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Jeb Bush: GOP frontrunner or Jon Huntsman 2.0?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waves while being introduced before speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) Jeff Chiu / AP

Who does this remind you of -- a successful former governor who’s viewed as the “moderate” in the field, who comes from a famous wealthy family, who gets plenty of Beltway buzz, who is advised by a former McCain strategist, and who is viewed by Democrats (probably correctly) as the GOP’s strongest general-election candidate? You’re probably thinking of Jeb Bush. But we also could be talking about Jon Huntsman circa 2011. And that is a potentially big danger for Bush, as he looks certain to make a White House run in 2016. Yes, Bush will raise more money than Huntsman did, and Bush and his family have tighter connections to the GOP establishment than the former Utah governor ever did. But two Huntsman pitfalls from the last presidential race should worry Jeb’s team. The first: Huntsman was too close to President Obama -- having served as his ambassador to China. And he never backed down from that association. While Bush hasn’t worked for Obama, he is close in association on the hot-button issues of immigration reform and Common Core, and he says he won’t back down. The second: Huntsman began his campaign with a general-election message, not one aimed at the hearts of minds of GOP primary voters. And ditto Bush when he said a successful candidate has to be willing to lose the primary to win the general election.

It’s going to be one or the other

None of this is to say that Bush WON’T be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2016, or even president come Jan. 2017. It’s more than possible that he could pull off what his brother did 16 years ago. But if we’re all searching for a reason, a year from now, why Jeb could be struggling in a deep and competitive Republican presidential field, this will be the reason. Is Jeb’s path more like his brother’s in 2000? Or Huntsman’s in 2012? We have a year to go to find out.

Scott Walker: True contender or the next Tim Pawlenty?

Here’s another thought exercise via NBC’s Perry Bacon: Who does this sound like -- two-term governor from a traditionally Democratic Midwestern state, openly devout and socially conservative enough, a regular guy? Well, that certainly describes Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has generated plenty of 2016 buzz over the last few days. But as Bacon reminds us, those attributes also could have described Tim Pawlenty this time four years ago. In an interview, Pawlenty says that Walker appears to be a stronger candidate than he was. "Because of his epic battles with the unions and other people in Wisconsin, he became a national figure with a national platform and a national fundraising base, which puts him in a stronger position than I was.” More Pawlenty: "It doesn't mean you can be boring, but the experience and qualifications, those factors are going to be weighed more heavily this time," Pawlenty said. He added, "you do have to cross a threshold of being entertaining without being cartoonish … And Scott Walker clearly has the ability to inspire."

Is Hillary really delaying her campaign? Or just following (pretty much) the same timetable used by Obama and Romney in 2011?

Politico writes that Hillary Clinton “is strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July, three months later than originally planned.” More: “One option being considered would be to announce an exploratory committee earlier – perhaps in April, at the beginning of a new fundraising quarter, in the timeframe when insiders originally expected her to launch her campaign. Then the actual kickoff would be in July.” Folks, a little perspective here: In the 2012 cycle, both Obama and Romney set up their campaign committees ($$$) in April '11 -- and they didn’t start campaigning/announcing until later (Romney formally launched his campaign in June 2011; Obama hit the re-election trail in May 2012). And whenever Clinton starts actually campaigning, don’t miss Perry Bacon’s piece -- quoting Democratic and progressive leaders -- on HOW she should actually run. Some examples: Don’t just run on being the first female president; also try to seize the future…. Focus on family leave… Don’t dwell on her husband’s presidency.

Romney doesn’t take his foot off the presidential-speculation gas

Speaking of Romney, he gave a speech last night at Mississippi State University, where he didn’t take his foot off the presidential-speculation gas. He attacked President Obama on foreign policy. "The President's dismissal of real global threats in his State of the Union address was naive at best and deceptive at worst." Ditto Hillary Clinton. "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation." And he continued to pitch his lines emphasizing income inequality and poverty -- a significant departure from his '12 run. "Short term, our economy is looking up. But it is a lot better for the few, and pretty darn discouraging for the many." Keep this in mind: Romney has to be considered a 2016 candidate until he’s not.

Cruz lays down ’16 marker on Loretta Lynch’s nomination

Well, Ted Cruz has certainly laid down the GOP 2016 marker on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be Obama’s next attorney general. “[S]he has now explicitly embraced the president’s unconstitutional action [on immigration], has pledged to help him implement that unconstitutional action and indeed … she refused to delineate any limits whatsoever on the president’s authority,” Cruz said, per Roll Call. “She could not give any instance of a limit on the president’s authority. That is profoundly dangerous to have an attorney general, who by her own testimony is prepared to rubber stamp unconstitutional conduct by the president.” What say you, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul? Indeed, while Lynch’s confirmation appears to be a sure thing, it’s also going to serve as a litmus test for other Senate Republicans. Remember, even Barack Obama voted against John Roberts’ confirmation to the Supreme Court. Just think of the Dem primary attacks on him if he HAD VOTED for him. Of course, President Obama has reportedly regretted his no-vote on Roberts, not because he is pro-Roberts but because now that he is president, he wants qualifications to matter more than ideology.

AG Nominee: ‘I Will Be Loretta Lynch,’ Different Than Eric Holder 0:52

Keeping up with the Joneses (or Kochs)

Here’s NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell with Democrats admitting they can’t keep up with nearly $900 million the Koch Brothers’ groups are planning to spend in the ’16 cycle. "We're never going to match that dollar for dollar," said Ben Ray, spokesperson for American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research group, referring to the Democratic fundraising apparatus... Democratic aides say the effort is going to have to be "all hands on deck." They will follow how the money is being spent and strategically place every Democratic dollar to counter. In addition, grassroots support - a large number of small dollar donors - will continue to play heavily into the Democrats' strategy, and that includes capitalizing on the Koch news. The DNC released an email to their supporters Wednesday evening, urging their supporters to mobilize and engage in response to the Koch news.” Our take: While Democrats will likely play the underdog here, do realize that between the outside groups and the impressive conventional fundraising machine Obama put together in 2012, Democrats basically kept pace. And the Clinton's don't exactly have a history of underperforming on the money front. This feels more like crocodile tears from the Dems. Maybe they won't find a singular organization like Koch, but they have plenty of millionaires

Listing the ’16 campaign committees and PACs

Finally, here is our breakdown of all of the 2016 presidential committees, PACs, and 527s that have been set up. So far, there’s been just one presidential committee (Jim Webb’s). And look who DOESN’T have a PAC -- Hillary and Biden.

Actual presidential campaign committees (1)

GOP Leadership PACs/527s (12)

Dem Leadership PACs/527s (2)

None so far (2)

  • Hillary Clinton
  • Joe Biden

(By the way, you'll be forgiven if some of these PAC names/adjectives sound like certain TV ad campaigns for drugs to make folks feel younger or more vigorous.)

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