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First Thoughts: Clinton Attacks Could Aid GOP in 2014

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) and his wife Hillary attend the swearing-in ceremony of Terry McAuliffe as Virginia's governor in Richmond, Virginia, January 11, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Theiler (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) MIKE THEILER / Reuters

Kill Bill Vol. 156: The right going after Bill Clinton could have an effect on the 2014 races (think the red-state Democrats running in Senate contests)… The violence in Ukraine becomes the latest U.S.-vs.-Russia disagreement… Obama attends “Three Amigos” summit in Mexico… Another day, another political skirmish over a CBO report… Why the CBO report probably makes it more unlikely a minimum-wage hike gets done this year… And anyone else notice the lack of contested primaries in Ohio?

Kill Bill Vol. 156

If the political world has been having flashbacks to the 1990s -- the flannel shirts, the Pearl Jam CDs, that Jerry Maguire DVD -- there’s a very good reason for it. With their eye on 2016, Republicans in the last few weeks have been resurrecting all the Clinton Era scandals. Rand Paul seized on Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. The Washington Free Beacon reported on the papers of an old Clinton confidante. And last night, Fox News aired a primetime interview with Kathleen Willey, who alleged in 1998 that Bill Clinton had assaulted her. It should come to no one’s surprise that the Conservative Media Complex’s intent here is to knock Hillary Clinton, as well as feed the Clinton-fatigue narrative, with the assumption that she runs in 2016. But this “Kill Bill” effort could have a short-term effect in 2014, too: hurt the red-state Democrats who are begging Bill Clinton to campaign for them. After all, aided by that ex-president halo, Bill is the one Democrat who can go almost anywhere (think Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina) and be an asset. In fact, a top Democratic strategist tells us that Clinton’s favorable numbers are above 60% in all of the states having Senate contests in 2014. So what does reviving Monica Lewinsky/Paula Jones/Kathleen Willey do? It reminds conservatives why they didn’t like Clinton in the first place. Dredging up Bill Clinton’s past has never hurt Hillary Clinton; if anything, it has galvanized support for her. But it doesn’t help Bill. Remember who the swing vote is many of these Senate races: older white women.

8:01

Another major U.S.-vs.-Russia disagreement

The violence coming out of Ukraine is a reminder that there are now three giant foreign-policy issues where the United States and Russia disagree. On Syria (and its civil war there). On Iran (and its nuclear efforts). And now on Ukraine (on the bloodshed and unrest there). Case in point via the New York Times: “President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman said that the Russian leader had spoken by telephone with Mr. Yanukovych and expressed support for a swift settlement, but said it was up to Ukraine’s government to resolve it without external interference. ‘In the president’s view, all responsibility for what is happening in Ukraine rests with the extremists,’ Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman, told reporters, according to the news agency Interfax.” On the other hand, “Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. telephoned Mr. Yanukovych to ‘express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets’ of Kiev and urged him ‘to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint,’ the vice president’s office said in a statement on Tuesday. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Mr. Yanukovych to stop the bloodshed.” There are some Cold War veterans who are publicly advising that the administration ought to be lumping these Syria-Iran-Ukraine issues together and dealing with Russia one-on-one.

Obama attends “Three Amigos” summit in Mexico

Staying with foreign policy, President Obama heads to Toluca, Mexico for a day trip there to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Washington Post previews the trip, saying Obama “is likely to face difficult questions at a summit Wednesday from his Mexican and Canadian counterparts on a slew of thorny issues that have been stalled by U.S. domestic politics. Progress on the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline, immigration reform and a major new Asian trade pact will be high on the agenda when Obama attends the one-day North American leaders meeting.” More from the Post: The ‘Three Amigos’ summit comes as the Obama administration is attempting to wrap up negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade agreement that includes Mexico and Canada and that has become a priority in the White House’s attempt to pivot toward Asia in its foreign policy. But Obama has faced resistance from congressional Democrats in his push for trade promotion authority.” Today’s schedule: Obama arrives in Mexico at 1:10 pm ET; he holds bilateral talks with Nieto at 1:55 pm ET and 2:10 pm ET; he participates in a walk-and-talk with Harper at 5:20 pm ET; he holds a press conference with the two other leaders at 8:15 pm ET; and then Obama travels back to Washington at 9:50 pm ET.

Another day, another political skirmish over a CBO report

On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office weighed in on the Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and it estimated that it would increase the pay for 16.5 million Americans. But it also projected that the legislation would reduce employment by 500,000 workers (though it said there was a two-thirds chance the range could be anywhere from a slight decrease to a loss of 1 million workers). Not surprisingly, Republican opponents of the minimum-wage hike jumped all over the 500,000 number. Yet surprisingly, the Obama White House pushed back hard against that particular CBO finding, saying it contradicts other economic data on raising the minimum wage. (It’s hard to tout one CBO finding, but discount the other, no?) Bottom line: If you live by the CBO (celebrating its findings about the health-care law reducing the deficit and the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill expanding employment), then you can also die by the CBO (when the same nonpartisan group says a minimum-wage increase could lead to a loss of jobs).

Why the CBO report probably makes it more unlikely a minimum-wage hike gets done this year

Politically, the CBO report suggests that passing a minimum-wage hike won’t be easy this year. Republicans can use the report to push back against Democrats demanding the increase. Of course, there’s a potential compromise here: Like we saw in 1996, the White House and the GOP-led Congress could reach an agreement to increase the minimum wage but also provide protections for businesses -- as a way to soften any threat of job losses. Then again, compromise hasn’t been an easy thing either these last few years. However, there is a danger here for Republicans, too: They don’t want repeat the Mitt Romney mistake of just looking out for the concerns of business owners.

A national license-plate tracking system?

Don’t be surprised if this story lights up the privacy crowd -- on both the left and right. The Washington Post: “The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place. The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.”

Anyone else notice the lack of contested primaries in Ohio?

Finally, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) enjoying a 51% job-approval rating but leading likely Democratic challenger Ed Fitzgerald by just five points, 43%-38%. But yesterday, something else struck us about Ohio: When the state announced its official slate for the 2014 primaries, there was just ONE contested primary -- for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. In contrast, Kasich doesn’t face GOP primary opposition, and there are no contested primaries (Dem or GOP) for attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state, or treasurer. That’s pretty amazing. In one of the most competitive states in the country, there is just one nomination up for grabs this year.

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