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Posts in "2016"
September 18, 2014
The caucus of the most conservative senators has chosen a new leader. It’s not either of the Republicans who will probably come to mind first — but he may well be the man who’s going to push the Senate hardest to the right over the long term.
Mike Lee of Utah will take over as chairman of the Senate Steering Committee in January. That means he’ll be among the most influential conservatives at the Capitol in the run-up to the next presidential election. If his side wins at least six of the seats it’s after this fall, Lee will be positioned to play a central role in assembling and advancing the legislative agenda of a newly Republican Congress.
For at least a few months into next year, Lee looks destined to remain routinely overshadowed by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, his partners in the informal triumvirate of libertarian-minded junior senators with monosyllabic names.
For the past couple of years, those two have been far more intentional than Lee about generating publicity for their confrontationally conservative crusades. Their dedication to self-promotion will only intensify if they keep moving toward presidential bids, which means the Senate floor in early 2015 could become the principal venue where the Kentuckian and the Texan test potential planks for their national platforms.
But that approach only works for so long, as others who have sought to move from the Capitol straight to the White House have learned. For one thing, it’s difficult for the Senate floor to be a campaign soundstage for more than one member at a time, especially after the inevitable rivalries among the nationally ambitious come into the open. For another, lawmakers who gain some early traction in the fundraising and Beltway-attention-getting stages of the process soon enough realize they have to spend much less time on the Hill and more time on the hustings.
This is why Lee now seems well-positioned to fill an impending power vacuum.
September 16, 2014
She went out to grill some beef, and now he’s going out to help some nuns.
The two former senators who overshadow all other Democrats with ripe presidential ambition, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph R. Biden Jr., are ending up in Iowa less than 72 hours apart this week. Every detail of their back-to-back forays will be scrupulously dissected for clues about how and when the 2016 contest will take shape.
On Wednesday morning, the vice president will be at the state capitol in Des Moines during the kickoff of a 5,200-mile road trip by Nuns on the Bus, a group of Catholic sisters who plan to visit three-dozen cities to promote voter registration, along with their views of social justice.
It’s an official, not political, trip for Biden because he’s arranged to deliver a speech about the Obama administration’s economic policies. But the actual contexts — not only the midterm elections but also his potential presidential quest — are absolutely clear. So everyone with a keen political ear will be listening for both similarities and subtle differences between his rhetoric and the partisan call-to-arms Clinton delivered Sunday, when the previous secretary of State was in Indianola for the 37th annual steak fry, the final one Sen. Tom Harkin will host before his retirement. Full story
July 22, 2014
If Rand Paul is taking this summer’s most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.
The two first-term senators are generating their surges in attention in different ways, probably because they have different timetables in mind for their presidential aspirations.
While Paul is overtly laying the groundwork for a virtually certain 2016 campaign with a series of bold fundraising, staffing and legislative moves totally disconnected from his home base in Kentucky, Warren has been taking another tack with a seemingly alternate objective. She, too, has been spending most of her not-in-session time politicking far from her home base of Massachusetts, but almost all her campaigning and cash collecting has been on behalf of others. Full story
July 21, 2014
The most wide open Republican presidential contest in modern times is shaping up, so a thousand things could change in the 80 long weeks before the first scheduled caucuses and primaries take place. And a couple hundred of them surely will.
With that enormous caveat stipulated up front, it’s worth recognizing that one aspirant is having a bit of a moment. Rand Paul has been generating at least as much policy, fundraising and organizational buzz this summer as any other potential candidate, and certainly more than the other possible contenders out of Congress.
Paul will be returning to the Senate Monday afternoon after spending three days in San Francisco, a highly unusual weekend destination for a conservative from Kentucky. But the senator concluded he had opportunities on three fronts to advance his nascent bid. He could raise money from Bay Area entrepreneurs sympathetic to his libertarian views. He could recruit some tech geeks to join his fledgling campaign staff. And he could deliver the keynote speech at a technology conference, to sell the notion that his views about free markets and personal privacy ought to be catnip to Silicon Valley.
It was Paul’s second such trip in as many weekends. The previous foray was to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he was invited to the super exclusive annual conference on media and technology organized by the investment bank Allen & Co. His time there reportedly included private meetings with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
When the August recess starts, Paul will be the first among his most ambitious senatorial colleagues to get to a more traditional political locale — he’ll spend three days in Iowa starting on Aug. 4 raising money for several county Republican organizations. The groups, of course, are crucial players in getting out the vote for the Iowa caucuses, which are (for now) scheduled to kick off the national nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016. Full story
June 17, 2014
Some of the most pointed passages in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir confront the congressional Republican criticism about Benghazi. That’s hardly a surprise, given that the book is so clearly a positioning document for another presidential run in which one major line of GOP attack will be against the former secretary of State’s handling of the assault on that U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.
What comes off as much more of a surprise is how Clinton steers almost entirely clear of criticizing individual Republicans from Capitol Hill, while singling out a collection of prominent establishment GOP members for praise. The roster of congressional name checks in “Hard Choices,” in fact, is remarkably bipartisan. She says nice things about her dealings with a dozen Democratic senators or representatives, but almost as many Republicans, during her eight years in the Senate and her subsequent four years at the State Department.
