the outset loom somewhere in the dusty plain between "null" and "void." And yet! We might not be done welcoming new contenders into this race. Who are they, and when will they be making their announcements? Let's find out!

1. Jeb Bush: I don't mean to be tedious here, but the simple fact of the matter is that the former Florida governor hasn't made his presidential run official. So while he's showing near the top of the pack in most polls, it's actually not a done deal yet. Being caught betwixt and between isn't much fun for Bush -- he's suffered the occasional slip of the tongue, and has recently taken to using some strange language to describe his future, saying things like, "I hope I'm a candidate in the near future." But if all of this seems silly, remember, it masks a significant purpose: As long as Bush remains in the candidate netherworld, he can keep stacking those dollars in the manner he prefers.
When will Bush announce? Accounts range from "the near future" to "June" to "the summer."

2. Lincoln Chafee: Answering a call that no one heard but him, Lincoln Chaffee -- a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat and former mayor-turned-Rhode Island senator-turned Rhode Island governor -- announced back in April that he was sniffing around the possibility of making a White House run. In his announcement video, Chafee stressed "level-headedness and careful foresight," but Yahoo News' Matt Bai offered some suspicions that something a bit more spicy was afoot: "Chafee’s main motive seems to be that he just can’t stomach the idea of Clinton, his former colleague in the Senate, as an interventionist president in an unstable world. He sees very little difference, substantively, between her and her predecessor as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice."
When will Chafee announce? Tomorrow! June 3. Katy bar the door, etc.

3. Chris Christie: Once considered one of the bright and boisterous lights of the GOP's future, Christie has spent the bulk of his post-election time working behind the scenes for the Republican Governors Association and weathering the leaden weight of scandal and unmet expectations. Consequently, he's probably done more and better work burnishing the shine of some of his key rivals than he's done for himself. By the time he hit CPAC, he was in full "declining prizefighter" mode, and as recently as a fortnight ago he was getting eviscerated by his state's largest newspaper. In the past few days, Christie's been working hard to reconnect with the issues that matter to the GOP's national base, but a recent return to his famously unpresidential comportment reeks of "trying too hard."
When will Christie announce? "Next month" is the latest.

4. Bobby Jindal: As bad as Christie's had it lately, if there's one guy who might yet be envious of his standing, it's his Louisiana counterpart. Heck, Christie's polling numbers alone are four times what Jindal has been able to manage. And Jindal's facing nothing but sad emo poetry at home -- as the Baton Rouge Advocate's Gregory Roberts recently reported, "What's likely a bigger issue for Jindal is the state of his state, with Louisiana's budget problems and Jindal's unpopularity ... causing difficulties for him on the national stage." The Cook Political Report's Charlie Cook concurs, saying, "It sure wouldn't look good to jump into a race when your job-approval rating back home is 27 or 28 percent." Chasing that elusive 29th percent, Jindal's latest schtick has been trolling Rand Paul on a regular basis.
When will Jindal announce? Sometime in June, after Louisiana's legislative session ends.

5. John Kasich: The Ohio governor has been making a name for himself as someone who, if nothing else, likes to talk about the possibility that he might run for president. The move seemed more certain than ever back in April, after he launched a 527 group with the influential former New Hampshire Sen. John E. Sununu at the helm. In the early part of his explorations, Kasich presented a fairly compelling figure -- a heart-on-the-sleeve type and a deeply religious Catholic with a serious yen for populist talk. Since then, that niche has come to be occupied by Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Now, what's most unique about Kasich is the thing the GOP base is likely to find unsatisfactory -- his willingness to protect the most vulnerable Ohioans by expanding Medicaid.
When will Kasich announce? "Sometime after June 30, according to knowledgeable Republicans."

6. Rick Perry: The former Texas governor says that it was poor health that kept him from successfully winning the nomination back in 2012, telling NPR that a surgery on his back kept him from being at the top of his game, "You know all the health stories," he said, "it was what it was." Also not helping: "The other [issue] was in preparation and just spending the time on all the issues that are important." O-kay! This time out, Perry says that he's "smarter, healthier and more experienced." The new challenge, as The Texas Tribune's Patrick Svitek reports, is raising money in an already crowded field -- including at least one other Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz, shaking out ducats on the same home turf.
When will Perry announce? Last we heard, this week: June 4.

7. Scott Walker: Like Bush, the Wisconsin governor hasn't actually entered the race, but that hasn't stopped him from routinely appearing atop the national polls -- and in Iowa, he's only expanded on the lead he's long enjoyed. The promise of Scott Walker, for the conservative base, is that he'll run hard to the starboard. And while some of his recent pronouncements make you wonder how he'll pull off the fabled "pivot to the center" -- he's promised to sign an abortion bill that includes no rape/incest exception and has referred to forced ultrasounds as "a cool thing out there" -- he's sure to engender support from primary voters. But like Christie and Jindal, Walker's facing trouble back home in the form of a protracted budget battle and some unmet economic expectations.
When will Walker announce? When he damn well pleases. Walker's been clear that he's willing to wait to jump in, and his announcement almost certainly won't come before the state's budget is resolved.

8. Jim Webb: Man, remember Jim Webb? The former Virginia senator told the world that he aimed to seek the presidency all the way back in November. He's been in the race long enough to get into a silly contretemps with the Clinton campaign over his novels. But since then, he's been off the radar. Back in March of this year, the media briefly remembered that he was supposed to be running for president. At the time, Webb was said to be making a "careful approach" to the race. As part of that careful approach, his campaign hired Rania Batrice to be a senior political adviser and all-around Iowa campaign coordinator. Sometime between then and now, things got a little not-so-careful -- it was reported last week that Batrice was parting ways with the Webb campaign. Where that leaves Webb ... well, it leaves him at 1.3 percent in the polls, sadly.
When will Webb announce? If you find out, please email me?

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Thinking About Skipping The Iowa Caucuses? Better Think Again!

Jason Linkins   |   May 14, 2015   11:44 AM ET

Earlier this week, news broke that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was opting out of active participation in this summer's Iowa Straw Poll, the annual event which propelled last year's winner, Michele Bachmann, to ... nowhere in particular, actually.

This year, the Iowa GOP has undertaken something of a renovation on the Iowa Straw Poll, in the hopes of elevating it out of the bog of disregard into which it had fallen. Bush, however, has rather pointedly scheduled an appearance at this year's RedState Gathering (Of The Juggalos?), and has done so in a way that precludes his participation in the straw poll and its attendant festivities -- unlike all the other presidential candidates who will also be attending RedState's four-day event in Atlanta.

But, you know, it's probably OK for Bush to take a pass on the Iowa Straw Poll. After all, Mitt Romney opted out back in 2011, and it hardly hurt him when the Iowa Caucuses finally rolled around.

But what if Bush decided to skip Iowa altogether? Man, I don't know about that.

The possibility that Bush might skip Iowa completely has everyone atitter now, courtesy of a McKay Coppins piece in BuzzFeed in which "three sources with knowledge of Bush's campaign strategy" are intimating that Bush "does not plan to seriously contest the first-in-the-nation caucuses -- and may ultimately skip the state altogether." Yikes!

Naturally, it's essentially speculative. Tim Miller, who left the GOP oppo outfit America Rising to be the Bush campaign's communications director, shows up in Coppins' piece with a strenuous denial: "There is nobody with any shred of authority or proximity to Gov. Bush suggesting that, should he decide to run for president, he skip or ignore Iowa."

Or is there? Per Coppins:

But a top Republican consultant and a high-level fundraiser -- both of whom have been courted by the Bush camp, and requested anonymity to recount private conversations -- said Bush's advisers were explicit that the campaign would not seriously invest in Iowa during the primaries. Similarly, an operative involved in Bush's yet-to-be-announced campaign told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that the state was a low priority.


According to the two Republicans who were briefed on the broad points of the campaign's primary strategy, Bush's political advisers believe his steadfast support for Common Core education standards and softer immigration policies will make it incredibly difficult for him to woo the conservative caucus-goers, who tend to favor more combative figures like Iowa's 2012 victor Rick Santorum, or Mike Huckabee, who won in 2008.

Is there a case to be made for skipping Iowa? Sure, I guess. One could point out that John McCain basically did so back in 2008, and it didn't prevent him from getting the nomination. Heck, Bill Clinton passed on Iowa back in 1992 and he went on to become president. Writing for The Atlantic back in 2011, Nicole Russell actually advised candidates to skip Iowa, based on premise that, for all the hue and cry about the Iowa Caucuses, they rarely amount to much: "The Iowa caucuses may be first in the nation, but they don't live up to the emphasis placed on them by candidates and the media."

Per Russell:

For both Republicans and Democrats, winning Iowa doesn't mean winning the nomination, or the presidency. Compare Iowa's predictive power to that of the South Carolina GOP primary, or to the role of Ohio in the general election. South Carolina has selected the eventual Republican nominee, and Ohio has selected the presidential winner, in every presidential election year since 1980.

Iowa may be first, but it's never been a perfect bellwether. The caucuses offer candidates a chance to prove they can organize well, but they are not even an accurate gauge of the public opinions of most party members, let alone most Iowa voters.

Iowa's Republican caucus-goers have a reputation for being the sort of base voters who tend to favor candidates of the far-right variety, with a special yen for social conservatives. Certainly all of Iowa's prominent kingmakers -- think talk-radio firebrand Steve Deace, Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats, and iconoclast nativist Iowa Rep. Steve King -- represent extremes of rhetoric or policy positions that Jeb Bush doesn't quite match.

Back in January, the Cook Political Report's Amy Walter suggested that "if ever there were a year when establishment candidates like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie should skip [Iowa] all together, this would be it." She continued:

Winning in Iowa proves that you do well among very conservative, evangelical voters. It also shows, as one Iowa veteran has noted, how well a candidate connects at a retail level. But, it simply challenges a candidate's depth not his/her breadth. In fact, to try and win here, a candidate often has to cater so narrowly to this base that they disqualify themselves from the broader electorate (see, Rick Perry's anti-gay ad).

Given all of that, it's starting to sound like passing on Iowa might be a smart move for Jeb Bush. So let's fix that. We'll start by pointing out that when a candidate opts out of competing in Iowa at all, they opt out of a deluge of free publicity, courtesy of a firehose of media money.

If you cast your mind back to 2011, you might remember that John Ellis wrote a piece for Business Insider that dispensed some hard truths about why the early primary states mean so much in the overall nomination process. Ellis pointed out that most major media outlets budget for the election season in four stages: the "pre-primary" season, the primaries and caucuses themselves, the conventions, and the debates. Ellis went on to note:

What happened in the past and what will happen again in 2012 is that the media (broadly speaking) blow through their pre-primary budgets quickly, overspend on early caucus and primary coverage, and then cut back sharply to conserve funds for convention and general election coverage.

The net result is that the early state caucuses and primaries are disproportionately important to determining the eventual nominee and that anyone who does not finish first or second in the Iowa caucuses and/or the New Hampshire primary is probably not going to command media coverage thereafter.

Political science blogger extraordinaire Jonathan Bernstein doesn't necessarily subscribe to Ellis' "first or second in Iowa or New Hampshire or bust" theory, but he largely concurs on how the Iowa Caucuses position candidates in front of a massive publicity machine. Writing in 2013, Bernstein argued:

Skipping Iowa doesn't work. Most people don't pay attention to presidential politics until very late in the game. When they start paying attention -- when the non-obsessive section of the news media starts paying lots of attention -- is around the Iowa caucuses, and a candidate not playing there will, naturally, not receive the publicity that the other candidates receive. Then comes the caucuses, and another blast of publicity that the non-participant will miss. And the last bit is that the winners in Iowa will at the very least be taken more seriously, and perhaps get the kind of windfall positive publicity that Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Gary Hart in 1984 got. Note that Hart's came from a weak second place finish; the news media have to find some candidate to give the rest of the primaries and caucuses some drama.

To be quite honest, Bernstein is something of a one-man wrecking crew on the subject of skipping Iowa. So when I espied this exchange on Twitter Wednesday afternoon...