Counting up the mentions in a prominent politician’s book is among a typical Washington striver’s bad habits, and many on the Hill have been doing just that in the week since the book went on sale.
But in this case, the exercise could offer a clue about how Clinton may deal with Republicans if she seeks or wins the White House in two years. She may be content to remain on decent terms with a small cadre of GOP centrists, the sort President Barack Obama has labeled the “common sense caucus,” while disdaining and dismissing her legions of conservative critics without calling them out individually. Full story
May 18, 2014
As the justices bring this season’s caseload to a close, they have a pretty clear idea how the rest of this Supreme Court year will play out. The rest of the country, however, will remain almost entirely in the dark until the remaining decisions are unveiled over the next six weeks.
The outcome in at least four of the most important disputes will help shape both the policymaking and campaign agendas of Congress through the midterm elections and beyond. But it’s possible no single ruling will have as much impact on the national political climate as the pattern that emerges in how the cases get decided.
The members of the current court are getting a reputation for being just as partisan and polarized as the politicians populating the other two elected branches of government. New polling shows the public is none too pleased with the Supreme Court’s perception, which is backed up by some pretty solid evidence, and people want term limits for the justices in an effort to depoliticize the court.
January 5, 2014
Congress is reopening for business this week, to begin what President Barack Obama says “needs to be a year of action.”
When the president offered that call to arms for 2014, just as the Capitol lights were being dimmed for the holidays, the eye-rolling sentiment from so many lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and journalists amounted to: “Yeah, right. Good luck with that.”
The collective assessment is there’s no way that 2013, the least legislatively productive first year of an administration in six decades, is going to be followed by a more productive spurt from a divided Congress in an election year.
However, the next 10 weeks may hold some genuine prospects for rebutting the conventional wisdom, if only temporarily.
A trio of hallmark accomplishments in the second session of the 113th Congress have strong potential to get done before St. Patrick’s Day. Assuming the Republicans keep to their current course — confining their focus to avoid new, self-inflicted political wounds — lawmakers will be able to extend their current truce in the budget wars not only on the spending front but on borrowing as well. A food and farm bill that gives both sides a claim to victory is well within reach.
And, without traveling too far into optimistic fantasy-land, it’s possible to envision that bipartisan success on that trifecta by March would spawn interest in reaching for some additional deals in the spring. An immigration overhaul may still be the longest of viable long shots, but there’s some hopeful early talk about carefully calibrating compromise on a variety of second-tier issues left hanging at the end of 2013 — from sentencing disparities to water projects, patent lawsuits to online sales taxes, energy efficiency standards to physician reimbursement rates. Full story
December 11, 2013
This week is a turning point in the career of Paul D. Ryan — one that’s even more consequential than what happened to him 16 months ago.
Being picked to be the Republican nominee for vice president, it turns out, is only guaranteed to be politically transformative if your ticket wins the general election. Engineering a genuinely bipartisan if undeniably modest budget agreement, on the other hand, is sure to change the trajectory of the 43-year-old Wisconsin congressman’s life.
Ryan will find out within a matter of hours whether the deal has propelled his ambitions forward, or accelerated his long-rising star toward oblivion.
By Wednesday evening, a day after the deal was unveiled, a ratification vote by the full House looked more and more likely. It also looked quite possible that most of Ryan’s fellow Republicans would be on board, even though all the major conservative advocacy groups are pressing for its defeat. Those outcomes are the only legislative mysteries; a solid bipartisan majority is lined up in the Senate, and President Barack Obama is eager to affix his signature.
House passage would be profoundly rewarding for Ryan for several reasons, especially if his plan secures a majority of the majority. Full story
November 25, 2013
What’s up with the family business is a perennial default conversation starter at so many Thanksgiving dinners. And that’s likely to be especially true around the tables of families in the business of winning federal campaigns.
From the three-years-away handicapping of the next presidential race to the premature speculation about who might fill a possible opening in the House, a big share of campaign talk these days is once again about American political dynasties — their virtues and flaws, staying powers and limitations, rising stars and fading forces. Full story
November 11, 2013
Darkness after work. Freeze warnings at night. Congress looking likely to work until close to Christmas, then return just a week into January. Staff and member travel clipped by the sequester. And an off-year election jump-starting the next presidential race earlier than ever.
No wonder that not-so-idle Capitol Hill speculation has already started about which two buffed-up and generous cities might get to welcome the Washington diaspora in the summer of 2016. That’s when thousands of lawmakers, aides, lobbyists, money chasers, journalists and functionaries are counting on at least one expense-account-funded week of networking and partying. Full story
October 31, 2013
With President Barack Obama’s approval ratings near a new low this week, the Democratic water-cooler talk is focusing especially early on hopes for 2016 — with the bulk of today’s attention on news that all 16 of the Senate’s Democratic women have written to Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging her to run.