... I knew exactly what was coming next:

Bernstein isn't particularly hung up on whether a contender finishes win, place or show in Iowa, but he's heard the argument that the rightward tilt of Iowa's caucus-goers present a challenge for competitors like Bush, and has answered by pointing out that even if they can't win in Iowa, they can play defense:

Skipping Iowa for a candidate who could have finished second, third or fourth means that everyone who did show up moves up. Worse, let's say Jeb Bush and Chris Christie share a target vote; if Bush skips and Christie participates, Christie not only hops up a spot, he also wins votes Bush would have won. The candidates who do well in Iowa get favorable publicity going into New Hampshire; the ones who don't show up are just part of the crowd.

Beyond all that, it's kind of important for people who want to be taken seriously as competitors to get down to the business of seriously competing as quickly as possible. Back in 2003 -- at a time when Democratic candidates Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark were taking the "Let's Just Skip Iowa" rocketship to absolutely nowhere, the Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak took a dim view of the strategy, and Democratic strategist Tad Devine was along for the ride:

"The way the nominating process has always worked is that voters begin to take signals from the events which precede their own," said Tad Devine, a strategist for three of the last four Democratic presidential nominees and a supporter of John F. Kerry in the current race.

"In a large, multi-candidate field, voters are looking for cues -- who is the front-runner and who is a viable alternative?" Devine went on. "If you're none of the above because you haven't participated, it's very hard for voters to get a signal that voting for you would be meaningful."

Devine's guy won in Iowa, and went on to win the nomination, and I'm guessing that he was pretty happy to see Lieberman and Clark decide that they didn't want to send strong signals to voters.

It's true that Bush currently trails Scott Walker in HuffPost Pollster's early Iowa Caucus poll average. But during this "invisible primary" period, he's done quite well in terms of attracting donor support -- so much so that just weeks ago, he told his "Right To Rise" super PAC contributors that "the organization has raised more money in its first 100 days than any other Republican operation in modern history."

But to have a fundraiser wryly joking about how Bush seems to be following "the Giuliani strategy" (in which the candidate holds out in the hopes of making it to the Florida primary) -- as a source does in Coppins' piece -- is a bad sign. It means that more than a few Bush donors are likely wondering today, "What did I invest in? I thought Jeb Bush wanted to be a competitor."

Given his recent struggles to answer simple questions about the Iraq War and his generally passive demeanor of late, perhaps Bush is wondering if he is as well.

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Hot 2016 Scoop: Jeb Bush Slips Up, Tells Reporters He's Running For President, Unless He Isn't

Jason Linkins   |   May 13, 2015    3:58 PM ET

HOLY COW YOU GUYS. Got some habanero salsa hot 2016 scoops coming down the Internet garbage chute for you, courtesy of the dedicated reporters of NBC News. Today, it involves former Florida governor and Iraq War hypothetical-question misadventurer Jeb Bush. So, what's the haps?

jeb bush headline

Hoo, boy. Got a classic lapsus linguae coming at you. Big news that Bush "dropped," right in front of some reporters. Anything more specific?

jeb bush deck

OH NO HE DIDN'T ("reference" the election).

Let's go to the video.

REPORTER: Is there anything you would have done differently from your brother?

BUSH: I'm running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be on how we, if I run, about how we create high, sustained economic growth. And I will apply my record and the ideas that are relevant going forward to all of this. Of course I have differences with every previous president.

Did you hear that? OMG you guys, Bush admitted that he is "running for president in 2016." HUGE gaffe, y'all. Huge. Nice try at a walk-back, Jeb, with that "if I run" clause in the next breath. Everyone heard you, slipping up in front of the cameras.

So there you have it: Jeb Bush is running for president, definitely, unless it's not definite, in which case it's impossible to be sure.

(Also he has differences with every previous president, so I'm a little surprised the headline isn't, "JEB BUSH DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM REAGAN, LINCOLN.")

[Previously, on hot hot 2016 scoops.]

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American Politics To Continue Being A Grotesque Plutocratic Spectacle For The Foreseeable Future

Jason Linkins   |   April 21, 2015    1:23 PM ET

It's been a while since we've checked in on how American politics is thriving within the Doom Loop of Oligarchy (TM Ezra Klein!), but a fresh dispatch from Politico's Mike Allen offers us another opportunity to goggle at the slow-motion death of American exceptionalism. The issue at hand, as ever, is the ruling class of billionaires who fund our presidential campaign dumb-show. More specifically, it's the Brothers Koch, who have an assignment for former Florida governor and presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. Per Allen:

In another surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Mr. Bush will be expected to perform a two-minute classical monologue about tax cuts, a two-minute comic monologue about tax cuts, and 32 bars of a contemporary Broadway musical ballad about union-busting.

This is good news for Jeb, I guess. As Allen notes, the last time the Kochs cooked up an audition, it was at their "winter seminar" in January, and according to those present, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the clear standout at that confab. But Bush will be getting "a second look" at the brothers' summer conference, because "so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner."

Of course, as New York's Jonathan Chait points out, it was only yesterday that the Kochs "signaled" that their favorite in the race was Wisconsin governor (and historically over-eager Koch amanuensis) Scott Walker. Looks like we got some drama, y'all!

Obviously, winning the affection of the Koch brothers is a significant prize, since they've pledged to raise and spend the oddly specific amount of $889 million on the 2016 election cycle. But never fear -- there's a long list of other billionaire weirdos at whom candidates from across the political spectrum can cringe on bended knee, begging for boodle, if they fail to receive the Koch nod. Plus, there's an entire financial industry waiting to receive the private, reassuring genuflections of candidates who play populist on the weekdays.

It goes without saying that the fun part of this election is going to be watching all those political pundits argue about which candidate is the most "authentic."

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Can We Even Be Sure That 'Draft De Blasio' Is A Real Thing Or Not?

Jason Linkins   |   April 20, 2015    5:06 PM ET


Editor: Have you seen the "Draft de Blasio" thing, where the New York mayor is allegedly going to run for president?

Me: I don't think it's real! It can't be a real thing.

Editor: It got a big old article in the New York Post.

Me: You realize of course that the fact that there is a "big old article in the New York Post" does not, in and of itself, serve as an endorsement of its realness.

Editor: I'm not saying it does. I'm saying this is where you'll find this story, such as it is.

Me: All right, let me go look at it.

Despite repeated claims to the contrary, Mayor Bill de Blasio is positioning himself to be the leftist “progressive” alternative to Wall Street-friendly Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president, a national party operative told The Post.

De Blasio’s hope, the operative said, is a “Draft de Blasio’’ movement will develop among progressive activists over the next several months that will lead to the mayor being able to defeat Clinton in the primary elections next year in much the same way leftist Sen. George McGovern successfully challenged the initially front-running establishment Democratic candidate, Sen. Edmund Muskie, more than 40 years ago.

--The New York Post, "de Blasio in secret bid to be Dems’ 2016 pick," April 20, 2015

Me: As I suspected, this insistence that "Draft de Blasio" is a thing fails to convince me of its essential thingness. The New York Post has a single "operative" willing to compare de Blasio to George McGovern. This sort of reads like an April Fools' Day prank that got published on the wrong day. Maybe this is what 2016 is going to be like -- a series of tricks.

eyesEditor: Yes.

Me: How are we going to stay sane? What are our strategies for coping with this?

Editor: These are the questions you could pose and answer.

Me: What if we all agreed to just not have a presidential election until, like, June of next year? Just everyone go home and wait until then?

Editor: Put this into writing!

Me: Wait, though! You do not actually believe that de Blasio is going to run for president though, right?

Editor: Right. I do not believe it.

Me: Why is this a story, though? What happened?

Editor: "@DraftDeblasio" is a twitter account someone made. So I suppose that's the reason? Everyone freaking out over a Twitter account, basically?

Me: OMG so this is why? There is a Twitter account?

Editor: Yeah, basically.

Me: You know in the movie "Inception" they had to spend, like, millions of dollars and invent crazy machines and then a team of people had to all almost get killed to make ONE person think ONE thing. They should have just used Twitter and then the whole movie would have been six minutes long.

Editor: Ha, ha, yes, I know it.

inceptiononeMe: Have you considered the possibility that NONE OF THIS IS HAPPENING, and it's actually still 2007 and I am alone at our old office and some chemical fumes from the construction down the hall have knocked me unconscious and I need someone to come help me!? Or maybe I am in the "Inception" world? Maybe you are just a figment of my imagination -- a literary device that I constructed with whom I'm now trapped in a conversation -- and what I think of as "the real world" is just a gossamer web of half forgotten memories.

Editor: Maybe! I'm sorry that if you are, in fact, in the "Inception" world, it's lacking some quality Joseph Gordon-Levitt for you.

Me: I'm more of a Tom Hardy man but I appreciate the sentiment, even if you are just a dollop of pixellated memory dust that's here to implant the notion that this crazy world, in which "Draft de Blasio" is a thing, is actually the real world and I'm not in a coma somewhere.


Editor: Oooh, I'm gonna put "dollop of pixellated memory dust" on my business cards now. So really this "Draft de Blasio" thing was not for nothing! I got a cool new biz card out of it.

Me: Well damn, I didn't get anything out of it!

Editor: :(

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2016ers Are Launching Campaigns Left And Right, And Political Reporters Are On It

Jason Linkins   |   April 8, 2015    6:43 PM ET

It's campaign-launch season, and our country's political reporters are on the scene, giving you the analysis you need. "Hey, a thing seems to be happening!" they are saying. "We should find out some stuff, about this thing," they add. And so we now have, not one, but two lengthy explorations of Presidential Candidates Giving Speeches And Stuff, in The Washington Post and Politico.

In The Washington Post, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker take on the heady matter of "how presidential hopefuls try to create magic with campaign launch events." The short answer is, they do it the same way you would throw a surprise birthday party for your great-aunt Marjorie, except at the end of it, secretive donors nod and give you dark money. Basically, hired guns choose a date and a venue, and then add what brand marketers call "zazz." So I think we can all agree that this is magical.

This is all stuff you could have surmised simply by being alive, though, so the bulk of Costa and Rucker's article is spent demonstrating just how many campaign events the two men can remember, and who they can get on the phone to talk about those events. The answer, it turns out, is: a lot! Obscure names, too -- we're talking B-sides, not just hit singles. Why, they even get former John Edwards aide John Davis into the piece to suggest that Hillary Clinton "launch" her campaign at a diner. "That could serve as an anchor to reintroduce herself yet again," Davis says. And let's be honest, it would probably be a lot easier to reintroduce Clinton to America than it would be to reintroduce Edwards.

Eventually, Costa and Rucker grow confident enough in their knowledge that they get into the game themselves:

Could New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie begin his bid this summer on a Jersey Shore boardwalk rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy?

Might former Texas governor Rick Perry stage an announcement in his childhood home of Paint Creek, highlighting his rural, impoverished roots, or in a military setting as an homage to his time in the Air Force?

Will Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, campaigning as a suburban Midwestern everyman, wear one of his treasured Kohl’s shirts or ride in on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

Could they? Might they? Will they? The answer is probably: Yes, unless no. At any rate, Costa and Rucker's spitballing sure gives the impression that anyone could be in charge of this campaign-launching stuff if they really wanted to.

But Politico's Todd Purdum would probably disagree, at least judging by his recent story, whose headline asks a question -- "Do splashy campaign kickoffs matter?" -- that the sub-hed then answers: "Yes, say the experts." ("You only get one chance to make a first impression," the sub-hed continues, in what I'll guess is an unintentional echo of an old shampoo commercial. Fun fact -- Politico could also have gone with "Because you're worth it.")

Purdum explains that a successful campaign event involves a lot more than picking a scenic locale and sticking your candidate on a motorcycle. There's actually a deeper, hidden set of signs and signals that are handpicked to evoke very specific ideas and put the launch in a larger thematic context.

Purdum supplies plenty of examples. He notes that Ted Cruz's decision to begin his campaign at Liberty University served as "an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual campaign he will wage for the conservative soul of the GOP." Rand Paul's launch event, meanwhile, featured an "intergenerational audience and notable black figures on the stage," a sign of the Kentucky senator's intent to build a newer, more inclusive base than other candidates'. And Clinton, Purdum suggests, will have to put an important thematic stamp on her own launch event, one that demonstrates "that the most familiar analog figure in either party still has some fresh digital moves to bust." (The concept of "busting a move," by the way, was at its funky freshest in the late spring of 1989, so this might not be as heavy a lift for Clinton as many are making it out to be.)