The unanimity of the group means as many as three potential aspirants for the nomination would defer to the former secretary of State, adding to the sense of inevitability about her candidacy and to the expectation that her bid would essentially clear the Democratic field.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been widely touted on the left as a worthy liberal alternative to Clinton, and she hasn’t explicitly ruled out such a candidacy. But the freshman senator’s signing of the letter appears to amount to such a demurral. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have both publicly described themselves as Clinton supporters and have signaled they would shelve their White House aspirations if she ran next time. Their signatures lock those promises in place.
Another newsworthy signature comes from the dean of the female senators, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, because it means she’s not waiting for her state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, to formalize his presidential intentions before declaring her preference for someone else.
The letter was orchestrated by Barbara Boxer of California in early spring, only months after Obama’s second term began and Clinton left her Cabinet seat. It came just as the Ready for Hillary super PAC was being created by aides to her 2008 campaign in an effort to centralize the recruiting efforts. Clinton herself has said she won’t announce her intentions before next year.
The missive was intended to be a private message to the onetime New York senator from her former colleagues, and its text has not been disclosed. Its existence was revealed Monday by one of the signers, Kay Hagan of North Carolina. “All of the Senate Democratic women have written her a letter encouraging her to run,” she told a gathering of donors to EMILY’s List, part of a series of meetings the group is staging across the country to promote interest in a female Democratic candidate.
Two other prominent Democrats committed this week to supporting a Clinton candidacy: Rahm Emanuel, who left a power-player career in the House to become Obama’s first chief of staff and is now mayor of Chicago; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California.
The boomlet of interest in 2016 comes as a series of recent surveys shows Obama’s average job approval rating once again slipping below 44 percent. It’s generally been above that benchmark since the summer, but it’s been dragged down by a welter of problems — spying by the National Security Agency, the balky approach toward Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now the multifaceted troubles for the rollout of his health care law.
October 17, 2013
All of the congressional Republicans with viable 2016 presidential ambitions voted against the bill enacted overnight to reopen the government and increase federal borrowing. So did two members of the Senate GOP leadership and three members of the party’s House leadership. The opponents also included a majority of the Republicans who are chairmen of House committees and most of the members of the House GOP caucus who aspire to election to the Senate next year.
While the Democrats were unified in their support for the legislation, a review of Wednesday night’s back-to-back roll calls in Congress reveals just how divided the titular and putative leaders of the GOP remained after their crusade to undermine Obamacare by shutting down the government and threatening default came up essentially empty-handed — but nonetheless spawned a serious erosion of public support for the party’s current course.
In the House, only 38 percent of Republicans supported the legislation, despite efforts during the evening to assemble the sort of narrow “majority of the majority” that would have given Speaker John A. Boehner some degree of face-saving comfort
In the Senate, by contrast, only 39 percent of the Republicans opposed a deal that was assembled by their floor leader Mitch McConnell, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Full story
September 8, 2013
By the end of this first week back, a Capitol that’s emotionally spent from the Syria debate and still anxious about a budget impasse will be sorely in need of a diversion.
Ideally, it will combine a generous portion of campaign maneuvering, plenty of tart-tongued rhetoric and a bit of insight for those already playing the parlor game of handicapping the next presidential race.
Fortunately, enervated lawmakers and aides need to look no farther than 210 miles up the road, to a banquet hall in the middlebrow New Jersey suburb of Clark. On Friday, this will be the site of the next installment in the feud that’s been captivating the attention of the political class all summer — even though one of the combatants has wagered he’ll win this round by staying away.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has committed to being there, for the stated reason of headlining a fundraiser for Steve Lonegan, the sacrificial GOP lamb in the special election that’s going to send Cory Booker to the Senate.
July 29, 2013
“It’s just lunch!” insist the handlers for both participants in today’s most closely watched inside-the-Beltway meal.
But aides to President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who are set to sit down at noon at the White House, are keenly aware that almost no one in Washington believes the two are simply catching up.
Their shared declaration, after all, is also the name of a prominent matchmaking business, and the political class assumes the hidden agenda has something to do with setting the parameters for their relationship during the next three years.
Democratic operatives, potential Republican rivals and the pundits will all be scouring for any scraps of evidence suggesting the president will or won’t encourage a 2016 campaign by his one-time rival and then Cabinet member — and any additional indications of whether Clinton has decided whether she wants to capitalize on being the overwhelming early favorite. Full story
July 24, 2013
The four members of Congress likeliest to run for president in 2016 are all bunched together near the top of a front-runner-free Republican field, according to this year’s most extensive poll about the next race for the White House.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other hand, is the overwhelming choice of Democrats and she led every opponent in the hypothetical general election contests tested by the Marist-McClatchy poll out this morning.
The poll found a statistical six-way scramble for the top spot in the totally theoretical GOP field, because of the 5-point margin for error in the sample of people who identified themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning.
Discounting the undecided, at 25 percent, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey finished first with 15 percent support, followed by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin at 13 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 12 percent, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at 10 percent, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 9 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 7 percent.
Clinton was the first choice of 63 percent of Democrats surveyed — a level of support five times greater than that of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was named by only 13 percent. Biden’s support was lower than those Democrats (18 percent) who said they were unsure of their choice. Full story