So who, then, are the "experts" Purdum speaks with to convince us of the theory that these events "matter?" Well, they are:

1. "Carter Eskew, a veteran Democratic media strategist."

2. "Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic strategist in Los Angeles."

3. Ted Van Dyk, a former aide to Hubert Humphrey.

So, if you were hoping that "experts" meant, say, some political scientists like Lynn Vavreck or Brendan Nyhan, doing a deep, scholarly analysis of how voters have responded, over time, to campaign pageantry, I'm afraid you are bereft. Instead, you get a former Humphrey adviser and two guys whose lives depend on convincing would-be electoral candidates to give them large sums of money for their secret guru knowledge. What would you expect them to say about this? Surely not Oh, you know, these things are all mostly ephemeral nonsense!

Actually, Van Dyk's involvement in this piece is my favorite thing about it. Per Purdum:

The most chaotic announcement season in modern times was probably 1968. President Lyndon B. Johnson did not drop out of the race until March 31, and the April 4 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King froze other prospective candidates in place. Vice President Hubert Humphrey finally declared on April 27, in a luncheon speech at Washington’s Shoreham Hotel written largely by Labor Secretary Willard Wirtz and edited by Humphrey aide Ted Van Dyk. [...]

But Humphrey could not manage to extricate himself from Johnson’s unpopular Vietnam policy -- or even win the unstinting support of the president himself. The traumas of that year -- Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated after winning the California primary in June -- and his own sense of loyalty kept Humphrey from doing what today’s candidates take such pains to do: Stake out his own identity and claim to his party’s support early enough to make a difference. He won the nomination but lost the White House to Richard M. Nixon.

“These many years later,” Van Dyk added, “it still hurts to recall the events of 1968.”

It's sort of hilarious that in the same piece that stresses the need for Hillary Clinton to scrape off the barnacles of a long career in order to show that she's still got some cutting-edge, modern "moves" to "bust," you get some walking historical relic's dusty observation: 1968 -- wow, man... I don't know.

In the end, we may not have answered the question "Do campaign kickoffs matter?" But the answer to a different question -- do articles like these matter? -- is, I feel, just about within our reach.

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20 Campaign Reporters Wasted A Year Trying To Make A Useless Prediction About Hillary Clinton

Jason Linkins   |   April 8, 2015    1:51 PM ET

Sometimes it's almost possible to feel sorry for campaign reporters during a presidential election cycle. Take, for example, this report in Politico about the staggering waste of a score of people's short time on this earth:

In the past year, at least 20 journalists from as many news organizations have tried to put a date, rough or specific, on when the former secretary of state would announce her highly anticipated presidential bid. That guessing game came to an end last week when the Clinton team signed a lease on campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, all but guaranteeing an announcement within the next two weeks, in compliance with federal law.

The shifting timeline, which ranged at times from January to October, was almost certainly the result of changing plans within the nascent Clinton campaign, as well as the conflicting interests of various Clinton confidants and sources. Nevertheless, the changes likely left readers doing a double take.

Twenty news organizations essentially spent a year attempting to guess when Hillary Clinton would announce her intentions to run for president, an exercise that is pointless for two reasons:

1. Clinton has obviously been a candidate during that entire time.
2. It's actually not a public service to guess an announcement date. If any "readers" were doing a "double take," it was probably because they kept wondering, "Why does this reporter seem to think I give a fig about any of this?" It's like 20 reporters were competing to become the next "Ed Glosser: Trivial Psychic."

No one who managed to guess the answer to the question of "What time is Hillary Clinton?" will be remembered for this feat of journalistic derring-do. In fact, the only thing you get for having spent a year on obtaining this unnecessary information is the knowledge, in the hour of your death, that you wasted a substantial portion of your life and will now die alone and unremarked upon.

Meanwhile, Clinton will probably announce in a couple of weeks or whatever, unless she doesn't. It doesn't matter. When it happens, you'll know it.

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Ted Cruz Signs Up For Obamacare Is Your Short-Sighted Media Fixation Of The Week

Jason Linkins   |   March 29, 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 convene every Sunday and attempt to decode and defang in a way that will hopefully leave you feeling unharmed and less confused. We hope this helps, but as always, we make no guarantees!

ted cruz act

As you may have heard, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) this week officially joined the 2016 GOP primary scrum (or, if you've a yen for parsing narrow legal definitions, leaped past that scrum), in a fancy to-do at Liberty University -- a fitting venue for Cruz to lay down the foundation of his pitch to the conservative base, in which he adopts the persona of Jesus H. Reagan. Or, if you prefer, Ronald H. Christ -- it's essentially the same concept, and I am not a picky man.

But what Cruz did next was very puzzling: He signed up for Obamacare. A loud chorus of "Duh fuh?" ensued.

It couldn't go unnoticed that Congress' leading antagonist of the Affordable Care Act had gone out and voluntarily enmeshed himself and his family in Obamacare's loving graces. And don't worry -- it didn't. The political press got right to work, etching the narrative -- the tale of a man who'd gone out and faffed something up, produced a wincing gaffe in the hours after his much-hyped announcement.

The headlines tell the tale. ABC News went with "Ted Cruz Will Sign Up For Obamacare, the Law He Hates." Politico made sure to mention that Cruz was "one of the Affordable Care Act's harshest critics" in a report headlined, "Ted Cruz says he's going on Obamacare." The Washington Post's James Downie penned a piece titled, "Yes, Ted Cruz is a hypocrite for going on Obamacare." Slate's Jamelle Bouie disagreed, writing, "Cruz slipping on a political banana peel doesn’t make him a hypocrite," in a piece titled, "It’s Hilarious That Ted Cruz Is Signing Up for Obamacare." Vox took Cruz on a shopping trip for an Affordable Care Act plan. Life was full of laughs. (Or, if you prefer, laffs.)

Though the gaffe-chorale was loud, there was little thought to what Ted Cruz might do next. One of those things being: maybe not signing up for Obamacare after all. Or, decline to take a subsidy. That is, an additional subsidy -- as a sitting member of the Senate, it's subsidized anyway, which is something that Cruz himself alluded to at the time:

"We'll be getting new health insurance and we'll presumably do it through my job with the Senate, and so we'll be on the federal exchange with millions of others on the federal exchange," Cruz said.

Asked whether he would accept the government contribution available to lawmakers and congressional staffers for their health care coverage through the ACA, Cruz said he will "follow the text of the law."

But as ThinkProgress' Igor Volsky pointed out, even though Cruz "framed the decision" to join Obamacare "as one of inevitability," this wasn't actually the case:

The Affordable Care Act does not compel members of Congress to enroll in DC’s health care exchange; it simply cuts off the government contribution to their insurance plans if they buy their policies elsewhere. “The final rule extends a Government contribution towards health benefits plans for Members of Congress and designated congressional staff so long as the health benefits plans are purchased via the appropriate SHOP as determined by the Director,” a summary of the final rule says. “Nothing in the final rule or the law prevents a Member of Congress or designated congressional staff from declining a Government contribution for him or herself by choosing a different option for their health insurance coverage.”

In other words, Cruz “could purchase coverage in the outside market but would get no subsidy from the FEHBP program,” Tim Jost clarified for ThinkProgress, referring to the acronym for the federal health care program. “It seems like the primary other option he would have is to take advantage of COBRA through his wife, though he’d be forgoing the employer contribution. He could also buy non-group coverage,” Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. Cruz could also potentially purchased insurance through his presidential campaign’s presumptive health care insurance. In those instances, however, he would have had to give up his employer’s contribution and likely pay more for insurance than he is now being charged under Obamacare.

So, why then, would a guy with options that he could easily afford -- and that weren't the hated Obamacare: a) not take those options, and b) open himself to this dose of ridicule? Is Cruz unwittingly setting himself up for some Saul-like conversion, if the Affordable Care Act ends up working to his benefit? No, readers, banish that thought. I would submit to you that, far from a gaffe, this is actually a fairly shrewd gambit from Cruz. The part where Cruz likens himself to the "millions of others on the federal exchange," is a key tell. Cruz, having firmly established himself as Obamacare's most ardent philosophical opponent, will now have the chance to oppose the law as a participant.

There are some fundamentals involved that Cruz is no doubt intelligent enough to understand. One of those fundamentals is a structural conundrum that the Affordable Care Act has always faced: The universe of people participating in the law is several orders of magnitude smaller than the universe of people who have opinions about the law. This has bedeviled the law's supporters since its conception -- as poll after poll shows the public does not care for the law. However, it's also proved to be a problem for the law's opponents, whose fishing expeditions for Obamacare horror stories have tended not to yield the desired result. But Cruz will be able to present himself, rhetorically at least (you know: "optics"), as the living embodiment of the thing that squares that circle.

It also assists him in his mission to cut a contrast with other members of the GOP's 2016 field -- like, say, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had a direct hand in preventing Obamacare's Medicaid expansion from coming to his state, while Cruz was leading unsuccessful efforts to destroy the law in Congress. Cruz will now be able to say, "I'm in this system, I hate it, and this is why I was leading the way in Congress so that Scott Walker wouldn't have to worry about it." That's what our blinkered Beltway touts refer to as "leadership," in their pundit coloring-books.

And as Dave Weigel points out, Cruz is borrowing a strategy that's already proven successful:

Cruz is deftly using the oddly-enough angle of this news -- Obamacare-hating senator forced into Obamacare -- for a populist cause. He's not the first Republican to do so. In his successful 2014 campaign for Senate, Colorado Representative Cory Gardner repeatedly talked about the family plan he'd held onto until it was scrapped for not meeting the ACA's standards.

"I got a letter saying that my family's plan was canceled," said Gardner in a TV spot. "Three hundred and thirty-five thousand Coloradans had their plans canceled, too."

"At personal cost," Weigel writes, "[Gardner] took a decision that made him more relatable and vulnerable to the insurance market. And now Cruz has done the same." That's likely Cruz's gambit here. Going "on Obamacare" will allow him to deepen his relationship with the people who hate the law out of suspicion, while simultaneously allowing him to claim himself as one of those aforementioned, non-elite Americans "on the federal exchange." That's no mean feat, considering that the only reason he's forced to make a choice in health insurance at all is because his wife is taking a leave of absence from her job at Goldman Sachs.

So Cruz, with the added enhancements of insider credibility and common-folk fealty, will go on excoriating Obamacare with his typical fervor. Naturally, I don't expect any of these criticisms to be non-disingenuous, but remember, this is a "political campaign," not a "be relentlessly honest and have perfect grasp of the facts contest."


Meme of the week.

What's one thing that unites many of the high-profile characters running for president, from top-tier contenders like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, to dark horses like Ben Carson and Martin O'Malley? As Daily Intelligencer's Jaime Fuller points out, it's a lack of expertise. And that's not a criticism or an opinion of the field -- that's the self-professed accounting of the candidates themselves. Per Fuller:

Jeb Bush is not an expert. Last month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former Florida governor even confessed that he wasn't an expert in Washington politics -- though he sure seems eager to take part in them.

Bush is not alone in not being an expert. As you can see below, other 2016 presidential possibilities have invoked this necessary caveat when seeking to comment on things they have no business talking about -- or when trying to avoid subjects they'd rather not comment on.

It might be fun if some reporter asked the candidates, "Is there any field of human endeavor or study that you can, in fact, plausibly claim to be an expert?" Give credit to Carson: He can at least say "neurosurgery," which is an actual thing.

"Draft Warren" winds brow increasingly stale

run warren run

For as long as mankind has known of Elizabeth Warren, a sizable portion has wanted Warren to seek a political office. So, she did. And nearly as soon as she arrived in the Senate, many of those same people have wanted Warren to run for president. Warren has deftly resisted the siren song emanating from those who would unwittingly have her embark on a life-ruining career path, but it is nevertheless a flame that always burns, a desire that remains unquenched, a boundless amount of energy that really could be put to more productive purposes.

Last Sunday, The Boston Globe ran the latest entreaty from Anna Galland, executive director of Civic Action, whose members launched "Run Warren Run, a major effort to highlight the immense grass-roots support that exists for Senator Warren's vision," and who must, in all honesty, be deemed successful in demonstrating the truth of this claim. But when I heard about this, I immediately thought of so many thus far unsuccessful attempts to convince Warren to run, and I wondered: Is there anything original that can be said at this point that might tip the balance?

The answer is: "LOL, no." Let's take a look.

GALLARD: "Senator Elizabeth Warren has established herself as the country’s leading advocate for working and middle-class families. The Democrat has proven equally adept behind the scenes and in the media spotlight, and has stood up to Wall Street banks and other powerful interests to win changes that are improving millions of Americans’ lives."

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: Bill Lipton, of New York's Working Familes Party: “We know a champion for working families when we see one ... The only thing better than watching Elizabeth Warren take Wall Street to task from the Senate would be helping her bring our issues to the center of the national debate.”

GALLARD: "Put simply, this moment was made for Elizabeth Warren. With income inequality at its highest level on record, and corporations and lobbyists wielding enormous power in Washington and state capitals around the country, we need a president who is firmly grounded in making government work for regular people."

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: Gallard's first paragraph.

GALLARD: "And Senator Warren hasn’t just studied the struggles of America’s working families -- she has lived them, having been born and raised in a family she describes as being 'on the ragged edge of the middle class.'”

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: Uhm, Warren herself? Who is Gallard trying to convince here?

GALLARD: "Regardless of which candidate they favor, most Americans agree that it’s important to have a vigorous contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The New York Times’s David Leonhardt recently wrote that without a slate of strong candidates, Democrats 'may conduct one of the least competitive nominating contests in modern political history.'”

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: The New York Times' David Leonhardt.

GALLARD: "It would be unprecedented for a candidate -- Hillary Clinton -- to march to the nomination largely unopposed, as many observers predict could happen if Warren doesn’t run. Such a scenario would be bad for both the party and for our country. A strong competitive primary campaign gives candidates a running start in the general election by giving them experience in articulating a clear vision and responding to crucial issues. Winning a competitive primary prepares the eventual nominee to face a battle-tested Republican candidate."

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: Literally tens of political pundits and reporters who have questioned whether Hillary running unopposed would be a bad thing for Hillary Clinton. (Also, are we drafting Warren to win this race, or are we drafting Warren to enter the race and make Hillary Clinton doubleplusawesome?)

GALLARD: "Poll after poll has shown that her message of economic justice and standing up to Wall Street resonates not just with liberal Democrats, but across the spectrum of potential voters. In fact, large majorities of likely voters who identify as independent and Republican in battleground states support Warren’s agenda, according to a recent poll commissioned by Run Warren Run."

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: That time people reported on that poll.

GALLARD: "Some continue to argue that Senator Warren would be more effective in the Senate than in the Oval Office. That’s just not true ... And those calling for her to stay in the Senate would do well to remember that she doesn’t have to make the choice between running for president and being a senator — she can run for higher office while remaining in the Senate ... If Senator Warren does run, she’ll either become President Warren or continue being Massachusetts’ senior senator. It’s a win-win."

WARREN HEARD IT ALREADY FROM: Never mind that. Pick an argument. How is it a "win-win" if Warren loses and remains in the Senate, from which position she would be less effective, as you argue? It sounds more like a "win-consolation prize," except that Warren returns to the Senate having damaged her brand and with scads of campaign debt.

"To be clear," Gallard writes, "Senator Warren has said she's not running for president, and we take her for her word. But we also believe she's open to persuasion." That is, indeed, plausible. But you're not going to persuade her with the same arguments that have, thus far, proven themselves to be stupendously unpersuasive.

All I ask, at this point, is that somebody who wants this to happen to come up with even one new argument, for funsies. Please, please.

The Week In Predictions

Jeb Bush: Bush is going to fail in Florida. And also in South Carolina. Or neither of those things. But he will have a talk-radio problem. But that's okay, Cruz's entry into the race will be a good thing for him.

Ted Cruz: Cruz is going to be a long shot. Unless he isn't. He could siphon support from Bush. Unless he doesn't.

Joe Biden: Biden will be "waiting in the wings" to swoop into the race if Hillary Clinton "falters." It's all part of his "long game."

Bobby Jindal: Jindal will wait until June to make his own announcement for president, because of "the state of his state." Per Charlie Cook: "“I think he could make a judgment that he needs to tend some fences back home ... It sure wouldn’t look good to jump in a race when your job-approval rating back home is 27 or 28 percent.” Sure! By June, I'm sure all of that will be fixed.

Lindsey Graham: Graham "may be the only politician who can stop global warming," so ... sorry about that, Planet Earth!

All The Advice That's Fit To Aggregate

Rand Paul advises Hillary Clinton to return the money Saudi Arabia gave to the Clinton Foundation, because Saudi Arabia has reprehensible policies toward women. Which is true! But surely that makes the case for taking the money, not giving it back, to fund more anti-woman stuff. Hillary Clinton should also get a "
sparring partner
" in the form of a competitive primary.

Mike Huckabee should stop giving Hillary Clinton a hard time about that whole email thing. Chris Christie should be more like Bill Clinton. Rick Perry should get way, way into looking at "data."

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker "should stop comparing themselves to Reagan: it makes them look like a bunch of kids." (Bush, Rubio, Perry, and Huckabee, on the other hand, are in the clear!)

And Bobby Jindal has some advice of his own: The GOP should nominate, you know, a conservative governor, probably. Just spitballing!

We'll Leave You With This, Whatever This Is

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'Rise Of Super PACs' Set To Ruin The RNC's Plan To Avoid A Brutal Primary Season

Jason Linkins   |   March 27, 2015    1:47 PM ET

As I've had the opportunity to write about before, the Republican National Committee emerged from the 2012 election bent on making a series of dramatic changes in the hopes of achieving better results. One major area that the RNC examined was the length of the 2012 primary season itself, which to their mind had become a debate-happy horrorshow that ended up playing a role in imperiling their chances. As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake noted in the wake of the RNC voting to "significantly compress its presidential nominating calendar," the big takeaway from the 2012 contest was that it had become "a long, sometimes nasty primary process that Republicans think hurt their chances of winning the presidency."

So, how are things looking, now that they've made major reforms to the primary calendar and limited the number of debates? Take it away, Patrick O'Connor of The Wall Street Journal!

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is shaping up to be one of the most drawn-out in a generation.

The candidate field looks unusually crowded, with more than a dozen contenders appealing to different slices of the GOP. The rise of super PACs allows candidates to stay in the race longer than before. And nominating rules meant to compress the process may complicate a front-runner’s ability to amass the delegates necessary to win.

The result, some GOP strategists say, is that next year’s contest has the ingredients to be the longest since then-President Gerald Ford prevailed over Ronald Reagan at the 1976 convention.

The most eye-catching thing about this? That whole part about "the rise of super PACs," which threaten to artificially keep primary bids aloft long past their sell-by date. Republican pollster Bill McInturff shows up in O'Connor's report, emphasizing this:

This cycle, because of all these structural rules changes and the advent of super PACs, people are not going to drop out,” predicted Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who advised Arizona Sen. John McCain in both of his presidential bids.

Candidates abandon their bids and unify behind the front-runner when either they run out of money or a rival has gathered a majority of delegates, conditions that won’t materialize quickly this time around, he said. “Republicans have created a system where, because of super PACs, it is hard to project someone winning until late May or early June.”

So, it's our wonderfully new and corrupt system of financing elections that's going to ruin it for everyone? I have to say, that's as deliciously ironic as it was predictable.

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62 Takeaways From CPAC 2015, Ranked

Jason Linkins   |   March 2, 2015    4:37 PM ET

Any time a thing happens in politics, the media has "Takeaways" about that thing. And whenever the media has a bunch of Takeaways, Eat The Press gathers all of those Takeaways in one place, so that you can sate your yawning hunger for Takeaways. This past weekend, the Beltway played host to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which, by Eat the Press' count, resulted in 62 hot, delicious Takeaways. Here is a definitive ranking of all of them.

Before we get into the rankings, here's how the GOP's likely 2016 presidential contenders fared in terms of who got the most Takeaways. Jeb Bush got the most Takeaways, with 8. He was closely followed by Carly Fiorina and Scott Walker -- each of whom got 7 Takeaways -- and Chris Christie, who had 6. Rand Paul received a respectable 4 Takeaways, followed by Ted Cruz with 3. Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum got 2 Takeaways each. Ben Carson and Rick Perry brought up the rear, with only one Takeaway each to their name.

So congratulations to Jeb Bush, King of Takeaways!


1. The "hawks" are back.

2. In fact, the "hawks" are so "back" that "non-interventionism" is so yesterday, man.

3. That could be bad for Rand Paul.

4. John Bolton is hoping that Rand Paul will come around on foreign policy and be more like John Bolton.

5. Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal demonstrated that they think "the best way to reach the top tier of the GOP field is to climb over the backs of their rivals."

6. The RNC's plans to have ideological allies moderate their primary debates came into question after some CPAC interviewers proved to be a bit too softball.

7. "Rick Santorum is the Republican Rodney Dangerfield."

8. Carly Fiorina could be the next "breakout star."

9. Carly Fiorina could be "a serious VP contender."

10. Carly Fiorina "could be an early VP favorite."

11. Carly Fiorina emerged as a "dark horse" candidate for president.

12. Marco Rubio's comeback didn't happen.

13. Reince Preibus thinks Hillary Clinton is "disqualified" because of foreign donations to the Clinton Global Initiative.

14. Ted Cruz proved that he can be "a force in Iowa," but he still needs to demonstrate "how a zealous base will give him the math needed to win the nomination."

15. Ben Carson doesn't want to end welfare programs; he just wants to end "dependency."

16. Republicans haven't quite "figured out how to prosecute ... Hillary Clinton's economic priorities."

17. Scott Walker has momentum.

18. Scott Walker has momentum.

19. Scott Walker has momentum.

20. Scott Walker has momentum.

21. Scott Walker has momentum (but stumbled a bit).

22. No one was the "clear rising star," but "Walker came closest."

23. Scott Walker "cast himself" as a "champion" of "hard working taxpayers."

24. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) wants to know if government employees will be punished if they fail to follow President Barack Obama's executive actions.

25. Jeb Bush faced a lot of critics.

26. Many of Jeb Bush's critics are members of the conservative media.

27. Jeb Bush talked about immigration and Common Core.

28. People at CPAC were "skeptical" about Jeb Bush.

29. Jeb Bush "found his footing after an uneven start and managed to escape unscathed."

30. Jeb Bush "beat expectations."

31. People walked out of the room when Jeb Bush started talking.

32. But Jeb Bush "isn't backing down."

33. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) is against the "clean" deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

34. Senators are so hot right now.

35. Rand Paul wants to "defend the whole Bill of Rights."

36. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have "passion."

37. Ted Cruz was upset at GOP leadership for "cutting a deal" on immigration.

38. Chris Christie faced tough questions.

39. Chris Christie "is still struggling to find his footing."

40. Chris Christie: People laughed and cheered.

41. Chris Christie "convinced" people that he was "still alive."

42. Chris Christie "came up short."

43. Mia Love doesn't want the GOP to "yield the moral high ground."

44. People at CPAC really like Israel.

45. "Few were talking about potentials" like Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Donald Trump.

46. Carly Fiorina was, like, really yelling at Hillary Clinton.

47. People really noticed how Carly Fiorina was yelling at Hillary Clinton.

48. "Ferguson is not an epidemic," said this one guy.

49. Rick Perry is against President Barack Obama.

50. Carly Fiorina thinks that Hillary Clinton is "beatable."

51. Bobby Jindal is against ISIS.

52. Marco Rubio has a book out that he is promoting.

53. Phyllis Schlafly: still a thing.

54. "I want to do it so badly," said a thirsty Donald Trump.

55. Joe Scarborough was there, for some reason.

56. Sarah Palin did a pretty good job!

57. "Duck Dynasty's" Phil Robertson speech was not good.

58. Republicans are way into selfies now.

59. People were tweeting stuff.

60. Other people "analyzed" those tweets.

61. While CPAC was a thing that happened, other things -- things that aren't CPAC -- are also going to happen at some point.

62. Newt Gingrich explained how he would win the votes of blacks and Hispanics if he were running, which he's not, and didn't really do a great job when he did. I guess sometimes it gets to be a long day at CPAC and people just start indulging in Socratic exercises.

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